Written in January 1917, Lenin analyses the cynical imperialist manoeuvres behind World War One and puts forward the proletarian revolutionary alternative as the only way out of the impasse for the working class.

The international situation is becoming increasingly clear and increasingly menacing. Both belligerent coalitions have latterly revealed the imperialist nature of the war in a very striking way. The more assiduously the capitalist governments and the bourgeois and socialist pacifists spread their empty, lying pacifist phrases—the talk of a democratic peace, a peace without annexations, etc.—the sooner are they exposed. Germany is crushing several small nations under her iron heel with the very evident determination not to give up her booty except by exchanging part of it for enormous colonial possessions, and she is using hypocritical pacifist phrases as a cover for her readiness to conclude an immediate imperialist peace.

For the soldiers, the war was a seemly unending nightmare; for the civilians on the home front, especially the women, hardly less so. In the end large tracts of Europe lay wasted, millions were dead or wounded. The great majority of casualties were from the working class. Survivors lived on with severe mental trauma. The streets of every European city were full of limbless veterans. Nations were bankrupt—not just the losers, but also the victors.

Under Fire: The Story of a Squad (French: Le Feu: journal d'une escouade) by Henri Barbusse was written in December 1916. It was one of the first novels about the First World War to be published and was based on Barbusse's personal experiences as a soldier in the French Army on the Western Front. Le Feu made an immediate impact, winning the prestigious Prix Goncourt the same year it was published. It remains one of the great novels about the "war to end all wars”.

In 1915, while Churchill was preparing his disastrous Gallipoli adventure, British diplomacy was attempting to win allies for its war against the Turks in the Balkans. The British mission in Sofia reported that Bulgaria might be prepared to attack Turkey, although this hope was soon dashed when Bulgaria joined the Central Powers to attack Serbia instead. In early March Churchill received more encouraging news from Athens. The Greek Prime Minister Venizelos promised to send three army divisions to Gallipoli. He assured a gleeful Churchill that the King Constantine, known to be pro-German, would not object.

Somebody once said to Lenin war is terrible, to which he replied: “yes, terribly profitable”. The European war suited the American industrialists rather well. Capitalism in the USA had developed with whirlwind speed in the last decades of the 19th century. At the beginning of the War in Europe America was already a powerful young nation with a mighty industrial base. In this war it played the role of chief usurer and quartermaster to the European belligerents.

While the armies of the Great Powers were busy slaughtering each other in Flanders, Tannenberg and Gallipoli, their weaker brethren were watching with keen anticipation from the sidelines like vultures waiting to gorge themselves on the corpses of the defeated party. As long as it remained unclear which of the big bandits would prove the stronger, the little bandits had to be patient and wait for their opportunity to arrive.

At the turn of the 20th Century, the Ottoman Empire was in a state of terminal decline. In 1908 Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina. Three years later the Italian bourgeoisie proclaimed its colonial ambitions by grabbing Libya in North Africa from the Ottomans. Later they seized the islands of Rhodes and Kos. A year later a league of Balkan nations drove the Ottomans from their last foothold in Europe.

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