E. Belfort Bax

Machiavelli Isn’t In It!

(31 July 1909)

Machiavelli Isn’t In It, Justice, 31st July 1909, p.8.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

It was truly a sight for the gods when Sir Edward Grey played out his dignity and “bearing” for all they were worth the other night in the House of Commons while, looking magnificent, he propounded with an unctuous cynicism doctrines at which Machiavelli himself might well have blushed. To say his theories were in conflict with the boasted traditions of Liberalism ever since it entered the political arena would be to state the obvious. The glory of the Liberals of the fifties and the sixties – the backing of Garibaldi; the action concerning the political prisoners of King Bomba; the Bulgarian atrocities agitation of the seventies; the Armenian sympathies of the eighties and nineties; all these things fall under the ban of the inflated periods of our Foreign Minister denouncing those who refuse to ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” According to the new theory of international ethics patented by the Foreign Office, we have no concern with the internal affairs of any other country, and we ought not even to admit the knowledge (say) that an organised brigandage calling itself a Government is, by sheer usurpation of force, crushing and murdering the inhabitants of some other country with which we have dealings. (When an insurrectionary party has killed a king and queen, as in Servia, it is quite a different story, of course. Then you recall your Ambassador, provided always the country is weak enough not to matter.) Modern British diplomacy, as voiced by Sir Edward Grey, is, in short, determined to have done with that damned thing – international morality – and to state the fact openly. In a word, when diplomacy has to be carried on with brigands, you must either ignore or condone their brigandage. This is the latest Foreign Office wisdom. Whether Sir Edward Grey’s principles are consistent with Christianity may be left to the professed adherents of that accommodating faith. They are certainly incompatible with Socialism. It has been suggested that this frank and cynical avowal of principles which are an outrage on our common humanity is enunciated with an eye on India – that a Government oppressing the Indian people dare not but condone one oppressing the Russian people. “A fellow-feeling makes us wondrous kind.” Whether this be the case or not, the pompo-unctuous Machiavellianisms of the well-groomed and distinguished-looking personage representing the Foreign Office, who is said to inspire such awesome respect in the House of Commons, if they do nothing else, at least bring into clear relief the abyss between the principles animating the National Foreign Offices of modern civilisation and the international solidarity of Socialism. These are opposed to one another as light is to darkness: It is the principle of secret diplomacy worked by a close bureaucracy, of which the Minister is the mouthpiece, by which “continuity” – a continuity in evil ways – is ensured, that should, of course, be the main point of attack. But it is none the less the duty of the Socialist Party in every country to harass the existing secret bureaucratic diplomacy to the utmost extent of its power, letting slip no occasion of putting a spoke in its wheel. The mission of Socialism is not merely to proclaim but to act on the principle of international brotherhood it so emphatically enunciates in its congresses. The accursed theory of each nation being concerned with its own interests alone must be fought at every point. It would be well if a special department of international organisation were devoted to the propaganda of practical internationalism, and to exposing the secret tricks and tortuous ways by which close bureaucratic cliques in the various countries of the civilised world “run” international relations in their own interests and those of certain financial groups.


E. Belfort Bax


Last updated on 8.8.2004