Wayne Thorpe - El Ferrol, Rio de Janeiro, Zimmerwald, and Beyond: Syndicalist Internationalism, 1914-1918

"International syndicalism is our holy family"(1). Thus declared Die Einigkeit, the journal of the German syndicalist trade unions, on 25 July 1914, on the eve of the outbreak of war in Europe. This declaration constituted not only an identification with syndicalist organizations elsewhere but a pledge to honour labour internationalism in the event of war.

Like the much more powerful social democratic movement, which found institutional expression in the Second Socialist International and the International Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), the syndicalist movement claimed that in the face of war it would place its duty to internationalism above its duty to a particular country, that it would not subordinate solidarity of class to the fraternity of the nation. But when war came, as is well-known, the majority of social democratic labour organizations rallied to the cause of their own belligerent or threatened states. Socialist parties nearly everywhere signaled their reversal by a symbolic act th at they had long programmatically repudiated: the voting of military credits sought by their governments. The social democrats, taken as a whole, also embraced their particular country's version of civil truce - France's union sacrée, The Netherlands godsvrede, Germany's Burgfrieden - whereby all sectoral interests and disputes were to be subordinated to the higher interests of the endangered country. They often violated another principle of the Socialist International as well: the entry of socialist representatives into bourgeois cabinets and government posts. Few socialist parties declined to endorse the active military defense measures of their governments.

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