The centennial of the First World War
fast approaches, destined to stamp its mark across the new 20th century. The consequences of that great and unexpectedly terrible conflagration would appear to be well understood, but to this day the meaning of the event itself and of its causes remain in the shadows. It is a primary intention here to bring these into the light from the perspective best suited to the task, that of Marxist historical materialism.
The historical materialist approach is best suited because to this very day the events encompassing the First World War and its consequences remain the single greatest scandal and blot upon the entire history, and historical memory, of what is liberally referred to as bourgeois or capitalist “civilization”. Consequentially the actual blot itself is reproduced in the conventional mind as a darkness into which both cause and consequence are cast into oblivion. Naturally, as a further result, one cannot expect too penetrating a recollective commentary from conventional quarters. Particularly in the English-speaking world, the recollections of the era found on the internet tend toward memorials to the fallen soldiers, or are limited to the diplomatic or military events directly connected to the war itself.
Therefore the title, “Live Blogging the First World War Era”. This can socially encompass broader political, economic or cultural factors, and historically cover not merely the immediate war years themselves, but a slightly longer span of time encompassing and centered upon the War. Relying upon primarily political and economic criteria, the endpoint of the era can be ascertained fairly easily: 1923-24, with the stabilization of both the new Weimar Regime in Germany and the new Soviet state in Russia, marking the end of continuing military conflict in this region that did not halt for the Armistice of November 11th 1918. This also corresponds to the return to “normalcy” in the Anglo-American world, the rise of fascism in Italy and the opening of a new revolutionary period in China.
Marking the beginning point presents more difficulty for at least two reasons. First, because the origins of an era tend to be located more in economic and political phenomena that themselves have lengthy roots and time spans of their own, and don’t exactly line up with a span of history centered around the War era. Second, we are likely late to the show; the era has already clearly begun. For example, in the year 1910 already passed there were these key events:
- March 1910, an uprising against Ottoman rule breaks out in Albania.
- May 6, George V becomes King of the United Kingdom.
- May 31: The Union of South Africa is created.
- June 22: The DELAG Zeppelin dirigible, Deutschland, makes the first commercial passenger flight from Friedrichshafen to Düsseldorf in Germany.
- July 24: Ottoman forces capture the city of Shkodër to put down the Albanian Revolt of 1910.
- August 22: The Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty is signed.
- August 28: Montenegro is proclaimed an independent kingdom.
- September 1: The Vatican introduces a compulsory oath against modernism, to be taken by all priests upon ordination.
- October 5: Portugal becomes a republic; King Manuel II of Portugal flees to England.
- November 7: The first air flight for the purpose of delivering commercial freight takes place in the United States of America.
- November 20: Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero proclaims the elections of 1910 null and void, and calls for an armed revolution at 6 p.m. against the illegitimate presidency/dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz.
- Year 1910: Henry Ford sells 10,000 automobiles.
These are the key highlights across a broad spectrum.i
The annexation of Korea as a colony of the Empire of Japan and the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution in that year provide an interesting, if still distant, context, and these will eventually merge into the slipstream of the War Era. Of particular note, however, are events in the Balkans detailing the final phase of the decomposition of the Ottoman position in the region. This phase can be shown to have opened in 1909 with the annexation of Bosnia-Hertzgovinia by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This event corresponds in time to something apparently unrelated: the emergence of a lengthy recession in the U.S.A, then already the most important industrial economy in the world, in 1910. This lasted 2 years and was soon followed by another recession in 1913, exposing the ongoing instability of the new political and economic regime that had emerged in that country at the end of the Gilded Age in the late 1890’s. Exactly 100 years ago, this economic situation was combined with a historically critical Presidential election in that country, one that split the Republican Party and brought a rather new and peculiar political character – Woodrow Wilson – into the White House for the first time. Overall, the War in Europe not only brought an end to the recession in 1914, but cemented the stability of the regime in the U.S. until the Great Depression in the 1930’s.
We have then the First World War Era: 1909 to 1923-24. There remains some catching up to do, as it is already August, 1912. Hence the first task will be to produce a summary of the relevant events leading up to the “present”.
On a general note, despite the intention to provide a broader context to the immediate events surrounding the First World War, the reader will not be disappointed to find ample reference to the diplomatic, political and military events directly related to the War. On the contrary, as the editor is an amateur student of military history since childhood, the temptation to provide too much detail in this regard will have to be resisted.
A final word on “live blogging”. As far as can be discerned, this features the more or less daily publication of publicly available documents, news articles and other primary historical sources in “real-time”, as they occurred, in the voices of the direct observers or participants in those events. Judging from other “live blog” effortsii, this very often involves not much more than a Wikipedia search and, naturally, some amount of fact-check vetting will be required. This standard will be adhered to as well in this live blog effort. Avoidance of factual errors cannot be absolutely guaranteed, and all corrections are welcome and will be followed up upon in a timely manner. However, live blog items will be accompanied by editorial commentary on the part of the blog publisher as appropriate and in this sense will deviate for the live blogging “standard”. Finally, comments are welcome, but the blog editor reserves the right to edit commentary as seen fit.
ii For example, “Liveblogging World War II” by Brad DeLong, http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2012/08/liveblogging-world-war-ii-august-14-1942.html However this is not an exclusive live blogging site, as posts are mixed together with Neo-Keynesian economics and liberal Democrat politics, this latter currently in high dudgeon as we move into the 2012 election season.