12 MARCH 1904, Page 1

The debates on the German Army Estimates, which have been

going on all the week in the Reichstag, have drawn forth at least one remarkable expression of opinion. Herr Bebel, as spokesman of the Social Democrats, declared that whole battalions, especially the engineer battalions, were composed of members of his party. They were opposed to war, and desired a defensive organisation ; but if Germany were threatened or invaded, they would all die in defence of the Fatherland. The Prussian Minister of War, General von Einem, roughly replied to this that he did not believe the state- ment, as Social Democrats held war to be immoral; but another Member less known than Herr Bebel on the following day repeated it energetically. There can be little doubt that Herr Bebel was right. His party wish to replace the Regular Army by the Swiss system of defence ; but no party in any State will bear to see its country conquered. Our own Quakers pay their war-taxes without opposition. It is a pity the Social Democrats make and defend statements so broad as some of them put forward, for they grievously reduce their own chance of attaining their real end, which is to control militarism and make discipline less cruel. They have succeeded in creating an opinion even within the Army against the cruelty which too many officers and sub-officers, provoked by the stupidity or stubbornness of their men, too often display ; but the Government has just renewed the edict which binds all soldiers, men as well as officers, if affronted, to "defend their honour" by cutting down their civilian opponents.