S. J. Rutgers

Published: The Communist International, no. 4. August 1919.
Transcription/Markup: Micah Muer, 2021.
Note: The author's signature is given as "C. U. Rutgers." Presumably this is a mistake and S. J. Rutgers was the author.

“Democrat” Kautsky has found it necessary to take the “super” democrat Wilson under his wing and “explain” his policy. Some workers have dared to assert that Wilson is the representative of American trust king [sic?] and of American Imperialism, and that the “democratic” League of Nations is nothing better than a dangerous instrument in the hands of bloody Dollar, deprived of all sense of right and wrong.

In this connection Kautsky publishes a brochure for our edification: “The Root of Wilson's Policy.” In the introduction it says–"Provided the League of Nations is successful in laying the foundation of a new National and International policy, we make look forward to the future with complete security.” “To realize this enchanting prospect, two factors are necessary”–says Kautsky, namely–"the Internationally inclined section of the proletariat and the greatness of America and its president Wilson.”

About the greatness of America there can of course be no doubt, so that in order to be able to “look safely towards the future”, all we must have is the support of the Internationalists for Wilson. At first perhaps we shall not be able to afford some “infringements of the rights of nations for self-determination”, but the League will not delay to put that in order. “Only allow the nation time enough to come to itself again and to overcome the moral consequences of the war, then former enemies will again bring justice into their mutual relations”.

This alluring “idyll” was pictured by Kautsky, the “Marxist”, at about Christmas 1918, just at the time when the Allies issued as the final victors, and energetically set about dividing the booty.

By what chance, is it that Wilson finds himself thus attired in the garb of chief warrior of the internationally thinking proletariat? This is what Kautsky explains to us in his brochure, basing himself on the book of a bourgeois German writer, M.J. Bonn, called “What does Wilson want?” Judging from what Kautsky quotes from this book, the opinion varies very little from the usual arguments of the American hired bourgeois press. This circumstance does not prevent Kautsky, however, from observing that “it is a fine illustration of America's peace and war policy”.

We are assured by Bonn in his book, and Kautsky repeats it after him, that “Wilson acts quite sincerely and independently of the Imperialists of this country.” Wilson's policy – according to Kautsky – corresponds with the traditional policy of America which, in its turn, is founded upon the peculiar conditions of development of the United States, its young social structure, and its complete isolation. According to the opinion of Kautsky, Wilson's policy is nothing whatever to do with the policy of the Imperialists of his country. This sounds crude in the mouth of Kautsky who, however, points out that nowhere as much as in America are Trusts and Finance Capital so highly developed. He adds even that this development offered the first inducement to Imperialism in America. “Owing to all these causes, finance capital developed first of all in America, the imperialist tendency of which at once came into conflict with the traditional pacific policy of the country”. Later on, Kautsky points to the conquest of Cuba, Portorico, the Philipines [sic], to the fortification of the Panama Canal, the foundation of the Panama Republic, as the essential manifestations of American Capitalism. “The principal aim of this was domination over the Pacific Ocean, and its conversion into an American sea by means of extending American sovereignty from its eastern shores to its west, including China”. All this, let it be said, is not particularly pacific. However, the United States rapidly forsook their young and Imperialist illusions, seeing that “Imperialism is but a common tendency, without doubt deeply founded upon economic interests, but which is easily overcome when faced by sufficiently strong resistance”.

Kautsky does not tell us from what sources this resistance to an overwhelming finance capital are to be taken. He points out only that, as a result of the overwhelming military expenditure (from 1912 to 1914 the general sum of expenditure on the Army and Navy grew from 84 million dollars to 314 millions, a mere trifle, of course, for a power like the United States), the hostility of the American people towards imperialism has been “growing increasingly”.

On the other hand, Kautsky says, American Finance Capital has not yet revealed an untoward attachment for Imperialism also, because railway rolling stock has been a matter of considerably more importance for large American industry than work for the Army. Here Kautsky is making an obvious mistake, for he plainly overlooks the profits of those directly interested in war, namely the ammunition manufacturers, for whom the powerful development of Imperialism is connected with the most alluring prospects. Besides Imperialism has its roots in all capitalist development, in its tendency towards making finance capital a dominating factor. The export of capital, in the form of the means of production, railway rolling stock and so on, is the most characteristic peculiarity of capitalist development. Here we see that America is in no way obliged to renounce its Imperialist tendencies at a time when, as every philistine is capable of seeing, America has converted itself from an agricultural State into an industrial one, and that for this reason its need to export the products of industry will go on increasing. Kautsky refers to the overwhelming number of votes of the “democratic” party in comparison with the “republic” party. The distinction between these two groups however can hardly be established by any other means than by a microscope, and then all that is to be seen is that “democracy” is characterized by a little more hypocrisy and a little more dexterity in deluding the workers. Indeed, Kautsky himself recognizes (thought in another place, of course), that “they (both American bourgeois parties) convert themselves ever more and more into plain sets of hunters for soft jobs”.

Meanwhile, how do affairs stand with China and the South American Republics? Has America really forsaken its appetites in this direction? Kautsky cleverly evades this question. “The Pan-American” strivings are welcomed by him as the first step towards universal peace, while, for China, “the policy of the open door” means nothing less than the advent of a new era! Just as though military forces were not required to open these, let it be said, half bolted doors and still more military forces to keep them open. What other purpose do these “open doors” serve if not the import of products of American machine construction and steel industry? And this will result in the construction of a railway in China, the foundation of new branches of industry and concession of all kinds. Is it possible that this will be left later on without any protection, in spite of the danger of Chinese revolutionaries and exploitation of foreign competitors? Under whatever ornamental name Imperialist policy may be concealed, the consequences of it will always be robbery, murder, and merciless reaction. We have still much to learn from American workers on this account. But for the millions of proletariat, forced for a hungry wage, to spend their lives in excessive hard work, there remains but one conclusion, to fight against all Imperialists and their servants. For even that glorious abundance of untilled land has became part of the legendary traditions, which Kautsky still imagines to be the master-springs of Wilsonian policy. Then he goes on: “Thus Wilson has conducted an antiimimperialist [sic] policy in complete concord with the majority of his people, who elected him for the second time in 1916, and in conformity with the traditions of the country”.

It is hardly worth while to pause in detail upon the way Kautsky expounds the motives which caused America to participate in the war. He adheres entirely to Bonns’ [sic] affirmation who, in the brochure in question, reiterates the statements of the American literary hacks that “Wilson took up a resolute attitude in regard to unlimited submarine warfare. Wilson resented the equivocal German policy in Mexico”. (What would happen with the League of Nations if we ceased to believe in equivocation?) Finally the Russian February revolution threatened to weaken the Allied Powers. America came forward only to restore the balance of military power and to secure a “just” peace. The peace conditions advanced by Wilson, according to Kautsky's opinion, included “substantially, the demand for the democratization of Germany”, seeing that democratization of foreign states is a “necessary condition and the surest guarantee” for the soundness of the League of Nations, of international Courts of Arbitration and of general disarmament. “Only by means of general disarmament”, says Kautsky, even referring to Kant on this occasion – “may the different States acquire that mutual trust towards each other, without which real general disarmament is unthinkable.”

The November revolution in Germany fulfilled this condition and, moreover, earlier and “more thoroughly than I (Kautsky) supposed. Democracy abroad may for this reason hold out its hand towards the German people, in full confidence. It has every ground to propose peace to it upon conditions which would make such peace a really permanent one”.

One scarcely knows what to be more astonished about, the complete absence of all socialist thought, or the submission with which Kautsky cringes at the feet of Wilson and other “democrats”, entreating from them a “just peace”.

C. U. Rutgers