Karl Kautsky

The League of Nations

(10 April 1924)

Karl Kautsky, The League of Nations, Justice, 10 April 1924, p.3.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The League of Nations has not met with much sympathy in Germany since its institution. Naturally it was detested from the start by politicians of the revenge school who dream of a new world war in which Germany will be victorious, and will return to her adversaries the violence of which she has been the object.

But the calm and pacific elements of the country, who constitute the majority, also mistrust the League of Nations or do not interest themselves much in it. It is true that its actions up till now have not been such as would call forth great enthusiasm among the German people. Nevertheless it is urgently necessary that the German people particularly should actively concern themselves with the League of Nations.

The English Labour Government has made the League of Nations a practical question of present-day politics. It wishes to make the League of Nations an efficacious institution, especially by the affiliation of three great Powers which have not yet taken part in it – the United States, Germany and Russia.

Germany and the League

Germany must expect to be invited soon to come into the League of Nations. It will be profoundly regrettable in the interests of the world and of Germany herself if she does not understand the significance of that historical moment; for by her isolation she will strengthen among other peoples the impression that the majority of the German people are dreaming of new wars and a bloody revenge.

Nothing is easier than to criticise the League of Nations in its present state. It is still bearing the marks of its origin and they have not been happy ones. The League of Nations would have had an aspect of far greater solidity if the world war had ended in a peace of mutual accord. That was not possible, in great part due to those who directed the war for the Central European powers. The conquerors dictated a peace without generosity or large views. And the League of Nations is the creation of this unfortunate peace. The work of the Entente, it has remained until now, in great measure, an instrument of the Entente.

At the same time, the result of the war has done away with the cause which gave birth to the Entente, notably the common fear which a too powerful Germany inspired in all those States. Towards beaten Germany each victor has its own interests and policy. And the more the unity of the Entente wavers, the more independent grows the League of Nations, the greater becomes the possibility of transforming it into a real support of world peace.

The Socialist Attitude Towards the League

We must adopt towards it the same attitude as towards the State. At first the State was our most powerful adversary, the upholder of middle-class domination. For this reason the Anarchists ignored it or tried to overthrow it. We Marxists have seen, on the contrary not only what the State was, but that it might become when the working classes were strong enough to take possession of it.

As Marx explained in the programme of the French Parti Ouvrier in 1880, that the conscious working class could transform universal suffrage, then an instrument of trickery, into a means for the emancipation of the workers, it can be said in the same sense that the State, the oppressor of the workers, can be transformed by their united strength into a means for their liberation.

Thus, also, we must not judge the League of Nations according to its present state and actions, but according to what could be made of it if the Socialists of the world took the greatest interest in it and set out for it a programme, to the carrying out of which they would employ all their efforts.

The League Must Continue

One thing above all others must be clearly established. We cannot any longer do without the League of Nations. It represents the only rational method of putting an end to litigious international questions not settled by the war or created by the peace treaties, and which therefore weigh heavily upon existence and often render it insupportable.

Even if a world revolution which in a few years would overthrow all governments – with the exception of the Russian government – were possible, it could not possibly smooth away all disputes between nations. And if the revolution will not bring us to this desirable situation to which formerly all the Tsars aspired) that the masters of Moscow will become the arbiters of the world, then we shall heed a League of Nations after that revolution.

But these vague and none too seductive perspectives should not prevent us from concerning ourselves with the League of Nations as it exists to-day and of developing a concrete programme with a view to its transformation.

– From Le Peuple.


Last updated on 23.1.2005