100 years of jingoism – WWI under the spotlight
Tuesday 20th October 2015
THE First World War: 100 years of Imperialism and Resistance, by Democrat Press, marks the centenary of the bloodbath that was WWI by countering jingoistic misinformation. It offers remarkable insight on international relations past and present.
Pamphlet authors John Boyd and Brian Denny believe the origins of the war lay squarely at the door of imperialism and the business interests which profited so much from the conflict, drawing parallels [to] the present day. The same forces, they believe, are with us now.
For instance, the 1884 Berlin Conference which carved up Africa between the European powers set up a committee to settle interstate disputes over who owned which colony. Today we have a “scramble for the world” using a raft of treaties on trade and investment.
These treaties include the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), being negotiated mostly in secret between the EU and US, which also includes an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) allowing companies to sue states.
The real object of TTIP and all EU treaties is to sweep away national government powers and all forms of democracy along with it.
Charting the origins of WWI from the “new imperialism” period, launched after the Berlin Conference, the book outlines the growing tensions between the Western empires and the militarism that fed it.
It argues that all the imperialist powers were responsible to a greater or lesser degree for building a system of military and diplomatic alliances and a huge accumulation of arms which generals and admirals were impatient to use.
The authors then turn their attention to the huge resistance to the warmongering among socialists across Europe and, tragically, how actions in Germany, Austria, France and Britain flipped to supporting the war.
Socialists in Russia and Ireland held out against throwing in their lot with imperialism but it was not enough to prevent millions of socialists and trade unionists from literally marching to the trenches to become cannon fodder for capitalism.
Yet while labour movements in nearly all the largest imperialist states largely abandoned socialist and democratic principles, individual resistance to imperialist war continued, particularly through the anticonscription movement which emerged in Britain and Ireland by 1916.
Resistance against the war was strong in Ireland, including the Irish Citizen Army led by James Connolly with the slogan: “We serve neither King nor Kaiser but Ireland.” This growing discontent against the pointless slaughter led to growing mutinies on the front and ultimately to the Easter Rising in Ireland and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia.
The book then deals with the interesting question of when the war actually ended.
As the authors point out: “People are often baffled that the dates of the war are marked as 1914-1919 — surely the war ended in 1918? It didn’t. The Armistice between the belligerents signed on November 11 1918 was only a ceasefire.”
Another reason that the war officially ended in 1919 was that Western forces invaded Russia in 1918 in an attempt to resurrect the Eastern Front by defeating the Bolsheviks and stop the spread of socialism in Russia.
In Britain the leading imperialist Winston Churchill announced that this “revolution had to be snuffed out at birth.” Troops from 14 countries, including four from the British empire, were sent, in vain, to crush highly motivated socialist and anti-tsarist forces.
It is clear that resistance to the war, social unrest, mutinies, revolutions and the killing of so many workers caused the imperialist powers to come to some kind of mutual agreement in order to quell further unrest.
Despite this armistice the British Navy blockade of Germany was intensified for another eight months, imposing mass starvation across Germany which harboured a brooding resentment that would manifest itself in later years.
The terms of the final peace treaty, drawn up largely by Britain and France, were announced in June 1919. Germany was not consulted about the terms of the Treaty of Versailles but had very little choice but to sign.
This book is packed with facts and theories you may or may not have read before, but the most original work is in making the parallels between imperialism then and today.
This begins with a helpful quote from the Norwegian Professor Johan Galtung from 1973 explaining how to understand the EU today: “One basic formula for understanding the European Community is this: Take five broken empires, add the sixth one later, and make one big neocolonial empire out of it all.”
It has been this corporate dream that has been at the heart of the EU from the beginning. This explains the EU’s appalling treatment of Africa and other parts of the developing world for decades and its treatment of Greece today.
The authors quite clearly state that the EU and its failing euro currency is “structural adjustment for European capital, demanding the wholesale privatisation of entire industries at home and abroad. The new European legal identity is designed to ensure it is imposed and the European army has been unleashed across the globe to ensure it stays that way.”
The First World War: 100 years of Imperialism and Resistance, by John Boyd and Brian Denny, is available from Democrat Press PO Box 46295 London W5 2UG.