Karl Liebknecht




Militarism is not specifically a capitalistic institution. It is, on the contrary, an institution peculiar and essential to all societies divided in classes, of which capitalist society is the last. It is true that capitalism develops, like every other society divided in classes, a kind of militarism peculiar to itself,(9) for militarism is in its nature a means to an end, or to several ends, which differ with the kind of the society and which are to be attained in various ways according to the different characters of the societies. That fact appears not only in the constitution of the army, but also in the remaining substance of militarism which mani tests itself in the tasks militarism has to accomplish.

Best adapted to the capitalistic stage of development is the army built on universal military science which, though an army constituted by the people, is not an army of the people, but an army against the people, or becomes increasingly. converted into such a one.

Now it appears in the shape of a standing army, now as a militia. The standing army,(10) which is likewise not an institution peculiar to capitalism, appears as its most developed, and even its normal form, this will be shown in the following pages.


The army of the capitalist order of society serves a double purpose, like the army of the other social systems.

It is, in the first place, a national institution destined for attack abroad or for the protection against a danger coming from abroad, in short, designed for international complications or, to use a military catch-phrase, against the foreign enemy.

That function has in no way been done away with by more recent developments. For capitalism war is indeed, in Moltke's phrase, "a part of God's world order."(11) It is true that there exists in Europe itself at least a tendency to eliminate certain causes of war, and the probability of a war originating in Europe itself decreases more and more, in spite of Alsace-Lorraine, the anxiety about the trio, Clemenceau, Pichon, Picquart, in spite of the Eastern Question, in spite of pan-islamism, and in spite of the revolution going on in Russia. In their place, however, new and highly dangerous causes of friction have arisen in consequence of the desires for commercial and political expansion (12) cherished by the so-called "civilized nations," desires which are mainly responsible for the Eastern Question and pan-islamism, and in consequence of world politics, especially colonial politics which, as Chancellor Bulow frankly recognized in the Reichstag, on November 14, 1906,(13) contains innumerable possibilities. (14) Of conflict and forces to the front ever more vigorously two other forms of militarism -- navalism and colonial militarism. We Germans can tell a story of that!

Navalism, militarism on sea, is the natural brother of land militarism and shows all its repulsive and vicious traits. It is in a still greater degree than land militarism is at present not only an effect, but also a cause of international dangers, of the danger of a world war.

Some good folk and deceivers want to make us believe that the strained relations between Germany and England (15) are merely the result of some misunderstandings, agitations of mischievous journalists, the braggings of unskilful diplomatists; but we know better. We know that these strained relations are a necessary result of the increasing economic competition between Germany and England in the world's markets, a direct result of the unbridled capitalistic development and international competition. The Spanish-American War for Cuba, Italy's Abyssinian War, England's South African War, the Chinese-Japanese War, the Chinese adventure of the Great Powers, the Russian-Japanese War, all of them, however different their special causes and the conditions from which they sprung might have been, yet exhibit the one great common characteristic feature of wars of expansion. And if we remember the strained relations between England and Russia on account of Thibet, Persia and Afghanistan, the disagreements between Japan and the United States in the winter of 1906, and finally the Morocco conflict of glorious memory with the Franco-Spanish coöperation of December, 1906, (16) we must recognize that the capitalistic policy of colonization and expansion has placed numerous mines under the edifice of world peace, mines whose fuses are in many hands and which can explode very easily and unexpectedly.(17) It is certainly thinkable that a time may come when the division of the world has progressed to such an extent that a policy of placing all possible colonial possessions in trust for the colonial empires becomes feasible, thus eliminating colonial competition, as has been accomplished in regard to private capitalist competition to a certain extent by the combines and trusts. But that is a distant possibility which the economic and national rise of China alone may defer for an incalculable space of time.

All the alleged plans for disarmament are thus seen to be for the present nothing but foolery, phrase-making and attempts at deception. The fact that the Czar was the chief originator of the comedy at the Hague puts the true stamp on all of them.

Indeed, in our own days-the bubble of an alleged English disarmament burst in a ridiculous fashion. Secretary for War Hilton, the alleged promoter of those intentions, came out in strong words as an opponent of each and every reduction of the active military forces and showed himself as a true military hotspur, (l8) whilst at the same time the Anglo-French military convention appeared above the horizon. Moreover, at the very hour when preparations were being made for the second "Peace Conference," Sweden increased her fleet, America (19) and Japan saw their military budgets mount higher and higher, and the Clémenceau government in France demanded an increase of 208 millions, (20) dwelt upon the necessity of a strong army and navy, the Hamburger Nachrichten [an important semi-official German newspaper] was describing the unshakeable faith in the holy savior Militarism as the quintessence of the feeling dominating Germany's ruling classes, and the German people were treated by their government to increased military demands (21) which were greedily grasped at even by our Liberals.(22) Such facts give us a measure of the naïveté displayed by the French Senator, d'Estournelles de Constant, a member of the Hague Tribunal, in an essay on the limitation of armaments.(23) Indeed, in the imagination of this political dreamer it needs not even the proverbial swallow to make the summer of disarmament, a simple sparrow will do. After that it is almost refreshing to encounter the honest brutality with which the great powers at the conference dropped Mr. Stead's proposals and refused even to place the question of disarmament on the agenda of the second conference.

A few more remarks must be made about the third offspring of capitalism on the military side, viz., colonial militarism. The colonial army (by this is meant not the colonial militia, (24) as planned for German Southwest Africa, still less the entirely different militia of the almost independent British colonies) is of extraordinarily great importance for England, and its importance is also increasing for the other civilized countries. Whilst for England it not only fulfils the task of oppressing and keeping in check the colonial "interior enemy," i.e., the natives of the colonies, but also constitutes a weapon against the exterior colonial enemy, Russia, for instance, it serves the other colonizing powers, especially America and Germany, often under the names of "Schutztruppe" (protective troops) or foreign legion, (25) almost exclusively for the first named purpose, that of driving the miserable natives to slave in the bagnios for capitalism, and to shoot and cut them down and starve them without pity whenever they attempt to protect their country against the foreign conquerors and extortioners. The colonial army, which frequently consists of the scum of the European population, (26) is the most brutal and abominable of all the tools employed by our capitalistic states. There is hardly a crime which colonial militarism and savage tropical brutality [Tropenkoller, the Germans call it], directly cultivated by it, have not produced. (27) The names of Tippelskirch, Woermann, Podbielski, Leist, Wehlau, Peters, Ahrenberg, and others testify and prove it for Germany, too. They are the fruit by which the nature of the policy of colonization can be known, that colonial policy which, pretending (28) to spread Christianity of civilization or to protect national honor, piously practices usury and fraud for the advantage of capitalists interested in colonies, which murders and-violates defenceless human beings, burns down the possessions of the defenceless, robbing and pillaging them, mocking and disgracing Christianity and civilization.(29) Even the fame of a Cortez or a Pizarro fades before India and Tongking, the Congo, German Southwest Africa and the Philippines.


lt the function of militarism was above defined as being a national one directed against the foreign enemy it must not be understood to mean that it is a function answering the interests, welfare and wishes of the capitalistically governed and exploited peoples. The proletariat of the whole world can not expect any profit from the policies which make necessary the "militarism for abroad", its interests are most sharply opposed to such policies. Directly or indirectly those policies serve the exploiting interests of the ruling classes of capitalism. They are policies which prepare more or less skilfully, the way for the world-wide expansion of the wildly anarchical mode of production and the senseless and murderous competition of capitalism, in which process all the duties of civilized man towards the less developed peoples are flung aside; and yet nothing is really attained except an insane imperiling of the whole existence of our civilization in consequence of the warlike world complications that are conjured up. The working-class, too, welcome the immense economic developments of our days. But they also know that this economic development could be carried on peacefully without the mailed fist, without militarism and navalism, without the trident being in our hand and with out the barbarities of our colonial system, if only sensibly managed communities were to carry it on according to international understandings and in conformity with the duties and interests of civilization. They knew that our world policy largely explains itself as an attempt to fight down and confuse forcibly and clumsily the social and political home problems confronting the ruling classes, in short, as an attempt at a policy of deceptions and misreadings such as Napoleon III. was a master of. They know that the enemies of the working-class love to make their pots boil over the fires of narrow-minded jingoism, that the fear of war in 1887, unscrupulously engineered by Bismarck, did excellent service to the most dangerous forces of reaction, that according to a nice little plan, lately revealed, (30) and hatched by a number of highly placed personages, the Reichstag suffrage was to be filched from the German people in the excitement of jingoism, "after the return of a victorious army." They know that the advantages of the economic development which those policies attempt to exploit, especially all the advantages of our colonial policies, flow into the ample pockets of the exploiting class, of capitalism, the arch-enemy of the proletariat. They know that the wars the ruling classes engage in for their own purposes demand of the working-class the most terrible sacrifice of blood and treasure,(31) for which they are recompensed, after the work has been done, by miserable pensions, beggarly grants to war invalids, street organs and kicks.

They know that after every war a veritable mud-volcano of Hunnic brutality and baseness sends its floods over the nations participating in it, rebarbarizing all civilization for years.(32) The worker knows that the fatherland for which he is to fight is not his fatherland; that there is only one real enemy for the proletariat of every country the capitalist class who oppresses and exploits the proletariat, that the proletariat of every country is by its most vital interests closely bound to the proletariat of every other country, that all national interests recede before the common interests of the international proletariat, and that the international coalition of exploiters and oppressors must be opposed by the international coalition of the exploited and oppressed. He knows that the proletarians, if they were to be employed in a war, would be led to fight against their own brethren and the members of their own class, and thus against their own interests. The class-conscious proletarian therefore not only frowns upon that international purpose of the army and the entire capitalist policy of expansion, he is fighting them earnestly and with understanding. To the proletariat falls the chief task of fighting militarism in that direction, too, to the utmost, and it is more and more becoming conscious of that task, which is shown by the international congresses; by the exchange of protestations of solidarity between the German and French Socialists at the outbreak of the Franco-German War of 1870, between the Spanish and American Socialists at the outbreak of the war about Cuba, between the Russian and Japanese Socialists at the outbreak of the war in eastern Asia in 1904, and by the resolution to declare a general strike in case of war between Sweden and Norway, adopted by the Swedish Social Democrats. It was further shown by the parliamentary attitude of the German Social Democracy towards the war credits of 1870 and during the Morocco conflict, as also by the attitude taken up by the class-conscious proletariat towards intervention in Russia.


Militarism does not only serve for defence and attack against the foreign enemy; it has a second task, (33) one which is being brought out ever more clearly with the growing accentuation of class antagonism, defining ever more clearly the form and nature of militarism, viz., that of protecting the existing state of society, that of being a pillar of capitalism and all reactionary forces in the war of liberation engaged in by the working-class. Here it shows itself purely as a weapon in the class struggle, a weapon in the hands of the ruling classes, serving, in conjunction with the police and law-courts, school and church, the purpose of obstructing the development of class-consciousness and of securing, besides, at all costs to a minority the dominating position in the state and the liberty of exploiting their fellow-men, even against the enlightened will of the majority of the people.

This is modern militarism, which attempts nothing less than squaring the circle, which arms the people against the people itself, which, by trying with all means to force upon social division an artificial division according to ages, makes bold to turn the workman into an oppressor and an enemy, into a murderer of members of his own class and his friends, of his parents, sisters and brothers and children, into a murderer of his own past and future; which pretends to be democratic and despotic, enlightened and mechanical, popular and anti-popular at the same time.

It must, however, not be forgotten that militarism can also turn the point of its sword against the interior national, and even the interior (34) religious "enemy" (in Germany, for instance, against the Poles, (35) Alsatians and Danes), and can moreover be employed in conflicts among the non-proletarian classes, that militarism is a highly polymorphous phenomenon, capable of many changes, and that the Prusso-German militarism has attained a peculiarly flourishing state in consequence of the peculiar semi-absolutist, feudal bureaucratic conditions of Germany. This Prusso-German militarism is endowed with all the bad and dangerous qualities of any form of capitalist militarism, so that it is best suited to serve as a paradigm for showing militarism in its present stage, in its forms, means and effects. As nobody has as yet succeeded, to use a Bismarckian phrase, in imitating our Prussian lieutenants, nobody has as yet been fully able to imitate our Prusso-German militarism, which has not only become a state within the state, but positively a state above the state.

Let us first consider the army systems of some other countries. In doing so we must take into consideration not only the army proper, but also the constabulary and police forces, which frequently appear to be merely special military organizations for everyday use against the interior enemy, but betray their military origin by their very violence and brutality.


We encounter peculiar forms in the army systems of countries such as England and America, Switzerland and Belgium.

Great Britain(36) has a mercenary army ("regular army"), a militia with a mounted yeomanry; besides, the so-called Volunteers, a force voluntarily recruited which, on the whole, is unpaid and numbered 245,000 men in 1905. The standing army, including the militia (in which the furnishing of substitutes is permitted) numbered 444,000 men in 1905, of whom however only some 162,000 were stationed in England. For Ireland there exists, moreover, a militarily organized police force of some 12,000 men. The standing army is largely employed abroad, especially in India, where two-thirds of the army of almost 230,000 (37) men consists of natives. The colonies have, as a rule, their own militias and volunteer forces. The relation between Great Britain's home and colonial militarism is characterized by the military budget, which, in 1897, was about 360 million marks for the home country and about 510 million marks for India. To this must be added the immense fleet, with crews and marines numbering almost 200,000 men.

The army system of the United States is a mixture of standing army and militia. The army, which is made up by recruiting (38) and is by law limited to a maximum strength of 100,000 men, numbers in times of peace, according to the enlisted strength of 1905, 61,000 men (on October 15, 1906, including the Philippine Scouts, 67,253 men), among them 3,800 officers, mostly educated at the military academy at West Point. In the same year the militia numbered some 111,000 men. The militia is organized on a fairly democratic basis. In times of peace it is under the control of the governors of the various states, and its armament and training is not in accordance with modern efficiency. Besides, an important part is played by the police force, frequently organized on a military basis.

Of quite an original kind is another institution which, considered in its formal aspect, does not fall within the frame of this chapter, but which, however, must not be left unmentioned in this connection on account of the function it performs. In all the capitalist countries we find the gun-men of the employers, even if, in some cases, they be only strike-breakers armed by the employers. (This is no rare occurrence in Switzerland and France, for instance, and as to Germany we refer the reader to the Hamburg ship-builders' strike and the incidents at Nuremberg in 1906). But the American capitalists have at all times at their disposal such a band of gun-men of prime quality in the shape of the armed Pinkerton detectives. Finally, taking into consideration some 30,000 men in the American navy, in 1905, we see that the United States, too, furnishes a choice collection of the main forms of the armed forces of the state.

In Switzerland there existed until lately a real people's army, a general arming of the people. Every Swiss citizen, able to bear arms, had his gun and ammunition continually in his house. That was the army of democracy of which Gaston Moch treats in his well-known book. Switzerland enjoying an international guarantee equal to that of Belgium, it was only natural that in this country "militarism for abroad" should assume and retain a particularly mild character, a result to which numerous other circumstances contributed their share. But the "militarism for home" changed with the accentuation of class antagonism. The fact that the proletariat possessed arms and ammunition was increasingly felt, by the capitalist class that wanted to dominate, to be an impediment to its liberty to exploit and oppress and even a danger to its existence. So, in September, 1899, they began to disarm the people by taking its cartridges away and endeavoring at the same time to develop with continually increasing vigor the existing rudiments of militarism in the direction of the institutions of the great military powers. Attempts were made to transform successively the active portions of the army into a willing instrument of class domination by all the means employed by those military powers. In that way the celebrated Swiss militia developed more and more the repellent traits which have made all standing armies a disgrace to civilization. Nothing has been changed by the resolution on the employment of soldiers in strikes which was passed by the National Council, on December 21, 1906, in connection with the law on military organization.(39)

Because of her neutrality, Belgium's demand for soldiers for her standing army is considerably smaller (by about one-half) than her "stock" of material for soldiering. On that account the system of universal military service is modified by a draft system (drawing lots) and by the substitute system, which latter deeply influences the character of the army. Naturally, only the well-to-do are able to furnish substitutes, and they as naturally make the widest use of it. At first that system of furnishing substitutes, which was formerly so general, may not have been of any special political significance, but in Belgium it has led to a result very serious for the ruling class, as the country possesses a numerous proletariat and the percentage of workmen is very great among the men liable to military service and drawn by lot. Even that portion of the proletarian Belgian army which did not consist of class-conscious proletarians and proletarians ready to risk all, so rapidly succumbed to the anti-militarist propaganda that for years past it has not had any value as a weapon in the hands of the ruling class against the interior enemy and is no longer used as such. But they found a way out of the difficulty. From former times there existed an institution, called the civic guard. To the civic guard belong those who have drawn a lucky number and have furnished substitutes, but only if they can buy their own uniforms and arms, a condition almost excluding the poorer population. It used to be nothing but a fancy-dress parade, its members were mostly Liberals, its organization, democratic. Members of the civic guard kept their arms at home, elected their own officers, etc. A change was brought about in consequence of the increasing untrustworthiness of the standing army. The administration and management of the civic guard were taken out of the hands of the municipalities and transferred to those of the government, the democratic institutions were abolished, and the arms were taken away from the individuals and locked away in the depots of the military administration. A fairly rigorous system of military drill was introduced, and the training of the civic guard was confided to the most objectionable characters among the former officers of the standing army. Men between the ages of 20 and 30 have to train no less than three nights a week and on half of a Sunday every two weeks, and if formerly those military exercises reminded one of the happy-go lucky functions of our German civic soldiers of olden days, they are now carried out under a sharp control and punctuality is enforced by punishments. It is to be noted that this reorganization of the civic guard has only taken place in communities of more than 20,000 inhabitants, whilst in the other places the civic guard has remained a ridiculous presence. That fact, too, marks the civic guard to be a special force of the government in the struggle against the "interior enemy." Excluding the military police, the standing army numbered, in 1905, about 46,000 men; the active civic guard numbered about 44,000 men, almost as many.

Belgium thus possesses an army against the exterior, and a special army against the interior enemy, an exquisite arrangement which, as the employment of the civic guard during the late suffrage struggles and strikes has proved, renders and will continue to render good service to the capitalist regime in Belgium.

In addition, there is in Belgium the constabulary or military police, who have simply to perform military tasks in war as well as during strikes and riots. They are very numerous and spread all over the country, of great mobility, and can be concentrated, shifted and mobilized at a moment's notice, at Tervueren, near Brussels, they have general barracks for their flying brigade, and they swarm out during strikes and such like movements all over the country like a flight of wasps. Most of them are former non-commissioned officers of the army, they are well paid, excellently armed, in short, an elite force. Whilst the civic guard is as if created for its task in the class-struggle, because it represents nothing less than a special military mobilization of the capitalist bourgeoisie, which is well aware of its interests, the "watch-dogs" of capitalism, organized in the constabulary, play their part no less efficiently for the present, according to the rule that they must play the tune called for by him who pays the piper.

Japan, a country in about the same capitalist feudal stage of development as Germany, has in spite of her insular position, which is similar to that of England, and in consequence of her strained foreign relations, of late become even from a military point of view a veritable counterpart of Germany, except perhaps that her troops are given a more serviceable war training.


It follows from all this that the size and the particular character of the organization of an army accommodate themselves to the international situation, to the function the army has as regards the exterior enemy. The international tension is driving states (even those which are not yet capitalist and which compete with and have to protect themselves against the capitalist states) to train all citizens capable of bearing arms and to adopt the most rigorous form of military organization, the standing conscript army. This can be considerably relaxed by natural causes as, for instance, by the insular position of Great Britain or the comparatively insular situation of the United States, and by artificial political means as, for instance, the neutralization of Switzerland and the states of the Low Countries. But the function of "militarism for home," against the interior enemy, militarism as a weapon in the class-struggle, is an ever necessary accompanying feature of capitalist development, and even Gaston Moch regards the "re-establishment of order" as a "legitimate function of a people's army." The reason why "militarism for home" exhibits forms greatly differing from one another explains itself simply by the fact that such militarism has hitherto had a more national purpose, the fulfilment of which was not so much influenced by international competition, that therefore it can give much more consideration to national peculiarities. However, England and also America (a country in which the standing army was increased from 27,000 to about 61,000 men from 1896 to 1906, where the number of men in the war navy was doubled, the war budget multiplied by two and a half and the navy budget by three in the same space of time, and where Mr. Taft asked for 100 millions more for 1907), are being increasingly pushed into the paths of the militarism of the European continent. This is certainly caused in the first line by changes in the international situation and the requirements of jingo and imperialist world policy, but in the second line quite unmistakably by changes in the interior tension, the intensification of the class struggle. It is scarcely possible that the militaristic velleities of the British war secretary, Haldane, in September, 1906, have only a temporal relation to the energetic political activity of the British working-class. The propensity to introduce universal military training of the Swiss kind, which for the time being has been repulsed in England in spite of the strong agitation in favor of such training and which in the United States found significant expression in Mr. Roosevelt's message of December 4, 1906, is not a symptom of progress. It signifies, in spite of all said to the contrary, a strengthening of militarism as compared to its present condition, and is a station on the precipitous road leading to a standing army, as the example of Switzerland proves.

On account of the great multiplicity of possible combinations between the factors determining the extent and nature of the special requirements for protection against the exterior and interior enemy, militarism shows unmistakably a pronounced multiformity and transmutability. But that transmutability is always kept within the limits prescribed by the absolutely essential capitalistic purpose of militarism. Nevertheless, development may temporarily take directly opposite roads. While France, for example, under Picquart, is earnestly attacking the problem of greatly reducing the training period of her reserve and territorial troops, reforming the "biribiri" and abolishing separate military jurisdiction, the president of the German central military court, von Massow, quitted the service in the fall of 1906, because the military command (the Prussian war ministry) had on the strength of legal interpretation formally invaded the independence of the military courts, an independence which had indeed already received a curious construction by the disciplining of the judges acting in the Bilse case. French conditions are almost exclusively due to the prevailing anti-clericalism; clericalism has an important pillar in the army, the government needs the help of the proletariat for its anti-clerical policy. Such a combination is of course not of eternal duration, nor has it sprung from a real, lasting tendency of evolution. It results from a constellation, transient in its nature, and is quite compatible, as has been proved, with an energetic fight against anti militarism.

From these points of view an interesting case is furnished by Russia which has been forced to adopt universal military service on account of her intensely strained foreign relations, and which as an Asiatic despotic state is confronted by an interior discord without example. The interior enemy of Czarism is not only the proletariat, but also the immense mass of the peasantry and the bourgeoisie, and even a large portion of the nobility. Ninety-nine percent. of the Russian soldiers belong to classes that are the arch-enemies of the Czar's despotism. The development of class consciousness is extremely hampered by the low state of education, national and religious antagonisms and the clashes of economic and social interests; further by the greater or smaller pressure exercised by the widely ram)fied bureaucratic apparatus, by the unfavorable arrangement of political districts, the insufficiently developed means of communication, and other things. By a cunningly devised system of elite forces, like the constabulary and, above all, the Cossacks, who have been positively changed into a special social class by means of good pay and other material rewards, large political privileges and the establishment of semi-socialist Cossack communities, and are thus artificially bound to the despotic regime, Czarism attempts to secure a sufficiently strong band of faithful retainers to fight down the unrest which has penetrated deeply into the ranks of the army. In addition to these "watch-dogs of Czarism" there are the Circassians (40) and other barbarian populations living in the empire of the knout who, for instance, were let loose upon the land like a pack of wolves during the counterrevolution in the Baltic Province, and all the other armed beneficiaries of Czarism whose name is legion, the police and their accomplices, as well as the Russian toughs, the black bands. In the bourgeois capitalist state the conscript army, in its function as a weapon against the proletariat, is a crude and, at the same time, terrible and fantastic contradiction in itself, under the Czar's despotic regime the conscript army is a weapon which must 1:urn itself more and more with crushing power against the despotism of Czarism itself, from which at the same time the conclusion must be drawn that the experience derived from the antimilitarist developments in Russian can be utilized only with great care in regard to the bourgeois capitalist states. In the bourgeois capitalist states, the attempts of the ruling classes to buy the people to fight against itself, and that even largely with money taken from the people for the purpose mentioned, are condemned to ultimate failure. In regard to Russia, we are witnessing already how desperate and wretched attempts of Czarism to bribe the revolution, as it were, are resulting in an early and pitiable fiasco amidst the miseries of the financial situation, in spite of all the endeavors of the unscrupulous international stock-exchange financiers to retrieve the situation. It is certain that the loan question is an important one, at least in regard to the rate at which the revolution develops, but as little as revolutions can be artificially made as little and still less can they be bought, (41) even if the means of the high finance of the world should be employed.

Chapter Three. Means and Effects of Militarism

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