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Expectations for the centenary memorial to mark the end of the First World War were always low. Long before the first jumbo-jets carrying world leaders and other dignitaries touched down in Paris, the event was already being discussed in terms that made it feel more like a G20 style summit than a legitimate event to mourn the veterans of the world’s most disastrous war. Yet even with these low expectations in mind, the event’s descent into the hellish pits of vulgarity could not have been fully anticipated.
The morose spectacle of the progeny of the aggressive victors of the First World War acting as though there was anything remotely moral, ethical or righteous about their victory was enough to turn the stomach of the most well tempered observer of world events. Adding to this, the very presence of the Russian President was downright maddening as Russia was utterly destroyed by the events following from the country’s undignified exit from the First World War and entry into a blood-soaked civil conflict whose aftermath haunts much of western Eurasia and eastern Europe to this day. To this day, millions of Russians around the world are refugees as a result of the aftermath of the First World War and the Civil War that exacerbated the pain of the Russian nation.
And this was before French President Emmanuel Macron, a man whose country’s entangled web of alliances brought about the First World War, turned the event into an anti-Trump campaign rally in spite of the fact that the event was about the events of 1918 rather than the 2020 US Presidential election that France has no right to meddle in.
There is simply nothing to celebrate about the First World War as both the deaths caused by the war and its retrogressive geopolitical aftermath made the world a far worse place than it had been before the war. Today’s events merely confirmed that far from living up to the phase “lest we forget”, the lessons of the First World War have already been totally lost on those supposedly commemorating it. The garish spectacle of those advocating for war in Syria, Libya, China, Russia, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela and Korea eating beside one another off of golden plates without an ounce of contrition for the crimes of their forefathers was in reality an endorsement of the aggressive policies that the victorious side in the First World War continues to promote as a central element of foreign policy when instead such a mentality ought to be universally decried as war criminality in motion.
Below are my initial thoughts on today’s events written yesterday in anticipation of a display so morose that it was an insult to the life of every man who gave his life for the cause of a political class that is no better in 2018 than it was in 1914.
Of all the modern wars that have claimed millions of lives, the First World War was the most tragic as its origins were in futility, its outcomes were universally negative and its veterans experienced a perfect storm of modern weaponry combined with comparatively primitive medical care. Thus, those who died often experienced painful deaths while those who lived often lived with deep physical and psychological wounds for the rest of their lives – the likes of which those who are not veterans could scarcely imagine.
The new political maps of Europe, western Eurasia and the Arab that were carelessly drawn during and after the First World War were not only the proximate cause of the Second World War but remain the underlying cause of multiple contemporary conflicts including those in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, the Israel-Palestine conflict and even the war in Yemen. As the root causes of all of these conflicts were the artificial divides of the Arab world among the imperialists of Britain and France, the victory of the Anglo-French Entente is hardly a cause for celebration – certainly no more than the rise of Hitler or the present bloodbaths on Russia’s historic western frontier which equally were and remain a direct result of how the First World War was ended.
And yet speaking personally, when First World War veterans from any side of the War were still alive, the end of the First World War was a cause for reflection and an incredibly sombre and important occasion. The 11th of November was once a day to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of futility, having done so without being offered a say in the matter. The fault of the First World War lies not among the soldiers but among poor leadership on all sides that sent a generation to an early grave while haunting those who survived.
After the war, Turkish Republican founding father Atatürk captured the spirit of circumspection that ought to have been universal after the war. Speaking about the British Empire’s failed Gallipoli campaign, the Turkish Republican leader said,
“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well”.
Today, the veterans of the First World War are all dead. Not a single one lived to witness the centenary of the war that was supposed to end all wars. Because of this, a solemn tribute to the memory of veterans who died as early as 1914 and as late as 2012 should have permeated the spirit of November 2018. Instead, the progeny of both the winners and losers from 2018 are gathering in Paris to slap one another on the back in what has thus far been a kind of pseudo-G20 style summit maliciously masquerading as a memorial event.
Furthermore, because the last surviving veterans are no longer with us, the indefatigable anti-war spirit of many of these brave men has regrettably been lost to history. Instead, individuals with no sense of history beyond their own lives like Emmanuel Macron and Theresa May are glorifying militarism at a time when peace ought to have been the only rational conclusion to be discovered by anyone who knows anything about any aspect of the First World War.
During the protests against the war in Vietnam held over a number of years in the United States, a common refrain was “we are not against the soldiers – we are against the war”. Long after the guns of the First World War fell silent, this statement remains as apposite regarding the events which transpired between 1914 and 1918 as they do in respect of more recent wars.
Instead, the war is considered a victory for some and an historical footnote of some interest to others while the meaning of the war and the lessons derived from this meaning seem to have been buried along with the bodies of the veterans. In his play Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare penned the following as part of Marc Antony’s eulogy to Julius Caesar:
“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones”.
And so it is with the veterans whose great spirit lives after them while in life, the ruling classes of the victorious nations of the First World War act as assassins far less noble than Brutus ever did when he plunged a dagger into a man he once thought of as a comrade.
In his script for Lawrence of Arabia, the greatest film ever made about any aspect of the First World War Robert Bolt wrote the following:
“Young men make wars and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men – courage and hope for the future. Then the old men make the peace and the vices of peace are the vices of old men – mistrust and caution”.
How tragic that these words are as true in 2018 as they were about the events of 1918!
May the veterans rest in eternal peace.
The importance of the Leo Frank case is not just historical. It seems to have marked a turning point. With the founding of the Anti-Defamation League in 1913 Jews in America stopped being simply white people (mostly) and became, as it were, Jews. The evidence that Frank was guilty of murder seems very strong, and he was indeed convicted and sentenced to hang, by a jury including a number of prominent American Jews. But this is not accepted, or is at least pushed under the carpet as “irrelevant”, by the Anti-Defamation League, by Frank’s wealthy Jewish supporters of the time and more or less by the subsequent “historical record”. His supporters’ initial attempts to play the anti-Negro racist card in Atlanta, against all the odds, were not working and it became necessary to detect anti-Semitism behind accusations against Frank. This did not save Frank: his sentence was commuted but he was lynched by what are now called the “deplorables”. The lynching was meant as a lesson to interfering Yankees but, it seems, also reflected genuine moral outrage. Frank nevertheless went on to become “a martyr” and the Anti-Defamation-League commenced a successful career as a lobby willing and able to find anti-Semitism behind many different phenomena.
Anti-Semitism had a long history in Europe, but not in the USA, as I understand it, until the Frank case. If there was some anti-Semitism in the U.S. it was vastly overshadowed by the black vs white and Yankee vs Southerner divides.
It was therefore left to Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, with their eccentric views on a number of subjects (“The Black People of America are the real Children of Israel and those who claim to be Jews are in error [Revelations 2:9, 3:9”] to shoulder the burden of documenting the case against the Anti-Defamation League and Frank. And the volume they have produced is extremely well documented, objective, professional and secular, with the exception of the metaphysically tinged preface.
It would be an interesting subject to document what role. if any, America’s Anti-Defamation League, played in the rise of Nazism in Germany. Both sides of the continually snowballing international furore unleashed by the Frank case seem more interested in the (re)actions of the other side than in the question of whether or not Leo Frank was guilty of murder.
One can get a better idea of what is involved in this issue by reading Zionist materials than one can by reading the mainstream Western press.
Perhaps a historical approach combining a dispassionate study of how anti-Semitism and anti-anti-Semitism became established in the United States will provide some relief from the constant focus on the illegal and unacceptable actions of Israel in combination with a fear of being accusable of what lobbies such as the ADL have succeeded in characterizing as “anti-Semitism”. The resulting irrationality is to nobody’s benefit, including Jews, Israelis and anyone who deserves to be treated with sympathy and understanding
The results of last weekend’s elections in the German state of Hesse have been getting quite a run in mainstream media. The sharp losses suffered by both parties in the Grand Coalition, the Socialists (SPD) and Merkel’s center-right CDU, finally delivered the decisive push that spells the end the reign of the iron lady in Berlin. Not immediately, but in the very foreseeable future, depending on who is elected to replace her at the head of her party in December.
Otherwise commentators have called attention to the beneficiaries of the waning strength at the center: the Greens on the Left, and more particularly the Alternativ fuer Deutschland (AfD) on the Right. While the Greens are a long known quantity in German politics by their participation in the coalitions governing several Laender, the AfD is a relative newcomer and analysts noted with anxiety that the latest election returns now put AfD deputies in all of the German federal states, making it finally a nationwide party and eventual claimant to ministerial portfolios following the next German elections which might come already in 2019.
What we hear about the AfD in mainstream media tends to be condescending, at best, scornful more commonly. The party’s rise is attributed to one issue: its anti-immigration policy. It is dismissed as xenophobic and nationalistic. Its members are assumed to be “deplorables,” if we may borrow Hilary Clinton’s pungent characterization of their assumed moral equivalents in the USA.
Mainstream occasionally reminds us that the homeland of the AfD is the territory of the former GDR. And it is taken as axiomatic that xenophobia and nationalism would have festered there because of the region’s Communist past, so unlike the open and sophisticated society of West Germany.
In the essay which I present here, I will demonstrate that the AfD’s present and likely future successes in German politics come from realities of life in East Germany that are quite unsuspected by global audiences, namely a long-borne resentment at their colonization by their Western compatriots following the annexation of the GDR, by their second class citizen status 28 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. For this association between the sufferings of Ossies at the hands of West German elites and their newfound political voice in what is called the “extreme right” I owe a debt of gratitude to Russian television, and to be specific, to two editions of the flagship Sunday news round-up of channel Rossiya-1 hosted by Dimitri Kiselyov, Vesti Nedeli, on 7 and 14 October.
See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sqr_AQi0eHg, at 1h20min to 1 h 28 min and
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWWON9Z6DOw&has_verified=1 from 0:54 to 1h13 min
* * * *
The point made by Kiselyov and his correspondents in the field is that following its “annexation” in 1990, the new bosses in the West purged East Germany of all its leaders, not merely the cadres of the Communist Party that governed the country or the Stasi secret police that spied on the citizenry and reported to Moscow, but all the professionals including the university professors, sporting administrators, army officer corps. The lustration process put them out on the street, and also deprived their children of opportunities in education and careers bearing as they did the marks of offspring of “enemies of the people.”
The East German elites were replaced at the top of local society by carpetbaggers from the West, very often second or third rate opportunists. At the same time, the most qualified Ossies moved out, often abroad, to pursue employment opportunities in the UK or the United States.
In parallel, East Germany underwent de-industrialization. With very few exceptions such as the Karl Zeiss enterprise in Jena, East German factories were shuttered and no new manufacturers of scale appeared. East Germany became little more than an incremental consumer market for the West. Consequently its economic indices remain at just 73% of Western levels, and this is set to decline to just 66% by 2045.
All of this is very valuable to bear in mind when we consider the radicalization of East Germany and its rejection of the main parties from the West, as expressed today in strong and growing support for the Alternativ fuer Deutschland. According to Kiselyov, latest polls indicate 27% of voters in the East now back the AfD. This is unquestionably the highest level of backing anywhere in Germany today.
Meanwhile, the Ossie origins of the AfD contribute greatly to the rest of its party platform outside of opposition to immigrants. We hear much less about this in mainstream media except when they speculate on the chances of its entering into a coalition with the main traditional parties of Germany and try to match up policies. We find here not merely Euro-skepticism, but opposition to NATO, plus calls for ending sanctions on Russia. These last points we normally associate with the Left of the political spectrum, but they are in keeping with the predisposition of a large part of the population in what was the GDR to trade with and have normal relations with Russia as they did in the distant past. In this context, the Ossie who is the federal Chancellor is at odds with the population from which she came.
I have called these policies, and especially the opposition to NATO, typically Leftist because they were precisely that in the German past. The Entspannungspolitik, or Ostpolitik of Willy Brandt was a case in point. However, power sharing in the Grand Coalition with the CDU has pulled the party from its moorings in exchange for the spoils of power. When several of the former assistants to Brandt and his advisor on the East, Egon Bahr, tried to relaunch Détente a couple of years ago, it found almost no support, as I saw from inside attending what was supposed to be the launch. The SPD was firmly in the hands of the Martin Schulz wing and like-minded Atlanticists, globalists. So it is today.
To be sure, to the Left of the SPD we find Die Linke, another party with roots in the former GDR. Die Linke’s brilliant Bundestag deputy Sahra Wagenknecht regularly weighs in against NATO, against the sanctions on Russia, etc. However, Wagenknecht is enmeshed in a party riven by internal disputes – over pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian factions, over personalities – to the point where it is politically ineffective and has been unable to profit from the weakness of the centrist parties.
Also to the Left of center we find the Greens. However, on international affairs, the German Greens are among the fiercest Cold Warriors on the Continent.
And so those who are condemned by today’s governing elites in Germany as the dregs of society, as fascist leaning, and so forth, namely the AfD, are by default Germany’s otherwise missing anti-war movement.
* * * *
It bears mention that the anti-war sentiments of Germans led in the 1980s to large scale demonstrations against the installation in Germany, in Europe of nuclear armed US Pershing missiles meant to counter Russia’s SS20 intermediate range missiles of that era. There was heft and determination, and their actions keeping the threats of these weapons in the news surely contributed to the conclusion in 1987 of the Treaty that is now under threat of revocation by Trump in the coming month.
I had been despondent contemplating the disarray of the Left and absence of any kind of antiwar movement which might challenge some coming reintroduction of US nuclear tipped intermediate range missiles into the European heartland in the near future.
However, the vitality of the AfD suggests that it could well make political grist from any such US plans just as it has prospered from the calamity of open borders to immigration that Angela Merkel so foolishly caused. If so, our political compass will be spun around entirely.
31 October 2018
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2018