Home > World Events > The tragedy of Gallipoli

The tragedy of Gallipoli

April 25th, 2015

100 years ago today, Australian and New Zealand forces landed at what is now Anzac Cove in the Gallipoli Peninsula, suffering heavy losses as they attempted to storm entrenched Turkish positions. Eight months later, having failed to dislodge the Turks, despite the loss of more than 10 000 killed and 20 000 wounded the Anzacs withdrew, managing to conceal the retreat and evacuate their positions with minimal casualties. This much, along with individual stories of heroism and suffering, is known to just about every Australian.

But there are many important facts that are less well known, and many questions that are rarely asked

Some facts

* The ANZACs were only a small part of the forces on the Allied side. British, Irish and French troops also fought, suffering many more casualties. Overall, the campaign cost at least 100 000 lives, with the Allies and the Turks losing about equal numbers
* The attack (which followed a failed naval assault) coincided with the beginning of the Armenian genocide in which the Ottoman government killed somewhere around 1,000,000 Armenian Christians.
* Although the Gallipoli campaign failed, the war objective of dismembering the Ottoman empire was ultimately achieved in large measure, leading to the creation of Iraq, Syria and most of the other states collectively known today as the Middle East. The overlapping wars in which Australian soldiers are fighting today can be traced to this partition

There is a natural human tendency to look for some good outcome from such horrific carnage. In the case of Gallipoli reflected in Australian and Turkish national foundation myths in which both the Anzacs and their Turkish opponents were fighting for their respective nations’ freedom. But the reality is that there was nothing good about the Great War, and that nothing came from it except the seeds of even more war and genocide.

Finally, why was Australia at war with Turkey and what were the Anzacs doing in Gallipoli?

A crucial cause of the War, and the background for the Sarajevo assassination that formed the pretext on the German/Austrian side was the decline of the Ottoman empire and the attempts by the other European empires to carve it up for their own benefit. When the War broke out, the Turkish government judged that Czarist Russia (allied to Britain and France) was the biggest threat, and therefore sided with the Germans. It was the fear that the Armenian Christians might support Russia (along with the usual role of plain evil) that motivated the genocide.

The Turkish judgement was accurate, or perhaps self-fulfilling. In a secret agreement made in early March 1915 (and published by the Bolsheviks after the Czarist government was overthrown in Russia), the British, French and Russian governments agreed to partition the Ottoman empire among themselves, leaving at most a rump Turkish state in existence. The assault on the Dardanelles was an attempt by the British and French to cut off the European part of Turkey (promised to the Russians) and open up a route to provide military supplies to Russia.

The heroism and suffering of those of all nations who fought and died at Gallipoli should never be forgotten. But the campaign had nothing to do with freedom, on either side. One brutal empire was trying to preserve its existence against rival empires determined to get the greatest possible benefit out of its collapse.

When we say “We Shall Remember Them”, we should remember that our best service to the memory of the Anzacs is to resist calls for war.

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  1. Donald Oats
    April 25th, 2015 at 16:43 | #1

    I prefer “Lest We Forget” as a shorthand way of saying “Lest We Forget…the horror of war upon all who participate, willingly or incidentally, wounded or not.” Thinking of a war in terms of “sacrifice” lends itself to hero worship, and I don’t see that as a good contrivance; politicians however, see great value in pounding the “heroic sacrifice” theme.

    The folly of war is compounded by our unsympathetic treatment of demobbed returnees who suffer mental affliction from their exposure to the horrors of war. Given the nature of military service, the employer—the government—should provide support services capable of dealing with mentally injured returnees, and the same goes for any other injury received on duty. Even injury during training should be given the same support, for soldiers train for conditions likely to cause injury to a significant minority of participants. If you have ever seen the regime the SAS recruits go through, you’ll see what I mean about getting injured during training—it is a brutal selection by attrition, and for good reason.

    As the employer, the government should not abrogate its responsibility of care for injured soldiers, and especially not because of the cost of treatment—that shouldn’t be a significant consideration.

    Of the long list of wars and squirmishes which our armed forces have participated in, very few have had the desired effect. Second World War is probably the stand-out, and even then, the long term fallout of the war, and the fractures and re-groupings of the involved countries, led to the Cold War, ongoing fights and wars in the Middle East, the harsh regimes in Iron Curtain countries, among other things. Self defence is vital; war of choice is folly, pure and simple.

  2. Marilyn
    April 25th, 2015 at 16:44 | #2

    My grandpa and his mates went to WW

  3. Marilyn
    April 25th, 2015 at 16:47 | #3

    I will try again. My grandpa and his mates from a small town in SA went to war only to feed their kids after the years of the great depression.

    They would be sickened today that our navy are being used to hunt, trade and traffic, torture and monster refugees from wars we started and then taking jobs in the prisons for those refugees.

    I loathe everything to do with war and ANZAC day has a special thing to remember – not a single Australian citizen went to either world war because no such people existed until parliamentary statutory decree in 1949 that can be repealed at any time.

  4. bjb
    April 25th, 2015 at 16:52 | #4

    Alan Ramsey has a good piece in today’s SMH (http://www.smh.com.au/comment/anzac-day-time-for-australia-to-stop-fighting-other-peoples-wars-20150425-1msefn.html) reflecting on the eerie comparison between the latest conflict our Government has decided to be involved in and our involvement in Vietnam.

    On a lighter note, I was rather surprised in the quite good speech our Prime Minister gave at the dawn service he didn’t blame Labor for something.

  5. Jim Rose
    April 25th, 2015 at 16:54 | #5

    On May 24, 1915, the Allied Powers jointly issued a statement explicitly charging for the first time ever another government of committing `a crime against humanity’.

    The Allied Governments announce publicly that they will hold personally responsible all members of the Ottoman Government, as well as those of their agents who are implicated in the Armenian massacres.

    rticle 230 of the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres required the defeated Ottoman Empire to

    …hand over to the Allied Powers the persons whose surrender may be required by the latter as being responsible for the massacres committed during the continuance of the state of war on territory which formed part of the Ottoman Empire on August 1, 1914.

    Ottoman military and high-ranking politicians were transferred to Malta by the British forces, starting in 1919. These war criminals were eventually returned to Constantinople in 1921 in exchange for 22 British hostages held by the government in Ankara.

    But for victory at Gallipoli, the Anzacs would have been the first Sergeant at Arms of a war crimes trial. By marching into Constantinople, the Anzacs may have been able to prevent the purging of the Ottoman archives of evidence of the complicity of specific individuals.

  6. Donald Oats
    April 25th, 2015 at 17:13 | #6

    @bjb
    What Ramsey said. As for PM Abbott, I have nothing to say.

  7. rog
    April 25th, 2015 at 17:52 | #7

    On RN Ian Morris puts forward the argument that the West pursuit of war has resulted in the creation of states and it is only these states that can create peace.

    http://www.amazon.com/War-What-Good-For-Civilization/dp/0374286000

  8. jungney
    April 25th, 2015 at 20:48 | #8

    Is it over yet?

    I fear that the militaristic brainwashing of the young, initiated by Howard, has been effective and means that an anti-war movement will not arise here again until another 60,000 Australians die pointlessly in war followed by another 60,000 dead returnees within a decade of the end of war.

    The anti-war movement of the 1960’s and 70’s and even the 80’s in Australia had at its core the benevolence and encouragement of returned diggers who insisted that they fought as much for our right to refuse to fight for imperial power as any other reason. Alas, they are few in number these days.

  9. Chris O’Neill
    April 25th, 2015 at 20:55 | #9

    The overlapping wars in which Australian soldiers are fighting today can be traced to this partition

    In particular, Britain created the conglomerate country of Iraq so it could maintain some control over the oil-rich Kurdish area rather than let that area fall under the dominion of Turkey.

  10. Ikonoclast
    April 25th, 2015 at 22:08 | #10

    Sadly, Anzac Day has become militaristic brain-washing exactly as Jungney says. What concerns me is that the real problems we face right now in Australia, like continued disadvantage of aboriginals, 20% plus youth unemployment and poor economic choices in the face of climate change and resource depletion, are all swept under the carpet while the media indulges in untold hours of mawkish and jingoistic pro-war propaganda and nationalist myth-making.

    The men who are to be admired are those men who fought (like my father in WW2) and turned their backs forever on war becoming peaceful family men, staunchly anti-war thereafter (because they actually knew what war was) and soon refusing to march on Anzac Day because they rapidly saw it for the pro-militaristic fraud that it became and remains.

  11. JKUU
    April 25th, 2015 at 22:38 | #11

    Reflections on the centenary of Anzac Day prompt me to quote from Michael Brull’s piece in New Matilda:

    That our “national character” was forged – and is defined – by a military invasion seems to me to include strong claims not only about what our national character is, but about what kind of values are desirable in a nation.

    The forgery lives on.

  12. Megan
    April 25th, 2015 at 22:59 | #12

    A sports reporter from SBS has apparently committed a cardinal sin for which his minister (Saint Malcolm Turnbull – no doubt forced by the infamous lobby to which he answers, and also no doubt fuelled by the Murdoch hate media) has “condemned” him.

    His sin?

    The following series of “Tweets”:

    The cultification of an imperialist invasion of a foreign nation that Australia had no quarrel with is against all ideals of modern society.
    Wonder if the poorly-read, largely white, nationalist drinkers and gamblers pause today to consider the horror that all mankind suffered.
    Remembering the summary execution, widespread rape and theft committed by these ‘brave’ Anzacs in Egypt, Palestine and Japan.
    Not forgetting that the largest single-day terrorist attacks in history were committed by this nation & their allies in Hiroshima & Nagasaki
    Innocent children, on the way to school, murdered. Their shadows seared into the concrete of Hiroshima.

    Turnbull (@turnbullmalcolm) tweets:

    Difficult to think of more offensive or inappropriate comments than those by @mcintinhos. Despicable remarks which deserve to be condemned.

    Jeepers! Don’t get in the way of the pro-war imperialistic jingoism, these fascists are ruthless.

  13. Megan
    April 25th, 2015 at 23:11 | #13

    But never fear!

    The fiercely independent managing director of your SBS, Michael Ebeid who has as his twitter profile:

    “Managing Director @SBS. Proud to be leading an organisation that inspires all Australians to explore, appreciate and celebrate our wonderfully diverse world.”

    Leaps to the defence of his staff’s right to free speech and their duty or right to “explore” our “diverse” world by expressing their own opinions….

    Comments from @mcintinhos are his own, disrespectful and not at all the views of @SBS. We remember and commemorate our ANZACs.

    Nope! Just another neocon fascist quisling like Mark Scott.

  14. Megan
    April 25th, 2015 at 23:50 | #14

    Venturing into the twittersphere to check it out isn’t for the faint-hearted….

    The Murdoch/fascist neo-con flying monkeys are out in force!

    Key features of the most virulent include references to being LNP/’Conservative’ fans, and an awful lot of tweets including “@chriskkenny”.

    For example, 2 minutes ago Murdoch’s pooch-loving Kenny retweeted (approvingly?):

    @chriskkenny @michaelebeid @TurnbullMalcolm @mcintinhos @SBS Totally agree. Sickening tweets from an obvious sicko. Our taxes at work

    Text-book ‘echo-chamber’?

  15. April 26th, 2015 at 01:35 | #15

    The ANZACs themselves would be confused at what happens in their name. It is our default religion. We refer to those visiting ANZAC cove as “pilgrims”.

    I am entirely in awe of the bravery of soldiers. But there wouldn’t be wars without them.

  16. April 26th, 2015 at 04:53 | #16

    Lest we repeat!

  17. Ken_L
    April 26th, 2015 at 06:38 | #17

    It’s very depressing to read how many people who came to adulthood post-Vietnam have a sentimental, romantic view of our military past that mindlessly picks up the politicians’ cant about people dying so we can be free. I’ve personally known many ex-service personnel, and not one enlisted for great and noble reasons. That’s not to suggest their reasons were ignoble; most did it because it was expected. Cultural norms and social pressure were just as powerful in driving collective behavior then as now.

    We are lucky to have been spared the glorification of the military that characterises American culture, despite attempts by the conservatives to import it. I still cringe remembering the circus that followed Jake Kovco’s death in Iraq. But I see a few people parroting the American formulaic “Thank you for your service”, and wonder how much resistance there would be to following the USA into new wars of aggression under a President Rubio or Walker.

    Random thoughts prompted by a spate of Facebook items from friends talking about the fallen as if they were a different and superior species, and expressing eternal gratitude that their sacrifice prevented our enslavement. Although by whom, they don’t say.

  18. rog
    April 26th, 2015 at 08:30 | #18

    The tragedy of Gallipoli is that we have already forgotten about Iraq.

  19. Paul Norton
    April 26th, 2015 at 09:59 | #19

    Earlier this year I read The Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark. I strongly recommend it for anyone wishing to enhance their knowledge of the historical issues raised in the OP.

  20. Ken Fabian
    April 26th, 2015 at 10:14 | #20

    Trying to find something uplifting in what was one of the most horrific periods of human history is understandable, but I’m not sure I like what the Anzac day (month) fervor is doing. Whether intentional or not it creates an Us and Them dichotomy, with a kind of nationalism that allows little criticism on pain of being deemed unAustralian; a friend, a citizen who was born overseas, has felt very much like an outsider, like he was is not a true Australian and, lacking the Anzac heritage, will never be a true Australian.

  21. Paul Norton
    April 26th, 2015 at 10:25 | #21

    From the OP:

    Although the Gallipoli campaign failed, the war objective of dismembering the Ottoman empire was ultimately achieved in large measure, leading to the creation of Iraq, Syria and most of the other states collectively known today as the Middle East. The overlapping wars in which Australian soldiers are fighting today can be traced to this partition

    There is also the long-run consequence of the British promising Palestine to both the Jews and the Arabs, and then failing to help resolve the resulting competing claims. This was further compounded by the collapse – ultimately caused by WW1 – of European societies with significant Jewish populations into various forms of more or less antisemitic totalitarianism, and eventually another World War, which as Isaac Deutscher observed effectively precluded the non-Zionist options for Jewish emancipation and also turned the problem of Jewish emancipation into a problem of Jewish survival.

  22. John Bentley
    April 26th, 2015 at 10:48 | #22

    Thanks John and to all of the above commentators, I pretty much agree everything mentioned. Australia has been at war since the First Fleet arrived in 1788 when the barbarians first set foot on the Great Southern Land. I offer up a couple of verses:

    War, war, always war
    War, what is war?
    Government sponsored genocide
    The public as always,
    Taken for a ride

    The war to end all wars
    Left festering sores.
    A stint of austerity
    That should do the trick
    Plus a dose of twisted verity.

    So it’s back to war
    Let’s even the score.
    Those killed or in pain
    Those left to rot on high
    The madness of those insane.

    Chorus: Australians let us announce
    That we’re not young nor free.
    With wealth and toil so abused
    We forget our own genocide,
    How can we further abide?

  23. ZM
    April 26th, 2015 at 11:23 | #23

    I had a great grandfather who fought in the First World War and a grandfather who fought in the Second.

    My mum remembers my grandfather when he was asked about the war he would make it like a travel log concentrating on the places he visited. But he had shell shock and was hospitalised then was sent out again to fight. When he was old he still had nightmares. He did not really go to church again after the war although his father was a Presbyterian elder, instead my grandfather cooked lunch at home upon Sunday mornings while the family went to church. The bank he had worked in partially financially supported his parents while he was away fighting, so when he returned although the government I think would have helped him to go to university as a returned soldier he felt indebted to the bank and remained working for the bank for his career.

    Our local federal MP Lisa Chesters wrote a very appropriate ANZAC day notice for The Bendigo Advertiser:

    “We acknowledge
    The sacrifice of your life,
    Your happiness,
    Your peace of mind
    And your future,
    Whether or not you returned.

    With humility and hope,
    Future generations
    Will live to honour
    Your sacrifice and ensure
    That another generation
    Will not live with the scars of war.

    Lest We Forget.”

  24. Ken_L
    April 26th, 2015 at 11:53 | #24

    One of the things that always strikes me is the stark contrast between the images conjured up by ‘fighting for your country’ and the reality.

    One of my uncles went to the Middle East and ended up in Syria fighting the French, who until not long before were our allies. Pretty hard to see how that was fighting for Australians’ freedom. He came back to Java in 1942 and drowned crossing a river. A bad way to go for a Manly boy who loved the water.

    My other uncle was captured in Singapore without ever firing a shot in anger. It was an abject surrender and military fiasco that ended Great Britain’s claim to be an imperial power. He spent the rest of the war in Changi PoW camp. He probably didn’t feel he was doing much to protect his loved ones either.

    My father was luckier. He spent half the war as a non-medical orderly on a hospital ship. He should have sailed on the ‘Centaur’ on the voyage when it was torpedoed off Tweed Heads, but he was unfit for duty. His only story from the war that I remember was that when he read the ‘Centaur’ casualty list in the paper in Martin Place, he sat down and cried his eyes out. He ended up in New Guinea as a battalion clerk, until he came down with the usual mix of tropical illnesses in 1944 and spent a few months in hospital pending discharge.

    No heroes fighting for freedom and democracy in my family. Not fighting at all, in fact, except one of them for a few weeks in Syria. Just three men doing what they were told to do, because not doing it would have been unthinkable.

  25. Florence nee Fed up
    April 26th, 2015 at 12:19 | #25

    I believe those white feathers carried a lot of weight.

    For many, it would have been much harder to refuse. Does not lessen their bravery, but one must question the words from mouths of likes Abbott. they did it for honour. love of King and country.

    I suspect many did not see they had any choice.

  26. April 26th, 2015 at 12:57 | #26

    It’s election time here in Japan and all weekend I have been regaled by policing driving by in cars with loudspeakers, promising not to change the constitution. On my walk to the station there is a poster for the communist party (strong in my area and growing since 2011) that says ?????????????:we won’t allow Japan to become a country that fights wars overseas. one of Japan’s finer points is its refusal to glorify or even sanction war. A lesson perhaps australia could learn from…

  27. iain
    April 26th, 2015 at 15:05 | #27

    Je suis Scott McIntyre

  28. Megan
    April 26th, 2015 at 15:08 | #28

    SBS managing director stands up to howling Murdoch pack and defends sports reporter Scott McIntyre’s right to free speech, even if it is offensive (like the Charlie Hebdo orgy)…..

    No, not really. Sacks him instead:

    “Late on Anzac Day, sports presenter Scott McIntyre made highly inappropriate and disrespectful comments via his Twitter account which have caused his on-air position at SBS to become untenable.

    “Mr McIntyre’s actions have breached the SBS code of conduct and social media policy and as a result, SBS has taken decisive action to terminate Mr McIntyre’s position at SBS, with immediate effect.

    They fought and died for……. something, apparently, but it is hard to define.

  29. Megan
    April 26th, 2015 at 15:16 | #29

    The Minister for SBS (who called for McIntyre to be “condemned”) wrote this on 8 January 2015:

    A century ago, Australians and Frenchmen were in the trenches of the Western Front fighting and dying to defend France and uphold the freedoms cherished by us both. And our servicemen and women are together in freedom’s fight today.

    We are heartbroken by the news from Paris and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and the people of France whose liberty and security has been so grievously attacked in the terrorists’ massacre of the staff of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris yesterday.

    This attack was a murderous assault on civilisation and in particular on one of its key foundations – a free and independent press. It was an attack on every free society and on every journalist, every cartoonist, every newspaper, every broadcaster.

    Thousands of Parisians have filled the Place de la Republique to show their solidarity, their compassion, their love of liberty and their determination not to be intimidated by terrorists and their cult of hate and death.

    “Je suis Charlie” their signs read.

    From Australia, and around the world, we can all say today “Nous sommes aussi Charlie.”

    My emphasis.

  30. Donald Oats
    April 26th, 2015 at 16:50 | #30

    @iain
    Indeed.

    The situation with Scott McIntyre, where he made comments—on his own time as an individual—that a person in power didn’t like, and was consequently sacked for the comments, really highlights the true struggle for free speech in this country. Everybody espouses it, but it is apparently acceptable for employers to demand that employees forgo their right to free speech on their own time, as part of any employment contract they sign. It should be against the law to have clauses in employment contracts which curtail an employee’s right to speak freely when not working.

    Technically, the chief of SBS probably has the right and the reason to sack Scott McIntyre for what he said. In exercising that, under the circumstances of reacting to comments from a minister of the government, especially the minister to whom he effectively reports, it is exceptionally difficult for a reasonable person to see that as other than cowtowing to a minister, rather than exercising his authority in an independent and appropriate manner.

    Where will the Freedom Commissioner be on this particular issue? 1) out to lunch; 2) agree with the minister and the head of SBS, probably saying that if comments (even on own time) are restricted by employment contract, then the employee has to follow the rules; or, 3) Gosh, even though I don’t agree with Scott, I believe he has not only the right to say what he did, but he should not be subject to any sanction because of it, I stand up for Scott’s right to freedom of speech. I suggest that 3 is not gonna happen.

  31. jungney
    April 26th, 2015 at 18:57 | #31

    Yeah. Free Speech Boy, where are you?

  32. zoot
    April 26th, 2015 at 20:41 | #32

    I’m sure Andrew Bolt will be speaking out in support of Scott McIntyre’s right to freedom of speech … won’t he?

  33. Megan
    April 27th, 2015 at 00:06 | #33

    @zoot

    Don’t underestimate the sick rat-cunning of Murdoch’s army of psychopaths. It would be just like Bolt to make the pretense of standing up for McIntyre’s right to free speech.

    However, since the “ANZAC Legend” is actually Murdoch’s personal property, thanks to his old man (who fabricated the legend in the first place for purely propagandistic purposes), I imagine this subject will probably ‘off-limits’ to Murdoch’s free-speech warriors.

  34. Ken_L
    April 27th, 2015 at 09:55 | #34

    BTW it’s just been announced that we’re going to spend $100 million (before the usual cost blow-outs) on an ‘educational centre’ to be built on the site of the Australian Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux.

    The priorities of this government are impossible to understand, even based on their own political interests. Like Philip’s risible knighthood, it’s as if Abbott just can’t resist the urge to use his office for personal pet projects.

  35. Florence nee Fed up
    April 27th, 2015 at 11:06 | #35

    Not sure what education centre is. Heard, Uni, museum. What about propaganda, for consumption by Australians.

  36. Paul Norton
    April 27th, 2015 at 11:37 | #36

    I have some sympathy for the view that sporting commentators and reporters should show circumspection and caution about commenting on political and social issues that are beyond their brief as sports journalists and perhaps beyond their intellectual competence. I say this on the basis of some 40 years of hearing such people bloviate ignorantly and offensively in ways that exceeded Scott McIntyre’s efforts without attracting any kind of sanction from their employers.

  37. Paul Norton
  38. Donald Oats
    April 27th, 2015 at 16:44 | #38

    We’ve found the freedom guy, and this is what he had to say (about the sacking of McIntyre):

    The human rights commissioner, Tim Wilson, said McIntyre’s freedom of speech was not being curtailed.

    “We’re talking about political interpretations of history and that is open for debate,” he said. “And he will be judged very harshly.”

    Yay, Freedom!

  39. April 27th, 2015 at 18:39 | #39

    Pr Q said:

    There is a natural human tendency to look for some good outcome from such horrific carnage. In the case of Gallipoli reflected in Australian and Turkish national foundation myths in which both the Anzacs and their Turkish opponents were fighting for their respective nations’ freedom. But the reality is that there was nothing good about the Great War, and that nothing came from it except the seeds of even more war and genocide…When we say “We Shall Remember Them”, we should remember that our best service to the memory of the Anzacs is to resist calls for war.

    Thats not a debunking of a myth, its simply a baseless assertion. The fact that both Turkey and Australia still celebrate/commemorate the Gallipoli campaign on an ever-increasing scale is a prima facie refutation of Pr Q’s thesis.

    The Gallipoli glass is both half-empty and half-full. The campaign, although a disasterous military venture and the scene of appalling bloodshed, demonstrably strengthened national unity in both Turkey and Australia.  So it was both a tragedy and a triumph, an ambivalent sensibility familiar to artists but perhaps a little too subtle for others.

    Gallipoli kicked off the careers of both countries foundation myth-makers, in the persons of Billy Hughes in Australia and Mustafa Kemal in Turkey, who both made their names in the Great War. They were by far and away the most popular leaders in their respective nations history. Hughes was dubbed “the Little Digger”, his Sydney funeral in 1952 was attended by 450,000 persons – equivalent to two million people in todays terms. And Kemal was named Ataturk, “Father of the Turks” after the Great War and war of independence. His name is sacrosanct to this day. As Jonathan King points out, modern Turkey would be unthinkable without Ataturk, the hero of Gallipoli:

    Gallipoli was the biggest victory the Ottomans had in WWI, Oral said. Their military leader Mustafa Kemal (later Ataturk) used his victory as a revolutionary springboard to dismantle the Ottoman Empire after the war and establish the modern, secular democratic republic of Turkey serving as inaugural president. Although Australians believe Gallipoli ushered in the birth of our new nation, the nation that was born out of Gallipoli was Turkey because without that victory, Ataturk could not have created Turkey; which although politically troubled at present, remains a secular democratic republic.

    National unity promotes nation building. Since the Great War both nations made great progress in measures of human well-being, relative to comparable countries. In the 1920s the Turkish Army founded and built the modern Turkish State. It is the most successful nation, measured by peace and prosperity, in the Middle East. In the 1920s Australia enjoyed the Roaring Twenties, with strong burst of nation-building, establishing Canberra. It is the most successful nation, measured by peace and prosperity, amongst the Commonwealth nations. This co-incidence is not an accident. A significant factor in both countries success is their Gallipoli-inspired national unity. No thanks to the fashionable constructions of querulous intellectuals.

    More generally, the Durkheimian theory of communitarian solidarity implies that some wars/revolutions can serve as the foundation of civil religions. That is, they sanctify the formation and transmission of communal bonds through the medium of shared blood sacrifice. The team spirit thus generated makes for a more competive nation.  A civil religion is a priceless social asset as it can be used to generate the “Lest we Forget” altruism that underlies the accumulation of social capital through time. It is a form of grateful ancestor worship which has a real pay off in cheap infrastructure built up and handed down by successive generations of descendants. Until our own, of course, which I can only pass over in silent shame.

    So the respective populations of Turkey and Australia, at least before the intellectual rot set in, would strenuously disagree with the “no good came out of Gallipoli” thesis. Of course revisionism is an intellectual parlour game that can be played to the end of history with little chance that the dead will, like Marshall McLuhan in Annie Hall, come out of no where to correct the record.

    The perennial phrase “bring back National Service” underscores this eternal truth. So, “when we say ‘we shall remember them’ we should remember that our best service to the memory of the ANZACs is to resist the calls” to chisel away at the cultural foundations of national unity.

  40. Patrickb
    April 28th, 2015 at 00:46 | #40

    Our stellar foreign minister asserts that ISIS pose the greatest threat to world order since ‘communism’. Mind you the talk was to the Sydnsy Institute, not a forum that attracts critcal minds. Of course it is a stupid statement but given that ISIS is exploiting the US inspired break up of the post Ottoman ME I thought it was vaguely on topic.

  41. Megan
    April 28th, 2015 at 01:10 | #41

    UPDATE

    According to the Grauniad:

    SBS staff have been told that sports reporter Scott McIntyre was sacked not for his “offensive” Anzac Day tweets but for refusing to take them down, while the communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has denied having any influence on the network’s decision.

    The director of sport at SBS, Ken Shipp, told staff at a meeting on Monday morning that McIntyre was sacked for disobeying an order to delete the posts which had caused outrage on Twitter on Saturday night.

    When contacted by Guardian Australia, Shipp declined to comment.

    The IPA weighs in:

    Rightwing thinktank the Institute of Public Affairs seized on the incident to call for SBS to be fully privatised.

    “McIntyre deserved to be fired,” IPA director Simon Breheny wrote. “Perhaps the fact that SBS would make such a poor hiring decision provides yet another reason why the public broadcaster should be privatised.”

    And “Bolt”?

    News Corp commentator Andrew Bolt said SBS had made the right decision in dismissing McIntyre.

    “If journalists portray their own country as the worst terrorist nation — a land of white trash with an army of rapists and murderers — who can blame some young Muslims for feeling obliged to destroy it?

    “Of all ‘hate speech’ now, McIntyre’s is becoming the most dangerous. He had to go.”

    But of course his union stood up for his rights against all that oppressive force (sorry, just joking, unions are fascist operatives – everyone with a brain has worked that out by now):

    “MEAA is concerned about the application of the social media policies of media employers following the dismissal of an SBS employee for opinions expressed on the social media platform Twitter,” the union said in a statement. “The policies have begun to infringe on the private lives of media professionals, dictating what they can and can’t say in a private capacity, outside of their work.”

    Wow! “Zinger” MEAA.

  42. J-D
    April 28th, 2015 at 07:51 | #42

    @Megan

    My union organisers don’t behave like fascist operatives; I think many of my fellow union members would resent the suggestion, which I seriously doubt you could substantiate with evidence. (Our industrial officer is fond of quoting Saul Alinsky, which is an unlikely thing for a fascist operative to do.) I can see you’re not happy with the MEAA response to the dismissal of Scott McIntyre, but I don’t see what course of action you would have preferred them to take. It’s easy to say that something is not good enough, but it’s hardly convincing if you can’t suggest how it’s possible to do better.

  43. Ikonoclast
    April 28th, 2015 at 08:03 | #43

    @J-D

    You could all go on strike if you had any guts.

  44. Ikonoclast
    April 28th, 2015 at 08:14 | #44

    More to the point, I should have said you could go on strike if you had any solidarity. If the workers have no courage and no solidarity they will in time have nothing above a bare subsistence. That is the way things are trending. Every year now workers lose income, conditions and rights. What do you think is the end point of this process? Have a look at the workers in Apple’s China factory. Have a look at the garment workers in Bangladesh. Have a look at the workers under the (temporary) Jack Abramoff “regime” in Saipan. This is what wages and conditions for workers will look like everywhere on current trends. The intention of capitalists is to use globalism and wage arbitrage to force all wages, even developed world wages down to subsistence levels. Globally, there will be rich metropoles and enclaves for a few hundred million and then there will 7 billion impoverished peasants and workers. That’s the model. That’s the intention.

  45. Megan
    April 28th, 2015 at 17:20 | #45

    @J-D

    Your defense of your union against criticism is, slightly, more robust than the union’s reaction to the sacking of a worker (a journalist) for expressing an opinion.

    The MEAA didn’t call for industrial action and didn’t even condemn his sacking.

    I can’t see the point of a union like that.

  46. Megan
    April 28th, 2015 at 19:07 | #46

    “Media Watch” mentioned McIntyre’s sacking. Paul Barry’s view:

    As you can imagine there was a storm of outrage.

    And even though McIntyre is only a sports reporter he was shown the door.

    Since then there has been a huge debate about whether his sacking is an attack on free speech.

    Well, for what it’s worth, I don’t think it is.

    Free speech allows you to say what you like and not be jailed. It does not give you protection from trashing your own career.

    Sorry, Paul. I don’t agree with that characterisation of it.

    Recently I’ve noticed a lot of trolling comments at the bottom of media watch pieces online. They sometimes call for Barry’s sacking – because they perceive his opinions to be offensive (and the show itself). By his logic he could be sacked at any time on the strength of that criticism, and that would not be a “free speech” issue.

  47. Megan
    April 28th, 2015 at 19:13 | #47

    Comparing Charlie Hebdo, News Ltd and McIntyre, something becomes clear.

    Being offensive is a fundamental right and cornerstone of civilization – but ONLY if you are paid to be offensive. And/or ONLY if your offensiveness is directed at “acceptable” subjects.

  48. J-D
    April 28th, 2015 at 19:25 | #48

    @Megan

    I appear to have misled you into supposing that the MEAA is my union. On rereading my comment I can see how I might have done that and if so I apologise. Perhaps I should have been more careful in how I expressed myself. When I referred to my union, I was referring to the union of which I am am member, and that’s not the MEAA.

    But you didn’t write ‘the MEAA is a fascist operative’, you wrote ‘unions are fascist operatives’, so it seemed reasonable to me to suppose that you were referring to unions in general, or at the very least Australian unions in general.

    And you didn’t write ‘I can’t see the point of unions’ (as you have since done in another comment) or ‘unions perform inadequately’, you wrote ‘unions are fascist operatives’. As it happens, today at lunchtime I encountered somebody I know from work and the topic we started talking about led on naturally to my mentioning to him how I’d read a blog comment this morning that asserted that unions are fascist operatives. (Incidentally I have no idea whether he himself is a union member.) He described your statement as a ‘bizarre’ thing to say. (I did explain to him the context, that you were commenting on the MEAA’s response to the sacking of Scott McIntyre.) My guess is that if we asked around a bit we’d find that a lot of people take a similar view. That’s just a guess, of course, but we can test it if you like.

  49. Megan
    April 28th, 2015 at 20:21 | #49

    @J-D

    Pgh 1: No need to apologise.

    Pgh 2: I was.

    Pgh 3: No need – it is axiomatic that a lot of people would disagree. And, what I said was ‘The MEAA didn’t call for industrial action and didn’t even condemn his sacking. I can’t see the point of a union like that.’

    For the record – I can see the point of unions, theoretically and in past practice. Today, I believe they are useless to their members as anything other than a club.

  50. Florence nee Fed up
    April 28th, 2015 at 20:38 | #50

    Why do we assume he was member of any union. Union cannot do much, if one has broken the rules. Did he ask for union intervention.

  51. Megan
    April 28th, 2015 at 21:06 | #51

    @Florence nee Fed up

    I didn’t assume that he was.

    If unions only speak out against sackings of their members but remain silent on sackings of non-union workers in the same position – then that would not only be sad, it would also explain why membership is plummeting. On the other hand, if they won’t even speak out for a member…no, that would also explain their increasing irrelevance to workers’ interests.

  52. Florence nee Fed up
    April 28th, 2015 at 21:25 | #52

    Why should any union, or organisation for that matter, defend someone who does not bother to join. Would be amiss, if acted without members permission.

    Unions are not charity organisations. They exist to serve their members.

    What is wrong with that.

  53. Megan
    April 28th, 2015 at 23:24 | #53

    Why should any union, or organisation for that matter, defend someone who does not bother to join.

    Well, if that union or organization wanted to become decreasingly relevant to the group of people who might join – then the best way to do that would probably be to do what Australian unions have been doing for about 30 years.

    That is, refuse to defend the people who are in their industry but have not joined the union.

    Even then, it might be an incentive to join the union if the union actually DID stand up for members.

    Over the years I have had experience with “no ticket, no start” unions. I have had experience with unions who didn’t care at all about individual members. I have had experience with unions that chase – and threaten legal action against – “members” who were forced to join the union in order to do a few weeks casual work in a “closed shop” workplace.

    If I assume correctly that you are a fervent unionist, maybe you could take those views on board and wonder whether being firstly representative of people (before shaking them down for money, and then ignoring them) might be a good way to increase both union membership and sympathy for unions.

  54. April 29th, 2015 at 00:49 | #54

    JQ is right that the British alliance with France and therefore Russia in the years just before 1914 led to Britain joining in a programme to break up the Ottoman empire. But for almost a century berforehand, British foreign policy propped up the Ottomans, in a justified fear of worse replacing them. The Crimean war was just an episode of this policy.

    The Ottoman decision to join the central powers rather than staying neutral was a disastrous, régime-ending mistake. I wonder if Franco had studied it. More likely his neutrality in 1940 resulted from native caution and the experience of fighting Russians.

  55. Ikonoclast
    April 29th, 2015 at 07:25 | #55

    @Jack Strocchi

    Myths are not a firm foundation for dealing with reality. However, they are a method used by the ruling classes to deceive and exploit the other classes. Clearly, you favour this.

  56. Florence nee Fed up
    April 29th, 2015 at 07:29 | #56

    @Megan
    So unions and their members should provide free services for all. What other organisation, outside charities does that. Did the man ask for assistance.

  57. J-D
    April 29th, 2015 at 08:33 | #57

    @Megan

    I don’t agree with you that unions (in Australia, today) are useless, and I base that on my personal experience and observations. But I also understand from my own personal experience and observations why people think and say that.

    There is a big difference between ‘unions are fascist operatives’ (which is, let’s remember, what you wrote) and ‘unions are useless’.

    If we asked a lot of people whether unions (in Australia, today) are useless, I expect a lot of people would agree (some of them very strongly) while a lot of people would disagree (again, some of them very strongly), but I think very few or none would describe the suggestion as ‘bizarre’ (the word my acquaintance used).

    But if we asked a lot of people whether unions are fascist operatives, I think a lot of them would describe the suggestion as bizarre, or the equivalent.

    If you tell me that unions are useless, although I disagree, I have a fair idea what sort of evidence you’re basing that conclusion on.

    But if you tell me that unions are fascist operatives, I have enormous difficulty in conceiving what evidence you might suppose justifies that conclusion. It is bizarre.

  58. April 29th, 2015 at 13:23 | #58

    I think that Jack Strocchi’s comment is a good response to the ideas in the OP. I think there’s some validity to the claim that national foundation “myths” are important to maintaining a national community, though the idea that Australia’s wealth is due to our national coherence and not our favoured colonial position is a bit rich. I don’t see Jack’s opinion as necessarily opposed to the ideas in the OP. To me, the problem with the Anzac “tradition” is not its existence, or the importance of its role in establishing “modern” Australian national ideas, but its relevance 100 years after the fact, and the cost of maintaining an uncritical view of it.

    Since Gallipoli we have been through two conflicts with equal significance to our national ideas: WW2 which led us to recognize the value (and threat) of our Asian neighbours, and the weakness of our colonial masters; and Vietnam, which showed us the risks of casting our lot too closely with our new friend, the USA. The difference between our response as a nation to Vietnam vs. Gallipoli is that the former is much more self-critical. After Gallipoli we questioned our role in the Empire and reinforced our national foundations. After Vietnam we more clearly understood the limits of our own political class, and the value of war at all. It’s no surprise that politicians prefer us to continue to base our national self-image on a 100 year-old war with comfortable implications for the national body politic. Venerating Anzacs who fell in Vietnam or Iraq leads us to question our own political masters, some still living, rather than long-dead imperial generals who cannot argue back.

    Contra Jack, I would say that national solidarity is strongest when it is continually renewed and re-examined. The only people who benefit from uncritical acceptance of 100 year old colonial wars are a narrow class of political leaders who don’t like too much intelligent criticism brought to bear on the failings and corruption of their own class.

  59. April 29th, 2015 at 17:42 | #59

    Pr Q said:

    But there are many important facts that are less well known,..A crucial cause of the War, and the background for the Sarajevo assassination that formed the pretext on the German/Austrian side was the decline of the Ottoman empire and the attempts by the other European empires to carve it up for their own benefit


    The “facts” cited here do not speak for themselves. Pr Q’s interpretation is a species of “plague on both houses” ideological ventriloquism.

    No doubt the history of the Alllies Secret Treaties is pretty sordid, and were a morally worse option than the “Peace without Annexations or Reparations” plan pushed during the second half of the War. But nothing the Allies did to stay in the Great War begins to compare in moral culpability with the actions the Central Powers took in starting the Great War.

    No competent scholar buys the argument of moral equivalence between the Allies and the Central Powers. It is a matter of historical fact that each of the Central Powers launched an unprovoked war of aggression against its opposite number Allied Power: Austria attacked Serbia, Germany attacked Belgium/France, Turkey attacked Russia and, to top it off, Germany declared un-restricted submarine warfare against America! Each Central Power government was led by a militaristic faction (the “Berlin War Party”, the “Vienna War Party”, the Young Turks). And each Central Power had specific plans for conquest, not just vague intentions to extend “spheres of influence”.

    The “crucial cause of the War” was the drive of the Teutonic powers (Austria and Germany) to contain and control the resource-rich Slavic nations in their region. The major strategic concern of the Teutonic powers at the time was the growth in power of the “Russian Steamroller” and its broad association with pan-Slavic nationalism, the Bosnian Serbs being a particularly pernicious example.

    This had only tangential relation to “the decline of the Ottoman empire”. The rise of Balkan nationalism threatened both the Ottoman and Hapsburg empires. Basically the Hapsburgs wanted to stop the Bosnian Serbias doing to the Austro-Hungarian empire what the Balkan League had done to the Ottoman empire.

    Its true that the Gallipoli campaign did encompass “attempts by the other European empires to carve [the Ottoman empire] up for their own benefit”. Russia had always lusted after Constantinople, a warm water port in the Meditteranean. But Pr Q neglects to mention that the Romanovs also tried to keep the Ottoman empire out of the War, and the Hohenzollern empire too, xome to think of it (In the aftermath of the 1905 Revolution, Russia desperately wanted to avoid war).

    The Constantinople plan would have lain dormant had not the Young Turks acted first to attack Russia in the Black Sea and Caucasias region. So the Turks had only themselves to blame when the Allies went after them.

    The Gallipoli campaign was a Middle Eastern side-show, of the sort much beloved by the British, performed to keep Russia in the War. At the time, the Royal Navy was the British government’s main hammer, so only expeditionary conflicts looked like hittable nails.

    The Fischer Thesis – Teutonic culpability in the Great War Phase 1 (1914-19) – showed that by 1912 the German General Staff had a specific plan to launch a two-front pre-emptive war, “sooner, the better” (Moltke). This was a pre-emptive strike designed to destroy the French army, topple the Romanov empire and annex Slavic lands for German Lebensraum:

    In 1973, the British historian John Röhl noted that in view of what Fischer had uncovered, especially the War Council meeting of December 8, 1912 that the idea that Germany bore the main responsibility for the war was no longer denied by the vast majority of historians…In a major 2011 conference entitled “the Fischer Controversy 50 Years On”, a group of historians and academics debated the legacy of Fischer’s work. The conclusion was that “…a consensus emerged that Fischer had got it right in attributing ‘a significant part of the historical responsibility for the outbreak of a general war’ to Germany and that Fischer’s thesis of the continuity of German war aims still stands fifty years later”. Yet by August, 2014, many new books had appeared which by their divergent views collectively continue the controversy.

    Some of his work is based on Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg’s Septemberprogramm which laid out Germany’s war aims. Controversially, Fischer asserted a version of the Sonderweg thesis that drew a connection between aggression in 1914 and 1939…Fischer’s discovery of Imperial German government documents prepared after the war began calling for the ethnic cleansing of Russian Poland and German colonization to provide Germany with Lebensraum (living space) as a war aim, has also led to the widespread acceptance by historians of continuity between the foreign policies of Germany in 1914 and 1939.


    The dot-connecting proof of the Fischer Thesis is that the entire blood-bath was re-played in the Great War Phase 2 (1939-45). The latter phase of the conflict followed more or less the same strategic logic, a two-front war spiced up with attacks on the Axis “soft-underbelly” (with North Africa and Italy standing in for Turkey and Mesopotamia). Every school boy knows that Hitler was responsible for Great War Phase 2. But the Left wants to let the Kaiser partially off the hook for the Great War Phase 1. Mainly, it seems, in order to breathe new life into the comatose body of the Hobson-Lenin-Trotsky theory of imperialism. Oh what a lovely History War!

  60. Ikonoclast
    April 30th, 2015 at 07:34 | #60

    @Jack Strocchi

    “But the Left wants to let the Kaiser partially off the hook for the Great War Phase 1. Mainly, it seems, in order to breathe new life into the comatose body of the Hobson-Lenin-Trotsky theory of imperialism. Oh what a lovely History War!”

    Since your narrative describes German imperialism, I’m not sure how it could debunk theories of imperialism. The European powers had been fighting for domination of Europe and imperial domination of the world since 1337 (the commencement of the Hundred Year’s War). With the fading of Spanish and Portuguese power, the stuggle for the control of mainland Europe devolved to France, the German principalities, Russia and Austria-Hungary. Britain pitched in at times but had its overseas empire and its navy. Every great European war before and after WW0 (the Napoleonic Wars) can be seen as part of this overall arc of war.

    In this full picture, blaming only select peoples for a select phase (like the German peoples) smacks of racism. This is especially so when they have to called “Tuetons” or “Slavs” to suggest a racial or cultural difference. The entire European culture in this period was one of a rise in imperialism. Everyone was fighting to be head of that table. All were equally culpable in the long view of history.

  61. alfred venison
    April 30th, 2015 at 11:08 | #61

    there is no such thing as “the long view of history” and the great powers of 1914 were definitely not all equally culpable. i actually have read fritz fischer’s “germany’s aims in the first world war”. fischer makes a strong case supported by reference to archival documentary evidence that in july 1914 highly placed office holders in the german government ran a secret parallel crisis diplomacy the intention of which was to frustrate the efforts of other powers (including austria-hungary) to resolve the july crisis peacefully. the crisis of july 1914 became ww1 where other crises of the early 20th century did not, because in 1914 german leadership wanted it to.

  62. alfred venison
    April 30th, 2015 at 11:17 | #62

    whatever else Jack Strocchi says in extrapolation is his own icing – the basic cake recipe provided by fritz fischer is sound. -a.v.

  63. alfred venison
    April 30th, 2015 at 11:26 | #63

    on a personal point i am pleased to note that at the “fritz fischer after 50 years” conference (open univresity) jack alluded to, the participants pointed out that work on the development of national war aims similar to fischer’s badly needs to be done in french and english national archives. the issue of the origins of ww1 is complex, but it is clear among professional historians that the view they all stumbled into it or it was the railway timetables is simply not tenable, or is at best contentious, after fischer . -a.v.

  64. J-D
    April 30th, 2015 at 12:37 | #64

    @Ikonoclast

    Did I mislead you as well as Megan into thinking that I am a member of the MEAA? See my exchange with her above.

    Although I am not a member of the MEAA, I think it’s only fair to point out some of the consequences that could follow if the MEAA called a strike in response to the sacking of Scott McIntyre. I can’t prove that these things would certainly happen, but they’re all so extremely likely that I would consider it foolish to disregard them.

    1. There would be legal action both against the MEAA and against individual striking members; this legal action would result in severe penalties.

    2. There would be serious obstruction of the MEAA’s efforts to obtain improved results for its members in its other current enterprise bargaining and dispute resolution activities.

    3. The MEAA would be seriously weakened by a significant number of members resigning because they regard the strike as an over-reaction.

  65. John Quiggin
    April 30th, 2015 at 14:00 | #65

    Shorter Jack Strocchi: War is good for nationalism and nationalism is good for war. A win all round!

  66. John Quiggin
    April 30th, 2015 at 14:23 | #66

    As regards the outbreak of the Great War, there’s just as good a case that Russia was responsible http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/books/the-russian-origins-of-the-first-world-war/419160.article

    But the whole game of “who was to blame” is silly. There was, in each of the leading imperialist countries, a strong pro-war lobby. The events of 1914 played out in such a way that the German and Russian warmongers both saw the situation as propitious for such a war. If war had broken out at a different time (say, the Agadir crisis of 1912), a different set of warmongers would have borne the immediate responsibility, but the underlying causes (imperialism and pro-war sentiments like those expressed by Jack Strocchi) would have been the same.

  67. Paul Norton
    April 30th, 2015 at 16:33 | #67

    Agree with JQ @66.

    Fritz Fischer and the Sonderweg School of German history were/are acting with the best of motives in seeking to shine the harsh light of historical judgment on their own country’s chauvinists and militarists, but as Christopher Clark points out in The Sleepwalkers, chauvinists and militarists could be found in powerful positions in all the European and Eurasian Great Powers in 1914, and all made a non-trivial (even if not exactly equal) contribution to the catastrophe. History needs to judge all of them, and more importantly analyse the complex of factors that led to the catastrophe with a view to enabling us to avoid repeating it.

  68. alfred venison
    April 30th, 2015 at 20:22 | #68

    where to begin. first imperialim is an underlying cause or condition it is not a proximate cause. see r.g. collingwood for a famous explanation of the difference. imperialism did not cause the july crisis to escalate into ww1. no more than it caused ww1 to be averted during earlier crises. something else was at work something other than underlying conditions.

    historians don’t play games, amateurs play games. if a professional historian’s inquiries lead him or her to the conclusion of national responsibility then so be it. that’s called following the evidence and reporting truthfully, to call that a “blame game” is to fundamentally misunderstand the discipline of history. or is henry reynolds playing a “blame game” with what he finds in archives and reports truthfully on?

    you should have a closer look at purdue’s the review of mckeekin’s book. even within the confines of this slight review, purdue, a professional historian, points out that mckeekin “does not entirely exonerate germany for its role as the unfolding crisis moved”, i.e. his book does not displace fischer.

    on the other side of the atlantic, richard j. evans, also a professional historian (cambridge) reviews mcmeekin in the new republic. this is a more substantial review, running to several pages, which includes, inter alia, a fair summary of the significance of fischer’s thesis in the context of the history of ww1 histories. evans is much more critical of mcmeekin than purdue. he is critical on three counts: (1) mckeekin does not demonstrate in his book that russia is responsible for starting the war, i.e. he does not prove his thesis, (2) mckeekin in his book does not absolve berlin of the brunt of responsibility, his book does not displace fischer, (3) mckeekin is very wrong about the armenian massacres, perhaps, evans opines, because he teaches at a turkish university. this is apropos to what i mean by following the evidence & reporting truthfully about national responsibility, if that’s where the evidence leads, versus some notion of “playing a blame game”.

    so mckeekin does not displace fischer. neither does the book i’m reading now: richard clark – “the sleepwalkers: how europe went to war in 1914”, allen lane, 2012 – another current favorite of publishers & reviewers from this decade’s crop of “structuralist” interpretations of the origins of ww1. (the history of ww1 histories – especially histories of the origins – is a very interesting ww1 subject in its own right). reviews have been mixed – some (like thomas laqueur at london review of books & the reviewer at the guardian) favourably cite clark’s claim to be avoiding the “blame game”. others are critical that he (again) does not demonstrate his thesis in his book and that while he asserts fischer is wrong he does not come anywhere near even beginning to demonstrate this.

    the value of fischer’s findings on the july 1914 crisis have not been displaced by recent scholarship and do not depend on the sonderweg theory being right. they are solidly grounded in old fashioned copiously footnoted archival research among primary documentary evidence. the sonderweg theory has many problems & many cogent critics who i respect and many of its problems are problems in cultural history generally, which i won’t go into here.

    the on-line outline of the conference “the fischer controversy fifty years on” (open university, proceedings published by sage) alluded to by strocchi, j. is worth a look for anyone who is really interested in what professional historians of the “intentionalist” persuasion are saying amongst themselves right now about the origins of ww1. you can searchengine it using the conference name. conversely, for the “structuralist” minded, richard clark was interviewed by dragan stalhjanin on radio free europe last sunday april 26, 2015. anyone interested in reading the transcript to make up their own minds can searchengine it using those names.

    whether you hold to what may be called the “structuralist” view like christopher clark or sean mckeekin or j.q. or whether you hold to a more “intentionalist” view a la fritz fischer, you should know before you wield cheap polemics like “blame game”, more suited to right-wingers, that key questions around the origins of ww1 are far from settled among professional historians who specialise in the subject today and address their evidence based findings to peers at conventions. -a.v.

  69. alfred venison
  70. Paul Norton
    May 1st, 2015 at 08:20 | #70

    alfred venison, thanks for your efforts and references, and the link.

  71. John Quiggin
    May 1st, 2015 at 08:21 | #71

    @alfred venison The article you link is a striking case of “burying the lede”. The central point is the final para

    More generally, the whole spirit of the age, which affected the actions and the attitudes of the statesmen in whose hands the fate of Europe lay in 1914, was imbued with what a century later appears as an irresponsible, almost frivolous attitude to war, egarding it as a sort of duel on a gigantic scale, fought for honor and glory; or an inevitable outcome of the Darwinian struggle for survival and supremacy between Anglo-Saxons, Germans, Latins, and Slavs

  72. alfred venison
  73. Paul Norton
    May 1st, 2015 at 09:18 | #73

    Alfred, there is an argument that Fischer over-estimated the status of Bethmann-Holweg’s September Program, and also that there is a lack of strong evidence that it represented actual German aims before the July Crisis and the outbreak of war. What is your view on this?

  74. J-D
    May 1st, 2015 at 11:16 | #74

    @John Quiggin

    I’ve seen English writing from the time that reflects the attitude that war is a sort of duel on a gigantic scale fought for honour and glory (or something along those lines); I’ve sometimes wondered how strong that attitude was in Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, and/or Russia.

  75. Tim Macknay
    May 1st, 2015 at 14:04 | #75

    @J-D
    The Germans were certainly noted for being fans of duelling. A duelling scar was considered to be a fashionable accessory for young aristocratic men in Germany from the 19th though to the early 20th centuries, and fencing remains a traditional sport at elite German universities even today.

  76. J-D
    May 1st, 2015 at 15:10 | #76

    @Tim Macknay

    Yes, I know about that, but that isn’t quite what I meant — sorry, I expressed myself poorly. The point I was getting as is that I know there was a widespread (although far from universal) romanticisation of the war in the UK, at least at the beginning — that has nothing to do with duelling, which had fallen into desuetude there long before it did in Germany. Now that I think of it, there’s reference to the same kind of early romanticisation (without reference to duelling) in at least one German novel, All Quiet On The Western Front.

    The kind of romanticisation I mean is also reflected in a scene in the film of Testament Of Youth, which I’ve just seen, in which one of the characters refers to the war as an ‘opportunity’ of a kind that not every generation gets, the word being used clearly in a highly positive sense.

    But just because there was British and German romanticisation of the war doesn’t mean there must also have been the same thing on the same scale in Austria-Hungary, France, or Russia, and I feel there’s reason to doubt it.

    But just because British and Germans (at least at the beginning) romanticised the war

  77. Tim Macknay
    May 1st, 2015 at 16:25 | #77

    @J-D
    Ah. Well, unfortunately I have no more idea than you do about whether the romanticisation of war was as popular in the continental European powers as it apparently was in Great Britain in the years before WWI. It is certainly an interesting question.

  78. alfred venison
    May 2nd, 2015 at 09:24 | #78

    this introductory piece of course just scratches the surface but is by a reliable author:-
    http://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/history/world-history/war-enthusiasm

  79. Paul Norton
    May 2nd, 2015 at 11:05 | #79

    There is a column on this issue by Gerard Henderson in today’s Weekend Unlinkable, but I have done my comradely duty by reading it and can thus assure you all that you undoubtedly already know what’s in it and don’t need to put yourselves through the ordeal.

  80. John Quiggin
    May 2nd, 2015 at 13:47 | #80

    @alfred venison

    That’s a useful article, and could have been extended with reference to the conscription referendums in Australia. Still, the war was sustained for four bloody years, with no real attempt to negotiate a peace, no statement of war aims on either side, and no successful popular resistance except in Russia – the breakdown of discipline on the German side happened only when the war had already been lost on the battlefield.

    It’s hard to believe that this would be possible today. But we are already inured to indefinite small wars on the 19th century model. If the cult of the military continues to grow, perhaps popular support another Great War could be sustained.

  81. alfred venison
    May 2nd, 2015 at 14:01 | #81

    i wasn’t seeking to bury anything. i was responding to the assertion “there’s just as good a case that Russia was responsible” and that that case is found in mcmeekin’s book. to this end i cited mcmeekin’s peer evans who says mcmeekin does not demonstrate that claim in his book, my point (1). it is fair to say therefore mcmeekin has not displaced fischer, my point (2). i made a further point (3) from what evans said about the unsatisfactory nature of mcmeekin’s account of the armenian massacres because i thought readers might be interested, not to obfuscate. on reflection i would make that point today without the index.

    what is at issue generally is the relative weight one gives to structure & agency in historical explanations.

    with regard specifically to the weighting of agency and structure in the question of the origins of ww1, i cannot improve on historian david stephenson from the lse who is cited by gary d. sheffield at the conclusion of his survey of books (recent & not so recent) on the origins of ww1:

    “The European peace might have been a house of cards, but someone still had to topple it.” War was not inevitable; it occurred because key individuals in Austria-Hungary and Germany took conscious decisions to achieve diplomatic objectives, even at the cost of war with Russia and France. The actions of the Great Powers in limiting the damage during the previous Balkan crises strongly suggests that, had the Austrians and Germans wished, the crisis of summer 1914 could have been resolved by the international community. Serbia could have been isolated and punished but left its independence. On this occasion, however, Austria-Hungary and Germany wanted war with Serbia and accepted the risk of escalation. The War Guilt clause of the Versailles Treaty got it right: The outbreak of World War I was caused by “the aggression of Germany and her allies.” [ http: //www.allinoneboat.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/WW-I-Sheffield.pdf ]

    the question of responsibility (national or collective) was put recently by the bbc to ten practicing historians (including richard clark). it shows an interesting range of views. [ http: //www bbc.com/news/magazine-26048324 ]

  82. alfred venison
    May 3rd, 2015 at 13:57 | #82

    glad you liked it, John Quiggin, i did too. its for an english newspaper audience in the first instance and short at that, but i liked thatwithin those limitations she didn’t focus mainly on the record of the literate & articulate. i also liked the way she pointed out how the photographs taken in germany show crowds gathered in city squares, etc. but not in country towns or villages, and how they showed no persons in worker’s clothes among the crowds. in showing critical thinking at work like this and in providing a modest corrective to a prevalent myth she did good service in a small space.
    that’s annika mombauer, she’s at work on a larger canvass as section editor of “1914-1918-online – international encyclopedia of the first world war”. this is a very impressive project – i’ve bookmarked it & i urge every genuinely curious denizen of threads like this one to consider it for themselves, too; it is open source & fully exportable in a number of formats, peer reviewed, self-contained articles of academic standard, provided with a breathtaking net of semantic links, and truly international in ethos & product. the “about” section & “faq” give full background, modus operandi, scope & aim of the project. and because you mentioned a topic dear to my heart, i’ll link you into it at their article on the australian conscription referendums:-
    http://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/conscription_australia

  83. May 4th, 2015 at 02:26 | #83

    Pr Q April @ #65 said:

    Shorter Jack Strocchi: War is good for nationalism and nationalism is good for war. A win all round!

    I’m not going to get into a snarking contest with a person who can always have the last say by way of comment deletion. So I’ll confine my self to refutation, chapter and verse, of his key points whilst setting the record straight.

    I have never said the Great War was “good” thing, either absolutely or on balance. Or even justifiable, at least past the time the stalemate had set in by late 1914. Quite the opposite, I’ve repeatedly said that the Great War was the greatest disaster to ever befall Western Civilisation. And that the traditional Establishment –  spur-jingling, sabre-rattling, jackboot-crashing Prussians I’m particularly looking at you – was to blame for letting their patriotic instincts get the better of them. Although the general populace were as enthusiastic, if not more so, as their leaders. As I pointed out nearly ten years ago:

    The Great War was certainly the central disaster that befell our civilization in modern times and toppled the Proud Tower that was European power. Dr Knopfelmacher pointed out that the WWI bloodbath was promoted by reactionary“God, King and Country” types. The irony was that it lead to the down fall of five Imperial Monarchies (Romanov, Ottoman, Hohenzollern, Hapsburg and Savoy). It was an act of civlizational suicide which was undertaken by the leaders of civilization. Proving that conservative tories can match “constructive” liberals in their tolerance of the civlizational Death Wish.

    FWIW, there are plenty more of my comments in the same vein published on Pr Q’s annual ANZAC day threads. So his characterisation of me as somehow pro-war does not even rise to the level of wrong.

    Needless to say in the comment upthread I did not express outright pro-war sentiments about the Gallipoli campaign. I said that the campaign generated in me a feeling of “ambivalence”. FTR, here is what I actually said:

    The Gallipoli glass is both half-empty and half-full. The campaign, although a disasterous military venture and the scene of appalling bloodshed, demonstrably strengthened national unity in both Turkey and Australia. So it was both a tragedy and a triumph, an ambivalent sensibility familiar to artists but perhaps a little too subtle for others.

    The same feeling is implicitly expressed in the OP which acknowledges the “heroism” of the expedition. I do not deduce from this that Pr Q is a closet militarist. It would be nice if he would extend the same courtesy to me.

    I did not argue that “nationalism is good for war”. My point about nationalism stressed the civic benefits of national unity (“Durkheimian communitarian solidarity”) in reducing social pathologies (crime, suicide) and accumulating social capital (“cheap infrastructure”). Undoubtedly nationalism is a philosophy of exclusion, which carries with it the risk of conflict and war. But globalism is a bridge too far at this stage of the game. And tribalism just multiplies points of friction.

    Nor did I argue that “war is good for nationalism” I merely pointed out that “some” wars can generate progressive social solidarity. The national sentiment generated by the Dardanelles campaign is still celebrated by AUS & TKY, and surely has had some thing to with their subsequent societal success. It’s impossible to imagine the UK Beveridge welfare state or the U.S. GI Bill without the social solidaritygenerated by the War. Thats why the post WW2 cohort was dubbed “the greatest generation”.

    But most wars cause more conflict than they cure. And there are other ways of generating social capital besides mlitary conflict, such as religion and team sport. So best stay out of them, if possible.

    All this is pretty much a truism, and not doubted by competent social scientists. Which makes it puzzling why Pr Q, who is competent in economics alright, took exception to such innocuous remarks. I suppose even pacifists succumb to the urge to pick fights now and again.

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