The conservative and the socialist are the natural products of the individual character and the social environment. One is born a conservative or an innovator just as one is born a painter or a surgeon. Therefore the socialists have no contempt for or bitterness toward the sincere representatives of any faction of the conservative party, though they combat their ideas unrelentingly. If such or such a socialist shows himself intolerant, if he abuses his opponents, this is because he is the victim of a passing emotion or of an ill-balanced temperament; it is, therefore, very excusable.
The thing that provokes a smile of pity is to see certain conservatives “young in years, but old in thought”—for conservatism in the young can be nothing but the effect of calculating selfishness or the index of psychical anemia—have an air of complacency or of pity for socialists whom they consider, at best, as “misled,” without perceiving that what is normal is for the old to be conservatives, but that young conservatives can be nothing but egoists who are afraid of losing the life of idle luxury into which they were born or the advantages of the orthodox fashion of dividing (?) the fruits of labor. Their hearts at least, if not their brains, are abnormally small. The socialist, who has everything to lose and nothing to gain by boldly declaring his position and principles, possesses by contrast all the superiority of a disinterested altruism, especially when having been born in the aristocratic or the bourgeois class he has renounced the brilliant pleasure of a life of leisure to defend the cause of the weak and the oppressed.
But, it is said, these bourgeois socialists act in this way through love of popularity! This is a strange form of selfishness, at all events, which prefers to the quickly reaped rewards and profits of bourgeois individualism, “the socialist idealism” of popular sympathy, especially when it might gain this sympathy by other means which would compromise it less in the eyes of the class in power.
Let us hope, in concluding, that when the bourgeoisie shall have to surrender the economic power and the political power in order that they may be used for the benefit of all in the new society and that, as Berenini recently said, victors and vanquished may really become brothers without distinction of class in the common assured enjoyment of a mode of life worthy of human beings, let us hope that in surrendering power, the bourgeoisie will do it with that dignity and self-respect which the aristocracy showed when it was stripped of its class privileges by the triumphant bourgeoisie at the time of the French Revolution.
It is the truth of the message of socialism and its perfect agreement with the most certain inductions of experimental science which explain to us not only its tremendous growth and progress, which could not be merely the purely negative effect of a material and moral malady rendered acute by a period of social crisis, but above all it explains to us that unity of intelligent, disciplined, class-conscious solidarity which presents, in the world-wide celebration of the first of May, a moral phenomenon of such grandeur that human history presents no parallel example, if we except the movement of primitive Christianity which had, however, a much more restricted field of action than contemporary socialism.