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The International Idea

Major C.H. Douglas in "The New Age," Jan. 14th, 1932
Notes of an Address originally delivered in London, U.K.


· Society at the present time is a battle ground of two fundamentally opposed ideas and the future of society (now civilisation) likely to be determined by which of those ideas shall prevail.

· One of these ideas, is the breaking down of all differences, social and national, and the setting up of a world state.

· And evidence to the contrary offers no evidence or argument to the Internationalist. The idea is impervious to the assault of fact.

· There is a perfectly straightforward and practical explanation of this propaganda for internationalism, and for practical purposes one does not really need to look far.

· Hardly a day passes without a leading article in leading newspapers remarking, as though it were axiomatic, that the world is one economic unit, and that no adjustment of the present discontents can be expected which does not proceed from international agreement.

· This opinion is never argued; it is always stated as though it were obvious to the meanest intellect.

· The simplest explanation of this is that if you only make a subject large enough and involve a sufficiently large number of people in the solution of it, you can rest assured that you will never get a solution.

· A democracy of a thousand voters can be personally approached and convinced on any subject within a reasonable period of time.

· Enlarge the franchise to include everyone over twenty-one in a population of 45,000,000 and you can be sure that any general conclusion will be twenty-five years after that conclusion ceases to be true.

· If you can super-impose upon that by means of a controlled Press, Broadcasting, and other devices of a similar nature, something that you call "public opinion'' (because it is the only opinion which is articulate) you have a perfect mechanism for a continuous dictatorship.

· A dictatorship with power but not responsibility.

· Almost equally obvious, and probably equally true -- local sovereignty, particularly as it extends to finance, is a barrier to the supremacy of international finance.

· The mentality which is attracted by the Internationalist idea is incapable of distinguishing between numbers, things, and individuals.

· It is a type of mentality which is fostered and ultimately becomes inseparable from people who deal with nothing but figures, and is the reason why the banker in particular is fundamentally unsuited for the position of reorganiser of the world.

· No banker as such, has any knowledge of large undertakings. He thinks he has, because he deals with large figures, and he mistakes the dealing with large figures as being equivalent to dealing with large numbers of things and people.

· ''Can like be equated to like, by any necromancy of gold?" You might put the matter another way by enquiring whether there was any similarity between a Beethoven Sonata and a bottle of wood alcohol in New York, because you can buy either of them for 5s.

· The idea at the root of the International Idea - you can obtain an elaborate series of statistics regarding the populations of the world and put a committee down at Geneva, or elsewhere, to legislate for them on the basis of statistics.

· An idea never accepted by anyone who has ever run or organised a small business,

· The qualifications for organising the whole world have never been checked by any kind of laboratory experiment. They are, in fact, in exactly the position of a would-be bridge builder who is ignorant both of the Theory of Structures and the Strength of Materials.

· The danger to the world of this idea is instant and practical. There is a world movement definitely conscious of its aims, consciously working for just this purpose.

· With it, or behind it, however you like to regard the matter, are all those forces whose ends are best served by the subjection of the individual to the group. While it will certainly fail, its backing makes a conflict certain.

· An illuminating instance of this appeared in an issue of "INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS," (November 1931) which is the journal of the Royal Institute of International Affairs.

· It is hardly necessary to point out to an instructed audience that the conflicts between nations, at any rate, in modern times, are not due to the existence of nations so much as to the existence of conditions which cause friction between nations. Professor Toynbee, and others who think like him, are not really interested in removing the cause of complaint at all, they are merely interested in making it impossible for complaints to become effective.

· To argue that the best way to stop war is to abolish nationality is exactly the same thing as to say that the best way to stop fighting between individuals is to abolish individuals.



THE INTERNATIONAL IDEA

Major C.H. Douglas in "The New Age," Jan. 14th, 1932
Notes of an Address originally delivered in London, U.K.


I should like to impress upon you that in bringing forward the subject which is covered by the title for discussion, I have no intention of merely initiating an interesting discussion upon a philosophical abstraction. As you are aware, I regard society at the present time as being the battle ground of two fundamentally opposed ideas, at any rate, as they are put forward, and the future of society as likely to be determined by which of those ideas shall prevail. So far as I call see, those of us who are in this room constitute the general staff of one of the armies. We are the general staff, not perhaps because of any outstanding qualifications for the task, but because there does not seem to be any other on our side with a clear conception of what it is trying to do. Now one of these ideas, the one which we oppose and which has many forms, has one of its embodiments in the idea that the logical and almost inevitable form that social progress must take, is the breaking down of all differences, social and national, and the setting up of a world state.

But the first doubt which I should like to assist you in casting upon this superficially attractive idea is to direct your attention to the fact that, like all the other analogous ideas of which it forms one exhibit, it is impervious to the assault of fact. The fact that the Irish Free State has split itself off from Great Britain, and that India and Egypt seem likely to go the same way, that there is a strong and growing Home Rule movement in Scotland, that certain States of Australia are contemplating secession from the Australian Commonwealth, that there is quite a strong, if not articulate, division growing up between the Eastern and Western States of the American Union, and between the Eastern and Western Provinces of the Dominion of Canada, that Spain seems likely to split into two separate republics, that of Catalonia and that of Northern Spain, and many other instances of the same type, offers no evidence or argument to the Internationalist.

Now, of course, there is a perfectly straightforward and practical explanation of this propaganda for internationalism, and for practical purposes one does not really need to look further. Hardly a day passes without a leading article in "THE TIMES," or other papers of the same type of interest, remarking, as though it were axiomatic, that the world is one economic unit, and that no adjustment of the present discontents can be expected which does not proceed from international agreement.

These journals are ably seconded by High Clerics. This opinion, you will notice, is never argued; it is always stated as though it were obvious to the meanest intellect, which is, in fact, just about what it is.

Now, as I have just said, the simplest explanation of this is that if you only make a subject large enough and involve a sufficiently large number of people in the solution of it, you can rest assured that you will never get a solution. A democracy of a thousand voters can be personally approached and convinced on any subject within a reasonable period of time, but if you enlarge the franchise to include everyone over twenty-one in a population of 45,000,000 you can be reasonably sure that any general conclusion at which it will arrive, it will arrive at twenty-five years after that conclusion ceases to be true.

If you can super-impose upon that by means of a controlled Press, Broadcasting, and other devices of a similar nature, something that you call "public opinion" (because it is the only opinion which is articulate) you have a perfect mechanism for a continuous dictatorship, and moreover, it is the form of dictatorship which is fundamentally desired by the collectivist mentality a dictatorship which has power without responsibility.

There is, however, another explanation almost equally obvious, and probably equally true, and that is that local sovereignty, particularly as it extends to finance is a barrier to the supremacy of international finance.

A Jewish financier, expressing his contempt for Gentile mentality, once remarked that the secret of the inability of the Gentile to shake himself free from the dominance of finance resided in the fact that the Gentile was incapable of distinguishing between numbers and things.

I should be inclined to go further than that, and say that the mentality which is attracted by the Internationalist Idea is incapable of distinguishing between numbers, things, and individuals. It is a type of mentality which is fostered and ultimately becomes inseparable from people who deal with nothing but figures, and is, in my opinion, the reason why the banker in particular is fundamentally unsuited for the position of re-organiser of the world.

No banker, as such, has any knowledge of large undertakings. He thinks he has, because he deals with large figures, and he mistakes the dealing with large figures as being equivalent to dealing with large numbers of things and people. Mr. Brenton has dropped upon a letter from a correspondent, Sir E. O. Williams (incidentally, an engineer) to "THE TIMES" of December 8, and referred to it in "THE NEW AGE" of December 17.

It calls attention in a hesitating way to one of the most important ideas I have ever seen in that newspaper, which idea I feel sure must have crept in by mistake. It is contained in the enquiry: "Can like be equated to unlike, by any necromancy of gold?" You might put the matter another way by enquiring whether there was any similarity between a Beethoven Sonata and a bottle of wood alcohol in New York, because you can buy either of them for 5s.

Now this is the idea which is at the root of the International Idea, where it is held sincerely. It is that you can obtain an elaborate series of statistics regarding the populations of the world and put a committee down at Geneva, or elsewhere, to legislate for them on the basis of statistics. It is an idea which would never be accepted by anyone who had ever run or organised a small business, and its most vocal exponents, such as, for instance, Mr. H. G. Wells, or Sir Norman Angell, have never, I think, been responsible for the organising of a business of any kind.

Their qualifications for organising the whole world have never, as one might say, been checked by any kind of laboratory experiment. They are, in fact, in exactly the position of a would-be bridge builder who is ignorant both of the Theory of Structures and the Strength of Materials.

The danger to the world of this idea is instant and practical. There is a world movement definitely conscious of its aims, counting amongst its adherents many persons placed by social position, prestige, and other conditions, in what would seem to be a most impressive relation to politics and organisation, which is consciously working for just exactly this purpose. With it, or behind it, however you like to regard the matter, are all those forces whose ends are best served by the subjection of the individual to the group. While it will certainly fail, its backing makes a conflict certain.

I should like to direct your attention, as a more than usually illuminating instance of what I mean, to an article which appears in the November issue of "INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS," which is the journal of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, commonly known as Chatham House, an organisation which possesses a Royal Charter, and which (as viewed from Chatham House) brings together the best brains on all subjects connected with High politics. The article is entitled, "The Trend of International Affairs Since the War," and the following extracts are indicative of its nature:- "Either our modern economic internationalism has to be sacrificed, or else we must learn to live our political and our cultural life on the modern worldwide scale, which we have achieved in our economic life already."

"The other alternative, of course, is that we should bring our political and our cultural life into harmony with our economic life; that we should preserve our economic internationalism by internationalising our social life through and through, in all its layers."

"You remember, perhaps, that one of the most famous generals in history once remarked that his opponents were invincible because they never knew when they were beaten. It is my hope that this same kind of invincible ignorance-a really heroic form of ignorance, may carry our generation to victory in our spiritual war for the establishment of universal and enduring peace (!!!)."

'If we are frank with ourselves we shall admit that we are engaged on a deliberate and sustained and concentrated effort to impose limitations upon the sovereignty and the independence of the fifty or sixty local sovereign independent States."

"The surest sign, to my mind, that this fetish of local national sovereignty is our intended victim is the emphasis with which all our statesmen and our publicists protest with one accord, and over and over again, at every step forward which we take, that, whatever changes we may make in the international situation, the sacred principle of local sovereignty will be maintained inviolable. This, I repeat, is a sure sign that, at each of those steps forward, the principle of local sovereignty is really being encroached upon, and its sphere of action reduced and its power for evil restricted. It is just because we are really attacking the principle of local sovereignty that keep up protesting our loyalty to it so loudly. The harder we press our attack upon the idol, the more pains we take to keep its priests and devotees in a fool's paradise, lapped in a false sense of security which will inhibit them from taking up arms in their idol's defence.''

"In plain terms, we have to re-transfer the prestige and the prerogatives of sovereignty from the fifty or sixty fragments of contemporary society to the whole of contemporary society."

"In the world as it is today, this institution can hardly be a universal Church. It is more likely to be something like a League of Nations. I will not prophesy. I will merely repeat that we are at present working discreetly, but with all our might, to wrest this mysterious political force called sovereignty out of the clutches of the local national states of our world. And all the time we are denying with our lips what we are doing with our hands."

"But supposing this does not happen? Supposing that the present generation of mankind is defeated in the end, after all, in the strenuous effort which we are making to centralise the force of sovereignty."

"But Prussia has not ceased to be one of the great States of the modern world. She is still great, because her public organisation ... is still second to none. I suggest to you that history is likely to repeat itself here, and that, once again, what Prussia is today, France and Great Britain and Italy, yes, and even the United States, are likely to become tomorrow. For the sake of the peace and prosperity of the world, I devoutly hope that my prophecy will prove correct."

Now if the address from which these extracts are taken had been given at some local Socialist or Communist Forum, and had appeared in, let us say, "THE WORKER," or some other organ of those sections of society which are more obviously suffering from the present state of affairs, one would, if one had felt obliged to notice it at all, have remarked that it was rather poisonous nonsense, and left it at that. Communists, in their periodical appearances in the police-court, might well refer to it. But the speaker was Professor Arnold Toynbee, who was one of the British representatives at the Peace Conference, and, I believe, amongst other things, is, or has been, the occupant of the Chair of Greek at London University, and the occasion was the Conference of Institutions for the Scientific Study of International Relations held at Copenhagen on June 8th 1931, at which twelve countries were represented, and, in addition, delegates attended from four international organisations, the nature of which was not stated.

These Conferences were initiated by the League of Nations Institute of Intellectual Co-operation. The address, therefore, from the auspices under which it was given, is a matter for serious attention. The first point in it to which I should like to draw your attention, is the emphasis that it places on the fact that the work of which the speaker is so proud has been persistently pursued for the last twelve years with all possible energy and in every country, and yet it does not appear to occur to the speaker to question whether there is anything in the state of the world at the present time which would suggest that the results could be regarded as a subject for congratulation to anyone outside the confines of a criminal lunatic asylum.

In Europe, the national sovereignty which has, perhaps, been most wholly delivered over to the tender mercies of the League of Nations in the period under review is Austria, and if the state of Austria at the present time is an exhibit as to the state that the whole world will be in when it, too, has been brought under the League of Nations, then I think we can say in all seriousness, "God help the world."

You will notice that this peculiar blindness to facts which seems to be characteristic of all persons afflicted with the collectivist mentality is strongly in evidence, together with the peculiar determination to regard the populations of the world as only salvable through a continuous course of deception, by being made to vote, and to think, and to call for things of which they do not know the meaning or the result.

You will also note that there is not a single reference in this article, and in general there rarely is, in proposals of this nature, any reference to the remote possibility that so far from nationality being the cause of the world-wide unrest, it is sovereignty, whether national or international, which is resented, and that to replace national sovereignty by international sovereignty is to still further complicate and exaggerate the evil against which the whole world is rebelling. Or to put the matter another way, Professor Toynbee, and others who think like him, are not really interested in removing the cause of complaint at all, they are merely interested in making it impossible for complaints to become effective.

I think it is significant that what one might call "good-class" propaganda for internationalism has for many years been a passport to political success, particularly in Great Britain. It has been clearly allied with political Liberalism, and the support which political Liberalism has always received from international finance is well-known. Strictly speaking, the orthodox tenets of British Trades Unionism are strongly national and anti-international, a fact which anyone can prove for themselves by talking to the average working Trades Unionist on the subject of Protection. Yet, the British Labour movement, which has also received considerable covert support from international finance, has officially presented a policy of internationalism as a part of its platform, and those Labour and Trades Union officials and politicians who have in the past been most conspicuously successful have taken care to render, at any rate, lip service to the international idea.

It is, perhaps, hardly necessary to point out to an instructed audience that the conflicts between nations, at any rate, in modern times, are not due to the existence of nations so much as to the existence of conditions which cause friction between nations. To argue that the best way to stop war is to abolish nationality is exactly the same thing as to say that the best way to stop fighting between individuals is to abolish individuals.

© Published by the Australian League of Rights, P.O. Box 27 Happy Valley, SA 5159