12 thoughts on “German militarism coming back

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  6. 100 years ago: Socialist leader Karl Liebknecht denounces German military build-up

    On May 11, 1914, Karl Liebknecht, a leading member of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), denounced Germany’s rapid military build-up in a speech delivered on the floor of the Reichstag.

    Liebknecht exposed the association of German government and military officials with major arms manufacturers, who had inordinate weight in the German economy. Liebknecht noted that former senior government officials as well as navy and army officers served as members of the board of management of Krupp, one of the leading German arms manufacturers, which had close connections with other international armament firms such as Skoda, whose activities were financed with French and English capital.

    The connections went right to the top, with the Vice-President of the Reichstag, Dr. Hermann S. Paasche, serving as a member of the Directorate of Erhardt Works, another armaments firm. Liebknecht also cited the connection of Belgian, Italian and French firms with the Loewe Small Arms Company as well as the involvement of banks such as the Disconto-Gesellschaft and the Deutsche Bank in an international explosive powder trust.

    He also charged that senior German military figures operated as intermediaries between foreign countries and the arms industry and stated that officials in the navy, army and the State held positions in the directorate of a well-known optical instrument company that overcharged the army for field glasses.

    These revelations followed the exposure by Liebknecht in 1913 of Prussian War Office officials taking bribes from Krupp in exchange for military documents, which resulted in the conviction of a number of officers.

    One of the leaders of the SPD most closely identified with the fight to mobilize the international working class against imperialist war, Liebknecht had written Militarism and Anti-Militarism in 1907, a seminal exposition of socialist opposition to militarism. The publication of that work had seen him charged with treason, and he was imprisoned for eighteen months. Following his revelations in the Reichstag, Liebknecht, with several British and French socialists, set out to write a book on what they dubbed the “Armament International.” This was never finished due to the outbreak of World War One.



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