IN less than two weeks’ time we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the November 11 armistice that – we are told – brought the carnage of the First World War to an end. But practically everything we are told about the Great War and its ostensible conclusion remains mythic propaganda.

It did not end neatly in the surrender of the Kaiser’s military machine that November morning a century ago – witness the British war memorials you can still see that bear the legend 1914-19, not 1918. The fighting on the Western Front was not brought to a conclusion through a negotiated armistice but a revolt by rank and file German soldiers and sailors.

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In 1918, too many folk among the European elites were making money from the war to contemplate its end. Take Vickers Ltd, which made a fortune selling shells to the British Army and Navy during the Great War. These shells used fuse technology licensed from Krupp in Germany.

Come WWI, patriotic Vickers stopped paying these royalties but craftily neglected to stop passing on their cost to the British taxpayer, thereby netting hundreds of millions of pounds in excess profits. Today, Vickers is part of BAE Systems, which sells a sixth of its output to Saudi Arabia.

So what did bring the war to a sudden end? True, the Russian workers and peasants had dumped the Tsar and called a halt to hostilities locally, but they were counterbalanced by the arrival of the American dough boys on the Western Front.

Then on October 24, 1918, Germany’s naval high command ordered the imperial fleet into the North Sea, in a bid to inflict a surprise blow against the British Royal Navy. But the raid was thwarted when sailors of the imperial fleet mutinied unexpectedly.

After four years of death, widespread hunger caused by the Allied economic blockade, and latterly the ravages of a global flu pandemic, ordinary Germans had had enough.

Soon, delegations of sailors were travelling throughout Germany calling for an immediate stop to the conflict. Local workers’ and soldiers’ councils began to spring up everywhere, taking power into their own hands and forcing the Kaiser to flee to Holland.

With the army moving left-wards, a frightened high command decided to accept an armistice – less because it did not want to continue the war, and more because it wanted to stop a Bolshevik-type revolution spreading to Germany.

Armistice or no armistice, the imperialist war rumbled on.

For starters, the victorious Allies took the opportunity to invade Soviet Russia, to crush in the egg any international resistance to the system of economic rivalries that had caused the Great War in the first place. Between 1918 and 1920, significant British air, naval and army forces were dispatched to Archangel and Murmansk in northern Russia, to Ukraine in the south, and to Vladivostok in the Far East. There are still names of British war dead on a memorial in Vladivostok.

But by now the rank and file soldiers of the British Army were ready to mutiny. The French Army had largely disintegrated after its own mutinies of 1917 – which explains why British and American troops were needed after the Armistice to enforce order in both France and occupied Germany.

Infected by the Russian, German and French mutinies, the Tommies and the Jocks had also had enough. In January 1919, British troops at Calais mutinied after the arrest of Private John Pantling, of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, for delivering a “seditious speech to an assembly of soldiers”.

Mutinying troops released Pantling. Within hours, 20,000 British soldiers were defying orders.

The unrest spread across France and back to Britain. The entire British Army was close to disintegration – not something you’ll find being celebrated in the next few months.

January 1919 is the closest Britain has come to a popular revolution. For at exactly the same time as the British Army was mutinying, the workers on Clydeside were on general strike. They were demanding a 40-hour week as a way of sharing work and so ending the mass unemployment that had resulted from the end of hostilities. Had the Scottish strikes spread through England – a strong possibility – and workers and soldiers united, the British ruling class would have been toppled and society would have imploded.

But, as in Germany, the cowardice of orthodox trade union leaders and right-wing Labour MPs allowed the war cabinet – yes, it still existed after the Armistice and still included army generals – to use repression to suppress the workers. The status quo prevailed, the elites continued to rule. The Great War had been fought in vain.

For Scotland, the First World War proved a particular disaster. Some 110,000 Scots never returned from the war – that’s 10% of the nation’s males aged 16-50.

While Scottish casualty statistics remain a matter of hot debate, the data suggests that a greater proportion of Scots were killed relative to those called up, compared to other parts of the UK. Of course, this may indicate a certain imprudent martial spirit north of the Border.

But it may also be sad testimony to the fact that many landless Highlanders were forced into military servitude.

If it had been up to many Scots on the left, the war would never have been fought. On July 31, 1914, Lanarkshire-born James Keir Hardie MP, founder of the Independent Labour Party, issued an “Appeal to the British Working Class” calling on them to oppose the imminent outbreak of hostilities.

“Everywhere vehement protests are made against the greed and intrigues of militarists and armament mongers,” he said. “We call upon you to do the same here in Great Britain … hold vast demonstrations against war, in London and in every industrial centre … ”

As it happened, British Labour quickly succumbed to the tide of bogus patriotism that broke out after the German invasion of Belgium in 1914 and joined the war cabinet.

Hardie died of a broken heart in 1915. But resistance to the conflict continued on Clydeside, leading to the arrest and imprisonment of anti-war protesters such as John Maclean.

We should not be surprised.

For the Great War was not fought for democracy. Fully 70% of adult men and women in the UK were denied the vote in 1914. Any hope of Scottish democracy also suffered: the British elite used the outbreak of war as a pretext to set aside a parliamentary majority that had voted through Scottish Home Rule in May 1914. The return of an elected Scottish Parliament was delayed another 85 years.

The myriad personal sacrifices of the Great War we are celebrating – and celebrating legitimately – were for the most part coerced, often under pain of firing squad, by a callous British war machine that devoured human lives without pity to protect profits, markets, imperial territories and an anti-democratic elite that is still with us.

The best way of remembering these sacrifices is not to romanticise them or use them as a pretext for sending another generation of young men and women to die in foreign wars.

As a new Cold War cranks up, it is time to dismantle once and for all the economic system that promotes international conflict.