Of all the contributions to the Gove-inspired debate about the First World war, perhaps the funniest is Seumas Milne’s rant in the Guardian, which furiously attacks Michael Gove’s notion that the Britain of 1914 was a country worth fighting for.
The idea that Britain and its allies were defending liberal democracy, let alone international law or the rights of small nations, is simply absurd.
The proof of this is that the Kaiser’s Germany, unlike Britain ‘already had full male suffrage.’
He does not mention that the powers of the elected Reichstag were rather small. For example, it was the Kaiser alone who appointed and dismissed Reich officals, including the chancellor. He was also was commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and in times of national emergency, had the right to temporarily suspend the rule of law and govern dictatorially. And he alone, with no reference to any democratically-elected assembly, could determine questions of war and peace.
The main power of the Reichstag was that its approval was necessary for any new laws.
Karl Liebknecht called the Reichstag, with some justification, ‘the fig-leaf covering the nakedness of absolutism’.
Does Seumas Milne not know this? Or is it just that any stick will do to beat Michael Gove with?