[Marxism] WWII fought for economic reasons

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 9 07:19:20 MDT 2010

Shattering some of the Stalin-Hitler myths
‘Deathride’ revises much about tyrants

By David M. Shribman  |  July 8, 2010

DEATHRIDE: Hitler vs. Stalin — The Eastern Front, 1941-1945
By John Mosier
Simon and Schuster,
480 pp., $30

We think we understand the great German-Russian conflict of the 
Eastern Front of World War II. We think it was the great grudge 
match of the tyrants, Stalin and Hitler. We think Stalin panicked 
in June 1941 when his Nazi ally turned on him. We think Hitler was 
beaten by the same Russian winter that defeated Napoleon a century 
earlier. We think Stalin was steadfast in refusing to consider 
surrender. We think the Soviets prevailed in the greatest tank 
battle ever, at Kursk.

Maybe not. At least that is what the historian John Mosier, who in 
an earlier volume shattered the myths surrounding Hitler’s 
Blitzkrieg, is telling us in “Deathride: Hitler vs. Stalin — The 
Eastern Front, 1941-1945.’’ It is a dramatic departure from the 
conventional wisdom and is itself a dramatic chronicle of the most 
brutal theater in the most brutal war in one of history’s most 
brutal centuries. But the real theme is even bigger than the 
Eastern Front, which itself stretched from the Baltic to the Black 

Mosier is arguing that World War II was fought for economics, not 
for political or ideological reasons. That is not a new thesis, to 
be sure, but his is a creative approach, holding that not only the 
motivations but also the maneuvers of the war were almost entirely 
economic in nature.

Hitler, for example, wanted Poland because it was a net exporter 
of goods to Germany. The Allies then tried to block iron ore 
shipments from Scandinavia, hoping to deny the Nazis the materials 
required to build tanks and planes. And the whole bloody thing was 
a war on an economic, not a political, front. The Allies, which 
included the Soviet Union by war’s end, simply out produced 
Germany, and in fact the Third Reich was defeated by two nations 
that weren’t even their adversaries when the war began, the United 
States and the Soviet Union.

This is a clear-eyed, compelling description of a battle that has 
been described many times, but seldom with such an ironic eye. 
This monstrous war, conducted against the backdrop of the tyrants’ 
purges and their mechanical approaches to civilian death, was 
conducted in a great killing field of ethnic groups, including the 
Poles and other Slavic peoples, many of whom fared little better 
under Stalin than they did under Hitler. And these persecuted 
Eastern Europeans were themselves no friends of the Jews, who were 
virtually exterminated in this charnel house.

What emerges from these pages is a struggle between vicious Soviet 
bunglers with a craven leadership willing to sacrifice millions to 
survive versus vicious German technocrats with a leadership that 
didn’t anticipate the dangers of military over-extension and the 
advantages its rival possessed by fighting a defensive war in a 
primitive land with unlimited cannon fodder. That said, Mosier 
believes that Stalin was closer than anyone (including Stalin 
himself) knew to running out of men, some of whom by 1943 were 
getting only two days of training.

Now back to those myths that lay shattered on Mosier’s pages. 
Stalin wasn’t immobilized by Hitler’s perfidy in 1941, only stuck 
in a 1914 reverie that permitted him to believe he had weeks to 
mobilize and to think a diplomatic resolution was plausible. The 
Nazis were defeated in Russia more by Father Fall than by General 
Winter — that is, not when the land was full of ice but when the 
roads were full of mud. Stalin would have entertained an armistice 
but fought on mostly because Hitler wouldn’t consider one. And as 
for Kursk, that wasn’t the clear-cut victory that Soviet 
propagandists claimed.

Wars have a chilling bottom line, and Mosier’s is this: The war in 
the East was Hitler’s to lose and he did. Several times on the 
verge of victory, the Germans were not defeated by a superior 
rival, only by superior will or at least the willingness to pay 
the price of victory. Stalin won the war “only because he was 
willing to sacrifice approximately 27 million Russians.’’ 
Horrifying conclusion, horrifying battle, horrifying victory.

David M. Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh 
Post-Gazette, was for a decade the Globe’s Washington bureau 
chief. He can be reached at dshribman at post-gazette.com.

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