They Shall Not Grow Old, new World War I film


This 2018 video says about itself:

They Shall Not Grow Old – Official Trailer (2018)

A documentary about World War I with never-before-seen footage to commemorate the centennial of the end of the war.

By Paul Bond:

Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old: A devastating depiction of the horrors of war

15 November 2018

They Shall Not Grow Old ranks among the most poignant commemorations of the centenary of World War I.

New Zealand film director Peter Jackson’s extraordinary 99-minute documentary film combines archive footage, colourised and edited to enable projection at modern speed, with the oral recollections of servicemen to produce a visceral, shocking and moving film depicting the horrors of war. It has resonated with millions, including those who fear we are heading for a third world war and the threat of nuclear annihilation.

It was commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK arts programme for the First World War centenary, and the Imperial War Museum, in association with the BBC. It was originally planned as a one-off screening in the UK on October 16 at 247 cinemas and was a sell-out success. It was also broadcast on BBC2 on Remembrance Sunday—November 11—to mark 100 years since the Armistice and was seen by over two million viewers. It is available on BBC i-player and will be distributed worldwide including in US theatres on December 17 and December 27 (tickets go on sale November 16), giving it a global audience of millions.

Typical of the reaction to the film were comments from BBC viewers. Sue Rhodes, for example, explained, “That moment when the programme went from silent to sound and colour—it literally took my breath away. So moving. When you see black and white, it is almost as if they are not real people but this really brought home the realities to you—the bodies, the death scenes, the injuries.”

Chris Roe-Bullion added, “I had some idea about the conditions but I had no idea just how awful they were. The image that sticks in my mind is of a hand in the mud—it looks like someone reaching for help as they were sucked down … That thought of people falling to the ground and disappearing beneath the mud. You almost hope that someone took a rifle to spare them.”

As one might expect from Jackson, best known for his Lord of the Rings films, They Shall Not Grow Old is an astonishing technical achievement. The film skilfully edits together footage from the archives of the Imperial War Museum with contemporary still images such as posters and cartoons. It uses no narrator, relying entirely on the words of servicemen recorded in the 1960s. Jackson chose to reflect only the experience of British soldiers on the Western Front. In so doing he shows how young men sign up in a spirit of a patriotic adventure, to “kill Germans”, only to find themselves pitched against men no different to themselves in an orgy of bloody and brutish slaughter.

For the first 20 minutes the archive footage focuses on the preparations for war—soldiers talking about enlisting, training and being sent to the front. The images are the original ones, often jerky, black-and-white—with moments of comedy as the new recruits wrestle with ill-fitting uniforms, bullying sergeant-majors “knocking them into shape” and facing dispatch to the battle front after six weeks of perfunctory military training.

However, a darker side is ever present. One soldier speaks of being paraded through London’s West End to entice bystanders into “falling for the con trick” of enlistment. There is the callous collusion of recruiting officers who persuade boys too young to join up—the age limit was 19, but we hear from some as young as 14 and 15. As one soldier says, “I was only a kid.”

There are hints about underlying social conditions, too. One upper class voice complains about having to deal with the “refuse of our industrial system.” A recruit talks of war as a “relief from boring jobs”, while another notes, “In those days men weren’t to think for themselves.” The fact that recruits on average grew an inch and put on 1 stone (6.35kg) in weight indicates the physical impact of the poverty suffered by the working class.

Around 25 minutes into the film, we see troops sent to the front. The myth of glorious war turns to bloody reality. It is here that Jackson employs his technical skills to the full. The footage slows from archive jerkiness to a smoother more natural tempo. The film is colourised as soon as the soldiers arrive at the front. We see a vision of hell.

Lip-reading experts interpreted the words being spoken on the silent footage, and the film suddenly develops a living soundtrack as we hear soldiers speaking onscreen in their own words, if not their own voices. Jackson has also built up a convincing soundtrack of the surrounding noises.

The effect is powerful. The viewer has a much sharper sense of immediacy and identification. Jackson overcomes the original static camera position by narrowing in on certain parts of frames, faces particularly. We get a sense of individual identities and characters. As the troops are being prepared for the big push across No Man’s Land, we hear soldiers talking about the “hysterical feeling” generated by the bombardment and the tension of waiting for battle.

The colourisation of the old archive film also brings out the horrific conditions of life in the trenches, plagued by lice, rats and trench foot. “The devastation was something I could never have imagined,” declared one recruit. Dismembered body parts of men and horses are everywhere, filling the air with “the musty, sickly smell of decaying corpses.” One man speaks of having had to put another’s remains into a sandbag after he had been blown to bits, while another cries out, “It hurt me”, as he recalls having to kill a horrifically wounded colleague. Soldiers speak of making a barricade of dead bodies. The sight of giant bombs exploding among the troops is terrifying.

By the time of the big push across No Man’s Land, says one soldier, “All my romantic ideals of war had vanished.” There is, throughout, little animosity expressed towards the Germans. And when they are captured, at the war’s conclusion, this turns to sympathy and identification.

Jackson has dedicated They Shall Not Grow Old to a grandfather who survived the war, and two relatives who did not. His is a reaction against the war’s horrors rather than a broader political comprehension of the reasons for it. He admits that the film does not “talk about any historical aspects of the war … we just talk about the social experience of being in this war, and the human experience.”

Nonetheless, he has produced a film that allows the viewer to see the Great War as what it was, a horrific crime. Under the present conditions of renewed militarism and the whipping up of nationalist jingoism, that is no small achievement. It will contribute to developing the determination of this generation to end the threat of war through the struggle for socialism.

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World War I and warmongering politicians today


This 2018 video about World War I says about itself:

Passchendaele Photo Essay: A Hell on Earth

Warning: This video contains graphic images. Viewer discretion is advised.

By Andre Damon in the USA:

Great powers commemorate First World War, and plan the next one

13 November 2018

Over the past weekend, the leaders of the world’s great powers met in France to commemorate the official end of World War I. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Donald Trump pulled long faces, hugged each other and gave speeches lamenting the “horror” and “tragedy” of a war that claimed more than 16 million lives.

But their talk of “tragedy” and “suicide” could not hide the fact that they are all engaged in active preparations for a new and deadly world military conflict.

Trump, as usual, did not feel the need to hide his love of bloodshed. His speech at the Suresnes American Cemetery just outside Paris was a jingoistic rant. Trump praised the “great warriors” who “fought through hell to turn the tide of the war” and lauded the “ferocious” American marines who were termed “Devil Dogs” by the terrified German soldiers.

Unlike Merkel and Macron, the American President did not give an inch to the idea, universally acknowledged throughout the world since the fall of the Third Reich, that World War I was a disastrous mistake, in which millions were slaughtered either through the ignorance of generals or the avarice of politicians and industrialists. It was, in the words of Trump, a “noble” struggle to bring “peace” and defend “civilization”.

The speeches of Macron and Merkel betrayed the same bloody sentiments merely covered over with a dirty layer of dishonesty. Macron styled his speech as a condemnation of “nationalism”, while Merkel lamented the war as a “hideous labyrinth of merciless battles”, as “senseless bloodshed” caused by “national arrogance and military hubris”.

But Macron’s speech was, in its content, a celebration of the great lie peddled by the Germano-French fascist movement: that the “Great war” was an all-pervasive moment of national unity, in which social and class divisions were cast aside for the defense of the fatherland. For the fighters, Macron said, “France symbolized all that was beautiful in the world.” The soldiers in the trenches were “our family, the family that we belong to today”, creating “one France … popular and bourgeois”.

This statement was entirely consistent with Macron’s declaration just a few days earlier that Philippe Pétain, the Nazi-collaborationist dictator of Vichy France who sent tens of thousands of Jews and anti-fascists to their deaths, was a “great soldier”.

For Merkel’s part, her invocation of the “horrors” of the first world war were coupled with appeals for Germany to end its “isolation” by becoming a great power. The Chancellor declared: “The First World War showed us what kind of ruin isolationism can lead us into. And if seclusion wasn’t a solution 100 years ago, how could it be so today?”

What an absurd lie. Every freshman history textbook makes it clear that the war was not caused by Germany’s “isolationism” but by the desire of Kaiser and Chancellor to secure what Wilhelm II called Germany’s “Place in the Sun”-colonial possessions at the expense of her competitors who had arrived earlier on the world arena.

It was to secure German world power that Merkel’s predecessor, Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, said in 1914 that the object of his regime was to “lay the foundations for German predominance in Europe”.

With very minor modifications, these are the sentiments animating the Chancellery of the Federal Republic, as expressed by its leading ideologists. In the words of Humboldt University professor Herfried Münkler, Germany must become the “taskmaster” of Europe, exercising “determined political and economic leadership” over the continent.

On the other side of the Rhine, the sentiments of the ruling classes are just as warlike. Just days after Macron’s speech, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called for the formation of a “European Empire” to compete economically and militarily with the United States and China. While the population of Europe, given the horrors of two world wars, will find such talk of empire “unattractive … in tomorrow’s world, it’s going to be all about power … Europe cannot be shy any longer about using its power.”

Le Maire concluded, “Everybody knows it takes guts to stand in the way of Donald Trump’s administration … The people of Europe have had enough of the babble.”

This is a deliberate and conscious restatement of German chancellor Bismarck’s adage that leadership will be decided not by “liberalism but by power”, not by “speeches,” but by “blood and iron”.

Such militarist, and essentially fascistic, sentiments are expressed not only in words, but in deeds.

US President Donald Trump, with the support of a Democratic opposition that functions largely as a rubber-stamp for his assault on democracy, has embarked upon the largest military build-up since the Cold War, withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) nuclear treaty with Russia and massively expanding the United States’ nuclear arsenal. He has begun deploying 15,000 troops on American soil, asserted the right to overturn constitutional amendments by executive fiat and started the construction of concentration camps capable of holding tens of thousands.

Macron, pursuing his country’s own breakneck military rearmament, has pushed for the creation of a “European army” to counter the United States and China, to be paid for by the types of anti-worker austerity policies his government is pioneering.

Merkel presides over a grand coalition government dedicated to military rearmament and the projection of power overseas. She, too, supervises the construction of concentration camps to hold helpless refugees. Her government is a den of crypto-fascists, exemplified by the recently-fired head of the country’s secret service, Hans-Georg Maassen, who defended neo-Nazi rioters who attacked Jews and foreigners.

In collaboration with the neo-fascist Alternative for Germany (AfD), Maassen authored a report placing those who oppose capitalism, including the Socialist Equality Party, under surveillance as “left-wing extremists.” And in the latest exposure of the viper’s lair that is the German military/intelligence apparatus, the news weekly Focus Magazine reported that internal army investigations have uncovered a massive plot by as many as 200 military personnel to round up and murder left-wing politicians.

Today’s drive toward military conflict on the part of the great powers is rooted in the same fundamental contradictions of capitalism—between the world economy and the outmoded nation-state system, and between socialized production and the private ownership of the means of production—that led to two world wars in the 20th century.

It is also fueled by intensifying domestic political and social tensions within each of the major imperialist countries. The governments of Macron, Trump and Merkel are all broadly hated as direct instruments of a corrupt financial oligarchy. These governments see in war not only the pretext to use police-state repression against their opponents, but for the promotion of far-right forces to create a constituency for their policies of militarism and austerity and to use as shock troops against the growing struggles of the working class.

We live, as World Socialist Web Site editorial board chairman David North has argued, in the “Unfinished 20th Century.” All the demons that plagued the last century return to vex our own. But this means that the tasks confronting humanity remain the same. The bloodletting of the First World War was ended by two revolutions: in Russia and in Germany. But each was strangled. In Germany, this was quick, with the bullets of Friedrich Ebert’s Freikorps. In Russia it was slow, with the triumph of Stalinism that ended in the dissolution of the USSR. It is the defeat of those revolutions that has led the specter of world war to return.

The antipode to world war, now as then, is the international working class, armed with the program of socialist internationalism. It is the fear of this vast and powerful social force that drives the bourgeoisie to war and dictatorship, and it is this social force that must be mobilized to oppose the return of imperialist barbarism.

British World War I poet Isaac Rosenberg


This video from Britain says about itself:

WW1 Poem: ‘Dead Man’s Dump‘ by Isaac Rosenberg ~ Verdun ‘Feb 21 – Dec 18’ 1916

21 February 2016

One hundred years ago, on February 21st, 1916, a Monday, the first shots were fired in the battle for the French fortress town of Verdun.

German and French soldiers fought of every last metre of ground, making it the longest battle of the war, almost twice as long as any other encounter.

In the 303 days of this so called ‘meat grinder’, close to 750,000 men died, were wounded or simply disappeared, pulverised to tiny, unrecognisable bits by shelling from as far away as 17 miles, or eviscerated on the end of a bayonet in man-to-man, whites of their eyes grappling. A French soldier Albert Joubaire summed up his experience at Verdun: “What a bloodbath, what horrid images, what slaughter! Hell cannot be this dreadful”.

By Ben Cowles in Britain, 5 April 2017:

Isaac Rosenberg: The war-time poet time forgot

CHRIS SEARLE speaks to the Star about an East End poet who met an untimely end in the trenches of World War I and how his work has inspired not only his new book but his entire life

CHRIS SEARLE has been sending in his handwritten jazz columns to the Star on a weekly basis for years and, while old hands might be familiar with his poetry and politics, our new readers probably have no idea just how fascinating a life he has led.

It might surprise both new and old readers to find out how our jazz correspondent’s entire life has been inspired by an early 20th century poet as he revealed when I spoke with him last week about his new book Whitechapel Boy: A Reading of the Poetry of Isaac Rosenberg.

Isaac Rosenberg is one of the lesser-known poets of the first world war. The son of working-class Jewish immigrants, his family moved from Bristol to Stepney Green in London’s East End in 1897. “I owe to him and his poetry”, Searle says. “Everything that I’ve ever tried to do has been originally inspired by Rosenberg.”

“Ever since I’d first read his poetry at Leeds University in the early ’60s, I’d been fascinated by him. The power of his poetry, the way in which he wrote and what he wrote about completely captured me.

“He was a working-class boy, who spoke Yiddish at his home and only learnt English at school. But he mastered the language to such an extent that he wrote some of the great poems of English literature.

Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon were officers and could go into their underground shelters where they had desks and such, but all Rosenberg had was the trenches.

“If you read some of the poems he wrote in the last part of his life when he was in the trenches, they’re very profound and humane, with an enormous depth and understanding of the power of English verse.”

Searle was born in Romford in 1943 and has been a teacher his whole adult life. His early career saw him teach in Canada, Tobago, Grenada and Mozambique. He has lived the past 30 years in Sheffield, but it was his fascination with Rosenberg’s life that brought him back to Britain and to teach in Stepney Green in the early 1970s.

“I lived and worked in the streets where Rosenberg lived. The school where I taught was in the same row where he had lived 60 years before. It was almost as if he was there with me while I was teaching.”

Searle saw many of the children he taught in East London as being in the same linguistic position as his literary hero. They were bilingual and learnt to speak English at school. His main focus was to get the children to write their own poetry. He says the poetry they wrote came out of his love for Rosenberg.

“But the of course, I found myself in deep trouble in 1971. I made an anthology of my students’ poems called Stepney Words and sought to get the permission of the school to sponsor and publish it. But the governors of the school, who were mainly right-wing Anglican priests and City businessmen, forbade me to publish it.

“They thought the poetry was too gloomy, too realistic. They wanted the lighter side of local life, but the children had written about social problems, about bad housing, about racism and about the loneliness of city life.”

Searle went ahead and published Stepney Words and, when the governors saw what he had done, they sacked him.

“When the children heard I got the sack for publishing their poems, they came out on strike. For three days they refused to go into school and rallied and campaigned outside on the green outside.

“It took me two years, but I eventually got back into the school. But really it was the children’s strike and the publicity that it generated that was responsible for getting me back into the school plus, of course, the tremendous support from my union, the National Union of Teachers.”

The time in which Rosenberg lived in London, the early part of the 20th century, was a crucial period for the working class. After centuries of oppression, they finally began to organise.

“In the years before World War I, Rosenberg was one of the so-called ‘Whitechapel boys’ — a group of artists, poets and political activists on the left. They were all members of the Stepney and Whitechapel Socialist League and gave terrific support to the tailors in their strike in 1906 and the 1911 strike of dockers and transport workers.”

During this time, however, Rosenberg never escaped sheer poverty and so, despite his deep opposition to the war, Rosenberg enlisted in the British army in 1916.

“Some people became conscientious objectors, like Bertrand Russell, but Rosenberg was so impoverished that the only way he could see his family surviving was to join the war. When you were a soldier, you were paid what was called a separation allowance, which went to your parents.

“He only joined the army so that his mother and father wouldn’t starve. It was the situation for thousands of working-class young men when the war started.

“Most of the famous poets of the first world war, people like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, were officers. So, although they endured terrifying experiences, they had a very different life to the privates.

“Rosenberg talks about being a private as being akin to absolute slavery and, of course, because he was physically very weak, working class and Jewish, he was subject to all the authoritarianism and racism of army life.

“To write poetry from the depths and degradation from the trenches was almost impossible, but he managed it. And that’s another extraordinary facet of his achievement. You know, the officers could go into their underground shelters where they had desks and such, but Rosenberg had nothing like that. All he had was the trenches. He had no resources, no materials.

“Here am I sitting at a table with a cup of tea writing about jazz and Rosenberg wrote a poem half-covered in mud, with dying people one side of him, with shots raging, shells exploding and shrapnel going everywhere and yet he still managed to write such works as Dead Man’s Dump — a poem of enormous power and humanity, which I believe to be perhaps the greatest war poem in the English language.”

Rosenberg never made it back from the trenches. He was killed on April 1 1918 at 27 years of age.

Searle believes Rosenberg has been largely ignored and that his work is all too often dismissed as non-mainstream, non-English. This, he says, is a form of cultural racism similar to the type he dealt with throughout his life.

“When he moved into Stepney as a boy, his local [Conservative] MP was a member of the British Brothers League, which was a fascist organisation. He called the Jewish immigrants ‘the off-scum of Europe’. Imagine your local MP referring to you as that.”

Searle’s book is an attempt to redress this and bring his work into the spotlight. “The thing about Rosenberg is that his deep humanity shines through his work. He was an internationalist.

“Although he was immersed in the horror of war, he hated it. He was a deep critic of it. He talked about his ‘brothers dear’, the ordinary soldiers not only of the British army but also of the German army that he faced.

“In one of his most famous poems, Break of Day in the Trenches, it’s dawn, which was the hour of the most likely and imminent attack from one army against the other, and he sees a rat crossing back and forth across No man’s land.

“The rat becomes a symbol of unity, of fraternisation between the German soldiers and British soldiers, most of whom in the front lines would be young and working class, from all over the world in the British army.

“In the last weeks of his life, he was trying to write. He could only write fragments because of the conditions in the trenches, but he was writing a verse play called The Unicorn. It’s about a slave revolt led by an African man, who is a leader of immense intellectual qualities, who leads his people away from oppression. And this was 1918. He was in the French trenches in the most horrendous conditions and here he was writing of Africa freeing itself of oppression.

“I used to teach in Africa, in Mozambique. And that was deeply inspiring for me to know that Rosenberg had written in that way when back in 1918 in the most terrifying of conditions.

“He is a symbol of working-class internationalism. He hasn’t been portrayed that way to any great extent, but to me that’s what he means.”

Chris Searle’s Whitechapel Boy is released today (April 5), with a book launch taking place at Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives, 277 Bancroft Rd, London E1 4DQ, 6.15pm. Ben Cowles is the Morning Star’s web editor. You can chat with him on Twitter via @Cowlesz.

Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the armistice which finally brought an end to World War I. Nothing like it had ever been seen in human history—a bloody inferno costing the lives of more than ten million soldiers and six million civilians with millions more permanently maimed, disfigured and injured: here.

World War I, May 1918


This video about Scotland says about itself:

Striking workers in Glasgow circa 1918. Archive film 99413

World War One billboard poster of Kitchener pointing – “Your Country Needs YOU”. Soldiers marching past the generals during an inspection. Newly-signed up soldiers board trains heading for the frontline, waved off by their wives and children. Women workers in good spirits heading for the factory. Inside the factory where women are doing carpentry. Women at work on the railways and munitions plants. Lloyd George inspects the munitions works and talks to the women there. Lloyd George and Arthur Henderson. Demonstrations or strikes near end of World War One on the homefront in Glasgow, Scotland. Bagpipers lead the victorious soldiers through streets.

By John Ellison in Britain:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Looking back a century to May 1918

ON MAY 1 1918 Glasgow experienced a massive May Day demonstration. For those taking part, it demonstrated that “patriotic” support for the war (with hundreds of thousands of casualties suffered since the German advance on the Western front had begun on March 21), ceased to be an argument on the table.

Some 90,000 people came on to the streets, bound for Glasgow Green. Speakers from 20 platforms were then heard. The British Socialist Party’s The Call soon afterwards commented: “It was quite plain to all that that great assembly of workers were out for Peace and the overthrow of Capitalism.” There were many shouts for the release of leading socialist agitator John Maclean, then in Duke Street prison, awaiting trial on May 9.

The first of May was also the day of the appeals heard in the London Inner Sessions at Clerkenwell by philosopher Bertrand Russell and peace campaigner and socialist Joan Beauchamp against their February sentences for encouraging “disaffection” in the Tribunal, the organ of the No Conscription Fellowship (NCF).

Russell’s sentence of six months in the “second division” was now upgraded to the privileged regime of the first, while Joan Beauchamp, previously given a fine or three months in prison, now received one month’s jail, having refused to pay the fine. Russell’s sentence was adjusted in the light of his being “a man of great distinction”, unlike, the judicial thinking may have run, the usual riff-raff of anti-conscriptionists.

London’s May Day meeting, unlike Glasgow’s, was to be on Sunday May 5, but was abruptly prohibited by the Home Office.

A year earlier, more than 100,000 people had turned out for the celebration, and another big gathering was expected. But late on May 3, police served notice on the Karl Marx Centenary Committee (comprising the British Socialist Party (BSP), Independent Labour Party and trade union branches etc.) that the meeting and its associated processions were outlawed by the Home Secretary. It had been planned that seven marches would lead into Finsbury Park from different directions, and that fifty speakers would address the crowd from eight platforms.

The ban was promoted by the Daily Express, owned by the present Minister of Information, Lord Beaverbrook. On May 3 it proclaimed: “The peacetime toleration that permitted every addle-pated orator to let off steam is no longer possible. This proposed pacifist orgy is a direct incitement to a breach of the peace. They include however, middle-class pacifists … and various representatives of a mysterious body that calls itself the Karl Marx Centenary Committee.”

There was no mystery about the committee, or about the courage of the people (perhaps a thousand) who braved the ban to gather in Finsbury Park on May 5 to listen to speakers before being dispersed violently by mounted police.

Three miles away, at Highgate Cemetery, another show of defiance took place. A good number of people wishing to take part in a commemorative event at the grave of Karl Marx a century after his birth were prevented from doing so. Eventually the police allowed a deputation to go in to place wreaths on the grave. One wreath was the offering of “ambassador” Maxim Litvinov, who had been refused, like his government, recognition. It carried the inscription “From Russia, the first Socialist Republic, in memory of Karl Marx, who showed the workers of the world the path to self-emancipation.” Litvinov had by now moved with his family from West Hampstead to new rooms at 11 Bigwood Road, Hampstead Garden Suburb, and his BSP-published pamphlet The Bolshevik Revolution: Its Rise and Meaning was available for 1 shilling.

On May 8 two leading members of the NCF were up before the Bow Street beak. These were Lydia Smith, undisclosed editor of the Tribunal, and Violet Tillard (“Tilly”), general secretary. They had refused to give police the address of the printer of the internally circulated NCF News, after the breaking-up and confiscation of the Tribunal printer’s equipment in April. Tilly was singled out, fined heavily, and appealed.

John Maclean’s trial took place on May 9 before judge and jury in Edinburgh. The previous night 30 Scottish socialists had tramped from Glasgow to the trial venue. The charges against him were of sedition, of prejudicing recruiting, and of attempting to cause disaffection, and were based on his recent speeches.

The Times on May 10 solemnly caricatured the prosecution case. “The prisoner advocated ‘downing’ tools, and said that socialists should break all laws. He advised the workers to take control of Glasgow City Chambers, the Post Office, and the banks, and urged that the House of Commons should be superseded by a Soviet, saying that he did not care whether they met in the usual place or at Buckingham Palace.”

If accurate, that would have been sufficiently outlandish to make prosecution ludicrous. Refusing to plead guilty or not guilty, Maclean gave a lengthy speech which newspapers did not care to report. It included, prophetically:

“If one side or the other wins [World War I], then the revenge will come … In view of the fact that the great powers are not prepared to stop the war until the one side or the other is broken down, it is our business as members of the working class to see that this war ceases today, not only to save the lives of the young men of the present, but also to stave off the next great war … I am out for an absolute reconstruction of society, on a co-operative basis, throughout all the world; when we stop the need for armies and navies, we stop the need for war.”

The middle-class jury found him guilty as charged without needing to retire, and the judge found sentencing an easy chore. He was given five years’ penal servitude.

“He is sentenced to this fearful punishment simply for talking”, commented Labour’s George Lansbury-edited Herald.

Within a fortnight the Clyde District Defence Committee was formed to work for Maclean’s release, while Maclean went on hunger strike.

On May 11 the Herald’s front page contained only the words “TERMS OF THE SECRET TREATIES (Special Number)” and inside seven pages were devoted to these deals for distribution of territorial extensions among Allied countries. The editor of the booklet on the treaties which had appeared the previous month, F Seymour Cocks, declared that the Allied governments had declined to speak out on the subject “because their mouths are stopped by the secret agreements … because their voices are choked by the ink and parchment of the shameful treaties they have signed.”

The previous day in Ireland, arrests of Sinn Fein leaders had taken place — of Eamonn de Valera, Arthur Griffith, Constance Markievicz and others, more than a hundred in all. According to Lord French, military viceroy for Ireland, they had been in treasonable communication with the enemy. As to this, the Daily Mail was confident, “there could be no doubt.” In fact those arrested were Irish patriots, interned for their independence activity and for their hostility to the conscription of Irishmen which the government had not yet dared to enforce.

On May 19 the annual conference of the Workers’ Suffrage Federation, which now became the Workers’ Socialist Federation, opened. Besides re-electing Sylvia Pankhurst as secretary, the conference declared its opposition to all war, demanded self-determination for all nations, and the release of John Maclean.

One leading conscription-refuser, at that moment in Liverpool’s jail, was Fenner Brockway, former Labour Leader editor. His decision to break the prison rule of silence was reported in the Herald on May 25. His example was swiftly copied by other COs, and before long he was transferred to Lincoln Prison.

On May 27 came another push of German forces on the Western Front, while large numbers of US troops were arriving to strengthen the Allied side.

Meanwhile, British military intervention in Russia was quietly developing. On May 17 the War Cabinet was informed that a military mission was setting off for Murmansk and Archangel, with a view to recruiting Czech forces for anti-Bolshevik designs in north Russia.

So it was that Britain’s war to keep and extend its empire was now also a war against socialism.

August 100 years ago: attacks on the Bolshevik revolution and transport workers’ strikes: here.

September 1918: Confidence grows among war resisters. JOHN ELLISON charts the events at home and abroad that affected the British conduct of WWI.

October 2018: 100 years ago: imperialist carve-ups and anti-war agitation. JOHN ELLISON looks back a century to how socialist writers were being persecuted for opposing war and how the seeds were being sown for WWII.

World War I in Britain, April 2018


This video from England says about itself:

Deserters, Conchies and Reds

19 December 2014

The Bristol Deserter – Alfred Jefferies – His War Story

During World war One nearly 300 British soldiers on the Western Front were shot at dawn for deserting or for ‘cowardice’. One victim, Alfred Jefferies, a Bristolian, was executed on 1st November 1916. Based on official archives, including war diaries and court martial records, Geoff Woolfe describes Alfred’s tragic war story, whilst questioning the extent to which the full facts of some war events can be known.

By John Ellison in Britain:

Thursday, April 12, 2018

History: The struggle for peace amid the 1918 war carnage

JOHN ELLISON reviews the events of April 1918

April 1918 began on Easter Monday, 12 days into the German offensive on the Western Front. Twelve days of mass slaughter on both sides.

Militarily, the British sector, having been pushed back above the join with the French army some 40 miles across a long sector, had stabilised.

The longer-term aims of the rulers of Germany and Britain remained hidden from most people.

Germany’s elite, having so far a tiny empire, sought to dislodge the much stronger world imperial positions of the ruling groups of Britain and France, while Britain and France sought to sustain and extend their own colonial dominance.

The British Socialist Party paper The Call on April 4 described the German offensive as “a gamble”, declaring that “the counters in the game are the millions of fair, strong, beautiful human beings, our fellow workers…”

War propaganda — powerful as it continued to be — did not deter a peace march from taking place in Leicester over the Easter weekend before the Independent Labour Party’s annual conference.

The Leicester Daily Mail had encouraged in its columns an angry public response to this parade, but the organisers went ahead and no “patriotic” physical punishment followed.

At the front of the procession on the Sunday was a band, followed by Socialist Sunday School children, bearing a wide banner between them.

The Labour Leader’s report went on: “Many other little flag bearers followed, their flags’ words striking home to the onlookers’ heads. ‘I want my daddy’, ‘They’ve taken our daddies’, ‘Why can’t daddy come home’, ‘We want peace.’”

Adults marched too and a large gathering in the town hall congratulated “the workers of Russia” for “their stand made for social and economic freedom … and their exposure of capitalist imperialism by the publication of the secret treaties.”

ILP leaders Philip Snowden and Ramsay MacDonald, however, were unwilling to demand a “socialist peace”, preferring to place faith in recent signs of increased Establishment interest in negotiation.

The BSP had held its own conference over the Easter weekend in Leeds, though the shortage of civilian trains meant some delegates arrived very late. This was a united anti-war and anti-capitalist conference.

A letter from Russian ambassador Maxim Litvinov, working from home again after eviction from his Victoria Street office, “conveying cordial greetings from socialist Russia”, was read to the delegates.

This conference debated whether or not the BSP should remain affiliated to the Labour Party. On the one hand, John Maclean, who had been appointed Soviet consul in January, replacing Joe Fineberg who, Russian in origin, had been acting as Litvinov’s secretary, argued that non-affiliation would isolate the party from the broader currents of the labour movement.

The reverse on the Western Front certainly caused the war cabinet much alarmed debate.

Prime Minister Lloyd George, who was contemptuous of the military competence of Field-Marshal Haig, told his colleagues on April 6: “I cannot tell you what happened … there was widespread chaos … the 5th Army has practically disappeared. There are only some remnants of it still in the line.”

There was no publicity for the estimates of casualties from the start of the offensive to April 6 presented to the war cabinet on the 10th. The calculation of killed, wounded and missing combined, was in excess of 112,000, comprised of more than 10,000 dead, around 50,000 wounded and more than 50,000 missing, including prisoners.

Resistance among engineers and others to the extension of conscription imposed early in the year had now faded because of the military crisis, which now emboldened the government to introduce fresh emergency legislation directing a fuller “comb-out” of men into the army.

On April 9 Lloyd George introduced the new Bill. As well as allowing existing exemptions to be cancelled by proclamation, men up to the age of 50 — and even 55 if with special qualifications — would be called up, though mainly for home defence, and the men of Ireland were to be conscripted too.

The Bill had the backing of Labour war cabinet member George Barnes.

Lloyd George spoke for two hours and sat down, said the New Statesman, “after a horribly creaking peroration.”

Novelist Arnold Bennett, who observed the session, commented in his diary: “He did not know his case… Ll G’s oratorical effects very poor — like a Lyceum melodrama.”

A fresh German attack came on April 9. Enemy forces, said the war cabinet record, had “got into our front line system everywhere” between the Lys and another river and there were further advances next day.

On the 12th came Field-Marshal Haig’s “Backs to the wall” message. “Every position must be held to the last man”, it insisted. Field-marshals were naturally exempted from this requirement.

On the 16th the new “Manslaughter” Bill came into force. The following Sunday in Ireland a pledge against conscription was taken solemnly by large congregations in Roman Catholic churches.

Earlier, the Workers’ Dreadnought, edited by Sylvia Pankhurst, contained an article by Maud Gonne McBride, the widow of John McBride, one of the Easter Rising’s executed leaders.

It contained a powerful warning against the imposition of conscription in Ireland. The suppression of the Rising with summary executions had stimulated, not cowed, the independence movement.

“Ireland is awake today”, she wrote, “as I have never known before, awake and burning for freedom.”

Government anxiety about the situation in France did not prevent development of a small-scale incursion into Russia.

On April 5 around 50 British troops and 200 Japanese disembarked at Vladivostok, a fact reported in the press four days later.

A week later the war cabinet settled on sending a second small cruiser to Murmansk in north Russia. On the 19th it approved the dispatch of a cruiser to Archangel “to protect Allied interests.”

Of this the public were not told, while Britain’s agent in Russia, Bruce Lockhart, was now establishing contact with anti-Bolshevik groups and supporting Allied military intervention to bring down the Lenin government.

In Britain, press jingoism was directed towards peace activists, but the No Conscription Fellowship’s Tribunal remained outspoken. On April 11 its columns called out: “STOP THE WAR… In all countries the peoples must say ‘We will not go on’… COME OUT FOR PEACE.”

Scotland Yard’s answer came on the 22nd. Six police officers arrived with a cart at the Streatham premises of the paper’s new printer. They broke up the printing machinery and took it away together with paper supplies, confiscating some £500-worth of equipment — equivalent to £33,000 today.

Joan Beauchamp, the Tribunal’s publisher, was visited too. She admitted being the publisher but refused to identify the current editor, who was another peace heroine, Lydia Smith.

Despite these vicissitudes, the paper was able to appear as one sheet on the 25th, headed “HERE WE ARE AGAIN”, but from this time on, the printing location was a close secret and circulation was down to around 2,000.

The Workers’ Dreadnought also suffered a direct police onslaught on its print machinery but managed to find another printer.

These attempts to suppress peace movement activities in London were supplemented by another in Glasgow. On the 15th John Maclean was arrested and committed for trial without bail. It was alleged that he had carried on Bolshevik propaganda in various places. His trial was set for May.

More German attacks, commencing on April 24, led to War Cabinet fears on the 30th — which were absurd, especially considering the pouring into France of large numbers of US troops — that, if French channel ports were reached, Britain might be invaded.

The government and its press allies and agents could be expected to suppress the peace, and therefore the socialist, movement, ever more viciously.

Yet the anti-war movement pressed on, seeking to broadcast evidence of the secret treaties previously made by allied governments and exposed by the Bolshevik government the previous November, but little noticed in the mainstream press.

During April the Glasgow-based Socialist Labour Party’s monthly The Socialist produced a special “Socialist war map” highlighting the bonus territories to be awarded to victorious allied countries in despicable imperial deals, while the Union of Democratic Control, in an edition of 4,000 copies, published in full The Secret Treaties and Understandings.

Maclean’s pamphlet, The War after the War, was available too for two pence.

World War I, 100 years ago


This 2011 video from Britain is called Conscientious Objectors in World War One.

By John Ellison in Britain:

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A look back 100 years to WWI

IN EARLY March 1918 literary historian Lytton Strachey was close to publishing his soon to be famous book of essays Eminent Victorians, which treated his highly respectable subjects with a near scandalous degree of irreverence and wit.

He had recently attended the trial of anti-war philosopher Bertrand Russell, when the latter had been sentenced to six months in prison for inciting disaffection in a January article in the No Conscription Fellowship’s weekly Tribunal.

His sympathies were entirely with Russell. He wrote in a letter to a Bloomsbury circle fellow member: “It was really infamous … The spectacle of a louse like Sir John Dickinson rating Bertie for immorality and sending him to prison!”

Russell now belonged to the determined few sentenced to jail for peace agitation.

Another was Edmund Morel, serial exposer of Britain’s imperialist motives in the war, lately released from Pentonville Prison.

He had been given a six-month sentence late the previous summer for sending a Union of Democratic Control pamphlet to a friend in Switzerland (technically contravening the Defence of the Realm Act). His freedom was celebrated at a public meeting in Leicester.

The treatment of “absolutist” conscientious objectors to the war — who had refused military (and, when prescribed, non-combatant service) — had been severe. For them repeated sentences with hard labour was the preferred punishment.

On March 7 Clarence Norman, imprisoned since summer 1916, and now charged with refusing to don a military uniform, defended himself on the basis that he should only be judged by a civil court. For him another hard labour sentence followed.

The playwright George Bernard Shaw in a letter printed in the Manchester Guardian on March 15 described Norman as
“a very obstreperous martyr … Mr Clarence Norman … may be depended on not to suffer in dignified and melancholy silence.”

Another CO died in Hull Prison early in March following a hunger strike. It was later confirmed that his death was due to pneumonia accelerated by forcible feeding. Had a longer tube been inserted, a doctor stated, he would not have choked to death.

The Lloyd George-led government was not much bothered by the fate of war resisters. On March 1 war cabinet discussion was focused on a proposed landing of a small party of British soldiers at Murmansk in northern Russia’s Kola Inlet, and then on what looked like the approach of the anticipated German offensive on the Western Front.

On March 6 a company of British marines — 130 men — disembarked at Murmansk from a warship and marched into local barracks.

No fighting took place, but this was the moment of the first direct British military action against the Lenin government of Russia. It was not publicised.

But government support for a landing by Japanese forces in the far east of Russia, at Vladivostok, was quickly known.

In late February a secret message had gone to Washington inviting the US to approve a Japanese landing on the basis that a Japanese force would move westwards across Siberia as far as the railway centre of Chelyabinsk, just east of the Urals.

The notion was that credibility could thereby be lent to the argument that Japanese intervention would be as an ally against Germany more than as an ally against Bolshevism.

There was a fall-back inference that the Bolsheviks, having declined to continue to fight Germany, were more or less its agents anyway.

The independent-minded weekly The Nation on March 9 was critical of approval for a Japanese landing.

“The case publicly advanced for this intervention is that the Germans, after extorting from Russia her consent to a peace which she regards only as a truce, are now in a position to threaten Japan, 5,000 miles away at Vladivostok. This pretext … is manifestly remote from any reason which could sway responsible statesmen.”

The British Socialist Party’s The Call drove deeper, classing the adventure with that of Britain in 1882 when, on the pretext of restoring public order and the authority of Egypt’s Khedive, British troops had landed in Egypt in order to put it under British control.

It stated flatly: “Japan and Germany, formally belonging to two opposite camps, are acting as the joint executors of the capitalist world.”

From Petrograd, however, British agent Bruce Lockhart was cabling his Whitehall masters anxiously and vainly opposing support for Japan, as he considered it made less likely Russia’s return to war against Germany.

Lockhart had a revealing meeting with Lenin on March 1, when told he would have facilities to work in Russia and would be free to leave when he wished.

In his 1932 book Memoirs of a British Agent, Lockhart recounted that Lenin told him: “So long … as the German danger exists, I am prepared to risk a co-operation with the allies … In the event of German aggression, I am even willing to accept military support. At the same time I am quite convinced that your government will never see things in this light … It will co-operate with the Russian reactionaries.”

Indeed, it was already financing them. Before the end of January the war cabinet had decided to send a gift of £20,000 to anti-Bolshevik forces in eastern Siberia.

Lockhart’s London counterpart, Maxim Litvinov, Russia’s “ambassador” since early January, was now enjoying less freedom of action.

Notice to quit his office rooms at 82 Victoria Street had been followed at the end of February by his landlord’s agent’s refusal of access.

Granted an injunction, Litvinov was able to return, but on March 8 Mr Justice Neville at the Royal Courts of Justice brushed away any thought of political neutrality.

The regime Litvinov represented earned only judicial contempt: “I know of no such government.”

Litvinov’s claim to remain at Victoria Street was dismissed with costs on the grounds that he had not come to court “with clean hands”, having been apparently in breach of Defence of the Realm Regulations by making a statement to trade unions “likely to cause disaffection.” He was compelled to work from home again.

He was now subjected to a new The Defence of the Realm Act regulation — in force from March 5 — prohibiting an alien from addressing meetings and engaging in propaganda.

In mid-March The Call commented tolerantly on the demonisation of Litvinov and socialism: “There has always existed a curious notion among our bourgeoisie that socialism, and all other ‘subversive’ ideas are foreign importations, principally advocated in this country by uncouth individuals in wide-awake hats and mysterious trousers.”

The government continued to pursue the cancellation of exemptions from conscription in the Manpower (“Manslaughter”) Bill, though its intentions had been confronted by a substantial vote of the engineers’ union against the “comb-out”, and now by a smaller majority vote against by the miners.

On March 8 the Daily Mirror guessed where the German army would strike on the Western Front. It would be “at the extreme British right-wing, with a view to breaking its contact with the French left-wing.”

The Mirror routinely recorded that day the latest Roll of Honour casualty list, which included 17 officers and 326 NCOs and men dead, and many more wounded and missing.

The much larger casualties necessarily resulting from another offensive were not the subject of mainstream press consideration.

If the German armies, strengthened by the end of the war in the east, were to win in the west, they needed to do so before the mass of US forces arrived.

The offensive began on the 21st, following a massive artillery bombardment, and, as the Mirror had predicted, just above the join with the French army, and on a 50-mile front.

By the 28th, to Field Marshal Haig’s bewilderment, a 40-mile British retreat had taken place. Once again the generals underestimated enemy strength, reflected this time by putting far too many defending troops in the most forward trenches.

By evening on the 26th, a general noted that British casualties were up to 80,000.

A new “Manslaughter” Bill was now hastily planned to conscript not only men in Britain aged up to 50, but the men of Ireland too — while Irish nationalist feeling was growing ever stronger, inspired by the Easter Rising’s bloody suppression almost two years before.

Passchendaele, World War I bloodbath of poets and other soldiers


Australian stretcher bearers trapped in mud, Battle of Ypres, 1917. Photo courtesy Australian War Memorial

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Passchendaele: ‘I could taste their blood in the air’

Tuesday 1st August 2017

BRITISH soldiers killed at Passchendaele were remembered yesterday on the centenary of the start of the WWI battle in Belgium.

More than half a million men from both sides were killed or injured in more than 100 days of fighting in the rain-sodden summer and autumn of 1917.

The Tyne Cot cemetery near the Belgian village is the largest Commonwealth burial ground in the world, with 11,971 servicemen buried and remembered there, 8,373 of whom are unidentified.

An account by Private Bert Ferns of the Lancashire Fusiliers, who fought in the battle, was read out by Fusilier Shaun Mclorie.

He said: “I staggered up the hill and then dropped over the slope into a sort of gully. It was here that I froze and became very frightened because a big shell had just burst and blown a group of lads to bits; there were bits of men all over the place, a terrible sight, men just blown to nothing.

“I just stood there. It was still and misty, and I could taste their blood in the air.”

This is a music video of a song from the British musical Oh! what a lovely war. About World War I. The lyrics are:

Forward Joe Soap‘s Army

Forward Joe Soap’s army, marching without fear,
With our old commander, safely in the rear.
He boasts and skites from morn till night,
And thinks he’s very brave,
But the men who really did the job are dead and in their grave.
Forward Joe Soap’s army, marching without fear,
With our old commander, safely in the rear.
Amen.

From the World Socialist Web Site, 31 July 2017:

At 3:50 on the morning of July 31, 1917, the allied troops of Great Britain and France begin the so-called Third Great Flanders Offensive, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres. …

It becomes a grueling battle of attrition and a terrible slaughter that continues through November. For months, the ruins of a single location are fought over. For the first time, aerial battles take place involving more than 100 fighter planes. Only with difficulty does the German military command manage to replace the divisions which are quickly disabled.

Outnumbered and outgunned, the Germans overcome their disadvantage by using mustard gas for the first time, the barbaric chemical agent that burns the airways and skin within seconds. Professor Adolf Julius Meyer, the creator of mustard gas, later boasts: “The effect of mustard gas in the Flanders battle of 1917 grew more and more and it was often the case that the enemy was happy if he was able to keep a quarter of his men unharmed.”

The fighting lasts through mid-November. The military objectives of the offensive are not achieved. The only result—a relocation of the front line by 8 kilometers—is paid for on the British side with approximately 50,000 killed; 38,000 missing in action; and 236,000 wounded. On the German side, approximately 46,000 are killed and missing while 281,000 are wounded and seriously ill.

The grave of Hedd Wyn at Artillery Wood Cemetery in Belgium

Also from the World Socialist Web Site, 31 July 2017:

Western Front, July 31: Two poets, Hedd Wyn and Francis Ledwidge, killed in action

Irish poet Francis Ledwidge and Welsh poet Hedd Wyn are both killed during the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres.

Ledwidge, born in 1887, was associated with the Gaelic revival movement prior to the war, and he was also active in trade union circles. He tried and failed to establish a local club of the Gaelic League, a literary and cultural organization that promoted the use of the Irish language and was associated with the development of nationalism at the beginning of the 20th century. He was more successful in creating a local branch of the Irish Volunteers in Slane, the organization formed in response to the creation of the Ulster Volunteers to ensure the implementation of home rule for Ireland. Though Ledwidge initially sided with the minority of the Irish Volunteers, which, on the outbreak of war, opposed participation in the British army, he soon shifted his position and joined the military in October 1914.

Ledwidge’s poetry was influenced by rural life. He also responded to the radicalism of the 1916 Easter Rising, writing in “O’Connell Street”:

“A Noble failure is not vain
But hath a victory of its own
A bright delectance from the slain
Is down the generations thrown.”

Wyn, born Ellis Humphry Evans in 1887, is also killed near Ypres. He adopted the name Hedd Wyn, meaning blessed peace in Welsh, in 1910. His poetry drew heavily on the influences of the Romantic era, including themes of nature and spirituality, although he has also written several war poems since the conflict broke out. Wyn initially opposed the war on Christian pacifist grounds. He was conscripted in 1916 and then arrested by the military police in early 1917 after overstaying a period of leave at home. Wyn posthumously won an award at the National Eisteddfod, a festival of poetry and music, for his poem Yr Arwr.

Some of Wyn’s works have been translated, including the poem Rhyfel (War), which begins,

“Why must I live in this grim age,
When, to a far horizon, God
Has ebbed away, and man, with rage,
Now wields the sceptre and the rod?”

Death and injuries at the battle of Passchendaele

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Passchendaele: They lied then, they lie now

Tuesday 1st August 2017

ONE hundred years ago today, Daily Chronicle war correspondent Philip Gibbs recorded events on the first day of the third battle of Ypres, otherwise known as Passchendaele.

An Irish soldier had gone over the top to attack the German lines in atrocious weather, glad to escape the “awful noise” of the field guns on the British side. He and his comrades had crossed blasted ground, where “trenches had disappeared, concrete emplacements had been overturned, breastworks had been flung like straws to the wind.”

Many of the so-called enemy had been buried alive along with their machine guns, trench mortars and bomb stores.

As Gibbs noted: “But there were other dead not touched by shell-fire, nor by any bullet. They had been killed by our gas attack which had gone before the battle. Rows of them lay clasping their gas-masks, and had not been quick enough before the vapour of death reached them.”

Over the following four months, half a million men and boys were killed or wounded in a series of brutal battles for five miles of Belgian mud.

In December 1917, Prime Minister David Lloyd George attended a private banquet where Gibbs recounted his experiences at the front in graphic, gory detail. The next day, Lloyd George confided to Guardian editor CP Scott the impact that this account would have on the home front: “If people really knew, the war would end tomorrow. But of course, they don’t know and can’t know.”

The press barons and state censors ensured that most civilians never did read the truth about the Great War between the ruling classes of the British, French, Russian and Italian empires on the one side and those of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian empire on the other.

As Lloyd George had gone on to say: “The correspondents don’t write and the censorship wouldn’t pass the truth. What they do send is not the war, but just a pretty picture of the war with everybody doing gallant deeds.

“The thing is horrible and beyond human nature to bear and I feel I can’t go on with this bloody business.”

But he and his successors did go on with this “bloody business,” not only in Europe but in Iraq, India, Malaya, Korea, Kenya, Aden, Cyprus, the Falklands and Afghanistan.

And still we are not told the truth. At yesterday’s commemorations, a procession of military figures, princes, politicians and priests concealed the real causes and motives of the 1914-18 slaughter in a cloud of guff.

They yapped about freedom, duty, courage, service and sacrifice — but uttered not a word about the war criminals who incited, organised and applauded one of the biggest and most pointless mass slaughters in history.

Fittingly, this was on the same day that the High Court threw out an attempt to hold Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Lord Goldsmith to account for waging the murderous war of aggression against Iraq in 2003.

Meanwhile in Ypres, ever ready to let slip the dogs of war, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon linked Passchendaele and the first world war to Britain’s present-day military commitments and alliances.

They are indeed connected, although not, as Fallon would have it, in some common, timeless struggle for freedom and democracy.

Rather, Britain’s foreign and military policy remains to make the world safe for big business profits, bringing troublesome peoples and governments to heel while monopoly capitalism exploits their human and natural resources.

We would best honour the victims of Passchendaele by redoubling our efforts to challenge British imperialism, its bloody interventions, its nuclear weapons of mass extermination and its servile Nato alliance with US imperialism.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Passchendaele – where imperialism murdered hundreds of thousands of British & German workers

THE BATTLE of Passchendaele saw 275,000 British soldiers, workers in uniform, killed or wounded alongside 220,000 German workers in uniform.

This was a great imperialist slaughter directed by Anglo-French and German imperialism to re-divide the world between themselves. The general staffs and the governments involved fought resolutely and determinedly down to the last worker in uniform in the struggle in which shell-shocked workers were executed for desertion or cowardice.

It was … the ruling classes of the planet determined to safeguard and expand their empires no matter how many workers’ lives this cost. The Second ‘socialist’ International collapsed at the start of the war and supported their own governments, displaying ultra-patriotism and an extreme willingness to sacrifice workers lives for the benefit of their particular empire.

There were exceptions however. In Britain, John Maclean, James Maxton and the Clydeside Workers Committee opposed the war. James Connolly did the same in Ireland. In Germany, the anti-imperialist war struggle was led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxenburg, with Liebknecht voting against war credits in the German parliament on December 2nd 1914.

He told the parliament: ‘I am voting against the War Credits Bill today for the following reasons. None of the peoples involved in this war wanted it, and it did not break out to promote their welfare – not in Germany or anywhere else. It is an imperialist war, a war to dominate the capitalist world market and secure for industrial and financial capital the possession of important territories for settlement.’

In the Russian socialist movement … Lenin saw the Great War as the prelude to the socialist revolution of the working class. He would not support the war of the Czarist autocracy and saw the war as a great opportunity for overthrowing Czarism, breaking up the Czarist Russian empire which he termed ‘the prison house of the nations’. …

In November 1918, the mutiny of the German navy at Kiel saw the red flag raised over the fleet and in fact ended the First World War. On November 3rd, the sailors in Kiel, joined by workers from the nearby city, detained their officers and took control of their ships. They also formed Elective Councils, their own ‘workers soviets’ that drafted the Kiel Mutineers list of demands, the first six points being;

1. The release of all inmates and political prisoners.
2. Complete freedom of speech and the press.
3. The abolition of mail censorship.
4. Appropriate treatment of crews by superiors.
5. No punishment for comrades returning to ships and barracks.
6. No launching of the fleet under any circumstances.

This is a music video of a song from the British musical Oh! what a lovely war. About World War I. It is a parody of What a Friend We Have in Jesus.

World War I in Britain, January 1918: here.

World War I propaganda in video games: here.