E. Belfort Bax

The German Situation

(Concluded from last issue)

(7 October 1915)

E. Belfort Bax, German Situation II, Justice, 7th October 1915, p.2.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Proofread by Chris Clayton (May 2007).

The German Proletariat and Revolution

But why, it may be asked, does not at least the German proletariat repudiate its rulers? Why has it not made a revolution long since and sent the Kaiser and his military staff to the rightabout? Years ago Friedrich Engels told me, as his own opinion, and I believe that of Marx also, that as soon as one-third of the German Army was won over to the cause of Socialism – as soon as one soldier in three, was a member of the Party – forcible revolutionary action ought to be taken. At the moment of writing I have no statistics before me, but I should imagine that the proportion of Social-Democrats has for long approached this very closely and probably now exceeds it.

Why then, if this be so, has not the German Social-Democracy risen against its Prussian Kaiser, Junkers, and army authorities? A violent revolution would have cost bloodshed no doubt, and might even have been unsuccessful in its immediate object. But in the worst event it would not have cost a tenth of the bloodshed of this war in which Kaiser, Junkers, and army authorities have driven the Social-Democracy of Germany in “close formation,” like flocks of sheep, to the slaughter. And successful or unsuccessful, what a difference in moral effect between the German Social-Democracy going forth to fight the enemies of Socialism and its own oppressors, and the German Social-Democracy going forth to slaughter its brother democracies of Belgium, France, and England at the behest of those oppressors?

Let Them Repudiate the Crime and the Criminals!

Let the German people, at least the German class-conscious proletariat, even now repudiate their governing and military class and all its ways, and there is no longer a quarrel between the German peoples and the allied peoples. They are only the “enemy” so long as they make common cause with Prussian militarism and despotism. Will that pitiful worm, the German common soldier, never turn? Chained to his guns, fired at from behind by his masters’ mitrailleuses, shot at by his Prussian officers, flogged with cat-o’-nine-tails by order of these same martinets – all to stimulate his military zeal for his beloved fatherland – will he never wake to his dignity and duty as a MAN? Will he never rise to fight the common enemy of him and us?

One of the few pleasing episodes in this war has been the humanity and friendliness of the men of the middle German or Saxon regiments. The difficulty of getting them to fight the French or British troops has more than once led to their transference to other fronts, as is well known. Such men as these, indeed, give the lie to the rabid anti-Germanism of some of our jingoes. On the other hand, our pacifists forget that in this war we have to do, not with the better elements of the German nation, but with a criminal band of brigands, whose chief lair is in Berlin and Potsdam, and who are using their military power to make the German peoples a catspaw for their crimes. Theirs is conduct that Humanity can neither forget nor forgive. Falseness and treachery in every circumstance, Louvain, Termonde, and Dinant, murdered fishermen, the Falaba, the Lusitania, the Arabic, Zeppelins and the blood of slaughtered children, to name only a few of the hideous crimes, besides the atrocities committed on the German soldiers themselves, for which the kaiser and his crew, the General Staff, and the Prussian Offiziersstand are responsible – are not these things already indelibly written in history? It may justly be said that no self-respecting people can descend to treat with foul criminals such as the authors of these acts. We are out, in the first place, to punish international crime and suppress international brigandage if we are out for anything worth fighting for.

Our pacifists should remember that this is not a boxing match at which “time” can be called at any convenient moment. It is war against a band of criminals who, as I said before, are using the German peoples as their catspaw. This gang and their army-machine have to be destroyed. Time was when, not merely all Socialists throughout Germany, but every Radical and Democrat everywhere regarded the imperial and military system of Germany as “the enemy.” Now it is possible to find persons calling themselves democrats who dare indirectly to offer excuses for it.

The Conditions of International Brotherhood

We, for our part, know that till the Kaserne is levelled with the ground, and the Prussian Pickelhaube has been banished from German soil, we can have no lasting peace. Of that every reasonable man is convinced. Let the German people once dissociate themselves from the criminal enterprise of their governing classes and no decent-minded “ally” – certainly no Democrat or Socialist – will have any quarrel whatever with them. On the contrary, even to-day no one who has been at the front has aught but words of praise for the central Germans – the Saxons. Let us only have evidence of an earnest movement in Germany for overthrowing Prussianism, with its Kaiser, Junkers, and General Staff, and all vestige of anti-German feeling will disappear from among honest men.

But should the German people when they become articulate – i.e., free to express their real mind – should they still cling to their infamous rulers, should they still crouch before the Prussian jackboot rather than stand up like free men on their own footing, then woe to them! If it be said the German people have the right to elect to be slaves if they will, I answer, so be it! But not at the cost of other peoples! Prusso-German militarism is a menace for all other nations, who have the right to protect themselves from it as from a wild-beast. Humanity outside Germany stands for something.

Our old friend Herman Greulich writes: “The proletariat of every people must of itself fight for its own freedom, and of itself drive out its oppressors.” This is excellent, and we all agree, but what are other people to do if the supineness of a particular national proletariat to its domestic oppression goes so far that it allows itself to be made the tool of its own oppressors to slaughter and enslave its brethren of other nations? Surely it is time, then, for the proletariat of these other nations to take matters in their own hand and overthrow the said oppressors with or without consent of the particular national proletariat which has so conspicuously failed in its duty. If the victory of the Allies shall mean the liberation of the nations of Central Europe from the governing and military classes which have in the past tyrannised over them, equally with the liberation of the surrounding nations from a horrible nightmare of rapine and invasion, surely the German and Austrian proletariat is not so sodden in its jingoism as not to welcome such a result!

It is for us Socialists and Democrats of the allied nations to see that the peace following upon this war shall be – not a diplomatic peace between “great Powers” – but a peace between democracies, a peace guaranteeing the free development of the German proletariat and people generally no less than that of the allied nationalities, a peace which shall pave the way, if no more, for that United States of Europe, which is the goal of Socialism in external politics, and which will mean the beginning of the triumph of the great principle of Socialist Internationalism throughout the world of future Humanity.


Last updated on 28.5.2007