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Nigel Farage on invading imperial Germany

farage with demon eyesCompare and contrast. One party leader is caught on tape saying he’d like to do away with the NHS and replace it with an American-style health insurance scheme, and has recently said the allies should have invaded imperial Germany, even if it cost an extra 100,000 casualties. Another leader gives a beggar money and looks a bit like an Aardman Animations national treasure. Guess which one the press reserves its opprobrium for?

I just want to say something quick about Nigel Farage’s comments about the First World War. While the headline writers have grabbed on the 100,000 number bandied about, what Farage thinks is ‘the biggest mistake of the 20th century’ is the signing of the armistice that brought WWI to an end. Had the allies pressed on all the way to Berlin, there would have been no doubt that Wilhelmine Germany had been defeated by the force of arms, not the self-serving clique of Reichstag flummeries who plunged a knife into the German army’s back. Farage argues had this been the case, the far right would have been robbed of a potent ideological weapon and its unlikely the Nazis would have assumed power with all that entailed.

Yes, for once Farage has fielded a nuanced argument, albeit a counterfactual. A pity he can’t bring as much erudition to bear on the lying bollocks his gang of Tory refugees peddle.

Cuddawuddashuddas are always fun with the benefit of hindsight. In this case, had that line of argument won out in 1918, historians of the Great War would probably have condemned an invasion and subsequent loss of life of an obviously defeated Germany as pointless. In fact, a demagogic populist not unlike Farage may later have made similar comments, upsetting the cosy, apolitical celebration of the war’s centenary.

However, there are limits to Farage’s imagining of an alternative history. The battlefields of the Western front he likes to visit were only the outward manifestation of the war. He forgets that behind the barbed wire and trenches were the most advanced industrial societies of the day primed and mobilised for slaughter. However, break open any society – and this includes the barbarisms of Nazi Germany, North Korea, and fundamentalist Saudi Arabia – all you will find are people producing and reproducing the structures conditioning their lives as they go about their daily business that, ultimately, provides them with the means of life.

Doing the same to the allied nations – Britain, France, Italy (though probably not the USA) on the one hand and Germany on the other, you will find plenty of reasons why the military campaign was called off just as the the front was advancing across northern France and Belgium to the frontier. One very good reason to not push into Germany was the unfolding revolutionary situation. By war’s end the Kaiser had gone, the Social Democrats were in government, the navy were in open revolt and soviet-type councils of workers and soldiers were mushrooming. Further advances by the allies could have exacerbated this situation and acted as a recruiting sergeant for the Spartakusbund. After all, German advances into Bolshevik Russia earlier that year did little to weaken its revolutionary forces.

The other very good reason was the state of the allied troops themselves. Its militaries and populations were war weary too. The French army had suffered widespread mutiny the previous year, and discontent was rumbling on the home fronts. Even though the British had not gone the same way, there was not telling what several more months of gruelling fighting across Belgium and northern Germany could have done to the army. Also, politicians and senior military figures would have been alive to the possibilities of contagion. Just as Bolshevik propaganda aimed at German soldiers found its way back home, there was nothing to say something similar would not have happened between German revolutionaries and the allied rank and file.

Had the armistice not been signed and the allied powers resolved on a drive into Germany, Farage is quite right, it’s likely the Nazis would never have been in contention. But in doing they may have provoked a tidal wave of revolution that not only cut off the possibility of a second, bloodier conflagration 20 years down the line, but also put capital itself in mortal peril. It’s lucky for Farage that the establishment worthies of the time had a class instinct for self-preservation.

This article was first published at All that is Solid

4 Comments

  1. who is the other leader mentioned in this article?

  2. swatantra says:

    WW1 came to a natural rend, because all sides were war weary, fatigue had set in , and all were fed up and wanted it to end. Pushing on to Berlin was pointless, The concesions already exacted from Germany were more than enough.
    In fact it was the utter humiliation of Germany and the surrender terms that meant a WWII was on the horizon. There was no honour left for Germany in defeat. And they exacted their revenge 20 years later.

  3. Barry Ewart says:

    Just read Paul Frolich’s brilliant boigraphy of Rosa Luxemburg. Rival national capitalist Govts set working people from different European counties against each other for profits. I cried when I read how Rosa refused to speak to a mass audience of workers just before the outbreak of WW1 – Rosa didn’t want to create panic and she knew that working peoople from different Eiropean countries would soon be set against each other. Of course looking through 21.st Century eyes we may have asked the audience, ‘ What can we do brothers and sisters?’ Rosa had warned about the danger of the strenght of nationalism v internationalism which is still relevant today and we need to be champiops of international democratoc socialism – and where are Labours efforts to work with pur sister patrties internationally? We need to act locally and think internationally like capitaliism & Neo-Libetalism! Lessons for today – working people from different countries shouldn’t kill each other especially when the main beneficiaries are usually the rich and powerful .and multi- national Corporations. Yours in peace & international solidarity.

    1. Robert says:

      And yet you fall into the same trap you speak about working people Miliband speaks about hard working people, so if your on welfare sick disabled leg blown off in wars and your unable to work or your unemployed you may as well vote UKIP because it’s obvious the left no longer speaks about the working class. It speaks about hard working peoples.

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