Socialist and Bourgeois

DURING the first week of February, the interest of many of the professional correspondents and unattached observers gathered about the Peace Conference shifted from Paris to Berne. There was a lull on the Quai D’Orsay, consequent upon the launching of the League of Nations by Mr. Wilson in the plenary conference of January 25, and the President’s preparations for his visit to Congress. In Berne the International Socialist Conference was assembling — the first convocation of the Internationale since the outbreak of the war.

Our preparations for the Socialist Conference were not confined to booking a fairly uncomfortable seat on the Geneva express with Thos. Cook and Sons. We made mental preparations. We put ourselves into the proper state of mind for perceiving what we expected, or wanted, to see at Berne. Rare, indeed, is the observer who lands at the chosen spot with a suitcase and his mind a tabula rasa for impressions. The extreme radicals among us went to see what they described as the ‘ real show,’ in contrast with the unreal or impotent spectacle in Paris. For them the Quai D’Orsay was simply staging the Follies of 1919; while at Berne the destinies of the world were to be decided. Those of quieter temperament among us would not draw the sharp distinction; yet they, too, went prepared to find that something which is so precious to the heart of the advertising writer, something that was ‘different.'

When the Berne Conference had adjourned, in the second week of February, radicals and moderates among us agreed that, differences might be discovered between Berne and Paris, but that the something different had failed to come off. Again we reacted according to our temperaments. The freer spirits among us settled the matter by declaring that the International Socialist Conference was not so very Socialistic after all; and the implication was that, instead of buying a ticket for Berne, one should have booked with Thos. Cook and Sons for the longer trip to Moscow.

Our moderates found, in the very fact of an International Socialist Conference which was but imperfectly Socialistic according to the accepted formulas, a notable phenomenon in itself. When, for instance, we saw a Socialist conference absorbed by the same problems that occupied the negotiators on the Quai D’Orsay— responsibility for the war, territorial delimitations, nationalist aspirations, a league of nations, and an international charter of labor; when we saw manifested in the debates on these questions many of the familiar human instincts which were so vocal in Paris; when, finally, we heard the Soviet régime in Russia condemned by the hundred-odd Socialist delegates by a vote of something like seven or eight to one, and heard men like Karl Kautsky, Hjalmar Branting, Arthur Henderson, Ramsay MacDonald, and Pierre Renaudel describe Bolshevism as the enemy of Socialism in particular and of human progress and culture in general — we once more gave interpretation according to our bent of mind.

The Radical Left among our observers at Berne declared that only a dying Socialism had made itself heard at Berne. Our Moderate Centre wondered whether it was a Socialism dying, or a Socialism evolving under the impact of forces let loose by the war.

The present article is an attempt to set down the impressions brought away from Berne by the writer, and collated with the activities-at the ‘bourgeois’ conference on the Quai D’Orsay, and with the surge of activities — bourgeois, Socialist, Bolshevist — in Europe. At the time these impressions were taking shape, the editor of the Atlantic must already have had in hand Mr. Herbert Wilton Stanley’s admirable study, ‘Bolshevism: a Liberal View,’ which appeared in the March number of this magazine. In much that I have to say I find myself compelled to repeat Mr. Stanley’s argument — unless the editor’s blue pencil says no. In several instances I may be able to confirm Mr. Stanley’s analysis of general principles, by concrete data which were not at his disposal when he set down his interpretation before the meeting of the Berne Conference.

In one instance, namely Mr. Stanley s acceptance of Bolshevism as the embodiment of Internationalism, versus ‘Liberalism’ as the embodiment of Nationalism, I have to differ. The facts do not justify our conceding to the Soviet philosophy the credit of being the sole torch-bearers of the International spirit. On the other hand, if Internationalism be interpreted in its extreme sense, as complete emancipation from the Nationalist mould in which the thought of the vast majority of humanity to-day is cast, then justice to the Soviets requires that we recognize that they too are not as internationalistic as would appear; that Lenin is not altogether above or below the fundamental human instinct which we may call Nationalism;


The Nationalist pulse ran high at Berne. The explanation and justification are found in the physiological parallel. In the human body the pulse mounts under the stress of excitement, and notably under the pressure of fear, and of the anger which comes from fear. The pulse mounts under the pressure of fever which accompanies illness. Finally, the doctors tell you that the normal pulse is exceedingly high in the newborn. At Berne these factors occurred, by themselves or in combination. It was in the new-born peoples, or in those striving to be born or reborn, that Nationalism spoke the loudest. It was at its height among the Czech delegates, from whose discourse it was not always easy to conclude whether they belonged in a Socialist conference at Berne or in the ‘ bourgeois ’ conference on the Quai D’Orsay. On the question of frontiers and of national self-determination, the Czech Socialists were at one with their bourgeoisie. They, too, wanted the coal-mines of Teschen. They, too, refused to read the principle of self-determination in such a manner as to permit the two-million-odd Germans of Bohemia to self-determine themselves out of the new Czecho-Slovakia and into the new Germany. It was the normal pulse of the new-born accentuated by ancient angers and future fears.

The Nationalist pulse ran high in the speeches from the reborn Alsace. It was high in the speeches from Armenia, from Georgia in the Caucasus, from the Jews. And this, in spite of the fact that the argument followed, more or less, the formulas of international Socialism as of before the war. There was sufficient reference, perhaps, to capitalistic exploitation, to class-war, to the unity of the working masses of all countries. But often the impression was inescapable, of an attempt to clothe new emotions and appraisals into a familiar speech, and often with but indifferent success. When, for example, the Armenian delegate, having recited the tragic story of nearly a million of his people butchered by the Turks, went on to say, butchered by the Turks under the impulse of ‘western capitalism,’the phrase sounded very much like a happy afterthought, required by the proprieties of the moment.

The Nationalist pulse ran high in the sick nations — Germany, for example. We cannot altogether explain away the ‘hard’ attitude of the German Majority Socialists at Berne as a sign of incurable perversity in the German mind. Something of that wondrous thing called German mentality certainly was present in the speeches of men like Weis and Müller, but something more than toughness of conscience will account for the reluctance of the Majority Socialists to acknowledge, in so many words, German guilt for the war, though the confession was implicit enough in their plea that the past might be forgotten in their offered guaranties for the future. In the speeches of the German Majority delegates there were plainly manifest the fears of a nation at bay against the judgment of the world, of a nation which thought itself threatened by dismemberment, decline, and the loss of the accumulated civilization of centuries. This was the spirit which lay behind the words of Weis’s apology for the conduct of the German Majority Socialists during the war: —

‘We would not take upon ourselves the reproach of the German people, that it was our guilt if Germany went down in ruin, and if there descended upon our people the frightful consequences which have now come to pass. We wished to live with our people and for our people among the peoples of the world.’ And Wels ended his plea with the accepted formula, ‘Proletarians of the world, unite!’

The physiological parallel held true in the case of the French Socialists — France, which is the victor, but horribly wounded nevertheless in body and nerves. To the extent that France is the victor and, therefore, should not be afraid, her Majority Socialists, under the command of Jean Longuet, went far toward a policy of complete reconciliation and a complete restoration of the Internationale. To the extent that France is sorely wounded and is still, as a matter of fact, afraid, her Minority Socialists, under the leadership of Albert Thomas and Pierre Renaudel, stressed the Nationalist tone. The only delegate, among the more than one hundred, who refused to vote for the compromise resolution on responsibility for the war was a Frenchman, Milhaud. And Albert Thomas, in accepting the resolution, justified his action primarily as a debt he owed to the French Socialists who had died on the field of battle for the cause of a united world.

And Great Britain? Because of all the European nations she has emerged strongest from the war, because her security is established beyond question, her Socialist delegates at Berne were the least susceptible to anger or fear; and that is why, in the British delegation, the International note sounded above the Nationalist. To put it rather brutally, the British delegates could afford to take the wider view.

Socialism and Internationalism

On the record of the Berne Conference, its debates as well as its agenda, Bolshevist polemic has lost no time in stigmatizing the eighty-per-cent majority as renegade to Socialist teaching. Branting and Kautsky and Henderson and Macdonald and Renaudel—and Eisner, for he stood with Renaudel at Berne —would thus be put into their proper place among the ‘petty bourgeois.’ And the Bolshevist case could be argued on the very tests which Mr. Stanley has set up for distinguishing between ‘Liberalism’ and Bolshevism. The great Socialist majority at Berne would stand with the ‘Liberals’ for democracy against proletarian dictatorship — the latter a dogma denounced at Berne in the most ardent debates of the Conference; with the ‘Liberals’ and against Bolshevism on the principle of evolution against cataclysmic revolution; and with the ‘Liberals’ for Nationalism as against Internationalism. So the Bolshevists would argue. Wherefore, there is nothing discernible to distinguish Berne from the Quai D’Orsay, and the only true Socialism is in the Soviets — Q.E.D.

To the first count, the Socialists — we may call them that as against the Bolshevists—would not even demur; they would accept it, not as an indictment, but as a tribute. They deny the righteousness as well as the expediency of imposing any gospel upon the majority by the minority. They would probably cite in their justification the fundamental lesson of their great teachers, that the class-war is not a pitched battle between armed forces, but primarily a war of conversion, and that the Socialist conquest would come when, by paradox, there was nobody left to conquer; when the opposition to Socialism had been educated out of existence by the remorseless march of economic evolution. A minority can dictate only for a little while. Bolshevism may win an isolated victory on the chess-board by a slashing attack that throws the superior player off his balance; in the end, the master will assert himself. Socialism looks to winning the tournament by educating the masses to mastership.

Thus the first point, democracy versus dictatorship, merges into the second point, evolution versus revolution. To be sure, the Socialist dogma of evolution is not so simple as I have made it. Their conception of evolution does not exclude a sudden leap forward with opportunity. But the leap forward is to be guided by prudence, by the simple consideration whether the masses will leap forward only to fall back further. But —without pretending to put the case as correctly or as strongly as they would put it for themselves — I can imagine the Socialists continuing the argument in the following manner: If by revolution you mean the leap in the dark, the gamble which stakes the past conquests of the proletariat upon the throw of a dice, the policy of neck or nothing; if by revolution you mean a sudden slashing across fundamental human instincts and habits, across the lure of the native soil, across the pull of individual and national pieties, across the natural law which decrees that the future must grow out of the soil of the present, and cannot be wrenched forward and out by the roots, then we are evolutionists.

And this argument in turn would merge into the Socialist exposition of Nationalism and Internationalism as the problem lies to-day. To be sure, the pleading here will find itself hampered by the overstrain of the formula in Socialist thinking and speech before the war. In the quiet years preceding Tangiers, Algeciras, and Agadir, when the idea of world-war seemed a horror rather than a menace, the Socialist practice had been to minimize, if not altogether to slur, the meaning of national lines. Socialist economics — and, for that matter, much of radical ‘bourgeois ’ economics — persisted in searching for the primal causes of a possible European war outside of Europe — in world-markets, in spheres of influence, in Morocco, Tripoli, Asia, anywhere; not recognizing that Morocco was only a convenient challenge to a contest, which had for its aim the mastery of Central and Eastern Europe preparatory to the establishment of Weltmacht. Socialists insisted on watching foreign markets and Morocco, and overlooking the heave and smoulder of Nationalist passions in the Balkans and the heart of Europe. War, if it was really brought home to the peoples of Europe, would be so easily identified as a ‘capitalist game for the conquest of world-markets that the judgment and conscience of the masses would reject it.

Only as the recurrent international crises over spheres and markets grew more frequent, and national passions began to boil up behind the diplomats, did Socialists find themselves compelled to take account of a force for mischief which they had hitherto discounted. The question of wars offensive and defensive came up in Socialist conferences. It was still assumed that war would be brought on by capitalist intrigue; but the doubt grew whether the masses in Europe were after all immune to the ‘meretricious’ appeal of ‘patriotism. The Socialists, under the pressure of reality, were learning.

They have learned the lesson fully under stress of the ultimately bitter reality. War came and burst the Internationale asunder. Socialists took up arms against each other, and not altogether under compulsion. Socialists discovered that, in the moment of urgency, they were exposed with the rest of their people to the call of homeland, language, culture, and mental habit. The ‘sacred union’ of all parties against the enemy came to all the belligerent countries. Ludwig Frank, a shining leader of the German Social Democracy, fell in Alsace in the first weeks of the war, a volunteer. Russian Socialists came back from exile to fight for the Tsar — because he was, for the time being, Russia.

Was this all the working of war-psychology? Or, when you have discounted the confusion which war may inject into men’s minds and ideals, is there still left a vivid reality which the old Socialist dogma had undervalued? Socialists, to-day, would readily confess the fact, I imagine. They have seen, in the course of the war, the pull which country and language and culture exert upon the heart-strings of men; and now, in ‘peace’ they see the force at work in the new nationalities, the sick nationalities, and the threatened nationalities. And so again, I imagine, the Socialists to-day would readily admit that, if a clearer recognition of the force of Nationalism is a deviation from their earlier Internationalism, then they are less international than before the war.

In all probability, however, they would put it somewhat differently. They would make use of a fearfully hackneyed, but nevertheless true and just formula. They would call themselves now international; and let Lenin make the best of it.

Victory and Defeat

The Socialists might go further. They might counter-attack into Soviet territory, in order to discover how far and in what sense Bolshevism embodies the perfect international spirit. The attack would begin with the examination of a simple question, yet one that goes to the heart of the problem. Is Internationalism, as it has been developed in Socialist theory from the beginning, a means or an end in itself?

If Internationalism is an end in itself, Socialism cannot claim a monopoly in the ideal. The striving toward a worldunity has manifested itself in every form of human thought and endeavor: in religion, politics, science, art. The idea of the brotherhood of man antedates Socialism. The effort of every church is toward Catholicism, that is to say, toward universality. There is the history of world-empires, realized in Rome and haunting the Middle Ages. Science and art know no frontiers. Above all, in modern times, there is capitalism. Fluid, all-pervasive, supposedly immune to individual and local affections, capital is, by Socialist definition, the fullest development of ‘Internationalism.’

It is, indeed, the internationalism of capital which, according to orthodox Socialist dogma, has created and justified the internationalism of the proletariat. The German worker or the French worker could not hope to wage successful war against German or French capitalists, because the latter had an ally across the frontier. The workers of the world were summoned to unite, because the capitalists of the world are united. The governed masses of the world were summoned to union, because, in the Socialist theory, the rulers of the world were united, in the final test, as against their own subjects. But if this interpretation of the Socialist philosophy be true, then Socialist Internationalism has been, after all, primarily the means to an end. That end, only a few years ago, would have been described as the emancipation of the working masses. To-day the formula would be enlarged to speak of the emancipation of the working masses for a freer and happier life within the sphere of their separate national being.

I have been long in getting to my point. It is this: how far is the Internationalism of Lenin really free from national preoccupations? How far are such victories as it has won conditioned by national factors, national forces, needs, demands? To what extent does Lenin think in terms of Russia, and to what extent in terms of the world? Or, — quite concretely, — to what extent is Lenin’s concern for a world-revolution shaped by the knowledge that, without a Bolshevized Europe, Bolshevism cannot permanently maintain itself in Russia?

In the commendable search for the ‘fundamentals’ of Bolshevism, we have too often overlooked an obvious but highly pertinent fact. This is the connection between Bolshevism and victory or defeat on the battlefield. Mr. Herbert Stanley is right, of course, in speaking of the spirit of Bolshevism as ‘the eternal Anarch of revolution, as an ‘emotional explosive which performs miracles.’ But, after all, human nature is the same in the Entente, in Central Europe, and in Russia. Why is the eternal Anarch busy to-day in Russia and Hungary, and wherever else despair has followed upon military defeat? Why is not the emotional explosive performing miracles to-day in France Great Britain, Italy?

The case of Italy is peculiarly instructive. After the disaster of Caporetto, in the fall of 1917, revolution in Italy appeared imminent. At Turin, it actually seemed to have arrived. The familiar reasons for Bolshevist revolution existed. The people lacked food and coal, and they were physically and psychically exhausted. Italy to-day is still short of coal and food, and her dead have not awakened. Yet to-day it is an Italy so passionately bound upon conquest,—or upon national self-realization, if we choose to call it so,—that her peace delegates dare not come home from Paris without Fiume, in addition to Trient and Trieste. Why was Italy after Caporetto so weary of national self-realization, and why is she so eager now? Because, in November, 1917, Italy had the enemy on the Piave, and to-day she has victory.

We search for the fundamentals of Bolshevism and overlook the obvious fact. Is there anyone who doubts that, if Ludendorff had reached Paris, and the Austrians had reached Milan, there would be order to-day in Berlin, Vienna, and Budapest, and Bolshevism in France, in Ireland, in Egypt and India, and possibly in London? The measure of a nation’s suffering is no index to its susceptibility to revolution. In behalf of unhappy Russia’s collapse, people cite her six million dead and crippled. Had Russia lost as heavily as France, her dead and crippled would be fifteen millions. France stood on the edge of a revolution in May of 1917, after the failure of the great hopes based on Nivelle’s offensive. And last February I was told by a leader of the French Socialists, in temper pro-Bolshevist, that there was no chance of an immediate revolution in France; not for this reason and for that, but plainly because France is sustained by victory.

So, as I see it, the success of Lenin’s Internationalism has for one of its main roots the sense of despair following upon national defeat. His Internationalism is built upon a Nationalism turning sick against itself. And precisely to the extent that Lenin has fastened his power upon Russia, to the extent that he has found himself facing the realities of constructive effort as opposed to destruction, we see Lenin, in his approaches toward the Entente, narrowing his policy toward a national standpoint. To obtain recognition from the Entente, he is ready (or was ready till the other day, since I am writing at the moment of the first news from Budapest) to validate Russia’s foreign debt, to admit foreign capital, to grant immense timber concessions, in other words, to forswear his war against the ’capitalism and imperialism of the Western Powers,’ in order to secure recognition for his régime. The Internationalism of Lenin, the worldrevolution, is for him, too, a means to an end. If Europe can be won for Bolshevism, well and good, but primarily Russia must be kept for Bolshevism,

Paris and Berne

For one who stands outside the ranks of organized Socialism, it would be presumptuous to say just what would be the reply of the eighty-per-cent Socialist majority at Berne to the Bolshevist taunt that the International Socialist Conference has wandered away from the pure gospel in the direction of the Quai D’Orsay. The charge might be refuted, or accepted and explained. To the observer from the outside, the fact does emerge that Socialist Berne and ‘bourgeois’ Paris do stand closer together than would have been deemed possible before the war, for the representatives of the Socialist masses and the representatives of the governments. But in that very fact we find the hope and promise which the world so badly needs to-day.

If the conferences at Paris and Berne last February stood forth as complements to each other and not as antagonists, the reason is by no means entirely that Berne has gone all the way to meet Paris. The Quai D’Orsay, that popular synonym for so many things not at all nice, has gone forth to meet Berne. If in the Swiss capital the Socialist delegates have shown the influence of an intenser Nationalism, at Paris the delegates of the governments have obviously been caught in the force driving toward an intensified and purified international life. The lessons of the war have been learned in both capitals. The same problems have compelled the attention of the government and the masses, and the answer from both is the same in kind: an international charter of labor in Paris and Berne, and the two documents in the end showing probably no marked divergence; national self-determination affirmed in both places, and, in practice, with rather notable exceptions in both; responsibility for the war considered in both places, and in the end rather academically in both; and, in both places, the League of Nations.

The League has been described in some quarters as an endeavor to head off Bolshevism. So be it. What is important is that the League is not being ‘put over’ by the governments on their peoples, but that it has the ardent support of the working masses of the world. If a detestation of Bolshevism is behind the League, then that feeling is shared by the Socialist masses represented at Berne. So many of our forward steps in civilization have been in response to the stimulus of fear or abhorrence, that, in the end, history may yet record as the chief attainment of Bolshevism this forcing of a closer union upon the nations of the world.

The resolution on the League of Nations which was adopted at Berne will repay study, not only for the close resemblance it bears to the Paris Covenant, but for its implications on a changing Socialist attitude toward other world-problems: —

‘The war just terminated has brought civilization to the edge of the abyss. The next war would destroy it completely. This disaster can be prevented only by the creation of a League of Nations.’

Note the departure from the older Socialist formula, that wars are inherent in the structure of our capitalistic society, through acknowledgment of the fact that the machinery of a league can prevent war.

‘The League of Nations shall be formed by the Parliaments of the different countries — ’

At Paris the mode of selecting League representatives is made optional, and does not exclude a choice by Parliaments.

‘— and must be based on a peace of justice which will not give rise to any future conflict.’

For that, the battle is now being fought in Paris.

‘The League must create an international court, which, by means of mediation and arbitration,’ etc.

The Covenant embodies the principle.

‘This International Court must have competence, after consultation with the people concerned, to rectify frontiers when the necessity arises.

This is not in the Covenant, ought to be, and possibly may be.

‘ The League of Nations must abolish all standing armies and bring about complete disarmament.'

If the time element suggested in ‘bring about’ be considered, the difference between the Socialist demand and the Covenant is capable of adjustment.

‘The League shall have at its disposal the means of economic pressure to induce and enforce its decisions when necessary.’

This is in the Covenant.

‘The League of Nations must prevent all economic war by the establishment of free trade, free access to all countries, the open door to the colonies, and international control of worldthoroughfares. Where national tariffs exist, they shall require the approval of the League of Nations.’

This is an ideal toward which the Covenant tends, without as yet embodying it. Is it an exaggeration to say that, as to the conception of the perfect League, greater differences may be discovered in the ranks of its bourgeois’ supporters than between the Socialist document and the Covenant?

Writing at a moment when the newspapers are aflare with headlines of a Hungary gone Bolshevist, of the Red tide’ sweeping to the Rhine, it would be easy to surrender one’s self to a view of the future as one of struggle between the forces of social subversion and that dark reaction which so often in history has followed upon social upheaval. As in Russia the tyranny of Bolshevism has brought forth the counter tyranny of Kolchak, so Europe would be now facing the alternative triumph of Bolshevism or a vindictive Toryism. Under the spell of the December election in England, much has been written about the ‘death’ of the Liberal Party, and from that the transition has been fairly easy to the death of Liberalism in general, and so to the death of liberalism without the capital letter. In the clash of elemental forces let loose by the worldagony, there would seem to the pessimist to be no part or place for that liberal spirit whose purpose is social progress through coöperation as against the dictatorship of proletarian minorities and the bourbonism that never learns.

But it is impossible, after the revelation at Berne of what the great majority of the Socialists of Europe really want, and the revelation at Paris of what the enlightened sentiment of the ‘ bourgeois ’ world demands, to believe that either Bolshevist revolution or Tory reaction is more than a temporary menace to civilization. That inevitable return from anarchy to liberalism, from revolution to evolution, which Mr. Stanley so vividly pictures, has already been prepared for by the creation of a liberal bloc running across national lines. The left wing of our ‘bourgeois’ society and the right wing of Socialism in the broadest sense have broken away from old affiliations and approached each other. The one is bringing to the common cause a richer and juster view of social duty and international obligation; the other, a deeper recognition of existing national forces and national values. Their common ground is the reconstruction of a wounded world through justice based on human possibility.