"..The origins ..lay in the fact that the nineteenth century industrial military and naval predominance of British and French capitalism was being challenged by the rapid expansion of Germany. As German industry grew, German production and exports were catching up and the German navy had grown to a size and striking power comparable with the British.
After the German annexation of the French provinces of Alsace and Lorraine in 1871, the war was opened for the link-up of Lorraine ore with Westphalian coal, and Germany's pig-iron production soon jumped ahead. In 1870-74 it was 1,800,000 tons a year against Britain's 6,400,000, but by 1908 German production was far ahead. The same was true of steel and the German mercantile shipping fleet was being rapidly expanded.
A warning had been given by the Commission on the Depression of Trade in its Report as early as 1886 about German competition in world markets:-
A reference to the reports from abroad will show that in every quarter of the world the perseverance and enterprise of the Germans are making themselves felt. In actual production of commodities we have now few, if any, advantages over them, and in a knowledge of the markets of the world, a desire to accommodate themselves to local tastes and idiosyncrasies, a determination to obtain a footing wherever they can and a tenacity in maintaining it, they appear to be gaining ground upon us.
An area of acute conflict was in the field of colonies. Britain and France, along with Belgium, had been first in this field. Britain in India and Asia and all of them in Africa. Germany, the late comer, seeking to enter and expand in Africa, more and more threatened the future of those who were there first and had taken most of the profitable areas. When Germany showed in 1911, by sending a gunboat to Agadir, that she intended to get a foothold in Morocco, Mr. Lloyd George, Chancellor of the Exchequer, at once reacted with a speech threatening war. This incident had the effect of bringing French and British capitalism nearer together in mutual self-protection.
One of the more dramatic forms of the conflict was the German plan for a Berlin to Baghdad railway, a counter-blast to the British scheme of the Cape to Cairo line. The German plan involved pushing Russian influence out of the Balkans, cutting Russia off from the Mediterranean by control of the Dardenelles, and in opening up a way for Germany to expand towards the Persian Gulf and India.
The 1914 war did not start overnight through an assassin's bullets; it was the outcome of years of conflicting capitalist interests" (Socialist Standard, August 1964).