PATRIOTISM, A MENACE TO LIBERTY
by Emma Goldman
WHAT is patriotism? Is it love of one's birthplace, the place of
childhood's recollections and hopes, dreams and aspirations? Is it the
place where, in childlike naivete, we would watch the fleeting clouds, and
wonder why we, too, could not run so swiftly? The place where we would
count the milliard glittering stars, terror-stricken lest each one "an eye
should be," piercing the very depths of our little souls? Is it the place
where we would listen to the music of the birds, and long to have wings to
fly, even as they, to distant lands? Or the place where we would sit at
mother's knee, enraptured by wonderful tales of great deeds and conquests?
In short, is it love for the spot, every inch representing dear and
precious recollections of a happy, joyous, and playful childhood?
If that were patriotism, few American men of today could be called
upon to be patriotic, since the place of play has been turned into factory,
mill, and mine, while deafening sounds of machinery have replaced the music
of the birds. Nor can we longer 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. Johnson. Leo Tolstoy, the greatest anti-patriot of
our times, defines patriotism as the principle that will justify the
training of wholesale murderers; a trade that requires better equipment for
the exercise of man-killing than the making of such necessities of life as
shoes, clothing, and houses; a trade that guarantees better returns and
greater glory than that of the average workingman.
Gustave Herve, another great anti-patriot, justly calls patriotism
a superstition. One far more injurious, brutal, and inhumane than religion.
The superstition of religion originated in man's inability to explain
natural phenomena. That is, when primitive man heard thunder or saw the
lightning, he could not account for either, and therefore concluded that
back of them must be a force greater than himself. Similarly he saw a
supernatural force in the rain, and in the various other changes in nature.
Patriotism, on the other hand, is a superstition artificially created and
maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that
robs man of his self-respect and dignity, and increases his arrogance and
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
better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the 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
poisoned with bloodcurdling 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. It is for that purpose that America has within
a short time spent four hundred million dollars. Just think of it - four
hundred million dollars taken from the produce of the people. For surely it
is not the rich who contribute to patriotism. They are cosmopolitans,
perfectly at home in every land. We in America know well the truth of this.
Are not our rich Americans Frenchmen in France, Germans in Germany, or
Englishmen in England? And do they not squandor with cosmopolitan grace
fortunes coined by American factory children and cotton slaves? Yes, theirs
is the patriotism that will make it possible to send messages of
condolence to a despot like the Russian Tsar, when any mishap befalls him,
as President Roosevelt did in the name of his people, when Sergius was
punished by the Russian revolutionists.
It is a patriotism that will assist the arch-murderer, Diaz, in
destroying thousands of lives in Mexico, or that will even aid in arresting
Mexican revolutionists on American soil and keep them incarcerated in
American prisons, without the slightest cause or reason.
But, then, patriotism is not for those who represent wealth and
power. It is good enough for the people. It reminds one of the historic
wisdom of Frederick the Great, the bosom friend of Voltaire, who said:
"Religion is a fraud, but it must be maintained for the masses."
That patriotism is rather a costly institution, no one will doubt
after considering the following statistics. The progressive increase of the
expenditures for the leading armies and navies of the world during the last
quarter of a century is a fact of such gravity as to startle every
thoughtful student of economic problems. It may be briefly indicated by
dividing the time from 1881 to 1905 into five-year periods, and noting the
disbursements of several great nations for army and navy purposes during
the first and last of those periods. From the first to the last of the
periods noted the expenditures of Great Britain increased from
$2,101,848,936 to $4,143,226,885, those of France from $3,324,500,000 to
$3,455,109,900, those of Germany from $725,000,200 to $2,700,375,600, those
of the United States from $1,275,500,750 to $2,650,900,450, those of Russia
from $1,900,975,500 to $5,250,445,100, those of Italy from $1,600,975,750
to $1,755,500,100, and those of Japan from $182,900,500 to $700,925,475.
The military expenditures of each of the nations mentioned
increased in each of the five-year periods under review. During the entire
interval from 1881 to 1905 Great Britain's outlay for her army increased
fourfold, that of the United States was tripled, Russia's was doubled, that
of Germany increased 35 per cent., that of France about 15 per cent., and
that of Japan nearly 500 per cent. If we compare the expenditures of these
nations upon their armies with their total expenditures for all the
twenty-five years ending with I905, the proportion rose as follows:
In Great Britain from 20 per cent. to 37; in the United States from
15 to 23; in France from 16 to 18; in Italy from 12 to 15; in Japan from 12
to 14. On the other hand, it is interesting to note that the proportion in
Germany decreased from about 58 per cent. to 25, the decrease being due to
the enormous increase in the imperial expenditures for other purposes, the
fact being that the army expenditures for the period of 190I-5 were higher
than for any five-year period preceding. Statistics show that the countries
in which army expenditures are greatest, in proportion to the total
national revenues, are Great Britain, the United States, Japan, France, and
Italy, in the order named.
The showing as to the cost of great navies is equally impressive.
During the twenty-five years ending with 1905 naval
approximately as follows: Great Britain, 300 per cent.; France 60 per
cent.; Germany 600 per cent.; the United States 525 per cent.; Russia 300
per cent.; Italy 250 per cent.; and Japan, 700 per cent. With the exception
of Great Britain, the United States spends more for naval purposes than any
other nation, and this expenditure bears also a larger proportion to the
entire national disbursements than that of any other power. In the period
1881-5, the expenditure for the United States navy was $6.20 out of each
$100 appropriated for all national purposes; the amount rose to $6.60 for
the next five-year period, to $8.10 for the next, to $11.70 for the next,
and to $16.40 for 1901-5. It is morally certain
that the outlay for the
current period of five years will show a still further increase.
The rising cost of militarism may be still further illustrated by
computing it as a per capita tax on population. From the first to the last
of the five-year periods taken as the basis for the comparisons here given,
it has risen as follows: In Great Britain, from $18.47 to $52.50; in
France, from $19.66 to $23.62; in Germany, from $10.17 to $15.51; in the
United States, from $5.62 to $13.64; in Russia, from $6.14 to $8.37; in
Italy, from $9.59 to $11.24, and in Japan from 86 cents to $3.11.
It is in connection with this rough estimate of cost per capita
that the economic burden of militarism is most appreciable. The
irresistible conclusion from available data is that the increase of
expenditure for army and navy purposes is rapidly surpassing the growth of
population in each of the countries considered in the present calculation.
In other words, a continuation of the increased demands of militarism
threatens each of those nations with a progressive exhaustion both of men
The awful waste that patriotism necessitates ought to be sufficient
to cure the man of even average intelligence from this disease. Yet
patriotism demands still more. The people are urged to be patriotic and for
that luxury they pay, not only by supporting their "defenders," but even by
sacrificing their own children. Patriotism requires allegiance to the flag,
which means obedience and readiness to kill father, mother, brother,
The usual contention is that we need a standing army to protect the
country from foreign invasion. Every intelligent man and woman knows,
however, that this is a myth maintained to frighten and coerce the foolish.
The governments of the world, knowing each other's interests, do not invade
each other. They have learned that they can gain much more by international
arbitration of disputes than by war and conquest. Indeed, as Carlyle said,
"War is a quarrel between two thieves too cowardly to fight their own
battle; therefore they take boys from one village and another village,
stick them into uniforms, equip them with guns, and let them loose like
wild beasts against each other."
It does not require much wisdom to trace every war back to a
similar cause. Let us take our own Spanish-American war, supposedly a great
and patriotic event in the history of the United States. How our hearts
burned with indignation against the atrocious Spaniards! True, our
indignation did not flare up spontaneously. It was nurtured by months of
newspaper agitation, and long after Butcher Weyler had killed off many
noble Cubans and outraged many Cuban women. Still, in justice to the
American Nation be it said, it did grow indignant and was willing to fight,
and that it fought bravely. But when the smoke was over, the dead buried,
and the cost of the war came back to the people in an increase in the price
of commodities and rent - that is, when we sobered up from our patriotic
spree it suddenly dawned on us that the cause of the Spanish-American war
was the consideration of the price of sugar; or, to be more explicit, that
the lives, blood, and money of the American people were used to protect the
interests of American capitalists, which were threatened by the Spanish
government. That this is not an exaggeration, but is based on absolute
facts and figures, is best proven by the attitude of the American
government to Cuban labor. When Cuba was firmly in the clutches of the
United States, the very soldiers sent to liberate Cuba were ordered to
shoot Cuban workingmen during the great cigarmakers' strike, which took
place shortly after the war.
Nor do we stand alone in waging war for such causes. The curtain is
beginning to be lifted on the motives of the terrible Russo-Japanese war,
which cost so much blood and tears. And we see again that back of the
fierce Moloch of war stands the still fiercer god of Commercialism.
Kuropatkin, the Russian Minister of War during the Russo-Japanese struggle,
has revealed the true secret behind the latter. The Tsar and his Grand
Dukes, having invested money in Corean concessions, the war was forced for
the sole purpose of speedily accumulating large fortunes.
The contention that a standing army and navy is the best security
of peace is about as logical as the claim that the most peaceful citizen is
he who goes about heavily armed. The experience of every-day life fully
proves that the armed individual is invariably anxious to try his strength.
The same is historically true of governments. Really peaceful countries do
not waste life and energy in war preparations, With the result that peace
However, the clamor for an increased army and navy is not due to
any foreign danger. It is owing to the dread of the growing discontent of
the masses and of the international spirit among the workers. It is to meet
the internal enemy that the Powers of various countries are preparing
themselves; an enemy, who, once awakened to consciousness, will prove more
dangerous than any foreign invader.
The powers that have for centuries been engaged in enslaving the
masses have made a thorough study of their psychology. They know that the
people at large are like children whose despair, sorrow, and tears can be
turned into joy with a little toy. And the more gorgeously the toy is
dressed, the louder the colors, the more it will appeal to the
An army and navy represents the people's toys. To make them more
attractive and acceptable, hundreds and thousands of dollars are being
spent for the display of these 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. To entertain the fleet, did
I say? To dine and wine a few superior officers, while the "brave boys" had
to mutiny to get sufficient food. Yes, two hundred and sixty thousand
dollars were spent on fireworks, theatre 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.
Two hundred and sixty thousand dollars! 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 of the newspapers 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 to be 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 it will
eventually plant her iron foot on the necks of all other nations.
Such is the logic of patriotism.
Considering the evil results that patriotism is fraught with for
the average man, it is as nothing compared with the insult and injury that
patriotism heaps upon the soldier himself,Hthat poor, deluded victim of
superstition and ignorance. He, the savior of his country, the protector of
his nation, - what has patriotism in store for him? A life of slavish
submission, vice, and perversion, during peace; a life of danger, exposure,
and death, during war.
While on a recent lecture tour in San Francisco, I visited the
Presidio, the most beautiful spot overlooking the Bay and Golden Gate Park.
Its purpose should have been playgrounds for children, gardens and music
for the recreation of the weary. Instead it is made ugly, dull, and gray by
barracks, - barracks wherein the rich would not allow their dogs to dwell. In
these miserable shanties soldiers are herded like cattle; here they waste
their young days, polishing the boots and brass buttons of their superior
officers. Here, too, I saw the distinction of classes: sturdy sons of a
free Republic, drawn up in line like convicts, saluting every passing
shrimp of a lieutenant. American equality, degrading manhood and elevating
Barrack life further tends to develop tendencies of sexual
perversion. It is gradually producing along this line results similar to
European military conditions. Havelock Ellis, the noted writer on sex
psychology, has made a thorough study of the subject. I quote: "Some of the
barracks are great centers of male prostitution.... The number of soldiers
who prostitute themselves is greater than we are willing to believe. It is
no exaggeration to say that in certain regiments the presumption is in
favor of the venality of the majority of the men.... On summer evenings
Hyde Park and the neighborhood of Albert Gate are full of guardsmen and
others plying a lively trade, and with little disguise, in uniform or
out.... In most cases the proceeds form a comfortable addition to Tommy
Atkins' pocket money."
To what extent this perversion has eaten its way into the army and
navy can best be judged from the fact that special houses exist for this
form of prostitution. The practice is not limited to England; it is
universal. "Soldiers are no less sought after in France than in England or
in Germany, and special houses for military prostitution exist both in
Paris and the garrison towns."
Had Mr. Havelock Ellis included America in his investigation of sex
perversion, he would have found that the same conditions prevail in our
army and navy as in those of other countries. The growth of the standing
army inevitably adds to the spread of sex perversion; the barracks are the
Aside from the sexual effects of barrack life, it also tends to
unfit the soldier for useful labor after leaving the army. Men, skilled in
a trade, seldom enter the army or navy, but even they, after a military
experience, find themselves totally unfitted for their former occupations.
Having acquired habits of idleness and a taste for excitement and
adventure, no peaceful pursuit can content them. Released from the army,
they can turn to no useful work. But it is usually the social riff-raff,
discharged prisoners and the like, whom either the struggle for life or
their own inclination drives into the ranks. These, their military term
over, again turn to their former life of crime, more brutalized and
degraded than before. It is a well-known fact that in our prisons there is
a goodly number of ex-soldiers; while, on the other hand, the army and navy
are to a great extent plied with ex-convicts.
Of all the evil results I have just described none seems to me so
detrimental to human integrity as the spirit patriotism has produced in the
case of Private William Buwalda. Because he foolishly believed that one can
be a soldier and exercise his rights as a man at the same time, the
military authorities punished him severely. True, he had served his country
fifteen years, during which time his record was unimpeachable. According to
Gen. Funston, who reduced Buwalda's sentence to three years, "the first
duty of an officer or an enlisted man is unquestioned obedience and loyalty
to the government, and it makes no difference whether he approves of that
government or not." Thus Funston stamps the true character of allegiance.
According to him, entrance into the army abrogates the principles of the
Declaration of Independence.
What a strange development of patriotism that turns a thinking
being into a loyal machine !
In justification of this most outrageous sentence of Buwalda, Gen.
Funston tells the American people that the soldier's action was "a serious
crime equal to treason." Now, what did this "terrible crime" really consist
of ? Simply in this: William Buwalda was one of fifteen hundred people who
attended a public meeting in San Francisco; and, oh, horrors, he shook
hands with the speaker, Emma Goldman. A terrible crime, indeed, which the
General calls "a great military offense, infinitely worse than desertion."
Can there be a greater indictment against patriotism than that it
will thus brand a man a criminal, throw him into prison, and rob him of the
results of fifteen years of faithful service?
Buwalda gave to his country the best years of his life and his very
manhood. But all that was as nothing. Patriotism is inexorable and, like
all insatiable monsters, demands all or nothing. It does not admit that a
soldier is also a human being, who has a right to his own feelings and
opinions, his own inclinations and ideas. No, patriotism can not admit of
that. That is the lesson which Buwalda was made to learn; made to learn at
a rather costly, though not at a useless price. When he returned to
freedom, he had lost his position in the army, but he regained his
self-respect. After all, that is worth three years of imprisonment.
A writer on the military conditions of America, in a recent
article, commented on the power of the military man over the civilian in
Germany. He said, among other things, that if our Republic had no other
meaning than to guarantee all citizens equal rights, it would have just
cause for existence. I am convinced that the writer was not in Colorado
during the patriotic regime of General Bell. He probably would have changed
his mind had he seen how, in the name of patriotism and the Republic, men
were thrown into bull-pens, dragged about, driven across the border, and
subjected to all kinds of indignities. Nor is that Colorado incident the
only one in the growth of military power in the United States. There is
hardly a strike where troops and militia do not come to the rescue of those
in power, and where they do not act as arrogantly and brutally as do the
men wearing the Kaiser's uniform. Then, too, we have the Dick military law.
Had the writer forgotten that?
A great misfortune with most of our writers is that they are
absolutely ignorant on current events, or that, lacking honesty, they will
not speak of these matters. And so it has come to pass that the Dick
military law was rushed through Congress with little discussion and still
less publicity, - a law which gives the President the power to turn a
peaceful citizen into a bloodthirsty man-killer, supposedly for the defense
of the country, in reality for the protection of the interests of that
particular party whose mouthpiece the President happens to be.
Our writer claims that militarism can never become such a power in
America as abroad, since it is voluntary with us, while compulsory in the
Old World. Two very important facts, however, the gentleman forgets to
consider. First, that conscription has created in Europe a deep-seated
hatred of militarism among all classes of society. Thousands of young
recruits enlist under protest and, once in the army, they will use every
possible means to desert. Second, that it is the compulsory feature of
militarism which has created a tremendous anti-militarist movement, feared
by European Powers far more than anything else. After all, the greatest
bulwark of capitalism is militarism. The very moment the latter is
undermined, capitalism will totter. True, we have no conscription; that is,
men are not usually forced to enlist in the army, but we have developed a
far more exacting and rigid forceHnecessity. Is it not a fact that during
industrial depressions there is a tremendous increase in the number of
enlistments ? The trade of militarism may not be either lucrative or
honorable, but it is better than tramping the country in search of work,
standing in the bread line, or sleeping in municipal lodging houses. After
all, it means thirteen dollars per month, three meals a day, and a place to
sleep. Yet even necessity is not sufficiently strong a factor to bring into
the army an element of character and manhood. No wonder our military
authorities complain of the "poor material" enlisting in the army and navy.
This admission is a very encouraging sign. It proves that there is still
enough of the spirit of independence and love of liberty left in the
average American to risk starvation rather than don the uniform.
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."
This solidarity is awakening the consciousness of even the soldiers, they,
too, being flesh of the flesh of the great human family. A solidarity that
has proven infallible more than once during past struggles, and which has
been the impetus inducing the Parisian soldiers, during the Commune of
1871, to refuse to obey when ordered to shoot their brothers. It has given
courage to the men who mutinied on Russian warships during recent years. It
will eventually bring about the uprising of all the oppressed and
downtrodden against their international exploiters.
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 spectre, militarism. Thousands of men fill the prisons of
France, Germany, Russia, and the Scandinavian countries, because they dared
to defy the ancient superstition. Nor is the movement limited to the
working class; it has embraced representatives in all stations of life, its
chief exponents being men and women prominent in art, science, and letters.
America will have to follow suit. The spirit of militarism has
already permeated all walks of life. Indeed, I am convinced that militarism
is growing a greater danger here than anywhere else, because of the many
bribes capitalism holds out to those whom it wishes to destroy.
The beginning has already been made in the schools. Evidently the
government holds to the Jesuitical conception, "Give me the child mind, and
I will mold the man." Children are trained in military tactics, the glory
of military achievements extolled in the curriculum, and the youthful minds
perverted to suit the government. Further, the youth of the country is
appealed to in glaring posters to join the army and 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.
The American workingman has suffered so much at the hands of the
soldier, State and Federal, that he is quite justified in his disgust with,
and his opposition to, the uniformed parasite. However, mere denunciation
will not solve this great problem. What we need is a propaganda of
education for the soldier: antipatriotic literature that will enlighten him
as to the real horrors of his trade, and that will awaken his consciousness
to his true relation to the man to whose labor he owes his very existence.
It is precisely this that the authorities fear most. It is already high
treason for a soldier to attend a radical meeting. No doubt they will also
stamp it high treason for a soldier to read a radical pamphlet. But, then,
has not authority from time immemorial stamped every step of progress as
treasonable ? Those, however, who earnestly strive for social
reconstruction can well afford to face all that; for it is probably even
more important to carry the truth into the barracks than into the factory.
When we have undermined the patriotic lie, we shall have cleared the path
for that great structure wherein all nationalities shall be united into a
universal brotherhood, - a truly FREE SOCIETY.