On December 11, 1941, four days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Germany declared war on the United States.
Even within the most avowed Leftist anti-war activist there exists a belief that the Second World War was fully justified in stopping Hitler’s Nazis. They claim it was a just war for freedom and to halt the Holocaust. The position of the World Socialist Party was that we considered it little different from any other war for capitalist interests and as such deserving our condemnation and opposition. Over the years ample evidence has been produced vindicating the stance taken by the WSPUS although not widely disseminated by the media or academia. In recent years America has been engaged in a number of unpopular military conflicts, Vietnam and Iraq being just two, and those wars are compared to America’s archetypal “just war,” World War II, in which Good Ol’ Uncle Sam supposedly went to war for no other reason than to fight dictatorship and injustice.
The reality was that for the United States the war in Europe and then its own entry provided the capitalist class with magnificent booty. It was not because Roosevelt’s New Deal that the Great Depression ended but by the literal blood sacrifice of workers. The usual manner of correcting economic slumps is through wide-spread unemployment that lowers wages, causes bankruptcies of the less competitive companies, and facilitates the take-over of devalued plant and equipment by larger corporations. This reorganization of capitalist production on the basis of cheaper labor and cheaper materials all around, allows the surviving, enlarged and more “efficient” capitalists to renew production at rates of profit, productivity and growth even greater than before the downward dive in the “business cycle.” Prior to the “war effort,” this process was underway but had not gotten the economy going again. However, the riches plundered in times of war—the take-over and re-organization of conquered nations’ entire material wealth, equipment, cheap labor, factories, and infrastructure—are vastly more profitable than is the process of domestic bankruptcies and economic rebuilding at home.
As FDR said, the model he followed had already been proven effective in Communist Russia, Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany under those “command economies”. Throughout the 1930’s and prior to US entry into World War Two, American corporations largely increased production in Nazi Germany. Coca-Cola, GM, Ford, Standard Oil of NJ/Exxon, Du Pont, Union Carbide, Westinghouse, General Electric, Goodrich, Stinger, Eastman Kodak, IBM, ITT, and several other Capitalist enterprises expanded their operations in Germany, becoming extremely profitable thanks to the economic boom caused by Hitler’s rearmament program. Other US corporations invested hundreds of millions of dollars in fascist Italy. American law firms, investment companies, and banks were also actively and profitably involved in America’s investment expansion in fascist countries, among them the banks J. P. Morgan and Dillon, Read and Co., as well as the renowned Wall Street law firm Sullivan & Cromwell.
Coca-Cola’s German subsidiary, for example, increased its sales from 243,000 cases in 1934 to 4.5 million cases by 1939. This success had a lot to do with the fact that, as the Hitler-admiring and -imitating national manager Max Keith explained, the caffeinated soft drink revealed itself to be a functional alternative to beer as a refreshment for Germany’s workers, who were being driven ‘to work harder [and] faster.’ In Hitler’s Third Reich, where labour unions and working-class political parties had been banned, the workers “were little more than serfs forbidden not only to strike, but to change jobs,’ and their wages ‘were deliberately set quite low.” Hence the higher profits in general for all American capitalists in Germany. IBM’s hugely profitable German subsidiary supplied the Nazi’s with the new technology necessary to automate production as well as to identify and track Jews. When in 1939 war in Europe came it provided further new opportunities for the American capitalist class to profit through production and sale of armaments and military equipment for the warring nations. Programs FDR set up to finance the purchase of American weapons and ammunition by the cash-strapped British provided London with virtually unlimited credits. In fact, American workers paid off much of the resulting accumulated national debt by means of direct and indirect regressive taxes such as the ”Victory Tax.” Again, the Capitalists pulled in huge “publicly financed” profits, while low-income workers paid the price through reduction of their personal consumption (remember “Spam”), and reduction of their war-taxed real income.
America’s ruling class was divided with respect to the handling of foreign affairs. In the 1930s, the US military had no plans, and did not prepare plans, to fight a war against Nazi Germany. On the other hand, they did have plans for war against Great Britain, Canada, Mexico – and Japan. As late as the 1930s, the US military still had plans for war against Britain and an invasion of the Canadian Dominion, the latter including plans for the bombing of cities and the use of poison gas.
The owners and top managers of many American corporations – including Ford, General Motors, IBM, ITT, and Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of New Jersey, now known as Exxon – liked Hitler a lot; one of them – William Knudsen of General Motors – even glorified the German Führer as “the miracle of the 20th century.” The reason: in preparation for war, the Führer had been arming Germany to the teeth, and the numerous German branch plants of US corporations had profited handsomely from that country’s “armament boom” by producing trucks, tanks and planes in sites such as GM’s Opel factory in Rüsselsheim and Ford’s big plant in Cologne, the Ford-Werke; and the likes of Exxon and Texaco had been making plenty of money by supplying the fuel Hitler’s panzers would need to roll all the way to Warsaw in 1939, to Paris in 1940, and (almost) to Moscow in 1941. No wonder the managers and owners of these corporations helped to celebrate Germany’s victories against Poland and France at a big party in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York on June 26, 1940!
America’s “captains of industry” like Henry Ford also appreciated the way Hitler repressed the German unions, outlawing the Communist and Social Democratic Parties, and imprisoning their members. Dachau, Germany’s first concentration camp, was set up in 1933 to cage political prisoners. The American right-wing wished they could mete out the same kind of treatment to America’s own union leaders and “reds,” still numerous and influential in the 1930s and early 1940s.
American companies eagerly took advantage of Hitler’s dismemberment of workers organisations’ and cut labour costs drastically. In Nazi Germany, real wages indeed declined rapidly, while profits increased correspondingly, but there were no labour problems worth mentioning, for any attempt to organize a strike immediately triggered an armed response by the Gestapo, resulting in arrests and dismissals. The Ford-Werke, for example, reduced labour costs from fifteen percent of business volume in 1933 to only eleven per cent in 1938. GM’s Opel factory in Rüsselsheim near Mainz fared even better. Its share of the German automobile market grew from 35 per cent in 1933 to more than 50 per cent in 1935, and the GM subsidiary, which had lost money in the early 1930s, became extremely profitable thanks to the economic boom caused by Hitler’s rearmament program. The chairman of GM, Alfred P. Sloan, publicly justified doing business in Hitler’s Germany by pointing to the highly profitable nature of GM’s operations under the Third Reich. IBM’s German subsidiary, Dehomag, provided the Nazis with the punch-card machine — forerunner of the computer — required to automate production in the country, and in doing so IBM-Germany made plenty of money. In 1933, the year Hitler came to power, Dehomag made a profit of one million dollars, and during the early Hitler years the German branch plant paid IBM in the US some 4.5 million dollars in dividends. By 1938, still in “full Depression”, annual earnings were about 2.3 million ReichMarks, a 16 per cent return on net assets. In 1939 Dehomag’s profits increased spectacularly again to about four million RM. Texaco profited greatly from sales to Nazi Germany, and not surprisingly its chairman, Torkild Rieber, became yet another powerful American entrepreneur who admired Hitler. A member of the German secret service reported that he was “absolutely pro-German” and “a sincere admirer of the Führer.” Rieber also became a personal friend of Göring. Texaco helped the Nazis stockpile fuel. In addition, as the war in Europe got underway, large quantities of diesel fuel, lubricating oil, and other petroleum products were shipped to Germany not only by Texaco but also by Standard Oil, mostly via Spanish ports. (The German Navy, incidentally, was provided with fuel by the Texas oilman William Rhodes Davis.) In the 1930s Standard Oil had helped IG Farben develop synthetic fuel as an alternative to regular oil, of which Germany had to import every single drop.
The last thing those men wanted was for Roosevelt to involve the US in the war on the side of Germany’s enemies. They were “isolationists” (or “non-interventionists”) and so, in the summer of 1940, was the majority of the American public: a Gallup Poll, taken in September 1940, showed that 88 percent of Americans wanted to stay out of the war that was raging in Europe. Not surprisingly, then, there was no sign whatsoever that Roosevelt might want to restrict trade with Germany, let alone embark on an anti-Hitler crusade. In fact, during the presidential election campaign in the fall 1940, he solemnly promised that “[our] boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.”
That Hitler has crushed France and other democratic countries was of no concern to the US corporate types who did business with Hitler; in fact, they felt that Europe’s future belonged to fascism, especially Germany’s variety of fascism, Nazism, rather than to democracy. The chairman of General Motors, Alfred P. Sloan, declared at that time that it was a good thing that in Europe the democracies were giving way “to an alternative [i.e. fascist] system with strong, intelligent, and aggressive leaders who made the people work longer and harder and who had the instinct of gangsters – all of them good qualities”.
While many big corporations were engaged in profitable business with Nazi Germany, others happened to be making plenty of profit by doing business with Great Britain. Britain was desperately in need of all sorts of equipment to continue its struggle against Nazi Germany, and needed to purchase much of it in the US, but was unable to make the cash payments required by America’s existing “Cash-and-Carry” legislation. However, Roosevelt made it possible for US corporations to take advantage of this enormous “window of opportunity” when, on March 11, 1941, he introduced his famous Lend-Lease program, providing Britain with virtually unlimited credit to purchase trucks, planes, and other martial hardware in the US. The Lend-Lease exports to Britain were to generate windfall profits, not only on account of the huge volume of business involved but also because these exports featured inflated prices and fraudulent practices such as double billing.
A segment of Corporate America thus began to sympathize with Great Britain. Some started to favour a US entry into the war on the side of the British; they became known as the “interventionists.” Of course, many, if not most, big American corporations made money through business with both Nazi Germany and Britain and, as the Roosevelt administration itself was henceforth preparing for possible war, multiplying military expenditures and ordering all sorts of equipment, they also started to make more and more money by supplying America’s own armed forces with all sorts of martial material.
But one thing that all the capitalists in the United States could agree on, regardless of where their sympathies and interests lay was this: the war in Europe was wonderful for business. They also agreed that the longer this war lasted, the better it would be for all of them. Corporate America neither wanted Hitler to lose this war nor to win it. With the exception of the most fervent pro-British interventionists, they further agreed that there was no pressing need for the US to become actively involved in this war, and certainly not to go to war against Germany. Most hoped that the war in Europe would drag on as long as possible, so that the big corporations could continue to profit from supplying equipment to the Germans, the British and to America herself. Henry Ford thus “expressed the hope that neither the Allies nor the Axis would win [the war],” and suggested that the United States should supply both sides with “the tools to keep on fighting until they both collapse.” Ford practised what he preached, and arranged for his factories in the US, in Britain, in Germany, and in occupied France to crank out equipment for all belligerents.The war may have been hell for most people, but for American capitalists such as Henry Ford it was heaven. Ford-France, for example — not a flourishing firm before the war — became very profitable after 1940 thanks to its unconditional collaboration with the Germans; in 1941 it registered earnings of 58 million francs. Ford’s subsidiary in France used its profits in 1941 to build a tank factory in Oran, Algeria; this plant allegedly provided Rommel’s Africa Corps with the hardware needed to advance all the way to El Alamein.
It cannot be denied that on account of Lend-Lease exports to Britain, relations between America and Germany were definitely deteriorating, and a series of incidents between German submarines and US Navy destroyers escorting freighters bound for Britain lead to a crisis that has become known as the “undeclared naval war.” But even that episode did not lead to active American involvement in the war in Europe. America was profiting handsomely from the status quo, and was simply not interested in a crusade against Nazi Germany. Although the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 wasn’t such a big surprise, a few days later, on December 11, Hitler declared war on the United States and that was completely unexpected. Germany had nothing to do with the attack in Hawaii and had not even been aware of the Japanese plans, so FDR did not consider asking Congress to declare war on Nazi Germany at the same time as Japan. Why declare war on America? Thwarted in the Eastern Front Hitler anticipated that a German declaration of war on the American enemy of his Japanese friends, even though not required under the terms of the Tripartite Treaty, (under the terms of the Tripartite Treaty Japan, Germany, and Italy undertook to assist each other when one of the three contracting powers was attacked by another country, but not when one of them attacked another country) would induce Tokyo to reciprocate with a declaration of war on the Soviet enemy of Germany. Japan had already previously invaded the Soviet Union and been repulsed but the bulk of its army was stationed in northern China. Hitler wanted to draw the Russians into a two-front war. The Japanese, however, proved less accommodating to Hitler’s grand plans. The US did not voluntarily go to war against Germany, but were forced into that war because of Hitler’s own actions. Humanitarian considerations played no role whatsoever in the decision which led to America’s participation in World War II against Germany.
Ask most Americans why the United States got into World War II, and they will talk about Pearl Harbor. December 7, 1941. Ask why the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and many Americans will struggle for an answer, perhaps suggesting that the Japanese people were aggressive militarists who wanted to take over the world. Ask if the United States provoked the Japanese, and they will probably say that the Americans did nothing: we were just minding our own business when those crazy Japanese, completely without justification, mounted a sneak attack, catching us totally by surprise at Pearl Harbour. Don’t bother to ask the typical American what U.S. economic warfare had to do with provoking the Japanese to mount their attack, because they simply won’t know.
In the 1930s the US, as one of the world’s leading industrial powers, was constantly looking out for sources of inexpensive raw materials such as rubber and oil, as well as for markets for its finished products. Already at the end of the nineteenth century, America had consistently pursued its interests in this respect by extending its economic and sometimes even direct political influence across oceans and continents. This aggressive, “imperialist” policy – pursued ruthlessly by presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt, a cousin of FDR – had led to American control over former Spanish colonies such as Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines, and also over the hitherto independent island nation of Hawaii. America had thus also developed into a major power in the Pacific Ocean and in the Far East.
However, the US faced the competition there of an aggressive rival industrial power, one that was even more needy for oil and similar raw materials, and also for markets for its finished products. That competitor was Japan which sought to realize its own imperialist ambitions in China and in resource-rich Southeast Asia and, like the US, did not hesitate to use violence in the process, for example, waging ruthless war on China. Japan, as an expanding industrial nation, required access to raw materials and energy. In the Great Depression, as trade dried up and unemployment grew, an ultra-nationalist clique within the Japanese military sought to secure the markets and raw materials Japan so desperately wanted. For a time there were two competing strategies to capture oil: the Strike North route to acquire the USSR’s and the Strike South route to capture the Dutch East Indies, one being mainly land-based and army-dominated, the other mostly naval. 1938 saw the defeat of an attempted Japanese invasion of the USSR, (which brought General Zhukov to prominence). Therefore Japanese diplomacy became centred upon the views of the naval commanders.
What bothered the United States was not how the Japanese treated the Chinese or Koreans but that the Japanese intention was to turn that part of the world into what they called the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere; i.e., an exclusive economic zone with no room for the American to trade (albeit Japan was prepared to make major concessions, such as “sharing” China with the US.) America was to be squeezed out of the lucrative Far Eastern market. By the summer of 1941, Japan had further increased its zone of influence in the Far East; e.g., by occupying the rubber-rich French colony of Indochina and, desperate above all for oil, was obviously vying to occupy the oil-rich Dutch East Indies. The American capitalist class was virtually unanimous in favour of a war against Japan but public opinion was strongly against American involvement in any foreign war. Roosevelt’s solution was to provoke Japan into an overt act of war against the United States to rally behind the Stars and Stripes. FDR’s Secretary of War Henry Stimson’s noted: “The question was how we should maneuver them [the Japanese] into … firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.” In 1939 the United States terminated the 1911 commercial treaty with Japan. July 2, 1940, Roosevelt signed the Export Control Act, authorizing the President to license or prohibit the export of essential defense materials. Under this authority, exports of aviation motor fuels and lubricants were restricted. The Roosevelt administration froze all Japanese assets in the United States. In collaboration with the British and the Dutch, the US imposed severe economic sanctions on Japan, including an embargo on vital oil products and steel. Washington demanded Japan’s withdrawal from China. Roosevelt obligingly arranged for such a war, not because of Tokyo’s unprovoked aggression and horrible war crimes in China, but because American corporations wanted a share of the luscious big “pie” of Far Eastern resources and markets.
Japan was certainly not averse to attacking others and had been busy creating an Asian empire. And the United States and Japan were certainly not living in harmonious friendship. But what could bring the Japanese to launch an attack on America? Foreign Minister Teijiro Toyoda in a communication to Ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura on July 31:
Commercial and economic relations between Japan and third countries, led by England and the United States, are gradually becoming so horribly strained that we cannot endure it much longer. Consequently, our Empire, to save its very life, must take measures to secure the raw materials of the South Seas.
PM Konoe set about arranging a meeting with Roosevelt in a last ditch attempt to restore trade relations and avoid war in the Pacific. While FDR initially welcomed Konoe’s planned visit, his inner circle, as they had for decades, viewed Japan as untrustworthy and vulnerable, and steadfastly opposed the idea of a Pacific summit. Hull, Hornbeck, Stimson and others shared the view of senior military officials that a successful summit could have disastrous consequences for America’s strategic position in Asia. A negotiated end to the war in China and the prompt withdrawal of Japanese forces would be the core of any agreement and this, military officials argued, America must avoid. In October 1941, Hayes Kroner, chief of the British Empire Section for the War Department General Staff, informed Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, as follows “At this stage in the execution of our national strategic plan, cessation of hostilities in China…would be highly detrimental to our interests.” By early November, Tojo and Togo overcame substantial cabinet opposition to continued negotiations and won approval for talks based on two proposal. In Proposal “A” Tokyo pledged to immediately withdraw forces from Indochina, remove troops from all of China except Hainan Islans and the far north and respect the Open Door. Japan also agreed to not automatically support Berlin in the event of a German-American war. Proposal “B” sought only a limited agreement in which Japan pledged to refrain from further offensive operations in return for normalized trade relations and a US promise not to take such actions as may hinder efforts for peace by both Japan and China.
When President Franklin Roosevelt visited Pearl Harbor on July 28, 1934, seven years before the Japanese attack, the Japanese military expressed apprehension. General Kunishiga Tanaka wrote in the Japan Advertiser, objecting to the build-up of the American fleet in Hawaii and the creation of additional bases in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. “It makes us think a major disturbance is purposely being encouraged in the Pacific.” In March 1935, Roosevelt gave Pan Am Airways a permit to build runways on Wake Island, Midway Island, and Guam. Japanese military commanders announced that they were disturbed and viewed these runways as a threat. The U.S. Navy spent the next few years working up plans for war with Japan, the March 8, 1939, version of which described “an offensive war of long duration” that would destroy the military and disrupt the economic life of Japan.
As early as 1932 the United States had been talking with China about providing airplanes, pilots, and training for its war with Japan. In November 1940, Roosevelt loaned China one hundred million dollars for war with Japan, and after consulting with the British, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau made plans to send the Chinese bombers with U.S. crews to use in bombing Tokyo and other Japanese cities. On December 21, 1940, two weeks shy of a year before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, China’s Minister of Finance T.V. Soong and Colonel Claire Chennault, a retired U.S. Army flier who was working for the Chinese and had been urging them to use American pilots to bomb Tokyo since at least 1937, met in Henry Morgenthau’s dining room to plan the firebombing of Japan. Morgenthau said he could get men released from duty in the U.S. Army Air Corps if the Chinese could pay them $1,000 per month. Soong agreed. On May 24, 1941, the New York Times reported on U.S. training of the Chinese air force, and the provision of “numerous fighting and bombing planes” to China by the United States. “Bombing of Japanese Cities is Expected” read the sub-headline. By July, the Joint Army-Navy Board had approved a plan called JB 355 to firebomb Japan. A front corporation would buy American planes to be flown by American volunteers trained. Roosevelt approved, and his China expert Lauchlin Currie, in the words of Nicholson Baker, “wired Madame Chaing Kai-Shek and Claire Chennault a letter that fairly begged for interception by Japanese spies.” Whether or not that was the entire point, this was the letter: “I am very happy to be able to report today the President directed that sixty-six bombers be made available to China this year with twenty-four to be delivered immediately. He also approved a Chinese pilot training program here. Details through normal channels. Warm regards.”
In the eyes of the Japanese press they were being corralled: “First there was the creation of a superbase at Singapore, heavily reinforced by British and Empire troops. From this hub a great wheel was built up and linked with American bases to form a great ring sweeping in a great area southwards and westwards from the Philippines through Malaya and Burma…”
On November 15th, Army Chief of Staff George Marshall briefed the media on something we do not remember as “the Marshall Plan.” In fact, we don’t remember it at all. “We are preparing an offensive war against Japan,” Marshall said.
The idea that it was a defensive war because an innocent imperial outpost in the middle of the Pacific was attacked out of the clear blue sky is a myth that deserves to be buried.
There is no such thing as an ideal foreign policy. In international politics there is no policy which will suit all times and all circumstances. There is none which can be carried out to give a guarantee of enduring peace. After every outbreak of war historians and journalists look back to this or that turning point, and say that if only a certain government had acted differently, with more foresight, the war would not have happened. This kind of reasoning rests on assumptions that are not justified. It assumes that a government is a free agent, able to follow any policy that the international situation may seem to call for. It ignores the forces behind the government which determine the government’s attitude and limit its freedom of action; the electorates that have to be considered, but more importantly commercial, industrial and financial groups whose demands on foreign policy are coloured by their trading and other interests, such as the so-called “isolationists” versus the “interventionists” in American relations. The view taken by the “wise-after-the-event” historians assumes, too, that if one government gave a certain lead in international affairs other governments would react in a simple practicable way, determined either by fear of opposing a strong group of super-powers or by mutual desire to maintain world peace. Another problem is also that political leaders all too often ignore their own intelligence reports when they don’t fit with their political goals. Those goals reflect ideological and electoral concerns such as the need to appear to be acting in strong and determined ways – to be more assertive protectors of “freedom” than their competitors in the opposition party. This works to make presidents and prime ministers prone to opportunism and short-sightedness.
Capitalism forces all governments to compete in the world market and to strive for aims which cannot be satisfied. The rivalry between Japan and the US was unavoidable. In order to solve the insoluble problems of its own industries and financial organisations every nation, great or small, is demanding something which the other nations cannot afford to yield. And the whole problem is complicated by the sectional interests within each country, each trying to influence foreign policy. Alongside all this is the fact that the propertied class in all countries fears “subversive” influences and leans towards other governments which look like firm bulwarks for the defence of property; hence the readiness of influential circles in Britain and America to make an accommodation with the Nazis.
Those who talk as if the only problem of the British government was to prevent the German capitalists from re-establishing German power, also forget that in the 1920s the problem appeared to be that of preventing the French capitalists from dominating Europe and the Mediterranean. The policy of helping to re-establish Germany was at that time supported by British and American business interests, whose markets were in Germany and by bankers who had loaned millions of pounds to Germany. For American capitalists the British Empire was also a perceived threat, not Germany (even in 1923 the Scottish radical John McLean anticipated an Anglo-American war, “The war with America is rapidly rushing upon us”.)
When the Stalin-Hitler Pact was signed the Socialist Party pointed out at the time “it seems certain that now Russia and Germany are neighbours, both intent on dominating Eastern Europe and the Balkans, they will find each other dangerous friends, liable to turn into enemies at any moment.” and by 1941 that view was proven. Germany’s growing need of war materials and, perhaps, the assumption that a war against “Godless Bolshevism” might appeal to right-wing circles in Britain as it most definitely did in the U.S.A. justified Barbarossa in Nazi eyes.
Two recent books about Second World War have been published. In Unpatriotic History of the Second World War James Heartfield rejects the view of World War II as a supposed struggle against evil dictatorships. Instead Heartfield amasses evidence to demonstrate that the real underlying concerns of the elites who directed the war on both sides related much more to their economic, strategic, and imperial interests. What had formerly been trading wars had by 1939-1945 turned into armed competition over the spoils of exploitation on a world scale. Churchill openly declared his admiration for Mussolini and that he was fighting to defend the British Empire. This was a war over markets and access to raw materials as the post-war settlement over spheres of influence made clear. The plight of German Jews was never an issue nor was Poland, demonstrated by the fact that Britain and France had ignored the simultaneous invasion by Russian troops of Poland’s eastern flank. Once the fighting was over, Stalin held 52 per cent of Polish territory, and Hitler 48 per cent. This was not a People’s War but a war against people.
This contrasts with A People’s History of the Second World War by Donny Gluckstein who argues that the Second World War was an inter-imperialist conflict to re-divide the world amongst imperialist powers, but that unlike ,the First World War, it was still “a war worth fighting” as a means ” to end the scourge of fascism and Nazism” thus concluding that workers were right to die supporting it.
The lesson of all this is that, while the forces driving to international conflict and war remain, there are no means of making the world safe for peace. Pacts and alliances, Leagues of Nations, United Nations, International Courts and so on, may possibly control minor disputes and delay the major ones, but they have not succeeded and will not succeed in preventing war. World peace, like the abolition of property, is something only to be achieved through socialism.
Former US president Jimmy Carter referred to the US as “the most warlike nation in the history of the world,” a result of the US forcing other countries to “adopt our American principles.” Carter then said the US has been at peace for only 16 of its 242 years as a nation. Counting wars, military attacks and military occupations, there have actually only been five years of peace in US history—1976, the last year of the Gerald Ford administration and 1977-80, the entirety of Carter’s presidency. The US has also invaded or bombed dozens of countries and supported nearly every single right wing dictatorship in the world since the end of World War II. It has overthrown — or attempted to overthrow — dozens of foreign governments since 1949 and has actively sought to crush nearly every single people’s liberation movement over that same period. It has also meddled in scores of elections, in countries that are allies and adversaries alike.
When things are no longer produced for profit, but for the use of those who make them, then there will no longer be any necessity for a capitalist army. When millions of workers are set free from making munitions and provisions of warfare, then they will be able to turn their attention to building themselves better houses, producing more and better food for their families, and they will enjoy the leisure, the comfort, the culture and the education which are now the privileges of the exploiters. The continuous struggle for socialism is the World Socialist Party’s peace policy.
Many support the concept of a “good war” and the Second World War is often cited as a case in point. The United States fought that war against Nazi racial theories with a racially segregated army. It fought the war for freedom and democracy having passed Executive Order 9066 interning more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans without due process. Before the war the United States regularly turned away Jewish refugees to face certain death in Europe.
The World Socialist Party has a most clear and positive attitude to war. We are opposed to all wars, whether they be major and world-wide, or minor and localized. Our opposition to all war has been consistent from the time of our origin. Our opposition to war is an opposition distinct from all others. It is not an opposition based upon religious beliefs; and although we are opposed to war on social and humanitarian grounds, our opposition is not limited to a humanitarian approach — it goes much further. The socialist opposition to war results from our analysis and opposition to capitalism; the realization that this system is the cause of war; further, that the working class are living under a system that can never be made to operate in their interests; that war is inevitable under capitalism, and that the two go hand in hand and should be completely opposed by the workers at all times until they are both finally eliminated, one with the other.
The World Socialist Party’s answer is that we can uproot the cause of war by organizing to uproot the capitalist system. Workers have more than the necessary numbers to vote capitalism out and socialism in, as proposed by the World Socialist Party. This new social system, the working people alone can bring into being, thus forever putting an end to wars, and establishing the society of human solidarity based on freedom, peace and abundance.
To conclude: Sentiment and emotion for a fine cause are laudable. But without a sound premise and defined goal, they can only end in failure and despair. The crying need of our time is not marches and demonstrations for limited and impossible to attain objectives, but determined, unrelenting action to awaken the working class to the imperative need for a socialist reconstruction of society, and to enlighten them on the principles and program for accomplishing that social change in a peaceful manner.
To quote scripture, Isaiah saw in prophetic vision a time when nations should war no more—when swords should be transformed into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks. The fulfillment of the prophecy only awaits socialism and the solution of the economic problems we all face. All else is futile and hopeless.