World War I and Its Century

Ruff, Allen
Date Written:  2014-07-01
Publisher:  Against the Current
Year Published:  2014
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20783

Ruff anaylzes the effect that WWI had on the world's imperial powers, shifting the hold on dominance between countries and transforming economies into different forms of war state capitalism.



The war's devastation created the conditions for Russia's revolutions in February and October 1917, and the resultant first attempt to "construct the socialist order" as Lenin boldly proclaimed to the Congress of Soviets. Simultaneously it foreshadowed the coming of a new imperial order as the United States, already established as a powerhouse of productivity, transformed from being a debtor to a creditor nation set on its course to eventually replace Britain as capitalism’s reigning superpower.

If the spark that ignited it all was almost accidental -- the assassination at Sarajevo of the heir to the Austrian throne, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, shot by an ultra-nationalist Bosnian Serb in late June, 1914 -- the root causes of the war clearly went far deeper.

Primary was inter-imperialist rivalry, understood by Marxists as including, but also going beyond, a set of specific factors -- the capitalist drive for markets, raw materials, cheap labor, outlets for static investment, or a solution to periodic overproduction crises.

That first global conflagration in some sense was indeed the result of uneven and combined capitalist development on an international scale. Both sides contained the most advanced capitalist societies. Foremost on the Entente or Allied side were Great Britain as well as France and Japan, later joined by the United States. Leading the Central Powers was a unified Germany, by 1914 the strongest, most advanced economy on the European continent.
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