E. Belfort Bax

Germany and the Prussian Domination

(16 September 1914)

E. Belfort Bax, German and the Prussian Domination, Justice, 16th September 1914, p.2.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Proofread by Chris Clayton (May 2007).

In order to understand the position of Germany at the present time it is necessary go back to the ’48 Nationalist ideals. “United Germany” has been the slogan of the German people, of the democracy – the politically-minded peasant and workman – for a century past – i.e., since the Napoleonic wars. In ’48 an abortive attempt, embodied in the Parliament of Frankfurt, was made to realise this precious national unity. It failed. The dual control, with its North German Federation under the hegemony of Prussia and the other, mainly southern, States under that of Austria, practically received its death-blow in ’66 at Könnigrätz. Prussia, under Bismarck, aimed throughout at the overlordship of Germany, to the exclusion of its rival Austria, which it succeeded in crushing in the battle in question. The war of ’70 offered the opportunity for capping the more or less negative victory of ’66 by a positive policy. Hence arose the modern German Empire, which is not really a united German at all, since it excludes ten million Austrian-Germans. This was the work of Bismarck, who cared not one jot for Germany as such, but whose one aim was the aggrandisement of his own Prussia.

Now, Prussia is the least German of all the German States. The Prussians or Borussians were a Slav tribe who seized upon what was subsequently the Mark of Brandenburg, and the adjacent territories, probably at the time of the migration of the northern nations in the fifth, or possible early in the sixth, century. They settled there and mixed with the sparse Germanic population which had preceded them, the result being the modern Prussian nation. Be this as it may, the astute scoundrel Bismarck succeeded in bulldozing the German peoples into accepting his Prussia-ridden combination as the realisation of their Nationalist dream of a “United Germany.” Thus the Germany of Charles the Great, of Luther, of Goethe, of Schiller, of Bach, of Beethoven has been hypnotised into identifying itself with an upstart. people largely of Slav descent. The blonde children of pure Teutonic blood in Saxony, in Thuringia and elsewhere are taught to sing We are Borussians.

That the true German should take this Prussian arrogance “lying down” as a part of the blessings of a “United Germany” is truly a marvel. But sentimental arrogance is not the worst the true Germany has had to suffer from Prussian domination. The accursed militarism under which the nation has groaned since ’70 is a Prussian product. The military camarilla which dictates to Germany, and which has engineered the present war, is of Prussian origin. Time was up to ’70 when the true German hated the Prussian. Now he has come to take him to his bosom as the symbol of patriotism, of “German unity.” The mere “unity” has become a fetish irrespective of its effect on the character of the populations unified.

We have another instance of the same thing in the way most of our Social-Democratic friends in Germany at the present time would seem to regard the “unity” of the “Party”. What the “Party” is that is unified, what its aims and aspirations are, is apparently quite a secondary consideration. For the “Revisionist” certainly the “Party” is everything, its principles nothing. And it most not be forgotten that the canker of Revisionism has eaten far into the vitals of the “Party.” Has not Dr. Frank, one of the chief Revisionist leaders, declared to a Daily Mail correspondent that “the great idea of the overwhelming bulk of German Socialists is the establishment of a genuinely constitutional monarchy and Parliamentary government on English lines”? (!!) Dr. Südekum, and certain other Revisionists, we understand, defend the Prussian Government in the present war. The “Party,” I suppose, for fear of breaking its precious “unity,” will retain the Franks, the Südekums and the Schippels in its midst, and, what is more, will expect consistent Social-Democrats to sit together with such men as these at International Congresses. As for us we say “Damn unity,” at such a price!

We have already seen that as it is in party matters, so it is in national matters. The “unity of Germany” is everything, the quality of the Germany unified is nothing. The Germany of Goethe gave place to the Germany of Bismarck. We would fain hope that the outcome, of the present war will see the final downfall of the Prussian State and its methods; that Prussia will never again lead Germany as it has done for well-nigh half a century past; that a new Germany will arise – if national unity there is to be (on a political basis), the unity of a federal Republic; and that this new Germany will draw forth the great powers of the noble German race to point to the rest of the world the pathway of the true Social-Democratic Ideal. Meanwhile, let us hate not the German nation – not even the Prussian as such, for he, too, has his qualities, notably his genius for organisation, which when directed to a worthy object may prove of incalculable value to the Social-Democratic Commonwealth of the future – but let us hate the present Prussian military and bureaucratic State-system.


E. Belfort Bax


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