If that were patriotism, few American men of today would be called
upon to be patriotic, since the place of play has been turned into
factory, mill, and mine, while deepening sounds of machinery have
replaced the music of the birds. No longer can we hear the tales of
great deeds, for the stories our mothers tell today are but those of
sorrow, tears and grief.
What, then, is patriotism? "Patriotism, sir, is the last resort of
scoundrels," said Dr. Samuel Johnson. Leo Tolstoy, the greatest
anti-patriot of our time, defines patriotism as the principle that
will justify the training of wholesale murderers; a trade that
requires better equipment in the exercise of man-killing than the
making of such necessities as shoes, clothing, and houses; a trade
that guarantees better returns and greater glory than that of the
Indeed, conceit, arrogance and egotism are the essentials of
patriotism. Let me illustrate. Patriotism assumes that our globe is
divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate.
Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot
consider themselves nobler, better, grander, more intelligent than
those living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the
duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill and die
in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.
The inhabitants of the other spots reason in like manner, of course,
with the result that from early infancy the mind of the child is
provided with blood-curdling stories about the Germans, the French,
the Italians, Russians, etc. When the child has reached manhood he
is thoroughly saturated with the belief that he is chosen by the
Lord himself to defend his country against the attack or invasion of
any foreigner. It is for that purpose that we are clamoring for a
greater army and navy, more battleships and ammunition.
An army and navy represent the people's toys. To make them more
attractive and acceptable, hundreds and thousands of dollars are
being spent for the display of toys. That was the purpose of the
American government in equipping a fleet and sending it along the
Pacific coast, that every American citizen should be made to feel
the pride and glory of the United States.
The city of San Francisco spent one hundred thousand dollars for the
entertainment of the fleet; Los Angeles, sixty thousand; Seattle and
Tacoma, about one hundred thousand. Yes, two hundred and sixty
thousand dollars were spent on fireworks, theater parties, and
revelries, at a time when men, women, and children through the
breadth and length of the country were starving in the streets; when
thousands of unemployed were ready to sell their labor at any price.
What could not have been accomplished with such an enormous sum? But
instead of bread and shelter, the children of those cities were
taken to see the fleet, that it may remain, as one newspaper said,
"a lasting memory for the child." A wonderful thing to remember, is
it not? The implements of civilized slaughter. If the mind of the
child is poisoned with such memories, what hope is there for a true
realization of human brotherhood?
We Americans claim to be a peace-loving people. We hate bloodshed;
we are opposed to violence. Yet we go into spasms of joy over the
possibility of projecting dynamite bombs from flying machines upon
helpless citizens. We are ready to hang, electrocute, or lynch
anyone, who, from economic necessity, will risk his own life in the
attempt upon that of some industrial magnate. Yet our hearts swell
with pride at the thought that America is becoming the most powerful
nation on earth, and that she will eventually plant her iron foot on
the necks of all other nations.
Such is the logic of patriotism.
Thinking men and women the world over are beginning to realize that
patriotism is too narrow and limited a conception to meet the
necessities of our time. The centralization of power has brought
into being an international feeling of solidarity among the
oppressed nations of the world; a solidarity which represents a
greater harmony of interests between the workingman of America and
his brothers abroad than between the American miner and his
exploiting compatriot; a solidarity which fears not foreign
invasion, because it is bringing all the workers to the point when
they will say to their masters, "Go and do your own killing. We have
done it long enough for you."
The proletariat of Europe has realized the great force of that
solidarity and has, as a result, inaugurated a war against
patriotism and its bloody specter, militarism. Thousands of men fill
the prisons of France, Germany, Russia and the Scandinavian
countries because they dared to defy the ancient superstition.
America will have to follow suit. The spirit of militarism has
already permeated all walks of life. Indeed, I am convinced that
militarism is a greater danger here than anywhere else, because of
the many bribes capitalism holds out to those whom it wishes to
The beginning has already been made in the schools. Children are
trained in military tactics, the glory of military achievements
extolled in the curriculum, and the youthful mind perverted to suit
the government. Further, the youth of the country is appealed to in
glaring posters to join the Army and the Navy. "A fine chance to see
the world!" cries the governmental huckster. Thus innocent boys are
morally shanghaied into patriotism, and the military Moloch strides
conquering through the nation.
When we have undermined the patriotic lie, we shall have cleared the
path for the great structure where all shall be united into a
universal brotherhood -- a truly free society.