Woman and Socialism. August Bebel
The Socialisation of Society

Chapter XXIX.

But an existence worthy of human beings cannot be the manner of living of a single privileged nation, for, being isolated from all other nations, it could neither establish nor maintain this condition. Our entire development is the product of the combined action of national and international forces and relations. Altho the national ideal still dominates the minds to a great extent and is used as a means for maintaining political and social rulership, – for this is possible only within national bounds, we are already deeply imbued with internationalism.

Treaties of commerce, tariff and navigation, the world postal union, international expositions, congresses on international law and international measurements of degrees, other international scientific congresses and associations, international expeditions of exploration, commerce and trade, and especially the international conventions of workingmen, who are the heralds of the new era, and to whose influence it is due that, during the spring of 1890, upon an invitation from the German Empire, the first international conference on workingmen’s protective legislation was held in Berlin, – all this proves the international character that the relations of civilized nations have assumed, notwithstanding their national seclusion. Beside speaking of national economy, we speak of international economy, and consider the latter more important, because the welfare of the different nations depends upon it to a great extent. A great many of our domestic products are exchanged for foreign products, that we can no longer dispense with. As one branch of industry suffers when another flags, so the entire national production of a given country is very materially injured by a crisis in another country. The relations of the different countries to one another are constantly becoming more cordial, regardless of the passing disturbances, like wars and the instigations of national hatred, because these relations are dominated by material interests, the strongest of all. Every new highway, every improvement in the means of transportation, every invention or improvement in the process of production which leads to a cheapening of commodities, strengthens these relations. The case with which personal relations are established between widely separated countries and nations, is a new, important link in the chain of connections. Emigration and colonization are other powerful levers. Nations learn from one another and strive to excel each other. Beside the exchange of all kinds of material products, an exchange of intellectual products takes place, both in their original forms of expression and in translations, To millions of languages, people it becomes a necessity to learn foreign languages, and beside material advantages, nothing is more likely to remove prejudice and to arouse sympathy, than an acquaintance with the language and intellectual products of a foreign nation.

The effect of this process of approach on an international scale is an increasing resemblance in the social conditions of the various nations. With the most advanced civilized nations, that may therefore be regarded as the standard, this resemblance is so great, that whoever knows the economic structure of one nation, practically knows it of all. It is. as in nature, where animals belonging to the same species have skeletons that are identical in organization and structure, and if a scientist is given some parts of such skeleton he can theoretically reconstruct the entire animal.

A further conclusion is that, wherever similar social conditions exist, the results springing from them must be similar. Accumulation of great wealth points to the opposite extreme of wage-slavery, oppression of the masses by the system of production, rule of the masses by the propertied minority, and all the resulting evils.

As a matter of fact, we see that the class antagonism and class struggle, which is raging in Germany, is stirring all of Europe, the United States of America and Australia. In Europe we meet with a spirit of unrest and dissatisfaction from Russia to Portugal, from the Balkans, Hungary and Italy to England and Ireland. Everywhere we perceive the same symptoms of social fermentation, general dissatisfaction and decomposition. Altho these movements differ outwardly, according to the degree of development and the character of the population, they all are identical in character. Profound social antagonism is the underlying cause. With each year this antagonism is growing more pronounced, the fermentation and dissatisfaction pervades the body social more and more, until perhaps some slight provocation will cause an outbreak that will spread with the rapidity of lightning over the entire civilized world, and will everywhere arouse men to side with one or the other party in the great conflict. It will be the struggle of the new world against the old. Masses will enter the arena, and the struggle will be conducted with an amount of intelligence such as the world has never seen in any previous struggle, such as it will never see again; for it will be the last social struggle. Standing at the beginning of the twentieth century, we can see this struggle approaching its last stages in which the new ideas will be victorious.

The new society will construct itself upon an international basis. The nations will fraternize, they will join hands, and will endeavor to extend the new conditions to all nations of the world.[1] One nation will no longer approach another as an enemy, to exploit and to oppress it, or as the upholder of a foreign religion that it seeks to force upon it, but as a friend, endeavoring to make civilized beings of all men. The tasks of colonization and civilization of the new society will differ as radically from those of the present in their very nature, and in the means employed by them, as the two social orders differ from one another. Neither powder and lead nor “fire-water” and the Bible will employed. The mission of civilization will be undertaken by peaceable means, that will make the civilizers appear to barbarians and savages not as enemies, but as benefactors. Reasonable voyagers and explorers have long since experienced how successful these methods are.

When the civilized nations are united in a mighty federation, then the time will have come when the trumpets of war shall be silenced forever. Eternal peace will then no longer be a dream, as uniformed gentlemen would have the world believe. This time will arrive as soon as the nations will have recognized their true interests. These interests are not advanced by quarrels and conflicts, by warlike preparations that destroy countries and nations, but by peaceable agreements and common works of civilization. Moreover, the ruling classes and their governments see to it, – as has been previously set forth, – that armaments and wars come to an end by means of their own enormity. So the last weapons, like so many that have preceded them, will be gathered into old curiosity collections to prove to coming generations how men, for thousands of years, often lacerated one another like wild beasts of the jungle – until man finally triumphed over the wild beast within him.

That national characteristics and differences lead to wars, – these characteristics and differences being artificially stimulated by the ruling, classes, so that a great war may, in case of necessity, counteract dangerous tendencies in the interior, – is confirmed by an utterance of the late General Fieldmarshal Moltke. In the first volume of his posthumous work that deals with the German-French War of 1870-71, he says, among other things, in the introductory remarks: “So long as nations lead a separate existence, there will be differences that can only be settled by force of arms. But it is to be hoped that the wars may become rare as they have become more terrible.”

This national separation, that is, this hostile exclusion of one nation from another, is passing away in spite of all endeavors to maintain it, and so coming generations will find it an easy matter to carry out tasks, that gifted minds have long since planned and have attempted to accomplish, but unsuccessfully. Condorcet already conceived the idea of introducing a universal language. The late ex-president of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant, said in an address: “Since commerce, education, and the. quick transportation of thoughts and objects by telegraph and steam have transformed everything, I believe that God is preparing the world to become one nation, to speak one language, and to attain a degree of perfection in which armies and navies will be superfluous.” With a full-blooded Yankee, God must, of course, be the adjuster, instead of recognizing that matters are being adjusted in consequence of historic evolution. That is not to be wondered at. Ignorance or hypocrisy in religious matters are nowhere greater than in the United States. The less the power of the state guides the masses by its organization, the more must it be done by religion, by the church. Therefore the bourgeoisie appears most pious wherever the power of the state is weakest. Beside the U. S., this is the case in England, Belgium and Switzerland. Even the revolutionary Robespierre, who played with the heads of aristocrats and priests as with bowling balls, was, as is well known, exceedingly religious. Therefore he had the “supreme being” solemnly reinstated after its recent dethronement by the convention, – an action of equally bad taste. Since before the great revolution the frivolous and dissolute aristocrats bragged about their atheism, Robespierre regarded it as being aristocratic, and thus denounced it before the convention in his speech on the “supreme being:” “Atheism is aristocratic. The idea of a supreme being that watches over the innocent oppressed and punishes triumphant crime, has sprung from the midst of the people. If there were no God it would be necessary to invent one.” Virtuous Robespierre divined that his virtuous bourgeois republic could not remove social extremes. Therefore he preached belief in a supreme being, avenging wrong and equalizing what men could not yet equalize; therefore this belief was a necessity to the first republic.

Times change. One progress leads to another. Mankind will set ever new tasks for itself, and will lead them to a degree of development in which national or religious hatred and wars will no longer be known.


1. “At present national interests and human interests are hostile to each other. On a higher level of civilization both interests will become identical.” – v. Thuenen. – “The Isolated State.”