I. Industrial Competition

Submitted by GrouchoMarxist on May 13, 2012

In 1883, when England, Germany, Austria, and Roumania, taking advantage of the isolation of France, leagued themselves against Russia, and a terrible European war was about to blaze forth, we pointed out in the Révolté what were the real motives for rivalry among States and the wars resulting therefrom.

The reason for modern war is always the competition for markets and the right to exploit nations backward in industry. In Europe we no longer fight for the honour of kings. Armies are pitted against each other that the revenues of Messrs. Almighty Rothschild, of Schneider, of the Most Worshipful Company of Anzin, or of the most Holy Catholic Bank of Rome may remain unimpaired. Kings are no longer of any account.

In fact, all wars in Europe during the last hundred and fifty years were wars fought for industrial advantage and the rights of exploitation. Towards the end of the eighteenth century the great industries and world commerce of France, backed by her navy and her colonies in America (Canada) and Asia (in India), began to develop. Thereupon England, who had already crushed her competitors in Spain and Holland, anxious to keep her herself alone the monopoly of maritime commerce, of sea-power, and of a Colonial Empire, took advantage of the Revolution in France to begin a whole series of wars against her. From that moment England understood what riches a monopolised outlet for her growing industry would bring in. Finding herself rich enough to pay for the armies of Prussia, Austria, and Russia, she waged during a quarter of a century a succession of terrible and disastrous wars against France. That country was compelled to drain herself in order to withstand these wars, and only at this price was she able to uphold her right to remain a “Great Power.” That is to say, she retained her right of refusing to submit to all the conditions that English monopolists endeavoured to impose upon her to the advantage of their own commerce. She upheld her right to a navy and to military ports. Frustrated in her plans for expansion in North America, where she lost Canada, and in India, where she was compelled to abandon her colonies, she received in return permission to create a Colonial Empire in Africa on condition that she did not touch Egypt; she was permitted to enrich her monopolists by pillaging the Arabs of Algeria.

Later on, in the second half of the nineteenth century, it was Germany's turn. When serfdom was abolished as a consequence of the uprisings in 1848, and the abolition of communal property compelled young peasants in a body to leave the country for the town, where they offered themselves as “out-of-works” at starvation wages to the Masters of Industry, Industry on a large scale began to flourish in several German States. German manufacturers soon got to understand that if the working classes were given a good technical education they would rapidly overtake great industrial countries like France and England — on condition, be it well understood, of obtaining for Germany advantageous outlets beyond her frontiers. They knew what Proudhon had so well demonstrated: that a trader can only succeed in substantially enriching himself if a large portion of his produce is exported to other countries, where it can be sold at a price not obtainable in the country where it was manufactured.

Since that time, in all the social strata of Germany — those of the exploited as well as those of the exploiters — there was a passionate desire to unify Germany at all costs: to build up a powerful Empire capable of supporting an immense army and a strong navy, which would be able to conquer ports in the North Sea and the Adriatic, and some day ports in Africa and the East — an Empire which would be the dictator of economic law in Europe.

For this plan to succeed, it was evidently necessary to break the strength of France, who would have resisted, and who at that time had, or seemed to have, the power of preventing its execution.

From these circumstances resulted the terrible war of 1870, with all its sad consequences as regards universal progress, which we suffer from even to-day.

By this war and this victory over France, a Germanic Empire — the dream of Radicals, State Socialists, and partly of German Conservatives since 1848 — was at last constituted. And this Empire made itself felt and its political power recognised, as well as its right to lay down the law in Europe.

Germany, on entering a striking period of juvenile activity, quickly succeeded in doubling and trebling her industrial productivity, and soon increasing it tenfold; and now the German middle classes covet new sources of enrichment in the plains of Poland, in the prairies of Hungary, on the plateaus of Africa, and especially around the railway line to Bagdad in the rich valleys of Asia Minor, which can provide German capitalists one of the most beautiful skies in the world. It may be so with Egypt also some day.

Therefore, it is ports for export, and especially military ports in the Mediterranean Adriatic and in the Adriatic of the Indian Ocean — the Persian Gulf — as well as on the African coast in Beira, and also in the Pacific, that these schemers of German colonial trade wish to conquer. Their faithful servant, the German Empire, with its armies and ironclads, is at their service for this purpose.

But at every step these new conquerors meet with a formidable rival — England bars the way.

Jealous of keeping her supremacy on the sea, jealous above all of keeping her colonies for exploitation by her own monopolists, scared by the success of Germany's colonial policy and the rapid development of her navy, England is redoubling her efforts in order to have a fleet capable of infallibly crushing her German rival. England looks everywhere for allies to weaken the military power of Germany on land. And when the English press sow alarm and terror, pretending to fear a German invasion, they well know that danger does not lie in that quarter. What England needs is the power to despatch her regular army to where Germany, in accord with Turkey, might attack a colony of the British Empire (Egypt, for instance). And for this purpose she must be in a position to retain at home a strong Territorial army read to drown in blood, if necessary, any working-class rebellion. For this reason principally military arts are taught to young bourgeois, grouped in squads of “scouts.”

The English bourgeoisie of to-day wants to act towards Germany as it twice acted towards Russia in order to arrest, for fifty years or more, the development of that country's sea-power, — once in 1855, with the help of Turkey, France, and Piedmont; and again in 1904, when she hurled Japan against the Russian fleet and against Russia's military port in the Pacific.

That is why for the past two years we have been living on the alert, expecting a colossal European war to break out from one day to another.

Besides, we must not forget that the industrial wave, in rolling from West to East, has also invaded Italy, Austria, and Russia. These States are in their turn asserting their “right” — the right of their monopolists to booty in Africa and in Asia.

Russian brigandage in Persia, Italian plunder of the desert Arabs around Tripoli, and French brigandage in Morocco are the consequences.

The Concert of brigands, acting in the service of the monopolists who govern Europe, has “allowed” France to seize Morocco, as it has “allowed” England to seize Egypt; it has “allowed” Italy to lay hold of a part of the Ottoman Empire, in order to prevent its being seized by Germany and it has “allowed” Russia to take Northern Persia, in order that England might secure a substantial strip of land on the borders of the Persian Gulf before the German railway can reach it.

And for this Italians massacre inoffensive Arabs, French massacre Moors, and the hired assassins of the Tsar hand Persian patriots who endeavour to regenerate their country by a little political liberty.

Zola had a good reason for saying: “What scoundrels respectable people are!”