Karl Liebknecht
Militarism & Anti-Militarism
II. Anti-Militarism

7. The Anti-militarist Tasks of German Social-Democracy

The anti-patriotic form of anti-militarism has not been and will not be able to take root in German conditions. But Social-Democratic propaganda will have to be filled to a much greater degree with the spirit of international working-class solidarity and with the appeal for peace between nations as one of the goals of the proletarian struggle for liberation. The demands set out in the anti-militarist programme mentioned above form a suitable and unobjectionable basis for this task.

From a general point of view militarism in its internal form, together with all its evil manifestations (more evident in normal times), will in the future find itself in a rather more difficult position, and its role in the class war will become more evident. Where the main attack is to be launched is something that will be determined at the time by the national and international situation.

Whatever forms and methods of propaganda we have to introduce or adapt in Germany, we can of course assume that we shall have to keep within legal limits. The question of carrying out propaganda inside the army is therefore ruled out in advance.

German Social-Democracy has not even done enough work in collecting documentary evidence against militarism. Details are normally available only of the military budget and the growth in indirect military burdens and the peace-time strength of the army. But the connection between these military burdens and the customs and taxation policy awaits closer examination. What is notably lacking is information on the illl-treatment of soldiers, on the exploits of military justice, on cases of suicide among soldiers, on health conditions in the army, on injuries suffered on active service, on conditions of pay and pensions, together with an account of the use of soldiers to force down wages and of related army decrees and their use (with men on the point of being disbanded) to break strikes, of intervention by the army and armed police forces in strike situations, of the victims of such actions, of the system of military boycott, of military intervention in politics, of the use of the military societies in the social and political struggle, and of such exploits of militarism in other countries, especially in the economic and political struggle. A special account therefore has to be opened for militarism, naval militarism and colonial militarism. We have insufficient knowledge and material relating to the militarist youth societies of our opponents, as well as to the and-militarist movement and its struggles.

The regular collection, sifting and study of all this material must be systematically taken in hand. It cannot be treated as a task secondary to the general agitation.

This material would of course first have to be put to use in our general agitational work, in parliament, in the press and in general leaflets and meetings. But it must be directed to specific objectives, into specific channels, in order to penetrate and take effect among those strata of the population which are especially important to the anti-militarist movement. We have to consider first of all not only the young people liable for military service but also theft parents, and especially their mothers, who can render especially valuable service in educating their children in anti-militarism. There are also the older workers, whose influence on their younger comrades and the apprentices has to be put to the best possible use. And finally we have to step up the struggle, in terms of energy and method, against the military societies.

The agitation must never directly or indirectly incite to military disobedience. It will have attained its goal if it shows up the essence of militarism and its role in the class struggle, if it raises indignation and disgust in response to its exposure of the real character of militarism, its function as an enemy of the people.

Wherever the law permits, the chief agent of this propaganda must be the youth organizations, which already by awakening class consciousness are tending to weaken militarism and the militarist spirit. These youth organizations must make use of the press, of pamphlets, of leaflets, of lecture courses and education in order to spread the anti-militarist word as widely as possible in the form most acceptable to young people. Festivals and cultural events must be used to the same end. The members of the associations must in turn be educated in order to become propagandists of anti-militarism. By personal contact between friends of the same class and age, together with the circulation of literature, by these means the family, relations and friends, the workshop and factory will be transformed through the work of the youth organizations into centres of recruitment for anti-militarism.

The youth organization itself must not limit its agitation to its own members, but continually widen its audience. It must address the whole of the class of young workers. It must also, in the way described above, win over the older workers. It must make systematic use of the press, leaflets, pamphlets, public meetings, lectures, galas, festivals and so on, attractive to young and old. Meetings organized on the occasion of the departure of the recruits as well as demonstrations of all kinds must serve the same goal.

The Party too must take up in press and parliament and in a systematic way – as it has already done, but more energetically – the material and social interests of the soldiers and non-commissioned officers. [1] Thus, in a quite irreproachable way, it can ensure the sympathy of these groups.

The foundation of special associations of ex-soldiers, as in Belgium and Holland, with the special task of opposing the military societies, is not to be recommended in Germany – the general political and trade union organizations are sufficient.

If we examine what has been done in other countries, we get an idea of what remains to be done. And if we take a glance at the programme set out above, we recognize that the Party, in spite of all that it has done in the field of anti-militarism, has only begun to fulfil its task. It is, so to speak, at the kindergarten stage as far as anti-militarist propaganda is concerned.

These multiple activities obviously cannot all be carried out by one central organization, but they can and must be centrally directed and controlled. The necessity of the establishment of such a centre is already evident, because only thus can the most careful use be made of all the legal possibilities of action. Like a net cast into the distance, anti-militarist propaganda must reach out to the whole people. The proletarian youth must be systematically inflamed with class consciousness and hate against militarism. Youthful enthusiasm will take hold of the hearts of the young workers inspired by such agitation. These young workers belong to Social-Democracy, to Social-Democratic anti-militarism. If everyone carries out his task, they must and will be won. He who has the young people has the army.


1. Improvement in pay, food, clothing, housing, treatment, lightening of the service, suppression of ill-treatment, reform of the system of complaints, of discipline and of punishment, as well as of military justice, etc.

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