Rosa Luxemburg

Concerning Morocco


First Published: Leipziger Volkszeitung, July 24th, 1911.
Source: Rosa Luxemburg: Selected Political Writings, edited and introduced by Robert Looker.
Translated: (from the German) W.D. Graf.
Transcription/Markup: Ted Crawford/Brian Baggins with special thanks to Robert Looker for help with permissions.
Copyright: Random House, 1972, ISBN/ISSN: 0224005960. Printed with the permission of Random House. Luxemburg Internet Archive ( 2004.

Because of the Morocco Affair, as is well known, it has occurred to a number of our French comrades that an international socialist demonstration against the militaristic colonial adventure is called for. This would be arranged by the organ competent for such matters, the International Socialist Bureau. To begin with, a meeting was planned between the socialist representatives of the two countries directly involved, France and Spain. On behalf of the Spanish comrades, Pablo Iglesias proclaimed his agreement with the proposal made by Vaillant and the French comrades. When Germany dispatched the Panther to Agadir, it became evident that German militarism was also intervening in the Moroccan adventure, thus heightening international tension and increasing the possibility of a war. Thereupon the participation of German Social Democracy and possibly of the English representatives in the planned meeting appeared necessary. In reply to an inquiry made by the Secretariat in Brussels, Keir Hardie and Quelch consented on behalf of the English workers, and for their part also declared the meeting to be necessary. Only the German Party Executive failed to support the initiative. The answer was communicated only by one member of the Party Executive – as his private opinion, it is true – but the other members apparently agreed with it, since no further announcement ensued. The German member of the International Bureau also declared the conference to be inadvisable for the time being, and for this reason the planned meeting did not take place.

Opinions may differ on the necessity or usefulness of calling a conference of the International Socialist Bureau on the question of the Morocco Affair. In any case this meeting was not planned for the immediate future: only preparations were to be made so that it could be held if the need arose. It was on this basis that the socialist representatives of France, Spain and England accepted the proposal. However, the German party’s decision not to hold the conference ‘for the time being’ must be seen as a rejection of the whole idea – which is why the Secretariat in Brussels proposed to shelve the Morocco Question until the next annual meeting of the Bureau. That this attitude on the part of the German party could not have had an encouraging and stimulating effect on the socialist protest movements in other countries seems to us to be obvious. This makes it all the more interesting to know the reasons that have led to this attitude of our party. It sounds almost unbelievable, but these reasons are again considerations of the impending Reichstag elections. The view that was expressed by the member of the Party Executive – and which, after his announcement, has already been expounded in a public meeting in Berlin – reads as follows:

I see in the whole affair something with which the rulers of our state are attempting to divert general attention away from internal conditions, and to make propaganda for the Reichstag elections. With its domestic policy, our government has created a situation which would not even arouse a dog’s sympathy. It is thus relying on its favourite method, one which was used by Bismarck in 1887 with Boulanger and by Bülow in 1906 with the Hottentots. Now I believe Messrs Bethmann-Hollweg and Kiderlen-Wächter capable of any stupidity, even of one which could lead to serious European conflicts. In the case of Morocco, however, I believed that these gentlemen did not have a free hand, since conflicting capitalist interests come into question in that country; of which, the ‘French’ group in Germany is the strongest.

For years this war for the mines has been with us. As is well known, a certain Herr Mannesmann has given money to the Sultan of Morocco, for which he has received a document; this he and his friends and the small group of ranters who call themselves Pan-Germans claim is a document giving the brothers Mannesmann a monopoly over the Moroccan mines. Of course the contents of this document conflict with the Treaty of Algeciras. Mannesmann and his friends claim that this makes no difference, since the treaty cannot affect prior treaties.

Despite the great row that Mannesmann and his friends made in the press, the former Secretary of State for External Affairs, von Schön, could not be induced to say an obliging word concerning the Mannesmann Treaty although he did not wish to oppose Mannesmann publicly. But when he was pressed to take a stand, it turned out to be unfavourable towards Herr Mannesmann. The reason for this decision is due less to Mannesmann’s uncertain legal position than to a conflicting capitalist interest. Mannesmann is in competition with an ostensibly French mining syndicate. This syndicate is based in Paris and one of its partners is Schneider of Creusot. But besides Schneider, other giants of the German Steel-Works Association, such as Krupp and Thyssen, are represented in it. They say: if iron ore exists in Morocco in the great quantities that Mannesmann claims, then we can fetch it ourselves and need not be exploited by Mannesmann. These gentlemen would prefer to carry out the exploitation themselves rather than become victims of that exploitation. This consideration carried far more weight than all the legal and constitutional grounds. In so far as Messrs Mannesmann are still drilling for iron ore at all, they have recently transferred their activities to Agadir. From there the complaint was heard that the technicians were being prevented from doing their work. Then Bethmann-Hollweg and Kiderlen-Wächter made a concession to the cries of Mannesmann and his comrades. I do not believe, however, that they will allow themselves to be pressed further, since then they would be damaging the interests of the great powers of the Steel-Works Association. In brief: I believe the leaders of our foreign policy capable of any stupidity, but I do not believe that they will go any further because then they might injure the interests of the most powerful capitalists, and they, whose understanding is more penetrating, would call a halt in good time.

If we were to commit ourselves firmly too soon and to stress the Moroccan Question at the expense of all questions of domestic policy in such a way that an effective electoral slogan could be used against us, then the consequences cannot be anticipated. For in their hatred and fear of socialism, Krupp and Thyssen yield nothing to Bethmann-Hollweg. It is in our vital interests not to allow the discussion of domestic events such as tax policy, agrarian privileges and security regulations to be suppressed. Yet this is what could happen if we talk about the Moroccan Question in every village and thus encourage a backlash. If in this affair Messrs Bethmann and comrades get the defeat they deserve – which in view of their notorious incompetence is quite possible – then we would have one more argument to use against them in the election.

We must confess that the conclusions which have been drawn from the Moroccan Affair and described with such expert knowledge encourage us very little. The high-minded policy upon which they are based is: let us leave it to the grandees of the Steel-Works Association to put a stop to the German action in Morocco in good time while we trouble ourselves as little as possible with the whole matter, for we have other things to occupy us, namely, coping with the Reichstag elections. In any case, it surely occurred to no one to demand of the German Social-Democratic Party that we should ‘stress the Moroccan Question at the expense of all questions of domestic policy’. The very last persons who might be suspected of this are Vaillant and the French comrades, for they themselves are a living example of how one can stress foreign policy while not neglecting domestic affairs. This they demonstrated by discussing in the most lively manner their problems of domestic politics, especially the social security bill, without detriment to their energetic agitation against the Moroccan adventure. And similarly, the forceful protest action of Iglesias and his comrades did very little to harm the party’s other political struggles in Spain, particularly the splendidly executed economic mass action in Saragossa.

Moreover, it is most likely that our opponents, given the urgency of their need, are attempting to concoct an electoral slogan against Social Democracy out of all the hullabaloo over Morocco in order to produce a kind of patriotic election carnival. However, precisely if one accepts this and even believes that this ridiculous and frivolous adventure could result in ‘a powerful slogan’ against us, then it would seem completely illogical to avoid discussing this question in the course of our campaign. If we are to expect that the Reaction will use Morocco as a decoy to its own advantage, then the only way of making this slogan ineffective and of thwarting this attempt at manipulation is for us to enlighten the masses as soon and as completely as possible as to the deplorable background to the affair and the sordid capitalist interests involved in it. If there is a way in which our own debates on, and agitation against, this new attack by capitalist reaction could bring about our defeat, we are not aware of it. There is evidently such a limited trust in the strength of our view, in the productive power of our agitation, that one searches in vain for its causes. In 1870, in the face of the unleashed furies of jingoism, Bebel and Liebknecht did not hesitate to proclaim loudly our devotion to peace and fraternity. If they did not do this ‘in every village’, it was probably only because we were able to make headway in very few villages. And compared with the ‘patriotic war against the Sworn Enemy’, how insignificant is the insipid farce of the Mannesmann firm and its offspring in the present Foreign Office!

If the point of view that we have been discussing is guilty of too little faith in the victorious strength of our slogans, it seems to us that, on the other hand, it strongly overestimates the power of vested capitalist interests in guaranteeing peace. It may well be that the foreign policy of Bethmann and Kiderlen feels itself confident only of holding the balance between the two cliques of mining exploiters; but the game that is played on the volcanic terrain of international conflicts is, even for minds greater than these capitalist clerks, a game of blindman’s-bluff. Mannesmann and Thyssen alone do not determine the further course of the adventure which, like all global blunders, can easily escape from the grasp of those who arranged it and grow from a frivolous game with matches into a global conflagration. And of course the critical forms of the situation can be transferred, by means of granting concessions’ of some kind, to South Africa or another part of the world, which then creates quite new conflicts. This is why, in our view, the duty of Social Democracy is not to reassure public opinion, but to do the very reverse, to rouse it and warn it against the dangers lying dormant in it such adventures in international politics today. It is not enough for us to rely on the pacific intentions of some capitalist clique as a factor in achieving peace; we can only count on the resistance of the enlightened masses. By obeying the order to keep our peace, incidentally, we would be seen to be falling in with the wishes of the rulers of the Moroccan policy. The general Silence in the Forest [reference to a famous poem by Goethe] that the two high priests of colonial policy, Cambon and Kiderlen, have insisted on in order to carry on their hocus-pocus without interruption behind the backs of the people’s representatives and the public, is one more sign that the tactics of the workers’ parties require the very opposite: a loud appeal to the public opinion to which the rulers intend to present a fait accompli. In this sense the demand first put forward by Vorwärts that, for example, the Reichstag be convened, was surely dictated by the right instinct. Unfortunately, our central organ – if we are not mistaken – no longer appears to support this demand.

Finally the position of the Party Executive exhibits a general conception of the electoral struggle that does not appear entirely satisfactory to us. They say that we should restrict our agitation exclusively to matters of domestic policy, to questions or taxation and social legislation. But financial policy, the rule of the Junkers and the stagnation. of social reform are organically bound up with militarism, naval policy, colonial policy, and with personal rule and its foreign policy. Any artificial separation of these spheres can only present an incomplete and one-sided picture of the state of our public affairs. Above all we should propagate socialist enlightenment in the Reichstag elections, but this we cannot do if we restrict our criticism to Germany’s domestic circumstances, if we fail to depict the great international relationships, the growing dominance of capitalism. in all parts of the world, the obvious anarchy in every corner of the globe, and the major role played by colonial and global policy in this process. We must conduct our electoral agitation not as an abridged political primer reduced to a few simple points now ‘in vogue’, but as the socialist world view in all its comprehensiveness, richness and diversity.

We have heard so much about the ‘splendid situation’ in which we are approaching the Reichstag elections, and at the same time we have been warned repeatedly against spoiling this ‘situation’ by some imprudent action; previously this was the struggle for universal suffrage in Prussia, and now it is the agitation against the hubbub surrounding Morocco. We think that the ‘splendid situation’ is not a chance external constellation that one can spoil by a rash act. Rather it is the product of the entire historical development of the past few decades within and without Germany. The best way of throwing away the advantage of this ‘situation’ would be to begin to consider all party life and all tasks of the class struggle simply from the perspective of the ballot-box.

Last updated on: 3.12.2008