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Nation, State, and Economy
Ludwig von Mises

D. Pacifism

Dreamers and humanitarians have long campaigned for the idea of general and eternal peace. Out of the misery and distress that wars have brought to individuals and peoples, the deep longing arose for peace that should never again be disturbed. Utopians paint the advantages of freedom from war in the most splendid colors and call on states to unite in an enduring alliance for peace embracing the entire world. They appeal to the highmindedness of emperors and kings; they refer to divine commands and promise whoever would realize their ideals undying fame far exceeding even that of the great war heroes.

History has omitted these peace proposals from its agenda. They have never been anything more than literary curiosities that no one took seriously. The powerful have never thought of renouncing their power; it has never occurred to them to subordinate their interests to the interests of humanity, as the naive dreamers demanded.

To be judged quite differently from this older pacifism, which was carried along by general considerations of humanitarianism and horror of bloodshed, is the pacifism of the Enlightenment philosophy of natural law, of economic liberalism, and of political democracy, which has been cultivated since the eighteenth century. It does not arise from a sentiment that calls on the individual and the state to renounce the pursuit of their earthly interests out of thirst for fame or in hope of reward in the beyond; nor does it stand as a separate postulate without organic connection with other moral demands. Rather, pacifism here follows with logical necessity from the entire system of social life. He who, from the utilitarian standpoint, rejects the rule of some over others and demands the full right of self-determination for individuals and peoples has thereby rejected war also. He who has made the harmony of the rightly understood interests of all strata within a nation and of all nations among each other the basis of his world view can no longer find any rational basis for warfare. He to whom even protective tariffs and occupational prohibitions appear as measures harmful to everyone can still less understand how one could regard war as anything other than a destroyer and annihilator, in short, as an evil that strikes all, victor as well as vanquished. Liberal pacifism demands peace because it considers war useless. That is a view understandable only from the standpoint of the free-trade doctrine as developed in the classical theory of Hume, Smith, and Ricardo. He who wants to prepare a lasting peace must, like Bentham, be a free-trader and a democrat and work with decisiveness for the removal of all political rule over colonies by a mother country and fight for the full freedom of movement of persons and goods.," Those and no others are the preconditions of eternal peace. If one wants to make peace, then one must get rid of the possibility of conflicts between peoples. Only the ideas of liberalism and democracy have the power to do that.[52]

Once one has abandoned this standpoint, however, one can make no sound argument against war and conflict. If one holds the view that there are irreconcilable class antagonisms between the individual strata of society that cannot be resolved except by the forcible victory of one class over others, if one believes that no contacts between individual nations are possible except those whereby one wins what the other loses, then, of course, one must admit that revolutions at home and wars abroad cannot be avoided. The Marxian socialist rejects war abroad because he sees the enemy not in foreign nations but in the possessing classes of his own nation. The nationalistic imperialist rejects revolution because he is convinced of the solidarity of interests of all strata of his nation in the fight against the foreign enemy. Neither is a principled opponent of armed intervention, neither a principled opponent of bloodshed, as the liberals are, who sanction only defensive war. Nothing, therefore, is in such bad taste for Marxian socialists as to fume over war, nothing in such bad taste for chauvinists as to fume over revolution, out of philanthropic concern for the innocent blood thereby shed. Quis tulerit Gracchos de seditione querentes? [Who could endure the Gracchi complaining of sedition?]

Liberalism rejects aggressive war not on philanthropic grounds but from the standpoint of utility. It rejects aggressive war because it regards victory as harmful, and it wants no conquests because it sees them as an unsuitable means for reaching the ultimate goals for which it strives. Not through war and victory but only through work can a nation create the preconditions for the well-being of its members. Conquering nations finally perish, either because they are annihilated by strong ones or because the ruling class is culturally overwhelmed by the subjugated. Once already the Germanic peoples conquered the world, yet were finally defeated. East Goths and Vandals went down fighting; West Goths, Franks and Lombards, Normans and Varangians remained victors in battle, but they were culturally defeated by the subjugated; they, the victors, adopted the language of the defeated and were absorbed into them. One or the other is the fate of all ruling peoples. The landlords pass away, the peasants remain; as the chorus in the Bride of Messina expresses it: "The foreign conquerors come and go, and we obey but we remain." The sword proves in the long run not to be the most suitable means of gaining broad diffusion for a people. That is the "impotence of victory" of which Hegel speaks.[53],[54]

Philanthropic pacifism wants to abolish war without getting at the causes of war.

It has been proposed to have disputes between nations settled by courts of arbitration. Just as in relations between individuals self-help is no longer permitted and, apart from special exceptional cases, the harmed person has only the right to call on the courts, so must things also become in relations between nations. Here also force would have to give way to law. It is supposedly no harder to settle disputes between nations peacefully than those among individual members of a nation. The opponents of arbitration in disputes between nations were to be judged no differently than the medieval feudal lords and brawlers, who also resisted the jurisdiction of the state as far as they could. Such resistance's must simply be abolished. If this had already been done years ago, then the World War, with all of its sad consequences, could have been avoided. Other advocates of arbitration between states go less far with their demands. They desire the obligatory introduction of arbitration, at least for the near future, not for all disputes but only for those touching on neither the honor nor the conditions of existence of nations, that is, only for the lesser cases, while for the others the old method of decision on the field of battle could still be retained.

It is a delusion to assume that the number of wars can thereby be reduced. For many decades already, wars have still been possible only for weighty reasons. That requires neither confirmation by citing historical examples nor even a long explanation. The princely states waged war as often as required by the interests of princes aiming at extending their power. In the calculation of the prince and his counselors, war was a means just like any other; free from any sentimental regard for the human lives that were thereby put at stake, they coolly weighed the advantages and disadvantages of military intervention as a chess player considers his moves. The path of kings led literally over corpses. Wars were not perhaps begun, as people are accustomed to saying, for "trivial reasons." The cause of war was always the same: the princes' greed for power. What superficially looked like the cause of war was only a pretext. (Remember, say, the Silesian wars of Frederick the Great.) The age of democracy knows no more cabinet wars. Even the three European imperial powers, which were the last representatives of the old absolutist idea of the state, had for a long time already no longer possessed the power to instigate such wars. The democratic opposition at home was already much too strong for that. From the moment when the triumph of the liberal idea of the state had brought the nationality principle to the fore, wars were possible only for national reasons. That could be changed neither by the fact that liberalism soon was seriously endangered by the advance of socialism nor by the fact that the old military powers still remained at the helm in Central and Eastern Europe. That is a success of liberal thinking that can no longer be undone, and that should not be forgotten by anyone who undertakes to revile liberalism and the Enlightenment.

Whether the arbitration procedure should now be chosen for less important disputes arising in relations among nations or whether their settlement should be left to negotiations between the parties is a question that interests us less here, however important it may otherwise be. It must be noted only that all arbitration treaties discussed in recent years seem suitable only for settlement of such less important matters of dispute and that up to now all attempts further to extend the range of international arbitration have failed.

If it is asserted that utterly all disputes between peoples can be settled through courts of arbitration, so that decision by war can be quite eliminated, then the fact must be noted that every administration of justice first presupposes the existence of a generally recognized law and then the possibility of applying the legal maxims to the individual case. Neither applies to those disputes between nations of which we speak. All attempts to create a substantive international law through whose application disputes among nations could be decided have miscarried. A hundred years ago the Holy Alliance sought to elevate the principle of legitimacy to the basis of international law. The possessions of the princes at that time were to be protected and guaranteed both against other princes and also, in line with the political thinking of the time, against the demands of revolutionary subjects. The causes of the failure of this attempt need not be investigated at length; they are obvious. And yet today people seem inclined to renew the same attempt again and to create a new Holy Alliance in Wilson's League of Nations. That it is not princes but nations that are guaranteeing their possessions today is a distinction that does not affect the essence of things. The decisive thing is that possessions are ensured at all. It is again, as a hundred years ago, a division of the world that presumes to be an eternal and final one. It will be no more enduring than the earlier one, however, and will, no less than that one, bring blood and misery to mankind.

As the legitimacy principle as understood by the Holy Alliance was already shaken, liberalism proclaimed a new principle for regulating relations among nations. The nationality principle seemed to signify the end of all disputes between nations; it was to be the norm by which all conflict should be peacefully solved. The League of Nations of Versailles adopts this principle also, though, to be sure, only for the nations of Europe. Yet in doing so it overlooks the fact that applying this principle wherever the members of different peoples live mingled together only ignites conflict among peoples all the more. It is still more serious that the League of Nations does not recognize the freedom of movement of the person, that the United States and Australia are still allowed to block themselves off from unwanted immigrants. Such a League of Nations endures so long as it has the power to hold down its adversaries; its authority and the effectiveness of its principles are built on force, to which the disadvantaged must yield but which they will never recognize as right. Never can Germans, Italians, Czechs, Japanese, Chinese, and others regard it as just that the immeasurable landed wealth of North America, Australia, and East India should remain the exclusive property of the Anglo-Saxon nation and that the French be allowed to hedge in millions of square kilometers of the best land like a private park.

Socialist doctrine hopes for establishment of eternal peace through the realization of socialism. "Those migrations of individuals," says Otto Bauer, "that are dominated by the blindly prevailing laws of capitalist competition and are almost fully exempt from the application of deliberate rules then cease. Into their place steps the deliberate regulation of migrations by the socialist community. They will draw immigrants to where a larger number of people at work increases the productivity of labor; where the land bestows a declining yield to a growing number of persons, they will induce part of the population to emigrate. With emigration and immigration thus being consciously regulated by society, the power over its language boundaries falls for the first time into the hands of each nation. Thus, no longer can social migrations against the will of the nation repeatedly violate the nationality principle."[55]

We can imagine the realization of socialism in two ways. First, in its highest fulfillment as a socialist world state, as unified world socialism. In such a state the office responsible for the overall control of production will determine the location of each unit of production and thereby also regulate migrations of workers and thus perform the same tasks that fall to the competition of producers in the?so far not even approximately implemented?free economy. This office will resettle workers from the territories with more unfavorable conditions of production into those with more favorable conditions. Then, however, nationality problems will still turn up in the socialist world community. If spinning and iron production are to be cut back in Germany and expanded in the United States, then German workers will have to be resettled in Anglo-Saxon territory. It is precisely such resettlements that, as Bauer says, repeatedly violate the nationality principle against the will of the nation; but they violate it not only in the capitalist economic order, as he thinks, but in the socialist order just the same. That they are governed in the liberal economic order by the "blindly ruling" laws of capitalist competition but in the socialist community are "deliberately" regulated by society is incidental. If the deliberate regulation of the migrations of workers is guided by the rational point of view of pure economic efficiency?which of course Bauer too, and with him every Marxist, takes for granted?then it must lead to the same result that free competition also leads to, namely, that workers, without regard to historically inherited national conditions of settlement, are resettled where they are needed for exploitation of the most favorable conditions of production. Therein, however, lies the root of all national frictions. To assume that migrations of workers transcending the boundaries of national territories of settlement would not lead to the same conflicts in the socialist community as in the free community would of course be a downright utopian way of thinking. If, though, one wants to conceive of the socialist community as a nondemocratic one, then such an assumption is permissible; for, as we have seen, all national frictions first arise under democracy. World socialism, conceived of as a world empire of general servitude of peoples, would admittedly bring national peace also.

The realization of socialism is also possible, however, otherwise than through a world state. We can imagine a series of independent socialist political systems?perhaps nationally unified state?existing side by side without there being a common management of world production. The individual communities, which then are owners of the natural and produced means of production located in their territories, are connected with each other only in the exchange of goods. In a socialism of that kind, national antagonisms will not only not be made milder in comparison with the situation in the liberal economic order but will be considerably sharpened. The migration problem would lose nothing of its capacity to create conflicts between peoples. The individual states would perhaps not completely shut themselves off from immigration, but they would not allow immigrants to acquire resident status and to acquire a full share of the fruits of national production. A kind of international migrant-worker system would arise. Since each one of these socialist communities would have the product of the natural resources found in its territory at its disposal, so that the income of the residents of the individual territories would be different in size?larger for some nations, smaller for others?people would resist the inflow of elements of foreign nationality even for this reason alone. In the liberal economic order it is possible for members of all nations to acquire private ownership of the means of production of the entire world so that, e.g., Germans also can assure themselves a part of the land resources of India and, on the other hand, again, German capital can move to India to help exploit the more favorable conditions of production there. In a socialist order of society, that sort of thing would not be possible, since political sovereignty and economic exploitation must coincide in it. The European peoples would be excluded from ownership in foreign continents. They would have to endure calmly the fact that the immeasurable riches of overseas territories redound to the advantage of the local inhabitants only and would have to observe how a part of this landed wealth remains unexploited because capital for its use cannot be obtained.

All pacifism not based on a liberal economic order built on private ownership of the means of production always remains utopian. Whoever wants peace among nations must seek to limit the state and its influence most strictly.

It is no accident that the basic ideas of modern imperialism can already be found in the writings of two fathers of German socialism and of modern socialism in general, namely, in the works of Engels and Rodbertus. From the statist outlook of a socialist it seems obvious, because of geographic and commercial necessities, that a state must not let itself be shut off from the sea.[56] The question of access to the sea, which has always directed the Russian policy of conquest in Europe and in Asia and has dominated the behavior of the German and Austrian states regarding Trieste and of the Hungarian state regarding the South Slavs and which has led to the infamous "corridor" theories to which people want to sacrifice the German city of Danzig, does not exist at all for the liberal. He cannot understand how persons may be used as a "corridor," since he takes the position from the first that persons and peoples never may serve as means but always are ends and because he never regards persons as appurtenances of the land on which they dwell, The free-trader, who advocates complete freedom of movement, cannot understand what sort of advantage it offers to a people if it can send its export goods to the coast over its own state territory. If the old Russia of Czarism had acquired a Norwegian seaport and in addition a corridor across Scandinavia to this seaport, it could not thereby have shortened the distance of the individual parts of the Russian interior from the sea. What the Russian economy feels as disadvantageous is that the Russian production sites are located far from the sea and therefore lack those advantages in the transport system that ease of ocean freight transport assures. But none of that would be changed by acquisition of a Scandinavian seaport; if free trade prevails, it is quite a matter of indifference whether the nearest seaports are administered by Russian or other officials. Imperialism needs seaports because it needs naval stations and because it wants to wage economic wars. It needs them not to use them but to exclude others from them. The nonstatist economy of trade free of the state does not recognize this argumentation.

Rodbertus and Engels both oppose the political demands of the non-German peoples of Austria. That the Germans and Magyars, at the time when the great monarchies really became a historical necessity in Europe, "put all these small, stunted, impotent nationlets together into a great empire and thereby made them capable of taking part in a historical development to which they, left to themselves, would have remained quite foreign"?for not having understood that, Engels reproaches the Pan-Slavists. He admits that such an empire cannot prevail "without forcibly crushing many a tender flowerlet of a nation. But without force and without iron ruthlessness, nothing is accomplished in history; and if Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon had possessed the same capacity for compassion to which Pan-Slavism now appeals for the sake of its decayed clients, what then would have become of history! And are the Persians, Celts, and Christian Germans not worth the Czechs and the people of Ogulin and Sereth?"[57] These sentences could have come quite well from a Pan-German writer or mutatis mutandis from a Czech or Polish chauvinist, Engels then continues: "Now, however, in consequence of the great progress of industry, trade, and communications, political centralization has become a much more pressing need than back in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. What still must be centralized becomes centralized. And now the Pan-Slavists come and demand that we should 'set free' these half-Germanized Slavs, we should undo a centralization that is imposed on these Slavs by all their material interests?" That is in essence nothing but Renner's doctrine of the tendency toward concentration in political life and of the economic necessity of the multinational state. We see that the orthodox Marxists did Renner an injustice in accusing him of heresy as a "revisionist."

The way to eternal peace does not lead through strengthening state and central power, as socialism strives for. The greater the scope the state claims in the life of the individual and the more important politics becomes for him, the more areas of friction are thereby created in territories with mixed population. Limiting state power to a minimum, as liberalism sought, would considerably soften the antagonisms between different nations that live side by side in the same territory. The only true national autonomy is the freedom of the individual against the state and society. The "statification" of life and of the economy leads with necessity to the struggle of nations.

Full freedom of movement of persons and goods, the most comprehensive protection of the property and freedom of each individual, removal of all state compulsion in the school system, in short, the most exact and complete application of the ideas of 1789, are the prerequisites of peaceful conditions. If wars then cease, "then peace has proceeded from the inner forces of things, then people and indeed free people have become peaceful."[58]

Never have we been further from this ideal than today.


[51] Cf Bentham, Grunds?tze f?r ein zuk?nftiges V?lkerrecht und f?r einen dauernden Frieden, translated by Klatscher (Halle: 1915), pp. 100 ff.

[52] Today people have managed to hold liberalism responsible for the outbreak of the World War. Compare, on the other hand, Bernstein, Sozialdemokratsche V?lkerpolitik (Leipzig: 1917), pp. 170 ff., where the close connection of free trade with the peace movement is mentioned. Spann, an opponent of pacifism, expressly emphasizes the "dislike and dread of war which today characterizes the capitalist community" (loc. cit., p. 137).

[53] Compare Hegel, Werke, third edition, vol. 9 (Berlin: 1848), p. 540.

[54] One could raise the question of what, then, the distinction between pacifism and militarism really consists, since the pacifist, too, is fundamentally not for maintaining peace at any price; rather, under certain conditions he prefers war to an unbearable state of peace; and conversely, the militarist, too, does not want to wage perpetual war but only to restore a definite condition that he regards as desirable. Both supposedly stand, therefore, in fundamental opposition to the absolute life renouncing passivity that the Gospel proclaims and that many Christian sects practice; between the two themselves, however, there exists only a difference of degree. In fact, however, the contrast is so great that it becomes a fundamental one. It lies, on the one hand, in assessment of the size and difficulty of the impediment barring us from peace and, on the other hand, in assessment of the disadvantages connected with conflict. Pacifism believes that we are barred from eternal peace only by a thin partition whose removal must lead at once to the state of peace, while militarism sets such remote goals for itself that their attainment in the foreseable future cannot be expected, so that a long era of war still lies ahead. Liberalism believed that eternal peace could be lastingly established merely by the abolition of princely absolutism, German militarism, however, was clear about the fact that achieving and maintaining the German supremacy being sought would continually entail wars for a long time yet. Furthermore, pacifism always has an eye open to the damages and disadvantages of war, while militarism considers them slight. From that there then follows in pacifism its outspoken preference for the state of peace and in militarism its constant glorification of war and, in its socialist form, of revolution. A further fundamental distinction between pacifism and militarism is possible according to their positions on the theory of power. Militarism sees the basis of rule in material power (Lassalle, Lasson), liberalism in the power of the mind (Hume).

[55] Cf. Bauer, loc. cit., p. 515.

[56] Cf. Rodbertus, Schriften, edited by Wirth, new edition, vol. 4 (Berlin: 1899), p. 282.

[57] Cf. Mehring, Aus dem literarischen Nachlass von Marx, Engels und Lassalle, vol 3(Stuttgart: 1902), pp. 255 f.

[58] Cf. W. Humboldt, Ideen zu einem Versuch, die Grenzen der Wirksamkeit des Staats zu bestimmen, edition of the "Deutsche Bibliothek," (Berlin), p. 66.

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