Paul Lafargue 1905

Socialism and Internationalism

Source: Social Democrat, 1905, Vol. 9. no. 10, 15 Oct 1905, pp. 606-607, continued from last month;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

The country’s flag is a commercial asset, said the celebrated patriot, Cecil Rhodes, but this commercial asset only represents the economic and political interests of the capitalist classes. The middle-class only beats the big drum in praise of love of country and honour of the flag in order to beguile the proletariat, so that it should sacrifice itself in defence of the riches which the middle-class has stolen.

The ruling classes of the Republics of Greece and Rome did not make use of the patriotic charlatanism of the middle-class, because they jealously kept to themselves the privilege of governing, and of defending their country. They neither allowed the working classes or the slaves the right of carrying arms. If it were necessary to arm slaves to defend the country they were first made free men and given land. Never in history was there such fervent patriotism, which did not hesitate to sacrifice the individual for the good of the community.

The modern middle-class adopted a different method. First it formed armies of mercenaries, as in England, or by conscription, as in France. And now it still successfully bamboozles the proletariat.

The proletariat will not really have a fatherland till it has politically and economically displaced the middle-class. This can only be done by each nation in turn, and it is for this reason that the proletariat is national, as the Communistic Manifesto explains.

The middle-class is nationalist, since it must exploit the proletariat of its own nation, but at a certain time of the economic development it must assume a certain international character, in order that the surplus of goods which it has captured from the wage-earners may be sold. If the proletariat of a nation in order to throw off the yoke of the governing class must be organised nationally and rise nationally, yet it will be unable to attain its final emancipation until there has been effected an international agreement with the proletariats of other capitalist nations. Any social revolution must necessarily be international. The middle class of the eighteenth century was only able to overthrow the aristocracy and seize power by proclaiming the brotherhood of nations and by calling on them to make common cause against tyrants; to be a patriot meant for middle-class revolutionists not to love France, Germany or Italy, but to love the revolution. When the revolution was over the middle-class became again nationalist in order to organise nationally its dictature and its class exploitation. The revolutionary proletariat will have neither to keep its ancient nationalities nor to constitute new ones, because by becoming free it will abolish classes: the world will be its fatherland.