Was Pierre van Paassen Right about WWI?

Consider these claims (Pierre van Paassen, in “DAYS OF OUR YEARS”, 1939):…The Allies could have brought the Kaiser to his knees before the end of 1915, by instituting an economic blockade. But that would have meant giving up the choicest profits of war: the contraband commerce. Throughout the first 3 years of the war, the Reich received a steady stream of supplies through Holland, Switzerland and Scandinavia, especially cotton (without which she could not have continued to fight for a day…right up to 1917, the Krupp Works of Essen shipped a quarter of a million tons of steel a month through Switzerland to the Comite des Forges in France. In addition to payment in gold, the deal was that French aviation was to refrain from bombing the blast furnaces and rolling mills of the Logwy district!..Representatives ofVickers, Krupp, Schneider-Cruesot, and the Comite des Forges met in Vienna, at the same moment the armies were locked in a death struggle, in the mud of Flanders. Their sole purpose was to devise ways and means of keeping the war going profitably!
Are such monstrous charges true? Did the industrialists of the warring powers cooperate in this way?
If true, this is the most monstrous conspiracy in history.

It seems extremely unlikely. The Western front was going nowhere in 1915, so a military solution was out of the question. And the allies were successfully blockading Germany.

This is akin to the theory of the 30s that WWI was fought to increase the profits of the munitions makers. There was a general belief that the war was a corporate plot, and this is just another example.

I’d like to see where he got his data for these trade figures.

Whatever money industrialists might have made was trivial compared to the staggering, economy-breaking war debt the belligerent nations incurred. If anyone made money trading with the enemy, it was against every sanction the governments involved could invoke.

Before WW2 it was highly fashionable to say that the whole previous war was a big scam, mainly because socialist critics claimed that the capitalist powers’ ultimate motive for everything was making money. So a four-year long, utterly ruinous war had to secretly be about profit, right? The fact that a few industries such as armaments and munitions makers were well-placed to prosper from the war drew howling cries of “merchants of death”. Even Little Orphan Annie’s uber-rich foster father was named “Daddy Warbucks”.

Doesn’t sound quite right, compared to this:

The French, in fact, seemed to be pretty innovative when it came to the aerial bombing.

And if Longwy wasn’t hit, it wasn’t for lack of effort.

I know nothing of the person or book or, indeed, the trade situation at the time but this kind of jumped out at me. Since when was cotton a vital cog of the german war machine?

Gun cotton? Google suggests it was used for explosive production.


Seems unlikely - while nitrocellulose was often made from cotton, I believe you can make it from wood or straw if you need to.