Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Day Hope Died

Today - August 4, 1914 - the greatest socialist party ever, died. The German socialist party voted in Parliament to authorize "war credits" in preparation for World War I. It violated every felt and expressed impulse to hold solidarity with the workers of every country, and fell tragic victim to nationalism and patriotic myopia.

The German socialist party held the swing vote - a sizeable portion of the Reichstag, actually - and could have prevented World War I and perhaps ushered into Europe a prosperous and exemplary society that valued protecting lives more than gaining land, resources, prestige and power. Instead, they bought the old nationalist line and voted in financing of the war machine, and authorized sending German workers against French workers, for the benefit of German politicians and bankers.

At the time, socialists were well represented in the Reichstag - oftentimes vying for majority control in the ruling body. They had a party membership in the millions, had thousands of news dailies, had established grassroots networks of activists and union halls, community centers and soup kitchens, and determined the politics in much of the southern half of the country. They could have ended WWI before it started - and there was heated debate among them whether they should or not. But in the end, they made the wrong choice, and put their extraordinary weight behind an unjust cause, just for the sake of nationalism. As a result, the rest of the century would be spent in warfare of spiraling severity and scope.

Also as a result, the fractured, hypocritical, failed socialist party infrastructure disintegrated, and is virtually forgotten in Western history. Americans only know the Cold War propaganda version of "socialism" - and react to the very word.

This is a sad day in history - one that we would do well to remember and keep close to our hearts. Never violate our principles, especially for the sake of nationalism and patriotism. Our conviction of peace and solidarity with all peoples, our commitment to welcoming the stranger, caring for the widow and orphan, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, healing the poor - this is our rock, our worship of God. And no false god or idol can take its place, no matter what flag it is wrapped in or over which it waves. History proves the folly of nations. God will bear out our faith with righteousness.

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