A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 117

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MUZZLING OF THE PRESS


Nor did the newspapers escape the heavy hand of the military authorities. The reckless flooding of the streets with free editions announcing great German victories was summarily stopped; and just as at the outset the government had seized the opportunity to favour those individuals who had for years subserved their purposes, so now they took another line against such papers as had in peace times dared to criticise army or bureaucracy. The publication of military news was restricted to the bare statements issued by the general staff, and the authorities saw to it that these announcements reached the reptile press sooner than papers which had been numbered amongst the critics of the government system. But they were careful, as in all else, to maintain the cloak of righteousness.

At first the sale of socialist papers was forbidden on bookstalls and in the street; but even this restriction was removed as soon as the iron had eaten into the socialist soul and the international theorists upon whom a few foreign observers had set their hopes had in turn taken up that patriotic attitude which competent critics had always expected of them. It may none the less be true that there was amongst considerable sections of the community a conviction that the war had been thrust upon them not by dire necessity, but by the ungoverned ambitions of the militarist caste. But the temper of the mob was such that even the expression of the mildest criticism was like to prove dangerous to life and limb. The most strenuous advocates of the general strike, and even that arch-enthusiast, Rosa Luxemburg, were left unmolested by the authorities, who sardonically left such unpatriotic personages to the attentions of the mob.

To revert for a moment to the effect of the war upon German commercial life, it should be remembered that to a very large extent, even in peace time, the trade and commerce of German towns had depended upon the requirements of members of the armed forces. There was work enough, of course, in Essen and Dusseldorf, in the tinned meat factories in the neighbourhood of Berlin and in the Rhineland, in the huge establishments manufacturing war stores of every kind, but elsewhere there was a sudden cessation of demand. Many tradesmen, especially in small garrison towns, had subsisted upon the patronage of army men of the active or retired services. These found their trade suddenly vanish, and indeed it became clear that the repeated warnings of intelligent Germans against the growth of luxury and

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