Mr. Winchester to Mr. Bayard
Berne , April 23, 1887. (Received May 7.)
Sir: It is reported by the foreign and domestic papers that the Swiss federal council has decided to take stringent measures against the German socialists in Switzerland whose plottings and violent agitations are calculated to compromise its security.
The federal constitution authorizes the expulsion of foreigners who may compromise the internal or external safety of Switzerland.
Socialism has never been able to secure any foothold or command any strong adherents in Switzerland among the native population, for the difference in language in the various parts of the country, the small concentration of industry, and the well-developed national feeling of distrust of everything foreign, much impede all propaganda of this kind. Still, socialism distinctly shows its international character here, and for many years Switzerland has been a place of meeting for all the elements of discontent throughout Europe, its central position in the heart of Europe, on the border between the Germanic and Latin nations, making it very eligible for that purpose. The great trials of socialists which took place just previous to 1880 in the chief cities of Europe, in which it was made to appear that Switzerland was the center of international revolutionary agitation, the sympathetic attitude of a large number of the press, especially at Geneva, the official circular of the 7th December, 1878, which the Government deemed necessary in order to check the waves of this movement at that time running so high, and the expulsions then made of Germans, French, Italians, Spaniards, Russians, and Poles are sufficient to justify the statement. Even during the past winter the Russian printing office in Geneva has been twice forcibly entered and examined in search of “Nihilists” plotting against the Czar’s Government. But the “refugees” there claim, and it is believed justly so, that they are not “revolutionists,” but simply seeking repose after lives of exile, imprisonment, or hard labor in this most peaceable and hospitable country. In 1878 it was understood that a remonstrance on the part of several European powers was made against the abuse of the right of asylum tolerated in Switzerland, resulting in the action of the Swiss Government as heretofore indicated. However, the socialists and anarchists have had to deal with elements in Switzerland that so far have prevented the attainment of any efficient organization. All efforts to secure the control of the “general trades unions” and “workingmen’s societies” have failed, the Swiss members soon discovering on the part of their would-be allies a want of interest in and comprehension of their national political objects, and the thinly-concealed purpose to use the organization for their special propaganda.
In 1883, at a conference held at Basle, it was resolved that an attempt should be made at a general organization with the various Swiss societies, but on a purely federalistic basis, looking to united action on all questions of common interest, especially with regard to international [Page 1065] legislation for the welfare of workers, and in a socialistic direction, the independence of the societies being guarantied. These views were accepted at a “general conference of Swiss workers” held in September of the same year at Zurich, and the execution of the plan intrusted to an “executive committee.” For some time enrollment was quite rapid, but soon the old differences broke out again, and the organization has been practically paralyzed by internal dissensions. The right of asylum in Switzerland has been encompassed with serious and complicated difficulties, but this brave little country has never failed to vindicate its proper exercise in a firm, prudent, and courageous attitude in the most critical periods of her existence. During the excitement of 1878 the Bund, which is regarded as a semi-official organ, doubtless expressed the views of the Government on this question in these words:
Switzerland will maintain the right of asylum, hut will know how to take care that the same shall not he abused; whoever is guilty of an abuse forfeits, so far as he is concerned, the protection of the asylum. So long as Switzerland holds strictly in theory and practice to this notion of her duties and her rights, she may put aside the exaggerated suggestions of diplomacy, with the declaration that she has the will and the power to obtain and preserve order in her own house without foreign meddling.
I am, etc.,