THE victories of Napoleon, and later, in 1830, the consolidation of Liberalism in France, together with the rising capitalism in Middle Europe, enabled European Liberalism to raise its head, But alas, in the countries of Germanic Europe modern capitalism had come too late into the field. It could not raise its head without the specter of Communism appearing before its eyes. Cowardly, it shrank from the French Revolution. It feared the masses. It ran to the Prussian militarists for protection. Its Liberalism thus took on a police character. It looked with envy upon the free capitalists of England, France, and America. Unable to achieve actual power, it substituted the wish for the reality, the idea for the substance. German Liberalism thus assumed a mystical mask. Lacking science, it dragged from the lumber room of metaphysics eternal principles and cosmic systems as the scaffolding for its “castles in Spain.” All that was simple in the English, direct in the American, and clear in the French, became laborious and profound in the German, covered with an impossible linguistic gibberish.

The tardy development and thwarted character of German capitalism has inextricably woven its traces into the very warp of German history. Landlocked from all sides, save the Baltic, open to invasion from hordes of Huns and Slavs, dominated by the superior forces of Western and Southern Europe, Germany up to the very end of the nineteenth century has had its history made for it by other nations, rather than by itself. The shift of the trade routes in the fifteenth century caused everything in Germany to stagnate and in turn led to social catastrophes of frightful proportions.

At a time when both England and France had destroyed the robber barons and princes of feudalism and were centralizing their monarchies and developing their corresponding capitalist nationalisms, what is now Germany was but a geographical symbol, a veritable maze of petty principalities dominated by foreign Pope and foreign Emperor, both of whose sole centralizing activities consisted in their machinery for draining the country of all wealth. The backward character of German capitalism prevented it from overthrowing the feudal weights upon it, and from accelerating the growth of a centralized monarchy that would have, on the one hand, reduced the princes and robber barons despoiling trade and industry, and, on the other hand, have rid itself of tribute to Pope and Holy Roman Emperor. The failure of the German capitalists to take even the first steps forward in their emancipation threw them back still farther in comparison with those of the other countries and in relation to other classes.

As the pressure of Princes, Pope, and Emperor grew unbearably severe, the impotency of the capitalists compelled other classes to seek a way out. The lower nobility, made up of the knights, was the first class to enter into battle. These petty knights had been ground between the Princes and an advancing European capitalism that was eating its way into the feudal tenures of Germany and giving strength to the cities to defeat them with gunpowder, printing press, mercenary armies, etc. Their privileges had been taken away, and they had been hard put to meet the great increase in prices of necessities that marked the sixteenth century. Had these knights received the support of some king, the Princes might have been reduced and German unity achieved. As it was, the knights were erased from German history.

The only other class left to carry on the fight was the peasantry and, from the close of the fifteenth century to 1525, Germany was forced to experience one peasant war after another. A portion of the knights went with the peasants, others with the Princes. That the peasant wars were so protracted was due to the weakness of the ruling Princes. Wherever the peasants were supported by a general capitalist development, as in Lombardy and to some extent in Bohemia, they were able to win some concessions. But elsewhere they were defeated and ferociously hunted down. From then on, German unity could come only from without.

The peasant revolts, quickly put down two centuries earlier in England, had only aided the monarchy. In France, the peasant jacqueries, a century later stamped down with so much fury, also helped eliminate the power of the feudal elements standing in the way of absolute monarchy. In each case the peasants could link up their struggle with the welfare of the nation. The German peasants, however, could be aided by neither the city nor the King. Unable to advance from serfdom to capitalism, the peasants were forced to turn backward to primitive communism backed with religious texts for their ideals and aims. In punishment, the Anabaptist peasantry was driven down to unheard of levels of serfdom. The position of the peasantry grew immeasurably worse.

The only class that gained was the Princes. To this class the city capitalists attached themselves. For this class Luther hurled his thunderbolts. Only the Princes appeared as an historical force of any importance.

To this plight Germany was condemned for three hundred years. Germany could overthrow the domination of Rome by the Reformation only to be divided by the Imperial forces of Vienna. The weakness of Germany made it the battleground for all Europe. After the terrible Thirty Year’s War, in the course of which the population was so reduced that cannibalism was not uncommon, the whole country was exhausted. At the time of Frederick the Great it was estimated that three-quarters of the population of Prussia was of foreign stock attracted there by the policy of the ruling class to repopulate the country by giving grants of lands to immigrants who would settle there.

In all this turmoil there remained no class strong enough to change the status quo. It was the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars that freed the German peasantry from serfdom, that emancipated capitalism from its fetters, and led to the national unity of Germany. In freeing itself, French capital was forced to liberate the German as well.

The fact that the leading role in German history was relegated to the anachronistic class of Princes and Junkers left an indelible mark upon the social relations of that country. Rising nationalism had to operate through the Princes themselves, gradually evolving a leadership under the King of Prussia, who, stimulated by the advancing capitalism of the nineteenth century and the events abroad, was able to form a federal empire, to eliminate the influence of Austria and, after the Franco-Prussian War, to begin the great task of centralization and unification.

In all of this period, capitalism and its Liberalism could serve only as the handmaidens for the Junkers.

This is interestingly illustrated in the religious field. Instead of following Calvin, who really represented the interests of the business cities and who, naturally enough, made use of the Jewish ethical teaching, German business men were content to follow Luther, Apostle for the Princes, and one who attacked money-interest. Unlike the English, the German capitalist indeed could find use, not for the heroic doctrine of predestination, but only for the doctrine of original sin!


By the time the capitalists grew strong enough to challenge the old aristocratic sections, the masses of toilers had so developed as to cause fear that a revolution begun by the Liberal capitalists could terminate only in a socialistic republic or Communist society. It was only after the French Revolution of 1830 that Liberalism began to flourish in Germany; it was only in 1848 that it was driven to take the first steps forward; but in the course of the Revolution, it revealed its utter bankruptcy and futility.

Under such circumstances, all of German society should have been colored with a peculiar conception of the role of the State and of its relations to individuals. To the English, freedom consisted primarily in the absence of restraint; to the Americans, freedom was not only negative, the absence of restraint, but also positive, namely, independence and self expression. According to the German Hegel, however, freedom consisted, not in the absence of restraint, but only in self-determination. Restraint and freedom were perfectly compatible. (*1) In this way the Hegelian reactionaries fought the Liberalism then just sprouting as a result of the French Revolution. And it was this reactionary position that caused the younger elements to split away and form the Neo-Hegelian group that sympathized with a democratic program rather than with the Junkers.

“Freethinking in religious matters instead of ecclesiastical dogma, scientific investigation instead of philosophic speculation, economic enterprise instead of State regulations, a liberal constitution in place of personal monarchy, national unity in place of provincial dispersion-such was the program of the German middle class as from about 1830.” (*2)

Torn between the authority of the Prussian Junkers and the pressure of the masses, German Liberalism took on, in a German manner, the vacillations and compromises that had generally marked Liberalism. Logically enough, it was not the minister as in England, or the lawyer, as in America, who took the lead, but the Herr Professor, the Herr Doktor, whose chief representative was Immanuel Kant. Sitting in its study, German Liberalism, not able to conquer even Pomerania in fact, conquered the whole universe in philosophy.

The English had turned to philosophy in order to escape religion and to aid the empirical method of science. The German, unable to escape the Landgrafs, could not escape religion; with them the purpose of philosophy was to justify religion, and to struggle against the sensationalism and naturalism of science. Kant’s attempt to found a “Science of Metaphysics” was not in order to advance science but to carve out a realm for “pure reason” entirely unconnected with empirical experience. Thus Kant labored to answer Hume’s Scepticism, for, as he aptly expressed it, “Scepticism is thus a resting place for human reason, where it can reflect upon its dogmatic wanderings and make survey of the region in which it finds itself, so that for the future it may be able to choose its path with more certainty. But it is no dwelling place for permanent settlement.” (*3)

The idealism of Kant was not a denial of the reality of phenomena, of material objects and processes. What Kant wanted to prove was that space and time were concepts not derived from experimentation; that the principles of causality and of permanence anticipated experience and that thus it is only in the field of a priori reasoning that phenomena may be interpreted. According to Kant, the principles which lie at the basis of our knowledge are synthetic and have no intrinsic necessity and cannot Possess the absolute authority ascribed to them by the rationalists. The character of a priorism, being itself synthetic, was also incapable of independent proof, but was as factual as the experience which it conditioned.


With the English, whether they admitted matter to be “real” but unknowable by the senses, or whether they declared it impossible to tell whether materiality really existed, it was always in order to turn from abstract concepts to concrete experimentation; it was always, so to speak, in order to evade philosophy. With the Germans, the end was always to prove that matter was merely an idea with which no real object corresponded and to prove, not that reason could explain nature, but that nature was beyond reason, that reason had its limitations. (*4) With the English, the ,recognition of the defects of the senses in the discovery of truth led to a consideration of concrete, physical man-to biology and psychology. To the Germans, man became the embodiment of an abstract force. All that was progressive in English Liberalism became with the Germans reactionary. German Liberalism could be responsible, not for revolution, but only for counter-revolution. (*5)

It is true, however, that Kant, profoundly affected by French revolutionary events, was the philosophic founder of a school of German democracy, such as it was. His universal law, "Accordingly the practical imperative will be as follows: So act as to treat humanity, whether in thine own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal, never as means only,” (*6) lent itself to democratic interpretation. Kant himself was affected by Rousseau in his moral philosophy and he acknowledged: “There was a time when I believed that this [thirst of knowledge] is what confers real dignity upon human life, and I despised the common people who know nothing. Rousseau has set me right. This imagined advantage vanishes. I learn to honor men, and should regard myself as of much less use than the common labourer, if I did not believe that my philosophy will restore to all men the common rights of humanity.” (*7)

If necessity governed this material world, freedom was the essence of Kant’s realms of pure and practical reason. To Kant, moral laws were laws of freedom. (*8) But this freedom was not a freedom which permitted one to do as he pleased-how could a respectable German of those days reach such a daring conclusion?-there were iron laws governing this freedom, laws of duty. (*9)

Kant laid down the universal rule that each one had to act to free his will. This was a categorical imperative. The existence of this free will, it is true, could not be proved except in the ethereal regions of a priori reasoning, but it was as well established as the immortality of the soul and the existence of God. (*10) Because each man’s will was free, he was his own legislator, making laws for all, but these laws of freedom bound him to obey all laws as well.

It is interesting to contrast the German Liberals with the English. With the English, as we have seen, the will was not at all free but determined by environment. This was the view of Herbert Spencer, too. With Hume, that which brings “good” (pleasure or happiness) is the primary thing and what is “right” depends on whether it brings “good.” With Kant, however, a good man is one who acts rightly, and that depends on doing one’s duty. (*11) With Bentham self-interest and duty were identical. To Kant, they were opposed. “The empirical self must be constantly sacrificed in order to bring one’s actions in accord with a universal law of right.” (*12) Kant’s universal law was absolutely binding without any connection with utility.

Thus German Liberalism, tied hand and foot to the police, started not from rights, but from duty, from authoritative imperatives, Only, the imperative was to come not from the State but from universal law. Also, the duty was not to the State but to universal law. It was from the universal law of will that the State came to be the embodiment of general will.


The emphasis on will came from the fact that with the Germans there was only will, only wish. (*13) The State existed, according to the German Liberals, to protect and develop that will. Thus the individual will was to be developed not contra to the State but through the Law. Under no circumstances must the people disobey the Law.

According to Kant, if the ruler acted in violation of the laws, the subjects might complain but never rebel. It was a duty to obey the law of the existing legislative power no matter what its origin might be. “Hence there is no Right of Sedition, and still less of Rebellion, belonging to the People. And least of all, when the Supreme Power is embodied in an individual Monarch, is there any justification, under the pretext of his abuse of power, for seizing his Person or taking away his Life.”


In practical politics the Liberals advocated a monarchy, with the king expressing the general will and the people advising him through a press that was to be free. Of course, Kant was against votes for such men as work for masters. Bowing and scraping before the pressure of both king and people, the German Liberal believed that the essence of ethics lay in the “good will.” Having no will of their own that could be realized, their task was to propitiate those wills that alone had power. (*15)

With the Germans, the theory of freedom of the will was the reaction to the material reality that physically their capitalism was in chains. The will was divorced from the body, or rather became the essence of body and free from physical laws. It was its own law, free from the trammels even of reason. Thus did German Liberalism substitute the opiate of free will for its sanity. (*16)

In the course of the nineteenth century, the theory of Free Will, and of will as the essence of the world, was very convenient to the capitalists and their professorial apologists. It was used to demonstrate that since one can- not know absolute truth, therefore one cannot determine the future. With this theory, the capitalists were able to combat the dialectical materialism of the working class that proved that inevitably the capitalist world would have to give way to a socialist one. Later, when the workers made bold to express their own will, Kantian Liberalism condescended to explain to them that free will meant capitalists’ will and that workers’ will was capricious willfulness.

The doctrine of Free Will served also as a metaphysical buttress to Utilitarianism in its protest against the States taking any measure of social reform that would bridle the irresponsible will of the capitalists. The only good was the good will, and with this the capitalist countered social reform with private philanthropy.

In America, the theory of Free Will, just as with the concept of Liberty, took on a more positive character. We have noted that with the English, Liberty was negative; with the German it was part of law and duty; with the American it was positive, it was self-development. In the United States, as Liberty had become an end in itself, so would Free Will, If in any place the individual capitalist will had been free, it was in America. It was easy enough for the American to imagine that his actions were in accordance with universal law, because he had always imagined himself to have founded a model world, upon which the eyes of all the rest of humanity were longingly fixed.

Capitalism now reaching its maturity in the late nineteenth century, victorious in its world battles, unchallenged in its supremacy, of course felt its will was free. The capitalists looking about them believed themselves to be creators of a civilization far higher than anything that had gone before. Their will had been the creative force. The material forces of production, the labor of the working class, all had been subordinate to their will. If this was so for capitalism generally, it was exceptionally true for American capitalism, both little and big, that had transformed a continent literally from a wilderness to the most powerful nation before the eyes of modern man.

Self-reliant, the American Liberal translated free will to mean self- development. To develop the individuality of each to the highest point became the goal of education. But in America, the land of inventions and experiments, where concrete results took the place of theory, and action the place of evolution, this neo-Kantianism became Pragmatism, and as American industry, scientific management, and engineering developed, it became Instrumentalism. (*17) Instrumentalism becomes American Liberalism’s nearest approach to Socialism. (*18)


The Liberalisms of the other European countries, Italy, Hungary, Poland, all bore the stamp of the fact that these countries were not only backward economically, but subordinated and dominated by other powers that had conquered them. It was only natural, therefore, that these Liberalisms should stress not individual liberty and freedom so much as national independence. It was against the Holy Alliance whose chief bulwark was the Austrian Emperor and the Russian Czar that these Liberalisms had to fight.

The struggle for the national independence of Poland was extraordinarily protracted and has not been definitely solved to the present day. The same period that saw the breaking out of the American Revolution witnessed the partition of the ancient kingdom of Poland, when large slices of territory were taken by Prussia, Austria, and Russia. Faced with the prospect of being completely swallowed up by these three powers, the landed gentry of the country commenced a series of reforms to reinvigorate the body politic.

Unlike Germany, where the rulers were the Princes, in Poland the decisive element of the ruling class was made up of nobles whose estates had shrunk to the size of petty property. These impoverished nobles felt themselves steadily reduced under the pressure of the great monarchies around them. In Poland, too, there was a considerable capitalism developed in the towns. Under the impact of the French Revolution, the petty nobility and city leaders combined to force the Reform Constitution of May 3, 1791, whereby the burghers were granted equal civic rights with the nobility.

At the head of this reform movement was Kosziuscko. Kosziuscko had taken notable part in the American Revolution and had returned with definite Liberal ideas. When the King of Poland decided to yield to the Russian invasion in 1792, Kosziuscko resigned his army command and went to Paris. There he witnessed the stirring days of the Terror and the execution of Louis XVI. Typical aristocrat as he was, the execution filled him with abhorrence and he refused to have anything to do with the Jacobins.

From his reactions we can gather the nature of his conspiracies leading to the actual uprising in Poland of 1794. Kosziuscko, however, had not witnessed the Revolution for nothing. From the Americans he learned how to compose a Declaration of Independence; from the French he learned the necessity for winning the people to his cause and for arming the peasantry to fight his battles. To win the peasantry Kosziuscko proposed such reforms as reducing the corv’ee labor of the peasant by half and granting him protection of the law.

It never occurred to the Liberalism of Kosziuscko to permit the peasant to vote. And how inadequate were his reforms can be seen from the fact that it had been only in the year previous that the Liberal Catherine the Second, Empress of Russia, in the final partition of Poland, had reduced a large number of free Polish peasants to serfs (handing them over, incidentally, to Polish knightly landlords). Kosziuscko’s reform would not have restored these serfs, not even to their former status of peasants.

It was no accident, therefore, when Polish Liberalism in 1794 appealed to the Committee of Public Safety in France for aid, that the Committee should have put the following questions to their representative: “How is it that your Kosziuscko is a popular dictator and yet suffers a king alongside of him, who, moreover, as Kosziuscko must be aware, has been put on the throne by Russia? Why does your dictator not dare to carry out the mass mobilization of the peasants, for fear of the aristocrats who do not want ‘hands’ to be withdrawn from labour? How is it that his proclamations lose their revolutionary tone in proportion to the distance which his line of march removes him from Cracow? Why did he immediately punish the people’s insurrection in Warsaw with the gallows, while the aristocratic ‘traitors to their country’ wander freely about or are sheltered behind the lengthy formalities of a trial? Answer!” (*19) To which the Polish citizen could only remain silent.

Although Kosziuscko’s Liberalism was not able to win national independence for Poland, certain Polish elements maintained their Liberal- Radical activity throughout the nineteenth century. A hundred thousand Poles had served in the armies of the French Revolution under Napoleon; Many of them had helped Italy in 1848, in the Hungarian Uprising in 1849, in the Garibaldi movement later, and some Poles were even to distinguish themselves in the Paris Commune.

With the breaking of the ancien r’egime by Napoleon, social conditions became rapidly transformed in Poland. Napoleon had abolished serfdom and replaced the old laws of Poland with the Code Napoleon. He had wrested Poland from the grip of the Czar and had formed it into an independent Duchy. To retrace all these steps was now impossible. In the kingdom of Poland proper, serfdom could not be restored, although the peasant could be coerced to labor and beaten if he refused. Forced labor was finally abolished in 1815 in Prussian Poland. The Bank of Poland was established in 1825. German business men migrated into Poland and began to build up numerous factories.

With such additional support, the petty nobility of Poland in 1831 attempted another rebellion. However, these gentlemen made absolutely no bid for the support of the peasantry and did nothing to improve their lot. Thus it was that noble Polish Liberalism, idealized so poignantly by poems flavored with nostalgic romanticism, received its second blow. With this second defeat a period of dark repression set in. In their failure to rally the Polish peasant to their cause, the Liberal nobles were being repaid for their role as chief instigators of the cruelty and oppression common in the countryside. The peasants never much supported the revolutionary movement for independence, neither in 1831 nor in 1863. Indeed, in 1846 the Austrian ruling class was able to instigate the Polish peasant to massacre thousands of these country gentlemen.

With the abolition of serfdom in Hungary in 1864, and in Austrian Poland in 1847-48, the situation in that part of Poland controlled by Russia became more precarious. Capitalism, too, was now making greater strides. Railroads had been built from Warsaw to Vienna and Berlin; in order to pay for their upkeep, travel had to be encouraged, and, accordingly, passports were reduced from 700 rubles to 10. Polish intellectuals, mostly declassed nobles and students of the rising bourgeoisie, began to travel in large numbers throughout Europe and to come back discontented with the old system. In retaliation to the rising discontent among the middle classes, the Czar instituted, in 1863, a general conscription and recruitment into the army that amounted practically to a national proscription.

With the victorious Italian struggles for independence fresh in their memory, the middle class of the towns of Russian Poland and the petty nobility made their last attempt at insurrection in 1863. Their first act now was to give land to the peasants without rent, yet the peasantry remained neutral, even hostile to the whole movement. The gesture of liberation had come too late. Already even Russia in 1861 had liberated its serfs and had “given” the peasants land; the peasants were finding out under what onerous conditions they had been liberated and were beginning to realize that soon their sufferings were to increase even more than under serfdom.

Although none of the big landed estates took part in the movement of revolt, the Radicals did not attempt in the least to confiscate the big landed estates or to urge the peasants against the Polish ruling class. Only such a movement would have enabled them to win the peasantry and would have given Polish independence a chance of success. This lack of enthusiasm among the poor agrarians was counteracted in part by the prominent part the towns took in the movement.

The Revolt of 1863 was thus summed up by an eye-witness: “The last political insurrection was in some respects more formidable than any that have preceded it. For the first time the working classes in the Polish towns took up arms of their own accord without any active personal encouragement from the aristocracy, indeed, in the first instance, in spite of the aristocracy.” (*20) In the militant action of the working classes who participated, the towns furnished to the Czar the first taste of 1905 and 1917.

After 1863, Polish Liberalism was played out as the chief historical social force. In Prussian Poland, the Poles, overwhelmed by the might of German industry and by the policy of colonization, became Germanified. In Austria in 1867, Galicia was given a complete system of self-government with jobs for the Polish petty aristocracy, who were made supreme in the region, and who thereafter wholeheartedly supported the Vienna government. In Russian Poland, due to the tariff and subsidy policy of Russian Absolutism, a tremendous growth of business took place, Warsaw becoming one of the foremost capitals and Lodz one of the chief manufacturing centers of Europe. Coupled with this bourgeois development went a ruthless policy of Russification on the one hand, and the rise of a revolutionary Socialist movement among the workers, on the other. Torn between these forces, Polish Liberalism gradually expired. The social struggle was then continued as one between the Polish Revolutionary Radicals and Socialists, on the one hand, and the Czar, on the other.

We sum up this section on the Liberal movement for Polish national independence with an interesting statement by Engels to Marx: “… The more I think over the business the clearer it becomes to me that the Poles as a nation are done for and can only be made use of as an instrument until Russia herself is swept into the agrarian revolution. From that moment onwards Poland will have absolutely no more reason for existence. The Poles have never done anything in history except play at brave, quarrelsome stupidity. And one cannot point to a single instance in which Poland represented progress successfully, even if only in relation to Russia, or did anything at all of historic importance. Russia, on the other hand, is really progressive in relation to the East. For all its baseness and Slavonic dirt, Russian domination is a civilizing element on the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea and Central Asia and among the Bashkirs and Tartars, and Russia has absorbed far more civilizing and especially industrial elements than the Poles whose whole nature is that of the idle cavalier.” (*21)

Liberalism in Hungary was of major importance only during the period of the 1848 revolutions, when Hungarian Liberal-Radicalism under Louis Kossuth decided to revolt to form an independent Hungary. Kossuth was one of those intellectuals who, with so many others of his type, had felt the changed social conditions in Europe after the French Revolution; his family had been sympathetic to the Polish Revolt of 1831. The Hungarian people only reflected the fact that Hungarian capitalists were being choked by the reactionary politics of the Holy Alliance. To improve their position, Kossuth helped to organize a society for the support of Hungarian manufacturers and, together with the agrarian aristocrats, built up a nationalist movement. Kossuth himself hoped that the Archduke Francis-Joseph would be induced to lead the movement. But when the Revolution of 1848 reached Vienna and paralyzed the repressive center of the Empire, Kossuth felt that the time was ripe to organize a provisional government. He became President of the Committee of National Defense. In his struggle against the system of Metternich, Kossuth was forced to stronger and stronger action, leading to a Declaration of Independence of Hungary. Kossuth’s Hungarian Liberalism was not able to last very long, however. He himself was soon driven to exile, where he collaborated with Mazzini, and where he gave out statements repudiating his proclamations which had called for revolution.

Only in Italy did the movement for national independence succeed. “In Italy, where capitalistic production developed earliest, the dissolution of serfdom also took place earlier than elsewhere. The serf was emancipated in that country before he had acquired any prescriptive right to the soil. His emancipation at once transformed him into a free thinking proletarian, who, moreover, found his master ready waiting for him in the towns, for the most part handed down as legacies from the Roman time. When the revolution of the world-market, about the end of the fifteenth century, annihilated Northern Italy’s commercial supremacy, a movement in the reverse direction set in. The labourers of the towns were driven en masse into the country and gave an impulse never before seen, to the petite culture, carried on in the form of gardening.” (*22) Italy’s sailors formed some of the best mariners of other countries.

By the time of the nineteenth century, Italian capitalism had sufficiently revived from its many centuries of stagnation to attempt to overthrow the incubus that the past had weighted upon it. The task of independence and unification, however, was entirely too much for the backward Italian capitalists. It was a job that could be done only by the mass of people themselves. As in Germany, the capitalists in Italy had arrived too late in their bid for emancipation; no longer could people be trusted to restrict themselves to the interests of the wealthy. The masses, therefore, had to take matters into their own hands, while the bourgeoisie fled into the courtyards of the royalty. Like the Germans, whose progress had also been thwarted and choked for a long time, the Italians were divided into petty principalities, and thus keenly felt the immediate need for the unification of the nation. It was this need for unification, coupled with the despicable role of the Italian capitalists, that led the Italian nationalists to fight the classic Liberalism of the French, English, and American types. Unlike France and England, Germany and Italy had missed the period of centralization which in turn had developed the capitalism that led to the period of revolution. It was not a struggle against centralization but a struggle for it, that both these countries had to make.

To those who were coming late into the world market and who, in order to catch up, were struggling for the establishment of a centralized control, it was impossible to accept the theories of the advocates of laissez faire. The theories of laissez faire could lead only to the derogation of the State, whereas to both the Germans and the Italians only the development of the national state force could end the backward chaotic conditions that prevailed. It was for this reason that Germans such as Hegel and Italians such as Mazzini could repudiate individualism in favor of the State. To Hegel the State was the true self in which the mere individual was absorbed. This was the cornerstone of moral and political obligation; man could be free morally only when his actions conformed to his real will, that is, the general will embodied by the State. (*23)

Whereas Hegel, the reactionary, talked of the State, Mazzini talked of the Nation, To him the Nation was the individual writ large, and its own independence was the primary condition for its internal life and indeed of its freedom. For that reason it imposed an absolute sacrifice upon the individual when it was necessary to overthrow the power of Austria. In Germany, the Prussian State could oust Austria. In Italy the only power to do this was the people, that is, the Nation. Thus, as in Hungary and Poland, only Radicalism proposed to overthrow the old order. Liberalism shrank back from the only solution possible, revolution. In Italy, especially, the capitalist class could not unify the nation. Made up primarily of merchant capitalists, each group specially privileged in its own city, state and petty province, these elements stood more to lose than to gain immediately by any fusion of all the principalities into one nation. Like the Junker Princes in Germany, there had been established a veritable merchant aristocracy, intimately tied up with the ruling cliques of these petty States. By this time, too, the history of England had amply shown that the interests of the people were not identical with those of the capitalists adopting criminally irresponsible individualism. Finally, for the Italians, the French Revolution had, after awhile, lost its original luster, particularly when they saw Napoleon III bombard the democrats and restore the Pope in Rome in 1848.

The creed of the Italian Liberal capitalists, organized as the Moderates, may be summed up as follows: “they believed that small risings were useless and that large risings were impossible for the time being; that such sporadic outbursts merely resulted in bloodshed and suffering; that it was better to work peacefully and try to convert the princes to their views; to agitate if necessary for Liberal institutions, and thus to capture and use the Italian governments-instead of following Mazzini’s impracticable plan of trying to destroy them all simultaneously.” (*24) There Liberals wanted a consultative assembly, unification by federation and not by fusion, with the Pope as the head.

The presence of the Pope in Italy had gravely complicated matters for the Radicals striving for unity and national independence. On the one hand, both in theory and in practice, the Pope’s temporal influence had to be fought and overthrown. On the other hand, the Papacy, during its many-centuried history, had brought untold wealth into Italy. Indeed, it had been with the aid of the Pope that Italy had been able, first of all, to attain that supremacy which it enjoyed and to develop so early its capitalism. Whatever political policy the Pope had carried out, economically the wealth of the Vatican could redound only to the increased welfare of the Italian propertied interest. Was it not good policy to keep the Papacy in Italy and yet defeat the temporal interests of the Pope in Italy by all the more stressing the religiosity of the rebellious movement?

Here, then, were the limits within which Mazzini could build the program of his new movement, “Young Italy.” With his slogan, “God and the People,” and with his banner, on the one side, “Unity and Independence,” and on the reverse side, “Liberty, Equality, Humanity,” Mazzini advanced to the battle. But on whom could such a movement be built? The proletariat was as yet entirely too weak. Building it upon agrarian toilers, plebeian masses, and petty bourgeois elements in the city necessitated an understanding with the native rulers of Italy. Since the first job was to overthrow the power of Austria, every effort was made to form an alliance between all the Italian forces, under the direction of the King of Piedmont.

In this respect, Mazzini was only continuing the policy of the Carbonari, that secret sect organized in 1812 which had taken part and stimulated all the revolts in Italy until 1831. The Carbonari was the work of the well-to-do and educated, stimulated by the French Revolution, and not, at all of the people. After the failure of the Carbonari, Mazzini decided to add the religious features to his movement, Young Italy, organized in 1832, and to make an appeal directly to the King of Piedmont to lead the struggle for independence. It was only when the King failed to respond to his letter, written in 1831, that Mazzini turned to the idea of a republic, although his chief aid, Garibaldi, remained monarchist to the end.

Instead of Liberalism with its laissez faire, Italian Nationalism developed a sort of spurious Socialism to which were tacked on certain reactionary features that made the people do the fighting but the ruling class remain the beneficiaries. As Mazzini put it: “There is but one sole virtue in the world-the eternal sacrifice of self.” (*25) The masses were to do the sacrificing.

If in the middle of the nineteenth century the masses of Europe were beginning to turn to Socialism, all that Mazzini could offer them was some sort of reactionary substitute. First of all, a slashing attack was made upon Liberalism. To Mazzini, as to Kant and Hegel, liberty did not in the least imply the negation of authority. On the contrary, it was not the Rights of Man that had to be stressed, but the Duties of Man. (*26) The former could lead only to spurious liberty, to individualism, to poverty and misery for the masses. Liberalism had failed, for it provided no obligations for the rich who could do as they pleased. Laissez faire individualism could lead only to rank materialism; to the Benthamite theory of happiness as an aim of life could produce only egoists.

At the same time Mazzini’s movement, tied to King and Pope as it was, excoriated Communism with its transient victory of the proletariat in the Paris Commune of 1871. (*27) It seems that both Mazzini and Kropotkin, the Anarchist, saw in the Commune essentially the same features, and each praises what the-other condemns. Mazzini condemned the Commune as retrograde and immoral and as a reversion to the Middle Ages; its federalism would defeat modern nationalism. The Commune was only a logical extension of individualism, for both capitalism and the proletariat hate the fatherland, holy to all the nation. And finally, the Commune was French, and it was impossible to believe that France, which had uttered the last word of an exhausted epoch, could be the one to proffer the first word of the succeeding epoch.

The principle of property was eternal and, instead of the class struggle, the way out was the union of labor and capital in the same hands, namely, in the form of peasant proprietorship and co-operative association. Thus to the individualistic capitalist, Liberalism with its communist proletarian off- spring, Italian Nationalism, counterposed reactionary national co-operation and a religious socialistic utopia in behalf of which all the flotsam and jetsam of ideas from the Utopian Socialists and Anarchists were gathered together into one jumble and offered as a program. Grandiosely, Mazzini made the claim that the Italian movement was far superior to the French Revolution because, while the French Revolution had established the liberty of individual man, the nineteenth century would establish free nations, so that later all mankind would be organized in a vast association of free nations in which Italy would have led the way.

Mazzini advocated free trade, free state banking, easy land sales and transfers, and the transference of all church property eventually to the State; but he was against Liberalism. He was for the legalization of associations, but against unions and strikes. He favored concessions of public works to workingmen’s associations (co-operatives), the transference of unclaimed land and the profits of railways and public utilities to the State, and giving the common lands to the State for the poor; his program called for one tax to come from incomes, and also for a national fund of credit to be distributed to workingmen’s associations (compare with Louis Blanc), but he opposed Socialism. He was for insurrection of the people, but against the Paris Commune. As a Catholic, he was against the Pope; as a republican, he was for the King; as a democrat, he was a forerunner of Fascism. in many respects Mazzini foreshadows Mussolini.

Here, again, is illustrated a classic example of the law of combined development in social history, by which is meant the drawing together of different stages of the journey, a combining of separate steps, an amalgam with more contemporary forms. In order to accomplish their unification and independence, the Italian masses had to organize their Radical Party and engage in insurrection at a time when Liberalism already was exposing its inherent weakness and Socialism was rapidly rising as a force. Since Liberalism had turned anti-democratic, the Italians were anti-Liberal democrats. Unable to turn to Republican Socialism, the Nationalist movement was forced to turn backward to King and to Catholic Church, and to compel the development of capitalism in spite of King, Church, and capitalist who in the end could only ride on the shoulders of the movement and take full advantage of it for their own particular interests. The independence of Italy was soon followed by its unification. In the end, in Italy, as elsewhere, it was capitalist Liberalism that triumphed, while the Garibaldi movement faded away into the newly growing Socialism.

The defeat of Russia in the Crimean War of 1854-56 revealed to everyone the economic inferiority of Russia and the necessity for certain liberal reforms. Already, in 1825, influenced by the French Revolution, and of the same stripe as the French Encyclopedists and Enlighteners, a group of officers had begun a rebellion. The program of these Dekabrists was: the emancipation of the peasants, the confirmation of the rights of individuals by stable laws, the establishment of representation of the people in the government. (*28) The revolt had been severely crushed. But the events of the Crimean War compelled the Czar to change his course. The first result was the emancipation of the serfs, and the enormous acceleration of the growth of capitalism within the country.

However, from the very beginning, the capitalists shrank from making any move for power, and even the Revolution of 1905 amply demonstrated that, while the Liberals in other countries might be willing to stand by and let the people do the actual work for them, and after the barricade fighting was over, to come down from their high windows from whence they had watched the battle and claim the rewards for themselves, in Russia the Liberals positively hated power. (*29) For in Russia it was crystal clear that the only power capable of replacing the Czar was the power of the peasantry, led by the proletariat. In the Polish revolt of 1863 the Russian Liberals had turned their backs on the Poles.


Completely skipping Liberalism, Russian Populism was forced to take on Socialistic characteristics. The Narodnaia Volia (Will of the People) Group in 1879, for example, adopted the following program: Popular republic, universal suffrage as the supreme authority, large local autonomy and election of all offices, independence of the Mir, as an economic and administrative unit, nationalization of the land, measures to bring factories into the hands of the workers, complete civil liberty, and the end of the standing army. (*30)

It was this section from which evolved a group of terrorists, the Nihilists, that struck fear into the hearts of the entire Russian aristocracy, and from which there eventually emerged the leaders of both the Marxist Socialist Party and the Socialist Revolutionary Populists. Liberalism remained entirely bourgeois and divorced from the masses. By the time it could arise, the people were ready for a collectivist socialistic program. (*31)


1. See L. T. Hobhouse: The Metaphysical Theory of the State, p. 33 and following.

2. M. Beer: Social Struggles and Modern Socialism, p. 18.

3. I. Kant: Critique of Pure Reason, p. 607 (N. K. Smith, 1929, edition).

4. The difference is exemplified by the works of Herbert Spencer when compared with those of Kant.

5. This was true in 1918 also. In fact, Germany passed ever Liberalism in the State as France passed over the Reformation.

6. J. Kant: "Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals” in Critique of Practical Reason.

p. 49. (T. K. Abbott edition, 1898.)

7. Given in N. K. Smith: Commentary to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, p. ivii.

8. J. Kant: “Introduction to the Metaphysics of Morals,” in Critique of Practical Reason, p. 269.

The moral law of Kant admittedly did not coincide with real life; it stated not what is, but what should be.

9. The same, pp. 280, 282.

10. For the necessity of these conceptions of soul immortality and of God, see J. Kant: Critique of Practical Reason, pp. 218, 220.

11. See C. D. Broad: Five Types of Ethical Theory, p. 116 and following.

To Kant it was a duty to maintain one’s life, to secure one’s happiness. It was not enough to have joy of living, to have moral worth, all actions had to derive from a sense of duty.

12. Williams: The Concept of Equality in the Writings of Rousseau, Bentham and Kant, p. 40.

To Kant, man was by nature bad.

13. With Schopenhauer the will becomes the only reality in a world of appearances and mere images of the brain.

14. Kant: The Philosophy of Law, pp. 176-177 (W. Hastie 1887 translation of Kant’s Science of Right).

15. How different Kant was from Rousseau!

16. Kant drew a principal distinction between understanding and reason; reason was allegedly divorced from sense. (Compare M. Storrs: The Relation of Carlyle to Kant and Fichte, p. 38.)

One of the most recent variations of Kantianism is Vaihinger’s Philosophy of “As If.”

17. "In modern Pragmatism, the true Kant has been resurrected; indeed has been for the first time really discerned." (G. Stanley Hall: "Why Kant is Passing," The American Journal of Psychology, Vol. XXIII, p. 386 (July, 1912).)

The father of American Pragmatism may be said to be William James (who gives credit to Pierce); of Instrumentalism, John Dewey.

18. For a full discussion and comparison with Dialectical Materialism, see below, Book IV, "Socialism."

19. The Correspondence of Marx and Engels (International Edition), pp. 95-96.

20. H. S. Edwards: The Private History of a Polish Insurrection, I, 5.

21. Correspondence of Marx and Engels (international Edition), p. 37.

22. Karl Marx: Capital, Kerr Edition, I, 787-788, footnote.

23. See L. T. Hobhouse: The Metaphysical Theory of the State.

24. G. F. Berkeley: Italy in the Making (1815-1846), I, 139-140.

25. J. Mazzini: "Thoughts Upon Democracy" (pamphlet). It is here that Mazzini develops the idea that there are two schools of democracy, one of Rights, The Individualist School, and one of Duties, The Collectivist.

26. See J. Mazzini: "An Essay on the Duties of Man-Addressed to Workingmen,” written 1844.

27. See J. Mazzini-. “The War and the Commune” (pamphlet).

28. L. Tikhomirov: Russia, Political and Social, II, 149.

29. L. Trotsky: History of the Russian Revolution, I, 162.

30. L. Tikhomirov, work cited, II, 145.

31. Space limitation forbids us to treat even sketchily the relatively puny Liberal movements in Asia, whether in India, China or Japan. Nor can we deal with the very interesting variations in the Britannic States, particularly in Australia and New Zealand.