Wednesday, December 30, 2009

World War Two: Lessons and Warnings

World War Two: Lessons and Warnings
Nick Beams delivers lecture in Sydney and Melbourne
It resulted in the deaths of more than 70 million people, including almost 27 million in the Soviet Union and up to 20 million in China. The war saw unspeakable horrors: the mass murder of almost 6 million European Jews, the fire-bombing of Hamburg, Dresden and Tokyo and the dropping of the atomic bomb on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to name but a few.
prevailing legends
trying to appease Nazi Germany
democracy against fascist
Great Britain stood at the head of the largest empire the world has ever seen, encompassing a quarter of the earth’s surface
The Gulf War
Hitler of the Middle East
Munich in 1938!
Hitler of the Balkans
Middle East Hitler
1930s? The appeasement policy
definite set of calculations
in his book Mein Kampf
launch a war against the Soviet Union
published in 1920
“international Jews,” Churchill wrote
“The adherents of this sinister confederacy

Spartacus-Weishaupt to those of Karl Marx
Trotsky (Russia)
Bela Kun (Hungary)
Rosa Luxemburg (Germany)
Emma Goldman (United States)
world-wide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilization
recognizable part in the tragedy of the French Revolution
gripped the Russian people
Hitler’s rantings against the Jew-Bolshevik
Churchill had advanced it
Churchill’s attitude to fascism
delivered on January 20, 1927, during a visit to Italy
“I could not help being charmed,”
by Signor Mussolini’s gentle
a service to the whole world
The Nazis only became an enemy when it was feared that their drive for conquest threatened the position of British imperialism
entry of the United States into the war
another legend
United States did not enter the war to pursue any imperial ambitions or to secure its geopolitical interests
war against Japan was awaited and anticipated
United States imposed an oil embargo against Japan in July 1941, to enforce its demand that Japan withdraw from China
United States had insisted
“open door”

policy in China. It was hostile to the Japanese incursions
Manchuria in 1931
second war
July 1937 with the capture of Beijing
war against Japan
March 1939
Basic War Plan ORANGE. Orange stood for Japan
“to impose the will of the United States upon ORANGE by destroying ORANGE Armed Forces and by disrupting ORANGE economic life, while protecting American interests at home and abroad.”
September 1940, the American naval attaché in Tokyo sent a report to Washington about the state of Japanese cities. “Hoses are old, worn and leaky,” he wrote, “water mains are shut off at night
ncendiary bombs sowed widely
put into deadly effect in March 1945 with the firebombing of Tokyo. More than 100,000 people
An official US Strategic Bombing Survey concluded that “probably more persons lost their lives by fire at Tokyo in a 6-hour period than at any time in the history of man.” [5]
let us turn now to the underlying causes of World War II
21 years after the conclusion of World War I
The eruption of the war on

August 4, 1914 came as a tremendous shock
At the end of 1887, Frederick Engels wrote: “And, finally, the only war left for Prussia-Germany to wage will be a world war, a world war

Engels was pointing to the consequences of a war among the bourgeois nation-states whose economies, and therefore military capacities, had rapidly expanded in the last decades of the nineteenth century.
Capitalist finance and industry was developing on an immense scale. This was the beginning of the age of imperialism
capitalist great powers
struggle, on a global scale, for markets, colonies, spheres of influence and raw materials
After the defeat of Napoleon in 1815
Pax Britannica existed
end of the nineteenth century, Great Britain was losing its position
being challenged
United States
where industrial development had gone ahead by leaps and bounds in the decades following the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865
Marxist movement
Second International, founded in 1889
pointing to the emerging danger of war

the socialist movement had to oppose the drive to war and, if it could not be prevented, to use the crisis created by the outbreak of war to overthrow the capitalist system. However, when war erupted on August 4, 1914, virtually the entire leadership of the old socialist parties capitulated and supported their own bourgeoisie. Only a handful of socialist leaders, principally among them Lenin, Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg, maintained their opposition to the war
Following this betrayal
evolutionary Marxists confronted two interconnected political tasks: to explain what had given rise to the war; the causes and implications of the collapse of the Second International and, on the basis of this analysis, to advance a revolutionary perspective for the working class
In 1915 Trotsky outlined the essential causes of the war in his brilliant pamphlet War and the International
the eruption of war was rooted in the organic and irresolvable contradictions of the capitalist mode of production

By means of the national state, capitalism has revolutionized the whole economic system of the world. It has divided the whole earth among the oligarchies of the great powers
The future development of world economy on the capitalistic basis means a ceaseless struggle for new and ever new fields of capitalist exploitation, which must be obtained from one and the same source, the earth
The economic rivalry under the banner of militarism is accompanied by robbery and destruction which violate the elementary principles of human economy
World production revolts not only against the confusion produced by national and state divisions but also against the capitalist economic organizations, which has now turned into barbarous disorganization and chaos.”
the program for which the international working class now had to fight:
“The only way in which the proletariat can meet the imperialistic perplexity of capitalism is by opposing to it as a practical program of the day the socialist organization

of world economy. War is the method by which capitalism, at the climax of its development, seeks to solve its insoluble contradictions. To this method the proletariat must oppose its own method, the method of the social revolution.”
collapse of the Second International made clear
struggle waged by Lenin against opportunism
Lenin’s perspective was to turn the imperialist war into a civil war
the socialist revolution was not
distant event, but that it had to be actively prepared in the daily struggle of the party
Lenin opposed, above all, the theories of Karl Kautsky
who maintained that the war was not an inevitable outcome of capitalism
no alliance between the capitalist powers could be permanent, because they developed at an uneven rate
Peace arose out of wars
periods of peace prepared the ground for new wars.
Only the socialist revolution and the overthrow of the capitalist system itself could end war and the threat that it posed to human civilization.
The Versailles Treaty and its outcome

The war had come to an abrupt end in November 1918
The German High Command took the decision to seek peace through the American president Woodrow Wilson, who had led the US into the war in April 1917
By 1918 a vital new factor had entered the political situation—the Russian Revolution of October 1917 and the rising tide of revolution across Europe. Uppermost in the calculations of all the European bourgeois leaders was the fear that if they did not end the war, it would be brought to a conclusion through socialist revolution
the Treaty that resulted, resolved none of the conflicts that had given rise to the war. In fact it exacerbated them
Plunder by war was replaced by a new system of robbery. France insisted that Germany pay crippling reparations payments with the aim of trying to prevent its economic resurgence. Britain was owed money by Italy and France. But Britain, in turn, owed money to the United States, which insisted that it be repaid. Money was extracted from Germany

in the form of reparations, which were then used to pay France and Britain, which in turn repaid debts to the United States. The United States, in turn, after 1924, issued billions of dollars of loans to maintain German economic stability, so that Germany could continue to pay reparations and keep the circuit of finance going. In the words of British economist John Maynard Keynes, the world had been turned into an economic madhouse
in the wake of the crisis of 2007-2008
In the US, the Fed, the central bank, issues money to the banks at virtually zero interest. The banks use this money to trade in the bond and debt markets, often to organize the financing of government debt that has been incurred to fund the bailout of the banks and financial institutions. As a result, the banks are able to report increased profits and pay out lavish bonuses
Ten years after the Treaty of Versailles
European economies
egained the level of economic output they had attained in 1913
this economic house of cards and the world economy was sent plunging into the Great Depression. The ensuing economic tensions between the capitalist great powers fueled the drive to war

The danger of a new world war
In 1945, the bloody 30-year conflict that had started in Europe in 1914
came to an end with the victory of the United States and its allies, and of the Soviet Union, over Nazi Germany and Japan
The post-war order
rested on two foundations
the economic dominance of the United States over its imperialist rivals, and the Cold War
The division of Europe into East and West solved the “German question”
Both these pillars of what might be called Pax Americana have collapsed
growth, over the past 20 years, of military violence and outright gangsterism
A general peace
cannot be maintained indefinitely
because capitalist development takes place unevenly
economic relationships
will inevitably change
the United States has been steadily eroding since 1945
The economic rise of
Germany and Japan
led to a decline in the relative supremacy of the US
A qualitative turning point
in 1971
steadily growing balance of payments deficit
followed by a trade deficit
gold backing
US dollar

shattered the Bretton Woods monetary system
By the late 1980s, the United States, formerly the world’s leading creditor nation, had become its biggest debtor
internal rot and decay at the heart of the US financial system been revealed
confronted by the rise of new powers, China and India
resurgence of old ones
New relationships
going to be established
through conflict.
already well underway
eruption of imperialist violence over the past two decades
collapse of the Soviet Union
of the 1990s
was seized on by the US
to counter its economic decline through the use of its preponderant military might
“unipolar” moment
the United States has launched a series of wars
Gulf War in 1990
dismantling of Yugoslavia through the decade and then the launching of war against Serbia in 1999
September 11, 2001
set in motion well-developed plans to invade Afghanistan
Iraq war in 2003
under the Obama
stepped up and extended into Pakistan
vast resources of Central Asia,
To illustrate the issues at stake

Imperialism and Global Political Economy by Alex Callinicos
is a leading member of the British Socialist Workers Party and considers himself a Marxist, a Leninist and a revolutionary
After a theoretical and historical review of imperialism, he comes to the following conclusion:
US hegemony
support for Serfati’s conclusion
‘there is no risk that the inter-capitalist economic rivalries
will develop into military confrontations
the factors that make inter-imperialist war “improbable” are the overwhelming military superiority of the US, the inter-dependence of the advanced economies, the political solidarity binding them together and the existence of nuclear weapons as a disincentive
the exception of nuclear weapons, all these factors were cited in the first decade of the twentieth century by
Norman Angell
financial crisis of 2007-2008?
All the major governments rushed to defend their own banking systems and their own corporations
paid lip service
need for a co-ordinated international response.

the US is projecting its military power
is being projected “outwards
beyond the frontiers of advanced capitalism into dangerous border zones
World War I and World War II
began precisely in the “border zones”
Balkans nor Poland, nor Manchuria
Nor is Georgia today
It is in the so-called “border zones”
imperialist powers intersect and collide
Middle East
Central Asia
African continent
Callinicos puts
The remedy is “replacing capitalism with a democratic and progressive alternative” not
with the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of international socialism
be prevented?
intervention of the masses into the historical process.
masses must be armed with an independent program and perspective
sought to
prevent the Iraq war
February 2003
the weakness
no independent program
subordinated to the parties of the imperialist bourgeoisie
Democrats in the US, the Labor Party in Australia
Everything depends on political rearming the working class and imbuing it with the culture of international socialism

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