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Paul Brousse Commentary

G. M. Stekloff's discussion of Brousse's role in the First International

Brousse's role in the Second International, from The Second International and the Collapse of German Social Democracy:
 In 1882,  Dr. Paul Brousse left Guesde’s party and founded the Federation Des Travailleures de France.   Brousse feared that strict adherence to Marxist doctrine would narrow the prospects of the socialist movement.   Brousse and his followers became known as the Possibilists, for their ability to forge alliances with different groups inside France.   Whereas Guesde and the Marxists sought solely to agitate class warfare, Brousse and the Possibilists desired to work toward a broader progressive social democratic agenda.     The French radicals were not limited to Marxists and Possibilists in their growing choice of socialist factions.   There were anarchists, utopians, and non-Marxist revolutionaries such as Edouard Vaillant, founder of the Parti Socialiste Revolutionaire, heir to the revolutionary traditions of August Blanqui and Babuef of the Conspiracy of Equals, which goes back to 1796.   (Joll, 1975)     However, it is primarily the Marxists and the Possibilists that would come to animate the early stages of the Second International.    

Wikipedia entry on Brousse's role in the First International

The call for Brousse's expulsion from the First International by Marx's supporters comment on Brouse:

"The anarchist dissatisfaction with electoral politics was not totally a one way street. There were prominent anarchists who turned towards parliamentary socialism, as they became disillusioned with the possibilities of achieving the "anarchist revolution." Paul Brousse (1844-1912) was one such personality. He had fallen under the influence of Bakunin in the early 1870's and became one of the leading exponents of the anarchist "propaganda by deed" (acts of violent terrorism). After 1877, he became mainly concerned with the revival of the French socialist movement. "This revival, combined with the growing isolation and ineffectiveness of the anarchists, led Brousse to change his ideas on political tactics, and when he returned to France in 1880, he had abandoned the central tenet of anarchism, abstention from the use of the vote, although he continued to believe in the ideal of anarcho-communist society."

"In Brousse's own case, he became disillusioned with the possibility of terror tactics winning a majority of the masses over to anarchism and thus became willing to experiment with electoral tactics instead. However previous to his "political" conversion, in 1875, he had written a pamphlet critical of universal suffrage, attacking it both on the basis of the French experience, as well as criticizing its theoretical shortcomings. In the words of his biographer, Brousse illustrated "how universal suffrage had been used throughout the century as an instrument of the bourgeoisie, while posturing as an expression of the will of the people." Brousse concluded that electoral agitation would only confirm the bourgeoisie in power.

"Despite his anti-electoral outpourings, Brousse swallowed his pride and turned to electoral action, when his anarchist strategies failed to bring about any immediate results. He joined with the socialists and became founder of a political party identified with the term "possibilism." The "possibilists" had as their aim "to achieve as soon as possible the organization of public services for the immediate needs of the working class. One of the ways this could be achieved was through municipal action" and politics. The choice he made was a way out of the dilemma faced by anarchists in the late 1870's and 1880's. For many saw the dogma of electoral abstention only as a tactic and when it proved ineffective they were ready to resort to electoral efforts or trade unionism."

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