Ten Lies Told about World War I
November 9, 2014, Counterfire.org
This Remembrance Day will doubtless see strenuous efforts by some to justify the fruitless bloodbath that was the First World War. Revisionist commentators have long attempted to rehabilitate the conflict as necessary and just, but the arguments do not stand up. It does no service to the memory of the dead to allow any illusions in the justice or necessity of war, particularly so when the precedents will be used to argue for the next ‘necessary’ conflict. From the causes of the war, to its prosecution and its results, here are the counter-arguments to ten common pro-war ploys.
An American soldier lies dead, tangled in barbed wire on the western front. Photograph: American Stock Archive/Getty Images
1. The war was fought in defence of democracy.
This is contradicted by the basic facts. Germany had universal manhood suffrage while in Britain, including Ireland, some 40% of men still did not qualify for the vote. In Germany also, there were attempts to justify the war on the grounds that it was being fought to defend civilised values against a repressive, militaristic state, in the form of Russian autocracy.
2. Britain went to war due to a treaty obligation to defend the neutrality of Belgium.
There was no clear and accepted obligation on Britain to do this, and, in fact, before the Belgian issue appeared, the war party in the cabinet was already pushing for British intervention on the entirely different ground that there were naval obligations to France. These obligations had been developed in secret arrangements between the military of both countries, and were never subject to any kind of democratic accountability. The Germans even offered guarantees over Belgian integrity, which the British government refused to consider at all.
3. German aggression was the driving force for war.
However aggressive the German leadership may have been in 1914, the British establishment was at least as determined to take the opportunity to go to war with its imperial rival. At one point the Foreign Office even seized on imaginary German incursions into France to justify a British declaration of war on Germany. The declaration letter had to be retrieved from the German ambassador and rewritten when it was discovered that the stories were false. The enthusiasm of the British ruling class for war undermines any justification for it based on German aggression.
4. Germany had started a naval arms race with Britain.
Imperialist competition between the two states over markets and resources preceded the arms race in the fifteen years before the war. Britain’s naval power was the vital element in its ability to restrict German access to markets and resources across the world. Unless Britain was willing to allow Germany to expand economically, the logic of capitalist competition meant that Germany was bound to challenge British naval supremacy. The latent violence of the leading imperial nation is always the context for aggressive challenges to the status quo on the part of rising powers.
5. German imperialism was uniquely vicious and had to be challenged.
The atrocities committed against the Herrero people in Namibia were indeed terrible crimes, but were hardly unique compared to the horrors committed by all those involved in the rubber industry in the Belgian Congo, to take but one example. Also, European opinion had only a few years before 1914 been horrified by the brutality of another colonial power when it was engaged in ruthlessly expanding its dominance over independent states in Africa. This was Britain in its wars of aggression against the Boer states in South Africa, during which concentration camps were first used in order to control a civilian population.
6. Public opinion was united in favour of the war, as shown by images of cheering crowds in 1914.
It is now usually admitted that the degree of enthusiasm for the war was strictly limited, and the evidence is that the crowds who gathered at the outbreak of war were by no means united in martial enthusiasm. In fact sizeable and widespread anti-war demonstrations occurred in both Britain and Germany. Had the leaderships of Labour and Socialist parties across Europe not caved into demands to support their national ruling classes in going to war, it is quite possible that the conflict could have been stopped in its tracks.
7. The morale of British troops fighting on the Western Front remained intact to the end of the war.
While Britain may not have suffered quite the same scale of mutinies as in the German and French armies, at times there were whole stretches of the front where troops became so unreliable that generals did not dare order them into combat. The evidence for widespread cynicism about war strategies, contempt for the military leadership, and grave doubts about the purpose of the war, cannot be wished away by the revisionists. In so far as soldiers carried on willingly fighting the war, the explanation needs to be sought in the habituation to obedience, as well as the threat of court-martial executions. There is no need to invoke either fervid nationalism or any kind of deep psychological blood-lust as explanations.
8. The military leadership, notably General Haig, was not a bunch of incompetent ‘donkeys’.
Attempts to rehabilitate the likes of General Haig founder on some of the basic facts about the tactics he relentlessly employed. Repeated infantry attacks on opposing trenches consistently failed to gain any clear advantage, while causing colossal casualties. On the first day of the battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916, 57,000 troops out of 120,000 were killed or wounded. Despite continuing carnage on an incredible scale, Haig carried on ordering further attacks. When any hope of a breakthrough against the German lines was clearly lost, the purpose of the battle was shifted to attrition pure and simple. The plan now was to kill more German troops than the British lost. Since there was no way of reliably measuring the casualties on the other side, Haig relied on estimating it through the losses of his own side. On this basis he began to be angered when the army suffered too few losses, as when he complained that one division in September had lost under a thousand men. There can be no defence for this kind of disregard of human life.
9. The end of the war saw the triumph of liberal capitalism, against collapsing autocratic Empires.
In fact all states involved in the war were deeply destabilised. Even the United States, whose involvement was the most limited, experienced the ‘Red Summer’ of 1919, with unprecedented labour revolts, such as the Seattle general strike, alongside savage repression of socialists and black Americans. Britain saw the beginning of the Irish war of independence, and increasing unrest in India, which marks, in effect, the point at which the Empire began to unravel. Domestically, there was also a wave of radical working-class unrest, particularly in the ‘Red Clydeside’, which culminated in troops being sent into Glasgow to impose martial law.
10. The war achieved anything worthwhile whatsoever.
The war opened up a period of endemic economic dislocation, and outright crisis. In Britain there was a decade of industrial decline and high unemployment even before the Great Depression.
In effect, it was only the Second World War which brought the major capitalist powers out of the slump. The First World War saw the point at which capitalism became addicted to war and to a permanent arms economy.
The war demonstrated the capacity of capitalism to create industrialised waste, carnage and destruction on a colossal scale. The remembrance of the war is appropriately a time for mourning the horror, the loss and the waste of it all, but it should also provoke a determination to resist our rulers’ insistence on promoting war to further their interests. War can achieve nothing other than to create the conditions for further wars.
Popular opinion has, ever since its ending, remembered the First World War as a time of horrendous and futile misery and slaughter, as epitomising political and military leaders’ incompetence and callous disregard for human life. That popular judgement, which has helped turn common opinion against war in general, was correct, and we must not let the war mongers dismiss this instance of the wisdom of ordinary people.
Dominic Alexander is a member of Counterfire, for which he is the book review editor. He has been a Stop the War and anti-austerity activist in north London for some time. He is a published historian whose work includes the book Saints and Animals in the Middle Ages, a social history of medieval wonder tales
My Comment: Obviously I enjoyed the article and agree. I think most informed and rational thinking people would. It is interesting to note, however, that with respect to WWI, the “revisionists” are those who are trying to re-establish the already long discredited ‘official version’ and legacy of that Not So Great War, as it was originally sold to the masses, though with shiny new wrapping paper. In other words, that those “evil nasty Germans were to blame”. Repeat as necessary.
With respect to WWII, however, the “revisionists” are those of us who have re-investigated the ‘official version’ as presented (or invented) by the Victors and their lackeys, and who have been bringing forward evidence which contradicts and often fully discredits their narrative. And it is precisely that false narrative which has been used and recycled ever since the end of WWII right up to the present day, in order to justify virtually every new war which those same “capitalists” desire.
Lest we forget …. (or in case you didn’t know) National Socialism was “Socialist”. Truly socialist, and neither Marxist nor Capitalist. It was the only model which ever worked to the benefit of both the wealthy industrialists and entrepreneurial class, and the workers. Germany did not recover and prosper as a result of re-arming, but rather, by building civilian infrastructure and services, strengthening agriculture, cottage industries, auto-manufacturing, new industries with scientific and technological advancements, as well as, sound environmental protection policies and land reclamation projects, as well as, recycling to severely reduce reliance upon imports and exports, and the need for territorial expansion and the theft of other nation’s resources.
It also did not come by stealing property from the rich (not even the Jews) in order to give to the poor, or by overly taxing the rich, but rather, through social reforms and benefits for the working class, which achieved a fair and equitable balance that benefited the whole German nation, making her prosperous, and the envy of all.
The World Wide Jewish inspired boycott of Germany in 1933 did indeed cause severe hardship. Germany also had no gold reserves and was burdened with incredible debt, mainly due to war reparations. But putting Germans back into positions of control and influence, combined with German ingenuity, banking and monetary reform, restrictions on stock markets, a strong work ethic, and brotherly love in the true Christian spirit helped Germany to not only survive the hardships, but to thrive, whilst all other industrialized nations lagged behind in economic depression. Their own economic state following the Great Depression was naturally made worse by the boycott of German goods, as it hindered global trade which their own model relied upon. Rather than emulating the German model in some form in order to help themselves out of their economic woes, the western capitalist war mongers, the Bankster Gangsters, and their political puppets created the necessity and desire for war, and they began re-arming, and even helped the Soviet Communists to do the same. So while the Germans planted a plentiful harvest for themselves, the western war mongers (including Jews who had left Germany when they lost their advantaged positions) were sewing the seeds of hate and plotting the destruction of a truly Christian nation.
The ALL LIES had the motive for war. They only needed a pretext and the opportunity. Germany had no need or desire for a war, as Hitler had made clear beginning with his first speech as Chancellor and in many well documented diplomatic exchanges. “Oh, but Hitler re-armed too!” some will say. Obviously, to maintain her own sovereignty, Germany had to re-arm to the degree necessary to protect her own interests and territory from foreign aggression, beginning in about 1936, but by 1939 was largely self-sufficient and had enough trading partners to provide other essential goods. She had also made every possible effort to avoid a war with Poland through generous concessions concerning Danzig, as is also well documented. It was the ALL LIES, through their guarantees to Poland which incited the Poles, not only to intransigence, but indeed, to Anti-German hostility and gross human rights violations including mass murder (which the world chose to ignore) which led to Germany’s declaration of war, thereby, providing the western war mongers with their much desired pretext and opportunity to attack Germany.
To those who scream “but you forgot the Holocaust!” May I remind you that the first casualty of war is truth. May I also remind you that there are two sides to every story. I have previously covered virtually every aspect of World War II from the previously untold German perspective, including many documents, speeches, films, books, as well as, articles and talks from notable, trained and honest non-German historians. I also have provided a virtual library of free books in my links section, as well as, an Amazon affiliate book store full of credible and well sourced books that tell a completely different version of Hitler, National Socialism and World War II than has hitherto been peddled to the masses through the mass media, and in the indoctrination camps called “schools” and “universities”. I have barely even scratched the surface concerning Allied War Crimes committed both during and after the war. Believe me, I know the orthodox victors history all too well! Do you know the other side? Do you even have the courage to look?
My challenge to you, is for you to examine all of the material I have presented from start to finish, and then tell me whether or not you still believe what you have been taught, sold and had instilled in you. Then, maybe we can have a sane and rational discussion about the crimes for which the Germans were accused and found guilty of in an international Kangaroo court called the IMT, who ran it, and about the types of evidence they considered and admitted. Then you tell me what you believe, or still want to believe.