E. Belfort Bax, The German SDP, Justice, 22nd April 1915, p.8. (letter)
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Dear Comrade, – My answer to Askew’s original letter was, I submit, complete and to the point. His last communication, like that of Mr. Ford’s the previous week, is simply a repetition of the usual lame attempts of the pro-Prussian apologists to prove black white.
The usual talk of “swallowing” what the Allies say and the like leaves my withers utterly unwrung. I “swallow” nothing that anybody says, unless it is corroborated and proved, when it becomes for me simple hard fact, and that, unlike our pro-German friends, I admit I do “swallow.” Askew’s attempt to confuse the inconvenient issue by denying the distinction between aggressive and defensive warfare is too preposterous for words. At this rate we can make anything everything and everything nothing. The average human being, unsophisticated by pro-Prussian predilections, considers the resistance to a foreign army actually invading home territory, or on the march with the avowed and obvious intention of invading such territory, as defensive warfare, and the action of the invading army as aggressive warfare, and it was certainly in the sense of this unsophisticated person that Socialist Congresses and Socialists generally have exempted wars of pure defence from their general condemnation of all war. Now this is precisely the case as between French and Belgians defending their home territory and the Prusso-German army invading it. It is, of course, perfectly true that in the present day every Power out on an aggressive rampage thinks it necessary to “fake” an excuse in order to deceive fools and supply armaments to many who are not fools, but who, perhaps, wish to he deceived themselves, and certainly to deceive others, as to the true state of the case.
This was so with the British-inspired Jingo Press in the Boer war, with its yarns of Boer conspiracies to drive the British out of South Africa, and it is so with the German Government in the present year with its “fake” of a Russian menace suddenly directed against Germany. But, as already said, this sort of thing deceives no intelligent person who is not willing to be deceived.
As regards the atrocities, Askew cannot, of course, resist the “you’re another” cue. No, friend Askew, I have not forgotten the horrors of the South African war or the Congo, but I would ask him as regards the first: Did British Social-Democrats defend or condone the action of the British Government in this case? Did they not rather risk their lives in protesting against it? Similarly with the Congo business, this was not the work of the Belgian people, but of it clique of officials in the service of the late unpopular king. On the contrary, since the, Belgian people have taken over the Congo we have heard no more of the previous atrocities there.
I must here enter a protest against the dishonest controversial method of many pro-Prussians in pretending to doubt the atrocities of which the Prusso-German army is guilty. I say “pretending,” since it is inconceivable that the persons in question should fail to know what everybody else does – viz., that 90 per cent of the facts stated in this connection have been proved to be true up to the hilt. This even apart from the notoriously planned policy of the Prussian military authorities – the mines in the open ocean, the bombardment of undefended towns, the wholesale slaughter of civilians on land and on sea, the murder of unfortunate German soldiers, butchered by order of the Prusso-German courts-martial, etc. These hideous crimes cannot be talked away, and they stamp assuredly those guilty of them and those who condone them alike as being as unfit for decent human society as Bonnot and the bande tragique, or any other company of murderous criminals.
The one hope for German Social Democracy is that one of the results of the war may be the destruction of the existing organisation with its infamous “discipline” at the expense of principle. We see now what the “Party” has come to be, simply an organisation for securing snug berths or a public career for “men on the make” and other politically mischievious or worthless persons. I hope and believe we shall, one day not far hence, see a reconstruction of the German Party under the auspices of Liebknecht, Ledebour and their plucky colleagues, who, at their own personal risk, have stood up in the Reichstag, so far as they could, for justice and Socialism.
[This particular phase of the controversy cannot be continued – Ed., “J”]
Last updated on 27.10.2004