[Classics] The Junius Pamphlet

Chapter 4

Turkey became the most important field of operations of German imperialism; the Deutsche Bank, with its enormous Asiatic buSiness interests, about which all German oriental policies centre, became its peacemaker. In the 50’s and 60’s Asiatic Turkey worked chiefly with English capital, which built the railroad from Smyrna and leased the first stretch of the Anatolian railroad, up to Ismit. In 1888 German capital appeared upon the scene and procured from Abdul Hamid the control of the railroad that English capital had built and the franchise for the new stretch from Ismit to Angora and branch lines to Scutari, Bursa, Konya and Kaizarili. In 1899 the Deutsche Bank secured concessions for the building and operation of a harbour and improvements in Hardar Pasha, and the sole control over trade and tariff collections in the harbour. In 1901 the Turkish Government turned over to the Deutsche Bank the concession for the Great Baghdad railroad[1] to the Persian Gulf, in 1907 for the drainage of the Sea of Karaviran and the irrigation of the Koma plain.

The reverse of this wonderful work of “peaceful culture” is the “peaceful” and wholesale ruin of the farming population of Asia Minor. The cost of this tremendous undertaking was advanced, of course, by the Deutsche Bank on the security of a widely diversified system of public indebtedness. Turkey will be, to all eternity, the debtor of Messrs. Siemens, Gwinner, Helfferich, etc., as it was formerly that of English, French and Austrian capital. This debtor, now, was forced not only to squeeze enormous sums out of the state to pay the interest on these loans, but, in addition, to guarantee a net income upon the railway, thus built. The most modern methods of transportation were grafted upon a primitive, in many cases purely agricultural, population. From the unfruitful soil of farming sections that had been exploited unscrupulously, for years, by an oriental despotism, producing scarcely enough to feed the population after the huge state debts had been paid, it is practically impossible to secure the profits demanded by the railroads. Freight and travelling are exceedingly undeveloped, since the industrial and cultural character of the region is most primitive, and can improve only at a slow rate. The deficit that must be paid to raise the required profit is, therefore, paid by the Turkish Government in the form of a so-called kilometer guarantee. European Turkey was built up according to this system by Austrian and French capital, and the same system has been adopted by the Deutsche Bank in its operations in Asiatic Turkey. As bond and surety that the subsidy will be paid, the Turkish Government has handed over to the representatives of European capital, the so-called Executive Board in control of public debt, the main source of Turkish national income, which has given to the Deutsche Bank the right to collect the tithe from a number of provinces. In this way, for instance, the Turkish Government paid, from 1893 to 1910, for the railroad to Angora and for the line from Eskishehir to Konya, a subsidy of about 9,090,000 francs. The tithes thus leased by the Turkish Government to its European creditors are ancient payments rendered in produce such as corn, sheep, silk, etc. They are not collected directly but through sub-lessees, somewhat similar to the famous tax-collectors, so notorious in pre-revolutionary France, the state selling the right to raise the amount required from each vilayet (province) by auction, against cash payment. When the speculator or company has thus procured the right to collect the tithe of a vilayet, it, in turn, sells the tithe of each individual sanjak (district) to other speculators, who again divide their portion among a veritable band of smaller agents. Since each one or these collectors must not only cover his own expenses but secure as large a profit as possible besides, the tithe grows like a landslide as it approaches the fanner, if the lessee has been mistaken in his calculation, he seeks to recompense himself at the expense of the farmer. The latter, practically always in debt, waits impatiently for the time when he can sell his crop. But after his grain is cut he must frequently wait for weeks before the tithe collector comes to take his portion. The collector, who is usually graindealer as well, exploits this need of the farmer whose crop threatens to rot in the field, and persuades him to sell at a reduced price, knowing full well that it will be easy to secure the assistance of public officials and particularly of the muktar (town mayor) against the dissatisfied. When no tax-collector can be found the government itself collects the tithe in produce, puts it into storage houses and turns it over as part payment to the capitalists. This is the inner mechanism of the “industrial regeneration of Turkey” by European capital.

Thus a twofold purpose is accomplished. The farming population of Asia Minor becomes the object of a well organized process of exploitation in the interest of European, in this case German, financial and industrial capital. This again promotes the growth of the German sphere of interest in Turkey and lays the foundation for Turkey’s “political protection.” At the same time the instrument that carries out the exploitation of the farming population, the Turkish Government, becomes the willing tool and vassal of Germany’s foreign policies. For many years Turkish finance, tariff policies, taxation and state expenditures have been under European control. German influence has made itself particularly felt in the Turkish military organization.

It is obvious from the foregoing, that the interests of German imperialism demand the protection of the Turkish State, to the extent at least of preventing its complete disintegration. The liquidation of Turkey would mean its division between England, Russia, Italy, and Greece among others and the basis for a large-scale operation by German capital would vanish. Moreover, an extraordinary increase in the power of Russia, England and the Mediterranean States would result. For German imperialism, therefore, the preservation of this accommodating apparatus of the “independent Turkish State,” the “integrity” of Turkey is a matter of necessity. And this necessity will exist until such time as this state will fall, having been consumed from within by German capital, as was Egypt by England and more recently Morocco by France, into the lap of Germany. The well-known spokesman of German imperialism, Paul Rohrbach, expressed this candidly and honestly when he said:

“In the very nature of things Turkey, surrounded on all sides by envious neighbours, must seek the support of a power that has practically no territorial interests in the Orient. That power is Germany. We, on the other hand, would be at a disadvantage if Turkey should disappear. If Russia and England fall heir to the Turkish state, obviously it will mean to both of these states a considerable increase in power. But even if Turkey should be so divided that we should also secure an extensive portion, it would mean for us endless difficulties. Russia, England, and In a certain sense France and Italy as well. are neighbours of present Turkish possessions and are in a position to hold and defend their portion by land and by sea. But we have no direct connection with the Orient. A German Asia Minor or Mesopotamia can become a reality only if Russia, and in consequence Prance as well, should be forced to relinquish their present political aims and ideals, i.e., if the world war should take a decisive turn in favour of German interests.” (The War and German Policy, p.36).

Germany swore solemnly on November 8th, 1898, in Damascus, by the shade of the great Saladin, to protect and to preserve the Mohammedan world and the green flag of the Prophet, and in so doing strengthened the regime of the bloody Sultan Abdul Hamid for over a decade, it has been able, after a short period of enstrangement, to exert the same influence upon the Young Turk regime.[2] Aside from conducting the profitable business of the Deutsche Bank, the German mission busied itself chiefly with the reorganization and training of Turkish militarism, under German instructors with von der Goltz Pasha at the head. The modernization of the army, of course, piled new burdens upon the Turkish farmers, but it was a splendid business arrangement for Krupp and the Deutsche Bank. At the same time Turkish militarism became entirely dependent upon Prussian militarism, and became the centre of German ambitions in the Mediterranean and in Asia Minor.

That this “regeneration” of Turkey is a purely artificial attempt to galvanize a corpse, the fate of the Turkish revolutions best shows. In the first stage, while ideal considerations still predominated in the Young Turkish movement, when it was still fired with ambitious plans and illusions of a real springtime of life and of a rejuvenation for Turkey, its political sympathies were decidedly in favour of England. This country seemed to them to represent the ideal state of modern liberal rule, while Germany, which has so long played the role of protector of the holy regime of the old Sultan was felt to be its natural opponent. For a while it seemed as if the revolution of 1908 would mean the bankruptcy of German oriental policies. It seemed certain that the overthrow of Abdul Hamid would go hand in hand with the downfall of German influence. As the Young Turks assumed power, however, and showed their complete inability to carry out any modern industrial, social or national reform on a large scale, as the counterrevolutionary hoof became more and more apparent, they turned of necessity to the tried and proven methods of Abdul Hamid, which meant periodic bloody massacres of oppressed peoples, goaded on until they flew at each other’s throats, boundless, truly oriental exploitation of the farming population became the foundation of the nation. The artificial restoration of rule by force again became the most important consideration for “Young Turkey” and the traditional alliance of Abdul Hamid with Germany was re-established as the deciding factor in the foreign policy of Turkey.

The multiplicity of national problems that threaten to disrupt the Turkish nation make its regeneration a hopeless undertaking. The Armenian, Kurdian, Syrian, Arabian, Greek, and (up to the most recent times) the Albanian and Macedonian questions, the manifold economic and social problems that exist in the different parts of the realm, are a serious menace. The growth of a strong, a hopeful, capitalism in the neighbouring Balkan states and the long years of destructive activity of international capital and international diplomacy stamp every attempt to hold together this rotting pile of timber as nothing but a reactionary undertaking. This has long been apparent, particularly to the German Social Democracy. As early as 1896, at the time of the Cretan uprising,[3] the German Party press was filled with long discussions on the Oriental problem, that led to a revision of the attitude taken by Marx at the time of the Crimean War[4] and to definite repudiation of the “integrity of Turkey” as a heritage of European reaction. Nowhere was the Young Turkish regime, its inner sterility and its counter-revolutionary character, so quickly and so thoroughly recognized as in the German Social Democratic press. It was a real Prussian idea, this building of strategic railroads for rapid mobilization, this sending of capable military instructors to prop up the crumbling edifice of the Turkish state.

In 1912 the Young Turkish regiment was forced to abdicate to the counter-revolution. Characteristically, the first act of “Turkish regeneration” in this war was a coup d’etat, the annihilation of the constitution. In this respect too there was a formal return to the rule of Abdul Hamid.

The first Balkan war[5] brought bankruptcy to Turkish militarism, in spite of German training. And the present war, into which Turkey was precipitated as Germany’s “charge,” will lead, with inevitable fatality, to the further or to the final liquidation of the Turkish Empire.

The position of German militarism – and its essence, the interests of the Deutsche Bank – has brought the German Empire in the Orient into opposition to all other nations. Above all to England. The latter had not only rival business relations and fat profits in Mesopotamia and Anatolia which were forced to retreat before their German rivals. This was a situation that English capitalism grudgingly accepted. But the building of strategic I railroad, and the strengthening of Turkish militarism under German influence was felt by England to be a sore point, in a strategic question of its world political relations; lying as it did at the cross roads between Central Asia, Persia and India, on the one side, and Egypt on the other.

“England,” writes Rohrbach in his Baghdadbahn, “can be attacked and mortally wounded on land in Egypt. The loss of Egypt will mean to England not only the loss of control over the Suez Canal and its connections with India and Asia, but probably the sacrifice of its possessions in Central and Eastern Africa as well. A Mohammedan power like Turkey, moreover could exercise a dangerous influence over the 60 millions of Mohammedan subjects of England in India, in Afghanistan and Persia, should Turkey conquer Egypt. But Turkey can subjugate Egypt only if it possesses an extended system of railroads in Asia Minor and Syria, if by an extension of the Anatolian Railway it is able to ward off an English attack upon Mesopotamia, if it increases and improves its army, if its general economic and financial conditions are improved.”

And in his The War and German Policy, which was published after the outbreak of the war, he says:

“The Baghdad Railroad was destined from the start to bring Constantinople and the military strongholds of the Turkish Empire in Asia Minor into direct connection with Syria and the provinces on the Euphrates and on the Tigris. Of course it was to be foreseen that this railway, together with the projected and, partly or wholly, completed railroads in Syria and Arabia, would make it possible to use Turkish troops in the direction of Egypt. No one will deny that, should the Turkish-German alliance remain in force, and under a number of other important conditions whose realization will be even more difficult than this alliance, the Baghdad railway is a political life insurance policy for Germany.”

Thus the semi-official spokesman of German imperialism openly revealed its plan and its aims in the Orient. Here German policies were clearly marked out, and an aggressive fundamental tendency most dangerous for the existing balance of world power, with a clearly defined point against England, was disclosed. German oriental policies became the concrete commentary to the naval policy inaugurated in 1899.

With its programme for Turkish integrity, Germany came into conflict with the Balkan states, whose historic completion and inner growth are dependent upon the liquidation of European Turkey. It came into conflict with Italy, finally, whose imperialistic appetite was likewise longing for Turkish possessions. At the Morocco Conference at Algeciras[6] in 1905, Italy already sided with England and France. Six years later the Italian expedition to Tripoli,[7] which followed the Austrian annexation of Bosnia and gave the signal for the Balkan War, already indicated a withdrawal of Italy, foreshadowed the disruption of the Triple Alliance[8] and the isolation of German policies on this side as well. The other tendency of German expansionist desires in the West became evident in the Morocco affair.[9] Nowhere was the negation of the Bismarck policy in Germany more clearly shown. Bismarck, as is well known, supported the colonial aspirations of France in order to distract its attention from Alsace-Lorraine. The new course of Germany, on the other hand, ran exactly counter to French colonial expansion. Conditions in Morocco were quite different from those that prevailed in Asiatic Turkey. Germany had few legitimate interests in Morocco. To be sure, German imperialists puffed up the claims of the German firm of Mannesmann, which had made a loan to the Moroccan Sultan and demanded mining concessions in return, into a national issue. But the well known fact that both of these rival groups in Morocco, the Mannesmann as well as the Krupp-Schneider Company are a thoroughly international mixture of German, French and Spanish capitalists, prevents anyone from seriously speaking of a German sphere of interest. The more symptomatic was the determination and the decisiveness with which the German Empire, in 1905, suddenly announced its claim to participation in the regulation of Moroccan affairs, and protested against French rule in Morocco. This was the first world-political clash with France. In 1895 Germany, together with France and Russia, assumed a threatening attitude toward victorious Japan to prevent it from exploiting its victory over China at Shimonoseki.[10] Five years later it went arm in arm with France all along the line on a plundering expedition against China. Morocco caused a radical reorientation in Germany’s relations with France. The Morocco crisis which in seven years of its duration, twice brought Europe to the verge of war between France and Germany, was not a question of “revenge” for continental conflicts between the two nations. An entirely new conflict had arisen, German imperialism had come into competition with that of France. In the end, Germany was satisfied with the French Congo region, and in accepting this admitted that it had no special interests to protect in Morocco itself. This very fact gave to the German attack in Morocco a far reaching political significance. The very indefinitiveness of its tangible aims and demands betrayed its insatiable appetite, the seeking and feeling for prey – it was a general imperialistic declaration of war against France. The contrast between the two nations here was brought into the limelight. On the one hand, a slow industrial development, a stagnant population, a nation living on its investments, concerned chiefly with foreign financial business, burdened with a large number of colonial possessions that it could hold together only with the utmost difficulty. On the other hand, a mighty young giant, a capitalism forging toward the first place among nations, going out into the world to hunt for colonies. English colonies were out of the question. So the hunger of German imperialism, besides feeding on Asiatic Turkey, turned at once to the French heritage. The French colonies moreover wore a convenient bait with which Italy might eventually be attracted and repaid for Austrian desires of expansion on the Balkan peninsula, and be thus more firmly welded into the Triple Alliance by mutual business interests. The demands Germany made upon French imperialism were exceedingly disturbing, especially when it is remembered that Germany, once it had taken a foothold in any part of Morocco, could at any time set fire to the entire French North African possessions, whose inhabitants were in a chronic state of incipient warfare with the French conquerors, by supplying them with ammunition. Germany’s final withdrawal for suitable compensation did away with this immediate danger. But they could not allay the general disturbance in France and the world-political conflict that had been created.

Its Morocco policy not only brought Germany into conflict with France but with England as well. Here in Morocco, in the immediate neighbourhood of Gibraltar, the second important centre of world-political interests of the British Government, the sudden appearance of German imperialism with its demands, and the drastic impressiveness with which these demands were supported, were regarded as a demonstration against England as well. Furthermore the first formal protest of 1911 was directed specifically against the agreement of 1904 between England and France concerning Egypt and Morocco.[11] Germany insisted briefly and definitely that England be disregarded in all further regulations of Moroccan affairs. The effect that such a demand was certain to have on German-English relations is obvious. The situation was commented upon in the Frankfurter Zeitung of November 8, 1911, by a London correspondent:

“This is the outcome: a million negroes in Congo, a great Katzenjammer[12] and a furious resentment against perfides Albion.[13] The Katzenjammer Germany will live down. But what is to become of our relations with England? As they stand today matters are untenable. According to every historic probability they will either lead to something worse, that is war, or they will have to be speedily patched up ... The trip of the Panther was, as a Berlin correspondent said so well in the Frankfurter Zeitung the other day, a dig into the ribs of France to show that Germany is still here ... Concerning the effect that this event would create here, Berlin cannot possibly entertain the slightest doubt. Certainly no correspondent in London was for a moment in doubt that England would stand energetically on the side of France. How can the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung still insist that Germany must treat with France alone? For several hundred years Europe has been the scene of a steadily increasing interweaving of political interests. The misfortune of one, according to the laws of politics, fills some with joy, others with apprehension. When two years ago Austria had its difficulties with Russia, Germany appeared upon the scene with shimmering armour, although Vienna, as was afterwards stated, would have preferred to settle matters without German intervention. It is very unlikely that England, having just emerged from a period of anti-German feeling, should consider that our dealings with France are none of its business. In the last analysis, it was a question of might; for a dig in the ribs, be it ever so friendly, it is a very tangible matter. For no one can be quite sure when a blow on the teeth may follow. Since then the situation has become less critical. At the moment when Lloyd George spoke, the danger of a war between Germany and England was acute. Are we justified in expecting a different attitude from Sir Edward Grey after the policies that he and his followers have been pursuing? If Berlin entertained such ideas then it seems to me that the German foreign policies have been weighed and found wanting.”

Thus did our imperialistic policies create sharp conflicts in Asia Minor and Morocco, between England and Germany, between Germany and France. But what of German relations with Russia? In the murderous spirit that took possession of the German public during the first weeks of the war everything seemed credible. The German pdpulace believed that Belgian women had gouged out the eyes of the German wounded, that Cossacks ate tallow candles, that they had taken infants by the legs and torn them to pieces; they believed that Russia aspired to the annexation of the German Empire, to the destruction of German “Kultur,” to the introduction of absolutism from Kiel to Munich, from the Warthe to the Rhine. The Social Democratic Chemnitzer Volksstimme wrote on August 2nd:

“At this moment we all feel it our duty to fight first against the Russian knout. German women and children shall not become the victims of Russian bestiality, German territory must not fall into the hands of the Cossacks. For if the Entente is victorious, not the French Republicans, but the Russian Czar will rule over Germany. In this moment we defend everything that we possess of German culture and German freedom against a pitiless and barbarous foe.”

On the same day the Fränkische Tagespost cried out:

“Shall the Cossacks, who have already taken possession of our border towns, in their onrush on our country, bring destruction to our cities? Shall the Russian Czar, whose love of peace the Social Democrats refused to trust even on the day when his peace manifesto was published, who is the worst enemy of the Russian people themselves, rule over one man of German blood?”

And the Königsberger Volkzeitung wrote on August 3rd:

“Not one of us can doubt, whether he is liable for military service or not, that he must do everything to keep these worthless vandals from our borders so long as the war may last. For if they should be victorious, thousands of our comrades will be condemned to horrible prison sentences. Under the Russian sceptre there is no such thing as self-expression of the people, no Social Democratic press is allowed to exist, Social Democratic meetings and organizations are prohibited. We cannot conceive for a moment the possibility of a Russian victory. While still upholding our opposition to war, we will all work together to protect ourselves against these vandals that rule the Russian nation.”

We shall later enter a little more fully into the relations that exist between German culture and Russian Czarism. They form a chapter by itself in the position of the German Social Democracy on the war. This much. may be said now, one might with as much justification assume that the Czar desires to annex Europe or the moon, as to speak of his desire to annex Germany. In the present war only two nations are threatened in their national existence, Belgium and Serbia. While we howled about safeguarding the national existence of Germany, our cannon were directed against these two states. It is impossible to discuss with people who still believe in the possibility of ritual murder. But to those who do not act from mob instinct, who do not think in terms of clumsy slogans that are invented to catch the rabble, who guide their thoughts by historic facts, it must be obvious that Russian Czarism cannot have such intentions. Russia is ruled by desperate criminals, but not by maniacs. And after all, the policies of absolutism, in spite of all their characteristic differences, have this similarity in all nations, that they live not on thin air but upon very real possibilities, in a realm where concrete things come into the closest contact with each other. We need have no fear of the arrest of our German comrades and their banishment to Siberia, nor of the introduction of Russian absolutism into Germany. For the statesmen of the bloody Czar, with all their mental inferiority, have a clearer materialistic conception of the situation than some of our party editors. These statesmen know very well that political forms of government cannot be “introduced” anywhere and everywhere according to the desire of the rulers; they know full well that every form of government is the outcome of certain economic and social foundations, they know from bitter experience that even in Russia itself conditions are almost beyond their power to control; they know, finally, that reaction in every country can use only the forms that are in accord with the nature of the country, and that the absolutism that is in accord with our class and party conditions is the Hohenzollern police state and the Prussian three-class electoral system. A dispassionate consideration of the whole situation will show that we need not fear that Russian Czarism, even if it should win a complete victory over Germany, would feel called upon to do away with these products of German culture.

In reality the conflicts that exist between Germany and Russia are of an entirely different nature. These differences are not to be found in the field of inner politics. Quite the contrary: their mutual tendencies and internal relationships have established a century-old traditional friendship between the two nations. But in spite of and notwithstanding their solidarity on questions of inner policy, they have come to blows in the field of foreign, world-political hunting grounds.

Russian imperialism, like that of western nations, consists of widely diversified elements. Its strongest strain is not, however, as in Germany or England, the economic expansion of capital, hungry for territorial accumulation, but the political interests of the nation. To be sure, Russian industry can show a considerable export to the Orient, to China, Persia and Central Asia, and the Czarist Government seeks to encourage this export trade because it furnishes a desirable foundation for its sphere of interest. But national policies here play an active, not a passive, role. On the one hand, the traditional tendencies of a conquest-loving Czardom, ruling over a mighty nation whose population today consists of 172 millions of human beings, demand free access to the ocean, to the Pacific Ocean on the East, to the Mediterranean on the South, for industrial as well as for strategic reasons. On the other hand, the very existence of absolutism, and the necessity of holding a respected place in the world-political field, and finally the need of financial credit in foreign countries without which Czarism cannot exist, all play their important part. We must add to these, as in every other monarchy, the dynastic interest. Foreign prestige and temporary forgetfulness of inner problems and difficulties are well known family remedies in the art of ruling, when a conflict arises between the government and the great mass of the people.

But modern capitalist interests are becoming more and more a factor in the imperialist aims of the Czarist nation. Russian capitalism, still in its earliest youth, cannot hope to perfect its development under an absolutist regime. On the whole it has advanced little beyond the primitive stage of home industry. But it sees a gigantic future before its eyes in the exploitation of the nation’s natural resources. As soon as Russia’s absolutism is swept away, of this there can be no doubt, Russia will develop rapidly into the foremost capitalist nation, provided always that the international situation will give it the time necessary for such development. It is this hope, and the appetite for foreign markets that will mean increased capitalistic development even at the present time, that has filled the Russian bourgeoisie with imperialistic desires and led them to eagerly voice their demands in the coming division of the world’s resources. This historic desire is actively supported by very tangible immediate interests. There are, in the first place, the armament industry and its purveyors. In the second place the conflicts with the “enemy within,” the revolutionary proletariat, have given to the Russian bourgeoisie an increased appreciation of the powers of militarism and the distracting efforts of a world-political evangel. It has bound together the ,various capitalist groups and the nobility under one counterrevolutionary regime. The imperialism of bourgeois Russia, particularly among the liberals, has grown enormously in the stormy atmosphere of the revolutionary period, and has given to the traditional foreign policies of the Romanovs a modern stamp. Chief among the aims of the traditional policies of monarchic Russia, as well as of the more modern appetites of the Russian bourgeoisie, are the Dardanelles. they are, according to the famous remark made by Bismarck, the latchkey to the Russian possessions on the Black Sea. Since the eighteenth century, Russia has waged a number of bloody wars against Turkey, has undertaken its mission as the liberator of the Balkans, for the realization of this goal. For this ideal, Russia has piled up mountains of dead in Ismail, in Navarin, in Sinope, Silistria and Sevastopol, in Plevna and Shipka. To the Russian muzhik, the defence of his Slavic and Christian brothers from the horrors of Turkish oppression has become as potent a war legend as the defence of German culture and freedom against the horrors of Russia has become to the German Social Democracy.

But the Russian bourgeoisie also was much more enthusiastic over the Mediterranean prospect than for its Manchurian and Mongolian “mission.” The liberal bourgeoisie of Russia criticised the Japanese war so severely as a senseless adventure, because it distracted the attention of Russian politics from the problem that was to them more important, the Balkans. And in another way, the unfortunate war with Japan had the same effect. The extension of Russian power into Eastern and Central Asia, to Tibet and down into Persia necessarily aroused a feeling of discomfort in the minds of English imperialists. England, fearing for its enormous Indian Empire, viewed the Asiatic movements of Russia with growing suspicion. In fact, at the beginning of the present century the English-Russian conflict in Asia was the strongest world-conflict in the international situation. Moreover this will be, in all probability, the most critical issue in future world-political developments when the present war is over. The crushing defeat of Russia in 1904[14] and the subsequent outbreak of the Russian revolution only temporarily changed the situation. The apparent weakening of the empire of the Czar brought about a relaxation of the tension between England and Russia. In 1907 a treaty was signed between the two nations providing for a mutual control of Persia[15] that established, for the time being, friendly neighbourly relations in Central Asia. This kept Russia from undertaking great projects in the East, and her energies reverted all the more vigorously to their old occupation, Balkan politics. Here the Russia of the Czar came for the first time into sharp conflict with German culture, after a century of faithful and well-founded friendship. The road to the Dardanelles leads over the corpse of Turkey. But for more than a decade Germany has regarded the “integrity” of this corpse as its most important world-political task. Russian methods in the Balkans had changed at various times. Embittered by the ingratitude of the liberated Balkan Slays who tried to escape from their position as vassals to the Czarist Government, Russia for a time supported the programme of Turkish integrity with the silent understanding that the division of that country should be postponed to some more auspicious time. But today the final liquidation of Turkey coincides with the plans of both Russian and English politics. The latter aims to unite Arabia and Mesopotamia and the Russian territories that lie between Egypt and India, under British rule, into a great Mohammedan empire, thus conserving its own position in India and Egypt. In this way Russian imperialism, as in earlier times English imperialism, came into opposition with that of Germany. For this privileged exploiter of Turkish disintegration had taken up her position as sentinel on the Bosphorus.

Russian interests came to a clash in the Balkans not only directly with Germany but with Austria as well. Austrian imperialism is the political complement of German imperialism, at the same time its Siamese twin brother and its fate.

Germany having isolated herself on all sides by her world policy, has in Austria her only ally. The alliance with Austria is old, having been founded by Bismarck in 1879. But since that time it has completely changed its character. Like the enmity toward France, the alliance with Austria received an entirely new content through the development of the last decades. In 1879 its chief purpose was the mutual defence of the possessions gained in the wars of 1864-1870.[16] The Bismarck Triple Alliance was conservative in character, especially since it signified Austria’s final renunciation of admission to the German federation of states, its acceptance of the state of affairs created by Bismarck, and the military hegemony of Greater Prussia. The Balkan aspirations of Austria were as distasteful to Bismarck as the South African conquests of Germany. In his Gedanken und Erinnerungen[17] he says:

“It is natural that the inhabitants of the Danube region should have needs and aspirations that extend beyond the present boundaries of their monarchy. The German national constitution points out the way along which Austria can form a union of the political and material interests that exist between the most eastern Rumanian tribe and the Bay of Cattaro. But the duty of the German Empire does not demand that it satisfy the desires of its neighbours for increased territory with the blood and wealth of its subjects.”

He expressed the same thought still more drastically when he uttered the well known sentiment that, to him, the whole of Bosnia was not worth the bone of a Pomeranian grenadier. Indeed, a treaty drawn up with Russia in 1884 proves conclusively that Bismarck never desired to place the Triple Alliance at the service of Austrian annexationist desires. By this treaty, the German Empire promised, in the event of a war between Austria and Russia, not to support the former, but rather to observe a “benevolent neutrality.”

But since imperialism has taken hold of German politics, its relations to Austria have changed as well. Austria-Hungary lies between Germany and the Balkans, in other words, on the road over the critical point in German Oriental politics. To make Austria its enemy at this time would mean complete isolation, and complete abdication by Germany of its world-political plan. But the weakening of Austria, which would signify the final liquidation of Turkey, with a consequent strengthening of Russia, the Balkan states,. and England, would probably accomplish the national unification of Germany, but would, at the same time, wipe out, forever, its imperialistic aspirations. The safety of the Hapsburg monarchy has therefore logically become a necessary complement to German imperialism, the preservation of Turkey its chief problem.

But Austria means a constant latent state of war in the Balkans. For Turkish disintegration has promoted the existence and growth of the Balkan States in the immediate neighbourhood of the Hapsburg monarchy, and the resulting state of chronic incipient warfare. Obviously the existence of virile and independent national states on the border of a monarchy that is made up of fragments of these same nationalities, which it can rule only by the whip-lash of dictatorship must· hasten its downfall. Austrian Balkan politics and particularly its Serbian relations have plainly revealed its inner decay. Although its imperialistic appetites wavered between Salonika and Durazzo, Austria was not in a position to annex Serbia, even before the latter bad grown in strength and size through the two Balkan wars. For the forcible annexation of Serbia would have dangerously strengthened in its interior one of the most refractory South Slavic nationalities, a people that even now, because of Austria’s stupid regime of reaction, can scarcely be held in check. But neither can Austria tolerate the normal independent development of Serbia or profit from it by normal commercial relations. For the Hapsburg monarchy is not the political expression of a capitalist state, but a loose syndicate of a few parasitic cliques, striving to grasp everything within reach, utilizing the political powers of the nation so long as this weak edifice still stands. For the benefit of Hungarian agrarians, and for the purpose of increasing the prices of agricultural products, Austria has forbidden Serbia to send cattle and fruits into Austria, thus depriving this nation of farmers of its most important market.[18] In the interest of Austrian monopolies it has forced Serbia to import industrial products exclusively from Austria, and at the highest, prices. To keep Serbia in a state of economic and political dependence, it prevented Serbia from uniting on the East with Bulgaria, to secure access to the Black Sea, and from securing access to the Adriatic, on the West, by prohibiting the acquisition of a harbour in Albania. In short, the Balkan policy of Austria was nothing more than a barefaced attempt to choke off Serbia. Also it was directed against the establishment of mutual relations between and against the inner growth of the Balkan states, and was, therefore, a constant menace for them.

Austrian imperialism constantly threatened the existence and development of the Balkan States, now by the annexation of Bosnia, now by its demands upon the Sanjak of Novibazar and on Saloniki, now by its encroachments upon the Albanian coast. To satisfy these tendencies on the part of Austria, and to meet the competition of Italy as well, the caricature of an independent Albania under the rule of a German nobleman was created after the second Balkan war, a country which was, from the first hour, little more than the plaything of the intrigues of imperialistic rivals.

Thus the imperialistic policies of Austria during the last decade were a constant hindrance to the normal progressive development of the Balkans, and led to the inevitable alternative: either the Hapsburg monarchy or the capitalist development of the Balkan States.

Emancipated from Turkish rule, the Balkan now faced its new hindrance, Austria, and the necessity of removing it from its path. Historically the liquidation of Austria-Hungary is the logical sequence of Turkish disintegration, and both are in direct line with the process of historical development.[19]

There was but one solution: war – a world war. For behind Serbia stood Russia, unable to sacrifice its influence in the Balkans and its role of “protector” without giving up its whole imperialistic programme in the Orient as well. In direct conflict with Austrian politics, Russia aimed to unite the Balkan States under a Russian protectorate, to be sure. The Balkan union that had almost completely annihilated European Turkey in the victorious war of 1912 was the work of Russia, and was directly and intentionally aimed against Austria. In spite of Russian efforts, the Balkan union was smashed in the second Balkan war. But Serbia, emerging the victor, became dependent upon the friendship of Russia in the same degree as Austria had become Russia’s bitter enemy. Germany, whose fate was firmly linked to that of the Hapsburg monarchy, was obliged to back up the stupid Balkan policy of the latter, step by step, and was thus brought into a doubly aggravated opposition to Russia.

But the Balkan policies of Austria, furthermore, brought Austria into conflict with Italy, which was actively interested in the dissolution of the Turkish and Austrian Empires. The imperialism of Italy has found in the Italian possessions of Austria a most popular cloak for its own annexationist desires. Its eyes are directed especially toward the Albanian coast of the Adriatic, should a new regulation of Balkan affairs take place. The Triple Alliance, having already sustained a severe blow in the Tripolitan war, was destroyed by-the acute crisis in the Balkans during the two Balkan wars. The Central Powers were thus brought into conflict with the entire outside world. German imperialism, chained to two decaying corpses, was steering its course directly toward a world war.

Moreover, Germany embarked upon this course with a full realization of its consequences. Austria, as the motive power, was rushing blindly into destruction. Its clique of clerical-militarist rulers with the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his right hand man Baron von Chlumezki at the head, fairly jumped at every excuse to strike the first blow. In 1909 Austria framed up the famous documents by Professor Friedmann, exposing what purported to be a widespread, criminal conspiracy of the Serbs against the Hapsburg Monarchy for the sole purpose of infusing the German nations with the necessary war-enthusiasm. These papers had only one slight drawback – they were forged from beginning to end. A year later the rumour of the horrible martyrdom of the Austrian consul Prohaska in Ueskub was busily spread for days to serve as the spark that would ignite the keg of powder, while Prohaska roamed unmolested and happy through the streets of Ueskub. Then came the assassination at Sarajevo, a long desired, truly shameful crime.[20] “If ever, blood sacrifice has had a liberating, releasing effect, it was the case here,” rejoiced the spokesman of German imperialism. Among Austrian imperialists the rejoicing was still greater, and they decided to use the noble corpses while they were still warm. After a hurried conference with Berl4n, war was virtually decided and the ultimatum sent out as a flaming torch that was to set fire to the capitalist world at all four corners.

But the occurrence at Sarajevo only furnished the immediate pretext. Causes and conflicts for the war had been overripe for a long time. The conjuncture that we witness today was ready a decade ago. Every year, every political occurrence of recent years has but served to bring war a step nearer: the Turkish revolution, the annexation of Bosnia, the Morocco crisis, the Tripoli expedition, the two Balkan wars. All military bills of the last years were drawn up in direct preparation for this war; the countries, of Europe were preparing, with open eyes, for the inevitable final contest. Five times during recent years this war was on the verge of an outbreak: in the summer of 1905, when Germany for the first time made her decisive demands in the Morocco crisis; in the summer of 1908, when England Russia and France threatened with war after the conference of the monarchs in Reval over the Macedonian question, and war was prevented only by the sudden outbreak of the Turkish revolution; in the beginning of 1909 when Russia replied to the Bosnian annexation with a mobilization, when Germany in Petersburg formally declared its readiness to go to war on the side of Austria; in the summer of 1911 when the Panther was sent to Agadir, an act that would certainly have brought on war if Germany had not finally acquiesced in the Morocco question and allowed itself to be compensated with the Congo concession; and finally, in the beginning of 1913, when Germany, in view of the proposed Russian invasion of Albania, a second time threatened Petersburg with its readiness for warlike measures.

Thus the world war has been hanging fire for eight years. It was postponed again and again only because always one of the two sides in question was not yet ready with its military preparations.

So, for instance, the present world war was imminent at the time of the Panther adventure in 1911 – without a murdered Grand Duke, without French fliers over Nuremberg, without a Russian invasion into East Prussia. Germany simply put it off for a more favourable moment – one need only read the frank explanation of a German imperialist:

“The German government has been accused by the so-called pan-Germans of weakness in the Morocco crisis in 1911. Let them disabuse their minds of this false impression. It is a fact that, at the time when we sent the Panther to Agadir, the reconstruction of the North-East Sea Canal was still in progress, that building operations on Helgoland for the construction of a great fort were nowhere near completion, that our fleet of dreadnoughts and accessories, in comparision with the English sea power, was in· a far more unfavourablc position than was the case three years later.

“Compared to the present time, 1914, the canal as well as Helgoland were in a deplorable state of unreadiness, were partially absolutely useless for war purposes. Under such circumstances, where one knows that one’s chances will be far more favourable in a few years, it would be worse than foolish to provoke a war. First the German fleet had to be put in order; the great military bill had to be pushed through the Reichstag. In the summer of 1914 Germany was prepared for war, while Prance was still labouring over its three years military service programme, while in Russia neither the army nor the naval programme were ready. It was up to Germany to utilize the auspicious moment.”

The same Rohrbach, who is not only the most serious representative of imperialism in Germany, but is also in intimate touch with the leading circles in German politics and is their semi-official mouthpiece, comments upon the situation in July, 1914, as follows: “At this time there was only one danger, that we might be morally forced, by an apparent acquiescence on the part of Russia, to wait until Russia and France were really prepared.” In other words, Germany feared nothing so much as that Russia might give in. “With deep pain we saw our untiring efforts to preserve world peace shipwrecked, etc., etc.”[21]

The invasion of Belgium, therefore, and the accomplished fact of war was not a bolt from the blue. It did not create a new, unheard of situation. Nor was it an event that came, in its political associations, as a complete surprise to the Social Democratic group. The world war that began officially on August 4th, 1914, was the same world war toward which German imperialism had been driving for decades, the same war whose coming the Social Democracy and prophesied year after year. This same war has been denounced by Social Democratic parliamentarians, newspapers and leaflets a thousand times as a frivolous imperialistic crime, as a war that is against every interest of culture and against every interest of the nation.

And, indeed, not the “existence and the independent development of Gennany in this war are at stake, in spite of the reiterations of the Social Democratic press, but the immediate profits of the Deutsche Bank in Asiatic Turkey and the future profits of the Mannesmann and Krupp interests in Morocco, the existence and the reactionary character of Austria, “this heap of organized decay, that calls itself the Hapsburg monarchy,” as the Vorwaerts wrote on the 25th of July, 1914; Hungarian pigs and prunes, paragraph 14, the “Kultur” of Friedmann-Prohaska, the existence of Turkish rule in Asia Minor and of counter-revolution on the Balkan.

Our party press was filled with moral indignation over the fact that Germany’s foes should drive black men and barbarians, Negroes, Sikhs and Maoris into the war. Yet these peoples play a role in this war that is approximately identical with that played by the socialist proletariat in the European states. If the Maoris of New Zealand were eager to risk their skulls for the English king, they showed only as much understanding of their own interests as the German Social Democratic group that traded the existence, the freedom and the civilization of the German people for the existence of the Hapsburg monarchy, for Turkey and for the vaults of the Deutsche Bank.

One difference there is between the two. A generation ago, Maori negroes were still cannibals and not students of Marxist philosophy.


[1] The Berlin-Baghdad railroad, as a Eurasian axis with oil on both sides of it (Rumania and Iraq) and a short route to the Indian Ocean, was mooted in 1871 by Wilhelm I and the Deutsche Bank. Abdul Hamid granted the concession in 1899. Britain supported the idea as against the Czar and opposed it for its own fears. Britain had her plans for a railroad from Cape to Cairo, while the Russians planned one from St. Petersburg to the Persian Gulf.

[2] The Young Turks, or the Committee of Union and Progress were an essentially military organization. On the 23rd July 1908 they compelled Sultan Abdul Hamid II to proclaim a constitution. On the Sultan’s attempt early in 1909 to stage a counter-revolution with the help of the counter-revolutionary Moslem Brotherhood (Istanbul was held by them for three days), he was deposed on 23rd April. In May–June 1912, “Saviour Officers,” another counter-revolutionary group was formed, and on 17th July they compelled the Government to resign. The Committee of Union and Progress was ousted. On 23rd January 1913, a coup d’etat took place and Turkey was from then till 1922 under the dictatorship of a triumvirate of Pashas.

[3] Cretan Uprising: In 1897, the Christian peoples of Crete, which had been conquered by Turkey 1645–1669, rose against their rulers with the help of Greece, and the Turks, though victorious in the war, were forced to withdraw in November 1898. Crete was placed under European trusteeship. In March 1905, another insurrection took place under the leadership of Venizelos. This lasted till 1906, and in 1907 a new constitution was proclaimed, and the island annexed to Greece.

[4] Crimean War: Britain, France and Turkey fought Russia in 1854–56 for the control of Crimea. Piedmont (Italy) joined them in 1855. On 8th September 1855 Sevastopol was taken from the Russians and they were soon defeated.

[5] Balkan Wars: The first, broke out in October 1912. The Turks were pushed back to Constantinople. It ended with the Treaty of London (30th May 1913). Turkey was forced to give up all claims to its former European possessions. Albania was created as a new state. In June 1913, the Second Balkan War began: Bulgaria attacked Serbia and Greece, and Rumania and Turkey opposed Bulgaria. It ended with the Treaty of Bucharest (30th July 1913). Italy invaded Albania in 1914.

[6] Algeciras Conference: When a crisis between France and Britain (who had entered into an “Entente Cordiale” in 1904) on the one hand, and Germany and Austria Hungary on the other threatened with the Kaiser’s personal attempt to lead an expedition to Tangier Morocco in March 1905, Theodore Roosevelt organized a conference in Algeciras, Spain on 16th January 1906. An agreement was signed on 7th April 1906, but the Morocco crisis was to brew again.

[7] Tripoli which had bun under Turkish rule from 1551, was attacked by Italy in September 1911. Turkey was defeated, but the local population put up a courageous resistance. Under the Treaty of Lausanne (October 1912), Tripoli and Cyrenaica became Italian colonies and remained so till 1943.

[8] The Triple Alliance: Following the Dual Alliance of 1979 (Germany and Austro-Hungary) the Triple Alliance was formed in 1882 between Germany, Austro-Hungary and Italy. Rumania joined in 1883. It was repudiated by Italy in 1906 at the Algeciras Conference and Italy finally joined the “Entente” nations (Britain, France, Russia) in 1915.

[9] In July 1911, the German gunboat Panther sailed to Agadir, Morocco, “to protect German interests,” i.e. to secure sources of iron ore for Mannesmann Steel. War almost broke out between France and Germany, but on Lloyd-George’s threat of British intervention, Germany withdrew. At the Treaty of Berlin (November 1911) Germany was given a slice of the Cameroons and gave up her claims to Morocco

The Peace Congress at Basel (Switzerland) was held at the Basel Minster on 24th and 25th November 1912. The immediate occasion was the fear of general European war, as Montenegro had declared war on Turkey in October, embroiling the Balkans. It was the last pre-war meeting of the Second International, and its significance is that for the first time a socialist peace conference had recognized that the period of national wars in Europe was over and that all future wars would be imperialist wars.

[10] The Treaty of Shimonoseki ended the Sino-Japanese war of 1895 and foreigners were granted the right to invest in China.

[11] Under the terms of the Entente Cordiale between Britain and France in 1904, France was given a free hand in Morocco in exchange for a free hand for Britain in Egypt.

[12] Katzenjammer (German) A caterwaul (also a hangover).

[13] Perfides Albion (French): La perfide Angleterre, perfidious England, had changed by the French Revolution to Albion perfide.

[14] England took Egypt from Turkey in 1881 and consolidated its hold on south Africa after the Boer War (October 1899–May 1902). France, having been given a free hand in Tunisia by Britain in return for having been permitted to annex Cyprus, established a “protectorate” over Tunisia by the Treaty of Kassar (11th May 1881). Tunisia achieved independence only in 1956. The French invasion of Tonkin (now northern Vietnam) dated from 1973. Russia expanded into Central Asia following the Treaty of Berlin 1878, which forced her to concede the conquests of the Russo-Turkish War. Italy’s fortunes in Abyssinia fluctuated from 1869 to the 1889 treaty; in 1896 Italy was defeated and the war ended for the time being with the Treaty of Addis Ababa, October 1896. After the Spanish-American War and Peace of 1898, the United States annexed Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Germany annexed the Cameroons and Togoland in 1884; exchanged Zanzibar for Heligoland with Britain in 1890. In 1897 it compelled China to “lease” Tsingtau in the Kiachow Bay for 99 years and the German flag finally flew in the Far East.

[15] The Anglo-Russian Treaty of 31st August 1907, which discussed Tibet, Afghanistan and Persia. Persia was divided into three zones for development. Britain lost in the deal, as oil was soon discovered in the area which she had abandoned. However, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company was soon formed.

[16] The Wars of 1864–1870 were Bismarck’s successful efforts to establish Prussian domination over Germany. With Austria, Prussia fought Denmark in January 1864. Prussia annexed Schleswig, Austria took Holstein.

In 1866 Prussia, having secured the neutrality of Russia, France and Italy turned against its ally of 1864 and with a series victories ending in Sadowa, defeated Austria, annexing new territories and establishing the domination of the Hohenzollerns over the north German Confederation and ending the German Confederation.

In 1869 the rulers of both France and Germany wanted war. In May of that year the Empress Eugenie had declared that only a war could save the Bonaparte dynasty. In September an agreement was reached between Austria, Italy and France. On 2nd July 1870 the Provisional Government of Spain promulgated the candidature of Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern to succeed Queen Isabella, who had been deposed in September 1868. On 6 July France protested and 6 days later the candidature was withdrawn. On 7th July the French ambassador to Germany, Benedetti, demanded an apology from the king of Prussia and an undertaking that a Hohenzollern would never again aspire to the Spanish throne. The King was at Ems taking the waters. Bismarck drafted the King’s reply, the now famous Ems despatch, making war inevitable. Prussia, having neutralized England and Russia, scored immediate victories. On 27th October 175,000 troops under Marshal Bazaine were surrounded at Metz. The main army under Marshal MacMahon and the Emperor Napoleon III surrendered at Sedan an 2nd September. Paris fell after a 4-month siege (19th September 1870-28th January 1871). Under the Treaty of Frankfurt (10th May 1871), France lost Alsace, Lorraine, Moselle, Haut Rhine and Bas Rhine, and had to pay an indemnity of 5 billion francs.

[17] Gedanken and Erinnerungen (German): Bismarck’s Reflections and Reminiscences, written 1896–98.

[18] Beginning 1906, Austria applied economic sanctions against Serbia which found its market for livestock in Austria-Hungary. This led to the “Pig War” of 1906 and later political friction.

[19] Luxemburg’s prediction proved correct. At Versailles the Austro-Hungarian Empire was carved up, and Austria was left with almost the same territory as she now occupies.

[20] On 28th June 1914—the anniversary of the defeat of Serbia by Turkey in 1389 and the defeat of the Turks in the 1st Balkan War—Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Crown Prince of Austria, and his wife, who were visiting Sarajevo, then part of Austro-Hungary, were fired at and killed by a Serbian patriot, Gavrilo Princip.

This provided the excuse for Austria’s ultimatum to Serbia on 23rd July 1914 and the declaration of war on the 27th.

Germany, whose General Staff, had had the army ready for war since the 1st June, declared war on Russia on 1st August and on the same day the German armies rolled into Belgium and Luxembourg against France.

Today Sarajevo is the capital of the Bosnia-Herzegovina: When Bosnia was part of Yugoslavia the spot where Princip fired the historic shots was marked by a commemorative plaque, and a bridge nearby was named after him.

[21] The words quoted are those of Kaiser Wilhelm II.

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