I. The Nature and Significance of Militarism
Militarism! There are few catch-words which
are so frequently used to-day. There is scarcely another one which
signifies something so complex, many-sided, Protean, or expresses
a phenomenon so interesting and significant in its origin and
nature, its means and effects a phenomenon so deeply rooted in
the very nature of societies divided in classes, and which yet
can adopt such extraordinarily multifarious shapes in societies
of equal structure, all according to the physical, political,
social, and economic conditions of states and territories.
Militarism is one of the most important and
energetic manifestations of the life of most social orders, because
it exhibits in the strongest, most concentrated, exclusive manner
the national, cultural, and class instinct of self-preservation,
that most powerful of all instincts.
A history of militarism, carried out with fundamental
thoroughness, would comprise the very essence of the history of
human development, lay bare its main-springs; and an investigation
of capitalistic militarism would bring to light the most deeply
hidden and delicate root-fibres of capitalism. Again, the history
of militarism would be the history of the strained relations and
jealousies between nations and states, arising from their desires
for political and social power or economic advantage; at the same
time it would be the history of class-struggles within nations
and states for the same objects.
This is not even an attempt to write such a
history; only some universal historical facts will be pointed
In the last analysis the superiority of physical
force is the decisive factor in social domination. In its
social aspect such physical force does not appear as the greater
bodily strength of some individuals, it rather presupposes the
equality of bodily strength of men, taken in the average, superiority
thus resting purely: with the majority. Such a numerical relation
does not necessarily correspond with the numerical relationship
existing between groups of people having interests opposed to
each other. Inasmuch as not everybody knows his own real interests,
especially not his fundamental interests, and inasmuch as not
everybody knows and recognizes the interests of his class as his
own individual interests, it is materially determined by the extensive
and intensive development of class-consciousness, which in its
turn depends upon the mental and moral stage of evolution reached
by a class. Again, that mental and moral stage of evolution is
determined by the economic position of the various groups of interests
(classes), whilst the social and political condition presents
itself rather as a consequence as a consequence, it is true, which
also has strong reactions as an expression of social domination.
The purely economic superiority also helps
to cause directly a shifting and confusing of that numerical
relation, inasmuch as economic pressure not only influences the
mental and moral stage of development and therefore the ability
to recognize class-interest, but also produces a tendency to act
in opposition to a class-interest which is more or less recognized.
That also the political machinery provides that class in whose
hands it is with further means of domination with which to "correct"
that numerical relationship in favor of the ruling group of interests
is shown by four institutions well known to all police, law courts,
schools, and church, which latter must also be reckoned among
these institutions which the political machinery creates in its
legislative function in order to exploit them for the application
of the law and administrative purposes. The first two act chiefly
by means of threats, deterrents and force, the school makes it
its business to stop as effectively as possible the channels through
which class-consciousness might find a way to hearts and brains,
the church has a most effective way in providing men with blinkers,
arousing their desires for a make-believe heavenly bliss and exploiting
their fear of an infernal chamber of torture.
But not even the numerical relation thus altered
can be considered as deciding the form of social domination. An
armed man multiplies his physical power by means of his weapon.
The extent of such multiplication depends upon the development
of armament, including fortification and strategy, the forms of
which result mainly from the development of armaments. The intellectual
and economic superiority of one group of interests to another
transforms itself directly, in consequence of the armament or
better armament of the superior class, into a physical superiority
and thus creates the possibility of a class-conscious majority
being completely dominated by a class-conscious minority.
Though class-division is determined by economic conditions the relative political power of the classes is only in the first line determined by the economic condition of the various classes, in the second line by numerous intellectual, moral and physical means of exercising power, which in their turn pass into the hands of the ruling economic class by reason of its economic position. All these methods of exercising power can not influence the continued existence of classes, as that existence is safeguarded by a situation which is independent of them and which by necessity forces and maintains certain classes (even if these form a majority) in economic dependence on other classes, which may be a small minority, without the class-struggle or any means of political power being able to change it.
The class-struggle can thus only be a struggle to develop class-consciousness, including a readiness for revolutionary action and sacrifice in the interest of the class, among its members, and a struggle for obtaining those means of power which are important for creating or suppressing class-consciousness, as well as those bodily and intellectual means of power the possession of which signifies a multiplication of physical force.
All this makes it clear what an important rôle
the development of armament plays in social struggles. It decides
whether it is not, or no longer, an economic necessity that a
minority should continue, at least for a time, to rule over a
majority against the will of the latter by military action, that
"most concentrated political action." Apart from class-division
the evolution of the forms of domination is actually everywhere
closely bound up with the development of armament. As long as
virtually everybody, even those in the most disadvantageous economic
position, can procure arms of essentially equal value under practically
the same difficulties, democracy, the reign of the majority principle,
will as a rule be the political form of the society. That ought
to be true even in societies divided in economic classes if only
that one condition mattered. But in the natural course of development
class-division, the result of economic evolution, runs parallel
with the development of arms (including fortification and strategy),
the manufacture of arms becoming thereby more and more a special
skilful profession, and, as class rule corresponds as a rule with
the economic superiority of one class, and the improvement in
the manufacture of armament makes it continually more difficult
and expensive to produce arms,
the manufacture of arms becomes gradually a monopoly of the ruling
economic class, whereby that physical basis of democracy is done
away with. And then we begin to hear the word: Possess and you
are in the right. Even when a class possessing the political means
of power loses its economic ascendancy it can at least for a time
maintain its political rule.
It need scarcely be explained here that it
is thus not only the form and nature of political domination which
is partly conditioned by the development of armament, but also
the form and nature of the prevailing class-struggles.
However, it is not sufficient that all citizens
are equally armed and carry their arms in order to safeguard the
continued existence of the rule of democracy, for the equal distribution
of arms does not exclude the possibility, as the events in Switzerland
have proved, that such distribution is abolished by a majority
which is becoming a. minority, or even by a minority which is
organized in a better, more efficient manner. The equal arming
of the whole population can only endure and not be done away with
when the production of arms can be carried on universally.
In his curious utopia, "The Coming Race," Bulwer described in an ingenious way the democratizing part which the development 'of armament can play. He imagines a stage of scientific development at which every citizen, provided with an easily procurable little staff charged with a mysterious force similar to electricity, is able at any moment to produce the most destructive effects. Indeed, we may expect science, the easy mastering of the most tremendous natural forces by man, to reach such a stage, however distant that time may be, at which the application of the science of murder on the battlefield will become an impossibility because it would mean the self-destruction of the human race, and at which the exploitation of scientific progress is transformed again as it were from a plutocratic into a democratic, universally human possibility.