Books

When intellectuals are clueless about the first world war

Frank Furedi's First World War: Still No End in Sight gathers commentary from academics and sociologists. How wrong some of them were

1 February 2014

9:00 AM

1 February 2014

9:00 AM

First World War: Still No End in Sight Frank Furedi

Bloomsbury, pp.272, £18.99, ISBN: 9781441125101

No one alive now has any adult experience of the first world war, but still it shows no sign of respectable ossification; no armistice of opposing historians seems in prospect. It maintains a terrible, vivid, constantly mutable life. Like the French Revolution, its meaning shifts from generation to generation and according to which politician happens to be speaking at the moment.

In 1989 Mrs Thatcher took the opportunity to deliver a highly tactless speech to the French on the real origins of political liberty. In recent weeks, Michael Gove, Sir Richard Evans and Tristram Hunt have embroiled themselves in an argument about the significance of the war which showed none of the abstruse nature of most discussions about history. This was a living, violent argument about facts which are intensely present to us. The Great War has never gone away, though its meaning is not quite what it was 100 ago, or for that matter 20 years ago. There is, indeed, still no end in sight.

The traditional historical debate is on the question of what caused it. In the best and most recent study of its origins, Christopher Clark in The Sleepwalkers made a persuasive case that, with six great powers simultaneously pursuing incompatible interests, it was beyond anyone’s capability to ‘cause’ anything in any meaningful sense. He pointed out that almost every other historian seemed to begin from the assumption that the war had to be caused by one great power or another, and to go on to make the case against Germany, Britain, Russia or any of the others. Inevitably, Clark’s sane but faintly absurdist case was greeted by some critics as a cunning ploy to let the favourite villain, Germany, off the hook.

The arguments about the causes are extraordinarily involved and have led to a huge historical and metaphysical library. But what about the consequences of the war? After all, it demonstrably shaped the world we live in, and it is arguable that the suspicion of authority, the breakdown of social order and questioning of the nature of society which have periodically erupted in the last 100 years all could be seen as springing directly from the experiences of the trenches.


There is, too, a much more direct and consequential line of events which follows on from the November armistice, through Germany’s economic collapse to the rise of the Nazi party; did those conditions go on to create, in some clear way, the situation of the Cold War, the 1950s economic miracle in the west and  growing stagnation in the east? Was ideology forged in the battlefields of the first world war and tested against the economic and social circumstances that the catastrophe engendered?

It’s an interesting case. It is true that the longer the historian of ideas proceeds, the more tenuous and ingenious his case becomes. Does it really make sense to regard Tony Blair as a grandchild of the Great War schisms? Were the horrors of 1914–1918 really behind the motivation of the players in the Cold War nuclear game, or was there something more immediate in their sights? But there is a direct chain of events and habits of thought that follow on from the armistice in rather an unfashionably teleological way. It might be interesting to see where these events led.

Frank Furedi is a professor of sociology, and his study focuses sharply on the ideas and consciously expressed attitudes of the period. His witnesses are almost entirely social commentators, even contemporary academics and sociologists, attempting to make sense of the world around them. Thomas Mann enters into the argument as the author of the essay ‘Confessions of an Unpolitical Man’, but his novels, especially Royal Highness and The Magic Mountain which reveal so much about prevailing attitudes and habits of thought at the time, go unmentioned. Furedi is not a man, either, to delve into the expressed thoughts of ordinary people; we might find out a lot about what individuals were thinking over this long period by looking at a range of diaries and letters, but this falls outside Furedi’s remit.

However, the thoughts of historians and sociologists on these matters, rather than more informal witnesses, is not without interest. What, after all, did highly intelligent people think was going on? Their opinions have to be treated with more scepticism than Furedi allows, and surprisingly often they are just plain wrong. A good example is the postwar German historian who, on considering the consequences of mass slaughter for German culture, remarked on the loss of the ‘self-sacrificing elites, of the creative talents … it opened the realm of silence in which the usurpers of 1933 could speak and act.’ Is he saying that August Macke would have had good arguments that Paul Klee could not command? What about Joseph Roth, Thomas Mann and Stefan Zweig? There was no ‘realm of silence’. The author of the study that concludes, Furedi says, that German liberals refused to challenge Hitler because they ‘saw nothing to fight about’ would be demonstrably, completely wrong, and deserves to be told so if that was his complete conclusion.

Some of these commentators are comic in their total lack of comprehension. It is nice to learn that in 1933 the President of Columbia University, Nicholas Murray Butler, told his students in a speech that the new dictators were ‘men of far greater intelligence, far stronger character and far more courage than the system of elections’. Another witness provides an amusing lack of perspective from the academic groves by observing that after 1945, the Soviet Union ‘played an important role in the stabilisation of Europe’. By doing things like invading half of it, I suppose.

This is quite an engaging book about the sequence of political thinkers on liberalism, authority and power since 1914. Sometimes one does reflect that the real after-effects of the Great War were not a mere sequence of ideas. Though the lesson of the century is that men would always sacrifice their interests for their intellectual passions, it is true that the most urgent consequences of the war were in low politics and brutal economics rather than in a battle of ideas aiming to discredit one another.

I would have found this book’s argument more convincing if it had been backed up with some hard details of how people lived, and how their lives changed in the decades after 1918, in addition to how sociologists argued that their lives were changing. Furedi is perhaps not very worldly in his outlook, too, and his conclusion that ‘very few movements or people describe themselves as “right wing” because of the negative connotations they convey’ seems to me to suggest that he might like to get out a little more.

Still, this is an interesting exercise, though ultimately somewhat unconvincing in the way it follows a complex event through very different sequences of cultural and intellectual moods. Historical events are slippery and unpredictable facts in our lives, and don’t tend to stay still. I mean, we haven’t made up our minds about the Emperor Claudius yet, so it’s very early for this book even to be contemplated.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

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  • I think Furedi may be right. In any case, I reject the term ‘right-wing’ as applied by Leftists, full stop and out of hand. I am a classical liberal, in the mould of John Locke and the American Founders. I have nothing whatsoever to do with the German nationalist people-hating parties of the ill-fated Weimar Republic (the latter killed in the last instance by Hitler). ‘Right-wing’ means nothing to me, even as a relative marker. What I believe in is decency and freedom.

    • Peter from Oz

      Hitler was a leftist, as all big government people are by the nature of their believe in the all powerful nature of the State. On the extreme right we have real anarchists who believe in no government at all, and on the extreme left we have the totalitarians like Hitler, Mao and Stalin, who believe that the State is all. Economics is irrelevant here because the left/right divide is a measure of political thought only.

      As a classical liberal and lover of freedom you are on the right.

  • Herman_U_Tick

    On the subject of historic centenaries, the 100th anniversary of the Russian revolution is approaching. It would be wonderful if the media, establishment and the intellectual elite of Britain could acknowledge

    1) the enormous damage that the Bolsheviks/Communists did to Russian society, economy and environment.

    2) the utter naive gullibility they exhibited in believing the Soviet government’s false claims for 70 years.

    I remember my years at University 1970-1973; it was almost impossible to talk about any subject for five minutes without someone directing the conversation to the “class struggle” and a “Marxist analysis” without which, it was claimed, a study of algebra or sewage disposal or the symphony was bound to remain insignificant.

    I would like to see documentaries and dramas treating the great terror and western collusion with it become as numerous and pervasive as those on the third Reich are currently — i.e. to saturation and beyond.
    Come on, you’ve got three years.

    • Factman

      For years Western historians and political propagandists have been pumping out the doctrine that the Bolsheviks were the acme of all evil. The Bolsheviks have been accused of having killed 20, 30 or 40 million people. But what does the record show now that Soviet archives are available?
      Here is what the strongly anti-Soviet US historian Timothy Snyder has to say in an article in the New York Review of Books on “Who was Worse, Hitler of Stalin”:

      “It turns out that, with the exception of the war years, a very large majority of people who entered the Gulag left alive. Judging from the Soviet records we now have, the number of people who died in the Gulag between 1933 and 1945, while both Stalin and Hitler were in power, was on the order of a million, perhaps a bit more. The total figure for the entire Stalinist period is likely between two million and three million. The Great Terror and other shooting actions killed no more than a million people, probably a bit less. The largest human catastrophe of Stalinism was the famine of 1930–1933, in which more than five million people starved.”

      Snyder claims that the 1930s famine was deliberate. Other respected historians like Moshe Lewin deny this.

      Look up the Snyder article in the New York Review of Books by simply googling the paragraph.

      If we take the figure of 3 million it turns out that Stalin did away with under 2 percent of the population of the Soviet Union. This is horrific beyond words and totally unforgivable. That goes without saying.

      But Churchill deliberately allowed (it is in the UK Cabinet records) one tenth of the population of Bengal to perish in famine, with vicious racial abuse withholding relief after years of draining India of food. He vetoed Australia and the US from sending relief as they offered to: Australian ships filled with grain sailed past a Bengal where the dead and dying were strewn all over the fields and roads. Meanwhile in the Whites Only clubs the British feasted their heads off, as did Churchill back in London: he was a notorious glutton.

      Cromwell, the honoured founder of the modern English state whose statue stands in front of Parliament, engaged in wars that destroyed about a fifth of the population of Ireland – not to mention the vast depopulation of the nineteenth century Irish Famine when food was exported from Ireland by the British government as about an eighth of the population starved to death.

      Compared to Cromwell and Churchill the Bolsheviks seem like tyros.

      British historians should give up their favourite sport of painting the Bolshevik Revolution in the darkest colours. It did a lot of good and was less wasteful of human lives than the British Empire under which about 25 million Indians perished from famine in the nineteenth century and under which Ireland was repeatedly depopulated: Cromwell and even Churchill were far worse in scale.

      Desperate famine victims in Bengal tried to get admission to hospitals but were thrown out by British doctors who told them they were not ill, but merely starving.
      In the nineteenth century about 25 million Indians perished in famines under British rule. Mike Davis’ well know book “Late Victorian Holocausts” covers that horrific topic. In India massive famines ended with British rule. The Union Jack was the famine flag in India.

      A Sunday Times review of a book on this subject is on this weblink – the book is praised by Max Hastings, the leading Churchill authority:

      http://www.fpp.co.uk/online/10

      • Bagehot

        Fascinating. If “only” one million people died in the Gulag then Stalin wasn’t so terrible after all. And I supposed if “only” 4 1/2 million died in the death camps, as some have claimed, rather than 6, then the Nazis weren’t such bad guys, either. This is perhaps the most blatantly misplaced defence of Stalinism and the Soviet system I have ever read. Both Communism and National Socialism were abominations, and to argue that one was worse than the other by counting up the dead is a sneaky attempt to argue that the other wasn’t so bad. I leave it for those who try to debate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin to resolve which was worse. Eternal shame on any apologist for either monstrosity!

        • antidot

          The poster is not trying to whitewash Stalin. Read what he says. He merely points out that established historians have now worked out that the Soviet crimes killed far fewer people than originally claimed in the days of reckless Cold War propaganda when the Soviet archives were not available. He also says the numbers as they stand are more than terrible enough.
          However, Stalin can now be seen to have been no worse than Churchill, guilty of imposing deliberate famine on India. The Soviet system was less wasteful of human life than the British Empire under which Ireland was repeatedly depopulated and India starved time and again.
          As for Hitler, I quite agree with you that his crimes are uniquely terrible because his regime had such a filthy ideology that had no connection with human ideals.

          • grutchyngfysch

            “filthy ideology that no connection with human ideals”

            I agree, of course, with this assessement of Nazism, but I would observe that “human ideals” may prove to be a surprisingly evasive concept to pin down. For instance, I could happily apply the statement to Bolshevism, not least for its utter opposition to matters spiritual, and its hatred for traditional family society as well as for its reckless disregard for the value of lives it found no place to value. But then I would, since my idea of what is good and what is evil in humanity is drawn from Christianity.

            Actually, though I don’t think it helps, other than to outline each person’s respective opinion. I’d much rather consider these regimes through “human ideals” as a term of *description* rather than judgement. Since, Marxism, Nazism, and all other manner of systems of politics, are – quite obviously – products of the human imagination. I always try to keep that it mind whenever someone tries to stake an argument on an idea being more or less “human”. That standard has always been tarnished.

          • antidot

            Human ideals are all we have.

          • Bagehot

            He is trying to create a moral equivalence between Churchill and Stalin which does not exist, and diminish one between Stalin and Hitler, which does exist. As has been shown in recent years, the differences between National Socialism and Marxist-Leninism were not nearly as great as either side pretended at the time, and the similarities were numerous. This has been true of other murderous utopian regimes of the past 100 years as well, from Maoism to Ba’athism, and from Pol Pot’s brand of Communism to that of three generations of Kims in North Korea. Often the difference in the body count was due to nothing more than the populations of the countries involved and the means of murder at the regime’s disposal. Though neither may be ideal, I would have greatly preferred to have been an Indian dissident in the time of the Raj to even a loyal senior Party member under Stalin.

          • antidot

            You have not explained why the comparison between Stalin and Churchill does not stand.

            I suppose you would have preferred to be a victim of the Churchill Famine in Bengal. Each to his own.
            You now have the sources and the evidence. Struggle with that.

        • zoid

          absolutely. read solzhenytsyn’s gulag archipelago for an insight.

          • Jeffrey Vernon

            Does Solzhenytsyn tell us how many died in the Gulag, or address any other point that the historian Timothy Snyder deals with ?

          • antidot

            Solzhenitsyn has his worth, but historians now think with the Soviet archives open that his figures for the human losses under the Bolsheviks were massively exaggerated.
            Propagandists do not want evidence.

      • disqus_KdiRmsUO4U

        While not really accepting your defence of the Stalin regime I have long thought that sooner or later the reputation of Churchill would if not collapse at least be sensibly reappraised.
        I mean in such a way as to impinge on mass consciousness.
        Academic criticism already exists.

        I did not know about the Bengal famine.
        Can it possibly have been so black/white as you paint ?
        Few things are

        Was Stalin a Bolshevik or an apparatchik who took control of the state apparatus and bent it to his world view ?

    • Factman

      The Soviets did not do so badly. They did get rid of reactionary German imperialism and did encourage working class movements all over the world that created a more humane economic system. They did encourage the coloured nations to fight for their rights and this led to the end of colonialism. No revolution has done more good than the Bolshevik.

      • David Kay

        over 100 million dead people murdered by communists would disagree with you

        • CiaranJGoggins

          You cannot make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. I would love to visit Russia if they were not so anti-gay.

        • Graeme S

          Nailed It

    • tompiper

      You speak the truth.

  • Factman

    How could Europe be stabilised if the Nazis were not deprived of what they invaded? In the East it had to be the USSR which did the job. Does Hensher know any other way? The choice was the whole of Europe controlled by Hitler or half controlled by Stalin and the West not unreasonably chose the second option.
    If Germany was not guilty for the First World War, who was? If the Germans did not want it all they had to do was leave the French, Belgian and Russian territory they were occupying and go home. The option was offered to them several times by the French and the British and was always refused. So?

    • ClausewitzTheMunificent

      You sir, are no “Fact-man”. First of all lets get to grips with your terminology. “Reactionary German imperialism” is a piece of terminology as Soviet as they get. Moreover, Hitler’s imperialism was anything but reactionary, it was a modern dynamic imperialism, with vastly more brutal methods, immense goals, and a nice streak of socialism. “German fascism” as it is almost invariably referred to by the Communists was in fact blood and brother to the Bolsheviks. Both sought domination on an unparalleled scale, secured through murder and oppression, with the ultimate goal of a socialist paradise. The Soviets did not play any constructive role in the decolonization movement, but rather helped destabilise africa and south america and south east asia leading to bloodshed which lasts to this day. Moreover, the Soviet economic “system” is the complete surrender of all economic and political rights of the individual to the state and the state apparatchiks. Regarding the great Terror, it is estimated that up to 20 million people were sentenced to the Gulag, and many of these died. As regards the deliberate murders, disproportionately in Ukraine, this can include the famines of 1921-22 and 1930-33 which all told killed more than 5 million people and were the direct result of Bolshevik rule in the Soviet Union. Also, you have forgotten the class war of 1917-1923 when millions were shot or starved to death under the direct guidance of Lenin. Sources: A. Applebaum Gulags a History, S.S. Montefiore Stalin Court of the Red Tsar, Orlando Figes A People’s Tragedy. Beyond the body count however must also be measured the immense human cost of the Soviet Union. Being a soviet citizen meant being condemned to living in a web of falsehoods, in a broken society, where corruption ruled. No wonder 40% of the soviet population were alcoholics by the late 1980’s! Source: David Pryce-Jones, The War that Never Was, the Fall of the Soviet Empire. In terms of the sheer number of lives wrecked, the Bolshevik experiment trumps all others. Moreover, while the Irish potato famine can be at least partly blamed on the English, Parliament did try to provide some relief, and it seems did not wholly understand the magnitude of the issue. The starvation was not deliberate and cannot be judged in the same way as that of the 1930s in Russia which was directly caused by Bolshevik policies.

      • antidot

        Hitler himself, in a famous debate with Otto Strasser in 1930 specifically refuted the idea that his “socialism” had any connection with the normally understood leftwing variety. You can read about it in Alan Bullock’s “Hitler and Stalin”.
        Hitler adopted the term “socialism” to give himself the useful propaganda cover of being a critic of orthodox capitalism in an age when that was discredited due to violent economic instability, but he specifically and endlessly condemned the whole heritage of the Left, starting with the French Revolution. He rejected the ideal of human equality as contrary to nature: what could be more anti-Left than that. He destroyed all leftwing parties without mercy and was supported tooth and nail by traditional conservatives; there was talk of restoring the monarchy in the early Hitler years and it took years for the Nazis to rule that out. Hitler never dethroned capitalism.
        If that is real socialism, it would be interesting to know what is the far Right.
        As for the Bolshevik Revolution leading to the collapse of the Western colonial empires, that is a matter of widely accepted historical record. Lenin broke the world of White imperialist control, and backed anticolonial movements. He and the Soviets had had prestige even among Asian and African nationalists who rejected the Communist economic philosophy. Nehru in India and Nasser in Egypt are only two examples. Besides, Bolshevism led to the downfall of reactionary German imperialism and the decline of British power; also the rise of Communism in China. It was all these factors that made Western colonialism impossible to continue after the 1950s.
        As for the numbers killed in the USSR, that is a matter or the historians who now have the Soviet archives. Factman has pointed you to the work of Timothy Snyder, who is very anti-Soviet but thins the traditional Cold War propaganda figures are vastly exaggerated but the real figures are bad enough.
        The record of British crimes is also referred to by Factman citing credible sources. It is up to you to follow up.
        The easy days are over for Western anti-Soviet propaganda. That is your gripe.

        • David Kay

          hitler described himself as a socialist

          The nazi flag was red because it represented socialism

          Nazi party members referred to each other as “comrad”

          hitler was a lefty and the party he led was extreme left wing

          • antidot

            Just read what Hitler himself had to say on the subject of how ferociously he rejected the leftwing idea of socialism. He explicitly upheld the philosophy of capitalism in a debate with Otto Strasser in 1930. You can find it in Alan Bullock’s book “Hitler and Stalin”.
            He did not exterminate the left wherever he found it and launch an incredibly murderous war on Bolshevism because he was a socialist. European anti-Communists and anti-socialists did not back him to the hilt because he was a man of the Left.
            Stop fooling around, will you?

          • David Kay

            Hitler rejected bolshevism not socialism. Like i said, listen to Hitlers speeches rather than to what someone called Bollox has written about him regarding one debate. Hitler hated capitalism just as much as he hated bolshevism. To him the only way forward was through National SOCIALISM.

            Now what part of National SOCIALISM do you think rejects socialism? You lefties need to face up to your fascist past. It wasnt as bad as bolshevism which you seem to embrace. The commies murdered 80 million more people than their nazi socialist comrads.

          • Jeffrey Vernon

            Why drag Marx into this? His key insight was commodity fetishism – the view that we endow commodities with human qualities, and invest our hopes and emotions in them, while regarding the people who make them as mere objects and obstacles to be overcome. This does not seem to me to lead organically to crematoria and gulags.

          • David Kay

            the teachings of marx are reponsible for the deaths of over 100 million people. Without Marx, no communism, without communism no 100 million dead. I suppose if Marx was into equality, 100 million dead is an equal number

          • Jeffrey Vernon

            Marx noted the paradox that while production is social, the objects of production appear like an alien force with power over our lives. And that this is not merely a psychological impression – it really does happen like this. Are you telling me that Hitler took this idea seriously? Or that Stalin did?

            The teachings of Marx are part of a long tradition – mostly English – that tries to understand the source of wealth and the way it is spontaneously distributed by economies. You might as well blame Adam Smith for the gulag or Auschwitz.

          • antidot

            Thanks for the joke. Can we have another?

          • antidot

            Have fun on the merry-go-round.

          • Jambo25

            Actually, various early British ‘socialists’, including some who fed into the early Labour Party had views and ideas which were more biological and corporatist than the cuddly wuddly thing we imagine socialism is today. George Bernard Shaw, for example, was in favour of doing an explicit deal with the working class whereby they would get some form of welfare state a la Bismarck in return for compulsory military service.

          • Jeffrey Vernon

            You’re just picking chance similarities and erecting them into a system. You might as well write that Thatcher was a fascist/socialist for presiding over the deindustrialisation of Britain, or that John Major was a fascist/socialist for promoting an environmentalist agenda. Perhaps the red cross of St George on the flag of England is fascist/socialist?

            The Goring wing of the Nazi party courted rich industrialists, and Volskwagen, Krupp and Messerschmidt were party donors. American industrialists also supported the Nazis financially. But Goebbels on the other hand thought of capitalists as jews, cosmopolitan parasites with a financial stranglehold over governments, and despised capital for that reason.

          • David Kay

            never in the field of human history, has there been written so much crap as in that post of yours

          • Jeffrey Vernon

            I suppose that’s a distinction of some sort.

            Now, play the ball and not the man. Which of my claims was wrong?

          • antidot

            This Kay fellow is just a joke. Hardly worth debating with.

          • David Kay

            you write the jokes for xmas crackers you sad little socialist

          • CiaranJGoggins

            Is it true that he only had one testicle?

        • Fergus Pickering

          Do you know the difference between the word ‘refute’ and the word ‘deny’? ou assume that Hitler knew what he was doing. Wy do you assume that?

        • ClausewitzTheMunificent

          Even thoug Mein Kampf is undoubtedly designed with an aim in mind and does not necessarily provide an exact idea of what Hitler did or did not believe, I think that what emerges from his book is quite clear. His socialism may not have been marxist, or communist, but it most certainly was socialist, with the fantasy of the “working class” replaced by the fantasy of the “pure of blood”. Moreover, though Hitler was initially supported by industrialists, this was no more than a clever tactical move. By 1939 Hitler had imposed himself and his regime to an extent unmatched anywhere else but the soviet union. The german industrial bureaucracy swelled, and businessmen were coerced, rather than the other way round. Hitler was most certainly not a liberal, whom he despised as weak, and not a capitalist – he just took over one of the more advanced industrial economies of the world and had to come to terms with that fact. As an example take the history of the Reichswerke Hermann-Goering, a huge industrial conglomeration created out of state funds and in direct competition with businesses for lucrative war contracts yet owned by the state. The german industrialists felt very threatened by it, and for good reason, it was an enormous organization with vast amounts of, among other things, looted assets, and had the backing of the Party. Had Hitler won the war, German business would have stood no chance.

          • ClausewitzTheMunificent

            Source: Richard Overy: War and Economy in the Third Reich

        • ClausewitzTheMunificent

          Oh and of course Bullock would have said this, being a leftie himself.

        • ClausewitzTheMunificent

          Hitler did not represent “reactionary German imperialism” as I have previously made clear! Moreover, even the imperialism you might reasonably call “reactionary”, i.e. before 1918, was a progressive and fairly liberal brand of establishment. Moreover, it was wholly irrelevant (2 miserly colonies in Africa and a port in East Asia compared to English and French, American, and Dutch imperialisms who between them controlled 50-60% of the worlds surface, and ruled hundreds of millions.

    • Warwick

      You are being disingenuous about half of Europe being invaded by the Russian Communists. The Russian communists were not content to dispossess the Nazis; they occupied East Europe and set up puppet governments that depended on the Russian army as their ultimate source of authority. This is so obvious that it hardly needs to be said.
      To portray the Russian communists as doing no more than defeating the Nazis, or occupying Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and the rest because it was a necessary part of defeating the Nazis, is to engage in deliberate obfuscation.
      The Russian communists brutally occupied and suppressed Eastern Europe in order to expand their empire; it had nothing to do with “bringing stability to Europe.”
      This was of a piece with their suppression of their own citizenry. It was not an aberration or a distortion of Marxism; Marxism openly mandates a “dictatorship of the proletariat.”

    • Jeffrey Vernon

      Hensher draws attention the the ‘Sleepwalkers’ book, which says that the cause was smeared out over all the great powers. You might just as well write that if Austria didn’t want a war, all it had to do was stop picking quarrels with Serbia in 1912. Unless we turn up a document from the German archives showing statesmen plotting a war to pursue deliberate aims, we won’t really be able to say ‘they started it.’

      • antidot

        Whoever started it, it is clear who wanted it to continue after a certain point. It is a fact the Britain and France offered to end the war if Germany quit the French, Belgian and Russian territory it had occupied and went home. The Germans rejected that offer.
        Enough said.

  • The PrangWizard of England

    There’s a saying that ‘some people are educated until they are daft’.

  • HS2

    As usual, what is omitted is much more interesting than what is said. Central to the development of the 20th century was the emerging power of Russia. WW1 was not caused by sleepwalkers but by Imperial Germany, deliberately, as a preventive strike before it was too late. The next step in the destruction of Russia was the export of the “revolution bacill” Lenin by the German military HQ. Thirdly, WWII was all about Russia too, as well known, with the objective of a full destruction of Russia (30 Million to be killed, rest enslaved). And in some way, it must be said that the strategy worked rather well; what is Russia today? Hijacked by criminals, poor economic development, declining population and lead by pathetic closeted gay president.

  • Don Reed

    “Another witness provides an amusing lack of perspective from the academic groves by observing that after 1945, the Soviet Union ‘played an important role in the stabilisation of Europe’.’

    Amusing? Hardly. It’s hair-raising scary that anyone ostensibly “educated” could come within a mile of saying something like that.

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