1919: The Year the World Was on Fire

Fraser, Steve

Publisher:  Jacobin
Date Written:  13/01/2019
Year Published:  2019  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23248

A sprawling take on international revolutionary events of 1919 using Emma Goldman, Bill Haywood, and John Reed as focal points.



The year was 1919. 1919 marks the end of the long nineteenth century. The social and cultural foundations of modern Europe and the United States, in place since the days of the French revolution, seemed on the verge of collapse. The whole intricate web of international relations responsible for a century of uneasy peace in Europe had unraveled in the war, virtually guaranteeing a brutish struggle for supremacy afterward.

Domestic politics in practically every country were in a constant uproar. The leading capitalist economies of Europe were in shambles, physically devastated, mired in debt, spiritually demoralized. Normal social and political life seemed impossible.

Instead, the chaotic rhythms of the street took over: the politics of resentment and revenge, of scapegoating and conspiracy-mongering, of the putsch and the revolutionary insurrection. That axiomatic faith in progress, reason, private property, and liberal democracy, which had once seemed so unassailable, was profoundly shaken.

At least since the days of the Paris Commune, a specter had haunted the western world. In 1919, the specter became flesh and blood. For some it was a nightmarish creature, a harbinger of a social pandemonium that would obliterate civilized life.
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