The Relationship Between Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism
War is the greatest crime that humankind can ever commit!
When a war starts between one nation and another, the feelings of people on both sides are inflamed with beast-like hatred. Every act of warfare thereafter is an incessant outburst of beast-like ferocity. If slaughtering humans is equivalent to loving one’s country, then isn’t patriotism the most shameful sin of all?
The advocates of war may argue that there is a war for justice and war for humanity. But who is justice for? Is humanity the humanity for murderers? If we can say that justice and humanity are produced via mass murder, then based on the same logic, we can also say that chastity is born out of adultery, and friendship is born out of fraud. Compared to a national moralist who assumes the goddess of justice and deceives under the name of the angel of humanity, there is no telling how honest and lovely the devils who blatantly oppose the god are.
Although the sun of new culture might shine brightly after the dark clouds of war have been swept away, the value of the countless lives lost in the war cannot be compensated with whatever amount of cultural assets. If a child born of rape is intelligent, does that make the act of rape justified?
The cosmopolitans feel how detestable, sorrowful, despicable, and execrable the war is as keenly as anyone else. Therefore, they show full support for the effort towards a system that aims at preventing warfare and reducing the possibility of it. The movement of restriction of armaments is what they agree with, and they are even more enthusiastic for the complete disarmament. The prompt completion of the International Court of Arbitration is their sincere hope, too.
It goes without saying that nationalism is a good co-conspirator of warmongering. Nationalism is an ideal that regulates all aspects of social life regarding national interests. As for the interests of the so-called nations, it is the capitalist nationalism that raises the interests of the capitalists, and it is the militaristic nationalism that points at the interests of the military class. For the former, the most desirable foreign policy is what helps acquire abundant sources of raw materials and develop sales channels for the prospective products, while for the latter, the foreign policy that threatens and oppresses other countries by force is the most correct one. The combination of these two ideologies mentioned above is usually called imperialism, and no fair-minded historian would deny that the cause of the recent World War should be attributed to the conflict between imperialists.
The cosmopolitans are glad that the dens of the German warlords have been wiped out, but the root of all misfortunes and horror left by the war is that all the major nations involved in the war are, to some extent, driven by imperialist trends. Wilson was one of the great cosmopolitans who were aware of the joint responsibility of humankind, in the sense of raising the great banners of no-compensation, non-ceding of territory, and self-determination when he headed to the Peace Conference. It would be futile to debate on the concessions made afterward. It would be a stupid mistake in the first place to hope for more in the Peace Conference that refused to recognize racial equality. The war is over, but isn’t the radiant glow of peace obscured by the dense clouds of global uneasiness? Isn’t this the evil will of the selfishness smoked out by all kinds of perverse, arrogant nationalists? The cry for reformation is heard loudly everywhere, but how can a correct conclusion of reformation be drawn without acknowledging the major premise of cosmopolitanism and the minor premise of socialism?
Excerpted from The Joy and Sorrow of the Cosmopolitans, published in International Law and International Issues, 1922.