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The Great War
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Socialism and the War
Robert Wohl
"I think that the war killed a certain sense of innocence that existed in the European middle class before 1914.

"I connect it to this feeling of pessimism that developed in the 1920s. I don't explain this completely by the war, because it was not the horror of the war, the carnage of the war, the terrible losses created by the war, that created this sense of disillusionment. It was the failure of the war to have produced the positive results that people hoped from war before 1914, that became important.

"This disillusionment really develops very strongly after the war ends. It develops in connection with the Peace Conference at Versailles. It develops in connection with the failure of the German Revolution; the creation of a state in Germany that seems to be doomed to collapse and that has a lot of destructive potential within it. It is connected, also, this sense of disillusionment that sets in after the war, to what many people perceive to be the failure of socialism in the Bolshevik Revolution, because socialism had been one of the great Utopian movements of the pre-1914 period, and in many respects the war damaged socialism.

"Socialism never really recovered completely from the war.

"Because the war created a rift between those socialists who had supported their countries and who considered themselves to be patriots, and those who had taken a defeatist position such as Lenin, who represents the most radical version of this. And this split eventually became an organizational split during the war itself. That is many socialist parties did split into two, and the defeatist anti-war, anti-patriotic wings later helped to create the communist parties of Western Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. So socialism emerged from the war deeply damaged. And, I don't think, really, that socialism ever recovered from this."

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