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LONGMANS, GREEN & CO.
London, Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras
The RB Edinburgh Review
GERMANISM, WAR AND PEACE
1. Marxismus, Krieg und Internationale. Von KARL RENNER.
Stuttgart : J. H. Dietz Nachf. 1917. 2. Central Europe. By FRIEDRICH NAUMANN. P. S. King &
Son. 1916. 3. Deductions from the World War. By LIEUT.-GENERAL VON
FREYTAG-LORINGHOVEN. Constable. 1917.
to an astonished and incredulous world a national mentality of which few outside Germany suspected the existence and none grasped the full significance. Some do not grasp it yet in spite of all that has come and gone. They still persist in regarding the German nation through the old spectacles as one among others, distinct in certain features but a member of the same family, alike in all essential respects, and one with which the rest can live on terms of equal and cordial friendship in all trust and confidence. At least they affect to regard it in that light, but their sincerity is doubtful. It is difficult to believe that experienced diplomatists can really ignore the systematic abuse of ambassadorial privileges, the calculated breaches of hospitality and good faith, that have been laid bare in one country after another, and can in the future receive a representative of the same State without an involuntary but irresistible impulse to regard him either as a card-sharper himself or as a figure-head put forward to
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cover the operations of card-sharpers. It is equally difficult to believe that Socialists can have the smallest confidence in a Power responsible for the Brest and Ukrainian treaties and their seqael. Neither can they be so impervious to accumulated evidence as they pretend; but by the persistent cultivation of illusions they succeed in resisting a good deal or in evading the logical conclusions. Many others from mental indolence have but a confused idea of the phenomenon of Germanism, and are actuated more by a simple impulse than by reason in opposing it. It is most fully realized by those who have been most deceived about it, as the Americans; by those who have suffered most from it, as the inhabitants of occupied territories, the merchant seamen and prisoners of war; and by those who have most studied it in the self-revelations of German writers.
The three books at the head of this article belong to that category. Two of them are already well known, being translated into English, and they have been the subjects of much discussion. They will be the more briefly dealt with here; but they are bracketed with the first, which is not known and is in many respects the most instructive of the three, because together they cover a very wide field of thought and influence. General von Freytag is a soldier and aristocrat, high in the military councils of Germany; Friedrich Naumann is a Radical politician and 'probably the most widely read political writer in Germany,' as Sir W. J. Ashley tells us in his introduction to the English version; Dr. Karl Renner is a Social Democrat and an accomplished writer with
a an ample equipment of economic, legal and historical knowledge. His book is the most thorough examination of the problems raised by the war from the Socialist point of view that has yet been produced, and its interest is therefore obvious. He is an Austrian and was one of the delegates who went to Stockholm last summer ; but the Austrian and German Social Democrats form a homogeneous body, and Dr. Renner identifies himself throughout, not only with his German colleagues, but with German interests in general. His book is indeed more concerned with German than with AustroHungarian affairs. In short, he is a mouthpiece of German Socialism. The trio are therefore very widely representative of German thought, and they are all serious writers occupied with serious and definite questions. They write, moreover, with mature reflection and in a measured strain after prolonged experience of the war, not in the hurry and heat of the early days, like the numerous pamphleteers, whose naïve revelation of the insane self-admiration cultivated in Germany was discussed in this REVIEW three years ago.* The tone is calmer, notably in the work of General von Freytag, who is the most restrained of the three, though he indulges in some boastful reflections on the moral and technical superiority of the Germans. The comparative sobriety of these later and more mature contributions to German war literature enhances the value conferred by their representative character and imparts additional weight to the lessons they teach about the German attitude of mind to war and peace.
Those lessons may be grouped under the following headings : (1) responsibility for war; (2) conduct of war; (3) aims of war; (4) views on peace and the future. It is desirable for us to understand the German mind on these questions ; and every source of serious information should be utilized to that end. The writers under discussion have, of course,
, other ends in view and do not set out their subjects enumerated in that order or in that way; but they furnish enlightenment on all of them in expounding their own special themes. Each of these writers has his own point of view and deals mainly with his own subjects, the nature of which is indicated by the titles of the books. The soldier is concerned with military affairs, the political publicist with politics, and in a lesser degree with economics; the Socialist with economics and juridical questions, on which he contributes a remarkably fresh and interesting discussion. But they all overlap into each other's domains: the soldier lays stress on economic factors, the politician hazards a good deal of speculation about future military conditions, and the Socialist takes both political and military considerations into account. All deal in some measure with the questions enumerated above, and, differently as they approach them, come in the end to conclusions which are practically the same or only divergent in so far as they relate to subsidiary points, or are conditioned by ultimate principles and aims.
* German War Literature.'
EDINBURGH REVIEW, July, 1915.