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subject to the will of an objective idea. Even the most
. realistic of technical politicians, Bismarck, the enemy of all ideologies, conceived and carried out his task under the influence of this point of view. He spoke of himself contentedly as a minister in the true sense of the word, and in the epitaph which he chose he described himself as a "faithful servant.” His empirical master was the landed noble, not as an individual, but as the embodiment of the ideal of the Prussian, later the German nation. In his clever way he made this statement early in his career: “Why should I be subject to these Hohenzollerns unless it is God's command? They are a Swabian family no better than my own." But his service was more than vassalage, as it is often erroneously called. He went so far in the defence of his ideal as to attack its representative in person whenever the ideal itself seemed to be endangered by him.
No better metaphor has ever been found to describe the relation of all earthly striving to the transcendental idea than that of the pilot steering his ship by the pole star. Just as the star, tho never to be reached, shows the sailor his course, and just as the methods of holding to the course can not be the same in all weathers, so the idea is a goal which can only be reached in eternity, for the endless activity of men. From beyond the boundaries of our world it shines upon us, whatever means we may use in order to dwell in its light. When Bismarck was an old man he said, “I have always had one compass and one pole star by which I steered, salus publica. All systems by which parties are separated or united are to me of secondary importance; the objects of primary importance are the nation, its foreign relations, its independence, our organization in the sense that as a great nation we can breathe freely in the world. There are times when one must rule liberally and there are times when one must rule despotically; everything changes; here, there is no eternity.” But his pole star is eternal; “If you point out to me one moment when I have not steered my ship in this direction you can perhaps prove that I have made mistakes, but not that I have, for one second, lost sight of the national goal.” People have thought that they could detect in the frequent changes of political method certain Proteus-like tendencies in Bismarck's innermost characteristics, but this is not true. He kept a definite purpose in view thru all these variations.
The world has tried to make Bismarck and his political theory responsible for the formula: “Might goes before right,” with which he justified government without a budget. But what were the actual facts? He saw that the Prussian people by refusing a budget were rushing with open eyes to disaster and destroying their own national prosperity. And in the spirit of the idea that he served, he put the whole power of the state at the service of the sagacity which was lacking, in order to strengthen it. In this connection he said: "Whoever has the power in his hands may do as he pleases.” But never did the hope of advancement control his foreign politics. “One must not make war when it can be avoided with honor; the chance of a favorable outcome is not a just and sufficient cause for beginning a great war. It is in itself a wicked thing to try to drive two great nations in the midst of European civilization into war." These are his words shortly before 1870. He insists only that the autocracy of the nation and its necessary freedom to breathe be respected. During the conclusion of peace with Austria he had a quarrel with the king about the stipulations on the occasion of Bavaria's entrance into the league with the Crown Prince.
The king wished to punish Austria for her rivalry of Prussia; Bismarck declared that such an act of judgment was not Prussia's right, and that when the future unity of the other German states was at stake, all considerations of territorial acquisition must fade into insignificance. The Crown Prince wanted to limit the other dynasties so as to make the imperial crown of the Prussian king more rich, but Bismarck prevented this process of “Prussianization.” He made an agreement with Bavaria on account of which he acknowledged that people might find fault with him, saying: ““The stupid fellow should have demanded more.--If he had wished it they must have complied. ..... But I was endeavoring to make the people inwardly satisfied with the agreement; I did not want to press them nor to make use of all the possibilities of the situation.”
The fact that the peace with sorely wounded France took the form, not of a homeopathic treatment, but rather of an amputation, could be referred to lust for plunder only by those who did not recognize the goal of French politics on the right bank of the Rhine. When Thiers was sent to conclude negotiations, Bismarck says: “It was difficult for me to be as severe with him as I had to be.” It is not true that the great statesman ever directed his will to the attainment of power for power's sake, either at home or abroad. Let us remember his speech on the oriental question in the Reichstag in 1878: “The possibility of arranging a peace does not seem to me such as to enable us to play the part of judge between divergent opinions, or to say, so it shall be, and the power of the German Empire stands behind this decision. I think we must be even more discreet than an honest broker who really wants to transact his business satisfactorily. I know that I am disappointing many expectations which have grown out of the opportunities of the present time; but I am not of the opinion that we should follow in the path of Napoleon and try to be the schoolmaster of Europe, if not its judge."
This same national idea is the guiding principle of his social politics. The words with which he recommended his laws to the people on January 9, 1882, express his desire for national welfare and national honor, not his compliance to the wishes of a party. “We must strive to make it impossible for any one, or at least for all but a very few people, to say: 'We are here only to bear the state's burdens, but the state does not care about our unhappiness or our well-being.'” He held fast to his ideal until the end, even in the days "when the feeling of aversion and disgust was not unknown to him," and when “the weary old man continued his Sisyphean task” because “the peculiar militaristic tradition of duty and of responsibility” forced him to
He was the ideal German statesman who serves even while he rules, who does not wish to be the end, but only the means, who, thru all the stages of his development as member of the Chamber of Deputies, as diplomat, as politician, as statesman, finally even as a private citizen, saw the purpose of all his thoughts and efforts, the common weal, shining higher than all parties, higher than the people, and higher than the prince's crown. Whoever wishes to substitute greatness for good as the basis of a statesman's striving must not call upon Bismarck to help him. The best German tradition is in his politics, a tradition to which the conception of imperialism for which the whole world is now trying to make us responsible, is totally foreign.
In view of the differences between the foreign and the German spirit it is important for them not to be hostile, but rather to supplement each other. On both sides there is the same tendency to set up one's own civilization as the only true and lasting form of culture. Fichte pointed out that the greatest advance in the progress of mankind could be obtained by the cooperation of the two forces. He said that the foreign mind would provide the impetus, while the German mind would bring about the realization of the idea. Italy called the Renaissance into being; Germany in the Reformation carried the new type to its logical conclusion. England laid the foundations of the Aufklärung; Germany perfected it by means of her critical judgments. France aroused the Revolutionary spirit which was consummated in the process of German rational education. So by nature there is no enmity between the two forms of thought, and as recently as the 19th century there was an effort both in Italy and in France to take up the study of German idealism, while Germany in turn attempted to make use of the French and English positivism. A year ago we had progrest so far that the French philosopher Boutroux explained in a lecture at the University of Berlin, how French and German thought, the one always emphasizing the individual, the other the whole, by cooperation, could attain progress and harmony in spite of their differences, rather than union because of their similarity.
And now in conclusion I must quote Fichte once again: "When the foreign spirit in its effort to expand over all the world seeks to destroy the freedom and independence of the German spirit which is shut away in the heart of Germany, then there is a real cause for war.” As Fichte explained to his students in 1813: “The freedom and independence of a nation is attacked if there is any attempt to interrupt the course of its development, if any other power tries to incorporate it into another effort for empire, or for the destruction of all law and justice. The life of a people inoculated with a foreign life or death, is killed, destroyed and crushed out. Then there is a war, not of reigning families but of the whole people. Public and individual freedom is menaced, and without this a nation can not desire to live unless it is willing to brand itself as utterly worthless. In such a cause every man should give himself up to a life and death struggle, he should accept no substitute and allow no representative to do his work. At such a time each one must act for himself."
How the present war originated no one of us knows, and we shall not know for a long time. But that the war, once it has been undertaken, is being waged against us with the ultimate purpose of utter annihilation is indisputable, and, in fact, is openly acknowledged by our opponents. Therefore the words of Fichte with which I shall close this paper have a very real significance for us: "Es ist einem jeden für die Person und ohne Stellvertretung aufgegeben der Kampf auf Leben und Tod."
ERNST HOFFMANN BERLIN-FRIEDENAU