Page:Georges Sorel, Reflections On Violence (1915).djvu/41

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27
LETTER TO DANIEL HALEVY

so long struggled successfully against the revolutionary traditions, that the myth of the Church militant was not in harmony with the scientific theories formulated by the most learned authors according to the best rules of criticism; it would never have succeeded in persuading them. It would not have been possible to shake the faith that these men had in the promises made to the Church by any argument; and so long as this faith remained, the myth was, in their eyes, incontestable. Similarly, the objections urged by philosophy against the revolutionary myths would have made an impression only on those men who were anxious to find a pretext for abandoning any active role, for remaining revolutionary in words only.

I can understand the fear that this myth of the general strike inspires in many worthy progressives,[1] on account of its character of infinity;[2] the world of to-day is very much inclined to return to the opinions of the ancients and to subordinate ethics to the smooth working of public affairs, which results in a definition of virtue as the golden mean; as long as socialism remains a doctrine expressed only in words, it is very easy to deflect it towards this doctrine of the golden mean; but this transformation is manifestly impossible when the myth of the "general strike" is introduced, as this implies an absolute revolution. You know as well as I do that all that is best in the modern mind is derived from this "torment of the infinite";

  1. Translator's Note.—In French, "braves gens." Sorel is using the words ironically to indicate those naive, philanthropically disposed people who believe that they have discovered the solution to the problem of social reform—whose attitude, however, is often complicated by a good deal of hypocrisy, they being frequently rapacious when their own personal interests are at stake.
  2. Parties, as a rule, define the reforms that they wish to bring about; but the general strike has a character of infinity, because it puts on one side all discussion of definite reforms and confronts men with a catastrophe. People who pride themselves on their practical wisdom are very much upset by such a conception, which puts forward no definite project of future social organisation.