Imperialism: A German Viewpoint

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Imperialism: A German Viewpoint

sourceFabri, Friedrich. Does Germany Need Colonies, 1879.

introductionThis excerpt from Friedrich Fabri's 1879 pamphlet Bedarf Deutschland der Colonien? (Does Germany Need Colonies?) presents an argument for the development of German imperialism, which Fabri believed would invigorate the German economy and renew the national spirit. Fabri was the director of a German missionary society, and his propagandistic writings in favor of colonization were part of a procolonial movement that arose in Germany after unification in 1871. Advocates of colonization exerted pressure on the government to acquire colonies abroad, especially in Africa, by arguing that Germany needed territories to maintain its economic preeminence among European nations.

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 development 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 national 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.