Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Metro Detroit Greens (Wayne, Oakland & Macomb Counties)

Home Page Campaigns Labor Environment Corporations Ideas Organization Links Bookstore Site Policy Humor Contact Us


Randolph Bourne - Selections

We of the middle classes will be progressively poorer than we should otherwise have been. Our lives will be slowly drained by clumsily levied taxes and the robberies of imperfectly controlled private enterprises. But this will not cause us to revolt. There are not likely to be enough hungry stomachs to make a revolution. The materials seem generally absent from the country, and as long as a government wants to use the war-technique in its realization of great ideas, it can count serenely on the human resources of the country, regardless of popular mandate or understanding... We are learning that war doesn't need enthusiasm, doesn't need conviction, doesn't need hope, to sustain it. Once manoeuvred, it takes care of itself, provided only that our industrial rulers see that the end of the war will leave American capital in a strategic position for world-enterprise.

A War Diary, The Seven Arts, Sept. 1917

...this feeling for country is essentially noncompetitive; we think of our own people merely as living on the earth's surface along with other groups, pleasant or objectionable as they may be, but fundamentally as sharing the earth with them...The feeling for country would be an uninflatable maximum were it not for the idea of State and Government which are associated with it. Country is a concept of peace, of tolerance, of living and letting live. But State is essentially a concept of power, of competition; it signifies a group in its aggressive aspects. And we have the misfortune of being born not only into a country but into a State, and as we grow up we learn to mingle the two feelings into a hopeless confusion...

War is the health of the State. It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistable forces for uniformity, for passionate cooperation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the larger herd sense...the nation in war-time attains a uniformity of feeling, a hierarchy of values culminating at the undisputed apex of the State ideal, which could not possibly be produced through any other agency than war...The State is intimately connected with war, for it is the organization of the collective community when it acts in a political manner, and to act in a political manner towards a rival group has meant, throughout all history - war...

...the State represents all the autocratic, arbitrary, coercive, belligerent forces within a social group, it is a sort of complexus of everything most distasteful to the modern free creative spirit, the feeling for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. War is the health of the State. Only when the State is at war does the modern society function with that unity of sentiment, simple uncritical patriotic devotion, cooperation of services, which have always been the ideal of the State lover...A nation's patriotic history is solely the history of its wars, that is, of the State in its health and glorious functioning. So in responding to the appeal of the flag, we are responding to the appeal of the State, to the symbol of the herd organized as an offensive and defensive body, conscious of its prowess and its mystical herd-strength...

...Once the State has begun to function, and a large class finds its interest and its expression of power in maintaining the State, this ruling class may compel obedience from any uninterested minority. The State thus becomes an instrument by which the power of the whole herd is wielded for the benefit of a class. The rulers soon learn to capitalize the reverence which the State produces in the majority, and turn it into a general resistance towards a lessening of their privileges. The sanctity of the State becomes identified with the sanctity of the ruling class and the latter are permitted to remain in power under the impression that in obeying and serving them, we are obeying and serving society, the nation, the great collectivity of all of us...

The above paragraphs contain quotations from the first draft of an essay, "The State", which was left unfinished by Bourne at the time of his death. It is now in the Bourne MSS, Columbia University Libraries.


Home Page Campaigns Labor Environment Corporations Ideas Organization Links Bookstore Site Policy Humor Contact Us