Assignment on The Great War (a.k.a. "The First World War")

World War One will always be "The Great War." It changed the world as no war has done since.

Chapter 7 of Boyer and Morais' fine old labor history Labor's Untold Story does a fine job of interweaving the political deals that led the USA into the war with the huge profits for war business, the attacks on labor, and the beginnings of labor and radical protest against the war.

The Great War showed capitalism plain, and at its most terrible: millions were killed, millions more severely wounded, and untold treasure spent, in hopes of rearranging the world, of a different share in imperial conquests. Read here the short pieces in "Woodrow Wilson and causes of the war" (linked on our Schedule Page).

The Great War was "supposed to be" a "war to save civilization." From whom? The great American poet Ezra Pound put it like this:

THERE died a myriad,
And of the best, among them,
For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
For a botched civilization,

Charm, smiling at the good mouth,
Quick eyes gone under earth's lid,

For two gross of broken statues,
For a few thousand battered books.

("Hugh Selwyn Mauberley", 1920.)

Always an elitist, Pound later because a follower of Italian leader Benito Mussolini, who used anti-capitalist rhetoric to build his pro-capitalist Fascist movement. Hitler did the same, calling his own fascist party the "National Socialist German Workers Party", to suggest that it was "for socialism" -- which most workers wanted, rather than capitalism -- and "for the workers".

We have some really fine poets of the Great War to read here, and only a few poems of them. Read the poem by German socialist, later communist, poet Bertolt Brecht, and the two poems by British officer-poet Wilfred Owen.

Writing Assignment: Write 300 - 350 words on the understanding of the war that you have gotten from studying the required readings for today.

Email to your group and to me, in proper format.

Bring a printed copy of your HW, and of all the texts for today, to class with you.