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They recognized that such a war also justified measures of attack, since the goal was the crippling of the power of attacking, and the desire for attack on the part of the enemy. In this point they showed themselves free from all prejudice. As to anything, however, that went beyond this, where it was no longer a question of the demands of military necessity, but of the future of the relations of the civilized people of Europe, where the politics of the peoples were at issue, they made their position unmistakable.
It is needless to point out that several interpretations of the views of Marx prevail among German Socialists. For our purpose, it is necessary to note only those interpretations that are held to by some large group. The party is divided roughly into three more or less equal groups, the “revisionists,” of which Bernstein has been the theoretical spokesman, that of which Kautsky has been the theoretical spokesman (the center group), and the radicals, of which Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg are the leading figures.
BEBEL AND LIEBKNECHT IN 1870 Kautsky showed in the official weekly of the party, Die Neue Zeit, several months after the present war began (November 27th), that the position of Bebel on war followed on the same lines as that of Marx and Engels. (See below, Chapter XIX.) Bebel and Liebknecht, unlike their successors in the present Reichstag, abstained from voting the war loan in 1870, though they did not vote against it. We quote the passages referring to this historic act of Bebel and Liebknecht at this point, leaving other parts of Kautsky's article for a later chapter.
It is true that in 1870 Wilhelm Liebknecht was in favor of rejecting the war credits. But his colleague in the North German Parliament, August Bebel, did not agree with him on this question.
Bebel thought the rejection of the credits a mistake, as it would mean taking sides with Napoleon. On the other hand, he could not get himself to support Bismarck's policy. Bebel advocated abstention from voting on the credits, and succeeded in convincing Liebknecht of the propriety of that course of action. In justifying that step Bebel wrote:
“The present war is a dynastic war, undertaken in the interests of the dynasty of Bonaparte, as the war of 1866 was one in the interests of the Hohenzollerns. We cannot vote for the credits demanded from the Reichstag for the conduct of the war, as that would mean a vote of confidence in the Prussian Government which has prepared the present war by its actions in 1866. Nor can we refuse the required moneys, for that might be interpreted as supporting the mischievous and criminal policy of Bonaparte."
Whilst Bebel and Liebknecht abstained from voting, the Lassallean Socialist members of the Reichstag voted for the war credits.
Liebknecht's and Bebel's course of action aroused great opposition in the Executive of the Labor Party, who considered it a tactical mistake. The members of the Executive were dominated by the idea that the war should be prosecuted until the downfall of Napoleon should give the French democracy more breathing space, and that the struggle would end in the unification of Germany and thus solve the national question, which had hitherto disturbed and prevented the growth of a great Social Democratic Party.
The debates and recriminations which ensued were most acrimonious. On August 13, 1870, Bebel wrote in a letter: "If the executive proceeds against Liebknecht (who was then editing the party organ, Volksstaat] we shall renounce all co-operation in the Volksstaat. Judging from your letter, you all seem to have fallen victim to a kind of nationalist paroxysm; you appear to desire at any price a scandal and a disruption in the party.” And Liebknecht wrote to Bracke, a prominent member of the Executive, on September 1st, that he felt inclined to emigrate to America "out of disgust with these patriotic junketings."
In 1870 then, as in 1914, the majority of the Socialist representatives in the parliament were in favor of sup
porting the war. And it was only a few years later (1875) that the two factions were united to form the present German Socialist Party.
KAUTSKY ON IMPERIALISM AND WAR
Since the death of Liebknecht, several years ago, Kautsky has been the leading thinker of the German Party. The present German Socialist theory on war is best expressed in an article written by Kautsky immediately before the present conflict, to which he added the first few paragraphs after the war had started. While he represents the orthodox Marxian view, he does not pretend to leave the Marxian doctrine intact on war or on any other matter. Indeed, he has done more than any other living writer to develop that standpoint, and this is why, no doubt, he is known as the world's leading Marxian. Kautsky here develops the Marxian view of international relations to its modern form.
To-day commercial “imperialism” is held by Socialists to be the chief cause of wars and of militarism; and we have been living in a period in which capitalism necessarily expresses itself, inter.. nationally, in the form of competitive imperialism. But in the period that is approaching, competitive imperialism, like competitive industry, is doomed to be replaced by combination. Imperialism, which is now militarist and nationalist, may then become pacifist and international through a combination of empires, through ultra-imperialism. Capitalism will be stronger than before, but so also will be the resistance of international Socialism. The class struggle will become world-wide and more intense than ever. This view appears, for example, in the following selection from another Kautsky article in Die Neue Zeit (September):
The effort to subdue and hold agrarian regions has given rise to serious conflicts between the great capitalist powers. These conflicts brought about the tremendous competition in armaments which has finally resulted in the long-prophesied world-war. Is this phase of imperialism necessary to the continued existence of capitalism? Will it disappear only with capitalism itself?
There is no economic necessity for the continuation of the great competition in the production of armaments after the close of the present war. At best such a continuation would serve the interests of only a few capitalist groups.
On the contrary capitalist industry is threatened by the conflicts between the various governments. Every far-sighted capitalist must call out to his associates: Capitalists of all lands, unite!
In the first place we have to consider the growing opposition of the more developed agricultural regions, which threatens not only one or the other of the capitalist governments, but all of them together. This refers both to the awakening of eastern Asia and India and to the pan-Islamite movement of Asia Minor and northern Africa.
In the same category is the increasing opposition of the proletariat of industrial nations to additional taxes.
To all this was added after the close of the Balkan War the fact that the cost of armaments and colonial expansion reached such a point that the accumulation of capital was threatened, and so the very basis of imperialism was placed in danger.
Industrial accumulation in the interior did still go on, thanks to technical development of industry. But capital was no longer pushing itself into foreign fields. This is proved .by the fact that European governments had difficulty in floating their loans. The rate of interest was constantly rising. Here are figures showing prices paid during ten years:
Three per cent. Three per cent.
.97 1912........ ..........80..................92
1914..................77..................83 This will grow worse rather than better after the war if the increase in armaments continues to make its demands on
the money market. Imperialism is digging its own grave. Instead of developing capitalism it has become a means of hindering it. ...
This policy cannot be carried on much longer. ...
We can say of imperialism what Marx said of capitalism: Monopoly creates competition and competition creates monopoly.
The violent competition of great concerns led to the formation of trusts and the destruction of small concerns. Just so there may develop in the present war a combination of the stronger nations which will put an end to the competitive building of armaments.
From a purely economic point of view, therefore, it is not impossible that capitalism is now to enter upon a new phase, a phase marked by the transfer of trust methods to international politics, a sort of super-imperialism. The working class would be forced to fight this new form of capitalism as it did the old, but the danger from it would lie in a new direction.
Not all the consequences of the present struggle are yet apparent. It may lead to an increase of armaments. In this case the peace which will follow will be only in the nature of truce. But from a purely economic point of view there is nothing to hinder its resulting in a holy alliance of imperialists. The longer the war lasts, the more it exhausts all participants, the nearer we shall approach the latter solution, no matter how improbable it may appear at present.
This sums up an enormous amount of Socialist discussion which has been going on for years in Europe, and especially in Germany. It is to be noted, however, that Kautsky here renounces the widely prevalent Socialist belief (often seen in the following documents) that capitalism necessarily means war, or that permanent peace must wait for Socialism. He takes the contrary view.
Also, at the end of his article, he mentions another economic force that brings nations into conflict besides imperialism, namely, nationalism. Imperialism implies capitalistic expansion, new markets or new fields of in