The national concept in the process of time
The nation as community of descent
The nation as community of interest
Division of the nation into castes, ranks and classes
National interest and class interest
The conflict in the Rruhr
Poincare's "national policy." the dealings of German heavy industry with the "hereditary enemy" against German Labor
The "folk community" at work
The pensioners of the German Republic
The nation as community of spiritual interest
Religious and party conflicts
The nation as community of morals and customs
City and country
Rich and poor
The national tradition
Membership in 'the nation as the result of political efforts
North and South America
The nation and society
The concepts of the nation and nationality have in the course of time undergone many changes, and have even today the same double meaning as the concept of race. During the Middle Ages the unions of fellow countrymen who were students in the universities were called nations. The famous University of Prague was divided into "four nations": Bavarians, Bohemians, Poles and Saxons. One also spoke frequently of a nation of physicians, of smiths, of lawyers, and so on. Even Luther makes a decided distinction between folk and nation in his pamphlet, To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, designating as the nation the possessors of political power exclusively -- that is, princes, knights and bishops, in contradistinction to the common people. This distinction prevailed for a considerable time, until gradually the demarcation between nation and people began to disappear in language. Frequently an unpleasant flavour was attached to the concept of the nation. Ludwig Jahn argues, thus, in his German Folkways:
That which really is the highest, and was so regarded in Greece and Rome, is with us still a term of revilement: Folk and Nation! "He has gone among the folk," was said of the miserable deserters who for the sake of the money they got from the recruiting officer ran away, and will serve seven potentates in one pair of shoes. "That's the regular nation," was colloquially said of Gypsies, thievish vagabonds, tramps, and Jewish peddlers.
There was a time when one was content to use the term "nation" of a human community whose members were born in the same place and were consequently held together by fundamental social relations. This concept corresponds best to the meaning of the Latin word natio, from which the term "nation" is derived. This is the more understandable since it is based on the more limited idea of home. But this concept does not correspond to the modern idea of the nation, nor is it in harmony with the national endeavours of the time, which seek to give the nations the widest possible boundaries. Were the nation in fact to comprise only the neighbourhood where a man first saw the light, and were national consciousness to be defined only as the natural feeling of attachment between men who have been welded into a community by being born in the one place, then we could not speak of Germans, Frenchmen, Turks and Japanese, but at the most of Hamburgers, Parisians, Amsterdammers, or Venetians-a situation which actually existed in the city republics of ancient Greece and the federated communities of the Middle Ages.
Later, the concept of the nation became much broader, comprising a human grouping which had developed through a community of material and spiritual interests, and of morals, customs and traditions; hence, it represents a sort of "community of destiny," which holds within itself the laws of its particular life. This concept is not nearly as clear as the first; and is, moreover, in conflict with the daily experiences of life. Every nation includes today the most various castes, conditions, classes and parties. These not only pursue their separate interests, but frequently face one another with definite antagonism. The results are countless, never-ending conflicts and inner antagonisms, which are infinitely more difficult to overcome than the temporary wars between the various states and nations.
The same nations which only yesterday faced each other on the "field of honor," armed to the teeth, to settle their real or imaginary difficulties by bloody wars, tomorrow or the day after make alliances of defense and offense with their former enemies against other nations with whom they had been previously allied by trade agreements or treaties of political or military nature. But the fight between the various classes within the same nation can never be eliminated so long as these classes themselves exist and cleave the nation with eternal economic and political antagonisms. Even when by extraordinary circumstances or catastrophic events the class antagonisms are apparently overcome or temporarily allayed, as by the proclamation of the so-called "citizens' peace" during the World War, it is only a passing phenomenon arising from the pressure of circumstances, the real meaning of which is never clear to the great masses of the people. Such alliances have no permanency and they break apart at the first occasion for the lack of a real inner tie of community interests. A tyrannical system of government may under certain circumstances be able to prevent an open outbreak of inner conflicts, as has been done currently in Italy and Germany; but one does not abolish internal conflicts by preventing the people from speaking about them.
The love of his own nation has never yet prevented the entrepreneur from using foreign labor if it was cheaper and made more profit for him. Whether his own people are thereby injured does not concern him in the least; the personal profit is the deciding factor in such a case, and so-called national interests are only considered when they are not in conflict with personal ones. When there is such conflict all patriotic enthusiasm vanishes. Concerning the nature of the so-called "national interests" Germany got a lesson during the frightful years after the war which is not easily misunderstood.
After losing the war Germany found itself in a desperate situation. It had to give up economic spheres of great importance, and its export trade had been almost totally lost. Added to this were the extreme economic mandates of the victors and the breakdown of the old system. If the slogan about national unity had any meaning at all it had to be proved at this stage that the nation was indeed minded to face the newly created conditions unitedly and equitably to spread the load of misfortune over all sections of the population. But this never entered the minds of the owning classes. On the contrary, they tried to make profits from the situation. These patriots were bent solely upon gain, even though wide sections of their own people would be thereby impoverished.
It was the representatives of Prussian junkerdom and German heavy industry who during the frightful years of the war had secretly advocated the most ruthless annexation policy and by their insatiable greed brought on the great catastrophe of the debacle. Not content with the fabulous profits they had made during those years, they pursued the same ends when the war was over, and never for a moment considered sacrificing to the nation even a penny of their gains. The owners of German heavy industry got themselves relieved from the taxes which were deducted from the wages of even the poorest laborer. They raised the price of coal to unheard-of levels while the nation froze in front of cold stoves. They knew how to make enormous profits from the paper credits of the Reichsbank. (It was just this speculation with the monetary distress which it had itself caused that gave heavy industry the power to confirm its rule over the hungry nation.) Its representatives, under the leader-ship of Hugo Stinnes, really brought about the occupation of the Ruhr, causing the German nation to lose fifteen billion gold marks -- to which these industrialists contributed not a single penny.
The Ruhr conflict in its various phases of development is a splendid illustration of the capitalistic "interest" policy as a background for the national ideology. The occupation of the Ruhr was but a continuation of the same criminal power policy which led to the World War and for four years dragged people to the shambles. This conflict concerned exclusively the antagonistic interest of German and French heavy industry. Just as the great German industrialists were during the war the most pronounced advocates of the annexation idea and made the incorporation of Briey-Longuy one of the chief objects of German propaganda, so, later on, Poincare's national policy followed the same line and represented the undisguised desire for annexation of French heavy industry and its powerful organization, the Comité des Forges. The same alms formerly pursued by the great German industrialists were now taken over by the representatives of French heavy industry, namely, the creation of certain monopolies on the continent under the direction of special capitalistic groups for whom the so-called "national interests" have always served as stalking horse for their own ruthless business interests. It was the union of the Lorraine iron mines with the coalfields of the Ruhr basin, in the form of a powerful amalgamation planned by French heavy industry, which was to secure for it an unlimited monopoly on the continent. And since the interests of the great industrialists harmonized with the interests of the gainers by the reparations and were favored by the military caste, so they worked from that side by every means for the occupation of the Ruhr.
But before it went so far there were negotiations between the German and French heavy industries for a peaceful, purely business-like solution of the question whereby both parties were to profit in proportion to their forces. Such an understanding would indeed have been achieved, for the great German industrialists did not give a hang for the national interest of the Reich, so long as their profits were secure. But as the owners of the British coal mines, to whom an amalgamation on the continent would have been a severe blow, doubtless held out to them the prospect of greater advantages, they suddenly rediscovered their patriotic hearts and let tile occupation proceed. Together with the laborers and office employees who, ignorant of the inner connections, again allowed themselves to be used M the interest of their masters, they organized a passive resistance, and the press owned by Stinnes blew mightily into the national trumpet in order to rouse the country's hatred against the hereditary enemy. When the resistance collapsed, Stinnes and the other owners of German industry did not wait on the Stresernann government, but dealt directly with the French. On October 5, 1923, Stinnes, Kliökner, Velsen and Vögler met the French general, Degoutte, and tried to persuade him to enforce the ten-hour day on the German workers who only the day before had been their allies in the passive resistance against the French cabinet. Could there be a better illustration of the nation as community of interest? 1
Poincaté seized on Germany's alleged failure in the coal deliveries as a pretext for letting the French troops march into the Ruhr. This was of course only an excuse to give plain robber raids an appearance of legality, as is plainly proved by the fact that France was at the time richer in coal than any land in Europe with the sole exception of England. The French government even saw itself compelled to impose an extra duty of 10 percent on coal from the Saar in order to protect French coal in the home market. The fact is that 20 percent of this coal was being sent back into Germany and that only 35 percent of it was used in French industry.
On the other hand, the great German industrialists and their allies had by the ruthless defense of their special interests done everything to make the game easier for the French government. It was they who most bitterly opposed all attempts at the stabilization of the mark, since by inflation they could most conveniently sabotage the taxation of their industries and of the great landed estates and shift the load to the shoulders of the workers of their own country. As a result of these dark machinations not only did there arise a whole army of currency speculators and other profiteers who made enormous gains from the monstrous misery of the masses, but France was given the opportunity to gain extra advantage from Germany's monetary distress. Thus, according to the testimony of the former French Minister of Finance, Lasteyrie, Germany had by the end of September, 1921, delivered to France fuel to the value Of 2,571 million francs for which, owing to the devaluation of the mark, it was credited with only 980 million francs. The business agencies of the good German patriots thus procured for the "hereditary enemy" a special source of income at the expense of the enormous exploitation of German workers and the declining middle class.
But when the Ruhr conflict was over and the industrialists of the occupied territory came to conclude the so-called Micum agreements, not one of them thought for a moment of the millions of profit they had made during the inflation period. On the contrary, they demanded of the Reich appropriate compensation for their loss, and the Luther-Stresemann government, without considering the state's right of eminent domain, made haste to hand them the trifle of 706,400,000 gold marks for the "Micum damages," for which the Reich was credited with only 446,400,000 gold marks in the reparation accounts -- a transaction such as has probably not often taken place in a state with a parliamentary government.
In short, the representatives of heavy industry, of the great estate owners and the stock exchange had never bothered their brains concerning the alleged community of national interests. It never occurred to them that in order to rescue the rest of the nation from helpless despair and misery after the war they might be content with smaller profits. They stole what they could lay their hands on, while the nation fed on dry bread and potatoes and thousands of German children died of under-nourishment. None of these parasites ever heeded that their uncontrolled greed delivered the whole nation to destruction. While the workers and the middle class of the great cities perished in misery, Stinnes became the owner of fabulous riches. Thyssen, who before the war had approximately two hundred million gold marks, is today the owner of a fortune of a billion gold marks, and the other representatives of German heavy industry enriched themselves in the same proportion. And how about the so-called "noblest of the nation"? The German people, who for years languished in hopeless misery, pay their former princes fabulous sums for "compensation," and servile law courts see to it that they do not lose a penny thereof. And we are dealing here not only with compensation paid to the "fathers of the country" overthrown by the revolution of November, 1918, but also to those who for years had been reckoned as descendants of little potentates whose lands had actually disappeared from the map for a hundred and thirty years. To the descendants of these former petty despots the Reich paid yearly the trifle of 1,834,139 marks. Among the princes who reigned until the outbreak of the revolution the Hohenzollerns alone collected compensation to the amount of 200,000,000 gold marks. The amounts paid to all the ex-princes exceeded the Dawes loan by fourfold. While the pittances for the poorest of the poor were continually shortened and did not even suffice for the most indispensable needs, it never occurred to any of these "nobles" to contribute a penny towards the lessening of this misery. Like Shylock they demanded their pound of flesh and gave the world a classic example of the nature of the "community of interest of the nation."
This does not hold for Germany alone. The alleged community of national interests does not exst in any country; it is nothing more than a representation of false facts in the interest of small minorities. Thus, during the Ruhr conflict the French press never tired of assuring the people that Germany must be forced to pay if France was not to be ruined and, just as everywhere else, this assertion was accepted as truth. But this does not alter the fact that of the immense sums which Germany was forced to pay to France after the war only a minimal portion ever profited the French nation as a whole or was used for the restoration of the destroyed territory. Here as everywhere else, the lion's share flowed into the bottomless pockets of privileged minorities. Of the 11-4 billion marks which Germany had paid as reparation to France up to December 31, 1921, only 2.8 billion were used for restoration; 4.3 billion were used for the payment of the occupation troops and the inter-allied commissions in Germany.
In France, just as in Germany, it is the suffering part of the working population from whose hides the owning classes cut their belts. While the representatives of giant capitalism made enormous profits in the countries participating in the war and almost smothered in their own fat, millions of luckless humans had to dung the battlefields of the world with their dead bodies. And still today, when only the forms of the war have changed, the working classes of society are the real sufferers, while landowners, industrialists and gentlemen of the stock exchange grind money from their misery.
When one takes a look at the modern arms industries of the various countries, employing millions of men and enormous capital, one gets a curious view of the "community of national interests." In these industries patriotism and the "protection of national interests" are quite openly a part of business. The sums spent by these industries for the stimulation of national enthusiasm are booked in the accounts like all other expenses for the guarding of business interests. But the national idea has up to now prevented no member of the arms industry from- selling its instruments of murder and destruction to any state which has paid them the demanded price when it does not happen that important business interests are at stake. Just as little is the high finance of any country dissuaded by patriotic motives from loaning foreign states the necessary moneys for armament, even though the safety of their own country is endangered thereby. Business is business.2
It is a quite normal phenomenon that the great enterprises of the international arms industry should unite in business to eliminate competition and increase profits. Of the numerous corporations of this kind we will here mention only the "Nobel Dynamite Trust," founded in 1886, which has English, French and Italian branches; and especially -- the "Harvey Continental Steel Company," which came into being in 1894. After the Harvey steel works in New Jersey had invented a new process of manufacturing thinner and stronger armor-plates which were immediately adopted by the various governments for their navies. The first directors of this international armor trust were Charles Campbell, Charles E. Ellis (of the firm of John Brown and Company, England), Edward M. Fox (Harvey Steel Company, New Jersey), Maurice Gény (Schneider and Company, France), Joseph de Montgolfier (Shipping and Railroad Company, France), Léon Lévy (president of Chatillon-Commentry Company, France), Josef Ott (Dillinger Iron Works, Germany), Ludwig Klüpfel (A. G. Friedrich Krupp Company, Germany), Albert Vickers.
These men, whose paid press year after year was required to carry on the most shameful propaganda against other countries and nations in order to keep the "national spirit" alive among the people, had not the slightest compunction about allying themselves with the armament industries of other countries, if only for the purpose of more successfully exploiting their own. The notorious Putiloff case of January, 1914, clearly proves that not only did French and German capital work together in charming unity at the Putiloff works in St. Petersburg, but also that first class experts of the armament industry of both countries assisted the Russians in the manufacture of heavy artillery. With grim irony the well-informed author of a book in which the monstrous venality of the national press was ruthlessly exposed wrote the following concerning these events:
The Putiloff works, incapable of filling the orders of the Russian government, had since 1910 had a community of interest with the Banque de l'Union Parisienne, which lent them 24 millions, likewise with Schneider of the Creusot works, who furnished them the plans for the 75 millimeter guns and the necessary engineers and technicians, and also with Krupp in Essen, who put the experience of the German heavy artillery manufacture and its experts and foremen at their disposal. Here we see how French and German engineers and artisans, united under the direction of officials and financiers of whom some belonged to a group from the Union Parisienne and others were related with the Deutsche Bank, were working on guns with which later on they were to shoot each other dead. It is a most marvelous thing, this rule of international capitalism. 3
In 1906 a company was formed in England with the object of acquiring the Flume branch of the firm of Whitehead and Company and taking over its management. Other English armament firms participated in the enterprise, whose board of directors in Hungary in 1914 consisted of the following persons: Count Edgar Hoyos (general director), Albert Edward Jones, Henry Whitehead (firm of Armstrong-Whitworth), Saxton William Armstrong Noble (manager for Europe of the Vickers firm), Arthur Trevors Dawson (managing Director of Vickers), and Professor Sigmund Dankli as we see, nearly all English names, and representatives of the best-known and most powerful firms in the English armament industry.
Under the board of directors of this company the German U-boat, "Number 5," was built, which in the year 1914 sank the French armored cruiser, "Leon Gambetta," in the strait of Otranto with six hundred Frenchmen on board. One could cite a number of similar examples, but this would only mean a constant repetition of the same bloody tale. That in this respect there was no change even after the World War, the widely known Lord Robert Cecil proved emphatically at the gigantic demonstration of the Women's Peace Crusaders in London, in June, 1932, where Cecil launched a very sharp attack against the international armament industry arid especially emphasized the sinister influence of the Parisian press. According to his statement, some of the greatest French newspapers had been bought by the interests of the steel and iron industry and were working day and night against the international disarmament conference. That the contemptible attitude of the so-called "League of Nations" in the Japanese-Chinese question can for the largest part be traced to the wretched machinations of the international armament industry is an open secret that sparrows now chirp from the housetops. Naturally international high finance pursued the same course. 4
It is, therefore, quite meaningless to speak of a community of national interests; for that which the ruling class of every country has up to now defended as national interest has never been anything but the special interest of privileged minorities in society secured by the exploitation and political suppression of the great masses. Likewise, the soil of the so-called "fatherland" and its natural riches have always been in the possession of these classes, so that one can with full right speak of a "fatherland of the rich." If the nation were in fact the community of interests which it has been called, then there would not be in modern history revolutions and civil wars, because the people do not resort to the arms of revolt purely from pleasure -- just as little do the endless wage fights occur because the working sections of the population are too well off!
But if we cannot speak of a community of purely economic and material interests within the nation, even less can we do so when so-called spiritual interests are in question. Not seldom have religious and philosophical problems profoundly stirred the nations and split them into hostile camps. It must be understood, however, that in such conflicts economic and political motives were also active, and frequently played important parts. We need but think of the bloody struggle in France, England, Germany and other countries between the adherents of the old church and the various factions of Protestantism which shook profoundly the inner balance of the nations, or of the sharp and frequently violent conflicts between democratic citizenry and representatives of absolute monarchy; we need but remember the murderous war between the Northern and Southern states of America for the maintenance or abolition of negro slavery -- and thousands of other events in history -- and we shall easily be able to estimate the worth of the assertion that the nation is the guardian of spiritual interests.
Every nation is today split by varying trends of thought into dozens of parties whose activity destroys the feeling of national unity and brands as a lie the fable of the community of intellectual interests of the nation. Each of these parties has its own party program, in pursuit of which it attacks everything which threatens it and uncritically adores whatever furthers its special purpose. And as any movement can only represent the views of a certain part of the nation, never the nation in its entirety, it follows that the so-called "Intellectual interest of the nation" or the alleged "national thought" displays as many shades and colors as there are parties and movements in the country. Hence, every party asserts that in it the intellectual interests of the nation are best guarded, and in critical times each vilifies all other concepts and tendencies as antagonistic and even traitorous to the fatherland-a method which surely does not take very much intellect, but it has never failed so far. Germany and Italy are the classic witnesses to this.
Moreover, one finds this conflict of ideas and tendencies not only between parties which oppose one another as exponents of definite economic principles and political aims, one finds it also between movements which philosophically stand on the same ground and oppose one another solely for reasons of a subordinate nature. It is just in such cases that the battle between the various factions becomes ever more irreconcilable till it reaches a degree of fanaticism quite incomprehensible to the impartial spectator. A glance at the present party fights in the camp of socialism is proof of this. The further one pursues the matter the more clearly it appears that the unity of intellectual interests of the nation is in a very bad way. In reality, the belief in this unity is a delusion which will have permanence as long as the ruling classes of the national states succeed by external glamour in fooling the great masses of the population as to the real causes of social disintegration.
Moreover, the differences of economic interest and intellectual effort within the nation have naturally developed special habits and modes of living among the members of the various social classes. It is, therefore, very venturesome to speak of a community of national customs and morals. But the concept has only a very qualified value. Indeed, what community can there be in this respect between one of the members of the Berlin "millionaire quarter" and a Ruhr miner? Between a Bavarian lumberjack and an East Elbian junker? Between a modern industrial magnate and a common laborer? Between a Prussian general and a Holstein fisherman? Between a society lady surrounded by every luxury and a cottage housewife in the Silesian mountains? Every larger country contains many distinctions of a climatic, cultural, economic and general social nature. It has its great cities, its highly developed industrial regions, its out-of-the-world villages and mountain valleys to which hardly a glimmer of modern life has penetrated. This endless variety of intellectual and material conditions of life precludes beforehand any close community of morals and customs.
Every rank, every class, every stratum of society develops its special habits of life into which a stranger penetrates with difficulty. It is by no means an exaggeration to maintain that between the working populations of different nations there is a greater community of general habits and customs than between the possessing and the non-possessing sections of the same nation. A worker who finds himself in a foreign country will soon find his sphere among the members o his trade or class), while the doors of another social class are hermetically closed against him in his own country. This applies, of course, to all other classes and sections of the population.
The sharp antagonism between town and country observable today in almost every land forms one of the greatest social problems of our time. To what degree these antagonisms can develop Germany learned during the hard times of the inflation, and the lesson will not quickly be forgotten. It was during the planned and organized starvation of the cities that the trenchant phrase was coined, "a people starving amid full granaries." Every appeal to the national spirit and alleged community of interest of the nation died out at that time like a cry in the wilderness, showing full clearly that the fairy tale of community of national interest bursts like a soap-bubble as soon as the special interests of a definite group make their appearance. But between town and country there exist not only antagonisms of a purely economic nature; there exists also between them a strong emotional aversion which has gradually arisen from differences in the conditions of social life and which today is very deep seated. There are very few townsmen who can completely penetrate into the mental processes and views of life of the peasant. It is probably still more difficult for the peasant to penetrate into the intellectual and moral life of the townsman, against whom he has for centuries nursed a mute hatred to be explained by the social relations which have up to now existed between town and country.
The same chasm exists between the intellectual leaders of the nation and the great masses of the working people. Even among those intellectuals who have for years been active in the socialist labor movement there are very few who are really able to understand the sentiments and thoughts of the workers. Some intellectuals even find the effort very painful, a situation which often gives occasion to tragic inner conflicts. Obviously we are dealing, in such a case, not with inborn differences of thinking and feeling, but with the result of a special mode of life arising from a different kind of education within a different social environment. The older a man grows, the harder he finds it to withdraw from those influences whose results have become second nature to him. This invisible wall which today exists between the intellectuals and the working masses of every nation is one of the main reasons for the secret mistrust with which wide sections of the laboring population quite unconsciously confront the intellectual and which has gradually condensed into the well-known theory of "the calloused fist."
It is vastly more difficult to provide a point of intellectual contact between representatives of capitalism and of the working population of a nation. For millions of workers the capitalist is only a sort of octopus who feeds on their flesh and blood. Many of them cannot understand that behind the capitalist's purely economic actions there may exist a purely human quality. The capitalist, on the other hand, usually observes the endeavors of the laborer as a total stranger; yes, often with openly displayed contempt, often felt by the workers as more oppressive and more humiliating than even their economic exploitation. While towards the workers of his own country the capitalist is always filled with a certain mistrust, often mixed with open antagonism, he shows to the possessing classes of other nations a continued attachment, even where he is not dealing with purely economic or political questions. This relationship may be impaired temporarily when the opposing interests are too strong; but the inner conflict between the possessing and the propertyless classes in the same nation never vanishes.
"Community of national tradition," likewise, amounts to little. Historical tradition is, after all, something quite different from that which is presented to us in the educational institutions of the state. In any event, the tradition is not the essentially far more important is the way in which the tradition is received, explained and felt by the various social castes within the nation. The concept of the nation as a "community of destiny," therefore, is as misleading as it is ambiguous. There are events in every nation's history which are felt by all its members as fateful, but the nature of the feeling is very different among different groups, and is often determined by the part which one or the other of the parties or classes has played in those events. When at the time of the Paris Commune thirty five thousand men, women and children of the working class were put to death, the gruesome slaughter was doubtless felt by both parties as fateful; but while one class with pierced breasts and torn limbs covered the streets of the capital, their death gave the others the possibility of re-establishing their rule, which had been very badly shaken by the lost war. In this sense the Paris Commune lives in the traditions of the nation. For the propertied class the revolt of March 18, 1871, is an "outrageous rebellion of the canaille against law and order"; for the working class it is "a glorious episode in the proletarian fight for freedom."
Volumes might be filled with similar examples from the history of all nations. Furthermore, the recent historical events in Hungary, Italy, Germany, Austria, and so on, give the best of instruction concerning the character of the "community of destiny of the nations." Brutal force can impose a common fate on a nation, just as it can arbitrarily create or destroy a nation; for the nation is not an organically evolved entity, but something artificially created by the state, with which it is most intimately intergrown, as every page of history shows. The state itself, however, is not an organic structure, and sociological research has demonstrated that everywhere and at all times it has appeared as a result of forceful intervention of warlike elements in the life of peaceful human groups. The nation is, therefore, a purely political concept arising solely from the adherence of men to a definite state. Also, in the so-called "law of nations," the word has exclusively this meaning, as is apparent from the fact that any man can become a member of any nation by naturalization.
How arbitrarily the adherence of whole groups of people to a nation is determined by the brutal compulsion of the stronger, the history of every country shows by numerous examples. Thus, the inhabitants of the present French Riviera went to sleep one evening as Italians and awoke next morning as Frenchmen because a handful of diplomats had so decided. The Heligolander was a member of the British nation and a faithful subject of the British government until Britain got the idea of selling the island to Germany; then the national membership of the inhabitants underwent a fundamental change. If on the day before this decision it was their greatest merit to be good English patriots, then after the transfer of the island to Germany this highest virtue became the greatest sin against the "spirit of the nation." There are many such examples, and they are characteristic of the whole formative history of the modern state. One need but glance at the stupid and stumbling provisions of the Versailles treaty to get a classic example of how nations are artificially manufactured.
And just as the stronger can today and at all times decide upon the national membership of the weaker according to his pleasure, so it was and is also empowered to end the nation's existence arbitrarily if for reasons of state this appears to him desirable. Read the reasons on which Prussia, Austria and Russia based their intervention in Poland and prepared the partition of that land. They are stated in the famous pact' of August 5, 1772, and are truly a shining example of conscious mendacity, nauseating hypocrisy, and brute force. It is merely because these phenomena have heretofore been given so little consideration that we have such curious illusions concerning the real nature of the nation. It is not "national differences" which lead to the formation of the various states; it is the states which artificially create national differences and further them on principle, for these have to serve the states as moral justification for their own existence. Tagore has stated this inherent antagonism between the nation and society in these splendid words:
A nation, in the sense of the political and economic union of a people, is that aspect which a whole population assumes when organized for a mechanical purpose. Society as such has no ulterior purpose. It is an end in itself. It is a spontaneous self-expression of man as a social being. It is a natural regulation of human relationships so that men can develop ideals of life in cooperation with one another. 5
The contrast between the political organization of North and South America serves as an excellent example of the fact that a nation does not organically evolve itself, create itself, as is often asserted, but is rather the artificial creation of the state mechanically imposed on various human groups. In North America the Union succeeded in combining all the land between the Canadian and Mexican borders, between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, into a powerful federated state, a process greatly furthered by favourable circumstances of various kinds. And this happened in spite of the fact that the United States contained the most motley mixture of people assembled from all the nations and races of Europe and of other continents; so that it has been rightly called the melting-pot of the nations.
South and Central America, however, are separated into sixteen different states with sixteen different nations, although the racial relation between these peoples is incomparably closer than it is in North America, and the same language-with the exception of Portuguese in Brazil and various Indian tongues-prevails in all. But the political evolution qf Latin America was of a different order. Although Simon Bolivar, the "liberator" of South America from the Spanish yoke, sought to create a federated state for all South American countries, his plan did not succeed; for ambitious dictators and generals, like Prieto in Chile, Gamarra in Peru, Flores in Ecuador, Rosas in Argentina, opposed this project by all possible means. Bolivar was so disappointed by the machinations of his rivals that shortly before his death he wrote: "In South America there is neither trust nor faith; neither among men nor among the various states. Every treaty is here but a scrap of paper and what are here called constitutions are but a collection of such scraps."
The result of the power lust of small minorities and dictatorially inclined individuals was the creation of quite a number of national states, which in the name of national interest and national honor waged war against one another quite as we do. If political events in North America had developed as they did in the lands of the southern continent, then there would be today Californians, Michiganders, Kentuckians and Pennsylvanians, just as in South America there are Argentinians, Chileans, Peruvians and Brazilians. Here is the best proof that the nation's existence is founded purely on political endeavor.
Whoever yields to the illusion that community of material and intellectual interest and identity of morals, customs and traditions constitutes the real nature of the nation, and from this arbitrary assumption tries to deduce the necessity of national endeavors, deceives himself and others. Of this kind of unity nothing is discernible in any of the existing nations. The force of social circumstances is always stronger than the abstract assumptions of all nationalistic ideology.
- 1When the news of this conference sifted through to the public and it became known that General Degoutte had made it clear to the gentlemen that he was not minded to interfere in matters of internal German politics, the German workers' press accused Stinnes and company of treason to the country. Driven into a corner, the promoters at first flatly denied everything. But at the sitting of the Reichstag on November 20, 1923, the Socialist member, Wels, read the protocol of the conference prepared by the industrialists themselves, and ally doubt concerning the occurrence of the meeting was finally removed.
- 2Deals of this sort are often used by these men to persuade their own states to give them new orders. Thus, Walton Newbold reports in his valuable book upon concrete cases from the business practices of the well-known arms firm, Mitehel and Company in England, which are very significant for the methods of the armament giants.
"Armstrong was a genius. His firm built for Chile the powerful cruiser, ŒEsmeralda.¹ When the ship was completed he addressed himself to the British public and declared with every appearance of moral indignation that our [that is, the English] navy possessed no ship which could catch the ŒEsmerala,¹ escape it, or fight it successfully. He pointed out the danger such a ship might be to our commerce. The admiralty took this gentle hint and bought from Sir William Armstrong's firm most of the guns and armament for a new and improved 'Esmeralda.' Later on the same firm built for Italy a still better cruiser, the Tierrionte,' and again Armstrong was able to enlist the world for his firm, and the South American states competed with one another and with Japan to obtain the first improved 'Piemonte' from the Elswick works. England likewise constructed a few Piemontes, which, while they were built in other places, were equipped with Armstrong cannons of the newest pattern!"
In another place Newbold reports:
"For nearly thirty years the firms of Sir William Armstrong and Sir Joseph Whitworth, who both manufactured guns, fought like cats and dogs to depreciate each other's products. Only on one point were they unanimous; both emphasized the opinion that all expenditure for the manufacture of armour-plate was to be regarded as uselessly wasted money, which had better be spent for guns. For both firms made only guns, no armour-plate. Ten years after this valiant fight against armour-plate, when the two firms had united, the first step of their successors was the erection of a marvellous plant for the manufacture of armour-plate." -- (J. T. Walton Newbold, How Europe Armed for the War. London, 1916.)
These cases are by no means the worst and occur not only in "perfidious Albion." Every armament firm, without distinction of nation, pursues the same dirty methods and is very able to "correct" all given possibilities for good business so as to promote its profits. Here is only one example:
"On April 19, 1913, the delegate, Karl Liebknecht, supported by the Centrum's delegate, Pfeifer, made a statement in the Reichstag that stirred all Germany. Backed by indisputable documents he proved that Krupp, using a certain Brandt as intermediary, had bribed a number of subordinate officials of the general staff and the war office to obtain possession of important documents concerning pending arms orders. Furthermore, Krupp had officers of all ranks up to general and admiral in his service at the highest salaries, whose duty it was to procure arms orders for him. When this did not suffice, then, in company with other armament manufacturers like Mauser, Thyssen, Düren, Löwe, he bought a part of the press to whip up jingo patriotism and war sentiment. By an official search a part of these secret documents was found in the home of Herr von Dewitz, the assistant superintendent of the Krupp works. By this press propaganda a feeling of continuous danger from other nations was to be aroused and the German people made favorable to further expenditures for war purposes. According to seasonal necessity the names of the threatening enemies were changed: When Krupp or Thyssen needed orders for machine guns, then it was the French or the Russians; if the dock yards of Stettin needed orders for battleships, then Germany was threatened by the English. Liebknecht had among his proofs a letter from the director of the Löwe arms factory to his Paris agent in the Rue de Chateaudun:
"If possible procure the publication in one of the French papers having the largest circulation, preferably Figaro, an article running something like this: "The French war ministry has resolved to speed up the manufacture of machine guns for the army and to increase the original orders by too percent. Please do your utmost to procure the spread of similar news. (Signed) von Gontard, Director."
"However, the report was not accepted in this form. The lie was too obvious, and the war ministry would at once have denied it. But a few days later there appeared, of course quite accidentally, in Figaro, Matin, and Echo de Paris a number of articles concerning the advantages of the new French machine guns and the predominance they gave to French armament.
"With these newspapers in his hand the Prussian delegate, Schmidt, an ally of German heavy industry, questioned the Reich's chancellor as to what the government intended to do to meet these French threats and restore the balance of armament. Bluffed and frightened, the Reichstag then by a great majority and without discussion voted the sums for the increase of the stock of machine guns. France quite naturally answered with a further strengthening of this type of arm. So, while Figaro and Echo de Paris kept the French people agitated by excerpts from the German papers, especially the Post, which Gontard owned, German public opinion was by similar means prepared for still further armament. The dividends of the Creusots, the Mausers, and the Krupps rose, the directors got larger salaries, and Figaro and Echo de Paris cashed a number of checks -- and, as usual, the people paid." (Hinter elen Kulissen des Französchen Journalismuis von einem Pariser Chefredacteur. Berlin, 1925, p. 129.)
- 3 Hinter den Kulisren des Franzdsijchen Journalismus, etc., P. 252.
- 4There exists today a whole literature concerning this darkest chapter of the capitalistic social order. Besides the writings already referred to we may mention the following: Generäle, Hänller, und Soldaten, by Maxim Ziesc and Flerniann Ziese-Beringer; The Devil's Business, by N Fenner Brockway; Dollar Diplomacy by Scott Nearing and J. Freeman; Oil and the Germs of War, by Scott Nearing; and above all, the excellent essay by Otto Lehmann-Russbüldt, Die blutige Internationale der Rastungsindustrie. It is significant that although up to now no attempt even has been made to question the frightful facts given by Lehmann-Russbiildt, the former German government denied this upright man a passport to prevent him from travelling Abroad-because thereby the interests of the Reich would allegedly be endangered.
One finds it quite in order that civilized cannibals should make a business of organized mass murder and invest their capital in enterprises which have as a presupposition the wholesale killing of men while at the same time a man is socially ostracized who has the courage to brand publicly the shameless and criminal machinations of the dishonourable rascals who coin money from the blood and misery of the masses.
- 5Rabindranath Tagore, Nationalism, New York, 1917, p. 19.