We must also debunk another illusion that is causing confusion, namely, the illusion of disarmament. A few years ago, the English minister Grey delivered a fine speech in which he expressed his support for an arms agreement. No sooner had we heard this than a number of our comrades said to our Reichstag faction: Bravo, that man speaks wise words! They believed there was a way to move backwards from war to peace. But when Grey gave this speech, he already had a new navy bill in his pocket, and instead of disarmament came monstrous rearmament. The situation in Germany was no different. In the Budget Commission, the minister of war mentioned an agreement with England – that turned a few heads! A German war minister who was holding an olive branch in his beak like a dove! In truth this was just the prelude to the egregious military bill. One must be blind not to see that arms are a necessary and natural consequence of the entire economic development. As long as capitalism prevails, arms and war will not cease. Capitalist states, both large and small, have now been sucked into the maelstrom of the arms race. It has always been the prerogative of Social Democracy to keep its head out of the clouds, to keep both feet firmly on the ground. We have always asked how political phenomena can be explained on the basis of capitalist developments. How we laughed at the pro-peace, bourgeois politicians, those good people and lousy musicians! It is hopeless utopianism to expect that our advocacy of disarmament will persuade capitalist states to stop arming themselves. Arms are a fatal consequence of the development of capitalism: this path leads to the abyss.
We must pursue an entirely different objective, one that clearly defines our historical task – the militia system, the arming of the people, as demanded in our party platform. We have a duty to tell the people that they must end their slavish obedience: that they must fight for their own interests. Even so, the demand for a militia is entirely different from disarming the ruling class; the militia system can only build on the strength of the proletariat. We are not deceiving ourselves – we do not believe that we can introduce a militia overnight. An army organization in which the people, bearing arms, decide whether or not they will go to war is not compatible with the dominance of the Krupps and the arms cartel. To introduce a militia, we must first overthrow the ruling class, which involves revolution, a major historical undertaking. Yet should this be the reason that we keep our demands carefully stored in the cabinet like family heirlooms, only to take them out on especially festive occasions?
No! We must express our demand for a militia every day in our political action program; the people must know that fulfillment of this demand requires the overthrow of Junker rule. We are now seeing a stormy protest against three-year military service in France, where opposition to slavish obedience to the military is stirring. Are German workers dumber, less capable, or less brave than the French? I believe that it is no accident that we have four million Social Democratic voters and that we can look back on fifty years of socialist history. The time will come when the German working class will also refuse to be ordered around, when they will rise up as one and say: "I don’t want to, I won’t!" (Loud applause).