Ch 17 World War :World Crisis

CH.17-WORLD WAR-WORLD CRISIS

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CHAPTER XVII: WORLD WAR: WORLD CRISIS

SECTION 1: THE WORLD WAR

 

THE GERMAN PLAN, PREPARED LONG BEFORE HOSTILITIES, WAS TO ATTACK AND DEFEND A LINE THROUGH BELGIUM TO BY-PASS THE ALSACE-LORRAINE FRENCH DEFENCES THEN SWEEP ROUND TO THE WEST AND ENCIRCLE THE FRENCH ARMY FROM THE REAR AND GAIN PARIS.

 

IN THE EAST, THEY INTENDED TO ALLOW THE AUSTRIANS TO DEFEND AGAINST SLOW MOVING RUSSIAN FORCES.

 

THE FRENCH PLAN SEEMED SO DESIGNED AS TO ENSURE A GERMAN VICTORY.

 

EVEN THOUGH THE FRENCH GENERALS KNEW OF THE GERMAN PLAN, A PSYCHOLOGICAL BLINDNESS MADE THEM IGNORE IT.

 

THE ARDENNES WAS LEFT UNDEFENDED.

IN 1914, THE PLAN WAS PUT INTO ACTION.

 

THE GERMAN PLAN WAS CHANGED AT THE LAST MOMENT. IT WAS ONLY BECAUSE OF THIS THAT THE FRENCH GAINED TIME AND MADE A QUICK GERMAN VICTORY IMPOSSIBLE.

 

SOME GERMAN DIVISIONS WERE MOVED TO THE RUSSIAN FRONT.

 

THE BRITISH NAVY EVENTUALLY SUCEEDED IN A BLOCKADE OF GERMAN PORTS, WHICH CUT OFF SUPPLIES. FOR THREE YEARS, THE TWO SIDES REPEATED UNSUCCESSFUL, COSTLY ATTEMPTS TO BREAK THROUGH.

 

NEW WEAPONS SUCH AS TANKS AND GAS WERE INTRODUCED AT THE BATTLES OF LOOS, ARRAS, CHAMPAGNE, VERDUN, THE SOMME AND YPRES IN 1917.

 

THE WESTERN FRONT WAS ONLY ONE THEATRE OF WAR. IN THE EAST, THE RUSSIANS HAD SOME SUCCESSES, BUT THEIR ARMY WAS BADLY EQUIPPED AND POORLY LED.

 

HUGE LOSSES WERE SUSTAINED ON ALL FRONTS.

 

THE BALTIC AND BLACK SEAS WERE CLOSED TO THE BRITISH TO SUPPLY THE RUSSIANS, WHOSE INDUSTRY AT HOME WAS INCAPABLE OF SUPPLYING A MODERN ARMY.

 

THE DARDANELLES WERE THE KEY. IF TURKEY COULD BE IMMOBILISED, ARMS AND SUPPLIES COULD BE SENT TO RUSSIA IN EXCHANGE FOR UKRAINIAN WHEAT.

 

THE DARDANELLES LAY OPEN IN 1915, BUT THE BRITISH AND FRENCH BELIEVED THAT A WESTERN FRONT BREAKTHROUGH COULD BE ACHIEVED, AND DID NOT RELEASE TROOPS UNTIL MUCH LATER.

 

THE TURKS BY THEN HAD FULL WARNING OF THE EVENTUAL BRITISH ATTACK ON THE GALLIPOLI PENINSULAR, WHICH WAS REPELLED WITH VERY HEAVY LOSSES.

 

IT WAS AT THIS POINT THAT ONE OF THE STRANGEST DECISIONS OF THE WAR WAS MADE BY THE TSARIST GOVERNMENT.

 

IT REFUSED TO COOPERATE IN THE CAMPAIGN. IT WAS THOUGHT THAT THEY WANTED TO CAPTURE CONSTANTINOPLE FOR THEMSELVES, RATHER THAN LET IT FALL INTO BRITISH HANDS.

 

THEY ALSO REMEMBERED THAT REMARKABLE BRITISH TENDENCY NOT TO RELINQUISH TERRITORY ONCE OCCUPIED.

 

THIS PASSIVITY SEALED THE TSAR’S FATE. HAD HE SUPPORTED THE BRITISH, THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION WOULD HAVE PROBABLY NOT HAPPENED.

 

INSTEAD, THE RUSSIAN ARMY BECAME BOGGED DOWN IN POLAND AND GALICIA AND LOST 750,000 MEN.

 

THE DARDANELLES CAMPAIGN FAILED WITH THE BALANCE IN GERMANY'S FAVOUR.

 

BULGARIA JOINED THEN, AND SERBIA WAS OVERRUN.  AGAINST THE MILITARY SUCCESS OF 1915, THE EFFECT OF THE NAVAL BLOCKADE WAS INTENSIFIED BY AN UNUSUAL BAD HARVEST.

 

TO COUNTER THIS BLOCKADE, THE GERMANS BEGAN THEIR SUBMARINE CAMPAIGN IN 1916, BUT IT WAS ABANDONED AFTER THE US PROTESTED. IT ALSO HAD THE UNINTENDED EFFECT OF MAKING THE US GOVERNMENT INCLINED TO OBJECT LESS TO THE TIGHTENING OF THE BRITISH BLOCKADE OF EUROPE, WHICH WAS SO EFFECTIVE.

 

IN 1916-17, 368,000 TONS OF SHIPPING WAS LOST, EVEN THOUGH THE BATTLE OF JUTLAND WAS INDECISIVE.

 

WHEN THE GERMANS DECLARED ALL SHIPPING, NEUTRAL OR OTHERWISE, WOULD BE ATTACKED, THE USA ENTERED THE WAR.

 

THE OTHER REASON FOR AMERICAN INVOLVEMENT WAS THE FACT THAT MOST ARMS WERE BOUGHT ON CREDIT. IF GERMANY WAS VICTORIOUS, THE DEBT WOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN REPAID!

 

IT WAS THEREFORE OBVIOUS TO THE GERMANS THAT THEY NEEDED A QUICK RESULT.

 

THE EFFECT OF THE BLOCKADE WAS WEAKENED BY THE CONQUEST IN THE EAST, WHEN WHEAT AND OIL WAS MOVED IN FROM ROMANIA IN 1916.

 

WHEN THE AMERICANS ENTERED THE WAR, THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION BEGAN (MARCH 1917).

 

TIRED OF THE POINTLESS SLAUGHTER AND THE WISH OF THE CORRUPT TSARIST BUREACRACY TO CONTINUE THE WAR, RUSSIAN SOLDIERS STREAMED HOME.

 

BY THE NOVEMBER, UNDER A POPULAR PROGRAMME OF ‘PEACE, LAND AND BREAD’, THE BOLSHEVIKS SEIZED POWER AND KEPT IT BY SIGNING AN ARMISTICE ON MARCH 3rd 1918.

 

OTHER GOVERNMENTS WERE NOT PREPARED FOR PEACE, BUT THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION BEGAN TO WORK ON THE MINDS AND AFFECTIONS OF SOLDIERS AND WORKERS ALL OVER EUROPE.

 

ENGLAND WILL BE DEALT WITH IN THE NEXT CHAPTER.

 

IN FRANCE, THERE WERE WIDESPREAD DEMANDS FOR PEACE, AND DESERTIONS COULD BE COUNTED IN TENS OF THOUSANDS.

 

 IN GERMANY, THERE WAS A NAVAL MUTINY, AND OVER ONE MILLION WORKERS TOOK PART IN A GENERAL STRIKE.

 

IN 1918, THE PROBLEM WAS WHETHER THE WAR COULD BE WON BEFORE THE WRATH OF THE PEOPLE HAD OVERWHELMED BOTH WAR AND GOVERNMENTS.

 

IN GERMANY, OPPOSITION GREW, AND A FAMINE CAUSED BY THE BLOCKADE WAS TAKING ITS EFFECT.

 

AMERICAN TROOPS ARRIVED IN FRANCE, AND THE WAR ENDED AFTER THE RUSSIANS RELEASED A NUMBER OF DIVISIONS FOR THE WESTERN FRONT BECAUSE THE BRITISH ARMY HAD ALL BUT BEEN DESTROYED BY A CRAZY OFFENSIVE IN 1917: 400,000 MEN WERE SACRIFICED IN AN ATTEMPT TO BREAK THROUGH THE SWAMPS AROUND YPRES.

 

 HOWEVER, FOR A FEW MONTHS THE GERMANS OUTNUMBERED THE ALLIES IN THE WEST. IN MARCH, A SURPRISE ATTACK BROKE THROUGH THE WEAKENENED BRITISH LINES BETWEEN ARRAS AND OISE.

 

THE GAP WAS EVENTUALLY CLOSED, BUT TWO MORE WERE OPENED AT YPRES/LA BASSEE AND AT AISNE. THESE COULD NOT BE SUSTAINED AS NO MORE RESERVES WERE LEFT.

 

AMERICANS ARRIVED AT 300,000 A MONTH, AND ON AUGUST 8th 1918 A SUSTAINED ATTACK DROVE THE GERMANS FROM POSITIONS. THEIR LOSSES WERE ENORMOUS.

 

IN THE EAST, THE COLLAPSE WAS MORE STARTLING. TURKEY, BULGARIA AND AUSTRIA WERE DRIVEN, BY RUSSIANS ‘DEFENDING THE MOTHERLAND’, TO CONCLUDE AN ARMISTICE. WHEN GERMANY WAS THREATENED WITH INVASION FROM THE SOUTH, THERE WERE NO FORCES LEFT TO COUNTER IT.

 

 IN NOVEMBER 1918, REVOLUTION BROKE OUT IN GERMANY. SAILORS AT KIEL REFUSED TO PUT TO SEA AND SET UP SOVIETS IN THE PORTS.

 

ENVOYS WERE SENT THROUGH GERMANY. IN BERLIN, LIEBKNECHTS POWERFUL INFLUENCE WAS STIRRING THE PEOPLE INTO ACTION.

 

ON NOVEMBER 6TH, GERMAN DELEGATES LEFT TO REQUEST AN ARMISTICE, AND ON THE 9TH THE KAISER ABDICATED. A REPUBLIC WAS SET UP WITH A RIGHT WING SOCIAL DEMOCRAT GOVERNMENT. EGBERT WAS MADE PRESIDENT.

 

THE ARMISTICE TERMS WERE LITTLE BETTER THAN A SURRENDER, BUT THE GERMAN PEOPLE BELIEVED PEACE WOULD COME ON PRESIDENT WILSON’S ‘FOURTEEN POINT’ SETTLEMENT.

 

“FREEDOM OF THE SEAS, GENERAL DISARMAMENT, AN IMPARTIAL ADJUSTMENT OF ALL COLONIAL CLAIMS.”

 

BY ITS OMMISION, IT APPEARED TO IMPLY THEIR WOULD BE NO ANNEXATIONS OR INDEMNITIES.

 

THIS PROGRAMME HAD A HUGE EFFECT ON THE PEOPLE’S OF EUROPE.

 

THEY DID NOT KNOW ABOUT THE SECRET TREATIES AND UNDERSTANDINGS BY WHICH THEIR GOVERNMENTS HAD IN ANTICIPATION DIVIDED THE SPOILS OF WAR.

 

THE NEW WILSON IDEALISM WAS THOUGHT TO BRING JUSTICE AND DEMOCRACY, AND THE RULING CLASES ENCOURAGED THIS BELIEF.

 

NOT UNTIL THE VERSAILLES PEACE CONFERENCE WERE THE REAL OBJECTIVES UNDERSTOOD: THE OPENLY IMPERIALIST AIMS OF THE BOURGEOIS CONQUERING POWERS.

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