The Psychological Basis for Internationalism
The war in Europe has paid certain great spiritual dividends. From Germany, from France, from England, and from Russia have come accounts of the fusing of people and peoples into self-conscious nations. Men and women and children passed under the spell of the great experience. They felt, if they did not think it out, that these overwhelming moments of emotion were theirs because of their complete identification with each other in the whole community. It was only because of this flood-tide of national consciousness that they could be swept up to these ultimate heights of human experience. It was not so much that they were willing to sacrifice themselves for their country, as that for the time being they lived up to the enlargement of self-consciousness which is the inner side of the consciousness of a nation.
The most impressive accounts of these experiences come not so much from the outburst of great masses in the cities, as from the letters and reported incidents in the lives of families and individuals scattered throughout these countries.
Now, these are types of the highest experiences that human nature has attained. They are the same in nature with those of saints and martyrs, and while they persist in full emotional throb, they make possible what men and women have regarded as the greatest moments in their lives. From the standpoint of the observer the man may be sacrificing himself for others; from his own, he is realizing the meaning of his identity with his whole group.
We cannot remain long on these emotional heights. Devotion passes quite naturally into hatred of the enemy. This attitude in the presence of actual danger to oneself and to all that has been precious, can be kept vivid and effective much longer than devotion. It is part of the almost instinctive technique of the community and the government to stimulate and play upon this hatred because it provides another mechanism for the sense of social identity after the exalted feeling of devotion has ebbed.
It does not necessarily detract from the lofty quality of the experiences that there was nothing in the attitudes of the peoples of Europe toward each other to account for the war itself.
There was, to be sure among the people of France, Russia, and England, a sense of dread of the military power of Germany; and in Germany there was a widespread dread of the military power of Russia and France threatening Germany on both flanks, and of England upon the sea. But the actual populations of these different countries carried on without clash or hatred an international life of commerce, industry, and intellectual interchange in social ideas in literature, science, education, and even sport, which was beyond comparison more vivid and intimate than the national life in any country of Europe one hundred years ago. There never has been, within a shorter period than a century, so highly organized an intra-national life and consciousness in any country of the western world as the international life of Europe before the first of last August. There was, of course, one exception to this statement. Between the Serbs and Austrians existed a racial hatred of long standing that in Austria-Hungary, at least, called loudly for war.
WITH this exception, there was nothing in the minds of the peoples, in their attitudes toward each other, or in profound popular movements, that demanded or suggested war. Slavs in hundreds of thousands came every year into Germany to labor, not only in the harvest fields but even in manufacturing industry. The steady friendly invasion of France and England by Germans, took place without racial friction. The movement which was most profoundly popular, the labor movement, was international. Science was international. There was hardly a field of interest, within which there did not exist some international organization defining and asserting international standards.
There was not a social issue, an idea dear to the hearts of the European community, that could by any possibility be identified with any one nation or its peculiar institutions. There was far greater unanimity of the masses of the whole European population against the economic and social domination of the upper groups than of the mass of any nation against another people. In fact, with the exception of the Austrian government in its attack upon Servia, no government has dared present to its people any issue except that of self-defense; and the whole effort of the publicity department of every chancellery among the powers at war, has been to present a case at home and abroad of a nation or a group of nations attacked without warrant and defending itself against unjustified aggression.
It would require the satire of a Swift or a Voltaire to justice to the present situation, in which the greatest powers in Europe are engaged in the most terrible struggle the world has ever seen, while each is professedly occupied merely in self-defense. There is, of course, abundant reason for this identical formulation of the causes of the war. It is first of all an appeal to a public sentiment that is to be voiced by neutral nations; but, in the life and death grapple that is on, it is still more a mobilization of the moral forces at home. Nor are these two purposes distinct. Nations, like individuals, can become objects to themselves only as they see themselves through the eyes of others. Every appeal to public sentiment is an effort to justify oneself to oneself.
I doubt if we have fully realized the importance of this identical formulation of the causes of the war. Whatever else it means, it indicates clearly that for the masses of the European communities there is no justifiable cause of war except self-defense. There has arisen among the militaristic groups a revival of the cult of Napoleon with the appeal to the glory of combat and triumph. But not a military leader in Europe dares voice this appeal to slaughter and conquest.
Out of the warlike birth of the modern Prussian state and the German Empire under its hegemony, there has arisen a cult of the strong-armed state that finds justification for warfare in its own fortunes and in its own morale. But today there is not a German who can catch the public ear, who will recognize that the cult of Treitschke and von Bernhardi has an echo in the German nation. Throughout the western world there is now but one cause which can give rise to that entire national unity that constitutes the moral fitness for a life and death struggle — and that is, self-defense.
Unfortunately the theory of warfare demands offense as the most effective form of defense, and the logic of offense carries with it capture and subjection, devastation and terror. To defend successfully their own, men must
(605) get down to the primitive instincts from which spring battle-fury, the lust of carnage, rape and rapine. But whatever may be said in justification of such offense from the standpoint of the sadistic psychologist, or of the Nietzschean counsel "to live dangerously," it is impossible to organize the moral sentiment of the fighting nations for a campaign of offensive warfare, and each government feels the compulsion upon it to suppress reports of that terror which is the logic of offensive fighting. An accepted and avowed policy of terrorism would be more dangerous to the administration at home than to the conquered people. And this is true not because a womanish sympathy has weakened the fiber of the peoples, but because the sense of social solidarity inevitably sweeps in the very people who are to be terrorized. The international fabric of European life could not be tossed aside when war was declared. Purely national cultures could not be substituted for the international culture of the western world, and no more convincing evidence of this could be given than the attempt which certain German scientists made in their letters to their American colleagues to prove that English science was entirely negligible. It was psychologically impossible for these men to hate the English as enemies of the fatherland as they wish to hate them, and still be on terms of international amity and cooperation within the field even of abstract science.
There is but one justification for killing which nations or individuals are willing to consciously accept, that of self-defense. The function of social organization is to build up and enlarge the personality of nations as truly as that of individuals. and this cannot include the deliberate destruction of the very members of international society, the consciousness of whom is essential to national self-consciousness.
BUT while it is true that it is psychologically impossible to mobilize a modern western nation for any but a defensive war, we cannot push aside the fact that these nations have been willing to accept military preparedness as an essential part of their rational lives. The knowledge that the nation is prepared to fight has given it the feeling of self-respect that the knowledge of the art of self-defense and physical fitness give to the well-mannered man.
There has been a great deal of superficial justification of this military preparation for self-defense. Up to the first of last August, men could still maintain that preparation for war is the best guaranty of peace. Prince Kropotkin was the first to recognize publicly that the events which followed that date finally and utterly disproved this doctrine.
It has been stated that a nation in arms will not lightly go to war, and the phrase "a nation in arms" has been so pleasant on the tongue that men have stopped thinking when they have uttered it. A nation under arms is in fact a nation bound to the unthinking obedience of the soldier to his commander. It is not and cannot be a nation in conscious control of its own policies and its own fortunes. Could there be better evidence of this than the fact of the five great nations fighting with each other for national existence, while the people of all five believe that the war is one purely of self-defense? The government of each has assured them that this is the case.
Theirs not to reason why;
Theirs but to do and die.
It is further maintained that in the relations of nations with each other, military power and readiness inspires international respect and enables a nation to enforce its rights without the final proof of the battlefield. In the words of our own militarist, a nation with the big stick may speak softly. And here again the picture is so agreeable that we are loath to look to the history of diplomacy. There it stands very plainly written that as soon as military force is admitted into the argument it as inevitably crowds out considerations of right, as a file of soldiers introduced into a convention or a court silences every claim except that supported by the bayonet.
Lord Grey stretched his diplomat's imagination nearly to the breaking point when he conceived of England as approaching Germany's situation from the standpoint of national right as distinct from national might and appealed to the seemingly unrealizable ideal formulated by Gladstone, of a public right governing European nations.
We have been living largely in diplomatic papers, and have sat with statesmen and monarchs agonizing over the terror that they foresaw and could not forefend even when they hesitatingly suggested the impossible, an international right, that might conceivably be put into the scales over against orders of mobilizations and dates and provisions of ultimata. The monstrous puerility of it all!
Because of the pomp and circumstance of diplomatic intercourse and the terrible consequences it implies, we overlook the fact that there is at present no situation short of a street fight or a small boys' squabble in which the actual procedure is the same as that of our ministers plenipotentiary and embassadors extraordinary. And there is but one explanation: When there is an armed force behind every proposal. the only convincing counter argument is a force majeure; and when this argument has been displayed any other is a work of supererogation. There is but one possible justification for the situation, and it is the one offered — the necessity of it.
"There is no international right that anyone needs to respect. Between nations, except in moments of exaltation, might is the only right."
While we are reading governmental papers we may accept it. We are back in the age of the Hohenstaufens, when the only guardian of international rights was the Lord of Hosts, the God of Battles.
The curious thing is that while we agree with the diplomatist and the war lord behind him that there is no international right, we would have sent any man not a diplomat to an insane asylum who acted upon that theory. A Frenchman or Englishman who made a contract with a German and refused to keep it, an Italian scientist who laid claim to the achievements of a Russian physiologist, an Englishman who outraged a Belgian peasant girl, on the theory that there was no international right, would all have realized, not only in the country in which the offense was committed, but also in their own countries, that there is an international right that is quite indistinguishable from national right.
In any case, the fellow-countrymen of that grandson of a Scotchman who was born in Koenigsberg, Germany, and who is so loudly acclaimed by that Teutonized Englishman Houston Chamberlain,— the fellow-countrymen of Emmanuel Kant, at least, might recognize that the only reason there is any right at all in any nation or country is because there is a right that is recognized as international and more than international.
We know from some expensive experience that there is no such thing as national finance that is not founded upon international finance. We know there never has been a national science that has not been the outgrowth of an international science. We know not only that there never has been a civilized race that is not a mingling of many bloods, but that no self-conscious civilization has ever arisen except out of the intercourse of ideas which have been actually internationalized and have thus become universal. A standard of any sort could not be merely national unless it were willing to be a contradiction in terms.
In a word, no nation could come to consciousness as a nation except within an international society, and there is no capacity or right or achievement of any nation for which it is not as dependent upon the international society that has made the nation possible, as is any German or Englishman or Russian dependent upon his own society for his capacities and rights and achievements.
Now it is true that human rights,
(606) being social growths have been slow growths, and that their growth has been marked by the same sort of violence as that which now on a Brobdignagian scale is devastating Europe. It is, then, easy to assume that international right is a plant of still slower growth, and that we must have the divine patience for which a thousand years is as one day, and one day is as a thousand years. We must assume, according to this doctrine, that when our war lords and foreign secretaries and militaristic leaders address us we are still in the age of the Hohenstaufens and their shining armors, while words addressed to the world by the Pasteurs, the Kochs, the Mendelieffs, the Ibsens, the Anatole France's, the Darwins, the Sir Henry Maines, the great industrialists, educators, and financiers reach their fellow-countrymen because a twentieth century international society gave them both their social equipment and their equally essential audience.
WE know the doctrine is a false one. We know that we have not only all the mechanisms necessary for expressing international rights of which we are vividly conscious, but also for enforcing them. We know that it is only the unwillingness of the peoples of our so-called Christendom to surrender that peculiar egoistic consciousness which each one of us experiences when his own nation stands up and shakes its fist in the face of another nation, together with the more profound experiences of self-devotion which go with it, that has kept Europe from working out and presenting for enactment international legislation that at a stroke would have replaced nations submissively bowing before their under officers and drill sergeants, and quite at the mercy of their foreign offices, by a Hague or other tribunal and a small international police.
We know that it is not because the rights of people and peoples can be affirmed and protected only by the procedure of the Hohenstaufens or the more modern street ruffians, that we have refused to permit international institutions to formulate those rights and an international public opinion to enforce them. What we are afraid to lose is this peculiar national self-consciousness, the sense of superiority to people of other nations, and the patriotism and lofty devotion which seems to be dependent upon national egotisms. We will not surrender these nor the occasions out of which they arise. There must be some things we are unwilling to arbitrate, otherwise we are craven people with dead souls.
It is of importance that men should realize that the problem of war is on the one hand ethical and on the other, psychological. It is not a problem of institutional mechanisms, nor of an apparatus of universal ideas, nor of means of international communication and acquaintanceship. It is not a question, in other words, of creating an international society. All of these exist. It is a question of relative values. Are the spiritual experiences, both the egoistical and those of self-surrender, both the contemptible and the heroic, which seem to us to presuppose war,— are these so valuable that we can afford to purchase them at the expense of Armageddon?
The problem is an ethical problem because it is a conflict of values. The western world has now a definite bill of costs for its procedure in checking and cutting back the growth of the institutions and public sentiments which could without difficulty have settled the quarrel that was the occasion of Europe's holocaust. And on the other side, it has experienced the values for the sake of which it has exposed itself to this loss.
There have been those moments of priceless emotional experience, in which men and women realized that they were all one when the nation was in danger. With many, this elevated emotional tone will continue. With most, it has ebbed into the compelling routine of the group of habits we calls discipline, in very many, into the hatred of the enemy by which one can still get that sense of solidarity that under other conditions we call mob consciousness.
These are enormously valuable experiences — even those which must be called ignoble in comparison with the sense of entire self-devotion. They pervade the whole consciousness, giving even insignificant objects and experiences a vicarious import. There have been periods in former struggles for human liberty when these moments stood out not only as worthwhile in themselves, but with the added value of the issues for which men were fighting. Today, men are fighting for no ideas. No nation is fighting for a better order of society. The international order of society is better than that of any nation which reserves to itself the right of fighting for any issue it chooses to call vital to its own interests.
THIS war has taken place because the nations have maintained the right to carry arms and thus have made a relatively insignificant incident the occasion for a European catastrophe.
It is of importance that the relative values should stand out clearly. It is probable that in the aftermath of the war, these values will come with ever greater definiteness to men's minds. Unless men are so circumstanced that they cannot reflect, they must gradually recognize that as nations — apart from small interested groups — they were fighting simply because they demanded as their highest privilege the right to fight on any occasion, and at any time.
It is an ethical question, then, because, perhaps for the first time in human history, the value of war as a social institution existing for its own exercise, for its use in social organization, in physical training, in heightened national self-feeling, in opportunities for limitless hatreds and self-devotions, has been put sharply in contrast with the costs and losses of warfare.
It is a psychological question because the values of war, and the preparation for it, have to be stated more and more completely in terms of attitudes and states of mind. The objective human interests for which men have fought in the past are now so embodied in the institutions of civilized states, and in the habits and customs of communities, that they are there vastly better safeguarded than they could be by armies and navies. It is the feeling of enlarged personality, of the national amour propre, a feeling not so much of what a people have or want as of what they are, that militarism supports in national life.
If the ethical problem arises out of the conflict between values which a national military attitude and training maintains and those which war destroys, the psychological question is whether the military attitude and training are essential for the self-respect of a nation; whether this antiquated, medieval method of giving every man the sense of being at one with the rest of the community must be preserved for the lack of better mechanism.
If the ethical problem is solved as we hope that it will be solved, if militarism is cashiered because it is too hideously expensive in human values, the question as to the way in which nations will arouse their patriotisms is likely to be left to answer itself. But though men are not likely to consider what form patriotisms will take in the future, it is true that because the problem has become so largely psychological, the ethical problem of war stands out so clearly.
It is because in the relations of western nations with each other we have nothing left to fight for except the right to fight for the sake of fighting, that we can squarely assess the value of this so-called national right. If bloodless revolution had not been embodied in the constitution of most of our western states, war would be still necessary to bring men to the common consciousness of their rights and their willingness to die for them. At present, any war is apt to be more dangerous than helpful to interests of those in our communities who need protection. In these days of scientific warfare, the disciplined populace who make up the army become the bulwark of economic and social privilege. No. At present, war, as an institution, cannot be cast in the rôle of Greatheart who goes forth to protect the weak. It must find alone in the consciousness of fighting and being ready to fight, all the val-
(607)-ues with which to offset the losses it entails.
Instinctively all those who were interested in social reform felt that this war must set back the clock of social betterment unless it accomplished the feat of destroying militarism itself. And here the militarist stiffens the sinews, throws out his chest, and contrasts his red-blooded virility with the feminist, philanthropic social reform, and asks us whether we are willing to exchange the fighting man for the milksop.
We will not stop to consider the childish assumption that we must pull down amid fire and slaughter the whole structure of the western world to secure bulging sinews, deep chests, and red blood corpuscles. The real question is: Why should anyone consider the work with which these reforms are occupied as white-blooded and feministic? They are the identical interests — though vastly more intelligently conceived — for which our forefathers fought, bled, and died. They are attempted concrete definitions of the life, the liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of the great mass of the community. We cannot fight for them any longer at least after the fashion of the modern fighting state, because the militaristic state must look upon itself as the potential enemy of all other states while most of the social structure within which growth is taking place, is international. The state as the instrument of the separate community is the organ through which these changes get formulated in that nation. But as long as it is necessarily hostile to internationalism, it cannot become properly responsive to the labor movement, to social science, or even to industry. It follows that these movements of social reform and integration within the separate states are deformed, are allowed to advance only so far as the interests of the state in its separation permits them to go.
The result is that the so-called reformer is always on the begging hand over against the self-sufficient state. How far may the reform go without weakening the fixed order of society ? There is certainly no process more definitely international than industry and commerce. But industry is divided up from the governmental standpoint into industries of the different nations, and barriers are set up to bring in a national net income by industries that are conceived of as if they could stand alone. There can be no adequate standard of social control of an essentially international industry, from the point of view of a national budget. The reformer stands in the position of the man urging concessions in the interests of humanity, and at the expense of the state.
Now, there are restricted fields, such as that of hygiene, in which national and international interest palpably coincide. Here the trained man speaks with authority and does not present a pathetic plea. Even here, of course, there are limits to state action.
The German militaristic state has more intelligently than any other, recognized the common grounds of international social growth and national state interests. Within these fields militarism has even advanced these reforms. The German bureaucracy has gained a certain detachment from the military standpoint of its government, which has enabled it to introduce industrial insurance, community care for infants, the fostering of vocational education, and better housing, among other reforms. The privileged interests, which have opposed these reforms in other countries have been summarily pushed one side by a purposeful government that has undertaken to make its people more effective, more powerful, more masterful than any other nation in the world.
Such a state can have only persecution for an international labor movement, whereas it will welcome an international hygiene. It will welcome an international physical science which puts nature under the control of a national industry, where it will frown upon Hague tribunals which would deal with conflicts of nations from the international standpoint instead of the national standpoint.
Even in Germany the social reformer brings his program to a government that has other interests besides those of international society, and asks somewhat humbly how much of his program may be accepted. If science, and hygiene, and education, and art, and industry, and commerce, were as narrowly national as are armament and warfare in their interests, the social reformer would speak with authority and not as something of a milksop who is after all only trying to get a little good done.
Militarism is not simply an evil in itself. It is typical and conservative of a state that is narrowly national in its attitude and that refuses to recognize the international society, that after all has made the self-conscious state possible. The problem is then largely a psychological problem, for it has to do with the change of attitude, the willingness to accept the whole international fabric of society, and to regard the states and the communities of which they are the instruments, as subject to and controlled by the life of the whole, not as potential enemies for whose assault each state must be forever on the watch.