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.

We publish for the first time in electronic form, this important document written by Ted Grant in the autumn of 1944. It analyses the consequences of the inevitable victory of Anglo-American imperialism and the growing grip of Stalinism over the European masses due to the immense prestige gained by the Red Army. It also explains why the imperialists would find themselves in a relatively weak position and would need to grant concessions to the masses in Europe. Imperialism would be forced to do this in order to carry out a counterrevolution, albeit in a democratic form, with the help of the leaders of the mass reformist and Stalinist parties.

At the end of the war, the tremendous psychological shock occasioned by the events of the war, the collaboration of the bourgeoisie of the defeated countries with the Nazi invaders, had undermined the former habitual acceptance of bourgeois domination over the nation. As Ted Grant wrote in 1944, "The problem of the German revolution cannot be separated from the problem of the revolution in all Europe. The war has tied the fate of all the European countries together. Events in one will have immediate repercussions in all the others."

In July 1944 the Allies had their forces in France ready to march eastwards towards Germany. In the British media there were calls for punishment of all Germans, conveniently ignoring the fact that the German workers had always been opposed to Hitler, whereas the British bourgeois had welcomed his crushing of the German labour movement in 1933.

Contrary to the official mythology about Churchill, by 1944 he was already losing support among the people of Britain. This article by Ted Grant, written at the time and based on local election results, shows that the workers were becoming radicalised. This was to be confirmed in a dramatic way just after the war when Labour won a landslide victory.

In return for Stalin’s help in ensuring the continuation of capitalism in Europe, the Allies were prepared temporarily to make concessions to him. The real purpose of the Three Powers Talks in Moscow was to come to some arrangements for the post-war world.

The summer of 1943 marked a dramatic turn in the Second World War. In this article Ted Grant analysed the implications of the Allied invasion of Sicily and the opening of the Second Front, the attempts by Churchill to reach a deal with the Italian monarchy and prop up a regime of the accomplices of fascism which would preserve the interests of Anglo-US imperialism against the rising revolutionary tide. As in the case of North Africa with Giraud, Allied imperialism was dropping the "democratic" mask showing their real aims and interests in the war.

More than halfway into the Second World War the mood among the British workers was changing. The bourgeois could feel the changing mood and attempted to manoeuvre by making false promises. All this was putting pressure on the Labour Party, where the contradiction between the leaders in the coalition government and the workers in general was becoming ever more evident.

The text of the thesis adopted at the National Pre-Conference of Workers' International League, August 22 and 23, 1942. Edited for publication in The Unbroken Thread, full version available on the Ted Grant archive.

As Hitler's armies advanced into the Soviet Union, Ted Grant explained that it was the abandonment of genuine workers' democracy and internationalism and its replacement by a dictatorial national bureaucratic regime that weakened the ability of the country to stop the Nazis. In spite of this the duty of British workers was to defend the land of October with all means possible.

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.”