History of the World Crisis

Lecture 2: 
War Literature

Translated by Juan R. Fajardo, 1998

(Delivered to the “Gonzales Prada” People’s University,
at the Peruvian Student Federation hall, Lima, on June 23, 1923.)


Author’s Notes:

War literature. The press, martial instrument. Its toxic function. Its quality of capitalist instrument. Its lack of high moral directions. The myth of Civilization’s against Barbarism. “The novel ends; history begins,” said Bernard Shaw. In tempo di guerra piú bugie che terra.

Economic causes of the war: development of British industrialism and the development of German industrialism. The economic war between England and Germany. The struggle for markets, for colonies. Effects of protectionism in the European countries’ economies. The role of international finance. Capitalist groups’ rivalries. Then, how a policy of economic co-operation and solidarity could have avoided the catastrophe. Demography has an important place in the origins of the war. Adrian Tilgher’s words: page 106 of “The World Crisis.” In one century the European population went from 180 to 450 millions. Industrialism stimulated population growth. Reduction in the three causes of depopulation: plague, hunger, war. Germany, cut-off, could not feed 70 million inhabitants. Italy could not remain neutral.

Political causes: The process of the war’s causes, according to Bernard Shaw. The traditional policy and position of England, an island power. The development of Germany’s naval power. England, France, and Belgium have and understanding. The Franco-Russian alliance. Anglo-French secret military intelligence. The violation of Belgian neutrality saved England from embarrassment. But there is information and antecedents which establish the type of agreement which exists between England and France. If England had truly wished to avoid the war, says Shaw, it would have needed only to announce that it would fight alongside the nation which was attacked. The hypothesis of a noose, of a trap. More believable is the hypothesis of the impossibility of the English government’s revealing its military agreement with France. Thus, from this point of view, the war turns out to be a consequence of French diplomacy.

Another cause: French revanchism, German Deuschland uber alles. European nationalism, in short. Psychology of the French petty bourgeoisie and of the German bureaucracy. Germany felt dispossessed next to the privileged nations. Poincaré. The Kaiser. The Tsar. Lloyd George’s words in the British Parliament; page 39 of Cailleaux’s book.

Another cause: armed peace. The powers’ balance. There existed in Europe a flammable atmosphere.

The diplomatic cause: the assassination of the Austrian heir. The war could have broken out earlier. In the instance of the Russo-Japanese War and of the Agadir incident of 1912. Words from Viviani to Rapoport: page 33 of the latter’s book.

Contrast of capitalist organization. It needs international solidarity as a condition of life and promotes nationalism in opposition to class struggle. How a people is moved to war. The novel, “Clarté.”

Absolute war and relative war. War of nations and war of armies. The myth of democratic war. The direction of public opinion in England, in Italy, Austria, and Russia, insofar as there was no ideal which could unite the people behind their respective governments’ military enterprises.

The behavior of the socialist parties and of the syndicalist organizations. The Second International’s position. The Stuttgart and Basle declarations. The technical issue of how to avoid the war was left to the Vienna Congress which was to meet in 1914. Before then, the war arrived. Müller’s mission in France. The death of Jaurè. Gustave Hervé’s case.

Above the conflict. The manifesto of 93 German intellectuals. The countermanifesto by Nicolai, the physiologist, by Einstein, the physicist, by Buek, the philosopher, by Foerster, the astronomer -- the latter surprised by the 93 intellectuals. Romain Rolland.

Let the proletariat meditate over the causes of this great tragedy. Let it think about how a few men and few interests have been able to unleash a war which has caused fifteen million deaths, which sown Europe with hatreds, which has destroyed so much economic wealth, and which has deleteriously poisoned the moral atmosphere of Europe. And, let the proletariat tell itself if it is worthwhile to rebuild capitalist society, bourgeois society, so that in forty or fifty years, perhaps sooner, the world will again be lit up in another conflagration and another butchery take place.

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