Th. Rothstein Justice, 15 April 1911

The German Menace
10. The Object of British Policy and its Dangers

Source: Justice, 15 April, 1911, p.2;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

I have, now surveyed the chief events of international politics of the last few years, and if I have succeeded in establishing anything at all it is this fact, that whatever quarrel there has been between England and Germany was due not to the latter’s aggression against this or any other country, but solely to England’s jealousy of a powerful rival in commerce and world’s finance. To anyone who has had the courage to look the facts dispassionately in the face there can be not the slightest doubt that the object of British foreign policy as conceived by certain cliques belonging to the “forward school,” and as first applied by the late King, has been to form and to lead a coalition of continental Powers against Germany after the manner of the coalitions against revolutionary and Napoleonic France at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries. It is for this object that the cry has been raised about the balance of power; the peace of the world; the sanctity of international treaties; and the freedom of small nationalities. For 40 years Germany, notwithstanding her enormous strength and the megalomania of her Kaiser, has not disturbed the world’s peace. During this period England has carried on incessant wars all over the world; has stolen Egypt; has annexed two independent republics; has driven France from the Soudan; has robbed Portugal of her vast colonial possessions in South Africa (I allude to Matabeleland and Mashonaland); has permitted and encouraged France to establish herself in Morocco; and has almost effected the partition of Persia. Yet it is Germany which is supposed to entertain sinister designs upon the territories and colonial possessions of other States and to threaten the peace of the world! Has anyone heard of such exquisite hypocrisy? What is true is that Germany is disturbing the peace of the British capitalist’s soul, and because of this British diplomacy and the British imperialist press are trying to persuade Austria and Italy that they are mere puppets in the hands of the all-powerful Kaiser, and to frighten the weaker States by the ancient shades of Schleswig-Holstein and Alsace-Lorraine.

Well, all I can say is – and I have for a good number of years followed very closely the entire international press, French, German, Austrian, Belgian, Russian, even Turkish and Roumanian, and am in a position to judge of the state of the continental mind as few are in these islands – that England, in going to form a coalition of continental Powers against Germany, has made only biggest blunder in her history. Not only has she not succeeded in her object, but I am certain that if she persists further in her endeavour she will soon get a universal coalition of continental Powers against her. This is due not to the fear which Germany is supposed to inspire everywhere by her colossal strength, but to the simple fact that the state of the world now is totally different from what it was in Napoleonic times, and nobody is so foolish as to wish to serve as cat’s paws of England. Revolutionary and Napoleonic France threatened not only the commercial supremacy of England, but also the political and social order of Europe – that is, the absolute powers of the countless despots and the rule of the serf-owning nobility All the reactionary forces of Europe could then easily be mobilised against France under the leader ship of England At the present moment all such attempts would be futile. Germany, though her political forms are terribly backward, is nevertheless the most progressive capitalist country in Europe; and so far from there being any economic and social antagonisms between her and the rest of the Continent, the most intimate financial and commercial co-operation exists among them. In fact, if anything, the aggression of England against Germany shows the Continent only too well the future which it may expect at the hands of England should Germany be crushed and some other Power attain a prominent commercial and industrial position in the world. As for political antagonisms, not only is there and can there be none between capitalist Governments such as we know them, whether republican or monarchist, but even that sole concrete issue of the last generation, the question of Alsace-Lorraine, is dead as a door nail, “As to the material side of the Alsace-Lorraine question,” wrote comrade Jaurès as recently as January 31, 1911, “there can be no possibility of a conflict between France and Germany; in this matter, as in many others, there is only a question between reaction and democracy.” This is perfectly true, as anyone following the French bourgeois press can see. Even M. Millevoye, celebrated coadjutorof Déroulède, a fire eater and Chauvinist of the first order, spoke in the Chamber on December 24, 1909, of the Casa Blanca agreement between France and Germany as of “a serious guarantee of reconciliation,” and added: “There ought to be no further talk of revanche on either side of the frontier, since a people like ours after ten years of glory has no need of revanche.”

It is, therefore clear that in the absence of all antagonisms between Germany and other continental Powers; in the presence, in fact, of the closest commercial and financial co-operation between the capitalists of the different countries, England’s endeavours to stir up a hatred of Germany and a coalition against her is foredoomed to failure. Such, after the Balkan crisis, the Potsdam interview, and the ghastly failure of M. Pichon’s financial policy in Turkey, it has proved in point of fact. And what is still more important is, as I have said, that any further pursuit of this policy on the part of England is bound to result in a coalition against her, since not only the Governments, but even the peoples, are beginning to understand that the menace to the world’s peace is England, and that all the heavy naval armaments of recent years have been imposed upon them by the British “menace.” You only have to read the Social-Democratic press of the Continent to see this. Careful as our comrades are not to appear as supporters of their own Governments, and insistent as they always are upon the faults of their own rulers, even they begin to groan under the provocative policy of England, which is heaping up such enormous burdens upon the masses of the Continent. Read comrade Scheidemann’s speech in the Reichstag, on March 30 last, when introducing the Social-Democratic motion in favour of the limitation of armaments, and you will observe in such remarks as that “the Triple Alliance has in the past no doubt contributed towards the maintenance of the peace of the world,” and that “German diplomacy has allowed itself to be bluffed by the British policy of penning us in” the voluntary acknowledgment that the German Government is not to be blamed for everything, but that it is England which is at the present stage the main cause of all international trouble.

How preposterous, then, is our own attitude on this all important question! It has been stated over and over again in these columns that we have the choice of only three courses: either to surrender, or to go to war, or to arm so as to insure the peace. What a view to take of the question at issue! To surrender, if you please! What, and to whom? Does Germany demand anything from Britain except the right to carry on her capitalist expansion? And if so, is it our duty to support the endeavour of the British capitalist classes in thwarting her in this? This, indeed, seems to be the view taken by some of our comrades, because on no facts – and I have only quoted in my articles a small portion of them – as against mere figments of the imagination can it be proved that Germany wants anything beyond a mere laisser-faire et aller on the part of England. And because this singular view is taken, we connive at the enormous naval expenditure, demand even more, and with a view to gaining the support of the working class, not only join in the hypocritical chorus of our bitterest reactionaries about the sanctity of international treaties and the rights of the smaller nationalities (imagine the Curzons and the Milners, pace the recent debate in the House of Lords on conscription, in the role of guardians of treaties and rights. of nationalities!), but introduce our own specific note concerning the reactionary character of the Prussian Government and the right of asylum. We do not perceive that the right of asylum has never rested on the guns of the Navy, but solely on the freedom of the British people; which may yet be extinguished by those very guns; and as for the Prussian absolutism and militarism, why, the very agitation which is carried on against Germany assists in maintaining them. Jaurès understands this much better than our own comrades when he writes, as he did only the other day on the occasion of Gambetta’s birthday (see “l’Humanité” of April 3), that “a policy of mutual accord between France and Germany will hasten on the democratisation of Germany by depriving Prussian militarism of its pretexts.” And only to think that, while our comrades in France (which is certainly more exposed to an attack by Germany and has no Navy at all comparable to the German) are solidly voting against the grant for the building of two paltry cruisers, as they did after a magnificent speech by Vaillant only a month ago, we should be clamouring for a £100,000,000 Navy to crush the German commercial rival! Verily, if Liberalism has proved dangerous to the growth of a Socialist movement in this country, Toryism is proving fatal to it. It has captured in its net some of the best among us, and we have become isolated among the Socialist patties of the world, just as capitalist England has by her jingo policy succeeded in isolating herself among the European States.

Let this, for the present, bring to a conclusion any humble series of articles. I had originally in my mind to cover a much wider field, but I did not succeed. I do not think in spite of what comrade Hyndman, whose opinion, with all that, I value greatly, may say, that I need offer any apology for thus intruding into a domain which is usually regarded as a sanctum not to be profaned by an alien. I have written as a man who has lived among the English people for nearly twenty years, who has followed very closely England’s domestic and foreign Politics, and who, in addition, happens to be a Social-Democrat to whom “nothing human is strange.” I am not addicted to Anglophobia nor to any “phobia.” But I am, I must confess, a strong “capitalistphobe” and wherever I meet that ferocious beast I never hesitate to attack it That is why, though enjoying the hospitality of the English people, I have attacked and have attempted to expose the machinations of the British ruling classes.