England and Germany
by Emile Joseph Dillon
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

King Constantine's protracted and strange malady hindered the Queen, who is the Kaiser's sister, from receiving visits. Even the wives of ministers were denied access to her Majesty. But the baron was an exception. He called on her almost every day. Cabinet Ministers consulted him. Journalists received directions, articles and bribes from him. And when the elections were coming on every venal man of influence who could damage Venizelos or help his antagonists was bought with hard cash. In order to defeat some Venizelist candidates whose return would have been particularly distressing, the Baron is said to have spent six hundred thousand francs.[102] And it is held that the results obtained by these means were well worth the money spent. For the parliamentary opposition was strong and aggressive, and some of its more active members had imbibed Hellenic patriotism from the German Schenk. They have since been toiling and moiling to disqualify Venizelos permanently from office on the ground that he is a republican, and that the destinies of monarchy would not be safe in his hands. By these means German organization, which finds work and room for kings and for poisoners, for theologians and assassins, has transformed Greece into a Prussian satrapy which avails itself of the freedom of the seas, established by the Allies, to carry on contraband to their detriment and give help and encouragement to Austrians, Bulgars and Turks. And the Turks were meanwhile extirpating the Greeks of the coast of Asia Minor.

[102] Gazette de Lausanne, July 6, 1915, and Corriere della Sera, July 8, 1915.

Bulgaria's attitude underwent no momentous change during the interval that elapsed between the outbreak of the war and the close of the first year. Symptoms of a new orientation had, it is true, often been signalled and commented, but Ferdinand of Coburg and his lieutenants remained steadfastly faithful to the policy of quiescence which had conferred more substantial benefits on Germany and Austria than could have been bestowed by the active co-operation of the whole Bulgarian army. This tremendous effect could never have been obtained if Bulgaria had entirely broken with the Powers of the Entente. It seemed as essential to its success that these should never wholly give up the hope of winning her over, as it was that her important movements should be conducive to the interests of their enemies. Hence every secret arrangement with Berlin and Vienna was emphatically denied, and every overt accord declared to be devoid of political significance.

It was thus that Europe was directed to construe the negotiations between the Sofia Cabinet and the Austro-German financial syndicate respecting the payment of an instalment of the L20,000,000 loan contracted shortly before the war. That Germany, whose financial ventures are invariably combined with political designs, would not part with her money to Bulgaria at a moment when gold is scarce, unless she were sure of an adequate political return, could not be gainsaid. And that the retention by Bulgaria of her freedom of action would be incompatible with the interests of Austria and Germany is also manifest. However this may be, the twenty millions sterling demanded by Sofia were accorded, and the legend was launched that the transaction was purely financial.

Towards the end of July[103] King Ferdinand's ministers made another momentous move, the consequences of which cut deep into the political situation. A convention was signed in Stamboul between the Turkish and Bulgarian Governments by which the former ceded to Bulgaria the Turkish section of the Dedeagatch railway—that is to say, the whole line that runs on Turkish territory, together with the stations of Dimotika, Kulela-Burgas, and Karagatch. The new boundary ran thenceforward parallel to the river Maritza, all the territory eastward of that becoming Bulgarian.

[103] July 22, 1915.

And this concession, King Ferdinand's ministers would have Europe believe, was devoid of political bearings. It was merely a case of something being given for nothing. And the Allies allowed themselves to be persuaded that this was the real significance of the deal. The German Press was more frank. It announced that the relations between Bulgaria and Turkey had entered upon a decisive phase and that all fear of Bulgaria's taking part in the war on the side of the Allies had been definitely dispelled.

The Bulgarian problem throughout all that wearisome crisis, which ended by Ferdinand throwing off the mask, was in reality simple, and the known or verifiable facts ought to have been sufficient to bring the judgment of the Entente statesmen to conclusions which would have enabled them to steer clear of the costly blunders that characterized their policy. The line of action followed from first to last by Ferdinand was supremely inelastic: only its manifestations, of which the object was to deceive, were varied and conflicting. It was bound up with Austria's undertaking to restore Macedonia to Bulgaria and to maintain Ferdinand on the throne. This twofold promise was the bait by which the king was caught and kept in Austria's toils, while the Bulgarian people was moved by patriotism to identify its cause with that of Ferdinand. And the arrangement was to my knowledge completed before the opening of the European war. Evidence of its existence was forthcoming, but the statesmen of the Entente, who allowed preconceived notions to overrule the testimony of their senses, declined to accept it. Since then the Bulgarian Cabinet, in the person of the Premier, has publicly admitted the truth of my reiterated statement. In a public speech, delivered in March 1916, "M. Radoslavoff confessed that Bulgaria had entered the war by reason of certain obligations which she had assumed."[104]

[104] Cf. Daily Telegraph, March 14, 1916, in telegram from Athens.

But there was another safe test which the Entente Governments could have applied with profit to the situation. Interest was obviously the mainspring of the Bulgarian nation by whomsoever it might chance to be represented. It would be inconsistent with the conception of international politics to assume any other. Now that interest, it was obvious, could be so fully and rapidly furthered by the Central Empires, and in the judgment of the Bulgars with such finality and at the cost of so few sacrifices, that it was sheer impossible for the Entente Governments to attempt to compete with those. Bulgaria demanded immediate possession of Central Macedonia and the permanent weakening of the Serbian State. And this the Central Empires promised to effect within a few weeks from Bulgaria's entry into the war. Moreover, while asking that she should take part in a struggle against that group of belligerents which she deemed by far the weaker, they undertook to give her the full support of the two greatest military Powers in the world.

Consider the difference between that arrangement and the attractions provided by the Entente. Russia, France and Britain could deal only in counters, not in hard cash like their adversaries. The utmost they were able to offer was an undertaking to use their good offices with Serbia and Greece to obtain the promise of a part of Bulgaria's demands. And the fulfilment of this promise would of necessity be conditional on the victory of the Allies. As for the weakening of Serbia, it could not be entertained. On the contrary, that State, according to the Entente scheme, would be greatly enlarged, would, in fact, become by far the greatest of the Balkan nations. And for this shadowy lure, Bulgaria was expected to meet in deadly encounter the greatest military empires the world has ever seen, and to meet them without the help of any of the Great Powers of the Entente.

One has but to compare these two alternatives in order to realize that, even if Ferdinand had entered into no binding compact with Austria and Germany, he would not hesitate a moment between them. Personally and politically he was held tight by the Teuton tentacles.

The currency of the notion that with these competing offers before him, a crafty statesman like Ferdinand who felt over and above that Russia's vengeance was hanging over his head, would take what he believed was the losing side, shows a degree of naivete which cannot be qualified without epithets which it had better be understood than expressed.

Looking back upon the results of the first twenty months of the war and upon the more obvious causes to which they may fairly be ascribed, one is struck less forcibly by the military and economic unpreparedness of the Allies for the inevitable conflict than by their inaccessibility to the ground ideas on which Germany set her hopes of success. The two groups of belligerents stood intellectually on different planes. The Teuton's faith was implicit in the law of causality, in the necessity of contemplating the vast problem as a whole, of adjusting means to ends, of co-operation at home and co-ordination of means abroad. The methods of the Allies were drawn from a limited range of experience which was no longer applicable to the new conditions, and their hopes rested on a series of isolated exertions put forth temporarily under stress of exceptional pressure.

They made noble sacrifices for the cause of liberty and justice. Pacific by temperament and conviction, they resignedly accepted military discipline as a temporary expedient, a purgatorial ordeal, and went about the while with a sense of displacement, the longing of exiles to get back. Spurred by stress of circumstance, they achieved more than foresight and insight had led them to design but far less than their optimism had encouraged them to anticipate. Step by step they were driven by hard reality to widen their angle of vision, to extend their schemes, and to concert certain measures in common. The meeting of the three Finance Ministers in Paris was followed by the Councils of the allied generals, by the combined expedition to the Dardanelles, and by the nationalization of the manufacture of munitions in each of the allied countries. And all these innovations were moves in the right direction. But they were made as temporary expedients under pressure of outward events, and it is still to the future that one looks for tokens of statesmanlike intuition which from a comprehensive survey of the problem in its entirety will draw the materials wherewith to weave a coherent scheme of general action and permanent co-operation.

Events travelled fast in the month of July 1915, and their effect on the Allies was depressing. In Russia the Austro-Germans were advancing steadily against Riga and Warsaw, where a battle which experts accounted the most sanguinary and momentous in the war was approaching a decision. A fatal bar being placed by Russia's reverses and other untoward occurrences to the realization of the hopes that had been raised by Kitchener's army, the French, headed by M. Pichon and backed by the Russian Press, once more mooted the vexed question of Japanese intervention. In the Turkish dominions the Greeks were subjected to relentless persecution, especially on the coast of Asia Minor. The massacre of Armenians on an unprecedented scale was reported from Bitlis, Moosh, Diarbekir and Zeitun. In the first-named region 9,000 bodies, mostly women and children, were, it is alleged, cast into the river Tigris.[105] The Swedish Premier, by an enigmatic speech in which the doctrine of neutrality at all costs was ostentatiously repudiated, aroused suspicion of an intention on the part of his Government to join the Teutons in order to weaken the Slav neighbour, and to this apprehension colour was imparted by the tardy announcement that since the outbreak of the war Sweden had increased her army from 360,000 to 500,000 men. In the United States mysterious "accidents" and mishaps occurred on board warships and in munitions and arms manufactories, and strikes were organized by Germans and Austrians on a scale which attracted the serious attention of the Washington Government.

[105] Novoye Vremya, July 22, 1915.

But the last month of that fateful year was further darkened by the most dangerous and ominous event recorded in the United Kingdom since the war began. Over 200,000 coal miners of South Wales deliberately, obstinately and criminally withheld their labour from their own nation, whose existence at that moment was dependent on its bestowal. The coal pits of South Wales remained idle for over a week. The miners crossed their arms and turned deaf ears to the voice of reason and interest calling on them not to sacrifice the lives of their kith and kin who were fighting for them. This act of black treason to the country had been foreseen and foretold months before, but out of consideration for the rights of individuals was allowed to take place. The Germans and Austrians were exultant, for another couple of weeks' strike would have given them the victory. Already the collapse of our defence was become a definite eventuality. The tact and statesmanship of Mr. Lloyd George exorcised the redoubtable spectre, but the spirit which that piece of treason revealed filled the most sanguine with dread and set those of little faith asking themselves whether this lamentable phenomenon was not one of certain ill-boding symptoms which seemed to reveal the smoothly moving current that bears doomed nations onward to their fate.

Certainly nothing could put in a clearer light than that strike has done the peremptory necessity of national discipline, at any rate in war-time. The State that is unable to command the service of all its citizens when beset by ruthless foreign enemies has lost its lease of life and its right to live. It must be recognized that patriotism is still an unknown sentiment among millions of those who are citizens of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Patriotism has never been systematically inculcated among us as in Germany, France and Russia. Parochial or at most party interests still mark the loftiest heights to which certain sections of the population can soar above the dead level of individual egotism. In Germany and Austria strikes during war are unthinkable. Every railway official, every tram-conductor, every artisan there is a soldier subject to military discipline and is expected to give the fullest measure of his productive powers to the nation. And it is fair to add that they all regard this duty as a signal honour and a source of pleasure. For to them patriotism is a religion and their country a divinity.

The depth and fervour of this self-denying spirit among them as contrasted with the "healthy individual egotism" of the Allies constitutes one of the most disquieting phenomena of the struggle. Austria has been scoffed at for her abject submissiveness to Germany. But there is another way of looking at her attitude. She has courageously effaced her individuality more completely even than Turkey for the sake of the common cause. And she has lost nothing by the painful effort. Her various peoples who were expected to be tearing each other to pieces have given us a splendid example of discipline and self-abnegation. In the Skoda works at Pilsen, where machine guns are made, fifteen thousand workmen are cheerfully toiling and moiling every day of the week, Sundays and holidays not excepted. Since the war began Germany has accomplished as great things at home as on foreign battlefields. She built and launched a Dreadnought of 25,600 tons, a line-of-battle ship of 26,200 tons. And while the latter vessel was on the stocks, the reports published in the British press of the splendid results obtained by the 15-inch guns of the Queen Elizabeth moved the German Admiralty to substitute these for the 12-inch guns already adopted. Two swift cruisers, 12 small submarines and 24 larger ones of 1200 tons displacement, with a speed of 16 knots under water, 20 on the surface and a radius of action of 3000 miles—were among the results of a single year's activity.



And our enemies' resourcefulness and power of adaptation is of a piece with their capacity for work. When war was declared and foreign trade arrested, numerous German factories underwent a quick transformation. Silk-works began to turn out bandages and lint; velvet works produced materials for tents; umbrella makers took to manufacturing rain-proof cloth; the output of sewing-machine factories was changed to shrapnel; piano manufacturers became makers of cartridges. Paper producers supplied the War Office with paper-made blankets. For copper, when the supply began to grow short, nickelled iron was quickly substituted. Sugar was employed to obtain the spirit which had to take the place of benzine. And the upshot of these transformations is that the orders received for military needs exceed those which would in normal conditions of exportation have been placed by foreign customers with German industry. The goods traffic on German railways, which had fallen to 41 per cent. during the first month of the war, has since gone up to 96 per cent. Those achievements are not merely noteworthy in themselves, they are ominously symptomatic.

A German professor, writing to a friend imprisoned in France, commented in passing upon these qualifications of his countrymen in a letter which M. Joseph Reinach soon afterwards gave to the public. One passage in that document is worth quoting. The professor holds that even if the worst comes to the worst, Germany can always conclude a "white peace" which will leave her the formidable glory of having held the whole world in check, will consolidate her prestige in Europe and enable her, twenty years hence, when she has made good her losses, to establish permanently her dominion. "My confidence is based on German patriotism, on German sense of discipline, on German genius for organization. But it is founded above all else on our enemies' incapacity for organization. Ah, if our adversaries could enhance the worth of their resources by acquiring our gifts of initiative and method, we should be lost! I am thrilled by the picture of what we could accomplish if we were in the places of the English and the French and by the thought of the danger that would confront us if they but knew how to utilize the force of their allies as we have availed ourselves of those of Austria and Turkey."

Those reflections find their fairest comment in the events of the twenty months that have passed since the opening of the campaign.

Our enemies' reading of those events is instructive. The Austrian Press hails them as satisfactory. Even the Socialist organ[106] declares that, in the qualities that go to the attainment of success, "Austria holds the first place." The Austrian General Staff wrote eight months ago: "Our troops have now been fighting for a twelvemonth.... A whole world of enemies rose up against the Central Empires, and more than once our army had to bear the brunt of their formidable onslaught. To-day, they hold but small tracts of territory in western Galicia and Alsatia, whereas Germany's hand is closed in a tight grasp on Belgium and the richest provinces of France, and in the north-east the allied forces of Austria and Germany have penetrated well into Russian Poland. The cannons' muzzles are turned against the most powerful fortresses of the Tsar, and in the Dardanelles our third ally keeps watch and ward imperturbably."

[106] Arbeiter Zeitung.

The War Lord himself has recorded his estimate of the results of the first year's campaign. "Germany," he stated in a speech delivered at Lemberg, "is an impregnable fortress. In her forward march she is irresistible. She will prove to the world that she can overcome all her enemies and will dictate to them the peace terms that please herself." And in a discourse pronounced at Beuthen he recorded his view of the Allies' outlook in these words: "Our enemies are floundering in confusion. Among themselves they are not united. They are disorganized by the struggle, disheartened by the knowledge that they are powerless to conquer Germany. German valour, German organization, German science have emerged with honour from this ordeal, the most terrible that a nation has ever undergone. Germany is greater and mightier than ever before."

It behoves us to learn from our enemies, and, abstraction made from the monstrosities which are indelibly associated with the German name, there is much which the Teutons can still teach us. That the secret of success lies in a comprehensive system of organization is self-evident. But that organization must utilize all the resources of the Allies and include permanent arrangements, economic and other, for a future which shall not be a continuation of the past. Many of the advantages which the old ordering of things assured us are gone beyond recall. Conscription is become inevitable. Free trade is an institution of the past. The control of armies in the field by delegates of a democratic parliament such as is now demanded by the French Chamber is a dangerous craving for the fleshpots of Egypt. Whether Germany wins or loses, her rebellion against European civilization will effect substantial and durable changes in the methods of that civilization from which even the United States will not be exempted.

Thus between the old order of things and the new yawns an abyss which has to be crossed before we can worst our enemies even in the military campaign which is but one phase of the world-struggle. Our resources for the purpose of bridging it are ample, but our first difficulty is the circumstance that we are chained to the old system and are still unwilling to burst the bonds that hold us. And until efficacious means of effecting this are adopted the end must remain unattainable. Victory will not descend on our camp like a manna from on high. The Allied Armies do not resemble the mulberry tree which, having long lagged behind its rivals, suddenly bursts into fruit as well as flower.

During the past twenty months the Allies in general, and the British in particular, have achieved feats of which they have reason to be proud—feats which two years ago seemed beyond the compass of human effort. But, much as we have done, we have not reached, nor indeed attempted to reach, the limits of our capacities, and the story of these memorable twenty months of struggle is dimmed by the shadow of the vaster exploits from which we have unaccountably shrunk.

The old-world social conceptions still prevalent in Great Britain afford no standard by which to gauge the significance of the crisis through which Europe is passing, nor do they provide efficacious means of satisfying the pressing needs which it has created. Yet the nation's guides perceive nothing to change in those conceptions; on the contrary, they uphold them zealously. No event has occurred in modern times of greater concern to Europe than the unleashing of disruptive forces which threaten when the war is over to break up the politico-social fabric. Now, the mere prospect of this tremendous upheaval and of its sequel is, one would fancy, calculated to arouse the spirited interest of all the nations affected. Yet in Great Britain, whose very existence it menaces, it was at first received with such unmeaning comments as "business as usual." The alertness of the people's sensations—always inconsiderable—for volcanic outbursts which have their centre abroad, has never been quite so blunted as to-day.

Germany cultivates force not for its own sake but because it happens to suit her particular purpose. For this reason she preaches the doctrines that right and might are identical, that the end hallows the means, that military and political necessity overrule treaties and laws. For as violence and cunning may still gain triumphs, under the conditions that once rendered them the only weapons of man, Germany's first step is to bring about such conditions and to spread faith in the teachings of the new gospel. What the success of these efforts would involve is evident. All the ground slowly and painfully reclaimed from the primitive state of nature, transmuted into social order, and moralized by the altruistic accord of progressive humanity, would be submerged by the tidal wave of Teutonism.

The first clash of the two forces which took place a generation ago was hardly noticed. Germany stretched out her feelers tenderly, and even when she was draining nation after nation of its life juices, she took care to lull the patient while sucking his blood. Accordingly her attack provoked no counter-attack, nay, there was no serious attempt at defence. Those who directed the forces of the civilized communities were unconscious of the counter-force that was steadily undermining these—so unconscious that in lieu of isolating and paralysing it, the tendency of their endeavours was to further and to strengthen it. For they hastily assumed that it, too, was a great moral force in an uncouth guise and should also be tended and cultivated. Their duty, had they hearkened to its promptings, would have been to employ towards the criminal plotters against Europe's civilized communities coercion of the same drastic description that once enabled mankind to substitute for the barbarous usages of savage tribes the habits of social relationship and moral self-surrender to the weal of all. Among the mainstays of Germany's type of society and the instruments by which it was built up are heavy artillery, mighty armies, the gallows, bribery and guile. With some of those arms she had opened the campaign of conquest a quarter of a century ago, and of that campaign the present war, unexampled though it be, is but an acute and transient episode. This would appear to be the only true reading of contemporary events.

Few careful students of European politics will now deny that the struggle between the forces for which Teutonism stands and those on which the social ordering of the rest of Europe is based was inaugurated long ago, that the ground was then cleared for the new politico-social structure, or that the dissolution of our "effete, drowsy States, saturated with wealth and honeycombed with hypocrisies," was carefully planned and taken in hand with scientific precision. It is equally clear, to those who have eyes to see, that the present clash of nations, despite its appalling effects on civilization, is but an acuter phase of that campaign, a series of incidents in a mighty struggle which neither began in July 1914 nor will end with the close of hostilities, but will rage on for years to come in less sanguinary but more decisive forms. For the future peace—whatever its terms—which will silence the cannon's boom, will but transfer the war theatre without ending the war. The methods will be changed from military to economic. But only the weapons will be different; the military discipline, the callous indifference to the dictates of human and divine law, the utter absence of scruple will continue to characterize the tactics of our enemy, who will then have a wider scope for his activities than the battlefield can offer. The German has no match among the allied nations in the regions of the new diplomacy, trade, industry, applied science, insidious journalism and vast organization. He is incomparably better equipped than they, and owing to his amorality has none of those obstacles to contend with which so often confront them with scruples and check their advance.

And during the progress of the present war the Teutons are making ready for that economico-political duel which will, they hope, give them the decisive superiority for which they had vainly hoped from the war. That hope, if their experience of the past thirty years be a fair indication, is by no means groundless.

Not to realize these facts to-day is to play into the hands of our enemies, as we have been steadfastly doing during the past thirty years. The British and their allies are being overcome less by German skill and cleverness than by their own sluggishness, narrowness of outlook and love of ease. As the German professor, whose utterances I have already quoted, tersely put it: "My confidence is founded above all else on our enemies' incapacity for organization." In truth, it is not inborn incapacity to which we owe our unquestioned inferiority, but to the atrophy of will-power which is one of the consequences of years of egotism, overweening confidence, self-indulgence and the loss of an inspiring social faith.

Now, there is every reason to assume that these master facts are not yet recognized by our rulers, who seem perfectly contented that the nation should go on living as before from hand to mouth, with no far-reaching views for the future. This insular narrow-mindedness is natural. For the Ministers in power are the same who obstinately refused to credit the evidence of their senses, which went to prove that Germany was bending all her energies to the successful prosecution of a formidable campaign against us and our presumptive allies for a whole generation. The frank recognition of this state of masked hostility would have imposed on the Government the correlate duty of taking up the challenge, readjusting our public life to the altered conditions, urging the nation to make heavy sacrifices and dissatisfying radical constituencies, whose one ideal is to devote themselves exclusively to parochial policy and domestic legislation. And the chiefs of the party in power lacked the mental and moral strength to throw off their deep-rooted apprehension of the consequences to party prospects, of increased taxation and other burdens of citizenship. They never grasped the situation as a whole, but restricted their survey to each fragmentary question as it was thrust into the foreground of actualities and eliminated every other.



No bold, broad, stable policy, therefore, was ever conceived by those party politicians. The vast organization which was destined to destroy the old order of things in Europe, and whose manifestations were an open book to all observers who brought acuteness and patience to the study, was not merely ignored by them—its very existence was denied, and those who refused to join the ranks of the deniers were brand-marked as mischief-makers. The nation's responsible trustees, by way of justifying this singular attitude, accepted implicitly our enemy's account of his unfriendly acts and enterprises. Thus it was the chief of His Majesty's Government who, from his place in the House of Commons, emphatically asserted that it behoved the British nation to welcome the Baghdad railway enterprise as a precious cultural undertaking devoid of political objects and, therefore, well worthy of our support. In vain the writer of these lines laid bare the real designs of the German Government, and adduced cogent proofs that the seemingly cultural scheme was but an integral part of a vast campaign, of which one object was the ousting of Britons from the Near and Middle East and the substitution of German overlordship there. They shut their eyes and stopped their ears, and bade us rejoice that Britain is not as other countries and can afford to welcome and even further Germany's "cultural" projects.

It was our party politicians who, when the ground-swell of international anger and the premonitory rumble of volcanic forces became audible, diverted public attention from the symptoms and solemnly assured their countrymen that Germany had no intention of going to war. To the author of these pages, who was at the pains of unfolding in private his information and conclusions on this subject to one of those leaders, the answer given ran thus: "Your intentions are patriotic and your accuracy of observation is probably scientific. But your conclusions are wholly erroneous. You must admit that you are a pessimist. Nor can you deny that we members of the Cabinet dispose of fuller and more decisive data for a judgment than you, with all your opportunities, can muster. After all, we do know something of the temper of the German Government. And we have cogent grounds for holding that neither the Kaiser nor his Ministers want war. Bethmann Hollweg is the most pacific chancellor Germany has ever had. And the German people, bellicose though you think them, are to the full as peace-loving as our own. Their one desire is to be allowed to vie with us in commercial and industrial pursuits. So true is this, that if we suppose the improbable, that the Kaiser's Government should feel disposed to bring about a European war, that design would be thwarted by the Reichstag backed by the bulk of the population."

Thus the men who presided over the destinies of the British Empire either had no eye for the triumphant progress of the German campaign that had been going forward for years unchecked, or, if they discerned any of its episodes, saw them only through the softening and distorting medium of deceptive assurances and explanations emanating from Berlin. And on the strength of these illusive phrases they kept the country in a state of unpreparedness for the military form of the struggle for which our enemy was making ready, and if they had had their way our navy—which was our anchor of salvation—would also perhaps have been shorn of its strength.

When at last the war broke out, it was our party politicians, the men to whom we still look up for light and guidance, who misinterpreted its nature and underestimated the urgent needs of the Empire. It was they who conceived the campaign as though it were one of our occasional colonial expeditions, and would fain base the strength of our land army abroad on the small number of troops which the Government had conditionally undertaken to provide. And throughout the first sixteen months of the war, it was they who went on doling out contingents with Troy weights and measures like Mrs. Partington beating back the tidal waves with a mop. It was they, too, who were at extraordinary pains and risked their prestige, to throw away the splendid privileged position which, at the outset of the struggle, we chanced to occupy in South-Eastern Europe. Every blunder into which petty municipal minds could fall when confronted with a wild revolutionary welter, marked the hesitant policy of the British Government. This aimless chaos of soul was the main cause of the woeful waste of our political advantages and enormous resources in the accomplishment of secondary ends which generally led nowhere. It was thus that they forfeited the active support of Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece, foolishly stood by applauding every step those nations took towards the camp of our enemies, and then felt constrained to turn to their own people whom they had unwittingly misled and call upon it for the sacrifice of the flower of its manhood.

It was they who sacrificed, through sheer administrative incapacity, the decided superiority over the Teutons which we enjoyed in the air at the outset of the war. It is now admitted that our mastery in that region was then complete. All that the country demanded of them was that they should hold it. But what with divided control, restricted views, and the policy of insufficient means—petits paquets—as the French term it, they allowed our enemies to outstrip us. And to-day in the air as on land it is the Germans who have the initiative and the Allies who are condemned to the defensive. Yet experts had pointed out over and over again what should be done and what avoided. Their advice was obviously sound and their criticism obviously irrefutable. But the men in power fumbled and floundered on until we had forfeited our mastery in the air to our enemies. And ever since then the nation has been paying the penalty. Yet it is to the men responsible for these costly blunders that the nation still looks for salvation!

It was the same men who conceived or sanctioned the plan of an expedition to Mesopotamia. Whether this was a wise or a foolish project, when once decided upon it should have been carried out with might and main. All the means requisite to success should have been taken; all the resources possessed by the Empire should have been drawn upon and nothing needlessly left to chance. Above all things else, the views of the man charged with the execution of the plan should have been elicited and carefully weighed. As a matter of fact, General Townshend's judgment was decidedly adverse to the expedition under the conditions in which it was planned. For the forces assigned to him, amounting to far less than a division, were absurdly inadequate, and their inadequacy was easily demonstrable. He ought to have had at least two divisions more. But once again the game of divided control and diluted responsibility was played, with consequences which would in any other country suffice to wreck the Government chargeable with the blunder.

Yet it is to the men who committed that and all the other blunders that the nation still looks confidently for salvation!

If the British people finally obtain it under those leaders they may fairly claim to have abrogated the law of cause and effect.

These same men are still the mentors and the spokesmen of a free nation which can choose its leaders. It is they to whom the people has entrusted the conduct of the most critical phase of the whole campaign in which the recurrence of similar errors may foredoom the Empire to disruption. And it is, humanly speaking, inconceivable that miscalculations of that kind should be eliminated, in view of the crucial fact that the Ministers at present in power, if we may judge by their utterances and their acts, entertain a fundamentally false conception of the relations between the Teutons and the allied nations. Among the elements of that conception there would seem to be no room for the historic past. The present stands by itself with a history that goes no further back than the month of July 1914, and will convulsively come to an end with the truce that ushers in the future treaty of peace. For that diplomatic instrument will put an end to the struggle and inaugurate an era of international tranquillity. Such is the theory on which their entire policy is based.

We must fight on now to a finish, but the upshot is sure to be a finish. Their anticipations of an unclouded dawn, when the present night has worn itself into the streaky greyness of morning, are certain to come to pass. The ordeal which we are undergoing is tremendous, but at any rate the nation and its allies will emerge from it rejuvenated under the spell of the present magicians, as the old ram emerged lamb-like and frisky from Medea's cauldron. That, in brief, would seem to be the picture in the mind's eye of the British Government, and to that conception all their plans are being accommodated.

As a matter of ascertainable fact, neither we nor our Allies have anything of the kind to hope for. In the near future the present campaign will have come to a close, but not the struggle between ourselves and our Teuton aggressors. For this war, far from ending the tragic duel between the two types of community life in Europe, is but one of its transient episodes. The trial of strength began many years ago and will not be decided for many years to come, how satisfactory so ever the terms of the future peace may be to ourselves and our Allies. This is a fundamental truth which has not yet penetrated the consciousness of either rulers or people. And for that reason the problem awaiting them is mis-stated, belittled. According to the received version it is to beat back German aggression and render it impossible in the future. Now, however successfully the first part of the task may be discharged—and it is still very uphill work—the second is a sheer impossibility, and to lay our plans as though it were feasible and soon to be realized, is to embark on the body of a sleeping whale in the belief that it is an island in the sea. And to negotiate peace abroad and give an impulse to politics at home, with that comforting prospect in mind, is to lead the nation into a Serbonian bog whence no escape is possible. The leaders of Great Britain are so permeated with the duties, the rights, the hopes and the strivings of parliamentary parties, that they involuntarily think in terms of home politics and have no chord in their being responsive to the emotions that sway the German soul and nerve the German arm.

To the average mind it is clear that the terms on which peace might be negotiated, if the end of the war were also to be the end of the struggle, might differ considerably from those on which a statesman would properly insist, were he convinced that the sheathing of the sword marked but the opening of a new phase of the duel. And it is this alternative which it behoves us to lay at the foundation of our peace treaty, if it should rest with the Allies to impose their terms. The problem, therefore, which a Government that governs has to tackle, is twofold: the conclusion of such a peace as will confer on the Entente States, individually and collectively, all possible advantages, not for contemplating such a tranquil state of things as the ministerial conception postulates, but for the prosecution of the struggle with the greatest chances of success, and for the reconstruction of the social fabric at home with a view to harmonizing it with the new requirements, and, in particular, with the needs created by the constant state of economic, financial, diplomatic and journalistic warfare in which we shall be engaged. The social ordering of Great Britain must be not merely modified but remodelled and rebuilt from the groundwork to the coping-stone. One of the first needs of the nation is the education, physical and spiritual, of the new generation. Patriotic sentiment must be engrafted on the receptive soul of the child, and its range of sympathy widened and deepened. The duty of self-abnegation for the welfare of the community must be inculcated, together with new conceptions of personal dignity and worth. To the domestic sentiment in those cramped and distorted forms in which it still survives in Britain, where we cling tenaciously to so many institutions devoid of life and utility, a less commanding part must be assigned in the future than heretofore. Above all, it behoves us to encourage the scientific spirit with its correlates, patient thought and study, as opposed to the arrogant amateurism which, without rudimentary qualifications, claims to have a voice in the solution of every problem under the sun. It is largely to this dilettante temperament of the nation and its rulers that we owe the disasters we have sustained and the dangers with which we are threatened.

Looking back, then, dispassionately upon the movement, deliberately organized over thirty years ago by the restless German mind and pushed steadily forward ever since over diplomatic barriers, financial hindrances, economic obstacles and international laws, one is struck less by the unparalleled magnitude of the enterprise than by the blindness and sluggishness of its destined victims. And it is largely in these and kindred negative qualities that we have to seek for the clue to the astonishing sequence of successes scored by our enemies in their military and naval, as well as their politico-economic, campaigns. Moreover, these same defects, deep-rooted and widespread among the allied peoples, constitute their main source of weakness during the economic and decisive tug-of-war which will be ushered in by the treaty of peace. For the temperament, traditions and strivings of each of these nations are so many obstacles to the gathering of their scattered moral energies and wasted spiritual forces in one fertilizing stream. They are bent on joining incompatible elements in a political synthesis. In the name of national independence and by way of a telling protest against the vassalage which binds Austria to Germany, the Entente nations spurn the notion of any common accord which requires the practice of self-surrender as a base, and are resolved under the strain of circumstance to present such a loosely-joined front to the enemy as will not involve their foregoing one iota of their freedom or one tittle of their national claims. How, in these conditions, they expect ever to rise to that height of moral fervour without which the quasi-ascetic effort demanded of them is inconceivable, has not yet been explained. As usual, they count upon effects without causes, upon an ingathering of the harvest with no preceding seedtime. Now, interdependence and compromise are the indispensable conditions of that cohesion which alone can engender the force required. A condition approaching organic coherency must be attained before a smooth working system can be created among the Allies. But as each of them is still rooted to the past, permeated by its own interests and aspirations, and jealous not only of the substance of its liberty but also of the shadow, the distance yet to be traversed before the goal can be reached is enormous, and the road rugged and beset with pitfalls.

A glance at the past and present may enable us to gauge aright the nature of some of the difficulties that have to be surmounted in the future.



Let us begin with the present, in view of the circumstance that the war has brought the allied peoples into a much nearer approach to union and has more fully systematized their efforts than can ever be the case in peace time. We find, then, two groups of belligerents pitted against each other, whose resources in men, money and economic supplies are strikingly unequal. The Teutons are by far the weaker side, and even in spite of their long preparations ought to have been thoroughly beaten long ago. So evident and encouraging was the comparison that the Entente nations themselves boldly grounded their calculations on it, and anticipated a brief spell of warfare and a decisive victory. And this forecast seemed reasonable enough when the material elements were weighed and contrasted. The Entente communities occupy 68,031,000 square kilometres of territory, which are inhabited by a population of 770,060,000, or say 46 per cent. of the entire land on the globe and 47 per cent. of the entire human race. The Central Empires, on the other hand, possess no more than 5,921,000 square kilometres with 150,199,000 inhabitants, which amounts to only 4 per cent. of dry land on the globe and 9.1 per cent. of mankind. Add to that the circumstance that in the air our superiority over our enemies was undisputed, and that the odds in favour of our enlisting the active support of the Balkan States were overwhelming. The chances in favour of the Allies, therefore, were and are enormous. That being so, why, it may well be asked, has the course of the military, naval and air campaign so uniformly favoured the weaker side? It is no answer to point out that Germany and Austria had been organizing the war for over thirty years, or had contrived to mobilize all their resources when the first shot was fired. That explanation would account for their progress during the first few months, but not for the victories they scored down to the beginning of April 1916. It was loudly proclaimed by British journalists that the Berlin General Staff had based its plan on the assumption that the struggle would be decided in a few months and certainly by the end of 1914. And the inference was drawn that as this time-table was upset, Germany was so bewildered that she could hardly draw up another plan and adjust her forces to that. She had shot her bolt, we were assured, had missed the target, and it was beyond her power to put forth another effort. But events refuted these false prophets, without, however, greatly impairing their credit with the multitude. They still continue to describe Germany's dire straits and foretell her speedy collapse. And they are listened to with eagerness and trust.

In truth the root of the matter lies deeper. One of the most telling factors, in every armed conflict between peoples, consists of the sum total of imponderabilia which elude analysis. Intellectual and moral equipment, as I ventured to write when the war began, sometimes counts for more than battalions. And I instanced the Russo-Japanese campaign as a case in point. One belligerent may regard the campaign as a temporary calamity to be endured until it can be conveniently got rid of, while another may gird his loins and go forth to battle exultant like the fanaticized warriors of Cromwell. The former will contemplate the struggle and regulate the conduct of it in the light of immediate expediency, while the latter will treat the war as a life-task and boldly throw the weight of everything he has, and is, and hopes for into the blows he deals his adversary. Now in this struggle the Teuton is the fanaticized warrior. He is fighting for an ideal, which, whether or no he understands it, he caresses and deems his very own. The hopes and dreams of the leaders of the nation have been communicated to the individual citizen, who, having lived for them, is ready to die for them. Our people, on the other hand, have never enjoyed that education in patriotism which is bestowed on every Teuton, and they are wanting in the strength of imagination, the spirit of cohesion and the energizing social faith which might have made up for the deficiency.

Then, again, over against the Allies' inexhaustible resources we must put the marvellous capacity for organization which intensifies those of our enemy. The nearest known approach to it is found in the Japanese, who, there is little doubt, if pressed by circumstance, would match the Teuton in resourcefulness and even outdo him in the spirit of self-sacrifice. To this precious asset in Germany's leaders corresponds a superlative degree of docility and self-surrender in her people which offer a striking contrast to the strongly marked individualist tendencies of the British, French and Russian races. Nay, one may go farther and assert that the central streams of national life in each of these countries flows in channels of party politics, which no influential leader has ever attempted to deepen or widen. The German, on the contrary, as we saw, associates his every work and undertaking with ideas of almost cosmic breadth and is actuated by interests to which all the larger problems of humanity are akin. And he took timely possession of every lever that might contribute to the success of his revolt against Europeanism, when his far-reaching scheme was yet in the early phases of execution.

Everything that human foresight could think of was carefully studied, everything that human ingenuity could provide for was thoroughly effected and systematized. Royal dynasties were founded abroad by German princes. German colonies settled in Russia, Poland, Palestine and Brazil. German schools were opened in Roumania, Spain, Asia Minor, the Ottoman Empire, the Tsardom. Foreign newspapers were bought or subsidized. Protestant sects with pro-German tendencies were encouraged. Banks were founded with Entente capital and employed to ruin the trade of the nations that subscribed it. Colonies of mechanics, clerks, middlemen were settled in every European country and colony and obtained control of the nation's industries and trade. Special legislation was enacted in Berlin to enable the German to become a foreign subject in externals while bound by all the duties of a citizen of his own country.

As the hour for the military and naval struggle was drawing near intestine strife was industriously stirred up in all those countries whose rivalry the Germans had reason to apprehend. Emissaries were despatched to Egypt who made common cause with the disaffected and restless elements of the population, cultivated friendship with the Senussi and smuggled in arms to would-be African rebels. In India German "scientific explorers" hobnobbed with the natives, criticized the state of "serfage" to which British rule had reduced one of the most highly civilized races of mankind, and made overtures to the Afghans. To Abyssinia another "scientific expedition" was despatched, which consisted of a number of German officers and one explorer. After a circuitous and difficult journey it arrived at Massaua in March 1915, and requested the authorization of the Italian Governor of Erithea, the Marquess Salvago-Raggi, to push on to Adis Abeba, in order to re-establish communications between the German Legation there and the Berlin Foreign Office. The real object of the expedition, as the Italian Government well knew, was to incite the young Negus to attack the British in the Sudan and the French in Djibuti. But Italy, although still neutral, understood too well how difficult it would have been for her to limit Abyssinia's warlike operations to the French and British possessions and ward them off from her own colonies. Baron Sonnino accordingly declined to accord the permission asked for, and consented only to allow a large consignment of "correspondence" to be sent on.[107]

[107] Cf. L'Idea Nazionale, March 7, 1915; Tribuna, April 1, 1915.

Later on Turkish officers were sent to Libya to egg on the Arabs to harass the Italians there. The Kaiser himself despatched a letter in Arabic to the Senussi which was intercepted on a Greek sailing vessel near Tripoli. It is said to have been enclosed in an embossed casket, and was found on board together with L4000 in gold and a number of oriental gifts. The letter, if genuine, is worth recording. Wilhelm II., the Supreme Head of the Protestant Church in Germany, gives himself therein, among other high sounding titles, those of Allah's Envoy and Islam's Protector, and states explicitly that it is his will that the Senussi's doughty warriors should drive the "infidels" from the land which is the heritage of the true believers and their chief. This, from the "supreme Bishop" of one of the Christian Churches, is characteristic.

In Asia Minor Germany's machinations were carried on with a much greater measure of success. Her former opponents had withdrawn their opposition and undertaken to lend her positive assistance to attain ends which were directed against themselves. This chapter of Entente diplomacy is marked by broad streaks of farcical comedy calculated to bewilder the serious student. France was converted to political orthodoxy on the subject of the Baghdad Railway and its cultural significance. Some of her publicists frankly repented that she had so long looked upon it with disfavour, and threw the blame on Russia, for whose sake they had kept aloof. At Potsdam the Tsar's Minister abandoned his objections to the Baghdad enterprise and undertook to build a railway line from Persia, which would allow another stretch of country to be tapped by the German Railway Company. Great Britain, acknowledging the error of her ways, agreed that Koweit should not be the terminus and made valuable concessions to the Teuton, the realization of which was hindered by the outbreak of the war. Turkey, through Enver, who had imported from the Fatherland a band of military "instructors" under Liman von Sanders, became the ame damnee of Germany. In Persia every warlike and predatory tribe was courted by the Teuton intruder, and the German mission at Teheran, as well as the Consulates in the chief towns of the Shahdom, became centres of agitation against Britain and Russia and branches of the German General Staff.

In the Tsar's dominions German agents organized a series of strikes in the various works belonging to their countrymen, paid the strikers and fostered a subversive political movement which bade fair to culminate in a real revolution. In Belgium the Flemings, who had for years been protesting against the refusal of their Government to give them a Flemish University in Ghent, were incited against the Walloons, whose dialect is of French origin and whose sympathizers were the entire French people. And one of the joint acts of the German administration in Brussels has been to appoint a commission to submit a scheme for the creation of a Flemish high school in Ghent and accentuate the differences between the two elements of the population.[108]

[108] A spirited protest against this poisonous endeavour was published by a number of Belgians, including Camille Huysmans, who refused to accept any favours from the Germans.

Meanwhile, in Germany the work of organization went steadily forward. While British Ministers were on the look-out for reasons or pretexts for diminishing expenditure on shipbuilding, Germany, under von Tirpitz, was stealing a march on us and increasing hers. And over and above this, she was arranging a surprise in the shape of submarines and aircraft which, had the war been deferred for another couple of years, might have not only removed the odds in our favour but given her a decided superiority over us. And, by way of intensifying the value of her fleet, she set to work to deepen the Kiel Canal and thus to confer a sort of ubiquity on her battleships, which can now concentrate in the North Sea or the Baltic without let or hindrance from the enemy. When the epoch of the Dreadnoughts was opened German armoured ships had a displacement of no more than 13,000 tons. The larger type of battleship, which was afterwards constructed, could not pass through the Canal, which had to be deepened. The necessary work was so thoughtfully and opportunely taken in hand that it was terminated in July 1914, just when the harvest for that year was also ingathered. Asphyxiating gas had been manufactured in the year 1911, as the Russians have discovered on certain of the machines. Thus when the fatal hour struck, everything was ready.

In the financial sphere, too, we find the same comprehensive survey, the same eye for detail, the same forethought and combination. When hostilities broke out British banks held about L1,100,000,000 of their depositors' money. A large percentage of this had been employed to discount foreign, and in especial German bills, so that the paper remained in Great Britain and the gold was transferred to Germany, where it plays its part against us. But those marvellous efforts put forth with such effect by our enemies made no appeal to our rulers. Nowhere in the British Empire was there any man of mark thinking and acting for the community. The political pilots who had charge of the state-ship possessed neither chart nor compass nor rudder. Neither did they feel the need of these things. The Government disbelieved in war and was minded, if a struggle should be precipitated, to keep out of it. Nobody envisaged the needs and interests of the Empire as aspects of a single problem. Nobody had any clear-cut plan for the working out of the destinies of the British people. The interests of party, the expediency of local reforms, the squabbles between this faction and that, constituted the burning topics of the hour, and there were none other. And it was while we were thus wrangling with and threatening each other that the blast of the clarion ushered in the day of doom.

The secrets of nature, revealed by science to a nation which acknowledges no restraints, then became weapons of wholesale destruction to be used to subjugate all civilization. Now, there are some reasons for assuming that civilization will escape the thraldom, but there are unhappily equally cogent grounds for apprehending that some of its most precious achievements will be irrecoverably lost and others greatly impaired. Had there been a master mind at the helm of the British state-ship before the war or at its opening, we might have been spared the necessity of signing one day a temporary peace amid the ruins of European culture.

But no puissant genius in any of the allied countries towered above the dead level of mediocrity. Great Frenchmen, Britons and Russians were said to be available, but there was no great man in evidence. And this want proved disastrous. In Germany, on the other hand, it was hardly felt. For it was compensated by the existence of a vast human machine, adaptable to every change of circumstance, capable of assuming countless Protean forms simultaneously, ready with a solution for the most unexpected problems, provided with organs suited to the discharge of every conceivable function, all directed to the same end. It was the same organism that had worked with such brilliant success for over thirty years, growing and perfecting itself steadily until it became the concrete manifestation of a whole system of thought, sentiment and co-ordinated action. Germany had developed into a powerful national State in which the spirit of self-surrender for the good of the community animates all sections alike, all of which co-operate effectively, through the organizations which they spontaneously created, for the realization of their common objects. And therein lay her force.

On the outbreak of war Germany was faced with a group of the most arduous and intricate problems any Government has ever yet had to tackle. For most of them she had had the time and the forethought to prepare. But others arose which had been neither provided for nor foreseen, in consequence of her mistaken assumption that Great Britain would hold aloof from the war. The total value of her exports and imports in the year 1913 was computed at 1,000,000,000 sterling, and an infinity of fine threads bound her industrial activity with foreign countries. By Great Britain's declaration of war, for which Germany was unprepared until the last days of July, nearly all these threads were snapped asunder, and the industrial and economic life of the Empire had to be swiftly readjusted to the new conditions. And here it was that the nation rose as one man to the unparalleled occasion, faced the tremendous ordeal, and, contrary to the expectations of its adversaries—ever prone to judge others by themselves—has continued not merely to exist, but to extend its conquests ever since.

It was in the financial sphere that the first strain was felt. But perilous though it actually was, it would have been intolerable but for the precautionary measures adopted in July and the ingenious devices applied by the Reichsbank immediately after. The first step taken was to substitute short-terms credit for long. The gold in the Reichsbank increased steadily, and from 1,009,000,000 marks on July 7, 1913, it rose to 1,356,000,000 by July 7, 1914. The war treasure hoarded in the Julius-Tower was doubled, so as to enable the Imperial Bank to issue 720,000,000 marks on the strength of it, whereby its gold cover was augmented from 1,253,000,000 to 1,447,000,000. A further considerable reserve of silver was laid by, which proved extremely useful later on. One result of this policy was that on the fatal 31st July, no less than 4,500,000,000 marks in banknotes could be issued without exceeding the limits prescribed by the law.[109] A network of Loan Banks was also created throughout the country in which every one, possessed of property of any description, could obtain credit to any amount, provided the pledges warranted the advance.

[109] One-third gold cover is the amount fixed. Cf. Professor J. Plenge, Der Krieg und die Volkswirtschaft.

Nor were the large groups of business men neglected who had no pledges to offer yet sorely needed credit. For their behoof War Credit Banks were instituted, which transacted business on curious lines. A city or town subscribed a third or even more of the shares of the borrowing company, and the Imperial Bank conferred the right of rediscounting bills of exchange up to an amount equal to three times the value of the capital, and sometimes even more. Institutions were opened for advancing money on house property, and for assisting special branches of industry. The Hansa-Bund, for instance, founded a War Credit Bank for "the Middle Classes" which, with the authorization of the Reichsbank, rediscounts bills of exchange drawn by individuals for whom the Commune vouches. Associations were constituted in the country and in towns, and the nature of their work is evidenced by the 18,000 rural Savings and Credit Banks and 16,000 urban and trade associations.[110] For farmers and struggling landowners, a Central Board, for the purchase of machines, was created, which also superintended the equitable distribution of orders among industrial firms.

[110] These figures are drawn from statistics published in July 1914. Cf. Dr. Karl Hildebrand, Ein starkes Volk.

The suddenness of the declaration of war had for its effect, and perhaps also for one of its objects, the stemming of the flow of gold from the Reichsbank before it had exceeded the total of 100,000,000 marks and also the prevention of its disappearance from the country. Soon afterwards gold was brought in astonishing quantities to the bank by all classes of citizens who had hoarded it jealously in peace-time, but now recognized the criminality of applying the principles of individual ownership to what of right belongs to the jeopardized community. For the nation realized the fact that the condition of public danger entitled the Government to wield an unlimited degree of power over the lives and property of the people for the welfare of the community.

If we compare this intelligent appreciation of the position by rulers and ruled, and their readiness to accommodate their respective actions to it and play their parts as organs for the discharge of special functions, with the haziness of conception, the misinterpretation of events, and the utter lack of co-operation displayed by the corresponding sections of the allied communities, we shall grasp the secret of the superiority of the seemingly weaker group of belligerents and the paltry results hitherto achieved by the stronger.

German industry, too, the source of the nation's prosperity, was shaken to its foundations. It had worked largely for the foreign market. And all at once its exports were cut down by 60 per cent., because of the stoppage of the supplies of raw materials. Imports also fell by 75 per cent. One immediate consequence of this partial stagnation was the enormous increase of the army of the unemployed. Although 4,000,000 men were taken from the various industries and despatched against the Belgians, French and Russians, there were at the end of August no less than 3,400,000 men thrown out of employment.[111] Thus the total number of unemployed was 7,400,000, and as there were 17,000,000 hands employed before the war, it may be inferred that German industry was reduced by 43-1/2 per cent. It was in these conditions that the Teuton capacity for organization was manifested.

[111] Cf. Messenger of Europe, April 1915, M. Lurie.

Two great industrial organizations flourished in Germany before the war,[112] and although occasionally disagreeing on various points, sensibly furthered the interests of their countrymen at home and abroad. No sooner was war declared than they dropped their differences and constituted a War Committee for German Industry. Among the varied functions of this new body were the distribution of information respecting orders given by the State, new legislation, etc.; co-operation with firms for the fulfilment of contracts despite the outbreak of hostilities; the selection of operatives, clerks, etc., for firms needing these; the obtainment of places for the unemployed and the organization of the credit system.

[112] Der Zentral-Verband Deutscher Industrieller and Der Bund der Industriellen.

This Committee also applied for and received permission to have all those skilled artisans recalled from the front whose services were deemed indispensable for war industries. It likewise watched over the distribution of State orders, and saw that each of the various firms received its due share.

The organization of German industry during the war was taken in hand by a group of experts and officials possessed of the insight, knowledge and power necessary for the discharge of the arduous task. Among the members of the Board we find the names of representatives of finances, industries and the Government; the Minister of the Interior, all the members of the Federal Council, M.M. Gwinner, Bleichroeder, Siemens, etc. Special bureaux were opened for various kinds of supplies, a Central Office for the War Supply of Tobacco, another for that of chocolate, a third for leather, a fourth for linen, etc.[113] Another group of organizations dealing with the acquisition and distribution of raw stuffs possessed in certain cases the right of expropriation, and is not allowed to make more than a certain limited profit on its transactions. Among them are an association for the supply of metals, another for chemicals, and a third for woollen stuffs.

[113] It is affirmed by contrabandists in Scandinavia who are acting on Germany's behalf, that many of the commissions for the acquisition of raw stuffs for Germany are composed almost exclusively of non-Russian subjects of the Tsar.

In consequence of the shortage of raw materials, economy and the employment of substitutes were everywhere resorted to spontaneously before the Government had time to intervene. From every household came old copper vessels, copper wire, worn-out clothing from which the manufacturers removed the wool, leather straps, shoes, bags, etc. From Belgium and France everything that could be utilized as raw material was hurriedly transferred to the Fatherland. At first the supply of aluminium for castings and Zeppelins was insufficient, but a composition of spelter and tin was invented, which answered the main purposes equally well. Nickel being also scarce, coins of 10 pfennige were withdrawn from circulation and utilized, while considerable quantities were imported from Scandinavian countries. The place of jute was taken by paper, and from paper under-garments were made. Roasted acorns, theretofore employed in lieu of coffee only by the poorer classes, thenceforward became the daily beverage of the middle classes as well. A substitute for olive oil was extracted from cherry stones, tainted meat was rendered harmless by chemical methods, nitrates were extracted from the air by a Norwegian process which the Germans had perfected and applied.

Now, these achievements and the marvellous adaptability, energy and resourcefulness which they connote, are no mean elements in Germany's equipment for the coming economic struggle. They proclaim that the mind of the Teuton man of business is too firmly riveted on the goal to be fascinated by any special route leading towards it, and that it is sufficiently free and disengaged to turn with eager interest to any problem, however novel, with which it may be suddenly confronted. Use and want are not its masters, sluggish contentment cannot numb its activity. The customers' requirements, nay, their whims and fancies, are ever sure to receive close attention and prompt satisfaction. The contrast between this unflagging alertness and the drowsy apathy of the British manufacturer and tradesman is an old story, which has evoked comments sharp enough, it would seem, to arouse the commercial community to a lively sense of its danger and duty. And yet there are, unhappily, cogent grounds for believing that the malady of listlessness is as malignant to-day as before the war.

Now, these organizing and inventive talents of the Teuton, as compared with the subordinate aims, fitful energies and honest but mischievous conservatism of our own leaders and people, bear witness to the same twofold talent of the German for looking far ahead and contriving expedients on the spur of the moment. Great Britain's participation in the struggle cut off Germany from the sea and gave the two Central Empires the aspect of a beleaguered city. Hopes were entertained by the Allies that famine might reinforce the work of their armies and navies in compelling the enemy to sue for peace. About 9 per cent. of the corn used in Germany usually came from abroad, and now the interruption of the communications rendered this source of supply precarious. The soldiers, too, had to be fed on a scale of greater abundance than usual, and the prisoners of war, however poorly nourished, would consume a certain amount of corn. The first measure promulgated to meet the new conditions was a prohibition of exportation. Potato flour was employed in bread-baking. War bread was standardized for the whole Empire. The principal cities purchased vast quantities of cereals, and Prussia founded a War Corn Association for the acquisition of cereals to be stored until the ensuing spring. Expropriation was legalized. In these ways L40,000,000 worth of cereals were got together for consumption. The War Corn Association operated with a capital of L2,500,000, to which the States subscribed over one million, and the big cities one million, and the great industrial firms L450,000.[114] This corn was paid for at the highest market rates, the owners being compelled by law to declare how much they possessed. With each of these proprietors—in the first phase with 5,000,000 landowners—separate arrangements were concluded. The Association employed for the purpose nearly three thousand commissioners and five hundred other officials, and the Credit Banks made advances on the quantities sold.

[114] Cf. Karl Hildebrand, Ein starkes Volk, p. 122.

Simultaneously with this home organization the other multifarious tasks of devising new weapons for the war, improving the various types of aircraft, building larger submarines and guns of greater calibre went forward with unimpaired speed. Nothing was too vast or too complicated to be undertaken, no detail was too trivial to be studied. Politics, economics, military strategy and national psychology were all cunningly interwoven in the various schemes laid for the destruction of the Allies. Russia was inveigled into continuing her trade with Germany, which, as we saw, was during the first year a nowise negligible quantity.

A piquant detail in this connection is worthy of mention.[115] It is affirmed that the Customs House authorities on the Russo-Swedish frontiers discovered to their dismay that for well over a year Germany had been receiving from Russia a large proportion of the raw materials necessary for the fabrication of asphyxiating gas. It appears that Sweden, which in peace time was wont to import from the Tsardom a certain quantity of those products, trebled its demands during the first year of the war.

[115] It is noticed by the Italian and French press; cf., for instance, Roma, October 31, 1915.

Contingents of contrabandists were despatched to Greece, Spain, Morocco, Holland, Italy, Switzerland and the United States. Secret stations were established for supplying submarines with the wherewithal to carry on their war against inoffensive passenger steamers. Agents were kept in the neutral countries to corrupt the local press and poison the wells of information in order to allure the neutrals into belligerency. A highly organized news-distributing bureau was equipped in Berlin with all the requisites for falsifying facts and distorting military tidings. Its branches are spread over the globe. Passports were forged at first and later on genuine ones abstracted from the Berlin Foreign Office and handed over to spies. Strikes and outrages were engineered in the United States, Italy, and Russia. The Putiloff works, which before the war were nearly falling into German hands and have since been supplying munitions for the Tsar's army, were stricken with creeping paralysis, against which exhortations and threats were vain, and finally they had to be sequestrated by the State. Millions of dollars were expended in the United States in efforts to prevent the manufacture or the transport of munitions to the Allies. In Greece vast sums were cheerfully disbursed by Baron Schenk to work the elections and defeat Venizelos. Roumania was overrun by bands of Germans whose functions were to calumniate, vilify, corrupt and threaten. Spain has been wrought upon in like manner by a small army of Teutons abundantly supplied with the same weapons. Persia was scoured by German agitators who deployed all their talents and acquirements, their knowledge of the language and acquaintance with the native religion, to rouse the natives against Russia and Great Britain. Abyssinia, although deprived by Italy of the presence of the German "scientific expedition," was induced by the German Minister at Adis Abeba to behave in such a way that in the month of March 1916 King Victor's Government found it advisable to issue a decree ordering urgent fortifications to be constructed in Erythea.[116] Sweden has been provided with war news and political information free of charge by the generous Press Bureau of Berlin. In Belgium persevering exertions have been put forth to sow discord between Flemings and Walloons. In China, where a British adviser is employed by the Chief of the State, Yuan Shih Kai has turned a willing ear to the mentors from the Fatherland, with results which bear the hall-mark of Germany. In Mexico Villa's murderous raids on American territory, instigated, it is asserted, by German emissaries, compelled United States troops to pursue him over the frontiers, and raised an issue which may be decided only by a regular campaign. Thus Teuton diplomacy, at whose failures we are so prone to rail, contrived on the one hand to pass off the assassinations of Americans on board the Lusitania as a justifiable act, and on the other to present the New Mexico murder, which was the work of a mere savage, as such an outrage on the law of nations as warrants the employment of military force.[117]

[116] On March 16, 1916.

[117] The New York World, in a leading article published March 18, writes: "No pacifist proclaims the doctrine that, although Americans had a legal right to live near the border, they should have taken themselves out of the danger zone in the interest of peace. No German-American Alliance holds meetings to proclaim the dead at Columbus as 'Guardian angels.' No German language newspaper has spoken of the New Mexico massacre as undertaken in a holy cause, or referred to the President as incapable of understanding either German militarism or German Kultur. Yet the Americans who were assassinated on the Lusitania and the Arabic had as much right to be where they were as the Americans who were dragged from their beds at Columbus and slaughtered. The Lusitania murder was deliberately planned and ordered by the Government in Berlin, which has assumed full responsibility therefore, and presented but one excuse, that its victims were unexpectedly numerous. The New Mexico murder was planned and executed by a savage, with no pretence that there is a Government behind him, the guilt of the outlaw of the border being not one whit less than that of the outlaw of the sea."

That same diplomacy, seconded by the press organization which invented facts and moulded opinion, scored successes in Bulgaria, Greece, Roumania, Switzerland, and contrived not only to keep Italy from declaring war against Germany, but to negotiate a treaty for the protection of German property there. Despite its clumsiness and arrogance and brutality, German diplomacy is unmatched as an agency for rousing popular forces in civilized and uncivilized countries into subversive excitement. It surrounded the Pope of Rome with philo-German dignitaries, gave him an Austrian as adviser, and permeated the Vatican with an atmosphere of Kultur which even pious Catholics of non-Teuton countries avoid as mephitic. It caught the Sultan and his Young Turks, Anglophile and Francophile, in its toils, and gave its warm approbation to the massacre of the Armenians. It won over the young Shah of Persia, who, with great difficulty and only after strenuous exertions, was kept from going over bodily to the Turkish camp. It bought the services of the Senussi. It is making headway with the Negus of Abyssinia. It offered a bribe to Italian socialists and found work for Italian anarchists, whose representatives were received in the palace of the Kaiser's Ambassador in Rome. And—most difficult task of all—it reconciled, at least for a time, the interests of Bulgaria with those of Greece and Roumania.

German diplomacy has often misread foreign political situations, mistaken the trend of national opinion and sentiment and failed to achieve ends which might by dint of mere patience and quiescence have been readily accomplished. For it has no psychological standard by which to measure the nobler qualities of a foreign people, however closely it may have studied their politics, their history and their vices. Its tests are for the lower grades of human character, and with these it has indeed achieved extraordinary things.

Thus, with infinite labour the Teuton mind has grappled with the chaotic welter produced by the European war. But, besides the skilful handling of great financial and kindred problems, its assiduity in watching for and readiness to seize opportunities for dealing with the issues of lesser moment is worth noting, were it only for its value as a stimulus. One instance occurred in the very first sitting of the Reichstag after hostilities had begun. The legislature agreed to introduce a slight reform of the law, dealing with the rights of children born out of wedlock, of whom there are in Germany 185,000 a year. The Government assented to the change, which was embodied in a bill affirming the right of the illegitimate children of soldiers fallen in battle to the same pension as if their parents had been legally married. And the Reichstag passed the bill unanimously.

This solicitude about little things is most saliently in evidence in the military domain. Here nothing is neglected that can contribute to the fighting value of the units. Hence the care shown for the nourishment and comfort of the soldiers. Ruthlessly though they are sacrificed in battle, they are well looked after in the trenches, and their career is followed with interest and recorded with accuracy by their superiors. I was struck with the completeness of the information which the German War Office possesses and can produce at a moment's notice about any individual soldier. It was brought home to me in this way. The Chief of the Berlin police had a grandson in the war who had been missed for several weeks. Desirous of obtaining particulars about his capture or death, he asked a neutral friend to obtain information from the Russians. And by way of furnishing a description he sent a printed card, which I read. It contained the name and age of the soldier, the regiment to which he belonged, the hamlet in which he was last seen, the distances that separated that hamlet from the next town and the next large city, the day, the hour and the minute when the man together with his comrades were attacked, and the number of Russians who attacked them. And all these printed particulars refer to a private soldier! Is there anything comparable to this to be found in any of the allied countries?

The scene of another characteristic fact that struck me was Brussels. Princess L. requested permission from the German authorities to repair to France to visit her mother, who, she explained, was ill. At the Kommandantur her request was met with the cutting remark that many persons had been applying for permits to visit their mothers, sisters and other relations abroad, who all appeared to be victims of some mysterious epidemic. Still, the official added, he would not definitively refuse the request, but would accord it as soon as he had proof that the lady's mother was really ill. "We shall have inquiries made." "But you cannot have inquiries made in France during the war," she objected. "Just as quickly as in peace time," he retorted. Sceptical and sad the petitioner returned home. But in a day or two she was summoned to the Kommandantur and informed that her statement had been verified, her mother lay ill—the malady was mentioned—and she was permitted to go. The Germans have eyes and ears in all the countries of their adversaries.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse