July 29, 1914

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L’Humanité

The last session of the International Socialist Bureau was held at Brussels on July 29, 1914. The following resolution was adopted: “The International Socialist Bureau, at its meeting held today, July 29, upon listening to the reports of the representatives of all countries that may be involved in a world war on the political situation in those countries, has resolved unanimously that it shall be the duty of the workers of all nations concerned not only to continue but to further intensify their demonstrations against the war, for peace, and for the settlement of the Austro-Serbian conflict by international arbitration. The German and the French workers shall exert the most energetic pressure upon the governments of their respective countries in order that Germany shall restrain the war ardor of Austria, and that France shall obtain from Russia noninterference in the conflict. The British and Italian workers shall, on their part, support those efforts with all their energy. The extraordinary congress which is being called to meet at Paris will be a vigorous expression of this will for peace of the international proletariat.”

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The German language of my childhood was the dialect that was spoken also in Lower Bavaria; I was neither able to forget it nor to learn the Viennese jargon. The longer I stayed in this city, the more my hatred increased against the mixture of foreign nations that began to eat up this site of old German culture.

The idea that this State could still be maintained even then seemed ridiculous to me.

Austria was at that time like an old mosaic; the cement which held the single little stones together had become old and brittle; as long as the masterpiece is untouched, it can still pretend to be existent, but as soon as it is given a blow, it breaks into a thousand fragments. The question, therefore, was only when the blow would come. …

If formerly in Vienna, Germany had above all else appeared to me as an unshakable colossus, now, however, anxious doubts sometimes began to rise in my mind. With myself and in the small circles of my acquaintances, I was wrathful at German foreign politics, and also at what seemed to me an unbelievably frivolous manner with which one faced the most important problem that confronted Germany in those days: Marxism. I really could not understand how one was able to stagger blindly towards a danger the ultimate effects of which, corresponding to its own intentions, were one day bound to be monstrous. In those days I warned those around me, as I am doing today on a larger scale, against the fervent prayer of all cowardly wretches: ‘Nothing can happen to us!’ Was not Germany subject to exactly the same laws as all other human communities?

In the years 1913 and 1914, in various circles, some of which today stand faithfully by the movement, I expressed for the first time the conviction that the question of the future of the German nation is the question of the destruction of Marxism.

DURING the years of my unruly youth nothing had grieved me more than having been born at a time when temples of glory were only erected to merchants or State officials. The waves of historical events seemed to have calmed down to such an extent that the future appeared really to belong to the ‘peaceful competition of nations’ that means a quiet mutual cheating, excluding forceful measures. The individual States began more and more to resemble enterprises which cut the ground from under each other, stole each other’s customers and orders, and tried to cheat each other by every means, setting this in a scene which was as noisy as it was harmless. This development, however, not only seemed to endure, but it was intended to transform the world (with general approval) into one big department store, in the lobbies of which the busts of the most cunning profiteers and the most harmless administration officials were to be stored for eternity. The business men were to be supplied by the English, the administration officials by the Germans; the Jews, however, would have to sacrifice themselves to being proprietors, because, as they themselves admitted, they never earn anything but only ‘pay’ and, besides, they speak most of the languages.

Why could one not have been born a hundred years earlier? For instance, at the time of the Wars of Liberation when a man really was worth something, even without ‘business’?! …

Already during my Viennese time there hovered over the Balkans that fallow sultriness which usually announces a hurricane, but at times a brighter light flashed up only to return immediately into the uncanny darkness. But then came the Balkan War, and with it the first gust of wind swept over a Europe which had grown nervous. The time that followed, however, weighed heavily upon the people like a nightmare, brooding like the feverish heat of the tropics, so that in consequence of the continued anxiety, the feeling of the impending catastrophe finally turned into longing; might Heaven at last let Destiny, no longer to be restrained, take its full course! …

On the southeast border of her realm Austria had an inexorable and mortal enemy who challenged the monarchy at shorter and shorter intervals, and who would not have given in till finally the favorable moment for the destruction of the realm had actually come. One had reason to fear that this event would happen not later than with the death of the old emperor; but then perhaps the monarchy would no longer be in a position to render any serious resistance. The entire State, during these last years, was represented to such an extent by the person of Franz Joseph that from the beginning, the death of this aged personification of the realm was looked upon by the great masses as the death of the realm itself. It was indeed the most cunning artfulness of the Slav policy to create the impression as though the Austrian State owed its existence to the really wonderful and unique skill of this monarch; a flattery which was the more favorably received in the Hofburg as it corresponded least of all to the actual merits of the emperor. …

If at that time the Viennese government had given the ultimatum another, milder wording, this would not have changed anything in the situation except perhaps the fact that the government itself would have been swept away by the indignation of the people. Because, in the eyes of the great masses, the tone of the ultimatum was much too considerate and in no way too brutal or even too far-reaching. Those who today try to deny this are either forgetful empty-heads or quite deliberately cheats and liars.

The fight of the year 1914 was certainly not forced upon the masses, good God! but desired by the entire people itself.

One wanted at last to make an end to the general uncertainty. Only thus is it understandable that for this most serious of all struggles more than two million German men and boys joined the flag voluntarily, ready to protect it with their last drop of blood.

To me personally those hours appeared like the redemption from the annoying moods of my youth. Therefore I am not ashamed today to say that, overwhelmed by impassionate enthusiasm, I had fallen on my knees and thanked Heaven out of my overflowing heart that it had granted me the good fortune of being allowed to live in these times.

A struggle for freedom had broken out, greater than the world had ever seen before; because, once Fate had begun its course, the conviction began to dawn on the great masses that this time the question involved was not Serbia’s or Austria’s fate, but the existence or non-existence of the German nation.

For the last time in many years, the German nation had become clairvoyant about its own future. Thus, at the very beginning of the enormous struggle the intoxication of the exuberant enthusiasm was mixed with the necessary serious undertone…

What man desires, he hopes and believes. The overwhelming majority of the nation had long been tired of the eternally uncertain state of things; thus one could only too readily understand that one no longer believed in a peaceful adjustment of the Austro-Serbian conflict, but hoped for the final settlement. I, too, belonged to these millions.

Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

2 comments

  1. Mr. Spurlin, thanks for these daily updates of the oncoming of the catastrophe. I enjoy your approach — and this pairing of the Socialists and the National Socialist quite a choice. Although it took me a few moments to realize whose memoir I was reading — I’m thinking — ‘This doesn’t sound like Stefan Zweig.’ — Harry Kollatz Jr.

  2. There is a peculiar echo of Marx in Hitler’s “The time that followed, however, weighed heavily upon the people like a nightmare …”. See The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, ch. 1: “The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living.” I wish my German were good enough to check this out in the originals. How’s your German, Harry?

    All the best,

    Bill

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