E. Belfort Bax


(6 August 1898

Bismarck, Justice, 6th August 1898, p.4.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The news that the author of that fraudulent piece of political upholstery, a curse alike to Germany and Europe, called German unity, has at last gone to his own place, though it leaves Europe politically but little, if at all, affected, naturally “gives pause” for a moment In the currents of the world’s thought, “National consciousness,” “race aspirations,” the bogus ideals with which mankind is cursed to-day, as it has been for generations past, are hollow enough in themselves. But the hollowness of “German unity,” even from the wretched point of view of race-chauvinism, may be gauged by the fact that one of the main objects of life with the founder of this glorious imposture was the exclusion from the realised national ideal of nigh fifteen millions of Germans who happened to be subjects of the use of Hapsburg. German unity shall be Prussian or nothing, said, in effect, the Prussian Junker, who for this Prussian hegemony, this patriotic ideal of united “German Fatherland,” was prepared to sacrifice, untold thousands of the German race in fighting against Germans.

We heartily agree with our comrades of the Vorwärts that the mainspring of Bismarck’s career was personal ambition pure and simple. The querulous petulancies of the last few years showed this plainly enough. That the dead statesman’s powers have been over-rated is also very possibly true, inasmuch as what he accomplished was mainly done through the adroit employment of enormous forces already at his disposal, but which he cannot be said to have created, much as he may have aided in their development. Still, with all deductions made, the power of the personality remains. Prepared to remorselessly, cold, bloodedly, treacherously sacrifice man and conscience to ambition and tire goal that ambition placed before it, Bismarck, the man of “blood and iron,” represents the typical great “bad man” of history- such a man who, had he lived in an age when Providence was supposed to rule the world’s destinies, ought to have been – like Herod the Great, Ptolemy Philopater, or the dictator Sylla – “eaten of worms that he died.” But now that Providence, like the great god Pan, is dead, or at best no more available for practical purposes, the nearest approach to retribution of this kind is afforded by the agonies of the death-chamber at Friedrichsruh. And can the story of the last groans of the iron Chancellor stir one fibre of human sympathy in any that know the tale of political crime which they closed? Hardly! Such a man has deliberately placed himself outside the pale of humanity and of the kindlier emotions. Involuntarily the phrase “these pangs but ill requite thee” occur to one who thinks of the ruined homes, the cruelties of military codes, and of other hideous results of the ambition of this “strong man.” “The social question is essentially a military question,” the Chancellor is reported to have said on one occasion, which meant that if he had his way the cry of the working classes for bread would be silenced with Krupp cannon. That he longed for the faintest excuse for a street massacre of Social-Democrats is generally admitted. But the one thing which was too much for the “strong man” was Social-Democracy. The well-known words attributed to the last of the Pagan Emperors, “the Galilean has conquered,” might well find their parallel in the reflections of the ex-Chancellor on the recent General Election. Bismarck may have been a stronger personality than the Emperor Julian, but a greater than “the Galilean” was there – the belief in the new heavens and the new earth of Socialism, and against this his anti-Socialist laws proved vain.


E. Belfort Bax


Last updated on 23.6.2004