In Israel, there are Jews talking about applying a new "Final Solution" to the "Arab problem". In Gaza, there are Arabs cheering the Hamas rockets with cries of "death to the Jews". A wave of irrational hatred is spreading over the Middle East, in Israel, Palestine, Syria, Iraq. Capitalism has conjured up the forces of the netherworld, and only the world proletariat can stand in their way.
We can hardly get away this year from a whole variety of historical experts telling us how the First World War actually got started and what it was really about. But very few of them – not least the left wing ideologues who are full of criticism about the sordid ambitions of the contending royal dynasties and ruling classes of the day –tell us that the war could not be unleashed until the ruling classes were confident that plunging Europe into a bloodbath would not in turn unleash the revolution. The rulers could only go to war when it was clear that the ‘representative’ of the working class, the Socialist parties grouped in the Second International, and the trade unions, far from opposing war, would become its most crucial recruiting sergeants. This article begins the task of reminding us how this monstrous betrayal could take place.
In 1914, the German Social-Democratic Party was the most powerful party of the Second International. With more than one million members, it was the largest single political party in Europe and the largest party in any European parliament. Socialists throughout the world, faced with the threat of war in the last days before that fateful 4th August, waited for the SPD to live up to its solemn commitments made at the International's congresses at Stuttgart and Basel, and oppose the war. Yet on 4th August, the SPD parliamentary fraction voted for the Imperial government's war credits, and the way to war was open.
How the German Party degenerated in the years leading up to 1914 to the point where it betrayed its most fundamental principles, and the struggle of the left in the party against this degeneration, is the subject of the article that follows.
September 20, 2014, 11 am to 6 pm
Lucas Arms, 245A Grays Inn Rd, Kings Cross, London WC1X 8QY
In all the noisy commemorations about the First World War, some things are more or less left in silence. First, that a crucial responsibility for the war lay with the ‘Labour’ and ‘Socialist’ parties who in 1914 voted for war credits and set about mobilising the workers for the war effort; and second, that the war was ended by the revolutionary struggles of the working class.
Iraq has been in an almost permanent state of war for four decades. It has been the theatre of three imperialist wars since 1980. But history is not just repetition. This new conflict, after 100 years of capitalist decadence, is the expression of the decomposition of a society which has become totally irrational. The tragedy unfolding in Iraq goes well beyond the frontiers of this country. As we go to press, the murder of three young Israelis, and the revenge murder of a Palestinian of the same age, is sharpening tensions in Israel/Palestine, with Netanyahu using it as a new opportunity to step up the simmering conflict with Hamas and with Iran.
City and media commentators think that things are definitely looking up for the British economy. The statistics that they are basing themselves on certainly show a vigour in the economy that has not been present for six long years, since the crash of 2008. The housing market is moving forward at a great pace, and not just in London. So much so, there is definite anxiety about an unsustainable bubble. Unemployment has fallen sharply – much faster than predicted by the Bank of England. The UK car industry has seen a long period of growth with sales rising for 27 months in a row (although presumably some of the demand is met by German output, for example). Some see exports doing well, but the UK’s trade deficit with the rest of the world widened by more than expected in April, because of weaker manufacturing exports, which were offset by the usual surplus in the services sector.
The ICC in Britain will be holding a Day of Discussion in September 2014. This year, the theme will be World War One – part of our response to the international campaign of the bourgeoisie ‘commemorating’ this barbaric war
In Egypt, the army’s candidate Abdel al-Sisi has won a ‘landslide’ victory, polling between 93% and 96% of the votes. True, the elections were widely boycotted, and only 46% of the electorate went to the polls (government estimate) and the main opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood, was banned; true this election was in fact an out and out farce comparable to the one that Bashir Asad organised in war-shattered Syria on 3 June (and even Asad only polled 88.7% of the vote!). But just as the sectarian divisions in Syrian society have led many – such as Christians and members of the Alawite sect that the Asad family belongs to – to support Asad’s brutal regime out of fear of what would happen if he lost the civil war, so in Egypt the fact that many ordinary people continue to support the rule of the army is also a product of fear.
As the results of May’s elections to the European Parliament became clear, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said it was “more than a warning. It is a shock, an earthquake.” The ‘seismic’ outcome was that about a quarter of the seats would be taken up by parties that are ‘malcontents’ when it comes to the European dream.
Readers will be aware that we have reduced the frequency of the publication of World Revolution.
On the positive side, our website is now our main publication, which we can update as necessary between publication dates giving a proletarian view on significant events in the world. It is also able to reach readers in parts on the world that our papers cannot.
At the same time, the rise in postal charges means that producing and selling papers is increasingly expensive.
From this issue we will be producing World Revolution quarterly, 4 issues a year. Our new subscription prices will appear in the next issue. All existing subscribers will get the full number of issues they have paid for.