Imperialist war

First published in Letters

WHILST trawling through the mainstream media “guff” there is no doubt some British historians believe it was just a “war on the Western Front”, clearly a myopic view as no single country can apportion blame, however, the most penetrating answer is imperialism.

It’s the highest stage of capitalism with rival powers seizing colonies on behalf of their powerful finance capital monopolists.

Overseas territories gave not only secure markets and raw materials but outlets for the export of capital and (as every well-informed boss knows) compensation for the tendency of the rate of profit to fall in their domestic industry.

Ninety per cent of Africa was divided amongst the European great powers by 1900 and their division of the world had reached completion, They could only expand further by large scale wars between the powers themselves.

War is endemic to capitalism. David Lloyd George explicitly said that Britain’s war aims were to create a fresh empire in the Middle East.

Mr T King Five Lock Road Cwmbran

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7:48pm Mon 28 Jul 14

Katie Re-Registered says...

I'd agree that imperialism had a large part to play in the outbreak of the first world war, but I feel it's true to say there were other factors to blame, too. And when I mention imperialism I see it in its widest sense - not only as the catalyst to the naval arms race between Britain and Germany that occurred as a result of both countries colonial ambitions in Africa. As well as western European countries like France and the notorious rule of the Belgians in the Congo, central and eastern countries had empires too. It's as well to remember that the spark that lit WWI was started in the Balkans when a Serbian nationalist aggrieved at Austro-Hungarian rule assassinated Archduke Ferdinand. There's also the fact that Turkey's Ottoman Empire was huge and comprised many discontented nationalities under its rule and the same can be said for the vast Russian Tsarist empire which stretched from northern Europe to much of central Asia. All these factors were to come into play both before, during and in the aftermath of WWI.

You may a really good point that WWI tends to be thought of as a war that occurred on the western front. Many forget that it was also fought in southern Europe, the Mediterranean, in the Balkans, the middle east, Russia and central Asia.

Even its dates 1914-1918 are open to debate. The war really began in the Balkans around the year 1912 and for many people in Russia and Eastern Europe it dragged on until at the least the middle of the 1920s. It's true of course that history now classifies the war before 1914 as the Balkans Wars and the wars after 1918 as the Russian Civil War and various wars of independence in northern and eastern European countries, but if you imagine the war from the perspective of someone in these regions who actually lived through it they didn't really see peace from the years 1912 to the mid-1920s.

Even in western European countries like Germany there were very real battles on the streets of Berlin after 1918 between various political factions and even a communist revolutionary war in Bavaria.

I don't really feel that capitalism played as important a part in causing the first world war at least. Like communism it is an internationalist ideology as opposed to a nationalist ideology and I do think that nationalism was as much to blame as imperialism (indeed they were two sides of the same coin). The capitalism of autocratic and absolutist monarchies such as those of Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and in particular Russia were fairly primitive and lacked the political clout that the corporate world does today. True that capitalism was already ascendant in Britain and especially the USA at this time, though. Yes, weapons manufacturers like Krupp profited much from the war, but not to the still underestimated extent that industrialists made money from getting into bed with the Third Reich during WWII.

On that note, I know it may not be politically correct to say this, but another driving factor was the domination of the relatively recently unified Germany by its strongest state Prussia which undoubtedly had a strong militaristic bent. Since the Prussians had won a number of wars during the mid to late 19th century (including the Franco-Prussian War 1870-71 which toppled Napoleon III's France) it's no surprise that they had become over-confident in their invincibility and the principle of might over right.

If the European powers had paid more attention to the carnage of the American Civil War then they might well have been as free from illusion of the slaughter and misery that war brings as were the capitalist USA who because of this only entered the war very reluctantly in 1917 towards its end. Can't really see any logical reason why capitalists would feel they had anything to gain from the war.
I'd agree that imperialism had a large part to play in the outbreak of the first world war, but I feel it's true to say there were other factors to blame, too. And when I mention imperialism I see it in its widest sense - not only as the catalyst to the naval arms race between Britain and Germany that occurred as a result of both countries colonial ambitions in Africa. As well as western European countries like France and the notorious rule of the Belgians in the Congo, central and eastern countries had empires too. It's as well to remember that the spark that lit WWI was started in the Balkans when a Serbian nationalist aggrieved at Austro-Hungarian rule assassinated Archduke Ferdinand. There's also the fact that Turkey's Ottoman Empire was huge and comprised many discontented nationalities under its rule and the same can be said for the vast Russian Tsarist empire which stretched from northern Europe to much of central Asia. All these factors were to come into play both before, during and in the aftermath of WWI. You may a really good point that WWI tends to be thought of as a war that occurred on the western front. Many forget that it was also fought in southern Europe, the Mediterranean, in the Balkans, the middle east, Russia and central Asia. Even its dates 1914-1918 are open to debate. The war really began in the Balkans around the year 1912 and for many people in Russia and Eastern Europe it dragged on until at the least the middle of the 1920s. It's true of course that history now classifies the war before 1914 as the Balkans Wars and the wars after 1918 as the Russian Civil War and various wars of independence in northern and eastern European countries, but if you imagine the war from the perspective of someone in these regions who actually lived through it they didn't really see peace from the years 1912 to the mid-1920s. Even in western European countries like Germany there were very real battles on the streets of Berlin after 1918 between various political factions and even a communist revolutionary war in Bavaria. I don't really feel that capitalism played as important a part in causing the first world war at least. Like communism it is an internationalist ideology as opposed to a nationalist ideology and I do think that nationalism was as much to blame as imperialism (indeed they were two sides of the same coin). The capitalism of autocratic and absolutist monarchies such as those of Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and in particular Russia were fairly primitive and lacked the political clout that the corporate world does today. True that capitalism was already ascendant in Britain and especially the USA at this time, though. Yes, weapons manufacturers like Krupp profited much from the war, but not to the still underestimated extent that industrialists made money from getting into bed with the Third Reich during WWII. On that note, I know it may not be politically correct to say this, but another driving factor was the domination of the relatively recently unified Germany by its strongest state Prussia which undoubtedly had a strong militaristic bent. Since the Prussians had won a number of wars during the mid to late 19th century (including the Franco-Prussian War 1870-71 which toppled Napoleon III's France) it's no surprise that they had become over-confident in their invincibility and the principle of might over right. If the European powers had paid more attention to the carnage of the American Civil War then they might well have been as free from illusion of the slaughter and misery that war brings as were the capitalist USA who because of this only entered the war very reluctantly in 1917 towards its end. Can't really see any logical reason why capitalists would feel they had anything to gain from the war. Katie Re-Registered
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