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Title:      The Road Away from Revolution
Author:     Woodrow Wilson
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0300991.txt
Language:   English
Date first posted:          July 2003
Date most recently updated: July 2003

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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      The Road Away from Revolution
Author:     Woodrow Wilson


In these doubtful and anxious days, when all the world is at
unrest and, look which way you will, the road ahead seems
darkened by shadows which portend dangers of many kinds, it is
only common prudence that we should look about us and attempt to
assess the causes of distress and the most likely means of
removing them.

There must be some real ground for the universal unrest and
perturbation. It is not to be found in superficial politics or in
mere economic blunders. It probably lies deep at the sources of
the spiritual life of our time. It leads to revolution; and if
perhaps we take the case of the Russian Revolution, the
outstanding event of its kind in our age, we may find a good deal
of instruction for our judgment of present critical situations
and circumstances.

What gave rise to the Russian Revolution? The answer can only be
that it was a product of a whole social system. It was not in
fact a sudden thing. It had been gathering head for several
generations. It was due to the systematic denial to the great
body of Russians of the rights and privileges which all normal
men desire and must have if they are to be contented and within
reach of happiness. The lives of the great mass of the Russian
people contained no opportunities, but were hemmed in by barriers
against which they were constantly flinging their spirits, only
to fall back bruised and dispirited.  Only the powerful were
suffered to secure their rights and even to gain access to the
means of material success.

It is to be noted as a leading fact of our time that it was
against "capitalism" that the Russian leaders directed their
attack. It was capitalism that made them see red; and it is
against capitalism under one name or another that the
discontented classes everywhere draw their indictment.

There are thoughtful and well-informed men all over the world who
believe, with much apparently sound reason, that the abstract
thing, the system, which we call capitalism, is indispensable to
the industrial support and development of modern civilization.
And yet everyone who has an intelligent knowledge of social
forces must know that great and widespread reactions like that
which is now unquestionably manifesting itself against capitalism
do not occur without cause or provocation; and before we commit
ourselves irreconcilably to an attitude of hostility to this
movement of the time, we ought frankly to put to ourselves the
question, Is the capitalistic system unimpeachable? which is
another way of asking, Have capitalists generally used their
power for the benefit of the countries in which their capital is
employed and for the benefit of their fellow men?

Is it not, on the contrary, too true that capitalists have often
seemed to regard the men whom they used as mere instruments of
profit, whose physical and mental powers it was legitimate to
exploit with as slight cost to themselves as possible, either of
money or sympathy? Have not many fine men who were actuated by
the highest principles in every other relationship of life seemed
to hold that generosity and humane feeling were not among the
imperative mandates of conscience in the conduct of a banking
business, or in the development of an industrial or commercial

And if these offenses against high morality and true citizenship
have been frequently observable, are we to say that the blame for
the present discontent and turbulence is wholly on the side of
those who are in revolt against them?

Ought we not, rather, to seek a way to remove such offenses and
make life itself clean for those who will share honorably and
cleanly in it.

The world has been made safe for democracy. There need now be no
fear that any such mad design as that entertained by the insolent
and ignorant Hohenzollerns and their counselors may prevail
against it. But democracy has not yet made the world safe against
irrational revolution. That supreme task, which is nothing less
that the salvation of civilization, now faces democracy,
insistent, imperative. There is no escaping it, unless everything
we have built up is presently to fall into ruin about us; and the
United States, as the greatest of democracies must undertake it.

The road that leads away from revolution is clearly marked, for
it is defined by the nature of men and of organized society. It
therefore behooves us to study very carefully and very candidly
the exact nature of the task and the means of its successful

The nature of men and of organized society dictates the
maintenance, in every field of action, of the highest and purest
standards of justice and of right dealing; and it is essential to
efficacious thinking in this critical matter that we should not
entertain a narrow or technical conception of justice. By justice
the lawyer generally means the prompt, fair, and open application
of partial rules; but we call ours a Christian civilization, a
Christian conception of justice must be much higher. it must
include sympathy and helpfulness and a willingness to forgo
self-interest in order to promote the welfare, happiness, and
contentment of others and of the community as a whole. This is
what our age is blindly feeling after in its reaction against
what it deems the too great selfishness of the capitalistic

The sum of the whole matter is this, that our civilization cannot
survive materially unless it be redeemed spiritually. It can be
saved only by becoming permeated with the spirit of Christ and
being made free and happy by the practices which spring out of
that spirit. Only thus can discontent be driven out and all the
shadows listed from the road ahead.

Here is the final challenger to our churches, to our political
organizations, and to our capitalists--to everyone who fears God
or loves his country. Shall we not earnestly cooperate to bring
in the new day?


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