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Emancipation by Nationalism

by T. B. Wakeman


The usually very liberal and skeptical Reverend Minot J. Savage has become astonishingly, and it may be prematurely, certain on one subject. In The Arena for August (p. 321) he declares that, “Nationalism, freely chosen, would be the murder of liberty, and social suicide.” To which the usually impartial editor cries Amen, thus:—

“I most heartily and cordially endorse Mr. Savage’s position.” For this sudden and decisive foreclosure of the future and of The Arena upon Nationalism the world was not prepared. We enter a protest and an appeal! Able “Gladiators are ready to fight for it,” with aid and sympathy from the leading reformers—the world over. The contest has hardly begun. A Bunker Hill or a Bull Run does not end the war.

He who opened an Arena must keep it open, and like “the God of battles” wait for the best cause to win.

Suppose it be found, as we propose to begin to show here and now, that Nationalism, under the laws of Sociology, is not the murder, but in fact and theory, the only condition of liberty, and the only way out from social suicide,—what then? Would it not have been better for The Arena to have been kept open, as if by the aforesaid Deity, with a level head and a stiff and silent upper lip?

For the Reverend and exultant Mr. Savage his exasperating situation is his excuse. For, with the inbred and lethal instinct of a Theolog he was put upon the trail of a brother Theolog to bring in his scalp. To return without some scalp would be a disgrace. But on coming up with his reverend brother Bellamy, instead of finding him ready for fight or “treed, like Capt. Scott’s coon,” he finds him already down and explaining in the blandest style: That, whereas, “this difficulty” was a secular one, not at all theological, but quite within the bounds of “the Knowable,” there was really no necessity for one brother to scalp the other, although both were clergymen. He even proposed ways by which the manifest benefit of both, and of all, could be secured if they should hunt together, being sure to go no further than such benefit justified. But an accommodation was just what the Reverend Savage was not out to find. Shaking his war feathers, he says, “You are too fair,—I must kill you, or something, though it may be ‘cruelty to animals.’ Stop,—I sniff ‘paternalism’! It must be you or yours!” And without waiting for an answer he bangs away at that old skunk which hasn’t a friend on this side of the world. Then, inflamed by smell of powder, blood, or something worse, he goes it wild, mistakes even the good social domestic animals for wild beasts, and his reverend friend as their protector. His slaughter of these purely imaginary enemies is accompanied by a self-approving wit, which only exhales when, as Mephisto says, the Parson and Comedian are happily combined, and inspire each other. But, alas! neither prayers nor laughter can settle the industrial and political difficulties of our day. They may do, and are doing, much to prevent such settlement, which must come from people who do not live in another world, and therefore are not free to ignore or to make a joke of this. There is hope, therefore, when our reverend friend “ties his legs,” and in his said article settles down to steady numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4. For by them, we can at least get hold of him, and all points in his prior antics can be thereunder disposed of.

He delivers his first fire, thus:—

“1. The world began in Socialism. In the barbaric period the tribe was all, the individual nothing. Every step of human progress has kept pace with the rise of the individual.”

Most true! But that is half of the truth. If you had told the other half your article could not have been written, for it would have been answered beforehand from a to z. The other half is: That the rise of the individual has always been because of, and the result of, the concomitant and ever-increasing Socialism. The two have ever gone, and must ever go, hand in hand. Integration is the inevitable counterpart of individuation.

This is the fundamental law of history and Sociology, recognized the world over, as much as the law of gravitation. To blink it, is to go wild or blind. This is the law of progress upon which all human affairs expand, and there is scarcely a difference in wording it. For instance, in the last book out on “Economics,”—that of Prof. George Gunton, he says (p. 22): “Progress is an integrating differentiation. Only that differentiation is progressive which results in new integrations and greater complexity of social relations.” Comte’s, and Fiske’s, and Herbert Spencer’s statements of the same law are the same in substance, but too well known to quote here. So Professor Huxley in his “Administrative Nihilism,” Henry George in “Social Problems,” and indeed pretty much everybody who touches the subject, except Mr. Savage. He, however, has the grace to admit that “The world began in Socialism,”—and, by the law referred to, it will continue in an ever-enlarging, integrating Socialism, till the rise of “the complete individual” will result. Yes, man’s origin was social; from the “Social Anthropoids,”—says Professor Huxley; and to omit the continuance of this social fact and law in sociology is worse than talking pre-Copernican astronomy. That should be left to our metaphysical anarchists, who chatter as if man was a solitarily created “Adam,” defying the social “compact” of Rousseau, or dickering as to the terms upon which he will “come in.”

From Henry C. Carey’s noble work, “Social Science,” Americans should have heard, if not read, enough of this law of enlarging integration never to forget it, or to let those address them who have. He illustrates it not only by human history, but by the fundamental law of biology from Oken, Goethe, and the evolutionists generally. This application has been continued by them to the present day; the last instance I noticed is that of Prof. Ernst Hæckel, translated in Dr. Paul Carus’ late work, “The Soul of Man.” This law measures the progress of organisms from the homogeneous jelly-fish to the complex elephant or man; from the savage tribe to the Roman Empire, or the future “Federation of Mankind and Parliament of the World.” Integration is the mother, nurse, and protector of the individual.

In history and politics this law stands, however expressed or applied, as the door which opens to the mental vision, the river of human evolution and progress,—a sight grander far than Niagara. Those who see not this fact, law, vision!—are socially blind.

In industrial and economic evolution the same law of progress holds. The tribal homogeneous industry, when one man did work at everything, became heterogeneous, special, and complex, as society enlarged and advanced into higher integrations, and as the life of the individual became more and more advanced through Fetichism, Polytheism, Monotheism, to our modern inception of Humanism.

Do you stop this lecture to say that all this is a truism—a “chestnut”?

Yes, but everybody who talks against Nationalism forgets it. So follow a step farther.

“People will buy where they can buy the cheapest.” But the cheapest can only result from the highest integration of capital, machinery, labor, intellect, and means of wholesale production. Thus industrial integration and progressive civilization, where the people can have the means of a higher life, are indispensable parts and complements of each other. But the result and the difficulty is, that while the people get their travel, oil, sugar, and necessities of life cheaper and better than ever, they become the dependents, wage-slaves, and political and social underlings of the industrial Feudal System which that integration of transporting and producing monopolies builds up. For, those who can and do combine to control the conditions of the people’s life and welfare have the people and their Republic in their power. Under the integration of the Roman Empire and Papacy the “Republic” was continued, but as a name only.

The lesson of history is, that Republics and Liberty always go down when the necessary integrations of civilization and progress, military or other, pass from the control of the people. In a word monopoly in war, politics, industry, or in any form of integration, has been the murder of Liberty, ending in social suicide. Nationalism proposes to prevent this murder and suicide under the law above stated, thus: Whenever the necessary transportation and production are integrated into monopolies beyond the power of competition to control them, then the people must control and operate them, or become the dependents of those who do. Such is the difficulty, the danger, and the remedy, concisely stated. Critics like Mr. Savage can only reply: “The difficulty does not exist; the remedy is worse than the disease; there is a better remedy.” But Mr. Savage admits the difficulty. In an evasive way he says, “the industrial condition of the world is not all that one could wish.” But he has no remedy, and concludes by saying the remedy proposed would kill the patient sooner than the disease. This is the diagnosis of an ostrich who tries to escape by burying his head in the sand. It simply abandons the patient and there is no solution, no health in that. Let our lecture proceed and see if there is not a scientific remedy.

“Capital is the condition of production and the controlling factor of modern civilization.” Those who control it are the masters of the world. The contest of the monopolists of this capital with the workers and producers, that is, the people, is a burning fever which can only end by the healthy triumph of the people. There is not a railroad, mine, or factory, where this is not the daily issue upon which an internecine war is being waged or smothered. In literature, religion, politics, economics, ethics, everything turns upon the relations of these contending parties, from the Pope’s Encyclical to the Platform of the People’s Party. When we speak of our age, as the age of iron, silver, gold, or of steam, electricity, intellect!—we simply say it is the age of integrated capital, material and mental. To destroy this capital is impossible, and if possible would be the suicide of civilization.

The question then urges upon us in every direction: Shall the people become the slaves of this capital, or its masters? The watchman on the towers of our Boston Zion who fails to see the gathering storm clouds seems strangely out of place, when we recall 1775 and 1861. Nationalism says, the “Conflict is irrepressible,” between labor and individualized capital; and that the conflict will be fatal to liberty, unless a remedy is found under the law of our national evolution. This remedy that law gives as follows: That the people must defend their liberties and “the rise of the individual,” against this industrial despotism of money kings, railroad barons, political bosses, etc., better than they defended themselves against the foreign tyrants in 1775, or the slaveocrats of 1861,—to-wit, by organizing an army for their peaceful protection and safety—A free Army of Industry—before an army for war shall be needed, and as its preventive.

But this name, “Army of Industry,” fills our peaceful Mr. Savage with horror—a remedy worse than the disease? For thus he lets off his second charge:—

“2. Military Socialism, such as Mr. Edward Bellamy advocates, would be only another name for universal despotism, in which the individual, if not an officer, would only count one in the ranks. It would be the paradise of officialism on the one hand, and helpless subordination on the other.”

Mr. Savage has been taking novels and poetry literally, and has gone into a fright at a ghost raised by his own excited imagination; or else, he makes an objection out of a figure of speech because hard up for a real one. Who does not see that an “industrial army” has nothing to do with a military army, or a military despotism, except to prevent both. There is no war, military compulsion, or “military” at all, in the army of peace. The word “army” is short poetry for the order, economy, punctuality, and reliable co-operation and co, not sub-ordination of the public administration of industries. Remember that we are in America, where this administration will be quite different from that proposed in Europe where the Revolution of 1776 was not, and where “government” is one of divine right, authority, and force, and covers the all of life from the cradle to the grave.

Nationalism is purely an American product, to be exercised as a popular benefit, and having no mainspring or motive power but that. It is the co-operation and co-ordination of equal partners, and while by a figure of speech fraternalism might be used to describe it, paternalism can never be properly so used. When Mr. Savage says, or implies otherwise, he is simply imposing upon, or trading upon an ignorance he ought to correct. He must know that the attempt to load up American Nationalism with European despotism, Paternalism, or even Socialism, is to bear false witness against his neighbor.

Before writing on this subject, he must have become acquainted with the late writings of Prof. Richard T. Ely, and The New Nation of Edward Bellamy, whose standing motto is: “The industrial system of a nation, as well as its political system, ought to be a government of the people, by the people, for the people.” And further it says (Aug. 1, p. 426): “This step necessarily implies that under the proposed national industrial system, the nation should be no respecter of persons in its industrial relations with its members, but that the law should be, as already it is in its political, judicial, and military organization,—from all equally; to all equally.” Equality, Fraternity, Liberty, are the words.

Pages with similar import can be cited from every exponent of Nationalism. It all means that our “government” will not be of force or of authoritarianism, but simply public conveniences and needs regularly secured, without being farmed out by franchise laws to monopolistic corporations for their benefit.

Notice further, that the extension of this government—action of the people is not to do nor to extend to everything nor to anything, but to the material needs and industries of the people, beginning with those natural monopolies like railroads and telegraphs, ending with trusts, etc., which have passed beyond competition. This simple limit makes the cry of “universal despotism” absurd. The tyranny and robbery of the few is simply abolished by the people, in equitably resuming the franchise granted by them, and doing the work for all cheaper and better. There is no tyranny to the few in this; and as to the many or all,—the tyranny of having things you want done for you is laughable. Our anarchists invariably submit to the tyranny of our free nationalized Brooklyn Bridge instead of swimming the river, or using the ferry company, as they are at full liberty to do. We had a hard fight to get this bridge, for it displaced monopolies. When the other monopolies, we have referred to, are displaced by the people, there will be the same wonder that their tyrannies and exactions were ever submitted to. We have found, and will find, that that government is the best which serves and administers the most, for it will cost and restrain the least. The government that serves and protects the people will not need to compel them. Now its main business is to hold them down while they are being robbed.

But, says Mr. Savage, these advantages would be attended by a frightful “paradise of officialism”—a helpless subordination—in which “the individual if not an officer would only count one!” We cannot appreciate the horror of having more of “a paradise” about officialism than we have in our present corrupt, inconstant, and servile system of political Bossism, even if the individual could only “count one.” But Mr. Savage does know, or ought to know, that the very first step of Nationalism is to nationalize our “politics,” so as to restore the initiative of political action to the people, and render the abuses to which he refers impossible. He seems to suppose that Nationalism is to be executed by Tammany Hall! Indeed, his capital as an opponent of Nationalism consists in loading it up with European paternalism and American political corruption, both of which it was invented to render impossible. Suppose the “politics” of New York were nationalized so that the City should no longer be a mere annex of Tammany Hall, but so that every citizen might “count one,” under legal provisions for the vote and expression of the people without regard to party or boss—who would be wronged? Politics must be annexed to our government by such legal provisions, instead of being left to boss monopoly or mobocracy. There is no freedom possible without a common law and order to ensure and protect it. The trouble is now that all of our politics are outside of any law or order. “Count one!” Even that is now impossible. We don’t count at all, no more than if we lived in Russia. But how many does Mr. Savage want an individual to count? His idea of political freedom seems to be that of our old “free” Fire Department, which was a monopoly entirely “voluntary.” It gave us a fire and free fight nearly every night, developed its “Big Six” Tweed into a “statesman,” and consolidated Tammany Hall into the model political “combine” of the world—as a monopoly. The custom is to dispose of the offices of the people as profitably as it can with safety, and to divide the proceeds for the benefit of the combine. One of our purest and best judges publishes his last contribution as $10,000, besides his other election expenses. This is the model to which the State and Nation must conform, for such is the condition of success. Under that plan Governor Hill manages the State of New York, and President Harrison, through “Boss” Platt, has just removed Collector Erhardt from the New York custom house, under the imperative necessity of the same method.

As long as our Government is run by partisan politics, outside of law, there is no other alternative but this way or defeat. The pretence, under this method, of civil service reform or fair tenure is sheer hypocrisy. The Tammany method is the only condition of success, and every practical politician knows it and adopts it. Nationalism proposes the only remedy. It would remove every department from political control, and restore the political initiative to the people by requiring their common action under general laws for that purpose, and suppressing as criminal the Boss conspiracy system, which causes the counting of less than one by anyone. Do you say it cannot be done? Well! look at that Fire Department. The indignation of “the State” finally replaced it by a paid civil service, “nationalized” department. Since then our fire affairs have run cheaply, effectively, smoothly, though in a most trying environment. Fires seldom occur, and seldom extend beyond the building in which they occur. The old abuses, political and other, have stopped. The men, appointed and promoted for merit, are highly respected and secured against causeless removal, accident, sickness, and old age. “Helpless subordination” ended by an appeal to the law which gave prompt redress. The heads of the departments and the officers count one and the attempt to count more would be an assumption not submitted to for a moment, for no one needs to submit. Extend this method mutatis mutandis over our Cities, States, and Nation, and also over legalized political election departments for the whole people,—and the nail will be hit on the head! The last nail in the coffin of party monopoly and corruption.

To excuse himself from not aiding this reform Mr. Savage cries, visionary, unpracticable! Thus he says:—

“3. Nobody is ready to talk definitely about any other kind of Nationalism [“Military Socialism” meaning], for nobody has outlined any working method. If it is only what everybody freely wishes done,—and this seems to be the Rev. Francis Bellamy’s idea—then, it is hard to distinguish it from individualism. At any rate it is not yet clear enough to be clearly discussed.”

All this shows Mr. Savage to be strangely misinformed. The Rev. Francis Bellamy is right. Every impartial person does want the kind of Nationalism Nationalists are after, as soon as their minds are disabused of this foolish talk about military despotism, and helpless subordination, etc., for every one can see that it works for the liberty, equality, and welfare of all.

Misinformed, is the word for Mr. Savage. For if he had kept but one eye on this world, as Humboldt said every well regulated chameleon and priest is in the habit of doing, he would have known that every word of this “No. 3,” above quoted, is exactly wrong: To wit: The other kind of Nationalism, which is not military despotism, has not only been definitely talked about but definitely put in practice, not only in the New York Fire Department, but in our schools, roads, canals, waterworks, post-office, and in many other ways the world over! And never (“hardly ever”) has monopoly been able to recover its chance to tyrannize and rob!

“No definite talk”! Yet our present Postmaster-General is asking Congress for the postal telegraph; and the Interstate Commerce Law is to be made practical to head off the People’s Party? Let Mr. Savage pick up the very same August ARENA which contains his article, and read the clear and definite articles of C. Wood Davis, “Should the Nation own the Railways?” and of R. B. Hassell, on “Money at Cost,” and then tell the Editor with a straight face that they are not “clear enough to be clearly discussed!” The facts, laws, and arguments are definitely there, and clearly discussed. Why have we not the discerning eyes and impartial brains of Mr. Savage to read them?

We ask Mr. Savage to bring such eyes and brains to bear, and we defy him to show any other plan by which the fatal monopolies, which are natural or beyond competition, can be usefully and safely checked, controlled, or destroyed. The attempts to do this by legal prosecutions have notoriously failed. How to replace monopolies and yet increase the benefits they have conferred is the question of our age, and Nationalism answers it. Mr. Savage, as we have shown, admits the difficulty. We are entitled then to a practical answer, or to silence. Ridicule, however witty, is neither answer nor remedy.

But instead of silence we have his amusing “fourth and lastly,” thus:—

“4. Nationalism, as commonly understood, could mean nothing else but the tyranny of the commonplace.”

The way in which Nationalism is commonly understood or misunderstood, is not the question; but how is it correctly understood,—that is the concern of every fair mind. When thus understood it seems to be just what Mr. Savage wants. For he agrees with Mr. Bellamy that if “it is only what everybody freely wishes done,” then it would be his “individualism” and all right. Thus he approves of democracy; for, he says, “it only looks after certain public affairs, while the main part of the life of the individual is free.” This is Nationalism to a dot! Yet he strangely concludes: “That Nationalism, freely chosen, would be the murder of Liberty, and social suicide.” But if “freely chosen” will it not be the same as his individualism? and what everybody wants,—and so all right? Such would be his democracy certainly, but then how can this Nationalism also “freely chosen” commit murder and suicide, and both at once? Strange! That certainly would not be the tyranny of the commonplace.

Neither would Nationalism in any correct sense be such tyranny; and for these reasons:—

1. Government would for the first time in the history of the world, evolve beyond paternalism. It would be industrial cooperative administration, for the equal benefit of all, protection of the liberty of all, and such defence and restraint only as these main objects require. Government would thus be the material foundation upon which liberty, originality, and the original—the uncommonplace—could stand and be protected. The key to liberty is the “separation of the temporal and spiritual powers;” but Nationalism does even more than that. It limits Government to the provision of the common needs of all, and then protects all, in the enjoyment of their “uncommon-place.” Read for instance the remarkable article of Oscar Wilde on “The Soul of Man under Socialism.” He expresses the feeling of the artists and poets of the world. They want Nationalism so that originality and free healthy development may at last have a chance,—and an audience. What the people need in order to become an audience is the same thing that originality needs, emancipation from drudgery and from the dependence of parasitism.

2. This emancipation can come only from the great saving of time and of waste by Nationalism; and the division of labor by which it will enable each to follow the occupation to which he is inclined, and to which he will be the best prepared by nature and education. Man is an active animal, and the condition of life is that of some work. Now the work is imposed by the tyranny of man and circumstances; then it will be rather a matter of choice. In the order instead of the anarchy of industry there will be some relief. To use the grand prophecy of Fourier:—

“When the series distributes the harmonies,

The attractions will determine the destinies.”

Given a material foundation for man and his education, so that he may have the mental and material means of acting his part, and continuing his development, then the individual will have inherited an environment in which life will be worth living, and which only the favored inherit now. Civilization will certainly have ever new demands in order to equate its ever changing conditions; and ambition, heroism, and originality will simply rise to newer and higher fields. The idea that the temporal state will not continue to encourage and protect liberty, genius, and originality is most absurd. That has been its general course against the sects and monopolists of religion and opinion which have ever been the persecutors. Mr. Savage throws down a queer jumble of names, viz.: “Homer, Virgil, Isaiah, Jesus, Dante, Shakespeare, Angelo, Copernicus, Galileo, Goethe, Luther, Servetus, Newton, Darwin, Spencer, and Galvani,”—and says, “consider them,” where would they have been before the “governing board” of Nationalism? We consider and answer: every one of them would have been free, and protected and encouraged in the exercise of his highest gifts.

Even under such defective government as then existed, each had its aid and support, and each was persecuted by the monopolistic sects and factions sure to get authority in the absence of some general temporal control, which is absolutely necessary for the purpose of protecting freedom of thought, of expression, and of action. From Homer’s chieftain, Virgil’s emperor, Goethe’s duke, on to the end of the list, we owe all they have done for us to the temporal governments of their time, with a possible exception of Spencer, more apparent than real. Even the Roman Pilate (if we are to take the reports?) let Jesus have a freedom to tramp and preach in Palestine that would not be allowed in Boston for a day, and then stood by him, and when compelled, by the unnationalized nature of his office, to give up to the Anthony Comstocks and the priestly Monopolists and Pharisees of that day, he nobly said, “I find no fault in him,” and publicly washed his hands of the whole bloody affair. So was it with Servetus. Temporal, much less a nationalized, Switzerland would have rescued him from the clutches of the Calvinistic monopoly of Geneva. “Toleration?” repeats Mr. Savage tauntingly. We reply, yes! We want a general temporal government which will protect liberty, and ensure that every priest, sect, fanatic, and phase of thought and opinion shall tolerate every other. This Nationalism only can do.

We insist, and have for years, that the government monopolies of opinions, morals, and force, farmed out to amateur societies of Comstocks and Pinkertons, should be withdrawn. If necessary to public safety, let power be exercised only by the government directly responsible to the people. It is this attempt to govern by monopolies in the interest of sects or industrial classes that gave rise to every one of the abuses to which the editor of The Arena has well called attention as “outrages of government.” They are only outrages of government by monopolies for monopolies, and which it is the fundamental condition and mission of Nationalism to end forever. In all these cases, and in every case, the advocates and apologists of Anarchy, or of Laissez-faire must not mistake their position, they are inevitably the allies of the oppressor. The integration of special classes, sects, and interests, is the natural law making “toleration” more and more impossible. The integral integration, then, of all for the equal support, and for the equal protection of all, in mutual harmony and progress, is the only condition of our liberty, peace, and safety. No rule in Arithmetic is plainer than this law of Sociology, and Nationalism is its expression.