First world war in a German novel


This German video is called Edlef Köppen · Heeresbericht [German title of Köppen's novel, called Higher Command in English].

By Clara Weiss in Germany:

Edlef Köppen’s Higher Command: An important novel on the First World War

8 July 2014

In recent years, Edlef Köppen’s novel about the First World War, Higher Command, has again become available in a number of formats in German. It has appeared as a hardback and paperback book, as an audio book, and as an e-book. The novel is also available free of charge in German from the Project Gutenberg web site. The book appeared in English in 1931 and has not been republished since then.

In view of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, Higher Command is very relevant reading.

The novel focuses on a 21-year-old student, Adolf Reisiger, who, like many others caught up in a surge of patriotism and enthusiasm for war, volunteers for military service in the summer of 1914. The novel describes his experiences: first on the Western Front in France and then on the Eastern Front for a few months, until he lives through the final defeat of the German army in the summer of 1918. By then, he has risen to the rank of officer, but all his initial enthusiasm for the war has evaporated.

Reisiger experiences the first gas attacks in France. At first, the soldiers regard them as just another of the military’s technical innovations. The first reports of gas attacks are dryly received as “a lot of fuss about nothing”, but the devastating consequences soon become apparent.

The novel’s senior-ranking German doctor, who shows the soldiers how to put on gas masks, assures them, “Of course, we adhere to the rules of international law, which have frequently enough been outraged by those swine over there, but we are making it as hot a hell for them as we can.” [Edlef Köppen, Higher Command (New York: J. Cape & H. Smith, 1931), p. 129]

A few pages later, Köppen languidly cites newspaper reports about a German gas attack on the French army: “The gas cloud swept over a sector of the front chiefly occupied by the French-Colonial Division between Bixschoote and Langemark, and spread terror and confusion in their ranks. 15,000 cases of asphyxiation occurred, of which 5,000 terminated fatally.” [p. 133]

Accounts of the mass slaughter during the war are conveyed in a simple and sober language. It is precisely this transparent narrative style that imbues the scenes of barbarity with such shocking force.

The description of one of the Allies’ cavalry attacks, for example, is as masterful as it is unsettling: “Machine-gun fire sprayed amidst the plunging horses, whose shattered stumps dragged along the ground. Shrapnels bursting in the air, then shells exploding on the ground, sheets of sulphurous flame, columns of brown smoke, jets of bleeding intestines as thick as a man’s arm, limbs and trunks of man and beast hurled skywards; such was the sight they witnessed all along the whole cavalry-front from Loos to the coal-dump.” [p. 198]

Reisiger and his comrades are increasingly unable to see any sense in the mass slaughter. By 1917, at the latest, the soldiers are war-weary to the point of exhaustion. In these months, Reisiger is transferred to the Eastern Front. Shortly before this, he has been promoted to an officer rank, although he has published pacifist poems in the left-socialist newspaper, The Action, in 1916. Now, on the Eastern Front, he witnesses the mass desertion of the Russian soldiers. The Soviet government, which came to power under the leadership of the Bolsheviks in October, brings the war to an end a few months later.

But even after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, whose harsh conditions were forced upon the Soviet government, the German government continues the war. Reisiger is again commissioned to the Western Front, where the German High Command hopes to deliver the Allies a crushing blow. As an officer he is involved in the preparation of the offensive in the summer of 1918, which ends in a devastating defeat for the Germans. The relative strength of the Allies, now reinforced by American troops, has grown to 7 million combatants, compared to 2.5 million on the German side.

After the German army is virtually overrun by the Allies, Reisiger deserts. He tells his superiors that the war was the greatest of all crimes and that he no longer wants to be part of it. On account of this, he is put into an asylum.

What makes Higher Command exceptional is that contemporary documents are woven into the narrative throughout the whole novel: excerpts from German newspaper articles, dedicated to maintaining the tide of war propaganda; statements from generals and Kaiser Wilhelm II; encyclopaedia entries; censorship ordinances; the call for peace, made by the Soviet government to the peoples of the world after the victorious October Revolution of 1917.

The battles, in which Reisiger participates, are not only reported from the narrator’s perspective; their horror and significance is enhanced by the inclusion of pertinent newspaper articles and quotations from historical works that were written later.

This technique enables the author to reveal not only the striking contrast between the propaganda and the brutal reality of a war that destroyed the lives of millions of people. The reader also gains a rarely communicated insight into the contemporary political and cultural climate.

This almost documentary character of the novel largely succeeds in making comprehensible the tremendous shock to the consciousness and world view of millions of soldiers and civilians during the war. Many soldiers as well as civilians believed the propaganda at the beginning of the war. But the brutal reality of front-line warfare, mass poverty, hunger and the despair of families left behind obliterated these illusions in the prevailing order.

The author, Edlef Köppen, was born in 1893 and, like Reisiger, fought in the war for four years. During the 1920s, he worked as a radio editor and published poems. He wrote his strongly autobiographical novel in the late twenties. It appeared in 1930, two years after Erich Maria Remarque’s famous All Quiet on the Western Front.

The onset of the global economic crisis in 1928 once again made the First World War a hotly debated topic in the Weimar Republic. In 1930, the book market began to be flooded with right-wing patriotic war novels, partly in response to Remarque’s anti-war book, of which hundreds of thousands of copies were sold in the first few years.

These circumstances, as well as the overwhelming popularity of Remarque’s novel, pushed Higher Command into the background. Nevertheless, the reviews were overwhelmingly positive. The German writer Ernst Toller wrote: “Köppen’s book must find hundreds of thousands of readers, in Germany and in all other countries.”

Although the work then appeared in English in 1931, it has never become as well known as other anti-war novels either in Germany or abroad.

The Nazis burned the book in 1933. Köppen was able to publish some works in Berlin newspapers under a pseudonym, but he soon withdrew—as did many oppositional intellectuals—into the film industry. He started to work with the TOBIS film producer, but came into serious conflict with the Nazis when the film producer was subordinated to Goebbels’s Propaganda Ministry.

Köppen refused to join the Nazi party and work on anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi films in the party’s programme. In February 1939, a few months before the beginning of World War II, he died from the lingering effects of a war injury at the age of only 46. His novel was largely forgotten. It didn’t appear again in German until the 1970s.

Although Higher Command is artistically different in every respect from All Quiet on the Western Front, it in no way falls short of the literary quality of Remarque’s famous novel. Under conditions in which the imperialist powers are again preparing for a world conflagration and the media are again beating the drums of war, Higher Command deserves a wide readership.

British anti-World War I Sassoon poem was censored


This video from Britain is called Suicide in the Trenches by Siegfried Sassoon: Read by Stephen Graham | Remembering World War 1.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Unpublished Siegfried Sassoon poems get first reading – and show anti-war sentiment was toned down before publication

Phrases like ‘you’re great at murder’ were later scratched from ‘Atrocities

Claudia Pritchard

Sunday 06 July 2014

Two unpublished poems by Siegfried Sassoon will be given a public reading for the first time today by the actor Samuel West, among them the first draft of “Atrocities”, in which Sassoon is much more direct about the visceral act of killing the enemy than in the later, published version.

Phrases that were later scratched include “you’re great at murder”. And the final lines, which the owner of the original manuscript, Annette Campbell-White, says finish “quite limply” with “still talking big and boozing in a bar”, contain the phrase “gulp their blood in ghoulish dreams”. Where Sassoon originally wrote “How did you kill them?”, he later revised this to “How did you do them in?”

Ms Campbell-White, a Sassoon specialist and collector, bought the poems at auction last year. “The war department or publishers thought that ‘Atrocities’ was a little too harsh, and so when it was published it was modified,” she said. At the time of the Bonhams sale she also acquired a large exercise book, Sassoon’s “daybook” from the 1920s, containing two dozen or so poems illustrated by the poet himself. Among them is a homage to Beethoven – “hail him heroic, honour him as great” – which West will also read at a music and poetry event in Buckinghamshire.

“The poems are very good. I am amazed they have never been published,” said Ms Campbell-White. “They are about all aspects of life, nature … a sort of poetic diary.”

Today’s event, called “Peace in Our Time?” forms part of the Garsington Opera summer season in a theatre in the grounds of the home of millionaire art collector Mark Getty, heir to John Paul Getty, at Wormsley, near High Wycombe. Garsington has an association with Sassoon through the socialite Lady Ottoline Morrell, owner of Garsington Manor from 1914 to 1928. It was at the manor that the operas were staged, from 1989 to 2011, before moving to Wormsley.

At Garsington Hall, which he visited regularly, Sassoon was encouraged by Lady Ottoline to take a stand against the way in which the First World War was proceeding. He had served with distinction until openly questioning the purpose of the war in 1917. He had received the Military Cross, but threw his medal into the Mersey. Only admission to the psychiatric hospital at Craiglockhart near Edinburgh spared him a court martial. He died in 1967.

Garsington was a haven for artists, intellectuals and conscientious objectors, including D H Lawrence and Lytton Strachey. Conscientious objectors, including members of the Bloomsbury circle, escaped prosecution by working on the farm there.

In 1917, Sassoon wrote a letter called “Finished With the War: A Soldier’s Declaration”. In it he said: “I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority because I believe that the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it. I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that the war upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them and that had this been done the objects… would now be attainable by negotiation.”

“Sassoon’s best poetry was written at the time of the war,” said Ms Campbell-White. “It was something to do with the stress, adrenaline and terror of that time that made the writing of the First World War poets so extraordinary. Sassoon remained a fine poet, but if Rupert Brooke, for example, had come back, what would he have become?”

Dave Sherry tells Tomáš Tengely-Evans he wants his new book Empire and Revolution to take on the elite’s attempt to whitewash the First World War: here.

Dutch nazis want new United States war in Iraq


This video is called WikiLeaks. Killing IRAQ قتل العراق WARNING Graphic War Footage.

Not only Tony Blair, George W Bush’s ex-United States Vice President Dick Cheney, and others responsible for the 2003 Iraq invasion which caused the present bloodshed, advocate, once again, war by the United States and its allies in Iraq.

While a big majority of people all over the world oppose that, they are not completely alone in this. In the Netherlands, ever since 1971, there is the neo-nazi party Nederlandse Volksunie. Its present fuehrer is Constant Kusters.

On a propaganda video, published 26 June 2014 on the NVU site (no, I am not linking to it), Kusters spoke on the present violence in Iraq. He claimed the solution was abolishing the present countries Syria and Iraq, and dividing them into apartheid Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish statelets. Looking at the partition of, eg, Yugoslavia in the 1990s, this is a recipe for bloody ethnic cleansing. Sunni, Shia, Kurdish, Christian, Yazidi, atheist, etc. etc. people, living in the ‘wrong’ ‘new Bantustan’ would then be killed or driven away violently.

Kusters claimed the way to arrive at this ‘solution’ was the United States armed forces waging war in Iraq once again ‘as they already have years of experience waging war there‘.

Sometimes, the NVU claims to be ‘against imperialism’. So, Kusters now exposes the spuriousness of that claim.

It reminds me of British nazi Daniel Lake of the BNP, sister party of the NVU.

As quoted in 2007 on this blog:

Daniel Lake first came to public attention in the run up to the attack on Iraq when he wrote a series of letters to the Swindon Advertiser, saying that everyone who opposed the war was a coward and a traitor, and that he intended to join the paratroop regiment so he could fight.

Chickenhawk, cartoon

Being called cowards caused some anger with the many ex-forces men and women who opposed the war, many of whom have faced enemy fire in the service of this country.

One old soldier, Allan Thipthorpe, who both opposed the Iraq war and had fought in Palestine during the mandate, offered to meet Daniel Lake, but Daniel didn’t have the bottle for it.

Anyway, despite mentioning his determination to join up more than once, time came and went, and Daniel noticeably stayed in Swindon, and did not enlist.

It seems he could be very mouthy when it was a question of sending someone else’s brother, husband or son to die in Iraq, but he wasn’t so keen on it himself.

Then lo and behold, in May 2006, Daniel was observed handing out BNP leaflets in Swindon saying that the BNP opposed the war in Iraq.

So Daniel, in his own terms was both a coward and a traitor?

One can also go back further in history. Hitler and Mussolini, Kusters’ historical rode models, sometimes criticized British or French imperialism. Meanwhile, Mussolini massacred many Africans in Libya and Ethiopia, Italian colonies then.

As for nazi Germany: prominent nazi Hermann Göring was the son of the governor of German South-West Africa (today: Namibia). The nazi paramilitary stormtroopers SA wore brown uniforms, originally intended for German soldiers in the colonies which Germany lost after World War I. In the 1930s, there was the Reichskolonialbund (Imperial colonial league), an organisation within the nazi party, aimed at reconquering the German colonies in Africa and Oceania. British Conservative Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was willing to return some African colonies to Germany; but not enough, according to Hitler, which contributed to Hitler starting World War II.

Revelations from the inquiry into British abuses in Iraq are the inevitable outcome of military adventures, writes IAN SINCLAIR: here.

Emperor Nero really had a revolving dining hall, archaeologists prove


This video is called The Life And Death Of Emperor Nero.

From daily Haaretz in Israel:

Nero’s revolving restaurant really existed, archaeologists prove

Haaretz gets an exclusive look at the reopened dig of the infamous Emperor Nero’s rotating dining hall in Rome.

By Ariel David

July 1, 2014 | 10:10 AM

Dormice drenched in honey and poppy seeds as an appetizer.

Roast boar stuffed with live thrushes for the main course, focaccia with cheese and Spanish honey for dessert, and a finale of fresh oysters and grilled snails. All washed down with wine aged for a century.

That’s only part of the decadent menu that the satirical writer Petronius reports could be sampled at a typical banquet hosted by first-century Roman elites.

It’s easy to imagine even more exotic delicacies gracing the table of an emperor when visiting the remains of what archeologists believe was one of the most peculiar and sophisticated structures of antiquity: the revolving dining room built by the infamous Nero. First uncovered in 2009 by a team of French and Italian archeologists, the building is now undergoing excavations and will be visible to the public after October, when the dig ends.

Haaretz got an exclusive tour of the site last month, as well as insight into the archeological detective work that went into identifying the building.

Mystery: The platform that should have collapsed

When they started digging on an artificial terrace created by Nero’s successors on the north-east corner of Rome’s Palatine hill, researchers certainly hadn’t been looking for a precursor to the modern revolving restaurant.

The platform was built after 70 CE, shortly after Nero was toppled in a revolt. His successors, the Flavian dynasty, were moving to consolidate their rule by building a new palace on the Palatine, the traditional seat of imperial power in Rome.

Modern researchers had puzzled over the area because surveys showed the retaining wall was too thin to hold the artificial terrace: the whole thing should have collapsed.

“It was a mystery that needed to be solved,” says Francois Villedieu, the French archeologist who leads the dig. “There had to be something big underground holding it all in place.”

What they found was a huge puzzle: a round, 12-meter-tall tower, with a massive central pillar of four meters in diameter and 8 pairs of arches supporting two floors.

“There was no other ancient building like it, nothing to compare it to,” Villedieu recalls. The strata it occupied and the building technique dated the tower to Nero’s time. But whatever it was built to support had been razed to make way for the new palace and erase the memory of the previous ruler, reviled as a cruel, corrupt despot and megalomaniacal builder who allegedly fiddled while Rome burned down in 64 CE.

The only clues to the tower’s function, along the top of the upper arches, were lines of semi-spherical holes, filled with slippery clay.

Primitive ball bearings and water power

Archeologists were reminded of cavities, filled with similar lubricants, that were used on large ships and harbor structures to contain primitive ball bearings, on which moveable platforms were mounted to transport heavy loads.

But what was such industrial equipment doing in what would have been part of Nero’s elegant palace, the fabled D[omus aurea] – the Golden House?

It was then that researchers recalled a description of the emperor’s palace by the Roman historian Suetonius, who wrote that Nero’s “main dining room was round, and revolved continuously on itself, day and night, like the world.”

Historians had long thought that Suetonius had exaggerated his description and that the coenatio rotunda was the round, frescoed hall located in another part of the immense palace, on the opposite Esquiline Hill.

But the discovery by Villedieu’s team is set to change that view. The mysterious cavities in the structure are believed to have housed metal spheres that supported a revolving floor.

At the bottom of the tower, archeologists also found indications that a mechanism had been built into the wall. The metal parts had been ripped out to be reused, but calcite deposits on the surrounding stones suggest that the floor’s constant movement may have been powered by water channeled through a system of gears.

The Sibylline inscription

Further evidence comes from a coin minted by Nero, which shows a tower similar to the one uncovered with two smaller structures on the side, and a Sibylline inscription that describes it as “MAC AUG.”

That second word refers to Augustus, the title that all Caesars took. As for the first abbreviation, some scholars think it refers to the m” or market of Augustus. But others, including Villedieu, believe the tall and narrow building on the coin does not look like a market, and the writing should be read as celebrating the “machina” – the machine of Augustus.

The discovery generated much debate and skepticism among archeologists, so much that it took years for Villedieu to gather funding to continue the dig.

“We don’t have definitive proof, but we have many convincing clues,” Villedieu told Haaretz.

Now, thanks to a prize that the project won in France and with the support of Italian officials, she hopes to find the building’s facade and the other structures depicted on the coin.

Maria Antonietta Tomei, an archeologist and former Culture Ministry official who supervised the dig on the Palatine, said the discovery of the dining room somewhat changes our view of Nero.

The emperor is known mostly through the writings of historians who belonged to the aristocracy and opposed him for his populist economic policies in favor of the poor and the expropriation of lands that belonged to the upper class to build his golden palace, she points out.

“Nero has a terrible reputation but he was a very complex character,” Tomei told Haaretz. “He was not just a negative figure.” And now, in hew view, the mechanical and architectural sophistication of his revolving dining room highlight his passion for science and technology as well as for the arts and culture.

Pro-peace views illegal in Germany?


This video is about a Japanese government politician, Taro Aso, who said Japan should follow Nazi Germany’s example to revive militarism.

By Christoph Dreier in Germany:

German politicians, media seek to criminalize opponents of war

30 June 2014

In recent months, President Joachim Gauck has been calling quite openly for a more robust German military presence in the world. This attempted revival of German militarism has been decisively rejected by a majority of the population. Politicians, the media and the public prosecution department are now organizing a campaign against opponents of war and preparing to launch criminal proceedings against them.

In line with this, the Facebook posting of a hitherto largely unknown Left Party politician has recently come under attack. Last Monday, 28-year-old Brandenburg state parliament deputy Norbert Müller referred to criticism of Gauck’s war policies made by a number of church pastors, and wrote on his Facebook page: “Some remain true [to their faith]. Others become federal presidents and obnoxious warmongers.”

The posting was seized upon by numerous media outlets and condemned for “defaming the president”. Such a denigration is a criminal offence in Germany, which—under Section 90 of the Criminal Code and on authorization of the federal president—can be punished with imprisonment for a term of between three months and five years. A spokesman for the Potsdam public prosecutor told Spiegel Online that the authorities were reviewing the case. On Wednesday, Gauck then sent word that he had not authorised the prosecutor to initiate proceedings.

On the same day, deputies of the Christian Democratic Union [CDU], Christian Social Union [CSU] and Social Democratic Party [SPD] tabled the Facebook posting as a topic for general debate in the Bundestag [federal parliament]. They also called on Left Party faction leader Gregor Gysi to state his position on the matter.

The faction leader of the SPD, Thomas Oppermann, called Müller’s remark an “incredibly abusive piece of criticism” and accused Gysi of being personally responsible. His “incredible blunder” arose from his “demagogic twisting of the president’s words”, according to Oppermann, and he concluded by associating the Left Party with the National Socialists. The SPD was taking Müller’s criticism seriously, “because that was the strategy the Nazis used against President Ebert in the Weimar Republic”, Oppermann said.

Gysi responded by distancing himself from Müller. Müller had “expressed himself incorrectly”, he said, and Gauck was not an “obnoxious warmonger”. “No party can be responsible for what every one of its members ever says,” Gysi declared. Left Party leader Bernd Riexinger also distanced himself from Müller, declaring that the current debate on war missions had to “be conducted completely objectively and with due respect for the dignity of the [president’s] office.”

The threats against Müller are instead being used to intimidate and criminalize all genuine opponents of war. It is an irrefutable fact that the president has for months been systematically promoting more vigorous international commitment on the part of Germany, explicitly including the use of military power.

Having calculated the probable media response, Gauck had expressed a similar view on the Day of German Unity in 2013 and at the Munich Security Conference at the beginning of the year. He declared in Munich that Germany was regarded internationally as a “shirker”, and it therefore had to be prepared to take more risks. Both speeches had been carefully prepared and coordinated with the federal government.

In the last 15 years, Germany has been involved in the wars against Serbia and Afghanistan, and it also provided the US with logistical support in the war against Iraq. The federal government co-sponsored the coup d’état in Ukraine, which was crucially supported by the brutality of the Svoboda and Right Sector fascists. Both the Serbian and Iraq wars were pursued without the legitimacy of the United Nations and were therefore in breach of international law, according to current legal norms. One would therefore have to ask whether Gauck, who is advocating more robust military engagement, is himself breaking the law.

The idea of exploiting the legal clause proscribing “defamation of the federal president”, in order to persecute opponents of war, continues established traditions in Germany.

The law of lèse majesté (insulting majesty) was used during the Wilhelmine Empire to intimidate opponents of rearmament. Between 1896 and 1907 alone, the Vorwärts social democratic newspaper documented 907 convictions under this law. A prominent example was the socialist and anti-war activist, Rosa Luxemburg, who was imprisoned in 1904 for accusing the emperor of incompetence.

After 1908, the clause on lèse majesté faded into the background. However, similar clauses relating to personal convictions were used to incarcerate pacifists and anti-war protesters. Shortly before the outbreak of World War I, Luxemburg was again imprisoned. This time she was charged with “incitement to disobey laws and ordinances of the authorities”. She had called for the exercise of conscientious objection.

With the revolution of 1918, the legislation limiting rights to contentious personal views was initially abolished. However, when Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau was assassinated by the far right in June 1922, the SPD, Independent Social Democratic Party [USPD], Catholic Centre Party and German People’s Party [DVP] passed the Law for the Defence of the Republic, which made denigration of the Republic, and its president, a punishable offence.

But this law was not applied against the extreme right. Instead, it was used as a political weapon against the Communist Party [KPD] and other left-wing groups. In 1924, two-thirds of convictions relating to the Law for the Defence of the Republic were handed out to Communists; in 1925 and 1926, all such convictions were. In 1925 alone, as many as 269 Communists were sentenced under this act.

When social contradictions intensified and rearmament was stepped up, the sentences meted out by the political justice system became even more savage. One well-known victim was the pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, who in 1931 was sentenced to 18 months in prison because he had written an article exposing the illegal rearmament of the Reichswehr [armed forces of the Weimar Republic]. Not long after his release, which came shortly before Hitler came to power, the Nazis threw Ossietzky into a concentration camp. He died as a result of the abuse he suffered there.

After the war, Section 90 of the Criminal Code, which makes “defamation of the federal president” a punishable offence, was adopted as one of the superseding clauses of the Law for the Defence of the Republic. Presidents Theodor Heuss and Heinrich Lübke used it primarily to combat critics who tried to expose their role in the Third Reich. In the last 20 years, the clause has hardly ever been used.

Whenever German imperialism returns to preparation for war, legislation limiting the right to personal political views also makes a return. The fact that the prosecution of opponents of war is being openly discussed in parliament and the media is a serious warning for the population.

United States conservationist John Muir, new video animation


This video from the USA says about itself:

24 May 2014

My first year film at CalArts in the Experimental Animation program – A short stop motion film exploring the writings and adventures of naturalist, author, and father of the National Parks, John Muir.

For more about John Muir: here.

Film by Ian Timothy

Voice of John Muir: Brad Wills

Music: Marianna Filippi

Puppet Costume: Lucia Tello

By Maren Hunsberger in the USA:

Green Life: Claymation Sensation: Artist Animates John Muir

Ian Timothy’s John Muir creation is only eight and half inches tall, with a posable wire skeleton, liquid latex skin, adorable tiny hand-sewn clothes, and a thick Scottish brogue. In Timothy’s latest gorgeous stop-motion video, the mini Muir recites some of his famous reflections on the beauty of nature while walking through forests made from old water bottles and papier mâché. This film comes on the heels of his Beaver Creek series, raising awareness about beavers as a keystone species, and Raptor Blues, which centers around the dangerous effects of rodent poison on raptors.

Archduke shot in Sarajevo, World War I started 100 years ago


This video says about itself:

Was World War I the error of modern history?

Oxford historian Niall Ferguson reviews the world’s oldest motives for war, and concludes in his book, “The Pity of War” , that World War I was unnecessary. (Originally aired November 2000).

By David North in the USA:

One hundred years since Sarajevo

28 June 2014

Today marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the event that triggered the outbreak of World War I. On a Sunday morning, June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand—nephew of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef and heir to his throne—was assassinated as his motorcade made its way through Sarajevo on the final day of a state visit to Bosnia. Despite the shocking character of the shooting, which also claimed the life of the Archduke’s wife Sophia, it was not expected that the killing of the scion of the Hapsburg dynasty would have particularly significant consequences.

However, in the course of July 1914 the crisis that followed the assassination steadily escalated. The response of the major European capitalist states was conditioned by tensions generated by conflicting geopolitical and economic interests that had been building up over the previous decade. The reactionary Hapsburg monarchy seized upon the assassination as a pretext for an attack on the Serbian regime, whose nationalist aspirations challenged the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s domination of the Balkans.

In Berlin, the regime of Emperor Wilhelm II gave the Austro-Hungarian government a green light to confront the Serbs with an all but unacceptable ultimatum that would lead to war. It took this action knowing that an Austrian invasion of Serbia would lead to an intervention by the Russian Empire to protect its interests in the Balkans. The German regime saw the prospect of a major war with Russia as an opportunity to establish its dominance in Eastern Europe and, thus, change the balance of power throughout the continent.

This prospect, however, frightened the ruling class in France, which had entered into an alliance with Russia to block the growth of German power. In the event of a war between Germany and Russia, the French bourgeoisie was convinced that it could not stand aside and accept a German victory. At the same time, the German regime had prepared, long in advance, detailed plans for an attack on France if war broke out with Russia.

The crisis led to a catastrophic denouement. By the first week of August, the major powers in Europe—Germany and Austro-Hungary on one side and France, Russia and Great Britain on the other—were in a state of war.

There have been countless volumes written analyzing the sequence of events that led from the assassination in Sarajevo on June 28 to a full-scale European war by the first week of August. Much of this literature has sought to establish which regime bore primary responsibility for the outbreak of war. But while the research has led to the discovery of important information related to the war aims of one or another government—such as, for example, the far-ranging ambitions of the German regime—the essential causes of the war require a deeper level of analysis.

The assassination in Sarajevo was no more than a spark that ignited the highly inflammable structure of European and international geopolitics. While it is possible that war might not have broken out in August 1914 if the Archduke had not been assassinated, some other event would have led—sooner rather than later—to a general war.

In fact, during the years preceding the outbreak of World War I, there had been a series of “war scares” arising from conflicts between the major capitalist powers over colonial and financial interests. The political climate of Europe had become increasingly tense. State spending on armaments had risen dramatically during the first decade of the twentieth century.

The growing socialist movement of the working class—under the banner of the Second International—became increasingly alarmed at the dangers posed by capitalist militarism. The potential for war between the “Great Powers” had emerged from the nature of the capitalist system. As early as 1902, the Marxist theoretician, Rudolf Hilferding, warned that the “sharpening of the struggle for the world market cannot remain without consequences for the foreign policy of the capitalist nations.” He noted that “increase in armaments, growth of the navy, internal reaction, violence and threats to peace in foreign relations, those are the necessary consequences of the newest phase of capitalist commercial policy.” [Cited in Discovering Imperialism: Social Democracy to World War I, edited by Richard B. Day and Daniel Gaido (Chicago, 2011), pp. 348-49]

As the decade progressed and the disastrous implications of imperialism became more and more apparent, the struggle against war was placed at the center of the work of the Second International. At its congress in Stuttgart in 1907, the Second International denounced colonialism, declaring that it “must lead to enslavement, forced labor, or the extermination of the native population of the colonialized regions. The civilizing mission that capitalist society claims to serve is no more than a veil for its lust for conquest and exploitation.” [Ibid, p. 28]

Five years later, at its Congress in Basel in 1912, the Second International issued a manifesto in which it declared:

If a war threatens to break out, it is the duty of the working classes and their parliamentary representatives in the countries involved… to exert every effort in order to prevent the outbreak of war by the means they consider most effective… In case war should break out anyway it is their duty to intervene in favor of its speedy termination and with all their powers to utilize the economic and political crisis created by the war to arouse the people and thereby to hasten the downfall of capitalist class rule.

But when the war broke out less than two years later, the leaders of the Second International repudiated their solemn commitment. On August 4, 1914, the largest and most politically influential section of the International, the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), voted to grant financial credits to the government, enabling it to prosecute the war. This act of political treachery marked the end of the Second International as a revolutionary force. The task of rebuilding a revolutionary International fell to those who opposed the capitulation of the Second International to the national ruling classes and to imperialism. Vladimir Lenin played the leading role in this struggle. His opposition to the war and defense of socialist internationalism laid the foundation for the victory of the socialist revolution in Russia in October 1917.

In opposition to all those in the Second International who justified their betrayal by absolving their own governments of responsibility for the outbreak of war, Lenin insisted that the war had grown out of the politics and economics of imperialism, and that all the governments were guilty. Subsequent research has confirmed Lenin’s indictment. Each government was determined to defend the global interests of the capitalist class of its own country. As one historian has written, “For virtually all of them, war was no longer the worst option.” [ The Arming of Europe and the Making of the First World War, by David G. Herrmann (Princeton, 1996), p. 226]

The World War was not an accident, the unintended result of policy mistakes. It arose inexorably from the contradictions of the capitalist system and the system of national states. Shortly after the war began, another revolutionary opponent of the betrayal of the Second International, Leon Trotsky, explained the historical significance of the war:

The War proclaims the downfall of the national state. Yet at the same time it proclaims the downfall of the capitalist system of economy…

The War of 1914 is the most colossal breakdown in history of an economic system destroyed by its own inner contradictions.

One hundred years have passed since Sarajevo. In the course of a century, humanity has passed through two devastating world wars that cost the lives of tens of millions. The innumerable local wars incited by imperialism since the end of World War II have cost the lives of tens of millions more. And now, yet another global conflagration is being prepared.

Mankind cannot survive another world war, which would inevitably be waged with nuclear weapons. Such a catastrophe must be prevented.