Posts Tagged ‘Social Democratic Party’

The Discreet, Poisonous Corporatism of the Labour Party Quitters

February 19, 2019

Yesterday, a group of seven MPs formally split from the Labour party. Now going independent, this glittering array of third raters, has-beens and deadbeats were supposed to form the nucleus of this new, shiny Blairite ‘centrist’ party that has been mooted for the past year or so. The group included such luminaries as Gavin Shuker, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Chuka Umunna, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey. They were all Blairites, who had been trying to overthrow Corbyn or undermine his leadership since he was elected head of the party. Or else had been threatening to quit.

Comparisons have been made to the Labour split in the 1980s which saw the notorious ‘gang of four’, including Roy Jenkins and Shirley Williams form the short-lived Social Democratic Party. They ended up shortly forming an alliance with the Liberals before finally merging with them to form the Liberal Democrats. At the time there much verbiage in the press about the SDP ‘breaking the mould’ of British politics. It didn’t happen, despite the TV critic Clive James in his Observer column sneering at Tony Benn, who said that support for the SDP had peaked. But, as Zelo Street has pointed out, the comparison also doesn’t do the Quitters any favours in another way. Some of the MPs, who formed the SDP were actually first rate politicos. As Home Secretary in the 1960s, Roy Jenkins oversaw some profound changes in the liberalization of British society. Like the partial decriminalization of homosexuality, for which, among other things, he’s still bitterly resented by the Tory right today. Reading Shirley William’s 1979 book, Politics Is For People, it’s clear that she did have a powerful mind with strong, distinct views on how socialism should improve British society and industry.

This bunch, by contrast, don’t seem to have any distinct views or anything more to offer than rehashed, warmed up Blairism. Before their website crashed yesterday, Zelo Street was able to get on it and read what they had to say. Which seemed to be a lot of flannel. More fine-sounding words about democracy which didn’t actually come down to meaning very much. The website said

Our primary duty as Members of Parliament is to put the best interests of our constituents and our country first. Our free media, the rule of law, and our open, tolerant and respectful democratic society should be cherished and renewed. We believe that our Parliamentary democracy in which our elected representatives deliberate, decide and provide leadership, held accountable by their whole electorate is the best system of representing the views of the British people. Zelo Street remarked that the first part of this statement, about cherishing and renewing free media, rule of law and democratic society doesn’t actually mean anything, while the second – about parliamentary democracy being the best method of representing the views of the British people – is just what every MP in the House believes.

But what the group really stands for is best shown by the group’s legal organization and its members’ very cosy relationship with private enterprise. The group’s website was set up in 2015 in a tax haven. The new party actually isn’t a party. It’s been registered as a private corporation, Gemini A, which means that it doesn’t have to identify its backers. This also, apparently, makes it exempt from the spending restrictions on campaigning which apply to genuine political parties.

And then there’s Angela ‘People of funny tin…’ Smith’s connection with private water companies. Smith is chairman of the all-party water group, which is mainly funded by private water companies like Wessex Water and Affinity Water. Talking to Smith on This Morning Yesterday, Ash Sarkar pointed out that her group were some of the very few people left, who still believe in water privatization. She predicted that people would like at Smith’s leadership of the group and say, ‘You know what, that stinks of corruption’.

Sarkar isn’t going to be wrong either. The Canary in their article on this pointed out that 83 per cent of the population want the water companies to be renationalized. And Blair’s very strong links to private industry were very heavily criticized when he was power. Blair was a corporatist, who gave business leaders and senior management key positions in government in exchange for donations. This whole, nasty web of corporate links was exposed by the Groaniad’s George Monbiot in his book, Captive State, which lists various businessmen and the government positions Blair gave them. Even at the time Blair’s government was notorious for doing political favours in return for donations, as Blair did for Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One magnate, in return for something like a million pounds of corporate dosh.

‘Bevan Boy’ described what other Blairite policies this crew probably also stand for in this tweet, quoting by Mike in his article on them:

What will this new “Centrist” party stand for?
More Austerity?
Rampant marketisation & uncontrolled capitalism?
Neoconservative Thatcherism?
I suspect all of the above under a pro EU banner. The policies are being rejected & thank Christ they are.
We need a socialist LAB govt!

And what the splitters really think of democracy is shown by the fact that none of them actually want to hold a bye-election and give their constituents a say in whether they want them to represent them in parliament. It’s been pointed out that only one per cent of voters say that they actually vote for the individual MP, rather than the party. But these avowed democrats really don’t want to give their constituents the opportunity to decide whether they want to keep them as their MP or whether they want to elect someone else.

Which is what you could expect from a group that includes Luciana Berger. Berger, or should that be Lucrezia Borgia?, was facing a vote of no confidence from her local constituency. She then declared that they were bullying her, and demanded Jenny Formby expel the constituency party from Labour. Formby told her that she had no cause to do this and refused.

But Borgia, sorry, Berger, has carried on whining about bullying and intimidation nonetheless. Just as all the Quitters have moaned about anti-Semitism. The truth is, anti-Semitism is not the reason they’re splitting. It never has been. It has only been a convenient stick with which to beat Corbyn and his supporters. In fact anti-Semitism in the party has fallen under the Labour leader. It is lower in the Labour party than in the others and in the general British population. And the anti-Semitism accusations against him and the majority of those accused are nothing but contrived smears.

The real truth is that Berger, Umunna, Shuker, Leslie, Smith, Coffee and Gapes are corporatist anti-democrats. They wish to hang on to power against the wishes of their constituents, in order to promote the power of private corporations. Just as Mussolini and Hitler promoted private industry and gave it a seat in government and the management of the economy in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.

For further information, see:
https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/02/18/mps-split-off-from-the-labour-party-voters-say-good-riddance/

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/02/18/mps-split-off-from-the-labour-party-voters-say-good-riddance/

http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/02/the-independent-group-on-way-out.html

https://www.thecanary.co/trending/2019/02/18/ash-sarkar-takes-down-a-resigning-blairite-mp-so-brutally-a-bbc-host-intervenes/

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Labour Rebels Want to Create Party within a Party, and Corbyn’s Response

July 31, 2016

Mike’s put up two pieces reporting and commenting on the plan of unnamed Labour rebels to set up a separate party within the Labour party against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

It was reported in the Mirror and Torygraph that senior Labour rebels were so convinced that Corbyn would win the leadership, they want to create virtually a second party, with its own shadow cabinet and leader. They would also issue a legal challenge to get control of the Labour party’s name and assets, and would petition John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, to nominate them as the official opposition.

Mike comments that the idea seems ‘hopelessly naive’. He makes the point that if they did carry out their plans, they would disrupt opposition to the Tories, and convince the majority of Labour members and supporters that they are really ‘Red Tories’ – Conservatives in disguise. Any attempt to gain the party’s name and assets would fail without the support of the majority of members. Mike also notes that they are also making a huge assumption that the majority of their rebel MPs would stay with them, when one of them, Sarah Champion, has already recanted and re-joined the Corbynites. He also notes that none of the leaders of this supposed plot have had the courage to reveal their identities, thus demonstrating once again the cowardice that has led their detractors to call them the ‘Chicken Coup’. And without knowing their identities, for all we know the story may have been made up by the Mirror and Torygraph. He concludes by stating that the only thing this will do is undermine Owen Smith’s own bid for the leadership.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/30/contempt-for-democracy-labour-rebels-plan-to-start-their-own-party-within-a-party/

Later yesterday Mike also put up a piece from the Groaniad, reporting Corbyn and McDonnell’s response to news of the plot. Corbyn said

“We are getting into some fairly bizarre territory here where unnamed MPs, funded from unnamed sources, are apparently trying to challenge – via the Daily Telegraph, very interesting – the very existence of this party.”

He stated that the Labour party was founded by pioneers, brave people, and that under the registration of parties act, they are the Labour party. There isn’t another, and he was very proud to be the leader of the Labour party. He also stated that it was nonsense that his leadership could cause a split, as membership had doubled since he became leader, and activity had increased.

McDonnell urged Smith to condemn the minority of MPs supporting his campaign, who were trying to subvert the election and damage the Labour party. Smith, when asked for a comment, said he refuses to indulge in gossip.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/30/bizarre-labour-rebels-can-never-steal-the-partys-name-and-assets-corbyn/

The Labour party has suffered a series of splits over its century-long history. Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation, which was one of the Socialist groups involved in the foundation of the party, later split away in the 1920s to form, with other groups, the Communist Party. Keir Hardie’s ILP also split, to carry on as a radical Socialist party. One of its most distinctive policies was a complete rejection of the wages system. Outside the Labour party it very swiftly declined. The last time I heard anything about it was thirty years ago, when I found a copy of its magazine/ newsletter in Cheltenham Public Library.

The most recent and notorious of the splits was that of the SDP in the 1980s, formed by the right-wing Labour MPs Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins and David Owen. They claimed to be ‘breaking the mould of British politics’, and Owen at the 1987 election told the party faithful to go back home and prepare for government. There was then, almost inevitably, a Tory victory. Screaming Lord Sutch later offered Owen a place in his Monster Raving Loony Party, saying cheekily that if Owen had joined them, he would be preparing for government. The SDP forged an alliance with the Liberals, and the two eventually merged to become the Liberal Democrats. They have also signally failed break the mould of British politics, despite the Guardian telling everyone to go out and vote for them at the 2010 elections. As for Owen, in the 1980s he was so desperate for power that at one point he even offered to support the Tories in a coalition, just as thirty years later Clegg decided to get into bed with Cameron.
And the SDP were also influenced by the neoliberal ideas of the Chicago School. Ann Soper, their Shadow Education Minister, was a fan of Milton Friedman’s ideas for school vouchers, which parents could use either on state education, or private.

If such a split did occur, it would be extremely unpleasant indeed. The wrangling about party assets and name could take years to settle. The vast majority of grassroots members would depart, and stay with Corbyn. And I’ve no doubt that rather than establishing themselves as the ‘official’ Labour party, the coup plotters would find the British public turning their backs on them as treacherous and untrustworthy intriguers. They’d decline into another rump party, while Corbyn’s faction would probably expand. They might also go the same way as the SDP, and try to join the Liberal Democrats after the number of their MPs declined past a certain point, no doubt all the while grumbling about ‘unelectable’ Corbyn being somehow responsible for the misfortunes they had all brought down on themselves.

Thomas Sowell on Marx and Engels’ Support for Democratic Socialism

July 6, 2016

Sowell Marx Cover

For just about everyone born after the Russian Revolution, and particularly after the horrors of Stalin, Chairman Mao, Pol Pot and a myriad other dictators, who have claimed to govern on behalf of the workers and peasants, Marxism has appeared quite contrary to democracy. Marx and Engels stood for violent revolution, and their theories provided the basis for oppressive, oligarchies ruling through mass arrests, terror and murder.

Marx on Democracy

Thomas Sowell in his brief book on Marx and his theories, Marxism: Philosophy and Economics (London: George Allen & Unwin 1985) shows that while Marx and Engels certainly did not disavow violent revolution, and despite his sneers about it, like his quip that democratic capitalism was merely a case of ‘deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to misrepresent the people in parliament’, took democracy very seriously, and believed that Socialism could be achieved mainly through the victory of Socialist parties at the ballot box. He writes

To the French workers in 1870, on the eve of the uprising that produced the Paris Commune, Marx advised against an uprising as a “desperate folly” and urged instead: “Let them calmly and resolutely improve the opportunities of Republican Liberty.” He closed with the motto: ” Vive la Republique.” A quarter of a century later, Engels wrote in a similar vein that “the government came to be much more afraid of the legal than of the illegal actions of the workers’ party, of the results of election than those of rebellion.” In Britain, according to Marx, “the gradually surging revolt of the working class compelled Parliament to shorten compulsorily the hours of labour.”

Democracy was seen as a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for freedom. (p. 142).

The Dictatorship of the Proletariat Does Not Justify Dictatorship

He warns the reader not to read back into Marx’s discussion about the dictatorship of the proletariat – the period in which the working class will govern society before the achievement of true Communism – the all too real dictatorships of Stalin and its counterparts in eastern Europe and Asia. Sowell writes further

The Communist Manifesto described “the first step in the revolution” as being “to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy.” In a preliminary draft for the Manifesto, Engels declared that a Communist revolution “will inaugurate a democratic constitution and thereby, directly or indirectly, the political rule of the proletariat.” the use of the phrase “dictatorship of the proletariat” – in Marx’s sense – is little more than a paraphrase of these statements

Between capitalists and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of one into the other. There corresponds to this also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

In his correspondence, Marx asserted that “the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat, which in turn represents a “transition” to a classless society. How is this compatible with “winning the battle of democracy,” as mentioned in the Communist Manifesto? Because “the democratic republic,” as Engels explained, is “the specific form of the dictatorship of the proletariat.” Just as in a capitalist state “wealth exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely”, so in a workers’ state the numerical superiority of the proletariat turns democracy in form to a class dictatorship. Marx’s contemporary, John Stuart Mill, agonised over precisely this point. The democratic republic under capitalism becomes the arena in which workers struggle to wrest political control from the capitalists. Once this is accomplished, then under socialism it is the workers’ state that exists as long as any state is necessary -i.e. until the “withering away of the state”. (p. 143).

The Revolution Could Be Peaceful

He notes that Marx admired the Paris Commune, because he believed it had universal suffrage, an open society, freedom of religion and separation of church and state, and a non-militaristic viewpoint. (p. 144).

On revolution, he quotes Engels as saying ‘the abolition of capital is itself the social revolution’, and later, at the end of his life, that ‘the bourgeoisie and the government came to be more afraid of the legal than of the illegal action of the workers’ party, of the results of lections than of those of rebellion.’ (p.148). Engels was also aware that it was extremely rare for civilian rebels to overcome an army in street fighting. (p.149). He also believed that violence was more likely to be started by the capitalists than by the workers.

The irony of world history turns everything upside down. We, the “revolutionists”, the “over-throwers”, – we are thriving far better on legal methods than on illegal methods and overthrow. The parties of Order, as they call themselves, are perishing under the legal conditions created by themselves … And if we are not so crazy as to let ourselves be driven to street fighting in order to please them, then in the end there is nothing left for them to do but themselves break through this fatal legality. (p. 149)

Democracy Draws the Working Class into Politics

He also quotes Marx as admiring democracy under capitalism for drawing the masses into politics and political discussion:

The parliamentary regime lives [according to Marx] by discussion: how shall it forbid discussion? Every interest, every social institution, is here transformed into general ideas, debated as ideas; how shall any interest, any institution, sustain itself above though and impose itself as an article of faith? The struggle of the orators on the platform evokes the struggle of the scribblers of the press; the debating club in parliament is necessarily supplemented by debating clubs in the salons and the pothouses; the representatives, who constantly appeal to public opinion, give public opinion the right to speak is real mind in petitions. The parliamentary regime leaves everything to the decision of majorities; how shall the great majorities outside parliament not want to decide? When you play the fiddle at the top of the state, what else is to be expected but that those down below dance?

Rejection of Terrorist Conspiracies

Marx and Engels contrasted the democratic nature of the Communist League, which had elective and removable boards, which ‘barred all hankering after conspiracy, which requires dictatorship, with revolutionary secret societies of Louis Blanqui and his followers. He stated that such conspiratorial small groups – such as those which Lenin would later advocate in his book What Is To Be Done? were “the fantasy of overturning an entire society through the action of a small conspiracy.” (pp. 150-1). He also notes that Marx did not see the workers as being automatically paragons of virtue from the very beginning, or would have to be led by a group of elite leaders. (p.151). Again, this is very in contrast to Lenin and his theories in What Is To Be Done? Engels said

The time of surprise attacks, of revolutions carried through by small conscious minorities at the head of unconscious masses, is past. Where it is a question of a complete transformation of the social organisation, the masses themselves must also be in it, must themselves already have grasped what is at stake, what they are going in for with body and soul. (p. 152).

He also notes that Engels did not abandon the possibility of armed revolution where the aims of the ‘workers’ party’ could not be achieved through democracy. And he also notes that Marx was quite happy for terror to be used against ‘hate individuals or public buildings that are associated only with hateful recollections’. Engels, however, had a much more critical attitude. He said

We think of this reign of people who inspire terror on the contrary, it is the reign of people who are themselves terrified. Terror consists of useless cruelties perpetrated by frightened people in order to reassure themselves. (p. 153). It’s advice that far too few self-confessed Marxist regimes put into practice.

What makes this particularly interesting is that Margaret Thatcher tried to have legislation passed to ban Marxists from having positions in academia. Furthermore, radicals like Noam Chomsky point out that America did have a tradition of working class, left-wing politics, under this was destroyed by the anti-Communist hysteria of the Cold War. In all fairness, Thatcher and the Cold Warriors had a point, in that the Communist Party founded by Lenin was based on the monopoly of power by a small, revolutionary coterie, who jailed and persecuted their enemies, with horrific brutality. But many Marxists actively opposed them. Rosa Luxemburg was bitterly critical of the Bolshevik coup and the suppression of political freedom in the USSR. So was Karl Kautsky, one of the leading figures of Austrian Marxism, who occupied the centre of the country’s Social Democratic Party, the main Socialist party, and which today roughly corresponds to the Labour party in Britain. Kautsky wrote pamphlets and articles attacking the Bolshevik coup, and supported the break-away Menshevik regime in Georgia.

There are very many problems with Marxism, ranging from its rejection of eternal, objective moral values, to its conception of history as based on the class struggle and the Hegelian dialectic, as well as its materialism. But it also provides material for a democratic socialism, as against totalitarian tyranny and mass murder.

Farage: Britain Should Never Have Signed Armistice, and War Should Have Gone on for Another Six Weeks

November 13, 2014

While the rest of the UK on Tuesday was remembering the dead of the Great War, Nigel Farage was giving a speech stating his opinion that it should have gone on for longer. Even if this meant that a further 100,000 lives were lost. Farage made this bizarre and offensive claim speaking at the annual Tom Olsen lecture at St Bride’s Church.

His comments have been reported by a number of news agencies, including the MSN news. The anti-racist organisation, Hope Not Hate has an article on it, Armistice was the biggest mistake of the 20th century claims Nigel Farage, at http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/ukip/armistice-was-the-biggest-mistake-of-the-20th-century-claims-nigel-farage-4120.

Hope Not Hate quote Farage as saying, “I believe we should have continued with the advance We should have pursued the war for a further six weeks, and gone for an unconditional surrender. Yes the last six weeks of the war cost us 100,000 casualties, and I’m prepared to accept that a further six weeks of war might have cost us another 100,000.”

He goes on to say that this would have stopped the rise of the Nazis, as it would have forced Germany to surrender unconditionally, rather than negotiate the Treaty of Versailles.

The Treaty of Versailles and the ‘Stab in the Back’ Conspiracy Theory

This is an extraordinary claim, and shows that Fuehrer Farage has quite a bonkers grasp of history. He has a point in that one of the reasons the ‘Stab in the Back’ conspiracy became so widespread, was because British and Allied troops did not enter Germany. This added credibility the conspiracy theory that Germany had lost the War due to the Jews betraying their country. The theory itself is total nonsense. Jews had been patriotic citizens of the Reich since the Kaiser had granted them full citizenship, including lifting the restriction against them serving in the armed forces. There had been a wave of Jewish enlistment in the German forces as a response, and German Jews fought with pride and honour alongside their gentile compatriots. It is one of the savage ironies of history that the captain, who recommended Corporal A. Hitler for the Iron Cross, was Jewish.

Conspiracy Theory due to News Blackouts on German Defeats

Just as influential in spreading the malicious theory was the fact that there was a total news blackout on German defeats. The German people were kept under the impression that the War was going well. It therefore came as a complete shock that Germany and Austria had been defeated. Even the Kaiser was ignorant of the true nature of German defeat. The general were taught that you didn’t tell the Kaiser about military defeats either. You only gave him good news. This may partly have been because Wilhelm II would fly into rage. I read somewhere that he had a habit of rolling them in the snow, or taking their trousers down and having them spanked. If nothing else, it shows you how absolutely mad and unfit for rule he was.

Ethnic Tensions, Not Treaty, Cause of Rise of Nazis

Arguably the problem was not the Treaty of Versailles itself, but the crippling reparations and conditions that it set. Germany was saddled with a massive war debt, though the Weimar politicians succeeded in having it considerably reduced later in the 1920s. The Reich itself lost territories at home and its colonies, such as Cameroon and Togo in Africa. The Poles, Czechs and Slovaks became free peoples with independent countries, along with the other Slav nations of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. The result was that ethnic Germans became a minority in some of the new states, like Czechoslovakia. There had been ethnic tension between Czechs and Germans since Germans were invited to colonise and develop their marginal parts of the country by the Czech crown in the Middle Ages. Hence the Nazis’ claims of the persecution of ethnic Germans in order to provide a pretext for the annexation of the Sudetenland. Polish independence was bitterly resented by the German nationalist Right. When Hitler later invaded eastern Europe, he justified it not by citing the Treaty of Versailles, but by arguing it was a continuation of the Drang Nach Osten, the German eastwards migration that had begun in the Middle Ages. He also claimed that Germany had a right to the territory of the Slav nations of eastern Europe, like the Poles, based on the argument that these areas had originally been occupied by the eastern Germanic tribes, the Goths, Burgundians and Vandals, before they were colonised by the Slavs sometime around the 8th-9th centuries. Modern scholarship has rejected this claim. The Vandals and Goths were indeed present in these areas, but they were just one element in vast tribal confederations that included many different ethnic groups. The main point, however, is that Hitler based his claim eastern Europe on spurious history, not the Treaty of Versailles.

Democracy Resented by Nazis as Imposed by Foreign Powers

The Nazis were also able to overthrow German democracy, because it was seen as a foreign imposition, alien to German nature. The political parties that signed the Treaty, the Social Democrats, Catholic Centre Party and the two Liberal parties, were denounced as ‘November criminals’ because they had done so. But it was democracy itself, as imposed by Britain and her allies, that was the true target of resentment. In one of his speeches, Hitler denounced democracy as a Jewish device to enslave the Aryan man. Utter nonsense, but it gained a kind of spurious validity because democracy had been created through the allied victory. This had forced the Kaiser and the Austrian emperor to abdicate.

The Occupation of the Rhineland and German Nationalist Resentment

Finally, the western powers did occupy parts of Germany militarily when they considered that the Germans were not meeting their obligations under the Treaty. The Rhineland contained Germany’s industrial heartland, the Ruhr. They were occupied by the French in 1924, after they believed that Germany was not paying its full share of reparations to La Patrie. Again, the presence of foreign troops in Germany could hardly have been welcome to the Germans themselves. I doubt very much that Allied troops would have been any more welcome to German nationalists, and indeed could have been a source of resentment, if the War had continued until the invasion and absolute collapse of Germany itself.

The Nazis arose not merely because of the Treaty of Versailles, but because of the sheer humiliation of defeat. Farage is therefore talking utter nonsense with the suggestion that the War should have continued and the Armistice not signed.

Further Fighting in War Unnecessary, Siegfried Sassoon

And let’s have no illusions about just how callous, and unnecessary further fighting would have been. I’ve blogged on here before about how Siegfried Sassoon came to his anti-War stance from his conviction that the War had been won in 1917, and that further fighting was simply unnecessary slaughter. As it stands, thousands died unnecessarily in the last few hours of the Armistice. The Treaty had been signed hours before, yet it set the time for the cease fire as 11 O’clock for symbolic reasons. The soldiers continued to fight right up to the very last minutes, useless deaths in order to win a peace that had already been achieved.

Farage states that he would have had the War continue, even if it cost a further 100,000 dead. That’s a colossal number in itself, but it’s only a fraction of the total number who were killed in the conflict: 14 million.

Farage Chickenhawk: Talks, but never Fought, in War

Conservative critics of Bush’s invasion of Iraq called Dubya and his fellow warmongers ‘chickenhawks’. They were men and women, who had never served in the armed forces themselves, and had no experience or understanding of the brutal reality of combat. They were perfectly happy to mouth off about war, and send others to their deaths in pursuit of American power and corporate profit, but had never, ever, risked their own lives for their country in combat.

Farage has the same attitude. It’s the mentality of someone, who sees himself as a commander, above the bloody, messy business of actually fighting in the trenches, in foxholes and mud and filth himself. It’s the same attitude of the out-of-touch generals, politicians and princes, who sent their citizens to die in pain, fear and misery, for military glory. It’s the attitude of a man, who seems to feel that victory for Britain was certain from the outset. All that was needed is to throw more men at it, and hang the consequences.

The Stupid Officer and the Sergeant Major

It reminds me of a story I heard from a re-enactor friend of mine. I used to do Dark Age re-enactment years ago. It was great fun, and I met some really interesting, great people. Several of them were former soldiers. I was talking to an ex-squaddie one day, who told me about the sheer, bloodthirsty stupidity of one of the officers he’d come across. The man came out on parade one morning, and declaring that his father had had a medal. He also wanted one, and blithely told his troops that he didn’t care how many of them died, as long as he got it.

The RSM was mightily unimpressed. He walked up to the commander, and told him, ‘I don’t think you ought to be saying that to the men, Sir.’

The commander was indignant, ‘What, what! How dare you say that to me!’

‘See me later about it, Sir’, said the Sergeant Major.

Later on the Sergeant Major explained, ‘I really don’t think you should say that to the men, Sir. If you say that again, they’re likely to shoot you. And if they don’t, I certainly will!’

Farage Vainglorious, Waster of Human Life

Farage has the same attitude as the officer in this tale. It’s one of the reasons why he should never, ever, be given power. Remember, if he becomes Prime Minister, he becomes Commander in Chief of the armed forces. And then God help us all.

The German Workers Who Struck For Peace

March 29, 2014

German War Corpse

Corpse of German trooper outside his dugout: a vivid image of the horrific carnage experienced by all the combatants in the ‘War to End All Wars’.

This year is the centenary of the beginning of the First World War. The BBC has already commemorating this by putting on numerous documentaries about the Great War, setting up on-line resources for schools so you can see what your particular bit of the country was like and did at the time. they’re also running trailers for forthcoming dramas where idealistic young nurses meet handsome soldiers in a saga of love amid the mass slaughter of the War. Documentaries about the World Wars are a staple of British television anyway. Dan Snow on the One Show has appeared several times striding across a World War I battlefield, while a few years ago Tony Robinson presented a Time Team special on the excavation of a system of WWI trenches in Flanders. Some of the coverage has already proven somewhat controversial. There was some comment a few weeks ago on television that something the BBC broadcast had provoked a complaint from the German embassy. There’s a difference of opinion here between German historians and the rest of the world. Most other nations see the War as being caused by Germany. German historians, on the other hand, believe that no single nation is to blame and that the growth of international tension and the web of alliances with which each nation surrounded itself led inexorably to the War. I really don’t know anything beyond the most general outline of events surrounding the First World War, and so leave it to people much better informed than I do to explain it.

One immediate result of the War was the break-up of international socialism. Previously the European Socialist parties had opposed working class involvement in any conflict between the European nations. For them, it would be a fratricidal conflict, as the working classes in each country had more in common with each other than with their rulers. The war would be a bourgeois war, started by the European ruling classes for their own further profit and enrichment, with the working class troops solely the exploited means by which they sought to do so. When the War finally broke out, however, the Socialist parties all over Europe joined the other parties in backing their governments.

Karl Kautsky, the head of the German Social Democrats, modified his party’s view of the conflict. He considered that Socialists in each country should now see the war only as defending their homelands. They should also campaign for a just peace, which would maintain the integrity of the defeated nations and avoid any cause for resentment on their part. This would prevent any further War from breaking out. He wrote

Further, the Social Democracy in every nation is obliged to consider the war only as a war of defence, and to set as its goal only defending itself against the enemy, not of ‘punishing’ or belittling the enemy. As this conception seeks the causes of the war not in the personal depravity or inferiority of the opponent, but in objective conditions, it will strive for the security which they conclusion of peace brings not by humiliating or mutilating its opponent, which would only cause new wars in the future, but by replacing those condition which led to the war – that is, imperialist conflicts and the armaments race.

Patrick Goode, ed. and trans., Karl Kautsky: Selected Political Writings (London: Macmillan Press 1983) 95.

It’s a pity that the Allies did not follow this advice when imposing the reparations and conditions on Germany afterwards. This could have removed some of the feelings of humiliation and resentment felt in Germany, feelings on which the Nazi preyed and used in their campaign to seize power.

Some Socialist parties continued to campaign against the War, such as the Bolsheviks in Russia, and the USPD – the Independent Social Democratic Party in Germany. One of those who campaigned against the War was the radical deputy, Karl Liebknecht, who went on to found the Spartacist League and the German Communist Party. There were also a number of strikes in Germany against the War. When Liebknecht was tried by a court martial for treason on the 28th June 1916, 55,000 workers went on strike in solidarity.

In April 1917 there was a much larger strike due to the government cutting the bread ration by a quarter. In Leipzig, the striking workers demanded in addition to the removal of their economic grievances the introduction of a direct, general and equal franchise, the removal of the state of siege, lifting of censorship, the release of all political prisoners, the re-instatement of the right to strike and hold political meetings. the government was also to make a declaration in favour of immediate peace without annexations.

On the 28th January 1918 a further mass strike broke out. In Berlin alone 200,000 workers downed tools and elected an action committee consisting of eleven Revolutionary Shop Stewards from The Turners’ union, and three delegates each from the pro-War Social Democratic and anti-War Independent Social Democratic Parties. Their demands included the

speedy conclusion of a peace without annexations and indemnities, on the basis of the nations’ right to self-determination, according to the provisions formulated by the Russian People’s Commissars at Brest-Litovsk.

They also wanted the removal of the state of siege and military control of the factories, the release of all political prisoners, the introduction of a general and equal franchise and a thorough democratisation of all institutions of the state. The strike spread rapidly to towns throughout Germany, including Munich, Mannheim, Brunswick, Bremen, Cologne, Hamburg, Kiel, Danzig (now Gdansk in Poland) Leipzig and Nuremberg. In all of these towns with the exception of Munich and Berlin the strike collapsed after a week. In Berlin Military Command suppressed it by placing the leading armaments factories under martial law. In Munich Kurt Eisner, one of the leading USPD politicians and opponent of the War, Kurt Eisner, was arrested before he could call for a general strike to bring down the government. The moderate Social Democrats were thus able to retake control and the Strike ended a few days later.

See F.L. Carsten, Revolution in Central Europe 1918-1919 (Aldershot: Wildwood House 1972) 14-15.

I’ve blogged about the bitterness caused by the First World War across Europe, and the anti-War poems of some of the soldiers, who fought in it, like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. Germany also has its great anti-War work from the time of the First World War, Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front. The original German title is Nichts Neues Im Westen – ‘There is Nothing New in the West’. It’s also a bitter comment on the belligerent nature of Western civilisation. I think it’s also important At this time to recognise that Germany also had its campaigners for an end to the War and for a just peace that would establish friendship between nations afterwards. It’s a point that could easily get forgotten in the programmes, documentaries and debates about the War during this centenary.