Friday, 4 September 2009

‘People’s War against Fascism’


I didn’t deliberately miss the historic fact those 70 years ago on 3 September 1939, marked the start of the Second World War as we have come to know it.

I just didn’t think that this was an anniversary; that I as a Socialist could commemorate, particularly given the situation in Afghanistan which has intensified over recent weeks with the return - and I’ve now lost count of the number of British casualties’.

There is and has never been such a thing as a ‘Just War’ ever in the world, and the Second World War is no exception.

George Lansbury then I think the Leader of the Labour Party; made the following statement in opposing rightly that war: “I would close every recruiting station, disband the Army and disarm the Air Force. I would abolish the whole dreadful equipment of war and say to the world "do you're worst."

George Lansbury was of course, famously a pacifist, and I think that the older I’ve become the more I think that I’m a pacifist, because war and violence is not only primitive but an uncivilised and barbaric 'toss back' to when the human race knew no better.

The consequences that led to the Second World War, the collapse of the United States economy following the Wall Street Crash, which reverberated around the world meant that European countries, especially Germany, were hit hard by the Great Depression, which led to high rates of unemployment, poverty and much civil unrest. Some of the other things that need to be considered that helped Hitler and the Nazi Party to power are the following: After the First World War Germany lost her colonies and territories, she had to pay reparations and anti- German feelings were still running high and this in turn damaged German exports. At the end of hostilities Germany had to hand over “huge quantities of industrial machinery including, merchant shipping, railway engines and wagons”. As the economy collapsed, the currency became worthless and social unrest rose. However in 1929 the economy did begin to recover economically; then the Great Depression destroyed her economy; this briefly led to the rise to power of Hitler and the Nazis.

Many on the so-called left particularly in Britain see WW2 as the ‘People’s War against Fascism’. If this is the case then they are wrong; for how on earth can it be described as such, when it was lead by the ruling class with Churchill at its head along with the fact when war did break out in September 1939, some men volunteered to join the armed services, but Britain could still only raise 875,000 men. Other European countries had kept conscription between the wars and were able to raise much larger armies than Britain. In October 1939 the British government announced that all men aged between 18 and 41 who were not working in 'reserved occupations' could be called to join the armed services if required. Conscription was by age and in October 1939 men aged between 20 and 23 were required to register to serve in one of the armed forces. They were allowed to choose between the army, the navy and the air force. About 60,000 men applied for Conscientious Objector status; this itself suggests, anything but a people’s war!

2 comments:

Chris H said...

Perhaps a 'just war' would be one where the position taken is purely one of defence? Lots of philosophers and theologians have tried to define what a just war is. Perhaps I'd go with your idea that no war is ever 'just'.

I think that the title of 'People's War' is an apt one - it's always the people fighting a war although by proxy from the ruling classes. It's always the people that suffer the death, the loss and the hardship. And when the dust has settled, the dead are buried and the papers signed what changes for the people? Nothing. Same system, maybe different faces at the top.

With my sons now 18 and 20 I would hate to see them going off to war.

Jim said...

Thanks Chris,

It’s hard to imagine, or even say for certain, what the held view of most people was 70 years ago in regard to the Second World War. Even more difficult now with less participants’ around as most have passed on like both my grandparents who fought on either side, and one of course who was killed at point blank range in Russia.

I suppose in a way it was a ‘People’s War’ when you think that back then in Britain for most working people just surviving was made that much harder with food shortages, evacuations and so on.

What I question, is the title that it has been given, that of ‘People’s War against Fascism’ and by those on the left. It smacks of some grandee soviet adaption, but then again its being prompted by former members of the CP.

The people on both sides were mobilized, conscripted by the state and the ruling class to fight it out by using weapons of mass destruction raining down on the masses of the innocents in Towns and City’s all over Europe, not to mention the two bombs used on the population of Japan.

War is a product that is complicit with capitalism; a system that I contend led and leads to the nightmare of Fascism in all its vile forms. Since the end of WW2 the world has never experienced total peace Iraq and Afghanistan is only two examples; what about the rest who are sold implements of war by the West who claim at last to be at peace with their neighbours.

I have two children about the same age as you're two boys’ and share your concerns very much especially when you see the young returning in flagged draped coffins from Afghanistan on the TV. I also have a nephew, who is serving in one of the armed forces and has been sent to Afghanistan twice in one year, and I’m braking with my own convention here by writing about him on my blog, but it’s important that others understand what’s going on. When he first went out my younger sister, his mother almost stopped eating through the shear worry of it all, and didn’t sleep properly for weeks, luckily for us his job was not on the front line but rather involved loading bombs on plans. I find it hard to reconcile the fact that only a few years ago he was that baby boy that I use to bounce about on my knee. Its bad enough that the young and innocent are being used and killed in their thousands but if anything happened to him well – I would be at Downing Street and Brown wouldn’t pass me without knowing about it.

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