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men may entertain without treason or malice
in their hearts. Earnest and loyal liberals of
many schools of thought witnessed these
blundering travesties of justice and democ-
racy with heavy hearts. They knew that
no surer method could be devised for foster-
ing the thing called Bolshevism, which arises
from unfaith in democracy. They knew that
such sentences fell upon harmless and in-
nocent people as often as upon those who were
dangerous and guilty. And they knew that
every persecution of this kind made it harder
for millions of honest men and women in our
own and allied nations to believe in our dem-
ocratic intentions.

For utterances far less seriously critical
of our war policy than many that were freely
made in the parliaments of our allies, and
even of our enemies, men and women were



condemned to long terms of imprisonment,
In the great State of New York, an American,
said to be a lineal descendant from one of the
signers of the Declaration of Independence,
in a heated informal argument which took
place in a lunch wagon, was alleged to have
said that the Government was rotten; that
many of its officials were corrupt; that he
would rather be jailed than conscripted to
fight, and that he was a Socialist. It can
hardly be argued that from these utterances
any serious impairment of our military effort
could result. Thoughtful men must believe
that such incidents could well be ignored;
that the force of opinion against him was over-
whelming. In the event of his actually re-
sisting conscription if and when drafted, that
offense could be dealt with readily enough.
But he was actually sentenced to ten years'
imprisonment and the sentence is being served!
In Iowa a man opposed to conscription cir-
culated a leaflet opposing the re-election of
the Congressmen who voted for that measure.
He was sentenced to imprisonment for twenty
years! For writing to a Kansas City news-
paper the statement "No government which
is for the profiteers can also be for the people,
and I am for the people while the govern-



ment is for the profiteers," Mrs. Stokes was
sentenced to ten years' imprisonment, upon
the theory that such a statement obstructed re-
cruiting, and caused or was intended to cause
insubordination and mutiny in the military
forces. That her declaration actually had any
of these results is extremely improbable.
That her views could be far more effectively
combated by reasoned argument and demon-
stration by the government of the untruth of
her charge than by imprisonment is more than
probable. That the sentence was violently ex-
cessive and unjust is certain. The same may
be said of the equally indefensible sentences
imposed in the case of Mr. Debs and many

Thousands of liberals and radicals who had
devoted themselves to the common task of win-
ning the war, reeled under the shock of these
savage sentences so much more severe than
those meted out to similar offenders in other
lands, including Germany. To remain silent
and unprotesting in the face of wrongs so
grievous seemed like a desertion of their
principles and ideals, like treason to con-
science. Yet they could make no effective
public protest without giving encouragement
and strength to the anti-war agitators and aid



and comfort to the enemy. It was a position
involving intense mental and spiritual strug-
gle and torture. They realized the im-
perative need of a manifestation of unbroken
solidarity. They could not cry out, what in-
deed they felt, that in our democratic sys-
tem it was all too easy and too frequent for
tyranny and oppression to rule. They could
only decide to "carry on" while making such
protests, and such efforts to bring about a more
sane and worthy policy, as could be made
without endangering the solidarity and morale
of the nation. Beyond this they could only
trust that President Wilson would seize an
early opportunity to end an intolerable condi-
tion by granting a general amnesty, as soon as
hostilities ceased, or even earlier, applying to
all persons imprisoned for the expression of
opinions hostile to the war and to our mil-
itary policies, to all offenders against the sedi-
tion and espionage laws rather than those
guilty of acts of violence, directly com-
municating with the enemy or service of any
kind in the pay of the enemy.

The noble and generous spirit in which
President Wilson had defined our aims and
ideals warranted the utmost confidence that
he would not fail to seize the opportunity to



prove the nation magnanimous; that he at
least would sympathetically comprehend the
moral overstrain which had led to technical
violations of the law, and the rankling sense
of injustice which must inevitably result from
vindictiveness. No one who has ever dis-
cussed such matters with him can doubt that
he earnestly desires to temper justice with hu-
man sympathy and understanding. But the
President found himself caught in the grip of
relentless circumstance, struggling under a
burden of incredible heaviness, and, unfor-
tunately for America and for his own fame as
a great liberal statesman-idealist, the golden
opportunity was missed. Neither the signing
of the Armistice nor the signing of the Treaty
of Peace brought the amnesty which political
wisdom and democratic idealism alike sug-

It is impossible to over-estimate the extent
to which the savage vindictiveness of our
treatment of such offenders against the sedi-
tion and espionage laws has contributed to
the growth of Bolshevism. It is likewise im-
possible to measure the harmful effects of
that vindictiveness upon the morale of our
Allies during the war. In the summer of 1918

in England, France, and Italy it was the ex-



perience of the present writer to be continually
called upon to explain to puzzled minds how
a nation could possibly be sincere in its pro-
fessions that it was fighting to "make the
world safe for democracy" while permitting
the most astounding and vindictive sentences,
such as were frequently reported in the press.
The anti-war Socialists, the bourgeois
pacifists, and the reactionary pro-German
groups made this the theme of a very in-
fluential propaganda. Even the most active
and energetic supporters of the war among
the Socialists and Laborites, were depressed
by the inconsistency of our practice with our
professions. It is not an exaggeration to say
that no possible agitation which the anti-war
agitators could have carried on in this coun-
try could have so depressed the morale of the
masses, and of their most thoughtful leaders,
as did the news of the severity and injustice
with which we punished men and women for
silly, bombastic talk.

Rarely in the history of the world, and
never in the memory of living men, has any
individual possessed such an extraordinary in-
fluence over the minds of masses of people in
many lands as President Wilson possessed dur-
ing the last year of the war. No one who was

8 101


privileged to come into close contact with the
civil population in England, Belgium,
France, and Italy, or with the common troops
of those countries, could fail to realize the re-
markable trust in President Wilson, the ready
and eager response to and faith in his utter-
ances. War-wearied men and women crushed
with grief and despair rallied under the
magic spell of his words, which they cried in
the streets and in the trenches with almost
fanatical enthusiasm. Statesmen, diplomatists,
politicians, great capitalists, and high military
officers might be cold and cynical, but the
masses were inspired. In an Italian city an
immense audience of workingmen, weary of
the war, desperate from privation and suf-
fering, sullen, distrustful, and ready for peace
at any price, was transformed by the simple
mention of President Wilson and became at
once a mass inspired by faith and enthusiasm
which were invincible. The President had
spoken the thoughts, the hopes, and the ideals
with which the souls of peoples were bur-
dened. To his intellectual perceptions and
judgments there was added a spiritual force,
a prophetic vision and utterance possessed by
no other leader of men in any of the war-
Stricken nations. Even the enemy prisoners



in the great concentration camps thrilled with
the passion of a new hope when they read his
words. Here was no mere trick of rhetoric,
but the rarer gift of prophetic fire.

Could the President have realized the
meaning of the worshipful affection in which
he was held, and the source of it, he could
have dealt Bolshevism in every land a blow
far more harmful to it than armies of mil-
lions could inflict. Great as his service to
mankind at the Peace Conference admittedly
was, supremely great as his achievements must
be regarded when measured by the traditional
standards of statesmanship, it must be admit-
ted that he proved unequal to the greatest op-
portunity which destiny placed before him.
In the supreme moment of his life and of the
history of the modern world, he seemed to
lose something vital, something of that
prophetic greatness which he had shown in
the dark days of tragic strife. Perhaps he
lost it when he decided to be one of the
plenipotentiaries, to sit at the conference table
where compromise, intrigue, and barter were
inevitable. Perhaps he might have retained
it if he had gone to Versailles saying, "The
United States will not permit her repre-
sentatives to sit in closed rooms! they will only



confer in public and in the hearing of all
mankind. Nor will the United States be
party to any policy which by its severity will
keep alive the sense of hatred among those
who have been our enemies." Granted the re-
sponsibility of the German people for the
war, and not merely the former rulers of Ger-
many, the fact remains that the unborn gen-
eration cannot be held responsible. When
President Wilson seemed to descend to the
plane of the old order of statesmanship, to
methods so nearly akin to those of Baron
Sonino, M. Clemenceau, and Mr. Lloyd
George there was an immediate revulsion of
feeling, a great wave of disappointment, and
Bolshevism gained new strength.

Similarly the failure of the President to
proclaim a generous spirit as the one fitting
form of national thanksgiving, and to declare
a general amnesty, strengthened Bolshevism
in this country. Those of his fellow-country-
men who had best understood and most ap-
proved his idealism expected that the Pres-
ident would have eagerly grasped at the op-
portunity to exhort the nation to celebrate the
victory by a return to democratic ways of liv-
ing. He might well have pointed out the pro-
found spiritual crisis which the war brought



to many sincere American citizens, as well as
to many unnaturalized aliens; that while the
exigiencies of the struggle in which the na-
tion found itself made necessary severe
repression, with the coming of peace the old
toleration of minority opinion should be re-
stored. If autocratic and despotic monar-
chical rulers have almost invariably cel-
ebrated the victories of their armies by set-
ting free all their subjects imprisoned for sedi-
tion and similar offenses, should a democracy
be less generous and forgiving?

The leaders of American Bolshevism feared
more than anything else that President Wil-
son would act in this democratic manner.
There was nothing which he could do so in-
jurious to their cause as to proclaim a general
amnesty. By so doing, he would have robbed
them of one of their most potent appeals.
These Bolshevist leaders have protested
publicly in the most vociferous manner against
the severity of the sentences imposed upon
many pacifists and anti-war agitators, and
have demanded that the President declare an
amnesty. But while they have done this they
have hoped that the President would turn
a deaf ear to their demand. This is not a
statement based upon conjecture, but a simple



statement of fact. Immediately after the
Armistice was signed, the present writer was
asked to join in a big public protest against
the continued imprisonment of the men and
women convicted for the expression of anti-
war sentiments and opinions, and a demand
for immediate general amnesty. It was pro-
posed that in this movement a number of well-
known Anarchists, Syndicalists, Bolsheviki,
and anti-war Socialists should take active

To this invitation the writer replied by set-
ting forth that if the demand for such action
by the President should come from men and
women whose course during the war had been
so hostile and so contrary to the heart and will
of the nation, it would be exceedingly difficult
for the President to act as requested, even
though he might be very anxious to do so.
On the other hand, such a request coming
from a body of men and women of unim-
peachable loyalty, who had given conspicuous
support to the Government during the war,
would be easily granted, should the President
so desire. The reply received was highly in-
structive, and throws a flood of light upon the
mental processes of those back of the move-
ment: "No doubt you are right. The



psychology of your argument is sound. It is
very likely that if your method should be fol-
lowed the amnesty would be granted at once.
But in that case the whole propaganda value
of these persecutions will be lost to us. We
do not want the President to proclaim a gen-
eral amnesty, nor to pardon any of the pris-
oners, unless it is plainly done because of the
menace of our movement. We want agitation
far more than we want amnesty."

This temper is easily understood. Men
whose stock in trade is incessant protest against
grievances real or imaginary fear more than
anything else under the sun the removal of
their grievances. "What a miserable world
it would be if there were no misery in it," ex-
claimed a cynical reformer. Many an
earnest would-be-savior of mankind would be
very unhappy indeed if mankind should
actually be saved after all. A glimmering of
this truth occasionally found its way into the
official mind. At the time of the acquittal of
Scott Nearing, an important official in the
Department of Washington said, when news
of the verdict was received, "Nearing is ac-
quitted. Nearing has lost and we have won."
Had that wisdom governed the actions of the
Department of Justice in relation to the



recalcitrant minority during the war, there
would be fewer sympathizers with Bol-
shevism today.

It cannot be too strongly emphasized that
Bolshevism is the madness of men goaded to
desperation and despair by a profound sense
of injustice. Every form of oppression and
tyranny feeds its flames. No display of force
can intimidate or crush it. Nothing but evil
can come from reliance upon brute force af-
ter the fashion of the former rulers of Rus-
sia. There is only one force which can kill
Bolshevism, namely, justice. A democratic
people has neither the right nor the need to
place its dependence upon' any other force.
A Debs in prison is not silenced really. What-
ever there was of error, of bitterness, or of
peril in his speeches in war days, reappears,
magnified many thousandfold, in the in-
fluence which radiates from his prison cell to
every part of the United States. To place the
stigma of a criminal upon men like Debs is
to remove the stigma from crime itself. Men
who think that they can beat Bolshevism out
of the heads of bewildered and misguided
men, or that they can imprison its spirit in
narrow cells, are as harsh and undemocratic



in their souls, and as ignorant of life, as ever
any czar or kaiser in history was.

Every society is imperiled in which there
resides a class steeped in misery, hopeless, be-
lieving that no sort can be for the worse. The
feeling of having "nothing to lose," when it
is held by any considerable number of per-
sons, is a destructive force in the heart of so-
ciety, so much dynamite under the foundations
of the social order ready to be exploded at the
first opportunity or provocation. History is
replete with impressive examples of this
truth. When one considers what has hap-
pened in Russia since March, 1917, it is
natural to recall the terrible results of the
appeals to the spirit of destruction and re-
venge made by that strange, sinister figure,
Stenka Razin, who, at the time of Catherine
the Great, preached violence, looting, and
wanton destruction of property. Razin had
hosts of followers all over the land. His
propaganda attained the dimensions of a
formidable crusade. Many thousands of
peasants forsook their work to follow and obey
him. The movement kindled intense en-
thusiasm and seemed destined permanently to
ruin Russia. The secret of Razin's power was
the poverty and despair of the oppressed



masses. He said to them: You are hungry,
but there is food: seize the food and possess
it. You are in rags, but there is fine raiment
in abundance: seize the raiment of the rich
and wear it. You live in hovels like swine,
but there are mansions and palaces: enter
these and make them your homes. Drive away
the idle rich who live upon you like leeches.
Strip them naked. Take all they have, use
what you can and destroy the rest. Ply the
torch freely. Down with the rich idler. This
was the entire substance of his appeal,
preached with fiery zeal. He preached not a
single constructive thought or measure. But
there were numerous thousands to heed his
mad counsels, saying, "There is nothing else.
We have nothing to lose; things cannot be



The tragic failure of the governments of
the Entente nations to comprehend the situa-
tion in Russia, and their uniformly blunder-
ing policy in dealing with that unhappy na-
tion, have sown the seeds of Bolshevism broad-
cast throughout the world. It is, indeed, al-
most impossible to apply the word "policy"



to a course of action so erratic, so incon-
sistent, and so unintelligible as that of the Al-
lied Nations in dealing with Russia. In this
respect the record of our own Government is
neither better nor worse than that of the least
democratic and progressive of our allies. Had
it been their purpose to strengthen and bolster
up the regime of Lenine and Trotzky, the Al-
lied Nations could not have reasonably ex-
pected to have accomplished more in that di-
rection than they have done.

When the war began in August, 1914, the
most democratic nations of Western Europe
found themselves yoked to the infamous
Romanov dynasty. It was inevitable that this
alliance should bring forth much criticism,
doubt, and uneasiness. Partnership with Rus-
sia in a war for freedom appeared as a grim,
ironic jest. Liberal opinion in France and
Great Britain had denounced the "Unholy
Alliance" when it was first announced. There
were popular demonstrations of mourning in
France, hundreds of thousands of people
wearing badges of crepe to symbolize their
sense of shame and humiliation. Alliance
with the Czar was a thing of which liberal
minded men and women were ashamed.

Many a patriotic Frenchman draped with



somber black the tricolor of France. But
when the war actually came it was soon seen
that the alliance, however incongruous it
might appear, was essential if France, Bel-
gium, and Great Britain were to be saved
from enslavement to Prussianism. It was
evident that no small part of the burden of
the war must be borne by Russia.

While this reconciled millions of English-
men and Frenchmen to a partnership which
they really despised and feared, there were
many, including some of the best and most
enlightened citizens of both countries, who
could not be so reconciled. These could not
seriously believe in the Czar as a defender
of liberty and democracy. They could not
believe that Nicholas II. and his government
would fight for these ideals, or for any pur-
pose other than the strengthening of the
autocracy of the Romanovs. An Allied vic-
tory meant, and could only mean, a triumph
of Czarism. It was all too easy and plausible,
therefore, to say that France and Great
Britain were fighting to uphold Czarism
quite as much as they were fighting to destroy
Prussian militarism. This argument, coupled
with denunciation of the secret treaties with



Russia, played a large part in the pacifist
agitation in France and Great Britain.

Those Socialists in the various allied coun-
tries, including Russia, who supported the
war justified themselves by an appeal to the
logic of Russia's economic life. While a
definite and conclusive triumph by the Allied
Nations over Germany and Austria, in which
Russia shared, would undoubtedly strengthen
the Czar and Czarism, that would be only a
temporary effort, they said. In the long run
the effect of such a victory would be to de-
stroy the economic basis of Czarism. That
basis, they pointed out, was feudalistic, not
capitalistic. Czarism was possible only so
long as Russia remained economically back-
ward and undeveloped. A German triumph
would prolong that condition, because it was
essential to the German scheme that Russia
should be kept in a state of economic subjec-
tion, a fruitful field for German exploitation,
a country furnishing raw materials and pur-
chasing manufactured goods, not herself a
manufacturing country. From this point of
view it was inevitable that a triumph over
Germany would liberate Russia and lead to a
great economic expansion, incompatible with



feudalistic Czarism and requiring dem-
ocratic constitutional government.

Of the soundness of this view there can
hardly be any serious question on the part of
any competent person. It is quite easy to see
why it failed to satisfy those who were con-
cerned with the immediate issue of the
strengthening of Czarism: they saw the im-
mediate evil far more clearly and vividly than
they could see the remoter outcome of a
relatively long evolutionary process. On the
other hand, those who defended the associa-
tion of the Western nations with Russia, and
proclaimed that the triumph of the Allied Na-
tions would be of great benefit to Russian de-
mocracy, however sincere they might be in
their views, found it hard to defend or sup-
port the secret treaties.

When the Czar was dethroned and the Rus-
sian Republic was proclaimed, in March,
1917, the allies of Russia were confronted with
a golden opportunity. Had there been in the
chancelleries even the least understanding of
the great revolutionary movement in Russia,
the slightest comprehension of the psychology
of the working-class of every country, they
would have known that any attempt to hold
the new Russia to the secret treaties entered



into with the old regime would be productive
of distrust and, possibly, of disaster. Then
was the time for a display of candor and of
confidence in the masses. It was the time for
saying to the new Provisional Government of
Russia: "We entered into certain relations
with the government of the Czar, and made
certain agreements in the common interest for
the effective prosecution of the war. In wel-
coming the new government which you have
set up as a great democratic advance, we
recognize that it would be unfair to expect
you to be governed in such grave matters by
agreements entered into without your knowl-
edge or consent, and that you will desire some
new agreements as well as new methods of
making such agreements. To this end, we,
your allies, suggest open and frank conference
with a view to making any necessary revision
of existing agreements." That there would
have been any serious or dangerous change of
military arrangements is highly improbable.
The reiteration of loyalty to the Allied cause
by the Russian leaders, and their open and
sincere rejection of the idea of negotiations
for a separate peace, afford the best possible
evidence of this. But the statesmen and

diplomatists of the Allied Nations lacked



vision and missed their opportunity. Because
of their failure, to a very large extent,
Kerensky was doomed to defeat. In his heroic
efforts to keep Russia in the fight he had to
encounter the almost unanswerable argument :
"These treaties were made by the Czar, for
the purposes of Czarism. Now that the Czar
is overthrown shall we still be governed by

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Online LibraryJohn SpargoThe psychology of bolshevism → online text (page 6 of 8)