New Year’s bells rang in the definite and open beginning of a naval race which is immediately of staggering cost and potentially far more likely to prepare the way for new war than peace. But as the old year closed, the great American protagonist of that race, President Roosevelt, fresh from a considerable triumph for international good-will on the Western Hemisphere, waxed caustic in condemning the sale of certain implements of war to the recognized Spanish government. Those who defended that sale were for the most part bitter opponents of the naval race and long-time foes of the international trade in armaments. This is but one example of the inconsistencies, or seeming inconsistencies, in a mad world. Rarely, if ever, has the struggle for peace been so complicated, or have the lovers of peace been more sharply divided. They are caught in the confusion of a world more keenly aware than ever before of the suicidal costs of world war, yet more inclined to accept it as inevitable.
The whole issue has been immensely complicated by the triumph of fascism in Italy and more especially in Germany. Fascism glorifies both militarism and war. It is as surely a menace to the peace as to the liberty of mankind. One may be against both war and fascism, and yet find in every dispatch from Spain grim proof that practically, under conditions all too likely to occur again and again, resolute and effective opposition to fascism means war. Is it any wonder that in this kind of world consistency among peace lovers is not a common virtue?
Among the enemies of both war and fascism are two groups which at first sight seem more consistent than the rest of us. There are on the one hand those pacifists who hold that the great commandment can be summed up in this: "Thou shalt take no part in any kind of war." On the other hand there are those advocates of collective security who proclaim a holy crusade of democratic nations against fascist aggressors. Both groups are more successful in criticizing their extreme opponents than in supporting their own positions. For neither group have we invented an accurate name. To the first I shall apply the word "pacifist," pausing only to remind my readers that there are pacifists and pacifists. The best pacifists are not passivists, individuals concerned only with their own soul’s salvation or believers in divide intervention in behalf of the martyrs of peace. The pacifists can point out that history furnishes melancholy justification for their successive contentions: (1) that the right sort of America could have used its immense social and moral power to bring about a negotiated peace instead of entering the World War; (2) that the peace of Versailles was a peace to end peace; and (3) that reasonable concessions in the days when Stresemann and the Social Democrats were still strong in Germany would have greatly increased the chances of victory for the republic against militarism and fascism. Today these pacifists can make no equally practical suggestion in the struggle against fascist aggression, but at least we owe them something for their constant challenge to the method of war and their constant reminder of its bitter cost.
Nevertheless, the pacifism which makes mere abstention from war the supreme command will not deliver mankind from new cycles of war and new dark ages of oppression. It is unrealistic and mad to say that it does not matter who wins in Spain if only the guns are stilled. It matters profoundly not only for Spain but for mankind that the fascist aggression of which Franco is the nominal and brutal leader be defeated. Persons who believe this must support the gallant resistance of the workers and other loyalists.
Those who cannot accept pacifism as the first and last commandment are not therefore the foes of peace. Indeed, the advocates of one form or another of "collective security" speak as its champions. Originally they sought to unite the world against the aggressor nation or nations. They reasoned that if the certainty of united action were great enough, a would-be aggressor would shrink from putting his fortunes to the test of war or even from facing those economic sanctions which the more optimistic believed might serve as a substitute for war. Now—and the change in itself signifies the historical failure of collective security through the League of Nations&emdash;those who consider themselves "realists" in contradistinction to "pacifists" pin their hopes on an alliance of "democratic" states against realms ruled by dictators.