In the opening decades of the twenty-first century, Europeans have returned to the political rhetoric of times we might have long thought past. Late last year nostalgia and disorientation resonated through the French National Front’s victory-cry at elections, as Marie Le Pen declared the world no longer divided left against right, but patriotes against mondialistes. Given the combination of challenges making European headlines—from collapsing economies to borders—the rhetoric of the right echoes a sense of threat posed to nations by globalization (a tone particularly resonant in German and English press translations of Le Pen’s words as patriots against globalisten or globalists) The invocation of mondialistes, however, should remind us of older Europe-wide debates: setting patriots against rootless ‘cosmopolitans’ (often anti-semitic code for Jews); or imagining world [monde]-scale politics as the natural corollary of national politics. The European traces of mondialisme as world-scale politics take us back to Immanuel Kant’s late eighteenth century reflections on the cosmopolitan path from war through ‘asocial sociability’ of states to permanent peace; or Germaine de Stael’s early nineteenth century configuration of a cosmopolitan Europe comprised of nationalities; or Giuseppe Mazzini’s international brotherhood of national causes. It was at the turn of the twentieth century, and, perhaps more surprisingly, during the First World War that a liberal tradition of national patriotism and world-scale mondialisme were most productively welded together.
Historians who point to the collapse of ‘world-scale’ thinking in 1914, with the outbreak of war and under the pressure of the psychological pull of patriotism risk being ahistorical. Take the complex changes over this period in the concept of patriotism itself. As one French woman’s journal put it on the eve of the First World War: ‘whereas national patriotism used to be considered an expression of the territorial or political state of the “patrie”’, it was now understood to be ‘a psychological reality, an affective disposition, such as filial or paternal love, which everyone could find in oneself and which it would be unnatural not to experience.’ As importantly, in the years prior to the war, and in its course, psychologists who advanced this interpretation of patriotism were themselves inclined to offer it as proof of the possibilities of mondialisme. The more mired in war Europe became, the more the relationship between loyalty to the nation, on the one hand, and to the world, on the other, came to the fore.
The research that led to the influential study The Psychology of Nationality and Internationalism (1919) by the Michigan university-based psychologist Walter Pillsbury—indirectly a student of the Leipzig school of experimental psychology—was originally provoked by the phenomenon of patriotism he witnessed in American Greeks returning to Greece to fight during the Balkan Wars of 1912-13. But by the time that it was published, at the end of the First World War, Pillsbury featured the relationship between patriotism and the version of mondialisme predominantly referred to in this period as ‘internationalism’. He had concluded that just as patriotism dictated attachment to the nation, ‘supranationality would always exist as a concentric circle of world consciousness, shadowing local and national consciousness’. Once supranational institutions were created, international subjectivity and forms of patriotism would follow as a result of the social adaptation of instincts and habits. According to Pillsbury, it would take a century, but after that time the legal foundations of a League of Nations would be as immutable as the constitution of the United States. This kind of psychological argument and political conclusion informed the work of Harvard and Leipzig-trained psychologist George Mead in this same period. Mead drew an analogy between the individual ‘self’ as the product of national communication and interaction, and nations as the products of international sociability. The implication was that the social origins of identification made it possible that a future international organization, a ‘League of Nations,’ could act as ‘the arbiter of international life’, and ultimately bring about the end of war.
During the First World War, this strand of scientific conjecturing was mirrored in the spread of national associations supporting the prospect of a postwar ‘League of Nations’, as a form of international government that could reconcile the psychological imperative of patriotism with the worldly possibilities of mondialisme termed ‘internationalism’. In Britain, in 1915, two separate League movements appeared that year: The League of Nations Society, set up by a Cambridge classicist, Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, with the Bloomsbury figure Leonard Woolf; and the League of Free Nations Association, established by the Liberal ex-Foreign Secretary Edward Grey and Gilbert Murray, another classicist. By 1918, the two League associations had merged as the League of Nations Union [LNU], expounding the mantra of ‘enlightened patriotism’. The LNU’s inner circle included yet other classicists such as Alfred Zimmern. As with Murray, Zimmern’s academic work echoed the new psychological theories of group psychology and national instincts, while his political writing dictated that ‘the road to Internationalism lies through Nationalism’ for those same psychological reasons. Women in these networks held less formal sway, but parleyed their convictions through newly-hatched international women’s associations, and mixed-sex pacifist organizations. The progressively-minded Helena Swanwick, for example, used her editorship of the influential Foreign Affairs: A Journal of International Understanding, to enjoin ‘the evolution of a sane and constructive internationalism’ that acknowledged patriotism as love of country.
What of the French in this history? They were adamant wartime purveyors of a League-inflected mondialisme on patriotic grounds. Adherents of the Association francaise pour la Societé des Nations, established like its sister-societies in 1918, were a familiar mix of academic and political figures of the French establishment. The enduring French statesman (and former Prime Minister) Léon Bourgeois insisted that France had foreseen a Société des Nations at The Hague international congresses of 1899 and 1907 (which he had attended). As chair of the French government wartime committee task with investigating the possibilities of a League of Nations, Bourgeois proposed a League that included Germany, in order to resuscitate that state as a member of a renewed international community. Not all his compatriots agreed. French philosopher and government advisor Henri Bergson was convinced that Germany would never change and thus could not be included in such a federation—nor could any inferior races.
Despite Bergson’s prejudiced assumptions, support for League-focused mondialisme was hardly exclusive to the populations of the Entente alliance. The Deutsche Liga für Völkerbund was founded in Berlin in December 1918, by Matthias Erzberger—who a month earlier headed the German delegation that signed the armistice—and Walther Schücking, professor of public international law at Magdeburg. The Deutsche Liga was even funded by the state Foreign Ministry, with the additional assistance of an industrialist philanthropist, Robert Bosch. If the unpredictable Erzberger (or Bosch) could be accused of political or economic opportunism, certainly Schücking had a long-standing commitment to the idea of international government as a means of making arbitration between nations mandatory and disarmament universal. This stretched back to his involvement as a German delegate to the same Hague international peace congresses of 1899 and 1907, instigated by the Russians, and identified by Bourgeois with a French tradition.
In the wartime Vienna of a Habsburg empire in fatal decline, law professors and jurists-cum diplomats and politicians pursued the League ideal. Schücking’s peer, Heinrich Lammasch (a conservative Catholic Habsburg lawyer and Hague veteran by then in his 60s), and Joseph Redlich (younger Moravian, Jewish, German, Anglophile, progressively Fabian) relied on their legal, pacifist and business networks to lay the seeds of interest in international government. On February 21, 1919, a few months after Lammasch presided as Prime Minister and Redlich as Minister of Finance in the so-called ‘cabinet of liquidation’, overseeing the transition of Austria from imperial power to republic, the Österreich Liga für Völkerbund und Völkerverständigung was constituted in Vienna, in the presence of around 100 persons.
Unlike the British LNU, the German and Austrian League associations could not boast mass membership. Instead, the story of the Österreich Liga, its organization into sections on economics, rights, transport, press, education, teaching and ethics, draws us into an elite world of networked Austrian politicians, lawyers, and university professors. However, like the Deutsche Liga, it could be contextualized in a longer intellectual history connecting back through late nineteenth century Germanophone world-scale thinking—whether conceptions of a planetary ‘biosphere’, or ‘Weltwirtschaft’, or the enthusiastic carriage of Esperanto as a world language. Wartime political imaginaries of Weltkultur extended beyond the idea of a League of Nations. For example, Vienna was home to the now well-known Pan-Europa organization, the project of Bohemian-born aristocratic Austrian-Japanese Count Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi. The less well-remembered Institut für Kulturforschung distinguished itself by bringing together artistic and scientific communities in a wartime ‘Weltkultur’ movement that linked Berlin and Vienna through Stockholm. It claimed as members men of the cultural and political calibre of Walter Rathenau, Georg Simmel, Oskar Kokoschka, Egon Schiele, Otto Wagner, Gustav Klimt, and Adolf Loos. (Its industrialist backer was Dr. Victor Ritter von Bauer). Its founder, a Galician named Erwin Hanslik, together with Kokoschka, argued for a League that would promote the ‘unity of civilisation’, a Welkultur built from the reconciliation of national interests and mankind, and the use of art to communicate across the world’s cultures.
More surprising perhaps is the place in this mondialiste landscape of Robert Musil, author of the Austrian modernist masterpiece, Man Without Qualities. Over the period that Musil was plotting out his novel, he was simultaneously working for the Austrian Foreign Ministry, and ruminating regularly in public essays and private diaries on the prospects for a League-based Weltpolitik. (Enthusiastic parsers of Man Without Qualities will hear the exaggerated resonances of this thinking in the ‘weltÖsterreich’ vision of his novel’s captivatingly naive Diotima.) In 1919, as the peacemakers contemplated a new world order built out of the reconciliation of nationality and a League of Nations, Musil stumped for a vision of humanity evolving from ‘the state animal to the human state’. He elaborated: ‘Ideas…do not show the path to the future, but only the direction: They are nets thrown over the future to catch what they can’. For Musil, the place of the nation in this ‘world-political goal’ was as ‘a natural association for accomplishing things, the collecting basin within which intellectual exchange develops quickly and most completely’. This same vision of the compatibility of patriotism and Weltkultur underwrote Musil’s support for an Anschluss with Germany, as long as, he maintained, ‘the impulses that have grouped themselves around the idea of a League of Nations… break out of the evil destiny that attaches itself to the organization of mankind into states.’
Historians are only belatedly reflecting on this wartime League support (in all its versions) and the intersecting political ambitions of patriots and mondialistes as evidence of the extent of political engagement with the question: Could an architecture of institutions, laws and norms be invented or enacted to mitigate the worst effects of war, and perhaps even eradicate future wars? Many of those who tried to answer that question were the same academics, experts, and politicians who contemplated the possibility of a new age of Weltkultur, as a necessary and inevitable answer to the militaristic strains of Weltpolitik, as well as in opposition to the anti-national doctrines of communist internationalism. Some even become influential in the promotion of nationality and a League of Nations as the twin principles of a postwar peace.
Remembering the mondialiste past also directs our attention toward the horizon of expectations and spectrum of ambitions confronted by Entente peacemakers in Paris in 1919. The Swiss proposal for a League, for example, was cast in the federal image of its own ‘indissoluble alliance of states,’ requiring some sacrifice of state sovereignty and a proportional system of representation that would give populous China more influence than France, Germany, Italy, or Japan. In the German case, the pariah delegation’s detailed plans for an anticipated League of Nations asserted the ‘moral power of right’, the sanctity of ‘internal political affairs’, and ‘an international community working for the intellectual and material advancement of mankind’. These principles (drafted by Schücking among others) were the foundation of a League imagined on a Weimar template of federalism, tempered with the logic of universal rights. The League would be given institutional form as a Weltparlament, with its own Staatenkongress, standige internationale Gerichtshof, internationale Vermittlungsamt, internationalen Vewaltungsamter, and Kanzlei. The nation would remain sacrosanct, its inner working not subject to international oversight, just as disarmament would be qualified by the security needs of the state. As important in this design was the universality of political principles: From ‘the legal position of the subjects of one member state in the territory of another’, to the ‘general economic equality of rights’ requiring equality for natives and aliens in regard to conditions of work, freedom of conscience, and social insurance. The League’s international governance would extend to the obligatory settlement of international differences, the freedom of commercial traffic across, land, sea and air, with international policing of open traffic, airspace, and communications.
By the end of the First World War, then, the picture we have is not of Europeans baying for blood, on the one hand, and the US President Woodrow Wilson bringing the enlightened message of the benefits of a League of Nations on the other. After 1919, in the wake of the creation of the actual League of Nations, pro-League associations in Europe, across the Atlantic (even the Pacific), through the British empire, proposed patriotism as not only compatible with international government, but its necessary building block (in self-conscious contrast with the internationalism imagined by proponents of Marxism and the Bolshevik revolution). In these early days, there were around 20,000 vocal supporters of the French League societies. By contrast, the Deutsche Liga had about 9,000 members, many only indirectly affiliated through networked religious and political organizations. Yet, even as Germans lost faith with an institution that would not accept their membership, the British LNU had grown its membership to more than 120,000 (and rising), and Europe’s League societies merged in their own international federation.
The new work of historians is also recovering evidence of the League system’s relative successes were in the humanitarian field—from financial assistance to the collapsing economic core of the Austrian state, to the management of transnational health issues and Europe’s postwar refugees, including the introduction of the Nansen passport as a means of tackling the spreading problem of statelessness. From this historical perspective it is easier to understand why, in the 1920s, an indigenous Australian named Anthony Martin Fernando ventured as far as Geneva to petition the League to transform reserve lands in his homeland into mandates governed by Switzerland or the Netherlands as a means of guaranteeing the ‘just future of the Aboriginal race’.
That said, when we focus on the Entente-agreed League of Nations institutions, we cannot escape the knowledge that its specific formula of mondialisme/ patriotism failed in the most tragic ways to ensure any permanent peace. Hindsight too exposes the critical limits of League mondialisme embedded in scientifically-authorised prejudices: George Mead regarded international government as only relevant to the ‘civilized’ world, namely Europe and white settler colonies, only occasionally Japan and the South American republics; Woodrow Wilson assumed that women, African-Americans, and Filipinos (for example) could not claim political independence in the new international world order because of their psychological difference (which explains the current backlash against Wilson’s memory on American university campuses). Racist rationales were the foundation of the same League mandate system that drew Fernando to Geneva: Allegedly backward colonies (once ruled by the Central Powers) were entrusted to (Entente) imperial powers who were to oversee the cultivation of the colonists’ capacities for (national/patriotic) ‘self-determination’. From this historical perspective, the League of Nations stood for the ‘internationalization’ of colonies, the perpetuation of empires, and the conceptual ambiguities that haunted the principle of nationality.
Even at the time of its invention, some disillusioned contemporaries portrayed the actual League of Nations as merely a new edition of the nineteenth century ‘Concert of Europe’. (Of course, the comparisons are limited, a century earlier international conjoining concerned the containment of national patriotism). We know too that the British delegates who decided the Covenant of the League of Nations dismissed the German submission as a ‘typical product of German liberalism’; Fernando never got a hearing at the League; and many of those refugees who were helped by the League were themselves the victims of the other invention of the peace, population transfers deployed on behalf of the argument that national patriotism required a matching national political community. In other words, the League of Nations not only promised more than it could ever deliver, it was a bundle of political contradictions. But the significance of the horizon of expectations supported by mondialistes is as clear when we remember that in 1940, Erwin Hanslik was one of 3,200 patients deported from a Vienna psychiatric institution to be murdered in the Nazi’s T4-Aktion forced euthanasia program. And if he had lived to see the end of the Second World War, he would have heard the resonant tones of his Weltkultur expectations in the actual cultural program of UNESCO.
At every point in the twentieth century there is evidence of investment by European states (big and small, and the US) in the mondialisme that produced the iconic international institutions of the twentieth century—from the League to the UN. These same investments simultaneously reinforced the sanctity of national sovereignty (in a league of nations and the united nations), the cultural significance of national diversity for world politics, as well as the relevance of regional federalism as the building blocks of a world-scale future. In the 1940s, during the Second World War and in its wake, the UN organization that replaced the League was flooded with letters penned by individuals, men and women, proclaiming their support for a world organisation, and for the concept of world citizenship and consciousness as a necessary corollary to patriotism. The Cold War of the 1950s saw a hiatus, as the language of patriots and mondialistes was used to divide rather than reconcile: the Soviet Union attacked the UN as an instrument of US ‘cosmopolitanism; the US accused UNESCO of being the tool of Soviet ‘cosmopolitanism’. Both ideological empires sought refuge in patriotism as the antithesis of international, world-scale, thinking. As importantly, in the détente decade of the 1970s, like the post-Cold War millennial-inspired 1990s, the idea that mondialisme was the natural partner of patriotism returned, by then in the more specific language of ‘globalism’, and not yet globalization. Looked at this way, through the twentieth century, international governance was the cause of national governments and national publics seeking to assert their national distinctiveness, and look forward to a world-scale politics of the future.
In the early 21st century, contrary to the claims of Le Pen, mondialistes have all but disappeared, and with them the relative influence of the 20th century international institutions that were their inspiration, and not necessarily for the better. At a time when the centenary of the First World War continues to capture our historical attention, it is worth remembering that war’s twinned legacy: an intellectual and institutional architecture that persistently shaped liberal ambitions through the twentieth century, and as persistently expanded the horizon of our political expectations, and its radical difference from our own more global but less mondialiste post 9/11 world order.
[This post originally appeared in German as “Patrioten und Mondialisten” in Merkur no. 803 (April 2016): 47-54. We are grateful for permission to reproduce it here.]