Three of the delegates: Jean Jaurès (France), Keir Hardie (Great Britain) and Angelica Balabanov (Italy)
On 29 July 1914, socialist leaders from across Europe gathered in Brussels for a meeting of the International Socialist Bureau, the permanent bureau of the Socialist International (commonly known as the Second International).
Those present included Jean Jaurès (France), Keir Hardie (Great Britain), Karl Kautsky, Hugo Haase and Rosa Luxemburg (Germany), Pavel Axelrod (Russia), Victor Adler (Austria), Angelica Balabanov (Italy) and Emile Vandervelde (Belgium). Faced with the prospect of a world war (Austria-Hungary had declared war on Serbia on 28 July and on the 29th Russia mobilised its troops), the assembled leaders debated what they could do avert war.
The meeting was a depressing one. Adler told the other delegates that there was nothing to be done to stop the war in Austria-Hungary. The Hungarian and Czech leaders agreed. That evening, thousands of Belgians attended a rally which was addressed by the socialist leaders. The French leader Jaurès gave a his speech with his arm symbolically around the German Haase’s shoulder. He said that the French government wanted peace and won loud applause. Jaurès left Brussels on 30 July, hopeful that war could be avoided. The next day he was assassinated in Paris by a fanatical nationalist.
The Italian delegate Balabanov wrote that those at the meeting on 29 July felt ‘hopelessness and despair’ and that ‘In retrospect, Jean Jaurès and Rosa Luxemburg seem to me the only delegates who, like Adler, fully realized the inevitability of the war’. Rosa Luxemburg was devastated by the prospect of a world war and by the failure of the socialist movement to prevent it. On 31 July, she left Brussels and returned to Berlin and the following day Germany declared war on Russia. On 3 August, Germany declared war on France and on the 4th, Britain declared war on Germany. The world war had begun.