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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Imperialism: A German Viewpoint

The following extract from Friedrich Fabri's book Does Germany Need Colonies, published in 1879, makes the German argument for colonial expansion, one similar to those made by English and French writers of the period. While France and Britain had long experience of colonial conquest and foreign trade contacts, colonial-minded Germans could only bemoan their country's late arrival on the world scene and consequent diminished possibilities for colonial acquisitions. The late 1870s i n Europe--a time of economic depression--brought to a head decades of commercial rivalry among the powers. This was rendered all the more sharp by the general perception that the securing of trade and influence overseas, particularly in the virtually unta pped interior of Africa, could solve national economic problems and enable countries such as Britain and France to maintain their dominant positions in world trade. Inevitably, similar conclusions were drawn in Germany which was soon to emerge as Britain' s rival in industrial production and technological advance. Dr. Friedrich Fabri, though director of a German missionary society that had been active in Africa for decades, earned the name of 'Father of the German Colonial Movement' through his forceful propaganda in promoting colonial development. As a result of h is influence, several important elements of German society--bankers, intellectuals, businessmen, military leaders--joined in the establishment of a German Colonial Union (Kolonialverein) and similar societies. Such was the force of propaganda and the publ ic opinion these created that the German chancellor Bismarck, no avid exponent of colonial ventures, was compelled to endorse the acquisition of a small strip of land along the coast of South West Africa (present-day Namibia)at Angra Pequeña (now Lüderitz Bay) in 1884. Further acquisitions followed in West Africa (Togo and Cameroon) and in German East Africa (now Tanzania).

Should not the German nation, so seaworthy, so industrially and commercially minded,.....successfully hew a new path on the road of imperialism? We are convinced beyond doubt that the colonial question has become a matter of life-or death for the develo pment of Germany. Colonies will have a salutary effect on our economic situation as well as on our entire national progress.
Here is a solution for many of the problems that face us. In this new Reich [i.e., the new Imperial Germany] of ours there is so much bitterness, so much unfruitful, sour, and poisoned political wrangling, that the opening of a new, promising road of na tional effort will act as a kind of liberating influence. Our national spirit will be renewed, a gratifying thing, a great asset. A people that has been led to a high level of power can maintain its historical position only as long as it understands and proves itself to be the bearer of a culture mission. At the same time, this is the only way to stability and to the growth of national welfare, the necessary foundation for a lasting expansion of power.
At one time Germany contributed only intellectual and literary activity to the tasks of our century. That era is now over. As a people we have become politically minded and powerful. But if political power becomes the primal goal of a nation, it will lead to harshness, even to barbarism. We must be ready to serve for the ideal, moral, and economic culture-tasks of our time. . . . . . .
No one can deny that in this direction England has by far surpassed all other countries. ............I has been customary in our age of military power to evaluate the strength of a state in terms of its combat-ready troops. But anyone who looks at the g lobe and notes the steadily increasing colonial possessions of Great Britain [will perceive] how she extracts strength from them, the skill with which she governs them, how the Anglo-Saxon strain occupies a dominant position in the overseas territories................
The fact is that England tenaciously holds on to its world-wide possessions with scarcely one-fourth the manpower of our continental military state. That is not only a great economic advantage but also a striking proof of the solid power and cultural fib er of England. Great Britain, of course, isolates herself far from the mass warfare of the continent, or only goes into action with dependable allies; hence, the insular state has suffered and will suffer no real damage. In any case, it would be wise for us Germans to learn about colonial skills from our Anglo-Saxon cousins and to begin a friendly competition with them. W hen the German Reich centuries ago stood at the pinnacle of the states of Europe, it was the Number One trade and sea power. If the New Germany wants to protect its newly won position of power for a long time, it must heed its Kultur-mission and, above all, delay no longer in the task of renewing the call for colonies

1 comment:

Tas said...

What a fascinating article - thanks!