SocialismToday           Socialist Party magazine

Issue 180 July/August 2014

Timeline of key events


8 October: Balkan war breaks out pitting Turkey’s Ottoman empire against Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia.

24/25 November: Second (Socialist) International congress in Basel – more than 500 delegates from over 20 countries – agrees resolutions against the Balkan war and the threat of world war, and for international working-class struggle. This would be the last congress of the original Second International. As war approached, one-by-one the social-democratic parties toed the patriotic line behind the capitalist classes of their respective countries.



February: German parliament agrees war tax with the support of the SPD (Social Democratic Party).

29 March: Huge protests across France against the extension of military service to three years – troop riots in May.

30 May: Treaty of London signed to end the Balkan war.

29 June: Second Balkan war breaks out – ends with the treaty of Bucharest (10 August).

14-20 September: SPD congress in Jena defeats motion condemning military expenditure.



28 June: Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo.

28 July: Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia. Russia mobilises.

31 July: Jean Jaurès, French socialist leader, is assassinated.

1-3 August: Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm II declares war on Russia and France, and invades Luxembourg.

4 August: Germany invades Belgium. Britain declares war on Germany. French and German social democrats vote for war taxes.

23 August: Japan declares war on Germany, then on Austria-Hungary (25 August).

26 August: Two socialist deputies join the French government. British and French troops conquer Togoland, a German protectorate in west Africa.

30 August: New Zealand forces occupy German Samoa.

5-12 September: First battle of the Marne involves over two million troops – more than 500,000 are killed, wounded or missing.

11 September: Australian forces occupy German New Guinea.

13 September: South African forces invade German South-West Africa.

27 September: Swiss Social-Democratic Party and Italian Socialist Party meet in Lugano and call for an international conference of all socialists opposed to the war.

19 October-22 November: First battle of Ypres – 210,000 casualties.

1 November: Ottoman Turkey allies itself with Germany and Austria-Hungary – Russia declares war on Turkey.

5 November: France and Britain declare war on Turkey.

2 December: Karl Liebknecht is the only SPD deputy to vote against war credits in the German parliament.

24/25 December: In some sections of the western front, German and British troops observe an unofficial truce.



January: Revolt led by John Chilembwe in Nyasaland (Malawi) against British colonial rule and the conscription of Africans – he is gunned down by police on 3 February. Indian army soldiers mutiny in Singapore. China is given an ultimatum by Japan.

February: Armed revolt against French army conscription in Mali.

22 April-25 May: Second battle of Ypres sees the first use of poison gas by the German army – over 105,000 casualties.

25 April-1 May: Women’s peace congress in The Hague of 1,200 delegates from 12 countries.

23 May: Italy declares war on Austria-Hungary.

5-8 September: Socialists and syndicalists hold anti-war conference in Zimmerwald, Switzerland, in opposition to the capitulation of the Second International, with 40 delegates (including Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky) from 12 European countries.

15 October: Bulgaria joins war as an ally of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey – the Central Powers.

December: 20 SPD deputies vote against further war credits.



27 January: Conscription introduced in Britain in the Military Service Act.

21 February-20 December: Battle of Verdun sees 600,000 to 950,000 casualties, and no ground gained.

24-30 April: Second Zimmerwald conference held in Kiental.

24 April-1 May: Easter rising in Dublin against British rule. The Irish Citizen Army led by the revolutionary socialist, James Connolly, plays a key role. Connolly is executed by firing squad on 12 May.

16 May: Asia Minor agreement (Sykes-Picot) reached in secret between Britain and France, with the assent of tsarist Russia, carving up the Arab provinces of the Ottoman empire between them.

1 July-18 November: First battle of the Somme ends in stalemate – over a million casualties.

27 August: Italy declares war on Germany.

November: Insurgency against conscription into the French army begins in Algeria.



February: Left wing of the SPD around Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht is expelled – forms the Independent SPD (USPD) in April.

8-12 March: Revolution in Russia (23-27 February, old-style calendar) overthrows the tsar. Provisional government is announced on 15 March. The British capture Baghdad then much of Mesopotamia.

14 April: German government cuts bread rations provoking strikes of 200,000 workers in Berlin on 15 April, and spreading throughout Germany.

April: USA declares war on Germany.

April/May: Series of army mutinies in France. Espionage Act passed in the US outlawing actions deemed a threat to the war effort.

25 June: First US troops land in France.

31 July-10 November: Third battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) results in between 420,000 and 850,000 casualties.

August: China joins the war. Police in Turin kill two people protesting against bread shortages, provoking a general strike. Troops machine-gun crowds killing over 50 and wounding 800. More than 1,000 demonstrators, mainly Fiat workers, are sent to the war front.

5-12 September: Third Zimmerwald conference held in Stockholm.

October: Brazil enters the war.

2 November: Balfour Declaration gives Britain’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

7/8 November: Russian revolution (25 October old style), led by Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks, creates the world’s first workers’ state.

7 December: The USA declares war on Austria-Hungary.

16 December: Soviet Russia signs initial armistice with Germany.



January: Massive anti-war strikes in Germany in late January centred on munitions and metal factories – 400,000 strike in Berlin, spreading to other industrial centres, such as Kiel, Hamburg, Mannheim and Augsburg. Civil war breaks out in Finland – 20,000 socialists are killed in prison camps.

1-3 February: 40 ships in the Austro-Hungarian fifth fleet mutiny in the Adriatic.

3 March: Brest-Litovsk treaty between Soviet Russia (whose delegation is led by Trotsky), and the Central Powers. This pulls Russia out of the war but at huge territorial cost. Riot against conscription in Quebec city, Canada. General strike in Ireland against conscription into the British army.

21 May: Turkey invades Armenia.

2 August: Citywide strike in Vancouver against the killing of a draft evader and labour activist is violently suppressed.

September/October: British forces conquer Palestine and much of Syria.

29 October: German High Seas Fleet mutinies against orders to engage in a suicidal offensive against the British navy.

30 October: Turkey signs armistice. Canadian government cracks down on strikes, socialists, and criticism of the war.

3-9 November: Sailors in the German High Seas Fleet revolt in Kiel, triggering the German revolution, sweeping aside the monarchy in days.

11 November: Armistice on the western front. Austria-Hungary breaks up. Poland is proclaimed a republic, closely followed by Austria and Czechoslovakia.

1 December: The kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes is proclaimed.

Ten million die in the war – the vast majority working class: 1.8 million Germans, 1.7 million in Russians, 1.4 million French, 1.3 million from Austria-Hungary, 750,000 British, 615,000 Italians. Millions more die as a result of the ongoing social disruption, hunger and disease. Over one million Armenians are killed in the genocide perpetrated by Turkey’s Ottoman empire.



January: SPD leader Friedrich Ebert orders the right-wing paramilitary Freikorps to put down a second revolutionary wave in Germany. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg are summarily executed on 15 January.

February: Polish forces invade Russia.

19 April: French Black Sea Fleet mutinies against the slow rate of demobilisation, atrocious rations, and the attempt to use them against the Russian revolution.

15 May-25 June: General strike in Winnipeg against mass unemployment, poverty and high inflation exacerbated by the war, and spurred on by the Russian revolution. Solidarity action in Vancouver.

June: Treaty of Versailles signed (28 June), League of Nations formed. Series of mutinies by British forces sent to Russia against the revolution.

July: Revolt in Egypt against British rule – hundreds massacred by British forces.



May: London dockers obstruct the loading of the Jolly Roger with arms for use against Soviet Russia – similar action in France, Germany, Italy and the USA.

August: A new state is formed in Turkey. Peace between Turkey and Greece is eventually ratified in the treaty of Lausanne in 1923, which also carves up former provinces of the Ottoman empire between Britain and France, creating new Arab states.

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