World War One: an interimperialist war to redivide the world
Harpal Brar and Ella rule introduce this remarkable new pamphlet, produced by the CPGB-ML, on the causes and consequences of WW1.
The accompanying video and the book that it relates to should be compulsory viewing in every schoolroom up and down our country and throughout the world. If you are studying or writing about any topic related to the world war, you can’t afford not to watch this, and tell your classmates and contacts to do likewise.
The First World War was characterised by killing on an industrial scale. It claimed the lives of well over 10 million, with twice as many wounded.
German losses in the war totalled 1.8 million dead, not counting the 750,000 civilians who died of hunger and starvation. Britain lost nearly 900,000 solidiers; including the wounded, British casualties came to 2 million. By the end of the first year of the War, the French had suffered nearly a million casualties, the Germans 800,000, and 86,000 of the 120,000 British Expeditionary Force sent to France had been killed or wounded. On 22 October 1914, 27,000 French soldiers met their death in just one day.
Individual battles, with their colossal loss of life, are seared into the memory of European peoples. The battles of Passchendaele (a million dead or wounded), Verdun (700,000 casualties), the Somme (in excess of a million casualties) and the Marne (half a million), have come to symbolise the industrialised slaughter of millions of people at the hands of the blood-thirsty system of imperialism, that twice plunged humanity in the 20th century into world wars, together claiming the lives of 100 million, with twice as many wounded, in order to decide which group of the imperialist banditry was to grab what share of the booty.
Bourgeois papers and media have been full of discussion about this war – most of it useless, designed to confuse the working class and the oppressed peoples. In Britain the thrust of the media coverage of the war is to blame Germany for this mass slaughter on a gigantic scale and to portray Britain’s role as a defender of democracy and sovereignty of nations.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The First World War was an imperialist war fought by two imperialist coalitions. It was a war for domination – a predatory and imperialist war on both sides, a war in which the proletariat of the belligerent countries had no interest in defending their respective fatherlands.
Leaving aside the two world wars, which together claimed the lives of 100 million people, maimed many more and caused unprecedented material destruction on an unimaginable scale, imperialism has seen to it that the world has not witnessed literally a single year of peace since the end of the Second World War in 1945.
In all these discussions on the burning questions of war and peace, the most important thing that is usually forgotten, which receives insufficient attention, and which, therefore, causes so much futile controversy, is that “… people forget the fundamental question of the class character of the war; why the war broke out; the classes that are waging it; the historical and historico-economic conditions that gave rise to it… “.