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difficult to convince them that salvation, for them, can be expected only from the working
class; or they are tenants, whose situation is almost equal to that of the Irish. Rents are so
high that even in times of normal crops the peasant and his family can hardly eke out a bare
existence; when the crops are bad, he virtually starves. When he is unable to pay his rent,
he  is  entirely  at  the  mercy  of  the  landlord.  The  bourgeoisie  thinks  of  relief  only  under
compulsion. Where, then, should the tenants look for relief outside of the workers?
There is another group of peasants, those who own a small piece of land. In most cases
they are so burdened with mortgages that their dependence upon the usurer is equal to the
dependence of the tenant upon the landlord. What they earn is practically a meager wage,
which, since good and bad crops alternate, is highly uncertain. These people cannot have
the least hope of getting anything out of the bourgeoisie, because it is the bourgeoisie, the
capitalist usurers, that squeeze the life-blood out of them. Still, the peasants cling to their
property,  though  in  reality  it  does  not  belong  to  them,  but  to  the  usurers.  It  will  be
necessary to make it clear to these people that only when a government of the people will
have transformed all mortgages into a debt to the State, and thereby lowered the rent, will
they be able to free themselves from the usurer. This, however, can be accomplished only
by the working class.
Wherever middle and large land ownership prevails, the wage-workers of the land form
the most numerous class. This is the case throughout the entire north and east of Germany,
and it is here that the industrial workers of the city find their most numerous and natural
allies.  In  the  same  way  as  the  capitalist  is  opposed  to  the  industrial  worker,  the  large
landowner or large tenant is opposed to the wage-workers of the land. The measures that
help the one must also help the other. The industrial workers can free themselves only by
turning  the  capital  of  the  bourgeoisie,  that  is,  the  raw  materials,  machines  and  tools,  the
foodstuffs necessary for production, into social property, their own property, to be used by
them in common. Similarly, the wage-workers of the land can be freed from their hideous
misery only when the main object of their work, the land itself, will be withdrawn from the
private property of the large peasants and still larger feudal masters, and transformed into
social property to be cultivated by an association of land workers on common basis. And
here we come to the famous decision of the International Socialist Congress in Basle: That
it is in the interest of society to transform property on land into common national property.
This decision was made primarily for those countries where there is large land ownership,
with  large  agricultural  enterprises,  with  one  master  and  many  wage-workers  in  every
estate. It is these conditions that still prevail in Germany, and next to England, the decision
was most timely for Germany. The agricultural proletariat, the wage-workers of the land, is
the class from which the bulk of the armies of the princes is being recruited. It is the class
The Peasant War in Germany
– 9 –

which, thanks to universal suffrage, sends into Parliament the great mass of feudal masters
and  Junkers.  However,  it  is  also  the  class  nearest  to  the  industrial  workers  of  the  city.  It
shares  their  conditions  of  living,  and  it  is  still  deeper  steeped  in  misery  than  the  city
workers.  This  class,  powerless  because  split  and  scattered,  but  possessing  hidden  power
which  is  so  well  known  to  the  government  and  nobility  that  they  purposely  allow  the
schools to deteriorate in order that the rural population should remain unenlightened, must
be called to life and drawn into the movement. This is the most urgent task of the German
labour movement. From the day when the mass of the workers of the land have learned to
understand their own interests, a reactionary, feudal, bureaucratic or bourgeois government
in Germany becomes an impossibility.
The Peasant War in Germany
– 10 –

Addendum to the Preface

THE  preceding  lines  were  written  over  four  years  ago,  but  they  are  valid  also  at  present.
What  was  true  after  Sadowa  and  the  partition  of  Germany  is  being  confirmed  also  after
Sedan  and  the  erection  of  the  Holy  German  Empire  of  Prussian  nationality.  Little  indeed
are  the  “world-shaking”  activities  of  the  States  in  the  realm  of  so-called  big  politics  in  a
position to change the trend of historic development.
What these grand activities of the States are in a position to accomplish is to hasten the
tempo  of  historic  movement.  In  this  respect,  the  originators  of  the  above-mentioned
“world-shaking”  events  have  made  involuntary  successes  which  to  themselves  appear
highly  undesirable,  but  which,  however,  they  must  take  into  the  bargain,  for  better  or
Already  the  war  of  1866  had  shaken  the  old  Prussia  to  its  foundations.  After  1848  it
was difficult to bring the rebellious industrial element of the western provinces, bourgeois
as well as proletarian, under the old discipline. Still, somehow, this was accomplished, and
the interests of the Junkers of the eastern provinces, together with those of the army, again
became  dominant  in  the  State.  In  1866  almost  all  the  northwest  of  Germany  became
Prussian. Besides the incurable moral injury to the Prussian crown, by the fact that it had
swallowed  up  three  other  crowns  by  the  grace  of  God,  the  centre  of  gravity  of  the
monarchy  had  moved  considerably  westward.  The  four  million  Rhinelanders  and
Westphalians  were  reinforced,  first,  by  four  million  Germans  annexed  through  the  North
German  Alliance  directly,  and  then  by  six  million  annexed  indirectly.  In  1870,  however,
eight million southwest Germans were added, so that, in the “new monarchy,” the fourteen
and  a  half  million  old  Prussians  (all  the  six  East  Elbian  provinces,  among  them,  two
million  Poles)  were  opposed  by  twenty-five  million  who  had  long  outgrown  the  old
Prussian  junker  feudalism.  So  it  happened  that  the  very  victories  of  the  Prussian  army
displaced the entire foundation of the Prussian State edifice; the junker dominance became
ever  more  intolerable,  even  for  the  government  itself.  At  the  same  time,  however,  the
struggle between the bourgeoisie and the workers made inevitable by the impetuous growth
of industry, relegated to the background the struggle between Junkers and bourgeoisie, so
that the inner social foundations of the old State suffered a complete transformation. Ever
since  1840,  the  condition  making  possible  the  existence  of  the  slowly  rotting  monarchy
was  the  struggle  between  nobility  and  bourgeoisie,  wherein  the  monarchy  retained
equilibrium. From the moment, however, when it was no more a question of protecting the
nobility  against  the  onslaught  of  the  bourgeoisie,  but  of  protecting  all  propertied  classes
against the onslaught of the working-class, the absolute monarchy had to turn to that form
The Peasant War in Germany
– 11 –


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