Th. Rothstein Justice, 4 March 1911

The German Menace
4 & 5. Flushing and England’s Military Plans

Source: Justice, 4 March, 1911, p.2;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

There is, however, yet another aspect of the question we are dealing with, which it is worth while touching upon. Suppose it were true that Germany is behind the Flushing scheme; to what extent would we be justified in speaking, as is frequently being done in these columns, of the “Prussianisation” of Holland? The military correspondent of the “Times” had no sooner published his two articles on the Flushing question, teeming with inaccuracies and most unwarranted insinuations, than “Justice” brought out a front page note under the title “The Absorption of Holland by Germany,” in which it is lamented that “the glorious history of one of the freest peoples in Europe is to end in a voluntary submission to the domination of the Hohenzollerns,” and the “most turn-the-other-cheek-to-the-smiter pacifists” are derided for not noticing that “the Kaiser and his Council begin to move in earnest, towards the dictatorship of Europe.” Yet I should like to know how does “Justice” view the relations between this country and the two States on the Iberian Peninsula, Spain and Portugal? Neither Spain nor Portugal are World Powers. In addition they are poor, like church mice, and can ill afford any big expense on armaments. Yet both are building great fleets – the former, one at a cost of seven million pounds and consisting of three battleships and a large number of minor craft, and the latter, ten battleships and other vessels at a cost of 20 million pounds – all to British specifications and by British firms. In addition, Spain is fortifying and reconstructing the naval bases at Ferrol and Cartagena, equally by British firms, though she has a first class naval fortress and construction plant at Cadiz. Even if we did not know that a secret convention had been concluded by King Edward at Cartagena, in 1907, we might have easily guessed that Spain as well as Portugal are building their fleets for the exclusive benefit of England: they will police the Mediterranean and the Atlantic high roads while the British Navy is concentrated in the North Sea. I should like to know, then, why “Justice” has no fears for the “absorption” of Spain and Portugal by England, and does not draw the attention of the “pacifists” to the fact that England is moving “in earnest towards the dictatorship of Europe"? It is clear we are measuring here with two measures: what is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander, and what is perfectly permissible to England in her game against Germany is decried as an outrage upon the public law of Europe and the liberties of a small nation if done by Germany in her game against England.

We shall see, however, in our next that the very intentions which are being imputed to Germany in connection with the Flushing defences are in reality being entertained by England and France themselves.

V. – England’s Military Plans.

In the course of a speech in the Chamber, on February 2, M. Pichon, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, replying to a deputy, remarked: “It is a strange thing to declare that the entente with England produces results, and that military questions are no longer discussed between England and France. What do you know about it? Diplomacy is not carried on in the publicity of the street.” These were unguarded words, and gave rise to a display of considerable uneasiness in a portion of the bourgeois press in this country. Could it be possible that in addition to a public political understanding there was also a secret military understanding between France and England? The question was very naive. “Peace and war,” wrote the French “Temps” on July 19, 1909, apropos of the debate in the House of Lords on Lord Roberts’s National Service Bill, “peace and war are the two sides of one and the same medal, and the value of international agreements in time of peace cannot be estimated except in terms of their probable utility in time of war.” This is but an axiom of international politics, and only sentimental people little conversant with diplomacy could have overlooked it at the time of the conclusion of the Anglo-French entente. These people readily accepted the assurances of their respective diplomatists that the sole object of the entente was to eliminate all possible causes of quarrel between the two countries, whereas the truth is that it was brought about chiefly with a view to common action against a third Power. In other words, the entente may, and indeed does, signify, peace and friendship between England and France, but it only signifies this because the two are anxious to operate against Germany. It is, as the “Temps” truly said, but two sides of the same medal; it is peace in order to ensue war.

Proofs? The remark of M. Pichon I quoted above, is sufficient proof; but it does not stand alone. Though the British Government denied it at the time, we know on the authority of André Mévil, of the “Echo de Paris,” the reactionary paper, which is intimately connected with M. Delcassé that at the historical Cabinet meeting of June 5, 1905 which led to the latter’s fall, a definite offer of British military support in case of a war with Germany was discussed and ultimately declined. The “Matin” stated at the time that five British divisions were mentioned as the force which England would send over to join in the campaign. A similar offer must have been made by England at the time of the Casa Blanca incident in September, 1908, because we find the “Temps,” in the course of it comments (in its issue of June 11, 1909), upon the boastful speech of Mr. Haldane about the million soldiers which the English Empire could muster, declaring that “the British expeditionary force would all the same probably not exceed three or four divisions, whereas during the recent Casa Blanca complications five divisions were spoken of as ready to join the French Army.” In the same issue the journal, whose connections with the French Foreign Office are well known, said that “the question which most concerned the Continental friends of England was the readiness of the active army to take part in a European war” and it expressed the hope that Great Britain might one day become possessed of an army “worthy of those who may one day be her allies and her adversaries.” About the same time, in August, 1909, General Langlois, the great French strategist, having visited the Territorial camps at Aldershot, on Salisbury Plain, and in Flintshire, give his impressions in the French journal “Opinion,” and expressed his belief (I quote from a report in the “Times”) that “the Territorial Army would be able to repel an invading force,” in consequence of which “England could without danger to herself send five divisions of Regular troops abroad in the event of a European conflict.” This, in the General’s opinion, “constituted one of the advantages which France derived from the entente cordiale.”

But – and this is perhaps the most interesting feature of the question what shape would British military co-operation with France assume in case of a war with Germany? Commenting on the visit of President Fallières to England, the “Temps,” in its issue of May 27, 1908, wrote: “The victories of England on sea would not keep away from our frontier a single cannon or a single soldier.... It would be totally different if the English Army were so reformed as to become capable of an energetic action on the Continent, and be able to create on land a powerful diversion that would weaken the blow directed against our army.” A powerful diversion – that is what the five divisions have to do in a future war. But where? In what part of the Continent? It is evident that a diversion can only be made on the flank of the German Army. “The English,” wrote the “Eclair,” on September 15, 1906, a propos of the visit of General French to France at the head of a large military mission, “have made a solid proposal, which we have accepted, and which has for us the same value as the Russian Alliance. Our Ministers have not published its purport, but in England the latter has been divulged by people speaking, as Mr. Arnold White recently did, about Sir John French leading the cavalry on the Rhine.” Where is the Rhine? Every schoolboy knows that it is in Germany. But how is it to be reached? Says the “Temps,” in the course of the article mentioned above of June, 1909: “If, as has recently been said, the ‘frontier of the British Empire is the valley of the Meuse’ .... three divisions of the Regulars might be utilised to instruct the Territorial Army, and prepare that army by six months training for Continental service.” It is, then, by marching to the Valley of the Meuse – that is to the Belgian territory and through it – that the famous “five divisions” of the British Army will create a diversion on the German flank in case of a war between that country and France. This is the value of the entente “expressed in terms of its probable utility in time of war,” and this is what lies at the bottom of the Anglo-Franco-Belgian agitation against the Flushing scheme. By closing the mouth of the Scheldt Holland will frustrate the easy execution of the Franco-British military plans – hinc illae lacrimae!

I am surprised that comrade Hyndman should not know these facts, and see in my statement concerning the intended invasion of Germany by British troops “a piece of infatuation.” The facts of the case have been stated over and over again, not in the German, but in the Anglo-French press, and unless the latter be supposed to be infected by the “virulent microbe of Anglophobia,” comrade Hyndman’s theory concerning its operation, in my own special surroundings, is wholly gratuitous.

For the rest, England’s military policy, like that of every other country, is dictated by her general foreign policy, and this it will be best to consider separately.