1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar

The Ludwig von Mises Institute

Advancing Austrian Economics, Liberty, and Peace

Advancing the scholarship of liberty in the tradition of the Austrian School

Search Mises.org
Liberalism
Ludwig von Mises

3
Liberal Foreign Policy

11. Russia

The law-abiding, citizen by his labor serves both himself and his fellow man and thereby integrates himself peacefully into the social order. The robber, on the other hand, is intent, not on honest toil, but on the forcible appropriation of the fruits of others' labor. For thousands of years the world had to submit to the yoke of military conquerors and feudal lords who simply took for granted that the products of the industry of other men existed for them to consume. The evolution of mankind towards civilization and the strengthening of social bonds required, first of all, overcoming the intellectual and physical influence of the military and feudal castes that aspired to rule the world and the substitution of the ideal of the bourgeois for that of the hereditary lord. The supplanting of the militaristic ideal, which esteems only the warrior and despises honest labor, has not, by any means, even yet been completely achieved. In every nation there are still individuals whose minds are altogether taken up with the ideas and images of the militaristic ages. There are nations in which transient atavistic impulses toward plunder and violence, which one would have presumed to have long since been mastered, still break out and once more gain ascendancy. But, by and large, one can say of the nations of the white race that today inhabit central and western Europe and America that the mentality that Herbert Spencer called "militaristic" has been displaced by that to which he gave the name "industrial." Today there is only one great nation that steadfastly adheres to the militaristic ideal, viz., the Russians.

Of course, even among the Russian people there are some who do not share this attitude. It is only to be regretted that they have not been able to prevail over their compatriots. Ever since Russia was first in a position to exercise an influence on European politics, it has continually behaved like a robber who lies in wait for the moment when he can pounce upon his victim and plunder him of his possessions. At no time did the Russian Czars acknowledge any other limits to the expansion of their empire than those dictated by the force of circumstances. The position of the Bolsheviks in regard to the problem of the territorial expansion of their dominions is not a whit different. They too acknowledge no other rule than that, in the conquest of new lands, one may and indeed must go as far as one dares, with due regard to one's resources. The fortunate circumstance that saved civilization from being destroyed by the Russians was the fact that the nations of Europe were strong enough to be able successfully to stand off the onslaught of the hordes of Russian barbarians. The experiences of the Russians in the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, and the Turkish campaign of 1877-78 showed them that, in spite of the great number of their soldiers, their army is unable to seize the offensive against Europe. The World War merely confirmed this.

More dangerous than bayonets and cannon are the weapons of the mind. To be sure, the response that the ideas of the Russians found in Europe was due, in the first place, to the fact that Europe itself was already full of these ideas before they came out of Russia. Indeed, it would perhaps be more nearly correct to say that these Russian ideas themselves were not originally Russian, however much they may have suited the character of the Russian people, but that they were borrowed by the Russians from Europe. So great is the intellectual sterility of the Russians that they were never able to formulate for themselves the expression of their own inmost nature.

Liberalism, which is based completely on science and whose policies represent nothing but the application of the results of science, must be on its guard not to make unscientific value judgments. Value judgments stand outside of science and are always purely subjective. One cannot, therefore, classify nations according to their worth and speak of them as worthy or less worthy. Consequently, the question whether or not the Russians are inferior lies completely outside the scope of our consideration. We do not at all contend that they are so. What we maintain is only that they do not wish to enter into the scheme of human social cooperation. In relation to human society and the community of nations their position is that of a people intent on nothing but the consumption of what others have accumulated. People among whom the ideas of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and Lenin are a living force cannot produce a lasting social organization. They must revert to a condition of complete barbarism. Russia is endowed far more richly by nature with fertility of soil and mineral resources of all kinds than is the United States. If the Russians had pursued the same capitalistic policy as the Americans, they would today be the richest people in the world. Despotism, imperialism, and Bolshevism have made them the poorest. Now they are seeking capital and credits from all over the world.

Once this is recognized, it clearly follows what must be the guiding principle of the policy of the civilized nations toward Russia. Let the Russians be Russians. Let them do what they want in their own country. But do not let them pass beyond the boundaries of their own land to destroy European civilization. This is not to say, of course, that the importation and translation of Russian writings ought to be prohibited. Neurotics may enjoy them as much as they wish; the healthy will, in any case, eschew them. Nor does this mean that the Russians ought to be prohibited from spreading their propaganda and distributing bribes the way the Czars did throughout the world. If modern civilization were unable to defend itself against the attacks of hirelings, then it could not, in any case, remain in existence much longer. This is not to say, either, that Americans or Europeans ought to be prevented from visiting Russia if they are attracted to it. Let them view at first hand, at their own risk and on their own responsibility, the land of mass murder and mass misery. Nor does this mean that capitalists ought to be prevented from granting loans to the Soviets or otherwise to invest capital in Russia. If they are foolish enough to believe that they will ever see any part of it again, let them make the venture.

But the governments of Europe and America must stop promoting Soviet destructionism by paying premiums for exports to Soviet Russia and thereby furthering the Russian Soviet system by financial contributions. Let them stop propagandizing for emigration and the export of capital to Soviet Russia.

Whether or not the Russian people are to discard the Soviet system is for them to settle among themselves. The land of the knout and the prison-camp no longer poses a threat to the world today. With all their will to war and destruction, the Russians are no longer capable seriously of imperiling the peace of Europe. One may therefore safely let them alone. The only thing that needs to be resisted is any tendency on our part to support or promote the destructionist policy of the Soviets.

Previous Page * Next Page

Table of Contents