Hyndman September 1902

The International Situation and the International Socialist Bureau

Source: International Socialist Journal (United States) September 1902, Vol. III no. 3, pp. 129-132;
Transcribed: Ted Crawford.

There was never, perhaps, a time in the whole history of the Socialist movement when it was more necessary that representatives of the different national parties should meet together as an International Socialist Council to confer and to give their views as to the present position of international politics. Many things are taking place which must have a direct and important influence upon the future of our party, and Socialists, who ought to be at least as well informed in regard to current events as the Catholic Church or the Jews, cannot at all afford to be taken by surprise. We are deeply interested in the national and international relations of all the peoples of the civilized world, and now that Japan has taken her place not only in the field of European and Asiatic State Policy, but also as represented by a definite Socialist party, the affairs of the Far East not only indirectly but directly concern us.

Yet it is quite certain that the majority of well-known Socialists to-day, though they proclaim themselves Internationalists, take a much less wide view of the general development than their predecessors. So far also the International Socialist Bureau, from which so much was hoped when it was established in 1900 at the Congress of Paris, has failed to correct this tendency. A meeting of the Bureau once in twelve months is obviously a reduction of the whole thing to an absurdity; for we are quite sure our Belgian comrades would be the last to claim that either their national position or their personal knowledge can enable them to fulfil the duties of a thoroughly well-informed International Council. We all need for our guidance that comparison of opinion on various difficult points which can only be obtained by direct personal contact; for there are many matters which cannot be safely or fully discussed by correspondence and many others on which far more needs to be said than is being said to-day.

Thus in every European country at the present time there is a more or less marked increase among the well-to-do classes of national, chauvinist or race feeling. This is, of course, in the clearest opposition to our whole teaching. It is not too much to say, for example, that owing to the treatment of the Poles by the German government, to the antagonism fostered between the German and the Slav elements in Austria and to the steady policy of Russia, the bitterness between the two rival races of Eastern and Southeastern Europe is greater than it has been for some time past. True, our Austrian comrades have given a great example to the world when men of the most widely differing stocks have cast their votes steadily for the Social-Democratic candidate. But this only shows that Socialism alone can find the means of harmonizing the conflicting elements wherever they may be brought together. It does not justify us in overlooking such a speech as that delivered not long ago by Dr. Korvak against the Kaiser and his pan-Germanizing allies or the chorus of jubilation with which that speech was received in every Slav community. With this, as an Englishman, it is true, I have nothing to do any more than a Frenchman is called upon to meddle in the matter. But as International Socialists we are bound to take account of the rising temper on both sides and to recognize it as a great obstacle to our progress now and in the near future.

Similarly, it is surely worthy of our attention that whatever may be the relations between the two governments, or however determined the Social-Democratic party in Germany and the comparatively small but nevertheless active Socialist sections in England may be to prevent active unpleasantness, the antagonism between Great Britain and the German Empire at this moment is not only keen, but is increasing in intensity on both sides. German newspapers openly declare and German admirals and German military men readily confirm that Germany should keep on good terms with England only until she feels strong enough to beat her at sea; while on England’s side a vigorous effort is being made by leading reviews and newspapers, especially since peace was concluded in South Africa, to show that Germany is the real enemy alike in peace and in war, and that it is useless to put off the evil day to a period when she will be stronger than she is now. Of course, nothing may come of all this sound and fury. But the fact remains that from the point of view of capitalism and colonization, the interests of Germany, as advocated by some of her most influential men, are absolutely irreconcilable with those of England, and that Englishmen as well as Germans are beginning to recognize that there is a clearer antagonism here than any which can exist between them and France, Russia or America, so long as trade competition and expansion are the ruling factors in the world policy. Nor does the renewal of the triple alliance, nor England’s good feeling as a nation towards Italy, mollify this growing ill-feeling between the two peoples.

Then again, speaking only of what is manifest to all, the condition of Russia is one of unstable equilibrium. But for the French money which she is using to pay her knouting Cossacks and her torturing gaolers, Russia would to-day be bankrupt. That she is already in the rapids of revolution even the most furious efforts of her government to suppress information cannot disguise from the Western world. But lack of money and internal disturbance never prevented a great nation from following its traditional policy. On the contrary, the lack of funds and the difficulty of carrying out a ruthless system of repression in time of peace have often induced a despot or a camarilla to resort to war as a diversion, whatever might come after. The idea in Germany among the Socialists, I believe, is that Russia is so much occupied with events in China, to say nothing of internal difficulties, that any move on her part in the direction of Turkey is not worthy of consideration. That does not seem to me the correct view at all. The alliance between England and Japan, if it means anything at all, means a definite check to Russian ambition in China for the time being, at any rate. And in the meantime Japanese officers are thoroughly reorganizing and training the Chinese army. If a move cannot be avoided, I venture to assume it will not be in that quarter, where, in addition to England and Japan, the United States may have a word to say. On the other hand, it is difficult to believe that such tremendous warlike preparations ashore and afloat have been made at Sebastopol (from which town and fortress all foreigners are now rigorously excluded), merely for the pleasure of a military and naval review; that the important ports of Bourgas and Varna are being brought directly under the control of Russia by recent action in Bulgaria without some serious object in view in the near future; that the Armenian troubles – I know I am not altogether at one with some Socialists on this eternal Armenian question – would be brought to the front just now unless some new move were intended; or that the very heavy expenditure now being incurred by Russia on warlike preparations generally would be sanctioned, in the existing condition of Russian finances, unless a definite policy had already been decided upon. I do not say that we are on the eve of another peaceable or forcible reduction of the extent of the Turkish Empire, but I do urge that it would be well for Socialists to take counsel together at this juncture and to make up their minds how their great and growing influence is to be exerted with effect at the critical moment. Furthermore, it would be extremely interesting to learn at first hand from our Roumanian and Bulgarian comrades what view is taken in their country of a position which so nearly affects them. Neither here nor elsewhere can we afford to be taken by surprise.

Even more worthy of continuous and combined attention is the owing power of the great trusts in Europe and all over the world. Socialists themselves do not as a mass fully appreciate the meaning of this tremendous development. We are only at the beginning of this consolidation of monopoly. It is inevitable and ii is to a large extent automatic. For example, I have good reason to believe that Mr. John D. Rockefeller had not the slightest desire to go into the Steel Trust. He could not help himself. His own accumulations have overmastered him. Lap over they must. Mr Rockefeller and Mr. Pierpont Morgan are not men of genius; they are simply the clever but commonplace representatives of an unconscious financial and industrial evolution. There is a “scare” throughout Europe at this so-called “American invasion;” but so far there has been no authorized pronouncement on this remarkable phenomenon from qualified Socialists as an International body. Such a pronouncement cannot possibly be left to our local Belgian friends, who really know very little about the matter. Yet the development calls for earnest attention. The Trusts which Mr. Morgan represents in the world of finance are estimated to have at their control for any project on which they may set their mind capital to the value of $3,000,000,000. Mr. Rockefeller’s personal income this year is put at $100,000,000. Granting him round $5,000,000 to spend upon himself, $95,000,000 must lap over somewhere. And Mr. Rockefeller, after all, is only one of the billionaires whose unexpended revenues must now be employed for the most part outside the United States. Nothing approaching to this on such a scale has ever yet been seen. It is at entirely new development which, though partially foreseen and predicted by myself and others as the probable outcome of American trustification, has come about much more quickly that was anticipated. This means that we are feeling the collapse of national and international competition and are nearing the stage of national and international monopoly. Rockefeller, Morgan Co. are doing our work for us better than we Social-Democrat: could do it for ourselves.

Yet as Socialists we have no international policy on this great Trust question. We have never thoroughly debated the matter among ourselves. Nevertheless, the moment is close at hand when we must act and act capably and concertedly. Let me hope therefore, that the members of the International Socialist Bureau will, on the grounds stated above – and many other reasons could be given – arouse themselves from their deep sleep and come together for business.