August 25, 2013

Harry Graf Kessler on revolution and violence

Last year I became an admirer of Harry Graf Kessler, the brilliant diarist, cosmopolitan leftist bohème. I am now reading his Berlin diaries, and cannot help myself but underlining almost every passage – it is such an outburst of perspicacity and brilliant observation.

This selection of diaries start with the Novemberrevolution of 1918 and the fall of the German Empire and ends with Kessler's death in 1937.

Since it is impossible to make a selection of phrases, I prefer to refer just to the last I have read so far regarding revolutions and use of violence, being it so actual for nowadays.

Sunday, 19 January 1919 – Berlin

Shooting is the worker's least effective weapon, amateurish and out-of-date, revolution in a romantic wrapper. [...]

Perhaps that gives a hint as to how wars, through the growth of more effective forms of pressure, will come to be eliminated from the international scene. One day mass slaughter and artillery barrages will seem just as simple-minded and old-fashioned in conflicts between nations ans machine-guns do in class warfare. Economics, not military superiority, decided the [I] World War. It can be objected that economic agencies must within certain limits bow to military sanctions when the latter is capable of being forced on them. The blockade, for instance, was a military means of coercion in the defeat of Germany. Nonetheless, it remains an open question whether in modern conditions military coercion would achieve its object for long in the face of united opposition inside a plant or inside a country.

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