THE IMPORTANCE OF SECURING international peace was recognized by the really great men of former generations. But the technical advances of our times have turned this ethical postulate into a matter of life and death for civilized mankind to-day, and made the taking of an active part in the solution of the problem of peace a moral duty which no conscientious man can shirk.
One has to realize that the powerful industrial groups concerned in the manufacture of arms are doing their best in all countries to prevent the peaceful settlement of international disputes, and that rulers can achieve this great end only if they are sure of the vigorous support of the majority of their peoples. In these days of democratic government the fate of the nations hangs on themselves; each individual must always bear that in mind.
The Pacifist Problem
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
I am very glad of this opportunity of saying a few words to you about the problem of pacificism. The course of events in the last few years has once more shown us how little we are justified in leaving the struggle against armaments and against the war spirit to the Governments. On the other hand, the formation of large organizations with a large membership can of itself bring us very little nearer to our goal. In my opinion, the best method in this case is the violent one of conscientious objection, with the aid of organizations for giving moral and material support to the courageous conscientious objectors in each country. In this way we may succeed in making the problem of pacificism an acute one, a real struggle which attracts forceful natures. It is an illegal struggle, but a struggle for people’s real rights against their governments in so far as the latter demand criminal acts of the citizen.
Many who think themselves good pacifists will jib at this out-and-out pacifism, on patriotic grounds. Such people are not to be relied on in the hour of crisis, as the World War amply proved.
I am most grateful to you for according me an opportunity to give you my views in person.
Address to the Students’ Disarmament Meeting
PRECEDING GENERATIONS HAVE presented us, in a highly developed science and mechanical knowledge, with a most valuable gift which carries with it possibilities of making our life free and beautiful such as no previous generation has enjoyed. But this gift also brings with it dangers to our existence as great as any that have ever threatened it.
The destiny of civilized humanity depends more than ever on the moral forces it is capable of generating. Hence the task that confronts our age is certainly no easier than the tasks our immediate predecessors successfully performed.
The foodstuffs and other goods which the world needs can be produced in far fewer hours of work than formerly. But this has made the problem of the division of labour and the distribution of the goods produced far more difficult. We all feel that the free play of economic forces, the unregulated and unrestrained pursuit of wealth and power by the individual, no longer leads automatically to a tolerable solution of these problems. Production, labour, and distribution need to be organized on a definite plan, in order to prevent valuable productive energies from being thrown away and sections of the population from becoming impoverished and relapsing into savagery. If unrestricted sacro egoismo leads to disastrous consequences in economic life, it is a still worse guide in international relations. The development of mechanical methods of warfare is such that human life will become intolerable if people do not before long discover a way of preventing war. The importance of this object is only equalled by the inadequacy of the attempts hitherto made to attain it.
People seek to minimize the danger by limitation of armaments and restrictive rules for the conduct of war. But war is not like a parlour-game in which the players loyally stick to the rules. Where life and death are at stake, rules and obligations go by the board. Only the absolute repudiation of all war is of any use here. The creation of an international court of arbitration is not enough. There must be treaties guaranteeing that the decisions of this court shall be made effective by all the nations acting in concert. Without such a guarantee the nations will never have the courage to disarm seriously.
Suppose, for example, that the American, English, German, and French Governments insisted on the Japanese Government’s putting an immediate stop to their warlike operations in China, under pain of a complete economic boycott. Do you suppose that any Japanese Government would be found ready to take the responsibility of plunging its country into such a perilous adventure? Then why is it not done? Why must every individual and every nation tremble for their existence? Because each seeks his own wretched momentary advantage and refuses to subordinate it to the welfare and prosperity of the community.
That is why I began by telling you that the fate of the human race was more than ever dependent on its moral strength to-day. The way to a joyful and happy state is through renunciation and self-limitation everywhere.
Where can the strength for such a process come from? Only from those who have had the chance in their early years to fortify their minds and broaden their outlook through study. Thus we of the older generation look to you and hope that you will strive with all your might to achieve what was denied to us.
To Sigmund Freud
DEAR PROFESSOR FREUD,
It is admirable the way the longing to perceive the truth has overcome every other desire in you. You have shown with irresistible clearness how inseparably the combative and destructive instincts are bound up with the amative and vital ones in the human psyche. At the same time a deep yearning for that great consummation, the internal and external liberation of mankind from war, shines out from the ruthless logic of your expositions. This has been the declared aim of all those who have been honoured as moral and spiritual leaders beyond the limits of their own time and country without exception, from Jesus Christ to Goethe and Kant. Is it not significant that such men have been universally accepted as leaders, in spite of the fact that their efforts to mould the course of human affairs were attended with but small success?
I am convinced that the great men—those whose achievements, even though in a restricted sphere, set them above their fellows—are animated to an overwhelming extent by the same ideals. But they have little influence on the course of political events. It almost looks as if this domain, on which the fate of nations depends, had inevitably to be given over to violence and irresponsibility.
Political leaders or governments owe their position partly to force and partly to popular election. They cannot be regarded as representative of the best elements, morally and intellectually, in their respective nations. The intellectual elite have no direct influence on the history of nations in these days; their lack of cohesion prevents them from taking a direct part in the solution of contemporary problems. Don’t you think that a change might be brought about in this respect by a free association of people whose work and achievements up to date constitute a guarantee of their ability and purity of aim? This international association, whose members would need to keep in touch with each other by a constant interchange of opinions, might, by defining its attitude in the Press—responsibility always resting with the signatories on any given occasion—acquire a considerable and salutary moral influence over the settlement of political questions. Such an association would, of course, be a prey to all the ills which so often lead to degeneration in learned societies, dangers which are inseparably bound up with the imperfection of human nature. But should not an effort in this direction be risked in spite of this? I look upon the attempt as nothing less than an imperative duty.
If an intellectual association of standing, such as I have described, could be formed, it would no doubt have to try to mobilize the religious organizations for the fight against war. It would give countenance to many whose good intentions are paralysed to-day by a melancholy resignation. Finally, I believe that an association formed of persons such as I have described, each highly esteemed in his own line, would be just the thing to give valuable moral support to those elements in the League of Nations which are really working for the great object for which that institution exists.
I had rather put these proposals to you than to anyone else in the world, because you are least of all men the dupe of your desires and because your critical judgment is supported by a most earnest sense of responsibility.
From a Letter
INSTEAD OF PERMISSION being given to Germany to introduce compulsory service it ought to be taken away from everybody else: in future none but mercenary armies should be permitted, the size and equipment of which should be discussed at Geneva. This would be better for France than to have to permit compulsory service in Germany. The fatal psychological effect of the military education of the people and the violation of the individual’s rights which it involves would thus be avoided.
Moreover, it would be much easier for two countries which had agreed to compulsory arbitration for the settlement of all disputes arising out of their mutual relations to combine their military establishments of mercenaries into a single organization with a mixed staff. This would mean a financial relief and increased security for both of them. Such a process of amalgamation might extend to larger and larger combinations, and finally lead to an “international police,” which would be bound gradually to degenerate as international security increased.
Will you discuss this proposal with our friends by way of setting the ball rolling? Of course I do not in the least insist on this particular proposal. But I do think it essential that we should come forward with a positive programme; a merely negative policy is unlikely to produce any practical results.
Germany and France
MUTUAL TRUST AND CO-OPERATION between France and Germany can come about only if the French demand for security against military attack is satisfied. But should France frame demands in accordance with this, such a step would certainly be taken very ill in Germany.
A procedure something like the following seems, however, to be possible. Let the German Government of its own free will propose to the French that they should jointly make representations to the League of Nations that it should suggest to all member States to bind themselves to the following:—
(1) To submit to every decision of the international court of arbitration.
(2) To proceed with all its economic and military force, in concert with the other members of the League, against any State which breaks the peace or resists an international decision made in the interests of world peace.
SYSTEMATIC DISARMAMENT WITHIN a short period. This is possible only in combination with the guarantee of all for the security of each separate nation, based on a permanent court of arbitration independent of governments.
Unconditional obligation of all countries not merely to accept the decisions of the court of arbitration but also to give effect to them.
Separate courts of arbitration for Europe with Africa, America, and Asia (Australia to be apportioned to one of these). A joint court of arbitration for questions involving issues that cannot be settled within the limits of any one of these three regions.
The International of Science
AT A SITTING OF the Academy during the War, at the time when national and political infatuation had reached its height, Emil Fischer spoke the following emphatic words: “It’s no use, Gentlemen, science is and remains international.” The really great scientists have always known this and felt it passionately, even though in times of political confusion they may have remained isolated among their colleagues of inferior calibre. In every camp during the War this mass of voters betrayed their sacred trust. The international society of the academies was broken up. Congresses were and still are held from which colleagues from ex-enemy countries are excluded. Political considerations, advanced with much solemnity, prevent the triumph of purely objective ways of thinking without which our great aims must necessarily be frustrated.
What can right-minded people, people who are proof against the emotional temptations of the moment, do to repair the damage? With the majority of intellectual workers still so excited, truly international congresses on the grand scale cannot yet be held. The psychological obstacles to the restoration of the international associations of scientific workers are still too formidable to be overcome by the minority whose ideas and feelings are of a more comprehensive kind. These last can aid in the great work of restoring the international societies to health by keeping in close touch with like-minded people all over the world and resolutely championing the international cause in their own spheres. Success on a large scale will take time, but it will undoubtedly come. I cannot let this opportunity pass without paying a tribute to the way in which the desire to preserve the confraternity of the intellect has remained alive through all these difficult years in the breasts of a large number of our English colleagues especially.
The disposition of the individual is everywhere better than the official pronouncements. Right-minded people should bear this in mind and not allow themselves to be misled and get angry: senatores boni viri, senatus autem bestia.
If I am full of confident hope concerning the progress of international organization in general, that feeling is based not so much on my confidence in the intelligence and high-mindedness of my fellows, but rather on the irresistible pressure of economic developments. And since these depend largely on the work even of reactionary scientists, they too will help to create the international organization against their wills.
The Institute for Intellectual Co-operation
DURING THIS YEAR THE leading politicians of Europe have for the first time drawn the logical conclusion from the truth that our portion of the globe can only regain its prosperity if the underground struggle between the traditional political units ceases. The political organization of Europe must be strengthened, and a gradual attempt made to abolish tariff barriers. This great end cannot be achieved by treaties alone. People’s minds must, above all, be prepared for it. We must try gradually to awaken in them a sense of solidarity which does not, as hitherto, stop at frontiers. It is with this in mind that the League of Nations has created the Commission de coopération intellectuelle. This Commission is to be an absolutely international and entirely non-political authority, whose business it is to put the intellectuals of all the nations, who were isolated by the war, into touch with each other. It is a difficult task; for it has, alas, to be admitted that—at least in the countries with which I am most closely acquainted—the artists and men of learning are governed by narrowly nationalist feelings to a far greater extent than the men of affairs.
Hitherto this Commission has met twice a year. To make its efforts more effective, the French Government has decided to create and maintain a permanent Institute for intellectual co-operation, which is just now to be opened. It is a generous act on the part of the French nation and deserves the thanks of all.
It is an easy and grateful task to rejoice and praise and say nothing about the things one regrets or disapproves of. But honesty alone can help our work forward, so I will not shrink from combining criticism with this greeting to the new-born child.
I have daily occasion for observing that the greatest obstacle which the work of our Commission has to encounter is the lack of confidence in its political impartiality. Everything must be done to strengthen that confidence and everything avoided that might harm it.
When, therefore, the French Government sets up and maintains an Institute out of public funds in Paris as a permanent organ of the Commission, with a Frenchman as its Director, the outside observer can hardly avoid the impression that French influence predominates in the Commission. This impression is further strengthened by the fact that so far a Frenchman has also been chairman of the Commission itself. Although the individuals in question are men of the highest reputation, liked and respected everywhere, nevertheless the impression remains.
Dixi et salvavi animam meant. I hope with all my heart that the new Institute, by constant interaction with the Commission, will succeed in promoting their common ends and winning the confidence and recognition of intellectual workers all over the world.
A Letter to the German Secretary of the League of Nations
DEAR HERR DUFOUR-FERONCE,
Your kind letter must not go unanswered, otherwise you may get a mistaken notion of my attitude. The grounds for my resolve to go to Geneva no more are as follows: Experience has, unhappily, taught me that the Commission, taken as a whole, stands for no serious determination to make real progress with the task of improving international relations. It looks to me far more like an embodiment of the principle ut aliquid fieri videatur. The Commission seems to me even worse in this respect than the League taken as a whole.
It is precisely because I desire to work with all my might for the establishment of an international arbitrating and regulative authority superior to the State, and because I have this object so very much at heart, that I feel compelled to leave the Commission.
The Commission has given its blessing to the oppression of the cultural minorities in all countries by causing a National Commission to be set up in each of them, which is to form the only channel of communication between the intellectuals of a country and the Commission. It has thereby deliberately abandoned its function of giving moral support to the national minorities in their struggle against cultural oppression.
Further, the attitude of the Commission in the matter of combating the chauvinistic and militaristic tendencies of education in the various countries has been so lukewarm that no serious efforts in this fundamentally important sphere can be hoped for from it.
The Commission has invariably failed to give moral support to those individuals and associations who have thrown themselves without reserve into the business of working for an international order and against the military system.
The Commission has never made any attempt to resist the appointment of members whom it knew to stand for tendencies the very reverse of those it is bound in duty to foster.
I will not worry you with any further arguments, since you will understand my resolve well enough from these few hints. It is not my business to draw up an indictment, but merely to explain my position. If I nourished any hope whatever I should act differently—of that you may be sure.
The Question of Disarmament
THE GREATEST OBSTACLE to the success of the disarmament plan was the fact that people in general left out of account the chief difficulties of the problem. Most objects are gained by gradual steps: for example, the supersession of absolute monarchy by democracy. Here, however, we are concerned with an objective which cannot be reached step by step.
As long as the possibility of war remains, nations will insist on being as perfectly prepared militarily as they can, in order to emerge triumphant from the next war. It will also be impossible to avoid educating the youth in warlike traditions and cultivating narrow national vanity joined to the glorification of the warlike spirit, as long as people have to be prepared for occasions when such a spirit will be needed in the citizens for the purpose of war. To arm is to give one’s voice and make one’s preparations not for peace but for war. Therefore people will not disarm step by step; they will disarm at one blow or not at all.
The accomplishment of such a far-reaching change in the life of nations presupposes a mighty moral effort, a deliberate departure from deeply ingrained tradition. Anyone who is not prepared to make the fate of his country in case of a dispute depend entirely on the decisions of an international court of arbitration, and to enter into a treaty to this effect without reserve, is not really resolved to avoid war. It is a case of all or nothing.
It is undeniable that previous attempts to ensure peace have failed through aiming at inadequate compromises.
Disarmament and security are only to be had in combination. The one guarantee of security is an undertaking by all nations to give effect to the decisions of the international authority.
We stand, therefore, at the parting of the ways. Whether we find the way of peace or continue along the old road of brute force, so unworthy of our civilization, depends on ourselves. On the one side the freedom of the individual and the security of society beckon to us, on the other slavery for the individual and the annihilation of our civilization threaten us. Our fate will be according to our deserts.
The Disarmament Conference of 1932
MAY I BEGIN WITH an article of political faith? It runs as follows: The State is made for man, not man for the State. And in this respect science resembles the State. These are old sayings, coined by men for whom human personality was the highest human good. I should shrink from repeating them, were it not that they are for ever threatening to fall into oblivion, particularly in these days of organization and mechanization. I regard it as the chief duty of the State to protect the individual and give him the opportunity to develop into a creative personality.
That is to say, the State should be our servant and not we its slaves. The State transgresses this commandment when it compels us by force to engage in military and war service, the more so since the object and the effect of this slavish service is to kill people belonging to other countries or interfere with their freedom of development. We are only to make such sacrifices to the State as will promote the free development of individual human beings. To any American all this may be a platitude, but not to any European. Hence we may hope that the fight against war will find strong support among Americans.
And now for the Disarmament Conference. Ought one to laugh, weep, or hope when one thinks of it? Imagine a city inhabited by fiery-tempered, dishonest, and quarrelsome citizens. The constant danger to life there is felt as a serious handicap which makes all healthy development impossible. The magistrate desires to remedy this abominable state of affairs, although all his counsellors and the rest of the citizens insist on continuing to carry a dagger in their girdles. After years of preparation the magistrate determines to compromise and raises the question, how long and how sharp the dagger is allowed to be which anyone may carry in his belt when he goes out. As long as the cunning citizens do not suppress knifing by legislation, the courts, and the police, things go on in the old way, of course. A definition of the length and sharpness of the permitted dagger will help only the strongest and most turbulent and leave the weaker at their mercy. You wall all understand the meaning of this parable. It is true that we have a League of Nations and a Court of Arbitration. But the League is not much more than a meeting-hall, and the Court has no means of enforcing its decisions. These institutions provide no security for any country in case of an attack on it. If you bear this in mind, you will judge the attitude of the French, their refusal to disarm without security, less harshly than it is usually judged at present.
Unless we can agree to limit the sovereignty of the individual State by all binding ourselves to take joint action against any country which openly or secretly resists a judgment of the Court of Arbitration, we shall never get out of a state of universal anarchy and terror. No sleight of hand can reconcile the unlimited sovereignty of the individual country with security against attack. Will it need new disasters to induce the countries to undertake to enforce every decision of the recognized international court? The progress of events so far scarcely justifies us in hoping for anything better in the near future. But everyone who cares for civilization and justice must exert all his strength to convince his fellows of the necessity for laying all countries under an international obligation of this kind.
It will be urged against this notion, not without a certain justification, that it over-estimates the efficacy of machinery, and neglects the psychological, or rather the moral, factor. Spiritual disarmament, people insist, must precede material disarmament. They say further, and truly, that the greatest obstacle to international order is that monstrously exaggerated spirit of nationalism which also goes by the fair-sounding but misused name of patriotism. During the last century and a half this idol has acquired an uncanny and exceedingly pernicious power everywhere.
To estimate this objection at its proper worth, one must realize that a reciprocal relation exists between external machinery and internal states of mind. Not only does the machinery depend on traditional modes of feeling and owe its origin and its survival to them, but the existing machinery in its turn exercises a powerful influence on national modes of feeling.
The present deplorably high development of nationalism everywhere is, in my opinion, intimately connected with the institution of compulsory military service or, to call it by its less offensive name, national armies. A country which demands military service of its inhabitants is compelled to cultivate a nationalistic spirit in them, which provides the psychological foundation of military efficiency. Along with this religion it has to hold up its instrument, brute force, to the admiration of the youth in its schools.
The introduction of compulsory service is therefore, to my mind, the prime cause of the moral collapse of the white race, which seriously threatens not merely the survival of our civilization but our very existence. This curse, along with great social blessings, started with the French Revolution, and before long dragged all the other nations in its train.
Therefore those who desire to encourage the growth of an international spirit and to combat chauvinism must take their stand against compulsory service. Is the severe persecution to which conscientious objectors to military service are subjected to-day a whit less disgraceful to the community than those to which the martyrs of religion were exposed in former centuries? Can you, as the Kellogg Pact does, condemn war and at the same time leave the individual to the tender mercies of the war machine in each country?
If, in view of the Disarmament Conference, we are not to restrict ourselves to the technical problems of organization involved but also to tackle the psychological question more directly from educational motives, we must try on international lines to invent some legal way by which the individual can refuse to serve in the army. Such a regulation would undoubtedly produce a great moral effect.
This is my position in a nutshell: Mere agreements to limit armaments furnish no sort of security. Compulsory arbitration must be supported by an executive force, guaranteed by all the participating countries, which is ready to proceed against the disturber of the peace with economic and military sanctions. Compulsory service, as the bulwark of unhealthy nationalism, must be combated; most important of all, conscientious objectors must be protected on an international basis.
Finally, I would draw your attention to a book, War again To-morrow, by Ludwig Bauer, which discusses the issues here involved in an acute and unprejudiced manner and with great psychological insight.
THE BENEFITS THAT THE inventive genius of man has conferred on us in the last hundred years could make life happy and care-free if organization had been able to keep pace with technical progress. As it is, these hard-won achievements in the hands of our generation are like a razor in the hands of a child of three. The possession of marvellous means of production has brought care and hunger instead of freedom.
The results of technical progress are most baleful where they furnish means for the destruction of human life and the hard-won fruits of toil, as we of the older generation experienced to our horror in the Great War. More dreadful even than the destruction, in my opinion, is the humiliating slavery into which war plunges the individual. Is it not a terrible thing to be forced by the community to do things which every individual regards as abominable crimes? Only a few had the moral greatness to resist; them I regard as the real heroes of the Great War.
There is one ray of hope. I believe that the responsible leaders of the nations do, in the main, honestly desire to abolish war. The resistance to this essential step forward comes from those unfortunate national traditions which are handed on like a hereditary disease from generation to generation through the workings of the educational system. The principal vehicle of this tradition is military training and its glorification, and, equally, that portion of the Press which is controlled by heavy industry and the soldiers. Without disarmament there can be no lasting peace. Conversely, the continuation of military preparations on the present scale will inevitably lead to new catastrophes.
That is why the Disarmament Conference of 1932 will decide the fate of this generation and the next. When one thinks how pitiable, taken as a whole, have been the results of former conferences, it becomes clear that it is the duty of all intelligent and responsible people to exert their full powers to remind public opinion again and again of the importance of the 1932 Conference. Only if the statesmen have behind them the will to peace of a decisive majority in their own countries can they attain their great end, and for the formation of this public opinion each one of us is responsible in every word and deed.
The doom of the Conference would be sealed if the delegates came to it with ready-made instructions, the carrying out of which would soon become a matter of prestige. This seems to be generally realized. For meetings between the statesmen of two nations at a time, which have become very frequent of late, have been used to prepare the ground for the Conference by conversations about the disarmament problem. This seems to me a very happy device, for two men or groups of men can usually discuss things together most reasonably, honestly, and dispassionately when there is no third person present in front of whom they think they must be careful what they say. Only if exhaustive preparations of this kind are made for the Conference, if surprises are thereby ruled out, and an atmosphere of confidence is created by genuine good will, can we hope for a happy issue.
In these great matters success is not a matter of cleverness, still less of cunning, but of honesty and confidence. The moral element cannot be displaced by reason, thank heaven! It is not the individual spectator’s duty merely to wait and criticize. He must serve the cause by all means in his power. The fate of the world will be such as the world deserves.
America and the Disarmament Conference
THE AMERICANS OF TO-DAY are filled with the cares arising out of economic conditions in their own country. The efforts of their responsible leaders are directed primarily to remedying the serious unemployment at home. The sense of being involved in the destiny of the rest of the world, and in particular of the mother country of Europe, is even less strong than in normal times.
But the free play of economic forces will not by itself automatically overcome these difficulties. Regulative measures by the community are needed to bring about a sound distribution of labour and consumption-goods among mankind; without them even the people of the richest country suffocate. The fact is that since the amount of work needed to supply everybody’s needs has been reduced through the improvement of technical methods, the free play of economic forces no longer produces a state of affairs in which all the available labour can find employment. Deliberate regulation and organization are becoming necessary to make the results of technical progress beneficial to all.
If the economic situation cannot be cleared up without systematic regulation, how much more necessary is such regulation for dealing with the problems of international politics! Few people still cling to the notion that acts of violence in the shape of wars are either advantageous or worthy of humanity as a method of solving international problems. But they are not logical enough to make vigorous efforts on behalf of the measures which might prevent war, that savage and unworthy relic of the age of barbarism. It requires some power of reflection to see the issue clearly and a certain courage to serve this great cause resolutely and effectively.
Anybody who really wants to abolish war must resolutely declare himself in favour of his own country’s resigning a portion of its sovereignty in favour of international institutions: he must be ready to make his own country amenable, in case of a dispute, to the award of an international court. He must in the most uncompromising fashion support disarmament all round, which is actually envisaged in the unfortunate Treaty of Versailles; unless military and aggressively patriotic education is abolished, we can hope for no progress.
No event of the last few years reflects such disgrace on the leading civilized countries of the world as the failure of all disarmament conferences so far; for this failure is due not only to the intrigues of ambitious and unscrupulous politicians, but also to the indifference and slackness of the public in all countries. Unless this is changed we shall destroy all the really valuable achievements of our predecessors.
I believe that the American nation is only imperfectly aware of the responsibility which rests with it in this matter. People in America no doubt think as follows: “Let Europe go to the dogs, if it is destroyed by the quarrelsomeness and wickedness of its inhabitants. The good seed of our Wilson has produced a mighty poor crop in the stony ground of Europe. We are strong and safe and in no hurry to mix ourselves up in other people’s affairs.”
Such an attitude is at once base and short-sighted. America is partly to blame for the difficulties of Europe. By ruthlessly pressing her claims she is hastening the economic and therewith the moral collapse of Europe; she has helped to Balkanize Europe, and therefore shares the responsibility for the breakdown of political morality and the growth of that spirit of revenge which feeds on despair. This spirit will not stop short of the gates of America—I had almost said, has not stopped short. Look around, and look forward.
The truth can be briefly stated: The Disarmament Conference comes as a final chance, to you no less than to us, of preserving the best that civilized humanity has produced. And it is on you, as the strongest and comparatively soundest among us, that the eyes and hopes of all are focused.
I CONSIDER MYSELF LUCKY in witnessing the great peace demonstration organized by the Flemish people. To all concerned in it I feel impelled to call out in the name of men of good will with a care for the future: “In this hour of opened eyes and awakening conscience we feel ourselves united with you by the deepest ties.”
We must not conceal from ourselves that an improvement in the present depressing situation is impossible without a severe struggle; for the handful of those who are really determined to do something is minute in comparison with the mass of the lukewarm and the misguided. And those who have an interest in keeping the machinery of war going are a very powerful body; they will stop at nothing to make public opinion subservient to their murderous ends.
It looks as if the ruling statesmen of to-day were really trying to secure permanent peace. But the ceaseless piling-up of armaments shows only too clearly that they are unequal to coping with the hostile forces which are preparing for war. In my opinion, deliverance can only come from the peoples themselves. If they wish to avoid the degrading slavery of war-service, they must declare with no uncertain voice for complete disarmament. As long as armies exist, any serious quarrel will lead to war. A pacifism which does not actually try to prevent the nations from arming is and must remain impotent.
May the conscience and the common sense of the peoples be awakened, so that we may reach a new stage in the life of nations, where people will look back on war as an incomprehensible aberration of their forefathers!
Letter to a Friend of Peace
IT HAS COME TO my ears that in your great-heartedness you are quietly accomplishing a splendid work, impelled by solicitude for humanity and its fate. Small is the number of them that see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts. But it is their strength that will decide whether the human race must relapse into that hopeless condition which a blind multitude appears to-day to regard as the ideal.
O that the nations might see, before it is too late, how much of their self-determination they have got to sacrifice in order to avoid the struggle of all against all! The power of conscience and the international spirit has proved itself inadequate. At present it is being so weak as to tolerate parleying with the worst enemies of civilization. There is a kind of conciliation which is a crime against humanity, and it passes for political wisdom.
We cannot despair of humanity, since we are ourselves human beings. And it is a comfort that there still exist individuals like yourself, whom one knows to be alive and undismayed.
DEAR FRIEND AND spiritual brother,
To be quite frank, a declaration like the one before me in a country which submits to conscription in peace-time seems to me valueless. What you must fight for is liberation from universal military service. Verily the French nation has had to pay heavily for the victory of 1918; for that victory has been largely responsible for holding it down in the most degrading of all forms of slavery. Let your efforts in this struggle be unceasing. You have a mighty ally in the German reactionaries and militarists. If France clings to universal military service, it will be impossible in the long run to prevent its introduction into Germany. For the demand of the Germans for equal rights will succeed in the end; and then there will be two German military slaves to every French one, which would certainly not be in the interests of France.
Only if we succeed in abolishing compulsory service altogether will it be possible to educate the youth in the spirit of reconciliation, joy in life, and love towards all living creatures.
I believe that a refusal on conscientious grounds to serve in the army when called up, if carried out by 50,000 men at the same moment, would be irresistible. The individual can accomplish little here, nor can one wish to see the best among us devoted to destruction through the machinery behind which stand the three great powers of stupidity, fear, and greed.
A Third Ditto
The point with which you deal in your letter is one of prime importance. The armament industry is, as you say, one of the greatest dangers that beset mankind. It is the hidden evil power behind the nationalism which is rampant everywhere. …
Possibly something might be gained by nationalization. But it is extremely hard to determine exactly what industries should be included. Should the aircraft industry? And how much of the metal industry and the chemical industry?
As regards the munitions industry and the export of war material, the League of Nations has busied itself for years with efforts to get this horrible traffic controlled—with what little success, we all know. Last year I asked a well-known American diplomat why Japan was not forced by a commercial boycott to desist from her policy of force. “Our commercial interests are too strong,” was the answer. How can one help people who rest satisfied with a statement like that?
You believe that a word from me would suffice to get something done in this sphere? What an illusion! People flatter me as long as I do not get in their way. But if I direct my efforts towards objects which do not suit them, they immediately turn to abuse and calumny in defence of their interests. And the onlookers mostly keep out of the light, the cowards! Have you ever tested the civil courage of your countrymen? The silently accepted motto is “Leave it alone and don’t speak of it.” You may be sure that I shall do everything in my power along the lines you indicate, but nothing can be achieved as directly as you think.
Women and War
IN MY OPINION, the patriotic women ought to be sent to the front in the next war instead of the men. It would at least be a novelty in this dreary sphere of infinite confusion, and besides—why should not such heroic feelings on the part of the fair sex find a more picturesque outlet than in attacks on a defenceless civilian?
Thoughts on the World Economic Crisis
IF THERE IS ONE thing that can give a layman in the sphere of economics the courage to express an opinion on the nature of the alarming economic difficulties of the present day, it is the hopeless confusion of opinions among the experts. What I have to say is nothing new and does not pretend to be anything more than the opinion of an independent and honest man who, unburdened by class or national prejudices, desires nothing but the good of humanity and the most harmonious possible scheme of human existence. If in what follows I write as if I were clear about certain things and sure of the truth of what I am saying, this is done merely for the sake of an easier mode of expression; it does not proceed from unwarranted self-confidence or a belief in the infallibility of my somewhat simple intellectual conception of problems which are in reality uncommonly complex.
As I see it, this crisis differs in character from past crises in that it is based on an entirely new set of conditions, due to rapid progress in methods of production. Only a fraction of the available human labour in the world is needed for the production of the total amount of consumption-goods necessary to life. Under a completely free economic system this fact is bound to lead to unemployment. For reasons which I do not propose to analyse here, the majority of people are compelled to work for the minimum wage on which life can be supported. If two factories produce the same sort of goods, other things being equal, that one will be able to produce them more cheaply which employs less workmen—i.e., makes the individual worker work as long and as hard as human nature permits. From this it follows inevitably that, with methods of production what they are to-day, only a portion of the available labour can be used. While unreasonable demands are made on this portion, the remainder is automatically excluded from the process of production. This leads to a fall in sales and profits. Businesses go smash, which further increases unemployment and diminishes confidence in industrial concerns and therewith public participation in these mediating banks; finally the banks become insolvent through the sudden withdrawal of deposits and the wheels of industry therewith come to a complete standstill.
The crisis has also been attributed to other causes which we will now consider.
(1) Over-production. We have to distinguish between two things here—real over-production and apparent over-production. By real overproduction I mean a production so great that it exceeds the demand. This may perhaps apply to motor-cars and wheat in the United States at the present moment, although even that is doubtful. By “over-production” people usually mean a condition of things in which more of one particular article is produced than can, in existing circumstances, be sold, in spite of a shortage of consumption-goods among consumers. This condition of things I call apparent over-production. In this case it is not the demand that is lacking but the consumers’ purchasing-power. Such apparent over-production is only another word for a crisis, and therefore cannot serve as an explanation of the latter; hence people who try to make over-production responsible for the crisis are merely juggling with words.
(2) Reparations. The obligation to pay reparations lies heavy on the debtor nations and their industries, compels them to go in for dumping, and so harms the creditor nations too This is beyond dispute. But the appearance of the crisis in the United States, in spite of the high tariff-wall protecting them, proves that this cannot be the principal cause of the world crisis. The shortage of gold in the debtor countries due to reparations can at most serve as an argument for putting an end to these payments; it cannot be dragged in as an explanation of the world crisis.
(3) Erection of new tariff-walls. Increase in the unproductive burden of armaments. Political insecurity owing to latent danger of war. All these things add considerably to the troubles of Europe, but do not materially affect America. The appearance of the crisis in America shows that they cannot be its principal causes.
(4) The dropping-out of the two Powers, China and Russia. This blow to world trade also does not touch America very nearly, and therefore cannot be a principal cause of the crisis.
(5) The economic rise of the lower classes since the War. This, supposing it to be a reality, could only produce a scarcity of goods, not an excessive supply.
I will not weary the reader by enumerating further contentions which do not seem to me to get to the heart of the matter. Of one thing I feel certain: this same technical progress which, in itself, might relieve mankind of a great part of the labour necessary to its subsistence, is the main cause of our present troubles. Hence there are those who would in all seriousness forbid the introduction of technical improvements. This is obviously absurd. But how can we find a more rational way out of our dilemma?
If we could somehow manage to prevent the purchasing-power of the masses, measured in terms of goods, from sinking below a certain minimum, stoppages in the industrial cycle such as we are experiencing to-day would be rendered impossible.
The logically simplest but also most daring method of achieving this is a completely planned economy, in which consumption-goods are produced and distributed by the community. That, in essentials, is what is being attempted in Russia to-day. Much will depend on what results this mighty experiment produces. To hazard a prophecy here would be presumption. Can goods be produced as economically under such a system as under one which leaves more freedom to individual enterprise? Can this system maintain itself at all without the terror that has so far accompanied it, which none of us “westerners” would care to let himself in for? Does not such a rigid, centralized system tend towards protection and hostility to advantageous innovations? We must take care, however, not to allow these suspicions to become prejudices which prevent us from forming an objective judgment.
My personal opinion is that those methods are preferable which respect existing traditions and habits so far as that is in any way compatible with the end in view. Nor do I believe that a sudden transference of the control of industry to the hands of the public would be beneficial from the point of view of production; private enterprise should be left its sphere of activity, in so far as it has not already been eliminated by industry itself in the form of cartelization.
There are, however, two respects in which this economic freedom ought to be limited. In each branch of industry the number of working hours per week ought so to be reduced by law that unemployment is systematically abolished. At the same time minimum wages must be fixed in such a way that the purchasing power of the workers keeps pace with production.
Further, in those industries which have become monopolistic in character through organization on the part of the producers, prices must be controlled by the State in order to keep the creation of new capital within reasonable bounds and prevent the artificial strangling of production and consumption.
In this way it might perhaps be possible to establish a proper balance between production and consumption without too great a limitation of free enterprise, and at the same time to stop the intolerable tyranny of the owners of the means of production (land, machinery) over the wage-earners, in the widest sense of the term.
Culture and Prosperity
IF ONE WOULD ESTIMATE the damage done by the great political catastrophe to the development of human civilization, one must remember that culture in its higher forms is a delicate plant which depends on a complicated set of conditions and is wont to flourish only in a few places at any given time. For it to blossom there is needed, first of all, a certain degree of prosperity, which enables a fraction of the population to work at things not directly necessary to the maintenance of life; secondly, a moral tradition of respect for cultural values and achievements, in virtue of which this class is provided with the means of living by the other classes, those who provide the immediate necessities of life.
During the past century Germany has been one of the countries in which both conditions were fulfilled. The prosperity was, taken as a whole, modest but sufficient; the tradition of respect for culture vigorous. On this basis the German nation has brought forth fruits of culture which form an integral part of the development of the modern world. The tradition, in the main, still stands; the prosperity is gone. The industries of the country have been cut off almost completely from the sources of raw materials on which the existence of the industrial part of the population was based. The surplus necessary to support the intellectual worker has suddenly ceased to exist. With it the tradition which depends on it will inevitably collapse also, and a fruitful nursery of culture turn to wilderness.
The human race, in so far as it sets a value on culture, has an interest in preventing such impoverishment. It will give what help it can in the immediate crisis and reawaken that higher community of feeling, now thrust into the background by national egotism, for which human values have a validity independent of politics and frontiers. It will then procure for every nation conditions of work under which it can exist and under which it can bring forth fruits of culture.
Production and Purchasing Power
I DO NOT BELIEVE that the remedy for our present difficulties lies in a knowledge of productive capacity and consumption, because this knowledge is likely, in the main, to come too late. Moreover the trouble in Germany seems to me to be not hypertrophy of the machinery of production but deficient purchasing power in a large section of the population, which has been cast out of the productive process through rationalization.
The gold standard has, in my opinion, the serious disadvantage that a shortage in the supply of gold automatically leads to a contraction of credit and also of the amount of currency in circulation, to which contraction prices and wages cannot adjust themselves sufficiently quickly. The natural remedies for our troubles are, in my opinion, as follows:—
(I) A statutory reduction of working hours, graduated for each department of industry, in order to get rid of unemployment, combined with the fixing of minimum wages for the purpose of adjusting the purchasing-power of the masses to the amount of goods available.
(2) Control of the amount of money in circulation and of the volume of credit in such a way as to keep the price-level steady, all special protection being abolished.
(3) Statutory limitation of prices for such articles as have been practically withdrawn from free competition by monopolies or the formation of cartels.
Production and Work
An Answer to Cederström
DEAR HERR CEDERSTRÖM,
Thank you for sending me your proposals, which interest me very much. Having myself given so much thought to this subject I feel that it is right that I should give you my perfectly frank opinion on them.
The fundamental trouble seems to me to be the almost unlimited freedom of the labour market combined with extraordinary progress in the methods of production. To satisfy the needs of the world to-day nothing like all the available labour is wanted. The result is unemployment and excessive competition among the workers, both of which reduce purchasing power and put the whole economic system intolerably out of gear.
I know Liberal economists maintain that every economy in labour is counterbalanced by an increase in demand. But, to begin with, I don’t believe it, and even if it were true, the above-mentioned factors would always operate to force the standard of living of a large portion of the human race down to an unnaturally low level.
I also share your conviction that steps absolutely must be taken to make it possible and necessary for the younger people to take part in the productive process. Further, that the older people ought to be excluded from certain sorts of work (which I call “unqualified” work), receiving instead a certain income, as having by that time done enough work of a kind accepted by society as productive.
I too am in favour of abolishing large cities, but not of settling people of a particular type—e.g., old people—in particular towns. Frankly, the idea strikes me as horrible. I am also of opinion that fluctuations in the value of money must be avoided, by substituting for the gold standard a standard based on certain classes of goods selected according to the conditions of consumption—as Keynes, if I am not mistaken, long ago proposed. With the introduction of this system one might consent to a certain amount of “inflation,” as compared with the present monetary situation, if one could believe that the State would really make a rational use of the windfall thus accruing to it.
The weaknesses of your plan lie, so it seems to me, in the sphere of psychology, or rather, in your neglect of it. It is no accident that capitalism has brought with it progress not merely in production but also in knowledge. Egoism and competition are, alas, stronger forces than public spirit and sense of duty. In Russia, they say, it is impossible to get a decent piece of bread. … Perhaps I am over-pessimistic concerning State and other forms of communal enterprise, but I expect little good from them. Bureaucracy is the death of all sound work. I have seen and experienced too many dreadful warnings, even in comparatively model Switzerland.
I am inclined to the view that the State can only be of real use to industry as a limiting and regulative force. It must see to it that competition among the workers is kept within healthy limits, that all children are given a chance to develop soundly, and that wages are high enough for the goods produced to be consumed. But it can exert a decisive influence through its regulative function if—and there again you are right—its measures are framed in an objective spirit by independent experts.
I would like to write to you at greater length, but cannot find the time.
IT SEEMS TO BE a universal fact that minorities—especially when the individuals composing them are distinguished by physical peculiarities—are treated by the majorities among whom they live as an inferior order of beings. The tragedy of such a fate lies not merely in the unfair treatment to which these minorities are automatically subjected in social and economic matters, but also in the fact that under the suggestive influence of the majority most of the victims themselves succumb to the same prejudice and regard their brethren as inferior beings. This second and greater part of the evil can be overcome by closer combination and by deliberate education of the minority, whose spiritual liberation can thus be accomplished.
The efforts of the American negroes in this direction are deserving of all commendation and assistance.
Observations on the Present Situation in Europe
THE DISTINGUISHING FEATURE of the present political situation of the world, and in particular of Europe, seems to me to be this, that political-development has failed, both materially and intellectually, to keep pace with economic necessity, which has changed its character in a comparatively short time. The interests of each country must be subordinated to the interests of the wider community. The struggle for this new orientation of political thought and feeling is a severe one, because it has the tradition of centuries against it. But the survival of Europe depends on its successful issue. It is my firm conviction that once the psychological impediments are overcome the solution of the real problems will not be such a terribly difficult matter. In order to create the right atmosphere, the most essential thing is personal co-operation between men of like mind. May our united efforts succeed in building a bridge of mutual trust between the nations!
The Heirs of the Ages
PREVIOUS GENERATIONS WERE ABLE to look upon intellectual and cultural progress as simply the inherited fruits of their forebears’ labours, which made life easier and more beautiful for them. But the calamities of our times show us that this was a fatal illusion.
We see now that the greatest efforts are needed if this legacy of humanity’s is to prove a blessing and not a curse. For whereas formerly it was enough for a man to have freed himself to some extent from personal egotism to make him a valuable member of society, to-day he must also be required to overcome national and class egotism. Only if he reaches those heights can he contribute towards improving the lot of humanity,
As regards this most important need of the age the inhabitants of a small State are better placed than those of a great Power, since the latter are exposed, both in politics and economics, to the temptation to gain their ends by brute force. The agreement between Holland and Belgium, which is the only bright spot in European affairs during the last few years, encourages one to hope that the small nations will play a leading part in the attempt to liberate the world from the degrading yoke of militarism through the renunciation of the individual country’s unlimited right of self-determination.