Permanent link to this item
ROUND THE CAULDRON, Issue 15672, 10 December 1914
ROUND THE CAULDRON
[Speciallv Written ron the Dunedin 'Evening Star.'] [Copyright.] [By E. S. Hole, of London.] No. VIIL THE TRUTH ABOUT THE WAR. " 'IHE REAL CAUSE." I h.-.<l been reading tho Russian books and articles dealing with tho Near Eastern Question, the Slavonic Cause, Pan-Gennan-ism, the European .Situation, and I put them all on one s.ide to Ift the results of my reading ferment in my mind. The Russian standpoint, piaced, as it were, upon a- previously pnrclv English standpoint, was a little out of ni.-ice. and both the standpoint and the basiV required much adjusting to fit one another, "l would cy here that after years of contemplation of European questions through the British newspaper columns I find myself here much like a horse takon out of its blinkers, or like a. man who has left off his blue spectacles. .Men and matters hitherto seen as through a fop loom large, in the clear air. and arc seen in their entirely. War itself became a very real thing which is not far from the front doorstep, and sometimes ;ctuallv with bloody hands in the kitchen. Asid so I sat and endeavored to obtain :> clear and comprehensive view over the 11)! ends of poliev as set- out by these Russian thinkers. When I had done this with seme degree of success I endeavored to carry them on into the future, as if the war had not broken out to interrupt them. Then I saw clearly the whole cause of the. war and the simple explanation of the otherwise inexplicable.
The real question to those who are conversant with the situation on the Continent is not why war broke out between Russia and Germany, but why it broke out so soon ; and why Germany, apparently half-blinded and half-madly. forsook her past traditions and engaged with three Powers at. ante, not counting Japan and the smaller countries. ~The answer is simple. Tho position was th.at the hand of a youth had imperilled the fruition of more than 'lO years of steady, determined, unswerving effort, on the part- of two Governments. It became suddenly a question of " Now—or Never 1"
I will endeavor 1o explain why. but I cannot refrain from remarking here that it is indeed strange and appropriate that the youth who fired the shots which made a temporary shambles of Europe bore the name of "Princip," " principius" being the-Latin for "beginning." From the time of the Franco-German War the policy of Germany has been steady and continuous. After Austria had recovered from Sadowa and had- organised the dual monarchy as it exists to-day the Teutonic element in that power went rapidly into harmony with its new big brother who emerged from Versailles. The rivalry of Prussia and Austria for the Teutonic chieftainship was ended. Both had secured a chieftainship, but both were faced daily with one great internal and external problem—the Slav element within themselves and the Slav forces without. Even in 1863 Bismarck attached prime significance to the Polish question. In his ' Gedanker und Erinnerunger' he wrote: "I took the post of Foreign Minister under the impression that the revolt of January, 1863, did not only affect our eastern provinces, but also evoked a much wider question"—i.e., whether Russia would henceforth be animated by Philo-Polis hj motives in the eau.-o of Panslavism. and Anti-Germanism or whether .she would co-operate with Germany in a permanent policy of Polish repression. Austria had Galicia. with its millions of Poles, Russians, Serbs, and other Slav elements, and her only possible field for expansion ran down among other Slav people.* to the south. Comrades in their troubles, they were comrades in their ambitions, and behind them both loomed the huge but- undecided shadow of Russia, tremendously powerful, hut undecided. Their ambition ami their policy, in a phrase, was the oft-repeated slogan of the " Drang naeh Osten,'' Turkey being embraced in the sweep as a factor which did not count much, and Constantinople, with its command of Russia's southern egress, would lie in their "hand.--. The Asian fields, with "Bagdad railways," "fertile plains of Mesopotamia.*' and, in short, the "Self Promised Land," would be beforu them, and the Teuton would dominate the earth. Tho policy was simple: "lie firm, be strong, be diplomatically self-assertive, even aggressive: but construct, work, plan all the time, and don't do anything rash! Don't strike fill you are sure." Germany and Austria were a,s one. Although they asserted that the union was
" only an ordinary one," it was more. It was a clandestine marriage. It was a union to the death between the controlling minds of the two Governments, between the Teutonic elements of the peoples, and also including the Magyars, who had to depend upon the Teutons to help them against th» surrounding Slavs, their enemies. 1 am avoiding all details, which I reserve for later articles, upon the whole Slav question, but. following the broad channel. T want to show where the dam burst. For 40 years there has been a continuous policy in both Governments to this one end. Enormous progress has been made, but the whole selieme depended upon only four men. two in each country. When Bismarck appeared in an historical cartoon in ' Punch ' as the " Dropped Pilot " the figure ot Wilhelm, who looked over tlm side of the vessel in that picture, steered the same course. The Kaiser may not have retained the Bismarck manner, but he kept the Bismarck course. The somewhat blatant youth who will follow him has already given evidence that he could not continue the same course, but in any case there had not been a swerve in Germany, nor would there have been in all probability for many years; and. if Wilhelm could have had all the earth without war, war there might not. have been at all, but at anv price lie wanted the earth.
In Austria, too. the same steady anil unswerving policy bad been followed, and with possibly no more appreciable difference than the change between Bismarck and Wilhelm, there would have been the change, between the Emperor Franz Joseph and his heir-apparent (Franz Ferdinand). If anything the union, though it could not lie closer, would have been more, virile on the. Austrian side, but even in the same direction But it all depended on the personality of Fran/, Ferdinand. Outside of these three dominant men there were none other than the "ordinary" uncertain type of courtiers, politician's, and diplomats not knowing exactly what they wanted, and certainly not competent to take, up the threads'of the 40 years' labor of the comparative giants. There could not possibly be a more apt illustration of these two points than the whole message of the novel by an Austrian officer ' Quo Vadis Austria'?' with the sub-title 'A Novel of Despair.' Outside the circle I have named no one knew where Austria was going, hence the cry. But in the novel itself occur passages which speak of "one among the Archdukes, a strong man," and which herald him as the hope , f Austria, who, with war and with blond, will lead her to her destiny. Then the trio of the living directors of the policy initiated by the dead one is suddenlybroken, and Franz Ferdinand joins Bismarck in his eternal rest ere he had ever put his hand to the task which his age and strength gave him every promise of being able to complete, in conjunction with Wilhe">n IL. whose a £f> and strenjrth
fileo were favorable, to the completion of the plan before the inevitable end whie 1 - comes to all.
Irons Ferdinand pone, and with him the answer to the officer's crv of "Quo Vadis Austria!" what have Wilhelm 11. and his bureaucracy left? Thev have an old man on the brink of the grave, loval to them and to the "great plan" thev have ui common even to the end, eveii when lie has reached an age when thoughts of Wood seem incongrous. \nrl after him ? After him would follow none but a crowd of undecided nonenties, many of (hem animated bv a traditional friendship to En gland, face'd l.v a strong Slav element, and the rapidl'v increasing strength of the young Sla'v countries, the Balkans, and. in their up certain minds, the question "Quo Vadi< Austria'? On the back of this was the alarming fact that Russia, was rapidlv beginning to find her way, and to develop both a, strength of arm and purpose, and. still further, was actually realising the full meaning „f Panslavism or Slavophilism, ami the power behind it Jaberal treatineiil. to the Russian port of ] oland began to loom on the horizon as a possibility, bringing with it inevitable trouble (or Prussia in Posen and Ea*t Prussia and Austria in Galicia and Silesia, where the Polish elements would stand tor a sesurreeted Poland in its entirety. And there on the whole surface of the earth the eye of Wilhelm 11. wacentred on the last link in the chain of 40 years' scheming and effort. On thai lonely old man, so near the grave, the whole weight of the destiny of the world hail descended. With silent eves he and Wil helm regarded each other'across the abjvs which loomed between them and th'eii work, and then that old man spoke tiebloody word and Wilhelm 11. carried it right through to its bitter and sanguinaw end. It was the onlv way, and not aii the diplomacy in the world could have averted that dread catastrophe which none but Franz Joseph could have averted, but which he desired and held lo be the necessary conclusion to the scheme of which Bismarik, Wilhelm, and he were the. parents. Petrograd. November 21.
ROUND THE CAULDRON, Issue 15672, 10 December 1914
Use these buttons to limit your searches to particular dates, titles, and more.
Print, save, zoom in and more.