The Prophet Bloc

Ivan Bloch was a Jewish financier who devoted his private life to the study of Industrial warfare.  In 1898, he published in St Petersburg the six volumes of his Technical, Economic and Political Aspects of the Coming War, a prophetic work that sinisterly predicted the nature of the First World War.

Bloch was intrigued by France's crushing defeat at the hands of Prussia in 1870-71, which suggested to him that the solution of diplomatic problems by warfare had become obsolete in Europe.  His book based on the lessons learnt from the Franco-Prussian War were translated and widely read throughout Europe.  
Bloch argued that:
. New arms technology (especially Maxim machine guns) had confined maneuvers over open ground, such as bayonet and cavalry charges, to the past.  A truth illustrated by the slaughter of August 1914. 
. Bloch concluded that a war between the great powers would be a war of entrenchment and that rapid attacks and decisive victories were a thing of the past. He calculated that entrenched men would enjoy a fourfold advantage over infantry advancing across open ground, due to the balance of military technology.
. Industrial societies would have to settle the resultant stalemate by committing armies numbering in the millions, as opposed to the tens of thousands of preceding wars. An enormous battlefront would develop, the Western front stretched from the Swiss borders to the Channel ports. A war of this type could not be resolved quickly, as entire nations clashed, not solely armies.
. Such a war would become a battle of industry, a matter of total economic attrition. Severe economic and social dislocations would result in the imminent risk of famine, disease, the 'break-up of the whole social organisation' and revolutions from below.  A prediction that felled the Habsburg, Ottoman, Tsarist and German Empires.

Although the book was hugely popular, it failed to influence the course of the war as it was ignored by the higherachy of the European Armies.  The commanders denied Bloch's thesis, they instead adhered to Clausewitz's principles of offensive and the sheer will to win.  An outdated philosophy torn about by the mud, barbed wire and machine guns of the Western Front.  
The nature of WW1 prophesied by Bloch


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