Of what has meantime happened to Liebknecht the main facts are known. He was arrested on May 1 for alleged “incitement to public disorder during a state of war,” tried, convicted, and sentenced to penal servitude. A couple of months previously (on March 13) he had delivered another bitter attack on the War Government in the Prussian Diet. He accused the German educational authorities of systematically teaching hate to school children and of distorting even contemporary history so as to poison their minds to the glorification of Prussian militarism. He said it was not the business of the schools to turn children into machines for the Moloch of militarism.
“Let us teach history correctly,” declared Liebknecht, “and tell the children that the crime of Sarajevo was looked upon by wide circles in Austria-Hungary and Germany as a gift from Heaven. Let us. . . .”
He got no farther, for the cyclone broke. He had dared to do what no other man in Germany had done. He had publicly accused his Government of making the war. From that moment his doom was certain.
This narrative should be instructive to those Britishers and Americans who think it possible that German Socialists may one day have the power to end the war. There are two effective replies to this curious Anglo-Saxon misunderstanding of Germany. The first is that Liebknecht had not, and has not, the support of his own party; the second, that were that party twice as numerous as it is its votes would be worthless in view of the power wielded by the Kaiser’s representative, von Bethmann-Hollweg, backed up by the Federal Council.
It is difficult to drive this fact into the heads of British and American people, who are both prone to judge German institutions by their own.
For, remember always that behind the dominant Imperial Chancellor, von Bethmann-Hollweg, stands the All-Highest War Lord, and behind him, what is still, if damaged, the mightiest military machine in the world—the German Army. Opposed to that there is at present a slowly increasing Socialist vote—the two have grown to about twenty.
In the beginning of the war, when all seemed to be going well, there was no disunity in Germany. When Germany was winning victory after victory, practically no censorship was needed in the newspapers; the police were tolerant; every German smiled upon every other German; soldiers went forth singing and their trains were gaily decorated with oak leaves; social democracy praised militarism.
All that has changed and the hosts who went singing on their way in the belief that they would be home in six weeks, have left behind homes many of them bereaved by the immense casualties, and most of them suffering from the increased food shortage.