It must continually point to the significance and the necessity of war as an indispensable agent in policy and civilization, together with the duty of self-sacrifice and devotion to State and country.
A parliamentary Government, which always represents merely a temporary majority, may leave the party Press to defend and back its views; but a Government like the German, which traces its justification to the fact that it is superior to all parties, cannot act thus. Its point of view does not coincide with that of any party; it adopts a middle course, conscious that it is watching the welfare of the whole community. It must therefore represent its attitude, on general issues as well as on particular points, independently, and must endeavour to make its aims as widely understood as possible. I regard it, therefore, as one of the most important duties of a Government like ours to use the Press freely and wisely for the enlightenment of the people. I do not mean that a few large political journals should, in the interests of the moment, be well supplied with news, but that the views of the Government should find comprehensive expression in the local Press. It would be an advantage, in my opinion, were all newspapers compelled to print certain announcements of the Government, in order that the reader might not have such a one-sided account of public affairs as the party Press supplies. It would be a measure of public moral and intellectual hygiene, as justifiable as compulsory regulations in the interests of public health. Epidemics of ideas and opinions are in our old Europe more dangerous and damaging than bodily illnesses, and it is the duty of the State to preserve the moral healthiness of the nation.
More important, perhaps, than teaching and enlightenment by the Press is the propaganda of action. Nothing controls the spirit of the multitude so effectually as energetic, deliberate, and successful action conceived in a broad-minded, statesmanlike sense. Such education by a powerful policy is an absolute necessity for the German people. This nation possesses an excess of vigour, enterprise, idealism, and spiritual energy, which qualifies it for the highest place; but a malignant fairy laid on its cradle the most petty theoretical dogmatism. In addition to this, an unhappy historical development which shattered the national and religious unity of the nation created in the system of small States and in confessionalism a fertile soil for the natural tendency to particularism, on which it flourished luxuriantly as soon as the nation was no longer inspired with great and unifying thoughts. Yet the heart of this people can always be won for great and noble aims, even though such aims can only be attended by danger. We must not be misled in this respect by the Press, which often represents a most one-sided, self-interested view, and sometimes follows international or even Anti-German lines rather than national. The soul of our nation is not reflected in that part of the Press with its continual dwelling on the necessity of upholding peace, and its denunciation of any bold and comprehensive political measure as a policy of recklessness.
On the contrary, an intense longing for a foremost place among the Powers and for manly action fills our nation. Every vigorous utterance, every bold political step of the Government, finds in the soul of the people a deeply felt echo, and loosens the bonds which fetter all their forces. In a great part of the national Press this feeling has again and again found noble expression. But the statesman who could satisfy this yearning, which slumbers in the heart of our people undisturbed by the clamour of parties and the party Press, would carry all spirits with him.
He is no true statesman who does not reckon with these factors of national psychology; Bismarck possessed this art, and used k with a master-hand. True, he found ready to hand one idea which was common to all—the sincere wish for German unification and the German Empire; but the German nation, in its dissensions, did not know the ways which lead to the realization of this idea. Only under compulsion and after a hard struggle did it enter on the road of success; but the whole nation was fired with high enthusiasm when it finally recognized the goal to which the great statesman was so surely leading it. Success was the foundation on which Bismarck built up the mighty fabric of the German Empire. Even in the years of peace he understood how to rivet the imagination of the people by an ambitious and active policy, and how, in spite of all opposition, to gain over the masses to his views, and make them serve his own great aims. He, too, made mistakes as man and as politician, and the motto Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto holds good of him; but in its broad features his policy was always imperial and of world-wide scope, and he never lost sight of the principle that no statesman can permanently achieve great results unless he commands the soul of his people.
This knowledge he shared with all the great men of our past, with the Great Elector, Frederick the Incomparable, Scharnhorst and Bluecher; for even that hoary marshal was a political force, the embodiment of a political idea, which, to be sure, did not come into the foreground at the Congress of Vienna.
The statesman who wishes to learn from history should above all things recognize this one fact—that success is necessary to gain influence over the masses, and that this influence can only be obtained by continually appealing to the national imagination and enlisting its interest in great universal ideas and great national ambitions. Such a policy is also the best school in which to educate a nation to great military achievements. When their spirits are turned towards high aims they feel themselves compelled to contemplate war bravely, and to prepare their minds to it:
"The man grows up, with manhood's nobler aims."
We may learn something from Japan on this head. Her eyes were fixed on the loftiest aims; she did not shrink from laying the most onerous duties on the people, but she understood how to fill the soul of the whole people with enthusiasm for her great ideals, and thus a nation of warriors was educated which supplied the best conceivable material for the army, and was ready for the greatest sacrifices.
We Germans have a far greater and more urgent duty towards civilization to perform than the Great Asiatic Power. We, like the Japanese, can only fulfil it by the sword.
Shall we, then, decline to adopt a bold and active policy, the most effective means with which we can prepare our people for its military duty? Such a counsel is only for those who lack all feeling for the strength and honour of the German people.
FINANCIAL AND POLITICAL PREPARATION FOR WAR
From the discussions in the previous chapter it directly follows that the political conduct of the State, while affecting the mental attitude of the people, exercises an indirect but indispensable influence on the preparation for war, and is to some degree a preparation for war itself.
But, in addition to the twofold task of exercising this intellectual and moral influence, and of placing at the disposal of the military authorities the necessary means for keeping up the armaments, still further demands must be made of those responsible for the guidance of the State. In the first place, financial preparations for war must be made, quite distinct from the current expenditure on the army; the national finances must be so treated that the State can bear the tremendous burdens of a modern war without an economic crash. Further, as already mentioned in another place, there must be a sort of mobilization in the sphere of commercial politics in order to insure under all eventualities the supply of the goods necessary for the material and industrial needs of the country. Finally, preparations for war must also be made politically; that is to say, efforts must be made to bring about a favourable political conjuncture, and, so far as possible, to isolate the first enemy with whom a war is bound to come. If that cannot be effected, an attempt must he made to win allies, in whom confidence can be reposed should war break out.
I am not a sufficient expert to pronounce a definite opinion on the commercial and financial side of the question. In the sphere of commercial policy especially I cannot even suggest the way in which the desired end can be obtained. Joint action on the part of the Government and the great import houses would seem to be indicated. As regards finance, speaking again from a purely unprofessional standpoint, one may go so far as to say that it is not only essential to keep the national household in order, but to maintain the credit of the State, so that, on the outbreak of war, it may be possible to raise the vast sums of money required for carrying it on without too onerous conditions.
The credit of State depends essentially on a regulated financial economy, which insures that the current outgoings are covered by the current incomings. Other factors are the national wealth, the indebtedness of the State, and, lastly, the confidence in its productive and military capabilities.
As regards the first point, I have already pointed out that in a great civilized World State the balancing of the accounts must never be brought about in the petty-State fashion by striking out expenditure for necessary requirements, more especially expenditure on the military forces, whose maintenance forms the foundation of a satisfactory general progress. The incomings must, on the contrary, be raised in proportion to the real needs. But, especially in a State which is so wholly based on war as the German Empire, the old manly principle of keeping all our forces on the stretch must never be abandoned out of deference to the effeminate philosophy of the day. Fichte taught us that there is only one virtue—to forget the claims of one's personality; and only one vice—to think of self. Ultimately the State is the transmitter of all culture, and is therefore entitled to claim all the powers of the individual for itself.[A] These ideas, which led us out of the deepest gloom to the sunlit heights of success, must remain our pole-star at an epoch which in many respects can be compared with the opening years of the last century. The peace-loving contentment which then prevailed in Prussia, as if the age of everlasting peace had come, still sways large sections of our people, and exerts an appreciable influence on the Government.
Among that peaceful nation "which behind the rampart of its line of demarcation observed with philosophic calm how two mighty nations contested the sole possession of the world," nobody gave any thought to the great change of times. In the same way many Germans to-day look contentedly and philosophically at the partition of the world, and shut their eyes to the rushing stream of world-history and the great duties imposed upon us by it. Even to-day, as then, the same "super-terrestrial pride, the same super-clever irresolution" spreads among us "which in our history follows with uncanny regularity the great epochs of audacity and energy."[B]
[Footnote A: Treitschke.]
[Footnote: B Treitschke, "Deutsche Geschichte."]
Under conditions like the present the State is not only entitled, but is bound to put the utmost strain on the financial powers of her citizens, since it is vital questions that are at stake. It is equally important, however, to foster by every available means the growth of the national property, and thus to improve the financial capabilities.
This property is to a certain extent determined by the natural productiveness of the country and the mineral wealth it contains. But these possessions are utilized and their value is enhanced by the labour of all fellow-countrymen—that immense capital which cannot be replaced. Here, then, the State can profitably step in. It can protect and secure labour against unjustifiable encroachments by regulating the labour conditions; it can create profitable terms for exports and imports by concluding favourable commercial agreements; it can help and facilitate German trade by vigorous political representation of German interests abroad; it can encourage the shipping trade, which gains large profits from international commerce;[C] it can increase agricultural production by energetic home colonization, cultivation of moorland, and suitable protective measures, so as to make us to some extent less dependent on foreign countries for our food. The encouragement of deep-sea fishery would add to this.[D]
[Footnote: C England earns some 70 millions sterling by international commerce, Germany about 15 millions sterling.]
[Footnote D: We buy annually some 2 millions sterling worth of fish from foreign countries.]
From the military standpoint, it is naturally very important to increase permanently the supply of breadstuffs and meat, so that in spite of the annual increase in population the home requirements may for some time be met to the same extent as at present; this seems feasible. Home production now supplies 87 per cent, of the required breadstuffs and 95 per cent, of the meat required. To maintain this proportion, the production in the next ten years must be increased by at most two double-centners per Hectare, which is quite possible if it is considered that the rye harvest alone in the last twenty years has increased by two million tons.
A vigorous colonial policy, too, will certainly improve the national prosperity if directed, on the one hand, to producing in our own colonies the raw materials which our industries derive in immense quantities from foreign countries, and so making us gradually independent of foreign countries; and, on the other hand, to transforming our colonies into an assured market for our goods by effective promotion of settlements, railroads, and cultivation. The less we are tributaries of foreign countries, to whom we pay many milliards, [E] the more our national wealth and the financial capabilities of the State will improve.
[Footnote E: We obtained from abroad in 1907, for instance, 476,400 tons of cotton, 185,300 tons of wool, 8,500,000 tons of iron, 124,000 tons of copper, etc.]
If the State can thus contribute directly to the increase of national productions, it can equally raise its own credit by looking after the reduction of the national debt, and thus improving its financial position. But payment of debts is, in times of high political tension, a two-edged sword, if it is carried out at the cost of necessary outlays. The gain in respect of credit on the one side of the account may very easily be lost again on the other. Even from the financial aspect it is a bad fault to economize in outlay on the army and navy in order to improve the financial position. The experiences of history leave no doubt on that point. Military power is the strongest pillar of a nation's credit. If it is weakened, financial security at once is shaken. A disastrous war involves such pecuniary loss that the State creditors may easily become losers by it. But a State whose army holds out prospects of carrying the war to a victorious conclusion offers its creditors far better security than a weaker military power. If our credit at the present day cannot be termed very good, our threatened political position is chiefly to blame. If we chose to neglect our army and navy our credit would sink still lower, in spite of all possible liquidation of our debt. We have a twofold duty before us: first to improve our armament; secondly, to promote the national industry, and to keep in mind the liquidation of our debts so far as our means go.
The question arises whether it is possible to perform this twofold task.
It is inconceivable that the German people has reached the limits of possible taxation. The taxes of Prussia have indeed, between 1893-94 and 1910-11, increased by 56 per cent, per head of the population—from 20.62 marks to 32.25 marks (taxes and customs together)—and the same proportion may hold in the rest of Germany. On the other hand, there is a huge increase in the national wealth. This amounts, in the German Empire now, to 330 to 360 milliard marks, or 5,000 to 6,000 marks per head of the population. In France the wealth, calculated on the same basis, is no higher, and yet in France annually 20 marks, in Germany only 16 marks, per head of the population are expended on the army and navy. In England, on the contrary, where the average wealth of the individual is some 1,000 marks higher than in Germany and France, the outlay for the army and navy comes to 29 marks per head. Thus our most probable opponents make appreciably greater sacrifices for their armaments than we do, although they are far from being in equal danger politically.
Attention must at the same time be called to the fact that the increase of wealth in Germany continues to be on an ascending scale. Trades and industries have prospered vastly, and although the year 1908 saw a setback, yet the upward tendency has beyond doubt set in again.
The advance in trade and industry, which began with the founding of the Empire, is extraordinary. "The total of imports and exports has increased in quantity from 32 million tons to 106 million tons in the year 1908, or by 232 per cent., and in value from 6 milliards to 14 1/2-16 milliards marks in the last years. Of these, the value of the imports has grown from 3 to 8-9 milliards marks, and the value of the exports from 3 1/2 to 6 1/2-7 milliards.... The value of the import of raw materials for industrial purposes has grown from 1 1/2 milliards in 1879 to 4 1/2 milliards marks lately, and the value of the export of such raw materials from 850 million to 1 1/2 milliard marks. The import of made goods had in 1879 a value of 600 million marks, and in 1908 a value of 1 1/4 milliard marks, while the value of the export of manufactured goods mounted from 1 to 4 milliards. The value of the import of food-stuffs and delicacies has grown from 1 to 2 1/2-2 1/3 milliard marks, while the value of the export of articles of food remained at about the same figure.
The mineral output can also point to an undreamed-of extension in Germany during the last thirty years. The amount of coal raised amounted in 1879 to only 42 million tons; up to 1908 it has increased to 148 1/2 million tons, and in value from 100 million to 1 1/2 milliard marks. The quantity of brown coal raised was only 11 1/2 million tons in 1879; in 1908 it was 66 3/4 million tons, and in value it has risen from 35 million to 170 million marks. The output of iron-ore has increased from 6 million tons to 27 million tons, and in value from 27 million to 119 million marks.... From 1888 to 1908 the amount of coal raised in Germany has increased by 127 per cent.; in England only by about 59 per cent. The raw iron obtained has increased in Germany from 1888 to 1908 by 172 per cent.; in England there is a rise of 27 per cent. only.[F]
[Footnote F: Professor Dr. Wade, Berlin.]
Similar figures can be shown in many other spheres. The financial position of the Empire has considerably improved since the Imperial Finance reform of 1909, so that the hope exists that the Budget may very soon balance without a loan should no new sacrifices be urgent.
It was obvious that with so prodigious a development a continued growth of revenue must take place, and hand-in-hand with it a progressive capitalization. Such a fact has been the case, and to a very marked extent. From the year 1892-1905 in Prussia alone an increase of national wealth of about 2 milliard marks annually has taken place. The number of taxpayers and of property in the Property Tax class of 6,000 to 100,000 marks has in Prussia increased in these fourteen years by 29 per cent., from 1905-1908 by 11 per cent.; in the first period, therefore, by 2 per cent., in the last years by 3 per cent. annually. In these classes, therefore, prosperity is increasing, but this is so in much greater proportion in the large fortunes. In the Property Tax class of 100,000 to 500,000 marks, the increase has been about 48 per cent.—i.e., on an average for the fourteen years about 3 per cent. annually, while in the last three years it has been 4.6 per cent. In the class of 500,000 marks and upwards, the increase for the fourteen years amounts to 54 per cent. in the taxpayers and 67 per cent. in the property; and, while in the fourteen years the increase is on an average 4.5 per cent. annually, it has risen in the three years 1905-1908 to 8.6 per cent. This means per head of the population in the schedule of 6,000 to 100,000 marks an increase of 650 marks, in the schedule of 100,000 to 500,000 marks an increase per head of 6,400 marks, and in the schedule of 500,000 marks and upwards an increase of 70,480 marks per head and per year.
We see then, especially in the large estates, a considerable and annually increasing growth, which the Prussian Finance Minister has estimated for Prussia alone at 3 milliards yearly in the next three years, so that it may be assumed to be for the whole Empire 5 milliards yearly in the same period. Wages have risen everywhere. To give some instances, I will mention that among the workmen at Krupp's factory at Essen the daily earnings have increased from 1879-1906 by 77 per cent., the pay per hour for masons from 1885-1905 by 64 per cent., and the annual earnings in the Dortmund district of the chief mining office from 1886 to 1907 by 121 per cent. This increase in earnings is also shown by the fact that the increase of savings bank deposits since 1906 has reached the sum of 4 milliard marks, a proof that in the lower and poorer strata of the population, too, a not inconsiderable improvement in prosperity is perceptible. It can also be regarded as a sign of a healthy, improving condition of things that emigration and unemployment are considerably diminished in Germany. In 1908 only 20,000 emigrants left our country; further, according to the statistics of the workmen's unions, only 4.4 per cent, of their members were unemployed, whereas in the same year 336,000 persons emigrated from Great Britain and 10 per cent. (in France it was as much as 11.4 per cent.) of members of workmen's unions were unemployed.
Against this brilliant prosperity must be placed a very large national debt, both in the Empire and in the separate States. The German Empire in the year 1910 had 5,016,655,500 marks debt, and in addition the national debt of the separate States on April 1, 1910, reached in—
Marks Prussia 9,421,770,800 Bavaria 2,165,942,900 Saxony 893,042,600 Wuertemberg 606,042,800 Baden 557,859,000 Hesse 428,664,400 Alsace-Lorraine 31,758,100 Hamburg 684,891,200 Luebeck 666,888,400 Bremen 263,431,400
Against these debts may be placed a considerable property in domains, forests, mines, and railways. The stock capital of the State railways reached, on March 31, 1908, in millions of marks, in—
Marks, Prussia (Hesse) 9,888 Bavaria 1,694 Saxony 1,035 Wuertemburg 685 Baden 727 Alsace-Lorraine 724
—a grand total, including the smaller State systems, of 15,062 milliard marks. This sum has since risen considerably, and reached at the end of 1911 for Prussia alone 11,050 milliards. Nevertheless, the national debts signify a very heavy burden, which works the more disadvantageously because these debts are almost all contracted in the country, and presses the more heavily because the communes are also often greatly in debt.
The debt of the Prussian towns and country communes of 10,000 inhabitants and upwards alone amounts to 3,000 million marks, in the whole Empire to some 5,000 million marks. This means that interest yearly has to be paid to the value of 150 million marks, so that many communes, especially in the east and in the western industrial regions, are compelled to raise additional taxation to the extent of 200, 300, or even 400 per cent. The taxes also are not at all equally distributed according to capacity to pay them. The main burden rests on the middle class; the large fortunes are much less drawn upon. Some sources of wealth are not touched by taxation, as, for example, the speculative income not obtained by carrying on any business, but by speculations on the Stock Exchange, which cannot be taxed until it is converted into property. Nevertheless, the German nation is quite in a position to pay for the military preparations, which it certainly requires for the protection and the fulfilment of its duties in policy and civilization, so soon as appropriate and comprehensive measures are taken and the opposing parties can resolve to sacrifice scruples as to principles on the altar of patriotism.
The dispute about the so-called Imperial Finance reform has shown how party interests and selfishness rule the national representation; it was not pleasant to see how each tried to shift the burden to his neighbour's shoulders in order to protect himself against financial sacrifices. It must be supposed, therefore, that similar efforts will be made in the future, and that fact must be reckoned with. But a considerable and rapid rise of the Imperial revenue is required if we wish to remain equal to the situation and not to abandon the future of our country without a blow.
Under these conditions I see no other effectual measure but the speedy introduction of the Reichserbrecht (Imperial right of succession), in order to satisfy the urgent necessity. This source of revenue would oppress no class in particular, but would hit all alike, and would furnish the requisite means both to complete our armament and to diminish our burden of debt.
If the collateral relations, with exception of brothers and sisters, depended on mention in the will for any claim—that is to say, if they could only inherit when a testimentary disposition existed in their favour—and if, in absence of such disposition, the State stepped in as heir, a yearly revenue of 500 millions, according to a calculation based on official material, could be counted upon. This is not the place to examine this calculation more closely. Even if it is put at too high a figure, which I doubt, yet the yield of such a tax would be very large under any circumstances.
Since this, like every tax on an inheritance, is a tax on capital—that is to say, it is directly derived from invested capital—it is in the nature of things that the proceeds should be devoted in the first instance to the improvement of the financial situation, especially to paying off debts. Otherwise there would be the danger of acting like a private gentleman who lives on his capital. This idea is also to be recommended because the proceeds of the tax are not constant, but liable to fluctuations. It would be advisable to devote the proceeds principally in this way, and to allow a part to go towards extinguishing the debt of the communes, whose financial soundness is extremely important. This fundamental standpoint does not exclude the possibility that in a national crisis the tax may be exceptionally applied to other important purposes, as for example to the completion of our armaments on land and sea.
There are two objections—one economic, the other ethical—which may be urged against this right of the State or the Empire to inherit. It is argued that the proceeds of the tax were drawn from the national wealth, that the State would grow richer, the people poorer, and that in course of time capital would be united in the hand of the State, that the independent investor would be replaced by the official, and thus the ideal of Socialism would be realized. Secondly, the requirement that relations, in order to inherit, must be specially mentioned in the will, is thought to be a menace to the coherence of the family. "According to our prevailing law, the man who wishes to deprive his family of his fortune must do some positive act. He must make a will, in which he bequeathes the property to third persons, charitable institutions, or to any other object. It is thus brought before his mind that his natural heirs are his relations, his kin, and that he must make a will if he wishes to exclude his legal heirs. It is impressed upon him that he is interfering by testamentary disposition in the natural course of things, that he is wilfully altering it. The Imperial right of succession is based on the idea that the community stands nearer to the individual than his family. This is in its inmost significance a socialistic trait. The socialistic State, which deals with a society made up of atoms, in which every individual is freed from the bonds of family, while all are alike bound by a uniform socialistic tie, might put forward a claim of this sort."[F]
[Footnote F: Bolko v. Katte, in the Kreuzzeitung of November 18, 1910.]
Both objections are unconvincing.
So long as the State uses the proceeds of the inheritances in order to liquidate debts and other outgoings, which would have to be met otherwise, the devolution of such inheritances on the State is directly beneficial to all members of the State, because they have to pay less taxes. Legislation could easily prevent any accumulation of capital in the hands of the State, since, if such results followed, this right of succession might be restricted, or the dreaded socialization of the State be prevented in other ways. The science of finance could unquestionably arrange that. There is no necessity to push the scheme to its extreme logical conclusion.
The so-called ethical objections are still less tenable. If a true sense of family ties exists, the owner of property will not fail to make a will, which is an extremely simple process under the present law. If such ties are weak, they are assuredly not strengthened by the right of certain next of kin to be the heirs of a man from whom they kept aloof in life. Indeed, the Crown's right of inheritance would produce probably the result that more wills were made, and thus the sense of family ties would actually be strengthened. The "primitive German sense of law," which finds expression in the present form of the law of succession, and is summed up in the notion that the family is nearer to the individual than the State, has so far borne the most mischievous results. It is the root from which the disruption of Germany, the particularism and the defective patriotism of our nation, have grown up. It is well that in the coming generation some check on this movement should be found, and that the significance of the State for the individual, no less than for the family, should be thoroughly understood.
These more or less theoretical objections are certainly not weighty enough to negative a proposal like that of introducing this Imperial right of succession if the national danger demands direct and rapid help and the whole future of Germany is at stake.
If, therefore, no other proposals are forthcoming by which an equally large revenue can be obtained; the immediate reintroduction of such a law of succession appears a necessity, and will greatly benefit our sorely-pressed country. Help is urgently needed, and there would be good prospects of such law being passed in the Reichstag if the Government does not disguise the true state of the political position.
Political preparations are not less essential than financial. We see that all the nations of the world are busily securing themselves against the attack of more powerful opponents by alliances or ententes, and are winning allies in order to carry out their own objects. Efforts are also often made to stir up ill-feeling between the other States, so as to have a free hand for private schemes. This is the policy on which England has built up her power in Europe, in order to continue her world policy undisturbed. She cannot be justly blamed for this; for even if she has acted with complete disregard of political morality, she has built up a mighty Empire, which is the object of all policy, and has secured to the English people the possibility of the most ambitious careers. We must not deceive ourselves as to the principles of this English policy. We must realize to ourselves that it is guided exclusively by unscrupulous selfishness, that it shrinks from no means of accomplishing its aims, and thus shows admirable diplomatic skill.
There must be no self-deception on the point that political arrangements have only a qualified value, that they are always concluded with a tacit reservation. Every treaty of alliance presupposes the rebus sic stantibus; for since it must satisfy the interests of each contracting party, it clearly can only hold as long as those interests are really benefited. This is a political principle that cannot be disputed. Nothing can compel a State to act counter to its own interests, on which those of its citizens depend. This consideration, however, imposes on the honest State the obligation of acting with the utmost caution when concluding a political arrangement and defining its limits in time, so as to avoid being forced into a breach of its word. Conditions may arise which are more powerful than the most honourable intentions. The country's own interests—considered, of course, in the highest ethical sense—must then turn the scale. "Frederick the Great was all his life long charged with treachery, because no treaty or alliance could ever induce him to renounce the right of free self-determination."[A]
The great statesman, therefore, will conclude political ententes or alliances, on whose continuance he wishes to be able to reckon, only if he is convinced that each of the contracting parties will find such an arrangement to his true and unqualified advantage. Such an alliance is, as I have shown in another place, the Austro-German. The two States, from the military no less than from the political aspect, are in the happiest way complements of each other. The German theatre of war in the east will be protected by Austria from any attempt to turn our flank on the south, while we can guard the northern frontier of Austria and outflank any Russian attack on Galicia.
Alliances in which each contracting party has different interests will never hold good under all conditions, and therefore cannot represent a permanent political system.
"There is no alliance or agreement in the world that can be regarded as effective if it is not fastened by the bond of the common and reciprocal interests; if in any treaty the advantage is all on one side and the other gets nothing, this disproportion destroys the obligation." These are the words of Frederick the Great, our foremost political teacher pace Bismarck.
We must not be blinded in politics by personal wishes and hopes, but must look things calmly in the face, and try to forecast the probable attitude of the other States by reference to their own interests. Bismarck tells us that "Illusions are the greatest danger to the diplomatist. He must take for granted that the other, like himself, seeks nothing but his own advantage." It will prove waste labour to attempt to force a great State by diplomatic arrangements to actions or an attitude which oppose its real interests. When a crisis arises, the weight of these interests will irresistibly turn the scale.
When Napoleon III. planned war against Prussia, he tried to effect an alliance with Austria and Italy, and Archduke Albert was actually in Paris to conclude the military negotiations.[B] These probably were going on, as the French General Lebrun was in Vienna on the same errand. Both countries left France in the lurch so soon as the first Prussian flag flew victoriously on the heights of the Geisberg. A statesman less biassed than Napoleon would have foreseen this, since neither Austria nor Italy had sufficient interests at stake to meddle in such a war under unfavourable conditions.
[Footnote B: When Colonel Stoffel, the well-known French Military Attache in Berlin, returned to Paris, and was received by the Emperor, and pointed out the danger of the position and the probable perfection of Prussia's war preparations, the Emperor declared that he was better informed. He proceeded to take from his desk a memoir on the conditions of the Prussian army apparently sent to him by Archduke Albert, which came to quite different conclusions. The Emperor had made the facts therein stated the basis of his political and military calculations. (Communications of Colonel Stoffel to the former Minister of War, v. Verdy, who put them at the service of the author.)]
France, in a similar spirit of selfish national interests, unscrupulously brushed aside the Conventions of Algeciras, which did not satisfy her. She will equally disregard all further diplomatic arrangements intended to safeguard Germany's commercial interests in Morocco so soon as she feels strong enough, since it is clearly her interest to be undisputed master in Morocco and to exploit that country for herself. France, when she no longer fears the German arms, will not allow any official document in the world to guarantee German commerce and German enterprise any scope in Morocco; and from the French standpoint she is right.
The political behaviour of a State is governed only by its own interests, and the natural antagonism and grouping of the different Great Powers must be judged by that standard. There is no doubt, however, that it is extraordinarily difficult to influence the political grouping with purely selfish purposes; such influence becomes possible only by the genuine endeavour to further the interests of the State with which closer relations are desirable and to cause actual injury to its opponents. A policy whose aim is to avoid quarrel with all, but to further the interests of none, runs the danger of displeasing everyone and of being left isolated in the hour of danger.
A successful policy, therefore, cannot be followed without taking chances and facing risks. It must be conscious of its goal, and keep this goal steadily in view. It must press every change of circumstances and all unforeseen occurrences into the service of its own ideas. Above all things, it must he ready to seize the psychological moment, and take bold action if the general position of affairs indicates the possibility of realizing political ambitions or of waging a necessary war under favourable conditions. "The great art of policy," writes Frederick the Great, "is not to swim against the stream, but to turn all events to one's own profit. It consists rather in deriving advantage from favourable conjunctures than in preparing such conjunctures." Even in his Rheinsberg days he acknowledged the principle to which he adhered all his life: "Wisdom is well qualified to keep what one possesses; but boldness alone can acquire." "I give you a problem to solve," he said to his councillors when the death of Emperor Charles VI. was announced. "When you have the advantage, are you to use it or not?"
Definite, clearly thought out political goals, wise foresight, correct summing up alike of one's own and of foreign interests, accurate estimation of the forces of friends and foes, bold advocacy of the interests, not only of the mother-country, but also of allies, and daring courage when the critical hour strikes—these are the great laws of political and military success.
The political preparation for war is included in them. He who is blinded by the semblance of power and cannot resolve to act, will never be able to make political preparations for the inevitable war with any success. "The braggart feebleness which travesties strength, the immoral claim which swaggers in the sanctity of historical right, the timidity which shelters its indecision behind empty and formal excuses, never were more despised than by the great Prussian King," so H. v. Treitschke tells us. "Old Fritz" must be our model in this respect, and must teach us with remorseless realism so to guide our policy that the position of the political world may be favourable for us, and that we do not miss the golden opportunity.
It is an abuse of language if our unenterprising age tries to stigmatize that energetic policy which pursued positive aims as an adventurist policy. That title can only be given to the policy which sets up personal ideals and follows them without just estimation of the real current of events, and so literally embarks on incalculable adventures, as Napoleon did in Mexico, and Italy in Abyssinia.
A policy taking all factors into consideration, and realizing these great duties of the State, which are an historical legacy and are based on the nature of things, is justified when it boldly reckons with the possibility of a war. This is at once apparent if one considers the result to the State when war is forced on it under disadvantageous circumstances. I need only instance 1806, and the terrible catastrophe to which the feeble, unworthy peace policy of Prussia led.
In this respect the Russo-Japanese War speaks a clear language. Japan had made the most judicious preparations possible, political as well as military, for the war, when she concluded the treaty with England and assured herself of the benevolent neutrality of America and China. Her policy, no less circumspect than bold, did not shrink from beginning at the psychological moment the war which was essential for the attainment of her political ends. Russia was not prepared in either respect. She had been forced into a hostile position with Germany from her alliance with France, and therefore dared not denude her west front in order to place sufficient forces in the Far East. Internal conditions, moreover, compelled her to retain large masses of soldiers in the western part of the Empire. A large proportion of the troops put into the field against Japan were therefore only inferior reserves. None of the preparations required by the political position had been made, although the conflict had long been seen to be inevitable. Thus the war began with disastrous retreats, and was never conducted with any real vigour. There is no doubt that things would have run a different course had Russia made resolute preparations for the inevitable struggle and had opened the campaign by the offensive.
England, too, was politically surprised by the Boer War, and consequently had not taken any military precautions at all adequate to her aims or suited to give weight to political demands.
Two points stand out clearly from this consideration.
First of all there is a reciprocal relation between the military and political preparations for war. Proper political preparations for war are only made if the statesman is supported by a military force strong enough to give weight to his demands, and if he ventures on nothing which he cannot carry through by arms. At the same time the army must be developed on a scale which takes account of the political projects. The obligation imposed on the General to stand aloof from politics in peace as well as in war only holds good in a limited sense. The War Minister and the Head of the General Staff must be kept au courant with the all-fluctuating phases of policy; indeed, they must be allowed a certain influence over policy, in order to adapt their measures to its needs, and are entitled to call upon the statesman to act if the military situation is peculiarly favourable. At the same time the Minister who conducts foreign policy must, on his side, never lose sight of what is in a military sense practicable; he must be constantly kept informed of the precise degree in which army and navy are ready for war, since he must never aim at plans which cannot, if necessary, be carried out by war. A veiled or open threat of war is the only means the statesman has of carrying out his aims; for in the last resort it is always the realization of the possible consequences of a war which induces the opponent to give in. Where this means is renounced, a policy of compromise results, which satisfies neither party and seldom produces a permanent settlement; while if a statesman announces the possibility of recourse to the arbitrament of arms, his threat must be no empty one, but must be based on real power and firm determination if it is not to end in political and moral defeat.
The second point, clearly brought before us, is that a timid and hesitating policy, which leaves the initiative to the opponent and shrinks from ever carrying out its purpose with warlike methods, always creates an unfavourable military position. History, as well as theory, tells us by countless instances that a far-seeing, energetic policy, which holds its own in the face of all antagonism, always reacts favourably on the military situation.
In this respect war and policy obey the same laws; great results can only be expected where political and military foresight and resolution join hands.
If we regard from this standpoint the political preparation for the next war which Germany will have to fight, we must come to this conclusion: the more unfavourable the political conjuncture the greater the necessity for a determined, energetic policy if favourable conditions are to be created for the inevitably threatening war.
So long as we had only to reckon on the possibility of a war on two fronts against France and Russia, and could count on help in this war from all the three parties to the Triple Alliance, the position was comparatively simple. There were, then, of course, a series of various strategical possibilities; but the problem could be reduced to a small compass: strategical attack on the one side, strategical defence on the other, or, if the Austrian army was taken into calculation, offensive action on both sides. To-day the situation is different.
We must consider England, as well as France and Russia. We must expect not only an attack by sea on our North Sea coasts, but a landing of English forces on the continent of Europe and a violation of Belgo-Dutch neutrality by our enemies. It is also not inconceivable that England may land troops in Schleswig or Jutland, and try to force Denmark into war with us. It seems further questionable whether Austria will be in a position to support us with all her forces, whether she will not rather be compelled to safeguard her own particular interests on her south and south-east frontiers. An attack by France through Switzerland is also increasingly probable, if a complete reorganization of the grouping of the European States is effected. Finally, we should be seriously menaced in the Baltic if Russia gains time to reconstruct her fleet.
All these unfavourable conditions will certainly not occur simultaneously, but under certain not impossible political combinations they are more or less probable, and must be taken into account from the military aspect. The military situation thus created is very unfavourable.
If under such uncertain conditions it should be necessary to place the army on a war footing, only one course is left: we must meet the situation by calling out strategic reserves, which must be all the stronger since the political conditions are so complicated and obscure, and those opponents so strong on whose possible share in the war we must count. The strategic reserve will be to some extent a political one also. A series of protective measures, necessary in any case, would have to be at once set on foot, but the mass of the army would not be directed to any definite point until the entire situation was clear and all necessary steps could be considered. Until that moment the troops of the strategic reserve would be left in their garrisons or collected along the railway lines and at railway centres in such a way that, when occasion arose, they could be despatched in any direction. On the same principle the rolling-stock on the lines would have to be kept in readiness, the necessary time-tables for the different transport arrangements drawn up, and stores secured in safe depots on as many different lines of march as possible. Previous arrangements for unloading at the railway stations must be made in accordance with the most various political prospects. We should in any case be forced to adopt a waiting policy, a strategic defensive, which under present conditions is extremely unfavourable; we should not be able to prevent an invasion by one or other of our enemies.
No proof is necessary to show that a war thus begun cannot hold out good prospects of success. The very bravest army must succumb if led against a crushingly superior force under most unfavourable conditions. A military investigation of the situation shows that a plan of campaign, such as would be required here on the inner line, presents, under the modern system of "mass" armies, tremendous difficulties, and has to cope with strategic conditions of the most unfavourable kind.
The disadvantages of such a situation can only be avoided by a policy which makes it feasible to act on the offensive, and, if possible, to overthrow the one antagonist before the other can actively interfere. On this initiative our safety now depends, just as it did in the days of Frederick the Great. We must look this truth boldly in the face. Of course, it can be urged that an attack is just what would produce an unfavourable position for us, since it creates the conditions on which the Franco-Russian alliance would be brought into activity. If we attacked France or Russia, the ally would be compelled to bring help, and we should be in a far worse position than if we had only one enemy to fight. Let it then be the task of our diplomacy so to shuffle the cards that we may be attacked by France, for then there would be reasonable prospect that Russia for a time would remain neutral.
This view undoubtedly deserves attention, but we must not hope to bring about this attack by waiting passively. Neither France nor Russia nor England need to attack in order to further their interests. So long as we shrink from attack, they can force us to submit to their will by diplomacy, as the upshot of the Morocco negotiations shows.
If we wish to bring about an attack by our opponents, we must initiate an active policy which, without attacking France, will so prejudice her interests or those of England, that both these States would feel themselves compelled to attack us. Opportunities for such procedure are offered both in Africa and in Europe, and anyone who has attentively studied prominent political utterances can easily satisfy himself on this point.
In opposition to these ideas the view is frequently put forward that we should wait quietly and let time fight for us, since from the force of circumstances many prizes will fall into our laps which we have now to struggle hard for. Unfortunately such politicians always forget to state clearly and definitely what facts are really working in their own interests and what advantages will accrue to us therefrom. Such political wisdom is not to be taken seriously, for it has no solid foundation. We must reckon with the definitely given conditions, and realize that timidity and laissez-aller have never led to great results.
It is impossible for anyone not close at hand to decide what steps and measures are imposed upon our foreign policy, in order to secure a favourable political situation should the pending questions so momentous to Germany's existence come to be settled by an appeal to arms. This requires a full and accurate knowledge of the political and diplomatic position which I do not possess. One thing only can be justly said: Beyond the confusion and contradictions of the present situation we must keep before us the great issues which will not lose their importance as time goes on.
Italy, which has used a favourable moment in order to acquire settlements for her very rapidly increasing population (487,000 persons emigrated from Italy in 1908), can never combine with France and England to fulfil her political ambition of winning the supremacy in the Mediterranean, since both these States themselves claim this place. The effort to break up the Triple Alliance has momentarily favoured the Italian policy of expansion. But this incident does not alter in the least the fact that the true interest of Italy demands adherence to the Triple Alliance, which alone can procure her Tunis and Biserta. The importance of these considerations will continue to be felt.
Turkey also cannot permanently go hand-in-hand with England, France, and Russia, whose policy must always aim directly at the annihilation of present-day Turkey. Islam has now as ever her most powerful enemies in England and Russia, and will, sooner or later, be forced to join the Central European Alliance, although we committed the undoubted blunder of abandoning her in Morocco.
There is no true community of interests between Russia and England; in Central Asia, in Persia, as in the Mediterranean, their ambitions clash in spite of all conventions, and the state of affairs in Japan and China is forcing on a crisis which is vital to Russian interests and to some degree ties her hands.
All these matters open out a wide vista to German statesmanship, if it is equal to its task, and make the general outlook less gloomy than recent political events seemed to indicate. And, then, our policy can count on a factor of strength such as no other State possesses—on an army whose military efficiency, I am convinced, cannot be sufficiently valued. Not that it is perfect in all its arrangements and details. We have amply shown the contrary. But the spirit which animates the troops, the ardour of attack, the heroism, the loyalty which prevail amongst them, justify the highest expectations. I am certain that if they are soon to be summoned to arms, their exploits will astonish the world, provided only that they are led with skill and determination. The German nation, too—of this I am equally convinced—will rise to the height of its great duty. A mighty force which only awaits the summons sleeps in its soul. Whoever to-day can awaken the slumbering idealism of this people, and rouse the national enthusiasm by placing before its eyes a worthy and comprehensible ambition, will be able to sweep this people on in united strength to the highest efforts and sacrifices, and will achieve a truly magnificent result.
In the consciousness of being able at any time to call up these forces, and in the sure trust that they will not fail in the hour of danger, our Government can firmly tread the path which leads to a splendid future; but it will not be able to liberate all the forces of Germany unless it wins her confidence by successful action and takes for its motto the brave words of Goethe:
"Bid defiance to every power! Ever valiant, never cower! To the brave soldier open flies The golden gate of Paradise."
After I had practically finished the preceding pages, the Franco-German convention as to Morocco and the Congo Compensation were published; the Turko-Italian War broke out; the revolution in China assumed dimensions which point to the probability of new disorders in Eastern Asia; and, lastly, it was known that not merely an entente cordiale, but a real offensive and defensive alliance, aimed at us, exists between France and England. Such an alliance does not seem to be concluded permanently between the two States, but clearly every possibility of war has been foreseen and provided for.
I have been able to insert all the needful references to the two first occurrences in my text; but the light which has lately been cast on the Anglo-French conventions compels me to make a few concluding remarks.
The German Government, from important reasons which cannot be discussed, have considered it expedient to avoid, under present conditions, a collision with England or France at any cost. It has accomplished this object by the arrangement with France, and it may be, of course, assumed that no further concessions were attainable, since from the first it was determined not to fight at present. Only from this aspect can the attitude of the Government towards France and England be considered correct. It is quite evident from her whole attitude that Great Britain was resolved to take the chance of a war. Her immediate preparations for war, the movements of her ships, and the attack of English high finance on the foremost German banking establishments, which took place at this crisis, exclude all doubt on the point. We have probably obtained the concessions made by France only because she thought the favourable moment for the long-planned war had not yet come. Probably she will wait until, on the one hand, the Triple Alliance is still more loosened and Russia's efficiency by sea and land is more complete, and until, on the other hand, her own African army has been so far strengthened that it can actively support the Rhine army.
This idea may sufficiently explain the Morocco policy of the Government, but there can be no doubt, if the convention with France be examined, that it does not satisfy fully our justifiable wishes.
It will not be disputed that the commercial and political arrangement as regards Morocco creates favourable conditions of competition for our manufacturers, entrepreneurs and merchants; that the acquisition of territory in the French Congo has a certain and perhaps not inconsiderable value in the future, more especially if we succeed in obtaining the Spanish enclave on the coast, which alone will make the possession really valuable. On the other hand, what we obtained can never be regarded as a sufficient compensation for what we were compelled to abandon.
I have emphasized in another place the fact that the commercial concessions which France has made are valuable only so long as our armed force guarantees that they are observed; the acquisitions in the Congo region must, as the Imperial Chancellor announced in his speech of November 9, 1911, be regarded, not only from the point of view of their present, but of their future value; but, unfortunately, they seem from this precise point of view very inferior to Morocco, for there can be no doubt that in the future Morocco will be a far more valuable possession for France than the Congo region for Germany, especially if that Spanish enclave cannot be obtained. The access to the Ubangi and the Congo has at present a more or less theoretical value, and could be barred in case of war with us by a few companies of Senegalese.
It would be mere self-deception if we would see in the colonial arrangement which we have effected with France the paving of the way for a better understanding with this State generally. It certainly cannot be assumed that France will abandon the policy of revanche, which she has carried out for decades with energy and unflinching consistency, at a moment when she is sure of being supported by England, merely because she has from opportunist considerations come to terms with us about a desolate corner of Africa. No importance can be attached to this idea, in spite of the views expounded by the Imperial Chancellor, v. Bethmann-Hollweg, in his speech of November 9, 1911. We need not, therefore, regard this convention as definitive. It is as liable to revision as the Algeciras treaty, and indeed offers, in this respect, the advantage that it creates new opportunities of friction with France.
The acquisition of territory in the Congo region means at first an actual loss of power to Germany; it can only be made useful by the expenditure of large sums of money, and every penny which is withdrawn from our army and navy signifies a weakening of our political position. But, it seems to me, we must, when judging the question as a whole, not merely calculate the concrete value of the objects of the exchange, but primarily its political range and its consequences for our policy in its entirety. From this standpoint it is patent that the whole arrangement means a lowering of our prestige in the world, for we have certainly surrendered our somewhat proudly announced pretensions to uphold the sovereignty of Morocco, and have calmly submitted to the violent infraction of the Algeciras convention by France, although we had weighty interests at stake. If in the text of the Morocco treaty such action was called an explanation of the treaty of 1909, and thus the notion was spread that our policy had followed a consistent line, such explanation is tantamount to a complete change of front.
An additional political disadvantage is that our relations with Islam have changed for the worse by the abandonment of Morocco. I cannot, of course, judge whether our diplomatic relations with Turkey have suffered, but there can be little doubt that we have lost prestige in the whole Mohammedan world, which is a matter of the first importance for us. It is also a reasonable assumption that the Morocco convention precipitated the action of Italy in Tripoli, and thus shook profoundly the solidity of the Triple Alliance. The increase of power which France obtained through the acquisition of Morocco made the Italians realize the importance of no longer delaying to strengthen their position in the Mediterranean.
The worst result of our Morocco policy is, however, undoubtedly the deep rift which has been formed in consequence between the Government and the mass of the nationalist party, the loss of confidence among large sections of the nation, extending even to classes of society which, in spite of their regular opposition to the Government, had heartily supported it as the representative of the Empire abroad. In this weakening of public confidence, which is undisguisedly shown both in the Press and in the Reichstag (although some slight change for the better has followed the latest declarations of the Government), lies the great disadvantage of the Franco-German understanding; for in the critical times which we shall have to face, the Government of the German Empire must be able to rely upon the unanimity of the whole people if it is to ride the storm. The unveiling of the Anglo-French agreement as to war removes all further doubt on this point.
The existence of such relations between England and France confirms the view of the political situation which I have tried to bring out in the various chapters of this book. They show that we are confronted by a firm phalanx of foes who, at the very least, are determined to hinder any further expansion of Germany's power. With this object, they have done their best, not unsuccessfully, to break up the Triple Alliance, and they will not shrink from a war. The English Ministers have left no doubt on this point.[A]
[Footnote A: Cf. speech of Sir E. Grey on November 27, 1911.]
The official statements of the English statesmen have, in spite of all pacific assurances, shown clearly that the paths of English policy lead in the direction which I have indicated. The warning against aggressive intentions issued to Germany, and the assurance that England would support her allies if necessary with the sword, clearly define the limits that Germany may not transgress if she wishes to avoid war with England. The meaning of the English Minister's utterances is not altered by his declaration that England would raise no protest against new acquisitions by Germany in Africa. England knows too well that every new colonial acquisition means primarily a financial loss to Germany, and that we could not long defend our colonies in case of war. They form objects which can be taken from us if we are worsted. Meanwhile a clear commentary on the Minister's speech may be found in the fact that once more the Budget includes a considerable increase in the naval estimates.
In this position of affairs it would be more than ever foolish to count on any change in English policy. Even English attempts at a rapprochement must not blind us as to the real situation. We may at most use them to delay the necessary and inevitable war until we may fairly imagine we have some prospect of success.
If the Imperial Government was of the opinion that it was necessary in the present circumstances to avoid war, still the situation in the world generally shows there can only be a short respite before we once more face the question whether we will draw the sword for our position in the world or renounce such position once and for all. We must not in any case wait until our opponents have completed their arming and decide that the hour of attack has come.
We must use the respite we still enjoy for the most energetic warlike preparation, according to the principles which I have already laid down. All national parties must rally round the Government, which has to represent our dearest interests abroad. The willing devotion of the people must aid it in its bold determination and help to pave the way to military and political success, without carrying still further the disastrous consequences of the Morocco policy by unfruitful and frequently unjustified criticism and by thus widening the gulf between Government and people. We may expect from the Government that it will prosecute the military and political preparation for war with the energy which the situation demands, in clear knowledge of the dangers threatening us, but also, in correct appreciation of our national needs and of the warlike strength of our people, and that it will not let any conventional scruples distract it from this object.
Repeal of the Five Years Act, reconstruction of the army on an enlarged basis, accelerated progress in our naval armaments, preparation of sufficient financial means—these are requirements which the situation calls for. New and creative ideas must fructify our policy, and lead it to the happy goal.
The political situation offers many points on which to rest our lever. England, too, is in a most difficult position. The conflict of her interests with Russia's in Persia and in the newly arisen Dardanelles question, as well as the power of Islam in the most important parts of her colonial Empire, are the subjects of permanent anxiety in Great Britain. Attention has already been called to the significance and difficulty of her relations with North America. France also has considerable obstacles still to surmount in her African Empire, before it can yield its full fruits. The disturbances in the Far East will probably fetter Russia's forces, and England's interests will suffer in sympathy. These are all conditions which an energetic and far-sighted German policy can utilize in order to influence the general political situation in the interests of our Fatherland.
If people and Government stand together, resolved to guard the honour of Germany and make every sacrifice of blood and treasure to insure the future of our country and our State, we can face approaching events with confidence in our rights and in our strength; then we need not fear to fight for our position in the world, but we may, with Ernst Moritz Arndt, raise our hands to heaven and cry to God:
"From the height of the starry sky May thy ringing sword flash bright; Let every craven cry Be silenced by thy might!"