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THE GERMAN SOCIALISTS AND THE WAR

fßy Rev. James Miens, M.A.] The attitude of the Socialists in Germany to the present war should greatly affect its tenure, ae likewise its outcome, when fortunately it sees its close. Their party are reckoned to number now a good third of the political voters of the country, and are reported to be better or ganieed and stronger than the democratic lorce of any other land. At the last elec*’’on of members for the Reichstag they *scrii\ upwards of a hundred seats, ccmiTiirrtdiug more than four million votes, and have been generally successful at byelections since. There is no manhood suffrage in Germany, so that it may be safely presumed that manv belong to the party who have no vote. It is in the big cities and industrial centres of population that the Socialists are found in strongest force. Berlin, e.g., returns eight members to the Reichstag; of these seven are Socialists, while the eighth (who represents the consti tuteucy in which the Imperial palace itself is placed) saved the neat from them by tbs barest majority. The Socialists, too, as a party, strongly represented on the Press of Germany! * They have many newspapers, one of which (‘ Vorwarts') commanded a wider circulation than any other paper in the Umpire until its violent suppression on the outbreak of the war for ita publication of anti-militarist articles. It® editor (Dr Karl Liebnecht), who was one of the most enlightened men in Europe, was shot about the same time in the Reichstag. While such deeds of lawlessness may be ascribed to the war lever, which on the outbreak of hostilities is apt to affect every community independent of parly interests, yet they serve to emphasise the fact that the person or party against whom they are enacted is antagonistic to the popular policy of the time. There are not lacking indications which go to show that the Soi ialists have generally acquiesced in the uar: or. if they opposed it, that their opposition was not marked. But this attitude may have been assumed, largely on the grounds of expediency, for it is plain that the war having been once determined upon by the German Government, little , lemencV would be shown to any resisting its mandate. The Socialists, reminded of this lit. indeed, such reminder wan necessary) through the death of Liebnecht, may have wisely redectod that the death of outv of their number was sufficient for sacrifice ; and go they may have, determined to live and to fight, that ultimately they might the better and the more advantageously work for their propaganda and their

i n use. Tart of the policy of the German bocialj s t party is the settlement of international disputes bv arbitration and not the sword. Yet the majority of the party are not irreconcilably set a’gainst armament of every kind. A small minority might be classed as strict It anti-militarist, in so far as they do not advocate preparation for war under any form whatever. But the biyc majority of the party admit the necessity. ni least" in face of the present international situation, for the adoption by_ the State of some form of military trainjng, to ensure national security. Only it is carefully stipulated in their propaganda that the'arrnv thus necessitated should be used for defence, and not for aggression ; further. that it would be organised on democratic lines.

In view of these facts, and taking, further. into consideration that at a time of national strain and excitement the most impartially-minded are apt to become prejudiced. it may very reasonably be conjectured that many Socialists might be found lighting in the German ranks to-day, and firmly convinced they were not violating their principles thereby. Certainly there is evidence that the military party at Berlin believe that the war was provoked bv Russia, and that, despite aggressive tactics through treaty complications, it is the conviction in the same quarter that Germany is lighting for her lite. In spite of Austria’s high-handed, aggressive attitude, as assumed towards feervia with respect to the conditions laid upon that Balkan State respecting those implicated in the assassination of the Crown Prince of that empire, which undoubtedly constituted the outward and first initiative towards the great struggle, yet, in _ face of anti-racial feeling and international jealousies, it is hard to gel belligerents to recognise outward causes, so strong are the inward or hidden prejudices and motives, which very often and more truly may determine the outbreak of hostilities. Thus, to review the international situation before the war. only in so far as the old and foolish antagonism which exists between Teuton and Slav is concerned, through virtue of this underlying feeling, apart from that mutual jealousy which two great nations with kindred ambitions might be expected to cherish for each other, it had not. been hard to convince Germany that for Russia to mobilise her forces, by reason of the A astro-Servian difficulty,' was simplv making a mountain out of the proverbial molehill, in the way of finding a pretext for war. It is scarcely necessary to .add that to Russia with equal conviction the situation had assumed a totally different a.-pect, for very much the same reason.

Again, it may seem anomalous to state that the policies or the liberty-loving Socialists and the autocratic Kaiser admit of agreeable comparison. However paradoxical this may appear, yet it is true in one important respect. Both exalt the prerogative of the State. Both treat the liberty of the subject as subordinate to the well-being of the community. This being so. in a land where the Socialists are so politically powerful and where the Emperor exercises such social influence, it might bo reasonably expected that such a remarkable combination of otherwise diverse policies should see its issue in some form or other. The expectation is justified, if the reports of travellers in Germany are to be credited, for they tell that in no other country in Europe is such paternal interest exercised over individual freedom. The hirer of a cab is instructed how to use his hands to the best advantage in making his exit from the. same, so as to ensure the comfort and safety of himself and others. Should he desire hurriedly to post a letter ho is reminded that the same should be addressed and stamped. In the dining cars instructions are posted up as to the best way of pouring out liquids, so as to obviate spilling. Then the homes of the people are not so sacred to the emissaries of the law as, say, in English-speaking communities. The German may nob to the same extent as the Englishman regard his house as his castle, for the police have right of entry to it on slight pretext. Where, however, the Socialists differ irreconcilably from the Emperor is as to the State's executive, for while ‘hey believe that the people should rule, the Kaiser is just as firmly convinced that he should rule the people. It is very remarkable that in Germany, where there is such a strong democratic element in the representative assembly of the people, or Reichstag, the government of the country, or more properly the executive of the government, should be so autocratic. The Socialists in politics have a working agreement with the Liberals, another progressive party, and the combination forms a strong democratic force in the country. Whatever the outcome of the war may be, whether it leave Germany dismemaered or consolidated, whether its issues are confined mainly to Central and Northern Europe or spread farther abroad, it may be confidently anticipated that in any resettlement o"f authority at its close the influence of the German democrats will be too strong to be ignored, too unbroken to bo resisted.

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Bibliographic details

THE GERMAN SOCIALISTS AND THE WAR, Evening Star, Issue 15632, 24 October 1914

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1,296

THE GERMAN SOCIALISTS AND THE WAR Evening Star, Issue 15632, 24 October 1914

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