7. Januar 2005

Three Philosophies

Vice President Henry A. Wallace in "Century of the Common Man"(1943)

THERE ARE THREE great philosophies in the world today. The first, based on the supremacy of might over right, says that war between nations is inevitable until such time as a single master race dominates the entire world and everyone is assigned his daily task by an arrogant, self-appointed Fuehrer. The second—the Marxian philosophy—says that class warfare is inevitable until such time as the proletariat comes out on top, everywhere in the world, and can start building a society without classes. The third—which we in this country know as the democratic Christian philosophy—denies that man was made for war, whether it be war between nations or war between classes, and asserts boldly that ultimate peace is inevitable, that all men are brothers, and that God is their Father.

This democratic philosophy pervades not only the hearts and minds of those who live by the Christian religion, both Protestant and Catholic, but of those who draw their inspiration from Mohammedanism, Judaism, Hinduism, Confucianism and other faiths. When we look beneath the outer forms, we find that all these faiths, in one way or another, preach the doctrine of the dignity of each individual human soul, the doctrine that God intended man to be a good neighbor to his fellow man, and the doctrine of the essential unity of the entire world.

Those who think most about individualism preach freedom. Those who think most about unity, whether it be the unity of a nation or of the entire world, preach the sacred obligation of duty. There is a seeming conflict between freedom and duty, and it takes the spirit of democracy to resolve it. Only through religion and education can the freedom-loving individual realize that his greatest private pleasure comes from serving the highest unity, the general welfare of all. This truth, the essence of democracy, must capture the hearts of men over the entire world, if human civilization is not to be torn to pieces in a series of wars and revolutions far more terrible than anything that has yet been endured. Democracy is the hope of civilization.

To understand the significance of these three philosophies dominant in the world today, let us look at each one in turn. During the last eighty years, the outstanding exponent of the sacredness and inevitability of war has been Prussia. By nature the common people of Prussia are simple and hard-working, and make excellent citizens except where they have become infected by the Prussian doctrine that might makes right. The Prussian philosophy causes its adherents to practice many of the highest virtues, but these virtues are all ultimately placed at the disposal of supreme evil. Hitler, seizing the Prussian militaristic tradition as a powerful instrument in his hands and putting it to use with his own religious frenzy, has become the anti-Christ of this generation—perhaps the most complete anti-Christ who has ever lived. It is not enough to bring about the downfall of Hitler. We must understand the origin and growth of the Prussian spirit, and do something to counteract that spirit, if we wish to bring permanent peace.

The Prussian attitude toward war and supremacy has strong roots. Whether it reaches back to the days of Caesar or whether it first took form under the guidance of the Teutonic knights in the Middle Ages, we are certain of this: by the time of Frederick the Great, the Prussians consciously adopted the doctrine of total war and the total state as the chief end of man. Bismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm II modernized and made completely deceitful and ruthless that which Frederick the Great had founded.

Shortly after Kaiser Wilhelm II rose to power, a generation before the first World War, one of the more tender­hearted of the German generals said, in addressing his troops:

„Our civilization must build its temple on mountains of corpses, an ocean of tears, and the groans of innumerable dying men.“

We know now, to our sorrow, that those were not just idle words. But God grant they will not be true much longer.

Bernhardi and Treitschke, through the printed page and through the classroom, preached the glory of war and the necessity of Germany picking a quarrel with England or France. Frederick the Great, Moltke and Bismarck were proclaimed as being superior to Goethe, Schiller, Bach and Beethoven. Hegel laid broad and deep the philosophy of the totalitarian state. Other philosophers, and especially Nietzsche, seized on the Darwinian doctrines of natural selection and survival of the fittest to erect a seemingly scientific but false materialism to justify their ruthless acts.

In saying all of this, I do not mean to indicate that Prussia was the only wicked State in the world. England, France, Russia, Spain, and the United States were not always perfect. But Prussia and Japan were the only countries which systematically devoted the highest virtues of their citizenry, generation after generation, to the glorification of the State and to the ruthlessness of war.

The ancestors of many of the people of German origin in the United States were members of the minority in Germany who dissented from the extremist tendencies toward militarism. Thousands of these dissenters migrated to this country in the twenty or thirty years after the failure of the revolution of 1848. Their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren today are among our finest American citizens. They are patriotically doing their part in the present war for freedom, and we honor them for the spirit they have shown.

It is in the years since 1848 that the liberal culture of the old Germany has been so completely submerged by the worship of strength and power. In this period of less than a century, under Bismarck, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Hitler, Germany has launched five aggressive wars.

The result has been that, over the last thirty years, the spirit of Prussianism has cost the lives of at least twenty million men, has crippled at least ten million others, and has caused the nations of the world to squander hundreds of billions of dollars on death, destruction and hate. How different things would have been if this money had been spent instead on peace, prosperity and understanding.

Germans by blood are neither better nor worse than Englishmen, Americans, Swedes, Poles or Russians. But the Prussian tradition of the last century, and especially the Nazi education of the last ten years, have created a psychic entity so monstrous and so dangerous to the entire world that it is absolutely vital to exercise some control over German education when the war comes to an end. Prussian schoolmasters have been of greater importance to the German army than Prussian captains, and Prussian textbooks have had greater value than ammunition. It is the disciplined will to power and the worship of war as the method of power that have made the German army such a terrible instrument of force.

Just as Hitler took the Prussian military tradition and organized it into gangsterism, so he took the Prussian educational system and streamlined it to marshal the millions of German boys and girls behind his evil conspiracy of world conquest. Hitler‘s children have been trained to believe implicitly that the State is more important than the individual, and that the individual must be willing and ready to sacrifice himself for the German nation and for the Fuehrer. Starting with the young mothers and fathers, married or unmarried, and taking the children through the day nurseries and a series of schools for different ages, Hitler has indoctrinated the German children with what he calls his „leadership principle“ —that among men as in nature there is an eternal struggle between the weak and the strong, and that the „decadent“ democracies are destined to crumble before the superior might of the Nazi elite. German boys have been systematically trained in brutality. German girls have been systematically trained to believe that their supreme duty is to be mothers, married or unmarried, of children dedicated to the service of the Fatherland and the Fuehrer. Through the use of mystic ceremonies—pagan dances, bonfires, sun festivals on mountain tops, and many other types of ritual—both boys and girls have been trained to look upon Hitler as divine and they pray to him as God.

The evil influence of this systematic degradation of millions of German boys and girls can not be counteracted in a short time. Even Hitler‘s death will not end it, because many of Hitler‘s children, conditioned as they are, will believe that he is still their leader, in the spirit if not in the flesh. Hitler dead may be almost as dangerous as Hitler alive.

This, then, is the vastly difficult problem with which the United Nations will have to cope, if the victory which now is coming closer is to bring more than just a short breathing spell before another Prussian attack is launched upon the world.

It is not up to the United Nations to say just what the German schools of the future should teach; and we do not want to be guilty of a Hitler-like orgy of book burning. But it is vital to the peace of the world to make sure that neither Prussianism, Hitlerism nor any modification of them is taught. There are many cultured German scholars with an excellent attitude toward the world who should be put to work on the job of rewriting the German textbooks in their own way. I believe these men would glorify peace and international honesty, re-establishment of the German culture of Beethoven, Schubert, Schiller, and Goethe, and the gradual preparation of the German spirit for an appreciation of the fact that a Bill of Rights for the individual is as vital as a Bill of Duties toward the State.

Doubtless thousands of German boys will come home from the war bitterly disillusioned of Prussianism and Hitlerism. Thousands of both young and old at home will feel the same way. They will honestly want to help build up a new democratic Germany, and we, without yielding at all to the old warlike spirit of Prussia, should encourage them to try. We shall need the help of all Germans who give convincing evidence that they do not subscribe to the „master race“ myth and are genuinely opposed to the doctrine that might makes right. The re-education we insist upon should not crush out any sincere desire to practice democracy and live at peace among the world family of nations.

It will not be necessary for Americans to teach in the German schools. The all-important thing is to see that the cult of war and international deceit is no longer preached as a virtue in the schools. We cannot countenance the soft, lazy forgetfulness which characterized England and France in their treatment of Germany in the 30´s. The cost of such short­sighted appeasement is too great in men and money. We must not go down that mistaken, tragic road again.

All of my discussion thus far has been concerned with Prussianism. Now I want to talk about Marxianism. This philosophy in some ways is the child of Prussianism, because Marx, its high priest, was molded in his thinking by Hegel, the great philosopher of the Prussian state. Marxianism has used the Cheka, just as Prussianism has used the Gestapo, but it has never preached international war as an instrument of national policy. It does not believe one race is superior to another. Many of the Marxian activities of the last ten years which people of the West have most condemned have been inspired by fear of Germany. The Russian people, who are the chief believers in Marxianism, are fundamentally more religious than the Prussians. The great mass of the Russian people is still hungry for spiritual food. The Russians have a better opportunity to find that spiritual food than have the Prussians under their regime, which glorifies the violence of the old Teutonic gods.

This question of religious freedom in Russia has been getting attention from the Church of England and from the Roman Catholic Church in this country. In a recent issue of the magazine Commonweal, which surely can not be said to have Marxian leanings, the managing editor discussed two books by exiled Russians on the status of religion in Russia. Quoting from both books, one written under the auspices of the Church of England, and the other by a professor at Fordham University, the editor came to the conclusion that the position of the Christian Church in Russia has definitely improved.

The future well-being of the world depends upon the extent to which Marxianism, as it is being progressively modified in Russia, and democracy, as we are adapting it to twentieth century conditions, can live together in peace. Old-line Marxianism has held that democracy is mere words, that it serves the cause of the common man with platitudes rather than with jobs, and that belief in it results in a weak governmental organization. And we who believe in democracy must admit that modern science, invention and technology have provided us with new bottles into many of which we have not yet poured the wine of the democratic spirit.

In some respects both the Prussians and the Russians have perceived the signs of the times better than we—and I hope that reactionary politicians will not quote this sentence out of its context, in an effort to prove that I have come out for dictatorship. The fact is that the Prussians have done an effective job of making their bureaucrats efficient in coordinating the social forces in the service of the state. The Russians have put great emphasis on serving and gaining the enthusiastic adherence of the common man. It is my belief that democracy is the only true expression of Christianity, but if it is not to let Christianity down, democracy must be tremendously more efficient than it has been in the service of the common man, and in resistance to selfish pressure groups.

After this war is over, the democratic capitalistic nations will need to prove that they are supremely interested in full employment and full utilization of natural resources. They will need to demonstrate that the consuming power of their people can be made to equal their productive power. The right to work at a regular job and for a decent wage is essential to the true dignity of man.

If the Western democracies furnish full employment and an expanding production, they need have no fear of a revival of old-line communistic propaganda from within. If they do not furnish full employment, communistic propaganda of this kind is inevitable and there is nothing which the Russian government or our government or any other government can do to stop it. In the event of long-continued unemployment, the only question will be as to whether the Prussian or Marxian doctrine will take us over first.

I believe in the democratic doctrine—the religion based on the social message of the prophets, the heart insight of Christ, and the wisdom of the men who drew up the Constitution of the United States and adopted the Bill of Rights. By tradition and by structure we believe that it is possible to reconcile the freedom and rights of the individual with the duties required of us by the general welfare. We believe in religious tolerance and the separation of church and state, but we need to light again the old spirit to meet the challenge of new facts.

We shall decide some time in 1943 or 1944 whether to plant the seeds for World War Number Three. That war will be certain if we allow Prussia to rearm either materially or psychologically. That war will be probable in case we double-cross Russia. That war will be probable if we fail to demonstrate that we can furnish full employment after this war comes to an end and Fascist interests motivated largely by anti-Russian bias get control of our government. Unless the western democracies and Russia come to a satisfactory understanding before the war ends, I very much fear that World War Number Three will be inevitable. Without a close and trusting understanding between Russia and the United States, there is grave probability after this war is over of Russia and Germany sooner or later making common cause.

Of course, the ground for World War Number Three can be laid by actions of the other powers, even though we in the United States follow the most constructive course. For example, such a war would be inevitable if Russia should again embrace the Trotskyist idea of fomenting worldwide revolution, or if British interests should again be sympathetic to anti-Russian activity in Germany and other countries.

Another possible cause of World War Number Three might rise out of our own willingness to repeat the mistakes we made after World War Number One. When a creditor nation raises its tariffs and asks foreign nations to pay up, and at the same time refuses to let them pay in goods, the result is irritation of a sort that sooner or later leads first to trade war and then to bloodshed.

The gospel of Christ was to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the sick, and visit those who were in hard luck. He said that treating your neighbor decently was the way to show that you loved God. The neighborhood in Christ‘s day was a few miles in diameter. Today the airplane has made the whole world a neighborhood. The Good Neighbor policy, whether at home or abroad, is a Christian policy. Those who preach isolationism and hate of other nations are preaching a modified form of Prussian Nazism, and the only outcome of such preaching will be war.

If we want peace, we must treat other nations in the spirit of democratic Christianity. We must make our religion practical. In our relations with China, for example, we must act in such a way as to enhance the material as well as the spiritual well-being of her people. So doing will not only be of spiritual advantage to ourselves, will not only do much to prevent war, but will give us more material prosperity than we can otherwise enjoy. And in saying this, I do not speak in the missionary spirit as a forerunner of a new imperialism.

Nearly half the people of the world live in eastern Asia. Seven-eights of them do not know how to read and write, but many of them listen to the radio and they know that the world is on the move and they are determined to move with it. We can at their request help them to move in knowledge toward a higher standard of living rather than in ignorance toward confusion and anarchy.

Throughout history, every big nation has been given an opportunity to help itself by helping the world. If such an opportunity is seized with a broad and generous spirit, an infinitude of practical possibilities opens up. Thousands of business men in the United States have seen this kind of thing happen on a smaller scale in their own businesses, as their broad and enlightened policies have increased their prosperity and given jobs to their neighbors. Christianity is not star gazing or foolish idealism. Applied on a worldwide scale, it is intensely practical. Bread cast upon the waters does return. National friendships are remembered. Help to starving people is not soon forgotten. We of the United States who now have the greatest opportunity that ever came to any people do not wish to impose on any other race or to thrust our money or technical experts or ways of thought on those who do not desire them. But we do believe that if we measure up to the responsibility which Providence has placed on our shoulders, we shall be called on for help by many peoples who admire us. When we respond to this cry for help, we shall be manifesting not only a Christian spirit, but also obeying a fundamental law of life.

We of the Western democracies must demonstrate the practicality of our religion. We must extend a helping hand to China and India; we must be firm and just with Prussia; we must deal honestly and fairly with Russia and be tolerant and even helpful as she works out her economic problems in her own way; we must prove that we ourselves can give an example, in our American democratic way, of full employment and full production for the benefit of the common man.

By collaborating with the rest of the world to put productive resources fully to work, we shall raise our own standard of living and help to raise the standard of living of others. It is not that we shall be taking the bread out of the mouths of our own children to feed the children of others, but that we shall cooperate with everyone to call forth the energies of everyone, to put God‘s earth more completely at the service of all mankind. (March 8, 1943)