The Road Away from Revolution
THE ROAD AWAY FROM
THE ROAD AWAY
THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY PRESS
COPYRIGHT 1923 BY
THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY PRESS, INC.
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
The following pages are reprinted
THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY
for August 1923
THE ROAD AWAY
THE ROAD AWAY
In these doubtful and anxious days,when all the world is at unrestand, look which way you will, theroad ahead seems darkened by shadowswhich portend dangers of manykinds, it is only common prudencethat we should look about us andattempt to assess the causes of distressand the most likely means ofremoving them.
There must be some real ground4for the universal unrest and perturbation.It is not to be found in superficialpolitics or in mere economicblunders. It probably lies deep at thesources of the spiritual life of ourtime. It leads to revolution; andperhaps if we take the case of theRussian Revolution, the outstandingevent of its kind in our age, we mayfind a good deal of instruction for ourjudgment of present critical situationsand circumstances.
What gave rise to the RussianRevolution? The answer can only bethat it was the product of a wholesocial system. It was not in fact a5sudden thing. It had been gatheringhead for several generations. It wasdue to the systematic denial to thegreat body of Russians of the rightsand privileges which all normal mendesire and must have if they are to becontented and within reach of happiness.The lives of the great mass ofthe Russian people contained no opportunities,but were hemmed in bybarriers against which they were constantlyflinging their spirits, only tofall back bruised and dispirited. Onlythe powerful were suffered to securetheir rights or even to gain access tothe means of material success.
6It is to be noted as a leading factof our time that it was against “capitalism”that the Russian leadersdirected their attack. It was capitalismthat made them see red; and itis against capitalism under one nameor another that the discontentedclasses everywhere draw their indictment.
There are thoughtful and well-informedmen all over the world whobelieve, with much apparently soundreason, that the abstract thing, thesystem, which we call capitalism, isindispensable to the industrial supportand development of modern7civilization. And yet everyone whohas an intelligent knowledge of socialforces must know that great andwidespread reactions like that whichis now unquestionably manifestingitself against capitalism do not occurwithout cause or provocation; andbefore we commit ourselves irreconcilablyto an attitude of hostility tothis movement of the time, we oughtfrankly to put to ourselves the question,Is the capitalistic system unimpeachable?which is another way ofasking, Have capitalists generallyused their power for the benefit ofthe countries in which their capital8is employed and for the benefit oftheir fellow men?
Is it not, on the contrary, too truethat capitalists have often seemed toregard the men whom they used asmere instruments of profit, whosephysical and mental powers it waslegitimate to exploit with as slightcost to themselves as possible, eitherof money or of sympathy? Have notmany fine men who were actuated bythe highest principles in every otherrelationship of life seemed to holdthat generosity and humane feelingwere not among the imperative mandatesof conscience in the conduct of9a banking business, or in the developmentof an industrial or commercialenterprise?
And if these offenses against highmorality and true citizenship havebeen frequently observable, are we tosay that the blame for the presentdiscontent and turbulence is whollyon the side of those who are in revoltagainst them?
Ought we not, rather, to seek away to remove such offenses andmake life itself clean for those whowill share honorably and cleanly in it?
The world has been made safe fordemocracy. There need now be no10fear that any such mad design asthat entertained by the insolent andignorant Hohenzollerns and theircounselors may prevail against it.But democracy has not yet made theworld safe against irrational revolution.That supreme task, which isnothing less than the salvation ofcivilization, now faces democracy,insistent, imperative. There is no escapingit, unless everything we havebuilt up is presently to fall in ruinabout us; and the United States, asthe greatest of democracies, mustundertake it.
The road that leads away from11revolution is clearly marked, for itis defined by the nature of men andof organized society. It thereforebehooves us to study very carefullyand very candidly the exact nature ofthe task and the means of its successfulaccomplishment.
The nature of men and of organizedsociety dictates the maintenance, inevery field of action, of the highestand purest standards of justice and ofright dealing; and it is essential toefficacious thinking in this criticalmatter that we should not entertaina narrow or technical conception ofjustice. By justice the lawyer generally12means the prompt, fair, and openapplication of impartial rules; but wecall ours a Christian civilization, anda Christian conception of justice mustbe much higher. It must includesympathy and helpfulness and a willingnessto forgo self-interest in orderto promote the welfare, happiness,and contentment of others and of thecommunity as a whole. This is whatour age is blindly feeling after in itsreaction against what it deems thetoo great selfishness of the capitalisticsystem.
The sum of the whole matter isthis, that our civilization cannot survive13materially unless it be redeemedspiritually. It can be saved only bybecoming permeated with the spiritof Christ and being made free andhappy by the practices which springout of that spirit. Only thus can discontentbe driven out and all theshadows lifted from the road ahead.
Here is the final challenge to ourchurches, to our political organizations,and to our capitalists—toeveryone who fears God or loves hiscountry. Shall we not all earnestlycoöperate to bring in the new day?
Printed by McGrath-Sherrill Press, Boston
Bound by Boston Bookbinding Co., Cambridge
The first illustration bears the signature shownin its caption. The illustration on the Title Pageis the Publisher’s logo.