Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


No Right Turn: The Weight Of History

No Right Turn: The Weight Of History
http://norightturn.blogspot.com

There are days when you should feel the weight of history, and today (well really yesterday... ed) is one of them.

June 28th (European time) marks 90 years since the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo. The assassination was the beginning of the great tragedy of the twentieth century: the blind stumble into war, the mass-slaughter of the trenches, the humiliating "peace" which guaranteed the renewal of hostilities twenty years later (itself driven by a desire for revanche for a French defeat forty years earlier), the Russian Revolution, the Cold War... we're facing the consequences even now, in Iraq - a country born from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire in the post-war settlement - and in Palestine, a patch of land promised by Britain to both Jews and Arabs in exchange for their support against the Turks.

The fatal shots were fired by Gavrilo Princip, a young Serb nationalist. He had hoped to spark a nationalist revolution which would free Bosnia-Herzegovina from Austria-Hungary; he had no idea that he would start the greatest slaughter humanity had yet seen (ironically, he was too young to be executed, and spent the war in prison before succumbing to Tuberculosis).

It took just thirty-six days to go from two pistol shots to a Europe-wide war. The Austrians waited almost a month, then issued a humiliating ultimatum to Serbia. The Serbs unexpectedly complied with almost all of it, but the Austrians wanted a war, and used the Serbian refusal to allow Austro-Hungarian participation in the inquiry into the assassination as the excuse to start one (students of recent Balkan, or indeed Middle Eastern history may find this tactic familiar). Serbia appealed to the Tsar, who mobilised his troops against Austria-Hungary; mutual fear of troop mobilisations led to a series of ultimatums which brought in Germany, then France, and eventually Britain. Apart from Austria-Hungary, none of the participants wanted a war - all allowed themselves to be trapped by pride, fear, miscommunication, and (as von Moltke explained to the Kaiser) train timetables. Once the stone was set rolling, it was impossible to stop, and so ten million people went to their deaths.

The socialist intellectuals of the Second International resisted the war, believing that the international working class should refuse to fight for their rulers. But when push came to shove, the workers chose nationalism over socialism, and gladly marched off behind the aristocrats thinking that it would all be over by Christmas. It wasn't, but a consoling thought is that the war devastated the European aristocracy, directly causing the collapse of three dynasties (the Hapsburgs, Romanovs, and Hohenzollerns). And the virtual extermination of the minor nobility "officer class" led to meritocracy by necessity, without a single guillotine being erected.

When he heard that it was to be war, the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, commented that

"the lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."

Or indeed his children's lifetime. It is only in the last ten years, now that we are free of the Cold War, that the lamps have begun to shine again. Europe is united, from Ireland to the Polish border. The only area left out is, ironically, the Balkans, where it all began. War between France and Germany is now as unthinkable as war between Australia and New Zealand, or Canada and the US - they are both now too interdependent for it to be a real possibility. In a way, the War to End All Wars has achieved its purpose - eighty years too late.

How different would it all be if Princip had missed? Ninety years on, its impossible to know. But we know that it would be vastly different, and looking at the death toll - ten million in the first war, forty-five million in the rematch, it's practically impossible not to think that it would have been better.

***** ENDS *****

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news