Sunday, August 23, 2015

August 23rd 1915

Don't know what else to talk about so I'll mention that 100 years ago not much was happening on the Western Front.

There was heavy fighting on the Eastern Front though. On this day, Russian soldiers were stubbornly defending a place called Klezczeli, but it would be part of an overall German advance. We don't really know that much about the Eastern Front in World War I do we? Apparently the Austrians got pulverized early on but we all know that the Russian army and then the Czarist state would eventually crumble under the German hammer blows.

From an economic-history point of view I find it fascinating. European Russia was able to conquer a vast, sparsely inhabited wilderness. They already possessed a gigantic agricultural plain that was difficult to defend. But they didn't have the means to really harness its potential. What good is having a million more young men of military age than your opponents if your agriculture can barely feed them when they themselves are working the land? If you can't get them to the fighting quick enough for lack of rail roads? If you can't build enough guns for them?

Russia's manpower and natural resources would only be truly realized under the Communists, and only just in time.

On the Southern Front, Churchill's disastrous Gallipoli Offensive was grinding on. It would see Churchill's resignation from the cabinet and start the beginning of his over two decades of failure and gradual political irrelevance until Hitler and World War Two elevated him to almost mythical status in 1939 (First Lord of the Admiralty) and 1940 (Prime Minister).

But it was the First World War that produced all that. It traumatized the West. It discredited the elites. In its own terrible way, it helped to make the second half of the 20th Century one of the most democratic and egalitarian of any era that we know about.

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