Th. Rothstein, under his pseudonym John Bryan 1917

The League of Nations

Source: The Call, 4 October 1917, p.2 (editorial), (1,140 words);
Transcribed: Ted Crawford,
HTML Markup: Chris Clayton
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Peace? Is it going to be peace at last? The air is full of rumours, and the diplomatic world is talking, writing and addressing Notes. The impression a poor outsider gains, even in “free” and “democratic” countries such as ours, is that the rulers here, there and everywhere arc furiously seeking for some formula that would allow them to begin negotiations and yet save their faces in the eyes of the duped peoples. And the emphasis which is laid even in Germany, where sentimentalities and Utopias have ever been eschewed by her Realpolitiker like poison, on the future League of Nations makes one anticipate that this will be one of the formula to serve as an essential basis of future peace. Let us not laugh at this unexpected enthusiasm of International Capitalism, after more than three years of international massacre, for the brotherhood of peoples. The League of Nations, first authoritatively proclaimed by President Wilson, is no mere figment of professorial nation and no mere ruse to gull the peoples groaning under the bloody tribute of the war by a new catch-phrase. President Wilson, expressing the aspiration of the youthful but extremely vigorous American Capitalism, meant it seriously, and the statesmen in both camps who have supported him since mean it also quite seriously.

How is that? Are we living in a topsy-turvy world? Or have all our views about the essential character of bourgeois societies been all wrong? Is the Pope, by conferring his apostolic blessing upon the idea, going to be a better Socialist than those who “would not shake hands” with the Germans? Let us confess that there are many things in .heaven and on earth not dreamt of in our philosophy, and let us learn.

The war is an Imperialist war. It arose, not out of the “irreconcilable” opposition of two “ideals,” of autocracy and democracy, of despotism and liberty, of Kaiserdom and Lloyd Georgeism. It arose from the long rivalry and clashing interests of various “national” financial groups for places in Chinese, Persian, Moroccan, Turkish, Central African and other similar “suns” which bring forth and mature railway and mining concessions and other interesting things yielding dividends on capital and quick “earnings” on the Stock Exchange. Yet we know that had it not been for certain “accidentals” — history is apparently full of them — we might have avoided the war. We might have avoided it by way of internationalisation of finance, which already began to strike roots in international politics. It was the same process which was, and still is, observable among trusts. Trusts arise and fight one another; then the moment comes when the mutual squabbles begin to be too expensive. The idea of fusion, of alliance, of pooling dawns upon the minds of the trust magnates, and eventually the trusts bury the battle-axe and combine into one concern. The beginnings of the same process were observable in the domain of Imperialist rivalries shortly before the war. In 1909, after much fruitless and expensive bickerings over and in Morocco, Germany .and France, after much squabbling between their respective diplomats, acting on behalf of their respective “national” finance, the Powers came to an agreement to cease all quarrels and to work henceforth hand in hand by means of joint enterprise in all concessions and in the execution of orders. Schneider combined with Krupp, Syndicat des Mines Marocaines combined with Thyssen and Kirdoff, and Banque de Paris et des Pays Pays worked hand in glove with the Deutsche Bank. The eve of the war somewhat similar arrangement arrived at between our own and the German diplomacy for the joint construction of the Bagdad Railway and the joint exploitation of the mines of the Katanga. But the most classical example was the internationalisation of the financial business in China by means a Four, then Six, and then, again, Five Powers’ Syndicate, which had for its object to do away with all rivalry between the “Great” Powers (England, France, Germany, Belgium, Russia, Japan, and America) in the discharge of the high mission of providing China with loans, and obtaining from her various concessions. This process, as we say, was in fair way of being extended throughout the domain of international finance as the natural result of competition. There was, in addition, the special influence of America, a new capitalist country without colonies or spheres influence of her own, who was naturally interested in gaining access to all financial markets, and therefore, championed the principle of the open door and internationalisation. At one time America went so far as to propose even the internationalisation of the railways in China and to suggest a complete and all-embracing international scheme for the exploitation of Asia Turkey.

But the process was not consummated, and the war broke out. Indeed, the war itself will be regarded by the future historian as an incident in that process which could not overcome the resistance offered to it by the human factor (the imbecility and greed and prejudice of the individual financiers and diplomats) except by force. The result, however, will be that taught by experience of this terrible conflict, the personae dramatis will take up the broken thread and, freed from their imbecility and greed and prejudice, hasten to conclude consciously and according to plan what they had been groping after experimentally and with so much friction before the war. That is precisely the sense of the Wilson-Asquith-Michaelis-Pope scheme for a League “Nations.” Of course, the word “nations” is not meant for the “peoples”, but for the financial cliques which everywhere constitute the prime moving and organising force of modern capitalism and which, as such, dominate the State and the world. Down with the international financial rivalries! Down with the constant quarrels, responsible for the never-ending armaments, never-ending diplomatic crises. Down with quarrels that brought about, the war which has shown the equal strength of the two main contesting groups! Finance must become internationalised, and then the quarrels will disappear; the need for armaments will be gone, and a court of arbitration will be able to dispose of all minor disputes which may arise on purely technical and legal points. The world will be one, the armies will be abolished (with the exception of an international armed force to put down rebel negroes or Chinamen, as well as rebel workers), and the old dream of eternal peace come true.

Utopia? Not a bit of it. National syndication in every country, international syndication among the “Great” Powers — such seems to be the irresistible trend of economic development, for which the first suitable forms will be found at the next peace conference. Imperialism and capitalism will attain a higher level — with what results to the “backward” and small countries as well as, the working class, may well be imagined.