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Putin’s Western Allies

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Why Europe’s Far Right Is on the Kremlin’s Side

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Given that one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stated reasons for invading Crimea was to prevent “Nazis” from coming to power in Ukraine, it is perhaps surprising that his regime is growing closer by the month to extreme right-wing parties across Europe. But, in both cases, Putin’s motives are not primarily ideological. In Ukraine, he simply wants to grab territory that he believes rightly belongs to him. In the European Union, he hopes that his backing of fringe parties will destabilize his foes and install in Brussels politicians who will be focused on dismantling the EU rather than enlarging it.

In Hungary, for example, Putin has taken the Jobbik party under his wing. The third-largest party in the country, Jobbik has supporters who dress in Nazi-type uniforms, spout anti-Semitic rhetoric, and express concern about Israeli “colonization” of Hungary. The party has capitalized on rising support for nationalist economic policies, which are seen as an antidote for unpopular austerity policies and for Hungary’s economic liberalization in recent years. Russia is bent on tapping into that sentiment. In May 2013, Kremlin-connected right-wing Russian nationalists at the prestigious Moscow State University invited Jobbik party president Gabor Vona to speak. Vona also met with Russia Duma leaders including Ivan Grachev, chairman of the State Duma Committee for Energy and Vasily Tarasyuk, deputy chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources and Utilization, among others. On the Jobbik website, the visit is characterized as “a major breakthrough” which made “clear that Russian leaders consider Jobbik as a partner.” In fact, there have been persistent rumors that Jobbik’s enthusiasm is paid for with Russian rubles. The party has also repeatedly criticized Hungary’s “Euro-Atlantic connections” and the European Union. And, more recently, it called the referendum in Crimea “exemplary,” a dangerous word in a country with extensive co-ethnic populations in Romania and Slovakia. It seems that the party sees Putin’s new ethnic politics as being aligned with its own revisionist nationalism.

The Kremlin’s ties to France’s extreme-right National Front have also been growing stronger. Marine Le Pen, the party leader, visited Moscow in June 2013 at the invitation of State Duma leader Sergei Naryshkin, a close associate of Putin’s. She also met with Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and discussed issues of common concern, such as Syria, EU enlargement, and gay marriage. France’s ProRussia TV, which is funded by the Kremlin, is staffed by editors with close ties to the National Front who use the station to espouse views close to National Front’s own perspective on domestic and international politics. The National Front wishes to replace the EU and NATO with a pan-European partnership of independent nations, which, incidentally, includes Russia and would be driven by a trilateral Paris-Berlin-Moscow alliance. Le Pen’s spokesman, Ludovic De Danne, recently recognized the results of the Crimea referendum and stated in an interview with Voice of Russia radio that, “historically, Crimea is part of Mother Russia.” In the same interview, he mentioned that he had visited Crimea several times in the past year. Marine Le Pen also visited Crimea in June 2013.

The list of parties goes on. Remember Golden Dawn, the Greek fascist party that won 18 seats in Greece’s parliament in 2012? Members use Nazi symbols at rallies, emphasize street fighting, and sing the Greek version of the Nazi Party anthem. The Greek government imprisoned Nikos Michaloliakos, its leader, and stripped parliamentary deputies of their political immunity before slapping them with charges of organized violence. But the party continues to take to the streets. Golden Dawn has never hidden its close connections to Russia’s extreme right, and is thought to receive funds from Russia. One Golden Dawn­­–linked website reports that Michaloliakos even received a letter in prison from Moscow State University professor and former Kremlin adviser Alexander Dugin, one of the authors of Putin’s “Eurasian” ideology. It was also Dugin who hosted Jobbik leader Vona when he visited Moscow. In his letter, Dugin expressed support for Golden Dawn’s geopolitical positions and requested to open a line of communication between Golden Dawn and his think tank in Moscow. Golden Dawn’s New York website reports that Michaloliakos “has spoken out clearly in favor of an alliance and cooperation with Russia, and away from the ‘naval forces’ of the ‘Atlantic.’”

Finally, a cable made public by WikiLeaks shows that Bulgaria’s far right Ataka party has close links to the Russian embassy. Reports that Russia funds Ataka have swirled for years, but have never been verified. But evidence of enthusiasm for Russia’s foreign policy goals is open for all to see. Radio Bulgaria reported on March 17 that Ataka’s parliamentary group “has insisted that Bulgaria should recognize the results from the referendum for Crimea’s joining to the Russian Federation.” Meanwhile, party leader Volen Siderov has called repeatedly for Bulgaria to veto EU economic sanctions for Russia.

In addition to their very vocal support for Russia’s annexation of Crimea within the EU, Jobbik, National Front, and Ataka all sent election observers to validate the Crimea referendum (as did the Austrian Freedom Party, the Belgian Vlaams Belang party, Italy’s Forza Italia and Lega Nord, and Poland’s Self-Defense, in addition to a few far-left parties, conspicuously Germany’s Die Linke). Their showing was organized by the Russia-based Eurasian Observatory For Democracy & Elections, a far-right NGO “opposed to Western ideology.” The EODE specializes in monitoring elections in “self-proclaimed republics” (Abkhazia, Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh) allied with Moscow, according to its website.

The Putin government’s cordial relations with Europe’s far right sit oddly, to say the least, with his opposition to “Nazis” in the Ukrainian government. Yet Putin’s dislike for Ukrainian “fascists” has nothing to do with ideology. It has to do with the fact that they are Ukrainian nationalists. The country’s Svoboda and Right Sector parties, which might do well in the post–Viktor Yanukovych Ukraine, stand for independence in a country that Putin does not believe should exist separate from Russia.

Similarly, Russian support of the far right in Europe has less to do with ideology than with his desire to destabilize European governments, prevent EU expansion, and help bring to power European governments that are friendly to Russia. In that sense, several European countries may only be one bad election away from disaster. In fact, some would say that Hungary has already met it. As support for Jobbik increases, the anti-democratic, center-right government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has tacked heavily to the right and recently signed a major nuclear deal with Russia. Russia plans to lend Hungary ten billion euro to construct two new reactors at its Paks nuclear plant, making Hungary even more dependent for energy on Russia. Jobbik’s Vona wants to go even further, taking Hungary out of the EU and joining Russia’s proposed Eurasian Union.

European parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for the end of May, are expected to result in a strong showing for the far right. A weak economy, which was weakened further by the European Central Bank’s austerity policies, has caused the extreme right vote to surge. Current polls show the far-right parties in France and Holland winning the largest share of seats in their national delegations. Brussels strategists worry that 20 percent of members of the new European parliament could be affiliated with parties that wish to abolish the EU, double the current number. That could cause an EU government shutdown to rival the dysfunction of Washington and deal a major blow to efforts to enlarge the Union and oppose Russian expansionism.

It is strange to think that Putin’s strategy of using right-wing extremist political parties to foment disruption and then take advantage — as he did in Crimea — could work in southern and western Europe as well. Or that some of the extreme right parties in the European parliament, who work every day to delegitimize the European Union and whose numbers are growing, may be funded by Russia. Yet these possibilities cannot be dismissed. Russia might soon be able to disrupt the EU from within.

To counter Russia, European leaders should start launching public investigations into external funding of extreme-right political parties. If extensive Russia connections are found, it would be important to publicize that fact and then impose sanctions on Russia that would make it more difficult for it to provide such support. Pro-European parties must find a way to mobilize voters who are notoriously unwilling to vote in European parliament elections. Europe will also have to rethink the austerity policies that have worsened the grievances of many Europeans and pushed them to support the anti-system, anti-European right. Although Germany has banned extreme right parties from representation, other countries have not. Germany may have therefore underestimated the extent of damage austerity policies could do to the European project and should rethink how its excessive budget cutting, monetary prudence, and export surpluses are affecting politics in the rest of Europe.

Putin’s challenge to Europe must be taken seriously. Rather than making another land grab in his back yard, he might watch patiently from the sidelines at the end of May as pro-Russia far-right parties win a dramatic election victory in European parliamentary elections. These elections could weaken the European Union and bring Russia’s friends on the far right closer to power.

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Statement of the Plenary of the ICMLPO: Twenty years on the road of struggle and unity for the Revolution and Socialism

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I

The Plenary session of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations (ICMLPO) to mark its 20th anniversary, met in Turkey to discuss important issues of the international situation, of political work, of the question of the Popular Front, and of the orientation for activity with working and communist women in their respective countries.

The meeting emphasized the commitment to continue the struggle against capitalism, imperialism and the international bourgeoisie, and adopted decisions on the current situation of the class struggle in the world and the tasks of the working class.

The plenary of the ICMLPO denounces all forms of injustice, reduction and freezing of wages, the policy of the imperialist monopolies and their governments, the accumulation of capital on the basis of imposing more taxes and raising the prices of goods and services, policies that are provoking rebellion and struggles of the working class and the peoples.

II

The defenders of the capitalist-imperialist system launched the idea that a democratic and prosperous world, without crises and wars, was possible. They claimed that capitalism was the only way to achieve the objectives and aspirations of the peoples. However, undisputable facts show, once again, that capitalism cannot provide any better future for the working class, the workers and the peoples.

The productive forces, industrial production and services are developing constantly. The development of these productive forces can no longer be contained within the framework of the capitalist relations of production. At present, the level of the contradiction between socialized production and capitalist appropriation of the means of production surpasses all previous times in history. Finance capital, which imposes parasitism and corruption that generate super-profits in the capitalist metropolises has developed and spread to the farthest corners of the world.

Outsourcing and fragmentation of the time and place of the labor processes and flexible working hours have become general. However, they have imposed disorganization, low wages, primitive conditions of work, unemployment and layoffs that are increasing; capitalist exploitation is growing. The intensification of exploitation and the profits of monopoly capital, the worsening of working and living conditions, are the main factor of the contradiction between labor and capital.

The development of capitalism means poverty alongside wealth and increased inequality in distribution. Impoverishment and misery are spreading. Even in the developed capitalist countries of Europe, the number of homeless families is increasing, begging is spreading and the search for food thrown away in garbage cans is becoming usual. Hunger has spread to other places, beyond the regions of endemic drought and famine in Africa.

As a consequence of capitalism the deterioration and exploitation of the environment is becoming so serious that it cannot be ignored: soil erosion, water and air pollution, the destruction of nature by the unbridled pursuit of profit, has reached high levels, has caused major climate changes that threaten the future of human beings and other living species.

The inter-imperialist contradictions and competition are leading to a renewal of economic and commercial alliances which constitute a new offensive against the living standards of the workers and peoples. Agreements such as the Asia-Pacific bloc, the BRICS under the leadership of China and Russia, the Free Trade Agreement between the United States and the European Union, are part of the effort of the imperialists and bourgeois governments to seek new areas of influence for their capital and to further exploit the working class and increase the oppression of the peoples.

The capitalist crisis that broke out in 2008, which began in the US, affected all countries. It destroyed productive forces. The imperialist and capitalist countries through their governments initiated a policy of corporate bailout using billions of dollars and euros for this purpose. These funds were taken from the public treasury, from the workers and peoples through taxes; they led to a reduction in wages, to unemployment and cuts to social security among other measures. Thus the bourgeoisie has shown once again its hostile and contemptuous attitude to the working classes. In various countries, more than 10 million workers were made unemployed; their salaries were reduced to as little as one third; their retirement age was increased; their pensions were drastically decreased.

All this shows that capitalism lacks a humane conscience. While the centralization of capital increases, the full weight of the crisis lies on the workers and oppressed peoples, with very severe results, particularly in unemployment, among the women and youth.

III

The economies of the US and some European countries, where a process of relative recovery and revival began in 2009, have failed to maintain this; now signs of a new crisis are arising. The debts incurred by the States to carry out the bailouts of corporations in 2008 represent a heavy burden on the economies of the capitalist countries. Except for China, all the countries are in debt.

Currently, one sees a decline in growth rates and also signs of recession. Moreover, the economies of several countries are showing a negative growth.

The figures for unemployment and poverty are alarming. According to data of the International Labor Organization, there are 202 million unemployed worldwide. Poverty rates for 2013 show that there are 1,000 million people whose daily income is less than $1 while 2,800 million people have daily incomes of less than $2.

There are 448 million malnourished children; each day 30,000 children die from lack of treatment for curable diseases.

Emigration has reached unprecedented levels. Hoping to reach the developed countries, to achieve a better life, a job to earn a living, millions of people emigrate from the dependent countries, where there is poverty caused by imperialist plunder and where regional wars persist.

A large number of these people (including women and children) die before they get where they wanted to go. Those who do make it become victims of discrimination, racist and xenophobic attacks, of the most precarious conditions of work with the lowest wages.

IV

The contradictions among the imperialists are sharpening and inter-imperialist contention is growing.

The claims of those who advocate “globalization,” based on manipulating the development of the trend towards integration of the world economy, say that “the old imperialism no longer exists,” that “the analysis of imperialism is obsolete, surpassed.” All this is nothing but propaganda of the imperialists themselves.

The hegemony of finance capital, whose networks continue to expand worldwide, financial speculation for the purpose of the monopoly looting, including the maximum advantage of state resources, are real and its existence needs no proof.

On the one hand, the number of millionaires is increasing daily, as are the profits of the monopolies and investment banks. On the other hand, the working masses and workers are growing constantly, but their working conditions are worsening and their poverty is deepening. These are also facts that do not need proof.

The regional wars and imperialist interventions are continuing; the contradictions and struggle for hegemony among the imperialist states are sharpening. One cannot say that the reactionary bourgeois and imperialist states only act outside their country, only through expansion, without recognizing the consolidation of the “home front”; the expansion of imperialism is also carried out through the exploitation of the working class in their own countries.

After the defeat of the workers’ movement and the demise of socialism, the world has become a place for bourgeois political relations, a completely reactionary world.

The norms of the so-called “welfare state” were considered unnecessary and rapidly “neoliberal” political measures were applied. The bourgeoisie, with its triumph over and disorganization of the workers’ movement, is carrying out an increasingly reactionary offensive in all countries.

Bourgeois democracy, whose duplicity and formal nature is undisputable on the issue of equality and freedom, has become even more reactionary with the “neoliberal process.”

Reaction is attacking all ideological, political, cultural, moral and legal spheres. The growth of conservatism together with medieval “values” is the defining feature of current development. Organizations such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, which have become strengthened under these circumstances, have become useful tools of the international bourgeoisie and imperialism.

Imperialism and financial capital support this reaction, particularly in its medieval form, and are making it into the fundamental basis of their hegemony. Even the capitalist countries where bourgeois democracy is relatively advanced are showing fascist trends and a police state. In recent times, there have been the lessons learned by events in Ukraine, which highlight the limits of bourgeois democracy.

In Ukraine, a center of conflicts between the imperialist powers, the developed capitalist countries that were considered the “cradle of advanced democracy” have no qualms about openly supporting neo-Nazi and fascist forces.

V

The struggle of the workers and peoples is the other side of the coin.

The anger and discontent, accumulated due to the cruelty of the socio-economic offensive of monopoly reaction, has provoked popular uprisings and mass struggles. The last years are filled with examples of popular movements that emerged in response to the offensive of reaction, of the international bourgeoisie and imperialism.

These popular demonstrations, strikes and massive protests, the uprisings and rebellions, although they have not yet managed to undermine the reaction of the bourgeoisie, show the prospects for development in the near future.

In the Middle East, divided by artificial borders by imperialism and its allies, which do not recognize the right of self-determination of the peoples, the “status” formulated one hundred years ago is disintegrating.

Syria, a country that has lost its territorial integrity, is seeking its future with the end of the civil war. Clearly, Iraq, a country that has never become firmly organized and integrated, influenced by the Syrian civil war, cannot continue as it has until today. The future of this country will be determined by the struggle of the Iraqi people of all faiths and nationalities, who have been dragged into conflicts and sectorial and ethnic divisions.

The future of Egypt is linked to the outcome of the struggle between the people and national and international reaction.

The Kurdish people have taken important steps to determine their own future, establishing democratic mandates in three cantons; joining with the nations of Rojava (Western Kurdistan).

The struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination and to organize themselves as a state is continuing despite the Israeli Zionist offensive.

Strikes and protests in Spain, South Africa, Portugal, Belgium, Italy and France, have emerged as new and dynamic subjects of the struggle.

In Tunisia, the struggle for rights and freedoms is growing and the Popular Front is being strengthened.

The people of Burkina Faso are carrying out a revolutionary struggle to take their future into their own hands, defeating one dictatorship after another.

In the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa, the peoples are fighting against religious reaction and the governments allied to imperialism.

In Turkey, the resistance of Gezi in June, in Taksim; in Brazil the protests against rising fares; in Chile the student demonstrations have increased the confidence of young people in themselves; they are demanding democracy and freedom.

The struggles that emerged in Latin America, particularly in Mexico, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, are being strengthened.

In the popular resistance and mobilizations that are taking place in these countries, the mass participation and attitude of resistance of the workers stands out. This also shows concretely the determining role of women in the advance of the struggle of the working class and peoples.

VI

Clearly these demonstrations, resistance and strikes are a source of hope in the struggle of the working class and peoples. However, the massive mobilizations of the workers and peoples also have the weakness of the lack of organization and consciousness, and on the vanguard level the participation of the working class as an independent class.

In recent years the popular demonstrations show that we have not yet overcome the disorganization caused by the defeat suffered by the working class.

Our immediate and concrete task is to change this situation. The disorganized demonstrations can not have a definitive success without a revolutionary program with independent demands, although they may achieve some advances over bourgeois reaction.

On this issue the responsibility belongs to our parties and our organizations. To increase our numbers among the workers and laboring people; to recognize the immediate democratic and economic demands and link the fight to the victory of the revolution and socialism; this is the only way. The objective conditions for socialism are more mature than ever; however, these demand in an unquestionable way the unity and organization of the working class and laboring people.

VII

Today, just as yesterday, the revolution necessitates strategic alliances. Class alliances built in action, that correspond to the practical political needs of the struggle, in various forms. The working class, the laboring and oppressed peoples, are advancing in their struggle to repel the attacks by building partial and temporary alliances. What is fundamental is to build these alliances around programs of struggle that include concrete and immediate demands of the working class and oppressed peoples. The present task of achieving unity, alliances, of building Popular Fronts, is inevitable, as were the united fronts against fascism in the past.

This is especially important in order to increase the political and ideological power of the working class and of our parties, and to create and develop popular organizations that advance the wheel of history.

VIII

There are countries in which the ideologues and spokespersons of the opportunist and revisionist parties and organizations invent “new” ideas and proclamations every day and try to distort the class struggle.

In Brazil, the social democratic government, in Spain Podemos [We Can], in Greece the “left” of Syriza, etc. are current examples. On the other hand, the “progressive” governments are becoming worn out, they are losing ground and prestige in Latin America.

Once again events show that reformism and liberalism have nothing to give the working class and the peoples.

Another mystification is the supposed progressive nature of Russian and Chinese imperialism as opposed to United States imperialism and its Western partners; this falls under its own weight, since their confrontations correspond to the preservation and expansion of their own interests. This is nothing more than embellishing bourgeois reaction and imperialist capitalism.

IX

The present events confirm that the class struggle is the motive force of history, that the working class is the fundamental force and the vanguard of the revolution and socialism.

That is why we call on the workers and peoples of all countries, on the youths, the progressive scientists and intellectuals of the world to unite and raise higher the fight against the international bourgeoisie, reaction and imperialism.

In this process, the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations will assume all its responsibilities and fulfill its necessary tasks.

ICMLPO, Turkey, November, 2014.

Communist Party of Benin
Revolutionary Communist Party – Brazil
Revolutionary Communist Party of Volta (Burkina Faso)
Communist Party of Colombia (Marxist-Leninist)
Workers’ Communist Party of Denmark
Communist Party of Labor of the Dominican Republic
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Ecuador
Communist Party of the Workers of France
Organization for the Construction of the Communist Workers’ Party of Germany
Movement for the Reorganization of the KKE (1918-1955) of Greece
Revolutionary Democracy Organization of India
Party of Labor of Iran (Toufan)
Communist Platform of Italy
Communist Party of Mexico (Marxist-Leninist)
Democratic Way of Morocco
Workers Front of Pakistan
Peruvian Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)
Communist Party of Spain (Marxist-Leninist)
Workers’ Party of Tunisia
Party of Labor of Turkey
Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Venezuela

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On the 100th anniversary of World War I

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The following entry is from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.

 – E.S.

World War I (1914–18) 

an imperialist war between two coalitions of capitalist powers for a redivision of the already divided world (a repartition of colonies, spheres of influence, and spheres for the investment of capital) and for the enslavement of other peoples. At first, the war involved eight European states: Germany and Austria-Hungary against Great Britain, France, Russia, Belgium, Serbia, and Montenegro. Later, most of the countries in the world entered the war (see Table 1). A total of four states fought on the side of the Austro-German bloc; 34 states, including four British dominions and the colony of India, all of which signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, took part on the side of the Entente. On both sides, the war was aggressive and unjust. Only in Belgium, Serbia, and Montenegro did it include elements of a war of national liberation.

Although imperialists from all the principal belligerent powers were involved in unleashing the war, the party chiefly to blame was the German bourgeoisie, who began World War I at the “moment it thought most favorable for war, making useof its latest improvements in military matériel and forestalling the rearmament already planned and decided upon by Russia and France” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 26, p. 16).

The immediate cause of World War I was the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, by Serbian nationalists on June 15 (28), 1914, in Sarajevo, Bosnia. German imperialists decided to take advantage of this favorable moment to unleash the war. Under German pressure, Austria-Hungary delivered an ultimatum to Serbia on July 10 (23). Although the Serbian government agreed to meet almost all of the demands in the ultimatum, Austria-Hungary broke diplomatic relations with Serbia on July 12 (25) and declared war on Serbia on July 15 (28). Belgrade, the Serbian capital, was shelled. On July 16 (29), Russia began mobilization in the military districts bordering on Austria-Hungary and on July 17 (30) proclaimed a general mobilization. On July 18 (31), Germany demanded that Russia halt its mobilization and, receiving no reply, declared war on Russia on July 19 (Aug. 1). Germany declared war on France and Belgium on July 21 (Aug. 3). On July 22 (Aug. 4), Great Britain declared war on Germany. The British dominions (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa) and Britain’s largest colony, India, entered the war on the same day. On Aug. 10 (23), Japan declared war on Germany. Italy formally remained a member of the Triple Alliance but declared its neutrality on July 20 (Aug. 2), 1914.

Causes of the war. At the turn of the 20th century capitalism was transformed into imperialism. The world had been almost completely divided up among the largest powers. The uneven-ness of the economic and political development of various countries became more marked. The states that had been late in embarking on the path of capitalist development (the USA, Germany, and Japan) advanced rapidly, competing successfully on the world market with the older capitalist countries (Great Britain and France) and persistently pressing for a repartition of the colonies. The most acute conflicts arose between Germany and Great Britain, whose interests clashed in many parts of the globe, especially in Africa, East Asia, and the Middle East, focal points of German imperialism’s trade and colonial expansion. The construction of the Baghdad Railroad aroused grave alarm in British ruling circles. The railroad would provide Germany with direct route through the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor to the Persian Gulf and guarantee Germany an important position in the Middle East, thus threatening British land and sea communications with India.

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France, rooted in the desire of German capitalists to secure permanent possession of Alsace and Lorraine, which had been taken from France as a result of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, and in the determination of the French to regain these provinces. French and German interests also clashed on the colonial issue. French attempts to seize Morocco met with determined resistance from Germany, which also claimed this territory.

Contradictions between Russia and Germany began to increase in the late 19th century. The expansion of German imperialism in the Middle East and its attempts to establish control over Turkey infringed on Russian economic, political, and strategic interests. Germany used its customs policy to limit the importation of grain from Russia, imposing high duties while simultaneously making sure that German industrial goods could freely penetrate the Russian market.

In the Balkans, there were profound contradictions between Russia and Austria-Hungary, caused primarily by the expansion of the Hapsburg monarchy, with Germany’s support, into the neighboring South Slav lands (Bosnia, Hercegovina, and Serbia). Austria-Hungary intended to establish its superiority in the Balkans. Russia, which supported the struggle of the Balkan peoples for freedom and national independence, considered the Balkans its own sphere of influence. The tsarist regime and the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie wanted to take over the Bosporus and Dardanelles to strengthen their position in the Balkans.

There were many disputed issues between Great Britain and France, Great Britain and Russia, Austria-Hungary and Italy, and Turkey and Italy, but they were secondary to the principal contradictions, which existed between Germany and its rivals— Great Britain, France, and Russia. The aggravation and deepening of these contradictions impelled the imperialists toward a repartition of the world, but “under capitalism, the repartitioning of ‘world domination’ could only take place at the price of a world war” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 34, p. 370).

The class struggle and the national liberation movement grew stronger during the second decade of the 20th century. The Revolution of 1905–07 in Russia had an enormous influence on the upsurge in the struggle of the toiling people for their social and national liberation. There was considerable growth in the working-class movement in Germany, France, and Great Britain. The class struggle reached its highest level in Russia, where a new revolutionary upsurge began in 1910 and an acute political crisis ripened. National liberation movements grew broader in Ireland and Alsace (the Zabern affair, 1913), and the struggle of the enslaved peoples of Austria-Hungary became more extensive. The imperialists sought to use war to suppress the developing liberation movement of the working class and oppressed peoples in their own countries and to arrest the world revolutionary process.

For many years the imperialists prepared for a world war as a means of resolving foreign and domestic contradictions. The initial step was the formation of a system of military-political blocs, beginning with the Austro-German Agreement of 1879, under which the signatories promised to render assistance to each other in case of war with Russia. Seeking support in its struggle with France for possession of Tunisia, Italy joined Austria-Hungary and Germany in 1882. Thus, the Triple Alliance of 1882, or the alliance of the Central Powers, took shape in central Europe. Initially directed against Russia and France, it later included Great Britain among its main rivals.

To counterbalance the Triple Alliance, another coalition of European powers began to develop. The Franco-Russian Alliance of 1891–93 provided for joint actions by the two countries in case of aggression by Germany or by Italy and Austria-Hungary supported by Germany. The growth of German economic power in the early 20th century forced Great Britain to gradually renounce its traditional policy of splendid isolation and seek rapprochement with France and Russia. The Anglo-French agreement of 1904 settled various colonial disputes between Great Britain and France, and the Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907 reinforced the understanding between Russia and Great Britain regarding their policies in Tibet,Afghanistan, and Iran. These documents created the Triple Entente (or agreement), a bloc opposed to the Triple Alliance and made up of Great Britain, France, and Russia. In 1912, Anglo-French and Franco-Russian naval conventions were signed, and in 1913 negotiations were opened for an Anglo-Russian naval convention.

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The formation of military-political groupings in Europe, as well as the arms race, further aggravated imperialist contradictions and increased international tensions. A relatively tranquil period of world history was followed by an epoch that was“much more violent, spasmodic, disastrous, and conflicting” (ibid., vol. 27, p. 94). The worsening of imperialist contradictions was evident in the Moroccan crises of 1905–06 and 1911, the Bosnian crisis of 1908–09, the Italo-Turkish War of 1911–12, and the Balkan Wars of 1912–13. In December 1913, Germany provoked a major international conflict by sending a military mission under the command of General O. Liman von Sanders to Turkey to reorganize and train the Turkish Army.

In preparation for a world war the ruling circles of the imperialist states established powerful war industries, based on large state plants: armaments, explosives, and ammunition plants, as well as shipyards. Private enterprises were drawn into the production of military goods: Krupp in Germany, Skoda in Austria-Hungary, Schneider-Creusot and St. Chamond in France, Vickers and Armstrong-Whitworth in Great Britain, and the Putilov Works and other plants in Russia.

The imperialists of the two hostile coalitions put a great deal of effort into building up their armed forces. The achievements of science and technology were placed in the service of war. More sophisticated armaments were developed, including rapid-fire magazine rifles and machine guns, which greatly increased the firepower of the infantry. In the artillery the number of rifled guns of the latest design increased sharply. Of great strategic importance was the development of the railroads, which made it possible to significantly speed up the concentration and deployment of large masses of troops in the theaters of operations and to provide an uninterrupted supply of personnel replacements and matériel to the armies in the field. Motor vehicle transport began to play an increasingly important role, and military aviation began to develop. The use of new means of communication in military affairs, including the telegraph, the telephone, and the radio,facilitated the organization of troop control. The size of armies and trained reserves grew rapidly. (See Table 2 for the composition of the ground forces of the principal warring powers.)

Germany and Great Britain were engaged in a stiff competition in naval armaments. The dreadnought, a new type of ship, was first built in 1905. By 1914 the German Navy was firmly established as the world’s second most powerful navy(after the British). Other countries endeavored to strengthen their navies, but it was not financially and economically possible for them to carry out the shipbuilding programs they had adopted. (See Table 3 for the composition of the naval forces of the principal warring powers.) The costly arms race demanded enormous financial means and placed a heavy burden on the toiling people.

WWIGraph4

There was extensive ideological preparation for war. The imperialists attempted to instill in the people the idea that armed conflicts are inevitable, and they tried their hardest to inculcate militarism in the people and incite chauvinism among them. To achieve these aims, all means of propaganda were used—the press, literature, the arts, and the church. Taking advantage of the patriotic feelings of the people, the bourgeoisie in every country justified the arms race and camouflaged aggressive objectives with false arguments on the need to defend the native land against foreign enemies.

The international working class (more than 150 million persons) was a real force capable of significantly restraining the imperialist governments. At the international level, the working-class movement was headed by the Second International,which united 41 Social Democratic parties from 27 countries, with 3.4 million members. However, the opportunist leaders of the European Social Democratic parties did nothing to implement the antiwar decisions of the prewar congresses of the Second International. When the war began, the leaders of the Social Democratic parties of the Western countries came to the support of their governments and voted for military credits in parliament. The socialist leaders of Great Britain (A. Henderson), France (J. Guesde, M. Sembat, and A. Thomas), and Belgium (E. Vandervelde) joined the bourgeois military governments. Ideologically and politically, the Second International collapsed and ceased to exist, breaking up into social chauvinist parties.

Only the left wing of the Second International, with the Bolshevik Party led by Lenin in the vanguard, continued to fight consistently against militarism, chauvinism, and war. The basic principles defining the attitude of revolutionary Marxists toward war were set forth by Lenin in the Manifesto of the Central Committee of the RSDLP, “War and Russian Social Democracy.” Firmly opposed to the war, the Bolsheviks explained its imperialist character to the popular masses. The Bolshevik faction of the Fourth State Duma refused to support the tsarist government and vote for war credits. The Bolshevik Party called on the toiling people of all countries to work for the defeat of their governments in the war, the transformation of the imperialist war into a civil war, and the revolutionary overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie and the landlords. A revolutionary, antiwar stance was adopted by the Bulgarian Workers’ Social Democratic Party (Narrow Socialists), headed by D. Blagoev, G. Dimitrov, and V. Kolarov, and by the Serbian and Rumanian Social Democratic parties. Active opposition to the imperialist war was also shown by a small group of left-wing Social Democrats in Germany, led by K. Liebknecht, R. Luxemburg, C. Zetkin, and F. Mehring; by a few socialists in France, led by J. Jaurès; and by some socialists in other countries.

War plans and strategic deployment. Long before the war began, the general staffs had worked out war plans. All strategic calculations were oriented toward a short, fast-moving war. The German strategic plan provided for rapid, decisive actions against France and Russia. It assumed that France would be crushed in six to eight weeks, after which all German forces would descend on Russia and bring the war to a victorious conclusion. The bulk of German troops (four-fifths) were deployed on the western border of Germany and were designated for the invasion of France. It was their mission to deliver the main attack with the right wing through Belgium and Luxembourg, turning the left flank of the French Army west of Paris and, throwing it back toward the German border, forcing it to surrender. A covering force (one army) was stationed in East Prussia to oppose Russia. The German military command figured that it would be able to crush France and transfer troops to the east before the Russian Army went over to the offensive. The main forces of the German Navy (the High Seas Fleet) were to be stationed at bases in the North Sea. Their mission was to weaken the British Navy with actions using light forces and submarines and then destroy the main British naval forces in a decisive battle. A few cruisers were detailed for operations in the British sea-lanes. In the Baltic Sea the German Navy’s mission was to prevent vigorous actions by the Russian Navy.

The Austro-Hungarian command planned military operations on two fronts: against Russia in Galicia and against Serbia and Montenegro in the Balkans. They did not exclude the possibility of forming a front against Italy, an unreliable member of the Triple Alliance that might go over to the Entente. Consequently, the Austro-Hungarian command drew up three variations of a war plan and divided their ground forces into three operational echelons (groups): group A (nine corps), which was designated for actions against Russia; the “minimum Balkan” group (three corps), which was directed against Serbia and Montenegro; and group B (four corps), the reserve of the supreme command, which could be used either to reinforce the other groups or to form a new front if Italy became an enemy.

The general staffs of Austria-Hungary and Germany maintained close contact with each other and coordinated their strategic plans. The Austro-Hungarian plan for the war against Russia provided for delivering the main attack from Galicia between the Vistula and Bug rivers and moving northeast to meet German forces, which were supposed to develop an offensive at the same time moving southeast from East Prussia toward Siedlce, with the objectives of surrounding and destroying the grouping of Russian troops in Poland. The mission of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, which was stationed in the Adriatic Sea, was to defend the coast.

The Russian General Staff worked out two variations of the war plan, both of which were offensive. Under Variation A, the main forces of the Russian Army would be deployed against Austria-Hungary. Variation G was directed against Germany, should it deliver the main attack on the Eastern Front. Variation A, which was actually carried out, planned converging attacks in Galicia and East Prussia, with the aim of destroying the enemy groupings. This phase of the plan would be followed by a general offensive into Germany and Austria-Hungary. Two detached armies were assigned to cover Petrograd and southern Russia. In addition, the Army of the Caucasus was formed in case Turkey entered the war on the side of the Central Powers. It was the mission of the Baltic Fleet to defend the sea approaches to Petrograd and prevent the German fleet from breaking through into the Gulf of Finland. The Black Sea Fleet did not have a ratified plan ofaction.

The French plan for the war against Germany (Plan XVII) envisioned going over to the offensive with the forces of the right wing of the armies in Lorraine and with the forces of the left wing against Metz. At first, the possibility of an invasion byGerman forces through Belgium was not taken into account, because Belgian neutrality had been guaranteed by the great powers, including Germany. However, a variation of Plan XVII ratified on Aug. 2, 1914, specified that in case of an offensive by German troops through Belgium, combat operations were to be developed on the left wing up to the line of the Meuse (Maas) River from Namur to Givet. The French plan reflected the lack of confidence of the French command,confronted with a struggle against a more powerful Germany. In fact, the plan made the actions of the French Army dependent on the actions of the German forces. The mission of the French fleet in the Mediterranean Sea was to ensure themovement of colonial troops from North Africa to France by blockading the Austro-Hungarian fleet in the Adriatic Sea. Part of the French fleet was assigned to defend the approaches to the English Channel.

Expecting that military operations on land would be waged by the armies of its allies, Russia and France, Great Britain did not draw up plans for operations by ground forces. It promised only to send an expeditionary corps to the continentto help the French. The navy was assigned active missions: to set up a long-range blockade of Germany on the North Sea, to ensure the security of sea-lanes, and to destroy the German fleet in a decisive battle.

The great powers carried out the strategic deployment of their armed forces in conformity with these plans. Germany moved seven armies (the First through Seventh, consisting of 86 infantry and ten cavalry divisions, with a total of about 1.6million men and about 5,000 guns) to the border with Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, along a 380-km front from Krefeld to Mulhouse. The main grouping of these forces (five armies) was located north of Metz on a 160-km front. The defense of the northern coast of Germany was assigned to the Northern Army (one reserve corps and four Landwehr brigades). The commander in chief was Kaiser Wilhelm II, and the chief of staff was General H. von Moltke the younger(from Sept. 14, 1914, E. Falkenhayn, and from Aug. 29, 1916, until the end of the war, Field Marshal General P. von Hindenburg).

The French armies (the First through Fifth, consisting of 76 infantry and ten cavalry divisions, with a total of about 1.73 million men and more than 4,000 guns), which were under the command of General J. J. C. Joffre, were deployed on front of approximately 345 km from Belfort to Hirson. (From December 1916, General R. Nivelle was commander in chief of the French armies, and from May 17, 1917, until the end of the war, General H. Pétain. On May 14, 1918, Marshal F. Foch became supreme commander of Allied forces.) The Belgian Army under the command of King Albert I (six infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of 117,000 men and 312 guns) occupied a line east of Brussels. The British Expeditionary Force under the command of Field Marshal J. French (four infantry divisions and 1.5 cavalry divisions, with a total of 87,000 men and 328 guns) was concentrated in the Maubeuge region next to the left flank of the grouping of French armies. (From December 1915 until the end of the war, the British Expeditionary Force was under the command of General D. Haig.) The main grouping of Allied forces was northwest of Verdun.

Against Russia, Germany placed the Eighth Army (14.5 infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of more than 200,000 men and 1,044 guns), under the command of General M. von Prittwitz und Gaffron, in East Prussia andGeneral R. von Woyrsch’s Landwehr corps in Silesia (two Landwehr divisions and 72 guns). Austria-Hungary had three armies (the First, Third, and Fourth) on a front from Czernowitz (now Chernovtsy) to Sandomierz. H. Kövess vonKövessháza’s army group (from August 23, the Second Army) was on the right flank, and Kummer’s army group was in the Kraków region (35.5 infantry divisions and 11 cavalry divisions, with about 850,000 men and 1,848 guns). Thesupreme commander in chief was Archduke Frederick. (Emperor Charles I became supreme commander in chief in November 1916.) The Austro-Hungarian chief of staff was Field Marshal General F. Conrad von Hötzendorf (from Feb. 28,1917, General Arz von Straussenburg).

Russia had six armies on its Western border (52 infantry divisions and 21 cavalry divisions, with a total of more than 1 million men and 3,203 guns). Two fronts were formed: the Northwestern Front (First and Second armies) and theSouthwestern Front (Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth armies). The Sixth Army was to defend the Baltic coast and cover Petrograd; the Seventh Army was to defend the northwest coast of the Black Sea and the boundary with Rumania. The divisions of the second strategic echelon and the Siberian divisions arrived at the front later, at the end of August and during September. On July 20 (August 2), Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich was appointed supreme commander in chief.(For a list of his successors, see SUPREME COMMANDER IN CHIEF.) The chiefs of staff of the supreme commander in chief were General N. N. Ianushkevich (July 19 [Aug. 1], 1914, to Aug. 18 [31], 1915) and General M. V. Alekseev (Aug. 18 [31],1915, to Nov. 10 [23], 1916; Feb. 17 [Mar. 2] to Mar. 11 [24], 1917; and Aug. 30 [Sept. 12] to Sept. 9 [22], 1917). At the end of 1916 and during 1917 the duties of chief of staff were temporarily carried out by Generals V. I. Romeiko-Gurko,V. N. Klembovskii, A. I. Denikin, A. S. Lukomskii, and N. N. Dukhonin. From Nov. 20 (Dec. 3), 1917, to Feb. 21, 1918, the chief of staff was M. D. Bonch-Bruevich, whose successors were S I. Kuleshin and M. M. Zagiu.

In the Balkans, Austria-Hungary set two armies against Serbia: the Fifth and Sixth armies, under the command of General O. Potiorek (13 infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of 140,000 men and 546 guns). Serbiadeployed four armies under the command of Voevoda R. Putnik (the First, Second, Third, and Fourth armies, consisting of 11 infantry divisions and one cavalry division, with a total of 250,000 men and 550 guns). Montenegro had six infantrydivisions (35,000 men and 60 guns).

The strategic deployment of the armed forces of both sides was basically completed by August 4–6 (17–19). Military operations took place in Europe, Asia, and Africa, on all the oceans, and on many seas. The principal operations tookplace in five theaters of ground operations: Western Europe (from 1914), Eastern Europe (from 1914), Italy (from 1915), the Balkans (from 1914), and the Middle East (from 1914). In addition, military operations were carried out in East Asia (Tsingtao, 1914), on the Pacific islands (Oceania), and in the German colonies in Africa, including German East Africa (until the end of the war), German Southwest Africa (until 1915), Togo (1914), and the Cameroons (until 1916).Throughout the war the chief theaters of ground operations were the Western European (French) and the Eastern European (Russian). Particularly important theaters of naval operations were the North, Mediterranean, Baltic, and Black seas and the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.

Campaign of 1914. In the Western European theater, military operations began with the invasion by German troops of Luxembourg (August 2) and Belgium (August 4), the latter having rejected a German ultimatum regarding the passage of German troops through its territory. Relying on the fortified areas of Liège and Namur, the Belgian Army offered the enemy stubborn resistance on the Meuse River line. Abandoning Liège after bitter fighting (August 16), the Belgian Army retreated toward Antwerp. Dispatching about two corps (80,000 men and 300 guns) against the Belgian Army, the German command directed the main grouping of its armies to the southwest, toward the Franco-Belgian border. The French armies of the left flank (the Third, Fourth, and Fifth armies) and the British Army were moved forward to meet the German forces. The Battle of the Frontiers took place on Aug. 21–25, 1914.

In view of the danger of the enemy turning the left flank of the Allied forces, the French command withdrew its armies deeper into the country to gain time to regroup its forces and prepare a counteroffensive. From August 7 to 14 the Frencharmies of the right flank (the First and Second armies) conducted an offensive in Alsace and Lorraine. But with the invasion by German forces of France through Belgium, the French offensive was brought to a halt, and both armies were drawn back to their initial positions. The main grouping of German armies continued its offensive along a southwest axis of advance toward Paris and, winning a series of local victories over the Entente armies at Le Cateau (August 26),Nesle and Proyart (August 28–29), and St. Quentin and Guise (August 29–30), reached the Marne River between Paris and Verdun by September 5. The French command completed the regrouping of its forces and, having formed two newarmies (the Sixth and the Ninth) from reserves, created a superiority of forces in this axis. In the battle of the Marne (Sept. 5–12, 1914), the German troops were defeated and forced to withdraw to the Aisne and Oise rivers, where they dug in and stopped the allied counteroffensive by September 16.

From September 16 to October 15, three operations by maneuver known as the Race to the Sea developed out of the attempts of each side to seize the “free space” west of the Oise and extending to the Pas-de-Calais, by enveloping the enemy’s open flanks on the north. The forces of both sides reached the coast west of Ostend. The Belgian Army, which had been forced to withdraw from Antwerp on October 8, occupied a sector on the left flank of the Allied armies. The battle in Flanders on the Yser and Ypres river (October 15 to November 20) did not change the overall situation. Attempts by the Germans to break through the Allied defense and take the ports on the Pas-de-Calais were unsuccessful.Having suffered considerable losses, both sides stopped active combat actions and dug in on the established lines. A static front was established from the Swiss border to the North Sea. In December 1914 it was 720 km long, with 650 km assigned to the French Army, 50 km to the British, and 20 km to the Belgians.

Military operations in the Eastern European theater began on August 4–7 (17–20), with the invasion of East Prussia by the inadequately prepared troops of the Russian Northwestern Front (commanded by General la. G. Zhilinskii; chief ofstaff, General V. A. Oranovskii). During the East Prussian Operation of 1914 the First Russian Army (General P. K. Rennenkampf, commander), advancing from the east, smashed units of the German I Corps near Stallüponen on August 4(17) and inflicted a defeat on the main forces of the German Eighth Army on August 7 (20) in the battle of Gumbinnen-Goldap. On August 7 (20) the Russian Second Army (commanded by General A. V. Samsonov) invaded East Prussia, delivering an attack on the flank and rear of the German Eighth Army. The commander of the Eighth Army decided to begin a withdrawal of forces from East Prussia beyond the Vistula, but the German supreme command, dissatisfied with this decision, ordered a change in command on August 10 (23), appointing General P. von Hindenburg commander and General E. Ludendorff chief of staff.

The offensive by Russian troops in East Prussia forced the German command to take two corps and one cavalry division from the Western Front and send them to the Eastern Front on August 13 (26). This was one of the causes of the defeat of German forces in the battle of the Marne. Taking advantage of the lack of cooperation between the First and Second armies and the mistakes of the Russian command, the enemy was able to inflict a heavy defeat on the Russian Second Army and then on the First Army and drive them out of East Prussia.

In the battle of Galicia (1914), which took place at the same time as the East Prussian Operation, the troops of the Russian Southwestern Front (commander in chief, General N. I. Ivanov; chief of staff, General M. V. Alekseev) inflicted amajor defeat on the Austro-Hungarian forces. They took L’vov on August 21 (September 3), laid seige to the Przemyśl fortress on September 8 (21), and, pursuing the enemy, reached the Wisłoka River and the foothills of the Carpathians by September 13 (26). A danger arose that Russian forces would invade the German province of Silesia. The German supreme command hurriedly transferred major forces from East Prussia to the region of Częstochowa and Kraków and formed a new army (the Ninth). The objective was to deliver a counter strike against Ivangorod (Dęblin) in the flank and rear of the troops of the Southwestern Front and thus to thwart the attack on Silesia that the Russian forces were preparing. Owing to a timely regrouping of forces carried out by Russian General Headquarters, in the Warsaw-Ivangorod Operation of 1914 the Russian armies stopped the advance of the German Ninth Army and the Austro-Hungarian First Army on Ivangorod by September 26 (October 9) and then repulsed the German attack on Warsaw. On October 5 (18), Russian forces went over to the counteroffensive and threw the enemy back to the initial line.

The Russian armies resumed preparations for an invasion of Germany. The German command moved the Ninth Army from the Częstochowa region to the north, having decided to deliver a blow at the right flank and rear of the Russian offensive grouping. In the Łódź Operation of 1914, which began on October 29 (November 11), the enemy succeeded in thwarting the Russian plan, but an attempt to surround the Russian Second and Fifth armies in the Łódź region failed, and German troops were forced to withdraw, suffering heavy losses. At the same time, Russian troops of the Southwestern Front inflicted a defeat on Austro-Hungarian forces in the Częstochowa-Kraków Operation and reached the approaches to Kraków and Częstochowa. Having exhausted their capabilities, both sides went over to the defensive. The Russian armies, which had experienced a critical shortage of ammunition, dug in on the line of the Bzura, Rawka, and Nida rivers.

In the Balkan theater of operations, Austro-Hungarian forces invaded Serbia on August 12. Defeated in a meeting engagement that began on August 16 in the region of Cer Mountain, by August 24 the Austro-Hungarian forces had been thrown back to their initial position beyond the Drina and Sava rivers. On September 7 they renewed the offensive. A shortage of artillery and ammunition forced the Serbs to withdraw on November 7 to the east of the Kolubara River, but after receiving supplies from Russia and France, they went over to the counteroffensive on December 3. By mid-December they had liberated their country from enemy forces. The two sides took up defensive positions on the river boundary lines.

At the end of 1914 hostilities began in the Middle Eastern theater of operations. On July 21 (August 3), Turkey declared its neutrality, waiting and preparing for a convenient moment to come out on the side of the Central Powers. Encouraging Turkey’s aggressive aspirations in the Caucasus, Germany sent the battle cruiser Göben and the light cruiser Breslau to the Black Sea at the war’s beginning (August 10), to support the Turkish Navy. On October 16 (29),Turkish and German ships unexpectedly shelled Odessa, Sevastopol’, Feodosia, and Novorossiisk. On October 20 (November 2), Russia declared war on Turkey, followed by Great Britain (November 5) and France (November 6). Turkey declared a “holy war” against the Entente powers on November 12.

Turkish ground forces consisted of about 800,000 men. The Turkish First, Second, and Fifth armies were deployed in the Straits region; the Third Army, in Turkish Armenia; the Fourth Army, in Syria and Palestine; and the Sixth Army, in Mesopotamia. Sultan Mehmed V was nominally the supreme commander in chief, but in fact the duties of this position were carried out by Enver Pasha, the minister of war. The chief of staff was a German general, W. Bronsart von Schellendorf. Russia moved its Army of the Caucasus to the Turkish border (commander in chief, General I. I. Vorontsov-Dashkov; deputy commander in chief, General A. Z. Myshlaevskii; 170,000 men and 350 guns). In the second half of October (early November) clashes took place in the Erzurum axis. On October 25 (November 7) the Russians seized fortified positions near Köprüköy (50 km north of Erzurum). However, under pressure from the superior forces of the enemy, the Russians withdrew to their initial positions by November 26 (December 9). The Turkish Third Army went over to the offensive on December 9 (22), but during the Sankamuş Operation of 1914–15 it was routed. On November 10 British expeditionary corps landed at the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, forming the Mesopotamian Front. On November 22 the British took Basra, which had been abandoned by the Turks. The British captured al-Qurnah on December 9 and established a firm position in southern Mesopotamia.

Germany was unsuccessful in combat operations in Africa, the Far East, and the Pacific Ocean, losing most of its colonies during a single military campaign. In 1914, Japan seized the Caroline, Mariana, and Marshall islands in the Pacific Ocean as well as Tsingtao, a German naval base in China. The Australians seized the German part of New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, and New Zealand captured the Samoan Islands. Anglo-French forces occupied the German colonies in Africa: Togo in August 1914, the Cameroons in January 1916, Southwest Africa by July 1915, and East Africa by late 1917. (Until the end of the war, German forces continued to conduct partisan actions in the Portuguese colony of Mozambique and the British colony of Southern Rhodesia.)

Naval operations were of a limited character in 1914. On August 28 there was a battle between light forces of the British and German fleets in the North Sea near the island of Helgoland. On November 5 (18) a Russian squadron waged battle against the German ships Göben and Breslau near Cape Sarych in the Black Sea (50 km southeast of Sevastopol’). Damaged, the German ships retreated. The German command attempted to step up the actions of its fleet in British sea-lanes in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. In the battle of Coronel (Nov. 1, 1914), Admiral M. von Spee’s German squadron (five cruisers) defeated Rear Admiral C. Cradock’s British squadron, but on December 8, Admiral von Spee’s squadron was destroyed by Admiral F. Sturdee’s British squadron near the Falkland Islands. By the beginning of November, three additional German cruisers operating in the Atlantic and Pacific had been sunk.

The campaign of 1914 did not produce decisive results for either side. In France both sides went over to a static defense. Elements of trench warfare also emerged in the Eastern European theater of operations. Military operations demonstrated that the general staffs had been mistaken in their prewar predictions that the war would be short. Stockpiles of armaments and ammunition were used up during the very first operations. At the same time, it became clear that the war would be long and that emergency measures must be taken to mobilize industry and to develop the production of arms and ammunition.

Campaign of 1915. The Anglo-French command decided to go over to a strategic defensive in the Western European theater of operations, in order to gain time to stockpile matériel and train reserves. In the campaign of 1915 the main burden of armed struggle was shifted onto Russia. At the demand of the Allies the Russian command planned simultaneous offensives against Germany (in East Prussia) and Austria-Hungary (in the Carpathians). The prospect of protracted war did not please the German high command, which knew that Germany and its allies could not withstand a lengthy struggle with the Entente powers, who possessed superiority in manpower reserves and material resources.Therefore, the German plan for the campaign of 1915 was an offensive plan that counted on rapidly achieving victory. Lacking sufficient forces to conduct offensives simultaneously in the East and the West, the German command decided to concentrate its main efforts on the Eastern Front, with the objectives of crushing Russia and forcing it to leave the war. A defensive posture was planned for the Western Front.

Russia had 104 divisions against the 74 divisions of the Central Powers (36 German and 38 Austro-Hungarian divisions). Attempting to forestall the offensive prepared by the Russians, between January 25 (February 7) and February 13 (26) the German command undertook the Augustów Operation of 1915 in East Prussia. However, they did not attain their objective of surrounding the Tenth Army of the Russian Northwestern Front. In February and March Russian command used the forces of the Tenth, Twelfth, and First armies to carry out the Przasnysz Operation, during which the enemy was thrown back to the borders of East Prussia. On the southern wing of the Eastern Front, the command of the Russian Southwestern Front carried out the Carpathian Operation of 1915. Beseiged by Russian troops, the 120,000-strong Przemyśl garrison surrendered on March 9 (22). Heavy but indecisive fighting continued in the Carpathians until April 20.Experiencing a critical shortage of weapons and ammunition, the Russian forces brought a halt to their active operations in April 1915.

By the summer of 1915 the German command had formed the Eleventh Army with troops transferred from the Western Front to Galicia. The German Eleventh Army and the Austro-Hungarian Fourth Army, under the overall command of the German general A. von Mackensen, went over to the offensive on April 19 (May 2). With an enormous superiority in forces and means (especially in artillery), the enemy broke through the defense of the Russian Third Army near Görlitz. The Görlitz breakthrough of 1915 led to a deep withdrawal of the forces of the Southwestern Front, which left Galicia in May and June.

At the same time, German troops were advancing in the Baltic region. On April 24 (May 7) they took Libau (Liepāja) and reached Shavli (Ŝiauliai) and Kovno (Kaunas). In July the German command attempted to break through the defense of the Russian First Army with an attack of the newly formed Twelfth Army in the Przasnysz region. The Twelfth Army, in cooperation with the Austro-Hungarian Fourth and German Eleventh armies, which were advancing from Galicia toward the northeast, was to surround the main groupings of the Russian forces, which were in Poland. The German plan was unsuccessful, but the Russian troops were forced to withdraw from Poland.

In the Vil’na Operation of August 1915 the Germans attempted to surround the Russian Tenth Army in the Vil’na (Vilnius) region. On August 27 (September 9) the enemy managed to break through the Russian defense and gain the rear of the Tenth Army. However, the Russian command stopped the enemy breakthrough. In October 1915 the front stabilized on the line of Riga, the Zapadnaia Dvina River, Dvinsk, Smorgon’, Baranovichi, Dubno, and the Strypa River. The German command had failed in its plan to force Russia to leave the war in 1915.

At the beginning of 1915 there were 75 French, 11 British, and six Belgian divisions opposing 82 German divisions in the Western European theater of operations. The number of British divisions increased to 31 in September and 37 in December. Planning no major operations, both sides conducted only local battles in this theater of military operations during the campaign of 1915. On April 22 at Ypres the German command became the first to use chemical weapons(chlorine gas) on the Western Front: 15,000 persons were poisoned. The German troops advanced 6 km. In May and June the Allies launched an offensive in Artois. Carried out with insufficient forces, it did not influence the course of combat operations on the Russian Front.

On July 7 the Interallied War Council was formed in Chantilly, to coordinate the strategic efforts of the Entente powers. To assist Russia, the council decided to undertake an offensive on the Western Front, with the objective of drawing considerable German forces away from the Eastern Front. However, offensive operations were carried out only from September 25 to October 6 in Champagne and Artois. At this time active military operations had in fact ceased on the Russian Front. Moreover, the Allied forces were unable to break through the strong enemy defense.

In the Middle Eastern theater of operations Russian forces conducted the most active military operations. In the Alashgerd Operation they cleared the enemy from the area around Lakes Van and Urmia. The increasing activity of German and Turkish agents in Iran forced the Russian command to send troops into the northern part of that country. General N. N. Baratov’s Caucasus Expeditionary Corps (about 8,000 men and 20 guns) was transferred from Tiflis to Baku and transported over the Caspian Sea to the Iranian port of Enzeli (Bandar-e Pahlavi), where it landed on October 17 (30). In November the corps occupied the city of Qazvin, and on December 3 (16) it took the city of Hamadan. Attempts by Germany and Turkey to strengthen their influence in Iran and draw it into the war against Russia were thwarted. The Caucasian Front (commander in chief, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich), which united all the Russian forces operating in the Middle Eastern theater, was formed in October 1915.

On the Mesopotamian Front, British troops under the command of General C. Townshend moved slowly toward Baghdad in September 1915, but on November 22 they were attacked and routed by the Turks, 35 km from the city, and on December 7 they were beseiged in Kut al-Amarah. The Russian command offered to organize coordinated actions between the British forces and the forces of the Caucasian Front, but the British command refused the offer, because it did not want Russian forces to enter the oil-rich Mosul region. At the end of 1915 the British corps in Mesopotamia was replenished and converted into an expeditionary army. On the Syrian Front the Turkish Fourth Army attempted to take the Suez Canal, by attacking Egypt from Palestine, but the Turks were driven back by two Anglo-Indian divisions. The Turks took up a defensive position in the al-Arish region.

In 1915 the Entente succeeded in drawing Italy into the war on its side. The vacillation of the Italian government was ended by the promises of the Entente powers to give greater satisfaction to Italy’s territorial claims than had been offered by Germany. On Apr. 26, 1915, the Treaty of London was signed. On May 23, 1915, Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary, but it did not declare war against Germany until Aug. 28, 1916. The Italian Army (commander in chief, King Victor Emmanuel III; chief of staff, General L. Cadorna) had 35 divisions, with a total of about 870,000 men and 1,700 guns. On May 24, Italian forces began military operations on two axes: against Trent and simultaneously toward the Isonzo River with the mission of reaching Trieste. The Italians failed on both axes. By June 1915 military operations in the Italian theater had already assumed a static character. Four attacks by Italian forces on the Isonzo River ended in collapse.

In the Balkan theater of operations the position of the Allies became more complicated in October 1915, when Bulgaria entered the war on the side of the Central Powers (the Bulgarian-German Treaty of 1915 and the Bulgarian-Turkish Treaty of 1915). On September 8 (21), Bulgaria proclaimed a mobilization of its army (12 divisions, about 500,000 men). In late September (early October), 14 German and Austro-Hungarian divisions and six Bulgarian divisions under the overall command of Field Marshal General von Mackensen were deployed against Serbia. The Serbs had 12 divisions. To assist Serbia, Great Britain and France, under an agreement with Greece, began on September 22 (October 5) to land an expeditionary corps at Salonika (Thessaloniki) and move it toward the border between Greece and Serbia. On September 24 (October 7) the Austro-German and Bulgarian forces launched a converging offensive against Serbia from the north, west, and east. For two months the Serbian Army courageously repulsed the onslaught of the superior forces of the enemy, but it was compelled to withdraw through the mountains to Albania. Approximately 140,000 men were transported by the Entente fleet from Durrës (Durazzo) to the Greek island of Corfu (Kerkira). The Anglo-French expeditionary corps retreated to the Salonika region, where the Salonika Front was formed in late 1915. The occupation of Serbia secured for the Central Powers the opportunity to establish direct rail communication with Turkey, making it possible to provide Turkey with military assistance.

During 1915 the German Navy continued its attempts to weaken the fleets of its enemies and to undermine the supply of Great Britain by sea. On January 24 a battle took place between British and German squadrons at Dogger Bank (North Sea). Neither side attained success. On Feb. 18, 1915, Germany declared that it was initiating “unrestricted submarine warfare.” The sinking of the passenger steamers Lusitania (May 7) and Arabic (August 19) evoked protests from the USA and other neutral countries, forcing the German government to limit its submarine warfare to actions against warships.

In February 1915 the Anglo-French command began to carry out a naval operation, the Gallipoli Expedition (the Dardanelles Operation of 1915), attempting to use naval forces to cross the Dardanelles, break through to Constantinople, and put Turkey out of the war. The breakthrough failed. In April 1915 a major landing party was set down on the Gallipoli Peninsula, but Turkish forces offered stiff resistance. In December 1915 and January 1916 the Allied command was forced to evacuate the landing forces, which were transferred to the Salonika Front. During the preparation for and execution of the Gallipoli Expedition, there was a bitter diplomatic struggle among the Allies. The expedition was undertaken under the pretext of assisting Russia. In March-April 1915, Great Britain and France had reached an agreement with Russia, under which Constantinople and the Straits would be handed over to Russia after the war, on the condition that the latter did not interfere in the partitioning of Asiatic Turkey. In reality, the Allies intended to capture the Straits and deny Russia access to them. Anglo-French talks on the partitioning of Asiatic Turkey concluded with the signing of the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. In August the German Navy undertook the Moonsund Operation of 1915, which was a failure. The Russian Black Sea Fleet continued to operate in Turkish sea-lanes. On April 21 (May 2), during the Gallipoli Expedition, it shelled the fortifications on the Bosporus.

The campaign of 1915 did not fulfill the hopes of either of the hostile coalitions, but its outcome was more favorable for the Entente. The German command, again failing to solve the problem of crushing its enemies one by one, faced the necessity of continuing a long war on two fronts. The chief burden of the struggle in 1915 was borne by Russia, giving France and Great Britain time to mobilize their economies to meet war needs. Russia also began to mobilize its industry. In 1915 the Russian Front grew more important: in the summer, 107 Austro-German divisions, or 54 percent of all the forces of the Central Powers, were stationed there, as compared to 52 divisions (33 percent) at the beginning of the war.

The war placed a heavy burden on the toiling people. Gradually freeing themselves of the chauvinistic attitudes that had been widespread at the beginning of the war, the popular masses became more and more resolutely opposed to the imperialist slaughter. Antiwar demonstrations took place in 1915, and the strike movement in the warring countries began to grow. This process developed with particular speed and violence in Russia, where conditions were greatly exacerbated by military defeats, and a revolutionary situation developed in the autumn of 1915. At the fronts, there were cases of fraternization among soldiers from hostile armies. The propaganda of the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, and the left groups of European socialists and Social Democratic parties helped arouse the masses to revolutionary activity. In Germany the International Group was formed in the spring of 1915 under the leadership of K. Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg. (From 1916 the group was known as the Spartacus League.) The Zimmerwald Conference (Sept. 5–8, 1915), an international socialist conference of great importance for the consolidation of revolutionary antiwar forces, adopted a manifesto that signified “a step toward an ideological and practical break with opportunism and social chauvinism” (Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 27, p. 38).

Campaign of 1916. By the beginning of 1916 the Central Powers, having expended enormous efforts in the first two campaigns, had considerably depleted their resources but had been unable to force France or Russia to leave the war. The Entente raised the number of its divisions to 365, as against the 286 divisions of the German bloc.

The 1916 operations by the armies of the Central Powers were based on General von Falkenhayn’s plan, according to which the main efforts were again to be directed against France. The main attack was to be delivered in the Verdun region, which was of great operational importance. A breakthrough on this axis would threaten the entire northern wing of the Allied armies. The German plan called for active operations at the same time in the Italian theater, using the forces of the Austro-Hungarian armies. In the Eastern European theater of operations, the Germans decided to limit operations to a strategic defensive. The fundamentals of the Entente’s plan for the 1916 campaign were adopted at a conference in Chantilly (France) on Dec. 6–9, 1915. Offensives were planned for the Eastern European, Western European, and Italian theaters of operations. The Russian Army was to be the first to launch offensive operations, followed by the Anglo-French and Italian forces. The Allies’ strategic plan was the first attempt to coordinate troop operations on different fronts.

The Entente plan did not provide for going over to a general offensive until the summer of 1916. This ensured that the German command would keep the strategic initiative, a factor which it decided to use to its advantage. The Germans had 105 divisions on a front 680 km long in the Western European theater of operations. They were opposed by 139 Allied divisions (95 French, 38 British, and six Belgian divisions). On February 21 the German command began the Verdun Operation of 1916, without an overall superiority in forces. Bitter combat, during which both sides suffered heavy losses, continued until December. The Germans expended enormous efforts but were unable to break through the defense.

In the Italian theater of operations the command of the Italian Army launched its fifth unsuccessful offensive on the Isonzo River in March 1916. On May 15, Austro-Hungarian forces (18 divisions and 2,000 guns) delivered a counter blow in the Trentino region. The Italian First Army (16 divisions and 623 guns), unable to hold back the enemy onslaught, began to withdraw to the south. Italy requested emergency assistance from its allies.

Operations in the Eastern European theater, where 128 Russian divisions were deployed against 87 Austro-German divisions along a front 1,200 km long, were particularly important in the campaign of 1916. The Naroch (Narocz) Operation,which was carried out on March 5–17 (18–30), forced the Germans temporarily to weaken their attacks on Verdun. The Russian offensive on the Southwestern Front (commander in chief, General A. A. Brusilov), which began on May 22 (June 4), was of great importance. The Russians broke through the defense of the Austro-German forces to a depth of 80–120 km. The enemy suffered heavy losses (more than 1 million killed and wounded and more than 400,000 taken prisoner). The command of the Central Powers were forced to move 11 German divisions from France and six Austro-Hungarian divisions from Italy to the Russian Front.

The Russian offensive saved the Italian Army from destruction, eased the situation of the French at Verdun, and hastened Rumania’s entry into the war on the side of the Entente. Rumania declared war on Austria-Hungary on August 14(27), on Germany on August 15 (28), on Turkey on August 17 (30), and on Bulgaria on August 19 (September 1). The Rumanian armed forces consisted of four armies (23 infantry and two cavalry divisions; 250,000 men). The Russian 47th Army Corps was moved across the Danube to the Dobruja region to assist the Rumanian forces. With Russian support, Rumanian forces launched an offensive in Transylvania on August 20 (September 2) and later in the Dobruja region, but they did not attain success. The Austro-German command concentrated General von Falkenhayn’s army group in Transylvania (the German Ninth Army and the Austro-Hungarian First Army, with a total of 26 infantry and seven cavalry divisions) and Field Marshal General von Mackensen’s German Danube Army in Bulgaria (nine infantry and two cavalry divisions). On September 13 (26) both groups, under the overall command of General von Falkenhayn, went over to the offensive at the same time. The Rumanian Army was routed.

On November 22 (December 6), German forces entered Bucharest, which the Rumanians abandoned without a fight. The Russian command moved in 35 infantry and 13 cavalry divisions to assist Rumania. Russia had to form a new Rumanian front. By the end of 1916, its forces had stopped the advance of the Austro-German armies on the line between Focşani and the mouth of the Danube. The formation of the Rumanian Front increased the total length of the front line by 500 km and diverted about a fourth of Russia’s armed forces, thereby worsening the strategic position of the Russian Army.

After lengthy preparation, Anglo-French forces opened a major offensive on the Somme River on July 1, but it developed very slowly. Tanks were used for the first time on September 15 by the British. The Allies continued the offensive until mid-November, but despite enormous losses, they advanced only 5–15 km and failed to break through the German static front.

In the Middle Eastern theater of operations the forces of the Russian Caucasian Front successfully carried out the Erzurum Operation of 1916, the Trabzon Operation of 1916, and the Erzincan and Oğnut operations, taking the cities ofErzurum, Trabzon, and Erzincan. General N. N. Baratov’s I Caucasus Cavalry Corps launched an offensive on the Mosul and Baghdad axes, with the objective of assisting the British, who were beseiged at Kut al-Amarah. In February the corps took Kermanshah, and in May it reached the Turkish-Iranian border. With the surrender of the garrison at Kut al-Amarah on Apr. 28, 1916, the Russian corps brought a halt to its advance and took up a defensive position east of Kermanshah.

In naval operations, the British fleet continued its long-range blockade of Germany. German submarines were active on the sea-lanes. The system of minefields was improved. The battle of Jutland (1916) was the war’s only major naval battle between the main forces of the British Navy (Admiral J. Jellicoe) and the German Navy (Admiral R. Scheer). The battle involved 250 surface ships, including 58 capital ships (battleships and battle cruisers). As a result of its superiority in forces, the British fleet was victorious, even though it suffered greater losses than the German fleet. The defeat shattered the German command’s belief that it was possible to break through the British blockade. The Russian Black Sea Fleet continued its actions on enemy sea-lanes, blockading the Bosporus from August 1916.

The campaign of 1916 did not result in the achievement of the objectives set at the beginning by either coalition, but the superiority of the Entente over the Central Powers became evident. The strategic initiative passed fully to the Entente, and Germany was forced to go over to the defensive on all fronts.

The bloody battles of 1916, which involved enormous human sacrifices and great expenditures of matériel, were depleting the resources of the belligerent powers. The situation of the working people continued to worsen, but the revolutionary movement also continued to grow stronger in 1916. The Kienthal Conference of internationalists (Apr. 24–30, 1916) played an important role in increasing solidarity among revolutionary forces. The revolutionary movement developed with particular speed and turbulence in Russia, where the war had finally revealed to the popular masses the complete decadence of tsarism. A powerful wave of strikes swept over the country, led by the Bolsheviks under the slogans of struggle against the war and the autocracy. The Middle Asian Uprising, a national liberation movement, took place from July to October 1916. In the autumn a revolutionary situation took shape in Russia. The inability of tsarism to win the war aroused discontent among the Russian imperialist bourgeoisie, who began to prepare a palace revolution. The revolutionary movement grew stronger in other countries. The Irish Rebellion, or Easter Rising (Apr. 24–30, 1916), was harshly suppressed by British troops. On May 1, K. Liebknecht led a massive antiwar demonstration in Berlin. The growing revolutionary crisis forced the imperialists to direct their efforts toward quickly ending the war. In 1916, Germany and tsarist Russia attempted to open separate peace negotiations.

Campaign of 1917. As the campaign of 1917 was prepared and carried out, the revolutionary movement grew considerably stronger in every country. Protest against the war with its enormous losses, against the sharp decline in the standard of living, and against the increasing exploitation of the working people became stronger among the popular masses at the front and in the rear. The revolutionary events in Russia had a tremendous effect on the subsequent course of the war.

By the beginning of the campaign of 1917, the Entente had 425 divisions (21 million men), and the Central Powers, 331 divisions (10 million men). In April 1917 the USA entered the war on the side of the Entente. The fundamental principles of the plan for the campaign of 1917 were adopted by the Allies at the third conference in Chantilly on Nov. 15–16, 1916, and were made more specific in February 1917 at a conference in Petrograd. The plan provided for limited operations on all fronts early in the year, to hold the strategic initiative. In the summer the Allies were to go over to a general offensive in the Western European and Eastern European theaters of operations, with the objective of finally crushing Germany and Austria-Hungary. The German command rejected offensive operations on land and decided to focus its attention on waging “unrestricted submarine warfare,” believing that it could disrupt the British economy in six months and force Great Britain out of the war. On Feb. 1, 1917, Germany declared “unrestricted submarine warfare” on Great Britain for the second time. Between February and April 1917, German submarines destroyed more than 1,000 merchant ships of the Allied and neutral countries (a total of 1,752,000 tons). By mid-1917, Great Britain, which had lost merchant ships amounting to approximately 3 million tons, found itself in a difficult situation. It could only make up for 15 percent of the losses, and this was not enough to sustain the export and import traffic essential to the country. By the end of 1917, however, after the organization of a reinforced defense of the sea-lanes and the development of various means of antisubmarine defense, the Entente managed to reduce its merchant ship losses. “Unrestricted submarine warfare” did not fulfill the hopes of the German command. Meanwhile, the continuing British blockade was starving Germany.

In executing the general plan for the campaign, the Russian command carried out the Mitau Operation on Dec. 23–29, 1916 (Jan. 5–11, 1917), with the objective of diverting part of the enemy forces from the Western European theater of operations. On February 27 (March 12) a bourgeois democratic revolution took place in Russia (the February Bourgeois Democratic Revolution of 1917). Under the leadership of the Bolsheviks, the proletariat, demanding peace, bread, and freedom, led the majority of the army, which was made up of workers and peasants, in the overthrow of the autocracy. However, the bourgeois Provisional Government came to power. Expressing the interests of Russian imperialism, it continued the war. Deceiving the masses of soldiers with false promises of peace, it opened an offensive operation with the troops of the Southwestern Front. The operation ended in failure (the June Operation of 1917).

By the summer of 1917 the combat capability of the Rumanian Army had been restored with Russian assistance, and in the battle of Mărăşeşti (July-August) Russian and Rumanian forces repulsed the German forces, which were attempting to break through to the Ukraine. On August 19–24 (September 1–6), during the Riga defensive operation, Russian troops surrendered Riga. The revolutionary sailors of the Baltic Fleet heroically defended the Moonsund Archipelago in the Moonsund Operation of Sept. 29 (Oct. 12)-Oct. 6 (19), 1917. These were the last operations on the Russian Front.

The Great October Socialist Revolution took place on Oct. 25 (Nov. 7), 1917. The proletariat, in alliance with the poorest peasants and under the leadership of the Communist Party, overthrew the power of the bourgeoisie and the landlords and opened the era of socialism. Carrying out the will of the people, the Soviet government addressed a proposal to all the warring powers, calling for the conclusion of a just democratic peace without annexations and reparations (the decree on peace). When the Entente powers and the USA refused to accept the proposal, the Soviet government was forced to conclude an armistice with the German coalition on December 2(15) and begin peace negotiations without the participation of Russia’s former allies. On November 26 (December 9), Rumania concluded the Focşani armistice with Germany and Austria-Hungary.

In the Italian theater of operations there were 57 Italian divisions opposing 27 Austro-Hungarian divisions in April 1917. Despite the numerical superiority of the Italian forces, the Italian command was unable to attain success. Three more offensives against the Isonzo River failed. On October 24, Austro-Hungarian troops went over to the offensive in the Caporetto region, broke through the Italians’ defense, and inflicted a major defeat on them. Without the assistance of 11 British and French divisions transferred to the Italian theater of operations, it would not have been possible to stop the advance of the Austro-Hungarian forces at the Piave River in late November. In the Middle Eastern theater of operations British troops advanced successfully in Mesopotamia and Syria. They took Baghdad on March 11 and Be’er Sheva’ (Beersheba), Gaza, Jaffa, and Jerusalem in late 1917.

The Entente plan of operations in France, which was developed by General Nivelle, called for delivering the main attack on the Aisne River between Reims and Soissons, in order to break through the enemy defense and surround the German forces in the Noyon salient. Learning of the French plan, by March 17 the German command withdrew its forces 30 km to a previously prepared line known as the Siegfried Line. Subsequently, the French command decided to begin the offensive on a broad front, committing to action major forces and means: six French and three British armies (90 infantry and ten cavalry divisions), more than 11,000 guns and mortars, 200 tanks, and about 1,000 airplanes.

The Allied offensive began on April 9 in the Arras region, on April 12 near St. Quentin, and on April 16 in the Reims region and continued until April 20–28 and May 5 on some axes. The April offensive (the “Nivelle slaughter”) ended incomplete failure. Although about 200,000 men had been lost, the Allied forces had not been able to break through the front. Mutinies broke out in the French Army, but they were cruelly suppressed. A Russian brigade that had been in France since 1916 took part in the offensive on the Aisne River. In the second half of 1917, Anglo-French forces carried out a number of local operations: Messines (June 7-August 30), Ypres (July 31-November 6), Verdun (August 20–27),and Malmaison (October 23–26). At Cambrai (November 20-December 6) massed tanks were used for the first time.

The campaign of 1917 did not produce the results anticipated by either side. The revolution in Russia and the lack of coordinated action by the Allies thwarted the Entente’s strategic plan, which had been intended to crush the Austro-Hungarian bloc. Germany succeeded in repulsing the enemy attacks, but its hope of attaining victory by means of “unrestricted submarine warfare” proved vain, and the troops of the coalition of Central Powers were forced to go over to the defensive.

Campaign of 1918. By early 1918 the military and political situation had changed fundamentally. After the October Revolution Soviet Russia quit the war. Under the influence of the Russian Revolution, a revolutionary crisis was ripening in the other warring powers. The Entente countries (excluding Russia) had 274 divisions at the beginning of 1918—that is, forces approximately equal to those of the German bloc, which had 275 divisions (not counting 86 divisions in the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and the Baltic region and nine divisions in the Caucasus). The military and economic situation of the Entente was stronger than that of the German bloc. However, the Allied command believed that even more powerful human and material resources would have to be prepared, with the assistance of the USA, in order to finally crush Germany.

Strategic defensives were planned for all theaters of military operations in the campaign of 1918. The decisive offensive against Germany was postponed until 1919. Their resources running out, the Central Powers were eager to end the war as quickly as possible. Having concluded the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Soviet Russia on Mar. 3, 1918, the German command decided in March to go over to the offensive on the Western Front to crush the Entente armies. At the same time, German and Austro-Hungarian forces, in violation of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, began occupying the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and the Baltic region. Rumania was drawn into the anti-Soviet intervention after May 7, when it signed the Bucharest Peace Treaty of 1918, the terms of which were dictated by the Central Powers.

On March 21 the German command began a major offensive operation on the Western Front (the March Offensive in Picardy). Their intention was to cut off the British forces from the French forces by means of an attack on Amiens, then crush them and reach the sea. The Germans made sure that they would have superiority in forces and means (62 divisions, 6,824 guns, and about 1,000 airplanes against 32 divisions, about 3,000 guns, and about 500 airplanes for the British). The German forces broke through the Allied defense to a depth of 60 km. The Allied command eliminated the breakthrough by bringing reserves into the battle. The German forces suffered heavy losses (about 230,000 men) but did not achieve their assigned objective. Going over to the offensive again on April 9 in Flanders on the Lys River, the German forces advanced 18 km, but by April 14 the Allies stopped them.

On May 27 the German armies delivered an attack north of Reims (the battle of the Chemin des Dames). They managed to cross the Aisne River and penetrate the Allied defense to a depth of about 60 km, reaching the Marne in the Château-Thierry region by May 30. Having arrived within 70 km of Paris, the German forces were unable to overcome French resistance, and on June 4 they went over to the defensive. The attempt of German troops from June 9 to 13 to advance between Montdidier and Noyon was equally unsuccessful.

On July 15 the German command made a final attempt to defeat the Allied armies by opening a major offensive on the Marne. The battle of the Marne of 1918 (the second battle of the Marne) did not fulfill the Germans’ hopes. After crossing the Marne, they were unable to advance more than 6 km. On July 18, Allied forces delivered a counterattack; by August 4 they had driven the enemy back to the Aisne and the Vesle. In four months of offensive operations the German command had completely exhausted its reserves but had been unable to crush the Entente armies.

The Allies took firm control of the strategic initiative. On August 8–13 the Anglo-French armies inflicted a major defeat on the German forces in the Amiens Operation of 1918, making them withdraw to the line from which their March offensive had begun. Ludendorff referred to August 8 as “the black day of the German Army.” On September 12–15 the American First Army, commanded by General J. Pershing, won a victory over German forces at St. Mihiel (the St. Mihiel Operation). On September 26, Allied forces (202 divisions against 187 weakened German divisions) began a general offensive along the entire 420-km front from Verdun to the sea and broke through the German defense.

In the other theaters of military operations the campaign of 1918 ended with the defeat of Germany’s allies. The Entente had 56 divisions, including 50 Italian divisions, in the Italian theater of operations, as well as more than 7,040 guns and more than 670 airplanes. Austria-Hungary had 60 divisions, 7,500 guns, and 580 airplanes. On June 15 the Austro-Hungarian forces, going over to the offensive south of Trent, broke through the enemy defense and advanced 3–4 km, but on June 20–26 they were thrown back to the starting line by counterattack by Allied forces. On October 24 the Italian Army went over to the offensive against the Piave River, but it made only an insignificant advance. On October 28 units of the Austro-Hungarian Fifth and Sixth armies, refusing to fight, began to abandon their positions. They were soon joined by troops of other armies, and a disorderly retreat of all the Austro-Hungarian forces began on November 2. On November 3,Austria-Hungary signed an armistice with the Entente at Villa Giusti (near Padua).

In the Balkan theater of operations, the Allied forces consisted of 29 infantry divisions (eight French, four British, six Serbian, one Italian, and ten Greek divisions and one French cavalry group, a total of about 670,000 men; and 2,070 guns).Facing them along a 350-km front from the Aegean to the Adriatic were the forces of the Central Powers—the German Eleventh Army; the Bulgarian First, Second, and Fourth armies; an Austro-Hungarian corps (a total of about 400,000 men); and 1,138 guns. On September 15 the Allies began an offensive; by September 29 they had advanced to a depth of 150 km along a front of 250 km. Surrounded, the German Eleventh Army surrendered on September 30. The Bulgarian armies were smashed. On September 29, Bulgaria signed an armistice with the Entente in Salonika.

The British army of General E. H. Allenby and the Arab army commanded by Emir Faisal and the British intelligence officer Colonel T. E. Lawrence (a total of 105,000 men and 546 guns) were operating on the Syrian Front, where Turkey had three armies—the Fourth, the Seventh, and the Eighth (a total of 34,000 men and about 330 guns). The Allied offensive began on September 19. Breaking through the enemy defense and pushing forward cavalry units to the enemy rear, Allied troops forced the Turkish Eighth and Seventh armies to surrender; the Turkish Fourth Army retreated. Between September 28 and October 27 the Allies captured Akko (Acre), Damascus, Tripoli, and Aleppo. A French landing party went ashore at Beirut on October 7.

On the Mesopotamian Front the British expeditionary army of General W. Marshall (five divisions) went on the offensive against the Turkish Sixth Army (four divisions). The British captured Kirkuk on October 24 and Mosul on October 31.The Entente powers and Turkey signed the Moudhros Armistice on Oct. 30, 1918, aboard the British battleship Agamemnon in Moudhros Bay (the island of Limnos).

In early October, Germany’s position became hopeless. On October 5 the German government asked the US government for an armistice. The Allies demanded the withdrawal of German forces from all occupied territory in the west. The military defeats and economic exhaustion of Germany had accelerated the development of a revolutionary crisis. The victory and progress of the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia strongly influenced the growth of the revolutionary movement of the German people. On Oct. 30, 1918, an uprising broke out among the sailors in Wilhelmshaven. The Kiel Mutiny of sailors in the German fleet took place on Nov. 3, 1918; on November 6 the uprising spread to Hamburg, Lübeck, and other cities. On November 9 the revolutionary German workers and soldiers overthrew the monarchy. Fearing further development of the revolution in Germany, the Entente hurried to conclude the Armistice of Compiègne with Germany on Nov. 11, 1918. Germany, admitting that it had been defeated, obligated itself to remove its forces immediately from all occupied territories and turn over to the Allies a large quantity of armaments and military equipment.

Results of the war. World War I ended in the defeat of Germany and its allies. After the conclusion of the Armistice of Compiègne the victorious powers began developing plans for a postwar “settlement.” Treaties with the defeated countries were prepared at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919–20. A number of separate treaties were signed: the Peace Treaty of Versailles with Germany (June 28, 1919), the Treaty of St.-Germain with Austria (Sept. 10, 1919), the Treaty of Neuilly with Bulgaria (Nov. 27, 1919), the Treaty of Trianon with Hungary (June 4, 1920), and the Treaty of Sèvres with Turkey (Aug. 10, 1920). The Paris Peace Conference also adopted a resolution regarding the establishment of the League of Nations and approved its Covenant, which became part of the peace treaties. Germany and its former allies were deprived of considerable territories and compelled to pay heavy reparations and greatly reduce their armed forces.

The postwar peace “settlement” in the interests of the victorious imperialist powers was completed by the Washington Conference on Naval Limitations (1921–22). The treaties with Germany and its former allies and the agreements signed at the Washington Conference constituted the Versailles-Washington system of peace. The result of compromises and deals, it failed to eliminate the contradictions among the imperialist powers and in fact considerably exacerbated them. Lenin wrote: “Today, after this ‘peaceful’ period, we see a monstrous intensification of oppression, the reversion to a colonial and military oppression that is far worse than before” (ibid., 5th ed., vol. 41, p. 217). The imperialist powers began to struggle for a repartition of the world, preparing for another world war.

In its scope and consequences World War I was unprecedented in the history of the human race. It lasted four years, three months, and ten days (from Aug. 1, 1914, to Nov. 11, 1918), engulfing 38 countries with a combined population of more than 1.5 billion. The Entente countries mobilized about 45 million men, and the coalition of the Central Powers, 25 million —a total of 70 million men. The most able-bodied men on both sides were removed from material production and sent to exterminate each other, fighting for the interests of the imperialists. By the end of the war, the ground forces exceeded their peacetime counterparts by a factor of 8.5 in Russia, five in France, nine in Germany, and eight in Austria-Hungary. As much as 50 and even 59.4 percent (in France) of the able-bodied male population was mobilized. The Central Powers mobilized almost twice the percentage of the total population as the Entente (19.1 percent, as compared to 10.3 percent). About 16 million men—more than one-third of all those mobilized by the Entente and its allies— were mobilized for the Russian armed forces. In June 1917, 288 (55.3 percent) of the Entente’s 521 divisions were Russian. In Germany, 13.25 million men were mobilized, or more than half of all the soldiers mobilized by the Central Powers. In June 1918, 236 (63.4 percent) of the Central Powers’ 361 divisions were German. The large size of the armies resulted in the formation of vast fronts up to 3,000–4,000 km long.

WWIGraph5

The war demanded the mobilization of all material resources, demonstrating the decisive role of the economy in an armed struggle. World War I was characterized by the massive use of many types of matériel. “It is the first time in history that the most powerful achievements of technology have been applied on such a scale, so destructively and with such energy, for the annihilation of millions of human lives” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 36, p. 396). Industry in the warring countries supplied the fronts with millions of rifles, more than 1 million light and heavy machine guns, more than 150,000 artillery pieces, 47.7 billion cartridges, more than 1 billion shells, 9,200 tanks, and about 182,000 airplanes (see Table 4). During the war the number of heavy artillery pieces increased by a factor of eight, the number of machine guns by a factor of 20, and the number of airplanes by a factor of 24. The war created a demand for large quantities of various materials, such as lumber and cement. About 4 million tons of barbed wire were used. Armies of millions of men demanded an uninterrupted supply of food, clothing, and forage. For example, from 1914 to 1917 the Russian Army consumed (in round figures) 9.64 million tons of flour, 1.4 million tons of cereal, 8.74 million tons of meat, 510,000 tons of fats, 11.27 million tons of forage oats and barley, and 19.6 million tons of hay, with a total value of 2,473,700,000 rubles (at 1913 prices). The front was supplied with 5 million sheepskin coats and pea jackets, 38.4 million sweaters and padded vests, more than 75 million pairs of underwear, 86.1 million pairs of high boots and shoes, 6.6 million pairs of felt boots, and other clothing.

Military enterprises alone could not produce such enormous quantities of armaments and other supplies. Industry was mobilized by means of a large-scale conversion of consumer-goods plants and factories to the production of war goods. In Russia in 1917, 76 percent of the workers were engaged in meeting war needs; in France, 57 percent; in Great Britain, 46 percent; in Italy, 64 percent; in the USA, 31.6 percent; and in Germany, 58 percent. In most of the warring countries, however, industry was unable to supply the needs of the armies for armaments and equipment. Russia, for example, was forced to order armaments, ammunition, clothing, industrial equipment, steam locomotives, coal, and certain other types of strategic raw materials from the USA, Great Britain, France, Sweden, Japan, and other countries. During the war, however, these countries provided the Russian Army with only a small proportion of its total requirements for armaments and ammunition: 30 percent of the rifles, less than 1 percent of the rifle cartridges, 23 percent of the guns of different calibers, and 20 percent of the shells for these guns.

In all the major countries special state bodies were established to manage the war economies: in Germany the Department of War Raw Materials, in Great Britain the Ministry of Munitions, and in Russia the Special Conferences (for state defense, fuel, shipping, and food). These state bodies planned war production; distributed orders, equipment, and raw and processed materials; rationed food and consumer goods; and exercised control over foreign trade. The capitalists formed their own representative organizations to assist the state bodies: in Germany the Central War Industries Council and war industries committees for each sector, in Great Britain the supervisory committees, and in Russia the war industries committees and the Zemstvo and Municipal unions. As a result, an interlocking relationship developed between the state administrative apparatus and the monopolies. “The imperialist war has immensely accelerated and intensified the process of transformation of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 33, p. 3). Although the state bodies managing the war economy had strong assistance from the representative organizations of the capitalists, the very nature of the capitalist economy prevented them from achieving complete success.

The war made intensive demands on all types of transportation. Up to half of all railroad rolling stock was loaded with military shipments. Most motor vehicles were used for military needs. A large number of the merchant vessels of the warring and neutral countries were engaged in shipping cargoes for war industries and armies. During the war 6,700 vessels (excluding sailing ships) were sunk (total displacement, about 15 million tons, or 28 percent of the prewar world tonnage).

The increase in military production, which was achieved primarily at the expense of nonmilitary sectors, placed excessive strains on the national economies, resulting in the disruption of the proportion between different sectors of production and, ultimately, in economic disorder. In Russia, for example, two-thirds of all industrial output went for war needs and only one-third for consumer needs, giving rise to a scarcity of goods, as well as to high prices and speculation. As early as 1915 there were shortages of many types of industrial raw materials and fuel, and by 1916 there was a severe raw materials and fuel crisis in Russia. As a result of the war, the production of many types of industrial output declined in other countries. There was a significant decline in the smelting of pig iron, steel, and nonferrous metals; the extraction of coal and petroleum; and output from all branches of light industry. The war damaged society’s productive forces and undermined the economic life of the people of the world.

In agriculture the effects of the war were especially grave. Mobilization deprived the countryside of its most productive workers and draft animals. Sown areas were cut back, yields dropped, and the number of livestock decreased and their productivity declined. Severe shortages of food developed in the cities of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia, which later experienced famine. The shortages spread to the army, resulting in cuts in food rations.

World War I demanded colossal financial expenditures, many times greater than the expenditures in all previous wars. There is no scientifically substantiated estimate of the total cost of World War I, but the one most commonly cited in the literature was calculated by the American economist E. Bogart, who set the total cost of the war at $359.9 billion in gold (699.4 billion rubles), including $208.3 billion (405 billion rubles) of direct (budgeted) expenditures and $151.6 billion (294.4 billion rubles) of indirect expenditures. Direct war expenditures included the cost of maintaining the army (40 percent) and the cost of the material and technological means for waging war (60 percent). The national income provided the economic base for covering war expenditures. Additional sources of financing the war were increases in existing (direct and indirect) taxes and the institution of new taxes, the sale of domestic and foreign bonds, and the issuing of paper money. The full weight of the financial burden of the war fell on the toiling classes of the population.

World War I was an important stage in the history of the art of war and in the building of armed forces. There were major changes in the organization and relationships of the various combat arms. The great length of the fronts and the deployment on them of vast armies of millions of soldiers led to the creation of new organizational units: fronts and army groups. The firepower of the infantry increased, but its proportionate role decreased somewhat as the result of the development of other combat arms: engineers, signal troops, and especially, the artillery. The number of artillery pieces rose sharply, technology improved, and new types of artillery were developed (antiaircraft, infantry support, and antitank artillery). The range of fire, destructive force of fire, and mobility of the artillery increased. The density of artillery reached 100 or more guns per kilometer of front. Infantry attacks were accompanied by rolling barrages.

Tanks, a powerful striking and mobile force, were used for the first time. Tank forces developed rapidly. By the war’s end there were 8,000 tanks in the Entente armies. In aviation, which also developed rapidly, several different branches emerged: fighter, reconnaissance, bombardment, and ground attack aviation. By the end of the war the belligerent powers had more than 10,000 combat aircraft. Antiaircraft defense developed in the air war. Chemical warfare troops appeared. The significance of the cavalry among the combat arms declined, and by the war’s end the number of cavalry troops had dropped sharply.

The war revealed the growing dependence of the art of war on economics and politics. The scale of operations, the extent of the front of attack, and the depth and rate of advance increased. With the establishment of continuous fronts,combat operations became static. The frontal blow, the success of which determined the outcome of an operation, became very important. During World War I the problem of the tactical breakthrough of a front was solved, but the problem of developing a breakthrough into an operational success remained unsolved. New means of fighting complicated the tactics of the combat arms. At the beginning of the war the infantry conducted offensives in skirmish lines and later, in waves of lines and combat teams (squads). Combined arms combat was based on cooperation between old and new combat arms—the infantry, the artillery, tanks, and aviation. Control of troops became more complex. The role of logistics and supplies increased significantly. Rail and motor-vehicle transport became very important.

The types and classes of naval ships were refined, and there was an increase in the proportion of light forces (cruisers, destroyers, patrol vessels and patrol boats, and submarines). Shipboard artillery, mines, torpedoes, and naval aviation were used extensively. The chief forms of military operations at sea were the blockade; cruiser, submarine, and mine warfare; landings and raids; and engagements and battles between line forces and light forces. The experience of World War I greatly influenced the development of military thinking and the organization and combat training of all combat arms (forces) until World War II (1939–45).

The war brought unprecedented deprivation and human suffering and widespread hunger and devastation. It brought mankind “to the brink of a precipice, to the brink of the destruction of civilization, of brutalization” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 31, p.182). Valuables worth 58 billion rubles were destroyed during the war. Entire regions, especially in northern France, were turned into wastelands.

Casualties amounted to 9.5 million killed and dead of wounds and 20 million wounded, of whom 3.5 million were permanently crippled. The heaviest losses (66.6 percent of the total) were suffered by Germany, Russia, France, and Austria-Hungary. The USA sustained only 1.2 percent of the total losses. Many civilians were killed by the various means of combat. (There are no overall figures for combat-related civilian casualties.) Hunger and other privations caused by the war led to a rise in the mortality rate and a drop in the birthrate. The population loss from these factors was more than 20 million in the 12 belligerent states alone, including 5 million in Russia, 4.4 million in Austria-Hungary, and 4.2 million in Germany. Unemployment, inflation, tax increases, and rising prices worsened the poverty and extreme deprivation of the large majority of the population of the capitalist countries.

Only the capitalists gained any advantages from the war. By the beginning of 1918, the war profits of the German monopolies totaled at least 10 billion gold marks. The capital of the German finance magnate Stinnes increased by a factor of ten, and the net profits of the “cannon king” Krupp, by a factor of almost six. Monopolies in France, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan made large profits, but the American monopolies made the most on the war—between 1914 and 1918, $3 billion in profits. “The American multimillionaires profited more than all the rest. They have converted all, even the richest, countries into their tributaries. And every dollar is stained with blood—from that ocean of blood that has been shed by the 10 million killed and 20 million maimed” (Lenin, ibid., vol. 37, p. 50). The profits of the monopolies continued to grow after the war.

The ruling classes placed the entire burden of the economic consequences of the war on the toiling people. World War I led to an aggravation of the class struggle and accelerated the ripening of the objective prerequisites for the Great October Socialist Revolution, which opened a new epoch in world history—the epoch of the transition from capitalism to socialism. The example of Russia’s toiling people, who threw off the oppression of the capitalists and landlords, showed other peoples the way to liberation. A wave of revolutionary actions swept over many countries, shaking the foundations of the world capitalist system. The national liberation movement became active in the colonial and dependent countries. “World War I and the October Revolution marked the beginning of the general crisis of capitalism” (Programma KPSS, 1974, p. 25). Politically, this was the chief result of the war.

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I. I. ROSTUNOV

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

ICMLPO (Unity and Struggle): Final Resolution of the 19th Plenary of the ICMLPO

In the Middle of the World, in an atmosphere of internationalist comradeship and solidarity, the members of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations (ICMLPO) met to share and discuss analysis and experiences. We arrived at resolutions that will contribute to the fulfillment of the historical role of the Marxist-Leninists, the revolutionaries, anti-imperialist and anti-fascist fighters, working class, oppressed peoples and youth.

On the International Situation

The Fundamental Contradictions of the Epoch Are Sharpening.

The international economic crisis that exists in some countries, particularly in Western Europe, and the economic decline of others are the clearest demonstration that the fundamental contradictions are sharpening: between capital and labor, between imperialism and the oppressed peoples and nations, between the imperialist powers and monopolies. It is a cyclic crisis that is developing on top of the worsening of the general crisis of capitalism that began a century ago.

The ideological and political struggle between the proletarian revolutionaries who are fighting for socialism, and reaction, liberalism and opportunism that are defending capitalism and imperialism is also deepening.

The imperialist countries are heading the economic decline, in the first place the United States, which has a zero industrial growth. In Japan there are further declines in the economy. Several countries of the European Union are facing a recession that is striking particularly Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland and is threatening France, Belgium and others.

The bourgeois economists themselves are saying that these countries will take many years to return to pre-2008 levels and start the recovery process.

The economies called engines of growth of capitalism, China, India and Russia are in a process of economic slowdown; this situation is accentuated in Brazil, which is declining steadily.

The dependent countries of Latin America, Africa and Asia are suffering the impact of the crisis on a smaller scale, due to the high prices of raw materials, natural resources and agricultural products; they are showing an uneven growth.

The monopoly groups, the imperialist countries, the local bourgeoisies and their governments are shifting the burden of the crisis onto the working masses, the peoples and the youth.

In all countries of the world, we see the increased exploitation of the working class under the pretext of increased competitiveness; in Europe there are massive layoffs of workers, reduced wages through blackmail, etc., an increase in job precariousness and labor flexibility under different names for the sake of maximum monopoly profit.

The migrants around the world are victims of this policy, and moreover they face discrimination, xenophobia and racism; they are placed as enemies of native-born workers who blame them for rising unemployment; they are a cheap labor force used by the capitalists for their greater accumulation.

In the countryside the conditions of life and work are worsening as a result of the pricing policy, of the free trade agreements that benefit the agribusiness monopolies. The agricultural businesses are developing hand in hand with the growing monopolization of the land, of the agricultural production and of the commercialization based on the super-exploitation of the workers in the countryside and the imperialist dependency imposed on the majority of the countries.

The youth is affected by the restriction of public education, converting schools into producers of cheap labor power in the service of capital; huge masses of young people, including university graduates, are joining the millions of unemployed.

While the large financial and industrial monopolies are still being fed by public funds, the social budgets, the money intended for public health, education, housing, social security, etc. are being diminished and cut back drastically; the years needed for retirement have been increased and in some countries the decision has been made to lower wages and increase the working day.

The crisis is of such a magnitude that imperialism and the governments are implementing increasingly brutal, aggressive, exploitative and repressive policies against the working and popular masses.

The Policies of Capital Are Becoming More Authoritarian and Repressive

Along with the economic crisis there is the political crisis of the bourgeoisie, expressed in the discrediting of the institutions, of politics in general, of bourgeois democracy and the political parties in particular.

One example of this reality is the high rate of abstention in elections in many countries, the loss of confidence in the traditional political parties of the bourgeoisie, including the reformist and social-democratic parties. In several countries this situation is leading to disenchantment, to the dissatisfaction of the masses, to the search for alternatives of change that are being covered by bourgeois options using the terms left, “democratic socialism” and “21st century socialism.” This also makes way for new reactionary forces, in some cases fascists, fundamentalists and populists that are demagogically presented as an alternative of change for the peoples.

Besides the loss of credibility of the national bourgeois institutions should be added the loss of prestige of the international agencies of capitalism and globalization such as the IMF, WTO, NATO, EU, UN, etc.

The masses have not advanced to the point where they can fully distinguish the parties that represent their interests. This is mainly due to the influence of reactionary ideas, to the ideological offensive of imperialism and the bourgeoisies so that they lose interest in the struggle for power and take up non-partyism, by which the ruling groups can continue to manipulate the masses and the power. It is also due to the presence and activity of different forms of opportunism and revisionism, and, of course, to the weakness and limitations of the revolutionary left.

Another manifestation of this trend is the involution of the so-called progressive governments, particularly in Latin America, which have shown their ideological and political limitations and in their capacity as administrators of the crisis they take measures that affect the people and criminalize social protest. In some cases they use the name of the left, of the revolution and of socialism to push forward their project of capitalist modernization.

In general, we are experiencing a process of growing authoritarianism, of the development of state terrorism in the exercise of bourgeois power, the denial of national sovereignty and the right to self-determination of the peoples, the restriction of civil and democratic liberties, the criminalization of social and popular struggle and the gradual abolition of the rights and freedoms of the people won through years of struggle.

The Struggle for a New Redivision of the World Is Sharpening

The inability of imperialism to resolve its crisis, the huge sacrifices of the peoples, of the working masses, forces it to seek other forms of solution. One of these is the preparation of new imperialist wars, the significant increase in the budgets for military spending, the occupation troops in the countries rich in natural resources and located in geostrategic areas such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Congo, Mali, etc. These are pushing forward new military aggressions.

This situation is particularly evident in Africa, a continent with vast natural and agricultural resources that imperialism is using to refine the technology and in order to try to get out of its crisis, and in the Middle East for the control and exploitation of the energy resources.

In these regions of the world the contradictions and rivalries between the imperialist powers and monopolies are evident. They show the tendency to a greater polarization between the United States and the European Union on the one hand and China on the other; Russia is joining the fight for its own interests, while the BRICS is projected as a new bloc for world domination.

In Syria a political and military conflict has been developing that involves the entire population, it has led to a reactionary civil war that is the pretext for imperialist and Zionist intervention. The weight of international public opinion, the particular interests of the various imperialist countries, the denunciation by democratic sectors and even by several governments and individuals, among others, has momentarily halted this intervention. The U.S. was only able to get France, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to join in this war of aggression. We emphasize that in this conflict British imperialism does not support the U.S. after several years of being its unconditional ally.

At the same time this showed a more active role for Russia on the diplomatic and military level, which in fact turned it, together with the U.S., into the arbiters of the conflict in Syria, ignoring the peoples and workers who will have to subordinate themselves to the plans of the foreign forces. The principle of self-determination of the peoples is once again being mocked and trampled upon by the imperialist countries.

The economic crisis, the super-exploitation of the working masses, as well as the politics of imperialist war and plunder is greatly increasing the forced and massive migration of millions of human beings who leave their country fleeing war, violence and misery and are looking for a better future. In this effort they are finding the borders closed, hundreds die in the crossing and, if they succeed in reaching their destination they are the object of the most cruel oppression and exploitation; they are abused and mistreated by the very imperialist powers who have caused the ruin of their countries.

The events in Syria, other events in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, the expansion of the Chinese economy are sharpening the inter-imperialist contradictions. China is gaining ground by an aggressive export policy, by important investments in the dependent countries, by holding U.S. Treasury bonds (it has become the largest creditor of the U.S.); moreover it is working to enhance its military apparatus.

It is no accident that the United States has made a priority of the Asian region as a strategic area in which it is concentrating its military force to maintain its position of supremacy.

The Response of the Workers, Peoples and Youth Is Growing Significantly

Imperialism and the bourgeoisie are placing the burden of the crisis onto the shoulders of the workers, peoples and youths in all countries, both imperialist and dependent.

But these people are not remaining passive; they are developing their struggle and organization. In this regard there stand out the continuing and important battles of the working class and youth in Turkey, Brazil, Egypt, Tunisia, Portugal, China, Bangladesh, Colombia, Chile, Greece and Spain, among others.

The anti-system actions of broad sections of the youth and the middle strata in various regions are joining the struggle of the workers, struggles that have gone beyond economic demands.

In recent months there have been gigantic waves of the masses who have accelerated and protested against the establishment; although they do not have a revolutionary direction they open the perspective of a new situation, they encourage the progressive and revolutionary forces.

In short, in all countries, the peoples are showing their discontent, they are protesting and looking for a way that leads to the solution of their serious problems.

An important struggle of the workers, peoples and youth against dictatorships and tyranny has taken shape in North Africa and the Middle East; in Tunisia and Egypt the struggle of resistance against imperialism and reaction is growing despite all the resources used to try to placate the struggles and divert them from their revolutionary path. Forms of this reactionary process are the utilization of Islamic fundamentalists, as well as coups and direct military interventions.

The ICMLPO is part of the workers and peoples who are fighting for their rights, for their social and national liberation. We are taking up our obligation to be where the battles are waged; we support them so that they may head towards their final objective. In particular we support the struggle waged by the people of Tunisia, by our fraternal party and the Popular Front to achieve the objectives of the revolution and people’s power.

The Tasks of the Communists in the Present Situation

In these stormy waters of the class struggle, it is up to us to develop policies and tasks that respond to the following questions: What is the social force that is able to defeat imperialism, the bourgeoisie and reaction? Who should lead the large and small waves of struggle? What kind of society do the workers need to replace this dying system?

To provide an answer to these questions it is necessary to consolidate, develop and build the Communist Party as the vanguard party of the working class, which is deeply and permanently engaged in the crucible of the struggle of the masses, in all cases, whether organized or spontaneous; we must work to unify these struggles and direct them towards the social revolution.

We intend to strengthen the mobilization and organization of the exploited and oppressed masses in all areas, using all forms of struggle and organization that correspond to the concrete situations.

It is of fundamental importance to foster the unity of the working class and the peasantry, as well as of all sectors oppressed by capitalism and other pre-capitalist forms of exploitation, under the leadership of the working class and its Party. We emphasize the need to highlight the best efforts to clarify the question of the popular front as well as to push forward the work of building it in concrete conditions.

We must pay special attention to work with the youth, who are bursting out vigorously in the social and political fight, to work to give them a revolutionary direction, and to work among the working women and women from the popular strata who constitute more than half of humankind, who suffer the effects of layoffs, job insecurity, etc. and have a great revolutionary potential.

In the discussion on the work with working women and women from the popular strata there we emphasize the need to build a broad movement of democratic, anti-imperialist and revolutionary women with its own objectives.

At this time our efforts are directed to organizing and strengthening popular fronts as a necessary tool to link and mobilize the broad masses against the plans of imperialism and reaction. Fronts and coalitions that will form around a programmatic unity that defends the interests of the working class, the working masses and the peoples.

The lessons of Marxism-Leninism and the practice of our parties teach us that we must fight to the end against all manifestations of sectarianism, of deviations from the right or left, maintaining firmness in principles and flexibility in tactics.

To fulfill the tasks it is necessary to fight ideologically and politically against imperialism and the bourgeoisie, as well as against the positions and practices of the collaborators and conciliators, which affect the workers and people by revisionism, opportunism, reformism and other forms that confuse and divert them from the goal of the social revolution as well as of the popular democratic revolutions.

We must organize a major offensive on what the left, the social revolution, socialism and communism mean. We must widely disseminate the proposals that we communists have in different realities, confronting what capitalism and its representatives have done to the workers, especially today, when they are trying to eliminate a century of social and democratic gains.

In 2014 it will be 20 years since the ICMLPO launched its proclamation to the world, its commitment to forge the unity of the international communist movement, to contribute decisively to making Marxism-Leninism into a material force of the workers and peoples to defeat imperialism and capitalism and establish socialism and communism as a society of full freedom and prosperity for the peoples.

The ICMLPO is fulfilling its role with determination, with important results that are still insufficient. Today we reaffirm our revolutionary commitment to consolidating and broadening it to ensure an internationalist, revolutionary leadership for the struggles of the working class, the popular masses and the oppressed peoples of the world.

Ecuador, October 2013

Forever in Chains: The Tragic History of Congo

Nsala, of the district of Wala, looking at the severed hand and foot of his five-year old daughter, Boali, who was killed and allegedly cannibalized by the members of Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company (A.B.I.R.) militia. Source: E. D Morel, King Leopold's rule in Africa, between pages 144 and 145

Nsala, of the district of Wala, looking at the severed hand and foot of his five-year old daughter, Boali, who was killed and allegedly cannibalized by the members of Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company (A.B.I.R.) militia. Source: E. D Morel, King Leopold’s rule in Africa, between pages 144 and 145

FRIDAY 28 JULY 2006

The most blighted nation on earth goes to the polls this weekend – more in hope than expectation that stability and peace might result. In Congo, mass suffering has been a way of life ever since the Belgian King Leopold enslaved millions in the 19th century. Paul Vallely traces the story of a people for whom the horror never let up

One picture sums it up. It shows a man named Nsala sitting on the porch of a missionary’s house in the Congo. His face is a portrait of impenetrable sorrow.

Before him lie a small hand and foot. It is all that remains of his five-year-old daughter who has – together with his wife and son – been killed, dismembered, cooked and eaten by soldiers.

The photograph was taken during the biggest atrocity in recorded African history. And it was perpetrated not by Africans, but by Europeans.

No one knows how many people died, but it was at least three million men, women and children. Some historians say it was five million, or 10 million. The Encyclopaedia Britannica has said that as many as 30 million people may have perished.

It is but a single chapter in the long and bloody history of the Congo. This weekend, voters go to the polls in Democratic Republic of Congo for the first elections in 40 years, during which havoc has been wreaked by despotism and war. But will Sunday’s poll do anything to change lives there for the better?

The first that was written of the hot and humid river basin that straddles the Equator on the west of the great African continent came from Portuguese travellers in the 15th century. They had encountered a place called the Kingdom of Kongo and, with its capital city of Mbanza Kongo, it had a population close to half a million people. It was a highly developed state at the centre of an extensive trading network.

Merchants traded all manner of raw materials, the most precious of which was ivory, but which also included a wealth of manufactured goods such as copper and ironware, raffia cloth and pottery. It was also a centre for the buying and selling of individuals captured in war. Long before the arrival of the Europeans, the slave trade existed. The ruler was a king who rejoiced in the title of “Mother of the King of Kongo”.

Not much more was heard of the place in Europe until the great Victorian missionary explorer David Livingstone discovered that quinine was the key to unlocking the African interior. He became a hero and a household name in the second half of the 19th century, but then disappeared into the bush. The New York Herald sent another intrepid Briton to find him, and the young man, Henry Morton Stanley, walked into the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations with his greeting: “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”

Across the other side of the globe, King Leopold II of the Belgians read about it over breakfast in the The Times, which was thrown from the continental mail train into the grounds of his palace each morning. (His butler ironed it before the monarch read it.)

Leopold had been of the opinion for some time that “il faut à la Belgique une colonie”. He didn’t want to miss the chance of getting a good slice of what he called the “magnifique gâteau africain”. But he was having a hard time persuading the Belgian government to agree. So he decided to acquire a colony by himself. In doing so, he ignited what came to be called “the scramble of Africa”.

Stanley’s encounter with the Congo was being hailed as the most important geographical “discovery” ever made in Africa. The king summoned the Welshman and in 1878 commissioned him to go back – under the guise of an international scientific and philanthropic association, which he called the International African Society – to negotiate with the local chiefs.

Over the five years that followed, Stanley concluded some 400 “cloth and trinket” treaties with the Congo chiefs. The Africans thought they were signing friendship pacts, but they were in fact selling their land.

Leopold, who was devious as well as greedy, persuaded the world that he was acting from humanitarian motives. In 1884, the The Daily Telegraph, perspicacious as ever, opined: “Leopold II has knit adventurers, traders and missionaries of many races into one band of men under the most illustrious of modern travellers [Stanley] to carry to the interior of Africa new ideas of law, order, humanity and protection of the natives.”

That year, at the Berlin Conference called by Bismarck to carve up Africa – which no African attended, even as an observer – Leopold displayed some nifty footwork. He persuaded the Iron Chancellor that, in order to exclude Germany’s rivals, Britain and France, from the important new region, it would be best to declare it a free trade area and give it to him. Not to Belgium, not even to the Belgian crown, but to him personally.

Without ever setting foot there, Leopold II had become the owner of nearly a million square miles of unmapped jungle, 75 times the size of Belgium itself. Ivory was what the king had his eye on. And, though plenty of it was yielded, Leopold struggled to make a profit. In 1895, he tried to give the colony to the Belgian government because it was costing him too much.

But then a Scot called Dunlop invented the pneumatic tyre for his bicycle, and the worldwide boom in rubber began. In the Congo, wild jungle vines that yielded the stuff grew everywhere. The natives would slash them and lather their bodies with the rubber. All that Leopold needed to do was to persuade the natives to scrape it off into huge baskets for him.

He did this by setting quotas of both rubber and ivory for each village, for which they were paid a pitifully low fixed price set by his officials on the ground. Each community was told to provide 10 per cent of their number as full-time forced labourers, and another 25 per cent part-time. It was a form of slavery.

Stanley, who supervised all this, became known in Kikongo as Bula Matari (the Breaker of Rocks), a tag the people later transferred to the Congolese state itself. The scheme was a huge success; by 1902, the price of rubber had risen 15 times in eight years, and it constituted 80 per cent of the exports of “The Congo Free State”, as Leopold had dubbed it.

Free is what the people were not. The symbol of Leopold’s rule was the schicotte – a whip of raw sun-dried hippopotamus hide cut into long sharp-edged strips which could quickly remove the skin from a man’s back. The king established a Force Publique to enforce the rubber quotas. Its soldiers were black – many of them cannibals from the fiercest tribes of upper Congo – but they were led by white officers who routinely supervised the burning of non-compliant villages and the torture and rape of those who were struggling to fill quotas.

One local man spelt out what this meant. “Wild beasts – leopards – killed some of us while we were working away in the forest, and others got lost or died from exposure or starvation and we begged the white men to leave us alone, saying we could get no more rubber, but the white men and the soldiers said, ‘Go. You are only beasts yourselves. You are only snyama [meat].’ Many were shot, some had their ears cut off.”

But the routine penalty for failing to bring in enough rubber was the severing of a hand. Soldiers collected them by the basketload, from the living and the dead. A Baptist missionary wrote a letter to The Times about it: “The hands – the hands of men, women and children – were placed in rows before the commissary who counted them to see that the soldiers had not wasted cartridges.” Officers were worried that the men might waste their ammunition on hunting animals for sport, so they required soldiers to submit one hand for every bullet spent. Hands became a grim currency, traded to make up for shortfalls in rubber quotas. “This rubber traffic is steeped in blood,” the letter-writer said.

Other testimony disclosed how Belgian officers ordered their men “to cut off the heads of the men and hang them on the village palisades, also their sexual members, and to hang the women and the children on the palisade in the form of a cross”. This blood-curdling business carried on for more than 12 years before word leaked out. One of the first to blow the whistle was the captain of one of the riverboats that transported the ivory and rubber downstream to port. His name was Joseph Conrad, and eight years later he wrote a book that has shaped the emotional language in which white people discuss Africa.

It was called Heart of Darkness. The atmosphere it conjures is of fetid fever-ridden ports in an Equatorial river basin surrounded by dense tropical rainforest. It is a climate of persistent high temperatures and humidity, as enervating to the soul as to the body. It is a world of madness, greed and violence, centred on a charismatic ivory trader called Kurtz who turns himself into a demigod to the local tribes and gathers vast quantities of ivory. Eventually, he dies – “The horror, the horror,” his last words.

When the book was published in magazine serial form in 1899, it did not just expose what Conrad was to call “the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience”. It also gave backing to the writings of a man whose campaigns on the Congo the public had been reluctant to believe.

ED Morel was a clerk in a Liverpool shipping office who began to wonder why the ships that brought vast loads of rubber from the Congo returned carrying no commercial goods, but only guns and ammunition. He began to investigate the Force Publique and concluded that Leopold’s well-publicised philanthropy was in fact “legalised robbery enforced by violence”. He wrote: “I had stumbled upon a secret society of murderers with a king for a croniman.”

In 1903, the House of Commons debated the Congo atrocities. The British consul in Congo, Roger Casement, was sent to investigate. The year after, he returned with a vivid and detailed eyewitness report, which was made public. His 1904 report, which confirmed Morel’s accusations and suggested that at least three million people had died, had a considerable impact on public opinion.

Even then, Leopold countered with a wicked publicity campaign to discredit the reports. He even created a bogus Commission for the Protection of the Natives to root out the “few isolated instances” of abuse. But he reckoned without another recent invention – the camera. Before long, horrifying photographs such as the one of the man with his daughter’s little hand and foot, were in circulation.

International opinion was outraged. In America, Mark Twain penned a savage piece of sarcasm called King Leopold’s Soliloquy. In Britain, Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired to write the book The Crime of the Congo, which he completed in eight days. Before long, the American President and the British prime minister were pressing the Belgian government to act.

Leopold offered to reform his regime, but few took him seriously. After two years of agonised deliberation, a further report (which confirmed Casement’s) and a general election, the Parliament of Belgium annexed the Congo Free State and took over its administration. It paid Leopold £2m to compensate him for his sacrifices.

Renamed the Belgian Congo (to contrast with the much smaller French Congo, now the Republic of Congo, to the west), the region became a “model colony”. In the decades that followed the transfer of responsibility to the government of Belgium, large amounts of the wealth produced in the Congo were spent there by the alliance of church, commerce and state.

The missionaries built hospitals and clinics to which large numbers of Congolese had access. Doctors and medics achieved great victories against disease, managing to eradicate sleeping sickness. Many villages had medical posts, and bigger cities had well-equipped hospitals. The church ran schools to which 10 per cent of the people were admitted, comparing favourably with the 6 per cent of the population in school in India and the much lower percentages elsewhere in Africa. The colonial authorities built railways, ports and roads. The mining companies built houses for their staff, provided welfare and technical training.

By the Second World War, production and profits had risen to the point where the Congo was Africa’s richest colony. In the 1950s, life expectancy was 55 years (today, it is 51). By 1959, the year before independence, the Belgian Congo was producing 10 per cent of world’s copper, 50 per cent of its cobalt and 70 per cent of industrial diamonds.

What was missing was the development of a Congolese elite to take over the running of the place. The Congolese had no rights to own land, to vote or to travel freely. There were curfews in towns and forced labour in the countryside. There was no higher education, except for those who wanted to become priests. The Congolese were encouraged to become clerks, medical assistants and mechanics, but not doctors, lawyers or engineers.

At independence, out of a population of 60 million, there were just 16 university graduates. Educated Congolese were given the status of Sévolués, but this won them few privileges when what they wanted, wrote Patrice Lumumba, who was to become the first prime minister of what became Democratic Republic of Congo, “was to be Belgians and have the same freedoms and rights as whites”.

It would come eventually, their colonial masters thought, in perhaps another 100 years. When a Belgian academic suggested a 30-year transition plan was needed, he was greeted with derision. But when the change came, on the back of the sudden tide of African nationalism that swept the continent, accompanied by riots, it happened in just 18 months. The Congo was perhaps the least well-prepared of any colony for independence.

It didn’t help that on Independence Day in 1960, King Baudouin arrived to make a speech praising the “genius” of Leopold II, listing the sacrifices that Belgium had made for the Congo and doling out patronising advice. Prime Minister Lumumba responded with an off-the-cuff speech about the “terrible suffering and exploitation” that had been experienced by “we niggers” and promising: “We shall make of the Congo a shining example for the whole of Africa.” It was not to be.

Lumumba was charismatic, with extraordinary powers of oratory, but he was volatile. Within days of the independence ceremonies, rebellions and violence broke out. The province of Katanga declared independence. Belgium moved troops in. So did the United Nations. Feeling betrayed, Lumumba requested Soviet military aid.

The local CIA chief telegrammed back to Washington that the Congo was “a Cuba in the making” and that Lumumba was a “Castro or worse”. President Eisenhower allegedly authorised that Lumumba be assassinated and a CIA hit man came from Paris with poison to be, bizarrely, injected into the prime minister’s toothpaste. (The local CIA man refused to do it.)

The plot thickened with Dag Hammarskjold, the UN Secretary General, dying in a plane crash in uncertain circumstances while trying to negotiate a ceasefire in Katanga. Letters recently uncovered by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission suggested that South African agents planted a bomb in the aircraft’s wheel-bay. And, not long afterwards, the Marxist guerrilla leader Che Guevara appeared in the Congo with 100 men in a plot to bring about a Cuban-style revolution.

Amid all that, Patrice Lumumba had fallen out with the Congo’s first president, Joseph Kasavubu. As the pair engaged in a power struggle in September 1960, a military coup overthrew Lumumba in favour of the president. The putsch was staged by the 29-year-old army chief of staff, Colonel Joseph-Désiré Mobutu. Five years later, he staged another one, ousting Kasavubu and beginning his own bizarre 32-year rule.

Lumumba was shot in the bush at the command of a Belgian officer. His body was hacked to pieces and dissolved in sulphuric acid, his skull ground to dust and his bones and teeth scattered – some say by a witch doctor from an aircraft along the country’s borders, to make sure he could not come back from the dead.

Things did not get better. Mobutu sent the Russians packing, which greatly pleased the Americans. So did almost everything else he did, for he staunchly followed US foreign policy in all key matters. It was the height of the Cold War and Africa had become a proxy battlefield. Keeping the Soviets out was more important than anything else. As long as Mobutu did that, and supported anti-Communist rebels in neighbouring countries, Washington would turn a blind eye to anything else.

Mobutu made the most of that. He set up a one-party state that tolerated no dissent. In the early years, he consolidated power by publicly executing political rivals. One rebel leader had his eyes gouged out, his genitals ripped off and his limbs amputated one by one before he died.

Later, Mobutu switched to a new tactic – that of buying off political rivals rather than killing them. He did so by elevating theft to a form of government. A new word was coined to describe it – kleptocracy. At first, he had tried simply printing more money to pay the bills for his schemes. He issued new stamps, coins and currency notes with his portrait on.

There were posters and billboards everywhere. His personality cult reached its peak every night when the television news began with an image of him descending through clouds from the heavens. He put the story about that even his walking stick had magic powers.

In the early years, he launched an African Authenticity campaign. He renamed the country Zaire in 1971. He ordered everyone to drop their Christian names for African ones, rebranding himself Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (“The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, will go from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake”). He outlawed hair-straightening, skin bleaching, the wearing of ties and listening to foreign music. He nationalised foreign-owned firms and handed them to relatives and associates.

When the economy slumped, he printed more money. Hyperinflation followed, and even the central bank bought its hard currency on the black market. But he was a Cold War warrior, so the West bailed him out. The more they gave him, the more he stole. Of the $73m education budget one year, schools got only $8m; he pocketed the rest. So it went with every area of government.

Mobutu’s extravagance was legendary. He had villas, ranches, palaces and yachts throughout Europe. Concorde was constantly hired. He didn’t just have Swiss bank accounts; he bought a Swiss bank. He didn’t just get his wife a Mercedes; he bought a Mercedes assembly plant for her. He stashed away nearly $5bn – almost the equivalent of the country’s foreign debt at the time.

Still, the West smiled and paid up to the man Ronald Reagan called “a voice of good sense and good will”. The US gave him a total of $2bn over 30 years. The CIA trained and armed his bodyguards. When rebels attacked him, France airlifted in 1,500 elite Moroccan paratroopers. When that wasn’t enough, a year later Belgium and France deployed troops (with American logistical support).

All the while, the Congo became Africa’s haven for mercenaries, money launderers and diamond smugglers – while its public infrastructure rotted and child mortality rose. Mobutu became the longest-surviving despot of the Cold War era. It was either “Mobutu or chaos”, the US said. But the hapless people of the Congo got both.

Then it was over. The Berlin Wall fell. The Cold War ended. The IMF experts who had been brought in to reform his finances – and left after a year in despair – pulled the plug on his loans. The US would lend no more. Mobutu declared an end to one-party rule, but it was too late.

What finished him off was the decision to back the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide. After the Hutu genocidaires were chased from Rwanda in 1994, Mobutu gave them shelter in Zaire. More than that; he issued an order forcing Tutsis to leave Zaire on penalty of death. They erupted in rebellion. Rwanda and Uganda joined in, invading eastern Congo in pursuit of the genocidaires. When they met no resistance – the Congolese army being more used to suppressing civilians than fighting – they marched on the capital Kinshasa.

Mobutu – the “all-powerful warrior”, the fifth-richest man in the world, who bled the Congo even more efficiently than King Leopold, and who looted the state into paralysis – escaped on a cargo plane with bullets ripping into the fuselage as it took off. After 20 years of Mobutist dictatorship, in the words of the African historian Basil Davidson: “Zaire remained a state without a nation, a geographical concept without a people.” And Kinshasa la belle had become Kinshasa la poubell – the dustbin.

The new man was Laurent-Désiré Kabila. He presented himself as the heir to the murdered Lumumba. Outsiders hailed him as one of the “new breed” of African leaders. Nelson Mandela paid tribute. The US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, stood next to Kabila early on and said that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (or Democratic Republic of Congo as it was re-re-named) would now emerge as “an engine of regional growth”. Those who knew Kabila thought differently.

His critics sneered that all he had ever run was a brothel in Tanzania. Others recalled the judgement of Che Guevara who had concluded three decades earlier that Kabila was “not the man of the hour”. He was too interested in drinking, bedding women and showing up days late. The lack of co-operation between Kabila and Guevara was what had led to the Cuban-style revolution foundering in the Sixties.

He had not, it seemed, improved with age. Kabila turned out to be another petty tyrant. Secretive and paranoid, he had no political programme and just doled out jobs to family and friends. He made his cousin chief of the armed forces, gave his son a top army job and made his brother-in-law the police chief. Worse, he was as cruel as Mobutu, jailing and torturing opponents, but lacking his skill in playing the ethnic card. He promised elections but never held them.

And he did not learn from Mobutu’s mistakes. Put in power by the Rwandans and Ugandans, he decided to distance himself from them by again supporting the Hutus and allowing them to regroup on Congolese soil. Rwanda had learnt the lessons of the past; it immediately flew 2,000 troops to within striking distance of the capital. Uganda joined in. Kabila was only saved because Angola and Zimbabwe came to his rescue, the former fearing that a power vacuum in the DRC would allow Angolan rebels to flourish, the later trying to play the statesman and grab some mining contracts.

The fighting soon stalemated. But no one was bothered; all involved just used the bases they had established inside the DRC to plunder. The war became self-financing as all sides scrabbled for diamonds, gold and timber.

Suddenly, 70 per cent of the Congo’s coltan – an essential component in making mobile phones – was being exported through Rwanda. And Congo gold turned into a major Ugandan export. Rwanda and Uganda even began to fight each other at one point over control of Kisangani and its diamond fields.

What broke the stalemate was a coup in 2001. The plot failed, but Kabila was assassinated. His son, Joseph Kabila Kabange, became President. The Congo’s warlords were happy, assuming that junior would be a pushover.

But Kabila II had done his military training in China and turned out to be an operator. Within a year, he had successfully negotiated an international peace deal that saw Rwanda withdraw and all the remaining warring parties agree to end the fighting and establish a government of national unity.

Peace has returned to two-thirds of the country – there are factions fighting in the east – and Kabila has delivered the referendum he promised and now, on Sunday, the elections. He is, of course, standing and is, of course, the favourite of the 33 candidates.

The country is still in a dire state. Aid organisations say about 1,200 people die daily due to the effects of the conflict, hunger and disease. The DRC has Aids, low life expectancy and a high rate of child deaths. More than two million Congolese are internal refugees. National output and government revenue slumped – and external debt increased – during the five years of fighting, in which perhaps four million people died.

Even so, this weekend’s elections – the first multiparty elections in 40 years – are the biggest and most costly the UN has organised. Another eastern warlord yesterday agreed to lay down arms. Last month, the world’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton, said it would open an office in Kinshasa once the election is over. Other big mining groups may follow.

The prospects look a little brighter. It may be too soon – in the two-steps-forward, one-step-back world of contemporary Africa – to be optimistic. But, in their terrible story, the people of the Congo hope that, at last, it may be that a corner is being turned.

The horror: from Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’

Paths, paths, everywhere; a stamped-in network of paths spreading over the empty land, through the long grass, through burnt grass, through thickets, down and up chilly ravines, up and down stony hills ablaze with heat; and a solitude, a solitude, nobody, not a hut. The population had cleared out a long time ago. Well, if a lot of mysterious niggers armed with all kinds of fearful weapons suddenly took to travelling on the road between Deal and Gravesend, catching the yokels right and left to carry heavy loads for them, I fancy every farm and cottage thereabouts would get empty very soon. Only here the dwellings were gone, too. Still I passed through several abandoned villages. There’s something pathetically childish in the ruins of grass walls. Day after day, with the stamp and shuffle of 60 pair of bare feet behind me, each pair under a 60lb load. Camp, cook, sleep, strike camp, march. Now and then a carrier dead in harness, at rest in the long grass near the path, with an empty water gourd and his long staff lying by his side. A great silence around and above. Perhaps on some quiet night the tremor of far-off drums, sinking, swelling, a tremor vast, faint; a sound weird, appealing, suggestive and wild – and perhaps with as profound a meaning as the sound of bells in a Christian country. Once a white man in an unbuttoned uniform, camping on the path with an armed escort of lank Zanzibaris, very hospitable and festive – not to say drunk. Was looking after the upkeep of the road, he declared. Can’t say I saw any road or any upkeep, unless the body of a middle-aged negro, with a bullet-hole in the forehead, upon which I absolutely stumbled three miles farther on, may be considered a permanent improvement.

Source

The Butcher of Congo

Leon Rom circa 1880

By Baffour Ankomah, New African, October 1999

Only 90 years ago, the agents of King Leopold II of Belgium massacred 10 million Africans in the Congo. Cutting off hands as we see in Sierra Leone today, was very much part of Leopold’s repertoire. Today, Leopold’s “rubber terror” has all been swept under the carpet. Adam Hochschild calls it “the great forgetting” in his brilliant new book, King Leopold’s Ghost, recently published by Macmillan. This is a story of greed, exploitation and brutality that Africa and the world must not forget.

This story is actually best understood when told in reverse order. Leopold never set foot in “his” Congo Free State – for all the 23 years (1885-1908) he ruled what Hochschild calls “the world’s only colony claimed by one man”.

It was a vast territory which “if superimposed on the map of Europe”, says Hochschild, “would stretch from Zurich to Moscow to central Turkey. It was bigger than England, France, Germany, Spain and Italy combined. Although mostly rainforest and savannah, it also embraced volcanic hills and mountains covered by snow and glaciers, some of whose peaks reached higher than the Alps.”

Leopold’s “rubber terror” raised a lot of hairs in Britain, America and continental Europe (particularly between the years 1900-1908). But while they were condemning Leopold’s barbarity, his accusers were committing much the same atrocities against Africans elsewhere on the continent.

Hochschild tells it better: “True, with a population loss estimated at 10 million people, what happened in the Congo could reasonably be called the most murderous part of the European Scramble for Africa. But that is so only if you look at sub-Saharan Africa as the arbitrary checkerboard formed by colonial boundaries.

“With a decade of [Leopold’s] head start [in the Congo], similar forced labour systems for extracting rubber were in place in the French territories west and north of the Congo River, in Portuguese-ruled Angola, and in the nearby Cameroon under the Germans.

“In France’s equatorial African territories, where the region’s history is best documented, the amount of rubber-bearing land was far less than what Leopold controlled, but the rape was just as brutal. Almost all exploitable land was divided among concession companies. Forced labour, hostages, slave chains, starving porters, burned villages, paramilitary company ‘sentries’, and the chicotte were the order of the day. [The chicotte was a vicous whip made out of raw, sun-dried hippopotamus hide, cut into a long sharp-edged cork-screw strip. It was applied to bare buttocks, and left permanent scars. Twenty strokes of it sent victims into unconsciousness; and a 100 or more strokes were often fatal. The chicotte was freely used by both Leopold’s men and the French].

“Thousands of refugees who had fled across the Congo River to escape Leopold’s regime eventually fled back to escape the French [in Congo-Brazzaville]. The population loss in the rubber-rich equatorial rainforest owned by France is estimated, just as in Leopold’s Congo, at roughly 50%.”

Hochschild cannot fathom how the reform movement in Europe focused exclusively on Leopold’s Congo when “if you reckon [the] mass murder by the percentage of the population killed”, the Germans did as much in Namibia, if not worse, than Leopold in Congo.

“By these standards”, Hochschild argues, “the toll was even worse among the Hereros in German South West Africa, today’s Namibia. The killing there was masked by no smokescreen of talk about philanthropy. It was genocide, pure and simple, starkly announced in advance.

“After losing much of their land to the Germans, the Hereros rebelled in 1904. In response, Germany sent in a heavily armed force under Lt-Gen Lothar von Trotha, who issued an extermination order (Vernichtungsbefehl):

‘Within the German boundaries every Herero, whether found with or without a rifle, with or without cattle, shall be shot… Signed: The Great General of the Mighty Kaiser, von Trotha.’

“In case everything was not clear, an addendum specified: ‘No male prisoners will be taken.”

By the time von Trotha’s murderous hordes had finished their job in 1906, fewer than 20,000 of the 80,000 Herreros who lived in Namibia in 1903 remained.

“The others [more than 60,000 of them]”, writes Hochschild, “had been driven into the desert to die of thirst (the Germans poisoned the waterholes), were shot, or – to economise on bullets – bayoneted or clubbed to death with rifle stocks.”

Hochschild tries to be fair here by pointing to what the Americans and the British were doing, or had done, elsewhere.

“Around the time the Germans were slaughtering the Hereros,” he writes, “the world was largely ignoring America’s brutal counter-guerrilla war in the Phillipines, in which US troops tortured prisoners, burned villages, killed 20,000 rebels, and saw 200,000 more Filipinos die of war-related hunger or disease.

“Britain [too] came in for no international criticism for its killings of Aborigines in Australia, in accordance with extermination orders as ruthless as Von Trotha’s. And, of course, in neither Europe nor the United States was there major protest against the decimation of the American Indians.”

Hochschild then poses the controversial question: “When these other mass murders went largely unnoticed except by their victims, why, in England and the United States, was there such a storm of righteous protest about the Congo?”

He answers the question himself: “What happened in the Congo was indeed mass murder on a vast scale, but the sad truth is that the men who carried it out for Leopold were no more murderous than many Europeans then at work or at war elsewhere in Africa. Conrad said it best [in his book, Heart of Darkness, based on the brutalities in the Congo]: ‘All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz’.”

Kurtz is Joseph Conrad’s lead character in Heart of Darkness. He is “both a murderous head collector and an intellectual, an emissary of science and progress, a painter, a poet and a journalist, and an author of a 17-page report to the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs, at the end of which he scrawls in shaky hand: ‘Exterminate all the brutes’.”

Hochshild believes that Kurtz was Leon Rom in real life. Rom was born in Mons in Belgium. Poorly educated, he joined the Belgian army aged 16. Nine years later, aged 25 in 1886, he found himself in the Congo in search of adventure. He became district commissioner at Matadi and was later put in charge of the African troops in Leopold’s murderous Force Publique army in the Congo.

Rom’s brutality knew no bounds. It was such that even the white people working with him were shocked to their boots.

“When Rom was station chief at Stanley Falls,” Hochshild reveals, “the governor general sent a report back to Brussels about some agents who ‘have the reputation of having killed masses of people for petty reasons’. He mentions Rom’s notorious flower bed rigged with human heads, and then adds: ‘He kept a gallows permanently erected in front of the station’.”

Conrad had himself gone to Congo in 1890 at the time Rom was committing his atrocities. “The moral landscape of Heart of Darkness”, writes Hochshild, “and the shadowy figure at its centre are the creations not just of a novelist but of an open-eyed observer who caught the spirit of a time and place with piercing accuracy.”

So, how did Leopold come to own such a vast territory, exploited it, killed its people, took away its riches and never set foot in it?

Three things stand out in this sad story – the naivety of the African kings and people; the misfits of Europe sent to subdue the Africans; and the superior weapons of war that the Europeans possessed which the Africans lacked.

When the first Europeans (the Portuguese) arrived in Congo in 1482, they met a thriving African kingdom. “Despite the contempt for Kongo culture,” says Hochschild, “the Portuguese grudgingly recognised in the kingdom a sophisticated and well-developed state – the leading one on the west coast of central Africa. It was an imperial federation, of two or three million people, covering an area roughly 3,000 sq miles, some of which lie today in several countries after the Europeans had drawn arbitrary border lines across Africa in 1886.”

The great fascination of the Congo at the time was its mighty 3,000-mile river, variously called Lualaba, Nzadi or Nzere by the people who lived on its banks. Nzere means “the river that swallows all rivers” because of its many tributaries. Just one tributary, the Kasai, carries as much water as Europe’s longest river, the Volga in Russia and it is half as long as the Rhine. Another tributary, the Ubangi is even longer. On Portuguese tongue, Nzere became Zaire which was adopted by Mobutu when he renamed the country in 1971. Like most things African, the Europeans changed the river’s name to Congo.

In 1482 when the Portuguese sailor Diogo C%o accidentally came upon the river as it emptied into the Atlantic, he was astounded by its sheer size. “Modern oceanographers”, writes Hochschild, “have discovered more evidence of the great river’s strength in its ‘pitched battle with the ocean’: a 100-mile-long canyon, in place 4,000 feet deep, that the river has carved out of the sea floor… It pours some 1.4 million cubic feet of water per second into the ocean; only the Amazon carries more water.”

Thanks to satellite technology, the world now knows that much of the river’s basin lies on a plateau which rises nearly 1,000 feet high 220 miles from the Atlantic coast. Thus the river descends to sea level in a furious 220-mile dash down the plateau.

“During this tumultous descent,” writes Hochshild, “the river squeezes through narrow canyons, boils up in waves of 40 feet high, and tumbles over 32 separate cataracts. So great is the drop and the volume of water that these 220 miles have as much hydroelectric potential as all the lakes and rivers of the United States combined.”

In all, the river (Africa’s second longest) drains more than 1.3 million square miles, “an area larger than India,” Hochschild testifies. “It has an estimated one-sixth of the world’s hydroelectric potential… Its fan-shaped web of tributaries constitute more than seven thousand miles of interconnecting waterways, a built-in transportation grid rivalled by few places on earth.”

Thus, Congo was a jewel any colonialist would kill for. And the lot fell to Henry Morton Stanley to colonise it for King Leopold II.

Stanley was Welsh but he passed himself round as an American. He had first stumbled on the river on his second trip to Africa. Because the river flowed north from this point, Stanley thought it was the Nile.

Stanley’s background tells a lot about the brutality he unleashed on the Africans he met on his journeys. He had been born a “bastard” in the small Welsh market town of Denbigh on 28 January 1841. His mother, Betsy Parry (a housemaid) had recorded him on the birth register of St Hillary’s Church in Denbigh as “John Rowlands, Bastard”. His father was believed to be a local drunkard called John Rowlands who died of delirium tremens, a severe pyschotic condition occurring in some alcoholics.

John Rowlands Bastard was the first of his mother’s five illegitimate children. After an exceptionally difficult childhood spent with foster parents and in juvenile workhouses, John Rowlands Bastard moved to New Orleans (USA) in February 1859 where he changed his name several times – sometimes calling himself Morley, Morelake and Moreland. Finally he settled on Henry Morton Stanley which he claimed was the name of a rich benefactor he lived with in New Orleans.

Stanley would become a soldier, sailor, newspaperman and famous explorer feted by the high and mighty on both sides of the Atlantic. He was knighted by Britain and elected to parliament.

Though records show that Stanley wrote love letters to at least three women, he himself confessed despairingly in 1886: “The fact is, I can’t talk to women”. He eventually married “the eccentric high-society portrait painter” Dorothy Tennant on 12 July 1890 in a lavish wedding ceremony at Westminster Abbey in London, attended by the good and great of Britain, including Prime Minister Gladstone. Yet, Hochschild provides evidence showing that Stanley’s “great fear of women” prevented him from ever consummating his marriage.

After his honeymoon, Stanley himself wrote in his dairy; “I do not regard it wifely, to procure these pleasures, at the cost of making me feel like a monkey in a cage”. To which his biographer, Frank McLynn adds: “Stanley’s fear of women was so great that when he was finally called upon to satisfy a wife, [he] in effect broke down and confessed that he considered sex for the beasts.”

Hochschild adds his own telling comment: “Whether this inference is right or wrong, the inhibitions that caused Stanley so much pain are a reminder that the explorers and soldiers who carried out the European seizure of Africa were often not the bold, bluff, hardy men of legend, but restless, unhappy, driven men, in flight from something in their past or in themselves. The economic explanations of imperial expansion -the search for raw materials, labour and markets – are all valid, but there was pyschological fuel as well.”

Here Stanley had a common link with his ultimate employer, King Leopold II. Hochschild tells how the “loveless marriage” of Leopold’s parents affected the young prince. “If Leopold wanted to see his father, he had to apply for an audience”. The cold atmosphere in which he grew up haunted him in later life. He became an “ungainly, haughty young man whom his first cousin Queen Elizabeth of England thought ‘very odd’ and in the habit of ‘saying disagreeable things to people’,” says Hochschild.

Like his parents, Leopold and his wife, Marie-Henriette “loathed each other at first sight, feelings that apparently never changed”, Hochschild continues. “Like many young couples of the day, the newlyweds apparently found sex a frightening mystery.” Queen Victoria became their sex-educator. She and her husband, Prince Albert, gave Leopold and his wife (visiting from Brussels) tips about how to consummate their marriage. Several years later, when Marie-Henriette became pregnant, Leopold wrote to Prince Albert thanking him for “the wise and practical advice you gave me…[It] has now borne fruit.”

When Leopold finally ascended the throne in 1865, his undying desire was to own colonies. He tried everything under the sun to get a colony to no avail, including offering to buy the Philippines from Spain, buying lakes in the Nile and draining them out, or trying to lease territory on the island of Formosa.

He despised Belgium’s small size. “Small country, small people” was how he described his little Belgium that had only become independent in 1830. The brutal expeditions of Stanley in Africa finally offered Leopold the chance to land his prized jewel, Congo.

Stanley had made two “journalistic” trips to Africa, first in 1869 to find David Livingstone. The second was in 1874 where, starting from Zanzibar with 356 people (mostly Africans), he “attacked and destroyed 28 large towns and three or four score villages” (his own words) as he plundered his way down to Boma and the mouth of the Congo River on the Atlantic coast.

In 1879, Stanley was off again to Africa, this time under commission from King Leopold to colonise Congo for him. Stanley used the gun, cheap European goods and plain-faced deceit to win over 450 local chiefs and their people and take over their land.

Stanley apparently remembered how the 22-sq-mile Manhattan Island in New York Bay had been “bought” from the Native Americans by the Dutch colonial officer, Peter Minuit, with trinkets valued at just $24.

If Minuit could do it in Manhattan, Stanley could do it, too, in the Congo. Only that in his case, he just asked the Congolese chiefs to mark Xs to legal documents written in a foreign language they had not seen before. Stanley called them treaties, like this one signed on 1 April 1884 by the chiefs of Ngombi and Mafela:

In return for “one piece of cloth per month to each of the undersigned chiefs, besides present of cloth in hand, they promised to freely of their own accord, for themselves and their heirs and successors for ever…give up to the said Association [set up by Leopold] the sovereignty and all sovereign and governing rights to all their territories…and to assist by labour or otherwise, any works, improvements or expeditions which the said Association shall cause at any time to be carried out in any part of these territories… All roads and waterways running through this country, the right of collecting tolls on the same, and all game, fishing, mining and forest rights, are to be the absolute property of the said Association.”

With treaties like this, Stanley set forth to colonise Congo for Leopold. But the French would not let them have all the laugh. They sent Count Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza on their own colonising mission. De Brazza landed north of the Congo River, curved out an enclave for France and had a town named after him (Brazzaville). The enclave eventually became known as Congo Brazzaville, where the French too unleashed their own brutality on the local people.

Meanwhile Stanley was doing a “good” job across the river for Leopold, building a railway and a dirt road to skirt the 220-mile descent of the river. This was to facilitate the shipping of Congo’s abundant ivory and other wealth to Belgium to enrich Leopold and his petit pays. In 1884, Stanley finally left for home in England, his work for Leopold done.

Leopold next sent in his hordes, including Leon Rom, to use absolute terror to rule the land and ship out the wealth.

It was the brutality of Leopold’s agents that would catch the eye of the world and lead to his forced sale of Congo to the Belgian government in 1908.

Ivory had been the initial prized Congo export for Leopold. Then something happened by accident in far away Ireland that dramatically changed the fate of Leopold, his Congo and its people. John Dunlop, an Irish veterinary surgeon, was tinkering with his son’s bicycle in Belfast and accidentally discovered how to make an inflatable rubber tire for the bike. He set up a tire company in 1890 named after himself, Dunlop, and a new major industry was up and running. Rubber became the new gold, and Leopold was soon laughing all the way to the bank.

The huge rainforest of Congo teemed with wild rubber, and Leopold pressed his agents for more of it. This is when the genocide reached its peak. Tapping wild rubber was a difficult affair, and Leopold’s agents had to use brutal force to get the people of Congo to go into the forests and gather rubber for Leopold. Any Congolese man who resisted the order, saw his wife kidnapped and put in chains to force him to go and gather rubber. Or sometimes the wife was killed in revenge.

As more villages resisted the rubber order, Leopold’s agents ordered the Force Publique army to raid the rebellious villages and kill the people. To make sure that the soldiers did not waste the bullets in hunting animals, their officers demanded to see the amputated right hand of every person they killed. As Hochschild puts it, “the standard proof was the right hand from a corpse. Or occasionally not from a corpse. ‘Sometimes’, said one officer to a missionary, ‘soldiers shot a cartridge at an animal in hunting; they then cut off a hand from a living man’. In some military units, there was even a ‘keeper of the hands’, his job was the smoking [of them].”

Fortunately for the people, Edmund Dene Morel, a clerk of a Liverpool shipping line used by Leopold to ship out Congo’s wealth, discovered on his several journeys to the Belgian port of Antwerp in the 1890s that while rubber and ivory were shipped from Congo to Antwerp, only guns and soldiers were going from Antwerp to Congo. This marked the beginning of his massive newspaper campaign to expose Leopold and his atrocities in the Congo.

Morel’s campaign in Europe and America finally forced Britain to ask its consul in Congo, the Irish patriot Sir Roger Casement, to make an investigative trip all over Congo and report. Casement’s findings were so damning that the Foreign Office in London was too embarrassed that it could not publish the original.

Casement’s description of “sliced hands and penises was far more graphic and forceful than the British government had expected”. When the Foreign Office finally published a sanitised version of his report, an angry Casement sent a stinking 18-page letter of protest to his superiors in the Foreign Office, threatening to resign. He called his superiors “a gang of stupidities” and “a wretched set of incompetent noodles.”

In the end, the Belgian government was forced to step in and buy Congo from Leopold in 1908. Negotiations for the buy-out started in 1906. Leopold dragged his feet for two years, but finally, in March 1908, the deal was done.

“The Belgian government first of all agreed to assume [Congo’s] 110 million francs worth of debt, much of them in the form of bond’s Leopold had freely dispensed over the years to [his] favourites”, says Hochschild. Nearly 32 million franc of the debt was owed to the Belgian government itself through loans it had given years earlier to Leopold.

The government also agreed to pay 45.5 million francs towards completing Leopold’s then unfinished pet building projects. On top of all this, Leopold got another 50 million francs (to be paid in instalments) ‘as a mark of gratitude for his great sacrifices made for the Congo.’

“Those funds were not expected to come from the Belgian taxpayer.”, Hochschild writes. “They were to be extracted from the Congo itself.”

He finishes his book on a very high note: Calling this bit The Great Forgetting, Hochschild writes:

“From the colonial era, the major legacy Europe left for Africa was not democracy as it is practised today in countries like England, France and Belgium; it was authoritarian rule and plunder. On the whole continent, perhaps no nation has had a harder time than the Congo in emerging from the shadow of its past.

“When independence came, the country fared badly… Some Africans were being trained for that distant day; but when pressure grew and independence came in 1960, in the entire territory there were fewer than 30 African university graduates. There were no Congolese army officers, engineers, agronomists or physicians. The colony’s administration had made few other steps toward a Congo run by its own people; of some 5,000 management-level positions in the civil service, only three were filled by Africans.”

Yet on the day of independence, King Baudouin, the then monarch of Belgium, had the gall to tell the Congolese in his speech in Kinshasa: “It is now up to you, gentlemen, to show that you are worthy of our confidence”.

No cheek could be bigger! And you could well imagine how mad the Congolese nationalists like Patrice Lumumba were jumping.

Hochschild has written an excellent book. Africa owes him a huge debt of gratitude. New African highly recommends the book for compulsory reading in African schools and universities.

Copyright (c) IC Publications Limited 1999. All rights reserved.

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French Government Exposed in Rwanda’s Genocide

By Maryam

Newly evidence documents the role of the French regime in the 1994 Rwanda genocide — and has, once again, put the spotlight on this tragic event and the role of foreign imperialists in it.

In early August 2008, the Rwandan government released a report based on eyewitness accounts that the direct cooperation between the French state and the government of Rwandan Hutus that was in power during the 1994 genocide. This report is consistent with the results of investigations performed by various other organizations, including human rights groups.

According to the Rwandan government, 33 politicians and French army officers are implicated in the infamous genocide in Rwanda, either by giving orders or by their direct actions. The late president Francois Mitterrand, his son Jean Christophe, Prime Minister Edouard Balladur, Alain Juppe and his foreign minister at the time were among the indicated responsible parties.

The background for these events (which annihilated a generation) was the country’s severe economic crisis caused by actions of the International Money Fund and the World’s Bank. For example, in the name of economic reform, the value of the Rwandan currency was sharply devalued. This, in turn, caused changes in the world trade market that triggered a severe drop in Rwanda’s export of key crops like coffee.

On April 4,1994, the Tutsis forces of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), operating with direct US support, shot a missile at a plane, causing the death of the Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana. In the wake of this, the Rwandan regime, urged on by Hutu extremists, unleaded a campaign of vendetta.

The Interahamwe paramilitary force was mobilized to slaughter innocent Tutsi tribespeople and Hutus caught protecting Tutsis. Meanwhile, the French regime sent 2,550 air and ground forces to support the Rwandan state against the RPF. The Rwandan report cites numerous instances of the French forces involved in the killing or giving orders to those who did the killing.

Tutsis and the Hutus, who allegedly were suspected of hiding Tutsis, were executed and their wives raped. From the time of Rwandan occupation, raping women prisoners has been done routinely and systemically by the French soldiers.

Based on direct testimony, some of the atrocious crimes that occurred during the Rwandan genocide had French help. French forces made their bases in the Niaroshishi area. Those foreign bases were protected by Rwandan military forces and the local pro-government paramilitaries.

In one incident three unarmed youth were chased out of a local tea farm and ran toward a French camp. The police and paramilitaries followed the three youth into camp and arrested them with the help of French soldiers and they were never heard from again.

A former member of the Hutu pro-government paramilitaries testifies:

“We rounded up the Tutsis who had exited their camps to gather some wood (including Charles, the teenager who was son of Sambaba,) and killed them. We then buried them in mass graves near guard postings. The French companies came over to check out what we were doing and praised us, gave us meals to express their appreciation and sometimes went out with us during nightly patrolling.”

This genocide went on until over 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates were slaughtered. Finally. Returning Tutsi forces caused over two million of the Hutu population to flee for their lives into adjacent countries.

After the publication of this Rwandan report, the French state has deceitfully denied its role and tries to ignore the report. Those French politicians named in it have counter-charged that the report authors falsified evidence. For example, Harry Maurine, (who was French Minister of Defence during the 1994 genocide) declared that this report is unacceptable and that the soldiers of France have done nothing to be ashamed of.

Even after gathering the evidence and producing this report, the Rwandan state has been complacent in holding the French army accountable for their actions. Instead of making the main perpetrators liable for those crimes, the Rwandan state has busied itself arresting Tutsi villagers. Instead of highlighting the roles of imperialists in the mass killing, the country instead arrested over 50,000 people of the Tutsi tribe.

But, due to prison overcrowding, the state had to release about 40 thousand from their jails. The first group to be freed included the sick and the elderly in 2003. Though the government said that their freedom was temporary and conditional and that their final fate would be announced in their local courthouses (called GAKAKA.) Since March 2005, about 12,000 local courthouses were established in villages all over Rwanda to try the released. Most of them were declared innocent.

Historical discords among Tutsi and Hutu Tribes

Before imperialism’s encroachment, the Tutsi and Hutu were living alongside each other in villages and houses of Rwanda country. Tutsi pastoralists and Hutu agriculturalists were organized into small Bantu-speaking states. At the end of World War 1 the Belgium colonizers secured their domination over Rwanda’s people by dividing the two tribes from each other through the use of the eugenics movement in Europe and the United States. They declared the Hutus and Tutsis were two different “races” and issued them a racial identification card which defined each person legally as either Hutu or Tutsi.

By the end of the 1950s, growing political instability ensued rebellions that caused the deaths of between 20,000 and 100,000 Tutsis. By 1959, the royal regime of Tutsi tribe was overthrown and many of this tribe’s people escaped to neighboring states or were expelled to Uganda and the first Tutsi Refugee camps were established.

In 1962 Belgium let go of Rwanda, and that country supposedly became independent. But the civil wars between various imperialist-dependent groups and tribes continued for many years. These wars naturally caused citizens to flee and take refuge in neighboring countries. Uganda applied some of the most inhumane laws and regulations on those refugees. Refugees in Ugandan camps were confined in conditions with less than the basic means of survival. The status of “refugee” was bequeathed on the children that were born in Ugandan refugee camps and they were not recognized as any country’s citizens. Eventually the number of refugees in Ugandan camps had risen so much that the state was forced to let children out of the camps. And in some cases they were able to use opportunities under the United Nations refugee organization to leave Uganda and settle in other countries.

During the political crisis of the late 1960s, the Ugandan administration of Milton Obote passed a bill called the Control of Alien Refugees Act, which declared Rwandese to be a special class subject to arbitrary detention. In 1969 Obote deported all foreigners (this included the descendants of Hutus who had come as migrant laborers in the mid-1920s, and the more recent Tutsi refugees) from Uganda.

This article was originally published in Payam Fedaee #115. We Thank comrade Behrooz Navaii, for translating and telling us about this.

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African alibi: What we learn from Anglo-Saxon fear of Lumumba, President

AFRICAN FOCUS By Tafataona Mahoso
Sunday, March 07, 2010 – sundaymail.co.zw

Despite the nominal co-optation and ascendancy of an African-American, Barrack Obama, to the presidency of the leading Anglo-Saxon power on earth, the intensity of Anglo-Saxon fear of an African revolution in 2010 is at the same level if not worse than it was in 1961 during the Congo crisis.

This is the context in which renewals of illegal US and EU sanctions against Zimbabwe must be viewed.

One indicator of that fear is the frantic search for African masks and alibis to cover up the white man even so many centuries after the slave holocaust. For instance, Anglo-Saxon crimes against the Congo (DRC) in 1960 and Zimbabwe in 2010 are comparable:

— Both have for a long time been considered too rich to be left alone; and Zimbabwe can use the Congo experience in 1960 to defend itself better in 2010.

— Both have been subjected to multiple, well-documented Anglo-Saxon crimes which require and deserve massive reparations as well as prosecutions of the living criminals for war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is these well-documented crimes together with the natural riches of the two countries which make the Anglo-Saxon powers scared and yet unable to let go. For DRC some of the crimes are as follows:

Between the end of the Berlin Conference (1884-1885) and 1908, the people of the Congo were subjected to a holocaust and to modern slavery where they were forced to produce certain quotas of rubber on pain of having their fingers, toes and arms chopped off if they failed to meet those quotas.

During the Hitler wars, Belgium was over-run by the Nazis and the Belgian state wiped out. Belgians established a government in exile in London which subsisted on looted Congolese natural resources and minerals. Re-establishment of the Belgian state after 1945 was made possible through Congolese resources. Between 1960 and 1998, the people of the Congo were subjected to successive stooge regimes sponsored by the same Western powers and intelligence agencies which destroyed the first Congolese government and revolution and murdered Congo’s popular and first prime minister Patrice Lumumba on January 17 1961. Between 1998 and 2003 the same Western powers interfered in the internal affairs of the DRC by opposing Sadc’s intervention against their proxies and Zimbabwe was particularly singled out for punishment for leading the Sadc intervention and stopping genocide against the Congolese people. In the Zimbabwe case, British settlers and companies dispossessed the people of their land and minerals for a hundred years; and when the people reclaimed that land between 1992 and 2002 they were put under illegal Anglo-Saxon sanctions which Europe and the US renewed in February and March 2010 respectively. For the people of Zimbabwe to be able to reclaim their land between 1992 and 2002, they had to wage a protracted guerilla war from 1965 to 1980 in which Europe, the US and white South Africa supported the white Rhodesian settler side.

"Homeland" under South African apartheid

 In 1973 the Convention for the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid made it clear that the punishable crimes of apartheid were committed not only in South Africa but throughout the Southern African region and against most of the indigenous people and nations of the region by white Rhodesia, white South Africa and their Anglo-Saxon supporters who provided arms, mercenaries, trade and finance to all the white settler regimes and to their puppet regimes in the then Zaire (DRC) and to Jonas Savimbi’s Unita in Angola.

 Therefore in both Zimbabwe and Congo (DRC), because of the historical realities of racism, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of mass dispossession and looting — the Anglo-Saxon powers have always been eager to use African masks and alibis. Before Jonas Savimbi of Angola, the biggest mask for white racist interests and the biggest provider of alibis for Anglo-Saxon imperialism was Moise Tshombe, the puppet African prime minister of the white corporate breakaway province of Katanga. With the agreement of all the key Western powers, the Belgians arranged a system where Tshombe himself and all the ministers of his puppet government were controlled and run by white Belgian private secretaries. The police and military structures were also managed by white officers in the same way. The Western powers figured that all the crimes and atrocities required to destroy Lumumba’s government and reverse the small gains of the Congo National Movement (MNC) could be blamed on Tshombe and his stooge ministers, or on the African population itself, while maintaining the image of the white powers and their looting corporations as civilised, humane and well-meaning.

Coming to Zimbabwe, on Tuesday March 2 2010, the media reported that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had finally stated bluntly that all illegal Anglo-Saxon sanctions against Zimbabwe must be lifted. This was followed by passage of a double motion in the House of Assembly praising the Prime Minister for his decision to call the illegal sanctions by their real name and asking him and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara to proceed to lobby the Anglo-Saxon powers for the complete removal of the same sanctions. These events mark a new stage in the struggle to unite the people against the illegal and racist sanctions in order to strip the Anglo-Saxon powers of the criminal mask and alibi which they have enjoyed through the MDC formations for the last 10 years. This is the moment to unite all people for Zimbabwe.

Mr Tsvangirai and MDC-T had reached a new stage indeed:

— First, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa was going to the UK to deliver two messages: that South Africa under the ANC government will never play for imperialism in Zimbabwe the same role which South Africa under apartheid played for imperialism in Rhodesia; and that it makes no sense for the Anglo-Saxon powers to retain illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe in the hope that sanctions will motivate the liberation movement in the inclusive Government to implement the so-called GPA to its fullest, since the GPA document itself requires the very same illegal sanctions to be condemned and defeated or lifted before the GPA can be considered complete. How can the same evil sanctions condemned in the GPA be considered an incentive to encourage completion of the GPA?

— Second, the demonstration against sanctions by the Zanu-PF Youth League which was followed by the music gala celebrating President Mugabe’s 86th birthday in Bulawayo on February 26 2010 helped spread the anti-sanctions campaign from the realm of political commentary and party politics to the realm of popular Pan-African culture. Having Jamaican reggae musician Sizzla Kalonji as the focus of the gala and having him condemn the sanctions on behalf of both Rastafarians and Pan-Africanists was indeed the stroke of genius which crowned all the communiqués of Sadc, AU, ACP and NAM, which had condemned the same sanctions in the last seven years!

Linked to Bob Marley’s performance of “Zimbabwe” and “Africa Unite” on April 18 1980, Kalonji’s performance against white racist sanctions in Bulawayo truly globalised the struggle to defend Zimbabwe’s sovereign independence and economic empowerment.

Popularising the defence of Zimbabwe’s sovereign independence and economic empowerment at the same level as Bob Marley’s 1980 visit increased pressure for the Anglo-Saxon powers to look for cover or for an alibi. Mr Tsvangirai, too, had to take cover because on January 19 2010, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary David Miliband sought to reinforce imperialism’s criminal mask by claiming a false alibi. He claimed that the sanctions were not hurting ordinary Zimbabweans because they had no impact on the economy. That was the alibi. But Miliband went further to say that the same illegal and racist sanctions, which supposedly did not hurt anyone, would, however, be lifted only when Tsvangirai’s MDC-T (who originally begged for them to be imposed) came out and asked the same sanctions to be lifted. The Standard, through its UK-based writer Alex Magaisa, correctly sensed danger for Mr Tsvangirai in David Miliband’s alibi and mask. In fact, he felt that Miliband should not have revealed that for the last 10 years the Anglo-Saxon powers had been using the MDC formations to create an alibi for their intrusive and illegal intervention in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe. Magaisa felt that the MDC-T as a British mask in Zimbabwe would no longer be able to perform its function once Miliband pointed to it and identified it as a British-EU mask. Magaisa’s Standard article was entitled “A case of the embarrassing uncle”.

Magaisa is worth quoting at length to demonstrate the importance of the present moment for patriots in Zimbabwe.

“It doesn’t matter that Sekuru Rameki’s (David Miliband’s) speeches may contain a grain of truth. Often he says it as it is. The trouble (for whom?) is that he knows neither the location nor the time to make his utterances . . . I was reminded of the likes of Sekuru Rameki last week when the furore broke over the statements made by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in relation to the contentions issue of sanctions in Zimbabwe.”

It is obvious that Magaisa has painted a picture of the relationship between MDC-T and the white racist Anglo-Saxon powers which is meant to flatter MDC-T and dismiss Miliband as a drunken uncle. Yet it is significant that even Magaisa recognises or imagines that a family relationship does exist. Where in 2000 Mr Tsvangirai called the Rhodies “cousins” of the MDC formations, Magaisa says the Anglo-Saxons, represented by Miliband, are the same family as MDC-T, Miliband is the uncle of MDC-T who mis-spoke! History shows otherwise. The issue involved is more serious than a slip of the tongue. First it shows that the sanctions are illegal and racist. Therefore the people of Zimbabwe have the right to be compensated for the economic terror and damage caused. Tsvangirai cannot end by calling only for all the sanctions to go. Why must the sanctions be lifted immediately? Because they are evil and destructive. Why were they imposed in the first place? Well, to restore white Rhodesian property in land and minerals which the British stole from the African majority in 1890 and gave to their Rhodie children. So, how has the African nation been injured? Well, it has been doubly injured because it lost the use of its land and minerals for 100 years and then got 10 years of illegal and racist sanctions for reclaiming and redeeming that same stolen land!

Such serious crimes have always required alibis. When the slave holocaust against Africa came under moral attack, the Anglo-Saxon powers said they were not responsible because some African chiefs sold their people to white slave-catchers. What that was meant to hide was the fact that whites waged wars to capture African slaves.

Source

Are the Smurfs Communist?

From RSA Madrid

For many it is said that the Smurfs, the beloved cartoon series created by the  Belgian cartoonist Peyo, represented the ideal society imagined and longed for by Communists. To argue so great statement, they bring to the fore various different reasons.

– First it was claimed that lived in the forest in a village with a closed economy where there was no money and where the collective was always much more important than the individual.

– All the Smurfs have in their name the term “smurf” as Grumpy Smurf, Brawny Smurf, Papa Smurf … A similar use of the term “comrade”.

– Also they dressed all alike, with a hat and white pants uniform similar to the Maoist one, except the leader wears the same outfit but in red, the color par excellence of socialism.

– Their society is atheist, and there are no deities but rather friends, as if Mother Nature and Father Time.

– The physical appearance of Papa Smurf is reminiscent of Karl Marx with the white beard, and his leadership resembles that of Lenin.

– The Brawny Smurf represent the type of worker and militant Marxist repressing verbally trying to get the score line and carrying out the suggestions of Papa Smurf at all costs.

– The Inventor Smurf would represent the knowledge worker performing work getting exactly the same as others without entailing any complaints from them.

– The Brainy Smurf would represent Trotskyism, always questioning the general line of people questioning the decisions of Papa Smurf, and even being “exiled” from the village at the end of many chapters.

– Gargamel, the enemy par excellence of the Smurfs, represents capital, is greedy and selfish, and with Azrael, the cat, its armed forces to defend him at all costs, fascism.

– The Smurfs young Soviet youth represent those influenced by the Glasnost, dress differently, think differently and have other aspirations.

Here are some of the assertions that keeps the reaction, the ruling class and Trotskyism in one of his many attempts to discredit communism, because everyone knows that Smurfs are clearly Aryan supremacists, Ku Klux Klan trend.

The Interior Department of the RSA, in joint work with the NKVD, has reached definitive conclusions about this absolutely Nazi  character of the Smurfs, ignored and hidden by the mass media of the Western powers through history. The findings of this investigation that has lasted decades, detailed below:

– For starters, it is strongly denied that the Smurfs lived and they only focused on their existence as a centerpiece of his universe.

– The Smurfs wear white and pointy hats and white pants, robes all very similar to those used by the KKK. And curiously, the clothes of the leader, Papa Smurf, the same but in red, corresponding to the description of those worn by the leader of the KKK, known as Grand Dragon.

– In one episode, a group of Smurfs fall under a spell that turns them black. While they are black, curiously are “bad.” Everything just finally when they stop being black.

– In many chapters, the Smurfs are dancing around a bonfire with fireworks similar to those used in the rituals of the KKK.

– Their natural enemy is Gargamel, name of a German Jew, who represents the Jewish topic of evil in the purest style Sutrmer Der; of prominent features such as the aquiline nose, looking viejuno and neglected black robes of a religious, miser who lived in an old abandoned house, with his inseparable Azrael, also a Jewish name (Azrael is the fallen angel who separates the soul from the body at the time of death) that represents values ​​similar to those of his master in a more irrational Zionism.

– Only one woman in the village, demonstrating that women are relegated to the background and mean really nothing, but necessary for reproductive reasons and maintenance of the race. As a good representative of the female gender of the dominant race, has Nordic and Aryan features.

For now all we can reveal for the rest of the report remains classified because the investigation is not closed and is now at a point which discusses the possible relationships between the Smurfs of the KKK and the Popular Party.

Press and Information Department of the NKVD, October 13, 2010.

GOOD NIGHT, BLUE PRIDE!

R.I.P. Ludo Martens

12 March 1946 – 5 June 2011

Ludo Martens, founder of the Workers’ Party of Belgium, author of “Another View of Stalin,” has passed away.

Please find below the press statement in which the Party Bureau of the Workers’ Party of Belgium announces the passing away of Ludo Martens, founder and for many years also chairman of the Workers’ Party of Belgium. Many have known him mainly as the initiator of the Brussels International Communist Seminar, which he presided from 1992 to the early years of the 21st century. From his analysis of the degeneration and final overthrow of socialism in the Soviet Union and other countries in Eastern Europe, he saw the necessity but also the possibility of re-unifying and reinforcing the world communist movement on the basis of scientific socialism, in a spirit of internationalism.

You may send your condolences to wpb@… This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Baudouin Deckers, member of the Party Bureau, head of the Department for International Relations

In the early morning of Sunday, 5 June 2011, after a long and lingering illness, Ludo Martens, former president of the Workers’ Party of Belgium, passed away.

Together with Paul Goossens and Walter De Bock, Ludo Martens was one of the better known student leaders of May 1968 in Belgium. He translated the worldwide progressive current at the universities into the foundation of the Student Trade Union Movement (SVB), developed solidarity with the equal rights movement of black people in the United States, resisted narrow nationalism and exerted efforts to enhance the movement of solidarity between students and workers.

In 1979, Ludo Martens was instrumental in founding the Workers’ Party of Belgium (WPB), born from the merger between the student movement and the workers’ movement in the turbulent 1970s. Ludo Martens helped to put the principle of « serve the people » into practice by actively stimulating Kris Merckx in setting up Medicine for the People. Today’s eleven people’s clinics of Medicine for the People, providing free health care to more than 25,000 patients, remain one of the WPB’s major achievements. Today, the WPB counts 4,500 members and has chapters in 30 cities and 120 workplaces all over Belgium.

Ludo Martens led the WPB until 1999. The last decade of his life he was mainly active in the Democratic Republic of Congo. With his writings about Congolese liberation fighters Patrice Lumumba, Pierre Mulele and Leonie Abo he wanted to support the progressive movement in Congo. Returning history to those who made it, as he would put it.

Today however, unfortunately, we have to return history itself to Ludo. Ludo Martens is survived by two children. On Sunday morning 26 June, a simple commemoration will take place in Brussels.