Russia’s Missing Peacemakers
Why the Country’s Elites Are Struggling to Break With Putin
WE are born into the state as into the family. When we look backwards into the time before there was a state we experience a sense of satisfaction with the political community of which we are part. The ancient Egyptian and Roman, the citizen of the Catholic mediæval world, probably felt much the same way. Yet what they accepted as permanent has changed, what they thought of as the highest good is now regarded as faulty. It does not seem extravagant to conclude that there are always elements of decay at work within the political tree at the same time that rivals are struggling against it for moisture in the ground and for light from the sky. Some of our contemporaries, scanning the horizon, see signs of disaster to the state as it is now constituted mainly in the threat of a general war or in the development of revolutionary class warfare. But the elements of gradual decentralization and devolution that are contained within every state are likely ultimately to prove more potent because, as some might put it, they are more "insidious." One of the internal elements, the development of which may affect the nation both directly through political action and indirectly through political or social philosophy, is "regionalism."
Before the national state came into being, there was everywhere some kind of regionalism based on ethnic or cultural considerations. In Europe the tribal organization, though in many ways weak, was dominant. It might be West Saxon, Lombardic or Visigothic; it might be mobile or fixed. Sometimes it was strong in the face of enemies, always it was weak in the face of internal dissensions. As this loose tribal state grew more powerful, the local elements crystallized in the form of provinces. Some of these provinces had their day and disappeared. Others have persisted as ethnic, cultural, or economic entities down to the present time. Northumberland has gone, but Provence is a reality. Kent has lost its distinctiveness, but Tuscany still means a great deal. In present-day France the elements of regionalism are one of the leavening influences in national literature and popular thought.
As towns arose and as an urban middle class came into existence, a great deal of personal property was amassed -- gold and silver, foodstuffs and clothing, weapons and tools -- which was used by the ruler to strengthen the state. The artisans, merchants and money-lenders of the town were willing to help the king in return for assistance against the landed aristocracy, the hereditary enemies of both. The wars that were fought between states led to some popular enthusiasm (for example, "St. George for Merrie England"), and the Church anointed the head of the monarch with a divine right which even he had not hitherto suspected. A civil service was developed to do the state's work and a military service to do its fighting. A treasury, or at least credit, worked miracles at home, while a consular and diplomatic service looked after interests abroad. The old nobility yielded or disappeared, while a new one without local roots came into being to serve the state. Distant trade, opened by regulated and jointstock companies, brought enormous profits into the state. Colonization was made possible and privateering became a gentlemanly pursuit.
In order to increase its strength the state developed a mercantile policy. This was not peculiar to Lord Burghley or England, Colbert or France, but has come into being in widely different lands at various times -- in North America as the work of Alexander Hamilton and Sir John A. Macdonald, in Germany as the contribution of Prince Bismarck, in Russia as the ambition of Count Witte. The aim was to help the state grow powerful economically so that it might be invincible in war. Make the shipping fleet strong, grow plenty of food, manufacture ironwares, export more than you import, and your state with its treasured past, its hallowed religion, and its superior culture will survive -- perhaps even dominate all others. Keep all the people at work; they will then give no trouble at home and at the same time they will provide an abundance of wares for export and shut off the need for import. Gold must flow in -- for the purposes of war or peace. And what wars became possible! The first Hundred Years' War was fought against France by England with only the backing of localities -- particularly towns; the second Hundred Years' War (1689-1815) was fought with the backing of a mercantilistic state and a nationalistic spirit.
It was perceived even before 1700 by the Tory Free Traders of England, and after 1750 by the Physiocrats of France, that the methods and many of the concepts of the mercantilists were faulty. Wealth could be engendered better by throwing over the minute regulations of the past. Foreign trade could not produce a favorable balance for long because ultimately the excess of exports is checked by the rise of prices at home, as David Hume showed. Let there be free trade and brotherly love among nations. Such was the doctrine of the most advanced nations, which the others were supposed to accept. And accept it they did -- this Manchesterthum, as the Germans and Austrians call it -- until they saw that it was not a universal doctrine but one suited only to well-developed countries.
But the point of interest here is that both the policy of mercantilism and that of liberal free trade were based upon an emphasis on material wealth. Both stressed the accumulation of goods, forgetting the welfare of human beings. Efficiency in production was erected as the national god. Lands were enclosed for effective agriculture; mines were opened and men sent into dark holes to gain their livelihood; factories were established, where first women and children were worked to the limit of endurance and then the men were brought in. Apart from adopting some ameliorative legislation, the state accepted and furthered all this. The state had done the needful thing, but had gone too far, and had forgotten that it was the instrument of all the citizens and not just of the wealth-owning classes. As a challenge to this condition arose various kinds of social reconstruction theories, commonly described by the word socialism. They started in England, France and Germany and spread elsewhere. As always, the protagonists of the new doctrine went far both in their advocacy of a new order and in their denunciation of the old. Probably the chief contribution of socialism in this respect is to correct the emphasis in life rather than to create any new organization of its own.
We are led naturally to speculate whether the state has not made another mistake, and whether this mistake also is not going to lead to a reaction and a change. The state has grown fat and strong on the exploitation of one region at the expense of another, just as formerly it followed the interests of the capitalist and middle classes to the exclusion of the welfare of the proletariat. Just as socialism came in to correct the class emphasis, so regionalism will have to rise, in fact is rising, to offset the tendency to favor one region and neglect another. It seems inevitable that regionalism, a movement mainly of the middle class, as socialism is of the proletariat, will prove a serious challenge to the national state as it exists today, in part directly through political action but more especially through the development of political ideas. It will help to form a social point of view which is broader, more rational and economic, and more progressive, than the national point of view.
The bearing of regionalism upon nationalism can be brought out only by an examination of actual regional developments in the modern world and by the growing emphasis which a few social scientists are putting upon the regional point of view. Business men have seen the situation -- or, rather, have felt the pinch -- but they have not yet formulated a regional theory of general application. Since there are different kinds of regionalism, with varying promises of success, we must stop to consider them as they are.
In New England the Puritan spirit once dominated all the activities of life. Then as it began to be rivalled in the nineteenth century by the more free attitude which was held by the incoming Irish, French Canadians, and others, it began to spread to other parts. The system of slavery was one of the things which it came into contact with and which it could not tolerate. There is no thought here of taking sides on that particular issue. The fact of interest to us is that when America destroyed slavery and established a great national party of virtuous feeling and virtuous traditions, Puritanism lost New England but conquered America. The South's regional point of view was not respected.
But it cannot be said that either ethnic or cultural regionalism died in America with the destruction of slavery and the national victory of Puritanism. In the Southeast there is a strong Anglo-Celtic civilization; and in Quebec and on the fringes of New England there is a French-Canadian group with a point of view that resists many elements of progress. In the Central Northwest there is a great Lutheran body of Scandinavians and Germans that has much in common, though it is not absolutely homogeneous. The question is whether the American nation is going to respect these and other regional peculiarities, or whether it will squelch them in favor of a sublime uniformity.
There are economic regions in America also -- the cotton belt, the spring-wheat belt, the winter-wheat belt, the dairy belt, and others less easily recognized. Each of these develops its own ways of thinking and its own political policies based on economic conditions. But they one and all are transient, the temporary reflections of a condition that is changing, not through design or national policy, but through internal changes brought about by the boll-weevil, the black-stem rust, and the like.
In Canada we see a most interesting case of regionalism arising from a lack of regard for economic needs. Over sixty years ago when the Maritime Provinces were being brought in to form the Dominion, there were grave misgivings among many of the people concerned. Time has proved the sceptics right. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island have seen some of their natural resources exhausted and many of their enterprising children, unable to find a satisfactory living at home, tempted off to other parts. Villages have remained villages, and towns have struggled on without growing. No commercial center has arisen. No outstanding institutions have come into being. There is hardly a single object of great local pride. Here is Old World stagnation in the New Hemisphere!
To redress this regional grievance a firm protest has been made under the leadership of F. B. McCurdy of Nova Scotia. The evils have been pointed out in speech and writing, and at times the alternative of a union with the United States has even been adumbrated, though certainly more as a threat than as a measure of practical politics. Where can the products of this region be sold? There are lumber and fish and coal. Theoretically, these might be sent to Quebec and Ontario, but actually the distance makes this too expensive. Boston would be the obvious market, but in this direction stands the high tariff wall. Of course there is the mother country across the seas. But in economic matters she is a stern parent, giving no great favors to sons and daughters. The Maritime Provinces can fish far afield, and send their lumber to the West Indies for fruit; but that is not enough. If only they could receive regional treatment, if only they could go to the nations of the world as a unit and bargain! They know they have something to offer. But in the face of such aspirations stands an established fact: they are a part, an insignificant part, of Canada. They have the privilege of watching their sister Ontario become industrial behind the supporting buttresses of the national tariff. Halifax and St. John can tabulate the increases in population and wealth of Montreal and Toronto. It is no mean boast that you are a Canadian; but it is not very profitable for you to belong to the dead or dying part of Canada. The Dominion guarantees to Canadians much that its citizens hold dear, including a good system of education and a parliamentary government. The loyalists of the Maritime Provinces must take satisfaction in these things. But still, Canada to them does not stand for economic opportunity or common justice in trade. Canadian politicians have not been entirely unmindful of the situation. The Maritime Provinces have been left with a parliamentary representation somewhat above their strict due, and one of the railroads that serves them has long been a national charge. The main situation, however, remains as before. Canadian nationalism is not an unmixed blessing to all parts of Canada.
There is still another sort of economic regionalism -- metropolitan regionalism -- and it is the most likely to challenge the state in a way to be heard, because it represents rich, well-organized, and somewhat self-sufficing communities.
The outstanding illustration of metropolitan regionalism is London, which started early to climb to a position of economic preëminence and which went farther than any other center in the Old World. As early as the sixteenth century it began to organize the trade of a wide hinterland, and gradually became the clearing house in rivalry with Amsterdam. It was largely to help London that the navigation laws were passed. These later came to be oppressive to the American colonies, but they served the useful purpose of helping to build up a big commercial city, with great men of business, warehouses, docks and ships. Since it was the joint-stock trading companies of London which had done the early colonizing in Virginia and had paved the way in Massachusetts, it was not unnatural that the trade laws should be framed so as to favor the city which had exerted itself to lay the economic foundations of an empire. Commercial regions had existed before, but the ancient and mediæval towns usually found some obstacle in the way of their developing a hinterland. Athens and Venice could grow only so far, without coming into competition with rival neighbors. Lisbon had a shallow background, as had the Phoenician towns of early days, though they sent their ships far afield and prospered. Paris had a large area in which to extend its influence, but until the French Revolution the provincial barriers helped to keep Paris from attaining commercial greatness. London was, in short, the first to have a great and rich region at its feet, and the first to link up such a region with trade in foreign parts, the Baltic and the Mediterranean, North America and southern Asia, the West and the East Indies.
London's hinterland was in no sense a compact area but was quite irregular, extending along the coast of England, up the navigable rivers, and inland wherever the neglected roads were passable for pack-horse or ox-cart. The metropolis procured coal from Newcastle, woolen cloth from Yorkshire, wheat from Norfolk and Hampshire, and tin from Cornwall, and for these it paid in linens from Ireland, glass from Venice, spice from the East, furs and tobacco from America, and sugar from the West Indies. Never did there exist a region in a truer sense. Here was a large group of men living in varying but close degrees of economic and social dependence one upon another. Of course they were hardly aware of the implications of the situation. To them London was the great political metropolis, and the region, like the rest of England, appeared to be made up of bishoprics and counties, with their local institutions, their schools and fairs.
Ever since the sixteenth century London had been gaining in capital resources and in financial knowledge and skill. From a city dependent on Antwerp and Amsterdam, London came to be the center of world finance. It was a real milestone when the Bank of England was established. But that bank remained a London bank until, in the early nineteenth century, it established branches in the hinterland and in the north. Then as the joint-stock banks grew larger and larger through consolidation, the concentration of financial activity in London became more and more marked. It was in London that the capital for investment was available. The governments of the world went there, as did private persons who needed a large loan. London, long the discount market for England, became also the investment market for much of the world.
Here, then, was the most highly commercialized and financial region of the world, with a rich hinterland of agriculture and with some mining and manufacturing, having as its nucleus the metropolitan city of London. As a commercial organization it had an entity, but of course no isolation. To it went wares and people, ideas and news from the whole world. And from it emanated contributions, both material and cultural. From the days of the Spanish Armada to the battle of Trafalgar the English navy had to fight for the supremacy of London. But from Trafalgar to the battle of Jutland, London found nothing that really constituted a threat. The pound sterling sat securely on its throne, with absolute commercial sway over its hinterland, a strong influence in the north, and economic mandates on every continent.
Two circumstances made it possible for London to develop into an economic metropolis. One was internal free trade and the other was a location favorable for overseas commerce at a time when overseas connections were vital.
America has been the child of England in more ways than one, and most of the inheritances have been accentuated and magnified. Whereas England had one great metropolitan region, America has ten or twelve, either developed or developing. In the East, the rival cities of Boston, New York and Philadelphia succeeded in carving out territories of commercial dominance, especially following the construction of the Erie Canal. In the West, first Chicago and St. Louis, then the Twin Cities and Kansas City, established themselves supreme in their economic provinces. In the South, New Orleans apparently has lost; and on the borders, Cincinnati and Baltimore have had indifferent success. On the Pacific, it remains to be seen whether there is room for but one metropolis or for three. San Francisco's rivals, Los Angeles to the south and Seattle to the north, both have serious handicaps.
As a result of industrial development, the Southeast now seems likely to become the first metropolitan region in the whole southland, probably with Atlanta as the center. If trade with South America and with the Orient should develop considerably, as may well be the case, St. Louis and San Francisco would gain heavily. Under such circumstances perhaps Chicago alone of the older regions could hold its own relative position. If Canada and Mexico should ever come into the great North American nexus, then other regions of the United States would probably forge ahead, notably the Central Northwest and the Gulf Southwest. How much the Boston area would gain by the addition of the Canadian Maritime Provinces without the island of Newfoundland is problematical. At any rate, New England does not possess either the coal of the Maritime Provinces or the iron of Newfoundland. It must struggle on somehow without them.
New England has had plenty of struggle since 1921. Indeed we have here the ripest regional experience on the North American continent. First came the rise of Boston to a position of some commercial eminence, largely as a result of its coastal trade and local inland traffic. Lacking a great river artery, Boston was helped further by the growth of railroads. Industries concentrated their selling and buying there. Finally came Boston's undisputed financial hegemony throughout New England. The region steadily increased the utilization of its resources and built up a surplus; not without losses, however, and not so rapidly as some other regions. Now it is threatened, some say with decline, others say simply with the necessity of further economic readjustment.
New England was at its highest point, in comparison with other Eastern regions, from 1820 to 1850. After that, it lost in general agriculture to the more westerly states, in wool to the far West, in commerce to New York City, in shipbuilding to the middle Atlantic states, in automobiles to Michigan; and now, in the manufacture of the coarser textiles, it is losing to the South, and in the making of coarser shoes to the Mississippi Valley. Its raw cotton, wool, hides and iron come from far afield. Its coal must be brought from increasing distances as the eastern mines are gradually depleted. Add to these handicaps the old age of the district. Businesses, long established and long successful, have tended to stagnate. This is said to be true in accounting. It is admittedly the case in marketing, the old commercial system being still much relied upon, advertising being indulged in but sparingly, and market analysis being conspicuous by its neglect. Styles lag and displays have been infrequent and undistinguished. Factory machinery has become antiquated, and its overvaluation for tax purposes is a severe handicap to production. Much of the trouble has been summed up as a decline in personnel. Textile manufacture has long been the occupation of gentlemen whose main concern has been income rather than effective production. Perhaps the influence of the dead hand of trust companies, though real, has been exaggerated. Certainly there has been a long continued social selection which has persuaded many of the most enterprising younger men to move to other parts. Thus has a situation long familiar to Old England visited her namesake in the New World.
In the period from 1921 to 1925 there was gloom everywhere in New England, and in spots blank despair. The harbors seemed empty, the railroads were languishing, interurban lines were being given up, more farms abandoned, many factories closed, and industrial towns hard put to it to continue. Industrial plants were a drug on the market and water power was sold, or about to be sold, for domestic lighting and heating. Of course much of this was after-war retrogression and was common to several regions. But the intensity of certain phases of it and the combination of all, were peculiar to New England. Only the invested capital of the region saved it from further decline.
In 1925 the New England Conference and Council, representing six states, came into existence; and for one reason or another within three years there was an improvement in outlook and in certain instances also in fact. Nowhere in America, perhaps in the world, has there been more stock taking, self-analysis, planning for the future. Governors, representatives, legislators, chambers of commerce have become active in local economic affairs. Talk and study have been followed by action. Panicky firms about to move away have been induced to remain. New industries have been established in towns where they would not compete with old ones. A search is being made for unused resources. And at last New England has been persuaded to advertise. The common boosting attitude of business in other regions has been brought in to help out the sale of products which excellence alone could not dispose of.
A new regional philosophy has come in with the new organization. It seems that probably not permanent decline but re-adjustment is at hand. Many of the recent fears are set down as mere panic. Let some of the industries go; others remain and new ones can be established. Let the region patronize its own products. The region must also fight for its rights at Washington. Some think there should be lower duties on the raw materials imported and higher duties on finished goods in order to protect the region's products. The Interstate Commerce Commission should give more favorable railroad rates, and the Shipping Board has been persuaded (1928) to the plan of reducing ocean steamship rates. A federal "Truth in Fabrics" law should be passed to prevent undue competition from the inferior wares of other districts. There should be a reduction of taxes on the small corporations so numerous in New England. The present system of exempting certain non-industrial securities from federal taxes should be abolished so as to direct capital into New England's industries. The Great Lakes project should be encouraged so as to provide power for northern New England and a demand for many regional products. No national subsidy is to be tolerated for western agriculture.
In short, New England is formulating its wants. It may err in its reasoning as to what is possible and what is advantageous, but it is developing a policy. Here is regional mercantilism more fully formed than in the Maritime Provinces of Canada or in the Central Northwest.
But New England is not the only American region which has become self-conscious. The Central Northwest, roughly the Ninth Federal Reserve area, has been much distressed since 1918. It has a great, though undeveloped, hinterland, from the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis to the Rocky Mountains. But it has no foreland. Between it and New England lie lakes and mountains. The lakes freeze in winter and the mountains are always hard to climb. And Ontario pokes itself right across the intervening space. There is no direct easy passage from Boston to the Twin Cities, no water-level route, no great transportation system.
In spite of these handicaps the Central Northwest flourished -- up to about the end of the late war. The Panama Canal, however, has invited Eastern shippers to send their wares to the Pacific Coast by sea; one great northwestern railroad has gone into bankruptcy partly on this account. Because of the continuous raising of wheat the region no longer can be made to yield the excellent hard spring variety so much in demand for the making of bread. Another wheat (durham) has come in to take its place as a crop, at least in part, but the mills of Minneapolis languish. They must either pay the duty on Canadian wheat, as yet unspoiled by rust, or bring in the hard winter wheat from Kansas. To complete the misery, favorable railroad rates were taken away from the Twin Cities. Now much of the milling that used to be done in the region can be more profitably carried on elsewhere. After the war, too, this region suffered from the same disadvantage that all agricultural regions found themselves in as compared with industrial regions: the prices of their wares fell, while those of manufactured goods remained high. Banks failed, stores were unoccupied, farms deserted, and people moved from place to place seeking better conditions.
Relief will doubtless come in part through the development of the Pacific Northwest and the commerce that will originate there. But forests have been depleted, fertility skinned off the soil, and much of the best iron ore carried off for use in other parts. In order that the long period of re-adjustment may be faced as intelligently as possible, regional efforts at organization and planning have been undertaken. The bankers and the chambers of commerce have been active, but so far with little apparent result. Something may come from the plans of a group of scholars at the University of Minnesota, who are investigating the needs of the region and working to develop a regional consciousness. A regional atlas will soon be finished. Studies have been made of the marketing situation and are now to be made of the region's transportation facilities. Again we see, as we saw in the case of New England, that it is a regional decline or re-adjustment that leads to conscious planning and coöperative effort. Man seems to have become competitive and individualistic; only when he is goaded by necessity does he combine with others and think socially about economic problems.
To aid in exploiting our national resources the Department of Commerce has divided the United States into nine regions and has undertaken a survey of each. One argument for doing this was that the Government ought to do in the field of domestic commerce what it had for some time been doing in the field of foreign commerce. The first of the regional surveys, called the "Commercial Survey of the Southeast," appeared in 1927. The district in question is put down as one of the "definite economic provinces," possessing "homogeneity in fundamental economic factors." It has a long growing season, plenty of timber, and great resources of coal and iron. Undeveloped at present, it has promise of a great future. It remains to be seen, incidentally, whether Atlanta is going to be able to concentrate in its hands the big business affairs of the region.
After these few instances of the dissection of the nation -- by many thought to be one and indivisible -- into its component parts, we perhaps ought now to try to define a "region" more exactly. A state we can define. It has an organization and boundaries, a name and a flag. It has a recorded history. But what is a region? Clearly it is non-political and non-administrative. This is what makes it rather difficult to comprehend. All we can say is that it is a territory which possesses enough of the measure of sameness to distinguish it fundamentally from its neighbors.
There are regions that are almost wholly climatic, regions where as yet man plays little part. There are culture areas such as Clark Wissler has found existed among the primitive Indians in America. There are the black-bread and white-bread areas of Europe. There are the Rivieras of the Old and New Worlds with their marked "consumer's economy." Inland there are the "goitre belts" where unacclimatized people live at their peril. But the regionalism that is of greatest importance is metropolitan. Here we have an area inhabited by producers and consumers who from a radius usually of over a hundred miles look to one big center for marketing their products and securing their supplies. Not all of the people of the region are equally strongly or equally continuously under the sway of the commercial metropolis; but all are at times dominated by it, except perhaps those living near the borders of two or more areas.
Nourished in a friendly fashion by the state, the metropolitan region, without any formal sort of constitution and until recently without plan, has grown to be a potential rival of the state. Born of a mixture of physical and economic convenience, it promises to take on a measure of cultural unity. Under the guidance of business men of large calibre, it is likely in America to develop a policy that leads at once to the conservation of regional interests and the advancement of general social welfare. Rooted as it is in the facts of nature rather than in political expediency, it promises to have vitality and endurance.
The direct effect of regionalism may be to make the state weaker politically but stronger economically and socially. Or the region, looking to regional convenience, may make new alignments leading to the creation of new states, or to international states (European, American, and so on), or ultimately to a world state. All this is of course the purest speculation. But it is a part of intellectual candor at least to recognize that the Maritime Provinces of Canada would be better off in the metropolitan region of Boston. Similarly, there is room for one great metropolis at Seattle or at Vancouver, but not for one at each. The disrobing of Vienna and of Constantinople are crimes against metropolitan regionalism which are bound to cost dear. It is a curious fact that few peoples have followed the Scots of Scotland in accepting material betterment as the foundation of social and cultural advance.
But what we would rather emphasize here is not the direct but the indirect effect of regionalism. It is true that the state was not the result of man's deeply laid plans: it grew, and only later did men learn how it had happened. The state was a social evolution. But conditions are different today; we are much more politically, economically and socially conscious. We are evolving a whole congeries of elaborate studies in various social sciences. It is just here that regionalism promises to have its most immediate influence. Gradually there is being built up an enormous body of information about human activities not primarily centered in the state. It is significant that we no longer study political economy but economics. The science of government is much broader than political science. As rivals to the state and its subdivisions, there are the family, the association, the mob, and the religious group. But there is also the super-state of some kind; and alongside of it should be placed the region, which, because it is nearer to the individual, is likely to exercise a more potent influence over him.
The magnificent sweep of anthropology is not limited by anything so insignificant as the frontiers of the state. Geographers today pay little attention to political boundaries in their studies. Sociologists are making local and regional studies without much thought of the bearing on state or national groupings. American historians have long been compelled to pay attention to a rather crude kind of regionalism under the name of sectionalism. Economists are now beginning to consider regional prices of goods, services and credit. Lagging behind, but hopefully repentant, is political science, the study of government, which has long been concentrating all its attention on the state's relation to the deity, the dynasty, to its own social classes, and to other states. Time will have to elapse before students of government come fully under the influence of the new non-national point of view; and more time still before citizens can hear a new voice. Then it may be recognized that there has occurred an emancipation as great as the divorce of social thinking from theology and from ethics. In this emancipation of the social sciences from political prepossession and domination, the growth of regionalism, born of the need of a nicer adjustment of man to his immediate environment, will probably play a prominent part.