Showing posts with label anti-war. Show all posts
Showing posts with label anti-war. Show all posts

Thursday, January 02, 2020

*From The Archives-The Struggle To Win The Youth To The Fight For Our Communist Future-In Honor Of The Three L’s-In Honor Of Karl Liebknecht- "Anti-militarism Abroad with Special Regard to the Young Socialist Organizations"(1907)

On The 100th Anniversary Of Newly-Fledged German Communist Leader Rosa Luxemburg And Karl Liebknecht-Oh, What Might Have Been-

By Frank Jackman

History in the conditional, what might have happened if this or that thing, event, person had swerved this much or that, is always a tricky proposition. Tricky as reflected in this piece’s commemorative headline. Rosa Luxemburg the acknowledged theoretical wizard of the German Social-Democratic Party, the numero uno party of the Second, Socialist International, which was the logical organization to initiate the socialist revolution before World War II and Karl Liebknecht, the hellfire and brimstone propagandist and public speaker of that same party were assassinated in separate locale on the orders of the then ruling self-same Social-Democratic Party. The chasm between the Social-Democratic leaders trying to save Germany for “Western Civilization” in the wake of the “uncivilized” socialist revolution in Russia in 1917 had grown that wide that it was as if they were on two different planets, and maybe they were.

(By the way I am almost embarrassed to mention the term “socialist revolution” these days when people, especially young people, would be clueless as to what I was talking about or would think that this concept was so hopelessly old-fashioned that it would meet the same blank stares. Let me assure you that back in the day, yes, that back in the day, many a youth had that very term on the tips of their tongues. Could palpably feel it in the air. Hell, just ask your parents, or grandparents.)

Okay here is the conditional and maybe think about it before you dismiss the idea out of hand if only because the whole scheme is very much in the conditional. Rosa and Karl, among others made almost every mistake in the book before and during the Spartacist uprising in some of the main German cities in late 1918 after the German defeat in the war. Their biggest mistake before the uprising was sticking with the Social Democrats, as a left wing, when that party had turned at best reformist and eminently not a vehicle for the socialist revolution, or even a half-assed democratic “revolution” which is what they got with the overthrow of the Kaiser. They broke too late, and subsequently too late from a slightly more left-wing Independent Socialist Party which had split from the S-D when that party became the leading war party in Germany for all intents and purposes and the working class was raising its collective head and asking why. 

The big mistake during the uprising was not taking enough protective cover, not keeping the leadership safe, keeping out of sight like Lenin had in Finland when things were dicey in 1917 Russia and fell easy prey to the Freikorps assassins. Here is the conditional, and as always it can be expanded to some nth degree if you let things get out of hand. What if, as in Russia, Rosa and Karl had broken from that rotten (for socialism) S-D organization and had a more firmly entrenched cadre with some experience in independent existence. What if the Spartacists had protected their acknowledged leaders better. There might have been a different trajectory for the aborted and failed German left-wing revolutionary opportunities over the next several years, there certainly would have been better leadership and perhaps, just perhaps the Nazi onslaught might have been stillborn, might have left Munich 1923 as their “heroic” and last moment.  

Instead we have a still sad 100th anniversary of the assassination of two great international socialist fighters who headed to the danger not away always worthy of a nod and me left having to face those blank stares who are looking for way forward but might as well be on a different planet-from me.  

Markin comment:

One of the declared purposes of this space is to draw the lessons of our left-wing past here in America and internationally, especially from the pro-communist wing. To that end I have made commentaries and provided archival works in order to help draw those lessons for today’s left-wing activists to learn, or at least ponder over. More importantly, for the long haul, to help educate today’s youth in the struggle for our common communist future. That is no small task or easy task given the differences of generations; differences of political milieus worked in; differences of social structure to work around; and, increasingly more important, the differences in appreciation of technological advances, and their uses.

There is no question that back in my youth I could have used, desperately used, many of the archival materials available today. When I developed political consciousness very early on, albeit liberal political consciousness, I could have used this material as I knew, I knew deep inside my heart and mind, that a junior Cold War liberal of the American For Democratic Action (ADA) stripe was not the end of my leftward political trajectory. More importantly, I could have used a socialist or communist youth organization to help me articulate the doubts I had about the virtues of liberal capitalism and be recruited to a more left-wing world view. As it was I spent far too long in the throes of the left-liberal/soft social-democratic milieu where I was dying politically. A group like the Young Communist League (W.E.B. Dubois Clubs in those days), the Young People’s Socialist League, or the Young Socialist Alliance representing the youth organizations of the American Communist Party, American Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S.) respectively would have saved much wasted time and energy. I knew they were around but not in my area.

The archival material to be used in this series is weighted heavily toward the youth movements of the early American Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S). For more recent material I have relied on material from the Spartacus Youth Clubs, the youth group of the Spartacist League (U.S.), both because they are more readily available to me and because, and this should give cause for pause, there are not many other non-CP, non-SWP youth groups around. As I gather more material from other youth sources I will place them in this series.

Finally I would like to finish up with the preamble to the Spartacist Youth Club’s What We Fight For statement of purpose:

"The Spartacus Youth Clubs intervene into social struggles armed with the revolutionary internationalist program of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. We work to mobilize youth in struggle as partisans of the working class, championing the liberation of black people, women and all the oppressed. The SYCs fight to win youth to the perspective of building the Leninist vanguard party that will lead the working class in socialist revolution, laying the basis for a world free of capitalist exploitation and imperialist slaughter."

This seems to me be somewhere in the right direction for what a Bolshevik youth group should be doing these days; a proving ground to become professional revolutionaries with enough wiggle room to learn from their mistakes, and successes. More later.
Karl Liebknecht
Militarism & Anti-Militarism
II. Anti-Militarism
2. Anti-militarism Abroad with Special Regard to the Young Socialist Organizations
(Part 1)

The anti-militarist movement in capitalist countries other than Germany is for the most part strong and lively. This is especially true of the Latin countries such as Belgium, France and Italy, but also applies, though more recently, to Austria, Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries, and even to Holland, though anti-militarism is only just beginning to show itself there.

Special anti-militarist propaganda was started in Belgium in 1886, when the army made large-scale interventions in strikes, as we have already seen. After leaflets had been distributed to remind the soldiers of their duty towards their working-class brothers [1] two anti-militarist newspapers were founded: Le Conscrit and La Caserne (The Conscript and The Barracks). [2] The first always appears in January (before the drawing of lots in February), the second in September (before the recruits are called up on October 1). Both appear in Flemish as well as French (De Loteling and De Kazerne [3]). In 1896 the Party handed over both newspapers to the National Federation of Young Guards, founded in 1894. [4] But they remain under the control of the Party centre, to which the National Federation of Young Guards has sent delegates since 1896-7. The Young Guards were founded in 1893-4, though there were individuals in Brussels as early as the eighteen-eighties, mainly engaged in election work and in special anti-militarist propaganda. Since 1902 this has changed. The disappointments of the second general strike have caused the workers to go more carefully and slowly, and to pay great care to maintaining the roots of organization and propaganda. The aims of the Young Socialist organizations were broadened, and the development of education given first place – undoubtedly the more solid method of anti-militarist propaganda, or rather that which best prepares the ground for it. As far as these organizations are concerned, it is impossible to deal full with their history here, tempting as this may be, though they are also closely linked with the anti-militarist struggle. [5]

A few words only, then: since 1896 the monthly journal Avant Garde, organ of the students and Young Guards, has been appearing in Brussels. Since 1900 the Antimilitariste, monthly organ of the National Federation of Young Guards, has also been appearing. [6] Since 1903 this federation has also published the illustrated monthly La Jeunesse Socialiste. This will be replaced in 1907 by the monthly journal La Jeunesse c’est l’Avenir (Youth is the Future) [7], now controlled by the Walloon Federation of Hainaut and Namur. It has already been appearing since 1906 in Charleroi. [8] Both journals were and are full of anti-militarist material. The same is true of the Flemish De Zaaier (The Sower), an illustrated monthly which has been published since 1903 on behalf of the Antwerp Federation of the Jonge Wacht. It was amalgamated in 1906 with the general Flemish language Party paper De Waarheid (published since 1902 at Ghent), but forms a special part of this journal with its own title. De Waarheid has a circulation of 3,000, La Jeunesse c’ est l’Avenir of 5,000.

Some local organizations of the Young Guards – especially the Antwerp and Ghent Jonge Wachten – are engaged in vigorous anti-militarist activity of a literary kind, etc. The Antwerp group for instance published the paper De Bloedwet (Rule of Blood) in 1900, in order to agitate among conscripts (it has the same aim as La Caserne). It has also published the bi-monthly Ontwapening (Disarmament) since May 1, 1901, and finally, since 1905, De Vrijheid (Freedom). These papers all spread the anti-militarist word with great skill and enthusiasm. Hectographed bulletins are also produced. The Young Guards also do good work of course with leaflets and posters, mostly illustrated. [9] These are sometimes addressed to young workers and sometimes to conscripts and soldiers. Much useful literature in pamphlet form is also produced. Cheap postcards with an anti-militarist message, mostly illustrated, are sold in large numbers.

In Belgium more than half the young men liable to bear arms escape through the system of drawing lots. About 13,000 are called up every year. Around 60,00 copies of Le Conscrit and La Caserne are published altogether in the two languages. [10] They are normally specially posted to the recruits, whose addresses can easily be obtained. Then personal contact can be made with those recruits who have been singled out.

Meetings of recruits regularly take place in January and September, as well as fêtes, street demonstrations and other actions.

Contact is not lost with proletarians who have entered the army. In some Guards’ groups a system of aid is organized, and an allowance made to members of the Guards who have been called up during the time of their service. This allowance varies with the amount of time for which a member has belonged to the group and with the amount he has subscribed. Such members have to provide regular reports on their experiences in the barracks, and remain in personal touch with the Guards. If such a member serves in a different locality from that of his organization, he is put in touch with the local group. We cannot go into more detail for obvious reasons.

The agitation carried out in the barracks plays an important role in Belgium. There are about 15 soldiers’ organizations (soldiers’ unions) at present, which work closely together. An effort is of course made to eliminate these dangerous organizations. But although they are often suppressed, they always reappear, for their roots are too strong to be pulled up. Up to two-thirds of the men in a single regiment have been recruited. Some of the unions are closely connected with the Social-Democratic Party.

Propaganda literature is brought into the barracks in large quantities, and is also distributed to soldiers in the streets and other public places. Meetings of soldiers take place. Many anti-militarist songs have been widely circulated.

The Party itself of course carries on strenuous anti-militarist agitation, and the women and girls take an active part too, in particular by helping the Young Guards in their agitation in the barracks. These efforts have met with great success. The pamphlet Le catéchisme du conscrit (The Conscript’s Catechism), which appeared in several editions in 1896, is worthy of note. It resembles the French Manuel du soldat, and has been similarly subjected to fierce criminal prosecution.

Anti-militarist propaganda, indeed, comes up against severe persecution. This point can of course only be supported by an examination of the generally advanced political conditions in Belgium. In 1886 Anseele was condemned to six months’ imprisonment for an appeal to mothers published in the Vooruit to bring up their sons in such a way that they would never turn their guns against the people. Le Conscrit and La Caserne are constantly brought before the courts. Since their foundation heavy sentences have been pronounced every year in connection with their publication, and the same thing of course has happened since the publication has been taken over by the Young Guards. The first case was that against Le Conscrit in 1897, when two comrades were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. In 1904 Coenen, secretary of the National Federation of Young Guards, was called with five others before the jury in Brabant in connection with the appearance of posters appealing to recruits. The same thing was soon repeated, this time involving Coenen alone, because of an article which had appeared in La Caserne. But he was acquitted. [11] The sentences passed on Troclet in the middle of the eighteen-nineties on account of Le catéchisme du conscrit are also noteworthy.

The chief crimes for which penalties are imposed are the following: calls to disobey orders, insulting the army (six months’ imprisonment is the minimum punishment!), and the infamous atteinte à la force obligatoire des lois – attack on the principle that the law is binding. Where more than five people are shown to have conspired together the punishment is doubled. Every year sentences of imprisonment averaging from two to three years are passed. In 1903 the secretary of the National Federation was sentenced to three years in prison. It is true, however, that half of the accused are acquitted. The system under which the prisoners live is harsh. No distinction is made, on principle, between political and non-political prisoners.

Treatment accorded to anti-militarist soldiers is cruel, at least by Belgian standards. Those opposing militarism are threatened with three to five years’ prison in the harsh correctional system. For the slightest offence the barbarous medieval punishment called the cachot is inflicted. The prisoners must lie in irons in an unheated cell, and are fed on bread and water. The cells are built over water, are damp, and in winter a spell in them can be dangerous to life. This goes together with the ill-treatment dealt out by the N.C.O.s, who are themselves given this job as a disciplinary punishment.

The extent of the growth of Belgian anti-militarism, in spite of its struggle against fire and sword, has been shown elsewhere, and can be said to be an almost complete success. In the critical year 1902 the whole population took such an interest in the propaganda that officers attempting to stop the agitation which was carried on openly in the streets among the soldiers were often attacked.

We must also mention the Groupes des Anciens Militaires (ex-soldiers’ groups). They were formerly organized as a national federation, but are now flourishing as local organizations and publish a newspaper. Anti-militarist propaganda in the reserve and the militia, as well as agitation against the bourgeois military societies, are their chief tasks.

A few words must be added on the attitude taken by Belgian Social-Democracy, as far as tactics are concerned, towards militarism.

On the question of war, and above all on the tactics to be adopted if a war breaks out, there is no unanimity of opinion. Only three facts can be mentioned here:

The Party Congress at Ghent in 1893 expressed its enthusiastic approval of a telegram from the anciens soldats of Amsterdam which expressed the hope that the Congress would sanction the calling of a military strike in case of war, as the Dutch Socialists had suggested. The Louvain Congress of 1899 simply endorsed the proposal of De Winnes that to make propaganda for socialism was the best way of fighting the growth of military armament and of ensuring world peace. In 1905 the Socialist Federation of the Charleroi district resolved that in order to prevent war it was necessary:

1.To prevent troop mobilization by calling a general strike of railwaymen;
2.To organize a general strike in the coal mines in order to deprive the belligerent powers of the fuel necessary for the navy and for troop transport;
3.To stop work in the docks, arsenals and munitions factories.
The history of the Young Guards also throws an interesting light on the subject. Their congress in 1897 decided among other things to induce the Socialist Parties of other countries to organize their young people on an international and anti-militarist basis in order to make war impossible. The proceedings of the Brussels Congress of 1903 were also important. Two sharply opposed views were more or less equally represented. One view strongly defended, especially by de Man, used Hervé’s [1*] arguments to propose the declaration of a military strike (collective refusal to serve), a general strike and revolutionary agitation in case of war. The other view was put by Troclet and Fischer, who simply endorsed the resolutions of the international congresses. The Troclet-Fischer resolution was passed by seventeen votes to fifteen, with two abstentions. [12]

At the Ghent Congress of January 1906 a sharp departure was made from anarchist tactics, and individual refusal to serve was repudiated. A motion put by de Man suggests that to snatch the means of power in the form of the army from the ruling classes it is necessary to awaken proletarian class consciousness among the soldiers. Another of de Man’s motions describes the army in its role against the enemy at home. The soldiers are advised to conduct themselves as properly as possible in the interests of anti-militarist agitation. The anarchistic dross was thus eliminated and things cleared up considerably.

In France anti-militarist propaganda began long ago and is very vigorous but not so well organized as in Belgium, nor does it follow the same tendency.

In 1894 the 12th Congress of the Socialist Revolutionary Labour Party (P.O.S.R.) at Dijon passed a specially noteworthy resolution against militarism in its two forms, emphasizing the harm done by militarism and the general danger it presented to the proletariat. The end of the resolution says: “In peacetime the standing army serves a police role, acting as a shooting machine. It drowns in blood the struggles of the miners and factory workers for their rights, the proletarian soldier in absurd anger raising his hand against his brother on strike.”

Not only Social-Democratic anti-militarism but also the anarchist form developed in France, together with the specifically French tendency of anti-patriotic Socialist anti-militarism (which however later left its mark in Italy and even in Switzerland).

Anarchist and semi-anarchist anti-militarism was supported chiefly by the weekly journal Les Temps Nouveaux (Modern Times) and its numerous and often clever publications. These, like the paper itself, are for the most part based on a proletarian standpoint. They contain valuable material contributed not only by men like Kropotkin [2*] but by syndicalists, especially P. Delesalle. There are also the publications of the individualist paper Libertaire. French anarchists were also responsible for the foundation in 1902 of the International Anti-militarist Federation, and rather earlier of the Ligue Internationale pour la Defense du Soldat (International Soldiers’ Defence League) with headquarters in Paris. The leading thinkers of this league – which seems to have disappeared – were the anarchists Janvion, Malato, then Georges Lhermite, editor of the radical paper L’Aurore, and Urbain Gohier. Their programme aimed at the abolition of standing armies, the abolition of the system of military justice and material improvements and guarantees for the soldiers. But their activity went far beyond this programme. The postcards, pamphlets and posters, often powerfully illustrated, which were published by the League continuously repeat the slogan “A bas la justice militaire!” (Down with military justice!) and the calls “Down with war!”, “Down with militarism!”, “Long live peace between nations!” But its influence could not extend beyond the borders of France.

The agitation for individual and collective refusal to serve and for desertion forms a large part of this propaganda, which of course is quite uneven. According to Kropotkin the military strike to be called against war is not to be merely passive but to go hand in hand with the social revolution and the defence of the revolution against the enemy abroad. [13] This is to rebate the chief objection to anti-patriotism, or as the Temps Nouveaux calls it, anti-nationalism. It is well-known that Emile Henry, the anarchist and terrorist, threw his famous bomb at Carmaux in August 1892 as a warning in order to try to prevent a repetitition in the miners’ strike of the Fourmies massacre which had taken place the year before. [14]

The anti-patriotic Socialist current of anti-militarism, which displays many anarchist traits [15], is supported on the one hand by the Yonne Federation of the United Socialist Labour Party (the Yonne being an almost completely agricultural department) [16] and on the other by a strong current within the anti-parliamentary trade unions. Anti-patriotism of course does not play such an important role in the trade unions, which are faced with the struggle against militarism on the home front, the most cruel and powerful enemy of workers on strike.

Since 1901 the Jeunesses Socialistes, the youth organizations of the Yonne, have published, in accordance with a resolution passed in 1900, a newspaper called Pioupiou de l’Yonne. [17] Originally it appeared bi-annually, then quarterly, and it is designed, as stated at the head of the first numbers, “for those called up to join their regiments”. All the reactionary forces at the state’s disposal were let loose against the Pioupiou, which was distributed free to all the conscripts of the department. Legal prosecutions literally rained from the sky [18], though they generally ended in acquittal. This in spite of the fact that the call to disobey if ordered to use arms against strikers was explicitly made. Pioupiou, still published by Moneret in 1905, was strongly influenced by Hervé, who, with Yvetot, was and is the leading figure and organizer of anti-patriotic anti-militarism. His work Leur Patrie contains a detailed and clever exposition and formulation of his ideas, and since the middle of December 1906 he has been publishing in Paris a weekly paper, La Guerre Sociale (The Social War), which renders vigorous aid to anti-militarism. To any war, however it might have started, he knows only one solution: plutôt l’insurrection que la guerre, and he fiercely attacks the attitude of the leaders of German Social-Democracy to aggressive wars. [19] He is very far from supporting individual refusal to serve. In his case the struggle against militarism at home is relegated somewhat to the background. We shall deal elsewhere with Hervéism, which carries on its struggle with noteworthy tenacity and readiness for sacrifice.

As far as the form of Hervé’s propaganda is concerned, the events of September 30, 1906 are characteristic. Hervé and a band of his supporters went to a fête at the Trocadero given by the Republican Youth of the 3rd arrondissement and by the French Educational League in honour of those called up to serve in the army. They made a demonstration against the patriotic-military event, came into collision with the police and were arrested.

As far as the anti-patriotic anti-militarism of the trade unions is concerned, the report laid before the Dublin Conference of trade union secretaries by the Confédération Générale du Travail gives a good idea of its character. In striking contrast to Hervéism, it unilaterally underrates the significance of “militarism abroad”.

In this report the methods of anti-militarist educational work are divided into:

1.Solidarity work:
•“The soldier’s penny” (“Sou du soldat”);
•Reception and care of soldiers as guests in the trade union homes;
•Solidarity with those comrades who evade military service or who are victimized for rebellion against discipline.
2.Propaganda work: public meetings, social evenings, send-offs for recruits, demonstrations, posters, manifestoes, pamphlets, leaflets, the special annual illustrated number of the paper La Voix du Peuple (Voice of the People), the widely-circulated organ of the French Trade Union Federation, and finally the new soldiers’ handbook (Nouveau Manuel du Soldat), which had already been circulated in 100,000 copies in 1903. It led as everyone knows – and with the approval of the ex-Socialist Millerand – to the vigorous intervention of the administrative and judicial authorities.
The Manuel du Soldat was published in accordance with the decision of the trade union congress held at Algiers on September 15, 1902, by the Federation of Trade Union Houses. A second edition appeared in the same year, and a third in 1905. It ends with an appeal to the soldiers either to desert or to make anti-militarist agitation in the barracks, and to those on active service not to fire, even when ordered, on the so-called “enemy at home”, their brother workers.

The former organ of the Socialist Revolutionary Labour Party, La Lutte Sociale (The Social Struggle) ought to be mentioned here. It was published, probably for the first time in 1904, for the Union Fédérative du Centre by Allemane and Hervé, and was devoted to anti-militarist propaganda.

In 1905 the Socialists and syndicalists together [20] published the red poster which appealed to the soldiers not to turn their weapons against the proletariat, and if ordered to do so to turn them instead against their commanding officers rather than their class comrades.

Finally, anti-militarist propaganda is one of the main tasks of the French Young Socialist organizations. Until 1903 each of the three French parties had its own special organization (Jeunesse Socialiste). Since 1902 the Jeunesses Syndicalistes, supported by the revolutionary trade unions, have appeared on the scene. At the moment they are in a rather chaotic situation.

The activity of the Young Socialist organization of the Yonne has already been mentioned. Since 1900 the Conscrit, still going in 1906, has appeared as the organ of the Revolutionary Young Socialists, and the paper La Feuille du Soldat (The Soldier’s Paper) as the organ of the Union Fédérative des Jeunesses Socialistes du Parti Ouvrier (Federative Union of the Labour Party Young Socialists). Both call on proletarians in soldier’s uniform to fulfil their duty to their class comrades. La Feuille du Soldat calls on them plainly to refuse to obey if ordered to turn their weapons against the working class, and to take part in the general strike when it is proclaimed. Le Conscrit emphatically rejects individual revolt as useless.

At the Congress of French Trade Unions in Amiens in October 1906 Delesulle was able to point out quite correctly that earlier trade union congresses had declared themselves for anti-militarist and anti-patriotic propaganda, and he announced that this position had been unanimously endorsed by the Committee. At the same congress a resolution moved by Yvetot was adopted, though opposed it is true by a large minority, calling for an intensification of anti-militarist and anti-patriotic propaganda. It was obvious that the minority was not opposed to anti-militarism or to an increase in anti-militarist propaganda but simply to the stress laid on anti-patriotic propaganda. The same thing was evident at the Congress of the French United Socialist Party held at Limoges in November 1906. The Hervé resolution, put forward by the Yonne Federation, got only a few votes. It formulated the anti-patriotic point of view, and appealed to the comrades to reply to every declaration of war, from whichever side it might come, by a military strike and an insurrection. But the resolution put forward by Guesde, emphasizing the organically capitalist character of militarism and which considers that anti-militarism can only be furthered in the context of general Social-Democratic propaganda, was also voted down, though the minority was three times larger. It demanded in the short term a reduction in the length of service, the refusal to vote military credits and the introduction of a citizen army. Vaillant’s resolution, moved by the Seine Federation, was adopted. After stating the principles adopted by the international congresses it demands international action against war and makes it a duty to use every kind of action, from parliamentary intervention and public agitation and demonstrations to the general strike and insurrection, according to the needs of the situation. At the beginning of 1906 Vaillant, as we know, published in Le Socialiste his famous proclamation on the occasion of the outbreak of the Morocco conflict, which ended with the cry: plutôt l’insurrection que la guerre.

No decision was reached regarding militarism at home, but many other indications are available which make the attitude of French Social-Democracy quite clear. The watchword is an appeal to the soldiers not to obey when they are used against strikes and against the working class. The Manuel du Soldat addresses the following words to the soldiers: “If they try to make you into murderers it is your duty to disobey! If you are sent against strikes, you will not shoot!” The famous words “Vous no tirerez pas” – used by comrade Meslier in the great trial of anti-militarists in December 1905 are therefore only an echo of the general cry of the class-conscious Socialists or syndicalists.

The appeal to conscripts issued jointly by Socialists and syndicalists in 1905 and mentioned above contains a drastic and fearless solution of the problem, calling on soldiers not to use their weapons against the working class, but rather to turn them against the officers who gave them that order. When this appeal was discussed in the Chamber, Sembat, in the name of the Socialists, declared: “I am asked what my opinion is regarding the advice to fire on officers. My answer is that when an officer has given the order to fire on strikers, I approve of this advice. And Lafargue has repeatedly endorsed this standpoint in L’Humanité in short, sharp terms.

The numerous trials of anti-militarists in France, which until recently almost always ended in acquittal, were a considerable help to propaganda. The Pioupiou trials have been dealt with above. Yvetot, having been acquitted ten times, was eventually convicted by a jury of the lower Loire in 1904 in connection with an anti-militarist speech and sentenced to – a fine of 100 Francs. But later he too became acquainted with prison life. In 1905 two anarchists were arrested in Aix. One of them was condemned to three months’ imprisonment for an anti-militarist manifesto which had been posted up on the walls of Marseilles. Morel and Frimat were also imprisoned, and prison sentences were also passed in Brest, Armentières and Limoges. [21] In the spring of 1906 convictions followed in Toulon and Rheims. The special number of the Voix du Peuple printed for recruits has been repeatedly seized. In October 1906 the editor, Vignaud, was arrested. Above all we should note the great anti-militarist trial in Paris in December 1905, at which Hervé and 25 others were sentenced to prison terms totalling 36 years, together with fines amounting to 2,500 Francs. But these severe sentences were not fully enforced.

Anti-militarist propaganda has a massive pamphlet literature at its disposal. Apart from the Temps Nouveaux, there are the Librairie & Propagande Socialiste, the Société nouvelle do Librairie et d’Edition (Georges Bellais), the Librairie die Parti Socialiste (S.F.I.O.) and the Stock publishing house which have made a specially important contribution to the publication of such pamphlets.

The successes of anti-militarist propaganda in France are considerable. In this connection we must not overestimate the significance of the fact that here and there an officer openly expresses anti-militarist opinions and takes the consequences in a spirit of great selflessness. [22] Such individual acts are not of great interest in connection with a purely proletarian class movement such as we take anti-militarism to be in France (as opposed to Russia). More important is the fact that the number of cases of desertion, of soldiers who refuse to serve or obey orders and who make anti-militarist demonstrations is on the increase. Very harsh sentences are sometimes passed in these cases [23], on other occasions sentences which, from the standpoint of German conditions, are amazingly mild. Thus two marines were sentenced in October 1906 to 15 and 60 days’ imprisonment respectively by a court martial in Cherbourg for having exclaimed in front of a patriotic monument: “Down with the army, down with the officers, we don’t need an army!”

We will give only a few details here. On May 3, 1905, 61 men of the 10th Company of the 32nd Infantry Regiment simply left the barracks for a place nearby because of bad food and ill-treatment. In September 1906 the soldiers arranged a demonstration in connection with the suicide of a reservist in the Compiègne garrison, sang the Internationale and insulted the officers. At the beginning of August 1906 the Eclair published a circular of the War Minister Etienne addressed to the corps commanders. He informs them that the N.C.O.s leaving the infantry school at Saint-Maixent [24] had expressed anti-militarist ideas and explained that they were remaining in the army in order to win over adherents to their ideas. Above all we must draw attention to a number of strikes – for example at Durtkirk, Le Creusot, Longwy (Merrheim!) and Montceau-les-Mines – when the soldiers called in to intervene declared their solidarity with the strikers. It is no wonder that the Nouvelliste do Rouen treats the effect of Social-Democracy on the army as “a very dangerous wound on the body of France which requires the most drastic treatment”. [25]

In comparison with German conditions the War Minister Etienne used very moderate terms in the above mentioned circular when speaking of the danger of anti-militarism and the methods of fighting it. And it cannot be denied that in France great scope has been given to anti-militarism with regard to the constitutional right of free expression of opinion. The reports of the trials of anti-militarists are very instructive in this connection. We remember how a few years ago the Socialist Fournière was permitted to lecture on social politics to the Polytechnic officers’ school. And quite recently the lectures for officers at the School for Social Studies in Paris, in which Captain Demonge spoke quite openly and even in revolutionary terms against militarism, caused the flesh of our strict and narrow-minded militarists to creep. If we add the impending limitation of the scope of military justice and of the biribi, together with the government bill concerning the shortening of the term of service for the reserve and the militia (though it is true that this was rejected), and finally Picart’s plan for the democratization of the officer corps by the realization of an unité d’origin of officers and non-commissioned officers [26] – then France might appear to be an El Dorado of militarism. The position of Clemenceau [3*] towards anti-militarism – he is the president of a ministry in which sit two “Socialists”, once amor et deliciae of all social optimists – shows that it is not a question of a fundamental change in militarism, but simply of a change in form, due for the most part to anti-clericalism.

The Italian labour movement in its different tendencies bears some resemblance to the French movement. Here too, together with the normal political party movement, we find anarchist offshoots and an anti-patriotic syndicalist movement which is anti-parliamentary and closely related to anarchism. The anti-militarist movement is also divided according to the same criteria. It goes back some time, but has only recently been systematically taken in hand by the Party. We must first mention the Young Socialist organizations and above all the Federazione Nazionale Giovanile Socialism, with headquarters in Rome, and to which a number of provincial federations are affiliated. [27] It published the Gioventu Socialista (Socialist Youth), edited by Paolo Orano, and has been active from the outset in the field of anti-militarism, like the Belgian Young Guards. [28]

In 1905 the Leghe delle Futture Conscritti was founded as a special anti-militarist organization, subsidiary to the National Federation with which it is closely connected. Both organizations are recognized by the Party.

At a session of the Party executive in Rome in October 1905 the following resolution moved by Ferri was passed, with only one vote against:

The Party executive protests against police prosecution of Socialists and of their press in connection with the recent anti-militarist demonstrations. It notes with satisfaction the enthusiasm with which the Young Socialist organizations have carried on the anti-militarist agitation called for by the Party, and resolves that the whole Party, with the help of the executive, is to take part in this agitation. The aim is not merely to enlighten public opinion on the fact that huge amounts of state money are being wasted on the military administration, but above all to persuade the recruits and soldiers that, without ignoring their duty to defend the country, they should not co-operate in the murder of workers. These murders, in their frequency and cruelty, are an insult to our land.

Apart from this, the Rome Party Congress of October 1906 gave an idea of the general way in which anti-militarist propaganda is carried on in Italy. Anti-militarism was a special item on the agenda. Two motions were presented. That of the syndicalist Bianchi read : “The ninth Congress of the Socialist Party, in the discussion on militarism, approves the activity and propaganda methods used by the Italian Young Socialist organizations.” The other motion was presented by Romualdi, editor of Avanti, and states: “Congress endorses the Party’s anti-militarist traditions, and considers it necessary – in view of the refusal of the bourgeoisie to recognize that the army must stand on a position of genuine neutrality in the struggle between labour and capital – that, in order to prevent the murder of workers and the breaking of strikes, an agitational movement should be started with the aim of dissuading the young workers from taking up their arms in such situations and becoming strike-breakers. At the same time Congress considers it necessary to make propaganda among the workers for the idea that they should not use violence against the troops, both in order to avoid a reaction on the part of the soldiers and to prove that a common bond of brotherhood unites the striking workers and the soldiers.”

Anti-patriotic as well as anarchist anti-militarism was represented in the discussion, but the strictly Social-Democratic variety was dominant, while anti-militarist agitation among the soldiers was only opposed by a few delegates using arguments similar to those heard at the 1904 Bremen Congress of the German Social-Democratic Party. The representatives of the Young Socialist organization explained that their comrades did not carry on anti-militarist propaganda according to Hervé’s method, but in order to reduce the army bill and to awaken a sense of solidarity between soldiers and workers. Finally it was decided not to put the motion of Fend and Turad to the vote, but to remit the question to the Party executive for consideration. At the same time it is very important to note that Ferri’s integralist resolution, which was adopted at the Congress by an overwhelming majority, contains the following passage:

The Party is developing political activity whose object is: to intensify anti-clerical and anti-monarchical propaganda in view of the present situation and of the growing clericalism of the government; to intensify anti-militarist agitation, whose aim is the education of Italian youth in socialism, in order to neutralize the tendency of the ruling classes to use the army as an instrument of coercion against the proletariat.

In Italy too anti-militarist agitation has made the army unreliable as a weapon against the so-called enemy at home. But in Italy also class justice has been wed, in the form of numerous trials and the infliction of severe punishments, to attack anti-militarists both inside and outside of the army. The Turin events of 1905 are well known.

Anti-militarism has made great strides in Switzerland, together with the ever more frequent use of soldiers in strikes.

At the Conference of the Swiss Social-Democratic Party held at Olten in October 1903, a resolution was drafted which takes up the standard position towards war and demands a military constitution which “clearly determines the rights and duties of the state and of its citizens”, and declares that the use of the army in strikes cannot be tolerated.

Dissatisfaction with this resolution led in April 1904 to the convocation of the Lucerne Congress, which set out, among others, the following demands:

A considerable reduction in military expenditure, the people to decide on questions of expenditure above a total of one million Francs, an improvement in the military and economic position of the soldier, abolition of military justice, prohibition of the use of troops in strikes.

The conference described it as the duty of the Party to use every means available to attain these goals, but without any more definite indication of those means.

The intervention of the military in strikes at La Chaux-de-Fonds and the Ricken made greater activity necessary, as well as the adoption of a clearer slogan. Heated discussions took place in meetings. The Federal Committee of the Trade Union Federation published a leaflet on September 15, 1904 which contained the sentences:

In all cases we must try to persuade the soldiers not to fire on their fellow workers, not to use their weapons against them, and not only to refuse to obey on these occasions but also to attempt with every means to prevent such murder. Only then will they be acting in the spirit of our Federal Constitution, which states that the soldier in uniform is first of all a citizen.

The Party Conference which took place soon after at Zurich passed the following resolution:

The Social-Democratic Party calls upon the soldiers, when they are mobilized against strikes, to bear in mind their solidarity with the workers and not allow themselves to be used in actions which would vitiate the right of their class comrades to strike and hold meetings.

The following Party Conference at Geneva instructed the Party executive to draft a resolution on the military question for the next conference.

In the meantime anti-militarist agitation was being organized and systematized. In 1905 a Swiss Anti-militarist League was established, whose object is:

1.To enlighten the workers to the fact that in bourgeois society the army acts as a hindrance to the liberation of the working class;
2.To use all means suitable in rendering the army harmless as far as its use as a means of power by the capitalists is concerned.
The first congress was held in October 1905 and the League has grown rapidly since then. It issues leaflets to the workers’ organizations and pamphlets addressed to agricultural and industrial workers, and displays considerable activity. Among the pamphlets we must make special mention of the widely circulated and almost classic text, The Watchdog of Capitalism.

In accordance with the decision of the Lucerne Congress of January 1906 preparations were put in hand for a central library, as well as for a translation of Hervé’s Leur Patrie. The League also publishes the Vorposten, which is devoted, and with great skill, to anti-militarist agitation. [29] As far as the question of militarism abroad is concerned, the League takes up the standpoint which has been much argued over: that although only the victory of socialism can abolish war, something must be done while this victory is not achieved to prevent the “mutual slaughter of and by those without property at the command of those who possess it”, and that the only thing that is of use in this connection is the “withdrawal of military labour power”, that is, the military strike. As far as the question of militarism at home is concerned, they of course make the appeal: “Vous ne tirerez pas!” [30] The second proposal is naturally much more disagreeable to capitalism, especially in Switzerland, than the first. But it is still a fact that a favourite manoeuvre of the bourgeoisie is to try to work its mill of counter-agitation with “patriotic” wind, which it endeavours to raise by stamping this tendency as “unpatriotic”, “treacherous” and resulting in the “disarming of the nation in the face of the enemy abroad”. [31]

The Party Conference at Aarau held in February 1906 was the occasion of a very interesting anti-militarist debate. It came to light that in Switzerland too the idea of the military strike and of a refusal to take part in army service against other countries has its supporters. The following important resolution was passed.

(1) The Social-Democratic Party strives together with the Social-Democratic Parties of other countries to eliminate all possibilities of war among the civilized peoples as well as all instruments of war. It demands that international conflicts be settled by arbitration.

(2) As long as this state of affairs has not been established among the peoples of central Europe, the Party recognizes only a citizen army whose sole purpose is to protect the country from external attack.

(3) The Party protests against the use of soldiers in strikes. Since this misuse has in fact taken place in recent years, it demands guarantees against its repetition. As long as these guarantees are not forthcoming, the Party advises the soldiers to refuse to obey when ordered to attack workers on strike or to draw weapons against them. The Social-Democratic Party will in such cases attempt as far as possible to aid the individual concerned and his family with regard to the financial consequences, and for this purpose will get in touch with the trade union organizations. The Party considers that the best guarantee against the use of troops in cases of strikes lies in the strengthening of its political power at commune and state level.

(4)The Party demands an army organization which is based upon general military service, which is in harmony with democratic institutions and does not come into contradiction with the principle that all have equal rights under the constitution. It demands the reduction of military expenditure and opposes all expenditure not absolutely necessary for national defence.

As a consequence of this resolution it was decided to establish a fund for the support of army resisters.

The first, second and fourth paragraphs of this resolution practically cover the draft resolution submitted by the Party executive. [32] The Party Conference however inserted paragraph 3 in the draft resolution, the passage which calls on soldiers to disobey orders in the event of intervention in strikes. The conference also made the wording of the resolution sharper and more definite, in accordance with the demand made in the Vorposten.

The Social-Democrats of the Grütli, as is known, take up for the most part a thoroughly petty-bourgeois attitude to militarism. They condemn for example the refusal to vote for the budget! It will not be surprising if on the military question they are found to be so light in weight that they will be blown out of the Party like chaff. The new Party split which was rumoured to be going to take place at the Aarau conference has so far been avoided, in spite of the vigorous anti-militarist position taken up by the conference.

The publications of the study group of the workers’ circle of Saint-Imier are also noteworthy. Among them one can find the useful pamphlet The Army and Strikes. The Young Socialist organizations, which probably only exist in French Switzerland, also play a certain role. The journal La Jeunesse Socialiste has been published in Lausanne since 1903 by a number of these organizations, but recently it has lost the character of a Young Socialist paper. We must also mention the Youth Society founded and directed in Zurich by the comrade and pastor Pflüger.

It is evident that in Switzerland too anarchism directs its attention to anti-militarism. There is an anarchist anti-militarist group in Geneva, apparently the only group in the whole of Switzerland which is affiliated to the International Anti-militarist Association, which we shall speak of later. The anarchist paper Weckruf, which is published in Zurich and has been appearing since 1902, considers anti-militarist agitation – in the anarchist sense, of course – as one of its main tasks. We should not overlook the fact that it is at least a kind of proletarian anarchism which is being put forward here – or rather, that the anti-militarist arguments put forward by Weckruf have a largely proletarian character. The successes of Swiss anti-militarism, shown especially by the Geneva and Zurich strikes, have already been mentioned, together with the subsequent memorable action of the system of justice. In addition let us note the fact that many proletarian members of the militia refused to march against the masons’ strike at La Chaux-de-Fonds. In spite of the “sympathy” of so-called public opinion, severe sentences were passed on six of the militiamen by military justice. [33]


Table of Contents | Next Section


1. We have before us one of the leaflets issued by the Antwerp branch of the Socialist Labour Party in 1886. It goes straight to the essential point, calling on the soldiers to refuse to obey an order to fire on the people.

2. In regard to this activity see La procès de la caserne, Volksdrukkerij, Ghent 1905.

3. De Loteling and De Kazerne since 1887, Le Caserne since 1893, La Conscrit since 1899.

4. The Flemish papers were placed under the control of the Flemish Federation of the Socialist Young Guards in Ghent.

5. Cf. Housiaux in Die Neue Zeit, April 23, 1904, vol.2, pp.110ff., and the scattered congress reports. Three provincial federations exist: the Flemish (about 1,000 members), the Brabant (about 500 members) and the Walloon (about 8,000 members). The last was founded in September 1905. The Liege Congress of 1905 dissolved the National Council, which was reconstituted in rather different form in 1906 – the Flemish and Walloon Federations each elect a representative, and the National Congress elects the third (the National Secretary).

6. We need not consider the Etoile Socialiste here.

7. Its predecessor was the journal Contre le militarisme, pour le socialisme.

8. In 16 pages!

9. During the process of the drawing of lots in 1906 the streets were plastered with some 20,000 explanatory posters and 80,000 illustrated posters.

10. In 1906 the print of La Conscrit was over 68,000, that of Do Loteling about 30,000, La Caserne slightly less. In 1905 100,000 copies of La Caserne were distributed for special purposes.

11. Cf. La procès de la caserne.

12. On the debate, in which Vandervelde’s intervention was decisive, see Mouvement Socialiste for August 15, 1903, pp.594 if., and La Jeunesse Socialiste for August 1903.

13. Les Temps Nouveaux, October 28, 1905.

14. In this connection see the pamphlet Le patriotisme, Libertaire Publications, Paris.

15. Les Temps Nouveaux takes a very friendly attitude towards it.

16. Leur Patrie, p.246. This is the explanation of the objection frequently made against Hervé that his support in the Yonne is to be explained by the old and deeply-rooted dislike of the peasants for military service.

17. Pioupiou – a popular expression for “recruit , with a certain affectionate and familiar connotation.

18. Cf. La Pioupiou en cour d’Assises (The Recruit before the Jury), Auxerre 1904.

19. On Hervé’s anti-parliamentarism, see La Vie Socialiste, pp.97ff. In Mouvemont Socialiste, June 1, 1905, Fages says that the so-called campagne antipatriotique is in reality a campagne anticapitaliste.

20. With the co-operation of the Association Internationale Antimilitariste.

21. Cf. Les Temps Nouveaux, no.12, 1905. On the prosecutions against Loquier and Lemaire at Epinal and Amiens, see ibid., no.26, 1905.

22. The case of Merrheim deserves special mention. At a strike at Longwy he made a direct appeal to his infantrymen to use no violence against the strikers even if they should provoke or attack the soldiers.

23. Especially in Algiers the death penalty is imposed for the slightest offence! Cf. the Besançon affair, L’Humanité, December 11, 1906.

24. Whose abolition is planned.

25. Cf. von Zepelin in the Kreuz-Zeitung, December 23, 1906.

26. They want first of all to put the military schools on the same basis. There will be only one school for each branch of the army, to be attended by both officers and N.C.O.s. This of course brings horror to our reactionaries (Deutsche Tageszeitung, December 22, 1906).

27. At the Milan Congress in September 1906 5 provincial organizations and 24 sections from northern Italy were represented, comprising 2,400 members.

28. In this connection see the proceedings of the Milan Congress.

29. The League has a very good song which goes to the tune of Heil dir im Siegerkranz.

30. Cf. Vorposten, The Draft Resolution of the Party Committee.

31. See the Leipziger Volkszeitung, January 30, 1906, A Split in Swedish Social-Democracy?

32. On the struggles in the Party Committee over the drafting of the proposed resolution, see the Leipziger Volkszeitung, December 28, 1905.

33. Cf. also Leo Tolstoy’s An die Soldaten und jungen Leute, Berlin-Charlottenburg 1906, pp.15-16 (cases of individual refusal to serve), and Les Temps Nouveaux, no.26, 1905 (four months’ imprisonment without deduction of time spent in custody, and two years’ loss of civil rights).


Additional notes by the translator
1*. HERVÉ, GUSTAVE (1871-1944). A university teacher, he was forced to leave his post as a consequence of legal proceedings arising out of his anti-militarist opinions. Founded the paper La Guerre sociale. Later became an ardent patriot, left the Socialist Party in 1916, supported Clemenceau. In 1927 created the fascist National Socialist Party in France.

2*. KROPOTKIN, PRINCE (1842-1921). Russian revolutionist, and a so-called scientific anarchist. Welcomed the First War, believing it would destroy the obsolete nation-state form. Hostile to the Bolshevik revolution.

3*. CLEMENCEAU, GEORGES (1841-1929). Radical, French Minister of the Interior from 1906. Became known as the strong man of French politics, especially because of his use of the army in social conflicts at home and his support for the general strengthening of the armed forces. Headed the French government from 1917 to 1920.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin- Kenneth Edward Jackson’s “Masters Of War”


Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Pearl Jam performing Bob Dylan's classic anti-war song, Masters of War.

Masters Of War-Bob Dylan

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people’s blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain’t worth the blood
That runs in your veins

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I’m young
You might say I’m unlearned
But there’s one thing I know
Though I’m younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand o’er your grave
’Til I’m sure that you’re dead

Copyright © 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991 by Special Rider Music

Joshua Lawrence Breslin comment:

As I mentioned in an earlier entry in this space, courtesy of my old yellow brick road magical mystery tour merry prankster fellow traveler, Peter Paul Markin, who seems to think I still have a few things to say about this wicked old world, recently, in grabbing an old Bruce Springsteen CD compilation from 1998 to download into my iPod I came across a song that stopped me in my tracks, Brothers Under The Bridge. I had not listened to or thought about that song for a long time but it brought back many memories from the late 1970s when I did a series of articles for the now defunct East Bay Eye (California, naturally) on the fate of some troubled Vietnam veterans who, for one reason or another, could not come to grips with “going back to the real world” and took, like those a great depression generation or two before them, to the “jungle”-the hobo, bum, tramps camps located along the abandoned railroad sidings, the ravines and crevices, and under the bridges of California, mainly down in Los Angeles, and created their own “society.”

Not every guy I interviewed, came across, swapped lies with, or just snatched some midnight phrase out of the air from was from hunger, most were, yes, in one way or another but some, and the one I am recalling in this sketch had a nuanced story that brought him down to the ravines. The story that accompanies the song to this little piece, Bob Dylan’s Masters of War, is written under that same sign as the earlier pieces.

I should note again since these sketches are done on an ad hoc basis, that the genesis of this story follows that of the “Brothers Under The Bridge” previously posted (and now is developing into a series).The editor of the East Bay Eye, Owen Anderson, gave me that long ago assignment after I had done a smaller series for the paper on the treatment, the poor treatment, of Vietnam veterans by the Veterans Administration in San Francisco and in the course of that series had found out about this band of brothers roaming the countryside trying to do the best they could, but mainly trying to keep themselves in one piece. My qualifications for the assignment other than empathy, since I had not been in the military during the Vietnam War period, were based simply on the fact that back East I had been involved, along with several other radicals, in running an anti-war GI coffeehouse near Fort Devens in Massachusetts and down near Fort Dix in New Jersey. During that period I had run into many soldiers of my 1960s generation who had clued me on the psychic cost of the war so I had a running start.

After making connections with some Vietnam Veterans Against The War (VVAW) guys down in L.A. who knew where to point me I was on my way. I gathered many stories, published some of them in the Eye, and put the rest in my helter-skelter files. A couple of weeks ago, after having no success in retrieving the old Eye archives, I went up into my attic and rummaged through what was left of those early files. I could find no newsprint articles that I had written but I did find a batch of notes, specifically notes from stories that I didn’t file because the Eye went under before I could round them into shape.

The format of those long ago stories was that I would basically let the guy I was talking to give his spiel, spill what he wanted the world to heard, and I would write it up without too much editing (mainly for foul language). I have reconstructed this story here as best I can although at this far remove it is hard to get the feel of the voice and how things were said. This is Kenneth Edward Jackson’s short, poignant, and hell for once, half-hopeful story, a soldier born under the thumb of the masters of war:

Hell, you know I didn’t have to go to Vietnam, no way. Ya, my parents, when I got drafted, put some pressure on me to “do my duty” like a lot of the neighborhood guys in my half-Irish, half- French- Canadian up the old New Hampshire mill town of Nashua. Maybe, you’ve heard of that town since you said you were from up there in Olde Saco, Maine. Hell, they were the same kind of towns. Graduate from high school, go to work in the mills if they were still open, go in the service if you liked, or got drafted, come home, get married, have kids and let the I Ching cycle run its course over and over again. You laughed so you know what I mean. Ya, that kind of town, and tight so if you went off the rails, well it might not be in the Nashua Telegraph but it sure as hell got on the Emma Jackson grapevine fast enough, except if it was about her three boys. Then the “shames” silence of the grave. Nothing, not a peep, no dirty linen aired in public.

See though I was a little different. I went to college at the University Of New Hampshire over in Durham, studied political science, and figured to become either a lawyer or teacher, maybe both if things worked out. So Emma and Hank (my father) were proud as peacocks when I graduated from there in 1967 and then announced I was going to Boston University to pick up a Master’s degree in Education and be on my way. That’s where I met Bettina, my ex-wife, who was studying for her Master’s in Government at the time but was mainly holding up a big share of the left-wing anti-war universe that was brewing at that time, especially as all hell broke loose in Vietnam when in early 1968 the North Vietnamese and their southern supporters ran rampaging through the south. That’s around the time that LBJ (Lyndon Baines Johnson, President of the United States at the time) got cold feet and decided to call it quits and retire to some podunk Texas place.

Bettina, a girl from New York City, and not just New York City but Manhattan and who went to Hunter College High School there before embarking on her radical career , first at the University of Wisconsin and then at B.U. was the one who got me “hip,” or maybe better “half-hip” to the murderous American foreign policy in Vietnam. Remind me to tell you how we met and stuff like that sometime but for now let’s just say she was so smart, so different, did I tell you she was Jewish, so full of life and dreams, big dreams about a better world that I went head over heels for her and her dreams carried me (and us) along for a while. [Brother Jackson did tell me later the funny details of their relationship but, as I always used to say closing many of my columns, that is a story for another day-JLB.]

Bettina was strictly SDS, big-time SDS (Students for a Democratic Society, 1960s version. Look it up on Wikipedia for more background-JLB), and not just some pacifist objector to the war, she really thought she was helping to build “the second front” in aid of the Vietnamese here in America, or as it was put at the time Amerikkka, and I went along with her, or half-way along really in her various actions, marches, and rallies. Later, 1969 later when SDS blew up into three separate and warring factions she went with the Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM) the group most committed to that idea of the second front. But that is all inside stuff and not really what was important in 1968. The summer of 1968 when I got, via my parents, notice that my friends and neighbors at the Nashua Draft Board had called my name. And me with no excuses, no draft excuses, none.

So that is when things got dicey, my parents pulling me to do my family, my Nashua, my New Hampshire, my United States, hell, my mother pulled out even my Catholic duty (my father, a deeply patriotic man, in the good sense, and a proud Marine who saw plenty of action in the Pacific in World War II, but kept quiet about it, just rolled his eyes on that one). Bettina, and her friends, and really, some of them my friends too, were pulling me to run away to Canada (she would follow), refuse to be inducted (and thus subject to arrest and jail time), or head underground (obviously here with connections that may have rivaled, may have I say, my mother’s neighborhood grapevine). In the end though I let myself be drafted and was inducted in the fall of 1968.

Bettina was mad, mad as hell, but not as much for the political embarrassment as you would think, but because she, well, as she put it, the first time she said it “had grown very fond of me,” and more than that she had her own self-worth needs, so we were secretly married (actually not so much secretly as privately, very privately, her parents, proudly Jewish and heavily committed Zionists and my parents, rosary-heavy Catholics who were a little slow, Vatican Council II slow, on the news that Jews were not Christ-killers and the like would not have approved ) just before I was inducted.

I will spare the Vietnam details, except to say I did my thirteen month tour (including a month for R&R, rest and recreation) from early 1969 to early 1970, a period when the talk of draw-down of the American troop commitment was beginning to echo through the camps and bases in Vietnam and guys were starting to take no chances, no overt chances of getting KIA (killed in action) or anything like that. I, actually saw very little fighting since as a college grad, and lucky, and they needed someone, I was a company clerk and stayed mainly at the base camp. But every night I fired many rounds any time I heard a twig break on guard duty or in perimeter defense. And more than a few times we had bullets and other ammo flying into our position. So no I was no hero, didn’t want to be, I just wanted to get back home to Bettina in one piece. And I did.

But something snapped in Vietnam, sometime in having had to confront my own demons, my own deep-seeded fears and coming out not too badly, and to confront through my own sights the way my government was savagely conducting itself in Vietnam (and later in other parts of the world) that made me snap when I came back to the “real world.” I had only a few months left and so I was assigned to a holding company down at Fort Dix in New Jersey. And all I had to do was stay quiet, do some light silly busy work paper work duty b.s., have a few beers at the PX and watch a few movies. Nada.

I guess Bettina really did win out in the end, the stuff she said about war, about American imperialism being some two-headed vulture, about class struggle and guys like me being cannon fodder was kind of abstract when she said it at some meeting at B.U., or shouted herself silly a t some rally on Boston Common or got herself arrested a few times at draft boards (ironic, huh).But after ‘Nam I knew she was on to something. Better, I was on to something. So, without telling Bettina, my parents, or anybody, the day I was to report to that holding company at Fort Dix I did. But at that morning formation, I can still see the tears rolling down my face, I reported in civilian clothes with a big peace button on my shirts and yelling for all to hear-“Bring The Troops Home.” I was tackled by a couple of soldiers, lifer-sergeants I found out later, handcuffed and brought to the Fort Dix stockade.

A couple of days later my name was called to go the visitors’ room and there to my surprise were my parents, my mother crying, my father stoic as usual but not mad, and Bettina. The Army had contacted my parents after my arrest to inform them of my situation. And Bettina, in that strange underground grapevine magic that always amazed me, found out in that way, had called them in Nashua to say who she was (no, not about us being married, just friends, they never did know). They had offered to bring her down to Fort Dix and they had come down together. What a day though. My parents, for one of very few times that I can remember said, while they didn’t agree with me fully, that they were proud and Nashua be damned. They were raising money on their home to get me the best civilian lawyer they could. And they did.

Of course for Bettina a soldier- resister case was just the kind of activity that was gaining currency in the anti-war movement in 1969 and 1970 and she was crazy to raise heaven and hell for my defense(including money, and money from her parents too although they also did not know we were married, and maybe they still don’t). She moved to hard town Trenton not too far from Fort Dix to be closer to the action as my court-martial was set. She put together several vigils, marches, rallies and fundraisers (including one where my father, a father defending his own, spoke and made the crowd weep in his halting New England stoic way).

The court-martial, a general court martial so I faced some serious time, was held in early 1970. As any court proceedings will do, military or civilian, they ran their typical course, which I don’t want to go into except to say that I was convicted of the several charges brought against me (basically, as I told the guys at VVAW later, for being ugly in the military without a uniform-while on duty) , sentenced to a year of hard labor at Fort Leavenworth out in Kansas, reduced in rank to private ( I was a specialist, E-4), forfeited most of my pay, and was to be given an undesirable discharge (not dishonorable).

I guess I do want to say one last thing about the trial thought. As any defendant has the right to do at trial, he or she can speak in their own defense. I did so. What I did, turning my back to the court-martial judges and facing the audience, including that day my parents and Bettina was recite from memory Bob Dylan’s Masters of War. I did so in my best stoic (thanks, dad) Nashua, New Hampshire voice. The crowd either heckled me or cheered (before being ordered to keep quiet) but I had my say. So when you write this story put that part in. Okay? [See lyrics above-JLB]

So how come I am down here in some Los Angeles hobo jungle just waiting around to be waiting around. Well I did my time, all of it except good time, and went back home, first to Nashua but I couldn’t really stay there ( a constant “sore” in the community and worry to my parents) and then to Boston where I fit in better. Bettina? Well, my last letter from her in Leavenworth was that she was getting ready to go underground, things with her group (a group later associated with the Weather Underground) had gotten into some stuff a little dicey and she would not be able to communicate for a while. That was the last I heard from her; it has been a few years now.

I understand, and I feel happy for her. We were fond of each other but I was thinking in the stockade that a “war marriage” was not made to last, not between us anyway. Then after a few months in Boston, doing a little or this and a little of that, I drifted out here were things might pop up a little (it’s tough even with millions of people hating the war, hating it until it finally got over a couple of years ago to have an undesirable discharge hanging around your neck. I’m not sorry though, no way, and if I do get blue sometime I just recite that Masters Of War thing and I get all welled up inside).

I hear the new president, Jimmy Carter, is talking about amnesty for Vietnam guys with bad discharges and maybe I will check into it if it happens. Then maybe I will go to law school and pick up my life up again. Until then though I feel like I have got to stick with my “band of brothers” who got broken up, broken up bad by that damn war. Hey, sometimes they ask me to recite that Masters Of War thing over some night fire.

[The last connection I had with Kenneth Edward Jackson was in late 1979 when he sent a short note to me saying he had gotten his discharge upgraded, was getting ready to start law school and that he was publicly getting re-married to some non-political gal from upstate New York . Still no word from Bettina though.-JLB]

Sunday, June 02, 2019

The Centennial Of Pete Seeger’s Birthday (1919-2014)- *Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-Pete Seeger's "Oh, Had I A Golden Thread"

*Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-Pete Seeger's "Oh, Had I  A Golden Thread"

Click on the title to link a "YouTube" film clip of Pete Seeger (with Judy Collins) performing "Oh, Had I A Golden Thread."

In this series, presented under the headline “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here. Markin.


Oh, Had I A Golden Thread(Pete Seeger)

Oh, had I a golden thread
And needle so fine
I'd weave a tapestry
Of rainbow design
Of rainbow design

Far over the water
I'd weave my magic strand
To every city
Through every single land
Through every land

And in it I would weave the bravery
Of women giving birth
In it I would weave the innocence
Of children over all the earth
Children of all earth

Show my brothers and my sisters
My rainbow design
And bind up this sorry world
With hand and heart and mind
Hand and heart and mind

O had I a golden thread
And needle so fine
I'd weave a tapestry
Of rainbow design
Of rainbow design

Tuesday, May 21, 2019


Click on the headline to link to the United National Antiwar Committee homepage.


On May Day, we celebrate the struggles of the international working class - and the oppressed and exploited everywhere - for peace and justice.

On May Day, we pledge to renew our commitment to end all wars of plunder and conquest abroad and all the wars against working people at home. Bring all the war dollars, war contractors, mercenaries and troops home now!

On May Day, we fight for a world without walls and borders, a world where every human being is welcome - where our sisters and brothers of every nationality, race and creed join to win humanity's dream for freedom and equality. Full legalization now! End all deportations now!

On May Day, we rededicate ourselves to working class solidarity' against the boss class offensive - to strengthening and expanding our unions - to accepting nothing less than quality Single Payer health care for all, guaranteed pensions, a ban on foreclosures, a sustainable environment and jobs for all at top union wages.

On May Day, we stand together against all attacks on civil liberties and democratic rights. We say "No to the attacks on Muslim communities! No to FBI subpoenas and witchhunts! No to racist attacks on our Black and Brown brothers and sisters! Free Bradley Manning/Hero not criminal! End all attacks on WikiLeaks! No to renditions and torture!"

And on May Day, we stand in solidarity with the people's struggles against tyrants, dictators and bosses here and everywhere. No to U.S. intervention! The masses will liberate themselves! No to U.S.-imposed "regime change!" No to U.S. Aid to Israel! Self-determination for all oppressed people everywhere! U.S. out of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya now!

Issued by UNAC, May 1, 2011
www. U

Friday, January 25, 2019

From The Archives-The Struggle To Win The Youth To The Fight For Our Communist Future-In Honor Of The Three L's- Karl Liebknecht's Preface To "Militarism And Anti-Militarism"

Markin comment:

One of the declared purposes of this space is to draw the lessons of our left-wing past here in America and internationally, especially from the pro-communist wing. To that end I have made commentaries and provided archival works in order to help draw those lessons for today’s left-wing activists to learn, or at least ponder over. More importantly, for the long haul, to help educate today’s youth in the struggle for our common communist future. That is no small task or easy task given the differences of generations; differences of political milieus worked in; differences of social structure to work around; and, increasingly more important, the differences in appreciation of technological advances, and their uses.

There is no question that back in my youth I could have used, desperately used, many of the archival materials available today. When I developed political consciousness very early on, albeit liberal political consciousness, I could have used this material as I knew, I knew deep inside my heart and mind, that a junior Cold War liberal of the American For Democratic Action (ADA) stripe was not the end of my leftward political trajectory. More importantly, I could have used a socialist or communist youth organization to help me articulate the doubts I had about the virtues of liberal capitalism and be recruited to a more left-wing world view. As it was I spent far too long in the throes of the left-liberal/soft social-democratic milieu where I was dying politically. A group like the Young Communist League (W.E.B. Dubois Clubs in those days), the Young People’s Socialist League, or the Young Socialist Alliance representing the youth organizations of the American Communist Party, American Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S.) respectively would have saved much wasted time and energy. I knew they were around but not in my area.

The archival material to be used in this series is weighted heavily toward the youth movements of the early American Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S). For more recent material I have relied on material from the Spartacus Youth Clubs, the youth group of the Spartacist League (U.S.), both because they are more readily available to me and because, and this should give cause for pause, there are not many other non-CP, non-SWP youth groups around. As I gather more material from other youth sources I will place them in this series.

Finally I would like to finish up with the preamble to the Spartacist Youth Club’s What We Fight For statement of purpose:

"The Spartacus Youth Clubs intervene into social struggles armed with the revolutionary internationalist program of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. We work to mobilize youth in struggle as partisans of the working class, championing the liberation of black people, women and all the oppressed. The SYCs fight to win youth to the perspective of building the Leninist vanguard party that will lead the working class in socialist revolution, laying the basis for a world free of capitalist exploitation and imperialist slaughter."

This seems to me be somewhere in the right direction for what a Bolshevik youth group should be doing these days; a proving ground to become professional revolutionaries with enough wiggle room to learn from their mistakes, and successes. More later.
Karl Liebknecht
Militarism & Antimilitarism




A few weeks ago Die Grenzboten reported a conversation between Bismarck [1*] and Professor Dr Otto Kämmel which took place in October 1892, and in which Bismarck, the “Hero of the Century”, himself tore off the mask of constitutionalism in his very own cynical style. Among other things, he said:

In Rome, whoever put himself outside of the law was banished, aqua et igne interdictus; in the Middle Ages he was said to be outlawed. Social-Democracy ought to be treated in a similar way: it should be deprived of its political rights, of its right to participate in elections. I would have gone that far. The Social-Democratic problem is in fact a military problem. Social-Democracy is being treated with an extraordinary lack of serious attention at present. It is now attempting – with success – to win over the non-commissioned officers. In Hamburg a large part of the troops already consists of Social-Democrats, since the local people have the right to join only the local battalions. What if these troops should one day refuse to obey the Kaiser and to fire on their fathers and brothers? Would we then be forced to mobilize the Hanover and Mecklenburg regiments against Hamburg? In that case we should have something like the Paris Commune on our hands. The Kaiser then took fright. He told me that he did not want one day to be called the “Kartätschenprinz” – the shrapnel prince – like his grandfather, and did not want to wade up to his ankles in blood’ at the very beginning of his reign. At the time I told him: “Your Majesty will have to go in much deeper if you draw back now!”

“The Social-Democratic problem is a military problem.” This is the whole point; it says more and goes much deeper than von Massow’ s cry of distress: “Our only hope is the bayonets and cannons of our soldiers.” [1] “The Social-Democratic problem is a military problem. That is the keynote of all the tunes sung by the firebrands. Anyone who had not yet been convinced by the earlier indiscretions of Bismarck and Puttkamer, by the speech to the Alexander regiment [2*], by the Hamburger Nachrichten and the thoroughbred Junker, von Oldenburg-Januschau, would have had his eyes opened by the Hohenlohe-Delbruck revelations which were corroborated around the end of the year through the county court judge Kulemann, and by the cruel words of Bisrnarck cited above.

The Social-Democratic problem – in so far as it is a political problem – is in the last resort a military problem. This should be a constant reminder to Social-Democracy and a tactical principle of the first rank.

The enemy at home, Social-Democracy, is “more dangerous than the enemy abroad, because it poisons the soul of our people and wrests the weapons from our hands before we have even lifted them.” This is how the Kreuz-Zeitung of January 21, 1907, proclaimed the sovereignty of class interests over national interests in an electoral struggle which was waged “under the banner of nationalism”! And this electoral struggle was carried on in the face of an ever-increasing menace to electoral and trade-union rights, and of “Bonaparte’s sword”, which Prince Bülow [3*] waved around the heads of the German Social-Democrats in his New Year’s Eve letter in order to frighten them; it was carried on in the face of a class struggle raised to white heat. [2] Only someone who was blind and deaf could deny that these signs, as well as many others, indicate the approach of a storm or even of a hurricane.

The problem of the struggle against “militarism at home” has therefore taken on an importance of a most pressing kind.

The elections of 1907 were, however, also fought on the national question, on the colonial question, and over chauvinism and imperialism. And they showed how miserably weak, in spite of all this, was the resistance of the German people to the pseudo-patriotic rat-traps laid by these contemptible business patriots. They taught us what pompous demagogy can be pressed into use by the government, by the ruling classes and by the whole howling pack of “patriots” whenever “things most holy” are concerned. These elections provided the proletariat with some necessary enlightenment, causing it to question its own role and teaching it about the relation of social and political forces. They educated it, and freed it from the unfortunate “habit of victory”; and they excited a welcome force resulting in a deepening of the proletarian movement and of our understanding of the psychology of the masses with regard to national campaigns. Certainly the causes of our so-called setback, which was actually not a setback and puzzled the victors more than the vanquished, were manifold; but there is no doubt that precisely those sections of the proletariat which are contaminated and influenced by militarism, which are already at the mercy of government terrorism – for example, the state workers and junior officials – have formed an especially firm obstacle to the extension of Social-Democratic influence.

This also raises sharply, as far as the German labour movement is concerned, the question of anti-militarism and the question of the youth movement and of the education of young people, and ensures that these points will receive more attention in future.

The following work is the elaboration of a paper read by the author on September 30, 1906, to the first conference of the German Young Socialist League in Mannheim. It does not pretend to offer something new; it is simply intended to be a compilation of material which is already known or even commonplace. Nor does it claim to be exhaustive. The author has attempted, as far as he is able, to collect the disconnected material scattered throughout the newspapers and periodicals. Thanks above all to our Belgian comrade de Man it has been possible to provide at least a brief account of the and-militarist and youth movement in the most important countries.

If here and there errors have crept in, they should be excused on account of the difficulty of coping with the material, but also on account of the frequent unreliability of the sources, which are often even contradictory.

In the realm of militarism things are in constant flux at the present time, so that, for example, the information given below on the French and English military reforms will certainly soon be overtaken by events.

That is even more true of anti-militarism and the proletarian youth movement, the newest manifestations of the proletarian struggle for freedom, which are everywhere developing quickly, and making pleasing headway in spite of setbacks. Since this work was set up in type it has been learned that the Finnish Young Socialist Societies held their first congress in Tammerfors on December 8 and 9, 1906, where a Young Workers’ League was founded which will be attached to the Finnish Labour Party and whose special task, apart from the education of the young workers in class-consciousness, will be the struggle against militarism in all its aspects.

People will be inclined to complain that the theoretical basis of our work is too slight and the historical depth not sufficient. Against this it ought to be said that the pamphlet has a topical political task, that of promoting anti-militarist thought.

Many people again will be unhappy with the accumulation of countless, often apparently unimportant details, especially in connection with the history of the Young Socialist movement and of and-militarism. This dissatisfaction may be justified. The author, however, stoned from the assumption that it is first of all through details that one is able to gain a living insight into the upward and downward movement in organizational development and into the invention and modification of tactical principles, and to put them to use in the desired manner – the more so since it is precisely details which present the main difficulty in anti-militarist agitation and organization.

Dr Karl Liebknecht
February 11, 1907


Table of Contents | Next Section


1. See Arendt’s Deutsches Wochenblatt, middle of November 1896, and the Sozialdemokratische Partei-Correspondenz, year II, no.4.

2. On the evening of the second ballot (February 5, 1907) troops of the Berlin garrison were provided with live cartridges and held ready to march. It is known that on June 25, 1905, the last time the second ballot was held, the Pioneers appeared in Spandau in the Schönwalder Strasse in order to “bring to their senses” the workers excited by the election result.


Additional notes by the translator
1*. BISMARCK, GRAF VON (1815-1898). Minister President of Prussia from 1862, he was responsible for the political direction of the creation of the German Empire, of which he was effectively founder and first Chancellor. Based his strength for many years on the National Liberal Party, during which period he initiated the so-called Kulturkampf against the Catholic Centre. Later moved away from and attacked the National Liberals, without being able to replace them as a political support. Fell in 1896, soon after the accession of the new Kaiser, Wilhelm II.

2*. ALEXANDER REGIMENT SPEECH. The speech of Wilhelm II to the Kaiser Alexander Regiment on March 28, 1901, containing the words: “You are ... so to speak the bodyguard of the King of Prussia, and you must always be ready, day and night, to put your life at risk, to spill your blood for your king! ... If it should happen that the city rises up against its rulers, the regiment must punish this improper conduct of the people towards its king with the bayonet.”

3*. BÜLOW, PRINCE VON (1849-1929). Imperial Chancellor from 1900 to 1909, succeeding Hohenlohe. Resigned in 1909 after pressure from Conservative and Centre Parties, and was replaced by Bethmann-Hollweg.