Revolution and National Question
The Double Situation at the end of the First World War
by Hartmut Dicke
March 22, 2008
In 1918 a new situation had emerged. Step by step the German military
machinery broke down after four years of war, the constellation of the
Central Powers comprising Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey
was torn apart politically and militarily. In the west as in the south-east
the military situation could not be held and the allies, especially Austria-Hungary,
actually pursued a separate peace without any consultation.
The country was in a completely different situation, which had evolved
over the last two years and made revolution inevitable. All promises of
the past, all lies turned back against the ruling regime now.
Since the summer of 1917 there had already been vehement mass protests
of the marine repressed brutally. The victory of Russia's October Revolution
boosted these revolutionary trends also nourished by the catastrophic
situation of the country and the self-revelation of the boastful Wilhelmian
regime. Every day there were more thousands of people following the revolutionary
camp. While in the first few months of the war the masses had been told
the war was led against encircling and existential threat, it was already
in the May of 1915 that the determining associations of employers and
landowners came out with the truth and declared an open war of conquest.
The government itself kept in the background first because of diplomatic
reasons, but the political forces of annexionists were given free way.
At this time the masses had already experienced the horror and atrocities
of this imperialistic war, the 'fascination' of inexperienced masses based
on deliberate deception and acting had vanished. Since then opposition
had grown with every year.
In Germany proletarian revolution was on the agenda in November of 1918.
The country having the longest and greatest tradition of labour movement
had long since been aroused from national mania. The revolutionary and
non-reformistic aims and principles of labour movement having matured
over the last decades were now to be implemented under completely different
circumstances of a country marked by defeat. The Russian Revolution of
1917, in enduring all kinds of hazards, several military interventions
and various attempts of undermining the Soviet state politically, acted
as a signal to realize a proletarian revolution in Germany as well.
Thus the strong proletarian movement leading to the construction of revolutionary
dictatorships of labour class, of Räterepubliken [governments by
councils of workers and soldiers] in several parts of Germany, was a result
of its own history as well as international context.
People were now confronted with the attempt of the victor nations England,
France and the USA to get control of Germany and possibly even to destroy
it. On the 8th January, 1918 US president Wilson had given a glossy and
deceptive speech promising a fair peace. This was already the reaction
to growing revolutionary trends in Germany as in many other countries
as well as to the October Revolution in Russia. Suddenly there was a necessity
to make peace-offers using nice words. And after a few months there were
growing trends among the ruling class in Germany, having pushed the war
for three years, to accept these non-committal so-called peace conditions.
Only in the spring of 1918 the German military machinery had forced a
dictatorial peace on the Soviet Republic being itself under various threats
and committed this novel and young state to high contributions and provided
the German army with large territorial advantages. However, the main goal
of the German military was to trigger a decisive battle under these conditions
in the west, to their own advantage. This went wrong because in the meantime
the US joined war as a new fresh and technologically well equipped power.
Not only that, the German population was exhausted by this war and the
majority was fed up with imperialistic mania.
Yet, the situation being found in the autumn of 1918 was that the victor
nations were blatantly working towards a complete dependence of Germany
if not its dismantlement. This becomes clear not only in the peace conditions
of Versailles signed in May 1919, but is already apparent in the armistice
of Compiègne signed on the 11th November 1918. This “armistice”
not only arranges the withdrawal of German troops in order to guarantee
the adversary, in every imaginable way, a prevention of a possible resume
of war by the German side, but – already at this stage – amounts
practically to a complete political subordination to the allied powers
. It is not just that Germany is actually disarmed
under these conditions of Compiègne, but there are some very denotative
paragraphs which show that a direct intervention into the German political
life itself intended.
Indeed, in this so-called armistice there is already the demand that all
civil ships Germany kept worldwide as a trading power and which were picked
up on open sea are to be handed over to the allies. Another very remarkable
point would be that Germany was not allowed to decide upon their eastern
war front any more. It says in the armistice:
“XII. All German troops at present in territories
which before the war formed part of Russia must likewise return to within
the frontiers of Germany as above defined as soon as the allies
shall think the moment suitable having regard to the internal situation
of those territories.”
This paragraph accorded with a part of the German leadership
hoping for continuation of the Eastern troops in order to keep a basis
there. Yet, in this paragraph the Western states reclaimed the right of
control over the troops in the eastern occupied territories. 
It was those allies who actually made war on Soviet Russia.
Likewise it says:
“XVI. The Allies shall have free access to the
territories evacuated by the Germans on their Eastern frontier, either
through Danzig or by the Vistula, in order to convey supplies to the
populations of those territories or for the purpose of maintaining order.”
The allies including the USA systematically pursued a concept
to transform the state landscape in the zone between Russia and Germany
for their purpose.
Overall the armistice can be characterised by Germany being committed
to all kinds of obligations and on the other hand the allies not getting
any respective obligations. Even the western border territories were practically
put under military control of the western powers.
Naturally, this concept was not a coincidence and it told a lot about
the intentions for the coming. Thus the proletarian revolution was in
a situation where it was to overthrow not just its own ruling regime,
which was now all the more tired-out and deteriorated as a consequence
of war and defeat, but at the same time had to attack the new stepping-in
powers introducing dictatorship in Germany. This double nature is the
determining factor of the situation at the end of 1918. So from the beginning
the national question played a very decisive role and it was not recognized
in its total capacity by many revolutionaries. Yet, one has to note that
the intentions of the allies and especially the peace treaty of Versailles
in its concept of May 1919 were vehemently condemned by the proletarian
It was also a question of to be or not to be for the proletarian revolution
to attack these measures against Germany itself as after the collapse
of German bourgeoisie other powers apparently intended to secure their
access in order to realize their imperialistic rule.
These powers pursued the aim of constructing Germany as an advanced basis
against the new Soviet Russia and also to split and destruct Germany,
'troublemaker' and potential source of danger to the old established powers
and capitalism. Because of this fundamental situation the question of
the proletarian revolutionaries how to deal with this national suppression
became a crucial question of their existence from the very beginning.
This is to be analyzed. When there were the Treaties of Paris, among them
the one of Versailles for Germany, including demands causing Germany tribute
payments for years, tributes to be drawn from the masses, it was finally
clear what this 'democratic' war was about.
II. The Background of the First World War
It is known and well analysed that the problem of redistributing colonies
and ruling at sea as a crucial way of trade of those times was an essential
component to the outbreak of war. Yet, indeed, in all participating great
powers the antagonism between labour class and bourgeoisie plays an essential
role in the respective countries.
In the large industrial centres there had become manifest the contradiction
between social production and appropriation by a few big capitalists.
For 50 years the labour class had increased rapidly and gained a greater
confidence politically. What had been explained more theoretically in
the Communist Manifest as a projection onto the future, had become reality
here. Therefore it is natural that the red Social Democrats though splitting
into two different poles gained more and more influence. All bourgoisies
were obsessed in a way with destroying their own labour class politically,
taming it with a bloody war and in standing on the summit of imperialism
disposing problems to other countries, that is creating a mad war in order
to get control of inner social problems. This applies to France as well
as to Germany as it is valid for England and many other states and especially
to the USA. Each of these powers tried to stabilize its own inner contradiction
by means of a predatory war towards the outside, to freeze in and rule
it if you like.
In Germany apart from the bourgeoisie there was the old outmoded ruling
class, the long established circles of aristocrats, nobles and great landowners,
who were able to maintain their political power in this country for such
a long time because of distinctive historical conditions. Here we meet
some special conditions of German history.
II.1 German History in European Context
From 1648, the end of the Thirty Years' war, until 1848 the country was
completely paralysed as a coherent state. Two great powers – great
in European comparison – were forming within Germany, both of which
disposed of considerable territories outside the country and were orientated
accordingly. The country was internally paralysed and its civil development
restrained. Especially in 1815, after the revolutionary wars and collapse
of the Napoleonic regime the “Ancien Regime” and German splitting
were restored and the greater part of the country was deliberately defined
to be a manoeuvring mass for external interventions. The uppermost watchdog
of this “order” was the Austrian chancellor Metternich. On
behalf of the international reaction as well of the own he suppressed
every democratic stirring and warned against the “extremely dangerous”
ideas of German unity. Yet, the development of industry and railways aroused
the country and let this reactionary claim of power finally collide with
reality. Hence, in 1848, it came to a revolution after an impulse from
France. Here the new communist movement showed to advantage for the first
time. The revolutionary ideas of Marx and Engels based on scientific investigation
of history rooted in the preparation of this revolution.
The revolution failed for two reasons. Firstly, the problems were more
or less unsolvable as the situation was extremely complicated because
of the antagonism of two great powers none of which showed any interest
in leading the whole. Only a radical sweeping attack, an expulsion of
the totally obsolete potentates of feudal times would have helped. But
the majority of Germans was not able to do this, the education to crawling,
to negation of every greater future orientated politics had lasted far
too long.  Secondly, from the very beginning this
revolution had to face the pressure of international reaction, which since
long had been nipping the revolutionary uprising of the Germans in the
bud by all means.
Since then a lot has happened, but one thing has remained, revolutionary
efforts in this country not only have to deal with their own reaction
and regime and international interventions, but also with the Naturell
of people that has emerged over the centuries.
Revolution failed, but change could not be avoided. The striving for German
unity could not be stopped any longer, this was clear to everyone. It
was a direct threat to the royal houses, this was clear even to the most
single-minded among them. And even the highest international watchdog,
the Russian Tsar, who had threatened the Germans with war whenever there
was the slightest movement towards unity, had to accept this fact. The
question was how and under what social circumstances it was to be enforced.
Saving the monarchy was the motive with which the Prussian politician
Bismarck adopted the ideas of German unification in the aftermath. One
had to adapt oneself to the new tendencies without giving up “monarchy”.
Prussia itself undergoing a rapid industrialisation gained the lead with
German unity striving. Not too long ago the Prussian royal house had suppressed
the revolutionaries and had bombarded even bourgeois liberalism with insults.
Now it came to a coexistence, characteristic for Germany, of a rapidly
developing bourgeoisie and the rule of Junker and monarchistic aristocratic
power. Austria had to be kicked out, it was only this way that such a
state Bismarck had in mind could emerge, furthermore this guaranteed the
dominance of the protestant element, which still played a role to this
kind of reaction below the surface.
After the monarch Friedrich Wilhelm IV had been replaced by his brother
because he was completely degenerated and had made himself a laughing-stock
for the whole country, Bismarck became Prussian prime minister in 1862
and began with the capturing of Germany by Prussia. In 1863 he binds the
Tsar to himself by helping him to suppress the Polish revolt.
The method of “trouble making”, meaning the active incitement
of dispute in order to then try to ambush the antagonist, becomes obvious
here. Before it comes to unity, the Danish king tries to break 'his' state
away from the German Confederation and to annex it for himself. This causes
a wave of resistance among the Germans, Prussia and Austria together move
against Denmark in a short successful war. Denmark has to return Schleswig-Holstein,
but Bismarck uses the opportunity to push the frontier into mainly Danish
The cooperation with Austria in the war against Denmark was an excellent
condition for constructing and provoking a new conflict. Now it comes
to war between two camps in Germany, Austria and Prussia being at the
head. Prussia being considerably smaller can still bet on a quick victory
because of its comparatively modern military technics and by exploiting
the indecisiveness of the old fashioned emperor regime. Prussian dominance
in Germany is realized. The state of Hannover being on the wrong side
against Prussia is cashed and thus Prussia is provided with a coherent
territory which now represents the biggest part of Northern Germany. Bismarck
quickly makes a placatory peace with Austria internally shocked because
of war and defeat and now attends to the next target using his “method”.
In France there rules Napoleon III, a military usurpator, who has put
the emperor's crown on his head, whose empire is approaching a crisis
and who urgently needs external success. He intends to obtain a territorial
piece on the left side of the Rhine as a compensation for his "beneficial”
role in the previous dispute in Germany. Bismarck knows how to allure
and then to fob him, provokes war forging Prussia ahead ultimately. Napoleon
III's behaviour, in taking in German territories through extortion
like 200 years before, was bound to cause a national wave in Germany.
The remaining South German states Baden, Württemberg, Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen
and even Bavaria draw nearer to Prussia. In Versailles, after war had
been decided on French soil, it comes to the act of unification conducted
by the monarchy. During all his actions Bismarck safeguarded himself with
the Tsar, but also with England being closely related to Prussia through
the monarchy. The whole approach is conditioned in a way as to prevent
any consolidation of other forces in Germany from the beginning and to
create a fait accompli for the country. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
have described and commentated on all these proceedings very thoroughly.
As much as Bismarck knew how to exploit the right moment for himself,
as much there was a catch in the usurpation of power in Germany. From
the very beginning this state fell between all stools in Europe, was dependent
on the powers which had supported it, namely Russia and England, and what
is more, Elsass-Lothringen had been annexed which was bound to cause a
conflict with France long-term . Militarily pondering on how to deal with
such a two-front war actually existed by 1871. Not without
reason Engels was able to describe the terrible scenario of a disastrous
war in continental Europe already in the early 90s, so before the age
of imperialism. Not for nothing Bismarck tried to secure this state by
skilful diplomacy between 1871 and 1890 as the dangers lurking in the
whole construction were clear to him. 
Although this state set free great fresh potentials through its unification
and industrialisation and not least offered new chances to the labour
movement, one should never forget the double character of there having
been artificially conserved and even revived an aristocratic power that
bore a tendency to riskiness, overestimation of its own capabilities and
The proletarian party of this country was never to forget the character
of this unification, had to realize that the solution of national unification
under these premises was a distortion and that the question of democracy
and building up normal bourgeois conditions meaning a bourgeois republic
was not to be taken from the programme (significance of the “Minimalprogramm”).
It is all the more significant that one component of this party flirted
with this very state, this very Bismarckiantry and felt the basis of this
state to be its own.
This short retrospective of the history of origin of this state was necessary
in order to understand several essential elements of later times. In the
following era of imperialism all contradictions mentioned emerge in a
much bigger world-wide context. The era begins around the year of 1896
in a broader sense, elements of such a society had developed before, now
it was ripe. However, we have to deal with the question why contradiction
focused on Germany and its few allies. Germany was neither the greatest
power, meanwhile the US had become this, nor was it in the least the greatest
colonial power, here Germany was of secondary importance, nor was it the
greatest territorial power, nor had it the most reactionary structures,
Tsarist Russia had these, but it challenged every other political power
in Europe by its existence and it bore the strongest political labour
movement. Its inner conflict was the most acute, the high degree of industrialisation
crossed with a bourgeoisie connected with Junkers and aristocracy, subjectivism
and overestimation of themselves signified this new class of “lords”.
II.2 International Background of the First World War
– The Global Aggravation
With the 90s a new type of enterprise developed, the big trusts, dominating
the markets mostly in form of a few manageable groupings, raising production
to a higher level, also by introducing science in production
and necessary accountancy. They are also called “monopoles”,
but you have to consider that this is correct just in a few cases of the
“national” market. On worldwide scale competition breaks out
even more strongly. We get the most comprehensive presentation of the
imperialistic age through Lenin's analyses of imperialism 
not accidentally becoming one of his most central theoretical tasks during
the First World War. In addition to the economic changes inside the capitalistic
countries, the fact that the main parts of the world are distributed is
above all a determining factor. However, colonisation has not yet finished
in the largest state of the world, China. Here a struggle unfolds between
a still prevailing ancient state power and the new different powers pursuing
annexations, all trying to obtain a significant part.
England is already an old-established colonial power in China with concessions
at the coast and the large rivers several hundred years old. Japan starts
on a plan to tear away pieces of land as big as possible, thereby encountering
the Russian Tsar coming from the north. US imperialism tries to appear
as defender of China's integrity and aims at becoming ruler of all China
in a long-term strategy. German imperialism “disturbingly”
bursts into this situation in 1897 and in an act of violence gains a colony
at the southern coast of the peninsula Shandong (Kiaochow) It causes Russia
and France to do the same and secure coast positions as well. Yet, this
rivalry stimulates increased resistance in China where now revolutionary
forces form increasingly. All imperialists (seem to) unite for a suppression
of an uprising in the year of 1900, German imperialism again tries to
show off vociferously. In fact, rivalry among all imperialists increases
dramatically and that not only among European imperialists, but also between
the USA and the European great powers and Japan.
These processes constitute a crucial prelude to the First World War. People
quite often consider the rivalry between England and Germany, especially
in the Middle East, the struggle about the territory around the Suez Canal
and the Persian Golf. In fact, the intensified world wide rivalry having
its point of junction in Asia was a starting point to world wide intensification
finally letting contradictions explode in Europe. The conflict about China
also produces the Russian-Japanese war of 1904-1905 effecting the first
Russian revolution in 1905. In the year of 1911 the old Chinese dynasty
breaks down ultimately because its rule is not possible in the modern
age any more and the various imperialists leave each other high and dry
thus making revolution possible for the Chinese inner revolutionary opposition.
China was half a colony, but not completely colonialised like India, from
now on it was to become itself an actor in international development.
It was considered as the biggest and most promising territory of profit
and exploitation by all imperialist states. With the revolution of 1911
the international situation had to aggravate dramatically. Now struggling
for predominance in the rest of the world became even more urgent.
II.3 The World Conflict – Falling between different
At the end of the 19th century the German-English conflict in the world
wide colonial and trade policy develops more and more strongly, changing
from a short era of courting each other into a phase of quarrel and threat
of war in the first years of the twentieth century. In the year 1904 outbreak
of a great colonial war was already feared. These aggravations have always
gone along with another conflict behind it, the conflict of various European
states with the USA.
In the year of 1898 it came to the first new imperialistic war when the
USA being the new world power draws away the most important colonies,
especially Cuba and the Philippines, from the long outmoded colonial power
Spain. In doing so the USA appears as liberator from the old, still almost
feudal yoke of the Spanish only in order to then carry on a suppression
all the more brutal exceeding by far everything the Spanish had committed.
This war is dealt with in common historical descriptions. Yet, it is much
less known that in the context of this war it came to
the so-called Manila conflict. German imperialism came along and claimed
a part of the prize after the war of conquest and genocide by the USA
on the Philippines, but could not compete militarily with the US. Finally,
the USA put off the urging German imperialism with a few less significant
groups of islands in the Pacific at an international conference. 
These new colonies situated on the other side of world were to exceed
all German potentials. They gave further impetus to the demands for an
even madder upgrade of armada and thus becoming an even greater competitor
to England. When the First World War broke out, these colonies in the
Pacific were soon taken over by the other powers. It exceeded all their
potentials, that is what the German “world power” strategists
failed to notice.
The German government was already facing complete isolation by the year
1900. They had believed to have free choice among the powers for alliances,
but in the end they were left to be outsider. There were further attempts
at winning several other powers in order to get rid of isolation, but
ultimately without success.
From the end of the Spanish-American war until around
the year of 1902 there were attempts to achieve a new alliance with England,
namely considering the new developing background. The best known attempt
of this kind would be the suggestion of the British foreign minister Joseph
Chamberlain of November 1899. Germany should enter an alliance of the
USA and Great Britain.  The German government did
not attend to it. Indeed, it was a very dangerous suggestion as Germany
would have become a European “Festlandsdegen” [continent's
dagger] of this emerging coalition by such a treaty. Isolation of Germany
was already looming at this time. This was determined objectively on the
one hand because rushing ahead it challenged the established and fresh
arising powers like the USA and undermined their imperialistic policy,
on the other hand isolation was strongly promoted by the provocative vociferous
“policy of the firm hand” of the Hohenzollern leadership and
its chancellors and militaries.
The whole era from 1898 to 1914 is characterised by a great number of
conflicts concerning foreign affairs often leading to the verge of war
in Europe, but in most cases it is about colonial conflicts in the first
instance, where several imperialistic powers frankly quarrel about mineral
resources and raw materials and especially in China struggle for conquest
of the inner market. It is about Morocco, Angola, about all southern Africa,
the Middle-East, the Turkish territories, about the Pacific and Latin
America. However, the differences also come back to Europe itself. The
imperialistic war of rivalry approaches Europe directly through the Balcans
and the Mediterranean.
By 1902 the knot begins to tighten finally. In 1904, after Great Britain
and France had been in a dangerous conflict because of colonial issues
in Africa just a few years before, it comes to the “entente cordiale”
between England and France directed against Germany. Since the old federation
of France and Russia having existed for decades and been explicitly directed
against Germany continues to exist, all this comes close to a complete
stranglehold. Already at this point people talk about the acute risk of
an immediate continental great war, yet Russian revolution intervenes
in 1905. It put the overthrow of the Tsar and the development of proletarian
revolution on the agenda. The Wilhelminian regime tried to back the Tsar
and briefly attempted to win the totally deadbeat Tsar for Germany. Yet,
there are quite different laws in force than dynastic relationships. Russia's
dependence on French capital is a matter of priority, she is not to be
diverted as the illusionists of Wilhelminian diplomacy might have thought.
The Tsar retrieves some of its power, but he is tightly bound to his alliance
with France and England.
Finally, the German part is left to respond to this situation with the
military trump card only, they rely on the strongest army of the continent
and the naval armament, though considering the development so far it was
already clear that this could never be a successful concept. It is not
the same situation as in the 80s or at beginning of the 90s when Germany
defended itself against the French-Russian alliance and was even supported
by the major representatives of the international labour movement because
this was characterised by defending against a reactionary confederation
Since the middle of the 90s it was a power that subjectivisticly wooed
“predominance” with the other imperialists and for which the
conflict with England (and the USA behind it) played an increasingly greater
An essential consequence of this era, its purpose if you like, was the
awaking of more and more peoples out of their stagnating conditions like
in China or in the directly colonial countries and converting them into
actives of world history themselves. And German imperialism is very much
available for suppression of uprising nations, likes to be the paladin
of all imperialism. In few cases it acts to be a representative of independence
of single nations, as in the case of the Boers or Morocco, whilst joining
the foremost front of colonial slaughter at another occasion, as in the
case of China and in the suppression of Latin America and African colonies.
Isolation was determined objectively on the one hand, politics based on
the then situation was not easy, the position “between the stools”
was, as described, also a consequence of the very construction of this
state from 1871. The other aspect was the reactionary character of the
inner regime making it impossible to get out of the situation.
Finally, in 1907 the knot around Germany closes ultimately as England
and Russia agree on a compromise in the Persian question. Thus isolation
is nearly complete, even Austria-Hungary is courted diplomatically by
the other countries and is easily extorted because of its inner conflicts.
But there is no war yet despite ongoing conflicts. It is well known what
devastating armed potentials have accumulated to both sides and what risk
a war would stake to all participating powers. Everyone is shrinking back
from this for the time being.
Labour movement does try to respond to these challenges. However, on the
three great conferences at Stuttgart in 1907, Kopenhagen 1910 and Basel
1912 war might be “condemned” and if need be threatened with
mass strikes, quite limited though, yet no serious, concrete steps are
taken in order to spike the imperialists’ arms. In several parties
of the IInd International the first social chauvinists are asking leave
to speak. In Germany the Social Democracy hesitates to raise the democratic
question against the unbearable emperorship and the feudal relics, in
fear of illegalisation and already because of conformity as well.
Yet, it was these extremely reactionary, literally backwards orientated
conditions in Germany that would have had to be attacked to destroy the
crazy policy of Wilhelmianism and its closely connected enterprises (Krupp,
Siemens, Diskontobank and others). The roots of this failure are to be
found, amongst others, in the background of Social Democracy,
in Lasalleanism, entailing failure and unwillingness to win the broad
non-proletarian strata. All those questions like the one about a war of
the labour class itself against an ulta-reactionary regime to be overcome,
having been understood by Marxism much earlier, are dispelled here, not
playing any role to Social Democracy in this situation.
Wars are not made in a way, so reaction announces its intention to make
war now and then labour movement is able to prepare for it. For nearly
all wars, and also at that time, provocations and certain assassinations,
which are to heat up the situation, play a role. In 1907 and the following
years nobody knew that the successor to the throne, Franz Ferdinand, would
be murdered to initiate war, but something of this kind was about to happen.
This is also true nowadays.
II.4 The Constellation in Europe
Let us summarize and describe things in their entirety:
With the age of worldwide colonialism and imperialism Germany having the
described traditional structures still became a power acting world-wide,
yet exceeding its own forces. (The word “Weltmacht” [world
power] should be avoided, although potentates of that time liked to crown
themselves with it.) The colonial empire was small even in relation to
some other smaller classical colonial states in Europe, and in addition
to this it was scattered around the globe. Considering economic development,
it happened pretty fast for European standards. Yet, the USA had developed
much faster than Germany since the 90s. Likewise, Japan emerged as a new
ruling power in the Pacific. Its development was at least comparable to
This new European power made itself unpopular with everyone, especially
the leading class with its importunate behaviour. Showing presumption
and totally desultory demeanour seeking alliance now in this direction,
then in that direction, it could only isolate the country even more. Whilst
Friedrich Engels had supported Germany against encircling and attempts
at revenge until the beginning 90s, other tasks came up as “great
power policy” of this reactionary class progressed. It is to be
investigated to what extent Social Democracy started necessary attacks
against this regime and its external “policy” and exploited
At the beginning of the age of imperialism, around the
years 1896 to 1898, the internal situation aggravated more than ever.
Now Social Democracy was challenged all the more, but revisionism and
occasionally unconcealed chauvinism spread among them. The weaknesses
in this party of the preceding era now merged with general reaction and
drive for conquests from the part of the new German imperialism. In the
era of 1900 to 1914 the war situation appeared as it was actually to explode
in Europe then, and it is still to be investigated why labour movement,
the IInd International, did not really take measures and not only released
a few manifestations in order to prevent the case of war. The appearance
of great power policy by the new upstart and its encircling by the other
great powers and in addition the activity of the USA competing with everyone
could not have escaped the socialists' notice.
II.5 International Situation – The
Calculation of the Various Powers
Since the end of the 90s it had already become clear that there was one
greatest imperialistic power surpassing all others and growing into a
true world power. This was the United States of America. Already at this
point the analysts of the German leadership must have seen these new forces
of the USA as well. Yet, when their pompous speeches still concentrated
on England and challenged it and talked about the US merely in a subliminal
way, there must have been a reason.
Against their better knowledge German political and military leadership
acted according to the belief that war would be confined to Europe, though,
naturally, a participation of the USA, and that on the opposite side,
was to be expected. The calculation of the USA had been known for long.
It was based on waiting for who would be the stronger in order to step
in accordingly. In any case they would not allow Germany to take on a
dominant role in Europe because Europe itself was their target territory
for expansionist spreading. That is why the calculation of the German
leadership was built on sand from the very beginning. And this could not
be obscured by some individual successes at the beginning of the war.
Yet, an alternative calculation cannot be expected from people whose ultimate
goal is to decimate and discipline their own people.
Concerning the other side, their political and moral position is by far
no whit better. Not at all it is only about taking away the few colonies
in the possession of Germany only, but in fact this unfolding war increasingly
got the smell of revenge, an approach heading for destruction of Germany.
They spoke of a “Störenfried” [disturber] of development
restricting their empire. Some of them would have liked it best to get
Germany back into the largely fragmented state like before 1866. Yet,
they could not go that far. Anyway, in this war the objective of France,
England and Russia was cutting to shape Germany completely and submission
to the old dominating forces. It was not just about redistribution of
colonies, this would be an absolutely appeasing analysis.
As Lenin mentioned already in 1917, there were plans of the
Russian tsarist camp not only to participate in the division of Turkey,
Persia and China, but also to conquer Eastern Prussia and divide Austria-Hungary.
The allies and Russia had their treaties for this. When the new provisional
government took power after the February of 1917 and the tsar had been
overthrown, these treaties were not even published. 
The Germans, however, concentrated on European conquests like the annexation
of Belgium in contrast to original promises, like annexing French
coal territories as well as impudent claims like intending to rule over
the whole East as the notorious “Alldeutsche Verband” [“All-German
Association”]  had proclaimed before.
The war objective was not just heading for encashment of colonies of contrahents,
but also robbery and destruction of their very own territories. The whole
First World War cannot be analysed without looking at the entire international
context. The primary dispute could be seen in Europe, but there was definitely
a background of further world power plans. The one having Europe in hands,
was able to draw on better strings in the imperial dispute. This applies
to both sides. The Germans will definitely have thought in dominating
Europe they would be able to compete with the USA. On the other hand,
it was clear to the USA, in getting hold of Europe the foundation for
international comprehensive hegemony was set, though they had not reckoned
with the long enduring and successful socialist revolution.
In any case, the calculation of the USA and the relevant
capital amounted to gaining maximum profit out of this war, reducing loss
of the USA to a minimum and winning by letting the European nations lacerate
themselves and stirring them up against each other. The international
landscape of banks was already tightly connected back then. The best known
and most famous greatest bank house of the USA, the bank house Morgan,
had already secured itself enormous profits in the US as a consequence
of the war between Germany and France in 1870/71 and had since become
the greatest financial power. This banking company had a basis not only
in New York and London, but was also connected with German bank houses,
e.g. the Deutsche Bank.
This aspect of the economical development could not have escaped the analysts
of that time. Especially the overtaking of US imperialism and especially
of US financial capital was obvious in the 15 to 20 years before the First
It was the intense social contradictions in the European states, the concentration
on internal issues as well as a certain narrowness of viewing things chacterising
continental Europeans, namely the Germans, which obviously made them overlook
such factors of international policy.
In spite of this starting situation mentioned the German leadership made
a policy of provocation getting this country increasingly between all
stools. Despite the described factors this First World War was started
ultimately because of hostility towards the labour class and modern development.
In the lap of this state powerful productive forces, production on the
organised and highest level as well as considerable scientific potentials
had grown. It was because this very modernity had developed in connection
with a highly organised labour class that there was an additional motive
for the long outmoded class of junkers and totally obsolete monarchism
to enforce a war.
II.6 The Role of Social Democracy
The most important analysis for comprehending the nature of imperialism
so far has been Lenin's analysis “Imperialism, the Highest Stage
of Capitalism” as well as several smaller descriptions related with
it. This is still the case, but it should not keep us from including the
later experiences of the 20th century in our analysis of today, for instance
understanding the role of the USA, understanding the constellation at
the beginning of the 20th century in a better way than it was understood
It is well known that the majority of the German Social Democrats did
support this war at the beginning breaking with all principles and manifestos
discussed so far and thus cleared the way for it. Instead of attacking
the imperialist intentions and brazen political maneuvers of the German
leadership and thus at least preventing the imperialist war from this
side, they supported this war. This fact is not detracted from by Germany
having been isolated and somehow militarily encircled. Social Democracy
would have had many opportunities to take account of these circumstances.
The Wilhelmian leadership themselves had encouraged this isolation with
their policy and thus had provoked the situation believing that they could
decide the battle by continental military superiority alone. Even decades
before the outbreak of war people knew that in the war to be expected
military potentials would collide to an unknown extent with the according
force of destruction. Germany could at most achieve a hegemonial role
in Europe, but not in international, i.e. world-wide comparison. Being
realistic, this war could not end but with destruction and self-destruction.
Social Democracy having grown into the strongest and politically most
influential workers' party in the world, was tested in this war where
the various principal mistakes became practically and immediately apparent.
On the one hand we find the trend of frank chauvinism, of the connection
with the groups of Junkers, aristocrats and great industrialists of the
ruling classes. Its policy became decisive to the majority of Social Democrats
ultimately in the first years of the First World War. On the other hand
we had the left Social Democracy, which distinguishes itself by differentiation
from or, more positively, by fighting against dangerous chauvinism, yet
at the same time carries a lot of mistakes concerning the question of
armed struggle and the essential questions of Social Democracy.
When analysing the faults and the failure of Social Democracy, it is crucial
to point out the opposition of “left” Social
Democrats to Marxism and the essential positions of labour movement. In
the year of 1875 Marx and Engels had pointed very clearly at the wrong
interspersion of the party with Lassalleanistic positions and attacked
them. In 1891, after the anti-socialist laws had
been finished, eight years after Marx’s death, Friedrich Engels
published Marx’s and his own criticism despite opposition from the
Social Democratic leadership. This criticism not only faced opposition
from the right-wing Social Democrats, but also from personalities
regarded as left-wing. Among the major opponents of publishing this criticism
was not just Eduard Bernstein, the later most direct
representative of revisionism, but also Wilhelm Liebknecht. 
This criticism again summarized the fundamental political and economical
statements of the teachings of Marxism.  It comprised
the elaboration of the theory on state and deduced an overthrow of bourgeois
dictatorship through revolution. It included the unequivocal condemnation
of Lassalleanistic theory, which instead of seeking an alliance with the
democratic bourgeois movement, furthered an alliance with the outmoded
classes and considered socialism a support of the state of the Junkers.
We can see how the faults of Social Democracy later led to the failure
of Social Democracy at the outbreak of the First World War. There was
not enough effort to review these faults. Karl Liebknecht, this most famous
representative of the fight against militarism before the First World
War, in continuing the mistakes of Social Democracy takes up a position
of a general fight against war or against militarism, which was criticised
by Lenin during the First World War and, rediscovering the lessons of
Marx and Engels, discussed anew and more concisely by Lenin. 
Rosa Luxemburg produces many interesting and relevant analyses about the
development of that time, but probably the most important political question,
the question of revolutionary war being inevitable, is omitted. Marx’s
and Engels' longstanding criticism of Social Democracy and its concept
of the state, having already been treated back in 1891, where was it considered
in Social Democracy including the left-wing at all? It was that part of
Social Democracy emerging as frank social chauvinists in the following
that was all the more based on this “state socialism” as it
had spread among the social democratic movement.
Social Chauvinism profited from this weakness of social pacifism among
labour movement. Indeed, no one can plausibly make propaganda against
imperialist war – and there were enough efforts among the parties
of the 2nd International world-wide during the time of 1900 to 1914 –
if he does not realize that in case of doubt illegality and development
of armed revolution against these high-level armed bourgeois-imperialistic
states is not to be recoiled from. Demonstrations or mass strike movements
can never stop an imperialistic war. There remains the question to what
extent Social Democracy undertook political work before the oncoming war
e.g. within the German armies and especially among their conscripts.
Thus labour movement was a powerful factor, but it had its weaknesses
growing into a deathly danger to the revolutionary forces among people
in the aggravation of the First World War. The western allies, the USA,
England and France, disparaged German labour movement and claimed it was
not capable of revolution, that its brutal support of German imperialism
was to be expected only. That was slander already proving wrong during
the First World War because in the second half of this war era resistance
grew more and more drastically up to spontaneous uprising against the
ruling power. Those having sneered at German labour movement before were
now confronted with a serious revolutionary movement they tried to prevent
by all means. However, acceptance by these so-called powers of democracy
in the West was not the consequence at all, but increased efforts to get
control of this labour movement. In absolute contrast to their contemptuous
remarks towards German labour class they made great efforts to influence
this revolutionary movement from inside and outside by ending the war.
II.7 Social Democracy and Woodrow Wilson
In the second half of the First World War, when the antagonisms towards
the working class become apparent, we can see that the majoritarian Social
Democracy, and even more the “Independents” connected with
them for a long time, increasingly turn to the USA, celebrating her president,
Woodrow Wilson as supposed peace maker and working into his hands. Whereas
the majoritarian Social Democracy had backed the imperial war at the beginning
and even propagated it actively, more and more essential parts of this
same party turned to support the USA from about 1917 on.
How great the extent of this connection with German political forces was,
is rarely covered in public. Nevertheless, by the end of 1918 political
instructors from the USA took part in suppressing the revolutionary approaches
and seeds of a military revolutionary opposition in a direct and bloody
way. The new ruling powers, who took grasp on Germany with the armistice
of Compiègne, gave advice to the Ebert government as well as to
the “Freikorps” having been especially founded for the suppression
of labour movement. They took charge of instructing these forces despite
the risk of stimulating a new militarism with it. Suppression of proletarian
revolution in Germany had priority over everything else, no matter what
abstract phrases about democracy and “human rights” these
“democratic” imperialist powers were uttering publicly.
This can be understood best when looking at quotations of that time. Suppression
by the armed so-called “Freikorps” is one thing. The public,
and especially the majority of labour class, also has to be brought to
tolerate this new factual rule by relevant propaganda. That is another
reason why the political position of Social Democracy having built up
influence on labour class over decades is very important. Wilson, Wilson,
Wilson was the credo of this “labour party”.
There are some very relevant descriptions about this. On
the conference of the IIIrd International on the 2nd of March,1919, the
then chairman, G. Sinowjew, reproduced what he had just learnt from the
Bern conference of social democratic parties in Bern:
“The circumstances of the opening sessions alone
were remarkable. The conference was opened by Branting and his first
words commemorate the emergence of the International and its president,
Jaurès, in whose honour everyone stands up. Then, the report
says, Branting suggests to honour a second man, a living person, Wilson.
As you can see, comrades, the chairman's first few words were very siginificant:
To our left side we have our deceased Jaurès, on the right the
still living Wilson! ...No comments.”
[in “'Der 1. Kongress der kommunistischen Internationale
- Protokoll der Verhandlungen in Moskau vom 2. bis zum 19. März
1919”, p. 156, own translation]
Jean Jaurès was a well known French socialist leader
who had an internationalistic attitude overall. In immediate context with
the initiation of the First World War, he was murdered on the 31st of
July, 1914, by the French reaction as he was in the way of their war intentions.
II.8 Kautsky and the USA
An excellent example about the extent of the accordance with the USA would
be an article by Karl Kautsky of 17th November, 1918, published in the
newspaper “Die Freiheit” (“The Freedom”) being
an organ of the USPD [= Independent Social Democratic Party]. In this
article Kautsky turns into a direct lackey of the USA and British imperialism
with the title “Der Sieger im Weltkrieg” [“The winner
in world war”]. Glorification of the “victor nation”
knows no more bounds now. Now the world is to be restored by Anglo-Saxon
It says in this article:
“Respect for democracy has become second nature
with Anglo-Saxons, meaning the respect for the legislative power of
the majority, respect for freedom of action and propaganda of the minority.
The respect for the democratically formed law, disrespect and open opposition
against any presumptuous power. Substitution of bureaucracy by self-administration
to the greatest possible extent, subordination of bureaucracy to the
people's representatives. Based on these foundations has formed the
character of the peoples who have now been the winners in world war.
This democratic nature will conquer the world, not just the states defeated
today, but also those of the victor's own territories he has not governed
by democratic methods so far, but by police force like Ireland, India
And with this nature socialism will grow also among us, not by transferring
police methods into the proletarian milieu, not by terrorism and decretinism.”
How macabre this is, can only be understood when considering
the concrete conditions of those times. The USA worked on suppressing
revolution in Germany also using violence. England was preparing its armed
intervention in Russia. Everywhere police force of these states was used
in order to prosecute labour movement around the globe.
At the beginning of the war the same Kautsky had wanted to prohibit any
criticism of the pro-war course by Social Democracy within the party.
II.9 The USA and the Exploitation of the European Situation
It was not just the country's own reactionaries who hated the labour movement
within it. Leading exponents of US capital considered the German competitors
as a “disturbing factor” as someone had already expressed
it in the nineties. At the same time they were aware of Germany's situation
becoming a chain-link for their own long-term strategy to gain pre-dominance
in Europe. Necessarily, from their point of view, there was not just military
and imperial competition with England and Germany, but also a situation
dominated by rivalry between the European powers themselves. The position
of a power like Germany, representing the greatest industrial potentials
within Europe and at the same threatened to fall between all stools on
the continent, was important to their own strategy. Apart from the USA
Wilhelmian Germany showed the greatest increase in industrial potentials,
yet ultimately posing no serious threat to the USA growing even faster.
Another competitor to the US was England though losing industrial importance,
but still competing in world power ambitions through her colonial possessions
weighing one fourth of the world. That is why the vociferous and importunate
performance of Wilhelm and his government was not that disadvantageous
If it came to a continental war in Europe, a possibility talked about
over decades, then there was the question of how to use this to their
own advantage. The antipathy towards Germany having existed among American
imperialist circles since the 90s, concerned not competition only, but
even more the existence of the strongest labour movement in the world
of those times, which generally guided by Marxist principles was working
on a realisation of socialism on a modern basis. It was the latter anxiety
and antipathy that they shared with the very German imperialists. This
is the very double nature dominating their policy towards Germany.
This danger to international capitalism was to be eliminated by this war
as viewed by the different originators. On this basis it can be seen how
significant it was that in this very country there developed, by 1916,
an increasing anti-militaristic and revolutionary movement directed against
the majoritarian Social Democracy, tracing the steps of earlier revolutionary
Marxism, though not being free of mistakes. In contrast to Russia where
the masses of peasants constituted the greatest part of the population,
here we have a movement of the industrial proletariat already forming
the majority in the whole country. Destroying this movement got to the
centre of the allies' policy to such a degree as Germany's military situation
This is increasingly reflected by the policy of the autumn of 1918 and
The Western “democratic powers”, especially the USA, as the
end of imperial rule came, quickly mingled with the suppression of Germany's
labour and soldier movement. The so-called Freikorps, Noske's people,
operated also in connection to US agents, who instructed them in their
criminal acts. While doing that, this power always appeared under a peace
mask or waving the human rights' flag, speaking of general democracy and
so on. Here the foundations were set for the coming so-called “international
community”. They interfered into the inner life of this new German
republic (Weimar republic) in order to achieve substantial influence and
agitation of parts of the population for their purpose – you could
say in a sense: class-struggle in a complety distorted form for the allies'
purpose. Such a concept is not new, by the way. Back in the 19th century,
Marx and Engels had already pointed out that Russia knew very well to
run class-struggle in her own way over decades. During the division of
Poland she played class-struggle against the landowners, the Polish upper-class,
in order to then join them in suppressing the Polish people. This is a
very old trick being used by all imperialists, yet is exploited most successfully
by the greatest imperialist powers with their relevant possibilities.
With the presentation of the Versailles peace treaty of May 1919 all these
aims came to light ultimately. Germany is practically subdued completely,
the internal life of Germany is intervened into. Later there was often
the comparison of Germany forcing Russia to accept the robbery peace of
Brest-Litowsk first, and now Germany experiencing the same kind of terror
by the allies. However, this is an understatement. Brest-Litowsk was a
robbery peace in no doubt, submitting Russia to high contributions and
constricting Russia at the western frontier. But the heart of Russian
soviet power remained independent. The soviet power had to swallow heavy
conditions, but it remained intact as a sovereign state and thus was able
to operate for the things to come. The “peace” of Versailles
goes far beyond that. It is connected with an attempt to penetrate the
inner of the German state, to make it submissive in the long term and
to play the various interior political forces off against each other.
The foothold the USA had in their suppression of labour movement, when
standing behind Noske and Co., was a good starting point for all other
operations. Germany was submitted to contributions that high, it was to
pay debts for many decades. Many bourgeois parties as well as parties
of the proletariat, as we have seen, virtually became their lackeys. This
was to produce loss of orientation and desparation, which were excellent
tools to be directed against the same people again. (This is a method
repeated in other countries later. A good example would be Iran to the
end of the seventies of the 20th century.) An economical dictatorship
was created against Germany, which was to ruin everything else subsequently.
Some of the economical dictates targeted the western states themselves,
being the originators. The later economical crisis of 1929 partly goes
back to the submission of Germany in economical matters.
II.10 The Policy of the Proletarian Party under the International
Thus the situation of the proletarian party of Germany was bound to be
very complicated, and thus we come back to our initial point. What political
position was the proletarian party supposed to take towards this submission
under these conditions? The Versailles treaty was attacked by the KPD
[= Communist Party of Germany] undoubtedly, that was a matter of course.
However, how were they to deal with the complicated double-nature of the
bourgeoisie, its own self-contradictious situation? The conditions of
the Versailles treaty and generally the new dictatorship were bound to
produce numerous kinds of opposition upon different levels, by several
classes against this kind of policy. So the national question had to be
shaped in Germany from the very beginning. Here we have
another crucial weak point co-dominating German labour movement. That
is the question of alliance policy with certain bourgeois forces, a question
that came up depending on the situation.
We have already found earlier that Lasalleanism 
played a significant role in the development of labour movement despite
opposition by Marx and Engels. This direction flirted with an alliance
with the long outmoded classes, with aristocrats, with so-called special
negotiations with Bismarck and the Prussian royal house, but rejected
a broader mobilisation of peasantry and generally opposed the very program
of democracy, which is to be bound to the policy of labour movement as
a matter of principle. The later policy of Social Democracy was still
stained by these traditions and continued these.
With the age of imperialism new components are added to labour movement.
These new conditions enabled the advanced capital in the decades before
the first world war ,much more than before, to link considerable parts
of labour class to this modernised capitalism by letting them partake
in the extra profits much more than before, to connect strata of the labour
class with the interests of international exploitation temporarily. The
old mistakes of labour movement now merged with these new forms of corruption.
In Germany the rejection of a democratic program (as
minimal program of revolution) goes on taking effect under these conditions.
The rejection of Marx’s and Engels' state theory, based on the experiences
of nearly all the 19th century, with its aim of defeating bourgeois rule
ultimately in the military sector, leaning upon the predominant majority,
received further nourishment. 
Here there were negative traditions which were to hinder the pursuit of
a correct policy in the complicated situation of the year 1918/19.
We see the heroic performance of the labour class during the war, in great
demonstrations and strike movements by 1916, workers and not least female
workers play an active role in bringing down the imperialist Wilhelmian
war. The slogan is “Against the war!”. The hope consists in
triggering simultaneous revolution in other countries by revolution in
the own country. Yet, if this not achieved immediately and synchronically,
one can expect that superior imperialists seize this country in order
to then go ahead with joint suppression of revolution in it. This role,
namely that of the increasingly important USA, was to be understood. There
is a fundamental weakness of the German party to cope with the international
political situation. Yet, it is to be expected elementarily, the more
successful the own revolution will be, the greater this intervention from
outside will be, as long revolution is not successful in other countries,
too. Thus the democratic questions in connection with the proletarian
questions of those years were crucial.
What errands in this matter there were, also becomes obvious through the
fact that until the autumn of 1918, the Spartacus people were of the opinion,
obviously over-estimating the strength of German imperialism, that it
could win the war, although it was already up to its head in it by this
time and apart from a few incorrigible military subjectivists no one believed
in such a victory any more.
The complicated situation was to be dealt with by carrying to extremes
the reckoning with the depraved classes of landowners and nobles, the
aristocracy and the bourgeoisie allying with them, as well as with the
petty bourgeoisie to the extent it supported imperialism, and at the same
by preparing for the attack of intervening foreign imperialists. In the
case of such an intervention of foreign imperialists, there are other
tasks, other contradictions, their changes have to be arranged for. At
this moment the issue of the own defence would also be on the agenda.
This would have been the only principally correct approach.
(written from February 2007 until November 2007)
from the German original]
The agreement of Compiègne is not an armistice agreement
objectively, but actually a complete surrender as after fulfilling the
terms a continuation of war was not even possible in an absolutely defensive
 One gets the impression generally
that in the forefront of this agreement discussions about this “armistice”
had already taken place, e.g. through embassies of neutral states or bank
connections between banks positioned in Germany and the USA. The German
chief negotiator Erzberger (Zentrum party) should have reacted very surprisedly
about such conditions normally. Yet, his reaction was quite limited. Also,
his telegraphic queries to the German military leadership were answered
with “acceptance” surprisingly fast. Considering the consequences
of this agreement, this is amazing. Everything suggests the conditions
had at least roughly been traced out in the preceding weeks. Erzberger
briefly tried to play with “risk” of revolution in Germany
in order to threaten the western allies with it, but this availed nothing
at all. The negotiator of the French side, Marshall Foch, was well informed
about it. The joint repression of proletarian revolution in Germany was
a made deal to these forces. And in this matter the German bourgeoisie
and government were ready for the ultimate, naturally calculating they
would recover free play with time. Yet, the double suppression of this
country was officially looming in this agreement and became the dominating
momentum for a long time.
 Marx and Engels dealt with
these processes very thoroughly, almost their whole life. Among other
articles: “Revolution and Counterrevolution in Germany” in
Marx’s and Engels' works (German ed.) MEW volume 8.
 Referring to Marx’s
and Engels' works, MEW, volumes 16 and 17.
 See also “Die Rolle
der Gewalt in der Geschichte” (“The Role of Force in History”),
a greater fragment of Friedrich Engels, also distributed under the title
„Gewalt und Ökonomie bei der Herstellung des deutschen Reiches“.
In MEW, volume 21, pp. 405.
 In the first place the book
“Der Imperialismus als höchstes Stadium des Kapitalismus”
(“Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism”) should be
mentioned, e.g. found in Lenin Werke (German edition) , LW, volume 22,
pp. 191, written in 1916, first publishing in mid-1917.
 “It turned out very
quickly that Spain paralysing in feudal traditions and internally rotten
could not match the superior force of the USA in any way. Immediately
the German imperialists were sensing the possibility to exploit the Spanish
defeat. ‘His majesty the emperor considers it a main task of German
policy not to leave unused any possibility to obtain maritime bases in
East Asia as a consequence of the Spanish-American conflict’, Bülow
telegraphed to the German ambassador, v. Holleben, in Washington on the
1st July, 1898. In order to emphasize the striving of German navy and
colonial circles for obtaining a part, as large as possible, of the Spanish
colonial possessions in the Pacific and the Far East, a navy squadron
was sent to Manila. This military advance to the Philippines, which had
already been occupied by the USA and which they claimed for themselves
in any case, carried the risk of a warlike conflict with the US, a conflict
Germany could not dare to risk seriously, of course, with its few navy
forces. Thus the German government finally had to yield to the determined
position of the USA, had to give up their intentions of new colonial acquisitions
on the Philippines and had to content themselves with much less valuable
parts of Spanish possessions. In a treaty with Germany of 12th February,1899,
Spain was forced to leave the Caroline, Palau and Marianian islands to
Germany for a financial compensation of 17 million marks.”
Fritz Klein: “Deutschland 1897/98-1917“, VEB Deutscher Verlag
der Wissenschaften, 1969, p.71.
This analysis of that era, despite a few schematisms typical for DDR science
in the field of history, is the most interesting I have found with my
survey of studies.
 E.g. compare the above-mentioned
account by Fritz Klein, '”Deutschland 1897/98-1917”, where
this is described in the following way:
“On the 14th November 1899, the German-English Samoa treaty was
signed and supplemented by a German-English-American agreement on the
2nd December. The treaties lifted the tridominate on Samoa. The isles
were shared by Germany and the USA, while England sacrificed a part for
At the same time influential representatives of English imperialism again
attempted to win the German government for a German-English approach.
At the end of November Wilhelm II visited England accompanied by Bülow,
among others. At this occasion Joseph Chamberlain approached the emporer
and Bülow suggesting a German-English alliance which he wanted to
include the USA now as well and which was to target Russia this time.
Germany was to support English policy in Asia and Africa. In turn English
capitalists would contribute to the construction of the Baghdad railway
financially; furthermore England would agree on Germany participating
in the division of Morocco.
Like in the year of 1898 the English attempts of approach were rejected
by the German representatives.”
 In this context the paper
“Staat und Revolution” by W.I. Lenin (1917) should be remembered
where this connection to the element of Marxist state theory is re-established.
Lenin deals with it after the fight against opportunistic trends in the
European Social Democracy and the experiences of the First World War.
However, it is to be investigated to what extent the weakness appeared
much earlier. Because the belief in the possibility of acting against
such a volcano as the situation of Europe with demonstrations and manifestos
is nonsense. This also applies to left Social Democracy.
 See Lenin Werke (German
ed.), volume 24, p.43
Verband [“All-German” association] 1891-1939. Ultra-right
organisation of extremely provocative character, being there for inciting
most reactionary intentions in the own country as well as, not least,
upon the international level. This organisation had just a small membership
and never gained the importance for forming a party at all.
The occasion of its creation is already remarkable At the beginning of
the 90s, the new government Caprivi tried to adopt a new course and to
develop a better relationship with England as well as to loosen its relative
binding to Russia. In this context it came to quite an extensive agreement
with England, including the so-called Sansibar-Helgoland agreement as
a part. England and Germany exchanged the island of Helgoland, being in
British possession, for the island of Sansibar at the East African coast.
And this very exchange would become the stumbling-block to these extreme
reactionaries. Why did the exchange of an island, having a definite reference
to Germany and considerable sea-strategic significance to the country
itself, for a colonial island enrage the so-called “Alldeutsche”[“All-Germans”]?
Ultimately expressing the policy of bourgeoisie.
The reason for this exaggerated campaign the '”All-Germans”
aroused against this, is that they were extremely colonialisticly oriented
and they were preparing to push Germany into an internationally isolated
role and to spread into the inner an absolute single-mindedness of isolation
and separation from all other states. That is why the “All-German
association” had to face criticism by the most various forces, the
bourgeois parties as well, and remained a sect basically, yet which served
for reactionary polarisation everywhere and general demonstration of how
nasty Germany was overall. The association itself did not strive for a
foundation of a party at all, for this it would have been obliged to present
a program and a political concept. In this way they were able to keep
their intentions in the dark. The emergence of this provocateur organisation
has not been comprehended fully yet in my opinion. What were its connections?
The fact that its representatives were preaching isolation does not mean
they had no international connections. Among the iniatators of the association
were the ill-reputed Alfred Hugenberg, the later head of a rightist press
group of the Weimar Republic, the ill-famed coal industrialist Kirdorf
and the colonial executioner Carl Peters. An expression of the bourgeoisie
as a whole.
 See MEW vol.19, „Zur
Kritik des Gothaer Programms“ and related texts
 Wilhelm Liebknecht, 1826 –
1900. One of the important mediators of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
in Germany and significant organizer of the party. At the same time he
seeks, though in a different way to Lassalle and his successors, the connection
to the antiquated aristocratic elites of the country. Occasionally, Marx
and Engels reproach him with “Austrianism”, connection to
the small and middle sovereigns in the country standing in opposition
to the Prussian power appetite in Germany.
His political thinking is quite dominated by idealist and fanciful feelings,
there is no footing in the historical materialistic perception like the
founders of Marxism had. Consequently, Wilhelm Liebknecht and his followers
are an antipode to Lassalleanism in some way. At the compromise to Gotha,
however, it came to unification of the “Eisenachers”, the
Social Democratic Labour Party (SDAP), and the Lassalleanists with considerable
subordination to the latter. At this “unification” Wilhelm
Liebknecht also played an important role. Suddenly, old oppositions were
not so important any more, people of pro-Prussianism and “Austrianism”
obviously postponed their earlier contradictions.
There is hardly anything else that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels criticised
as much as the Prussians over decades. As descendants of the old Prussian
Rhein province, which considered itself as occupied any way and was so,
they had many reservations by nature. However, they understood the new
development showing several reactionary specialities, yet also entailing
a modern revolutionary upheavel. In Prussia capitalism shot up like in
a hothouse, as Engels noticed. The modern coal and steel industry flourished
on a very cartel like basis.
Bismarck never cared about the so-called principle of legitimacy of outmoded
sovereigns, he himself having chosen to herald the conservation of monarchism
against modernity ultimately destroyed this monarchy and aristocracy as
he gave a boost to the inner forces that destroyed it. And Marx and Engels,
in view of this development, did not even think of now defending the side
of the long outmoded small and middle sovereigns or making themselves
advocates of them. They rejected Wilhelm Liebknecht clearly in this matter.
Here you can refer to the correspondence of Marx and Engels and the later
work “Die Rolle der Gewalt in der Geschichte”, a greater fragment
of Friedrich Engels, also published as “Gewalt und Ökonomie
bei der Herstellung des deutschen Reiches”. See MEW, vol. 21, pp.405,
und the relevant footnote 368.
 The term 'Marxism' was
established later on.
 Compare Lenin ”Das
Militärprogramm der proletarischen Revolution”, (“The
Military Programme of the Proletarian Revolution“ LW vol. 23, p.72-83,
or “Über die Losung der Entwaffnung” (“The 'Disarmament’
Slogan”), ibidem, p. 91-101, both written in the autumn of 1916.
 Lassalleanism –
direction named after Ferdinand Lassalle, 1825 – 1864, originally
a participant of the revolution after 1848. At the beginning of the 60s
he took part in the creation of the first greater workers' organisations
(ADAV, Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein: General German Workers Association)
and became its first president. In politics he stood out by the distinct
tendency to connect labour movement with the outmoded ruling classes of
earlier feudalism, especially Bismarck as a representative of Prussian
monarchy. His successors continued this kind of policy of functionalising
labour movement as an actual political standing leg for a somewhat democratically
renovated “people's monarchy”. Lassalleanism was definitely
not criticised sufficiently in later Social Democracy, neither by the
early communist movement including the Russian Bolshewiks.
 It was not without reason
that Engels, in 1895, still had to struggle with maneuvers around the
republishment of Karl Marx’s book about the class struggles in France
1848-1850 when the leaders of Social Democracy were trying to make a pacifist
out of him, this traditional protagonist of revolution.
Here see Engel's introduction of 1895 in MEW vol. 22, pp. 509, as well
as the relevant footnote 433.