Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters

Chapter XXIV Part II

The Need of Military Unification


German Militarism of World War I and World-Unity.

While pursuing the formation of the World-State, it would be necessary to destroy certain forms of nationalistic militarism. It was the issue of German militarism of World War I that led to such speculation towards the end of that Great War. Sri Aurobindo, writing in 1917 considered that such solutions would be oversimplified for the real issue at stake was that of national egoism masquerading ‘under the sacred name of patriotism’ (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg 477) A destruction of Germany’s militarism would not automatically imply the annihilation of this deeply entrenched psychological trend. After all, the external reasons of Germany’s complicity in the War like her political and commercial ambitions, her geographical confinement, and her unfriendly encirclement were only triggers that in a particularly piquant international scenario successfully brought out the psychology of national life to the forefront with a vengeance that surprised everyone.

Sri Aurobindo succinctly describes that every national ego like every organic life desired a double self-fulfilment:

(a) Intensive and

(b) Extensive or expansive (Ibid).

Expansive Nationalistic Egoism

For any nation, the ‘deepening and enriching of its culture, political strength and economic well-being within its borders is not felt to sufficient if there is not, without, an extension or expansion of its culture, an increase of its political extent, dominion, power or influence and a masterful widening of its commercial exploitation of the world…But it can be satisfied only to a very limited degree by peaceful and unaggressive means. And where it feels itself hemmed in by obstacles that it thinks it can overcome, opposed by barriers, encircled, dissatisfied with a share of possession and domination it considers disproportionate to its needs and its strength, or where new possibilities of expansion open out to it in which only its strength can obtain for its desirable portion, is at once moved to the use of some kind of force and can only be restrained by the amount of resistance it is likely to meet. If it has a weak opposition of unorganised or ill-organised peoples to overcome, it will not hesitate; if it has the opposition of powerful rivals to fear, it will pause, seek for alliances or watch for its moment’ (Ibid). Great Britain displayed such expansive national ego which was quintessentially expressed in that famous boast that the sun never set in the British Empire!

Intensive National Egoism

Unlike Britain, Germany’s egoism was not that expansive as it was deeply intensive. ‘Germany had not the monopoly of this expansive instinct and egoism; but its egoism was the best organized and least satisfied, the youngest, crudest, hungriest, most self-confident and presumptuous, most satisfied with the self-righteous brutality of its desires’ (Ibid, pg 477-478). No wonder the increasing control of the military over the policy making of the civilian government resulted in the German Army to be described at that period as a ‘State within the State’. There was no civilian opposition when Germany increased her defence expenditure during 1910 to 1914 by 73% while France increased by 10%, Britain by 13%, Russia by 39% during the same period. Militarism has been now recognized as one of the main causes of the Great War.

The survival of Militarism

No doubt, Germany’s aggressive nationalistic ego proved disastrous for the War which led analysts to wonder if the destruction of German militarism would be a prerequisite for World -Unity. Sri Aurobindo in his 1917 write-up dismissed such wishful thinking: ‘The breaking of German militarism might ease for a moment the intensity of the many-headed commercial wrestle but it cannot, by the removal of a dangerous and restless competitor, end it. So long as any kind of militarism survives, so long as fields of political or commercial aggrandizement are there and so long as national egoisms live and are held sacred and there is no final check on their inherent instinct of expansion, war will always be a possibility and almost a necessity of the life of the human peoples’ (Ibid, 478). The subsequent turn of events proved his apprehensions to be true.

Date of Update: 23-Jul-16

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu