The idea of the agreement of the chief European Governments for permanent peace was more than once seriously considered by the rulers of the Continent, but, as I shall presently relate, it never took form in any workable shape. Gradually the conception was replaced among enthusiastic idealists by the notion of a similar convention between the various peoples themselves. The famous Quaker Socialist, John Bellers, at the end of the seventeenth century favoured this view. Anacharsis Clootz – who has been accused recently of having been a German agent! – with others cherished a similar ideal of democratic international fraternity during the French Revolution. It became, in fact, later, a portion of the growing Socialist programme in France, taking a more definite shape as the antagonism of the workers of all nations to the growth of capitalism became more obvious. Robert Owen, the great English Socialist, advocated, and tried to establish, an International between the peoples at the beginning of the nineteenth century. St Simon vaguely shadowed forth such a desirable combination. Fourier did the same. The English Chartists likewise, in their rising period from 1831 to 1848, believed that the working classes needed some kind of international combination to enable them to exercise their power, and held this belief more definitely than has been generally understood. By 1848, the view that the interests of the workers in the various nations were not at variance, but, in general terms, identical, was spreading among revolutionists throughout Europe.
Yet no steps had been taken to concentrate this mental conception upon any scheme of definite action, to bring about the enactment of immediate practical palliatives of existing conditions, or to work in the direction of a general social upheaval. However, from the acceptance of the principle that the wage-earners of different race, language and nationality had no adequate ground for fighting one another, there naturally arose the development of proposals for common strife against a common enemy. That common enemy was the capitalist class in every country, whose property and power the Socialists, as the advance guard of the working-class movement all over the civilised world, should endeavour, first to cripple, and then to acquire and transform. This called for universal education and organisation and discipline, so that a rising against the forces of economic domination, by the intelligent, class-conscious and capable but propertylcss proletariat, might take place in all the capitals of Europe at once. Such was the programme of the extreme revolutionary party.
But the majority, even of internationalists, were much more moderate, and looked to an “International,” with high moral ideals for both capitalists and labourers, as the utmost that could be achieved. The desire for higher wages held the Trade Unionists in its grip, as it has done ever since. Arrangements between the organised trades of the different countries, to obtain increased wages, to secure better protection for the limbs and lives of the workers, to press the demand for shorter hours – that was as far as they would go. To talk of social revolution was, thought the majority of workers in town and country, on the Continent as well as in Great Britain, not only untimely, but absurd. It was natural that high-minded fanatics should overrate their own influence, and enlarge to their followers upon the near approach of the golden age, of the new birth of a regenerated society, whose appearance should be helped by force as the midwife of progress. Had they spoken in less hopeful strain they would probably have made no progress at all at that time. In Great Britain, where no restriction upon the rights of public meeting and international combination then existed, there was really no revolutionary movement at all.
The International of 1864, therefore, was founded chiefly by English Trade Unionists, with the aid of Mazzini and others. But it soon came under the influence of Marx and Engels, whose great ability was marred for practical affairs by a spirit of personal dictation. Moreover, the doctrines of the two German leaders, apart from their method of enforcing them, as laid down in the famous Communist Manifesto, were too advanced for English working-class opinion at that date, while their Prussian methods exasperated the French. Serious differences, consequently, soon arose; the Congress held in 1868 was of little account, and this first Socialist International was never of much importance.
Yet the untimely Commune of Paris and its sad ending was attributed largely to the guidance of members of the International body. That fact certainly hampered its usefulness to the Socialist movement; although Marx himself at first pointed out the hopelessness of the rising, which he afterwards excused and defended. But, apart from this, there were serious differences in the International itself – differences of principle which could not be composed. Marx represented the revolution of organisation and order, in which discipline of all forces was regarded as essential to success, especially if the attempt at international revolution by force were to be made. Historic and economic development were the main agents in the great struggle which must eventually arise: men could only understand and take advantage of the opportunities afforded them by the ievitable growth of economic forces.
Bakunin, Marx’s chief opponent, belonged to quite a different school, as well as to a widely different race and training, from the German Jew economist. He was a Russian Communist-Anarchist, who believed firmly in the beneficent effect of terrorism, was convinced that the Commune and the Communism of small bodies of men was the real solution of the wage-slave problem; above all, he held that the individual had the right of revolt against the system which oppressed him, and justified in using, on his own account, any weapon against the bourgeoisie. Two such men, with their respective friends and comrades, could never have worked long together in the same [?] organisation. Their principles were wholly incompatible.
The antagonism came to a head at the Congress held at The Hague in 1872. No arrangement for peaceable co-operation could be made. By a rather absurd subterfuge Marx, when the whole thing was obviously falling to pieces, for the time being removed its “centre” from The Hague to the United States. The struggle between Bakunin and Marx gave the whole business a dramatic personal turn; but the truth is that the International could not then have continued, even if the leaders of the two sections had come to terms. There was general discouragement [?] throughout the Socialist parties of Europe. Moreover, there was a scission of opinions alike at the centre and among the different national sections. Marxism, as it was called, was not accepted even as a theory by the large minority of Socialists.
A scientific exposition, based upon materialist evolution, and an elaborate economic analysis of the existing social system, called for an amount of education, and a capacity for patient preparation and organisation, which the class to which it was specially addressed did not then possess. Even in Germany itself the Socialist Party was divided between the Marxist or International Party and the Lassalle or National Party. Of these two the latter was the more numerous, and appealed at the time more directly to the popular intelligence. In fact Lassalle’s own propaganda had been much more easy of comprehension, and his pamphlets were simpler than those of the rival school. There was no fundamental difference as to the meaning and development of modern capital, or the necessity for the complete control of the means of making wealth by the State. But the followers of Lassalle held views upon the possibility of beneficent State Socialism, and the likelihood of the people gaining partial control by State agency, even of the Bismarckian type – views which the Marxists did not share. In addition, the Lassalle party, which conceived that Germany alone could play a leading part in the future of the Socialist movement, approached more nearly to the attitude of the Majority Social Democrats during the war than to the ideas publicly avowed by Marx and the leaders of his coterie.
So serious was the difference between them that it is alleged, when a rising was contemplated in Berlin during the siege of Paris, the two parties could not agree to combine; and Schweitzer, the leader of the Lassalle party, was reported to have arranged certain social reforms with Prince Bismarck. Whether or not this really occurred, it is clear that no action on the part of the German Social Democrats interfered with the immolation of France. The two parties were not combined until the Congress of Erfurt in 1878, and then quite contrary to the desire of Marx and Engels, whose advice on this matter was overruled by Wilhelm Liebknecht and August Bebel, on behalf of the Marx party. From that time onwards in Germany the Social-Democratic Party formed one consolidated whole.
In France the difference lay not between Nationalists and Internationalists, but between Possibilists, who were willing to accept palliatives of the capitalist system as their immediate programme, and the Marxist group, whom their opponents dubbed Impossibilists, because, according to them, the Marxists wished to transform society at one blow. The Anarchists, also, who were advocates of direct action and physical force, had considerable influence among the French Trade Unions. By 1889 the Possibilists were much the most influential party in Paris, where they succeeded in carrying some important palliative measures on the Paris Municipal Council. In the great industrial cities the Marxists were the stronger, and gradually gained control in the municipal bodies. But the relations between the two sections were certainly not friendly.
Similar dissensions existed in other countries; but Belgium was remarkable for the admirable manner in which the Labour Party, a thorough-going Socialist Party, worked and coalesced with the co-operative organisations. This was a masterstroke. It gave the whole movement a sound financial basis that could not have been obtained in any other way. In times of strikes the strikers were most effectively helped by the Co-operatives with supplies of bread, etc., the daily party newspaper was maintained on lines which enabled it to be sold at half a farthing, and all the ordinary advantages of Co-operation were also gained. The fine “Maisons du Peuple” at Brussels, Ghent and elsewhere were the admiration of the entire International Socialist movement. This conjoint action of Socialists and Co-operators gave a good example to Socialist and Labour parties in other countries.
From 1872 onwards International Socialism slowly made way, though the International itself had broken up. Attempts were then made to reorganise it. These attempts were due to the efforts, not of the German Marxists and Impossibilists, but of French and English Socialists, who, while they recognised the great theoretical ability of Marx and Engels, were more opposed than ever to their distinct pro-German attitude, many French Socialists being of opinion that these two men acted as Internationalists mainly in the national interests of Germany. This conviction arose from the bitter and most imprudent attacks made upon France by Marx and Engels during the Franco-German War, as well as from their dictatorial behaviour towards active French Socialists before and after that historic struggle. It is clear that the German leaders had little share in the endeavours made, in 1882 and 1883, and later, to re-establish a second International, in which Germans should not have complete control. English Trade Unionists and French Possibilists were the main agents in the work of reorganisation. This has been conclusively shown by Adolphe Smith in his Pan-German Internationale, which, though too harsh in its judgment of the motives and methods of the German philosophers in practical affairs, is entirely to be relied upon about matters of fact. Such international gatherings as were held afterwards were consequently free from German domination, much to the exasperation of Friedrich Engels, who, having been Marx’s evil genius during his life, became the sole authoritative exponent of his theories after his death. That made matters worse. Acrid intolerance developed into malignant bigotry.
Thus nothing very important was done in the way of reconstruction until the year 1889, the centenary of the taking of the Bastille, and the commencement of the French Revolution. This great celebration, and the International Exhibition simultaneously held in Paris, ought certainly to have induced all Socialists to sink their antagonisms in one sober brotherly Congress. But the Marxists, as a section, were even more intolerant than usual. They would have neither part nor lot [?] with the Possibilists and their friends, who then were the dominant Socialist Party in Paris, and held an important position on the Municipal Council. The practical success achieved by its members appeared, of itself, to disqualify the Possibilists in the eyes of the Pharisees of theoretical Socialism, who issued anathematical encyclicals inspired by Friedrich Engels. So two mutually recriminating Congresses were held in separate halls by the Possibilists and Impossibilists respectively, the anarchists being impartially present at both. This publication of the incapacity of Socialist fraternities to fraternise was greeted with storms of derision by the unregenerate world. The Christians were particularly jubilant, until they were reminded that their own propagandists were still more envenomed against one another, in the early days of their history.
Though a Marxist in theory myself, I was one of those who strongly resented the attempt to impose upon the members of a great international movement the dictates of a family clique, I therefore took an active part in the Possibilist Congress. Looking back upon that unfortunate incident, which advertised Socialist dissensions quite unnecessarily, it is clear to me that certain German prejudices had a dominating influence in the Marxist camp. The French Socialists of the Possibilist school were anxious, not to say eager, to welcome Socialists of all opinions to the French capital on this memorable centenary: Anti-nationalism, not Internationalism, was already proclaimed from the other side. But the absurdity of people who were engaged upon the task of remodelling the world being unable to agree among themselves struck the public imagination.
Happily, by the year 1900, these differences were sufficiently composed to enable a full Congress of all International Socialists to meet again in Paris, where also the finest International Exhibition of all countries ever seen was held. The Congress of London in 1896, in which the British Trade Unionists and Socialists cordially co-operated, had led up to this fortunate cessation of fraternal animosity; and the exclusion of the Anarchists, who [?] were bitterly opposed to all collective Socialist action in any form, as well as to political organisation in any shape, removed an element of infuriate discord from the Congress. This time even those most hostile to all Socialist ideas were compelled to admit that the Congress was conducted with dignity and ability, and that the whole of the debates produced the impression questions of importance to mankind were being seriously discussed. It was recognised likewise that these Socialists, were at once contemned and feared by the bourgeoisie, had among them orators, writers and philosophers in all languages who could more than hold their own with the representatives uf the dominant class in any country.
The year 1900, the beginning of the twentieth century, may, therefore, be regarded as the date when Socialism or Social Democracy really took its place as the coming material religion of the universal brotherhood, first, of the workers of all nations [?] and then of worldwide humanity, in its various stages of the struggle and national and social development. Moreover, the Congress of 1900 will always be remembered because the new International was then founded and organised. As one who took an active part in this fresh attempt to consolidate and extend the influence of Socialist co-operation and common international policy, who also proposed that the International Socialst Bureau, in which all national Socialist parties might be represented, should have its seat at Brussels, I can speak from personal experience of the elation and confidence which inspired the whole of the assembled Social Democrats and Socialist delegates of all shades of opinion, when this important step was taken, and the proceedings of the Congress on the subject were unanimously ratified. Paris, the city which has so often inspired humanity with the highest ideals for the emancipation of man, was fittingly chosen as the centre at which this new advance should begin. Belgium, so sadly made the cockpit of Europe in the dreadful international warfare of the past, would henceforth be the peaceful arena for the beneficial discussion of fruitful ideas for the future. So we all thought and felt in August 1900.
The choice of Brussels for the centre of the Bureau was thoroughly justified. Having served as a member of the Bureau for the first ten years of its existence, as delegate for Great Britain, I can testify to the admirable work done by the Secretariat, first Servy and then Huysmans, from 1900 to 1914, while Vandervelde was an excellent chairman. At the meetings of the Bureau itself the power of the Germans, with their friends from Austria, Holland and Scandinavia, was very great, not to say supreme; and Belgium also fell under the same influence. This was natural. The German Social-Democratic Party was at that time by far the most numerous, the best organised, the most highly educated and the most completely equipped with funds, newspapers and Socialist literature of any country in Europe. Its leaders were men who, without abandoning their nationality, were imbued with international conceptions, and had displayed admirable, statesmanlike qualities under the exceedingly difficult conditions created for the party by Bismarck’s anti-Socialist laws. Liebknecht and Bebel more particularly, by their fine protest against the war with France in 1870, and their denunciation of the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine in 1871, had acted up to their international Socialist principles, at the cost of great sacrifices and even imprisonment. Liebknecht had also undergone other terms of imprisonment on account of his revolutionary opinions. All this justified the high regard, I had almost said deference, paid to the Germans in the Bureau and at the Congresses. If, at times, they displayed an inclination to exaggerate this independent deference into a claim to subservience on the part of Social Democrats of other nationalities, that was only human. But it was none less unfortunate, even while the old group of Social Democrats were in control of the German party. For it put that party in a position to decide, with the help of the nationalities that invariably followed their lead, when and where International Congresses should be held, and even what matters should or should not be fully discussed at the general meetings of the Bureau. There was consequently some ground for saying the German ideas held sway. The case, in fact, might be put more strongly; but as, on the whole, the influence thus obtained was not actually injurious to the cause of Social Democracy in general, and all believed that German Social Democrats would every year gain more and more power to restrain the forces of militarism in Germany itself, there was no organised opposition to their leadership. Yet protests were now and then made against the almost exclusive attention given on the Bureau to minor political issues in Europe, to the detriment of questions of worldwide importance.
All through the period of my service on the Bureau German Social-Democratic delegates, and their supporters of other nationalities, assumed that there could be no probability whatever of an unprovoked attack by Germany upon her no [?] neighbours; though German preparations for war by land and by sea were going forward upon an unprecedented scale, and accumulation of vast quantities of military stores at Cologne had special significance in regard to Belgium, particularly when taken in connection with the great number of military sidings on the German side of the frontier, which could be of no use except for military purposes. I believe now that the Social-Democratic leaders held the same opinion as I did concerning the danger of these military preparations; but – I speak of the older school – they had convinced themselves that the Kaiser was opposed, in spite of these facts, to any attack, and that Social Democracy was getting strong enough to prevent a German war of agression. Should Germany be herself attacked, however, then all the German leaders, Liebknecht and Bebel included, said openly and plainly there would be no pacifism in the ranks of the Social Democracy. They would march with the rest in defence of the Fatherland. Bebel even went so far as to declare that, although he welcomed the existence of a powerful British navy as the only effective counterpoise to Junkerdom in Europe, a policy directed against Germany could reckon upon no support from the Social Democracy. It is interesting, in this connection, to recall that at one Socialist Congress, in the course of a public discussion, Bebel reminded the great French Socialist and orator, Jaurès, that France owed her Republic to the overthrow of the French Empire by Germany. I may add here that Wilhelm Liebknecht told me, not very long before his lamented death, that he viewed with anxiety the growth of pan-Germanism among the younger Social Democrats and Trade Unionists, but that he believed the principles of Social Democracy would nevertheless triumph.
The Congress of Amsterdam in 1900 was remarkable, not only for its good management and the general brotherly feeling and enthusiasm which prevailed, but also for the fact that the great continent of Asia was represented. Mr Dadabhai Naoroji had a most sympathetic hearing from the Congress when he expounded the wrongs of India under British rule, and claimed that all nations were interested, on the ground of their common humanity, in securing justice for the hundreds of millions of people who were suffering from British misgovernment and the ruinous economic drain of tribute. More dramatic was another striking incident. Russia was then engaged in a desperate war with Japan. Both countries were represented by duly authorised delegates to the Congress. Plechanoff, the famous Russian Social Democrat, and Katayama, the Socialist delegate from Japan, both declared that the war was injurious to their respective countries, so far as the mass of Russians and the majority of Japanese were concerned. Then they shook hands, amid great cheering from all the assembled delegates. Plechanoff, who had sacrificed all he could sacrifice for the overthrow of Tsarism in Russia, returned to Petrograd after the revolution of 17th March 1917, and was hounded to his death by Lenin and Trotsky. Katayama vanished from Japan, and is living as an exile in the United States.
At Stuttgart the best-organised and on the whole most successful Socialist Congress ever held was arranged by the German Party. It was here that Gustave Hervé, who has since completely changed his opinions, indulged in a furious outburst of irreconcilable pacifism, denying to any nation the right to defend itself against attack from without. This did not meet with acceptance from the Germans; and feeling was so strong that Hervé was improperly deprived by the chairman of his right to reply to his assailants. Four years later, at Copenhagen, pacifism was in the ascendant. Yet it was already quite clear, to all who knew Germany well and were kept tolerably informed, that the Junkers and the militarist party had determined upon war – which, indeed, was very narrowly avoided in 1911. The Pacifists shut their eyes to the bitter animosity which appeared at the Congress itself between the Slavs and the Germans, in spite of their common Socialism, and went so far as to choose Vienna as the place for the next Congress in 1914. Some predicted that, if such a Congress should be held, the conflict between the two races, the oppressed and the oppressors, would break out in much more formidable shape, and were, of course, derided.
What had come of these International Congresses and the frequent meetings of the International Socialist Bureau? In practice nothing; in general good understanding and mutual appreciation between the various nationalities a great deal; so it was generally assumed. Socialism was gaining ground in every nation – most of all in Germany, where, before 1914, no fewer than 4,500,000 votes were cast for Social Democracy, electing upwards of 100 members to the Reichstag. 1,000,000 members were paying their weekly contributions into the party funds, and 90 daily newspapers were spreading Social-Democratic opinions throughout Germany. The Social Democrats, who never disguised their revolutionary programme, were obviously the coming political party in the Fatherland. In France, Austria, Italy and, in fact, all over Europe, Socialism steadily making way, and deputies were being elected on a definite Socialist platform, while in several nations Socialists were taking their seats in the Cabinet as ministers. Never before in history has any revolutionary party made way so rapidly, and so peacefully, as the Socialist Party did on the continent of Europe from 1900 to 1914. Everywhere the same ideas were propagated; everywhere, according to the stage of economic development reached, similar practical measures were advocated. Even in Great Britain, where economic development was most advanced and social and political education was least relatively effective, the Labour Party was being forced, almost against its will, to adopt definite resolutions in favour of the nationalisation and socialisation of the great productive and distributive agencies, including the land. The fact that in Great Britain all the workers are proletarians, the agricultural labourers being as destitute of property in any shape as the wage-earners of the cities and towns, rendered it certain that, in any period of shock and perturbation, the political Labour Party and the Trade Unions would make common cause on a series of wide Collectivist and Socialist proposals, leading, if carried, to the establishment of a Co-operative Commonwealth.
Then came the crash of the Great War. It is quite possible that the continued success of Socialism in Germany had a share in hastening on Germany’s commencement of hostilities. However that may be, it is certain that she was responsible for the failure of all efforts to maintain peace. It was a definite and clearly thought-out plan of the Central Powers – Austria-Hungary holding quite a secondary place – to impose upon Europe and the world the leadership of autocratic, aristocratic, militarist and State-organised Germany. Of the effect produced upon Great Britain, in the direction of bureaucratic control, by the administration of the resources of the island and the Empire I have written above. Similar results were to be observed in every country which came into the war, including the United States.
But the action of the majority of the German Social Democrats, at the beginning and all through the duration of the war, more than justified the apprehensions which Wilhelm Liebknecht had expressed. They proved false to all the principles they had so vigorously urged Socialists to adopt, and betrayed the entire International Socialist movement so completely that it will be no easy matter for sane Socialists of other nationalities ever to trust them again. The Germans, who had been regarded as the leaders of Socialism, and had, in effect, obtained control of the International Socialist Congresses, did not even adopt a neutral attitude in the Reichstag, or in their own and other countries. After pledging themselves by their most prominent leaders in Brussels (when speaking on the same platform as Jaurès within a few days of the declaration of war), and in Paris, to vote against the war credits, on their return to Berlin they rushed forward, full of chauvinist enthusiasm, to support to the utmost of their power one of the most infamous wars of Imperialist aggression ever waged. Their nominally pacifist Social-Democratic organisation, whose strength and discipline Socialists of other nationalities had always admired and praised, was fully used to help the Kaiser and his Junkers in their atrocities in Belgium and France. Worse than this, after neutral Belgium, guaranteed security by Germany, had been outraged in the unspeakable fashion which all the world knows, the German Social-Democratic Party sent an official mission to the Belgian Socialists, headed by Noske, in order to persuade their brethren to put themselves entirely under German rule. Nothing more treacherous or disgraceful than all this can be imagined. It struck a deadly blow at International Socialism, and made the efforts of peace advocates not only futile, but exasperating. Here is the great drawback to International combinations. It is always possible, as in this case, for a single strong national group to betray all the rest.
The mischief done by the Germans to the general Socialist cause was increased by those Socialists in the belligerent and neutral countries, who, in their ecstasy of pacifism, wrought themselves up to the conviction that capitalism, dominated by the Junkers, would be preferable to capitalism, standing on its own demerits. They thus became virtually pro-Junkers in the struggle, and were the cause of harmful scissions in every Socialist camp. So peaceful were they that useless devastate i [?] rape, murder and wholesale pillage were carefully minimised and excused, if only these were committed by their friend-enemy. When to this was superadded a fervent desire to embrace the hostile Social Democrats at Stockholm, in the midst of the war, it was easy to detect whither all this craven sentimentality must lead. The result of the General Elections in France and Great Britain, while the impression made by German crimes was still fresh in the public mind, showed only too clearly how harmful to democratic and Socialist progress these tactics had been. Downright reaction was given a new lease of Parliamentary life; and direct action, as advocated by Syndicalists and Anarchists, received a sharp impulse, to the detriment of political methods of any kind.
Meantime, the world had seen in Russia the practical effect of the endeavour of a knot of educated Socialists, wholly fanatical, cruel and unscrupulous, to force a form of social transformation upon a great country, whether the people were ready for it or not.
Although, as I shall show in detail in my next chapter, all the high principles of Socialist fraternity and brotherly good-will have been defiled, in the most horrible manner, by a set of fanatics, many of the outside public have, nevertheless, taken for granted that Bolshevism is the inevitable outcome of organised Social Democracy. Thus a damaging prejudice has been created in the minds of people, who, by the sheer force of events, had come to admit that some form of Socialism was inevitably the next step in the progress of humanity. Such an admission was already weakening the forces of opposition, and preparing the way for a peaceful understanding between the organised working classes, more and more influenced every day by Socialist thought, and more and more inclined to accept the Socialist programme. Bolshevism has done a very great deal to arrest this promising development; while in regard to large portions of the workers themselves its influence has been deplorable. The very same section of the International Socialist Party in each country which went pacifist, anti-nationalist and pro-German during the war, which declared for peace at any price, even at the price of Junker domination in Western Europe, has embraced what its members believe to be revolutionary Bolshevism. This at the time when the Bolshevist leaders themselves perforce are abandoning all the principles, as well as very nearly the whole programme they began with, and have ruthlessly endeavoured to establish a servile State with capitalism more dominant than ever.
This section of Socialists are ready to accept from semi-barbarous Russia, which has no political history and is only at the beginning of her industrial era, a scheme of social and political reorganisation which the Bolshevists do not believe in themselves.
In spite of these manifest truths the new International, utterly regardless of the best traditions of its predecessor, began its premature career by applauding the work of the Bolshevists. The only difference between the two sections at the Socialist Congress of Lausanne was as to the extent to which the gospel of Bolshevist Moscow should be welcomed as a genuine Socialist revelation. That the whole thing was a horrible travesty of both Democracy and Socialism none apparently dare assert. A sort of mental terrorism pervaded the assembled delegates, and their surrender to a small but truculent and butcherly minority in Russia must have a most baleful effect upon International Socialism as a whole.
Since then the breaches between the different sections of the Internationalists of Socialism remain unhealed. Furious manifestos from Moscow, issued on behalf of the “Third International,” having its headquarters in that city, call upon “Communists” in every country to begin the reign of peace and brotherhood by slaughtering the bourgeoisie and the “moderate” Socialists in their respective nations. This at a time when the dictators of the proletariat in Russia itself are surrendering wholesale to bourgeois capitalism at home and abroad, and are proposing to guarantee payment of interest on the huge external Russian debt in order to propitiate bankers and bondholders in London and Paris.
At the “Second International,” held at Geneva in August 1920, ill-organised though it was, more restraint, capacity and common-sense were generally displayed. The German delegates admitted the responsibility of Germany for the war, and declared against the pseudo-Communist tyranny of Bolshevism. By the time another International Congress is held, as suggested in London, some arrangement may be arrived at which will prevent serious altercations. Meantime the best thing Socialists and Social Democrats can do is to sink their internal animosities and present a united front to the growing forces of reaction abroad and at home.
The hope for the future of International Socialism lies in a community of peoples, each nationality working within its own borders for the educated and orderly realisation of its cooperative ideals by political action. The form of national and international Socialism will be decided through common agreement, according to the stage of economic and social development at which the bulk of the population in each country has arrived. A resort to arms can only be justifiable when the minority in free nations refuses to obey the political decisions of the majority. To support a grimly ludicrous “dictatorship of the proletariat,” set on foot by a handful of middle-class men, and kept in existence by the terrorism of a small minority, is directly opposed both to democracy and freedom.
The world is in a period of revolutionary change. International co-ordination is universally discussed, even by capitalists. But thorough national education, coupled with economic liberty for the workers in each nation, must come first. Nothing could be more harmful to real progress towards the realisation of this ideal than the promulgation to the world, by an International Socialist Congress, that there is a short-cut to emancipation through the dictatorship of an intolerant and unscrupulous minority.
Last updated on 7.7.2006