World War II

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The Second World War was, in the final analysis, a titanic struggle between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s USSR. The truth is that the British and Americans were little more than spectators for most of the war, notwithstanding the enormous sacrifices made by working-class soldiers from these countries to fight fascism.

The cynical calculations of the British and US imperialists led them to hope that Hitler would defeat the USSR, and that in the process Germany would become so enfeebled that it would be possible to finish them both off. To the horror of the imperialists, the USSR inflicted a shattering defeat on the Nazis.

This was despite the criminal policies of Stalin, which nearly collapsed the USSR at the start of the war. It was thanks to the power of a nationalised planned economy that the USSR was able to out-produce and outgun the Nazis.

The intrigues and friction between the imperialist interests of Britain and the USA allowed the war to drag on even longer. The deaths of millions of Soviets on the eastern front were of no real concern to Churchill and Roosevelt. After months of dragging their feet, these powers only threw themselves into the war when they began to fear that communists would take power the length and breadth of the European continent. It was the fear of communism more than fascism that moved the imperialists to decisive action.

The Second World War illustrates the role of imperialism and the power of a planned economy, among other things. This is why it is important for Marxists to study it.

The French ruling class had miserably succumbed to Nazi domination in 1940. Now Britain faced the threat of invasion. In France the bourgeoisie refused to arm the people for fear that these arms would eventually be turned against them. The revolutionary socialists in Britain posed the demand of expropriating the capitalists and arming the workers to stop any Nazi invasion.

Germany was making rapid advances on all fronts, shocking the British and Americans. On this basis Mussolini decided to back what he thought was going to be the winning horse. This forced the USA to speed up its decision to actively participate in the war and also to woo Russia into the Allied camp. As Ted Grant predicted “Armageddon is upon us. Millions will be crushed under the advancing tanks and warplanes.”

"An endless period of destruction and slaughter opens out before the peoples of the world. It can be ended, not by the victory of either imperialism, which would merely lay the basis for new wars and is not in the interests of the workers of any country, but by the victory of the workers over imperialism." Ted Grant in the early period of the Second World War.

In the early stages of the war Germany wished to maintain nominal neutrality among the other nations in Europe, especially among those with whom she shared a common frontier. Britain, in order to strike at Germany, tried to spread the war as widely as possible, neither being in the least concerned with the ‘rights of small nations’. As Ted Grant wrote, “The people of Europe can look forward to a few months more or less of the present deadlock, then the sanguinary slaughter – there is no other prospect.”

After the first few months of war in March 1940, preparations for an even worse scenario of slaughter were being undertaken by all imperialist powers by mobilizing the masses of each country against the "enemy". The labour and Stalinist leaders' bankrupt policies left the workers unarmed. Here Ted Grant makes a balance-sheet of the first months of War.

As the war dragged on Ted Grant highlighted the real reason for the war, the conflict between German and British imperialism for domination of Europe. The war was presented as one against Nazi dictatorship, but at the same time the British had a liking for Franco and were also courting Mussolini, revealing the fact that their opposition to “dictatorship” was pure hypocrisy.

One of the last interviews on the war situation given by Trotsky in January and March 1940 and published in three sections in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch issues of March 10, 17 and 24, 1940. Read the interviews at www.marxists.org.

As the world stood on the brink of world war Ted Grant wrote, “If world capitalism has no solution for its problems excepting new and more horrible slaughter of whole nations, it is time this insane system were ended… The sole way out for the youth lies in the overthrow of capitalism and workers’ power and socialism. Our path lies in building up the revolutionary socialist youth which alone can lead us away from the nightmare of war which hangs over us.” 

With preparations for war in full swing the small Workers' International League gathered around Ralph Lee and Ted Grant was the only voice that stood out defending a real internationalist position. Here we provide our readers with the lead article of the August 1939 edition of Youth For Socialism, signed by Ted Grant.

As armaments were piled up in preparation for the Second World War Ted Grant explained that, “This war machine is for the defence of the trading interests and the colonial loot of British imperialism, for what is making for war is the intensified and sharpened struggle for markets between the different countries of the world.”

"We can state one thing with certainty. The agreement between Stalin and Hitler would essentially alter nothing in the counter-revolutionary function of the Kremlin oligarchy. It would only serve to lay bare this function, make it stand out more glaringly and hasten the collapse of illusions and falsifications. Our political task does not consist in “saving” Stalin from the embraces of Hitler but in overthrowing both of them."

"We live in an epoch of the universal liquidation of Marxism in the ruling summits of the labour movement. The most vulgar prejudices now serve as the official doctrines for the political and trade-union leaders of the French working class. Contrariwise, the voice of revolutionary realism rings against this artificial sounding board like the voice of “sectarianism”. It is all the more insistently necessary to repeat over and over again the fundamental truths of Marxist policies before audiences of advanced workers." (Trotsky)

The main ideas in this document, published in the name of the Communist League of France, came from Trotsky, parts being dictated to secretaries during the hectic weeks when he was trying to find a place to live, and the whole being edited by him. This program was a response to the pre-revolutionary situation that developed after February 6, 1934, when fascist and reactionary groups staged an armed demonstration against the Daladier government at the Chamber of Deputies.

"The war of 1914-18 officially ushered in a new epoch. Its most important political events up to now have been: the conquest of power by the Russian proletariat in 1917 and the smashing of the German proletariat in the year 1933. The terrible calamities of the peoples in all parts of the world and even the more terrible dangers that tomorrow holds in store result from the fact that the revolution of 1917 did not find victorious development on the European and world arena."