chapter  10
10 Pages

The Bitter end: 1918

As the world staggered into 1918, war seemed to have become a permanent condition. War weariness manifested itself not just in revolution or pacifism but also in an obsessive commitment to a total war effort. As Lloyd George told the leaders of British trade unions in January, ‘My own conviction is this, the people must go on or go under’. At the same time, however, he issued a statement of war aims more liberal than the better-known Fourteen Points President Wilson announced a few days later. He genuinely hoped for a positive German response, which might open the way to an alternative to going on or going under, a compromise peace. Ludendorff treated Lloyd George’s gesture with contempt. He had his own ideas about an appropriate peace, and was demonstrating these to the shocked Bolsheviks at Brest-Litovsk. The ensuing treaty between Germany and Russia tore huge areas of Ukraine, the Baltic states and Poland from Russia. It is misleading to say that the Treaty of BrestLitovsk showed what the war was all about. The Germany against which the Allies declared war in 1914 was not the same Germany Ludendorff now controlled. It would be more accurate to say that Brest-Litovsk showed what the war had created – in the case of Germany, a military dictatorship bent on creating an empire in the east on a scale that served Hitler as a precedent.