The question of defense

- 1929, No. 3 -

The great politics of all countries revolves more and more clearly around the center of the defense issue. The right-wing parties, who are absolute supporters of military service, have long recognized this. The left-wing parties either have not realized it yet, or they have shied away from raising the issue because they knew that there was a great deal of disagreement in their ranks. Only in this way can it be explained that in Germany the Democrats and Social Democrats are only now working on the development of a defensive program.

The question is very difficult because political and military guidelines often overlap, and because two military lines run side by side. Politically, the question is this: Is it still appropriate, with the close involvement of the world economy and world culture, to settle disputes between states through military means of power? The military question is this: can obvious and non-obvious armor be brought under one and the same formula? Since the military armaments, even in the opinion of the military friends, are only means for political purposes, they should be treated as the primary first.

The creators of the peace treaties, even if the military friends often doubt this, had the honest intention of saving the world new horrors of war. You have recognized that this can only be achieved through general disarmament. That is why they have imposed a certain measure of disarmament on the defeated in the expectation that their own peoples would then gradually follow on this path. The fallacy was that they could only restrict the obvious armaments according to the treaty, but not the non-obvious armaments. The fallacy was all the worse because the latter today have a far greater warlike significance than the former. One can without further ado abolish all the weapons which are only used for war purposes, but not those which are at the same time quite indispensable for peace purposes. It is these latter that are called “potentiel de guerre” in France. When German statesmen speak of the complete disarmament of Germany, they mean the disarmament of the obvious means of war forced upon us by the peace treaty. When French statesmen show distrust of our disarmament, they mean the unobvious. So both talk past each other. This graceful little game can continue until one day both peoples are hailed by poison and gas bombs.

From this almost unsolvable jumble can only show the answer to the initial political question the way out. I believe that today there is no possible case whatsoever for any of the parties involved, and that any use can be made of the force of war. I assert that the close entanglement of the world economy and world culture means that no nation can harm the other without harming itself. From the moment one admits that the victor will no longer benefit, but even be harmed, from a war, it must be said that the war itself has lost all meaning. The struggle, which I have been addressing for years not only against my opponents of the Right, but since the Wehrfrage has been raised among the two left-wing parties close to me, also turns against some of their own friends.

After all, we have already come to that point that a war of aggression is no longer openly demanded of the right-wing parties. Everything is only about the defensive war. Here I am quite apart from the age-old trick of those interested in the war to turn their profit wars into defensive wars in the eyes of the peoples. I just want to check soberly, if in a real attack there is no better defense than the killing machines.

The question played a major role in my last lecture tours in eastern Germany. The war friends repeatedly asked me what I would do if Poland attacked us. I replied that I considered such an attack completely out of the question, that the danger of the Poles was also one of those pictures which the interested people of war constantly painted on the wall in order to keep the two peoples in eternal fear of each other. I further asserted that, even if the Poles were to invade East Prussia and Pomerania, the general strike would be a better repellent than any bloody fighting.

Of course the whole legal press attacked me. But I was able to beat them with their own weapons. You yourself have occasionally praised the French occupation of the Ruhr in high tones the means of passive resistance as the best. That it failed at that time was not due to the means per se, but to the fact that we falsified it by secretly interfering with active resistance. But even to those who do not believe in the goodness of the general strike as a means of preventing war, I reply that today every local war would trigger the European war with automatic certainty, and that such a war would be the end of European culture and economy. But if I have to choose between a definitely bad and perhaps a good repellent, then I choose the latter, even at the risk of it not fulfilling all my hopes. [...]

Perhaps I am too optimistic, but I believe that an attacker who is really recognized as such would have the whole world against him today. I believe in a world conscience, but I want to make the admission to my opponents that this conscience is strongly interspersed with considerations of usefulness. There is no better way to make the attacker visible to the whole world than the passive resistance of the attacked. Our incursion into Belgium, which took place in gross violation of the law, has actually awakened the world's conscience. It is precisely the fundamental mistake of all militarists and nationalists that they underestimate the moral side of their actions compared to the violent. [...]

1929, 3 · Paul von Schoenaich

As soon as one feels the inability to assert oneself in life, he begins to consider himself an idealist.

1932, 3 · Hermann Mauthe