If, on the other hand, the Allies should win, the outlook is no more promising, if the diplomats are to have their way. The Allies, in that case, will endeavor finally to crush the German powers, as the latter are determined finally to crush the Allies. The English and the French will divide the German colonies. Russia will dominate the Balkans, and probably appropriate Constantinople, and a great slice of German territory. And France and England will be left face to face with what they will regard as the new menace of the Slav. With the result that, in another quarter of a century, or less, they will combine with their present enemies to resist the advance of their present ally.
In either case, the state of Europe will be the old bad state: the piling up of armaments, at the cost of the continued poverty and degradation of the mass of the people; the destruction of all hope and effort toward radical social reform; and, when the time comes, as in this case it infallibly will, the new war, the new massacre, the new impoverishment, — the perpetual and intolerable agony of a civilization forever struggling to the light, forever flung back by its own stupidity and wickedness into the hell in which at this moment it is writhing.
Lord, how long, how long?
Till such time as we, the plain people of every nation, say we will endure it no longer. And let that time be now! When this war is over Europe might be settled, then and there, if the peoples willed it, and made their will effective, in such a way that there would never again be a European war. To do this it is only necessary to change our ideas. Or, rather, to make clear to ourselves the ideas we really have, the purposes we really will, and impose them on those who are to act for us.
We will to perpetuate European peace. How are we to accomplish it? By keeping in view and putting into effect certain clear principles.
First, the whole idea of aggrandizing one nation and humiliating another must be set aside. What we are aiming at is, not that this or that group of states should dominate the others, but that none should in future have any desire or motive to dominate. With that view, we must leave behind the fewest possible sores, the least possible sense of grievance, the least possible humiliation. The defeated states, therefore, must not be dismembered in the hope of making or keeping them weak; and that means, in detail, that, if the allies win, the English and the French must not take the German colonies, or the Russians the Baltic coast, the Balkans, or Constantinople; and that, if Germany wins, she must not dismember or subordinate to her system France or England or the neutral powers. That is the first clear condition of the future peace of Europe.
Secondly, in rearranging the boundaries of states—and clearly they must be rearranged—one point, and one only, must be kept in mind: to give to all peoples suffering and protesting under alien rule the right to decide whether they will become an autonomous unit, or will join the political system of some other nation. Thus, for example, the people of Alsace-Lorraine should be allowed to choose whether they will remain under Germany, or become an autonomous community, or be included in France. The same principle should be applied to the Poles. The same to Schleswig-Holstein. The same to the Balkan states. The same to the Slav communities included in Austria-Hungary. There would arise, of course, difficulties in carrying this principle through. For, in the Balkan states, in Bohemia, and elsewhere, there is an almost inextricable tangle of nationalities. But with good will these difficulties could be at least partially met.