Posts Tagged ‘Austria’

Workers’ Self-Management in Communist Yugoslavia

February 21, 2014

Self-Management Yugoslavia

I’ve put up a lot of posts about Communist Yugoslavia recently, pointing out the similarities between the Coalition’s policies of Workfare and secret courts with the same policies there and the consequent abuses of human rights. The Yugoslav Communist party also used forced ‘voluntary’ labour after the War, and used secret courts to try dissidents, including one of the leaders and architects of the regime, Milovan Djilas. Although Yugoslavia under Tito was very much a one-party dictatorship, there is one policy, which I do find attractive. This was the experiment in Socialist self-management in which the regime attempted to withdraw partly from the economic and political control of the country and hand over some of that to the workers themselves. workers in particular business were given the power to supervise and alter the business plans of the managerial board through a system of workers’ councils, similar to the workers’ soviets in the Soviet Union before they were taken over by the Bolsheviks and turned into a rigid instrument of Communist political control. The Yugoslavian Communists went further and created a producer’s chamber in government, through which these councils and their workers were to be represented in central government. The architects of that aspect of the regime were Djilas and Edvard Kardelj.

Djilas

Milovan Djilas, Yugoslav Communist leader and architect of the Self-Management system.

In Rise and Fall, Djilas explains that they formulated the policy as a result of the Yugoslavian Communist party’s break with Stalin. They resented Soviet attempts to turn their country into a satellite of the USSR, dominating the country politically and economically so that it served Russian needs and interests, rather than their own. As they rejected Stalin, they also began to criticise Lenin and form their own, particular brand of Marxism. Djilas writes:

By late 1949 and early 1950, theoretical thinking among our top people not only had abandoned Stalin,, but als was working its way back to the roots, from Lenin to Marx. Kardelj maintained that one could prove anything with quotations, but that it was impossible to separate Lenin from Stalin completely. After all, Stalin was an outgrowth of Lenin.

As we made our way back to Marx, we often paused in our critical ponderings on the Leninist type of party. It was not only the source and instrument of victory, but a means of moving on after power had been seized. In accepting Marx’s theory of the withering away of the state- and the more decisively we broke away from Stalinism, the more firmly we believed Marx on that point – we realized that such withering away required a change in the role of the party. yet in the domain of party problems, progress was minimal and slow. We kept running up against a solid wall of ossified functionaries and a layer of party bureaucracy already formed and consolidated. (p. 267-8).

Djilas and his comrades found the solution in the passages in Marx’s Das Kapital dealing with associations of producers.

And so, as I perused in Marx those passages dealing with a future “association of immediate producers” as a form of the transition to communism, it occurred to me that our whole economic mechanism might be simplified by leaving administration to those who worked in the enterprises, the state only securing for itself the tax. One rainiy day in late spring, while we sat talking in a car in front of my villa, I presented this idea to Kardelj and Kidric. Both thought it premature. At the same time, trade union officials meeting with Kardelj proposed, among other things, discontinuing the workers’ councils, which had long existed as anemic, purely advisory forms. Kardelj, however, urged that the councils be strengthened. The one day Kidrc phoned me: “You know that idea of yours-now might be the moment to introduce it”. Kardelj was to link my idea to the workers’ councils. (p. 268). They then presented the idea to Tito and the other ruling Communists at the National Assembly’s Hall of Ministers. Tito adopted it, and then defended it to the National Assembly on June 26th 1950. (pp. 268-9).

Edvard Kardelj, in his essay ‘The System of Socialist Self-Management in Yugoslavia’, also points to the passage in Marx’s Das Kapital on social property as one of the influences on the self-management system in Yugoslavia, as well as the comments about the nature of capital in the Communist Manifesto. He also refers to the passage on the Paris Commune in Marx’s The Civil War in France.

The passage in Das Kapital runs as follows

The capitalist mode of appropriation, which springs from the capitalist mode of production, produces capitalist private property. This is the first negation of individual private property, as founded on the labour of its proprietor. But capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a natural process, its own negation. This is the negation of a negation. It does not re-establish private property, but it does indeed establish individual property on the basis of the capitalist era: namely cooperation and the possession in common of the land and the means of production produced by labour itself.

In the Communist Manifesto Marx also discussed the nature of private property under capitalism.

Capital is therefore not a personal but a social power.
When, therefore, capital is converted into a common property, into the property of all members of society, personal property is not thereby transformed into social property. it is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses its class character.

In the passage on the Paris Commune, Marx wrote

It wanted to make individual property a reality, by transforming the means of production, land and capital, which now represent the means of enslavement and exploitation of labour, into the instrument of a free and associated labour .. If cooperative production is not to be a falsehood, if it to repress the capitalist system, if the associated cooperatives are to regulate national production according to a joint plan and thus take it undere their own control and put an end to a continual anarchy and periodical convulsions, which are the inevitable fate of capitalist production – what, gentlemen, would this other than communism, the ‘possible’ communism. (See ‘Edvard Kardelj: The System of Socialist Self-Management in Yugoslavia’ in Blagoje Boskovic and David Dasic, Socialist Self-Management in Yugoslavia 1950-1980: Documents (Belgrade: Socialist Thought and Practice 1980) 9-49 (23-4).

Marx was wrong about the Paris Commune. The Communards were motivated less by Socialism – Socialists were in the minority – but by local, Parisian traditions of activism and a patriotic revolt against the regime that had been humiliatingly defeated by the Prussians during the Franco-Prussian War. The Yugoslavian self-management system is interesting as it went further than other experiments in workers’ control, in countries such as Germany and Austria, to try and give workers a larger degree of power in the administration of their businesses and the regulation of the economy. There was, however, a cost to this, in that when Djilas and Kardelj fell from power, the regime used the system they had created to accuse them of ‘Anarcho-syndicalist deviation’, and therefore Marxist heresy.

Twitter’s Censorship and the Totalitarianism of the DWP’s ‘Brand’

February 7, 2014

jon-woodcock

Jon Woodcock, Brand Manager of the Department of Work and Pensions

I’ve reblogged Tom Pride’s article this morning on his site, Pride’s Purge, about Twitter’s censorship of a parody account satirising the DWP, @UKJCP. This was done at the request of Jon Woodcock, ‘Brand Manager’ at the Department of Work and Pensions. Woodcock wanted the account closed down because

‘it had been set up with the deliberate and malicious intent to devalue and criticise the work of Jobcentre Plus. In addition, there are a number of rude and potentially libellous tweets aimed at UK government, elected politicians and the heads of large private sector organisations who are committed to working with government on reducing unemployment.’

Woodcock appears to be somewhat confused about recent developments in freedom of the press, such as those that have occurred within the last 200 years or so. His pompous statements about the malicious criticism of Jobcentre Plus, and the potential libelling of their collaborators in the private sector recalls nothing so much as the way dissenting journalists in the 18th and 19th centuries were prosecuted for ‘seditious libel’ when satirising or criticising the government of the day and its ministers. Robin Day similarly hated the government being sent up. He described the satirical sixties TV show, That Was the Week That Was, which blazed the path now followed by the Not the Nine O’clock News, The News Quiz, Have I Got News For You, Spitting Image and Mock the Week as ‘deplorable’. Woodcock seems to share the same attitude. Presumably he winces every time Michael Portillo shows him his collection of early political cartoons. As his comments show, he does seem to be the type of man who’d like to censor Hogarth, Cruikshank, Gillray et al.

Then there’s the problem of why a government department should require a ‘brand manager’ at all. This is another idea that seems to have come in from general industry management culture. Many companies are extremely jealous about their brand imagery, to the point where they become extremely possessive and intolerant of anybody sending it up, or using the same kind of image as it’s part of general culture. In the 1990s Hollywood produced a film about the Loch Ness Monster. This was all well and good, but the film’s producers then tried to shut down a website about ‘Nessie’, because, as the producer’s of a film about the Loch Ness Monster, they decided that they owned copyright to the creature. Woodcock seems to come from this part of commercial culture.

goebbels

Josef Goebbels: Minister for Public Enlightenment and Brand Manager of the Nazi Party

It is also very like the commercial branding used by Josef Goebbels and the Nazi party. Also back in the 1990s, the SF author William Gibson wrote a novel, in which the central character has such a gift for branding and marketing that they feel physical pain when exposed to products or material, which have a very strong, brand identity. There was some controversy over the book because of a passage, in which the character talks about the Nazis having a very strong brand image. Talking about the book on BBC Radio 4’s arts show, Front Row, Gibson said that the passage was inspired by his own experiences in Vienna. He had been wandering down one of the Austrian capital’s side streets, and came upon a shop selling Nazi memorabilia left over from the Anschluss and the Third Reich. Gibson noted how branded it all was, with every article carrying Nazi insignia, including the notepaper. Unfortunately, Gibson was right. The Third Reich was very careful in the construction of its corporate image and that of its numerous subsections.

From 1930-33 the propaganda section of the Nazi issued detailed instruction regarding the slogans, images and themes that should appear in their posters, leaflets and party papers. The following directions, signed by Goebbels, were issued in preparation for Presidential elections of March-April 1932

‘(a) Reich Propaganda Department to all Gaue and all Gau Propaganda Departments.
… a striking slogan:
Those who want everything to stay as it is vote for Hindenburg. Those who want everything changed vote for Hitler.

(b) Reich Propaganda Department to all Gaue and Gau Propaganda Departments
… Hitler Poster. The Hitler poster depicts a fascinating Hitler head on a completely black background. Subtitle: white on black – ‘Hitler’. In accordance with the Fuhrer’s wish this poster is to be put up only during the final days [of the campaign]. Since experience shows that during the final days there is a variety of coloured posters, this poster with it completely black background will contrast with all the others and will produce a tremendous effect on the masses … .

(c) Reich Propaganda Department
Instructions for the National Socialist Press for the election of the Reich President
1. From Easter Tuesday 29 March until Sunday 10 April inclusive, all National Socialist papers, both daily and weekly, must appear in an enlarged edition with a tripled circulation. Two-thirds of this tripled circulation must be made available, without charge, to the Gau leadership responsible for its area of distribution for propaganda purposes… .
2. From East Tuesday 29 march until Sunday 3 April iniclusive, a special topic must be dealt with every day on the first page of all our papers in a big spread. Tuesday 29 March: Hitler as a man. Wednesday 30 March: hitler as a fighter (gigantic achievements through willpower, etc.). Friday 1 April. Hitler as a statesman-plenty of photos…
3. On Sunday 3 April at noon (end of an Easter truce), the great propaganda journey of the Fuehrer through Germany will start, through which about a million people are to be reached directly through our Fuehrer’s speeches… The press organisation is planned so that four press centres will be set up in Germany, which in turn will pass on immediately any telephone calls to the other papers of their area, whose names have been given them….’

From Nazism 1919-1945 – A Documentary Reader, 1: The Rise to Power 1919-1934, edited by J. Noakes and G. Pridham, (Exeter: University of Exeter 1983) 73-4.

And commercial companies were all too willing to exploit Hitler and the Nazis’ powerful brand. After Hitler seized power in 1933 under the Enabling Law, numerous German companies began marketing their products using the Fuehrer’s image. There was even a brand of sardines or smoked mackerel – I forget which – called ‘Gute Adolf’ – ‘Good Adolf’. The Italian Fascists were also no slouches in this direction. The manganello, the club Mussolini’s squadristi used for beating up their enemies, also appeared in advertising and other popular art, sometimes even as baby’s rattles.

These are simply the totalitarian expression of Jon Woodcock’s concern for his department’s brand image, taken to its most grotesque and extreme extent, and similarly used by regimes intolerant of dissent and desperate to compel the masses to give them their absolute and unthinking support.

Woodcock’s and Twitter’s censorship of @UKJCP should be a national scandal. It is, after all, another assault on free speech by a corrupt and intolerant regime that is seeking every opportunity to stifle it through legislation like the gagging laws. It also shows the way corporate branding in the hands of government departments is becoming totalitarian in its scope and basic attitudes.

The Appropriation of Anarchist Doctrines in Fascist Italy and Cameron’s Conservatives: Philip Blonde, Kropotkin and ‘Red Toryism’

August 10, 2013

I’ve blogged previously about the way Cameron’s Conservatives have adopted Rothbard’s Anarcho-Capitalism but without its Libertarian basis as part of their campaign to create an extremely authoritarian, Neo-Liberal state. This parallels the way Mussolini also used the anarcho-syndicalist elements in the Fascist movement and party to create a totalitarian dictatorship, which actively oppressed the workers and violently attacked any kind of socialism. A further example of Cameron’s attempts to appropriate and utilise anarchist ideas is Philip Blonde’s ‘Red Tory’ ideology. Blonde is Cameron’s political mentor. In his book, Red Tory, Blonde is very positive towards the great 19th century Anarchist, Peter Kropotkin. Kropotkin was a Russian scientist, whose study of the flora and fauna in Siberia convinced him that Darwin’s idea of the ‘Survival of the Fittest’ (actually a term coined by Herbert Spencer), was wrong, and that co-operation between organisms was the driving factor in evolution. He was an Anarcho-Communist, who fundamentally believed in essential human goodness. One of the arguments directed against Kropotkin’s anarchism was that he was actually too optimistic about human nature. If humans really were as benign and co-operative as he believed, it was argued, then why would you need a revolution against the capitalist order. Blonde is similarly favourably inclined towards other, libertarian socialist movements in the 19th century. He also draws on the history of paternalistic Tory reformers, such as Lord Shaftesbury and the Factory Acts, to try to present a kind of left-wing Conservatism. This tries to show that the Tories can and will pass legislation that will benefit and protect the working class from exploitation.

This libertarian socialist strand of Conservatism was immediately contradicted by the coalitions own policies on taking power. Instead of showing themselves to have any real sympathy for the poor and working class, the Tories and Lib Dems immediately passed legislation curtailing welfare benefits, legal protection for employees, and the exploitation of the unemployed for the benefit of big business. The speed at which they put all this into practice suggests that for all the socialistic ideals presented in Red Tory, Cameron and Blonde were never serious about them. It was instead a propaganda move intended to win a section of the working class away from Tony Blair and New Labour.

Something of the kind still appears to be going on in parts of the Conservative party. Despite the Conservative’s attempts to limit and discourage union membership, one of the Conservatives, Carswell, appears to have embraced them as a potential force for Conservatism and possibly as the cornerstone of authentic working class culture. Less than half of trade unionists vote Labour, and Carswell has, apparently gone every year to various trade union events. At the same time, he is extremely hostile to state welfare provision. My guess is that he’s trying to co-opt the unions for the Tories in an attempt to further break the Labour party from divorcing them from their original base. Quite what he thinks the place of the trade unions are in a Conservative political system, I can only guess. In the early part of the last century the unions were hostile about the establishment of the welfare state because they handled part of the bureaucracy for the workers’ health insurance schemes. Carswell may well be thinking that he could sell Conservatism to the unions this way, by making them responsible for their members welfare, rather than the state. He may also wish to create a system of trade unions that were compliant with the orders of the factory masters, such as the ‘yellow’ trade unions in 19th century Germany and Austria, or the Conservative trade unions of the 1970s.

I think the unions would be extremely foolish, however, if they were taken in by his ideas. The Labour party was formed by the unions, in conjunction with the socialist societies, in order to promote legislation protecting the working class and the engagement with working class issues in parliament. The Conservatives have been consistently hostile to this with successive administrations from Edward Heath onwards passing legislation intended to break their membership and power. As regard the Conservative trade unions themselves, these were dissolved by Thatcher herself. Their leader was left embittered, and declared that the Tories were on the side of the industrial exploiters. Which is what his counterparts on the Left had been saying all that time.

Gun Rights in 19th Century Britain: A Left-Wing Cause

July 7, 2013

The issue of gun rights – the right of the individual to bear arms, as stated in the American 2nd Amendment, is today pretty much the preserve of the Conservative Right in America and Britain. There are some Democrats and Radicals, however, who support the individual’s right to arm him- or herself against tyranny. In 19th century Britain, however, gun rights were supported and demanded by radical members of the disenfranchised working class.

Peter Hitchens on Contemporary Politics and the British Empire

After the last shooting tragedy in America, Peter Hitchens’ posted his views on the issue on his blog on the Mail on Sunday webpage. Hitchen’s is very much a man of the Right, having rejected his youthful Trotskyite Marxism and moved across the floor to Conservatism. He is also a staunch defender of Christianity, unlike his late brother, Christopher, who was a militant New Atheist. Nevertheless, politically Hitchen’s is very much his own man. He heartily despises David Cameron for his rejection of tradition, Conservative marriage and sexual morality. He frequently derides him as ‘Mr. Slippery’ for Cameron’s electoral duplicity and lack of any consistent morals. Some of his views seem to be those of the traditional Left, or Butlerian Conservatism, rather than modern Cameronite post-Thatcherism. He had opposed the sale to the private sector of council houses and the railway network, and objects to private policing and prisons on the grounds that only the state has the moral authority to prosecute and punish crime. Many of his views are eccentric and highly controversial. He believes that we should have stayed out of the Second World War, for example. In his view this would have allowed us to preserve our national independence and Empire against the supranational, unaccountable misgovernment of the European Union. I believe he is profoundly mistaken in this. In one of his articles from the 1930, George Orwell describes watching a parade of Black African troopers in the French army in Morocco. Orwell describes the troopers’ expectant looks as they saluted the watching White officers. He stated that at that point, he knew what every white man there was thinking, ‘How long can we keep on fooling these people?’ The break-up of the British Empire was partly a product of Britain’s economic exhaustion and near-defeat by the Axis during the Second World War. Nevertheless, the independence movements in Africa and particularly India predate the War. Modern historians of the British Empire have pointed out that the Empire was actually an economic drain on Britain after c. 1900. In many ways the Second World War merely accelerated a process that had already began, rather than caused the break-up of the Empire.

Peter Hitchen’s on Gun Ownership

However strange or peculiar Hitchen’s views are, they are always historically informed. According to Hitchen’s, 19th century Britain had an attitude towards the freedom to buy arms that makes modern Texan legislation look positively effeminate. The licensing of firearms was only introduced in the 1920 when governments feared a possible revolution. I don’t know, but this sounds about right. The 1917 Russian Revolution had been accompanied by radical revolutionary campaigns throughout Europe. A soviet revolution broke out in Germany in 1919, comprising independent radical Socialists and anarchists, which then gave rise to a full-scale Communist insurrection in German, Austria and Hungary. Italy in the same period saw ‘Red Week’ and the invasion of the factories, again by radical Socialists. Even after these were put down, the situation was still very unstable politically, with militant anti-democratic movements of both Left and Right. These included the Nazis in Germany, and the seizure of power by Mussolini’s Fascists in Italy. It was against the rise of these violent, paramilitary movements, including the British Union of Fascists, that the government introducing legislation banning uniformed political organisations. My guess is that the restriction on firearms ownership was part of this legislation.

19th Century British Chartism

In 19th century England, the right to own guns and other weapons was demanded by the ‘physical force’ Chartists, militantly campaigning for the franchise to be extended to the working class. Government at that time was strongly aristocratic, and the franchise was very much restricted to the landed aristocracy and gentry and the middle classes. Poverty, disease and squalor were common. Working hours were long, and conditions appalling. Fourteen hours days were the norm. One German writer in the 1820 in Bavaria said he knew young people in their 1920s who already looked like old men, so worn out were they by hard work. Chartism was an attempt by the working class to gain the right to vote and political freedom against this background of hardship and inequality. Led by the London cabinet-maker, William Lovett and Francis Place, a master tailor, the movement’s charter, from which it took its name, had six demands:

1. Votes for all men over 21.
2. No property qualifications.
3. Annual parliaments.
4. Equal Representation (which meant that all electoral constituencies were to be equal in size)
5. Payment of MPs
6. Vote by ballot.

Chartism and the Right to Bear Arms

Beyond the Charter, the movement could be extremely diverse with no uniform political philosophy. Most Chartists were laissez-faire economic liberals. Some were Socialists. There were Christian Chartists, who combined a radical programme of political democracy with worship of the Lord in their own chapels. There was also a division between ‘physical force’ Chartists, who were prepared to use violence to advance their gaols, and the more respectable ‘moral force’ Chartists, who believed that only logic and rational persuasion should be used. Among the ‘physical force’ Chartists were Joseph Rayner Stephens and R.J. Richardson. Stephens was a radical Methodist minister from Ashton-Under-Lyne, who had been disowned by the Methodist Conference for his views. He exhorted working men to take up arms to defend their constitutional rights against a brutal, centralizing authority. R.J. Richardson, who came from Salford, joined him in his demands. In 1839 he gave a lecture to the Chartist National Convention ‘to show the advantage and propriety of arming the people as the best guarantee of the liberties of a country’, citing authorities as diverse as Aristotle, Queen Elizabeth and Dr. Johnson.

Decline of Chartism and Hitchen’s View of Gun Ownership

Chartism declined after the middle of the century from a number of causes. Partly this was ridicule, as the monster petitions of millions of signatures presented to parliament by the Chartists to secure constitutional reform consisted mostly of forged signatures, like ‘the Duke of Wellington’ and ‘Queen Victoria’. Another cause was the rise in living standards as the economy expanded and legislation improved housing and working conditions. Lastly, successive legislation enlarging the franchise, culminating in that of Disraeli’s Conservatives, gave nearly all working men except the very poorest the vote, thus making the Charter obsolete. Nevertheless, its history does show that in the 19th century the right to bear arms was a demand of the revolutionary Left, rather than the Conservative Right as it is today. As for Hitchens’ view of gun ownership, he stated that in his view you should have the right to own one, but having seen what they did to the human body, you shouldn’t really want one.

Christianity, Secularism and European Peace

June 24, 2008

In one of his comments to my original blog post on the Soviet Persecution of the churches, Robert claimed that European peace was strongly linked to the growth of secularism and the decline of Christianity, stating ‘European peace is positively correlated with the spread of secularism and the decline of Christianity.’ This is an extremely debatable claim, as it seems to assume that the peace Western Europe, at least, has enjoyed since the end of the Second World War is the product of the growth of secularism, if not atheism, and that religion, and particularly Christianity, is somehow responsible for war and violence. This claim can be criticised on a number of points.

Firstly, it’s an important philosophical point that correlation is not causation. One can suggest a number of factors that may have created greater social and political stability in Europe that could lead to a decline in religious belief and international peace in Europe as a whole, without atheism or secularism being the direct cause of either of peace or the political and social stability both nationally and internationally that created it.

Economic Deprivation and Underdevelopment as the Cause of Military Aggression and War

Western Europe, along with North America and Japan, is economically the most prosperous part of the world, despite economic stagnation and challenges from the rapidly expanding and developing economies of India and China. One of the classic causes of social and political instability is economic decline and hardship. A lack of jobs, and thus the means for people to support themselves and stave off starvation, can lead to political instability and violence as nations turn to radical ideologies to provide solutions to their economic and social problems. The Nazi party in Germany appealed to the electorate by promising work and bread on their election posters, and achieved their greatest successes at the ballot box after the catastrophic Wall Street Crash threw the global economy into chaos and millions throughout the world out of work. In such a political climate of economic deprivation and threat, radical parties like the National Socialists were able to make great electoral gains by promising radical solutions to the country’s economic and political problems, including the use of force, violence and brutality against those they claimed, both within Germany and internationally, were responsible for her problems. The result was the emergence of the Third Reich in 1932/3 , characterised by the imprisonment and murder of the regime’s political and religious opponents, as well as those who were considered a danger to it or its racist objectives because of their religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or physical or mental disability. The Nazis attempted to create a new, stronger, more powerful Germany through the conquest of central and eastern Europe and the exploitation of its resources, which were considered to form the key to global power generally, while those nations and states at the periphery of this area, such as Britain, were considered to be in a process of eventual decline through lack of access to this area and its natural resources.

The Russian Revolution and Italian Fascist imperialism were similarly strongly influenced by the lack of economic development and progress in these nations compared to the more economically developed and prosperous nations elsewhere in Europe. Lenin, for example, believed that Russia had been deliberately held back and exploited by the capitalists of the more developed nations. He therefore appealed to the Russian working class to support Communism and the Bolsheviks’ programme of economic and social development by destroying international capitalism’s hold over the nation with the slogan ‘Smash capitalism at the weakest link’.

Although usually considered to be at the opposite end of the political spectrum to Communism, Italian Fascism also had its basis in revolutionary Socialism, though this was anarcho-syndicalism, rather than Marxism, and Mussolini’s regime similarly used arguments based in the ideology of the radical left to support its campaign of military expansion and annexation. The Fascists declared that Italy was a ‘proletarian nation’ lacking the economic development and prosperity of other countries like Britain and France, and so deserved the resources of an empire, such as both of those powers possessed, in order to take its place as leading modern nation. Thus the Fascist regime justified its invasion of North Africa, Abyssinia and Eritrea, as well as its annexation of Albania and parts of Greece in Europe as part of Mussolini’s campaign to create a new, Roman empire.

Economic Success and Improving Conditions Supporting Democratic Peace in Italy and Greater Openness towards West in Russia

The collapse of the former Soviet Union created massive economic and political dislocation in the former Soviet bloc, including widespread poverty in the former Soviet Union itself as the change to capitalism saw inefficient factories and concerns closed, throwing millions out of work, and pensions destroyed over night as the rouble became valueless. Observers of the contemporary Russian political scene, such as the British journalist Jonathan Dimbleby in the recent BBC TV series, Russia, have expressed grave concern about the increasingly authoritarian, anti-democratic nature of the regime and general political climate. Nevertheless, Russia remains a capitalist state open to outside investment, and a far more peaceful attitude to Western Europe at least than under the former Soviet Regime.

Italian politics has been notoriously unstable, which has resulted in a process of political fragmentation in which a large number of small parties have emerged to compete for power, compared with the two and three party systems of North America and Western Europe. Governments have frequently fallen due to corruption, while the country has also been subject to terrorist atrocities by both the extreme Left and Right. Despite this, the Italian economy has developed considerably, so that while explicitly nationalist parties have emerged to play a major role in Italian politics, such as the Allianza Nazionale, which became a partner in Enrico Berlusconi’s coalition regime, Italian politics is still democratic and there is little popular demand for the rejection of democracy and the use of military force to increase Italy’s stature in the international community or develop her economy and society.

Nationalism as Cause of War and Stable Borders as Strong Factor for Peace

Of course, nationalism has also always been one of the major causes of violence and war. Many of the wars in the 19th century were nationalist conflicts, such as the campaigns of Greece and the other Balkan nations to gain their freedom from the Ottoman Empire, and Poland and the other nations in central Europe to gain their independence from Germany, Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The independence of many of these central European nations, like Poland and the former Czechoslovakia, was finally achieved after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire and the redrawing of European national boundaries after the First World War. The borders of many of the central and eastern European nations were similarly revised at the end of the Second World War, as Germany ceded large parts of its territory, such as Pomerania and Silesia, to Poland. Despite this, the national boundaries have, with the serious exception of the former Yugoslavia, been stable, though there are still continuing national tensions in the Balkans and the possibility of further warfare there. Nevertheless, in western Europe at least the question of national territories appears to have been settled. Where there is an increasing demand for independence amongst some nations, such as Scotland and Wales in the United Kingdom, there’s the expectation that this can be gained through the democratic process at the ballot box, rather than through armed insurrection and conflict.

European Peace Produced through Economic Prosperity, Lack of Nationalist Tensions and Desire to Avoid Another War after World War II

Thus part of the reason for the fifty years of peace experienced by Europe after World War II is the lack of economic and nationalist motives for war amongst the various European nations. Indeed, the horrors of the War itself and the devastation it caused economically, socially and politically left Europe exhausted and acted to turn public opinion against war and the use of military force. Of course this does not mean that these nations became pacifists, or that they ceased to wage wars against their enemies. The British fought a series of wars against nationalist rebels, such as the Mau Mau in Kenya, and the French in their turn fought militant indepence movements such as those in Algeria. Nevertheless, after the carnage of two World Wars, the military did not have the same glamour it possessed during the heyday of High Victorian imperialism. Within Europe there was a strong emphasis on international co-operation and rapprochement as a deliberate attempt to prevent the horrors of the Second World War occurring over again.

Post-War Peace in the West Product of Necessity of Creating Alliances against Threat of Soviet Expansionism

The division of Europe between the western and Soviet blocs also helped create peace in Europe. In the West, Britain and other European nations, with the exception of France, banded together with America and Canada to form NATO in order to protect themselves against the threat of invasion from the Soviet Bloc. In eastern Europe, the Communist nations formed a similar military alliance, the Warsaw pact, while the massive political control of these nations and their subordination to the Soviet Union effectively presented an economically and politically united bloc confronting the liberal, capitalist societies of the West, rather than each other. If there is an explicitly atheist cause for peace in this situation, it’s probably through the atheist nature of Communism and the Communist bloc’s suppression of freedom and independence in the member states, rather than through atheism necessarily making western Europeans less militaristic.

European Secularism Produced by Greater Prosperity and Social Stability Creating an Emphasis on This-Worldly Concerns in European Attitudes

There are numerous sociological and ideological reasons for the secularisation of Europe over the past century, many of which are outside the scope of this article. However, it’s possible that the increased prosperity and social stability in post-war Europe was partly responsible for the decline of organised religion in the continent. Material prosperity and social stablility undoubtedly helped to create an emphasis in European culture on the concerns of this world, rather than the other worldly focus of traditional religion. For many Europeans it could appear that it would be possible to find satisfaction and fulfillment on Earth through human rational social and technological developments and planning, without the assistance of the Almighty. Religion could be seen as irrelevant to more pressing earthly concerns, such as the pursuit of one’s own pleasure and interests.

Secularism Produced through European Spiritual Crisis, Prosperity and Loss of Confidence in Traditional Western Culture after World War II

Furthermore, the carnage of the two World Wars also created a spiritual crisis in many Europeans. The fact that European civilisation had created the mechanised slaughter of millions, including the planned, industrial-scale genocide of the Holocaust and similar campaigns to eradicate other peoples and minority groups, such as Gypsies, Slavs, homosexuals and the disabled, during the Third Reich discredited traditional European culture in the eyes of many European intellectuals. The appearance of the Affluent Society in the 1960s produced a feeling of dissatisfaction with traditional European politics and society amongst young people, and particularly with the traditional ruling classes who were viewed as out of touch and obsolete. For many Europeans this rejection of traditional authority necessarily included the church, which was criticised because of the support parts of it had given Fascist regimes and because of its central place within traditional European culture and as the guardian and promoter of traditional European morality. This morality had been severely compromised and discredited by the horrors committed by Europeans in the Fascist regimes, and the moral authority of the European powers to govern their colonies in Africa and Asia was successfully challenged as these nations gained their independence. Away from the political sphere, the Churches’ traditional moral stance, particularly on sexuality, was criticised as repressive, if not actually oppressive. Prosperity and security helped encourage Europeans to seek to gratify their desires immediately on Earth, rather than adopt the moral restraint advocated by the Church, which was attacked as oppressive and hypocritical.

European Peace and Secularism both Products of European Prosperity and Stability

Thus the material prosperity and social stability Europe achieved after the War helped to produce both the long period of peace and the increased secularisation experienced by its nations. While undoubtedly some of those who became atheists after the War did become active in various peace movements and initiatives, the main causes of European peace lay in these social and economic developments, rather than being directly produced by the growth of either atheism or secularism in Europe.

Religion as Cause of War

Robert’s implied claim that European peace was produced by the growth of secularism further suffers from its assumption that religion, and specifically Christianity, is a major cause of war. Now clearly religious differences have resulted in tension between different faiths, tensions that have resulted in violence and armed conflict. In British politics the most obvious example of this was the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland, though this could also be viewed as the result of centuries of conflict over Irish independence and its government by Britain, in which religion is one aspect of a larger question of national identity and political allegiance. Similarly, some religions do have an extremely martial character that has promoted warfare and armed conflict. In the ancient Norse religion, for example, men could only get into Valhalla, to feast and fight with the gods in preparation for the final combat with the forces of evil at the day of Ragnarok if they died in battle. Those who had the misfortune to die of natural causes instead went to the far less pleasant realm of Helheim, a cold and miserable place, though not a place of punishment and torment like the Christian Hell. One ancient Viking king was, however, so terrified of the prospect of going to Helheim through dying in bed that, as an old man, he and his elderly retainers deliberately fought a battle with the specific intention of being killed so that they could enter Valhalla. Thus ancient Norse paganism reflected and promoted the martial, warrior ethos of Viking society and its consequent positive promotion of violence and warfare.

Promotion of Peace and Attempts to Limit Warfare in Christianity

However, attitudes to violence and the morality and conduct of warfare may differ strongly between religions and different sects and denominations of the same faith. While Christianity as a whole did not reject warfare, and at times could have an extremely militaristic character, such as during the Crusades in the Middle Ages, nevertheless it also sought to promote peace and restrain violence. In this Christians have been guided and sought to put into practice Christ’s words in the Sermon on the Mount that ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’. Although Christians and the Church have engaged in warfare, this was subject to moral and legal constraints. Theologians and philosophers such as St. Ambrose, St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas formulated theories of the Just War, based partly on existing Roman law and the moral demands of Scripture, with the intention of limiting its violence and brutality. Warfare was adopted and promoted by Christianity purely as a means for combating evil, and violence for its own sake was explicitly condemned by the Church. St. Augustine himself condemned ‘the passion for inflicting harm, the cruel thirst for vengeance, an unpacific and relentless spirit, the fever of revolt, the lust of power’ and other moral failings in warfare. 1 Canon law during much of the Middle Ages required that soldiers do penance after battles because of the danger that they had fought from these immoral motives, rather than the higher morality demanded by the Church. Even those soldiers who were unsure whether or not they had actually killed anyone were thus required to do penance for 40 days after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. 2 Furthermore the chaos and bloodshed of the 16th and 17th century Wars of Religion resulted in Christians rejecting holy war because of the way Christians had attacked and persecuted fellow Christians during them. The result was that although religious freedom was very restricted in many Christian states, internationally nations rejected religious warfare. Indeed, the 16th and 17th century Wars of Religion, which included the French Wars of Religion, the revolt of the Netherlands, the Thirty Years War in Germany and central Europe, and the War of the Three Kingdoms/ British Civil War were the last time western European nations fought purely religious wars. Indeed, the British sociologist David Martin, in his book, Does Christianity Cause War?, noted that after these wars religion became merely an aspect of national identity, an aspect whose importance depended on the enemy being fought, but that wars were not fought in the name of Christianity itself or for the purposes of imposing a particular religious doctrine on the opposing side. 3

Proposal for International European Parliament by William Penn to Prevent War

Indeed, some Christian denominations, such as the Amish and the Quakers actively reject violence. William Penn, the great Quaker writer and founder of Pennsylvania, in his pamphlet arguing for religious toleration, A Perswasive to Moderation to Church Dissenters, in Prudence and Conscience, noted the constitutional arrangements granting freedom of conscience and worship in various European states to demand that Nonconformists receive similar toleration in England. 4 Rather than use warfare to settle their disputes, Penn instead urged that European states should instead solely use diplomacy. He thus proposed a plan for establishing European peace through the creation of an international parliament of European states that would meet annually to discuss and resolve disputes between the member states without resorting to military force. 5 In many ways Penn’s idea is a remarkable precursor of the contemporary European Union, and similar international bodies such as the United Nations.

Despite their aims of promoting peace and international harmony, the EU and UN have been the subjects of suspicion and criticism because of the threat they represent to national sovereignty and the national traditions of civil liberty in various member states. Critics of the EU, for example, have attacked its lack of democratic accountability and the financial corruption in some of its institutions, as well as its bureaucracy, inefficiency and bizarre official policies that can place some states at a disadvantage and leave them resentful of the benefits granted other, sometimes more powerful states.

19th Century Largely Peaceful Period in European History

Even if a single, international organisation governing the affairs of its member states is not as popular or as powerful a guarantee of freedom and prosperity as early advocates of the idea like William Penn may have hoped, nevertheless European international politics during the 19th century, when religious faith was far stronger than today, was remarkably peaceful. It has been stated that

‘Perhaps no century since the fall of the Roman Empire has been so peaceful as that between 1815 and 1914. The widespread wars of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had culminated in the massive campaigns of Napoleon and his enemies. Nothing like this took place in nineteenth-century Europe.’ 6 Despite brief military expeditions by various European powers into Italy Spain and Greece, and a short war between Russia and Turkey in 1828, there were no major wars in Europe between Napoleon’s defeat and 1830. The period from 1830 to 1854 was similarly peaceful, until it was broken by the outbreak of the Crimean War. This was, however, confined to the Crimean peninsula and the nations involved maintained contact with each other through neutral Austria until peace was achieved in 1856. The wars of 1859 consisted of two months of fighting in northern Italy. Bismarck’s campaigns of 1864, 1866 and 1870 were very localised and only ever involved two great powers. The 1866 war was only seven weeks long, and the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 did not last for a year. 7

Peace in 19th Century Europe Produced by Deliberate Policy of Diplomacy in preference to War by European Statesmen

This long period of European peace was the product of the ‘Concert of Europe’, the system of diplomacy and alliances that had been created to oppose Napoleon, and its successors. It consisted of regular meetings of the great powers of Britain, Prussia, Austria, Russia and, after 1815, France, with the intention of preserving European peace. The 1815 peace treaties that formed the basis of the Congress system, as it came to be known, had been designed not only to reorganise and make secure the boundaries of the various European states, punish France and reward the victorious allies, but also to preserve from revolution Europe’s traditional, established order and religion. 8 The main concern of many of the statesmen involved in the Congress system was to promote their countries’ concrete political interests. Louix XVIII’s minister Talleyrand wished to return the various European states to their original borders before 1815 and advance France’s particular national interests in Europe. Metternich of Austria and Hardenburg of Prussia were both concerned to preserve their countries from revolution, while Britain’s Castlereagh hoped to create a balance of power in Europe so that Britain could consolidate her considerable imperial gains overseas. Despite the focus of the European powers on promoting their own national concerns, Alexander I of Russia sincerely hoped to create a lasting European peace, through creating a union with his fellow European rulers ‘as members of a single Christian nation.’ 9 This ideal of a union of Christian European powers did not survive Alexander’s death. 10

Attempts to Abolish War by British Liberal Politicians

Nevertheless the European powers, and particularly the British, hoped that diplomacy could preserve peace in Europe. The Liberals in Britain in particular were deeply concerned to avoid the suffering and economic damage caused by war. In 1856 at the Congress of Paris Lord Clarendon, the chief British plenipotentiary, presented a proposal for the complete abolition of war. Declaring that ‘the calamities of war are still too present to every mind not to make it desirable to seek out every expedient calculated to prevent their return’, he recommended that Article VIII of the peace treaty between Russia and Turkey, should be generally applied to settle all international disputes. 11 This clause stipulated that any country in dispute with Turkey should first attempt mediation through a friendly state before resorting to arms, and Clarendon hoped that the adoption of this as a general principle of international diplomacy would lead to European states settling their disputes through mediation rather than armed conflict. Clarendon’s proposal was made too late to become a formal part of the 1856 peace treaty, but it did become part of the treaty’s protocol and was signed by all the plenipotentiaries of the great powers present at the Congress. Despite continued British requests to the other European powers in the years immediately following the signing of the treaty that they should respect it and attempt a mediated settlement for their conflicts, it was never used to solve any of the major international crises of the time. The attempt to create a complete diplomatic solution to international disputes and abolish war was a complete failure. 12 Nevertheless the fact that it was attempted shows the genuine commitment to peace of the European powers involved, as well as their confidence in the ability of the diplomatic machinery established by the 1815 peace treaty to solve international disputes. 13

19th Century European Peace Maintained when Europe Far More Religious than Today

The 19th century system of international diplomacy catastrophically failed to preserve European peace in 1914, and the following decades saw the rise of aggressively militaristic, Fascist regimes that utterly rejected the 19th century goal of preserving and promoting peace. Nevertheless, despite its failure the attempts of contemporary European nations to maintain peace through diplomatic negotiation and alliances is clearly partly derived and developed from these 19th century attempts to provide a diplomatic solution for international disputes, rather than the use of military force. These attempts to create the diplomatic methods to prevent international conflict were made when Europe was far more religious than it is at present and by politicians who mostly, though not exclusively, shared the concerns of general European society to preserve and maintain religion. It could therefore be considered that the peace currently enjoyed by contemporary, secular European society was founded by 19th century people of faith.

Attempts to Create Peace often Led by People of Faith Inspired by Religious Convictions

It was not just in the 19th century that people of faith attempted to achieve internationl peace. In contemporary Europe as well many of the individuals who actively worked to promote peace were people of faith who were directly inspired by their strong religious principles. The 19th century Liberal Party in Britain was strongly informed by the Protestant, Nonconformist conscience with its concern for moral and social improvement, and in the 20th century Christian clergy and lay people were also involved in various peace movements. The chairman of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in Britain from 1958 to 1964 was the controversial clergyman Lewis John Collins. 14 The scientist and Anglican priest, Charles Raven, was an ardent pacifist and one of the sponsors of the Peace Pledge Union. He based his arguments for pacifism very much on his Christian beliefs and theological views, presenting them in hsi work, The Religious Basis of Pacifism. 15

Peaceful Personal Conduct Commanded by the Bible, and World Peace Traditional Subject of Christian Prayers

Pacifism remains the frequently controversial view of a minority of Christians, as most Christians would probably argue that in all too many cases evil can only be combatted through warfare and deserves the use of military force against it. Nevertheless Christians, regardless of their particular views on war, have prayed for peace in the world since the period of the Early Church. The Apostolic Constitutions, for example, amongst the prayers for the Church and its people also requests Christians to pray for world peace with the words

‘Let us pray for the peace and happy settlement of the world, and of the holy churches; that the God of the whole world may afford us his everlasting peace, and such as may not be taken away from us’. 16

This concern for peace is based firmly in the Bible. St. Paul in the Epistle to the Hebrews 13:20 describes the Lord as the God of peace, for example. 1 Peter 3:11 advises the Christian – ‘he that will love life’ – as they are described in verse 10 – to renounce evil and turn to peace with the words

‘let him eschew evil, and do good

let him seek peace and ensue it’ 17.

St. Paul in the Epistle to the Hebrews 12:14 also urges Christians to live in peace with everyone with the command

‘Follow peace with all men, and

holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.’ 18

Thus while the Bible does not necessarily reject warfare, it does command that Christians attempt to live in peace with their fellows and condemns violent behaviour. The Bible’s concern and encouragement of peace as a part of Christian morality directly contradicts Robert’s assumption that Christianity must somehow, by its very nature, promote violence and warfare, and that European society has therefore become more peaceful through its decline.

Conclusion: European Peace Product of Post-War Prosperity, Stable Borders, and Preference for Diplomatic Solutions by European Politicians rather than Secularism

Thus while the long period of European peace in the 20th century has also been a period of decline in the Christian faith, or its observance, neither secularism or atheism is the cause of this peace, as Robert’s comment implies. Rather the immediate causes of European peace have been stable borders, produced by the emergence of the nation-state in the 19th century, and the deliberate policy of European governments to settle international disputes by diplomacy rather than military force.

This policy became a necessity after the carnage and devastation of the Second World War, and the threat of war with the Soviet bloc after the establishment of the Iron Curtain. However, European governments and statesmen had preferred to solve their disputes through negotiation rather than force, though certainly not to exclude warfare, since the middle of the second decade of the 19th century. The system of international alliances and organisations that emerged after World War II with the deliberate intention of promoting international peace and curbing the military aggression or the territorial ambitions of the individual member states can be viewed as a development of 19th century great power diplomacy with its preference for negotiation. There is a major difference between the two diplomatic systems, however in that the architects of the ‘Concert of Europe’ believed strongly in national sovereignty and would have rejected the threat posed to it by supranational organisations like the EU. Nevertheless, even the EU has its predecessors in the proposal of Christian statesmen and theologians, such as William Penn, for a common European parliament of member states to maintain European peace and harmony. Europeans had ceased to wage war purely for religious reasons after the 17th century. The main cause of European warfare in the succeeding centuries was nationalism, of which religion was largely just one aspect. The system of great power diplomacy and alliances that constituted the Concert System, although far less radical than Penn’s plan for a common European parliament, was nevertheless established by statesmen and diplomats who generally viewed religion as essential to their nations’ wellbeing, and wished to preserve it as a vital part of their nations’ security. The preservation and maintenance of established religion from attack from political radicalism was therefore one of the major purposes in the attempts to establish and preserve European peace after the defeat of Napoleon.

European Peace Partly Caused by Christian Moral Doctrine

Furthermore, while Christians have committed horrific atrocities in terrible religious wars, such as during the Crusades and the Wars of Religion, Christianity has also viewed the Almighty as a God of peace. Christian morality required peaceful, non-violent personal conduct, particularly as stated by St. Paul and St. Peter. A number of Christian sects, denominations and individuals have been determined pacifists. While these have only been a minority, Christianity as a whole has attempted to place moral limits on warfare and its conduct through the development of theories of the Just War, and Christians have continued to pray for peace in the world since the Early Church. While undoubtedly the various peace movements and initiatives that appeared in the 20th century were by no means confined to people of faith, nevertheless they have also included Christian clergy and laypeople. The peace Europe has enjoyed for the last half-century is thus partly the product of the attempts of Christians over the centuries to limit war and promote peace.

Secularism Product of European Peace, Stable Borders and Economic Development

It may be considered that the success of European governments and diplomats in establishing a largely peaceful, stable Europe may be one of the causes of European secularisation. International stability within Europe, as well as increased material prosperity and rising standards of living have led Europeans to adopt a far more this-worldly attitude to life, often to the exclusion of traditional other worldly religion. Thus national prosperity and international peace, as well as ideological challenges from secular philosophies, may have contributed to secularisation and the attitude amongst some Europeans that religion, or religious observance, is unnecessary.

20th Century Totalitarianisms Example of Possible Dangers to Peace from Rejection of Christianity and Christian Moral Support for Peace

It’s a very flawed attitude. The great totalitarianisms of the Left and Right that emerged in the 20th century did so partly as a rejection of Christianity, and traditional Christian morality. Fascism in particular celebrated warfare for its own sake, in direct contradiction to Christian theology and morality. In their attempts to impose their own ideas of the perfect society on their subject peoples, these regimes murdered millions. Terrible atrocities have been committed by Christians in the name of their religion, yet European attempts to create a genuine, just peace owe much to Christianity. The horrors committed by the extreme Left and Right during the 20th century show how peace too can suffer once the traditional moral views supporting it, based on Christianity, have been rejected.

Notes

1. St. Augustine, cited in Vincent Carroll and David Shiflett, Christianity on Trial: Arguments against Anti-Religious Bigotry (Encounter Books, New York 2002), p. 90.

2. Carroll and Shiflett, Christianity on Trial, pp. 90-1.

3. David Martin, Does Christianity Cause War? (Oxford, Clarendon Press 1997), cited in Carroll and Shiflett, Christianity on Trial, p. 95.

4. ‘A Perswasive to Moderation to Church-Dissenters, in Prudence and Conscience: Humbly Submitted to the KING and His Great Council’ in William Penn, ed. Edwin B. Bonner, The Peace of Europe, the Fruits of Solitude and Other Writings (London, J.M. Dent 1993), pp. 187-223.

5. ‘An Essay towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe, by the Establishment of an European DYET, PARLIAMENT, or Estates’, in Penn, ed. Bonner, The Peace of Europe, pp. 5-22.

6. Harry Hearder, Europe in the Nineteenth Century 1830-1880, Second Edition (London, Longman 1988), p. 154.

7. Hearder, Europe in the Nineteenth Century, p. 153.

8. Esmond Wright, ed., History of the World: The Last Five Hundred Years (Middlesex, Hamlyn 1984), p. 406.

9. Wright, ed., History of the World, p. 386.

10. Hearder, Europe in the Nineteenth Century, p. 155.

11. Hearder, Europe in the Nineteenth Century, pp. 155-6.

12. Hearder, Europe in the Nineteenth Century, p. 156.

13. Hearder, Europe in the Nineteenth Century, p. 156.

14. ‘Collins, Lewis John’, in The New Illustrated Everyman’s Encyclopedia, vol. 1 (London, J.M. Dent and Sons 1985), p. 370.

15. ‘Charles Raven’ in Geoffrey Rowell, Kenneth Stevenson and Rowan Williams, eds., Love’s Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest for Holiness (Oxford, Oxford University Press 2001), p. 612; Charles Raven, ‘The Religious Basis of Pacifism’, in Rowell, Stevenson and Williams, eds., Love’s Redeeming Work, p. 613.

16. F. Forrester Church and Terrence J. Mulry, The MacMillan Book of Earliest Christian Prayers (New York, Collier Books 1988), p. 61.

17. 1 Peter 3:11 and 1 Peter 3:10 in the Holy Bible, King James Version (London, Collins), p. 242.

18. Hebrews 12: 14, in the Holy Bible, King James Version, p. 235.