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Another View of Things: Rosa Luxemburg (1913)

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A closer examination of the wars waged over the last ten to fifteen years also reveals how political horizons have gradually broadened. Roughly speaking, the upheaval began with the Sino-Japanese wars of 1895. Here, a country awoke to independence for the first time. There followed the war between Spain and America, which was the first time the United States had fought outside its territory. The Boer War of 1899 crowned a series of less conspicuous English conquests in the region. Then came the Huns’ campaign in China and Wilhelm II’s parting advice to his soldiers: grant no quarter and take no prisoners. German soldiers were to rage like the Huns; they were to make sure that the Chinese would not dare look askance at a single German for centuries to come. War broke out between Russia and Japan in 1904, followed first by the Russian Revolution and then by revolutions in Persia, Turkey, and, to some extent, India. Over the last few years, we have seen forks of lightning and storm clouds in China. France and Germany quarreled over Morocco, which resulted in Italy’s attack on Tripoli, which, in turn, brought about the Balkan War. The driving force behind all these wars was the attempt to divide up areas not yet controlled by capitalism.

Until recently, Social Democracy possessed a very simple method for deciding which stance to take on a war. Whereas wars of aggression were rejected and damned, Social Democrats were required to support defensive wars. Comrade Bebel, who said so many fine things in his life, but who, like every other person, also said a few less exceptional things, once declared before the Reichstag that he would shoulder his rifle in the event of a defensive war, despite his advanced age. His advice is not very useful since the distinction between wars of aggression and wars of defense quickly melts away in our hands or bursts like soap bubbles. During the wars of the French Revolution, it was the French government that declared war, but these were nonetheless wars of defense that safeguarded the work of the revolution against reaction. Formally speaking, the war in the Balkans is an aggressive war against Turkey, but the leaders of the attacking nations are outdoing themselves in their assertion that they are defending both the most sacred national rights and the Christian faith against the Turks. And they, too, are not wrong. From this we must conclude that it is our duty, as proletarians, to reject all wars, be they wars of aggression or wars of defense. We must see them as resulting from imperialism, and just as we battle all manifestations of imperialism, so too must we battle every partial manifestation.

An emergency expedient within our tactics is that Social Democracy in Germany is founded on the Triple Alliance, which means that it supports the combined efforts of German, Austrian, and Italian diplomacy. Just a few weeks ago, when the new military bill was being debated in the Reichstag, Comrade David, on behalf of our faction, publicly declared to the government that we, as Social Democrats, support the Triple Alliance. It is deeply regrettable that his only qualification was that its members had to behave themselves and work toward freedom. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there. At nearly the same time, Comrade Renner made a similar statement on behalf of the Austrian Social Democrats before the Viennese parliament. To expect from the Triple Alliance – a capitalist alliance policy designed to prepare for war – that it should work toward peace is like wanting to pick plums from a thistle bush. One need only examine the results of the Triple Alliance to recognize this. The first consequence was that France was literally driven into its ignoble alliance with Russia, and England entered into the tripartite relationship with France and Russia. Another consequence is the monstrous German arms buildup against France and Russia, as well as the armament of Austria. And what contribution did the Triple Alliance make toward keeping the peace when one Triple Alliance power attacked Tripoli, and Austria annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina? When two or three capitalist states put their heads together, it is a platitude that their objective is the jugular of a fourth capitalist state. How naïve must someone be to expect that this alliance will act as a guarantor of peace? I know of just one international alliance that is a guarantor of peace. The only alliance that can be counted on to guarantee peace is the alliance of the international revolutionary proletariat!

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