E. Belfort Bax


(29 April 1911)

E. Belfort Bax, Internationalism, Justice, 29th April 1911, p.13.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Socialism involves Internationalism. If this proposition be admitted, as it is by most Socialists, it is only one more indication a point often insisted upon by the present writer – to wit, that it futile to attempt to exhaust the definition of Socialism in a purely economic formula. The central economic principle of the new social life called Socialism assuredly the material basis of that life, has implications which reach beyond itself and its immediate bearings. The justification of our very action as Socialists is ethical rather than economic. A purely and narrowly economic basis or action, if we can speak of such, would rather lead to individualism of the Manchester school. This, however by the way. Our object here is to indicate, in a few words, the meaning implied in the assertion that Socialism is international.

The internationalism of Socialism is other than the mere internationalism we hear so much of in the present day, the internationalism of particular interests, scientific, literary, or what not. This internationalism though undoubtedly itself a sign of the times, is an internationalism of expediency. The internationalism of Socialism is an internationalism of principle. Its ethical sanction is the third postulate of the old revolutionary triad – “fraternity” – or, if you will Human Brotherhood. Its economic sanction is the inextricably complex development of the modern capitalist system which necessarily overlaps national frontiers even now and tends to do so every year more and more. As the economic life of the tribe, by the force of its own development, became merged in that of a union of tribes – the people; as the economic life of the village became merged in that of the district; as the economic life of the district in that of the province, as in later times, the economic life of the province became absorbed in that of the modern nation-State, so the economic life of the modern nation-State is rapidly becoming merely a part of that of the world of modern civilisation as whole. Hence the intimate union between the nations of modern civilisation is being forced on by economic conditions, at the same time that it is being demanded by one of the ethical postulates at the basis of modern Socialism. The internationalism of Socialism the antithesis of modern imperialism. The latter means the domination by one nation in the interests of the governing and capitalist classes, of weaker or more backward peoples. The former, on the contrary means the voluntary co-operation on the basis of the communisation of the means of production, etc of all existing nation states as represented by their working classes. Hence since all of the Governments representing existing nation states in their “foreign policy” represent the interests themselves and the capitalist classes of their respective nations, every consistent Socialist (speaking after the manner of men) be a hater of his own country – “a friend of every country but his own.” Why, it may be asked, are not other countries equally under the sway of governments representing capitalism? Answer: True; but in the necessary division of international functions in the world of modern Socialism it has become tacitly recognised, and rightly so, that Socialism noblesse oblige, obliges every national party to deal with its own governing classes and frustrate their special ends, leaving the nefarious projects and policy of other Governments to be dealt with by the national parties of their respective countries. To act otherwise, it is felt by the enormous majority of Socialists, is to play into the hands of the enemy. In this sense if in no other, it is undeniable that the attitude of logical Socialist internationalism joins hands with that of anti-patriotism, with that of anti-nationalism.


E. Belfort Bax


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