Nationalism or the idolatry of the nation is one of the great dangers of the day. It is common enough and takes various forms. Sometimes it consists chiefly in bragging about the greatness of your country which excites ridicule rather than anger. Unfortunately it seldom stops there. Self-recommendation very easily degenerates into depreciation of others and denial of their rights. In that stage its symptoms are the advocacy of high protection and the exclusion of aliens. Next come hatred of foreigners which shows itself in public insult and eventually in enmity developing into war. It is an insidious disease because it often comes from exaggerated patriotism. Indeed the nationalist usually claims to be the only true patriot. When Dr. Johnson said that patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel, he may have been thinking of some nationalist acquaintance.
For patriotism and nationalism are entirely distinct. The patriot loves his own country. The nationalist hates all countries except his own. Patriotism demands of the citizen every sacrifice of his interest and even of his life but not of his honor or his virtue. Nationalism knows no such limitation. None of the obligations of truth or kindness or chivalry bind the nationalist if he thinks their practice would conflict with his country’s interest. He is in this matter unmoral. His motto is “My country right or wrong.” If he believes in any religion it must be one which enables him to put his country before any of the morality which it teaches. I have been told that in certain circles in Germany today it is fashionable to boast of ruthlessness and barbarism. Whether that is true or not it is an excellent illustration of what nationalism may lead to.
OTHERS HAVE IT, TOO
But I would not suggest that nationalism is exclusively German. French chauvinists, 100% Americans, a certain type of British Imperialist, the older kind of Italian Fascists, not to speak of the Russian Bolsheviks and the Japanese militarists, show how widespread is this national vice. German nationalism is nationalism in its extremist form, and owing to various circumstances, it is likely to be a menace to the peace of the world.
Form an unknown German correspondent, presumably a propagandist agent, I learn that British indignation with the German persecution of the Jews is confined to “ultra-French sympathizers like Sir Austen Chamberlain and perverse mischief makers like Mr. Churchill.” Nothing could be less true ! Sir Austen spoke for the vast majority of his fellow-countrymen. His views have been specifically endorsed by Lord Grey of Fallodon. They are shared as far as I can tell by everyone who has given any serious attention to the subject. I do not remember any foreign question in time of peace on which British opinion has been so unanimous. No doubt this is largely due to sympathy with Jewish victims, many of the more distinguished of whom have English friends and admirers, both Jew and Gentile. Then, the fact that it is the German people who have done this has been a great shock especially to those who in the past ten or fifteen years have made themselves advocates of German claims and German grievances.
Some of us too have accepted warmly the German position on the treatment of minorities. We remember the German declaration at the Peace Conference that “Germany on her part is resolved to treat minorities of alien origin in her territories according to the same principles” as those embodied in the Minority Treaties, that is, to give them the same rights as German-born citizens. We remember too the warmth and eloquence with which German delegates at Geneva have insisted on the rights of German minorities in Poland and elsewhere. We do not forget the German appeal in the war to Polish Jews that the German armies came as liberators….
All this has helped to cause horror at the German reversion to medieval methods of barbarism. But it is not only repulsion for anti-Semitism that has caused the deep movement of opinion on the subject. German anti-Semitism seems to us not only hateful in itself, but symptomatic of a mentality which may easily become a danger to the world. For at the bottom this Jew-baiting is the outcome of two feelings. First there is the nationalistic jealousy of the position which the Jews have attained in German professional and commercial life, buttressed by a belief, apparently quite unjustified, that postwar evils unhappily prevalent in many other countries have been the work of Jews. This attitude is characteristic of nationalism. Nationalists put down to foreigners all their woes from the fall of prices to the decay of morals.
VIOLENCE AS REMEDY
It is, therefore, no surprise to find Jews, internationalists and pacifists, held up to equal scorn and contempt by the leaders of German nationalism. The second basis on which German anti-Semitism rests is the approval of violence as remedy. It is this aspect of the movement which is so disquieting and has caused such anxiety and indignation in the politically-minded English people. They observe that it is not only Jews who are being persecuted. Pacifists are suffering not less. Every person who has avowed sentiments which conflict with the “German idea” is to be got rid of. It matters nothing what their record in other directions may have been. They may have been distinguished soldiers or scientists or men of letters. If they are “tainted” with pacifism, they are dismissed from all employment, their books are burned, they are treated with obloquy and contempt, many are imprisoned and some have suffered even worse penalties.
It is obvious that a creed of this kind is not only for internal consumption. When we are asked why we outside Germany concern ourselvses with what may happen to German citizens inside her borders, our reply is simple. A people nurtured on the twin doctrines of force and nationalism is bound to become a danger to their neighbors. Already disquieting incidents have taken place. Contrary to her treaty obligations the German police force has been increased immensely. It is an armed body of men drilled and disciplined on military lines, and if not immediately available as troops they could easily be converted to that purpose.
REVIVED MILITARY SPIRIT
Then we read that duels are to be revived and that everything is being done to increase the military spirit of the nation. Students are encouraged to burn pacifist books and turn out pacifist professors. A vast crowd at Gleiwitz, close to the Polish border, shouts “we shall not rest till the last furrow of Upper Silesia is once more ploughed with the German iron of German ploughshares.” Herr Kube, the Nazi leader in the Prussian Diet, declared “by order of Herr Hitler, that we shall have attained our goal only when all Germany, including German Austria, is united with the Fatherland in one great state that can thus serve Germany’s world mission.” Even Chancellor Hitler himself declared at the inauguration of the Ministry of Propaganda under Dr. Goebbels: “Our highest ambition and our highest reward will be to lead back into the body of the nation the millions of the people poisoned with internationalism. I will fight against and extirpate the philosophy of Marxism and also the idea of peace.”
These are the statements which reach is, made all the more impressive by the strict censure which now prevails in Germany under which all utterances disapproved by the German Government are suppressed. It is true that against these may be quoted certain declarations of a different character. But when set against such facts as the persecution of the Jews; the inclusion of Jews, Marxists, internationalists and pacifists in one common condemnation; the revival of militarism; the re-introduction of duelling; the enormous increase of the armed police; frontier demonstrations and the like, a few soothing words are not sufficient to allay the profound uneasiness which German nationalism has caused in England and indeed in all the world. To do that a definite change of German policy is the least that is required. (From Cooperation.)