'Socialism and Internationalism'

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'Socialism and Internationalism'

Post by Syme on Thu Jan 26, 2012 5:20 pm

I don't think this has been posted yet. It's still one of the best statements on the subject in my opinion.

AUGUST BEBEL, leader of the German Social-Democratic Party in the Reichstag, writes as follows :-

1st. What do we mean by patriotism?

That every nation which has its own language, its own customs, its own civilisation, and its history has the right of developing in its own way, and of governing itself. The man is a patriot who tries to obtain for the nation to which he belongs by his birth, his language, and his customs, without hurting or injuring any other nation, the highest civilisation in the interest of all. If he follows this ideal, without any idea of self-interest, and without helping the governing class, but in the interest of all, he is working for the highest ideal open to any man.

2nd. What do we mean by internationalism?

Not the suppression of nationalities, not the violent fusion of nations, but the upholding and the progress of pacific relations of civilisation among nations. Side by side with the national civilisation of a nation, there exists all international civilisation in which each nation participates in the measure of its moral and intellectual development. Our business relations, our scientific, artistic and literary activity, the exchange of inventions and discoveries are the principal characteristics of this international effort. Internationalism tends to make these relations more and more close by the entering into of commercial agreements, of maritime conventions, of treaties of alliance, by the exchange of all the resources of civilisation, by international laws for the protection of the “workers, by the development of international law, by the equalisation of rights and duties of foreigners and native-born subjects, by the progress of humanitarian effort among all nations, by the solution of differences between nations by an international court of arbitration.

This internationalism compels Socialists to fight constantly against the lust of conquest, the hostile isolation of nations, the tariff-wars, the bellicose naval and military armaments, because all this tends to increase national prejudice, and threatens constant war.

The aim of all international action should be a world-parliament, in which should sit representatives of all civilised nations, and which should regulate all international relations, making them more and more close.

Patriotism and Internationalism are not necessarily antagonistic, but supplement each other, marking towards a more and more perfect civilisation.

3rd. Therefore we see that Socialists should always work in that direction, whether in meetings, in the press, or in parliaments.

If opposition between nations cannot disappear at once, they must work to decrease it gradually.

4th. The duty of Socialists in case of war cannot he defined in one phrase. Socialists are still everywhere in a minority, both among nations and in parliaments. The foreign affairs of States are not directed by them, and their duty is to try and influence them in the direction which I have indicated above. But if, in spite of than, a war breaks out, they must examine its causes. If their own government is the aggressor, they must refuse to vote supplies, and fight against it by all possible means. If their own government is attacked, then they cannot refuse their help. For in a war it is the government which suffers least and the people which suffers most.

If the war becomes a war of conquest, as in 1870, after Sedan, Socialists must oppose all conquest.

When, in 1870, the Franco-German War broke out, Liebknecht and myself did not vote when supplies were asked for the war, because we knew that this war was a necessary consequence of the policy of Bismarck, to which we were opposed, and we were convinced that the candidature of a Hohenzollern prince to the Spanish throne was only a pretext invented by Bismarck to force Napoleon to declare a war which the German Chancellor ardently desired. On the other hand, we thought that if we voted against supplies we should appear to approve the Napoleonic policy.

But when the peace we hoped for was not agreed to after Sedan, and war went on because Alsace-Lorraine was wanted by Bismarck, then not only did we, as Socialists, oppose the continuation of the war, but in the Reichstag we unanimously voted against the credits which were asked for in order to continue the war. It was then proposed to seize some French territory which had, it is true, been formerly German, and where the majority still spoke German. But for more than a century the culture and the life of that people were French, and if the inhabitants had been consulted they would doubtless unanimously have desired to remain French. Each nation or part of a nation should he allowed to decide its own destinies. As a rule, it happens that the conquered nation remains in the conquering nation though not assimilating with them. The best example of this is the division of Poland. Though the last partition of Poland took place nearly 110 years ago, the aspirations of the Polish nations towards national independence, in the three conquering nations, are stronger than ever. An energetic nation, which has been injured in its language, in its civilisation, and therefore in its material interests, will always try to recover its national independence, because that alone guarantees the originality of its civilisation. Exceptions like that of Republican and Democratic Switzerland, where Germans, Frenchmen, and Italians live side by side at peace, simply confirms the rule. For in Switzerland no nation is dominated or oppressed by another. On the other hand, in Austria, where there is almost absolute rule, all the nationalities are fighting one against the other, because each one wishes to rule, and the reactionary government only goes on owing to this quarrel of nationalities. If this is correct, it follows that if a war leads to a nation losing part of its territory or being oppressed by another nation, Socialists should, in spite of their hatred of war, devote their strength to the defence of the fatherland, if their national existence is threatened. Let us take the following example. If Germany were to attack France, in order to acquire territory (though it is only fair to say that no one wishes to do this), not only should we refuse to vote supplies, but we should think it quite right that all our French comrades should help in thrusting back the German invader.

The normal development of the Socialist movement must be based certainly on the independence of a country. As long as a nation is oppressed, its members will not advocate the class-war, or will only do so in a modified form.

I think that I have shown what should be the policy pursued nationally and internationally by Socialists, and how they should act in time of war.

A. BEBEL.
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Re: 'Socialism and Internationalism'

Post by Celtiberian on Sat Feb 04, 2012 2:54 pm

Excellent article, thank you for sharing it.

August Bebel's position on social patriotism was actually fairly uniform among socialists in the early 20th century. It was really Rosa Luxemburg who was responsible for introducing the cosmopolitan ideas which now characterize the majority of the Western socialist and communist movements. It's unfortunate such an irrational cosmopolitan dogmatism became hegemonic on the Left, as I'm confident it is one of the leading factors which led to socialism's marginalization in contemporary politics.

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"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
—Mikhail Bakunin Red Star
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Re: 'Socialism and Internationalism'

Post by RedSun on Sat Feb 04, 2012 3:17 pm

This is an excellent article, and it's good to know that there was a period of social nationalism that we can draw inspiration from.

Of course, the other danger to avoid is socialist imperialism, as demonstrated by the USSR, when Stalin decided that 'internationalism' meant that all socialist states must do what was best for the USSR, Khrushchev that Soviet satellite states should structure their economies around whatever they were best at producing (making them economically dependent colonies), and Brezhnev that the best way to deal with independent-minded democratic socialist states was to invade them.

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Re: 'Socialism and Internationalism'

Post by Celtiberian on Sat Feb 04, 2012 3:25 pm

RedSun wrote:Of course, the other danger to avoid is socialist imperialism, as demonstrated by the USSR, when Stalin decided that 'internationalism' meant that all socialist states must do what was best for the USSR, Khrushchev that Soviet satellite states should structure their economies around whatever they were best at producing (making them economically dependent colonies), and Brezhnev that the best way to deal with independent-minded democratic socialist states was to invade them.

I couldn't agree more. Stalin's insistence upon unquestioned loyalty to Moscow, Khrushchev's international "socialist division of labor," and Brezhnev's blatant imperialism are prefect examples of the mistaken policies implemented during the Soviet epoch. We're far from being in a position where the lessons from that history would be relevant, but it's very important to keep in mind nonetheless.

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"The dogma of human equality is no part of Communism . . . the formula of Communism: 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs', would be nonsense, if abilities were equal."
—J. B. S. Haldane Hammer Sickle

"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
—Mikhail Bakunin Red Star
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Re: 'Socialism and Internationalism'

Post by RedSun on Sat Feb 04, 2012 3:53 pm

August Bebel wrote: An energetic nation, which has been injured in its language, in its civilisation, and therefore in its material interests, will always try to recover its national independence, because that alone guarantees the originality of its civilisation. Exceptions like that of Republican and Democratic Switzerland, where Germans, Frenchmen, and Italians live side by side at peace, simply confirms the rule. For in Switzerland no nation is dominated or oppressed by another. On the other hand, in Austria, where there is almost absolute rule, all the nationalities are fighting one against the other, because each one wishes to rule, and the reactionary government only goes on owing to this quarrel of nationalities.

Something we of the multiethnic Americas would do well to learn from.

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