A11 – 31/10/2006 - Primeira Guerra Mundial
(HG 172) JOLL, J. Europe since 1870. Caps. 7 e 8
THE COMING OF THE FIRST WAR
While some people have argued that the war was the result of the ‘old diplomacy’ and an alliance system based on secret agreements, others have seen in the war a half-conscious or in some cases deliberate attempt by governments to distract attention from insoluble domestic problems by means of an active foreign policy and an appeal to national solidarity in time of war.
For Marxists the war was inherent in the nature of capitalism the great international cartels would no longer be able to agree on a peaceful division of the under-developed world and would force governments into war for their own economic interests.
The Bosnian crisis of 1908-9 showed how easily the instability of the Balkans could upset the equilibrium of all Europe. In 1908 coup d´etat in Turkey by a body of officers, popularly known as the Young Turks, who came to power with a program of modernization and reorganization of the decrepit Ottoman Empire. Their attempt to reassert sovereignty over areas which had in practice been long lost to Turkish control (Bulgaria and Bosnia Herzegovina) at once led to a strong reaction.
By May 1913 with the signature of the Treaty of London between the Balkan League states and the Turks, Turkish rule in Europe was ended except in Constantinople itself and in the eastern part of Thrace. But within a month the victorious allies were quarrelling over the spoils, and the Second Balkan war was fought by Bulgaria against Greece and Serbia.
The Anglo-German naval rivalry had also had the effect of encouraging practical cooperation between Britain and France.
What were the differences in the situation in July 1914, which this time brought about a war which many people had been expecting for the past 9 years?
The Maroccan crises had involved France and Germany by Russia had no interest in France´s African ambitions and no objection to Germany developing an African empire on her own. The Bosnian crises of 1908 had been resolved because the Russians knew they were not yet militarily strong enough to stand up to an insistent German demand that they should drop their opposition to the Austro-Hungarian annexation of the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the Balkan Wars the interests of the small states had sometimes been in conflict with those of the great powers, and none of the powers was prepared to go to war for the selfish interests of any one Balkan state as against its neighbors.
The July crisis of 1914 on the other hand not only rapidly involved all the potential sources of conflict among the great powers – Austro-Russian rivalry in the Balkans, Franco-German mutual resentment and distrust, the Anglo-German naval rivalry- but it came at a moment which for a number of reasons seemed, especially to the Germans, one at which the chances of success were greatest.
The belief that the doctrine of the fittest could be applied to international relations, so that war seemed to be the supreme test of a nations right to survive the belief, stemming from Nietzsche, that only by a supreme shock and effort could the limitations of bourgeois fife be transcended and its essence transmuted into something nobler. Or again, even if the governments of Europe did not deliberately envisage war as a way out of their internal political difficulties, the fact remains that war briefly produced a sense of national solidarity in which bitter political quarrels were forgotten.
The war destroyed the political, economic, social and territorial structure of the old Europe and neither conservatism nor liberalism nor socialism were ever going to be the same again
THE EUROPEAN CRISIS 1914-18
The belligerent governments found themselves obliged to take control of the economic life of their countries on an unprecedented scale. The methods needed to mobilize resources for a prolonged and exhausting war necessarily meant the final abandonment of many of the old liberal ideas about laissez-faire and even individual rights, while wartime organization together with the experience of the trenches led to new social problems and a new social consciousness.
“War was a mighty accelerator of events” (Lenin)
“If the women working in the factories stopped for twenty minutes France would lose the war” (General Joffre).
By the end of the war the trade unions had an enormously enhanced position: numerically stronger, better organized and more self-confident so that when the war was over the European trade union movement entered on a new phase in its history.
As the war continued and as the casualties rose, without the campaigns of 1915-16 bringing a decision any nearer, ther began to be discussions of the possibility of a negotiated peace. At the same time it became increasingly necessary for governments to explain why they felt the war must go on and what they were hoping to achieve.
1916 = mediation Woodrow Wilson
1917 = mediation by the Pope
The American declaration of war not only potentially changed the balance of power in Europe, it also transformed the scope and nature of the war, turning the war into a crusade for democracy.
The Russian Revolution, and above all the call for a peace without annexations and indemnities, at last seemed to give all the various movement to end the war a practical focus: “this war is not our war”.
1918 President Wilson laid down fourteen points which he regarded as a basis for a future peace, and which constituted at once the broadest and the most specific statement of war aims yet to be issued on the Allied side.
Brest-Litovsk treaty = puppet state in the Ukraine and thus deprive Russia of a very large area of productive land. “In view of the fact that we have no army, that our troops at the front are in a most demoralized condition, and that we must make use of every possible breathing-space to retard imperialist attacks on the Soviet Socialist Republic, the Congress resolves to accept the most onerous and humiliating peace treaty.”
A serious epidemic of a virulent strain of influenza was sweeping across Europe and was to kill many thousands of people, but the impact was, as it happened, felt in the German army more quickly than on the Allied side.
Civilians in charge German government: sie sollen die Suppe jetzt essen, die sie uns eingebrockt haben = German Revolution had begun, and the Germans asked for an armistice.
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