Against All Reason  






THE main objects which should be served by international relations may be taken to be two: First, the avoidance of wars, and, second, the prevention of the oppression of weak nations by strong ones. These two objects do not by any means necessarily lead in the same direction, since one of the easiest ways of securing the world’s peace would be by a combination of the most powerful States for the exploitation and oppression of the remainder. This method, however, is not one which the lover of liberty can favor. We must keep account of both aims and not be content with either alone.

One of the commonplaces of both Socialism and Anarchism is that all modern wars are due to capitalism, and would cease if capitalism were abolished. This view, to my mind, is only a half-truth; the half that is true is important, but the half that is untrue is perhaps equally important when a fundamental reconstruction of society is being considered.

Socialist and Anarchist critics of existing society point, with perfect truth, to certain capitalistic factors which promote war. The first of these is the desire of finance to find new fields of investment in undeveloped countries. Mr. J. A. Hobson, an author who is by no means extreme in his views, has well stated this point in his book on "The Evolution of Modern Capitalism."[55] He says:

[55] Walter Scott Publishing Company, 1906, p. 262.

The economic tap-root, the chief directing motive of all the modern imperialistic expansion, is the pressure of capitalist industries for markets, primarily markets for investment, secondarily markets for surplus products of home industry. Where the concentration of capital has gone furthest, and where a rigorous protective system prevails, this pressure is necessarily strongest. Not merely do the trusts and other manufacturing trades that restrict their output for the home market more urgently require foreign markets, but they are also more anxious to secure protected markets, and this can only be achieved by extending the area of political rule. This is the essential significance of the recent change in American foreign policy as illustrated by the Spanish War, the Philippine annexation, the Panama policy, and the new application of the Monroe doctrine to the South American States. South America is needed as a preferential market for investment of trust "profits" and surplus trust products: if in time these states can be brought within a Zollverein under the suzerainty of the United States, the financial area of operations receives a notable accession. China as a field of railway enterprise and general industrial development already begins to loom large in the eyes of foresighted American business men; the growing trade in American cotton and other goods in that country will be a subordinate consideration to the expansion of the area for American investments. Diplomatic pressure, armed force, and, where desirable, seizure of territory for political control, will be engineered by the financial magnates who control the political destiny of America. The strong and expensive American navy now beginning to be built incidentally serves the purpose of affording profitable contracts to the shipbuilding and metal industries: its real meaning and use is to forward the aggressive political policy imposed upon the nation by the economic needs of the financial capitalists.

It should be clearly understood that this constant pressure to extend the area of markets is not a necessary implication of all forms of organized industry. If competition was displaced by combinations of a genuinely cooperative character in which the whole gain of improved economies passed, either to the workers in wages, or to large bodies of investors in dividends, the expansion of demand in the home markets would be so great as to give full employment to the productive powers of concentrated capital, and there would be no self-accumulating masses of profit expressing themselves in new credit and demanding external employment. It is the "monopoly" profits of trusts and combines, taken either in construction, financial operation, or industrial working, that form a gathering fund of self-accumulating credit whose possession by the financial class implies a contracted demand for commodities and a correspondingly restricted employment for capital in American industries. Within certain limits relief can be found by stimulation of the export trade under cover of a high protective tariff which forbids all interference with monopoly of the home markets. But it is extremely difficult for trusts adapted to the requirements of a profitable tied market at home to adjust their methods of free competition in the world markets upon a profitable basis of steady trading. Moreover, such a mode of expansion is only appropriate to certain manufacturing trusts: the owners of railroad, financial and other trusts must look always more to foreign investments for their surplus profits. This ever-growing need for fresh fields of investment for their profits is the great crux of the financial system, and threatens to dominate the future economics and the politics of the great Republic.

The financial economy of American capitalism exhibits in more dramatic shape a tendency common to the finance of all developed industrial nations. The large, easy flow of capital from Great Britain, Germany, Austria, France, etc., into South African or Australian mines, into Egyptian bonds, or the precarious securities of South American republics, attests the same general pressure which increases with every development of financial machinery and the more profitable control of that machinery by the class of professional financiers

The kind of way in which such conditions tend toward war might have been illustrated, if Mr. Hobson had been writing at a later date, by various more recent cases. A higher rate of interest is obtainable on enterprises in an undeveloped country than in a developed one, provided the risks connected with an unsettled government can be minimized. To minimize these risks the financiers call in the assistance of the military and naval forces of the country which they are momentarily asserting to be theirs. In order to have the support of public opinion in this demand they have recourse to the power of the Press.

The Press is the second great factor to which critics of capitalism point when they wish to prove that capitalism is the source of modern war. Since the running of a big newspaper requires a large capital, the proprietors of important organs necessarily belong to the capitalist class, and it will be a rare and exceptional event if they do not sympathize with their own class in opinion and outlook. They are able to decide what news the great mass of newspaper readers shall be allowed to have. They can actually falsify the news, or, without going so far as that, they can carefully select it, giving such items as will stimulate the passions which they desire to stimulate, and suppressing such items as would provide the antidote. In this way the picture of the world in the mind of the average newspaper reader is made to be not a true picture, but in the main that which suits the interests of capitalists. This is true in many directions, but above all in what con-cerns the relations between nations. The mass of the population of a country can be led to love or hate any other country at the will of the newspaper proprietors, which is often, directly or indirectly, influenced by the will of the great financiers. So long as enmity between England and Russia was desired, our newspapers were full of the cruel treatment meted out to Russian political prisoners, the oppression of Finland and Russian Poland, and other such topics. As soon as our foreign policy changed, these items disappeared from the more important newspapers, and we heard instead of the misdeeds of Germany. Most men are not sufficiently critical to be on their guard against such influences, and until they are, the power of the Press will remain.

Besides these two influences of capitalism in promoting war, there is another, much less emphasized by the critics of capitalism, but by no means less important: I mean the pugnacity which tends to be developed in men who have the habit of command. So long as capitalist society persists, an undue measure of power will be in the hands of those who have acquired wealth and influence through a great position in industry or finance. Such men are in the habit, in private life, of finding their will seldom questioned; they are surrounded by obsequious satellites and are not infrequently engaged in conflicts with Trade Unions. Among their friends and acquaintances are included those who hold high positions in government or administration, and these men equally are liable to become autocratic through the habit of giving orders. It used to be customary to speak of the "governing classes," but nominal democracy has caused this phrase to go out of fashion. Nevertheless, it still retains much truth; there are still in any capitalist community those who command and those who as a rule obey. The outlook of these two classes is very different, though in a modern society there is a continuous gradation from the extreme of the one to the extreme of the other. The man who is accustomed to find submission to his will becomes indignant on the occasions when he finds opposition. Instinctively he is convinced that opposition is wicked and must be crushed. He is therefore much more willing than the average citizen to resort to war against his rivals. Accordingly we find, though, of course, with very notable exceptions, that in the main those who have most power are most warlike, and those who have least power are least disposed to hatred of foreign nations. This is one of the evils inseparable from the concentration of power. It will only be cured by the abolition of capitalism if the new system is one which allows very much less power to single individuals. It will not be cured by a system which substitutes the power of Ministers or officials for the power of capitalists This is one reason, additional to those mentioned in the preceding chapter, for desiring to see a diminution in the authority of the State.

Not only does the concentration of power tend to cause wars, but, equally, wars and the fear of them bring about the necessity for the concentration of power. So long as the community is exposed to sudden dangers, the possibility of quick decision is absolutely necessary to self-preservation. The cumbrous machinery of deliberative decisions by the people is impossible in a crisis, and therefore so long as crises are likely to occur, it is impossible to abolish the almost autocratic power of governments. In this case, as in most others, each of two correlative evils tends to perpetuate the other. The existence of men with the habit of power increases the risk of war, and the risk of war makes it impossible to establish a system where no man possesses great power.

So far we have been considering what is true in the contention that capitalism causes modern wars. It is time now to look at the other side, and to ask ourselves whether the abolition of capitalism would, by itself, be sufficient to prevent war.

I do not myself believe that this is the case. The outlook of both Socialists and Anarchists seems to me, in this respect as in some others, to be unduly divorced from the fundamental instincts of human nature. There were wars before there was capital-ism, and fighting is habitual among animals. The power of the Press in promoting war is entirely due to the fact that it is able to appeal to certain instincts. Man is naturally competitive, acquisitive, and, in a greater or less degree, pugnacious. When the Press tells him that so-and-so is his enemy, a whole set of instincts in him responds to the suggestion. It is natural to most men to suppose that they have enemies and to find a certain fulfillment of their nature when they embark upon a contest. What a man believes upon grossly insufficient evidence is an index to his desires—desires of which he himself is often unconscious. If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance with his instincts, he will accept it even on the slenderest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way, and much of what is currently believed in international affairs is no better than myth. Although capitalism affords in modern society the channel by which the instinct of pugnacity finds its outlet, there is reason to fear that, if this channel were closed, some other would be found, unless education and environment were so changed as enormously to diminish the strength of the competitive instinct. If an economic reorganization can effect this it may pro-vide a real safeguard against war, but if not, it is to be feared that the hopes of universal peace will prove delusive.

The abolition of capitalism might, and very likely would, greatly diminish the incentives to war which are derived from the Press and from the desire of finance to find new fields for investment in undeveloped countries, but those which are derived from the instinct of command and the impatience of opposition might remain, though perhaps in a less virulent form than at present. A democracy which has power is almost always more bellicose than one which is excluded from its due share in the government. The internationalism of Marx is based upon the assumption that the proletariat everywhere are oppressed by the ruling classes. The last words of the Communist Manifesto embody this idea—

Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!

So long as the proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains, it is not likely that their enmity will be directed against other proletarians. If the world had developed as Marx expected, the kind of internationalism which he foresaw might have inspired a universal social revolution. Russia, which devel-oped more nearly than any other country upon the lines of his system, has had a revolution of the kind which he expected. If the development in other countries had been similar, it is highly probable that this revolution would have spread throughout the civilized world. The proletariat of all countries might have united against the capitalists as their common enemy, and in the bond of an identical hatred they might for the moment have been free from hatred toward each other. Even then, this ground of union would have ceased with their victory, and on the morrow of the social revolution the old national rivalries might have revived. There is no alchemy by which a universal harmony can be produced out of hatred. Those who have been inspired to action by the doctrine of the class war will have acquired the habit of hatred, and will instinctively seek new enemies when the old ones have been vanquished.

But in actual fact the psychology of the working man in any of the Western democracies is totally unlike that which is assumed in the Communist Manifesto. He does not by any means feel that he has nothing to lose but his chains, nor indeed is this true. The chains which bind Asia and Africa in subjection to Europe are partly riveted by him. He is himself part of a great system of tyranny and exploitation. Universal freedom would remove, not only his own chains, which are comparatively light, but the far heavier chains which he has helped to fasten upon the subject races of the world.

Not only do the working men of a country like England have a share in the benefit accruing from the exploitation of inferior races, but many among them also have their part in the capitalist system. The funds of Trade Unions and Friendly Societies are invested in ordinary undertakings, such as railways; many of the better-paid wage-earners have put their savings into government securities; and almost all who are politically active feel themselves part of the forces that determine public policy, through the power of the Labor Party and the greater unions. Owing to these causes their outlook on life has become to a considerable extent impregnated with capitalism and as their sense of power has grown, their nationalism has increased. This must continue to be true of any internationalism which is based upon hatred of the capitalist and adherence to the doctrine of the class war. Something more positive and constructive than this is needed if governing democracies are not to inherit the vices of governing classes in the past.

I do not wish to be thought to deny that capitalism does very much to promote wars, or that wars would probably be less frequent and less destructive if private property were abolished. On the contrary, I believe that the abolition of private ownership of land and capital is a necessary step toward any world in which the nations are to live at peace with one another. I am only arguing that this step, necessary as it is, will not alone suffice for this end, but that among the causes of war there are others that go deeper into the roots of human nature than any that orthodox Socialists are wont to acknowledge.

Let us take an instance. In Australia and California there is an intense dislike and fear toward the yellow races. The causes of this are complex; the chief among them are two, labor competition and instinctive race-hatred. It is probable that, if race-hatred did not exist, the difficulties of labor competition could be overcome. European immigrants also compete, but they are not excluded. In a sparsely populated country, industrious cheap labor could, with a little care, be so utilized as to enrich the existing inhabitants; it might, for example, be confined to certain kinds of work, by custom if not by law. But race-hatred opens men’s minds to the evils of competition and closes them against the advantages of co-operation; it makes them regard with horror the somewhat unfamiliar vices of the aliens, while our own vices are viewed with mild toleration. I cannot but think that, if Australia were completely socialized, there would still remain the same popular objection as at present to any large influx of Chinese or Japanese labor. Yet if Japan also were to become a Socialist State, the Japanese might well continue to feel the pressure of population and the desire for an outlet. In such circumstances, all the passions and interests required to produce a war would exist, in spite of the establishment of Socialism in both countries. Ants are as completely Socialistic as any community can possibly be, yet they put to death any ant which strays among them by mistake from a neighboring ant-heap. Men do not differ much from ants, as regards their instincts in this respect, where-ever there is a great divergence of race, as between white men and yellow men. Of course the instinct of race-hostility can be overcome by suitable circumstances; but in the absence of such circumstances it remains a formidable menace to the world’s peace.

If the peace of the world is ever to become secure, I believe there will have to be, along with other changes, a development of the idea which inspires the project of a League of Nations. As time goes on, the destructiveness of war grows greater and its profits grow less: the rational argument against war acquires more and more force as the increasing productivity of labor makes it possible to devote a greater and greater proportion of the population to the work of mutual slaughter. In quiet times, or when a great war has just ended, men’s moods are amenable to the rational grounds in favor of peace, and it is possible to inaugurate schemes designed to make wars less frequent. Probably no civilized nation would embark upon an aggressive war if it were fairly certain in advance that the aggressor must be defeated. This could be achieved if most great nations came to regard the peace of the world as of such importance that they would side against an aggressor even in a quarrel in which they had no direct interest. It is on this hope that the League of Nations is based.

But the League of Nations, like the abolition of private property, will be by no means sufficient if it is not accompanied or quickly followed by other reforms. It is clear that such reforms, if they are to be effective, must be international; the world must move as a whole in these matters, if it is to move at all. One of the most obvious necessities, if peace is to be secure, is a measure of disarmament. So long as the present vast armies and navies exist, no system can prevent the risk of war. But disarmament, if it is to serve its purpose, must be simultaneous and by mutual agreement among all the Great Powers. And it is not likely to be successful so long as hatred and suspicion rule between nations, for each nation will suspect its neighbor of not carrying out the bargain fairly. A different mental and moral atmosphere from that to which we are accustomed in international affairs will be necessary if agreements between nations are to succeed in averting catastrophes. If once such an atmosphere existed it might be perpetuated and strengthened by wise institutions; but it cannot be CREATED by institutions alone. International co-operation requires mutual good will, and good will, however it has arisen, is only to be PRESERVED by co-operation. The international future depends upon the possibility of the initial creation of good will between nations.

It is in this sort of matter that revolutions are most useful. If the Russian Revolution had been accompanied by a revolution in Germany, the dramatic suddenness of the change might have shaken Europe, for the moment, out of its habits of thought:

the idea of fraternity might have seemed, in the twinkling of an eye, to have entered the world of practical politics; and no idea is so practical as the idea of the brotherhood of man, if only people can be startled into believing in it. If once the idea of fraternity between nations were inaugurated with the faith and vigor belonging to a new revolution, all the difficulties surrounding it would melt away, for all of them are due to suspicion and the tyranny of ancient prejudice. Those who (as is common in the English-speaking world) reject revolution as a method, and praise the gradual piecemeal development which (we are told) constitutes solid progress, overlook the effect of dramatic events in changing the mood and the beliefs of whole populations. A simultaneous revolution in Germany and Russia would no doubt have had such an effect, and would have made the creation of a new world possible here and now.

Dis aliter visum: the millennium is not for our time. The great moment has passed, and for ourselves it is again the distant hope that must inspire us, not the immediate breathless looking for the deliverance.[56] But we have seen what might have been, and we know that great possibilities do arise in times of crisis. In some such sense as this, it may well be true that the Socialist revolution is the road to universal peace, and that when it has been traversed all the other conditions for the cessation of wars will grow of themselves out of the changed mental and moral atmosphere.

[56] This was written in March, 1918, almost the darkest moment of the war.

There is a certain class of difficulties which surrounds the sober idealist in all speculations about the not too distant future. These are the cases where the solution believed by most idealists to be universally applicable is for some reason impossible, and is, at the same time, objected to for base or interested motives by all upholders of existing inequalities. The case of Tropical Africa will illustrate what I mean. It would be difficult seriously to advocate the immediate introduction of parliamentary government for the natives of this part of the world, even if it were accompanied by women’s suffrage and proportional representation. So far as I know, no one supposes the populations of these regions capable of self-determination, except Mr. Lloyd George. There can be no doubt that, whatever regime may be introduced in Europe, African negroes will for a long time to come be governed and exploited by Europeans. If the European States became Socialistic, and refused, under a Quixotic impulse, to enrich themselves at the expense of the defenseless inhabitants of Africa, those inhabitants would not thereby gain; on the contrary, they would lose, for they would be handed over to the tender mercies of individual traders, operating with armies of reprobate bravos, and committing every atrocity to which the civilized barbarian is prone. The European governments cannot divest themselves of responsibility in regard to Africa. They must govern there, and the best that can be hoped is that they should govern with a minimum of cruelty and rapacity. From the point of view of preserving the peace of the world, the problem is to parcel out the advantages which white men derive from their position in Africa in such a way that no nation shall feel a sense of injustice. This problem is comparatively simple, and might no doubt be solved on the lines of the war aims of the Inter-Allied Socialists. But it is not this problem which I wish to discuss. What I wish to consider is, how could a Socialist or an Anarchist community govern and administer an African region, full of natural wealth, but inhabited by a quite uncivilized population? Unless great precautions were taken the white community, under the circumstances, would acquire the position and the instincts of a slave-owner. It would tend to keep the negroes down to the bare level of subsistence, while using the produce of their country to increase the comfort and splendor of the Communist community. It would do this with that careful unconsciousness which now characterizes all the worst acts of nations. Administrators would be appointed and would be expected to keep silence as to their methods. Busybodies who reported horrors would be disbelieved, and would be said to be actuated by hatred toward the existing regime and by a perverse love for every country but their own. No doubt, in the first generous enthusiasm accompanying the establishment of the new regime at home, there would be every intention of making the natives happy, but gradually they would be forgotten, and only the tribute coming from their country would be remembered. I do not say that all these evils are unavoidable; I say only that they will not be avoided unless they are foreseen and a deliberate conscious effort is made to prevent their realization. If the white communities should ever reach the point of wishing to carry out as far as possible the principles underlying the revolt against capitalism, they will have to find a way of establishing an absolute disinterestedness in their dealings with subject races. It will be necessary to avoid the faintest suggestion of capitalistic profit in the government of Africa, and to spend in the countries themselves whatever they would be able to spend if they were self-governing. Moreover, it must always be remembered that backwardness in civilization is not necessarily incurable, and that with time even the populations of Central Africa may become capable of democratic self-government, provided Europeans bend their energies to this purpose.

The problem of Africa is, of course, a part of the wider problems of Imperialism, but it is that part in which the application of Socialist principles is most difficult. In regard to Asia, and more particularly in regard to India and Persia, the application of principles is clear in theory though difficult in political practice. The obstacles to self-government which exist in Africa do not exist in the same measure in Asia. What stands in the way of freedom of Asiatic populations is not their lack of intelligence, but only their lack of military prowess, which makes them an easy prey to our lust for dominion. This lust would probably be in temporary abeyance on the morrow of a Socialist revolution, and at such a moment a new departure in Asiatic policy might be taken with permanently beneficial results. I do not mean, of course, that we should force upon India that form of democratic government which we have developed for our own needs. I mean rather that we should leave India to choose its own form of government, its own manner of education and its own type of civilization. India has an ancient tradition, very different from that of Western Europe, a tradition highly valued by educated Hindoos, but not loved by our schools and colleges. The Hindoo Nationalist feels that his country has a type of culture containing elements of value that are absent, or much less marked, in the West; he wishes to be free to preserve this, and desires political freedom for such reasons rather than for those that would most naturally appeal to an Englishman in the same subject position. The belief of the European in his own Kultur tends to be fanatical and ruthless, and for this reason, as much as for any other, the independence of extra-European civilization is of real importance to the world, for it is not by a dead uniformity that the world as a whole is most enriched.

I have set forth strongly all the major difficulties in the way of the preservation of the world’s peace, not because I believe these difficulties to be insuperable, but, on the contrary, because I believe that they can be overcome if they are recognized. A correct diagnosis is necessarily the first step toward a cure. The existing evils in international relations spring, at bottom, from psychological causes, from motives forming part of human nature as it is at present. Among these the chief are competitiveness, love of power, and envy, using envy in that broad sense in which it includes the instinctive dislike of any gain to others not accompanied by an at least equal gain to ourselves. The evils arising from these three causes can be removed by a better education and a better economic and political system.

Competitiveness is by no means wholly an evil. When it takes the form of emulation in the service of the public, or in discovery or the production of works of art, it may become a very useful stimulus, urging men to profitable effort beyond what they would otherwise make. It is only harmful when it aims at the acquisition of goods which are limited in amount, so that what one man possesses he holds at the expense of another. When competitiveness takes this form it is necessarily attended by fear, and out of fear cruelty is almost inevitably developed. But a social system providing for a more just distribution of material goods might close to the instinct of competitiveness those channels in which it is harmful, and cause it to flow instead in channels in which it would become a benefit to mankind. This is one great reason why the communal ownership of land and capital would be likely to have a beneficial effect upon human nature, for human nature, as it exists in adult men and women, is by no means a fixed datum, but a product of circumstances, education and opportunity operating upon a highly malleable native disposition.

What is true of competitiveness is equally true of love of power. Power, in the form in which it is now usually sought, is power of command, power of imposing one’s will upon others by force, open or concealed. This form of power consists, in essence, in thwarting others, for it is only displayed when others are compelled to do what they do not wish to do. Such power, we hope, the social system which is to supersede capitalist will reduce to a minimum by the methods which we outlined in the preceding chapter. These methods can be applied in international no less than in national affairs. In international affairs the same formula of federalism will apply: self-determination for every group in regard to matters which concern it much more vitally than they concern others, and government by a neutral authority embracing rival groups in all matters in which conflicting interests of groups come into play; lout always with the fixed principle that the functions of government are to be reduced to the bare minimum compatible with justice and the prevention of private violence. In such a world the present harmful outlets for the love of power would be closed. But the power which consists in persuasion, in teaching, in leading men to a new wisdom or the realization of new possibilities of happiness—this kind of power, which may be wholly beneficial, would remain untouched, and many vigorous men, who in the actual world devote their energies to domination, would in such a world find their energies directed to the creation of new goods rather than the perpetuation of ancient evils.

Envy, the third of the psychological causes to which we attributed what is bad in the actual world, depends in most natures upon that kind of fundamental discontent which springs from a lack of free development, from thwarted instinct, and from the impossibility of realizing an imagined happiness. Envy cannot be cured by preaching; preaching, at the best, will only alter its manifestations and lead it to adopt more subtle forms of concealment. Except in those rare natures in which generosity dominates in spite of circumstances, the only cure for envy is freedom and the joy of life. From populations largely deprived of the simple instinctive pleasures of leisure and love, sunshine and green fields, generosity of outlook and kindliness of dispositions are hardly to be expected. In such populations these qualities are not likely to be found, even among the fortunate few, for these few are aware, however dimly, that they are profiting by an injustice, and that they can only continue to enjoy their good fortune by deliberately ignoring those with whom it is not shared. If generosity and kindliness are to be common, there must be more care than there is at present for the elementary wants of human nature, and more realization that the diffusion of happiness among all who are not the victims of some peculiar misfortune is both possible and imperative. A world full of happiness would not wish to plunge into war, and would not be filled with that grudging hostility which our cramped and narrow existence forces upon average human nature. A world full of happiness is not beyond human power to create; the obstacles imposed by inanimate nature are not insuperable. The real obstacles lie in the heart of man, and the cure for these is a firm hope, informed and fortified by thought.

Contents - CHAPTER: - Introduction

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