Karl Liebknecht
Militarism & Anti-Militarism
I. Militarism

4. Particulars of Some of the Main Sins of Militarism
(Part 2)

4. The rule of the sword and rifle against strikes

Preliminary remarks

The military authorities have for a long time been convinced of the capitalist truth of the proposition that behind every strike lurks the hydra of revolution. The army is therefore always ready, if the fists, swords and revolvers of the police are not sufficient to curb the so-called strike excesses, to force the unruly slaves of the employers into submission with its swords and rifles. This is true of all capitalist countries and also, even especially, of Russia, though it is not yet completely capitalist and cannot be regarded as typical because of its peculiar political and cultural conditions. And even if Italy and Austria march at the head of the column in this respect, it is very important for the historical understanding of the republican state form structured by a capitalist political economy to point out again and again that, apart from England, soldiers have nowhere been such willing tools in the hands of the bourgeoisie for crushing strikes, nowhere behaved in such a bloodthirsty and ruthless manner as in the semi-republican and republican states, such as Belgium and France. With these, moreover, the freest states in the world – Switzerland and America – can well hold their own. Russia of course, here as in every other respect, cannot be beaten. Barbarism, or rather brutish ferocity, constitutes the general cultural situation of its ruling classes. It is the natural moving force behind its militarism, which since the time of the first harmless stirrings of the proletariat, has literally drowned in blood those peaceful workers who in their desperate need were asking for relief. No single event need be named here, for that would mean arbitrarily tearing one link out of a chain endless in time and space. For every drop of proletarian blood shed in all the other European countries put together, a proletarian life has been taken by Tsarism in its struggle to suppress the most modest demands of the labour movement.

Essentially related to this use of military force is the activity of the colonial armies and defence detachments against the natives of the colonies who do not allow themselves to be pressed into the yoke of the vilest exploitation and greed. But we cannot go into this question in more detail here.

Often it is not possible to draw a sharp line of demarcation between the army, properly speaking, and the gendarmerie and police. They work hand in hand, replace and supplement one another, and are linked closely together, precisely because the characteristics which come into play here – the violent aggression, the willingness and readiness ruthlessly and recklessly to make armed attacks on the people – these characteristics exist among the police and gendarmerie too. These qualities are in the main a genuine product of the barracks, the fruit of militarist pedgaogy and training.



Ottavio Dinale has published two related articles [23] on the question of the massacres of workers in Italy. He deals not only with the actual street massacres, but also with those which had been planned in connection with workers’ demonstrations in the economic struggle apart from strikes. The articles show in a striking manner how quickly the Italian army is on hand on such occasions, what petty reasons justify its attacks, and what extreme violence it uses against defenceless crowds. Even when crowds have been broken up and are fleeing, they have been attacked and fired on. In summing up, Dinale points out that in Italy the “king’s bullets” have smashed the bones of Italian workers five, six or even ten times a year. He points out that the Italian bourgeoisie, the originator of the massacres, is one of the most reactionary and backward in the world, and that in its eyes socialism is not a political conception but only a kind of criminal thinking, of criminality pure and simple, which presents the greatest danger to law and order. He quotes the words of the Milan newspaper L’idea liberale on the day following the Grammichele massacre: “Dead and wounded ... A deserved fate ... Bullets – the most precious element of civilization, law and order.”

After such a standard has been set, one can hardly be astonished that even a so-called democratic government like that of Giolitti never tried to call the army to order for its bloody barbarities. On the contrary, the military was officially praised for having “done its duty”. It seems even more natural that a motion of the Socialist parliamentary fraction on limiting the use of the army in conflicts with the masses was not carried.

The shootings of May 1898 made the situation in regard to the class struggle clear even for the blind and the shortsighted optimists. The following is an almost complete record of blood-letting in recent years:

Dead Wounded
Berra June 27, 1901 2 10
Patugnano May 4, 1902 1 7
Cassano August 5, 1902 1 3
Candela September 8, 1902 5 11
Giarratana October 13, 1902 2 12
Galatina April 20, 1903 2 1
Piere May 21, 1903 3 1
Torre Annunziata August 31, 1903 7 10
Cerignola May 17, 1904 3 40
Buggera September 4, 1904 3 10
Castelluzo September 11, 1904 1 12
Sestri Ponente September 15, 1904 2 2
Foggia April 15, 1905 7 20
St. Elpidio May 15, 1905 4 2
Grammichele August 16, 1905 8 20
Scarano March 21, 1906 1 9
Muro March 23, 1906 2 4
Turin April 4, 1906 1 6
Calimera April 30, 1906 2 3
Cagliari May 12, 1906 2 7
Nebida May 21, 1906 1 1
Sonneza May 21, 1906 6 6
Benventare May 24, 1906 2 2

That makes a total of 23 massacres, 78 dead and 199 wounded! A good harvest!

There have also been countless cases in Italy which did not end in bloodshed but in which the military has mobilized against strikers or against workers and “peasants” in general who were demonstrating for economic demands. These army “exercises” are a part of everyday life on the other side of the Alps. [24]

We might also point out here what is commonly known: that according to Hervé’s testimony [25] [5*], there are as many massacres of workers and peasants in Spain – on whose dominions the sun once never set, but now no longer seems to want to rise – as there are in Italy.



As everyone knows, things are not much better here, in the dual monarchy under the black and yellow flag. The Socialist delegate Dasynski quite justifiably exclaimed in the Austrian parliament on September 25, 1903: “In strikes, in demonstrations of the people as well as in cases where national feelings are inflamed, it is always the army which turns the bayonet against the people, against the workers, against the peasants.” To show the link with the realm of politics, he pointed out that “we are living in a state in which, even in times of peace, the army is the only cement binding such disparate elements”, and referred to the Graz events of 1897 and to the bloodshed in Graslitz. It is well known that the military made a bloody intervention in Vienna, Graz and Budapest when Badeni was overthrown in November 1897. The frequent massacres of workers, especially in Galicia, are in everyone’s memory (here we will only mention that the blood of the agricultural workers was shed in 1902 in Burowicki and in Ubinie in Kamionka), as are the bloody events in Palkenau, Nürschau and Ostrau. For these last events, however, the responsibility rests with the gendarmerie, a special force subject to purely military discipline and designed to maintain law and order. It is partly under the command of the military authorities and partly under that of the civil administration. During the general strike in Trieste in 1902 there were also dashes with the army. Ten people were killed or wounded. The events in Lemberg in 1902 during the masons’ strike also deserve mention. During political demonstrations connected with the strike, hussars rode into the crowd and fired, killing five people. The riot at Innsbruck in 1905, which was based on a purely nationalist quarrel, lies however outside of the scope of this work.

Excesses of the most serious kind committed by the military authorities against the people have been frequent in Hungary, and continue up to the present day. The gendarmerie of course did its “duty” in a “thorough” way, as in the disturbance at Tamasi on the Puszta when without any reason it shot at a peaceful crowd of agricultural workers. It is enough to bear in mind one recent event, namely the battle which was fought in the Hunyad province on September 2, 1906, in which the military brutally attacked the strikers of the Petroseny coal mine. Many people were seriously wounded, of which two died, and 150 were slightly wounded.

The skirmishes and battles between the army and the proletariat, in addition to the political struggles which have taken place in the dual monarchy of the Habsburgs – all these will be dealt with later.

Dasynski, in the speech already quoted, made the claim that “bayonets should not be mixed up with politics”. But as everyone knows they have since that time been put to political use with even more force and violence.



In Belgium there is a long history of massacres of workers. The events of the years 1867 and 1868 are important, especially because of the intervention of the International. [6*] The whole thing was set in motion by the so-called hunger revolt of Marchienne in 1867, when processions of unarmed workers were attacked and cut down by a company of soldiers. In March 1868 there followed the massacre of Charleroi, and in 1869 the infamous massacres of Seraing and Borinage.

The Charleroi massacre was set up by the military and gendarmerie, and directed against striking miners who had been driven to desperation by cut-backs and wage reductions. At the same time it made it possible for the International to carry on vigorous agitation n Belgium, and this in turn, after the General Council had issued a proclamation, helped the International to improve its organization to a considerable degree. [26]

During the so-called hunger revolts of 1886, in which the demand for a general franchise, though it was not dearly stated, played a role alongside the economic questions, the scenes of the ’sixties were repeated. On April 3, 1886, General Baron Van der Smissen issued his notorious circular, later repudiated by the Chamber itself. The circular stated, rather cynically: “L’usage des armes est fait sans aucune sommation”, i.e. weapons are to be used without warning being given. The human sacrifice was great beyond measure. Sixteen workers were killed at Roux by a single volley. And on top of all this class justice puts its stamp of approval by the heavy sentences it passes on the workers. From 1886 to 1902 scarcely a strike took place in Belgium without military intervention. During these years alone about 80 people were killed. In the general strike of 1893 (we mention it although it was of a political character) there were many dead left upon the battlefield. The names of Verviers, Roux, La Louvière, Jemappes, Ostende, Borgerhout, Mont are burned in letters of fire into the minds of the class-conscious workers of Belgium. They are blood-stained pages in the thick book of sins of Belgian capitalism. The standing army was mobilized for the last time in 1902 during the general strike, when the reservists were called up. The unfavourable reports which the ministry received as to the soldiers’ mood and opinions were soon confirmed. The soldiers manifested their revolutionary ideas in a quite unashamed manner by singing the Marseillaise, hissing the officers, etc. The result was the usual one: the Flemish soldiers were sent to the Walloon districts and vice versa. But the final outcome was that the standing army was no longer brought into use. Since 1902 the proletarian soldiers of Belgium have relinquished their honourable role of watch-dog of capitalism, of being a “flying squad watching over the employers’ stores of gold”, at least as far as militarism at home is concerned. The gendarmerie and civil guard now do the job. To protect its sacred right to exploitation the bourgeoisie must now act for itself, it must risk its own skin – if one can talk of such a risk when the opposition consists of the unarmed masses. It is shown elsewhere that the civil guard performs its function quite adequately in the struggle against the enemy at home.



In France the history of the class struggle is written in letters of blood. We will not go over the massacre of July 1830, a battle which lasted three days; or the 10,000 killed in the street fighting of June 23 to 26, 1848 – the executioner’s work of Cavaignac; or that of the “little Napoleon” on December 1, 1851; or the murder of the 28,000 heroes of the Commune, the sea of blood in which the French bourgeoisie, in its desire to avenge capitalism, tried to drown the rising of its slaves in the red week of May 1871 – Père Lachaise and the mur des fédérés, the tragic symbols of a heroism without comparison. All these events – revolutionary in the highest degree – in which militarism did its gruesome work are beyond the scope of our historical investigation.

The heroic deeds of militarism, its attacks upon defenceless strikers, began at an early date. The so-called revolt of the silk workers at Lyons, whose banner bore the famous and touching words “Vivre en travaillant ou mourir en combattant” (To live working or to die fighting) began in November 1831 when the military fired on a peaceful demonstration. The angry workers captured the town in a struggle lasting two days. The National Guard fraternized with them, but the military soon took over the town again without having to draw their swords. La Ricamerie, Saint-Aubin and Decazeville are names made famous under the Empire as early examples. At this time the bourgeois republicans fought as hard as they could against soldiers being sent to the strike areas. But scarcely had these republicans captured political power than they themselves began to practise the Bonapartist method they had just been fighting against, and very soon they went even further. Only when the guilty party was a cleric or monarchist did they find words of censure, based on political rancour. The new régime had its baptism of blood in Fourmies on May 1, 1891, when a shot from a Lebel rifle pierced the body of a young girl, Maria Blondeau. The day’s toll, for which responsibility lies with the 145th regiment of the line, was 10 dead and 35 wounded. But Constant, the butcher of Fourmies, and his right-hand man Captain Chapuis are not isolated cases. Fourmies was followed in 1899 by Chalons-sur-Saône, in 1900 by La Martinique and then by Longwy, when the officers sealed and celebrated the Franco-Russian alliance by the use of the knout, and finally in May and June of 1905 by Villefranche-sur-Saône [27] and especially by the cavalry attacks and shootings in Limoges on April 17, 1905. [28] In December 1905 the tragedy of Combrée was played out [29], and on January 20, 1907, force was used to throw people, demonstrating for a Sunday rest from work, off the streets of Paris.

We must not forget to mention Dunkirk, Le Creusot and Montceau-les-Mines where, according to the report of the Confédération Générale du Travail to the international conference in Dublin, the soldiers declared their solidarity with the strikers. [30]

Meslier’s exclamation at the recent great trial of anti-militarists is quite true: “Since the murder of little Maria Blondeau at Fourmies the working class in France has lived through a long martyrdom and counted many victims.” Nothing better reduces ad absurdum the illusions of the “new” – in fact quite ancient – method of peaceful development than the fact that the great rise in the level of anticlerical and republican opinions and activity so conspicuous in recent years in France, the France of Millerandism, has produced no decrease in the numbers of military “punitive expeditions” against strikes; on the contrary, there has been an increase. Nor will the recently established radical-democratic ministry of Clemenceau [7*], with its two Socialist members, bring about any change in the situation. Lafargue’s caustic remark that “in so far as modern armies are not engaged in colonial robbery they are employed exclusively in protecting capitalist property” [31] also hits the nail on the head with regard to France.


United States of America

It is easy to understand what little importance is to be attached to the talk about equal rights to which the United States is accustomed [32], and to see that, in cases of necessity, capitalism has its own way of talking – the cannon, the rifle, the sword are proof enough. In this manner capitalism, even in America, still manifests its superiority over the proletariat. The following facts are very instructive with regard to the crucial importance of the method of military recruitment, posting and training, designed to prepare the troops to be used against the “enemy at home”. This method often takes on a peculiar character owing to the fact, which is a consequence of the special American conditions, that the workers are frequently well armed.

In the “New World”, as in Belgium, the period of the massacres of workers begins with the unemployed workers’ movement. On January 13, 1874, in New York a strong troop of police, without any provocation, attacked a procession of the unemployed. Hundreds of badly wounded workers were left on the battlefield of Tomkin’s Square.

Then followed the dramatic events of the railwaymen’s strike of July 1877. The governor sent several companies of the state militia against the strikers of the Baltimore and Ohio railway, but this proved not to be enough. President Hayes sent 250 regular troops to help, but they fared no better. In Maryland ten of the militiamen called out were killed by rifle fire, and many more wounded. In Pittsburg the local militia, called out by the sheriff refused to intervene. The old trick of sending in troops from another district was tried. Six hundred militiamen sent from Philadelphia engaged the strikers in a short but violent battle. The troops were beaten, and fled the next morning. The militia called out against the strikers in Reading (Pennsylvania) was composed mostly of workers; they fraternized with the strikers, shared their ammunition with them and threatened to turn their weapons against any hostile militiamen. But one company, recruited almost exclusively from among the possessing classes and led by a headstrong officer, opened fire against the crowd, killing 13 and wounding 22. The company did not have to rejoice in its heroic act; it was soon in disarray and had to beat a retreat. St Louis, which for a time was completely in the hands of the strikers, was finally won back for “law and order” by the whole police force together with several companies of militia after they had laid a regular siege to the headquarters of the executive. [33]

For the horrors which swept over Chicago in May 1886 the responsibility must lie with Pinkerton and the police. MacCormick, the sewing-machine manufacturer, let loose his 300 armed Pinkertons against the strikers – allegedly in order to protect “those willing to work” – and thus gave impetus to the bloody attacks of the police, who struck out indiscriminately at men, women and children, killing six people and wounding many others. This was on May 3. On May 4 followed the famous dynamite bomb. This was the occasion for a fierce street fight in which 4 workers were killed and about fifty wounded. The results of the gruesome judicial sequel of May 4, 1886, in which democratic American class justice gave such a clear illustration of how far it will go, are known throughout the world.

The events of the years 1892-4 deserve closer examination. First, there were fierce fights between armed Pinkertons, enrolled by the employers, and the strikers during the strike at the Carnegie Iron and Steel Works at Homestead in July, 1892. Twelve people were killed and twenty badly wounded. The Pinkertons were overcome, but in the end the strikers were defeated after the occupation of the town by government troops and the declaration of martial law. Almost simultaneously a miners’ strike broke out in Coeur d’Alène (Idaho). The militia, numbering only about a hundred men, was not in a position to intervene against the strikers, who were well-armed, in their struggle with the strike-breakers. Only the federal troops demanded by the governor managed to disperse the strikers.

The switchmen came out on strike in Buffalo in August 1892. The local militia, which was called out at the beginning of the strike, did not seem disposed to prevent picketing. Finally the sheriff was induced to ask the governor for troops. Within 48 hours almost the whole state militia appeared, outnumbering the strikers twenty times, and restored “peace”.

During the same month the strikes at the Inman iron mines and at the Oliver Springs and Coal Creek coal mines gave the state governor the opportunity to bring out the whole of the state militia, after several isolated detachments of militia had been disarmed and sent home by the strikers. Here again, after the strike bad been broken, class justice took its merciless course.

Finally, let us recall the Chicago Pullman strike of 1894, during which the President of the United States, in spite of a protest by Altgeld, the governor of Illinois [34], sent in federal troops which, together with the state militia, broke the strike. Twelve people were killed. It is clear that in this case, more than in any previous case, the system of justice worked hand in hand with militarism. So effective were the notorious injunctions and mass arrests in defeating the workers that the leader of the strike, Debs, said : “We were not beaten by the railroads, nor by the army, but by the power of the courts of the United States.” [35]

What remains true, however, in spite of the fact that the militia frequently refused to act and that the workers were often armed, is that military force was decisive in the defeat of the workers in all the cases cited above. In the subsequent period, too, strikes in America were “in the majority of cases crushed with the help of the local police, the state militia or the federal troops”, and of course also with the help of the government, “by means of injunctions”. The strikes ended almost without exception in defeat for the workers, according to Hillquit’s rather pessimistic account. [36]



Canada’s “free” soil was stained with workers’ blood at Hamilton on November 24, 1906. In a clash with striking railwaymen the militia wounded 50 people, some seriously.



Switzerland’s book of sins in this field is truly long enough. As long ago as 1869 the government of the canton of Geneva set both police and militia against striking workers. In the same year the government of the canton of Vaud recalled by telegraph a battalion which had set out on a march, provided it with live ammunition and made it march with fixed bayonets into the town where the workers were on strike. In 1869 too the government of the canton of Basle made troops do picket duty when the silk-weavers went on strike to improve their pitiful condition. In the same year a strike broke out at La Chaux-de-Fonds, and the new bourgeois government hurried to provide itself with arms and ammunition, anticipating that it might be necessary to mobilize the militia.

In 1875 it came to bloodshed. Two thousand workers on the St Gotthard tunnel had struck to protect themselves against the shameless truck system. The government of the canton of Uri, which, it is said, had been provided with 20,000 Francs for the purpose by the contractors, mobilized the militia. The vigorous attack claimed its victims: several dead and fifteen wounded were left on this battlefield of the class struggle. Blood was also shed in 1901 by two companies called out by the government of the canton of Vallais to crush the strike of the workers on the Simplon tunnel. A number of workers were badly wounded as a result. In the same year two companies were put on picket duty in Ticino against a strike of Italian masons. In October 1902 the well-known Geneva events took place. In the course of a strike against a firm of American exploiters the workers were chased and beaten by order of the government of Geneva, and when the soldiers refused to carry out police duty they were thrown into prison and deprived of their civil rights. We will mention in passing that on this occasion members of the bourgeoisie who were not even called out armed themselves on a large scale against the workers. At about the same time the militia was mobilized at Basle against a strike. In 1904 the building contractors of La Chaux-de-Fonds called on the government for military aid against a strike of building workers. To their dismay, the strike progressed in a quite orderly manner in spite of all provocations and therefore, from their point of view, seemed hopeless. The cavalry and a battalion of infantry were on the scene at once, and by intimidation drove the workers, who had conducted their struggle in a lawful manner, back to their lives of factory slavery. The military were mobilized in 1904 during a strike on the Ricken in the canton of St Gall, allegedly in order to protect the fruit and vegetable crops which in fact were in no danger at all. In the same way St Gall sent its militia to Rorschach, where during a wage dispute an angry crowd had smashed a few window panes at a French-owned foundry.

The events which took place in Zurich in the summer of 1906 were of a very serious character. The great rise in the cost of living had led to the outbreak of a number of strikes, the aim of which was to raise wages. The building workers came out too for the same goal. Without any cause the militia made a bloody intervention. They attacked and beat the workers in the most brutal manner, they dragged strikers, especially foreign ones, to their barracks and there lashed them with riding whips – at the officers’ command! And that was not enough: strike pickets and demonstrations were forbidden. An intervention in the Grand Council referring to the shameful events was first put off indefinitely and then strangled without discussion by the bourgeois majority. And to crown it all, six strike leaders were brought before the courts. Five of them were acquitted on August 24, 1906, but Sigg was condemned to eight months imprisonment and the loss of civil rights for one year for alleged incitement to mutiny by means of an anti-militarist leaflet addressed to the militia.

One can ask no more of a bourgeois republic or of a militia.

A special light is thrown on these data by the fact, already mentioned in another connection, that in 1899 those Swiss citizens not on active service were deprived of their ammunition. This, one can see, was carried out just in time to facilitate the employment of the militia in the interest of the bourgeoisie in a period when the class struggle was becoming more intense.

On December 21, 1906, the National Council adopted by 65 votes to 55 an amendment to the law on military organization. According to this amendment, when conflicts of an economic mature “disturb or menace peace at home”, the mobilization of troops “thereby necessitated” may only take place for the purpose of “maintaining public order”. (The law in its totality was passed by 105 votes to 4.) But it is clear that the amendment expresses precisely what was already the criterion for military intervention; it is therefore useless, absolutely useless, and the fact that a large minority voted against the amendment gives rise to thought.



Free Norway, which in the summer of 1905 passed through the most placid revolution in world history and then, to satisfy a primitive desire, crowned it by setting up a monarchy, follows the capitalist states exactly, in spite of the peasant romance which is attached to it.

The use of military force against strikers is not a rare occurrence in this land of democracy. An article in the Tyvende Aarhundrede of May 1, 1903, p.53, gives details of this. We learn here that in 1902 alone there were two such cases, in Dunderlands Dal and in Tromsö.



There remains Germany. It is precisely in Germany that the use of the military in economic struggles is not usual. There are at least very few cases to record in which the army made an active intervention, the following being exceptions. In the weavers’ riots of 1844 the Prussian infantry killed 11 and wounded 24 of those miserable proletarian who had been almost tortured to death. Class justice sealed the defeat by passing an enormous number of sentences of hard labour. There was also the miners’ strike of 1889, when on May 10 the troops called for by the provincial president, von Hagemeister, left 3 dead and 4 wounded in front of the Moltke mine, and 2 dead and 5 wounded on the battlefield in Bochum. [37] In the disturbances of February 1892 involving the Berlin unemployed the army did not intervene, but according to reliable sources the Berlin military were held ready in their barracks on January 18, 1894, on the basis of a mere rumour that the unemployed had planned a demonstration in front of the palace.

This military “moderation” does not, however, have its base in some specially kindly and correct way of thinking on the part of the authorities which take the decisions. On the contrary! Germany has a strong force of police and gendarmerie, excellently organized as far as the ruling class is concerned. It is not in vain that Germany is a police state katexochen. The well-armed police and the well-armed gendarmerie here fulfil a role which elsewhere is played by the army. Moreover, they carry out their task more easily and with more adaptability, in regard to the complex situations which may arise at any moment, than the military machine, which works in a slower and more clumsy way.

The number of bloody conflicts between strikers and police or gendarmerie is big enough in Germany. The Berlin tramway strike of 1900 and the so-called Breslau riot of 1906 are no exceptions. Biewald’s severed hand is only an especially revolting mark of the bloodthirsty progress made by the police, another product of military culture. This hand in fact finds itself in good company with countless cracked skulls, severed ears, noses, fingers and other members, and this good company is rapidly growing.

The number of victims cut down by the armed state power during strikes must be hardly smaller in Germany than in other states. Even an approximate estimate of the number is impossible, however, because full records are not kept of those wounded in conflicts with the police, nor are such things really taken note of. If there are less of these victims in Germany than elsewhere, it is not the goodwill and humane nature of the capitalist class and its state which are to be thanked. That becomes very clear when one considers the fact that here it is almost a rule that, whenever big strikes take place, the troops are assembled and held ready in the barracks. The most serious instance of this kind concerns the Ruhr miners’ strike, which lasted from January 8 to February 10, 1905. [38] The bloodless outcome here is to be ascribed exclusively to the presence of mind, moderation, strict self-discipline, training and education of the German workers. We need have no doubt that the Prussian and Saxon governments would take up the side of the capitalist class in the economic struggle – with drums and trumpets, swords and guns – without thinking twice, if the occasion arose.


5. Military societies and strikes

Militarism attempts to maintain and extend militarist tendencies in men who have already finished their active service, through the use of military societies. It is therefore quite understandable that these societies intervene in strikes. They are not of course able to use violence in suppressing the economic struggles of the workers, but they may be characterized as organizations designed for blacklegging. Certain quarters, at least, would be only too ready to we them for this purpose. Only the fact that, in spite of all precautions, a considerable proportion of opposition and even of Social-Democratic elements is to be found in them prevents the fullest use being made of these military societies, together with the fact that in the conflicts between employers and workers, it is precisely those workers who lack social understanding and who are normally as mild as lambs who are the first to get enraged, so that they get an understanding of the class struggle and of their own class position driven into their heads. Moreover, excesses on the part of the employers annoy even the Christians and liberal workers’ organizations. In spite of these qualifications, the discussion which took place in June 1906 in Ostheim at a conference of the Federation of Military Societies of the Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar is very interesting. The discussion developed out of a principle adopted at a delegate conference, according to which it is a duty of the members to expel anyone who proves to belong to a party antagonistic to the state, and especially to the Social-Democratic Party. It turned out that participation in any strike, or at least in those strikes which are contrary to one’s duty of “loyalty to the Emperor, Prince and Fatherland”, was to be considered as confirming the fact that someone held revolutionary views dangerous to the state. Since it depends on the very same high personages who play first fiddle in the military societies to declare where and when this loyalty is put into question in a strike, and since these gentlemen, like our police and our courts, tend to consider every strike – which often, directly or indirectly, puts their own closest interests at risk – as a Social-Democratic machination, one can reckon on some productive work being done here by these societies. But it will not be as useful to the capitalist class as to Social-Democracy, which thrives on such clumsy repression, since it only serves to enlighten the workers and weaken the military societies. These societies are expelling, in an ever more systematic way, not only Social-Democrats but also the members of all the trade unions based on the principles of the modern labour movement. There is no doubt that, for the moment, this practice is putting certain difficulties in the way of the trade unions in the smaller towns, because the members are often bound totem by material advantages, for which they have paid quite high contributions. [39] This apart from the usual “pomp and panoply”. [40]

The military societies find strong support in their aims from the practice of class justice. The administration has the impudence to treat them as non-political organizations, though their political-agitational character oozes through every pore. This aid the organs of the capitalist state are bound to hold out to militarism, on the grounds of solidarity and in the interest of their common higher aim, the protection of the capitalist social order.


6. The army as a tool against the proletariat in the political struggle, or the right of the cannon

Since the development of the class struggle, its most concentrated form, is the political struggle, it is natural that in the class struggle too militarism appears in its sharpest form in direct and indirect intervention in the political struggle. Militarism acts first of all as an economic power, as a producer and consumer. The ruthless exclusion of all Social-Democrats, or those suspected of being such, from the military workshops, from those at Spandau for example; the unconditional surrender of the workers, who are under the influence of militarism, to the reactionary parties, and especially to the Imperial League against Social-Democracy, Germany’s Black Hundreds, at the same time as all contact with Social-Democracy is prevented; these facts show how splendidly militarism has grasped its main task, protection of the interests of the employers, and with what military efficiency it carries out this task. No Krupp or Stumm, no capitalist can compete with militarism here, in the energy with which it defends capitalist interests. The Imperial League against Social-Democracy, for example, controls the military workshops at Spandau in such a way that it almost plays the role of a vigilante, watching over the thoughts of every worker in the royal service. Its word and will decide which workers are to be sacked. This situation has been very strikingly shown up by the events in connection with the sacking of the executive committee of a harmless union of unskilled workmen in the military workshops in the summer of 1906.

A considerable influence is also exerted – though it is on the decline – by the military boycott of public houses which are used by the workers’ associations or any other organizations which, in even a remote way, savour of Social-Democracy. This boycott kills two birds with one stone. On the one hand it protects the soldiers from possible contamination by the revolutionary poison – this aspect really belongs to the field of military education discussed above. On the other hand it makes it difficult for the workers to get hold of rooms and halls for meetings, since they are often unable to hire a proper public meeting place. In Berlin for example this boycott has turned out to be impossible to apply and has been given up, but our comrades in the smaller towns suffer greatly from this plague, which of course is directed against the economic struggle of the proletariat. [41]

But these are only “the smallest of its sins”. Militarism is not satisfied with endlessly interfering in the petty, everyday political struggle, though in this it never lets up. It has infinitely greater ambitions. It is the noblest and mightiest support of the throne and altar in all the greatest and most serious conflicts of capitalist reaction with the revolution. It threw its weight into the scales in the same way against the earlier revolutionary movements. This need only be briefly related.

We have already dealt with the gruesome laurel wreaths with which capitalist militarism crowned itself in the struggle against the proletariat of Paris in July 1830, in June 1848 and in May 1871, as well as in the riots provoked by “Napoleon the Little” on December 2, 1852. Of special interest here, because they took place in England, are the Chartist massacres of Newport and Birmingham in 1839, in which 10 people were killed and 50 wounded – et tu, Brute!

The whole of Russia has been under martial law at various degrees for the last two years to aid the cruel barbarities of Tsarism, and to crush without mercy the liberation movement by means of the fist, whip, sword, rifle and gun, with which the army is turning this unhappy land into a great cemetery. Only the progress of the revolution and the disintegration of the army, which necessarily corresponds to the energy of the revolutionary forces, are reliable guarantees that this “Christian” but also suicidal plan will not be realized. As we have already pointed out, Russia has to be treated with many reservations when an examination of the capitalist states is being made.

The role played by the standing army in the first great Belgian electoral struggle is very important, as well as the role played in the second such struggle in 1902 by the national guard, the special militarist organization used by the bourgeoisie in the class struggle.

Austria saw the mobilization of the military against a workers’ demonstration in the Vienna Prater on May 1, 1896, and we have already mentioned the events in Prague, Vienna and Glatz (1897), in Lemberg and Trieste (1902). But it provided a second brilliant example of militarist-political action on the large scale in the election fight of 1905. Bohemia especially was on the point of becoming the scene of civil war. [42] On November 5 and 28, 1905, the day on which election demonstrations were to be held, Prague, where the miners were also on strike, was filled with and surrounded by the army. The heights around were occupied by the artillery, ready to fire, and about eighty people were eventually wounded, though in fact by the police.

The events in Italy which belong to this section have already been mentioned.

Now we come to Germany, to that Germany whose supreme war lord, in a world-renowned speech – which has become a powerful weapon in the standing arsenal of anti-militarist propaganda in every country – gave the soldiers a curious interpretation of the fourth commandment. Not only did he make the well-known Sedan day speech against the “mob” in 1895, but also the famous appeal to the Alexander regiment on March 28, 1901. [8*] It was the proletariat as such, the only sound pillar of the “constitution”, for which the military armament and Wrangel’s manoeuvres were meant, which in 1848-9 shamelessly crushed the German revolution, more or less betrayed and abandoned by the German bourgeoisie, and robbed it of its birthright. One might also recall the Boyen-Lotzen affair of the shackles in September 1870, and the bloody fantasies of Bismarck-Puttkamer memory. At the time of the infamous anti-socialist law, these “heroes of the 19th century” looked forward, longed to see the workers forced into the streets and cut down with the sword, rifle and shrapnel in the most artistic and sportsmanlike way. [43] The fact that the army was held ready in the barracks in the case of May Day festivals [44] and Reichstag elections is still well remembered [45], as are the events of 1896 during the process by which electoral rights were stolen from the people of Saxony, and the events of 1905-6, when the army participated in the “pacification” of the Saxon population. [46] When election demonstrations were held in Hamburg on January 17, 1906, “bloody Wednesday”, police guns and swords sufficed to do the necessary work. The two corpses which adorned the pavements of the free Hansa town were their responsibility. The army, consisting of local people, was kept in the background.

On January 21, 1906, however, the defenders of capitalism showed themselves in their full glory. Whoever heard the guns rattle down the paved streets of Berlin on that “holy” Sunday has glimpsed the heart and soul of militarism. [47] The sound of those guns still resounds in our ears today, and spurs us on in our struggle against militarism with untiring, relentless, ruthless determination.

On January 21, 1906, it was simply a question of a demonstration against the infamous Prussian three-class electoral system. But we know that our militarism would be at least as eager to reach for the sword and rifle if it were necessary to make some reactionary changes to the state constitution by means of a coup d’état. And the latest Hohenlohe [9*] and Delbruck revelations have shown how Bismarck in 1890 was on the point of dispersing the Reichstag, of abolishing the electoral system, of driving the proletarian masses onto the streets to face the guns and cannons, of crushing Social-Democracy by shattering the defenceless ranks of the workers, and so of building a fortress of blood and iron on the broken proletarian bodies in order to protect Bismarckian-Junker reaction. [48] We have also heard that the German Kaiser would not endorse this plan because he first wished “to satisfy the legitimate complaints of the workers”, “to meet their legitimate demands”. We know, moreover, that the workers hold an opinion quite different from that of the ruling classes as to which of their demands are legitimate, and we know that the antagonism towards the Reichstag found among the most influential circles in northern Germany (especially marked in the ex-Communist Miquel [10*], as the Hohenlohe memoirs have shown) is continually on the increase. [49] We also know that the danger of a “military solution of the social question by means of small calibre rifles and large calibre cannons appears today closer than ever. [50] Should the chief of the General staff; Helmut von Moltke, become the Imperial Chancellor, as has been recently predicted, it would mean to all appearances a victory for the notorious military party at court. [51]

There has never been a shortage of “shrapnel princes”, shrapnel Junkers and shrapnel generals in world history. One must be ready for everything. There is no time to lose. [52]


7. Military societies in the political struggle

The military societies of course manifest a very intensive political activity, which German justice naturally cannot see through its blindfold. Everyone knows bow these societies are mobilized during elections, and how they force their members to leave the political organizations of the opposition. It is worth noting the way in which, to show their “loyalty to the king”, they deprive the class-conscious workers of meeting-places. There are only two new facts to be brought forward. First, the decision of the Society of Old Soldiers of the XVIth Army Corps in Duisburg-Beeck to boycott the Kaiserhof Hotel in Duisburg because it had been let for a miners’ meeting. Second, the expulsion from the military societies of Saxony of those publicans who allow their premises to be used by the workers for meetings. [53] It is not easy to take on these methods of struggle in the smaller towns, though when the workers are organized it simply means blows in the air.

The material which belongs to this section deserves to be systematically collected for use in the day-to-day struggle.


8. Militarism, a danger to peace

Nationalist contradictions – the need for national expansion as a consequence of the increase in population, the need for the annexation of territories possessing natural riches in order to increase the national wealth (which means the wealth of the ruling classes) and the need to make the state independent by constituting it as far as possible as a self-sufficient economic unit with regard to production (a natural tendency to promote and extend a policy of protectionism, a tendency which can, however, only diminish in the face of the ever expanding international division of labour), the need for facilitating communication at home and abroad (for example through the acquisition of navigable channels and of harbours, etc.), which is the means through which trade, the metabolism of the economic body, is effected – these contradictions, together with contradictions in the general cultural level, especially in the stage of political development, can easily, even in the present day, produce international political tensions. The most important political tensions which today can lead to world war arise, as has already been shown above, from the competition of individual states within the world economy, from world trade, from international politics with all its complications, and especially from colonial politics. Those who bear the main responsibility for these tensions are the powerful figures interested in the expansion of industry and trade. They may be said to be interested in a successful war.

It must not, however, be forgotten that the existence of the standing armies in which militarism has consolidated itself in the most marked form in itself threatens world peace, and constitutes an autonomous danger of war. Apart from all this is the fact that the increase in military spending, that “endless screw”, can lead to the inclination to let no favourable moment elapse without using one’s temporary military superiority, or without starting a military conflict once it is thought necessary in order to prevent a further unfavourable shift in the balance of military power. This tendency, which as everyone knows was not without influence in France in the recent Morocco conflict [54], determines rather the time of the outbreak of war than the fact of its outbreak.

But the standing army produces, as does the militia to a much smaller degree, a modern caste of warriors, a caste of persons who, so to speak, are trained for war from childhood, a privileged class of conquistadores who seek adventure and advancement in war. To this group belong also those strata who have something special to gain from war, those who supply arms, munitions, battleships, horses, material for fitting out and for clothing, catering and transport requirements; in short: the army contractors, who of course are also present but to a lesser degree in states where there exists a militia. Both these groups with war interests, that is, those interested in war, even simply in the waging of war (the most adventurous of the officers and those of the army contractors who are quite independent of military success) are, to use a popular expression, “on the inside”. They have connections with the highest state offices and possess a great influence over those powers whose job it is to make the formal decision on war and peace. They miss no favourable opportunity of attempting to turn this influence, which they have for the most part gained through their exploitation of militarism, into pure gold, and to sacrifice countless numbers of proletarians on the altar of profit. They agitate for colonial expansion, forcing the “dear Fatherland” into dangerous and costly adventures which are, however, profitable to themselves, in order then to be able to agitate for a navy to save the mime Fatherland in another way, which of course is again very profitable for them. [55]

The struggle against the standing army and the chauvinistic-militaristic spirit means struggle against a threat to peace between nations. The old saying, si vis pacem para bellum, may still apply to some individual state surrounding by militarist states, but by no means applies to the totality of the capitalist states against which Social-Democracy directs its international agitation. And even less does this saying imply the need to prepare for war by means of a standing army. On the contrary, the saying in its inverted form, si vis bellum para pacem, applies to such an army – there is no more sure method of provoking war than such a method of securing peace! In the case of the aggressive economic-political imperialism of our day the standing army is indeed the adequate form of preparation for war.

Just as it is true that peace between nations is in the interest of the international proletariat, and beyond that in the interest of the whole of human civilization, so it is true that the struggle against militarism – which, all in all, comes to a struggle against the sum and extract of all the tendencies of capitalism which disturb peace, stirring up nation against nation; in short, threatening a world war – this struggle is a struggle for civilization which the proletariat is proud to wage, which it must wage in its very own interest, and in the waging of which no other class as such (a few well-meaning enthusiasts here only prove the rule) has anything like as great an interest.

Militarism also disturbs peace at home, not only by its brutalization of the people and by the heavy economic burdens which it lays on them through taxes and duties, not only by the corruption which goes band in hand with it (vide men like Woermann, Fischer, von Tippelskirch, Podbielski & Co. [11*]), not only by the division of the people, already suffering enough from class division, into two castes, not only by military ill-treatment and military justice, but above all by the fact that it is a powerfully effective brake on every sort of progress, that it is an ingenious and very efficient instrument for keeping the valve of the social boiler firmly shut. For the person who considers the further development of the human race as necessary, the existence of militarism is the most important obstacle to the peaceful and steady character of such a development; for him untamed militarism is synonymous with the necessity of a blood-red twilight for the idols of capitalism.


9. The difficulties of the proletarian revolution

To abolish militarism or weaken it as much as possible is therefore a question of life or death for the political struggle for emancipation, a struggle whose form and mode militarism in a certain sense debases, and therefore decisively influences. It becomes even more a life or death question as the superiority of the army over the unarmed people, over the proletariat, increases in consequence of the highly developed technique and strategy, in consequence of the gigantic size of the armies, in consequence of the unfavourable way in which the classes are divided with regard to locality, and in consequence of the especially unfavourable relation of economic power in which the proletariat stands to the bourgeoisie. For all these reasons it will be far more difficult to make every coming proletarian revolution than it was to make all past revolutions. It is important always to remember that in the bourgeois revolution the leading force, the revolutionary bourgeoisie, had long held economic power in its hands before the revolution in the narrow sense broke out, and that there was a large class, economically subject to the bourgeoisie and exposed to its political influence, which the bourgeoisie could put to work to pull the chestnuts out of the fire. It is important to remember that the bourgeoisie bad first of all to a certain degree picked up the old rubbish of feudalism before it broke it up and threw it in the lumber-room, while the members of the proletariat must conquer everything that was taken from them with the help of riches while themselves still going hungry and even at the risk of their lives.

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23. Le Mouvement Socialiste, May-June and August-September 1906, Les massacres de classe en Italie.

24. See for example Les Temps Nouveaux of December 16, 1905 (Ancona, Taurisano).

25. Leur Patrie, Paris n.d., p.99.

26. In this connection see G. Jaeckh, Die Internationale, Leipzig 1904, pp.69ff.

27. See Mouvement Socialiste of September 1 and 15, 1905.

28. See the detailed descriptions in Mouvement Socialiste, nos.155 and 156, and in La Vie Socialiste, 1st year, nos.15-18. The National Congress at Chalons-sur-Saône (October-November 1905), having rejected the motion of the Socialist fraction in the Chamber for a parliamentary inquiry, dealt in a comprehensive resolution with Limoges and Konstantin’s report on it.

29. Les Temps Nouveaux, December 16, 1905.

30. A great sensation was caused a few years ago by the pamphlet L’armée aux grèves (The Army in Strikes) by Lieutenant Z.

31. L’Humanité, October 9, 1906.

32. See Sombart, Warum gibt es in den Vereinigten Staaten keinen Sozialismus?, Tübingen 1906, p.129.

33. See Hillquit, Geschichte des Sozialismus in den Vereinigten Staaten, Stuttgart 1906, p.211. This is the work which has mostly been used here for information on North America.

34. The same Altgeld who, on June 26, 1890, pardoned the Chicago anarchists.

35. See Hillquit, Geschichte des Sozialismus in den Vereinigten Staaten, pp.190, 209ff., 236ff., 306ff.

36. Op. cit., p.314.

37. On May 19, 1889, the German Kaiser said to a deputation waiting on him: “If I perceive that the movement betrays Social-Democratic tendencies and that people are incited to unlawful resistance, I shall intervene with ruthless severity and make use of all the power at my disposal – which is considerable.” According to the Freisinnige-Zeitung he added that if the least resistance were shown to the authorities he would have the trouble-makers shot.

38. Cf. what took place in Landau-Kaiserslautern in September 1906.

39. Cf. the appeal of the Saxon Sharpshooters’ and Riflemen’s Military Society in the Leipziger Volkszeitung, December 1, 1906.

40. On the “drinking parties and brawls”, to use the words of the pastor César, see the Sozialdemokratische Partei-Correspondenz, no.21, December 8, 1906.

41. To this category belongs also the threat of a military boycott – made for example during the 1903 Reichstag election campaign against those publicans at Spandau on whose premises the Social-Democrats had displayed lists of electors in order to facilitate the checking of the lists. They had to be taken down (see Denkschrift des Reichstages, no.618, 1905-7).

42. See also the paper Der Jugendliche Arbeiter, December 1905 (on the shooting of 16-year-old Johann Hubac).

43. Ludwigshaven in the Palatinate was practically occupied by troops on the Sunday before the 1887 election, and only the presence of mind of the Social-Democrats prevented an outbreak of shooting (see the description in the Festschrift zur Mannheimer Parteitag, 1906, pp.9ff.). The statement by the Kaiser recorded in the Hohenlohe memoirs for December 12, 1889, is interesting in this connection. He says that when the Social-Democrats are in a majority on the Berlin town council they will set about robbing the citizens. But that will not worry him, he adds. He will have embrasures made in the palace and watch the looting going on. Then the citizens will have to implore him to come to their assistance.

44. This applied especially to the first May Day celebration (1890), which the military firebrands, the “military party” (Hohenlohe’s memoirs, September 14, 1893) would have liked to use as the opportunity to settle the account in blood with the hated and dangerous Social-Democrats.

45. Cf. in the electoral riots at Laurahütte and Zabrze in Upper Silesia in 1903.

46. Cf. the order concerning shooting made for January 21, 1906, published by the Leipziger Volkszeitung on April 3, 1906.

47. See the same order, preceding footnote.

48. This was of course brought to light by the Hamburger Nachrichten in March 1892.

49. See the Handbuch für sozialdemokratische Wähler, 1903, Der Preussische Landtag, Handbuch für sozialdemokratische Wähler, Berlin 1903, and above all the Hamburger Nachrichten, the Kreuz-Zeitung, the Deutsche Tageszeitung and Die Post, in connection with the project to dissolve the Reichstag on December 13, 1906, if the election result should be unfavourable.

50. The appeal to the Prussian bayonets made by the thoroughbred Junker von Oldenburg-Januschau to the Reichstag in May 1905 and at the Provincial Conference of the Agrarian Federation in Konitz in December 1906 echoed the feelings in the hearts of, at least, a very influential camarilla.

51. The Berliner Tageblatt describes this up-and-coming character in the following terms: “Helmut von Moltke is said to be an outspoken reactionary, tempered by a certain soldierly frankness and a happy disposition, though he is also said to have spiritualist tendencies. He is not at all a man of theory, but a go-ahead man of action, cool but ready to make politics with the sword and rifle.” There we have all the qualities so earnestly desired by our firebrands concentrated in one man.

52. So that the element of satire in the tragedy shall not be lacking, we will refer here to the farce played out in 1904 in the little Thuringian town of Hildburghausen. The students of the Technical Institute were angry with the police because not enough leniency bad been shown towards the young bourgeois elements who had a habit of causing disturbances. One night they stormed the police station, and could only be forced back by a company of infantry – though without bloodshed. The sequel, before the Meiningen County Court, also deserves to be remembered. The accused “rebels” were not, as with workers in similar cases, sentenced to imprisonment or hard labour, but acquitted or given light fines. But the unfortunate lieutenant who intervened, and who had perhaps not kept strictly to the rules, was severely reprimanded.

53. Cf. the declaration made by the President of the Federation of Saxon Military Societies, published in the Leipziger Volkszeitung on December 1, 1906.

54. Cf. the article by Major-General von Zepelin in the Kreuz-Zeitung, Deceznber 23, 1906.

55. Cf. the Rheinisch-Westfälische Zeitung of December 5, 1906.

Additional notes by the translator

5*. HERVÉ, GUSTAVE (1871-1944). A university teacher, he was forced to leave his post as a consequence of legal proceedings arising out of his anti-militarist opinions. Founded the paper La Guerre sociale. Later became an ardent patriot, left the Socialist Party in 1916, supported Clemenceau. In 1927 created the fascist National Socialist Party in France.

6*. INTERNATIONAL (SECOND). Founded in 1889, based on the adhesion of national parties and unions. Later set up an executive body, the International Socialist Bureau. Congresses were held in Paris in 1889, Brussels in 1891, Zurich in 1893, London in 1896, Paris in 1900, Amsterdam in 1904, Stuttgart in 1907, Copenhagen in 1910, Basel in 1912. Expelled its anarchist members in 1896, affirmed itself as based on Marxism. Adopted in 1907 the position of Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg and Julius Martov that war should be transformed into social revolution. But in 1914 all its member parties (except the Russians and Serbs) voted for war credits in their respective parliaments and otherwise supported the war effort.

7*. CLEMENCEAU, GEORGES (1841-1929). Radical, French Minister of the Interior from 1906. Became known as the strong man of French politics, especially because of his use of the army in social conflicts at home and his support for the general strengthening of the armed forces. Headed the French government from 1917 to 1920.

8*. ALEXANDER REGIMENT SPEECH. The speech of Wilhelm II to the Kaiser Alexander Regiment on March 28, 1901, containing the words: “You are ... so to speak the bodyguard of the King of Prussia, and you must always be ready, day and night, to put your life at risk, to spill your blood for your king! ... If it should happen that the city rises up against its rulers, the regiment must punish this improper conduct of the people towards its king with the bayonet.”

9*. HOHENLOHE-SCHILLINGSFÜRST, PRINCE VON (1819-1901). Third Imperial Chancellor, succeeding Caprivi in 1894. Responsible for an attempt, sometimes successful (law against subversion of 1894, Prussian anti-Socialist law of 1897), to introduce a severely repressive social policy. Supported the strengthening of the armed forces, especially the laws on the navy of 1898 and 1900. Resigned in October 1900.

10*. MIQUEL, DR. Ex-republican, who took part in the revolutionary movements of 1848, he became an extreme reactionary and a member of the National Liberal Party. In 1890 he was appointed Prussian Finance Minister.

11*. TIPPELSKIRCH & CO. Army contractors, the firm of Tippelskirch was involved in 1906, together with the Prussian minister von Podbielski and the Hamburg shipping firm C. Woermann & Co., in a great scandal. Tippelskirch & Co. had secured a monopoly in the supply of clothes and equipment to the colonial forces, while von Podbielski, as a partner in the firm, shared in the enormous profits thus obtained. Woermann’s made its share from transportation.

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