The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: 1914: how the bloodletting began. The discussion was initiated by Fred.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!
What a remarkable article Jens! A detailed and fascinating account of how World War 1 came about that is astounding to get to grips with and a real eye-opener on the incredible machinations of the bourgeoisie. It is an eye-opener too on the breadth of insight and understanding of Rosa Luxemburg, whose appreciation of the deeper significance of the war, and her proletarian analysis of the forces at work beneath the outward horror of it all is amazing stuff. The pity of war and the monstrosity of it all, and the way modern bourgeois writers can still avoid pinpointing the actual capitalist motivations behind it all, only work to emphasize how the actual real historical Marxist analysis of this awful event shines brightly through the lies and exposes them as such. Thank you Jens.
A very interesting piece which gives some important information about the run-up to the war that they certianly do not teach you in school.
A couple of points though: I am still not convinced that the comparison between the rise of Germany then and that of China now is apt; although it is true that the article does make several qualifications of the analogy.
On the issue of the "betrayal" of Social Democracy: Perhaps this is a little bit facile, but to what extent can we really say Social Democracy betrayed anything other than their rhetoric? Wasn't their support for the war (with notable exceptions) predicated on the role the various socialist parties had already come to play within their respective national states? In other words, hadn't they alrerady been integrated into the captialist state by this time? Maybe there really wasn't a betrayal at all and the support for the war was purely functional for both the interests of the parties themselves and the national capitals of which they already served? Of course, there still remained very many still committed to internationalism within these parties, but perhaps the parties themselves only did what they were called on to do by their respective states? Why was Social Democratic support for the war received as such a shock by so many on the left? Certainly, this had been expected by some.
On that note, there is a line in there about history calling up the kind of men that fit a particular siuation. I thought that was interesting and it bears some consideration as to why history called forth the most militarist factions of the bourgeoisie to fit the needs of capital, while it did not call forth the revolutionary forces the working class needed until after many years of war and slaughter. The logical conclusion of this kind of reasoning is that we only ever get the kinds of leaders we deserve. So why did the working class get reformists and traitors, while the bourgeoise got what it needed in warmongerers?
JK makes some interesting points though I don't agree with all of them.
On the question of whether the socialist parties betrayed or not, I think you have to distinguish two different things.
On the one hand, there is the very real process whereby the socialist parties and the unions are little by little integrated into the state apparatus. This certainly is well under way before 1914: one example which is mentioned in one of the first articles in the revolutionary syndicalism series is the law on "Workers' and Peasants' Pensions" in France (in 1906 if I remember right) - this was bitterly opposed by the most revolutionary elements in the CGT on the grounds that it would be fatal to allow the state such financial ascendancy over the workers organisations which had handled pensions up to then (they were right of course).
On the other hand, there is why the parties were founded: they were founded to be socialist and internationalist, and this was written into their programme. The German SPD after all started life as an illegal revolutionary organisation. And in my view you simply cannot understand what happened in 1914 unless you put it in the context of a struggle for the "soul" of the party between right and left. The socialist parties (and here we have to talk above all about the German SPD) contained both reformists that thought it was possible to work indefinitely within the framework of capitalism and revolutionaries who knew it was not (the whole point of Luxemburg's battle with Bernstein and her writing the Accumulation of Capital was to demonstrate the inevitability of capitalism's decadence against the reformists). So it would be wrong just to say that the SPD "already served" the national capital.
Jaurès is emblematic in this respect because he is that rare phenomenon, an honest reformist who was sincerely and wholly dedicated to the cause of the workers. His assassination, if you like, is symbolic of the end of a period.
At all events, we plan to take all this up in more depth later in the year.