Neutral Europe and the War

[For a full understanding of this article our readers should realize that the author is a Dutch publicist, portraying a national point of view which may fairly be called representative of the dominant neutral sentiment of Europe. As editor of a well-known Wereldbibliotheek (Library of the World’s Literature), Mr. Simons is familiar with the alien cultures of England and Germany; while his knowledge has been extended by residence in both countries. — THE EDITORS.]


THE editor of the Atlantic has been kind enough to ask me to write an article on ‘ the probable results about to ensue for neutral Europe by a pronounced victory either of the Germans or the British.’ The question may not have been put in this form as designedly as it sounds. But even so it strikes me as the expression of an American opinion, which is largely shared among neutral Europeans, that this war, begun as a struggle between Austrian and Russian influence in the Balkans, and into which England only entered as a fifth party, has in reality developed into a struggle for supremacy between England and Germany.

Putting the tendencies of the war in this handy nutshell, one finds an equally short answer to the question as formulated above: for neutral Europe the pronounced victory of either party w ill prove almost equally disastrous. The future safety of all the smaller nations, who have done their utmost to keep outside the war, lies in a termination of the struggle that will practically imply neither victorious nor defeated party. That they all feel like this is adequately proved by their aloofness and the strictness of their neutrality. Notwithstanding pressure from inside and outside their borders; notw ithstanding the fiercest incriminations against this neutrality as a shame, a weakness, and a cowardice, the majority of these nations and their governments have adhered to their original attitude. And they have done so, not only because they feel that they have no interest in making either Germany or England paramount, but because on the contrary their only safety and future welfare lie in a balance of power between the two contending groups, so long as a federation of all the European nations, on the basis of the Swiss constitution, may remain outside the sphere of practical politics.

The reader of this article will, of course, not be content with this mere statement. He has a right to hear the arguments that underlie it. He may be of the opinion that England has entered this war in order to guard the smaller nations against German aggressiveness. He may have come under the impression of the proposition, continually set forth by French publicists, that France is fighting the generous battle of liberty against military power. Or, on the other hand, he may have yielded his belief to German statements with regard to Germany’s right to a place of its own under the sun; to Germany’s ethical and organic superiority to English and French degeneration, and her sacred duty to bless the whole of Europe with an infusion of that same superior Lebensauffassung. And whether he leans to the point of view of the Allies or of the Central Powers, he will find the expression of our neutral attitude utterly devoid of any idealism or sense of the greatness of this immense struggle, and rightly dismiss us as smallminded dwarfs, unable to rise to a great opportunity and Cause.

Now the bitter truth, as it appears to us neutrals, is that this fierce and bloody contest has in reality no more of idealism behind it than, let us say, the endless War of the Roses. If it had, we might witness the destruction of life and prosperity, the terrible hardships thrown on wretched noncombatants, and bear our own share of the general misfortune that has fallen on Europe with greater equanimity and less rending of hearts. There was, indeed, a moment in this war, after Germany had broken her faith and her treaty with Belgium, and tried to bully her people, and England had promised to stand by her obligations, that we felt a great principle at stake, and, in strong sympathy with Belgium’s defense of her rights and her neutrality, found it difficult not to throw aside all feelings for our own safety and rush to her assistance. But almost immediately after Belgium had received England’s promise of assistance, it turned out that Great Britain was not really going to take up the cudgels for right against might, but was bent rather on making a business out of a welcome opportunity, and was going to fight rather for her own interests than for the ideal of safeguarding the existence of the smaller nations. Looking back into the history of the last twenty years, the students of European foreign politics saw how its entanglements had gradually prepared the outbreak they were witnessing. And in these entanglements there was a pursuit of selfish interests and little or nothing of ideals. The work of diplomatists, acting more or less as conscious agents of greedy Imperialism, Conservatism, Capitalism, Jingoism, Militarism and the like.1 No sign of a momentous struggle for any principle, any real great thought, for which it would be good to fight and to suffer.

In putting down this blunt statement, I would rather not be misunderstood. I do not mean to convey that all the men who, either voluntarily or under compulsion, set out to risk their lives; all the women in the contending countries who united the greatest sacrifices, even of principle, with the highest courage, were themselves devoid of idealism. The pity of it was, that they, on the contrary, were driven by the highest sense of duty to their country, and were made to believe that the leaders of their foreign policy, their governments, kings or emperors, could not but call upon them to risk all and all for their country, since a base enemy had chosen to attack it. Never have suggestive phrases sounded more highly; and once the sword was drawn, the politicians, journalists, men of letters, professors, leaders of thought of every shade in the respective countries, set to work to asphyxiate the public mind with more flaming phrases, more suggestive cries. It appeared as if all visions, desires, ideals, thoughts, that had been rampant or dormant in minds and breasts were waking up to their highest potency; and as if we were going to witness a struggle so full of political, economic, biological, moral, and religious tendencies as had never raged before. The culture of Europe in its deepest roots and its widest aspects seemed to have been thrown into the cauldron, and the contending soldiers were led to the front with the burning sense that they were going to fight no less than an inevitable holy war against the devil and his might, for the highest ideals of their own commonweal.

But the neutral student of European life and politics, who heard the cries, read the lies, saw the working behind the scenes on both sides, was not so easily led astray as the ‘patriots’ in the countries at war under the suggestion of the highfalutin’ writings and speeches. Where the contending partners were all bent on pointing out a division between angels and devils along vertical lines, this student could not help seeing a similar division, not so melodramatically colored, but certainly between agents and dupes, along horizontal lines, splitting each country on both sides, and not dividing Allies and Central Powers. The clamor against German militarism, which had tried to set at naught the attempts of the various peace conferences to put Right before Might, found for him his counterpart in British navalism, which had refused to accept the Declaration of London, and wanted to maintain Great Britain as the divinely appointed Ruler of the Waves, especially created by the Lord to protect her world’s power. Prussian ferocity against women and children in Belgium had rightly to be compared with similar methods made use of by the English in their North and South African Wars. The Junkerthum that ruled Prussia and, through Prussia, Germany, appeared to be neither better nor worse than English conservatism, which, in the House of Lords, had set a bulwark against reforms and freedom for England, Ireland, and India.

And if Germany, with its Kaiserism and its feudal government, appeared as a relic of mediæval times, Russia, the friend and ally of republican France, had worse to show, with its retrograde absolutism and its tainted bureaucracy. And as to France itself, had not its extreme protectionism, its narrowminded, very egoistic colonial policy, its chauvinistic leaning to its Russian antipode, called upon it the disasters that were threatening it? As the war went on, did not England and France themselves become more and more militaristic and freedom-hating, and fall into all the horrors of the Prussianism they set out to kill? The respect for the rights of the noncombatants and the neutrals, for international law, dwindled more and more as English commercialism set to work to get done with its great German competitor, and the jingoistic and chauvinistic English and French press appeared to rule the policy of the Entente powers more and more for the worse. The war, which at first was heralded as a struggle for Liberty, saw Liberty sink deeper and deeper in the morass. And the neutrals could not help feeling that between the contending parties they stood between the devil and the deep sea, and that none of these had to offer them any ideal which they themselves, left to their own devices, had not already realized in a more complete and a purer form.

Plunging deeper into the issues and causes of this terrible war, they found before them a history of political intrigues, of race and commercial expansionism, of alliances and counteralliances, of sacrifices made in order to get the better of the competitor, of an endless strife for ‘places under the sun ’ — always at the cost of the weaker. It became clear to them that all these issues could have been settled by mutual confidence, but were kept in agitation by endless distrust and egotism, by nationalism run riot. Internationalism, that had been building up a feeling for the mutuality of interests, of respect for other people’s characters and points of view, had continually been counteracted by stupid hypernational self-conceit, which hid itself under the banner of a wider sentiment, called itself Panslavism, Pangermanism, Imperialism, Chauvinism; and all these isms had been working themselves up to fiercely antagonistic forces, that sooner or later were bound to come to blows.

At the same time, commercialism and industrialism were doing their work; and their egotisms, blinding the eyes of the people to the sounder economic truths that were underlying their own growth, were strewing mines for future destruction. In their wake followed a difference between two phases and methods of life, bound up with historic developments which need not have come into collision but for the fact that both have presented themselves during the last forty years in their very extremest forms. I am thinking of Kultur versus Culture; and I would define the two in this way: Kultur as the methodical nurture of forces to a definite aim; Culture as the result of a long growth of welfare and civilization. The former, an attempt to shape the future; the latter, a desire to enjoy the fruits of the past.


Now Germany, ever since 1870, had set to work all its energies on the side of Kultur. By the middle of the nineteenth century German life had arrived at a crisis. For a hundred years it had lived on the fruits of a literary, musical and philosophic culture, a renaissance which had originated nearly three centuries behind the rest of Europe, but which, by its blending of reverence for classic beauty with modern romanticism and individualism, by the depth and richness of its growth, brought to its own people and to Europe a message and fruits that would affect them for a long time to come. To Germany, which was then only a name, but no reality (the country having been split into a number of tiny feudal kingdoms or dukedoms), the message had been one of Unity and Liberty. The French revolution of 1848 promised to effect the realization of that message to the German people; but when feudalism became victorious, hope of the realization vanished anew. And then romanticism, which in its dreamy way had turned its eyes to the mediæval past of the great German Empire, got hold of the image of a still remoter Germanic past—of the old Gods, Wotan, Thor, with their fierce energy and passion. Such widely different types of men as Bismarck and Wagner seemed to hit at the same time on the idea that the only two things that could weld Germany into unity were energy and force. Friedrich Nietzsche put the lesson into a nutshell by his image of the hammer and the anvil. The German people had to learn to swing the hammer, unless it wanted to remain the anvil forever. And as Bismarck was a thorough feudalist himself, who had no intention of teaching his people the handling of the hammer for its own political emancipation, he prepared the way for the swinging of this instrument against other nationalities. Denmark, Austria, and France felt the effect, and the new German Empire was the result of the first efforts.

The new cry of Bismarck and Wagner gave it its further lead. Energy and force! The young German Empire found a wealth of it stored up, ever since the religious wars of the seventeenth century, which had broken the country for two centuries to come. It also found a mighty task, and a task for more than one generation, before it. The entire economic fabric had to be built up anew, and, in setting it to work at this task, the government of the young Empire could rely on turning the people’s minds away from any revolutionary longing for political selfgovernment. The drill and method that had enabled the German army to gain victories over old military nations were now to be set at work to ensure the German people the fruits of a great economic victory. Never was such a strenuous race started toward prominence and wealth than when the young German Empire began to apply all its refound energy to these ends. France, but more especially England, which till then had almost a monopoly of modern industry and commerce, and which provided the world with its wares, had to be caught up with and, if possible, left behind. Tradition and training, the two sustainers of English industry, were not to be had for the asking: the leaders and the men had both to be formed, and methodical Germany set to work with the assistance of science and technical teaching to nurture both.

The home market could be won by closing the imperial borders by means of high tariffs; foreign markets had to be gained by studying their wants, demurely following up their wishes, and by underselling competitors. At home, laboratories, libraries, technical higher and secondary teaching, abetted by compulsory schooling for the young working men up to the age of eighteen; a banking system intended to supply the financial needs of the growing industries; working hours that got out of the human and steel machinery all the energy stored up in both; foreign forces and results called to the assistance of the home students and home factories; trusts and division of labor; all these were enlarging the field and the results of action. Organization and standardizing could exert their influence to the full, with no traditions, no old and mouldy methods, to hamper their effectiveness. Abroad, prices could be reduced after the home market had paid for initial and general costs, — thanks also to export subventions paid by the state, — and an army of commercial travelers and agents, assisted by catalogues in all possible languages, fitted to the commercial necessities of all sorts and conditions of communities, set out to offer the goods and conquer foreign markets. Next to a nation in military arms, one could witness a nation in commercial harness, drilled and stung by governmental and private desire to ‘arrive’; working its way in the world of commerce with a will; leaving nothing to chance or to luck.

Kultur in this onward march did not stop at acquiring a better financial and industrial position: it aimed at a victory all round — in science, the arts, even in Culture. The middle-class notions of a former period were to be driven out; French, Russian, and Norwegian revolutionary points of view, French taste and French wit, English smartness and style of living, American directness, English and Dutch sense of style in arts and crafts — all these had to be adapted to and engrafted on the modern German Newcomer, in order that he might take the lead in the graces and beauty and daring of life. The results were sometimes pitiful in their coarseness and wildness; sometimes, when the official leader of the Empire took the lead here as well, quite astonishing in their baroque showiness. But the worst feature of all this methodical nurture, this Kultur, was that the soul of Germany itself scarcely found its own old voice again, and that in many a German mind the belief in the immense superiority of the German mental and moral equipment and innate power became deeply rooted.

As all upstarts out-Herod Herod, so did the German copy of the type. It could not help gloating over its own unsurpassable greatness, and trying to make everybody else feel that without the assistance of this superiority they would be nowhere. Although in fact the sudden and exuberant growth had left many a weak and foul spot in the nation’s mentality and morality, a growing mass of Germans, unconscious of the impression they created, came to share the belief in the Kaiser’s word: ‘Europa muss am Deutschtum gesunden.’ Only a minority began to see through the artificiality of all this hothouse Kultur and its divergence from true culture. In literature, as in architecture, they plunged back into the soul of the race and its utterings in the days before Kultur had been set in motion. Books like Jorn Uhl; Kellermann’s The Fool; country-houses in old German style and simplicity, came as agreeable proofs that the finer fibre of the nation’s inner life had not been entirely coarsened and ‘ kultured ’ away.

All this explosive energy might, nevertheless, have worked to the good of the world at large, and its excesses have wrought nobody any harm but the Germans themselves, who were growing into their new life with the inevitable exaggerations and ups-anddowns. The new German Empire, however, had at the same time turned itself into the most formidable, highly trained and well-organized military power, and that power had been wielded by a favored and tremendously selfconceited feudal class to which military prowess and class-distinction came first of all, and which still regarded the State as being made mainly to protect its class interests and prejudices. The tremendous rush of prosperity which the economic revival of Germany brought about enabled its feudal government to turn a good part of the new energy to the improvement of its ‘ hammer ’; and to set the pace for a continual increase and improvement in armaments, which forced the whole of Europe to follow suit. The commercial and industrial class, with little influence in the only nominally parliamentary State, which at first had stood for liberalism, gradually, with the increase of capitalism and the Social-Democratic movement it had called forth, saw its own advantage in upholding and strengthening the military spirit and the bureaucratic regime and in encouraging even the growth of a strong navy.

For with expansion of trade, the necessity of more material for its factories, and the foundation of colonies, Germany found itself driven more and more in the direction of expansion, which England had followed long before. It became a competitor, not only in commerce, but in political power as well. And the Pan-Germans saw with growing irritation that the yearly drain of emigrants, who left the mother-country to gain more elbow-room, meant a great loss to the common stock of the race. For in England, Holland, Belgium, and America, in the English and Dutch colonies, the German industrial and merchant classes found, not only a living, but a freer and more congenial atmosphere, more recognition of their worth and standing, than in the mother-country, where Kultur, under the influence of the feudal and bureaucratic hegemony, stopped short at the nurture of self-reliance and independence amongst the non-favorite classes and masses. The picture which the German Empire as a political commonwealth offered to the world at large was one of a highly prosperous family, where the old-fashioned father, after having spent no end of trouble and money to make ‘men’ of his sons, kept them in leading-strings even after they had become full grown — prepared to provide for them when in need, as long as they behaved as decent boys and did not venture any opposition against his parental national and military class prejudices.

And so the strong young German Empire was now and then given up to severe attacks of nervous tension, which, before 1914, more than once came to the point of open outbreak, endangering the peace of the world by the ‘mailed fist.’


The picture which ‘Culture,’ on the other hand, showed us in England under the Victorian and Edwardian eras was even less hopeful. The great men and women it had brought forth, to whose voices many a man and woman outside England was listening with eagerness, were largely left by middleclass England for export. The immense fortunes it had lent all over the world threw into the mother-country their yearly increasing rentals and dividends, and the same period that found Germany busy overtaxing its energies, saw the increase in England of the stagnant pool of middle-class people with independent incomes, passion for sport, deep respect for ‘good form’ and the outward decencies of life, an extremely weak desire for the exercise of mental, artistic, or moral powers, and a well-developed craving for speculation as a stimulant. It was especially the South of England — drawing the line a little north of Bristol and Bath — that saw the agglomeration of this herd of ‘shareholders’ and ‘sleeping partners’ in the nation’s prosperity, who, far from contributing anything to it, only hampered it by the attraction of its ‘society’ prerogatives, by its withholding from agriculture immense plots of land merely to satisfy the lust of hunting, and by the support it gave to all and every one who promised to uphold its class-advantages and prejudices against new ideas, new methods, against democracy and modernism. Never before had so much superficiality, so much silliness and lack of brain power — results of the merest smattering of education—tried to rule an entire country by its dead weight of money and superficial civilization. To hear these ‘ruling classes’ talk in their monotonous self-satisfied way, propounding with mannered pronunciation all the same conventional trash about the ways of the world, the library, books without literature, the theatre without any meaning in it, painting without any art, and music which they could not understand, was one of the worst trials a man or woman of any real culture might undergo.

Higher up north the real life of modern England began to show its worth. It is a well-known fact that to the north-countrymen, the Welshmen, the Scotsmen, the Irishmen even, has fallen the task of leading and ruling Great Britain. Already George Meredith, in one of his early lyrics, had pointed to England’s necessity for a ‘growth of brains’ such as the Celtic part of the British population could boast of. In Middle England the movement led by Ruskin and Morris for university extension had given a wider and deeper culture to many a workingman than the people of the SouthBritish middle classes could generally show; and in the great Midland towns the members of these flourishing communities showed their appreciation of science, art, and technical knowledge by the foundation of universities, museums, libraries, and polytechnics at their own expense. That the Welshmen and the Scotsmen were stronger in their love for a sound and wider education, far more original in their way of thinking, more really individualistic, at once more simple and less snobbish in their manner and method of living, than the majority of Englishmen, and more enterprising as well, need scarcely be restated; and it is among these populations further north, that John Bright and Cobden, Ruskin and Gladstone, and, later, Campbell-Bannerman and Lloyd George, found the true echo of their liberal and democratic principles, the foundation of England’s position in the modern world.

And yet, even among these more modern communities of the industrial and commercial classes there reigned largely the typical insular abhorrence of modern scientific methods in industry and commerce. Nineteenth-century England had found the world glad to have its wares without any cajoling, or any attempt on the part of the English to provide them in any other form, any other packing, any other weights or measures, any coinage other than it pleased his majesty the British manufacturer to produce and to make the world glad with them, clumsy and ugly as they very often were. His working-men had the tradition of sound workmanship; he himself had that of using good material and being fair in trade; nobody else could easily compete with him. If his adherence to the old method of ‘rule of thumb’ had made the Englishman rich, as it made his father; if his factory was never at a loss for work, what reason had he to overhaul his machinery, to adopt arts and crafts models and designs, to change his packing, to send out commercial travelers, to bother about catalogues in foreign languages, foreign measurements and coinage, and to learn foreign languages himself? Bother these fools of Prussians with all their newfangled ways, their applied science, their bowing down to the blooming foreigner! He, for one, was not going to walk in their wake! And if they came too near him in his trade, why, there was the Foreign Office and Parliament and the British Navy to keep them within bounds and teach them a lesson once for all. And every Britisher with the same proud dislike for ‘foreign ways’ and the same difficulty of understanding them, applauded, and wanted bills, and protection, and, if necessary, a war, to keep the world open for British methods and articles, and to protect British merchants and manufacturers and city clerks against the consequences of their abhorrence of ‘Modernization’ — of more brain power and more knowledge.

There was especially one group of Britishers who heartily sympathized with this boisterous idiocy: the socalled Imperialists, Jingoes, or ‘wholehogs.’ Like the Pan-Germanists, they looked upon the world as being especially in want of their national institutions and guidance, and they could not help thinking that this world would be all the better under the British flag. And as such extension of the rule of the mother-country brought with it sound promises of more profits to the British capitalists, the entire shareholders’ group would naturally stand by them. With the assistance of a ‘yellow press,’ to which every emotion for its readers was a profitable asset, they turned out an extremely plausible propaganda, in which, by means of lies and forgeries, the other part of the British public, the conscientious, more idealistic half, was led to believe as a pure and holy cause. Thus the Boer republics, coveted for the sake of their mines, were pictured as the most rotten states, under whose flag the English ‘outlander’ was suffering indignities such as no Britisher should be subjected to. And the world saw the politicians, who refused Home Rule and good government to the Irish, appear as fierce denouncers of a foreign government that refused votes to — Englishmen, who never wanted to become true burghers in that foreign country!

The story of the origin and sequel of the anti-Boer campaign had to be referred to in the present argument as an illustration of the dangerous character and power of this British Imperialism and Jingoism. The groups that should have withstood and counteracted this campaign, the democratic and ‘conscience5 forces of Great Britain, were literally thrown off their feet by the whirlwind of false and misleading statements spread broadcast by the Jingo government, Jingo orators, and press, and they did come to their senses, wiser and sadder men and women, before the war was over, the trick done, the Boer republics brought under British sway, and the escutcheon of Great Britain blotted by so unworthy a campaign and so low a victory.

It was after this awakening of the better forces and their attempt to redeem the misdeed done (at least partly), that these groups also set to work against the insular prejudices of the conservative and protectionist set, and tried to wake up their countrymen to the fact that, if British manufacturers and merchants were threatened in their trade by more modern methods, the only way to hold their own would be to modernize themselves, take up the study of science and foreign languages, send out good travelers, and if necessary, adopt the decimal systems. And although the protectionist scaremongers tried to impress the British public with figures showing a far greater increase in German commerce, the adherents of free trade found no difficulty in proving that such increase, reckoned in percentage, must necessarily seem greater for the newcomers, but that Great Britain itself was largely increasing its trade and holding an easy first. The last years before the war saw Great Britain indeed more prosperous than ever, the workers better provided for, technical and secondary education gaining more public favor, and, as a result, the fear of German competition and the animosity against the growing rival diminishing. The Radical government, with a strong current of public opinion behind it, could risk a rapprochement with Germany, to the end of diminishing armaments, without having to fear too much the cries of the Jingoes that they were traitors to their country—all the less as ‘ little-Englandism5 seemed to grow out of favor, and care for the strength of the fleet and improvement of the home defensive forces had become a plank even in the Radical platform. In the first half of 1914 British workers went to Germany to study life over there, and in July the Leipzig Exhibition saw the Germans and English most heartily fraternizing. Then the war broke out.


The few strokes by which the situation in the two contending countries has been sketched, may suffice as a background for the conclusions now to be drawn.

The image they should have called up before the reader, of both Germany and England, is one of light and shade in each. It must be clear to him by now, that in each of the two nations there were at work powers to the good, and powers that meant a lasting threat to other and especially weaker nations. And in setting out arguments for the final reply to the question put to us, as to ‘ the probable results about to ensue for neutral Europe by a pronounced victory either of the Germans or the British,’ we shall have to show what such a victory would mean with regard to each of those forces.

The reply cannot be given without some reference to the circumstances that led to the immediate outbreak of the war. Granting that a fully justified and qualified verdict as to its origin and causes cannot so far be given, I presume that the following rough-andready summing up of the immediate forces at work by the end of July, 1914, may not prove too far from objective truth. In Vienna the Serbian plot against the old Emperor’s heir had strengthened the hands of the militarist and imperialist party, which had long wanted to teach Serbia and the Russian Panslavists a lesson. The fact that the death of the old Emperor might come at any moment, with unknown consequences to the very weak fabric of the Empire, made it seem imperative to seize time by the forelock. In Germany the militarist Junker party, sure of the lead of the Crown Prince, who was hankering for ‘a fresh and jolly war,’ could not but have its eyes open to the fact that France and Russia were preparing for such a war, ‘when they should be ready’ (French chauvinistic and Russian Panslavist papers had, during President Poincaré’s visit to Russia, mentioned 1917 as the year of reckoning), and that any weakening of the Austrian Empire by the death of the old Emperor would certainly be made use of by these two ‘allies.’ Hence they strengthened the hands of the militant imperialists at Vienna, to seize the opportunity to menace Serbia, frighten that country, and through its humiliation hit Russia, as its protector, a strong moral blow.

Former occasions in which a threat with the German ‘mailed fist’ caused France and Russia to withdraw from a perilous position, may have raised the hope that again an easy victory might be won. Anyhow, the moment was too good not to be used, even though it were to bring on a war, which, with France and Russia both still unprepared, would offer an almost sure chance of victory, promising the Central Powers a lasting hegemony on the entire continent. In the diplomatic scuffle that followed after the issue of the sudden and brutal note to Serbia, — as brutal as energetic admirers of the Germanic ‘hammer’ could hope to strike on the weaker anvil, — the attitude of Russia, like that of Germany, showed two divided forces at work. In both countries the ‘extreme’ military parties were demanding strong measures and unbending attitudes; the telegrams which the Tsar and Emperor William exchanged between them speak, on the contrary, of a tragic struggle which both ‘peace’ princes were waging against the powers behind the thrones, in order to save their empires from the terrible ordeal of a threatening war. The French Republic, though headed by so strong a chauvinist as President Poincaré, showed little inclination to take up arms at that hour, when its new military organization was not nearly complete.

In England, Lord Grey saw himself in the most difficult position possible. On coming into office he had found England’s foreign policy led by King Edward up to a close contact with France against Germany. The policy of his own government, as already pointed out, had sought a rapprochement with the latter country without loosening the intimacy with the French Republic — preparing a gradual softening down of the sharp antagonism between the two continental groups and, as a consequence, a diminishing of armaments, in accordance with the political programme of the Asquith government. Pending the Balkan wars he had done his utmost to bring all the great European powers to mutual understanding and cooperation. An outbreak of hostilities between the Central Powers and Russia would not only bring to naught what had so far been accomplished: it would, in addition drive England herself to the brink of war. For if Russia was attacked, France would be bound to stand by her, and although the English government had never entered into a bond with France, it certainly had, by its friendly understanding with its oversea neighbor, undertaken certain moral obligations to protect her northwestern coast against attacks by the German fleet. And what if Germany were to beat down France? England could never allow Germany a free access to the western coast, without forever exposing her own safety! But would the democratic following of the Asquith Cabinet support a war on these suppositions? The negative answer was to be expected. And so Lord Grey, in order both to protect his policy with regard to a better European understanding and to prevent his being called upon to take sides with France against Germany, did, in his turn, his utmost to prevent the outbreak of hostilities.

But in moments of stress and excitement the men of peace will have an uphill task to keep the militarists in hand, once these are absolutely bent on ‘fighting the question out.’ They will depict the immense danger to the fatherland in allowing the antagonist ‘time.’ The German Staff, especially, is all for sudden blows. How their attack on Belgium helped Lord Grey to the one argument he needed to commit the British Empire to a stand against German aggression, once the German militarists had overcome the resistance of the Kaiser and the Imperial Chancellor, I need not here point out.

But no sooner had England set out on the warpath than all the rampant and latent antagonism of the commercial, industrial, capitalist, and Jingo circles saw a chance at last of striking a decisive blow against the troublesome competitor. As always in times of stress and war, when brutal strength becomes the necessity of the hour, the adherents of strong measures soon won the upper hand over the men of principle and conscience, and even succeeded in turning the scruples of the latter to the furtherance of their own ends. To overcome German resistance by striking at its commerce as the root of its power, was shown to be the most ‘humane’ of all methods of warfare. And once more the English humanitarians followed in the wake of the ‘ wholehogs.’ The fight for the small nationalities, for Right against Might, upon which the English Radical government (with the exception of three of its members, too astute in their principles to be led astray) had officially entered, was soon turned into a struggle for English commercial supremacy, when necessary at the cost of the neutral states as well. And the ‘economic’ position of the two contending groups has gradually grown to be almost the most important question for the present and the future.

The attitude of England was finally settled when the Imperialist party, which had originated the campaign against the Transvaal, had to be admitted into the English Ministry to fight out the war for — the smaller nations!

Whereas in England the outbreak of the war has brought upon the Radical government the necessity of submitting to the influence of the conservative, Jingoistic, and military forces of the country, in Germany — as in Russia—the inverse evolution is daily becoming more and more apparent. Originally, in the first year of the war, when it appeared as if the Germans were marching on to a sure and easy victory, the spirit of Pan-Germanism swept the country in a wave of the most insipid self-assertion and conceit. But as the struggle wore on, a gradual change made itself felt. The tremendous sacrifices which the government was forced to demand from the nation in its entirety — sacrifices of blood and money and of standard of living — made it more and more impossible for it to lean solely on the classes who till then had been the state favorites. The Junker group and the bureaucrats could no longer be hailed as the main supporters of ‘Crown and Altar’; the entire nation, the masses almost more than the classes, became the pillars of the Fatherland. The Junkers, as agrarians, saw, moreover, the foundation of their favored position badly shaken. Before the war the high tariffs on foodstuffs on which their wealth largely depended had always been defended on the ground that the German people should be prepared to make sacrifices in times of peace, in order to be sure of its food-supply under stress of war. The fact that this supply has signally failed it must strike at the root of the position of the Agrarian party. And the fact that the war, instead of being a boisterous, short, and victorious adventure, has proved a long, terrible and most bloody struggle, the end of which is now sighed for by the mass of the German people, has visibly influenced the tendency of the German government to a reasonableness not in keeping with the fierce desires of the German ‘whole-hogs,’ the adorers of blunt Germanic energy and unmitigated brutality.

And so after two years of exhaustive warfare, the political atmospheres in England and Germany are daily approaching the same level. England is growing more militaristic, more inclined to ‘stand no nonsense,’ less highminded and liberal, more conservative, jingoistic, and protectionist; Germany less feudal, more open to modern and moderate views, less militaristic in the depth of the people’s heart.


We are at last able to come to conclusions.

A ‘decisive’ victory of one of the groups can have no other meaning than a victory which leaves the one party absolutely at the other’s mercy and enables the victor to dictate terms. And the character and costs of this war leave very little doubt as to the content of these terms. The moment the vanquished party shall have to accept them, all the fierceness, passions, hatred, feelings of revenge, that we have witnessed pending the war, will flame up together and try to burn to ashes the enemy’s pile. The chauvinists and ‘whole-hogs’ amongst the victorious group will cry out that this is their moment. No sweetness of temperate opinion, no sense of a common humanity, no regard for the common European future, will hold them within bounds.

For the Central Powers, a dictation of peace to the Allies would therefore certainly mean: annexation by Germany of Belgium and a good part of Russia and France (those parts which hold the greatest mineral wealth in their soil); by Austria, of Serbia, and perhaps a part of North Italy; by Bulgaria and Turkey, of as much of the Balkans as they can lay hold on. The Allies will have to pay all the costs of the war of the victorious countries. They will have to submit to commercial exclusion from the whole of the territory held by the Central Powers, but to open their own borders to the free influx of the victor’s goods. England will have to allow Germany a great colonial empire and free access to the sea.

The results of such ‘terms of peace’ can easily be imagined by the reader. France will remain an absolute cripple, economically and politically. England, Italy, and Russia, broken under the stress of double war costs and the economic competition of Germany, will find the greatest difficulty in rising again to their feet. The Central Powers, once paramount and having nothing to fear from any other great power, will hold all the ‘neutrals’ in the hollow of their hands. Holland, Denmark, Switzerland, Greece, and Roumania will have no choice left but to enter the ‘Federated States of Central Europe,’ there to dance to the Prussian tune. Sweden, Norway and Spain will enjoy no greater freedom of movement.

That England and Russia, and what will be left of France and Italy, should permanently submit to such a state of things is naturally out of the question, and, more than ever, Europe will be turned into a hothouse of militarism. The struggle against Napoleonic tyranny will once more be prepared and fought out. The Swiss, the Dutch, the Danes, the Roumanians, forced to fight with and for usurping Germany, will turn against her, and Sweden and Norway, though the former stands in fear of Russian aggression, will have to join hands. Europe will once more become the scene of a war which will shake it to its depths. In the meantime Japan, which is now already greatly profiting by providing the war necessities of its ‘allies,’ will have become paramount in Asia. The war of the races will then become inevitable.

In the meantime, in the victorious countries themselves life will have assumed unendurable conditions. All the instincts of privilege, self-conceit, bullying tyranny, will have free play, once the bloody adventure of the military, feudal, and capitalist classes has turned into so signal a success. This war has been theirs, and they will duly claim the fruits of their victory. The Kultur will go on drilling the old and new acquired masses; it will infuse youth with all the ideals of the feudal state, with as little left of individuality as man can live on. In the conquered territories the population will be held in the helot-like position of that of Alsace-Lorraine, Schleswig, and Prussian Poland, and their children will be ‘kultured’ into Staat-Deutschen. The wealth of the victorious empires will grow beyond the dreams of avarice, and the usual stigmata of demoralization and decadence, which were becoming already much in evidence in Germany before the war, will make themselves seen. The German Empire will go the way of Rome under its emperors — and all the more swiftly because, notwithstanding its outward Christianity, its soul has really remained heathen, germanically heathen, to the core.

The inverse result — a victory that will allow the Allies to dictate their terms to the Central Powers — will scarcely open a brighter prospect for Europe at large and the neutral states in particular. The growth of influence of the Jingoist, militarist, conservative, and protectionist groups in England will grow apace. In France the same tendencies will become paramount, while in Russia the weak struggles of progressiveness will utterly cease under an absolutist and corrupt government. England’s insularity and self-conceit will have it all their own way, and her rule of the waves will be secured for all time by her seizure of the German and Austrian navies. Germany and Austria will be bled almost to death by the payment of the war costs of the Allies and the rightful compensation to Belgium and Serbia; economically both countries will be handicapped as much as possible by their exclusion, not only from the markets of the Allies and their colonies, but also from those of the neutrals, who will be forced to choose between trading with the impoverished Centrals or the wealthy Allies, and therefore will have practically no choice whatever. Belgium, restored to ‘independence,’ will be enlarged with slices of Germany and, if possible, of Holland, in order to punish the latter country for its neutrality, and to break the backbone of the Dutch-Flemish nationality 2 so that Belgium itself may be all the more surely gallicized and held under French sway.

But as both Holland and Belgium will be cut off from their ‘Hinterland,’ and as England will moreover have to satisfy the craving of its ally Japan for the Dutch Indies, both Holland and Belgium will show economically only a shadow of their former state, and Belgium’s so-called independence will really prove nothing better than an entire dependence on France and England. Denmark and Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, and Roumania, equally cut off from trading with Germany and Austria, will be equally dependent on what the Allies may leave them of industry and commerce, and the two latter countries will have to submit to a political ‘influence’ of Russia. Such, also, will be the relations of Spain to France. Kultur having been brought to submission, Culture in its most retrograde form will become paramount, and the clock of real European modern civilization will be turned back for long, weary years, just as happened after the Congress of Vienna in 1815.

In the meantime, militarism, which should have been killed as a result of the decisive victory of the Allies, will prove a greater necessity than ever. Of course, an astute and energetic people like the Germans is not going to take its licking without nursing the strongest feeling of revenge. It will set its teeth and concentrate all its Kultur power on preparing itself for a strong and final blow against its victors, who, in their turn, will have to prepare for a fresh war, compared to which the scientific and technical atrocities of the present conflict will prove mere child’s play — a war which, no doubt, will approximate Mr. H. G. Wells’s prophecies in The World Set Free. But not only will the Allies have to prepare for a war of revenge by the Central Powers (welded together, perhaps, by their misfortune, into one great Unity), but England and Russia, both led by the hot-heads and fierce nationalists, will have to be mutually on their guard against each other’s lust of expansion in Asia. And the neutral nations of to-day will no doubt be driven on, by force of circumstances and by direct influence from the side of the Allies, to further impoverishment through supplying more and more armaments. Though nominally independent, their self-government and economic position will be entirely at the mercy of the paramount powers, and again this modern Europe will leave them no really free air to breathe in.

Looking on ‘this picture and on that,’ the reader will easily see that the choice between the one and the other is not really very great, and that we neutrals are fully justified in our hopes that neither of these possibilities may come to be realized. Should any one feel inclined to put in the observation that both are extremely ‘extreme,’ the reply is that we were asked to look extremes in the face. A ‘decisive victory’ cannot but mean that one group is to have unbridled exercise of its own sweet will, held in bounds only by its possible sagacity. Our argument had led up to the conclusion, that the chance for such sagacity, once the victor can put his foot down, will be very small indeed; that, on the contrary, the clamorous seekers after power and revenge will then insist on getting the last drop of blood.

Of course, our survey of the powers now at work or dormant in our present Europe had to be largely a summary one, and the writer is fully aware that, for one thing, no attention has been paid by him to eventual revolutionary movements by the masses as a factor to be reckoned with. But such a movement will find little root in the countries that will share the spoil of victory, and in the conquered and impoverished ones the victor, who got the better of trained armies, will soon bring to submission the untrained masses.

The conclusion, then, set forth in the opening sentences of this article, appears to have been made good by the argument that followed it. And even if the result should be less extreme than we judged ourselves obliged to face, the choice for the neutrals between Kultur and Culture, both at their worst, with an inevitable strengthening of the forces of reaction and militarism, can offer them little hope of a better future either for Europe or for themselves.

Their hopes should, therefore — and I feel bold enough to say do — look to an end of this war that will offer the only prospects for a friendlier, more humane, and less restive Europe than we have known since 1870. The only chance to keep militarism and reaction within bounds is to make them fail in their attempt really to settle economic, national, and cultural questions by means of alliances, morbidly intriguing diplomacy, the costliest military preparations, and, finally, by ruinous and most terrible war.

The enemy to be overcome is not one group of the nations now at war, but the militarism, imperialism, and Jingoism in each of them. And so far this fight has not even got a start. It is only when nobody can really claim to have been ‘victorious,’ — when nobody can dictate terms, when the end will have brought about what could have prevented the dire beginning, — a collective conference to thrash out the difficulties and allow everybody fair play and his due, — that the ground will be laid for a future which each of the nations at war professes to fight for: one in which the life of a cultured continent, which for centuries has been marking the pace for civilization, cannot of a sudden, by the mere machinations of a few men behind the scenes, be thrown into so dire and disastrous a calamity as fell on us all in 1914.

Already many a man amongst the neutrals has set himself to think out the best means of arriving at this result. Compulsory arbitration, a combined military force to make war on the war-makers, universal free trade, a federation of the States of Europe, are among the propositions put before us. This article is not intended to consider them further. The main thing will be, first, to bring about a better understanding, and to make it clear that the only safety and hope for the future lie in a mutual respect of the independence, methods, and points of view of others. Whatever this war may have brought us for good or for evil, it should certainly teach the contending parties that in love for their own country, in sacrifice for that country, in energy, courage, and power of organization, each of them is worth its salt, and the hatred, fanned to flame by so many a man at his writing-desk, should now give way, in all who have really worked and suffered, to a feeling of mutual respect, a rebirth of the old sentiment of a common humanity, a common task, and a common future. If once this sentiment, which we neutrals in Europe have done our best to keep burning, should really revive, the way out of our present hell to a better earth would soon be found.

There is one objection to such an understanding that should be met, to wind up our argument. Men are asking whether we are to leave unpunished the crime, committed against our civilization and against so many human beings by those who started that war; whether Justice should not have the last word. The reply may be given, that victory in a war is as little real proof of innocence as it used to be in mediaeval ordeals. The question of guilt will have to be decided by a tribunal or by history, and the chances are — as our argument has tried to show—that not one of the contending parties would pass muster as absolute innocents and acquire a verdict of ‘not guilty.’ Not guilty, however, are all those men of both parties who are being sacrificed daily on the field of battle, and their relatives who remain behind to weep for them. Not guilty are all those millions of non-combatants who, in the countries at war or in the neutral ones, are being submitted to hardship and poverty. The conscience of those who want to fight out this war to the bitter end, in order that the initial crime may be revenged, and who to that end are daily heaping higher this sacrifice of the innocent, passes beyond the comprehension of us neutrals — unless we accept the theory that they are still under the influence of war-psychosis. But then why not put them in concentration camps, instead of the wretched noncombatants, and make it impossible for their perverted minds to continue bringing misfortune on our common European humanity?

  1. [By ‘Militarism’ I understand the point of view that a nation is perfectly justified in extending its empire, its influence and its trade by means of its military power (Army and [or] Navy.) This militaristic spirit is strengthened when the making of war is considered a manly exercise, a biologically necessary phase in the Evolution of Mankind and the State, the ultimate means to settle international difficulties; instead of damnable murder and horrible inhumanity, a phase of men’s evolution to be conquered by means of true civilization.
  2. By ‘ Imperialism ’ I understand the avowed lust of national aggrandizement, whether for the sake of looming large in the world, or arising out of the misguided feeling that one’s national life and institutions are so far superior to those of other nations, that these ought to be blessed with annexation.
  3. ‘Jingoism’ means to me the vulgar, popular, self-conceited nationalism, which blends ‘Militarism’ and ‘Imperialism’ together in their most rough-and-ready form, without any notion of foreign life, merely aiming at ‘ giving it the other hot,’ ’putting one’s foot down,’ and all such bluster of the rowdy crowd and the yellow press that makes a living out of its utter lack of civilization. It arises out of the same emotional vulgarity that enjoys wrestling, plundering of alien shops, murder-scenes on the stage and in the cinema, etc. — THE AUTHOR.]
  4. Strange as it may sound to the non-European reader that Belgium, after having suffered for the right of the small nations to hold their own, should try to enlarge itself at the cost of Holland, which has offered hospitality to hundreds of thousands of destitute refugees in their flight, the tenor of speeches and articles under the nonofficial protection of the Belgian government leaves little doubt about the influence such ‘imperialistic’ expectations are gaining even in these circles. And it is quite certain that the Walloon influence aims at throttling once for all the just aspirations of the Flemish to a complete acknowledgment of their claims in their own fatherland. If proof were needed of my thesis about the immense danger Europe is running of becoming the victim of its retrograde forces, the attitude of Belgian governmental circles would provide us with it. — THE AUTHOR.