II. Capitalistic Militarism

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Karl Liebknecht



Militarism is not specifically a capitalistic institution. It is, on the contrary, an institution peculiar and essential to all societies divided in classes, of which capitalist society is the last. It is true that capitalism develops, like every other society divided in classes, a kind of militarism peculiar to itself,[1] for militarism is in its nature a means to an end, or to several ends, which differ with the kind of the society and which are to be attained in various ways according to the different characters of the societies. That fact appears not only in the constitution of the army, but also in the remaining substance of militarism which mani tests itself in the tasks militarism has to accomplish.

Best adapted to the capitalistic stage of development is the army built on universal military science which, though an army constituted by the people, is not an army of the people, but an army against the people, or becomes increasingly. converted into such a one.

Now it appears in the shape of a standing army, now as a militia. The standing army,[2] which is likewise not an institution peculiar to capitalism, appears as its most developed, and even its normal form, this will be shown in the following pages.


The army of the capitalist order of society serves a double purpose, like the army of the other social systems.

It is, in the first place, a national institution destined for attack abroad or for the protection against a danger coming from abroad, in short, designed for international complications or, to use a military catch-phrase, against the foreign enemy.

That function has in no way been done away with by more recent developments. For capitalism war is indeed, in Moltke's phrase, "a part of God's world order."[3] It is true that there exists in Europe itself at least a tendency to eliminate certain causes of war, and the probability of a war originating in Europe itself decreases more and more, in spite of Alsace-Lorraine, the anxiety about the trio, Clemenceau, Pichon, Picquart, in spite of the Eastern Question, in spite of pan-islamism, and in spite of the revolution going on in Russia. In their place, however, new and highly dangerous causes of friction have arisen in consequence of the desires for commercial and political expansion[4] cherished by the so-called "civilized nations," desires which are mainly responsible for the Eastern Question and pan-islamism, and in consequence of world politics, especially colonial politics which, as Chancellor Bulow frankly recognized in the Reichstag, on November 14, 1906,[5] contains innumerable possibilities.[6] Of conflict and forces to the front ever more vigorously two other forms of militarism -- navalism and colonial militarism. We Germans can tell a story of that!

Navalism, militarism on sea, is the natural brother of land militarism and shows all its repulsive and vicious traits. It is in a still greater degree than land militarism is at present not only an effect, but also a cause of international dangers, of the danger of a world war.

Some good folk and deceivers want to make us believe that the strained relations between Germany and England[7] are merely the result of some misunderstandings, agitations of mischievous journalists, the braggings of unskilful diplomatists; but we know better. We know that these strained relations are a necessary result of the increasing economic competition between Germany and England in the world's markets, a direct result of the unbridled capitalistic development and international competition. The Spanish-American War for Cuba, Italy's Abyssinian War, England's South African War, the Chinese-Japanese War, the Chinese adventure of the Great Powers, the Russian-Japanese War, all of them, however different their special causes and the conditions from which they sprung might have been, yet exhibit the one great common characteristic feature of wars of expansion. And if we remember the strained relations between England and Russia on account of Thibet, Persia and Afghanistan, the disagreements between Japan and the United States in the winter of 1906, and finally the Morocco conflict of glorious memory with the Franco-Spanish coöperation of December, 1906,[8] we must recognize that the capitalistic policy of colonization and expansion has placed numerous mines under the edifice of world peace, mines whose fuses are in many hands and which can explode very easily and unexpectedly.[9] It is certainly thinkable that a time may come when the division of the world has progressed to such an extent that a policy of placing all possible colonial possessions in trust for the colonial empires becomes feasible, thus eliminating colonial competition, as has been accomplished in regard to private capitalist competition to a certain extent by the combines and trusts. But that is a distant possibility which the economic and national rise of China alone may defer for an incalculable space of time.

All the alleged plans for disarmament are thus seen to be for the present nothing but foolery, phrase-making and attempts at deception. The fact that the Czar was the chief originator of the comedy at the Hague puts the true stamp on all of them.

Indeed, in our own days-the bubble of an alleged English disarmament burst in a ridiculous fashion. Secretary for War Hilton, the alleged promoter of those intentions, came out in strong words as an opponent of each and every reduction of the active military forces and showed himself as a true military hotspur,[10] whilst at the same time the Anglo-French military convention appeared above the horizon. Moreover, at the very hour when preparations were being made for the second "Peace Conference," Sweden increased her fleet, America[11] and Japan saw their military budgets mount higher and higher, and the Clémenceau government in France demanded an increase of 208 millions,[12] dwelt upon the necessity of a strong army and navy, the Hamburger Nachrichten [an important semi-official German newspaper] was describing the unshakeable faith in the holy savior Militarism as the quintessence of the feeling dominating Germany's ruling classes, and the German people were treated by their government to increased military demands[13] which were greedily grasped at even by our Liberals.[14] Such facts give us a measure of the naïveté displayed by the French Senator, d'Estournelles de Constant, a member of the Hague Tribunal, in an essay on the limitation of armaments.[15] Indeed, in the imagination of this political dreamer it needs not even the proverbial swallow to make the summer of disarmament, a simple sparrow will do. After that it is almost refreshing to encounter the honest brutality with which the great powers at the conference dropped Mr. Stead's proposals and refused even to place the question of disarmament on the agenda of the second conference.

A few more remarks must be made about the third offspring of capitalism on the military side, viz., colonial militarism. The colonial army (by this is meant not the colonial militia,[16] as planned for German Southwest Africa, still less the entirely different militia of the almost independent British colonies) is of extraordinarily great importance for England, and its importance is also increasing for the other civilized countries. Whilst for England it not only fulfils the task of oppressing and keeping in check the colonial "interior enemy," i.e., the natives of the colonies, but also constitutes a weapon against the exterior colonial enemy, Russia, for instance, it serves the other colonizing powers, especially America and Germany, often under the names of "Schutztruppe" (protective troops) or foreign legion,[17] almost exclusively for the first named purpose, that of driving the miserable natives to slave in the bagnios for capitalism, and to shoot and cut them down and starve them without pity whenever they attempt to protect their country against the foreign conquerors and extortioners. The colonial army, which frequently consists of the scum of the European population,[18] is the most brutal and abominable of all the tools employed by our capitalistic states. There is hardly a crime which colonial militarism and savage tropical brutality [Tropenkoller, the Germans call it], directly cultivated by it, have not produced.[19] The names of Tippelskirch, Woermann, Podbielski, Leist, Wehlau, Peters, Ahrenberg, and others testify and prove it for Germany, too. They are the fruit by which the nature of the policy of colonization can be known, that colonial policy which, pretending[20] to spread Christianity of civilization or to protect national honor, piously practices usury and fraud for the advantage of capitalists interested in colonies, which murders and-violates defenceless human beings, burns down the possessions of the defenceless, robbing and pillaging them, mocking and disgracing Christianity and civilization.[21] Even the fame of a Cortez or a Pizarro fades before India and Tongking, the Congo, German Southwest Africa and the Philippines.


lt the function of militarism was above defined as being a national one directed against the foreign enemy it must not be understood to mean that it is a function answering the interests, welfare and wishes of the capitalistically governed and exploited peoples. The proletariat of the whole world can not expect any profit from the policies which make necessary the "militarism for abroad", its interests are most sharply opposed to such policies. Directly or indirectly those policies serve the exploiting interests of the ruling classes of capitalism. They are policies which prepare more or less skilfully, the way for the world-wide expansion of the wildly anarchical mode of production and the senseless and murderous competition of capitalism, in which process all the duties of civilized man towards the less developed peoples are flung aside; and yet nothing is really attained except an insane imperiling of the whole existence of our civilization in consequence of the warlike world complications that are conjured up. The working-class, too, welcome the immense economic developments of our days. But they also know that this economic development could be carried on peacefully without the mailed fist, without militarism and navalism, without the trident being in our hand and with out the barbarities of our colonial system, if only sensibly managed communities were to carry it on according to international understandings and in conformity with the duties and interests of civilization. They knew that our world policy largely explains itself as an attempt to fight down and confuse forcibly and clumsily the social and political home problems confronting the ruling classes, in short, as an attempt at a policy of deceptions and misreadings such as Napoleon III. was a master of. They know that the enemies of the working-class love to make their pots boil over the fires of narrow-minded jingoism, that the fear of war in 1887, unscrupulously engineered by Bismarck, did excellent service to the most dangerous forces of reaction, that according to a nice little plan, lately revealed,[22] and hatched by a number of highly placed personages, the Reichstag suffrage was to be filched from the German people in the excitement of jingoism, "after the return of a victorious army." They know that the advantages of the economic development which those policies attempt to exploit, especially all the advantages of our colonial policies, flow into the ample pockets of the exploiting class, of capitalism, the arch-enemy of the proletariat. They know that the wars the ruling classes engage in for their own purposes demand of the working-class the most terrible sacrifice of blood and treasure,[23] for which they are recompensed, after the work has been done, by miserable pensions, beggarly grants to war invalids, street organs and kicks.

They know that after every war a veritable mud-volcano of Hunnic brutality and baseness sends its floods over the nations participating in it, rebarbarizing all civilization for years.[24] The worker knows that the fatherland for which he is to fight is not his fatherland; that there is only one real enemy for the proletariat of every country the capitalist class who oppresses and exploits the proletariat, that the proletariat of every country is by its most vital interests closely bound to the proletariat of every other country, that all national interests recede before the common interests of the international proletariat, and that the international coalition of exploiters and oppressors must be opposed by the international coalition of the exploited and oppressed. He knows that the proletarians, if they were to be employed in a war, would be led to fight against their own brethren and the members of their own class, and thus against their own interests. The class-conscious proletarian therefore not only frowns upon that international purpose of the army and the entire capitalist policy of expansion, he is fighting them earnestly and with understanding. To the proletariat falls the chief task of fighting militarism in that direction, too, to the utmost, and it is more and more becoming conscious of that task, which is shown by the international congresses; by the exchange of protestations of solidarity between the German and French Socialists at the outbreak of the Franco-German War of 1870, between the Spanish and American Socialists at the outbreak of the war about Cuba, between the Russian and Japanese Socialists at the outbreak of the war in eastern Asia in 1904, and by the resolution to declare a general strike in case of war between Sweden and Norway, adopted by the Swedish Social Democrats. It was further shown by the parliamentary attitude of the German Social Democracy towards the war credits of 1870 and during the Morocco conflict, as also by the attitude taken up by the class-conscious proletariat towards intervention in Russia.


  1. Bernstein [the prominent German Socialist leader] wrongly stated in Vie socialiste of June 5, 1905, that modern military institutions were only the heritage of the more or less feudal monarchy.
  2. One need only consider Russia where, however, entirely peculiar circumstances which did not arise from interior conditions helped to bring about the result. Standing armies resting on a basis different from that of universal military service are, for instance, the mercenary armies. In the Italian cities of the XVth century militias were also known (Burckhardt, p. 327).
  3. In his well-known letter to Bluntschli (December, 1880) we read: "Eternal peace is a dream, and not even a beautiful one, and war is a part of God's world order. In it are developed the noblest virtues of man, courage and abnegation, dutifulness and self-sacrifice at the risk of life. Without war the world would sink into materialism." A few months earlier Moltke had written: "Every war is a national misfortune" (Collected Works V, p. 193 and p. 200), and in 1841 he even wrote in an article that appeared in the Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung: "We confess openly to be in favor of the much derided idea of a general European peace."
  4. The value of the entire foreign trade of the world rose, according to Hubler's tables, from 75,224 million marks in 1891 to 109,000 million marks in 1905.
  5. "What complicates our situation to-day and renders it more difficult are our oversea pursuits and interests."
  6. Moltke's views in this respect were highly fantastic. According to him the times when wars were resolved upon by cabinets were indeed past, but he considers the political party leaders to be wicked and dangerous provokers of war. The party leaders and -- the stock exchange! It is true that here and there he has a deeper view of things (Collected Works, 3, pp. I, 126, 135, 138).
  7. Characterized by that fantastic abortion, entitled, "The Invasion of 1910."
  8. On account of the quarrel about Morocco France spent, in 1906, far more than a hundred million for the military protection of her eastern frontiers.
  9. About the alleged, not yet fully explained plan of Semler, the Reichstag representative of the Hamburg shipowners, to capture Fernando Po in the Jameson manner, see the budgetary debates of the Reichstag of December, 1906.
  10. That is not disproved because he declared for the time being against universal military service, which is regretted by the Kreuzzeitung [the junker organ], of November 29, 1906, because, according to the paper, universal service would educate the English people into a better understanding of the seriousness of war. In Germany, of course, universal military service has only the importance to force the people to make sacrifices in blood and money, in conformity with the will of the noble knights of the Kreuzeeitung, whilst the decision about peace and war rests with those for whom the seriousness of war exists least. They can even appreciate democracy for abroad! Concerning the strong tendency in England and America towards a universal militia, see p. 51.
  11. Cf. p. 51 and Roosevelt's message of December 4, 1906.
  12. Chiefly motivated by the Morocco conflict.
  13. Twenty-four and three-fourths millions for the navy, 51 millions for the army, 7 millions for interest -- a total increase of some 83 million marks as compared with the budget of 1906-7. Fine prospects of further extravagant naval armaments were held out by an evidently inspired article that appeared in the Reichbote, on December 21, 1906. To all that must be added the enormous expenses for colonial wars (454 millions for the China Expedition, 490 millions already for the rebellion in Southwest Africa, 2 millions for the rebellion in East Africa, etc.); the question of footing those bills led, in December, 1906, to a conflict and the dissolution of the Reichstag.
  14. See Berliner Tageblatt of October 27, 1906. Note above all the notorious resolution handed in by Ablass, December 13, 1906, and the Liberal platform for the Reichstag elections of January 25, 1907.
  15. La Revue, October 1, 1900. The "actual results achieved" by the movement for disarmament, are a well preserved secret of the editorial board of the Revue.
  16. Germany's colonial expenditure is in a greatly preponderating measure of a military nature, even according to Dernburg's memorial of October, 1906, in spite of all his cooking of accounts.
  17. Since December 31, 1900, France possesses a real colonial army which has brought her the saddest disappointments. See the Hamburg Correspondent, December 7, 1906 (No. 621), also note 18 on next page and p. 72. In Germany they are busily engaged in creating a colonial army. We are approaching it at the double quick.
  18. See Péroz, France et Japon en Indochine, Fanin, l'armée coloniale; E. Reclus, in his Patriotisme et Colonisation; Däumig, Schlachtopfer des Militarismus, in Neue Zeit, vol. 99/00, p. 365, about the bataillons d'Afrique, p. 369. Regarding Germany see the speech of Roeren, member of the Reichstag, of December 3, 1906, Reichstag debates.
  19. Military punishment, too, here adopts a peculiarly brutal form. About France's foreign legion and bataillons d'Afrique see Däumig, cited above; about the abolition of the "biribiri, p. 53.
  20. This hypocritical and, at the same time, shamefaced excuse is now being dropped with frank cynicism; see the article, signed by G B., in the monthly magazine, Die deutschen Kolonien (October, 1906), and the remark made by Strantz at the pan-German convention (September, 1906), where he said: "In the colonies we don't want to convert people into Christians; they are to work for us. This humanitarian softheadedness is downright ridiculous. German sentimentality has deprived us of a man like Peters." Again, Heinrich Hartert wrote in the Tag, December 21,1906, that it is "the duty of the missions . . . to adapt themselves to given circumstances"; but they had succeeded "in frequently becoming a nuisance to the commercial man." It is at this point that the principal friction arises between the German Clerical Party and the Government in regard to colonial policy, this alone explains the furious fight entered upon in December 1906, by the merchant Dernburg against the so-called collateral government of the Clerical Party. --For America the Kreuzzetung ( September 29, 1906) preaches: "The simple extermination of whole tribes of Indians is so inhuman and unchristian that it cannot be defended under any circumstances, especially as it is in no way a question of existence for the Americans." But where it is such a question whole tribes may be "exterminated" even by the believer in Christian charity -- according to the views of the colonial Christian.
  21. See the memorable debates of the German Reichstag between November c8 and December 4, 1906, where the " abscess was lanced."
  22. See Hamburger Nachrichten, November 3, I906.
  23. The number of the victims of the wars between 1799 and 1904 (excluding the Russo-Japanese War) is estimated at about 15,000,000 men killed.
  24. Cf. Moltke, p. 24, note 6, of this book, and "Moltke's Collected Works," II, p. 288. In his opinion war is supposed to promote virtue and efficiency, especially moral energy.

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