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Wed 7th of May meeting of the 17 Group

The next meeting of the 17 Group will be held on Wednesday the 7th of May at 7 pm in unit 6 at 20 Drury St, West End.

As this year is the centenary of the outbreak of World War 1, it is fitting that we take a critical look at that war. The speaker will be the historian Mark Cryle and his topic will be:

“The Urge to War in Federation Era Australia”.

Mark has supplied the following summary of his paper:

The Urge to War in Federation Era Australia

In October 1914, shortly after the outbreak of the World War I, the Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, St Clair Donaldson, wrote to a colleague that he was “stung” by the “intense sense of opportunity” brought by the outbreak of war. Donaldson’s disposition was not unique. Indeed it was common amongst clergymen, politicians, intellectuals, soldiers and educationalists at the time. How was it that so many educated, “civilised” men might welcome the prospect of modern warfare? Why did so many volunteer for the slaughter? There are no simple answers. Certainly most, even the soldiers, were naïve about the capacity of industrialised warfare to produce the carnage that it did, but there were other factors too. The war, Gallipoli, the Anzac legend, “the birth of the nation” were all prefigured in significant ways in Australia in the decades prior to that iconic landing on the Turkish coastline on 25 April 1915. This paper examines the genealogy of the idea that war would provide a moral and spiritual awakening for the nation, that true nationhood would only be realised after a blood sacrifice had been made. It was a powerful thematic which helped make possible the mass horror of 1914-1918.

Mark Cryle is a PhD candidate in the School of History Philosophy Religion and Classics at the University of Queensland. He is writing on the origins of Anzac Day to 1918. In another life he is a musician and songwriter.

Leon Davidovich, who is 135 this year, was of course still a young chap when the war broke out, refusing to support the war effort of the Tsar, moving to Switzerland, France and Spain, from both of which his antiwar stance got him expelled before lobbing up in New York where he joined Nikolai Bukharin to edit Novy Mir. When we paid him our usual courtesy call to invite him to this discussion he wanted to know if anyone in the Australian scene in 1914 had much time for ‘internationalist abstentionism’ or later on for ‘revolutionary defeatism’. Disappointed by our vague answers, he quoted the last sentence from chapter 6 of part 2 of his book from 1914,The War and the International:

“The experience of old is confirmed once again. If the Social Democracy sets national duties above its class duties, it commits the greatest crime not only against Socialism, but also against the interest of the nation as rightly and broadly understood.”

OK, but was he coming to the meeting? A wry smile, a careful wipe of the spectacles, and he went back to his solitary darts game with its usual targets of Coalition Cabinet members.

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