Th. Rothstein Justice, 11 March 1911

The German Menace
6. The Quarrel Over Morocco

Source: Justice, 11 March, 1911, p.3;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

The present articles being in the main of an informative character, I will now pass under review some of the incidents of international politics during recent years, which have formed the basis of the indictment against Germany. While dealing with them we shall at the same time learn something of England’s foreign policy, and obtain an insight into the means employed, and objects pursued by it.

The first and most important of those incidents is that which nearly resulted in a European war in 1905 over the Moroccan question. A plain statement of the facts of this remarkable case is the more timely as its hero, M, Delcassé, has just come into public prominence once more, having been appointed Minister of the Marine in the new French Cabinet, and a number of fresh revelations regarding his action in that memorable year have been made in the French Press, which, though containing nothing essentially new, nevertheless will help to convince those who, in their blind hatred of Germany, have hitherto been unwilling to abandon their erroneous views of the respective parts played at the time by Germany on the one and by Delcassé and England on the other hand.

It will be remembered that Morocco together with Egypt, formed the main pledges which England and France exchanged when concluding their famous agreement on April 8, 1904" which laid the agreement of the Entente. In return for the recognition of her “predominant” position in Egypt, England consented to recognise the “predominant” position of France in Morocco, and just as England thereby assumed the right of prolonging her stay in Egypt indefinitely, so did she grant France the right to occupy in a “Pacific” manner Morocco. The deal was profoundly immoral from every point of view. Both countries, Egypt and Morocco, were independent States (the former, it is true, subject to the suzerainty of Turkey) so far as the two contracting Powers were concerned; they, moreover, were the subjects of international treaties which, directly and indirectly, safeguarded their integrity and independence. The chief diplomatic instrument governing the case of Egypt was (and still is) the Self-Denying Protocol signed by England and other Great Powers at Therapia, Constantinople, on June 25, 1882, which ran as follows “The Governments represented by the undersigned engage themselves .... not to seek any territorial advantage, nor any concession of any exclusive privilege nor any commercial advantage for their subjects other than those which any other nation can equally obtain.” In the case of Morocco the chief diplomatic instrument guaranteeing the country against absorption by another Power was the Madrid Convention of 1880, signed by most European countries including England, as well as by the United States, which established the right of protection of every one of these Powers in Morocco, and by article 17 declared “The right of treatment of the most-favoured-nation is recognised by Morocco as belonging to all the Powers represented at the Madrid Conference.” The deal of April 8, 1904, was therefore a double outrage on “public morality” and “public law” of Europe in that it infringed both the sovereignty of Morocco and the rights of other States. As such it was certainly even worse than the deal of three years later between England and Russia over Persia. None the less, it did not at first evoke any protest either in this or other countries except in Socialist circles, and that chiefly French and German. If the reader will try for a moment to conjure up a picture of that indignation which would have broken out in this country had such a deal been concluded say, by Germany and Austria, he will get some measure of the morality and sincerity which underlie modern international politics and international conflicts. For four years later, when Austria committed, as we shall see, an outrage on international, law of far lesser gravity, who but England was seized by a high paroxysm of indignation and shook her mailed fist at the Power and its allies which had committed and sanctioned this crime?

The author of the Anglo-French deal over Morocco was M. Delcassé, and so strong did he feel in his position that he did not even condescend to inform Germany of the transaction which infringed her rights as well as those of the other Powers. Germany kept silent until next year when the Anglo-French deal began to bear fruit. She was not concerned, she said, in what other Powers might be transacting among themselves so long as her rights were not actually infringed. In March, 1905, however, the French Government, drew up a scheme of “reforms” for Morocco which practically amounted to a transformation of the country into a French Protectorate after the manner or Tunis, and a French political mission was sent to Fez to impose the “reforms” on the unwilling Sultan. It was then that German diplomacy and the German Press began to speak. By what right did France arrogate to herself the power to impose upon an independent and sovereign State “reforms” and turn it into a French Protectorate? The Madrid Convention had never been abrogated, and not only had Germany’s consent never been asked to a change of the political and commercial status of the country but Germany had never even been formally notified of the intention to do so. The Madrid Convention being an international treaty it could only be abrogated or altered with the consent of the signatory Powers; any exclusive powers, therefore, which France wanted to exercise in Morocco must come from a new European Conference, and be in the nature of a mandate from Europe. “We were,” Bülow subsequently explained, “participants in an international convention which embodied the principle of equal rights. To see that these rights should not be disposed of without our consent was a question affecting the prestige of German policy and the dignity of the German Empire. .... What Germany desired was to make it clear that the German Empire would not let itself be treated as a quantité négligéable, that the basis of an international treaty could not be altered without the consent of the signatory powers, and that in so important a commercial sphere, an independent country, and one adjacent to two highways of the world’s commerce, the door must be kept open for the freedom of foreign commerce.

There is only one standpoint from which the position thus taken up by Germany on the question could have with consistency been combatted – that is, the Socialist standpoint, from which all talk of international treaties and national prestige appears as so much “bunkum” employed with a view to asserting capitalist rights. From this point of view our comrades in Germany did combat the action and the arguments of the German Government. It is clear, however, that those who did not take up that standpoint, and at the time of the Balkan crisis, for instance, actually supported the action of England in demanding a European Conference as the sole instrument entitled to sanction the breach effected in the Treaty of Berlin by the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, should have been the last people in the world to attack the German attitude in 1905 as one involving the desire to “dictate” the policy of Europe. The deal over Morocco was not only a violation of an international agreement, of which Germany was one of the custodians, but also an act of offence against German political prestige; what wonder that Germany should have resented it and demanded the abandonment of the incriminated policy ?

France and England, however, so far from yielding to this demand, continued to resist it, and that notwithstanding the fact that the journey of the Kaiser to Tangiers and the warnings conveyed to the French Government through the German Ambassador in Paris had made it perfectly clear that Germany felt acutely on the point, and was thoroughly resolved to demand reparation. England, as Delcassé subsequently told his colleagues at the historical Cabinet Council of June 6, 1905, promised to give France military support in case she should decide to settle the disputed question by arms, and Delcassé himself was glad of the opportunity which had thus presented itself of having a war with Germany. This, indeed, had been the standing object of his policy all along, as he himself confessed at that Council, when his colleagues had pointed out to him the probable consequences of his obstinacy. “M. Delcassé,” we are told by Gaston Calmette, the editor of the “Figaro,” who knows the story in detail, “in reply, acknowledged that one must be prepared for such an eventuality – that, in fact, he had foreseen it all along, but that with the assistance of England France could risk everything, even a war with Germany.” And even after his colleagues had decided against him, he “nevertheless maintained his opinion, declaring that never was the situation better than at the time, that one ought not to recoil before the possibility of a war, and that the idea of a Conference must be repudiated at all costs.”

We know that in the end Delcassé was obliged to resign his seat in the Cabinet, the German demand was acceded to, and the whole business was settled at the European Conference at Algeciras in the beginning of 1906. Germany tried at one stage of the proceedings of the Conference to substitute the European Concert for France and Spain in effecting the “reforms” in Morocco, but ultimately yielded and left everything in the hands of these two Powers as provided by the Anglo-French Agreement, only safeguarding equal economic rights for all the signatory Powers.

Such was the famous Morocco quarrel, by reason of which Germany was exposed in the jingo Press of this country, and, alas in the columns of “Justice” itself, to the execration of the entire civilised world. The reader can now judge what ground there was for this attack against Germany. You first abrogate the guaranteed rights of a third Power, not only without its consent, but even without informing it of your act, and then you cry out “Murder!” because that Power resents such treatment and calls you to account. We shall discuss in our next some incidents connected with this affair which will contribute towards the elucidation of the attitude of England in the ally of Delcassé.