Historian Jacques Pauwels applies a critical, revisionist lens to the First World War, offering readers a fresh interpretation that challenges mainstream thinking. As Pauwels sees it, war offered benefits to everyone, across class and national borders.
For European statesmen, a large-scale war could give their countries new colonial territories, important to growing capitalist economies. For the wealthy and ruling classes, war served as an antidote to social revolution, encouraging workers to exchange socialism's focus on international solidarity for nationalism's intense militarism. And for the working classes themselves, war provided an outlet for years of systemic militarization -- quite simply, they were hardwired to pick up arms, and to do so eagerly.
To Pauwels, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in June 1914 -- traditionally upheld by historians as the spark that lit the powder keg -- was not a sufficient cause for war but rather a pretext seized upon by European powers to unleash the kind of war they had desired. But what Europe's elite did not expect or predict was some of the war's outcomes: social revolution and Communist Party rule in Russia, plus a wave of political and social democratic reforms in Western Europe that would have far-reaching consequences.
Reflecting his broad research in the voluminous recent literature about the First World War by historians in the leading countries involved in the conflict, Jacques Pauwels has produced an account that challenges readers to rethink their understanding of this key event of twentieth century world history.
"Consistent with his argument that the war was fought not only between countries, but also between the working class and its social superiors, Pauwels gives us a picture of the event as experienced by those who actually did the fighting and worked in the war industries... Pauwels has given us a thought-provoking account of the Great War that casts it in a different light from that presented in most standard histories of the subject."
- Ken Osborne, emeritus professor at the faculty of education at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg Free Press
"The Great Class War 1914-1918 identifies those who want war, those who scurrilously manipulate information, consciousness, and the citizenry to wage war... The focus throughout the book is on the classism at the root of the war. Pauwels? thoroughly compelling narrative leads the reader to the ineluctable conclusion that elitists have been manipulating and leading the masses, unwilling or not, to the killing fields... The Great Class War 1914-1918 is a magnificent opus."
- Kim Petersen, Dissident Voice
" Pauwels' study of the Great War will prompt a critical reexamination of the causation of the First World War. It will force historians to recognize the class struggle deeply embedded in the conflict. Even more important, it should inspire further reflection on contemporary global conflicts and their relationship with class, democracy, and the struggle for power."
- Scott Farrand Marxism-Leninism Today
JACQUES R. PAUWELS has taught European history at the University of Toronto, York University and the University of Waterloo. He is the author of several books on twentieth-century history, including The Myth of the Good War, in which he provides a revisionist look at the role of the United States and other Allied countries in the Second World War. An independent scholar, Pauwels holds PhDs in history and political science. He lives in Brantford, Ontario.