Th. Rothstein Justice, 18 March 1911
Source: Justice, 18 March, 1911, p.2;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
It is easy, with a certain amount of good will in reviewing the European situation in 1905, to argue, as “Justice” did last week, that “the Morocco question only served as an opportunity for an attempt (by Germany) at the humiliation of France,” and, while reprobating the aggression of France in Morocco, involving though it also did the guaranteed public rights of Germany, and the aggression of England in Egypt and South Africa as merely “foolish,” to condemn the action of Germany in 1905 as a piece of “gratuitous and unwarranted” Prussian aggression. We shall do well to remember this attitude when we come to dealing with the European crisis of 1908-9. It is remarkable, however, that the French themselves have held a somewhat different view of the respective parts played by Germany and Delcassé. “M. Delcassé,” wrote the studiously moderate “Temps” immediately after his fall, “did not evidently see the risks which he had to allay, nor the interests which he had to safeguard. His policy of rapprochment with the Mediterranean Powers was perfectly legitimate but one need only have considered its bearings in order to see that it was calculated to provoke irritation and uneasiness in Germany: irritation – because the successive reconciliation of France with Italy, England and Spain was bound, in the nature of things, to produce on the other side of the Rhine an impression of isolation which the imprudent friends of the French Foreign Minister were artificially fanning by their exaggerated boasts an uneasiness – because Germany, obsessed by a fear of British aggression, ascribed to the Anglo-French Agreement a sinister after-thought, which we were assured it did not have, but which one never failed to lend to it.” The still more reactionary “Liberté” also wrote: “It would be childish to deny the tension in our relations with Germany, and the latter’s menacing attitude. It is the policy of Delcassé which is responsible for it. A policy of isolation of Germany would have been one worthy of a Richelieu. But one ought to have been a Richelieu, and France ought to have been the France of Richelieu. Was that the case? Delcassé undoubtedly thought so, but the reality was proved otherwise.” And, to take a third paper of reactionary leanings, the “Figaro,” of March 1 of the present year, wrote “No, at no moment did Delcassé have the honour of being persecuted on account of his having incorporated the idea of our French fatherland. It is a glory which does not belong to him.... The sole personal work of Delcassé was Morocco. This was the grand idea which filled him with pride. For the sake of this idea he neglected the wise opinions of deputies who were in the best position to know the circumstances, and took no heed of the warnings of his less careless friends. He did everything to isolate Germany and to secure his position in Morocco; one knows the miserable result of this policy of isolation of which M. Delcassé had boasted so noisily, so shamefully, and so recklessly, and by which he had brought us into difficulties and conflicts which will yet for a long time menace the peace of France and the peace of the world.”
I have purposely quoted reactionary papers which cannot be suspected of a lack of what is called patriotism (which in France formally means hatred of Germany), and the reader will agree that their judgment somewhat differs from that which is to be found in the British press. It is quite true that these opinions belong to a date subsequent to Delcassé’s fall; previous to that, such acts on the part of Germany as the voyage of the Kaiser to Tangier and the repeated warnings of Bülow and his Ambassadors were interpreted
as sheer acts of aggression. The reason for this, however, was that the French public, and even the French Government itself, were up to the last moment kept ignorant by M. Delcassé of all that he was doing.
“What,” asks M. Philippe Millet, the well known London Correspondent of the “Temps,” in an article contributed by him to “Morning Post” on July 22, 1909 “what would the British nation think of Sir Edward Grey [the comparison was scarcely happy, however. – Th. R.]. if, instead of avoiding all unnecessary friction with Germany, he were looking for trouble, and this without informing the other members of the Cabinet?.... “M. Delcassé does nothing less than that.... M. Delcassé had a personal dislike of Germany, it seems now to be a demonstrated fact – and did not seriously attempt to negotiate with Germany about Morocco. Moreover, he went ahead with what he called his ‘politics’ without telling his colleagues that they might be involved at any moment in a struggle against the German army.” “The gravest fault committed by M. Delcassé,” wrote the reactionary “La République Francaise,” immediately after his fall, “has been that he never during the three years understood the necessity of a prudent foreign policy. He thought, and he was mistaken on that point, that a Minister of Foreign Affairs could isolate himself from his colleagues and pursue certain schemes, while the Government was pursuing others of different kind.” This explains the surprise and indignation which were aroused in France by the action of Germany in the early stages of the Morocco affair. Profoundly ignorant of the provocative attitude assumed by their colleague in the negotiations with Germany, the French Government, and in unison with it the French press really thought that the Kaiser and his Chancellor were bent upon humiliating France and provoking a war with her. The precise reverse, however, was true. It was Delcassé who had refused to negotiate with Germany, and had pursued all along a policy calculated to bring about war. No sooner, therefore, did the Cabinet at its meeting of June 6 learn the true position of affairs than they repudiated the mischief-maker, and the entire press and the entire Chamber supported them. Yet so profound is the ignorance and so great is the bad faith of the British press, that the legend about Germany’s aggression in 1905 forms still part of its stock in trade, and Delcassé is represented as a valiant patriot whom his colleagues have shamelessly left in the lurch.
This legend soon gave rise to another, which is to this day being sedulously propagated in the press of this country, including, alas our own “Justice.” The rise of this legend was, curiously enough, foreseen at the very moment of Delcassé’s fall by the thoroughly reactionary and chauvinist “Eclair,” which then wrote: “We know in advance what Delcassé’s friends will say: he has been sacrificed to the antipathies of the Kaiser; he had been thrown over at the dictates of Germany. This singular patriot flatters himself with the idea of exploiting for his defence, and perhaps his vengeance, the national pride of which he had been such an unfortunate champion. This lying legend ought not to gain credence.” But it did all the same, owing to the bad faith of a certain portion of the press. It is to be hoped, however, that the full circumstances of the case brought to light by M. Calmette in the “Figaro” of March 3 last will effectually demolish the mischievous and lying rumours concerning the proximate reasons of Delcassé’s fall. M. Calmette gives the full story of the proceedings of the Cabinet Council of June 6, 1905, and says: “There is a legend, now nearly six years old, which it is absolutely necessary to destroy, because it rests on an immense lie which only one person had the interest to propagate. A number of brave folk persist in believing that in June 1905, Delcassé was sacrificed upon the intervention of a foreign Power which no longer wanted to discuss with him the Morocco question. Such legends require in reality no refutation. They disappear on a moment’s reflection because they injure all... Never at any moment did the German Government make in its negotiations with France the slightest allusion to either the position or the personal policy of M. Delcassé. Never has M. Delcassé been thrown into the holocaust at the dictate of the Emperor William II If he resigned in the course of the Ministerial Council of June 6, it was due to his having found himself in complete disagreement with the unanimous opinion of his colleagues.” Yet, but one day before this categoric statement in the “Figaro,” the “Times,” that lying and perverted sheet which still serves as pabulum for our politicians, had the audacity to repeat the old legend and to speak of the “singularly unscrupulous campaign of semi-official threats by which German diplomacy shook the nerve of the French people and secured M. Delcassé’s downfall.” The “Times,” however, took good care not to mention by a single word in any of its subsequent issues the revelations made by the “Figaro.”
If such was M. Delcassé and his policy, we can gain a true measure of the action of England which had supported him through thick and thin, both before and after his débacle, even against the unanimous French public opinion. While Delcassé was conspiring to provoke Germany to war, England was holding out to him the promise of military support and when he fell, the British press took up the legend of the Kaiser’s intervention with a zeal which is only comparable to the joy with which his present return to power has been greeted by it. England was pursuing a provocative policy all through the Morocco quarrel, and it was not her fault that war did not come off in 1905. Yet “Justice,” in its last week’s issue, repeats the stale, and as we have seen, exploded myth to the effect that “it is Germany and not Britain which threatens aggression.”
P.S. I cannot keep on a running sort of polemics while my articles are still proceeding. This much I may say now, that both comrade Hyndman and the writer in “Justice” are profoundly mistaken as to the trend of my arguments. As to my being a refugee, and the rest of it, I thought were going to discuss the question at issue without “bitterness and personal prejudice.” TH. R.