Two Aspects Of Internationalism – Analysis


There are two main philosophical and ideological schools of thought that include the problem of internationalism in their principles. The first is liberal internationalism, which developed within the framework of classical liberalism. The second is orthodox Marxism and its various derivatives that entertain the idea of proletarian internationalism. The concept of internationalism has different origins, meanings, and practical implementations in the two schools of thought.

Because the term “liberal” in a politico-philosophical sense was highjacked by the left and changed its meaning in people’s perception, it is better to use the term “libertarian internationalism” for the purpose of this discussion.

As a component of political doctrine, libertarian internationalism is based on the concept of laissez-faire, which implies, among other things, free trade and free movement of capital. The main goal of libertarian internationalism is to ensure economic and individual freedom on a global scale that would lead to the prosperity of an individual, family, community, and country, and ensure a peaceful world order. From an economic and philosophical point of view, libertarian internationalism is a logical continuation and generalization of the concept of division and cooperation of labor. Division and cooperation of labor is the result of the societal development process that obeys the objective economic laws.

Division of labor results from an interplay between evolutional forces of natural selection and market forces and has influenced the development of human society from prehistoric times to this day. It is clear that specialized labor achieves better productivity and quality of the end product or service. Specialization of the profession was a manifestation of natural selection based on specific individual skills. At the same time, specialization suggests that an individual voluntarily gives up a production of a commodity that he is less qualified to manufacture, but its consumption is still essential to support his life. He relies on acquiring these lacking goods and services in the market. Basically, he trusts that some others will supply him needed things that he does not produce anymore. That someone is supposed to know better than everybody else how to produce his specialized commodity or service and, in turn, relies on others to produce something else, and so on. In other words, a high degree of division of labor brought members of society together as one, relying on each other. However, it is not collectivism but a voluntary cooperation of individuals that respects each other’s property rights. Division of labor creates atomic, independent producers and consumers and cooperation brings them together in production and in a marketplace. In other words, division of labor induces cooperation.

The whole of humanity has found this mode of operation more advanced and gradually continued division of labor and reciprocal and beneficial trade. It is not done by someone’s order; it simply reflects behavioral changes that humans experience under an influence of selective pressure and unrestrained laws of the market economy. The domestic mode of production gradually drifts from “production for use” to “production for exchange.” The scale of exchange has steadily increased, crossing the boundaries of the individual household over time and eventually reaching a global level. The entrepreneurial class has taken on many risks to enter manufacturing, service delivery, and trade to meet consumer demand. Under developed capitalism, national borders are crossed not only by goods and services but also by capital.

Libertarian internationalism is constructive and peaceful in nature and is possible due to the entrepreneurial qualities of individuals and a universal consensus on respecting one’s property rights. Thus, libertarian internationalism is essentially entrepreneurial internationalism. Conversely, the idea of globalization, in which the world political bureaucracy interferes with the economic issues of sovereign enterprises or entire countries, is alien to entrepreneurial internationalism.  Libertarian internationalism is the ideal that the world community should strive for, but unfortunately, the continuing interference of politics on the economy and worldwide collectivist trends is alienating humanity from a natural and more just order.

Proletarian internationalism arose in the minds of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as they developed their materialist conception of history. Marxism is a deterministic catastrophe theory applied to the evolution of human society. Using the Hegelian method of dialectics, the founders of Marxism divided capitalist society into two dichotomous classes: the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. The unsolvable conflict between the two antagonistic classes, caused, according to Marx, by the unfair appropriation of surplus value by the capitalists, had to reach a boiling point, the result of which would be a social cataclysm. Marx appointed the proletariat as the driving force, agents of the socialist revolution, designed to sweep away the liberal democratic state and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat as a transitional stage on the path to building a classless society.

Marx considered his theory to be the pinnacle of scientific research in economics and sociology, in which he uncovered the objective laws of the development of society. The objective laws of the development of society, as well as the laws of nature, have to be universal and operate independently of someone else’s will. They cannot be disabled, canceled or changed; it is a given that affects everything and everyone.

But it was precisely with objectivity that Marx had problems. First of all, the division of society into only two classes and the appointment of the proletariat as an agent of the revolution are unwarranted. Moreover, the workers themselves have not yet realized that they are the proletariat and what role has been prepared for them by the founder of Marxism. Marx understood this perfectly and proposed theoretical and practical measures for the emancipation of the proletariat, awakening class consciousness in it and preparing for the political struggle against the bourgeoisie. However, in order to meet the criterion of objectivity, the class consciousness of the proletariat would have to develop naturally and spontaneously, without the influence of anyone’s will. Artificial and purposeful incitement to revolutionary sentiments and instigation to overthrow the existing system do not meet the criterion of objectivity and instead completely falsify it. Indeed, a scientific theory of the development of society is not needed to prepare for a coup.

Moreover, as objective laws must be universal, the same societal developments must occur in other countries. Marxism argued that the socialist revolution must have a universal character, that is, take place on a global scale, or at least in the most industrialized countries. Marx and Engels well understood that entrepreneurs were genuinely international, as capital does not have borders and economies of different countries were interconnected. At the same time, labor was mostly local, lacking international organizations and representations. Therefore, Marxism invented proletarian internationalism in order to accommodate Marx and Engels’ teaching to these socio-economic realities and attempt to mobilize the world proletariat for the world socialist revolution. In the Communist Manifesto, the founders of Marxism simply postulated that the proletariat has no boundaries and called on the proletariat of all countries to unite. Marx substantiated this postulate by the fact that the capitalists themselves created the preconditions for the proletarian brotherhood that would ultimately erase the “national one-sidedness” of consciousness within the masses of the proletariat. This conclusion seems far-fetched and looks more like wishful thinking.

The founders of Marxism wanted their contemporaries to see their theory as not only scientific but also morally superior to any competing doctrines. Highlighting the predetermined historical role of the proletariat, Marxism insisted that people with the best intentions would make the social change, in order to eliminate the contradictions in the development of productive forces and production relations under capitalism. Marxism endowed the proletariat with the moral qualities of holy people – this is an innate sense of equality, brotherhood and justice, unconditional love for different ethnic groups and races, contempt for fetishism and wealth, and readiness for mutual help. That is why, from the earliest works, they intensively hammered the point of internationalism as the highest form of collective proletarian brotherhood in opposition to capitalist individualism. 

The Marxist suggestion that proletarians possess exceptional moral qualities which oppose nationalism and bigotry and exhibit an unconditional love for all people is empirically unwarranted and there is no historical evidence to support it. It was, instead, a necessary condition for the Marxist theory to be logically consistent; that is, the world socialist revolution against the world bourgeoisie could not take place without the united front of proletarians. Marxism consolidated and expanded internationalism as an integral feature of the workers’ and socialist movements, opposing itself to the contrived nationalism of capitalist society. It was an act of intellectual dishonesty that is still difficult to eradicate.

In fact, Marx’s inferences have not stood the test of time. At the very first actual trial, where the working class had to show its moral superiority over the bourgeoisie and choose an internationalist stand, the proletariat showed a willingness to fight and die for their countries in the First World War. The overwhelming majority of European socialist parties supported their people, regardless of class affinity, and did not unite with the proletariat of their enemies. Lenin noted with bitterness that in more than two years of war, the international socialist and workers’ movement in each country formed three currents: social chauvinists, “center” and true internationalists, where he ranked the Bolsheviks.

Proletarian internationalism became a stumbling block in the labor movement, and insoluble contradictions between various factions led to the dissolution of the Second International in 1916. Moreover, the First World War became the catalyst for precisely the opposite trend, namely the nationalist turn in the socialist and workers’ movement and the departure from the principles of orthodox Marxism. During the interwar period, National Syndicalists, Fascists, and National Socialists emerged on the European political scene and challenged ideological tenets of the communist international.

Ironically, even within the communist international, the racist card was played, as can be seen in a bitter quarrel between the Soviet and Chinese communist parties in the early sixties. For instance, the Chinese stated that communism for non-white peoples should be kept separate from the communism of such “non-Asian whites” as Russians. Maoists prevented the Russian delegation’s participation in an Indonesian journalists’ conference on the premise that “the whites have nothing to do here.” The Chinese went so far that the Maoist version of internationalism apparently read: “Non-white workers of the world, unite!” – effectively killing Marxian objectives by replacing class solidarity with racism.

But there is something else that rips the internationalist mask off the face of leftist movements. Internationalism is an all-encompassing and reciprocal concept that is falsified if there is even a single exception or contradiction. If an individual, community, party, or country exhibits love for everybody except one, their internationalism does not pass the criterion of all-inclusiveness and thus gets debunked.

Historically, anti-Semitism turned out to be a litmus test that unmistakably distinguished an internationalist from a nationalist and a real internationalist from a false one. The recent book by German historian Götz Aly, Europe Against the Jews, 1880-1945, examines the prehistory of the Holocaust, which, the book posits, would not have been possible without the assistance of thousands of collaborators worldwide belonging to different ethnicities, social statuses, and political affiliations. In his groundbreaking research, the author has collected historical evidence of blatant anti-Semitism, including from prominent figures on the traditional left. For example, the author pointed out that French socialists such as Pierre Leroux, Pierre Proudhon, Georges Duchene, and Auguste Blanqui displayed fervent anti-Semitic sentiments, not to mention that the leaders of the Paris Commune and members of the First International Gustave Tridon and Albert Regnard were openly Jew haters. There are many such examples in the book. The truth comes out over time and the reappraisal of certain heroes of the socialist movement is still waiting in the wings.

Anti-Semitism can be found in places that seem incredible at first glance. In his research paper, Anti-Semitism in International Brigades, Andrew Smalling explores the paradox of hatred toward the Jews in International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War, which were organized and managed by the Comintern and fighting a coalition of Nationalists supported by Italian fascists and German Nazis. Anti-Semitism was widespread enough to undermine military performance of the Brigades, according to a secret report by Soviet emissary Karl Sverchevskyi to his Moscow leadership. It turns out that irreconcilable enemies were able to find a common denominator in anti-Semitism, which in itself is a refutation of genuine internationalism in the leftist milieu.

Thus, proletarian internationalism is an empty slogan, which is weakly argued theoretically in Marxism and does not stand up in practice. This conclusion has great consequences not only as another exposure to Marxism but also as the overthrow of nationalism/racism as a factor influencing the polarization of the political spectrum. The paper The Theory of the Political Spectrum demonstrates, from a purely formal mathematical standpoint, that an element of nationalism/racism does not pass the test for sufficiency and necessity, and should not be used as a marker to distinguish ideologies on the political spectrum. This is due to the fact that nationalism, as a watershed between ideologies, loses its meaning when opposing doctrines converge on the national issue, whether in words or in deeds. The semantic constructs “if nationalism then the Right-wing” and “if internationalism then Left-wing” have neither logical nor practical argumentation under it but are a propagandistic cliché that has become an axiomatic blunder in contemporary political science.

The historical developments in the first part of the twentieth century invalidated Marxist postulate about an international brotherhood of proletarians. It turned out to be an ordinary political myth. But this myth has been kept alive by Communists as an extremely convenient propaganda ploy, allowing them to choose a high road in their international relations. The Communists often played this card, covering up their atrocities against their own people and other nations, on a par with the crimes against humanity of the fascists and nationalists, hiding behind the slogan of international duty.

In psychology, the effect has long been noticed when the guilty party blames others for the same sins that they themselves have committed. This is just the case that applies to the propaganda rhetoric of the leftists. They accuse their opponents of racism and xenophobia, while they themselves have racist skeletons in their closet. But the truth of the matter is that it was predominantly the leftist totalitarian regimes that created the nationalist monsters that killed millions of innocent souls, either overtly or through camouflaging their actions with internationalist rhetoric.

Thus, internationalism in the interpretation of libertarian philosophy and Marxist doctrine are completely different concepts. Proletarian internationalism is a political myth postulated by the founders of Marxism and used as a propaganda tool then and now. It is characterized by extreme aggressiveness, since it was invented as a weapon for the political fight against world capital. Libertarian internationalism, in contrast, is peaceful and constructive. It follows naturally from the logical and consistent development of human society in terms of the division and cooperation of labor and is based on respect for private property rights. 

Allen Gindler

Allen Gindler is a scholar from the former U.S.S.R., specializing in Political Economy, Econometrics, and Industrial Engineering. Gindler is a supporter of the market economy and especially its interpretation by the Austrian School of Economics. He taught Economic Cybernetics, Standard Data Systems, and Computer-Aided Work Design at the Khmelnytskyi National University, Ukraine. Gindler is currently a private consultant to the IT industry on Database Administration and Cryptography. As a hobby, he is interested in political philosophy, history, population genetics, and Biblical archaeology and has published articles and opinion pieces in Mises Wire, American Thinker, Foundation for Economic Education, and Biblical Archaeology Review.

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