John Maclean Vanguard, October 1915

Marx on the Franco-Prussian war

Source: Vanguard, October 1915, p.8. This article is not found in the selected works of John Maclean In The Rapids of Revolution, 1978 Allison and Busby edited by Nan Milton (Maclean’s daughter);
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

One of the scurrilous Sunday penny papers had a lying article stating that the principles of Marx had been brought into London by Germans in the pay of the Kaiser to corrupt the British working men, and break them from their allegiance to their own King and country. Let it be known that Marx had to clear out of Germany, and Belgium because of his revolutionary teachings, and that he himself selected London as a place of safety for getting the information and facts necessary for the writing of “Capital” and his many articles to the “New York Tribune.” So we must conclude that Marx imported his own principles through German compulsion and not to suit the ends of anyone. For the benefit of cheap-jack writers we would like to mention that Marx’s teachings were popularised by a British capitalist H.M. Hyndman, one of the most rabid anti-Germans at the present moment.

That Marx was right up against capitalism, German or any other, is clearly proved by the following dramatic onslaught upon German capitalism and landlord or any pretensions during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. It is taken from his “Second Address,” written for the International Working Men’s Association in Europe and the United States.

“But, say the mouth-pieces of Teutonic patriotism, you must not confound Germans with Frenchmen. What we want is not glory, but safety. The Germans are an essentially peaceful people. In their sober guardianship, conquest itself changes from a condition of future war into a pledge of perpetual peace. Of course, it is not Germans that invaded France in 1792 for the sublime purpose of bayonetting the revolution of the 18th century. It is not Germans that befouled their hands by the subjugation of Italy, the oppression of Hungary and the dismemberment of Poland. [What more stinging charges could be brought against any people than these!] Their present military system which divides the whole able-bodied male population into two parts, one standing army on service, and another army on furlough, both equally bound in passive obedience to rulers by divine right – such a military system is, of course, ‘a material guarantee’ for keeping the peace, and the ultimate goal of civilising tendencies! In Germany, as everywhere else, the sycophants of the powers that be, poison the popular mind by the incense of mendacious self-praise.

The same applies to “peaceful” Britain whose navy rules the waves, which has crushed independent Ireland, India, Egypt, South Africa, etc. and which is going to free Europe from German tyranny, and establish the good old “perpetual peace” mentioned above. The same applies to France, Italy, Russia, and the others engaged in hacking their way to peace and freedom. If Marx were alive to-day he would be just as candid about Germany as we are about Britain; and with greater credit than any other man. He could boast the old “I told you so” in connection with the present blood-letting campaign on the Continent. He denied that the defeat of France forty-five years ago would bring perpetual peace as we do to-day in connection with the “Great War.” We know that as long as capitalism lasts, armies and navies will last and will be used.

Here is what Marx said would happen if Germany stole Alsace and Lorraine, and we leave it to the reader to judge how truly Marx estimated the result: – “Do the Teuton patriots really believe that liberty and peace will be guaranteed to Germany by forcing France to the arms of Russia? If the fortune of her arms, the arrogance of success, and dynastic intrigue lead Germany to a spoliation of French territory, there will then only remain two courses open to her. She must at all risks become the avowed tool of Russian aggrandisement, or, after some short respite, make again ready for another ‘defensive’ war, not one of those new-fangled ‘localised’ wars, but a war of races a war with the combined Sclavonian and Roman races.”

Marx tells us that the German working class resolutely supported the war for German independence and the freeing of France from the Second Empire under Louis Bonaparte. We know now that Bismark induced the war, so that it was not fought for German independence. We also know that it was not the Germans who dethroned Louis Bonaparte, but a French people enraged at his unpreparedness to meet the Germans.

British working men will find less freedom in Europe after the War; and no outside attempt will be made to dethrone the Kaiser. If “sacked,” he will get his marching orders from a disgusted German people.

When we read the above we begin clearly, to understand that the humbug, that made French and German working men murder one another in 1870-1871 is just the humbug that is being employed at the present moment. Plunder, and not morality, was then and is to-day the real cause of war. Why a robbed and enslaved class should get enthusiastic about the ambitious designs of their, masters absolutely passes our comprehension. There would be more sense in turning round on their own robbing class.