John Maclean Vanguard November 1915
Source: Vanguard, November 1915, p.4 & 7. This article appears in a much shortened form In The Rapids of Revolution, pp.89-91,1978 Allison and Busby edited by Nan Milton (Maclean’s daughter);
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
To those who have unthinkingly accepted the popular press statement that this war is due to the caprice or pushful designs of the Kaiser, aided by his Tory landlord class (the Junkers), it must come as a shock to hear us state that it is the unavoidable outcome of capitalist development in Germany, inside a world already very largely staked out and claimed by the Powers arrayed against her.
It may seem hard to say that the war was inevitable, but we are not to blame. It is one of the many defects of capitalist society everywhere that world markets must be got, peacefully if possible, and forcefully if not. Everyone ought to know that the most secure markets for the investment or sale of the wealth stolen from the workers are to be found in colonies or dependencies. The German capitalists and statesmen know that at any rate as well as we Marxists, and their public supporters, such as Bernhardi and Treitschhe, have unmistakably given expression to that knowledge.
We intend to give a few facts to show the marvellous development of Germany and the urgent economic necessity imposed on them of expanding or bursting. Even the most stupid or laziest now admit that economic competition inevitably leads on to trusts. The small firms are absolutely crushed out. There is no morality on this side of business. Crush your opponents lest they crush you ! What we wish the most stupid and laziest now to grasp and admit is that the modern political machinery of any State acts as a uniting agency of the strongest industrial and money kings of that country, and that this political machinery must be used to form “Political Trusts,” or “Empires,” for the further enrichment of these powerful capitalists. Armies and navies in this case do the crushing of less powerful rivals, and absolutely no heed is paid to the “rights” of tiny nations like Belgium, Turkey, Greece, Persia, Morocco, or Egypt. The only difference between price-cutting warfare and the present enthusiastic worship at the shrines of Thor and Mars is the slaughter and maiming of millions of men. The object is the same – the control of men and wealth.
Marx, in his “Revolution and Counter-Revolution,” let us know that even as late as 1848 the thirty-six States now called Germany were practically in the feudal condition, the condition from which England freed itself during the time of the early Tudors. There were few capitalists, and these were so scattered as to be politically powerless. Remember that this was at the end of the “Hungry Forties,” when the English capitalist class had not only formed the Liberal Party, but had used that Party against the landlords to obtain what they have called “Free Trade.” Most of the Germans were small traders, shopkeepers, artisans, or peasants.
Since 1851, the date of the first Exhibition in England, springs up capitalism in Germany. Because of Germany’s economic backwardness, we have few figures prior to 1871 that can be considered reliable or of real value. It was in 1871 that the Empire was formed by the uniting for political as well as economic purposes the mass of small States round Prussia.
In 1871 the population was 41,058,792; in 1910 it was 64,925,993, an increase of 24 millions in 39 years. Latterly, German population has been increasing at about a million a year. This swelling of population is one of the features of the growth of capitalism in every country, and forces on statesmen the finding of new lands on which to dump the overflow, and yet retain their economic and political services for the State’s, and therefore the property-holders’, benefit.
In 1871 rural communes (less than 2,000 inhabitants), the numbers were 26,219,352; in 1910, they were 25,954,587 – a slight decrease that would be greater if we should separate the agricultural from other occupations. This shows that agriculture has practically remained stationary or gone back slightly from the point of numbers, though not from the point of efficiency.
Town population increased from 14,790,798 in 1871 to 38,971,406 in 1910, showing that capitalism has absorbed the energy of the rapidly-growing population.
The Censuses of Occupation bring this out with no uncertainty. In 1882 agriculture and forestry absorbed 19,225,455 of the people, whereas in 1907 the number fell to 17,681,176. On the other hand, industry rose from 16 to 26 millions, and trade and transport from 41/2 to 8 millions.
The use of coal and iron is a means of measuring a country’s industrial advance. Let us quote a fact or two. Between 1900 and 1911 Germany’s output of coal rose from 109 to 161 million metric tons. Over a half is used directly in industry, 16 per cent. in transport, 13 per cent. in houses, 5 per cent. in making gas, and 10 per cent. in making coke, briquettes, etc. Surely this shows the predominance of industrial undertakings.
Between 1880 and 1890 Germany produced between 3 and 41/2 million tons of pig-iron a year, just about half Britain’s output. In 1903 Germany beat Britain, and thus alarmed Joseph Chamberlain and his Birmingham iron and steel friends, That explains the “Tariff Fever.” In 1911 Britain’s output was 10 millions and Germany’s 151/2 millions. This marvellous superiority of German iron output gives full explanation of her gun, shot, and shell superiority in this war. Germany has shown most initiative and scientific ability so far in attack, and likewise she was first to see the need of converting her huge iron and steel producing power to purposes of war.
We draw the attention of our readers to this to prove that it has been the past inferiority of Britain’s capitalists in the iron industry and their present inability to adapt their plant and material to war purposes that have given the Germans their advantage up till the moment of writing, and has led to the needless death of thousands of the physically finest of our people.
The galling part of the mess is that the very “superior persons” who are to blame for the inferior equipment of the British Army have brazenly thrown the responsibility of the muddle on to the shoulders of their workers, who have been denounced as drunkards and shirkers by them, their politicians, their pressmen, and their priests of all denominations.
To return. Germany’s vast expansion of the iron and kindred industries is proof positive of the supremacy of the capitalist machine method of production.
Germany shows the same company and trust development as here and in America, and the same mighty growth of concentrated capital. This is the supreme test of the predominance of capital inside any country.
In 1886 the number of share companies was 2,143, and in 1909 it had risen to 5,222 – an increase of 144 per cent. Their capital, however, rose from £243,800,000 to 736,865,000 – an increase of 203 per cent. This shows that the average business needed more money to run it and was consequently growing in size.
This growth of size is markedly seen in 1909, in the case of six companies each with a capital between £7,500,000 and £10,000,000; 5 with a capital between £5,000,000 and £7,500,000; 19 between £2,500,000 and £5,000,000; 28 between £1,500,000 and £2,500,000; 47 between £1,000,000 and £1,500,000; and 124 between £500,000 and £1,000,000. This shows a grand total of 229 companies.
We give a list of a few of the better known of these:-
|F. Krupp, Essen,||£9,000,000|
|Phonix Colliery Company,||£5,000,000|
|Hamburg-American Shipping Co.,||£6,250,000|
|Nord-Deutscher Lloyd Shipping Co.,||£6,250,000|
Over and above these companies there are between 550 and 600 cartels and syndicates which exist to control markets, prices, etc., and in time lead up to the absolute Solidarity of Capital inside a few immense trusts.
So far as shipping is concerned, here is what Sir Owen Philipps, of the Royal Mail Company, said in June, 1914, on the eve of the war: – “British trade is represented by some 300 individual and separate (shipping) lines, with no unity of action or purpose: German trade is centred in seven big lines. Behind them, using every power of persuasion and influence to secure harmonious working and co-action, is the greatest commercial director of the world – the Kaiser.” The result he shows thus:— “On every great trade route in the world, in every great commercial port, you will find German ships. They are the only formidable rivals British shipping has to face. They have practically captured the trade on the West Coast of America, and to Brazil and the Argentine. In the last case, they hit the French so severely as to necessitate a subsidy from the French Government.” In June, 1914, Germany had opened up a direct line with New Zealand. German shipping was absolutely necessary to dispose of Germany’s surplus of goods.
In the world market international antagonism becomes very sharp, and forces on the stealing of other people’s land as colonies.
This rush for colonies necessitates secret diplomacy (polite lying and cheating), and when the liars find one another out diplomacy gives place to warfare.
Germany being late in the development of capitalism was late in the search for colonies, and hence had to attack whilst Britain had to defend. Not any special virtues, then, but historical circumstances have placed Britain in the position of the injured one in the eyes of the blind.
Those who comprehend what the above facts mean will laugh at the statement that the Kaiser alone, or the Kaiser and his land-owning Junkers alone, must be held responsible for Germany’s onslaught on her neighbours, big and small. To these we must add the capitalists of the National Liberal Party, the wealthiest in all Germany. Without the products of their works and factories, without their finance, and without their political support, Germany could never have entered this war.
We are fully justified, then, in designating this war as another capitalist war that will bring no grist to the workers’ mill. On that account we are forced into the position of demanding that this war cease, and that the respective countries return to the territory possessed before the war began.
The facts produced in this article will be found in Dawson’s “Industrial Germany,” reproduced in abridged form by Collins at 1/- a copy.