Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, Jane Addams: Honoring Antiwar Resisters on the 100th Anniv. of WWI’s End
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In a speech commemorating the anniversary, French President Emmanuel Macron cautioned against the dangers of nationalism, in comments widely viewed as a rebuke of U.S. President Trump, who has recently identified himself as a “nationalist.”
Just before the summit, Macron also called for the formation of a European army that would operate without the United States. Journalist and author Adam Hochschild argues that the 100th anniversary of the war’s end is an opportunity to honor the dissenting voices against the war, including anarchist political activist and writer Emma Goldman, socialist and trade unionist Eugene V. Debs and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jane Addams.
Posted November 12, 2018
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CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL: [translated] The First World War shows how isolationism leads to many destructions. And if isolationism wasn’t the right solution more than a hundred years ago, how could it simply be the right choice today, in an interconnected world that has five times more people, as today? Shaping an interconnected world, this was the model of our German G20 presidency last year for this very reason.
AMY GOODMAN: Adam Hochschild, your response?
ADAM HOCHSCHILD: Well, you know, I liked President Macron’s remarks about the difference between patriotism and nationalism. I think it’s an important distinction. You know, the nationalist always thinks, “My country first! My country above all!” Patriotism, by his definition, I think, means something subtle and more than indifferent.
It actually reminded me of something which a hundred years ago someone quite different said about patriotism. I’m thinking about Emma Goldman, the great anarchist leader, who was one of many Americans who resisted the war and was punished for it. Goldman was sentenced to two years in prison for organizing against the draft. And at her trial, she was accused by the prosecution of being unpatriotic. And she replied this way. I’ll just read you what she wrote. “Gentlemen of the jury,” she asked—and, of course, in those days, juries were all gentlemen, no ladies—”may there not be different kinds of patriotism as there are different kinds of liberty.” And her patriotism, she explained, was like that—and these are her words—”of the man who loves a woman with open eyes. He is enchanted by her beauty, yet he sees her faults.” I think that’s a pretty good definition of patriotism, where you can love your country, but you are not blind to its faults. And when you see your country doing something that you think is wrong, such as joining a war that it has no business being in, you have every right to speak out.
So, my main feeling about this hundredth anniversary of this terrible war is that we should be honoring people like Emma Goldman, like Eugene Debs, like social worker Jane Addams—just to speak about Americans—who saw the war as madness when it was going on, did everything they could to bring it to a stop. You know, they were patriots also.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about Jane Addams, Eugene Debs and others, the heart of your book To End All Wars.
ADAM HOCHSCHILD: Right. Well, one of the things—you know, when we look back at the First World War, I think at this point most of us would agree that if there was any one single event in the 20th century that we could reach back and magically undo, wouldn’t it be the war of 1914 to 1918? Not only did it produce a colossal death toll, but it left behind a legacy of bitterness and resentment in Germany that Hitler was able to manipulate so cleverly to gain power and start an even more destructive war and the Holocaust, as well. I think it’s impossible to imagine the Second World War happening without the first.
Well, at the time it was happening, 1914 to 1918, there were, in all of the warring countries, extraordinary people who saw what was happening as madness and who often refused to fight, if they were young men eligible for the military, or who supported those who refused to fight.
Emma Goldman, as I mentioned, was sent to jail for organizing against the draft and speaking out very strongly against the war.
Eugene Debs, the great labor leader, spoke out against the war after the United States entered it, and for that he was sentenced to prison. And he was still in prison in November of 1920, when he received nearly a million votes for president on the Socialist Party ticket, being able to campaign only from his prison cell.
Jane Addams, the pioneer social worker, also was a strong opponent of the war. And she took part in a remarkable conference of women from warring countries on both sides, and from neutral nations, who met in The Hague in neutral Holland in 1915 to try to talk about ways of making peace. And the photographs from that conference are one of the few places, if not the only place, where during those four-and-a-half years you can see people from both sides embracing each other, talking together, trying to figure out how to stop this horrible conflict.
There were brave war resisters in every other country. In France, for example, someone I hope they have been honoring this past week, although I haven’t seen anything about it, is the great French Socialist leader Jean Jaurès, who in 1914 spoke out very strongly against this war he saw looming, saw it coming. A week before it started, he rushed to Brussels for an emergency conference of the leaders of Europe’s left-wing parties. Before an enormous crowd and applause there, he put his arm around the leader of the German Social Democrats and said, you know, “Our people will never make war on each other.” Because of that, three days later, after he had gone back to France, he was assassinated. Three days after that, the war began. His assassin, incidentally, was found innocent at his trial because the crime was judged to be, quote, “a crime of passion”—a legal gimmick that usually lets men get away with murdering women, but in this case it was put to a different use.
There were more than 6,000 people in England, young men in England who were eligible for the draft, who refused it and who were sent to prison because of that. There were war resisters in Germany, like Rosa Luxemburg, the great democratically minded socialist, sent to prison for her opposition to the war. More such people in Russia. So, from all of these countries, I think these are the people, as well as the veterans, who should be honored at this point.
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