Nationalism and civilization | A Grammar of Politics

The Nature of Nationalism and Civilization

IF the modern world could settle its organization in economic terms only, the transition to an international order would not be a matter of overwhelming difficulty. The credit system’s mechanisms have already established an interdependence sufficient to overlap all physical boundaries, and modern scientific development, especially in the means of communication, is completing what economic discovery began. For practical purposes, we have already a world market, with its corollary of a world price, for the main essential commodities, and it is possible to infer therefrom an organized system in which each area would exchange the commodities it can produce under circumstances of special advantage against those similarly made by other areas. Nationalism and Civilization are below discussed here.


That was the order visualized by the free traders of the early nineteenth century. “Free Trade,” wrote Cobden in 1842, by perfecting the intercourse and securing the dependence of countries one upon another, must inevitably snatch the power from the governments to plunge their people into wars.

That has not, in fact, be the direction of events. The nineteenth century was, above all else, the epoch of nationalist development, and the events of our own time have made it clear that the end of its influence is even remotely within View. Modern nationalism is, broadly speaking, hardly older than the first partition of Poland. It differs from all previous forms into which its ideology has been cast because it seeks the organs of a sovereign state to express itself. It has required, therefore, the obvious indicia of self-sufficiency.

It has demanded each nationality an autonomous and independent government; the Italian will not serve the Austrian, as the Bulgar will not serve the Turk. It has sought frontiers that imply strategic security. France must have the Rhine as a barrier against German invasion. It has revived and developed Colbert’s theories and has sought, using the tariff, to make each nation a complete economic unit and, having come to be, it has insisted that growth is the concomitant of life. Colonies, protectorates, spheres of influence, hinterlands of legitimate aspiration-i-all of these are the expression of that luxuriance of spirit, which implies that a nation is mature.

It is not insignificant that there is no powerful nation in modern Europe that has not won or lost a colonial dominion. In every case that has involved either temporary or lasting tutelage for the area concerned. Not seldom, also, the inhabitants of that area have themselves, like America, sought release from the swaddling clothes of colonialism, and they have emerged, or sought to emerge, into the full panoply of a national State.

The idea of nationality is not easy to define, for there is no measurable factor to be traced. America’s fervid nationalism has made it clear that race is of dubious importance, and, indeed, none of the older European nations can seriously lay claim to racial purity.

Language is a factor of unquestionable significance, yet Switzerland has been able to transcend the difficulties presented by various tongues. Nor does political allegiance explain anything. The history of the nineteenth century is largely the history of changes in allegiance affected in nationalist terms. The possession of a homeland is of high value in making a nation conscious of its separation. Yet, as the Jews bear witness, it may be rather the aspiration towards recovery than possession itself that is essential to the concept of nationhood.

Broadly speaking, in fact, the idea of nationality is, as Renan insisted in a famous essay, essentially spiritual in character. It implies the sense of a special unity which marks off those who share in it from the rest of humanity. That unit is the outcome of a common history, of victories won and traditions created by a corporate effort. There grows up a sense of kinship which binds men into oneness.

They recognize their likenesses and emphasis their difference from other men. Their social heritage becomes distinctively their own, as a man lends his own peculiar character to his house. They come to have art, literature, recognizable distinct from that of other nations. England only could have produced Shakespeare and Dickens, so we admit that there are qualities in Voltaire and Kant from which they typify France and Germany’s nationalism.

Nationalism as a quality making for this separateness is built, doubtless, upon the basis of gregariousness. The solidarity it implies must have had high survival value when wandering nomads hunted for suitable feeding grounds. The groups with a strong herd instinct triumphed in the struggle for existence.  They came to have territories they could call their own. They fought against those who would invade them. Victory intensified their homeland’s value and gave them traditions that reacted upon their descendants to enhance the value of what had been dearly purchased. War, indeed, seems to have been the chief factor in building the modern nation.

There are, of course, obscurities and to spare. We cannot fully explain how the indigenous tribes of England so mingled with the invaders from France to form the English nation or why the English invader of Ireland should have been so largely absorbed by those over whom his suzerainty was extended. What emerges, and what for us is significant, is the fact of nationality as urgently. Separatism in character is not a simple economic phenomenon, though it may be utilized for economic purposes.

The breakup of Austria-Hungary was economically an obvious waste, but each of its parts demanded autonomy as the expression of separateness. Egypt, it is probable, will be the poorer for British administrative ability’s disappearance, but Egypt prefers autonomy to profit. On the economic side, Canada would probably gain by incorporation with the United States, but she steadily prefers the maintenance of her connection with Great Britain.

The disappearance of England from India will almost certainly, if it comes Within some near period, result in anarchy for a time. Yet, there are thousands of Indians to whom the idea of an Indian created anarchy is preferable to a British created Peace Patriotism, the love of one’s nation, may stray into devious paths but, at the bottom, it seems a genuinely instinctive expression of kinship with a chosen group that is deliberately exclusive in a temper. And because it is exclusive, it seeks autonomy, even if autonomy involves economic sacrifice.

It is at the point where nationalism invokes autonomy as it’s right that civilization’s needs begin to emerge. To demand autonomy in the modern world is, in effect, to demand the whole panoply of the sovereign State. To take some vital examples, it means that, in its allotted area, the nation-State will demand complete control of all the instruments of life. It will not be answerable, save in the arbitrament of war, to others outside itself. It will claim to settle its own frontiers, its own tariffs, the privileges it will accord to such minorities as Well within its boundaries, the strangers it will admit, the beliefs it will exclude, the form of government it desires. Nor must we fail to notice how the solidarity, therefore, the nation’s exclusiveness, maybe consciously fostered.

That may be done by education. In America, very notably, the national tradition’s emphasis has welded the most diverse elements into a proudly self-conscious unity. A sense of external danger may do it. The presence of powerful and alien nations upon France and Germany’s frontiers has been powerful in making each of those peoples acutely aware of their difference from their neighbors. The press, of course, operates to a similar end. It feeds the herd instinct of each nation. It praises those who are supposed to be the national allies and belabors those who are supposed to be hostile. And that sense of exclusiveness promotes a loyalty which may often, like family affection, live its life independent of right or truth.

For example, nations may be divided upon the issue of making war, but once war has been declared, the instinct of the herd operates to banish dissent. Those who continue to emphasize disagreement are certain to be stigmatized as traitors even in the South African War. When the nation-State is not seriously threatened, hostility to the official policy will be commonly equated with incapacity for citizenship obligations.

So regarded, nationalism is comparatively a new force in history for in its aspiration to Statehood it can hardly be
dated earlier than the first partition of Poland. The suppers Sion of a national State almost synchronized with the assertion of national independence in America and national sovereignty in France. Each of those ideas proved a kind of political dynamite. At first, indeed, the French Revolution forces seemed to imply rather a European than a national movement. Still, the opposition of Europe’s reactionary forces gave birth in the French to a consciousness of special destiny, to which the strength of nationality gave peculiar emphasis.

It was victorious in Napoleon’s person, but, in its victory, the latter kindled the flames of nationalism in the defeated forces. Thenceforth a new gospel was proclaimed. As in Italy, it might move forward in the name of democracy, or, as in the subject peoples of Turkey, color its nationalism in religious garb. The result in every case was the insistence that the dominion of one nation over another was politically inexpedient and morally wrong. It became the thesis of the nineteenth century that States composed of various nationalities were monstrous hybrids for which no excuse could be offered, such as the passionate sympathy of Victorian.

England with the Italian crusade against Austria. It was implied in the democratic theory of government, for it was difficult, as Mill said, to know what any division of the human race should be free to do if not to determine which of the various collective bodies of human beings they choose to associate themselves.  In general, it is a necessary condition of free institutions that the boundaries of governments should coincide in the main with those of nationalities.

Unity and independence were the inevitable corollaries of this view. As thinkers so different as Hegel and Mazzini inferred, it could be inferred that the nation-State was the ultimate unit in human organization, accordingly, the ultimate unit in human allegiance.

I shall discuss below the moral difficulties involved in this view. But it is important first to discuss the two great counter tendencies of the period, which have united both to strengthen and dissolve the force of nationalism. The one is the form taken by modern warfare, the other the industrial order’s inherent character. In some sort, the second is the parent of the first, and it is convenient to discuss it as the main factor in the complex synthesis at which we have arrived.

That factor is the character of modern industrialism. It has created a world market, and a world market implies foreign competition. The Englishman who manufactures motor cars must compete against the American engaged in a similar effort; the Lancashire cotton mill spins against India and France, America, Germany, and Japan. No nation can now consume all that it produces. It is compelled to find markets for its surplus goods. In any given trade, it is worthwhile for a particular group of manufacturers to minimize their rivals’ competition in that trade.

Domestically, the form taken by that minimization is a protective tariff abroad; it takes colonization, concessions in undeveloped countries, favored nation clauses in commercial treaties, and the like. Freedom of international trade, in other words, becomes limited by the demands of nationalism. It is found, in the classic phrase, that trade follows the flag. The power of the nation-State may be exerted to obtain a market dominated by some special national group.

That has been our history in India and Egypt that is, largely, the history of Franco-German complications in Morocco. The trade may take the form of investment a debtor country may be forced to accept tutelage in bondholders’ interest. It may take the form of an exclusive or semi-exclusive market. As power extends, nationalism becomes transformed into imperialism. The latter is most generally an economic phenomenon. The romantic penumbra of patriotism is exploited, as in the South African War, to consolidate some special group’s interests.

The notion that the material resources of a given area are a matter in which the whole world has a concern disappears. They belong to that given area. They may be used wisely or wasted as the nation-State thinks fit. To interfere is to attack national prestige. The problem then becomes one of honor, and, unless compromise, as with the Bagdad Railway, is arranged, it is discovered that national honor problems are unjustifiable. In that event, the only arbiter is war.

These conclusions, I am urging, are irresistible so long as the nation-State’s authority is held at the disposal of commercial interests. The herd’s instincts become inevitably manipulated to serve the special needs of a few Ideals of self-sufficiency, the special protection of an infant industry, the privileged position of manufactures vital to the national safety, are all involved in the contact between political authority and commerce. America’s emigration is regulated to serve the interests of business people who need cheap labor when the working man organizes; his voting power is then satisfied by restriction upon its entrance.

English manufacturers of motor cars obtain special chitin against the foreign manufacturer. Armament arms are given battleships to build as a subsidy for the maintenance of their works. India demands special protection that she may develop industries that would not grow easily in an open market’s stern conditions. In the special conditions produced by the war of 1914, this atmosphere has been greatly intensified.

The discovery of the significance of the blockade has meant that the necessities of life involve a self-subsisting people and, in the absence of other considered nations, that involves the building of trade based on a basis calculated to maximize protection against the dangers of war.

Nor is this all. The character of modern warfare implies further difficulties for civilization. Its destructiveness is so great that the nation-State must direct its resources to safeguard itself from the dangers involved in the war. It must build its frontiers to make an attack as difficult as possible. It must, if it can, so distribute their boundaries as to have access to the commodities, especially wheat and coal and iron, the supply of which is essential to war.

It must maintain armies beyond the expenditure justified by its resources, and, to that extent, deliberately impoverish itself in the interest of its security. But each of its neighbors will do the same. There is engendered a competition in the armament of power which acts to jeopardize the maintenance of peace, to provoke an atmosphere of nervous hostility, and to induce the smaller States into alliance with powerful neighbors that they may win security by that multiplied strength, so organized, the distribution of nation-States resembles nothing so much as a powder magazine which, as in 1914, a single chance spark may suffice to provoke into a conflagration.

Nor, I would add, is their reason to suppose that the control of natural resources by the State in the interests of security would diminish the explosiveness of the atmosphere. I think it is probable that a large measure of social control over the basic raw materials will develop to prevent their exploitation. That social control may even, as with Russia, assume the form of a communist State. But so long as it remains persistently nationalist in a temper and works through exclusive sovereignty mechanisms, it will simply be more powerful for the purpose. It has in view. Russian communism was at least imperialist enough to overrun Georgia.

Socialist England would still need cotton and oil and would fight, if need be, for access to them. It maven be suggested that such socialist States would be able with the peculiar facilities to conduct their wars since no one in them could claim that they were Waged for private interests. Socialism is only international as such because capitalism is international. A World of socialist States, independent of and sovereign to each other, easily become as mutually hostile as the States of the present epoch.

Therefore, a nationalism that implies the sovereign right of self-determination is a principle of which the consequences are far different from those envisaged by men like Mazzini and Mill. It involves the politics of prestige, and these, in their turn, involve a world so ordered that relationships between nations cannot become matters to be determined by justice. It is not necessary to deny the reality, even the validity, of national feeling to realize that it is built on emotions which are, in the atmosphere of contemporary civilization, fraught with grave danger.

No one needs doubt that it is good to be an Englishman, but it is also necessary to inquire for who it is good and what end. When the nationalism of Englishmen, or any other people, produces a State which demands allegiance whatever the cause it professes, considerations are involved which go to the root of political philosophy. A nation is entitled to live. But because it cannot live to itself alone, the question of giving is not a question it is entitled to determine alone. For in the political order of which it is a part, moral purposes are realized to which national interests, even, it may be, national existence, are secondary. Patriotism in a citizen is not the blind following of his nation-State wherever it may lead, and the rights of a nation-State do not consist in safeguarding its own interests at the expense of others. That is a politics of power that denies the idea of right in the relation between States and elementary. In his indictment of Warren Hastings, Burke insisted that the denial of right abroad means, sooner or later, the atrial of right at home. Men cannot discipline themselves injustice to strangers without ultimately denying their brothers’ duty at justice.

Nationalism and Right

The problem, then, is the equation of nationalism with the right. I do not mean by  “right” some mystic concept of transcendental ethics. I mean only that the interests sought to be realized are measured in terms common to all people affected by the habit of living together. I am arguing that since my neighbor is the whole world, I must conceive my  “interest”  that it implies the interest of those with whom I have to live. The old truth that no man can live to himself set in the new terms enforced by scientific discovery. It means that however, we may recognize the separateness of those spiritual systems we call nations, there is a togetherness in their functioning, which involves building the institutions of togetherness.

Those institutions can be built only upon the basis of the joint decisions upon matters of common interest. As soon, for example, as what England does directly affects France, the area of intersecting activity must give rise to a solution jointly planned by England and France and, obviously enough, once the problem is so stated, the unit of reference cannot be confined to the two nations. Logically, the foundation of an approach to civilization’s common problems is either international, Or it is worthless.

Ultimately, effective decisions cannot be made if I implicate myself  I Cooperate in making them. That is not less true of the relationship of nation-States than it is true of individuals. I may be coerced into the performance of functions I dislike, but my service then becomes uncreative because it is unfree. So, too with nations. They can work with another; they cannot be themselves at their best if they work against each other.  The power they exert must be the power born of activity with others, not coercion over others. They must convince their neighbors that the relationship they have is one it is mutually worthwhile to maintain. Each must gain from it the sense of satisfied harmony which comes of service built upon self-respect. For an order based upon compulsion can never permanently maintain itself.

That, at least, is the lesson of Ireland and India, of Austro Hungary, and Germany distorted by the Treaty of Versailles. Orders issued and relationships established must carry with them the assent of the interests they affect. They cannot, otherwise, grow into Validity.

That means the disappearance of the sovereign nation-state. It means that no unit of civilization can claim the right to dictate to the world order in which it finds today its only meaning. No unit is any longer self-sufficient over a vast area of functions; the decisions it takes involve that world-order in their incidence. Such decisions involve what Mr. Leonard Woolf has called  “cosmopolitan lawmaking,” if they are sure of a fruitful application. This is not, of course, an easy matter. It involves

  • (a) The discovery of the functions that are universal in their incidence,
  • (b) The building of institutions suitable to the .operation of those functions,
  • (c) A method of suitable representation for the nation-States which are to share in such institutions’ government.

The implication, in a word, of modern conditions is world government. The process, naturally enough, is immensely more complicated than the government of a single State. The spiritual tradition of co-operation has still to be created; the Difficulty of language has to be Overcome the application of decisions has to be agreed upon in terms of a still largely unexplored technique.

The only source of comfort we possess is the increasing recognition that modern warfare is. Literally, a form of suicide and that as a consequence, the choice before us is between co-operation and disaster.  That was the sense which, in 1919, led the makers of the Peace of Versailles to strive for the mitigation of its inequities by the acceptance of the League of Nations.

Indeed, the latter is the facade of a structure that has not yet been called into being. But it has at least this great importance, that it constitutes an organ of reference beyond the flat of a given State. It is, in fact, either nothing or else a denial of national sovereignty in world affairs. It is upon the basis of that denial that we have to build.

The discovery of universal functions in their incidence is not a matter to be settled on a priori grounds. Scientific discovery would make such an effort out of date even before the ink in which the principles were written had grown dry. What rather it is wise to attempt is a vision of the kind of problem which has ceased to be merely national in character. Certain obvious categories immediately suggest themselves :

  • (a) Problems of communication.
  • (b) Problems of territorial limits.
  • (c) Problems of racial or national minorities.
  • (d) Problems of public health.
  • (e) Problems of industry and commerce.
  • (f) Problems of international migration.
  • (g) Problems concerning the direct prevention of war.

In each of these categories, we have already not merely a certain experience upon which to go, but also, except the control of migration, certain institutions that have already been tested by their actual operation. What mainly emerges from that experience and that Operation Above all, I suggest two things. It is, first of all, possible to administer and to legislate internationally.

That has been Shown in things like International Maritime legislation and such a complicated system as the International Postal Union. It is clear from the volume of achievement, Which already stands to the International Labor office’s credit. It is clear from the Sugar Commission’s very striking work, which arose out of the Convention of 1902. In these, and innumerable similar instances, what we have secured is the imposition of international standards upon national interests, which, often enough, sought to evade or to transcend those standards. In the second place, it is clear that from the habit of international co-operation, men of the most alien and, often enough, the antithetic experience can pool that experience to make a common solution. They can learn, in a word, to think internationally. They do not cease to be English or French or German, but they learn to adjust their nationalism to a richer perspective.

The second point of importance is the growing unification of law. We are compelled by civilization’s facts to find common rules of conduct that can be observed in Paris and Tokyo, in London and New York. We can seek the universal establishment of a forty-eight-hour week; we can see the universal abolition of the use of white lead in paint. In a word, we are driven at least to a common minimum of civilized life for all nation-States whose behavior at all seriously affects the world order.

We must realize the need to drive this process of unification much further than it has so far gone. We must use it to distribute the raw materials of industry. We must use it for the settlement of tariff barriers. We must prevent, say America making, single-handed, the decision that the Philippines are unfit for self-government; we must permit India to appeal beyond Parliament’s decision to the common will of a world unified into the League of Nations. Above all, we must prevent one nation-state from making war upon another by insisting that their disputes are referable to and must be decided by an international tribunal. We must define as an aggressor to be punished the State, which refuses to submit its disputes to the tribunal and abide by the issued award.

When we realize the implications of this unifying process, we begin to get a vision of the world at every point different from that which sees it as a system of isolated and independent communities. We reject this latter system in part because it is the root of Conflict, and in part, because its implications are out of harmony with the facts to which our institutions now need to be adjusted.

But can suitable institutions be discovered through which this unifying process can be administered? There seems no reason to doubt that they can? I shall discuss in detail later in this book what seems an institutional pattern of which at least the large outlines are reasonable. We need to know whether the characteristic organs of democratic government, a legislature, an executive with a civil service, and a judiciary, can be made flexible enough to apply to the complicated structure of world affairs. Here, certainly, there is room both for optimism and experiment.

As the International Labor Office’s work makes manifest, we have reason to suppose that a considerable body of agreement is attainable on the most difficult of problems. It is clear that blindly following the classical structure of parliamentary government is to mistake the nature of the problem altogether. At least in any practicable future, we cannot visualize the Prime Minister of a world State unfolding his policy to a popularly elected Parliament at Geneva. We have to envisage a continuous conference of governments in which mechanisms exist for effective compromise on the one hand and binding dissent on the other.

That does not mean the simple formula of majority rule. Still, it does, I think, mean the abandonment of that principle of unanimity upon which the existing structure of the League of Nations is based. Our situation calls for government, and the very notion of government involves binding a minority to the acceptance of decisions made after free and full discussion. Like the case, the major part of those decisions will be nationally, and not internationally, administered. An international authority’s civil service will be a body of registration and information rather than a body applying solutions. An international judiciary will remit its decisions to national courts through which they will be made to work rather than maintain a police force to carry them out.

The View to be taken at the international legislature by the government of any State will depend upon its power to get that view accepted beforehand in a national legislature. If it fails in its emphasis, it may lose its authority and be driven to resign, but the international authority will be binding on its successor. Washington’s distinction between influence and government is as urgent in international as it is in domestic affairs.

Nor is the problem of representation on an international authority at all straightforward. When the dogma of State sovereignty was at its apogee, it seemed logical to infer therefrom the notion of the equality of States and, consequently, to insist upon equal representation. But we know from bitter experience that equality of States does not produce workable solutions.

We cannot make, say, Yugoslavia the United States’ equal by giving it equal membership of an international body. We cannot win results that can be applied if, for example, the South American republics votes to outweigh those of the great powers. Our problem is not discovering equal electoral districts as in a democracy where personalities are, on a given plane, to be equally weighed. What rather we have to do is to assure to each State qualified for membership a voice that can speak with freedom and to States like England, America, Russia, that special authority which comes from their special incidence upon world affairs.

I suggest the solution will be found in making the legislature of the international authority accessible equally to all States while reserving permanent place: upon its executive to some only. The remainder may elect their representatives to sit with the great powers’ delegates, but they will be subject to the chances of elective fate. And it will, one imagines, be necessary to make the executive body a kind of upper chamber with a suspension veto which can only be overridden in peculiar circumstances.

Urgent as these details are, they are; still, it must be insisted, details. Once the principle of unequal representation is admitted, it does not become impossible to find a framework into which even the intricate network of modern communities may be fitted. To insist on unequal representation is ultimately to abandon the thesis of State sovereignty, and it is from its abandonment that the chance of creative experiment emerges.

Difficulties Of Internationalism

But all this, it will be said, neglects the great fact of patriotism, and the root of patriotism is expressed in the determination to preserve national independence at all costs. With those who desire to maintain the status quo, patriotism is made an instinct. The attempt, accordingly, to infuse the

social order with rational purpose is made a priori superfluous. Of course, the argument is important, but it is, at the bottom, much less formidable than it seems. For were it true in its full rigor, it would make impossible any discussion of international arrangements, and it would render absurdly illogical the whole and vast structure of international agreement that has so far emerged. Nor must it be forgotten that even men’s instincts can be made the subjects of rational control. Few now defend Calvin for his treatment of Severus, yet it is hardly two hundred years since that action would have commended itself to most average men. No, one now defends man traps and spring guns, yet less than a century has elapsed since they were defended in the House of Commons almost as part of the eternal order of nature. We do not know what we can do with human instincts until we experiment with them, and there is, as I shall show, ground for the belief that patriotism can be sublimated into forms less dangerous to social welfare.

Patriotism is built in part from man’s gregarious instinct and in part from the rational desire for self-government. The structure I have urged as essential outrages neither of these aspects. It does not propose that an Englishmen shall cease to love or cherish his fellow Englishman, live with them, and work with, even, it may be, to die for them. It does not even ask him to surrender his belief in his effortless superiority as an Englishman over other nations. It agrees that he should manage his own affairs. It would leave him the unimpaired right to decide that he prefers a monarchy to a republic, parliamentary government to the Soviet System, the private ownership of the liquor traffic rather than prohibition.

If he so desired, he could maintain the present religious compromise in education without a single Frenchman or American or Japanese have the right to criticize his solution. He might continue to refuse State recognition to the arts. He might insist on the retention of a divorce law, which Opens the floodgates of hypocrisy. Wherever the incidence of his decision palpably lay in the Sphere of internal affairs, it would leave his present position entirely unaffected.

But the right to manage his own affairs does not mean the right to manage other people’s affairs. The development of international law and convention was due to the realization that we cannot separate the two. Some of our decisions affect other people. It is well that other people should be consulted when they are being made. It did not insult English patriotism in 1832, that the middle class should be consulted in the choice of its governors.

It was not even an insult that the working class should be finally admitted to similar consultation in 1918. The perception that what touches all should be decided by all a historical principle in the English government that broke down the earlier system’s narrow confines. In a more meager way, Nor has the history of international arrangements in the last century been very different. The experiments that have been made arose from the realization that where common interests are affected, there should be common government organs.

That was the purpose, for example, of the Danube Commission. In a much vaster sphere, it has also been the purpose, even if but half achieved, of the Imperial Conference. And the solid result that has emerged from the working of these arrangements is the knowledge that granted goodwill; they can be extended into an efficient organization of the world order which makes provision for necessary unities even while it leaves room for the wise diversities of the human pattern of association. It’s a one in many, but the emphasis of that oneness is not a denial of its indestructible pluralism. Nor is this all.  It is a supreme virtue of international government that it enables a truer emphasis on the well being of the masses than is possible under the geographic limitations of the modern State system. That is implicit, for example, in the conventions of the International Labor Office, they force upon a backward State those standards of industrial behavior which are demanded by the public opinion of the World.

It brings out the true national interest against that private interest masking as public welfare through the peculiar incidence of power in a given geographical area. For instance, no one can seriously say that the protection of the Mannes man brothers in Morocco was so vitally an interest of sixty million Germans that a war With France over Morocco would have been justified.

Whether they were protected er no, would have made no difference to any but a small number of investors in the concessions they had obtained. Indeed, national interest in these cases is rarely other than the protection of a band of financial adventurers who are risking their capital under the protective armor of the national Foreign Office. Skillful propaganda symbolizes them as “England ” or “ France” or “America.” Still, the symbol is a tribute to the masses’ ignorance and not an offering upon the altar of their need.

When, that is to say, we are told that international government, by attacking national prestige, breaks down upon the rock of patriotism, we need, first of all, to know what national prestige in the given instance involves. Englishmen, in general, would hesitate to protect their prestige by war with Russia if they learned that, in fact, their prestige meant the protection of bondholders who had lent money to the Czarist despotism. Americans who are eager to rearrange the government of Mexico would have a different attitude to intervention if they knew that what is called an intolerable insult to the United States is, in fact, a refusal on the part of some Mexicans to be the subjects of an American oil company.

One can understand the emergence of a sense of prestige if, for example, all Englishmen were refused access to American courts of justice or if all Germans were refused the right, not denied to other nationals, to travel in Italy. But, in most cases today, the patriotism that is called into being, however noble and often is noble, is largely misplaced. What it protects is not the total interest of the geographical community. Still, the power of a small group within that community exploits some undertaking in which they believe undue profit is to be found. The youth of the nation pays the price, and the nation’s youth is too precious to be made the victim of so sinister a misinterpretation.

I have argued that the emphatically territorial character of the sovereign nation-State enables a small section of its members to utilize its power for their own ends, even against the interests of their fellow citizens. Against such a danger, the international government represents the most solid protection. We have, But there is another aspect of importance to which attention must be directed. The assumption of Statehood by the nation obscures the urgent fact that the State is only one, however important, of the various groups into which society is divided.

I argued earlier

(I) That the State is, in daily administration, the government and that the government may lie at the disposal of special interest, and,

(2)That to enforce upon it organized a consultation with other groups is essential if the will realized represents a just compromise between competing wills. We balance, in fact, the territorial supremacy of government by making it work through functional organs. The international government has advantages of a similar kind. It enables us to make its will responsive not merely to the political State but also group interests. If the political State stood alone, it might well receive inadequate recognition.

The advantage of this possibility has already been made apparent in the operation of the International Labor Office. The tripartite composition of national delegations government employers and workers gives flexibility to them an expression of group interests that have been notably absent from ordinary diplomatic relations. It is further reinforced by the possibility of substituting for the ordinary delegate from any group persons of special competence upon some particular problem. But the system admits furthering extension. It is possible by sub-conferences of the national delegations to express a united view at the Labor Office Assembly.

It is possible to transform the delegations into permanent commissions connected in an advisory capacity with the day’s national government. Through the International Labor Office, we could create permanent administrative commissions on special functions to which might be confided powers of the kind now possessed by such bodies as the Sugar Union.

Nor, of course, are such possibilities limited to the area covered by the International Labor Office.  In the League of Nations itself, it is clear that questions like the migration of peoples, the treatment of subject races, the repression of the traffic in noxious drugs all lend themselves to similar treatment. There is, surely, nothing to be lost, and much to be gained, by making the decisions of States based not merely upon the widest practicable induction open to them, but also an induction which is, a priori, assured of reasonable competence. All bodies which seek influence in the modern world, the co-operators, the trade unionists, the chambers of commerce, are driven to organize themselves internationally in the search to make their influence felt.

More and more, they are winning positions in which the State finds itself compelled to take account of their power. What is here urged is that to make that power direct instead of obscure is to ensure that the world order is built upon an experience compounded of all the interests seeking expression of their purpose. It allows integration of resources instead of antagonism of resources. It provides channels of connection for those interests which transcend the boundaries of a single State and are yet limited, by the technique of geographical organization, to adjustments that are wasteful and unreal. I may add that these international solutions rarely lend support to the plea that the national State’s interests are sacrificed in their making. For, in the long run, the only solutions that work are the solutions that mutually benefit the parties making them. That means, inevitably, compromise, and it means compromise beaten out by corporate discussion.

We are unlikely to obtain such corporate discussion, at least in a permanently effective way, unless we have the institutions to compel it. And we cannot balance the interests of the parties concerned unless, above the impact of their power to enforce their will, considerations of the right are given the opportunity of expression.

All this, it may be said, does not touch the ultimate question of national independence. For the international authority thus created might will, not merely territorial changes in some given State, but, possibly, the actual disappearance of the State itself. In the old order, Austria Hungary Was able to annex Bosnia and Herzegovina. The new is to prevent the League of Nations from deciding that they Shall be transferred against their Will.

Why should not a new Russia submit to membership of the League in return, for instance, to restore her authority over Finland and Latvia, Lithuania, and Esthonia? There are various ways in which it may be suggested, considerations of this kind can easily be met. Exactly as in the American Constitution, no State can be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate without its own consent, so would it be possible to prevent an attack on territorial integrity by making the State’s consent involved necessary to any proposal of change. Moreover, to suppress the will to the independence of any State is not a mere matter of bargaining in the council chamber.

It can only be done by making the State freely assent to that suppression. Just as the Treaty of Sevres involved the Treaty of Lausanne, the neglect of justified nationalism would bring its own penalty. The statesmen who make the international solutions of the next age are not less likely to realize that fact than the last generation’s statesmen. The logic of experience drives them to depend more and more upon the assent of the communities for which they legislate.

They have to find organs through which that assent may be made articulate or find their solutions wrecked by facts they were unwilling to consider. The history of Italy and Austria, of Alsace Lorraine of the Balkan Peninsula, is the kind of evidence that makes it likely that an international authority will be more careful to find genuinely corporate solutions than was possible when the issue was left to the arbitrament of force.

And, at least, the alternative is clear. Either national States must learn to cooperate instead of competing, or, it is likely, the small national State will cease to possess effective independence. Even the brief but feverish interval since the Peace of Versailles has shown that the new States of Europe are driven to become the satellites of the greater Powers in their hurried search for avenues of survival.

They are driven to barter what truly constitutes their freedom for military protection. Their armaments, their alliances, even the internal substance of their economic life, become not the expression of their own needs but of the will of their superior neighbor. If this premise proceeds unchecked, we shall see the world peopled, perhaps, by some half dozen great empires each of which, in seeking its safety, will destroy the whole fabric of civilization.

We cannot permit that process to go on if we have any regard for our heritage’s riches. And we can only prevent its development by the surrender of the fiction that, in society’s life, there is no word beyond the will of the individual State; we have to find middle terms between complete dependence and complete independence. Inquiry shows clearly that the invention is a possible one.

Canada and South Africa have both found a full national life possible without pursuing the mirage of State sovereignty. Their citizens can assume a stature not less tall; a posture is not less dignified than Poland or Roumania. Their ambitions can be as fully satisfied in any sense in which the modern world’s organization makes national ambition justifiable. Nor must we fail to realize the urgency of the issue. The day of the Laodicean passed when scientific discovery made possible the steel ship and the airplane. There are no longer lotus fields where men may linger careless of the life about them. The world is one and indivisible in a sense so compelling that the only question before us is the method by which We represent its unity.

Two other remarks may perhaps be made. The nation-State will act towards other nation-States as it acts towards its own citizens. The external policy is always, in the end, a reflection of and an adjustment to, internal policy where there is slavery within a State, the wars of that State are wars for the enslavement of its rivals. Where there is bitter class conflict, the dominant class is always seeking to limit and hinder the trade of dominant classes abroad.

In the play of world forces, we seem to become to others that which we have been content to be to each other. The Ulster, which was blind to the fact that behind the insurgency of nineteenth-century Ireland, lay an urgent protest of the Irish soul, adopted when the remedy of that condition was attempted, exactly that contempt for the law of which it had earlier complained. Unless we can find the institutions that make possible the abrogation of conflict in the State’s domestic life, we shall not find them in the sphere of international affairs.

For hate is of all qualities the most cancer like to its possessor. It leads us to develop in ourselves the character we condemn in others. Burke’s great warning that freedom suppressed by Englishmen in India would lead them, sooner or later, to destroy English freedom, is a particular of which the universal lies at the heart of our social life. That is why the realization of what is implied in a democracy is the necessary prelude to achieving an ordered civilization.

Of course, we cannot achieve it separately, State by State, for each State has become so entangled in the world outside itself that the two are aspects of a unified relationship. But it is clear that whatever makes for the betterment of relations between citizens of the same State also develops the prospect of friendship between citizens of different communities. Ultimately, that is, the purity of that corporate soul we call a nation is only maintained when the spiritual forces are the masters of its life. It is only debased when it lends itself to other forms of power, and debasement is always easier than elevation.

It may be said that the big battalions triumph and that a nation that neglects physical force is like a man who throws away his sword in a battle. After all, this is to beg the prior question of whether a battle was essential and whether other means of arbitrament could not have been found. In the modern world, Might needs to be clothed with right if it is to be sure that .it will achieve permanence.

Europe’s spiritual life belongs not to Caesar and Napoleon, but Christ; Buddha has more influenced the East’s civilization than Ghengis Khan or Akbar. It is that truth we have to learn if we are to survive. We overcome hate by love, and evil by good baseness begets only a progeny like to itself. We must set our own houses in order if we are to realize the vaster dream.

Secondly, nor are we called upon to believe that the prevention of conflict by international government deprives life of its color or its romance. The glamour of war is as unreal as the bought affection of the prostitute; it exists only in the inexperience of those who have not known its deadly furies. For the few to whom there comes the occasion of the chivalrous exploit, there are the millions to whom it means death and disease and maimed lives. Its agonies do not touch, in any realistic way, those who direct its operations. For the actual combatants, it is the organized and deliberate destruction that makes humanity a precious and lovely thing.

Nor does the civilian population escape its impact. By starvation, by poison gas, by airplane steals on some like a thief in the night others are made moral lepers by either the avoidance of duty or the clutching at an illegitimate gain. We must not, either, forget its mental legacies, fear and hate, envy, and revenge. For that which, above all, has destroyed our belief in the tradition that war strengthens men’s souls is the knowledge that in its modern form, it transforms peace into its Own grim image.

Conclusion

That is not the least reason why no man can give an unexpected allegiance to the nation-State. The true loyalty he owes is to the ideals. He can build from his experience. The true battle in which he is a soldier in the battle to make those ideals ample and generous and compelling. At that point, there comes into View the true romance of modern civilization, the most genuinely co-operative effort in which we can lose consciousness of self.

It is the conquest of knowledge that is the real source of Our hopes, conquest, and extension to the common man. The real root of the conflict is ignorance. It is the ill-informed mind and the narrow mind which are the servants of national hate. It is they who are exploited by the evil forces of an age. What is wanted, we are to break down the barriers between knowledge and ignorance is education. We can only surmount our problems by enlisting every citizen’s service in that task, and we can only make men citizens by training their minds to grasp the world about them. When the masses can understand, they will have the courage to act upon their understanding. For intellect, as Carlyle said, is like light from the chaos. It makes the world.

1 thought on “Nationalism and civilization | A Grammar of Politics”

Leave a Comment