World War II Was Many Wars In One

By Mary-Alice Waters, The Militant, Vol.59, No.20, 22 May 1995

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. Touted as the war against fascism, governments around the world are holding grand commemorations of this imperialist slaughter of working people.

The following excerpt, taken from Washington's Third Militarization Drive in New International no. 7, explains the truth behind the war that left as many as 60 million human beings dead. This excerpt is reprinted with permission of New International. Subheads are by the Militant.

Contrary to popular belief both then and now, World War II was not a war to stop fascism. It was much more complex than that; it was at least three wars in one, as the SWP [Socialist Workers Party] explained at the time.

It was an interimperialist war in which the defeat by Washington and its allies of Germany, Japan, and Italy did nothing to eliminate the economic and social roots of fascism nor the causes of imperialist oppression. Fascism, the most virulent form of maintaining imperialist rule, will again attempt to raise its head in any period of deep capitalist crisis and accelerating class polarization and combat.

It was a war to roll back the Russian revolution and reestablish capitalism in the Soviet Union. With enormous sacrifice the workers and peasants of the first and at that time only workers' state turned the tide against German imperialism's invading armies. They prevented the imperialist powers from realizing this historic objective, which none of them have ever abandoned from October 1917 to this day.

It was a multifront war for national liberation in which the colonized and oppressed nations of the world took good advantage of the interimperialist conflict to advance their interests from India to China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Korea, the Mideast, Ireland, and Qu├ębec.

A fourth war also took shape as the imperialist bloodletting continued: the war carried out by resistance forces—many organized by the workers' movement—in the occupied countries of Europe. That was a war against the fascist dictatorships imposed by Hitler's National Socialist movement. It was also a war by the workers to create the most favorable possible conditions for the working classes in Europe to emerge victorious over their own bourgeoisies, whether fascist or democratic imperialist, as the conflict unfolded.

‘We are going home’

After Japan's surrender in August 1945, the U.S. rulers, who came out on top of the pile in 1945, found themselves confronted with a disintegrating army. Workers and farmers in uniform, particularly those in the Pacific theater, demanded to be brought home immediately. They saw no reason to stay in uniform once the war they were fighting, the war against fascism, had been won.

The rulers in Washington, however, wanted to reap the harvest of victory over their rivals by taking control of Asia. In particular, they aimed at keeping China under imperialist control. As GIs throughout Asia started demonstrating by the thousands, the Democrats and Republicans in Washington howled, But we are losing China!

The GIs answered, You may be losing China. We are going home! They simply refused to continue under arms. Demobilization was accelerated and go home they did, by the millions. The U.S. armed forces had ceased to be an effective fighting force for imperialist interests.

That's how the postwar period began in the United States: with a GI going-home movement that no class on earth could have stopped, as well as a massive strike wave that brought nearly two million workers, many of them newly returned vets, onto the picket lines demanding an immediate end to the wartime wage controls.

New militarization drive

In response to the victory of the Soviet Union in World War II, the advance of the colonial revolution as the imperialist powers warred against each other, and the resulting shift in the international relationship of forces to the detriment of imperialism, Washington had to take steps to put back together a military force to use against struggles by workers and peasants around the world. With World War II barely over, the U.S. rulers needed a new militarization drive.

At the same time, the employers still had to housebreak the labor movement that had been born in the giant struggles of the rise of the CIO industrial union movement in the second half of the 1930s. They also had to try to prevent a massive movement for Black equality from arising on the basis of the civil rights militancy that had emerged during the war. The witch-hunt and anticommunist reaction of the end of the 1940s and the 1950s were aimed at accomplishing these goals.