Ideas that add up #114

It was the threat of mutinies and revolution that compelled Ludendorff to call for an armistice in 1918. His fear was that the German Army would collapse and that retreating soldiers might then ‘carry the revolution into Germany’.

Once Ludendorff called for an armistice, Lloyd George then agreed to it, seeing it as far preferable to any risk ‘that Germany may collapse and Bolshevism gain control.’

A year earlier, the Austrian Emperor had been desperate – but unable – to end the war, fearing the spread of what he called a ‘new enemy, more dangerous than the Entente: international revolution’.

In other words, in the wake of the Russian revolution, it was the threat of a wider European revolution that compelled all sides to stop the war.

Comment by Hugh3 under Paul Mason blog post at Channel 4 News

Below-the-line comments on a blog may not be the most authoritative place to learn history, but it’s as good as I can get for now.

The Mason piece asserts that World War 1 ended as a result of the naval mutiny at Kiel snowballing into a workers’ revolution across Germany, which shocked the ruling classes on both sides of the front line into quickly resolving their differences — something they could have done years earlier. Some commenters rubbish this conclusion, some approve. The argument, in sum, seems to be whether the Kiel mutiny and similar uprisings actually precipitated German capitulation, or vice versa. What doesn’t appear to be disputed is the fact that there were military mutinies and mass surrenders on both sides throughout 1917-18, along with industrial and political unrest on the home front for each of the major combatants, all while Russia was falling under the control of the Bolsheviks. Another commenter (dodger) contributes:

As Niall Ferguson pointed out; all the major powers were rushing to get a limited ‘victory’ or at least a reasonable truce before their own armies collapsed and potentially a Bolshevik style revolution at home took them out. 

This makes sense to me, and I’m disturbed that I’d never bothered to find out about it before.

Today was Armistice Day in the UK, the 11th day of the 11th month, one hundred years after that war began. After a lifetime dutifully pinning the red poppy to my lapel around this time of year, I’m now wildly out of step with the mawkish commemoration of the “sacrifice” of “our  boys”, a century ago, for the sake of “freedom.” Yes, “freedom” — that’s literally what people say, if radio and TV are to be believed. (Is it just that most of us don’t have time to question this sort of guff?)

There’s been a creeping militarization of this country during the past decade or so, giving a veneer of respectability to the baleful business of shooting and bombing foreigners in their own countries. It’s associated with the need (whose need? well, that’s another question…) to create a sense of common national purpose in support of our military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. And alongside it runs this counter-revisionism about WW1, with paper poppies and solemn national memorializing to insidiously convince us that it was, after all, dulce et decorum to die in British military uniform during that conflict (and by the way sod the dead civilians on both sides and double-sod the dead conscripts of foreign armies). 

Richard Reese, in his recent review of Plagues and Peoples by William H MacNeill, describes in passing the parasite pathology of war, as follows:

The ruling classes in civilizations behave like macro-parasites when they siphon nutrients away from the working class hosts that they exploit.  To survive, the elites must keep enough farmers alive to maintain an adequate supply of nutrients.  Elites rely on violence specialists to protect their host collection from other two-legged macro-parasites, like the bloodthirsty civilization across the river. In this scenario, the worker hosts are suffering from a type of disease (the elites) that is called endemic, because it allows them to survive.

In the final months of WW1, then, the warring elites of Europe identified worker uprisings and Bolshevik-style revolution as a greater threat to their common source of nutrients, than each other.

So..the disease called off the conflict and put its hosts right back to work.  

This entry was posted in History, War what is it good for and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Ideas that add up #114

  1. Michelle says:

    Have you seen the Sumerian piece called The Standard of Ur in the British Museum? 4500 years old and a very candid depiction of the macroparasites. One one side “War,” there are glorious battle scenes of armored soldiers, chariots, vanquished enemy combatants; on the other side, “Peace”, the yokels line up to bring tribute to the feasting King and his court of thugs. Civilization.

  2. doncropper says:

    Just looked it up and listened to the History of the World in 100 Objects podcast. Fascinating – we are in Ur!

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