Chapter XXIII


The meaning and nature of the political state must be understood in order to understand war. The people of a nation are organized into a state. The state is a vague entity which in times of peace holds the people loosely together around certain political symbols. Among these are the constitution, the government, the army and navy, the flag, and the traditions. In times of war the state becomes enormously strong. It emerges from its peaceful lethargy and asserts itself. It galvanizes the people into a condition of loyalty and devotion. Its symbols become sacred. Its officials constitute a priesthood. Its citizens or subjects are divided into the saved and the damned, good and bad, loyal and seditious. War is the heyday of the state. Things become stabilized in time of war. Everyone knows his place. Uniformity prevails. A unity of the people is secured which is highly prized by the patriotic. The people are made happy by a spurious prosperity borrowed from the future. The government is the instrument through which the state expresses itself. The state requires a government to implement its force, its laws, its coercive power, its international relations, and its wars.

The nation, on the other hand, is an aggregation of similar people, with common history, language, customs, traditions, superstitions, and blood relationships, all residing together within defined geographical boundaries. The nation is represented by the people irrespective of the state of political organization. The country is the territory which includes a nation. Thus the country, the nation, the state, and the government constitute the sequence from which wars are made and against which wars are waged.

Man, the individual who composes these institutions and divisions, is the motive force. While men have for ages engaged in war, still war is not instinctive with man. This means he is not impelled by the relentless force of his nature to make war. War is a result of conflicts which challenge his brute forces to be exercised. He can invoke his intelligence to maintain peace. Man is not instinctively a physical fighter. War is not in the nature of man; he prefers peace.

Acquisitiveness and self-protection are natural to man. They have led to wars untold. The advantages accruing from these instincts can be attained by other means than by physical force. This is where man's intelligence serves. Once man fought man in personal combat. This practice, once prevalent, has become obsolete. Once city fought city, feudal baron fought feudal baron, religious cult fought religious cult. These warfares have all but ceased.

Two reasons prevent such fighting. One is man's intelligence which finds more satisfactory ways to resolve differences. The other is the existence of public opinion and sovereign power. Sovereign power that prevents individuals from fighting is the police power of the community. The sovereign state prevents city fighting city and cult fighting cult. All this is in the political realm.

The world is taking its political governments too seriously. Boundary lines of Canada, Bulgaria, and China are political in character. Which particular aggregation of officials attempts to carry out the behest of the political forces is not so important as the way the people get their living. Fertility of the soil, the sun, and the rain are more important. Out among the people where life is lived and things are created, there is little consciousness of which particular government thinks it is in power. The people of the world know little about the political authorities under which they live. People at work ask only that the soil be fertile, the rewards of their labors be adequate, and the government leave them alone.

Politicians force their attentions upon the people, and with bluster and blazonry make the people think their politics is exceedingly important. Its importance is largely fictitious. Problems of bread and butter are the paramount affairs. It is by exaggerating to the public the magnitude of political affairs that diplomats maintain their jobs, officials their sinecures, generals their prerogatives, and armies their appropriations.

If people carried on their economic affairs independent of government complications; if they raised their crops, made their things, dug their coal, and distributed their goods all in response to economic needs, it would matter little to them whether they were called Scotch or English, Czech or German, Japanese or Chinese. And war would be difficult. It is because privilege comes in, monopoly is fostered, and justice denied, that the economic life is complicated by politics.

If a cooperative democracy prevailed in Germany and in Czechoslovakia, it would not matter much to the people on which side of the boundary line they live. As to going to war over the question, it would be as unthinkable as two neighbors going to war against each other because one called himself John and the other called himself George. War is a political affair like national boundary lines.

Colonies and colonial trade are considered a necessity to many industrial countries. Crowded nations, such as Italy, Japan, and Germany are eager for expansion of their territories, and they go to the extreme of violating international boundary lines in the promotion of their ambitions. They cite the historic policy of Great Britain as their precedent. This urge to colonization is political. Ruthlessness of governments is the political expression of a fatuous economic expediency. This now amounts to an international craze which threatens the very existence of politically organized society. Still, Italians go to the United States, Japanese to Hawaii, and Germans to Argentina without the necessity of their mother country conquering these nations. There is plenty of living room on the earth without the political conquering of other countries. This ancient notion of colonial possessions is not for the sake of more room. but for the sake of more customers who can be compelled to buy goods at a profit from the markets of the domineering country. Colonial control over other people is a product of profit capitalism of which the cooperative movement is the antithesis.

The question of colonies or of an expanded sphere of trade influence can not come up in cooperative parlance. Cooperative consumers are concerned with supplying themselves with things, and not with selling things to other people. They have nothing to sell and therefore want no colonies. They want only free trade and the easiest possible access to things. International boundary lines need play no part in cooperative economy.

Expansion of cooperation among all nations, and connecting all peoples, sees people united in their local societies, each composed of similar neighborly folks. It sees these societies of each region or racial group federated into leagues, wholesales, or unions. And it sees these racial or national leagues federated in the International Cooperative Alliance. Cooperation makes all nations one. If untrammeled by political governments, the cooperative movement would take little cognizance of international boundary lines and the various barriers which political governments have erected between one another. There could be no more reason for war between national federations than between local societies. War could have no purpose, any more than a fight between two persons who were helping each other, and whose success depended upon friendly cooperation of each. War arises where an aggressor thinks it can get something away from another group that will be to its advantage; and war is prepared for by preliminary experience in such practice. Cooperation neither provides preliminary practice nor supplies any prospect of such advantage.

As to inferior races, and peoples practicing a low standard of living, they offer cooperation no such problem as they offer the capitalistic world. Cooperation, in its international wholesaling, is steadily moving on to the production of its commodities in those parts of the world where they can be produced cheapest and best. This is simple and natural. Certainly it is economically reasonable. The idea that most production would be in the countries with a low standard of living is not corroborated by the facts. Well-paid, well-fed, well-housed, and not over-worked skilled labor produces commodities better than does low standard labor. Low-paid Japanese and Chinese labor does not produce as good quality as the higher paid American, British, or Scandinavian labor.

Poor things at a low price are something different. They are usually wanted where profits are to be made by selling to undiscriminating consumers. In cooperative production, which is controlled by the consumers, the interest in quality improves both the motive and the result. International cooperative commerce is demonstrating these facts. However, under some circumstances, people want low priced goods of not high quality. Here the low paid workers of some countries can produce what is wanted in high price nations, and such goods can be exported to the advantage and satisfaction of both producers and consumers.

It is unfortunate that United States export businesses have often cheated their foreign customers. When their goods arrived and were found inferior to the samples from which the orders had been taken, this practice of North American exporters in cheating South Americans, helped the Germans, Swedes, and other nationalities to build up their businesses in South America. I have met South American merchants on their way to Germany to buy goods, with militant hostility in their minds against North American business. Such international business hostility can breed political hostility. When Plato said, "Ruin follows where the trader rules," he was describing conditions of today as truly as of two thousand years ago. State business under socialistic regime does not mitigate these circumstances. Grievances against a nation, instead of against its commercial traders, bring hostilities just so much closer to the war-making mechanism in the hands of government. We have already seen that when a nation becomes totally socialistic it becomes a hazard to peace.

Certainly, until the consumers come to understand their strategic position, and while they are still under the influence of their old habits of poor quality, changing styles, and spurious values, their old ineptitude will be responsible for many miscalculations. But they are capable of learning. They can come to know values and to want what is good when they are no longer subjected to the constant pressure of false values. All this bears upon international and interracial relations which are to be seen developing in the expansion of cooperation, and in its entry into the field of production in the interest of the consumers who are them- selves the workers.

Development of world brotherhood on a cooperative basis is destined for a long time to be integrated with state business and profit capitalism. If civilization advances, these three ways of business may be expected to function together. The cooperative method should be seen beginning with distribution and expanding to supply the needs of consumers. The political state in business may be expected to control the larger areas of public need such as railways, telegraph, telephone, radio, water, international transportation, and post. Profit capitalism may be expected to function in new fields of business adventure, the innovations, exploitation of new devices and materials, and research for their development. While the cooperative method is applicable to all these fields, its expansion would be limited, as the political state and profit business prove their efficiency; or expansion of cooperation may be hastened as these two prove their inefficiency. No one system of business is likely to dominate alone unless the world is overcome by communism, fascism, or some other totalitarian form of business.

Socialistic methods now function side by side with profit business. In the United States, the post office, water supply, fire departments, and great universities are run by the state. In Sweden are seen all three forms of business operating harmoniously under the state. In the presence of democracy, whichever serves people best should gradually attain to ascendancy. This is the importance of democracy. The people should observe and learn by experience, and make their free choice. If the cooperative method is the best way to supply their needs, under democracy, it should prevail. This is the importance of democracy; it is the condition in which the people may choose what serves them best.

The cooperative method is not averse to profit business; for profit business, like cooperative business, represents free enterprise and private ownership. Nor is the cooperative way opposed to political government in business. Cooperation goes along with these two other forms of business which spring from inability of the people to conduct business directly for the purpose of supplying themselves. As the people learn to do this, governmental and profit business become less necessary, and ultimately may fade away as predominant methods.


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The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of Georgia or the University System of Georgia.