Part 6, Chapter 3 Summary
Souvarine is the only one at the Advantage this Sunday night. Three sharp taps on the window break the silence, and Souvarine recognizes the signal Lantier uses to get his attention. Before he can reach the door, Rasseneur opens it and invites Lantier inside. He tells Lantier he has long guessed where Lantier has been hiding and could have sent the gendarmes looking for him if he had wanted, but he is no snitch. Lantier knows people can disagree but still be friends.
Silence reigns again and Souvarine feels an unconscious unease. Finally Lantier speaks. He tells them that Le Voreux is starting again tomorrow with the Belgian miners Negrel brought in after dark, to avoid trouble. Rasseneur cannot help himself from reminding Lantier that things are going to “turn nasty” if the miners continue their stubborn strike. Rasseneur saw Pluchart a few days ago and heard the International is falling apart, as well.
The International had gathered workers with a propaganda campaign that had the rich quivering with fear, but the organization is now being destroyed because of internal rivalries fueled by pride and ambition. The gradualists who founded the organization have been supplanted by anarchists, and the original goal of reforming the wage system for workers has been replaced by the desire to avoid being regimented. The International had a chance to “sweep away the old, rotten structures of society at a stroke,” but now it is powerless. Though Pluchart is discouraged and has lost his voice, he is still giving speeches; however, Pluchart is convinced the miners’ strike has failed.
Last evening Lantier talked to some of the miners; he began to feel some resentment and suspicion and sense the ultimate defeat of the movement. Lantier feels gloomy and helpless in the presence of the man who had predicted that the crowd would one day turn on him with vengeance in their hearts. Lantier admits that the strike has failed, though workers began the strike unwillingly and never thought their efforts would decimate the Company. People got carried away, and now that things are difficult they forget that they knew this kind of suffering was inevitable.
Rasseneur asks Lantier why he does not get his comrades to stop the strike and go back to work; Lantier says that even if they all die, their “starved corpses will do more for the people’s cause” than Rasseneur’s approach. It would be a perfect end to things if one of the soldiers shot Lantier. The men can see in Lantier the desire of a defeated man to eternally end his torment.
Souvarine appears not to have heard anything but begins to think aloud about the International. He rues the fact that the organization could have been a “truly fearsome instrument of destruction,” but nobody has the will to do it and the revolution will therefore fail. Souvarine laments that everything in Russia is wrong, though he is still a patriot. He bitterly explains his former dream of brotherhood founded on the community of labor. He has tried his principles here, but he is still distrusted by the miners as an outsider...
(The entire section is 810 words.)