Randolph Silliman Bourne.

Towards an enduring peace; a symposium of peace proposals and programs, 1914-1916 online

. (page 3 of 24)
Online LibraryRandolph Silliman BourneTowards an enduring peace; a symposium of peace proposals and programs, 1914-1916 → online text (page 3 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

be understood, for without such an understanding diplo-
macy is incomprehensible and any scheme of world
peace an idle fancy.

The chief, the overwhelming problem of diplomacy
seems to be the weak state the Balkans, the African
sultanates, Turkey, China, and Latin America, with the
possible exception of the Argentine, Chile, and Brazil.
These states are "weak" because they are industrially
backward and at present politically incompetent. They
are rich in resources and cheap labor, poor in capital,
poor in political experience, poor in the power of de-
fense. The government of these states is the supreme
problem of diplomacy. Just as the chief task of Amer-
ican politics to the Civil "War was the organization of
the unexploited West, so the chief task of world diplo-
macy to-day is the organization of virgin territory and
backward peoples. I use backward in the conventional
sense to mean a people unaccustomed to modern com-
merce and modern political administration.

This solicitude about backward peoples seems to many


good democrats a combination of superciliousness and

and the
weak g tate

And yet the plain fact is that the interrelation of
peoples has gone so far that to advocate international
laissez-faire now is to speak a counsel of despair. Com-
mercial cunning, lust of conquest, rum, bibles, rifles,
missionaries, traders, concessionaires have brought the
two civilizations into contact, and the problem created
must be solved, not evaded.

The great African empires, for example, were not
created deliberately by theoretical imperialists. Ex-
plorers, missionaries, and traders penetrated these coun-
tries. They found rubber, oil, cocoa, tin ; they could sell
cotton goods, rifles, liquor. The native rulers bartered
away enormous riches at trivial prices. But the trad-
ing-posts and the concessions were insecure. There were
raids and massacres. No public works existed, no ad-
ministrative machinery. The Europeans exploited the
natives cruelly, and the natives retaliated. Concession
hunters and merchants from other nations began to come
in. They bribed and bullied the chiefs, and created still
greater insecurity. An appeal would be made to the
home government for help, which generally meant de-
claring a protectorate of the country. Armed forces
were sent in to pacify, and civil servants to administer
the country. These protectorates were generally sanc-
tioned by the other European governments on the pro-
viso that trade should be free to all. . . .

It is essential to remember that what turns a territory
into a diplomatic "problem" is the combination of natu-
ral resources, cheap labor, markets, defenselessness, cor-
rupt and inefficient government. The desert of Sahara
is no " problem, ' ' except where there are oases and trade
routes. Switzerland is no "problem," for Switzerland
is a highly organized modern state. But Mexico is a


Economic problem, and Haiti, and Turkey, and Persia. They

penetration * " , *

into weak have the pretension of political independence which
protected they do not fulfil. They are seething with corruption,
eaten up with "foreign" concessions, and unable to con-
trol the adventurers they attract or safeguard the rights
which these adventurers claim. More foreign capital is
invested in the United States than in Mexico, but the
United States is not a "problem" and Mexico is. The
difference was hinted at in President Wilson's speech
at Mobile. Foreigners invest in the United States, and
they are assured that life will be reasonably safe and
that titles to property are secured by orderly legal
means. But in Mexico they are given "concessions,"
which means that they secure extra privileges and run
greater risks, and they count upon the support of Eu-
ropean governments or of the United States to protect
them and their property.

The weak states, in other words, are those which lack
the political development that modern commerce re-
quires. To take an extreme case which brings out the
real nature of the "problem," suppose that the United
States was organized politically as England was in the
time of William the Conqueror. Would it not be im-
possible to do business in the United States? There
would be an everlasting clash between an impossible
legal system and a growing commercial development.
And the internal affairs of the United States would con-
stitute a diplomatic "problem."

This, it seems to me, is the reason behind the outburst
of modern imperialism among the Great Powers. It is
not enough to say that they are "expanding" or "seek-
ing markets" or "grabbing resources." They are do-
ing all these things, of course. But if the world into
which they are expanding were not politically archaic,
the growth of foreign trade would not be accompanied


by political imperialism. Germany has "expanded"
wonderfully in the British Empire, in Russia, in the political
United States, but no German is silly enough to insist
on planting his flag wherever he sells his dyestuffs or
stoves. It is only when his expansion is into weak
states into China, Morocco, Turkey, or elsewhere that
foreign trade is imperialistic. This imperialism is actu-
ated by many motives by a feeling that political con-
trol insures special privileges, by a desire to play a large
part in the world, by national vanity, by a passion for
' ' ownership, ' ' but none of these motives would come into
play if countries like China or Turkey were not politi-
cally backward.

Imperialism in our day begins generally as an attempt
to police and pacify. This attempt stimulates national
pride, it creates bureaucrats with a vested interest in
imperialism, it sucks in and receives added strength
from concessionaires and traders who are looking for
economic privileges. There is no doubt that certain
classes in a nation gain by imperialism, though to the
people as a whole the adventure may mean nothing more
than an increased burden of taxes.

Some pacifists have attempted to deny that a nation
could ever gain anything by political control of weak
states. They have not defined the "nation." What
they overlook is that even the most advanced nations are
governed, not by the "people," but by groups with
special interests. These groups do gain, just as the rail-
road men who controlled American legislatures gained.
A knot of traders closely in league with the colonial
office of a great Power can make a good deal of money
out of its friendships. Every government has contracts
to be let, franchises to give; it establishes tariffs, fixes
railroad rates, apportions taxes, creates public works,
builds roads. To be favored by that power is to be



States are
the arenas of

favored indeed. The favoritism may cost the mother-
land and the colony dear, but the colonial merchant is
not a philanthropist. . . .

The whole situation might be summed up by saying
that the commercial development of the world will not
wait until each territory has created for itself a stable
and fairly modern political system. By some means or
other the weak states have to be brought within the
framework of commercial administration. Their inde-
pendence and integrity, so-called, are dependent upon
their creating conditions under which world-wide busi-
ness can be conducted. The pressure to organize the
globe is enormous. . . .

Out of this complexity of motive there is created a
union of various groups on the imperial program: the
diplomatic group is interested primarily in prestige ; the
military group in an opportunity to act; the bureau-
cratic in the creation of new positions; the financial
groups in safeguarding investments; traders in securing
protection and privileges, religious groups in civilizing
the heathen, the ' ' intellectuals, ' ' in realizing theories of
expansion and carrying out "manifest destinies," the
people generally in adventure and glory and the sense
of being great. These interested groups severally con-
trol public opinion, and under modern methods of pub-
licity public opinion is easily "educated."

Who should intervene in backward states, what the
intervention shall mean, how the protectorate shall be
conducted this is the bone and sinew of modern diplo-
macy. The weak spots of the world are the arenas of
friction. This friction is increased and made popular
by frontier disputes over Alsace-Lorraine or Italia Ir-
redenta, but in my judgment the boundary lines of Eu-
rope are not the grand causes of diplomatic struggle.
Signor Ferrero confessed recently that the present gen-


eration of Italians had all but forgotten Italia Irredenta, w * g a i of
and the Kevanche has been a decadent French dream prestige in
until the Entente and the Dual Alliance began to clash countries. 6
in Morocco, in Turkey, in China. Alsace-Lorraine has
no doubt kept alive suspicion of Germany, and predis-
posed French opinion to inflicting diplomatic defeats in
Morocco. But the arena where the European Powers
really measure their strength against each other is in
the Balkans, in Africa, and in Asia. . . .

This war is fought not for specific possessions, but
for that diplomatic prestige and leadership which are
required to solve all the different problems. It is like
a great election to decide who shall have the supreme
power in the Concert of Europe. Austria began the
contest to secure her position as a great Power in the
Balkans; Kussia entered it to thwart this ambition;
France was engaged because German diplomatic su-
premacy would reduce France to a "second-class
power," which means a power that holds world power
on sufferance; England could not afford to see France
"crushed" or Belgium annexed because British impe-
rialism cannot alone cope with the vigor of Germany;
Germany felt herself "encircled," which meant that
wherever she went to Morocco, Asia Minor, or China
there a coalition was ready to thwart her. The ultimate
question involved was this : whenever in the future diplo-
mats meet to settle a problem in the backward countries,
which European nation shall be listened to most ear-
nestly? What shall be the relative prestige of Germans
and Englishmen and Frenchmen and Russians; what
sense of their power, what historical halo, what threat
of force, what stimulus to admiration shall they possess?
To lose this war will be like being a Republican poli-
tician in the solid South when the Democrats are in


^obiem is power at Washington. It will mean political, social,

due to com- and economic inferiority.

unorgTnizId Americans have every reason to understand the dan-
gers of unorganized territory, to realize clearly why it
is a ' ' problem. ' ' Our Civil War was preceded by thirty
or forty years of diplomatic struggle for a balance of
power in the West. Should the West be slave or free,
that is, should it be the scene of homesteads and free
labor, or of plantations and slaves? Should it be formed
into States which sent senators and representatives to
support the South or the North? We were virtually
two nations, each trying to upset the balance of power
in its own favor. And when the South saw that it was
beaten, that is to say ' ' encircled, ' ' when its place in the
Western sun was denied, the South seceded and fought.
Until the problem or organizing the West had been set-
tled, peace and federal union were impossible.

The world's problem is the same problem tremen-
dously magnified and complicated.

The point I have been making will, I fear, seem a par-
adox to many readers, that the anarchy of the world
is due to the backwardness of weak states ; that the mod-
ern nations have lived in an armed peace and collapsed
into hideous warfare because in Asia, Africa, the Bal-
kans, Central and South America there are rich terri-
tories in which weakness invites exploitation, in which
inefficiency and corruption invite imperial expansion,
in which the prizes are so great that the competition
for them is to the knife.

This is the world problem upon which all schemes for
arbitration, leagues of peace, reduction of armaments
must prove themselves. The diplomats have in general
recognized this. It was commonly said for a generation
that Europe would be lucky if it escaped a general war
over the breakup of Turkey in Europe. The Sick Man


has infected the Continent. Our own "preparedness" European
campaign is based on the fear that the defenselessness {^"'"^t
of Latin America will invite European aggression, that problem,
the defenselessness of China will bring on a struggle in
the Pacific. Few informed people imagine for a mo-
ment that any nation of the world contemplates seizing
or holding our own territory. That would be an ad-
venture so ridiculous that no statesman would think of
it. If we get into trouble it will be over some place like
Mexico, or Haiti, or the Philippines, or the Panama
Canal, or Manchuria, or Hawaii. . . .

Europe has also recognized that some kind of world
government must be created. The phrase world gov-
ernment, of course, arouses immediate opposition; the
idea of a European legislature would be pronounced
Utopian. Yet there have been a number of European
legislatures. The Berlin Conference of 1885 was called
to discuss "freedom of commerce in the basin and
mouths of the Congo; application to the Congo and
Niger of the principles adopted at the Congress of Vi-
enna with a view to preserve freedom of navigation on
certain international rivers . . . and a definition of
formalities to be observed so that new occupations on
the African coasts shall be deemed effective." The
Powers represented made all sorts of reservations, but
they managed to pass a ' ' General Act of the West Afri-
can Conference." The Congo Free State was recog-
nized. As Mr. Harris says: "Bismarck saw in this a
means of preventing armed conflict over the Congo Ba-
sin, of restricting the Portuguese advance, and of pre-
serving the region to free trade." What was it that
Bismarck saw? He saw that the great wealth of the
Congo and its political weakness might make trouble in
Europe unless the Congo was organized into the legal
structure of the world.


Conference at Algeciras was an international
legislature in which even the United States was repre-
sented; the London Conference after the Balkan wars
was a gathering of ambassadors trying to legislate out
of existence the sources of European trouble in the Bal-
kans. But all these legislatures have had one great
fault. They met, they passed laws, they adjourned, and
left the enforcement of their mandate to the conscience
of the individual Powers. The legislature was interna-
tional, but the executive was merely national. The leg-
islature moreover had no way of checking up or control-
ling the executive. The representatives of all the na-
tions would pass laws for the government of weak ter-
ritories, but the translation of those laws into practise
was left to the colonial bureaucrats of some one nation.

If the law was not carried out, to whom would an
appeal be made? Not to the Conference, for it had
ceased to exist. There was no way in which a European
legislature could recall the officials who did not obey its
will. Those officials were responsible to their home
government, although they were supposed to be execut-
ing a European mandate. Those who were injured had
also to appeal to their home government, and the only
way to remedy an abuse or even sift out the truth of
an allegation was by negotiation between the Powers.
This raised the question of their sovereignty, called
forth patriotic feeling, revived a thousand memories,
and made any satisfactory interpretation of the Euro-
pean Act or any criticism of its administration a highly
explosive adventure.

Suppose, for example, that Congress had power to
pass laws, but that the execution of them was left to the
States. Suppose New York had its own notions of tariff
administration. How would the other States compel the
New York customs officials to execute the spirit and let-


ter of the Federal law? Suppose every criticism by
Pennsylvania of a New York Collector was regarded as senate for

A * ik. T TT 19 it 6RCn AF6nft

an infringement of New York s sovereignty, as a blow of friction,
at New York's pride, what kind of chaos would we suf-
fer from? Yet that is the plight of our world society.

The beginnings of a remedy would seem to lie in not
disbanding these European conferences when they have
passed a law. They ought to continue in existence as a
kind of senate, meeting from time to time. They ought
to regard themselves as watchers over the legislation
which they have passed. To them could be brought
grievances, by them amendments could be passed when
needed. The colonial officials should at least be made to
report to this senate, and all important matters of policy
should be laid open to its criticism and suggestion. In
this way a problem like that of Morocco, for example,
might be kept localized to a permanent European Con-
ference on Morocco. Europe would never lose its grip
on the situation, because it would have representatives
on the spot watching the details of administration, in a
position to learn the facts, and with a real opportunity
for stating grievances.

The development of such a senate would probably be
towards an increasing control of colonial officials. At
first it would have no power of appointment or removal.
It would be limited to criticism. But it is surely not
fantastic to suppose that the colonial civil service would
in time be internationalized; that is to say, opened to
men of different nationalities. The senate, if it devel-
oped any traditions, would begin to supervise the bud-
get, would fight for control of salaries, and might well
take over the appointing power altogether. It would
become an upper house for the government of the pro-
tected territory, not essentially different perhaps from
the American Philippine Commission. The lower house


of war by
for unorgan-
ized regions.

would be native, and there would probably be a minority
of natives in the senate. . . .

An organization of this kind would meet all the diffi-
culties that our Continental Congress or that any other
primitive legislature has had to deal with. There would
be conflicts of jurisdiction, puzzling questions of inter-
pretation, and some place of final appeal would have to
be provided. It might be the Senate of European rep-
resentatives; but if the Senate deadlocked, an appeal
might be taken to The Hague. The details of all this
are obviously speculative at the moment.

The important point is that there should be in exist-
ence permanent international commissions to deal with
those spots of the earth where world crises originate.
How many there should be need not be suggested here.
There should have been one for Morocco, for the Congo,
for the Balkan Peninsula, perhaps for Manchuria ; there
may have to be one for Constantinople, for certain coun-
tries facing the Caribbean Sea. Such international gov-
erning bodies are needed wherever the prizes are great,
the territory unorganized, and the competition active.

The idea is not over-ambitious. It seems to me the
necessary development of schemes which European diplo-
macy has been playing with for some time. It repre-
sents an advance along the line that governments, driven
by necessity, have been taking of their own accord.
What makes it especially plausible is that it grasps the
real problems of diplomacy, that it provides not a pana-
cea but a method and the beginnings of a technique. It
is internationalism, not spread thin as a Parliament of
Man, but sharply limited to those areas of friction where
internationalism is most obviously needed.

Walter Lippmann,

'The Stakes of Diplomacy/' pp.


Possibly we shall learn nothing from the war ; at Peace


the present moment it looks that way. For all the without
world, including Socialists, seem to be divided between eco^oSfic
militarists and pacifists. By pacifism I mean of course confllcts -
the movement Socialists have attacked for fifty years
up to the present war under the name of "bourgeois
pacifism," the idea that disarmament, the Hague Trib-
unal, and similar devices could put an end to militarism
and war.

In one sense of course every internationalist, whether
Socialist or Democrat, is a pacifist. Every internation-
alist is opposed to war. But from the days of Marx
and before, up to the present time, all Socialists have
been prepared for certain war-producing contingencies
which can be abolished neither by calling them "illu-
sions," as Norman Angell has done, nor by any other
phrases or exorcisms. Nor can the economic causes of
national conflict be avoided by disarmament, Hague
tribunals, international police, or abolition of secret di-
plomacy, as proposed by the Women's Peace Party, the
British Union of Democratic Control, the Independent
Labor Party, etc. In a word, no measure dealing with
military affairs or with mere political forms can in the
long run have any effect whatever as long as the pres-
ent conflict of economic interests between the nations
remains. The whole effort of the bourgeois pacifist from


ofnations *^ e Socialist standpoint is to attempt in spite of the
do conflict. horrible and tremendous lessons of the present war to
close our eyes resolutely to the great task that lies before
us, namely, to find a way either in the near future or
ultimately to bring the conflict of national economic
interests to an end.

There are two economic forces in the world which can
not be conjured away either by words, by mere political
rearrangements, or by any action whatever with regard
to arms whether making for more armament or less
armament. There is no power at present which can
prevent a great independent nation like Russia or Japan,
Germany or Austria, where the political conditions are
in whole or in part those of the eighteenth century, from
declaring wars of conquest either against helpless, back-
ward or small countries, or against the economically
more advanced and more democratic countries like Eng-
land, France, or the United States. It is true that in-
dustrial capitalism now preponderates in Germany, but
no German publicist has ever denied the tremendous in-
fluence of the landlord nobility, both over the govern-
ment and over the economic and political structure of
German society. It is true also that these great agri-
cultural estates are partially operated under capitalistic
conditions, but the position of agricultural labor through-
out enormous districts of Prussia is certainly semi-
feudal. This is equally true of Austria, and the land-
lord nobility is perhaps even more predominant in Hun-
gary than in Prussia.

The second fact which can not be conjured away by
phrases or mere political rearrangements is that under
the present system of society there is a direct conflict
of interests between all nations, even the most civilized.
This is why Norman Angell, in his new book ("Arms
and Industry"), is at such great pains to deny that na-


tions are economic units and "competing business ^rkers
firms." His denial is futile. gain from

n 3 T -i T ' ii-i successful

Even under individualistic capitalism all elements of imperialism,
the capitalist class have a greater or less interest in the
business of the nation to which they belong; under the
State Socialist policy, which is spreading everywhere,
this community of interests is still closer. Moreover,
under State Socialism even the working classes gain a
share (of course, a small one) of whatever profits accrue
from the successful competition of one's own nation
with other nations, and especially from such competition
in its aggressive form, "imperialism."

Socialists have sometimes denied that the economic
interests of the working people of the various nations

Otto Bauer, of Austria, the world's leading Socialist
authority on Imperialism who was to report on the sub-
ject for the International Socialist Congress to have been
held in Vienna last summer is of the contrary opinion.
He believes that one of the worst features of the present
system is that, under capitalism, the immediate economic
interests of the working people of the various nations do

Only in so far as the working people attach greater
importance to attaining Socialism than to anything they
can gain under the present society, are their interests in

Online LibraryRandolph Silliman BourneTowards an enduring peace; a symposium of peace proposals and programs, 1914-1916 → online text (page 3 of 24)