The only Socialism of interest to practical persons is the Socialism of the organized Socialist movement. Yet the public cannot be expected to believe what an organization says about its own character or aims. It is to be rightly understood only through its acts. Fortunately the Socialists' acts are articulate; every party decision of practical importance has been reached after long and earnest discussion in party congresses and press. And wherever the party's position has become of practical import to those outside the movement, it has been subjected to a destructive criticism that has forced Socialists from explanations that were sometimes imaginary or theoretical to a clear recognition and frank statement of their true position. To know and understand Socialism as it is, we must lay aside both the claims of Socialists and the attacks of their opponents and confine ourselves to the concrete activities of Socialist organizations, the grounds on which their decisions have been reached, and the reasons by which they are ultimately defended.
Writers on Socialism, as a rule, have either left their statements of the Socialist position unsupported, or have based them exclusively on Socialist authorities, Marx, Engels, and Lasalle, whose chief writings are now half a century old. The existence to-day of a well-developed movement, many-sided and world-wide, makes it possible for a writer to rely neither on his personal experience and opinion nor on the old and familiar, if still little understood, theories. I have based my account either on the acts of Socialist organizations and of parties and governments with which they are in conflict, or on those responsible declarations of representative statesmen, economists, writers, and editors which are not mere theories, but the actual material of present-day polities,—though among these living forces, it must be said, are to be found also some of the teachings of the great Socialists of the past.
It will be noticed that the numerous quotations from Socialists and others are not given academically, in support of the writer's conclusions, but with the purpose of reproducing with the greatest possible accuracy the exact views of the writer or speaker quoted. I am aware that accuracy is not to be secured by quotation alone, but depends also on the choice of the passages to be reproduced and the use made of them. I have therefore striven conscientiously to give, as far as space allows, the leading and central ideas of the persons most frequently quoted, and not their more hasty, extreme, and less representative expressions.
I have given approximately equal attention to the German, British, and American situations, considerable but somewhat less space to those of France and Australia, and only a few pages to Italy and Belgium. This allotment of space corresponds somewhat roughly to the relative importance of these countries in the international movement. As my idea has been not to describe, but to interpret, I have laid additional weight on the first five countries named, on the ground that each has developed a distinct type of labor movement. As I am concerned with national parties and labor organizations only as parts of the international movement, however, I have avoided, wherever possible, all separate treatment and all discussion of features that are to be found only in one country.
The book is divided into three parts; the first deals with the external environment out of which Socialism is growing and by which it is being shaped, the second with the internal struggles by which it is shaping and defining itself, the third with the reaction of the movement on its environment. I first differentiate Socialism from other movements that seem to resemble it either in their phrases or their programs of reform, then give an account of the movement from within, without attempting to show unity where it does not exist, or disguising the fact that some of its factions are essentially anti-Socialist rather than Socialist, and finally, show how all distinctively Socialist activities lead directly to a revolutionary outcome....