The Guilt of William Hohenzollern/Chapter 20
THE WORLD REVOLUTION
The whole war-policy of William and his men had, from the outset, been built up upon false premises. They had decided to join in the Serbian adventure in the expectation that it would bring an easy triumph over Russia and, no doubt, also over France. Both Powers, inadequately equipped, would either quietly accept the blow dealt by Austria to Russian power in the Balkans, or, should they be provoked to war, would easily be conquered, as Germany had Italy and Rumania at her back and England would remain neutral. Thus, in any case, Germany would win glory and power, while if the conflict eventuated in war, territorial aggrandisement was also in prospect.
On July 29th, however, the calculation turned out to be false. It was now to be apprehended that, in the event of war against Russia and France, Rumania and Italy would not take part, and that, above all, England would offer active opposition. The game now threatened to become dangerous. Henceforth Bethmann strove to get out of it with a whole skin, but now it was too late. Austria had already begun war against Serbia, and, with her own mobilization, had started the race in war-preparations. When Bethmann wished to get out of this dangerous stadium, he encountered the opposition of the Austrian Government, and of the German General Staff, which now saw only one way out of the strained situation: to strike with all possible speed. And finally he completely lost his head and poured oil upon the fire he desired to extinguish. Thus out of the frivolous Serbian adventure grew the terrible tragedy of the world-war.
But Moltke's military calculations at the end of July proved to be as false as Bethmann's diplomatic calculations at the beginning.
A rapid blow could only secure the victory on the condition that Belgium submitted, and permitted the German Army to pass through without offering resistance. Then a German victory was probable, precisely for this reason, that the ground given for the German invasion of Belgium was a fabrication—i.e., the French had no strong forces stationed on their northern frontier.
If Belgium offered no resistance, the German Army Command might expect, after a few decisive blows, to advance with all speed to Paris and Calais, to force France to make peace, and, no less, England, whose entrance-gate, Dover, came within the field of the long-range German guns, which commanded the passage across the Channel. To dispose of Russia would then be no longer a difficult task.
Belgium, however, did offer resistance. It was, of course, broken, but it gave the French time to strengthen their northern frontier. The German advance was stopped in the Battle of the Marne, and thus the military prospects of victory were annihilated, as the political had already been. The continuation of the war against the superior force that henceforth grew from day to day could but result in Germany's bleeding to death, as William had already foreseen on July 31st, 1914, two days before he declared war on Russia. In regard to the terrible struggle only one question remained whether Germany's opponents were to bleed to death along with her. In the case of Russia this noble aim has been fully achieved. Not quite so completely did it succeed with France and Italy, still less with England, and not at all with America and Japan, who, on the contrary, gained enormously.
And it is fortunate that the war did not cause the whole world to bleed to death, for who, then, would have been left to feed the victims and to bind their wounds?
From the day on which Belgium decided upon resistance and England entered the war, Germany's position was desperate.
The German General Staff at once recognized this, and drew its conclusions, in its own fashion, there and then. This is proved inter alia by a memorandum which the Chief of the General Staff sent to the Foreign Office on August 5th, and in which the war policy is laid down—a fresh proof that the leader of German policy was now the Chief of the General Staff, and not the Imperial Chancellor, who, henceforth, had only to carry out the orders of the former. The memorandum runs:
“England's declaration of war which, according to reliable information, was intended from the outset of the conflict, compels us to exhaust every means that may contribute to victory. The grave situation in which the Fatherland finds itself makes it an imperative duty to employ every means likely to damage the enemy. The unscrupulous policy pursued against us by our enemy justifies us in sticking at nothing.
“The insurrection of Poland has been prepared. The seed will fall on fertile soil, for even now our troops are being welcomed in Poland almost as friends. In Wloclavek, for instance, they have been received with salt and bread.
“The feeling of America is friendly to Germany. American public opinion is indignant at the shameful procedure adopted against us. It behoves us to exploit this feeling to the utmost. Influential personages in the German colony must be invited to continue to influence the Press in our favour. Perhaps the United States may be persuaded to a naval demonstration against England, for which, as the reward of victory, Canada beckons.
“As I already stated in my communication of the 2nd inst., No. 1, P., the revolt of India and Egypt, and also in the Caucasus, is a matter of the highest importance. Through the treaty with Turkey, the Foreign Office will be in a position to realize this idea and to excite the fanaticism of Islam.
“(Signed) v. Moltke.”
We see from this that von Moltke even expected the Imperial Chancellor to accept as gospel, without any proof, and on the mere allegation of “reliable information,” such an assertion as that “England's declaration of war was intended from the outset of the conflict.”
It is more terrible that the General Staff did not, at the very beginning of the war, deduce from the desperate situation to which it had, by its own policy, reduced Germany, the conclusion that any reasonable civilian would have drawn, at least so long as he himself was not infected by the military war fever, viz., that one must strive to rescue the Empire as speedily as possible from this dangerous situation by a policy of conciliation and of explicit renouncement of all manner of conquest. On the contrary, it decided it was now a question of employing every means that might injure the enemy, whatever the consequences, and of sticking at nothing. So it took that path of well-considered frightfulness which was of no use strategically, as it could be imitated by the enemy and then often recoiled with augmented violence upon the Army and the people of Germany, but which had the supreme effect of completely ruining Germany's prestige in the world. The invasion of Belgium had deprived Germany of her last friends. The atrocities of the German war methods were immediately set on foot (in Belgium, of all places!), and even among neutrals these methods transformed into raging hatred and scorn the admiration which even her enemies had previously felt for the achievements of Germany. They engendered also that feeling which ultimately made it possible not only for America to enter the war, but for the victors finally to dare to impose peace terms of the most extreme severity without meeting adequate resistance on the part of their peoples.
Born of a self-created necessity that believed it need recognize no law, it was this method of waging war that brought the German necessities to a climax.
Yet another thing is worthy of note in Moltke's statements. They spin out further a thought that had already dawned upon William in his first consternation at England's warning on July 30th. Even at that hour he had in mind the instigation of a rising of Mohammedans and Indians, if not for Germany's salvation, then for England's ruin. Moltke added the revolt of Poland. And he hoped to win over the United States by the promise of Canada!
This ingenious policy was pushed farther and farther during the war. As the United States were not to be won over, Mexico was now promised a few States of the Union. Simultaneously, however, salvation was sought with the rebels of Ireland, the anarchists of Italy, the dynamiters in America, and, finally, with the Bolshevists of Russia, all of whom were encouraged with might and main by the German General Staff.
We see that Lenin and Trotsky were not the first who saw deliverance from an impossible situation in the world-revolution stirred up by their emissaries. William and Moltke had anticipated them.
Like every scheme connected with their world-policy, this too was executed without any kind of deeper knowledge of the world they desired to dominate or to influence. They employed the most unsuitable means, they summoned the most unsuitable elements to their aid, they let themselves be guided by the most impossible expectations.
A sample of the way in which they attempted to stir up the Mohammedan world to revolt is given by Bernard Shaw in his “Peace Conference Hints” (London, 1919, page 90):
“Early in the war the German Government, wishing to stir up a rebellion against the French in Morocco and Algeria, circulated a document written in very choice Arabic to the effect that I am a great prophet, and that I once told an American Senator that the violation of Belgian neutrality was an incident of the war, and not the cause of it. I am quite unable to follow that operation of the German mind which led to the conclusion that any Moorish sheikh could be induced to rush to arms because some dog of an unbeliever had made a statement that was neither interesting nor even intelligible in Morocco to some other dog of an unbeliever; but the Germans formed that conclusion and spent money on it.”
Unfortunately, they lost thereby not only money, but also their good name, for they did not confine themselves to circulating leaflets among the enemy; they also utilized the protection of the ex-territorial privilege of their diplomatic and consular representatives with the neutrals, to instigate outrages of the most varied description on the lives and property of the enemy civilian population.
Success they had none, except in the East. As the German policy of involving her adversaries in her own ruin attained the desired aim only in Russia, so it was there alone they attained their purpose of bringing about a revolution. Both aims were very closely connected, and the downfall of Tsarism would have followed the Russian military collapse even without the promotion of Bolshevism by the German Government.
The narrowness of the German policy again appears in this, that in the endeavour to burn down its neighbour's house it did not observe that it was setting fire to its own.
It cherished the superstition which, to be sure, it had in common with many adherents of world-revolution, that revolutions could be called forth, as desired, by skilful and stirring emissaries who had the necessary funds at disposal. To this it added the further superstition that the spirits one invoked might be commanded at pleasure, and put back in the corner after they had done their duty.
It was incredibly shortsighted of a German capitalistic-agrarian military Monarchy, which hated anti-militarism and the proletarian revolution like poison, to encourage the keenest champions of proletarian revolution and of the dissolution of military subordination, as the Bolshevists were during the stage of their struggle for political power. The Russian Revolution, and especially its second act, the victory of Bolshevism, had made the most profound impression upon the German proletariate, and also upon the German Army, and had enormously increased their revolutionary determination. The fact that the German General Staff's previous love for the Bolshevists was then transformed into the grimmest hatred did not diminish the revolutionary effect of Bolshevism upon Germany, but rather enhanced it.
Thus, the potentates who instigated the world-war were finally hoisted with their own petard. To this extent world-history showed itself once more as the world's Judgment Day, a thing which does not often happen, for the world is by no means ordered on teleological principles. Already, on July 30th, William had had a presentiment of the collapse, even before he had declared war. If the Pompadour is supposed to have originated the expression, “After us the deluge,” in William's case one may use the variation, “Hold out until the deluge.”
- Alluding to Schiller's famous line, “Die Weltgeschichte ist das Weltgericht.” (Translator's note.)