Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Sep 16 06:48:36 MDT 2002

>BTW, does that mean that the U.S. govt. was wrong to fight the Axis in WW II?
>Jon Johanning // jjohanning at igc.org


Washington's anti-fascism was the result of a recent "conversion". American
businesses sent oil to Italy in huge quantities after Mussolini invaded
Ethiopia in 1935. Mussolini used the oil to keep the war against the
African colony. When the fascists rose up in Spain in 1936, Roosevelt
declared his neutrality while the fascist powers gave complete aid to the
Francoists. This ensured the victory of fascism in Spain.

What brought the United States into the war was not a determination to rid
the world of fascism, but a response to the Japanese attack on Pearl
Harbor. It was only when Japan threatened US economic interests in the
Pacific that Washington entered the war. There is a transcript of statement
made to the War Cabinet by Henry Stimson in November, 1941 that confirms
this interpretation. Charles Beard cites it in his "President Roosevelt and
the Coming of the War 1941."

"One problem troubled us very much. If you know that your enemy is going to
strike you, it is not usually wise to wait until he gets the jump on you by
taking the initiative. In spite of the risk involved, however, in letting
the Japanese fire the first shot, we realized that in order to have the
full support of the American people it was desirable to make sure that the
Japanese be the ones to do this so there should remain no doubt in anyone's
mind as to who were the aggressors. We discussed at this meeting the basis
on which this country's position could be most clearly explained to our own
people and to the world, in case we had to go into the fight quickly
because of some sudden move on the part of the Japanese. We discussed the
possibility of a statement summarizing all the steps of aggression that the
Japanese had already taken, the encirclement of our interests in the
Philippines which was resulting and the threat to our vital supplies of
rubber from Malay. I reminded the president that on Aug. 19 [1941] he had
warned the Japanese Ambassador that if the steps which the Japanese were
then taking continued across the border into Thailand, he would regard it
as a matter affecting our safety, and suggested that he might point our
that the moves the Japanese were now apparently on the point of making
would be in fact a violation of a warning that had already been given."

(Beard belonged to the earlier Progressive school of history and politics.
Other members were John Dewey the philosopher and cultural historian Vernon
Parrington. The Progressives predated the intellectual milieu of both the
CP and the New Deal--granted they are somewhat identical--and were much
less likely to believe WWII war propaganda. These were people of Eugene V.
Debs' generation and likely to take the "people's war" rhetoric with a
grain of salt.

Beard was a scholar of tremendous integrity, but his outspoken opposition
to World War Two caused him to become a rather isolated figure in the world
of cold-war liberalism. Younger liberal historians considered him an odd
duck and perhaps a little disturbed. Thomas Kennedy, in his "Charles A.
Beard and American Foreign Policy", entertained critical speculations that
Beard was surely deaf and possibly senile when he went on the attack
against WWII. He cites a critic who views Beard's attacks on Roosevelt as
"superstitions that occupied Beard in his senility."

Of course, Beard was completely sane and clear-headed. It was the
muddle-headed New Deal liberals and their CP chums who had lost control of
their sanity. A new generation of "revisionist" historians came along in
the 1960's and put their support behind Beard's interpretation.)

Did the United States intervention as an ally of the USSR against the Nazis
prove that it was fighting a "people's war" as opposed to a war based on
the need for power and profit? One can question the purity of the motives
in the war with Japan, but how can anybody gainsay the crusade for
democracy in Europe?

To begin with, Washington showed no intention of extending democracy to the
colonies of its European allies. Diplomat Sumner Welles assured the French
that they could hold on to their colonies. He said, "This Government,
mindful of its traditional friendship for France, has deeply sympathized
with the desire of the French people to maintain their territories and
preserve them intact."

Lurking beneath the surface of altruistic government propaganda of the sort
uttered by Henry Wallace was the occasional honest assessment. Secretary of
State Cordell Hull said "Leadership toward a new system of international
relationships in trade and other economic affairs will devolve very largely
upon the United States because of our great economic strength. We should
assume this leadership, and the responsibility that goes with it, primarily
for reasons of national self- interest." The poet Archibald MacLeish, at
that time an Assistant Secretary of State, predicted the outcome of an
allied victory. He declared, "As things are now going, the peace we will
make, the peace we seem to be making, will be a peace of oil, a peace of
gold, a peace of shipping, a peace, in brief...without moral purpose or
human interest."

Did WWII rescue European Jewry to some extent? Supporters of imperialist
intervention in Bosnia tend to make analogies with this presumed mission of
WWII, but Roosevelt had no interest in saving the lives of Jews. I need not
go over this sad tale in detail. You should read "While 6 Million Died", by
NY Times reporter Arthur D. Morse, which details the indifference at best,
and anti-Semitic hatred at worst, that existed in the US State Department.
The President refused to take decisive action against the Nazis and caused
the deaths of many thousands of Jews.

Despite the no-strike pledge of Communist Party, the class-struggle
continued at home with mounting fury. During the war, there were 14,000
strikes, involving 6,770,00 workers, more than in any period in American
history. A million miners, steelworkers, auto and transportation workers
went on strike in 1944. In Lowell, Massachusetts, there were as many
strikes in 1943 and 1944 as there were in 1937. It was a "people's war" in
the eyes of CPers and their liberal allies. Despite this, textile workers
there resented the fact that the bosses' profits grew by 600% during the
war while their wages only went up by 36%.

full: http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/fascism_and_war/zimmerwald.htm

Louis Proyect

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