Re: [OPE] fascism / opposing imperialist military interventioninLibya

From: Paul Cockshott <>
Date: Fri Apr 15 2011 - 10:19:18 EDT

Have any of you read Fischer’s Griff nach Weltmacht, or in English Germany’s Aims in the First World War. When it came out in 1960 it was groundbreaking work, being the first work by a German academic historian to document in detail using original sources the imperialist and offensive motivation of the German state in launching the war.
It is particularly enlightening in laying out the details of just what ‘redivision of the world’ really meant in terms of concrete territorial and economic objectives at that time. It is also interesting to see the interplay between availability of capital for export and military power. One on the things he brings out, which I had not realises, was despite its industrial strength the Reich was short of capital, and had in the two years prior to the war been loosing out to British and French capital in both Turkey and the Balkans because of its inability to provide the capital funds required to complete things like the Istanbul to Baghdad railway and the improvement of dock and other provision in Turkey. There was perceived as being an immediate danger that Turkey would move into the sphere of influence once more of France and Britain. Likewise Germany had been unable to provide credit required by the Greek state which had to raise loans on the Paris market.
This weakness in ability to export capital stemmed from a serious structural balance of payments deficit on Germany’s part, something that I had previously been unaware of.
What is astonishing was the extent to which the Great Powers were willing to secretly agree to divide up spheres of influence among each other even to the loss of other European powers.
Between 1912 and 1913, Germany and Britain had apparently agreed between themselves to divide up the Portuguese colonies in Africa, with Germany getting the northern parts of Mozambique and the West of Angola, and Britain the rest. Britain apparently agreed this on the basis that should the Portuguese state go bankrupt as was anticipated, then the colonies would be handed over in return for a bailout package from London and Berlin. Germany apparently hoped for a more unconditional seizure of the territory.
Looking back one can see some remarkable continuities with the situation 100 years later:

1. The issue of bailouts of Portugal and Greece, are as topical today as then. Instead of colonies being the price, privatisations of other state assets are likely to serve the same role.

2. The at times inverse relationship between financial and military aggressiveness and power. States running big trade surpluses today like China and Germany are able to exert political influence through the offer of credit in a similar way to France 100 years ago. Although the USA has by far the greatest industrial and armed power, it lacks the capital to pursue this sort of policy as Germany did in 1911. This provides a motivation for the substitution of naked force for economic power.

3. The longstanding policy of German Imperialism of promoting mittel Europa as an alternative basis to be able to stand up to the truly global powers : seen in the early 1900s as being the British Empire, the Russian Empire, the American and Chinese empires. Today the list would be Russia, America, China and India with the latter being the bulk of the old British Empire. This policy Bethman Hollweg, put forward as a war aim in 1914, was essentially the same as that temporarily imposed by a subsequent Chancellor in 1940, and continued by pacific means by Adenauer and Kohl with the formation of the EU. Hollweg had hoped for a quick victory in the west under which France would be incorporated into mittel Europa, with French capital providing the funding for the long term build up of economic and armed resources to challenge Russia, Britain and America.

The University of Glasgow, charity number SC004401

ope mailing list
Received on Fri Apr 15 10:20:33 2011

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sat Apr 30 2011 - 00:00:03 EDT