Hermann Duncker 1911

Young People - Keep Cool![1]

First Published: in Freie Volkszeitung, August 12, 1911.
Source: Hermann Duncker: Introduction to Marxism. Selected Speeches and Writings, VEB Edition Leipzig, Leipzig, 1963, 2. enl. ed., pp. 67-69.
Online Version: Marxists Internet Archive 2021
Transcribed: Geoff
HTML Markup: Zdravko Saveski

You would have no youthful courage and lust for adventure in you if you were not, as a first reaction, stirred powerfully by rumours of war. Drum beats and martial music have drawn you out on to the streets before now, on a holiday afternoon, and you probably tagged along behind a little part of the way.

Today war music resounds once more from Germany's bourgeois press jungle. At the public table of the bold philistine, mighty orations about manly German wrath and foreign knavery are delivered. (And he that is certain that he will no more have to bear arms, shouts loudest.)

Perhaps your teacher at the professional school will have told you something of the development of the German national economy, how every year there are 800,000 more Germans, how German industry needs raw material and export markets abroad. "My fatherland must grow greater." And that is where Morocco comes in.

But, young people, keep cool! You are no longer children and so you should not let yourself be fobbed off with childish talk. You know that war for Germany is no snowball fight or a game of cowboys and Indians in the woods. War is mass murder. Stripped of its romantic spell, millions will be led to the slaughter house and hundreds of thousands will be mown down. The war of 1870-71 cost the German side alone 40,000 killed and 90,000 wounded.

But that was 40 years ago. Since then, weapon technique has been improved devilishly. You have probably heard of those modern sea monsters, the battleships. At a touch of a button, 52 gun barrels spew out a salvo of 7 tons against the enemy.

And in a future war, airships will float over the earth hurling down devastating explosives. Sacrifice after sacrifice to blood and property.

And who will stand in the front line, who will form the breastwork to meet the rain of bullets? Over here, or over there, whether it is France meddling with Germany, or Germany meddling with England, it is always the workers. Always it is the bones of the workers that are piled on the battlefield. But what if it had to be so if the war were necessary for us, for you to protect your parents and to prevent yourselves being cast into slavery. Yes, then it would certainly be cowardly to hang back all the gruesomeness of war ought not to frighten you.

But do you really believe that a world war is in the interests of the working class? What have you got to defend? Do man eaters and slave hunters stand at the borders?

No, capitalists may wish to grab mines and ore deposits abroad but for you there is nothing to be gained. Money men may hope to make millions in armaments speculation you have everywhere your trouble for naught. So don't let yourselves be caught. There are no more just popular wars, at least not in our days. Yet there is still one war which you should fight - unshaken and certain of victory. We do not ride to that with artillery, but with organisations - party groups and trade unions. That is the battle line in which you should enroll yourselves.

And that war is not against a foreign enemy - that is only a decoy with which they try to lead you astray - it is against the internal enemy, the enemy of the people's happiness, of progress and human civilisation and that is capitalism, private ownership of all means of production, factories and machines, mines and land.

We will do away with capitalism that is the final war. Drummer, beat your drum!

But another word, my young friend. If you want to stand as a man in this people's war against capitalism, then you, yourself, must mean something, must be something.

Knowledge is power. You cannot begin too soon to absorb the world of thought of socialism. So join the free youth movement and bravely recruit new fighters. Here the young people will be converted. Here they will be shown the real enemy of the German people. But turn your back with a contemptuous laugh on the bourgeois story teller and those who hanker after war.


[1] This article was published on the 12th August, 1911, in Freie Volkszeitung, organ of the Social-Democrats in the 10th electoral district of Württemberg. It was directed to the youth and against the chauvinistic clamour raised by the German imperialists in 1911 in connection with the German-French conflict over Marocco. The German gunboat Panther tied up in Agadir. France protested and a second Marocco crisis arose in which Germany had to give way.