Hyndman January 1896
Source: Justice, January 1896, p.4;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
Whatever may be the truth in relation to the frontier dispute between British Guiana and Venezuela, it has not been sufficiently recognised by the press in this country that, throughout the Venezuelan controversy, President Grover Cleveland has been following the lines of the policy laid down, not by President Monroe, but by a much abler man than either of them – the late James G. Blaine. Mr. Blaine had a theory, which in private he expounded with all the frankness of a Bismarck or a Cavour, that a growing democratic power must have an expansive foreign policy; and, to his mind, this foreign policy for the United States meant the gathering together of the Republics of the two halves of the great continent which forms the “new world” under the protecting flag of the United States. To this end he called together, as a preliminary step, a Conference of all the American nationalities in the North and South hemispheres. Further, he strongly hemispheres. Further, he strongly favoured the construction of a line of railway through Southern Mexico, Yucatan, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and so on to connect with the railway systems of Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina. A series of commercial treaties, with discriminating tariffs in favour of the big brother to the North, would have been another move in the same direction which he hoped to take. Canada, sooner or later, would infallibly gravitate to the vast commercial Bund lying to the South of her; and, thus, with Cuba and the other West India Islands gradually dropping in to the same combination, the New World would indeed have been called in to redress the balance of the Old in a sense widely different from that of Canning.
Blaine did not consider this scheme of his directly antagonistic to the interests of Great Britain, though he admitted that we should probably lead the opposition to this huge project of commercial and eventually – for the thing could not stop there – of territorial aggrandisement under the guise of Federation. At the time when this masterly political organiser was in his prime, his countrymen were scarcely prepared to back – it is doubtful whether they could be brought to comprehend – such a sweeping policy as this. But recent events and the tone of the press throughout the “Great Republic” prove that the teaching of the late Republican leader has not fallen altogether upon stony ground. Many Americans have the feeling that their “manifest destiny” is to guide and even to control the development of the magnificent continent which stretches from Hudson’s Bay to Cape Horn. President Cleveland, therefore, was not so foolish as some seem to think in playing upon this string at the present time. But he touched it far less skilfully than Blaine would have done, and the vibration probably jars already on his nerves.
Those, however, who study foreign policy seriously as a study – and they are unfortunately far two few among the advanced men in Great Britain – should never fail to bear in mind that just as, in this and other countries, aggression, or extension, or commercial arrangements, abroad, may be brought in to turn public attention away from serious questions at home; so in the United States, as the conflict between labour and capital, between wage-slavery and monopoly, becomes more threatening, great efforts will be made by American statesmen to find an outlet for superfluous energy at home by a vigorous policy abroad. This is not only the teaching of history, but the lesson which may be learned in large letters from the record of our own day. President Cleveland, to use an expressive if vulgar phrase, has “gone off at half-cock.” But the time will in all probability come, and that perhaps at no very distant date, when an abler, or better-informed, chief officer of the Republic will be able to repeat the gist of Mr. Cleveland’s message in a far more telling shape. This, strange to say, the Italians appear to see more clearly than we do, and see also that, small as their interests are in the American continent compared with those of Great Britain, such a policy as that to which President Cleveland and Mr. Secretary Olney have given momentary expression cannot fail, if carried out systematically, to be injurious to them.
We can only hope that the progress of Social-Democratic opinion and organisation on both sides the Atlantic teach the mass of the people of the United States, as it is teaching the mass of the people of Europe, that these projects of territorial aggrandisement and commercial domination are injurious to their interests, even if they do not lead to war. Between the people of these islands and the people of the United States there is no real economic antagonism, as assuredly there is no real national antagonism, if both sides understood that which is beneficial to them. At the approaching International Congress of Trade-Unionists and Socialists in London we may hope that the dangers of war in various directions will be fully met and openly dealt with. For we are confident that, in these maters as in nearly all others, the more publicity that is given to the possibility that antagonism in peace may result in actual war, the better chance have the working-classes and their sympathisers in all countries of preventing an outbreak of hostilities. These once begun, and national passions once excited, the fact is lost sight of that the plundering classes of all nations are the only classes which have ever or can ever gain by war and wholesale annexations. If we needed a clear lesson on this point ourselves we have but to point to the past history and present facts of our connection with India.
H M. HYNDMAN.
The following cablegrams have passed between the S.D.F. and the Socialist Labour Party of the United, States
“Kuhn, secretary, Socialist Labour Party, 64, East Fourth Street, New York.
English Socialists send workers of America emphatic protest against spread-eagleism of politicians and financiers, and assurances of hearty desires for international peace.
Lee, secretary, Social-Democratic Federation.”
“H.W. Lee, secretary, Social-Democratic Federation, 337, Strand, London, W.C.
American Socialists join British comrades. in indignant condemnation of capitalist machinations to foment war, and assure British workers of their unshakeable solidarity. Resolutions calling for simultaneous protest meetings en route.