The League of Nations and the Small Nations

S. J. Rutgers

Published: The Communist International, no. 6. October 1919. Pages 837-842.
Transcription/Markup: Micah Muer, 2021.

EVEN Bloody Nicholas concerned himself in 1918 with the question of a "Brotherhood of Nations" and a "Lasting Peace." At that time the king of the American Steel Trust, by endowing The Hague Palace of Peace, gave a touch of plausibility to the kingly lie. At the present moment the lacquey of the trusts calls for the insitution [sic] of a "League of Nations" in order that lasting, universal peace may be established. Wilson, in his speech of the 27th of September, 1918, says: "In my opinion, the establishment of this League of Nations as well as an exact definition of its task must form a definite part and, to a certain extent, an integral part of the Peace Treaty itself."

This origin of this child of capitalism is very suspicious. Its name certainly has a rather proud ring about it, but even its name is false. Properly speaking it should really be called "A League for the Propagation of War."

Nobody possessed of common sense will believe that agreements between capitalist governments, peace treaties, "points," promises and so on, can reconcile the fundamental interests of capitalist society. Neither imperialism nor world revolution is able to renounce the application of force when force is dictated by circumstances.

It must be clear to every one that there will be no such thing as neutrality in future wars. This is what the contemporary international position results in practically. Inasmuch as all the nations are embraced by the League of Nations—and the danger of being included in the League apparently threatens not only all the small nations of Europe but also many of the small nations of Asia—neutrality becomes impossible in future. Every conflict of any importance will at once swell into a world war. Further, this applies not only to future imperialist wars, but also to wars of world revolution. The neutral states always represent a danger for world capital during periods of imperialist war: they form the hiding place of revolutionary centres for their propaganda. It is they which make censorship to a certain extent impossible, spoil the campaigns of lies so carefully carried out by capital's hired hacks. Owing to the fact that, under present conditions the struggle of the working class must be conducted on an International arena, the removal of neutral countries and, as a consequence thereof, the impossibility of nternational [sic] agreement during a period of war, signifies an extraordinary complication of the revolutionary struggle. This is the reason why all the capitalist governments are interested in doing away with neutrality in future conflicts.

Besides this, for America the former neutral States have another special interest. Neutral States can be used as material to establish a new equilibrium, that is to say for the organisation of a general clearing out of European competitors.

Was it not Wilson who, when America entered the war, invited the neutral states to follow the example of America and to declare war on Germany? With the relation of forces that existed at that time there could be no doubt that such a step would have meant complete annihilation of countries like Holland, Denmark and Switzerland. But for America it would have been profitable, because the small nations would take upon them selves a part of the burden, and it was in the nature of things that small nations should be sacrificed "for the sake of great ideals."

England also receives large strategical advantages from the possibility of making use of the services of small nations, particularly of Belgium and Holland, in the name of the League of Nations.

The advantage received from the subjected position of small nations in the League during the revolutonary [sic] wars is most conspicuous. Even at present the great states make use of their perogatives [sic] to convert both old and new frontier states, such as Roumania, Czecho Slovakia, Poland, Finland, into buffer states against revolution. This kind of action, however, in its present form, is too obvious, too vulgar, not sufficiently "democratic"—it is repulsive even to the most backward amongst west European workers. It would have been better and even wiser had the League of Nations in conformity with its democratic principle, reserved to the frontier nations the honour of allaying the menace of revolution or "anarchy" with the means provided by the League.

For an undertaking of this kind there would probably be no need to call a general meeting of the League of Nations—the executive committee would suffice, or it might be done by the statesmen beonging [sic] to the controlling great Powers, in the same way as in any "democratic" state, parliament is never consulted upon the questions of war and peace, but where these things are decided in the cabinet of ministers.

Of course, there is no reason to be afraid that the small states will decline the honour of their own self-destruction—firstly, because the League of Nations possesses means of economic and military pressure; secondly, because the League has all the social traitors at its service—a very effective weapon.

These social-traitors, without hesitation, will betray the whole proletariat of their nation if only their employers, the team drivers of the League of Nations, ask them to do so in "the name of democracy." Was not the League of Nations established to defend the interests of small nations? Did not the great Mr. Wilson say that the "interests of the weak are as sacred as the interests of the powerful?"

After the small nations have been sacrificed to the gods of the counter revolution, the League of Nations—and this, of course, will result in still further desolation and cause the further shedding of blood and tears—all the capitalists of all the world have only to unite against the spread of world revolution.

The League of Nations, in this world struggle, is capable of affording inestimable services to capital. The League of Nations will find it easiest of all to secure the assistance of large groups of backward or mercenary elements amongst the working classes, and to decorate this betrayal with the aureole of the "Cause of Justice." In fact, one could invoke international law to compel the colonial peoples which enter the League, in the name of civilisation, to participate in the suppression of the working class.

The development of world revolution throws the counter revolutionary nature of the League of Nations into greater relief. When Wilson started his propaganda in favour of the League of Nations he was probably little concerned with fears of proletarian revolution. At that time strategical and material advantage were of primary importance. Still, it is remarkable that when the preliminary agreement between the United States and the South American republics was concluded, a clause was included in the first paragraph to the effect that should a revolution break out in any one of the countries not participating in the League of Nations, the parties of the treaty were obliged to afford assistance in the suppression of the national movement. To all intents and purposes this means that the United States is invested with powers of a counter revolutionary police force in South America.

At the same time the South American republics are allowed, under the observation and even the encouragement of Almighty Capital to weakn [sic] their revolutionary and therefore their vital forces by internecine quarrels.

In England and Germany the League of Nations was first regarded only from a strategical point of view.

Each of the antagonist groups was chiefly interested in the extent to which the League might be used as an instrument to guarantee their private interests.

The Imperial Chancellor, Bethmann Holweg, stated in the Reichstag that "Germany is always ready to enter into a League of Nations. Moreover it is ready to place itself at the head of a league which would undertake to subdue the disturbers of peace."

At the beginning of 1918, Lloyd George stated as follows: "At the present time there already exists two Leagues of Nations, namely the British Empire and the League of Nations at war against the Central European Powers. Whatever may be the result of the negotiations, before creating a new League of Nations we must take into consideration those that exist already, and of which we form a part."

The policy of excluding Germany from the League of Nations corresponds to this pont [sic] of vie.w [sic]

In the meantime the new conflicts that continue to arise amongst members of the Entente, as well as the growth of the revolutonary [sic] movement and mass disturbances amongst the colonies, have already disposed the beautiful dreams of disarmament and general peace. The leading politicians appears to have accustomed themselves to the idea that there can be no complete peace in this world, and that their task consists in as far as possible in retarding the development of the world revolution.

For this reason, the theoreticians of the League commence to talk less and less about disarmament and peace and bring to the foreground questions of social amelioration and measures of counter revolution.

This also explains the creation of an International Labour Bureau. An estimation of the staff of this bureau and its social programme has already been given in No. 3 of The Communist International, in an article by Comrade E. Sylvia Pankhurst.

This is simply the development of pseudo-democracy on an international scale. It is a mask by which the bourgeoisie propose to delude the workers with the assistance of the international social-patriots, in order to interest them in the counter revolutionary ambitions of the League of Nations.

A straightforward and class conscious Russian worker is at a complete loss to understand how, with the aid of such vulgar methods as these it is possible to lead such a vast number of west European workers.

The Russian worker does not know that the whole point of "democracy" is to convey to the worker just sufficient knowledge for the inception of the bourgeois lie, but insufficient knowledge for him to direct this lie. Further, it is always possible to bribe those workers who have stepped across this desirable border of development —it is possible to try and buy their services.

In this respect wide possibilities are opened up before the League of Nations, with its numerous bureaucracies, its great staff of confidential servants, whom it is possible to seduce with honours, power and riches.

But on the other hand, there are workers in west Europe who are well enough educated not to be deluded, and who are too numerous to be bribed. Their class consciousness will prompt them to the idea that the League of Nations is nothing else now than an instrument in the hands of their enemies.

For the present this instrument is only being forged; for the present it serves only as an intellectual connection between the world robbers.

But even an intellectual instrument may become a very dangerous and real power, and it would be a great mistake to consider the League of Nations as an innocent phantasy. A particularly stubborn struggle confronts the workers of the small countries, they will have to protest energetically against the affiliation of their exploiter-capitalists to the League of Nations. This affiliation will drag them into all the future imperialist and counter revolutionary wars and will force them to serve international capital.