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him, still be compelled to carry out his pur-
poses? They are not our treaties: we are not
bound by them."

The United States entered into the war af-
ter the overthrow of Czarism. We had no
compromising military or political agree-
ments with the old regime when we became,
in fact if not technically and formally, Rus-
sia's ally. Without any sort of disloyalty to
the other nations with whom we became allies
in the same way and at the same time, we
could have assured the Provisional Govern-
ment of Russia that we would not be governed
in our actions by any agreements made by the
Czar's government with any other govern-
ments; that we were ready to discuss the basis
of our. co-operation with the new government
of Russia, openly as befits a democracy deal-
ing with another democracy. By such a
declaration we could have struck a blow at



the suspicion and unfaith which were per-
mitted to grow unchecked until the tragedy
of Brest-Litovsk became inevitable. We
spoke fair and even generous words to Rus-
sia, but we failed, just as France and Great
Britain had failed, to act democratically
toward the new democracy. We failed to see
the absurdity of trying to hold the new Rus-
sia by the words of the old Czar.

Another splendid opportunity came to the
statesmen of the Allied Nations when
Kerensky, whose loyalty to the Allies was un-
impeachable, called upon them to make a re-
statement of war aims. It was impressively
clear that Kerensky was being pushed to the
wall, and that only a statement of war aims
free from imperalism, vibrant with dem-
ocratic idealism such a statement as Pres-
ident Wilson later made on more than one
occasion with marvelously good effect could
hold Russia in line and make it possible for
Kerensky to carry on his great work. Failure
to meet that natural request was as criminal as
it was stupid. It is possible, of course, that
even had such a statement been forthcoming
the military debacle of Russia would have
occurred. But, on the other hand, it is pos-
sible that had the statement been forthcoming

9 117


the debacle would have been averted, while
without the statement the result was inevitable
and easy to foresee. Failure to respond to
Kerensky's appeal was equivalent to the be-
trayal of a brave and gallant servant of the
common cause. It was also an inexcusable
neglect of a great strategic opportunity to save
the Eastern front.

Outside of Russia it was an error fraught
with results scarcely less inimical to the Al-
lied cause. In every country of the Allied Na-
tions the failure to make instant satisfactory
response to Kerensky's appeal increased the
suspicion and distrust of every profession of
idealism felt by those who looked upon the
war as a capitalist-imperialist enterprise. Just
as in Russia the soldiers said to Kerensky,
"They do not make the statement you ask
them to make, because they dare not openly
reveal their real intentions or profess to share
yours," so in Great Britain, in France, in
Italy, and even here in the United States, the
skeptics expressed similar sentiments. Lenine
and Trotzky played upon the suspicions of
the soldiers in Russia, and as similar sus-
picions gained ground here, especially among
the millions of working people of Russian

birth, the suspicions were played upon by pro-


German, Pacifist, and Bolshevist propaganda.
From the time of Kerensky's appeal to the
abortive and fatuous negotiations for the
Prinkipo Conference, and even afterward, the
Allies made practically every mistake there
was any opportunity for them to make, and
failed to utilize opportunity after opportunity
to give Russia real aid. No one, in all prob-
ability, seriously believes that either our gov-
ernment or our allies ever entertained any
hope or desire to restore Czarism in Russia,
but our conduct often laid us open to that sus-
picion. We stumbled along, hesitating, un-
certain, vacillating, and contradictory in our
ways. One day we seemed to encourage the
Bolsheviki ; next day we seemed to encourage
their opponents. Well does the venerable
Catherine Breshkovsky, a genuine and sincere
lover of America, say: "Having watched the
Allied policy in Russia, I may say that the
policy has been so undefined and contradictory
that I cannot find a single principle which
would explain it. The Allied policy 1 is an
enigma to us." It has been an enigma to every
student of Russian affairs. Its one outstand-
ing result has been to strengthen Bolshevism,
not only in Russia, but throughout the world.

'Catherine Breshkovsky, Struggling Russia, issue of March
29, 1919, "The Allies in Russia."


Finally, if we would understand why mil-
lions of people in all lands have turned away
from old ideals, old loyalties, and old faiths,
to Bolshevism, with something of the passion
and frenzy characteristic of great Messianic
movements, we must take into account the
intense spiritual agony and hunger which the
great war has brought into the lives of civ-
ilized men. The old gods are dead and men
are everywhere expectantly waiting for the
new gods to arise. The aftermath of the war
is a spiritual cataclysm such as civilized man-
kind has never before known. The old re-
ligions and moralities are shattered and men
are waiting and striving for new ones. It is
a time suggestive of the birth of new religions.
Man cannot live as yet without faith, without
some sort of religion. The heart of the world
today is strained with yearning for new and
living faiths to replace the old faiths that are
dead. Were some persuasive fanatic to arise
proclaiming himself to be a new Messiah, and
preaching a religion of action, the creation of
a new society, he would find an eager, soul-
hungry world already predisposed to believe.

It is trite to say that the recent war brought



about a revolution in the minds and hearts of
millions of men and women in all lands. This
is a commonplace of our daily speech, yet few
possess the insight to perceive or the courage
to contemplate the vastness of the revolution
that has taken place. We are stunned, be-
wildered, and benumbed in our senses. We
are as men who walk and act in hypnotic
sleep. There is a striking analogy between
the shell-shock suffered by many of the sol-
diers during the war, and the mental and
moral state in which millions of people find
themselves. Just as the victim of shell-shock
may outwardly appear normal and unin-
jured, doing many things in the usual way, yet
subject to subtle amnesias and other func-
tional inhibitions, so countless thousands of
people throughout the civilized world, out-
wardly normal, are really victims of what
might be termed spiritual traumatic shock.
There are subtle inhibitions of the moral judg-
ment and motor energies and something very
closely analogous to amnesia. Things which
seemed, and were, of vital spiritual sig-
nificance before the war are no longer re-
membered, except, perhaps, in the vague and
dim way that incidents of childhood's ex-
perience dwell like faint shadows in the mem-



ory in later life. Old moral and spiritual
habits are abandoned, obliterated as by some
violent injury. The spiritual anchorages have
been lost and the souls of men are drifting.

The causes are very easy to perceive and to
enumerate. They are, indeed, so obvious that
they frequently are overlooked. Let us con-
sider some of the salient facts : This was a war
of peoples, not of armies merely. The armies
themselves, raised by conscriptions in most
cases, consisting of millions of men, were
representative of whole populations as armies
never were before. These men had been torn
from their families, their friends, their homes,
their customary occupations, by the coercive
power of the State, and, against their will, in
millions of instances, compelled to become
active combatants in the most sanguinary of
all wars. Men who have grown up in a
civilization ordered by law instead of brute
force, inured to the disciplines of law-abiding
communities, trained to regard human life as
sacred, to submit their wrongs to judicial
tribunals for redress, have been massed in mil-
lions in a great contest of force. They have
been trained to hunt and kill men, to use every
means of dealing out death and destruction.

Whether Prussian hegemony should be estab-



lished over Europe, or whether there should
be a free confraternity of nations, was an is-
sue to be established, not by reason or the
principles of morality, but by weight of
armaments and superiority of numbers. In
a word, mankind went back to its primal in-
stincts and its primal faith in force. The re-
straints of religion, of culture, of civil law,
were torn off, like the thin veneer of polish
stripped from the rough and inferior wood
which it hid from sight.

These millions of men learned to regard
death as trivial, to hold human life as of small
importance. They saw men die by thousands ;
horrible and violent death came to friend and
foe alike, but the appalling carnage did not
stop the ghastly game. So indifferent to death
did they become perforce that they could
walk upon corpses, or make ramparts of them,
and regard it as a commonplace thing. To
kill masses of human beings like themselves
became the daily task of armies, to be ac-
complished with as little concern as though
they were killing pestiferous insects infesting
an orchard. A few individuals in a company
or a regiment might be inspired and sustained
by the thought of serving some glorious ideal,
but for the vast majority this moral passion



did not, and could not, exist. The grim game
of slaughter had been decided upon in the
chancelleries and they were forced into it.

These soldiers have learned from the tragic
experiences forced upon them to disregard in-
dividual distinctions. The refinements of in-
dividual culture, and even of character, have
ceased to hold any vital significance for them.
In the great fray only courage and fearless-
ness count in the last analysis. These qualities
may be possessed by the drunkard, the thief,
the illiterate lout, and be absent from the
sober, honest, educated citizen. Bullets,
shrapnel, shell-fragments, aerial bombs,
flames, and drifting waves of poison gas are
quite void of discrimination. They kill with
equal ease and impartiality cook's son and
duke's son, peasant and millionaire. The
trench levels all to a primordial equality. In
the muck and the mire of warfare, away from
the arrangements of civilization, compelled to
live in very primitive ways, men soon attain
a common level of thought and of habit. They
cease to be individuals and become a mass
with a mass mind. This mass mind is gen-
erally lower in intelligence and culture, and
less capable of fine discrimination, than the
average individual mind in the mass. Rarely



indeed is it higher, and then only under the
extraordinary influence of some dominant

The necessities of modern military organ-
ization tend to increase this leveling process
rather than to check it. There is the same
need, and therefore the same incentive, to care
for the peasant as for the philosopher. The
sinner is as valuable as the saint. The values
of normal civilized life disappear to a very
large extent. The most illiterate boor must
be protected against typhoid equally with the
most cultured man in the ranks. Hence there
is uniformity of clothing, equipment, food,
medical supervision, and so on through the
whole range of the things required for a sim-
ple but quite efficient sort of life. Thus the
conditions of life in modern warfare develop
a sort of communism, which a brilliant Rus-
sian, C. A. Kovalsky, has aptly termed
"Trench Communism."

Parallel to the disregard of human life
there develops an equal disregard of property
and its rights. In war areas the rights of
property are set aside and sacrificed to mil-
itary objectives. Homes and possessions are
taken for the use of troops. Buildings are de-
stroyed by fire or by explosives whenever this



gives a better range for artillery fire or les-
sens the danger of harm from the fire of the
enemy. Armies indulge in pillage not only
when they are in the country of the enemy,
but almost equally in their own country. The
passage of an army in war-time, even through
its own country, among its own people, is
often like the passage of great hosts of de-
vouring locusts which leave the fields bare.

After being subject to such influences as
these for months, and even for years, armies
are suddenly demobilized. Millions of men
are turned back into civil life with all its
restraints and conventions. Is it to be won-
dered at that so many find themselves unable
to resume normal civil life? Is there any-
thing strange in the fact that such periods of
readjustment and restoration are generally
disturbed, and almost invariably characterized
by a great increase of crime, especially of
crimes against life and property? Quite apart
from the crimes due to mental derangements
due to the overstrain of war life, there is an
appreciable increase in the crime rate which
can be directly laid to the psychology of war.

Take men who have gone through such ex-
periences and they are legion and consider
how Bolshevism must appear to them: Its



methods are undemocratic; it does not depend
upon the decision and freely expressed will of
the majority, but upon the decision and dar-
ing of a few. Shocking as this may seem to
the law-abiding citizen with his growing re-
liance upon democratic methods, to the sol-
dier it suggests a very close parallel to mil-
itary methods. War is decided upon by the
few and their decision is imposed by force
upon the many. Bolshevism is brutal; its
leaders have not hesitated to kill many hu-
man beings to attain their ends. In this, too,
it is very like war as these men have known
it. The Bolsheviki confiscate property and
violate property rights in trying to carry out
their program. The same thing takes place
in every great war.

Millions of men who have gone through this
war have been made practically incapable of
feeling moral indignation at the acts of the
Bolsheviki or at Bolsehvism. If millions of
lives may be sacrificed, whole provinces dev-
astated, thousands of cities and villages
ruined and laid in ruins and whole popula-
tions terrorized, in order that political ends
determined upon by little conclaves of states-
men and diplomats may be attained, why be
surprised or shocked when similar evils are



wrought by men whose aim is so much greater,
so much more ambitious? If such things
are condoned when the object desired is the
preservation of the existing social order, with
its many inequalities and shortcomings, shall
there be no excuse, no condonation, if they are
done by men whose object is the creation of a
new social order, free from poverty, from
exploitation and oppression? This is the
manner of reasoning common to a vast num-
ber of men who have had their whole mental
outlook changed by their experiences in the
great war just ended.

That a certain proportion of the men who
have served in the various armies and had
their lives so thoroughly revolutionized sur-
render to the specious propaganda of Bol-
shevism ought not to perplex or surprise us.
Instead of marveling that there should be so
many of them, we might very well marvel
that there are not many more. Yet there is
danger in an easy complacence. When the
house is afire hysteria and complacence are
equally dangerous, because they each make ef-
fective thought and action difficult. Serious
students of the social problem have long
known that a great war would bring an after-
math of revolutionary unrest fraught with



great possibilities of danger. Not for a brief
period, but for many years to come, these pos-
sibilities of danger will remain and must be
reckoned with by governments. Great is the
responsibility of the statesman of today and
tomorrow. Men who shared in the great ad-
venture and fought to defeat autocracy and
to "make the world safe for democracy" will
never be content to tolerate autocracy and
despotism in industry. Men who crossed the
haunted seas, defying the lurking submarines;
who fought side by side with men of many
nations in the far-flung battle lines of Europe;
whose eyes beheld the air above them trans-
formed to a battlefield and who have bayonet-
ed living men, will not shrink from the
use of violence in order to secure what
they believe to be justice for themselves and
those they love. No sanctity of law or prop-
erty rights will for long hold such men under
the bondage of the industrial autocrat or the
profiteer. Negro soldiers who fought side by
side with white comrades against white foes,
who bore their equal share of danger and
sacrifice, will not be content to remain de-
spised and subject to race discrimination and

In the civilian populations of the belligerent



nations the late war likewise developed a
psychology favorable to Bolshevism and
fraught with peril. In the most advanced
countries men and women had come to look
upon war as a terrible evil belonging to a less
enlightened age. They rejoiced in their be-
lief that, thanks to the internationalization of
commerce, of science, of religion, and to the
enormously increased cost and destructive-
ness of modern armaments, great wars had
been impossible. As from a dream they
awoke to the terrible reality of a world aflame.
They saw the things upon which their faith
was based swept away like seared leaves be-
fore a gale. Then, after a brief moment of
consternation and despair, the people in each
of these countries, acting under the mighty
impulse of a common ideal, achieved a de-
gree of solidarity, a homogeneity of vision and
purpose, such as only the Utopians had ever
dared forecast. Thus welded, they set them-
selves to the achievement of purposes for
which no price seemed too high, no sacrifice
too great.

In each of these nations the intellectual elite
consecrated their genius to the creation of a
propaganda idealizing the war, glorifying
service in the national army as a high priv-



ilege and honor, proving that their side was
one hundred per cent right and innocent of
wrong-doing and the other side one hundred
per cent wrong and guilty all to the end that
the national morale might be made invincible.
If much that was blatant, crude, vulgar, and
even vicious, appeared as patriotism, so too,
on the other hand, did the noblest and best
fruits of human effort. Something like a
great, genuine religion of service appeared.
Men and women put luxury aside and gloried
in privation. Party strife was hushed and a
"sacred union" of all for the common good
was born. Men and women forsook idle en-
joyments and worked as men and women can
only work under the urge of a great ideal. In
the voluntary organizations for war service
which appeared in each country we glimpsed
the almost infinite possibilities of human fel-
lowship in labor and sacrifice. The proud
and the humble, the rich and the poor, the fa-
mous and the obscure all came together, each
serving according to his own capacity. And
when the tidings of bereavement came there
was no complaint. Men and women in the
presence of the immeasurable sorrow of the
world bore the burdens of individual grief
with proud fortitude.



Under this psychological influence con-
scription was made possible in countries like
Great Britain and the United States, coun-
tries whose citizens have always regarded it
with repugnance and resisted all efforts to
fasten the system upon them as a regular in-
stitution. War entered almost every home in
which youth dwelt. Armies sprang up out of
the mines, the factories, the farms, and the
schools. The great and complex organization
of industry was quickly diverted from the
service of peace to the service of war. Fac-
tories which had produced tools of husbandry,
and even toys for selfish idle men and wom-
en, produced guns and shells to blast the way
for the armies overseas. The greatest leaders
of industry, who had been so contemptuous
of government, placed their gifts of knowl-
edge and skill at the disposal of the Govern-
ment in order that the soldiers fighting at the
front should lack nothing that the national
resources made possible. The most cherished
liberties were surrendered with quiet resigna-
tion because the military experts said that the
sacrifice was necessary. To win freedom for
democracy, to end the menace of autocracy,
the most democratic nations laid their democ-
racy aside and suffered new forms of bu-


reaucratic despotism to be imposed upon
them. Individual liberty dwindled until it
became little more than a memory.

Peace-loving peoples learned to hate whole
nations and to gloat over the tidings of great
masses of slaughtered foes. The civilian came
to regard life as lightly as the soldier in the
trenches. When the individual was touched
directly by the loss of one dearly beloved, he
found consolation in the thought that the
sacrifice was for a great purpose. When the
long lists of names of killed and wounded
men filled the columns of the newspapers,
when men and women in mourning attire,
and broken and maimed men from the front
filled the streets, that became the collective at-
titude : the sacrifice was justified by the great
end to be attained. For the attainment of that
end no sacrifice of human life even seemed to
be too great.

It became the idee fixe of whole peoples
that the world could never be the same again;
that out of the travail and agony a different
sort of a world must surely rise to justify the
destruction and suffering. Only the consola-
tion of that faith made it possible to bear the
heavy burden of suffering and sorrow which
the war imposed upon them. Just as the be-

10 133


lief in an eternal life of perfect happiness to
come has made it possible for millions of hu-
man beings to endure lives of poverty and
suffering, so the conviction that the war must
lead to a freer, juster, nobler state of society
made it possible for whole peoples to live
through the long years of otherwise unen-
durable agony. The human soul needs the
strong support of faith. It was faith that
made it possible for the war-weary Titan,
mankind, to stagger on, with deaf ears and
grief-dimmed eyes, passively struggling
toward the goal, bearing the load well-nigh
too heavy to be borne. A spirit of Apocalyptic
expectancy became almost universal. Men
felt that great changes were inevitable and
imminent changes commensurate in vast-
ness and importance with the war and its
incalculable cost in suffering. Millions of hu-
man beings were thus psychologically ready
for the most revolutionary changes in society,
and ready, too, to face calmly the possibility
that these changes would involve a relentless
use of force and the sacrifice of human life.
Millions of lives had been destroyed to at-
tain smaller ends, why, therefore, shrink from
the sacrifice of hundreds or thousands to at-
tain the Earthly Paradise for evermore, free



from war, from poverty, from economic op-

As in the case of the soldiers from the
trenches, a greatly preponderant majority re-
tained sufficient mental balance to enable
them to withstand the insidious propaganda
of Bolshevism. They found it easier to be-
lieve in progress through the orderly develop-
ment of existing democratic instrumentalities
than through a violent cataclysm. With the
demobilization of the armies these men and
women have demonstrated that healthy nor-
mality upon which democracy must always
rely. But there remains a great mass of the
less well-balanced to imperil the whole fabric
of society. These are the romanticists, the
hyper-emotionalists, the credulous, and those
who have lost faith in all except the same
brute force which crushed the military am-
bitions of Prussian autocracy by overpower-
ing militarism. Surely, the obvious concern
of sane statesmanship, and of intelligent
citizenship, should be so to manage the prob-
lems arising from demobilization and read-
justment as to strengthen the faith of the
former and avoid imposing additional stress
upon the latter. That is the spirit in which

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Online LibraryJohn SpargoThe psychology of bolshevism → online text (page 7 of 8)