Patriotism: A Menace to Liberty
by Emma Goldman
from the book
Anarchism and other essays
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 naively,
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 conceit.
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
on 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 I 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 squander with cosmopolitan grace fortunes
earned 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 Russia'` 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,IOI,848,936 to $4,143,226,885, those of France
from $3,324,500,ooo to $3,455,109,900, those of Germany from $725,ooo,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 1905, 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 1901-5
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 expenditures increased 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 I881-5, the expenditure for the United States navy
was $6.20 out of each $1.00 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 contamination
of the increased demands of militarism threatens each of those
nations with a progressive exhaustion both of men and resources.
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 cigar
makers' 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 is maintained.
However, the clamor for an increased army
and navy is not due to any foreigner. It is owing to the dread
of the growing discontent of the masses and of the international
spirit among the workers. lt. 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 million-headed
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 ;~m 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,
theater 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 Iynch 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,-that 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 the uniform!
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 incubators.
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 ax-soldiers; while,
on the other hand, the army and navy are to a great extent supplied
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
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 hardy 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
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 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
force---necessity. Is it not a fact that during industrial depressions
there is a tremendous increase in the number of enlistment's?
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
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 I871, 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 specter, 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 1" cries the
governmental huckster.- Thus innocent boys are morally shanghaied
into patriotism, and the military Moloch strides conquering through
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.