Peace and Power Politics 1941


By DR. ISAIAH BOWMAN, President of The Johns Hopkins University

Delivered at Atlantic City Meeting of the American Association of School Administrators, February 24, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 380-384.

THIS nation has emphatically expressed its determination to safeguard its own democracy and to help other democracies—that is, other kinds and degrees of democracy. This involves conflict, intense and prolonged conflict, whether or not we are at war. We expect victory for us to crown that conflict. We believe that an acceptable world order is based on agreement through reasonable compromise on the principle of fairness to all. We reject the "new order" of Nazi Germany, now the declared enemy of democracies, because German leaders interpret their new order only in terms of death to all other orders. Who is responsible for a peace that will permit a reasonable new order to be forged? Is it not the victor? If the victor is responsible for the consequences of his victory, we, the people of the United States, are now faced with two terribly urgent questions: how shall we help win victory; and what shall we do with victory when it has been won?

The peoples of the world think that victory will bring peace. They look forward to the birth of prosperity, the child of peace. But peace is conditioned by the hopes, dreams, expectations, and limitations of all mankind; it is not the product of one nation's hopes, dreams, efforts, and limitations. Remembering the recuperative power of Life and Nature, and its capacity to confound prophecy, I do not wish to deepen your anxiety by rejecting our peoples' hopes or by

casting an altogether pessimistic horoscope. But optimism can only be based on what part we are willing to play in that small sector of fate left to human will and enterprise. First, I wish to say a word about the schools, and then I would like to look at some of the difficulties, perhaps insoluble difficulties, as well as the responsibilities of the peace that will follow victory.

The Cost of War

Whatever else the future may reveal, there is a danger signal ahead for every interest which the schools of America advocate and defend. As far as speed and costs are concerned we are going about our defensive military preparations, and must go about them, as if we were already at war. Now there is but one way of ultimately meeting those costs, of paying for war or preparations for war: it is by lowering the standard of living. This is the universal seigniorage which Mars extracts from our social coinage. It is chiseled out of schools, museums, art galleries, quality and amount of food, clothing, house furnishings, soil preservation, care of the blind and the insane, private and public hospitalization, road repair, and hours of leisure or recreation. Included in the list is public morale, which sums up the national character-effort of all the others. Even the victor can contrive no way of escape from the general effect, for the worldis bound together in welfare as in trade. Victor and vanquished share the inescapable costs of war in greater or lesser degree. The whole world pays, and payment comesout of an account called "standard of living."

Education is not putting up a special plea when it seeks recognition of its place in American democratic life or when it attempts to ward off excess of payment for war, either potential or actual. It does not claim exemption from effects otherwise universal. It tries only to present the truth about our national character, and how it is shaped, in order that a forewarned public may more wisely decide how much of the inevitable lowering of standards that we shall experience in the future shall be put upon the schools.

Discipline and the General Good

We seem to be agreed that our economic condition, in the next few decades at least, will call for heroic remedies, but this is far from saying that our situation is hopeless. Our so-called economic machine is, after all, not a machine but a social contract. We have agreed, tacitly or otherwise, to run the machine in a certain way. If, for "our better ordering and preservation," as the Mayflower compact phrased it, we require a change, social forces can and will bring about a change. That change can be thoroughly wholesome in effect without being revolutionary in form. We have only to try to use our full productive strength, for the benefit of our whole population, to discover that the Promised Land of security and peace for all who inhabit the planet together is widely diffused prosperity.

It is a fallacy, which I hope we have left out of our reckoning forever, that if the economic and social machine creaks, we must replace it with a machine that an alien has contrived. There are always persons who think that the bright idea, to be acceptable, the cocktail lounge and the New Yorker Magazine apart must come from some Valley of Paradise in the Mountains of the Moon, from strange and far surroundings, where a magic formula has been discovered by which all human frailty has at last been circumvented. Of sounder judgment were those who in 1620 drew together to make their way in a new land and worked at their problems "under their own discipline," giving to America-to-be the principle of "the general good," as the Mayflower company called it. By subsequent and varied experience we have found that discipline and resolution applied to our problems, discussion and modification of practices and common acceptance of the will of the majority can win, keep and guarantee the general good. I have chosen as my theme "Peace and Power Politics, 1941" because we as a nation have not agreed, up to February 24, 1941, on anything but power. Since we are using that power to gain victory for an idea, and since we shall be involved in the peace that follows victory, we should begin to think without delay about the problems of peace. On those problems we shall find the gravest and widest differences of opinion, because the problems of peace, to a strong nation, are almost infinitely more difficult than the problems of war. There is no sign of peace anywhere; destruction will be stepped up in 1941; American dangers mount; American aims of the moment are stated in terms that correspond with British aims and needs, we have a widening gap between national income and national expense; and when twenty millions of soldiers and three times as many industrial workers face unemployment after the war we shall share both the loss and the anxiety of reconstruction. How will the war turn out and what alternative economic and social choices will the outcome bring? How shall we achieve hemisphere solidarity, which means hemisphere economic cooperation, ona wider scale? These and other great questions press insistently for discussion in the schools as in every other social agency. In the examples and statements which I shall now give I aim at no comprehensive treatment of the present world situation. I aim only at clarification of a few leading problems.

The Humanitarian Principle Comes First

The first principle of war by or defense of a democracy is humanitarian in nature. It is inconceivable that we should defend ourselves against an enemy or go out and fight an enemy merely to cripple him or block his path to peaceful improvement. It is equally true that we expect our own political and social lot to be bettered in the long run, however difficult the immediate post-war years may be. In striking proof of this is the concern of national leaders for the welfare of the "common man" as soon as war begins. Lincoln declared the purposes of the Civil War to be "to maintain that form and substance of government whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men," to give every man a fair chance in the race of life (First Inaugural, 1861). He intended to win for him what the late Warden Fisher once called the realities of the common people: "bread, coal, clothing, meat, houses, and land."

In like vein, Prime Minister Churchill, in a talk to the boys of Harrow, on December 18, 1940, promised England that victory at the end of the war must be followed by the wider sharing of "advantages and privileges which hitherto have been enjoyed only by the few." The men and youth of the nation, a few "by their skill and prowess," and many by their work and endurance, had won the admiration of the whole world. Whatever Eton and Harrow were doing, or had done and been, their students were but a small number among the total manhood of Britain, and it was the total manhood that he sought to benefit at the close of the war. His background was the willing and heroic sacrifices of resolute and disciplined men and women, many of whom had little to enjoy in days of peace. Like Lincoln, Churchill has began to think of the total sacrifice of war in terms of total benefit afterward. If privileged schooling continues in England, it can only be for the purpose of better serving the general good, the total welfare, in wider and more positive forms.

So too, Wilson, late in 1918, spoke of the end of the World War not only as an opportunity to make a safer world but also as an opportunity to make a people's peace. Said he, "This must not be a peace of arrangements by politicians. If the people of the world are offered a peace of arrangements they will raise hell." He knew that "people" abhor and hate war. He knew that great human sacrifices are justified and can be required only by great ends. When the poorest and the humblest are commanded to risk death in war, leaders must make very sure that the cause is deemed worthy, and that the rights and privileges of all will receive fair consideration afterward, lest those who live must insecurely and meanly bear the heaviest load.

British Experience

Forty years ago Sir Halford Mackinder wrote "Britain and the British Seas," a striking analysis of British industrial power, imperial organization, and possible military hazards in the future. He believed that British sea power, once lost, could not be regained. When the ultimate test came, he said, England would be thrown back upon her moral qualities as never before. We see his prophecy tragically come true today, and the lesson for us is all too plain in the mere possibility, never before realized by the Americanpeople, that defeat for England, and its sequel, will mean that America must stand alone against powers that hate us for our political forms and ideas no less than our strength. Should that time come only the moral qualities of America, her ability to unite and stay united, her ability to stand fast, will then underwrite her ultimate safety. We once criticised British imperialism: like the rest of the world, we may one day cry for its return.

There is yet another lesson for us in British experience. It was Gladstone's policy that England should have no joint interpreter on the continent of Europe. This policy gave England the title of arch-conspirator as she sought to maintain a continual balance of power that would prevent continental domination by a single nation or by an over-ambitious adventurer. It was therefore not easy for Britain to accept the League of Nations, and, in the light of earlier British policy, it is not surprising that British leadership wavered, and finally turned against League responsibility. There were of course other sources of dissatisfaction. By 1939, however, England's position had changed and she was bound to a "joint interpreter." When Germany invaded Poland, the latter country called for British and French assistance under treaty commitments, and it had to be given. The lesson for us is that unilateral declarations of intention by a supposedly isolated America prove as risky as joint interpretation. Ambassador Kennedy does not agree with this conclusion. He says that we shall have no war if we will to stay out of war. It is as simple as that! In reality defense itself is war when fighting men attack. We alone cannot decide either the hour or the certainty of such attack. Other dangers apart, if we insist on our inalienable right to scold the rest of the world we may have to take on the rest of the world.

The late Lord Tweedsmuir wrote, in "Pilgrim's Way," that the American critics' expositions of England are often like sermons preached in a Home for Fallen Women—her defects are a discredit to her relations, she has let down her kin, she has suffered the old home to fall into disrepute. There are not lacking Englishmen who see what's wrong with England. The late John Dove, editor of the Round Table, wrote of his England as a "land of coal and cotton and misery and fog." Warden Fisher of New College, Oxford, referred to the "violent contrasts of luxury and want" which England exhibited. England has suffered from yet another difficulty. At the close of this war, if victory is achieved, can England endure her own terms of peace? In the past England, whatever her imperial sins, has insisted on writing humanitarian terms into her contracts with subject peoples under her flag. She has come to terms with her own conscience while keeping her economic system going at terrific cost and with increasing if not insurmountable difficulties. This is true of English domestic affairs as well as imperial affairs. The annual cost of the social services in England, Scotland and Wales rose from 1901 to 1937 by 1200%, or from £36,000,000 to £455,000,000. Every pound of coal and yard of cloth must bear its share of this appalling load thus reducing British competitive power in the world market. Conscience and business are frequently hard to reconcile. Some Englishmen have steadily sought to bring about reconciliation, thus incurring risks to world power whose full gravity we cannot yet foresee.

French Experience

In the title of his book, "The Grandeur and Misery of Victory," written after the Allied victory of 1918, Clemenceau used two words that aptly describe military victory today—grandeur and misery. The elation of victory in 1918had no economic underpinning. Neither reparations nor colonial mandates, not freedom of the seas, nor reduced armaments could offset the miseries of dissension, property destruction, social disintegration, fear, and uncertainty—wolves that the war had fed and turned loose. European life grew small and mean. Autarchy afflicted individuals as well as nations and institutions. Europe, a house of narrow rooms, became increasingly unstable; selfishness and venality in men of high political station became common.

In France, by 1939, war had become a theory—a fight from a safe place. Too many Frenchmen forgot that war is out in front, not down behind a wall. So long as the crops are not trampled, says Olivier in "Jean-Christophe," the political parties may break each other's heads as much as they like. He adds: the soil of the peasant is his love; war is something that leaders should keep away from the people; each man is content to shut himself up in his own house. The indictment of our French author (Rolland) continues. French individualism had grown stronger century by century. Science with its special language was wrapped around in our time with a triple veil which only the initiate could draw: it lived in the depths of its sanctuary. Art, hermetically sealed, despised "the people." Writers were intent upon keeping the purity of the inner flame rather than communicating its warmth to others. They desired more to affirm their ideas and express their intellectual egoism and less to have their ideas prevail, ideas "corrupted by a sham elite." Success was controlled by "an impudent minority" The saving virtue of communal enterprise, self-denial, was wanting as men split into absurdly small self-satisfied groups each one claiming all the virtues. Everyone knew what was right but no two plans agreed. "Crazy individualism," Rolland called it in 1910, the phrase was apposite in 1940 when defeat came like a lightning flash and revealed the manifold weaknesses of France. It is significant that today there are living in France, as examples of extreme individualism, 1,000 ex-ministers of state.

Such individualism has no vitality, no nationally creative or associative power. Liberty is not conceived as the basis for broadened intercourse but as an opportunity to be more individualistic than ever, as a reaction against the political and social tyranny of public opinion, the state, esoteric groups, schools, coteries. This is an indictment of an earlier France. Clearly the World-War, which later on brought France together, had but transient effects. The historic qualities of separatism became intensified by the straitened life of the post-war period.

There are other qualities that may redeem France. When the great disaster of June, 1940, was realised, people and leaders said, "Perhaps another Joan of Arc will come." This was not an appeal to miracles. It was an instinctive return to the heroic mood of earlier achievement. If Frenchmen of spirit and intelligence outlast their present woes, they may be able to raise France again. What we here wish to emphasize is that these woes and these possibilities are intertwined with peace-making and vastly multiply its difficulties and its dangers.

The Servitudes of Freedom

I have spoken of England and France in some detail because these are the "democracies" with which our sympathies run. Will their political and social problems and qualities not make peace harder than ever? No nation lacking discipline in its own affairs, no rampant individualism will fit a country to mind another country's affairs. If we join Britain and eventually a renewed France what shall our common victory bring them? It will bring them nothingif we also do not share the responsibilities. If we wish to share the grandeurs we must be prepared for the miseries of victory. The responsibilities are far-reaching. We once walked out of the council chamber and left Europe to arrange its affairs as best it could. We called our action a return to "normalcy." Now we know that a normal state of affairs is nation trading with nation, system adjusted to system, our right weighed against another's right, the weak kept free lest a monster in command of Herrenvolk come and feed upon them. We must make it clear, if we have the power, that all share the planet; none may monopolise it.

We have suddenly discovered that freedom has its own servitudes and no man may escape them and have freedom. In one of Pearl Buck's stories a Chinese reflects deeply upon his once-prized freedom. In a certain spiritual isolation, in a kind of blind attachment to his local village and the affairs of his family, as in his contemplations, he thought he had been enjoying freedom. Now he saw that what he had called freedom was in truth slavery. For he was a slave to destructive floods that his individuality had allowed to happen for want of sufficient dykes; he was a slave to famine for no one among the so-called free men had taken the trouble to prevent it; he was a slave to war for the work of the soldier was disciplined work with individualism sunk in common obedience to achieve a common end. He reflected long upon an appropriate interpretation or definition of freedom. At last he saw how imperfectly he had understood it. In sum, a moment had come when freedom and security seemed to be nearly the same thing.

Fatalism vs. Human Will

There are two opposing philosophies fighting for public acceptance today as we view the startling triumphs of power politics during the past year and the dangers they present for ourselves. One of these philosophies is fatalistic—things happen because "time's wise threads so weave." The second leaves scope for human directive power in the belief that what all men dream some men will do. The first looks upon "fate" as all mystery. The second appraises human resources of skill, aptitude, initiative, resolution, and courage, and claims at least a small sector of human destiny for human control. The first sits back, content to let the Immanent Will work its way. The second believes with F. S. Oliver that "in the greater affairs of life the mind must fling itself forward beyond its data," in confidence and faith. Possession of this instinct or lack of it is the chief difference, says Oliver, between great and small men—the simple may have it, never the intellectually arrogant.

Oliver concludes: "He who has power to sway the hearts of men has power over great events." France became a nation of egotists who exalted self-esteem and refused allegiance to leaders themselves moved by no great social convictions. Britain rose above her mistakes of the past and responded to one who flung himself forward beyond his data and by sheer will power and matchless heart-moving appeals of profound sincerity gained power over the great events of his time. Just as Woodrow Wilson once spoke to the entire world, and for a time held destiny in his hands, so Winston Churchill now speaks to the world. He is worth as much as the whole British navy, for like that navy he exercises power over the fate of his people. His logic and his voice cut across ill chance and "troubles horning up ahead" and draw all free men within the circle of his resolution.

We believe that still another and more powerful force can be made to back our faith and inspire the settlement that must follow war. That is the force of reason applied to the search for fair conditions of planetary living. Faithand feeling have their large part to play in national as in international life. Hitler is not unskilled in their use! A profounder thing is needed: the willingness to think our way through difficulties. Practical intelligence is rarer than idealism. Upon any theory of peace how will human rights again be guaranteed respect?

The War Upon Our Internal Problems

In the days to come we shall need the second of our two philosophies in growing measure. As danger mounts, costs will mount. If we enter the war, all glory will be wrung out of it as we contemplate the irretrievable losses. If that moment should come the first object will be victory. But hard on the heels of victory will come another war—the war upon our internal problems. Victory at arms, said Clemenceau, may be the beginning of a defeat in economics: "an act of rapine takes but a little time: centuries are not always enough for reparation." In that internal war the first rule should be that whatever the effect upon our standard of lying all should go up or down together. No man should go hungry in a land whose excess productive capacity has been an embarrassment to its economic and political managers. We shall not see again, if we are resolute, 85% of the schools of one state closed, the malnutrition of school children in our larger cities increased, the willing-to-work unfed. If we ought to fight together, we must prosper together. We shall do neither if we have no clear view of victory when peace comes.

Peace reaches out in two directions. First, it reaches out in the direction of our neighbors for whom we have an inescapable responsibility whether they are our friends whom we favor or our enemies who have been beaten. And we should now resolve that neither friend nor foe should be given power, after victory, to defile or betray the sacrifices. The second effect of peace should be felt by all of our own people who responded to the call for sacrifice. In the hour of victory their problems will rise again before us, the ancient problems of food, clothing, land, security. To these "identical old questions," to use Lincoln's phrase, we must give our lest imagination, courage, and resource, for they represent the ultimate conflict and the ultimate victory of our democracy in social and economic fields.

In closing I would like to offer a summary of the implications of this address. I will call them not conclusions But particulars which are expected to exercise your wits and from which agreement or dissent may take off. Educators are in "the think business." If you disagree, will you not write your own estimate of the American situation, your own bill of particulars?

Bill of Particulars for America in 1941

1. Feed the hungry. This is social problem number one. Whatever its outcome, the European war will be followed by world-wide disorganization and unemployment. The hungry man is a hopeless if not a desperate man and he has a right to expect that desirable and attainable productive capacity shall be employed by his elected leaders. Leadership must accept responsibility for food and work. If we can organize for a possible fight, we can organize to prevent chaos after the fight.

2. Organize "draft boards" to get men into employment and not merely out of the army. Release men according to an agreed system. Let each community tackle the job of employment for the returned man. In colonial times, the community took care of the absent militiaman's crops and livestock. Why not now accept a corresponding responsibility for the source of his livelihood when he returns? Our resources are much greater, our statistical and community organizations much further advanced. If defense is to everyone's interest, the defenders are everyone's responsibility.

3. The more armaments we have the poorer we are. Arm, arm, arm! But in so doing remember that, unless we are vigilant, the cost will be taken out of the standard of living inequitably. The more we spend now the more surely we must settle post-war problems by controlled production and consumption. The alternative is an unbearably low standard of living and an impoverished cultural life.

4. Natural wealth is for "the general good" No man made the soils or the petroleum deposits. Thorough-going control of the national unearned wealth is imperative. The simple realities of the common people are "bread, coal, clothing, meat, houses, and land." These have to be supplied by "natural resources," developed by skill and for agreed social purposes, in 1941 as in 1620.

5. If we have not improved the people of the United States we have not improved the United States. Life is dynamic and attempts to realise possibilities put in its way by expanding science. We should apply the beneficences we discover. National health, for example, is national strength.

6. Culture is a state of mind as will as a collection of objects. It is fostered by fair adjustments of social rights and duties while giving talented persons a chance to exercise their talents. Culture is created by the few but it is paid for by the many and the many should by training possess it. Laws become culture when every man thinks of himself as "the author of the law which he obeys." If there is ever to be a new holiday, make it the day after election when we accept the decision of the majority and agree to go forward peaceably under the law. Short of waste, taxes are culture, for with them we buy a measure of security and civilisation.

7. Democracy imposes upon the individual the duty of discipline. It demands that each man identify his special responsibility and discharge it. Our devotion to our own kind of democracy gives us no warrant for defining another people's democracy. There is no known democracy fit for those who do not want it or are too egotistical, withdrawn, and selfish to defend it. Democracy is individual good subordinated to the general good; it is equal opportunity but not equal achievement and therefore not equal reward.

8. Keep our foreign policy abreast of our striking power, not beyond it. A bold attitude is admirable but a bombastic one is ludicrous and dangerous.

9. Force is our first instrument of defense. As the example of Britain demonstrates, when the crucial moment of defense comes we must engage our ships, not merely admire their fire power. Our attention should be on movable fighting ships, not upon a stationary Pearl Harbor or an immovable Panama Canal. A two-ocean navy means a five-fleet navy each assigned to a definite area of patrol in (1) Alaska; (2) Hawaii; (3) Panama Canal, with a sector in the Pacific and a sector in the inner Carribean; (4) West Indies, or outer Caribbean; (5) Atlantic coast, including advanced air and fleet bases.

10. There is as yet no least proof of final German victory. An over-extended conquest is inherently weak. As long as, and to the extent that, we vigorously support the foes of Germany we give ourselves time to arm (an industrial job) and to train (an army job). Ultimate negotiation with Germany will be effective in proportion to our naval, military, and air strength, both realised and potential. Thosewho wish to withdraw aid to Britain because they believe that her defeat will mean the end of the military war forget that the peace negotiations to follow will be the opening of an economic war. Either victory or defeat for Britain means that there will be thrust upon us the chief responsibility for participation in an after-war world order. If we shirk that responsibility the frontiers of the implacable enemies of our way of life and our political system will be inside our ring of island defenses not outside it.

11. The schools have an indispensable part to play while these events run their course:

(a) To do their professional teaching and training thoroughly and well, remembering that a large measure of the stability of America is due to the equality and universality of our schools, the opportunities they open up, and the hope they afford.

(b) To help maintain the unity and morale of the country by teaching what America is, looks like, and can be all the way from soil to spirit and "from sea to shining sea,"—what it can be if we but keep and develop the democratic principle as opposed to dictatorship.

(c) To broaden the education of students so as to include a knowledge of current life-and-death problems.

(d) To experiment with and revise curricula in order that students will be prepared for participation in an economic order that must apparently suffer further wide and deep changes, and for new community organisations that will be necessary to keep soldiers, industrial workers, farmers, and others, in fair collaboration. This country is too diverse to be governed wholly by rules made in Washington, indispensable as it is in our tightly organised economic life to have large areas of the common good determined by federal representatives.

12. Schools are a part of society and have the right end the obligation to criticise and analyse current concepts of American purpose and duty. They should go deeper and be more stable than the prevailing sentiments and enthusiasms of the public. They teach the sons and daughters of the folk who produce with their hands in shop and field, as well as those who employ chiefly their heads as in a profession. They reach all kinds and conditions of people. They do not need to assume responsibility for the form of our social system a creative process) to be useful critics of it (an understanding process).

It has been said that a lecture is "a monologue shouted in the presence of a few hundred unknown, silent people, a ready-made garment warranted to fit all sizes, though it actually fits no one." Of what theme could this be said more truly than that of peace and power politics in 1941? Unity we can have and shall have for total defense. In whatever guise victory appears, its coming means that unity will surely disappear and the walls of our faith will crumble—unless we have well seized the truth that peace is intellectually harder than war, that what Lincoln called the "identical old questions" will surely confront us again when the war is over, however it end, and whether or not we are drawn into it. Unfortunately, peace has no general staff, no glamour, no bannered army. Peace has always meant quitting something, pulling out, "going back." Peace now calls for an army in which all of us should be enrolled, for all will face its terrible problems. The schools are among the regiments and companies of that army. All the people will be in it for all America is theirs, to keep or to lose.