The Rising National Individualism

Herbert A. Miller
Olivet College

It is not at all clear just where the individual merges into the social, but we have become familiar with the contrast between Individualism and Socialism, and everyone has a fairly good idea of what is meant by the two terms. We are beginning to see that men are more closely related to the groups to which they belong—family, community, and religious organization—than to any interest which could be more specifically called merely personal. The object of this paper is to show that there is a rapidly developing individualism that is distinctly social, and which promises to become a powerful factor in human affairs. The earlier conflict between Socialism and Individualism is likely to be diverted to that between Socialism and Nationalism or the struggle for national individuality.

At the present moment the world is organizing itself into two great camps—Socialism and Nationalism. Both are expressions of the group feeling; both are movements of revolt; both are struggles for freedom. They started from a common impulse about fifty years ago, but quickly found themselves arrayed against each other. One would break down political boundaries; the other would build them up. Socialism calls all the world one; Nationalism sets part against the rest. Socialism is economic; Nationalism sentimental. Both are rapidly becoming world-wide and must fundamentally modify statescraft.

Socialism is one of the world-movements accepted as an actuality. It has a program which seeks more or less clearly defined results. But National Individualism looms on the horizon as an equally extensive expression of human association which cannot fail to be a temporary check to the realization of the ideal of the socialist.

It has sprung into being in its present form so rapidly that it has been difficult to recognize it as one of the most potent forms

(593) of social consciousness. It is akin to patriotism as generally understood, but draws its lines according to the group consciousness for a common language, common traditions, or a feeling of the unity of blood through some common ancestor. It does not correspond to present national boundaries, but rather to historic or even imaginary boundaries. At the present time this sentimental Nationalism is fraught with more significance on the continent of Europe than existing political divisions.

In the United States with its hordes of various peoples such as no other country ever knew, an understanding of the national feeling is indispensable before we can hope to assimilate our aliens into Americans.

Just as Socialism has been a revolt against the coercive control of men by wealth or arbitrary government, so this national feeling is the revolt of a people conscious of its unity, against control by a power trying to annihilate this consciousness. The phenomenal development of both Socialism and Nationalism has been in the last decade.

Labor has been oppressed since war first made slaves, and nations have been oppressed since war first made some groups conquerors and others subjects, and until recent times no one thought any other condition possible. The discovery that these conditions are not inherent in the structure of the universe resulted in Socialism for the individual and Nationalism for the group.

The policy of Europe has been the control of various areas and peoples by a few great powers. Of late years this control has been maintained by relatively much less war than formerly. Thus the German Empire was consolidated rather peaceably. Austria has established and maintained its domination over its heterogeneous aggregation of Germans, Poles, Bohemians, Slovaks, Slovenes, Croations, Bosnians, Dalmatians, and Italians. Russia has increased its control over Finland and Poland. Italy has become strong through the union of small kingdoms. But there was never a time when there was so little assimilation as at present. Bavaria and Saxony love Prussia no better than before they became integral parts of the German Empire. It seems inevitable that the time is not far distant when disintegration and realignments will change

(594) the map of Europe. They are likely to be made peaceably—that is, if the psychologically inevitable is accepted, and the indications are so clear that he who runs may read, even if he be the Czar of all the Russian.

Austria is more nearly like the United States in the complexity of her problem, and sends us samples of all her own troubles. If we take one of her provinces, Bohemia, we may observe one of the ways in which the national movement is expressing itself.

The Bohemians are members of the great Slavic division of the human race. For many centuries the country has been part of Austria. In 1415 John Hus, a Bohemian Protestant leader, a century before Luther, was burned at the stake. From that date he has been the symbol of the Bohemian spirit, and at the five-hundredth anniversary of his death, in 1915, will be held the greatest celebration ever seen in Bohemia. Bohemians in America have been planning for years to return for it. This is very significant in light of the fact that after the Thirty Years' War, which began in 1620, Protestants were exterminated from Bohemia, and for more than a hundred and fifty years everyone within the borders of Austria except Jews had to be Catholic, and at the present time nearly all of them are officially members of that church. The language became officially and practically German. Bohemian, in fact, was hardly known except in the remote districts.

The present situation was brought out in an address given by Count Lützow in Prague in 1911, when he said:

One of the most interesting facts that in Bohemia and especially in Prague mark the period of peace at the beginning of the nineteenth century is the revival of the National feeling and language The greatest part of Bohemia formerly almost Germanized has now again become thoroughly Slavic. The national language, for a time used almost only by the peasantry in outlying districts, is now freely and generally used by the educated classes in most parts of the country. Prague itself, that had for a time acquired almost the appearance of a German town, has now a thoroughly Slavic character. The national literature also, which had almost ceased to exist, is in a very flourishing state, particularly since the foundation of a national university. At no period have so many and so valuable books been written in the Bohemian language.

Count Lützow himself had an English mother and a German father, but has identified himself completely with the Bohemian

(595) nationalism. The Countess is the daughter of a German minister in Mecklenberg, but feels so strongly against the Germans, that, not knowing the Bohemian language, she speaks only English and French.

About fifty years ago several Bohemian writers were bold enough to write in their own language instead of in German, and from that time the Bohemian spirit has grown until now hostility to German has become a passion. In many of the restaurants throughout Bohemia, the headwaiter or proprietor passes a collection box regularly for "the mother of schools" which supports public schools in the Bohemian language in all parts of the country where there is a majority of Germans. In the case of a German majority the community provides only German schools.

The inevitable result of this universal spirit is the gradual elimination of the German language. One rarely hears German on the streets of Prague, whereas ten years ago one heard little else. Fathers were reared to speak German but teach their children Bohemian instead. Business men take great pride in the fact that they are succeeding without knowing any German, for it proves that Bohemian is winning. A German cannot get served in a Bohemian restaurant in Prague unless he speak Bohemian, though the waiters know both languages. All older people speak both languages equally well, but the younger very little German. At the University of Prague, where until 1882 all the work was in German, now the graduates do not know German well, and the Bohemian part of the university is more than twice as large as the German. The nationalizing process of unifying the people is going on in face of the disrupting force of eleven political parties, besides the sharp spiritual division into Catholics and anti-Catholics.

It is unquestionably a disadvantage for a people of seven million to cut itself off from the opportunities of the environing German culture, science, and commerce, but even those who see it best deliberately assume the cost in their struggle for the freedom of the spirit. When we remember that the prestige is on the side of the German, we see in this movement the same indifference to personal success that characterizes the socialist.

Socialism is strong in Bohemia. The party has nineteen newspapers including three dailies; 1,500 locals with 130,000 members;

(596) and at the last election 400,000 votes were cast. But they were Socialists in part as a revolt against the government and the church. When they get to America most of them do not remain with the party. In Bohemia and in some other countries there are already two Socialist parties, Nationalists and Internationalists, with the Nationalists increasing the more rapidly.

The most striking form of national spirit in America is expressed by the Bohemians in their organized propaganda for free thought. Ninety-seven per cent of the Bohemians are nominal Catholics on their arrival, but at least two-thirds of those in America are militant freethinkers. Their attitude toward religion, especially toward the Catholic church, is similar to that of the Socialists, but this makes no bond of union between them. Bohemian freethinking is a story in itself, and it obviously is too general to have a real philosophical basis in the minds of a large portion of its adherents. It is rather an expression of the historical hatred for Catholic Austria, just as Polish Catholicism is an opposition to orthodox Russia and Protestant Russia, and Irish Catholicism to Protestant England. As the sight of a Russian church makes a Pole pious, so the sight of any church makes a Bohemian a freethinker. In the city of Chicago there are more than twenty-seven thousand people who make quarterly payments for the support of schools on Saturday and Sunday to teach the Bohemian language and free thought.

Not only is Nationalism a controlling force in the social institutions of our immigrants in America, but they all have organizations for the raising of money to promote the cause in the mother-countries.

A more comprehensive and fundamental expression of this movement than has been described is the rapidly developing pan-Slavic feeling. In 1912 there was an international Slavic gymnastic meet in Prague. More than twenty thousand persons took part, and at one time eleven thousand men speaking several different languages including the soon-to-be enemies, Bulgarians and Servians, were doing calisthenics exercises together. With the exception of the Poles, who would not come because the Russians were invited, there were representatives from all the Slavic divisions: Slovaks, Slovenes, Serbs, Servians, Croatians, Bulgarians, Montenegrins,

(597) Ruthenians, Moravíans, Bohemians, and Russians. The keynote of every speech was "Slavie! Slavíe!" and when it was uttered the crowds would go wild.

There were a quarter of a million visitors in the city and illustrated reports of the exhibition went to the ends of the Slavic world. A few weeks afterward I saw some of them pasted on the wall of a peasant's factory in the back districts of Moscow. But the German papers completely ignored the whole thing, and no self-respecting German could attend the meet. The streets were everywhere decorated with flags, but never did one see the Austrian flag. People of conservative judgment stated that the meet indicated a great growth of pan-Slavic feeling as compared with five years before.

At the outbreak of the recent hostilities in the Balkan States it was feared that there might be a general European war, but especially between Austria and Russia, and Austria and Servia. The latter seemed very imminent at one time. We were given to understand that the modern high level of diplomacy held the war off. It was generally admitted that the great Socialist meeting in Switzerland, held to protest against making the working-men of one country fight the working-men of other countries, was influential in preventing hostilities.

There was interesting news that was not being published from Vienna which also had an influence. It did not seem possible that Austria with two-thirds of its population Slavic could make war on Servia. Inquiry disclosed that when the Bohemians were being entrained from their garrisons for mobilization on the Servían border, they sang the pan-Slavic hymn, "Hej Slovene!" sung by all the Slavic nations, but forbidden to be sung by Austrian soldiers in service. This is an enthusiastic and powerful hymn full of encouragement to the Slays, telling them that their language shall never perish, nor shall they, "even though the number of Germans equal the number of souls in hell." There is not a shadow of a doubt that if Austria had forced these men to go against Servia at that time, Austria would have been disrupted. More than 70,000 Austrian Slays disappeared when they were called for their military service.


The diplomats knew this feeling and now the German Empire is struggling under an unparalleled war tax which the chancellor openly stated was being raised from fear of what might happen as the result of this rapidly growing pan-Slavic feeling. Pan-Germanism is growing to keep pace with its antagonists. The military future of Europe must reckon with all this, just as it must reckon with the international brotherhood idea of Socialism. When a war does come which raises a conflict between these motives, we may expect that the emotion of Nationalism will overthrow the rationality of Socialism. In other words, there is a definite obstacle to Socialism which cannot be put aside until the spirit of national individuality shall have had an opportunity to free itself from the coercion which has attempted to crush it. The time cannot be far off when the rulers of the world will realize that the way to vitalize it is to try to kill it. When the group no longer feels any restraint on itself as a group, then the free development of the idea of brotherhood stands a good chance of encircling the earth; but in the meantime, the human soul in its common life will fight to extinction to be assured of its own common identity.

Julius Lippert, quoted in the American Journal of Sociology, September, 1913, said:

All the experiences which I gathered in my most diversified political activities tended to confirm my conviction that the first and indispensable precondition of the material and spiritual prosperity of two national stocks, located in the same country under such circumstances as those which existed in Bohemia, must be a fixed legal norm for their status, and their freedom of movement. How strict or liberal should be the terms of this law is a matter of secondary importance. Whenever we Germans have neglected to secure such a norm we have committed a political blunder injurious to both parties. It is no longer practical politics to demand the subordination of one of the national groups to the other.

Socialism is horizontal, aiming to unite all those of common economic interests in the common cause, that none may have unfair advantage over another. Nationalism, on the other hand, is perpendicular; forgetting class lines, it makes common cause of the symbols of unity, whether they be blood, language, or tradition. It is an evidence of the subtle fact that one's individualism is not

(599) revealed in an isolated being, and that the nearest and dearest thing to the heart of man is the social group in which he identifies his spiritual reality. And since one's personality is more the work of the group than of himself, the loyalty which expresses itself in national feeling is a more powerful control than Socialism. As was stated above, Socialism is economic, Nationalism sentimental. The central philosophical principle of Socialism is economic determinism which Nationalism sets at naught by flying into the face of economic advantage. Both movements are conspicuously unselfish, and the devotion to them is distinctly religious in its character. Both thrive within the same people, but sooner or later come into conflict. Both thrive best where there is the most opposition to them. In America neither has been comparable to the European developments. Nationalism persists among our immigrants until they discover that we make no effort to curb it, and dies in the third generation. The widespread growth of Nationalism is illustrated further in the following:

Poland was never particularly conspicuous in art, literature, or government, but something over a hundred years ago it was a free country. Now, Germany, Austria, and Russia have divided it, and, completely ignoring sociological laws, are trying to absorb it. ' Never was there such another deliberate attempt on a large scale to wipe out national individuality, but if there was ever a case of imperial indigestion, Poland is causing three chronic attacks. Bismarck's policy of forbidding the Polish language, and forcing German in its place; and Russia's similar policy with Russian have made the preservation of the language a religion, and martyrdom for it a glorification. At the present time there is little doubt that Poland is best organized for the propaganda of Nationalism. Socialism has considerable strength, and in Warsaw where a Socialist paper may not be published, they are smuggled from Cracow regularly. The strong hold of the Catholic church upon the Poles makes it hard for Socialism to gain headway, and greatly complicates the situation. The Poles think that their love for the church is piety. They are really good Catholics because their religion is Poland, and Catholicism is a Polish protest against orthodox Russia

(600) and Protestant Prussia. I was interested in observing, when walking with a Polish gentleman, whose education is such that he would have been a weak Catholic in any other country, that after passing a Russian church his zeal in crossing himself at the next Catholic church would be increased. Every sign of Russia or Germany says to the Pole, "Be a devout Catholic." In fact, any particular religious form is never so strong as the spirit of Nationalism to which it may often serve merely as a symbol. As one listens to the bated breath and sees the uplifted eye of the Pole when the an-dent kingdom of Poland is mentioned, one needs no interpreter to tell where the heart is. The obsession of the Poles is to find ingenious methods for thwarting the plans of the various controlling governments. Progress as a plan has no interest. Their backward look becomes more intense every day, so that psychologically with them, if not temporarily, the day of ultimate international social co-operation is farther off the nearer we come to it.

In the midst of Poland is the Lithuanian movement. Several centuries ago a prince and princess of these two countries married, and the government and culture became Polish. There was no Lithuanian literature or education. The language was preserved by the peasants as was the case among the Finns, Hungarians, and many other peoples. Poles and Germans were the landholders, and the Lithuanians almost altogether laborers or serfs. Within the last decade the Lithuanian consciousness has burst into a conflagration. A man fully Polish in culture and associations, but possessing some Lithuanian blood, will become Lithuanian in spirit. He is learning the language from the peasants, and chooses them for associates rather than the cultured Pole with whom he associated ten years ago. After the revolution of 1905 the privilege was granted the students in the gymnasia to adopt the Russian, Polish, or Lithuanian language for part of their instruction, where previously only Russian had been allowed. In a gymnasium in Vilna, where there had been in one class thirty who had spoken Polish, only three chose Lithuanian. Now out of the same number at least twenty will take Lithuanian, and the change is an indication of the growth of the movement throughout the people. I have had two students who speak Polish as a mother-tongue, and Lithu-

(601) -anian with relative difficulty. One is half Polish in blood, and has learned to read Lithuanian since coming to America. When in the gymnasium in 1905 he chose Polish as his language, but his younger brother now in the gymnasium speaks nothing but Lithuanian when possible, though his mother does not know the language, and his father very slightly. A still older brother, a successful attorney in St. Petersburg, is now studying the language and feels fully Lithuanian. One of the students, when he came to America three years ago, allied himself with Lithuanians, although there are practically none of his class here and the Poles would have welcomed him gladly. Although an aristocrat in training, he feels closer to the Lithuanian peasant than to the Pole of his own social position with whom he has associated all his life. We see in this case—that of my other student is similar—that national consciousness has broken down class lines exactly as Socialism seeks to do, but entirely within the nation, and thus raises a barrier to one, of the main purposes of Socialism. The wall is thus raised between people of the same class across the borders.

Finland is similar to Lithuania in being subject to a subject people of Russia. For six and a half centuries the Finns were ruled by Sweden, but in 1890 the country became subject to Russia, since which time the efforts at Russification have been continuous. The population is approximately 85 per cent Finnish, 12 per cent Swedish, 3 per cent Russian. The culture has been continuously Swedish. At the University of Helsingfors, where twenty-five years ago all the work was done in Swedish, now the larger portion is in Finnish, and the Finnish spirit is increasing by leaps and bounds. Seven and a half centuries of Swedish culture with no Finnish education has had no effect except to stimulate the growth of Finnish national feeling. The two peoples live amicably together. The Swedes and a few Russians conduct most of the business and have the social standing. Both Finns and Swedes are Lutheran, the services in the official church alternating between the two languages. Finland is very democratic—equal suffrage has prevailed for several years. Socialism has been very strong among them. In Chicago they have the largest proportional membership in the party of any foreigners. But in Finland the Socialist vote is beginning to

(602) diminish, apparently because this other struggle for freedom cannot be attained through Socialism. The children in the schools must study Swedish, Finnish, and Russian. The government is increasingly Russian, but there are absolutely no signs of assimilation. Helsingfors and other Finnish cities look more like Detroit and Washington than like St. Petersburg, though Russia has been working a full century on them.

As has been suggested, both Lithuanian and Finn are revolting against the culture authority of Pole and Swede rather than the political or economic authority of Russia. This is because in both cases the nationalizing people feel that their individuality is more endangered by the spiritual than by the material power. A union between the working-classes of Poles and Lithuanians, Finns and Swedes must overcome a much greater resistance today than would have been necessary ten years ago. In Chicago the Lithuanian Nationalists and Socialists are divided into two nearly equal camps, and practically all the people belong to one or the other. Nationalists regularly resist Americanization. They do not want their young men to go to American colleges lest they come under too much American influence.

Sweden and Norway have already made a new alignment. Here were two countries with similar people, language, tradition, and geography, but Norway felt a restraint on her individuality, and in 1905, there was peaceable disunion. In America one can hardly commit a more serious offense than to confuse a Swede and a Norwegian. These two countries are very democratic and both cast a large Socialist vote, but a Swede is a Swede, and a Norwegian is a Norwegian before he is class-conscious across the border. The Norwegians have revived and modified the language which was spoken by the people before Norway was conquered by the Danes, and in the coming year a formal popular movement is to be launched to make it the language of the people instead of the one which has been used for centuries. In America the Scandinavians have made no effort until recently to teach their children the language of the fatherland. Now many schools have been established for teaching the language, and in Sweden, as in Bohemia, many towns have museums with collections representing the peculiar local history;

(603) and costumes that had yielded to the common European dress are now being worn on gala occasions.

Human nature is the same in all peoples. It is, nevertheless, a remarkable fact that this movement should occur so contemporaneously among such diverse peoples in such various degrees of civilization, but it is unquestionably a world-movement. Japan, India, and Egypt are teeming with it. Korea, after being satisfied with Chinese literature for centuries, now that Japan is exercising authority over her is religiously developing her own language and literature. In Hungary, Slovak hates Magyar, and both hate the Germans. In France, where Syndicalism, the most unpatriotic and radical form of class-consciousness, calls for class war, in the last three or four years the spirit of nationalism has risen to a level never before realized in its history.

In any particular nation there seem to be peculiar reasons justifying and promoting its development, but they are the occasion rather than the cause. There can be nothing mystical about it, but the rapidity of communication must have enabled a suggestion to find ready fields. Thus Ireland in the fifties was a stimulus to Bohemia, though the history of Bohemia seems to contain quite enough stimulus of its own.

Ireland has been the best-known expression of Nationalism because of the recurrence and continuance of the home rule discussion. The present conflict between the home rulers and the people of Ulster who are opposing them is due to the fact that the question is nationalistic rather than geographical. The Scotch Irish of the north are not only Protestants, but. feel their relationship to England, and home rule for Ireland will mean foreign rule for them. For all the noise of their struggle, the Irish have made far less success than many of the others, for Gaelic has succumbed to English.

As we become more familiar with the soul of our newer immigrants we shall hear stories about home rule that will make the activities of the Irish seem relatively unimportant.

Canada is coming into a national feeling. The reciprocity treaty with the United States was rejected as soon as the import of Champ Clark's annexation speech was understood, and the

(604) government of Canada was forced into a complete change, while Canada's self-consciousness has increased beyond all expectation.

Every sane person realizes that interference with the affairs of Mexico would arouse a nationalism which would make ineffective any ideas we might try to impose upon the country. Domination by superior force is no longer accepted as a matter of course, and this is a new fact in the world's development.

From these examples of intense feeling it becomes clear why representatives of the subject nations of Austria should visit the director of census, and Congress, to demand that they be counted by mother-tongue rather than by country of birth. There is far less community of feeling between Bohemian, Magyar, and German in Austria, than between England, France, and Germany, and from the point of view of assimilation in this country, the latter group might much better be grouped as one than the former.

Whether Nationalism be rational or irrational, it is a fact. The political science of the nations of the earth must be revised in the face of it, and in America our practical treatment of our alien peoples needs to take cognizance of the fact that human nature expresses itself more strongly in the struggle for sentiment than in the struggle for bread. But when full freedom for the development of group-consciousness shall have been attained, the fearsome elements of the antithetical movements of Socialism, Syndicalism, and Anarchy will have disappeared.

In America the popular idea prevails that it is our business to assimilate our aliens by making them over according to some fixed standard. The only true prophet seems to be crass Americanism. This is a pathetic and impractical mistake. The nationalities have as definite cultures as individuals. Why should our Bohemian children be made into Americans by singing "Land where our Fathers died," when their fathers died in just as noble a fight for freedom in the Hussite wars ? At least they ought also to sing their own national song. Our problem is to make our immigrants co-operating members of our civilization, and we cannot do this by repressing the peculiar social impulses each group brings with it. Probably there is no other nationality in which the com-

(605) mon use of the language persists so long as with the Bohemians. Often the third generation use nothing else in the family circle. Since so many of them have passed beyond any religious influence, I think there can be no better method of moral control and assimilation into American life, than offering the Bohemian language in the elementary schools. They would thus develop a respect for their language and a respect for the ideals which have actuated their national heroes. We need have no fear that they will not learn English. Our problem is not at present at all parallel to that of Europe. With us Nationalism is an emotional force that can be used to control the second generation, whereas if we attempt to suppress it we shall be laying up for ourselves increasing trouble.


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