The Western Socialist
Vol. 33 - No. 251
No. 3, 1966
Introductory note: Like many of the terms used over the years by socialists, "Internationalism" has been subjected to the confusing influences of a usage supporting the efforts of nations, usually in the name of peace and freedom, to band together to improve their position in the ferocious struggles of capitalism. In this article our old comrade uses the terms, as we have done, to mean a world approaching and arriving at socialism — a world without nations. — Editorial Committee, SPC.
The imperative mandate of our time is not merely a concept but the implementation of internationalism. It is the need which grows more obvious year by year, day by day. Those who ignore it deceive themselves and hamper all humanity.
In his pursuit of speed, sex and dollars, that soft shelled animal we call man seldom pauses to ponder this need. If he does, a few seconds are all that are necessary. First, an elementary knowledge of geography shows the earth only so large and no larger. Then there is a rather important factor called population, fewer habitable portions, and many areas all but unfit for human occupancy being utilized. Improved health methods whereby infant mortality is becoming almost a thing of the past, old age extending, and wonder drugs curtailing epidemics and thus adding to the mounting human mass, causing nations to burst at their seams and spill over weaker contending nations, all point up the need for the one vital thing being ignored — human federation.
As for examples to serve as precedent, they are as plain as the points of the compass. In almost every respect, excepting survival, humanity has already federated. Thanks to communication each part of the planet knows what almost all other parts are doing, saying and all but thinking. Only yesterday, communication was bound up with transportation. They were virtually one and the same. Today they are virtually divorced and both are all but instantaneous. Man's mechanical devices encircle the earth with incredible speed, probing and spying and automatically relaying back information to a sphere which has become as a mere child's playball which we weigh, measure and compute almost as accurately, while man on either hand confronts the naked poles.
And transportation! The Aztec runners, the pony express, covered wagon, stage-coach, river steamboat and steam locomotive; all came and all have passed into the limbo of all but forgotten modes of travel. Clive was a year and a half in journeying from England to India. Were he alive today he could make it in a few hours. By virtue of the jet airplane one can leave the Arctic atmosphere behind and be in sub-tropical zones before your milkman has made his daily rounds.
All the prerequisites of an internationalized, a civilized humanity, are here — save one, man himself. He is ever the great enigma, the arch predator, the only creature to plot the destruction of its own kind. He builds cities, then razes them. Years back, a famous war correspondent returned after ranging over Eurasian battlefields for nearly a lustrum. He was met at the ship by a mob of reporters.
"Of all the scenes you have witnessed," one asked him, "which impressed you most?"
"An Arab farmer plowing in the ruins of Babylon with his wooden stick," he replied.
Such recurring contradictions down through his past make one wonder whether man can ever become a social animal, and internationalism ever become anything but a wishful dream. Yet the symbol, the guideposts, have ever pointed in that direction. Perhaps the first symbol was the sun, a benefactor even our primitive ancestors doubtless saw, however, dimly, as the one thing all men shared in common. . And in all likelihood the sun was the first god. The habit of holding one's hand above the eyes when at prayer could well be a flashback to sun-worshippers who were forced to shield their eyes from the red glare.
Later along, when warring tribesmen had developed sharp weapons and saw blood that gushed forth from an adversary was of a uniform red, regardless of his skin coloring, it was made evident that all men at least were blood-brothers. Then ages later, when exploiter ruling classes needed a "name" for their protesting subjects, the term "Red" was seized upon and hurled as a branding reproach at those who forgot that "their's" was the noblest of nations, and who dreamed their subversive dreams of an international brotherhood.
In our time defenders of the status quo meet the menace of internationalism with a more, potent weapon: confusion. With their monopoly of the mediums of publicity they confuse that which cannot otherwise be combatted. First victim was socialism, a specific analysis of social relationships. A web of misinterpretation was woven around it until it became to most people anything but specific. Then came the camouflage of uniting nations. In the face of the fact that nations are and have ever been symbols of the separation of people, the inference went forth that if there were only United Nations, the unification and universal happiness of all humanity would automatically follow, that all would be "all for the best in the best of all possible worlds."
As we total the successes of these and other deceptions, we wonder whether universal brotherhood must always remain a utopian skyline which dazzles but dances beyond reach. As Robert G. Ingersoll would put it: "A faint and feeble flame, a flickering torch, by stumblers carried in the starless night."
And yet, as we look over the list of those whose work meant most to humanity, we find that virtually all were internationalists, from Aristotle down to our own time. The one great question left is: was humanity really worth their efforts? Clarence Darrow put the matter bluntly but mayhap unerringly when conferring with union organizers in Idaho who were in danger of being railroaded to the penitentiary: "You may not belong in the penitentiary because you think you can help the world, but you belong in the insane asylum, for the world doesn't want to be helped."
One shudders at such cold objectivity by Darrow and his predecessors, from Diogenes to Cervantes, Voltaire, Defoe, Clemens, etc. Then we recall those fallen civilizations, those magnificent cities now rubble. All combine to make us wonder whether humanity has any asset distinct from other organisms, except hope. Still, while its faintest star is seen we can only stumble through the gloom, holding the torch as high as possible.
Just one of two destinies awaits us — Internationalism or obliteration.