Chapter XV

The Bloody Futility of Frustrating the Strong

A necessary part of the new revolution is a recasting of most of the world into four or five power zones to be dominated by as many of the greatest of the great powers. One of these, naturally, is the United States, commanding the Western Hemisphere; another is Japan, commanding how much of the Orient one cannot accurately foretell; another is Russia, commanding within her present borders nearly a sixth of the world’s territory; a fourth is Germany, destined either to control a large part of Europe or to be destroyed in the attempt; and a fifth is Britain, dominating how much of her present empire in the near future no one can foresee. Possibly, Italy and France with their populations of around forty million each, or less than half the populations of the five great powers just named, may be able to dominate permanently considerable empires. Whatever the final distribution resulting from the present war may turn out to be, it is fairly certain that it will be drastically changed.

The internationalists say that America must join the Allies in an attempt to prevent redistribution by force. Before following this counsel, Americans should reflect that territorial redistribution and world unification have always in the past conformed to the new patterns of force factors. The status quo is always doomed, in some places sooner than others. Those who link their survival with the maintenance of the status quo everywhere doom themselves to an early destruction, or to destruction as soon as the status quo is changed anywhere. For the first time in her long history Britain has made her survival conditional on the maintenance of the status quo all over Europe and Asia, a fatal error of impotent senility. Americans should reflect that the current processes of change of the territorial status quo by violence are taking place wholly outside this hemisphere and hold no imminent menace for us.

A great deal of futile verbiage has been wasted on the question whether the dissatisfied nations are justified in their resentment against the status quo and in their efforts to change it. There is little point to holding court on the grievances, real or fancied, of the dynamic Have-nots, since the verdict would be determined more by the interests and bias of the jury than by the evidence or any relevant rules of law or justice. Indeed, there are no rules of law or justice relevant to the adjudication of the claims of the Have-nots. Publicists with a bent for statistics and economics like Sir Norman Angell make merry showing to their own entire satisfaction the hollowness of the complaint of the dissatisfied nations that they lack access to food and raw materials. It is pointed out how raw material and food prices have fallen since 1929 and how the Haves have been more eager to sell than customers have been to buy. The obvious insincerity of this argument inheres in its failure to recognize that, to buy from the Haves, the Have-nots must be able to sell to the Haves, which they are seriously limited in doing by reason of the high protectionist policies of the Haves. The liberals are impotent in liberalizing the trade policies of the Haves towards the Have-nots in time of peace, but terribly effective in inflaming the Haves against the Have-nots in time of war.

It is not any normative view of the claims of the Have-nots or counterclaims of the Haves which will determine redistribution in the future. It will be rather the play of the force factors. Here we must consider mainly the point of view of the other fellow and his war potential. All races are not equal. No peoples are more given to acting on this generalization than are the Americans and the British. If there are superior races, it is obvious that the Germans and the Japanese belong in that class. Yet it is a first principle of British policy that the Germans shall be kept down and of American policy that the Japanese shall be denied not only equal rights with whites in this country but also equal rights with the British to expand in the Far East. The United States stands for the closed door to the Japanese in America and the open door to the Americans in China. This Anglo-American policy of frustrating the Germans and the Japanese may be most persuasively rationalized as the defense of the rights of small nations. For this rationalization the support of a specious doctrine of equality of all nations may be invoked.

Actually, if Europe and Asia were divided up into myriad small states all guaranteed equality one with the other and all dominated by the money power of London and New York, there would be great joy and rejoicing in capitalist and idealist circles in the democracies, but there would be felt widely throughout the world the heavy hand of economic exploitation and the sting of gross personal and class inequalities. A legal system in which the Albanians would be in every way equal to the Germans and the Rumanians to the Russians could be nothing but a hollow sham. A system of world finance and trade, idealized by our internationalists, free traders and bankers, and exploited by London and New York constitutes a very real instrument of exploitation and oppression of human beings. It is precisely for that reason the system is being wrecked the world over by current measures of socialism and economic nationalism. Such a system may be rationalized and defended as a noble ideal. Be that as it may, some four hundred million Germans, Russians, Japanese and Italians are determined not to submit to it. If they did not have such a determination, they would be lacking in intelligence and courage. And that they probably are not.

In terms of realism the major population factors in every power equation are numbers and quality. In both respects the Germans yield to no other people in western Europe. In quantity they are second only to the Russians in all Europe. In 1939 the total number of German births in Germany was over one million six hundred thousand or three hundred thousand more than total births in Great Britain and France. In numbers, the Germans, the Russians and the Japanese, respectively, each exceed the white inhabitants of the British Empire. In the qualities that determine industrial and military superiority the Germans and the Japanese are fully the equals of the British or any other people. The issue of redistribution of territory and resources is one which has ultimately to be determined by power, quantity and quality of people being the two most important coefficients of power. To attempt to resolve problems of distribution in terms of ethics which contradict the dictates of power is futile since power always changes ethics.

The essential difficulty with Anglo-American ethics of distribution is that they assume that certain races like the Germans and Japanese can be treated as we Americans treat the negroes or as the British treat the darker races under their rule. It is as easy to rationalize an Anglo-French regime for Germany as it is to rationalize our regime for our negroes. The only trouble is that the Germans are not negroes. Germans who try to be liberals are as naive as Mississippi negroes who try to vote in democratic elections. Germans can no more enjoy equality of opportunity in a liberal, capitalistic Anglo-Saxon world order than negroes can enjoy equality in white America. The negroes cannot do much about discrimination by Anglo-Saxon democracy but the Germans can. The present war is another British bid to Americans to come over to Europe to help the British and the French to put and keep the Germans in their place, which is the doghouse.

No matter how many times we enable the British and French to defeat the Germans we shall never succeed in rendering the Germans amenable to the status of a conquered, punished and inferior people. The Germans just are not an inferior or second-class people and will not be so treated.

The moral case of the Allies is morally strongest and most hypocritical when it pleads for equality for the small nations. A Europe unified by a few great powers will naturally for a long time be rife with the frustrations of small nationalities. But whoever writes the ticket and however it is written, there will be injustice, dissatisfaction and grievances. Of that we may be sure. It so happens, however, that it is good form in America to be indignant over the frustrations of European minorities and to ignore or deny the frustrations of the American unemployed or farm minorities. We cannot tolerate in Europe oppression of minorities but we have never been without it in America from the day the first African slave was landed and the first Indian aborigine was murdered for his land by the white man. And with our ten million jobless Americans we have one of the largest oppressed minorities in Christendom.

If exclusively European force factors are allowed to determine the European distribution pattern, or who gets what, when and how, it seems likely that the distribution pattern will last longer and be accepted with easier accommodations than any possible distribution pattern imposed by a preponderance of non-European force. To allow the rule of the stronger is a more humane course than to attempt to impose the rule of the weaker or to frustrate the stronger. Two reasons based on long experience seem sufficient to support this generalization: The first is that any prolonged attempt to keep the stronger down and the weaker on top is certain to be incalculably costly in human lives and resources expended in battle as well as ultimately to fail. The second reason is that the rule of the stronger is normally calculated to yield a more efficient organization of society and utilization of resources than the rule of the weaker. The most serious objection on social or humane grounds to the Balkanization of Europe is that, to whatever extent it is effected and perpetuated, it renders impossible an efficient economic organization of Europe and utilization of its resources for the maximum social dividend. The very same objection would hold against any division of the United States into a score of sovereign small states.

If after granting full national status to every small national or sub-racial group in Europe demanding it, the victors of a new holy war could insure complete equality of opportunity for all persons, free trade, free migration and maximum utilization of resources for the good of all Europe, the moral case of the Allies for a new European order would be much stronger than it is in the light of past experience. But the Allies have already demonstrated their utter incompetence to do anything of the sort. They cannot even work out decent solutions for their own depression problems. Yet they ask us to help them save and remake the world by slaying Germans.

The new revolution must everywhere meet the imperatives of modern industrialism and the machine age. This capitalism everywhere has failed to do. These new imperatives call for larger integration as well as better distribution, for large political units exactly as they demand large productive units in industry. In the simple economy of the pre-factory days of the eighteenth century, President Wilson’s ideals of self-determination for racial and cultural minorities were not impractical or inhumane. Applied in modern Europe, those principles cannot fail to work out badly for human welfare or to result in complete breakdown. In the eighteenth century and earlier, a village was usually an economically self-sufficient unit. Economic decentralization then made practical political decentralization. Since the end of the eighteenth century the trend has been towards economic centralization and integration, which has necessarily meant an equal trend towards political centralization and integration. None have carried forward these processes more rapidly or aggressively than the United States and Great Britain. We have gone further in industrial concentration than any other country. Yet it is now proposed that we join forces with the British in an armed crusade in Europe to impose upon that continent a reversal of the trend towards centralization of the past century and a half, at least, and now in flood tide.

Aside from the bloodshed involved in an attempt again to impose a new allied dictate on the strongest military power in Europe, there is to consider the implications for welfare through productive efficiency of any attempt to shackle the only advanced large-scale industrial nation in Europe. The harshness of the rule of the strong over the newly subjugated may be, usually is, mitigated with time. The economic losses resulting from the substitution of a lower industrial culture for a higher one may be both incalculable and irretrievable.

The new revolution everywhere stands for redistribution and reorganization in line with the technological imperatives of the machine age. The cause of the Allies is that of counter-revolution. It upholds the status quo and opposes redistribution according to the indications of need, capacity for efficient utilization of resources and social convenience. It seeks to reverse in Europe the dominant trends, technological and political, of the past century and, more particularly, of the past two or three decades. The democracies have displayed their inability to utilize their resources in a way to end unemployment. But they now propose a crusade in the name of moral absolutes to prevent world-wide redistribution of raw materials and economic opportunities. The real issue before America may be stated as being one of achieving redistribution at home or fighting it abroad. The plutocracy that opposes redistribution at home is all for fighting it abroad. And the underprivileged masses who need redistribution in America are dumb enough to die fighting to prevent it abroad. The probabilities are that we shall have to come to the solution of the domestic problem of distribution through a futile crusade to prevent redistribution abroad. If it so happens, it will prove the final nail in the coffin of democracy in this country. And it should call for a terrible postwar vengeance on those responsible for this great tragedy of the American people.

The world wide and intra- as well as inter-national conflict over distribution is made out by the propaganda of the Haves to be a fight for western civilization. The argument equates this unimpeachable abstraction with the maintenance of the status quo or the concrete interests of the Haves. What is this thing called western civilization which we are told we must fight the Have-nots to preserve? Obviously, the phrase is broad enough to cover any and every current reality known to human experience. But those who use it in the general call to a holy war against the Have-nots mean by it, for purposes of argument, all, and only, the good things in the present social order. Aside from the absurdity of using a phrase like western civilization merely to denote everything one likes in the present social order, the argument has the following weakness: It disregards the fact that a civilization takes its character from its dynamic qualities, whatever these may be, and that, in the case of what is now being called western civilization, these are its vices, namely private greed and public wars of successful aggrandizement, rather than its virtues, the existence of which no reasonable person would deny.

To define a culture solely in terms of its parasitic virtues and to refuse to discuss it in terms of its dynamic vices, is to make rational discourse about it impossible. The endearing young charms of western civilization of the nineteenth century such as liberty, tolerance, education and rising living standards were all parasitic growths on the flourishing trees of greed and war. Parasitic growths can be extremely beautiful, as, for examples, orchids, Renaissance art or nineteenth century capitalistic liberties, opportunities, living standards or tolerance. But the parasitic is never dynamic. John D. Rockefeller and Cecil Rhodes, in their old age, became famous philanthropists. It was, however, as money-makers, not philanthropists, that they took their characters for dynamic and historical purposes. What is more, had they not been money-makers in their predatory youth, they could not possibly have been philanthropists in their benign senility.

It would be arrant nonsense to say “Let us have more philanthropists like the Rockefellers and the Rhodes, but let us have no more fortunes made as theirs were made.” Most liberal reformers today want to preserve the beautiful orchids of a capitalist culture, which they call western civilization, while, at the same time, cutting down the ugly trees of greed and war on which these fair flowers have parasitically bloomed. The present war, civil and international, the world over, of the Haves versus the Have-nots is not really being fought over whether there shall be any more orchids. It is a war to see who gets the orchids and, also, over what kind of a tree the orchids shall be grown on.

Wars are fought between peoples, not isms or abstract ideas. Isms and ideas help to make people fight. The Haves are not fighting for an ism; they are fighting for their possessions, which happen, also, to be exactly what the Have-nots are fighting for. If the Haves will not share their wealth voluntarily, it will be taken from them violently. But it cannot fairly be said that the Nazis, the Fascists or the Russian Communists are devotees of a cult of destruction. Of late, they have been maintaining full employment through the creation of new capital goods while the Democracies have been maintaining large-scale unemployment by a reason of an inadequacy of new capital investment.

It is not the beauties but the inequalities of western civilization which are now in dispute. In so far as western civilization means this particular pattern of inequality, it is doomed. The reasons are matters of might rather than right. Present inequalities in distribution dissatisfy individuals and nations too numerous and too powerful to allow of the perpetuation of this pattern of distribution. A new pattern of inequality will, therefore, emerge from the current revolt of the Have-nots and the world-wide triumph of national socialism. But, for some time to come, it will correspond better than the present pattern of distribution to the actual and new force pattern, all of which amounts to saying that it will constitute social justice.

So far as civilization is concerned, the following observations seem in order: First, there is more to civilization than a given pattern of distribution. Hence most civilized values of the present can survive drastic changes in distribution. Civilization in polite terms, of course, is always a monopoly of the ins, the outs always being, by definition, barbarians. But it is always possible for the outs to get in and for the ins to he kicked out. Second, changing the elite does not mean ending a civilization, though it may mean changing it. The preservation of anything against change is impossible. Change is inevitable, but no given pattern of change is inevitable, however much the theorists of liberal capitalism may have believed the contrary. Third, civilization, itself, is nothing so much as a pattern of change. The current revolution, so far as civilization is concerned, is essentially a matter of changing the pattern of change. The people at the top will henceforth get there by different means or techniques from those used by the successful in a middle class civilization. This is not a revolt against civilization or against reason, as is so commonly alleged. It is a revolt against reasons for, and means of, keeping the present ins in and the present outs out.