FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Christmas Truce Story

A new finding of bloodshed in WWI’s “Christmas truce” on the cusp of its hundredth anniversary strengthens, rather than undermines, its example for peace.

The UK’s Telegraph reports (“Christmas truce of 1914 was broken when German snipers killed two British soldiers,” December 22) the incident, pieced together from historical records. On the front lines in France, British sentry Percy Huggins was felled by a German sniper; his platoon leader Tom Gregory retaliated against that sniper, only to be outgunned by another.

This may not fit the sentimentalized image of the truce, but taking it off such a pedestal makes it relevant to our messy world. Bertrand Russell noted that to “admit in theory that there are occasions when it is proper to fight, and in practice that these occasions are rare” yields far less war in practice than to “hold in theory that there are no occasions when it is proper to fight and in practice that such occasions are very frequent.”

The truce’s breakdown in this case remained an isolated flashpoint; it held on both sides, as close as under a mile away. The influence of an “incredibly professional” duty-bound Guards Brigade kept local tensions high from the beginning, with immediate rejection of Germans’ bid for a cease-fire.

Also instructive is the clear tit-for-tat aspect, driven by retaliation for specific aggressions rather than by general warlikeness. (One sniper indicating more made a third death inevitable.) Something needs to tip the balance to make hostility spread faster than toleration. That something, in one word: Politics.

Emma Goldman contended that without the socialist movement’s turn away from direct action and toward a reliance on political means, “the great catastrophe would have been impossible. In Germany the party counted twelve million adherents. What a power to prevent the declaration of hostilities! But for a quarter of a century the Marxists had trained the workers in obedience and patriotism, trained them to rely on parliamentary activity and, particularly, to trust their socialist leaders blindly. And now most of those leaders had joined hands with the Kaiser … Instead of declaring the general strike and thus paralysing war preparations, they had voted the Government money for slaughter.” And only the tripwire pitting of national leaders against each other could turn the assassination of an archduke into a feud that would multiply the tripling of Huggins’s death five-million-fold.

In his final letter, Huggins told his family: “I long for the day when this terrible conflict will be ended. You consider war a terrible thing but imagination cannot reach far enough for the horrors of warfare that can be seen on the battlefield are indescribable and I pray this may be the last war that will ever be.” A century of advance in global communications and commerce gives today’s Hugginses ample basis to coexist without politicians and the means to verify trust. It should not take another century to reach “the last war that will ever be.”

Joel Schlosberg lives in New York. He is a contributing author at the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org).

More articles by:

Joel Schlosberg is a contributor to the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org). He lives in New York.

Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
Patrick Bobilin
Moving the Margins
Alison Barros
Dear White American
Celia Bottger
If Ireland Can Reject Fossil Fuels, Your Town Can Too
Ian Scott Horst
Less Voting, More Revolution
Peter Certo
Trump Snubbed McCain, Then the Media Snubbed the Rest of Us
Dan Ritzman
Drilling ANWR: One of Our Last Links to the Wild World is in Danger
Brandon Do
The World and Palestine, Palestine and the World
Chris Wright
An Updated and Improved Marxism
Daryan Rezazad
Iran and the Doomsday Machine
Patrick Bond
Africa’s Pioneering Marxist Political Economist, Samir Amin (1931-2018)
Louis Proyect
Memoir From the Underground
Binoy Kampmark
Meaningless Titles and Liveable Cities: Melbourne Loses to Vienna
Andrew Stewart
Blackkklansman: Spike Lee Delivers a Masterpiece
Elizabeth Lennard
Alan Chadwick in the Budding Grove: Story Summary for a Documentary Film
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail