Socialism and Internationalism


THE ideal of internationalism is older than any existing nation; it is older than the Christian religion; but as the credo of a great movement, the inspiration of millions, it is a modern phenomenon. It is the great merit of Socialism — grudgingly conceded by its bitterest opponents — that it has implanted in the breasts of millions of earnest souls in all lands a passionate love for all mankind, a sense of international fraternity.

Even before Marx, Socialism in its utopian form was deeply impregnated with the spirit of internationalism. Saint-Simon, whose Socialism was profoundly religious, identified it with international solidarity. And while it is impossible to conceive of two thinkers more unlike than the gentle French mystic and the stern German realist, Marx was greatly influenced in his thinking by the author of the Nouveau Christianisme.

Marx made internationalism the religion of a class in revolt, thus infusing it with a burning passion. Thanks to Marx, international solidarity became the object of impassioned faith: —

C’est la lutte finale!
Marchons tous, et demain
Sera le genre humain!

So the protesting millions, the grimly earnest soldiers of social revolution, have sung in all the tongues of civilization.

No one who knows anything of the great Socialist movement can doubt that in this passionate faith in international solidarity, in the oneness of all peoples, there is a great spiritual quality, a visioning of the universal brotherhood of man. For the revolting proletariat seeks freedom, not as a step to the mastery of others: its aim is the destruction of all rule of class by class — freedom for all mankind.

The spiritual quality of this proletarian internationalism differentiates it from the mechanical economic internationalism of commerce and finance, and from the intellectual internationalism of science and learning. Unlike these, it has the sacrificial spirit and passion which are essentially religious and which inspire martyrs. For this reason men have respected and honored the Socialist movement for its internationalism, even while opposing it on account of its economic and philosophical teachings and its social programmes. That is probably why, in those fateful days and hours of the summer of 1914, the world rested its faith on the sincerity and integrity of the Socialists, and believed that they would somehow avert the dread catastrophe of war. It was not to organized Christianity, the religion of the Prince of Peace, that the hope of the world for peace was turned, but — suggestive irony! — to the ‘irreligious’ Socialist movement.

The outbreak of the war revealed the fact that proletarian internationalism was a frail wand, not the sturdy staff we had believed it to be. Once again it was shown that a great movement had been inspired by a shibboleth which it had never closely scrutinized. The watchwords of internationalism have been of incalculable service to the Socialist movement. To declare one’s belief in internationalism gives one a sense of exaltation, a feeling of the imminence of the Kingdom of Human Brotherhood. But when the war came, it was apparent that the shibboleths of internationalism so fervently chanted for two generations had lacked intellectual significance because they had never been precisely defined.

Amid the agony of the war and the bitter humiliation of failure the Socialists in all lands are now engaged in the task of defining the old terms. They have discovered that two may say the same words but have meanings as far apart as the poles. To the non-Socialist the controversies which have arisen within the ranks of the Socialists upon this matter of definition appear as manifestations of the ancient struggle between instinct and reason — instinct leading outward to the vision of worldbrotherhood, reason holding down to the national need. That there is this conflict between spiritual romanticism and the prosaic realism of life it were idle to deny. That is the experience of every great movement, as it is the experience of every sincere and thoughtful mind. How few there are among us who have missed the despair that comes from trying to keep our feet upon the mud and clay of earth the while we hitch our wagons to far-off stars!


For some Socialists internationalism is a synonym for antinationalism. They adopt the view of that sinister figure, Michael Bakunin — that ' the social question . . . can be satisfactorily solved only by the abolition of frontiers.’ They reject not merely the baser patriotism whose motto is, ‘my country right or wrong,’ but that natural love of country which has none of the elements of chauvinism and is compatible with an intense love for all mankind. They declare that the internationalist can recognize no special obligation to a particular country; that the true Socialist must be ‘a citizen of the world.’ Some go so far as to say that the working people can have no rational choice between despotic and democratic governments so long as the present system of capitalism prevails.

This is the doctrine of anarchism. It is not consistent with the Socialist philosophy. That it should be accepted by many who call themselves Socialists is only another illustration of the manner in which the clear stream of Socialist thought is muddied by the infusion of anarchist and syndicalist elements. The very nature of the Socialist philosophy requires the preservation of national unities — a fact which has guided the international policies of the movement from the founding of the first International.

A radical clergyman in New York City, obsessed after the manner of his profession by a passion for symbolism, places all the flags of civilized nations in an iron pot over a fire and ‘melts’ them. He then pretends to draw from the pot a red flag, symbolical of international Socialism, and unfurls it to the breeze amid the cheers and plaudits of his hypnotized followers. This muchexploited ceremonial was intended to symbolize the passing of nations and their replacement by a world-organization undisturbed by the lingual and cultural distinctions which divide the world into national groups. This is not anti-national perhaps so much as it is a-national, the negation of nationalism. It is certain that this is the gospel which inspires many Socialists to-day. Its acceptance, however, necessarily involves the abandonment of the distinctive policies of historic Socialism.

The name and authority of Marx — Pontifex Maximus—are invoked in support of these views so alien to the spirit and history of Socialism. The fact is that Marx in his youth proclaimed views which are essentially at one with those of Bakunin, already quoted. Thus, in the famous Communist Manifesto we find the idea that ‘ the working classes have no fatherland..’ Marx argued with force that the development of international industry and commerce tends ever to bring about identity of industrial processes and, consequently, of ‘uniformity in modes of life.’ This, he prophesied, would lead inevitably to the disappearance of national peculiarities and contrasts, of national feeling and patriotism.

This prophecy has its hold upon many Socialist minds to-day, notwithstanding the fact that Marx later advocated policies which implied the abandonment of his youthful generalization. The appeal of systems of international speech like Volapuk and Esperanto to a certain type of Socialist mind depends for its strength upon the desire to accelerate the coming of the sort of internationalism we have been discussing.

As a matter of dull drab fact, the romantic generalization of Marx has not been fulfilled. National consciousness has persisted and even flourished. The Frenchman is as much a Frenchman to-day as was his grandsire of the Napoleonic era. The Briton remains as truly a Briton as any of his ancestors. Capitalism has indeed developed an internationalism, rudely interrupted by the war, but it is not the kind of internationalism which extinguishes national feeling. And there is an internationalism of Labor. For the moment we are engulfed in a wave of reaction: blind hatred rules the hearts of millions. But the most significant fact in the world of international politics before the outbreak of the war was the growing solidarity of the working classes in all lands. But this international solidarity of Labor does not eliminate national consciousness, that natural patriotism which inspires each man with a special attachment for the land of his birth and for its institutions and traditions. It has come to be the belief of the responsible leaders of Socialist thought in all lands that national feeling will not disappear; that it is, indeed, a very precious thing. The best of civilization has its roots in nationality. ‘The Socialist who cannot be a good patriot cannot be a good internationalist. I tell American Socialists clearly and emphatically that a man can simultaneously be both a good Socialist and a good American,’ stoutly declared M. Camille Huysmans, the able secretary of the International Socialist Bureau, during the muchdiscussed Stockholm Conference.

In his maturity Marx recognized the fact that nationality is an enduring thing, and not in itself an evil. He was twenty-nine years old when he wrote the Communist Manifesto; forty-four when the International Workingmen’s Association was formed. That his thought upon the subject had undergone a great change in the fifteen years intervening is evident from the policies which, under Marx’s guidance, the International adopted. It was one of the cardinal features of its policy to defend the rights of peoples struggling for national independence, as, for example, the Poles. And from that time onward it has been an unquestioned policy of the movement to champion the cause of oppressed nationalities, and to oppose every movement looking toward the subjugation of peoples. The Socialist International has championed the cause of the Irish, the Finns, the Poles, the Armenians, the Bohemians, the Hindus, and all other peoples struggling for national independence and freedom. This policy it could not have taken with sincerity and honor if it had regarded nationality as an evil thing and believed its extinction desirable.

Internationalism is not a synonym for a hatred of nationalism. Rather, internationalism presupposes nationalism. It is the interrelation of free and independent nations, their union by fraternal ties. The life of individual nations is a precious thing to be preserved. Just as the individuality of the separate human beings comprising society must be preserved if we are to have a great and a worthy social state, so the life of individual nations must be preserved if we are to have a great and worthy internationalism. As Georges Renard, one of the clearest of Socialist thinkers, has said, ‘The end which Socialists are seeking to attain is not the disappearance of national unities: it is the grouping of nations in great peaceful federations, which shall gradually draw closer so as to embrace the whole civilized world; it is the gradual elaboration of international laws which shall organize humanity, as state laws have organized nations. But that great structure which we wish to build — vast enough to contain the whole human race — will have nations as its pillars: it will rest on their strong foundations, which have been cemented by the labors of ages, and whose destruction would bring about its own ruin.’

This conception of internationalism — fundamental, let me repeat, to Socialism — cannot be abandoned without sacrificing the very soul of Socialism. If the dreamy visionaries whose hostility to individual nations is as marked as their hostility to the capitalist system are permitted to gain their ends, and to determine the future policy of the Socialist movement, their triumph will mean the ignominious end of historic Socialism. It cannot be too strongly emphasized that the Socialism of Marx must rest upon the ever-growing union of free and fraternal nations, not upon the suppression or ‘benevolent assimilation’ of small nations by larger ones. Many an earnest Socialist has fallen into the error of reasoning by analogy: if it. is well that small business units should be crushed or absorbed by bigger ones, in order that there may be greater efficiency and less friction in the industrial world, why would not the absorption of small states by big ones, and the elimination of innumerable causes of friction which would result, be a good thing? With this philosophy more than one ardent Socialist has condoned the rape and spoliation of Belgium! During the South African War a number of English Fabians argued similarly, that Socialists should welcome imperialism as a form of internationalism, since it was opposed to the separatism of small nations.

According to the principles which we have outlined, the invasion of Belgium was an assault upon the foundations of internationalism. No Socialists could support their government in its attack upon the integrity and independence of a friendly neighbor state without being disloyal to proletarian internationalism. And the Belgian worker, fighting to defend his fatherland and to repel the invader, was fighting the cause of internationalism. In truth the cause of his fatherland and that of internationalism were one and indivisible. For there is a patriotism that is coincident with the highest internationalism. The patriotism that is braggart and chauvinistic and narrow leads away from internationalism to imperialism and war. But the patriotism that is brave and generous, and noble leads away from imperialism and war to fraternalism and peace.


What, then, must be the relation of the Socialist internationalist to the nation of which he is a citizen? In times of peace this is not a very difficult question to answer. To use whatever powers are available to bring the nation to the acceptance of Socialism, and to conduct its international relations with justice and friendship to all nations, is the obvious duty of the Socialist. It is in times of war that the answer to the question becomes difficult and perplexing. At several international congresses before the outbreak of the present world-war the Socialists of the world tried to lay down some principle or set of principles by which the different Socialist parties might be guided in times of war and threatened war. This subject was last discussed at the Copenhagen Congress in 1910, when it was referred to the next congress, to be held at Vienna in 1914. The war made the holding of that gathering an impossibility. Events moved with such cyclonic rapidity in the summer of 1914, that the attempt to hold the congress at an earlier date and at some other place than Vienna utterly failed. Had it succeeded, the whole course of events might have been materially changed.

At the Stuttgart Congress, in 1907, there was a memorable debate in which the principal participants were August Bebel, the great leader of the German Social Democracy, Jean Jaurès, the eloquent apostle of French Socialism, and Emile Vandervelde, president of the International Socialist Bureau, now a Belgian Minister of State.

Jaurès proposed a radical policy: in the event of a war-crisis arising, the workers must take action to prevent the war by means of public agitation, the general strike, and insurrection. This course, if it were energetically pursued in the belligerent countries would, so Jaurès argued, effectually prevent war.

Bebel would not countenance this policy. He supported a resolution which declared, in substance, that capitalism is the cause of war and Socialism the only remedy, and advocated the avoidance of military service and refusal to vote any money for the support of armies, navies, or colonies. When Jaurès demanded to know specifically what course the German Socialists would adopt in the event of war being threatened between France and Germany, Bebel made no response. There is much food for thought in the impassioned questioning of the great French orator:—

‘If a government does not go into the field directly against Social Democracy, but, frightened by the growth of Socialism, seeks to make a diversion abroad; if a war should arise in this way between France and Germany, would it be allowable in such a case that the French and German working-classes should murder one another for the benefit of the capitalists, and at their demand, without making the extreme use of their strength? If we did not try to do this, we should be dishonored.’

Vandervelde begged the Germans to answer the question of Jaurès, pointing out that by their refusal to do so they were practically destroying all hope of international proletarian action for the prevention of war, and forcing the Socialists of other countries to be reconciled to militarism. ‘The majority of the Congress finds that it would be an evil thing if the French plunge into an anti-military agitation, while the Germans oppose it as much as they possibly can,’ said Vandervelde, with pointed candor.

Bebel took the position he had taken earlier at the German Party Congress at Essen, that Socialists could never support a war of aggression, but should always support wars waged in defense of their fatherland.

This position Kautsky, the great theoretician, opposed with vigor. He argued against the position of Bebel, that to adopt the principle that Socialists must defend their fatherland and support their governments in wars of defense, opposing them only in waging wars of aggression, would be a surrender to the capitalist class. It is not always possible to tell with certainty which power is the aggressor, and it will always be a simple matter for the government of a country to persuade its citizens that its policy is purely defensive.

To this Bebel replied that such deception of the workers may have been possible in the eighteen-seventies, but not to-day.

Kautsky argued further against Bebel, that in certain circumstances Socialists might welcome an attack upon their country because it weakened their government. ‘If, for example, Japan had attacked Russia, were the Russian Socialists obliged to defend their nationality, to support the government? Certaintly not.’ 1

What, then, is the principle by which Socialists should be governed in times of war? Kautsky answered that question by saying that, because the workers’ interests are never opposed to the interests of other nations, the Socialists should determine their policies, not by the criterion of defensive war, but by that of proletarian interests which at the same time are international interests. According to this view, in the event of war Socialists must ask themselves, ‘What is best calculated to advance proletarian interests?’ and shape their policies in accordance with the anstver.

Soon after the outbreak of the present war Kautsky abandoned the criterion of proletarian interest as being quite as unreliable as that of the differentiation between aggressive and defensive war. Experience has shown that French and German Socialists, while accepting the principle in good faith, arrive at opposing conclusions. The French Socialists identify the victory of France with the interests of the proletariat, while the German Socialists identify the victory of Germany with the interests of the proletariat.

Is there, then, no principle upon which a clear and binding policy, valid for the Socialists of all countries, can be based? To this question Kautsky makes affirmative reply: —

‘One may dispute who is the attacker and who is the attacked, or which threatens Europe more — a victory of Germany over France or a victory of Russia over Germany. One thing is clear: every people, and the proletariat of every people, has a pressing interest in this: to prevent the enemy of the country from coming over the frontier, as it is in this way that the terror and devastation of war reach their most frightful form, that of a hostile invasion. And in every national state the proletariat must use all its energy to see that the independence and integrity of the national territory are maintained. That is an essential part of democracy, and democracy is a necessary basis for the struggle and victory of the proletariat.’

According to this view, the sole aim of the Socialists must be the protection of their country from the enemy, not the punishment of the enemy or his humiliation. Although he does not say so, presumably Kautsky would protect only the actual territory of a nation, not its ships at sea, for example, though these are, alike in law and logic, part of the national domain, and attacks upon them may be a very serious form of ‘ invasion,’menacing the very existence of a people.

The Stuttgart Congress decided upon the following policy: If ever war threatens, the Socialists in the countries affected must take all possible steps to make the outbreak of war impossible. If, despite their efforts, war actually breaks out, they must strive to bring it to an early conclusion and use all the opportunities offered by the economic and political crises produced by the war to further the Socialist programme. This resolution was reaffirmed at the Copenhagen Congress in 1910.


This was the status of Socialist opinion and policy upon this question when the First Balkan War brought the Socialists of the leading European countries face to face with the grave peril of a general European conflagration. That a war in the Balkans would be exceedingly likely to embroil the whole of Europe had long been recognized, not only by Socialists, but by all thoughtful students of international politics. A special and extraordinary congress was held at Basel, Switzerland, in November, 1912, to consider what the various Socialist parties must do. This was the last important international Socialist congress prior to the fateful events of 1914. Unlike previous congresses, which had been able to confine themselves to statements of general principles, the gathering at Basel had to deal with the reality of war. It was confronted by an actual condition, not a theory. Its declarations are, therefore, of cardinal importance.

In addition to confirming the Stuttgart resolution already referred to, the Basel Congress emphasized the threat of actual revolution as an effective weapon in the hands of the Socialists in their efforts to prevent war. ‘The fear of the ruling classes that a revolution of the workers would follow the declaration of a European war has proved to be an essential guaranty of peace. The Congress therefore requests all Socialist parties to continue their efforts with all means which appear to them efficacious.’

The warning to the European governments is plain: ‘Governments must not forget that, in the present frame of mind of the workers, war will not be without disaster for themselves. They must remember that the Franco-German War resulted in the revolutionary movement of the Commune; that the Russo-Japanese War gave an impetus to the revolutionary movement in Russia; and that the competition in armaments in England and on the Continent has increased class-conflicts and led to great strikes. It would be madness if the governments did not comprehend that the mere notion of a European war will call forth resentment and fierce protest from the workers, who consider it a crime to shoot each other down in the interest, and for the profit, of capitalism, or for the behoof of dynastic ambition and of secret diplomatic treaties.’

The caution of this statement and its lack of revolutionary fire indicate a state of mind little likely to adopt heroic measures.

In the midst of a war affecting the independence of the various Balkan nations, and likely to lead to a general European war, the Basel Congress took the historic position of international Socialism, that the independence and integrity of nations is an essential condition of internationalism. It affirmed the right of each of the Balkan nations to full autonomy. It urged the Socialists of the Balkans to struggle for the establishment of a democratic federation of the Balkan states as the only possible basis for their peaceful development. The Congress clearly recognized that the people of the Balkan states might be called upon to defend themselves against powerful aggressive nations, and that it would then be the duty of the Balkan Socialists to assist in that defense. The Congress laid upon the Socialists of the Balkans the duty of promoting fraternal goodwill among the workers of Serbia, Bulgaria, Roumania, Greece, Turkey, and Albania, and of opposing vigorously all attempts to deprive any state of any of its rights.

The programme which the Congress set before the Socialists of AustriaHungary is comprehensive and farreaching. Not only must they especially oppose all attacks by Austria upon Serbia, but they must work for the liberation from Austrian rule of the various subject Slav nations. They must coöperate with the Socialists of Italy to protect Albania and secure her autonomy.

In the opinion of the Basel Congress not only does internationalism require the freedom and independence of all peoples, but it imposes an obligation upon all Socialists to make the liberation of suppressed nations their concern.

The Socialists of Austria-Hungary, Croatia, Slavonia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina must continue with all their strength their successful efforts to prevent any attack of the Austrian monarchy upon Serbia. They must continue to resist in the future as they have done in the past any attempt to take by force from Serbia the fruits of war or to transform that country into an Austrian province, and thereby to embroil the peoples of Austria-Hungary and other nations of Europe in conflict in the interests of the ruling dynasty. The Social Democratic parties of Austria-Hungary will also have to struggle in the future to secure democratic autonomy for all the southern Slav nations within the frontiers of Austria-Hungary and at present governed by the Hapsburg dynasty. The Socialists of both Austria-Hungary and of Italy will have to give special attention to the Albanian question. The Congress admits the right of the Albanians to autonomy. but recognizes the danger that, under the guise of autonomy, Albania might become the victim of Austro-Hungarian and Italian ambitious. This would not only constitute a danger for Albania herself, but might in the near future threaten the peace between Austria-Hungary and Italy. Albania can become really independent only as an autonomous unit in a democratic federation of the Balkan states. Therefore, the Congress calls upon the Austro-Hungarian and Italian Socialists to combat any action of their respective governments which aims at drawing Albania within the sphere of their influence, and to persevere in their efforts to consolidate the peaceful relations between AustriaHungary and Italy.

The duty of the Socialists of other countries was clearly set forth: In the event of any warlike policy being undertaken by the Russian government, whether by attacks on Constantinople or on Armenia, even for the avowed purpose of protecting the Balkan nations, the Socialists of Russia, as well as those of Russian Poland and Finland, must immediately inaugurate a revolutionary fight against Czarism, to bring about its downfall. The Socialists of Germany, France, and Great Britain must demand that their governments abstain from intervention in the Balkan trouble and refuse all support to either Austria or Russia. The workers of Germany and France must recognize no secret treaties making it necessary for their governments to interfere in the Balkan conflict.

The Congress expressed the opinion that ‘the greatest danger to European peace is the artificially fostered animosity between Great Britain and Germany,’ and directed the Socialists of those countries to work for an understanding between the two nations upon the limitation of naval increases and the abolition of the right of capture of private property at sea.


The declarations of the Basel Congress seemed to provide an adequate and satisfactory policy of internationalism for the guidance of the Socialist parties of the world. In place of the hortative generalizations of earlier declarations there was now a comprehensive programme of specific measures. Throughout it was emphasized that internationalism rests upon nationalism; that the maintenance of the independence and integrity of nationalities is essential to the realization of internationalism. And yet within less than two years Europe was plunged into the greatest war in all human history, and the international solidarity of the Socialist movement was broken and destroyed.

Supported and inspired by Germany, Austria-Hungary rejected all offers of mediation and arbitration. The Socialists of Austria at once fastened upon their government responsibility for the war. The German-speaking parliamentary representatives of the Austrian Social Democratic party declared: ‘ We are convinced that the Serbian government would not have been able to offer any opposition to these demands of Austria-Hungary, which are sanctioned by international law, and would, in fact, have offered none. We are convinced that all that Austria-Hungary demands could have been obtained, and can still be obtained, by peaceful methods.’

The German Socialists on the eve of war placed the blame at the door of Austria-Hungary. The proclamation of the party, issued on July 25, declared that the war fury was ‘unchained by Austrian imperialism.’ While condemning the behavior of the Greater Serbia Nationalists, the proclamation especially condemned ‘the frivolous war-provocation of the Austro-Hungarian government’ whose demands were characterized as ‘ more brutal than have ever been proposed to an independent state in the world’s history, and can only be intended deliberately to provoke war.’

Notwithstanding their appreciation of the guilt of their governments, the majority of the Socialists in the Central Empires decided to support those governments once war was declared. In Austria-Hungary the Socialists took the position that they were justified in this policy by reason of the Russian peril, and that it was for them a defensive war. They were opposed only to Serbia and Russia; they were not directly in conflict with the democratic nations of Western Europe. Moreover, they were not called upon, as the Germans were in the case of Belgium, to support the invasion of any neutral nation. For these reasons the conduct of the Socialists of Austria-Hungary has been more indulgently regarded than has that of their German comrades who supported their government against France and England and in spite of the outrageous crime against Belgium.

The position of the Belgian Socialists needs no explanation or defense. To have refused support to their government in its efforts to repel the invader would have been a base betrayal of all that Socialist internationalism has represented in the world.

But what of France? How came the Socialists of all sects and factions to unite in supporting the Republic in its alliance with Russia? The Basel Congress had enjoined upon the Socialists of France the duty of repudiating the alliance with Russia, and Jaurès and other French Socialist leaders had denounced that alliance in unmeasured terms. The Congress had likewise laid upon the Socialists of France the duty of using their power to prevent their government from supporting Russia, just as it had declared it to be the duty of the German Socialists to prevent their government from giving support to Austria. And yet in the decisive hour all sections of the French Socialist movement united in support of their government and in defense of the Republic.

Under the magnificent leadership of Jaures the French Socialists loyally observed the rules laid down for their guidance by the Basel Congress. They brought pressure to bear upon their government to withdraw from the alliance with Russia if (a) Russia did not consent to mediation and arbitration, or (b) if she took the initiative in declaring war. There is ample evidence that the French government honestly and bravely acted in accordance with these principles. On the 30th of July, at the great peace demonstration in Brussels, Jaurès announced with deep conviction, ‘The French government is the best peace ally of that admirable government of England, which took the initiative toward mediation. And it is influencing Russia by its counsels of wisdom and patience.’ A few hours before his death at the hands of a cowardly assassin Jaurès had an interview with the highest officials of the French government and received convincing assurances of the sincerity with which the course suggested by the Socialists was being followed. The act of the government in ordering the withdrawal of the French troops ten kilometres from the frontier was an indubitable pledge of its good faith.

Germany declared war upon Russia and France, and rejected all attempts at mediation. She also attempted to induce Belgium against her will to lend her assistance in an attack on France, yet it was apparent that the German Social Democrats would not make any effective resistance to the action of their government. Under such conditions the French Socialists must either give up all idea of defending their country, and so abandon the very basis of internationalism, or they must accept as a temporary necessity of the war the alliance with Russia.

As soon as the war broke out the Socialists of Italy began a vigorous agitation demanding that the country remain out of the war and that the alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary be repudiated. Sincere in their advocacy of neutrality, they were not by any means neutral in their feelings. Their sympathies were all on the side of the Entente Allies. At the end of July, 1914, the Socialists served notice upon Premier Salandra that any attempt to lead Italy into the war on the side of Austria would be met by revolution. ‘We can assure you that, if Italy mobilizes her army and commands it to march to the direct or indirect support of the Germans against France, that very day there will be no need of any effort on our part to make the Italian people revolt.’

While from the first the Socialists of Italy sympathized with the cause of the Entente Allies and wished for the defeat of the Central Empires, they strove hard to keep their nation out of the war. Though some of the most distinguished leaders of the movement favored the entrance of the nation into the war on the side of the Entente, the party stood for neutrality. Soon after the war began, the German and Austrian Social Democrats sent a mission to Italy, ostensibly to explain their attitude but in reality to influence the Socialists of Italy in favor of the Triple Alliance.

The Italian Socialist party issued a statement which was a scathing denunciation of Germany and Austria and of the German Socialists. It described the mission as ‘an offense against the dignity and independence of Italian Socialism,’ and declared that by its support of the German and Austrian policy of aggression the German Social Democratic party ‘forfeited the right to the title of International Socialists.’ The statement proceeds: ‘We express our desire that this infamous war may be concluded by the defeat of those who have provoked it — the Austrian and German Empires. For the Empires of Austria and Germany form the rampart of European reaction, even more than Russia. ... If the German and Austrian Empires emerge victorious from the war, it will mean the triumph of military absolutism in its most brutal expression. ... In this war is outlined on one side the defense of European reaction, on the other the defense of all revolutions, past and future. . . . And because of this we must affirm that there remains for us only one way of being internationalists, namely, to declare ourselves loyally in favor of whoever fights the empires of reaction, just as the Italian Socialists residing in Paris have understood that one way only remains to be anti-militarist — to arm and fight against the empires of militarism. . . . This is our answer as Italian Socialists to the German Socialists.’

It will readily be understood why the opposition which the Italian Socialists offered to the proposed entry of their nation into the war on the side of the Entente Allies, in May, 1915, while undoubtedly sincere, was not characterized by the vigor and intensity with which they had in the previous year opposed the entrance of their nation into the war as a member of the Triple Alliance. The party has been seriously split on account of the differences which have manifested themselves on the question of the policy to be followed with relation to the war.

It is difficult to make a satisfactory brief summary of the position of the Socialists of Great Britain, owing to the divisions of the movement in that country. The oldest organization, — the orthodox Marxist British Socialist party, — with all other sections of the movement, opposed entering into the war. When the British government declared war on August 5, the day following the invasion of Belgium, the British Socialist party took the position that the fundamental principles of internationalism were being defended by the government and that the duty of Socialists to support it was clear. The Fabian Society soon came to the same conclusion, as did the Labor party, the political organization of the tradeunions. The Independent Labor party, popularly known as the ‘I.L.P.,’ the Socialist wing of the Labor party, continued to oppose the war with great bitterness. It has conducted a vigorous pacifist campaign, taking the position that England was not justified in entering the war. The British Socialist party and the Labor party have assisted in recruiting, but have not refrained from criticizing the government for its failures in matters of social policy.


With the exception of small and relatively unimportant groups, all the Socialist parties of the world, including those of the Central Empires, have based their policies upon the conception of internationalism as the friendly interrelation and union for the common good of free and autonomous nations. Even the extreme ‘patriots’ among the German Socialists who have defended the invasion of Belgium have attempted to justify it only on the score of that necessity which knows no law. At the opposite extreme, the English I.L.P. has never taken the position that armed defense of the nation’s right to exist would be wrong; that the working-class has no interest in the preservation of the national independence. It remained for the Socialist movement in America to adopt a position so far at variance with the historic Socialist position.

The Socialist party of America is the most cosmopolitan of Socialist parties, as this is the most cosmopolitan of nations. Inevitably, therefore, the war gave rise to many controversies within the party. In the circumstances it might reasonably have been expected to keep to the old international ideals, and it is probable that it would have done so but for the preponderance in its membership of national groups whose sympathies were naturally with the Central Empires, as in the case of those of German and Austrian birth or parentage; or national groups opposed to those of the Entente Powers, as in the case of the Russian Jews and the Poles, bitterly hostile to Russia, and the Irish, equally hostile to England. Largely, perhaps by reason of the domination of the movement in this country by German influences, it has never appealed with any great degree of success to French, Belgian, Spanish, or Italian workers. The small representation of these nationalities in the party membership probably accounts for the fact that the policy adopted by the party has, almost from the beginning, coincided in a remarkable manner with the interests of Germany.

Germany protested against our insistence upon our indisputable right to sell munitions to belligerents. Her demand in the name of ‘Humanity,’ that we place an embargo on munitions of war, was in reality a demand that we revise international law in her interest. Such a revision of international law would admirably serve to enslave the world to militarism, for it would place the world in subjection to the nation best equipped with arsenals. It was, in a word, a demand entirely inconsistent with a policy of true internationalism, yet it was urged by the Socialist party of America as energetically as by the German Foreign Office. At the very time the German Ambassador was urging that the government of the United States warn its citizens to keep off ocean-going steamships, the Socialist party was making an identical demand; and it offered the excuses of Potsdam for the Lusitania outrage as well as for the invasion and spoliation of Belgium. For the ruthless violation of those limitations upon warfare and militarism which constitute such an important part of the fabric of internationalism, — such as the protection of hospital ships, the immunity of non-combatants at sea, and so forth, — Potsdam and American Socialism offered the same vain excuses and explanations. Never once was there any condemnation of Germany’s conduct. Even the deportation into the worst kind of slavery of many thousands of Belgian workers called forth no protest. When President Wilson was urging Germany to respect the rights of all neutral nations, the official party organ, in big black headlines, called him ‘The Maniac in the White House.’

It was quite proper that the party should oppose our entrance into the war. That was a legitimate exercise of the prerogatives of citizenship. But Socialist opposition to participation in the war by this nation did not need to be cast on the same model as the propaganda of the German secret service, and to adopt the excuses and sophistries of German diplomats and statesmen.

Following the declaration by Congress that a state of war existed between ,o this nation and Germany, the Socialist party, at an Emergency convention attended by some two hundred delegates, adopted a resolution which cannot be regarded otherwise than as a repudiation of Socialist internationalism and an adoption of anarchist a-nationalism. Ignoring the assaults of Germany upon the fundamental rights of this nation, it declared our declaration of war to be ‘a crime against the people of the United States and against the nations of the world.’ It placed our entrance into the war on a lower scale than Austria’s war upon Serbia or Germany’s upon Belgium: ' In all modern history there has been no war more unjustifiable than the war in which we are about to engage.’ It declared that no single government was to blame for the war, and that the war was ‘not the concern of the workers.’ It made no distinction between the Belgian workers fighting to repel an invading foe and the German workers fighting to subdue a neutral and friendly nation. Utterly disregarding the great moral issues involved, which are of fundamental importance to any true internationalism, it called upon ‘the workers of all countries to refuse support to their governments in their wars,’ the Belgian as well as the German! It warned the workers ‘against the snare and delusion of socalled defensive warfare,’ and declared that ‘the only struggle which would justify the workers in taking up arms is the struggle of the ‘working-class of the world to free itself from economic exploitation and political oppression.’ In other words, only the Social Revolution justifies the workers in taking up arms.

This is the antithesis of historic Socialism. In the circumstances any successful propaganda in this country based upon this doctrine would be worth many army corps to the German military machine. Considered apart from the existing circumstances, simply as a statement of principles which should guide Socialists, the resolution is remarkable for its abandonment of the principles of internationalism which from the days of Marx have guided the movement. It places the Socialists who accept it in direct opposition to all uprisings and wars for national independence. According to this declaration of principles, no people can be justified in arming itself to repel invasion by barbarian hordes. Such a doctrine is subversive of civilization and morality, and no movement based upon it can ever gain the support of the best elements of mankind.

  1. The reader will bear in mind that this refers to the Russia of that period —1907. — THE AUTHOR.