Th. Rothstein Justice, 8 April 1911

The German ‘Menace’
9. The Campaign against Germany

Source: Justice, 8 April, 1911, p.2;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

As I said in my last, the year 1903 saw the rupture of good relations with Germany. In that year King Edward visited Portugal, Italy and then Paris, and made in the latter place a speech which drew universal attention by its friendly sentiments to France. The visit was subsequently repaid by Loubet coming to London, accompanied by Delcassé, and the result was the Anglo-French Arbitration treaty foreshadowing the greater agreement of the year following. At the same time two big quarrels broke out – one in connection with the Baghdad Railway, and the other in consequence of Canada’s decision to grant England an increased preference. In the former case, the British Government, which for four years had been favouring the German scheme, suddenly, under the pressure of the agitation raised by the Tory press, decided to boycott it; and, in the second, the German Government, regarding the preference granted to England as an infringement of the most-favoured nation clause, threatened retaliation upon the trade of Canada. Lastly, the momentous decision was taken to organise a North Sea squadron and to construct a naval base at Rosyth. The German Navy became at last a “danger"!

How did this sudden change in the official attitude come about? The explanation must be sought in the pressure of what Mr. Keir Hardie so quaintly termed the other day in the House of Commons “trading interests.” Germany had become a powerful commercial rival of England. Her industry, her oversea commerce, and even her finance, had for some time past been making a profound impression upon neutral markets, and even upon England’s home market; and, in consequence, a deep resentment began to spread against her in British “trading” circles. Those who remember the “fair-trade” movement in the middle of the eighties and beginning of the nineties of the last century will also remember that it was wholly dictated by the fear of German competition, and was accompanied by the spread of Teutonophobia. The German “trader” was not even given the credit for his science, for his talents for organisation, and for the quality of his goods. German competition was represented as being all based on fraud, on imitation of English goods, on cheap and sweated labour; and the German manufacturer and German merchant were held up for popular ridicule and condemnation. The “good” years which filled the latter half of the nineties somewhat abated this fear of, and resentment against, Germany, and brought about a temporary lull in the campaign, of slander and incitement of popular feeling against her. The opening of the new century, however, revived the former sentiments on a still larger scale. Those were bad years of crisis, and the action of German manufacturers in imitating the good old practice of British capitalists in “dumping” their accumulated stocks on every market they could lay their hands on, but especially on the free market of the United Kingdom, produced on their British brethren a tremendous effect. All the animosity against Germany revived with redoubled vigour, and the latent fair-trade movement broke out in 1903 in the agitation of Mr. Chamberlain in favour of Protection. It may be noted that just a year previously, in December, 1902, the new German tariff had been passed in the Reichstag, and though it was not to come into force till 1906, its effects were discounted in advance. It was scarcely an accident that both the clamour for protection and the change in the political and naval attitude towards Germany should have coincided both as to time and the class, or party, which directed the double movement: the large and the “heavy” industries were chiefly those which demanded protection, and they also formed the bulk of the Tory party of the latest formation, which demanded naval armaments against Germany. It was, and still is, essentially the same agitation carried on essentially by and on behalf of the same class – a capitalist agitation against a capitalist rival.

When once arrived at this stage, the rest followed as a matter of course. Already in 1902 the capitalist class of this country had been waxing indignant at the sight of the British Government co-operating with the German for the purpose of collecting the interest for the Venezuelan creditors; and in 1903 a sinister design was discovered in the scheme for carrying the Baghdad line to the Persian Gulf. Whatever Germany subsequently did became a subject for most ingenious misrepresentation, and the sluices of the press were opened for the free admission of facts, fiction and utterances which appeared discreditable to Germany. In 1903 the Kaiser delivered a lecture on the comparative strength of he British and German navies, illustrating by a tableau of his own make. The thing was at once trumpeted abroad as having for its purpose to demonstrate the necessity for expanding the German navy so as to make it equal to the British, although the very essence of the lecture was, as subsequently explained by the semi-official press, “to make clear to those Germans who were always shaking their fists at England that there was no sense in irritating and provoking a State in comparison to which Germany’s strength was so inferior,” while giving “the English and their press to understand that they made themselves ridiculous by continually writing and talking about German threats against England.” In the same year the Kaiser, than whom there is no more conceited fool on any of the European thrones, telegraphed to the Czar in the name of the “Admiral of the Atlantic” to that of the Pacific, and the entire British press resounded with vituperations at this harmless joke of a fool in a private telegram. On the other hand, the wild utterances of men like Rudolf Martin – a “crank,” more cranky than our own Mr. Maxse – and of the most reactionary and absolutely insignificant sheets like the “Post” began to loom large in the columns of the reactionary press in this country as if thy constituted the very essence of German official and unofficial public opinion. A mild illustration of these methods has just been afforded by Lord Ronaldshay in the debate on the Baghdad Railway the other week. Having quoted from a pamphlet by Dr. Rohrbach, a well-known German Jingo, some words advising Turkey to co-operate with Germany with a view to attacking England in Egypt, the noble lord proceeded in the following strictly logical manner: “Those were the words of a German publicist, whose mission it was to secure financial support to the Baghdad Railway scheme from the German people. In these circumstances they were surely absolved from any possible charge of harbouring any gratuitous animosity or hostility against Germany.” Because a German jingo is indulging in warlike and aggressive phantasies, “Germany” is to be held responsible, and the British hostility against her is to be regarded as well founded!

It will be one day a highly-interesting study to collect all the lies and calumnies and perversions and misrepresentations which have appeared even in the most respectable organs of the public press in this country on the subject of Germany during the last eight years or so. The unscrupulous campaign against Kruger in 1899 was mildness itself and virtue incarnate as compared with that which has been carried on against Germany with a view to poisoning the mind of the public. Heaven forbid that I should regard Germany as an immaculate lamb on which no eye could discern a black spot. Like every other capitalist country – like France and Austria and Italy, and certainly more than Japan and Russia – Germany is covered all over with black spots, but it just depends on the political needs of the moment whether the press should record them, and to what extent and with what ornamentation, or whether it should wink at them, or apologise for them, or only mention them in a casual manner. In the case of Germany, no event, no act of her rulers, no utterance of her press, which could reflect disgrace upon her or inflame public passion against her has been allowed to passed unnoticed and uncommented, while similar and worse acts elsewhere, and quite near home, have been left unrecorded. This is just one of the tricks of our modern press, to state the truth and yet tell a lie – a subtle method of agitation which only those who do not confine their attention to the press of a given country are able to withstand.

But alongside with this “abuse of truth” no paper and no public man, hostile to Germany and fully determined to quarrel with her, has hesitated to stoop to the use of the lowest lies and inventions. Readers of the “Times” will remember the atrocious report spread by its Berlin correspondent, and endorsed by the journal itself, concerning the scheme for “mental treatment” which that gentleman, by a wilful mistranslation of a passage in a German paper, made the latter to suggest with regard to the imprisoned Borkum spies; and who will ever forget the slanderous and insulting lies with which Mr. McKenna justified the bloated Navy Estimates in March, 1909? Again, think of the impudence with which for many weeks the press of this country bandied about the news about the conclusion of an alliance between Turkey and Roumania, specially invented by M. Isvolsky in Paris in order to prove the ascendancy of Germany in the Near East; and what a din there was raised by the gutter press over the alleged danger of assembling the British fleet in the Thames, where it could be bottled up by the Germans. The latter effervescence might now seem ridiculous, but the German fleet was none the less compelled to transfer its manoeuvres to the Baltic!

It would require more time and more space than I have at my disposal were I to describe and to expose the innumerable lies and perversions with which the press of this country, and of France, has been, and still is, operating with a view to inflaming the public mind with a hatred of Germany. I can honestly say that so far as the great press and the so-called responsible statesmen are concerned, Germany can show nothing similar to that exhibited in this country. And all this is being done with one, and only one purpose – to justify such an increase of armaments as would enable this country one day to attack and to crush her commercial rival, That is the source and fountain of all the allegations concerning the objects of the German navy and German foreign policy, and this is whence England derives her sudden love for smaller nationalities and her great respect for the sacredness of international treaties.