When the World Socialist Web Site officially went online on February 14, 1998, the mainstream media had proclaimed the irreversible triumph of capitalism and the 'end of history.' Supposedly a new era of peace and prosperity had dawned. What followed instead was the endless 'war on terror,' the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, a devastating decline in the living standards of the working class, unprecedented attacks on democratic rights and, in the face of these events, profound cultural and intellectual disorientation.
In 2013, the WSWS International Editorial Board produced an annual chronology, selected from our archive of more than 45,000 articles up to that point, in order to offer readers a comprehensive overview of the most important events from 1998 to 2013. We urge readers to study this chronology and see how the WSWS reported and analyzed the great events, political issues, social processes and intellectual controversies of its first fifteen years.
The WSWS was launched on February 14, 1998, in the midst of a mounting political crisis in the heart of world capitalism, the United States. The right-wing campaign to bring down the Clinton administration erupted in the form of the media-driven scandal over Monica Lewinsky, culminating in Clinton’s impeachment in mid-December.
The year 1999 saw the major imperialist powers engage in an unprecedented multilateral gang-up against a small country, as NATO, led by the United States but including forces from Britain, Germany, France, Italy and other allied countries, rained bombs down on tiny Serbia, the largest fragment of the former Yugoslavia.
People around the world rang in New Year’s Day 2000 with hopes that the new millennium would bring a better world, one with less violence and poverty. For their part, the ruling classes proclaimed that social convulsions and revolutions were a thing of the past and the next period would be one of triumphant capitalism.
The year 2001 began with the culmination of the right-wing political coup engineered by the US Supreme Court: the installation of George W. Bush as president. It quickly became apparent that what was unfolding was a dramatic shift to the right, not only in the United States but in world politics as a whole.
The year 2002 was a transition, as the fraudulent “war on terror” launched by the Bush administration in the United States after the attacks of September 11 was used to justify historic attacks on democratic rights and civil liberties. At the same time, the occupation of Afghanistan was followed by brazen preparations for the invasion of Iraq.
US imperialism, with the complicity of all the major powers, launched a brutal and illegal war against Iraq. Defying the will of the majority of the world’s population—millions of whom took to the streets in protest—the imperialist powers, driven by insoluble economic contradictions, escalated a campaign of military predation and world conquest.
In 2004, as the lies upon which the Iraq war was based became exposed and the occupation dragged on, the truly brutal and criminal nature of the war was seen in the massacres in Fallujah and other cities and the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Accompanying the growth of militarism was the attack on democratic rights within the United States and in all the countries involved in the “global war on terror.”
The Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami devastated Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India, killing nearly 300,000 people. Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States, inundating New Orleans, killing more than 1,800, and demonstrating that working people were hardly more secure in the richest country in the world than in the poorest.
The fourth year of the US war in Iraq was the bloodiest, with the eruption of full-scale inter-communal civil strife between Sunni and Shi’ite-based militias. The US occupation regime encouraged and fomented such conflicts, while itself perpetrating a series of bloody atrocities against civilians. At the same time, Washington began to threaten war against Iran.
Just as US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair had launched the war in 2003 in defiance of world public opinion, so Bush escalated the war in 2007 despite his defeat at the polls in November 2006.
In 2008, the crisis of world capitalism, long developing beneath the surface, erupted in the biggest financial upheaval since the 1929 stock market crash that ushered in the Great Depression. The WSWS had been analyzing the processes leading up to this event for more than a decade.
The year 2009 was dominated by the spreading worldwide economic slump ushered in by the Wall Street collapse of September 2008. Unemployment and poverty soared in North America, Europe and increasingly in the “emerging economies” of Asia.
The events of 2010 made clear that the economic slump stemming from the 2008 financial crash was not merely a cyclical downturn. Rather, it represented a fundamental breakdown of the world capitalist system and a turning point in class relations on a global scale.
The year began with the eruption of revolutionary struggles in Tunisia and Egypt and popular upheavals throughout the Arab world, followed by mass struggles in Europe and the US state of Wisconsin.
The year 2012 was marked by a deepening of the world economic crisis of capitalism, with Europe plunging further into slump, mass unemployment and poverty growing in the United States, and conflicts between the major powers intensifying, expressed, in part, in the form of currency warfare.