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The 100th anniversary of the end of the first imperialist world war is, predictably, being celebrated with fanfare throughout the halls of the bourgeois world. Though the capitalists politicians and their apologists will implore us to pay our respects to the millions of men their predecessors sent to the abattoir of the trenches, they will utter barely a word on the real causes of the war. The first world war was the result of capitalism’s tendency toward crisis.
At the turn of the 20th Century, capitalism had outgrown the free market and emerged as a system of monopoly and financial domination: imperialism. The imperialist nations began to export capital they could not invest profitably in their home markets. In consequence, spheres of influence increasingly formed and hardened, leading to a division of the world between imperialist powers. With the world entirely divided between them, the imperialist’s capital stagnated. In order to resolve this, they were forced to war with each other in order to re-divide the territories accumulated.
A perfect example of this criminal squabbling is Britain’s dissatisfaction with the German imperialists domination of Tanganyika through the carve up of East Africa in 1890. The German imperialists were fierce rivals of the British and interfering with the proposed Cape to Cairo railroad could spell only further motivation for war. Tanganyika subsequently passed into Great Britain’s hands under a mandate from the League of Nations after the first imperialist world war. While Britain consolidated after the Armistice, it was only the shudder of proletarian energy sent trembling down the spines of the European capitalist class that forced the end of the war and the document signed.
With the overthrow of the Tsar in February 1917, and the triumph of the Bolshevik revolution, the creation of the first Socialist state, thousands of Russian soldiers left the Eastern Front chanting ‘All power to the Soviets’, soon after desertions were spreading across the French army, a million general strike in Germany and a Spartacist uprising, fighting for a “Free Socialist Republic of Germany”, the Kiel mutiny; a major revolt of sailors refusing the bloodletting and setting up soviets in German ports. The rise of Red Clydeside and its outspoken heroes such as John MacLean also contributed to fears of socialism around the signing of the Armistice. As the then Prime Minister Lloyd George put it “Our real danger now is not Boches (A German), but Bolshevism” .
The triumph of the Bolsheviks proved the working class capable of overcoming the terrors of imperialism and put an end to the first imperialist world war. The lessons they taught the world, that communism is the answer to imperialism, need not to be taken lightly. As today in 2018 the drive to war is evermore present, Britain is currently engaged in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, In military drills close to the DPRK and China, in drills close to Russia’s border with NATOs forces and frothing at the mouth to propagandize against Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Cuba and others.
Amidst Trump’s withdrawals from international treaties and peace negotiations, withdrawing from the Intermediate Nuclear Missile treaty, French president Macron’s call for an EU army, the fascist trend sweeping Europe and elsewhere stands the growing inter-imperialist rivalry that could unleash an even greater terror. As Lenin noted, “Peaceful alliances prepare the ground for wars, and in their turn grow out of wars”.
Today’s ceremonies in Paris underline the severity of the crisis, Macron’s speech directly criticised US policy, days after his call for a European army. The contradictions between the imperialists is now acknowledged fact in a US military discussion document on the possibility of a third world war. The falsity of the bourgeois remembrance is marked clearly by this. Nothing has been, nor could be, learnt by bourgeois society. It is moribund.