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1939-1945 War and counter revolution

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What were the real causes of the destruction of 1939-1945? The Second World War explained from a Marxist analysis

German Imperialism was compelled to begin its re-division of the world In Europe. Denied access to Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa It struck out at the nearest sources of raw materials and cheap labour. The lack of a vast, colonial empire, in particular the lack of access to the vital raw materials of modem Industrial producti9n, dictated the military tactics of the German High Command.

The war was a “world" war not just In the geographical sense. The development of technology meant that modem warfare had become total warfare, involving the militarisation of society. In the Second World War brilliant military tactics counted less than the ability to pour large volumes of machinery and ammunition from the factory to the front line. It was German imperialism's Inability to do this in sufficient quantities which convinced Hitler to abandon his plans for the invasion of Britain in September 1940.

He turned instead to preparations for a war with the Soviet Union. The whole blitzkrieg war of conquest in Eastern and Western Europe in 1939- 40 had been possible because of the Stalin-Hitler non aggression pact which agreed the partition of Poland and the Soviet annexation of the Baltic states.

After five years of selling out the interests of the working class to maintain the friendship of the "democratic" imperialisms, years which involved the defeat of the Spanish Revolution, Stalinism gambled on a pact with Hitler.

Despite all later protestations that this was a tactic to buy time there is no evidence that this was the reason. The pact flowed logically from the fundamental tenet of Stalinism; socialism in one country and peaceful co-existence with imperialism. The utopian and reactionary essence of this strategy was crystallised in the Stalin-Hitler pact and demonstrated as Hitler now began to assemble the strategic positions and raw material sources for the assault on the USSR.

September 1940 saw the pact between Germany, Italy and Japan. Early in 1941 Germany invaded Yugoslavia and Greece, then North Africa. Then in June 1941 the Wehrmacht invaded the USSR.

Hitler's invasion of the USSR was not simply the act of a madman or a megalomaniac but flowed from a clear view of the interests of German imperialism, He pronounced:

"The struggle for hegemony in the world will be decided for Europe by possession of the Russian space... If we are masters of Europe, then we shall have the dominant position in the world, If the [British] Empire were to collapse today through our arms we would not be its heirs, since Russia would take India, Japan East Asia and America Canada,"

Hitler's calculations rested on the following, profoundly class based, perceptions of intentions of his enemies.

• That British imperialism was dominated by a wing of the bosses which had compromised from a position of weakness in the 1930s, and colluded in putting the Nazis in power in the first place

• That British and US imperialism had no interest in allying with the world's only workers' state against brother capitalists like Krupp and Thyssen

• That Stalinist Russia was a crumbling hierarchy which only had to be given a good kick for the whole edifice to come tumbling dawn. As history shows, he had only partially grasped the truth.

German imperialisms military victories in Europe led to a change In US strategy. Up until 1941 the USA adopted a neutral stance, but operated a "cash and carry” policy for Britain. This allowed Britain to buy US goods and weapons as long as it paid in cash and used its own ships for transport. By 1941 Britain had liquidated all its available assets to pay for US goods. US industry meanwhile was booming, with unemployment plummeting from Its 1930s high to less than 1%. Now US Imperialism had the economic strength to take on both Germany and Japan and ensure the total economic subordination of Britain.

From February 1942 it began the "Lend Lease" of military equipment and supplies to Britain In return for “the elimination of all forms of tariffs and other trade barriers". In addition Britain had to Lend Lease raw materials from the colonies to the US economy under the same terms.

The Fourth International predicted in 1940 that a US intervention "even if directed against Germany, would be a struggle for the heritage of Great Britain". This was coming true before the USA had fired a single shot.

Whilst it was Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941 which brought the USA formally into the war, by then it had become clear that the USA had to intervene In Europe to prevent Germany successfully closing off the whole European economy to US goods.

Hitler's reliance on the defeatist wing of the British bourgeoisie was thwarted in May 1940 when an inner-party coup replaced Chamberlain with Churchill. A ruthless fighter for the survival of British imperialism during the working class offensives of 1910- 13 and 1926. Churchill was a confirmed anti-communist. Yet his allegiance to Britain’s imperialist interests gave him every reason to ally with the USSR against Germany. Under Churchill British imperialism opted to become the dominant political power in Europe, subordinate to the USA rather than to become the subordinate ally of a German empire stretching from the Channel to the Volga, and that, subject to the fortunes of war, is what it eventually got.

Nothing proves the primacy of class interest over ideology more than Churchill's embrace of Stalin in 1941.

What of Hitler's third pre-conception; the social, political and military weakness of the USSR? By 1942 German troops were in the outskirts of Moscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad and in command of a 1,200 mile front. But despite having crumpled militarily at first, the USSR retained a decisive advantage which allowed it to turn the tide against Germany. This was not the legendary Russian winter but the planned economy, built on the foundations of the 1917 revolution.

Despite the Stalinist dictatorship the USSR remained a workers' state. The bureaucratic planning mechanisms, supplemented by the ingenuity of the Soviet workers and lower ranking officers committed to defending them, assured the USSR supremacy in any prolonged "total war".

Whole industries were uprooted and relocated behind the Ural Mountains. All resources were directed to create the equipment needed to overcome the production and supply problems involved in a total war.

The Soviet masses threw themselves heroically into the defence of the degenerate workers state. Twenty million died In the USSR compared to 700,000 In Britain and the USA. The German offensive of June 1941, was calculated on the basis of being able to wipe out 150 of the Red Army's 200 divisions In the first two months of the war. 150 divisions were duly annihilated but by the end of 1941 the Red Army had raised its fighting strength to 300 divisions (4.7 million soldiers).

For exactly the same reasons as the Soviet masses, though without their illusions In Stalin and the bureaucracy, Trotskyists fought for the defence of the USSR in the Second World War. Whilst we opposed the war alms of all the imperialists, "democratic" and fascist alike, we took the side of the USSR against German Imperialism and its semi-colonial allies in order to defend the gains of the October Revolution.

On the basis of the planned economy and mass mobilisation the Red Army was able to turn the tide In 1943. A combination of massive tank battles and painstaking street fighting put the Wehrmacht into retreat.

Added to support for the workers state against imperialism, revolutionaries also supported the struggle of the colonial and semi-colonial peoples for national unity and independence from imperialism. China had been fighting to free itself from Japanese colonialism since the occupation of Manchuria in 1931. Japan's full scale invasion in 1937 marks the real outbreak of the Second World War. Once it had temporarily knocked out US naval strength in the Pacific in December 1941 Japanese imperialism was able to sweep through South East Asia towards India where a national revolt against British imperialism was fermenting.

Anyone who thinks George Orwell based his idea of "doublethink" conscious self-deception - on Stalin's Russia or Hitler's Germany alone should consider the example of British imperialism in India and South East Asia. Ostensibly fighting a war to defend democracy against fascism, it ruthlessly subjugated the peoples of its colonies through administrations which were as racist as Hitler's was anti-semitic.

Nehru described the effect of the arrival of refugees from defeated Burma, Malaysia and Singapore:

"The story of how they had been deserted by civil and other authorities and left to shift for themselves spread throughout India ... Horrible stories of racial discrimination and suffering reached us."

Not surprisingly Britain's colonial administrations crumbled in front of the Japanese advance, as thousands of colonial soldiers and civil servants refused to lay down their lives for the continued enslavement of their country.

By 1943 three types of war were being fought in the world arena: the inter-imperialist war for the right to exploit the peoples of Eastern Europe and the third world; the war to defend the USSR against capitalist restoration; the wars and struggles for national liberation fought by the semi-colonial and colonial peoples of China, India, South East Asia and South East Europe.

The last two types were just wars from the standpoint of the world working class because they are part of, and facilitate, the working class struggle to overthrow capitalism. But as the conflicts threatened to produce precisely this outcome-proletarian revolution-bath imperialism and Stalinism moved in to prevent it.

Initially the Anglo-US alliance had followed future president Harry Truman's advice to let Germany and Russia “kill as many of each other as possible". They concentrated on recovering their colonial possessions and semi-colonial spheres of interest in North Africa and the Far East. The USA in particular poured men and resources into the Pacific war with Japan.

Ever since the German invasion of the USSR, the Soviet leadership had been pressing Churchill and Roosevelt to open a "second front" in Europe, that the war was overwhelmingly an inter-imperialist war is shown by the USA and Britain's refusal to do so until the Soviet Union was poised to destroy Nazi Germany.

Repeatedly the Western - Allies postponed their promised intervention into Western Europe. For most of the war the USSR was left to take on the might of the German armies in Europe, while Britain and the USA applied themselves to theatres of war dictated by their own colonial appetites.

While the Soviets held the Germans down in Europe, British troops were directed to reappropriate the British Empire in Libya and Egypt. Churchill could boast in 1943 that the British army was playing about with six German divisions while the Soviets were taking on 185.

Even when the west eventually invaded France in June 1944 (D-Day), Germany was already broken by the Soviet army. They faced only 27 German divisions compared with over 250 German and satellite divisions facing the USSR at the time.

It was only the advance of the Red Anny that alerted Britain and France to the need to intervene militarily in Europe, both to secure it strategically as a sphere of interest against the USSR and to prevent revolutionary upsurges in the wake of German and Italian defeats.

Whilst Stalinists in Europe and the USA clamoured for a second front in Europe the Trotskyists argued that "a capitalist second front means counter-revolution in Europe".

The events which followed the allied landings in Italy (1943), France (1944) and Greece (1945) confirm this prediction. Not only this, Stalinism too was to prove its worth to imperialism by stifling the revolutionary situations which occurred in Southern and Eastern Europe as the war neared its close.