Friday, December 21, 2012

Talking about the war

James Heartfield's book The Unpatriotic History of the Second World War views the war as an inter-imperialist conflict not worth the shedding of a single drop of working class blood. His position is similar to our own in the Socialist Party of Great Britain. The history of the Second World War's official account is so profoundly ideological. Official history sees Britain betrayed by the (Tory) appeasers, and rescued by a combination of Winston Churchill's patriotism and Labour's anti-fascists. Revisionists have tried to show that appeasement was a necessary breathing space to build up the military means to defeat Hitler. But like much of the European ruling class, British leaders sympathised with Hitler's goal of crushing working class power, both in Germany and elsewhere. That was what Churchill admired in Mussolini and Hitler. But where German territorial expansion threatened British markets in Europe, and territory in the colonies, they opposed it. 'Better Hitler than Blum', was a slogan commonly heard from the French employers, and a reason why the French establishment failed to put up more resistance to the German invasion in 1940. They hoped the Nazis would provide the force that would crush organised labour, removing the need to accommodate the 'Popular Front'. But that was the account of the war that would not meet with the approval of the official version. The war was not fought to save the Jews - most governments were largely indifferent to Jewish suffering. Nor was it fought to defend democracy. The British and American governments fought to defend their own economic interests against their German, Italian and Japanese rivals. The people were persuaded to make sacrifices to defeat fascism, but ended up with another form of class rule.

In post-war Germany it is the idea that every German was guilty that ensures that the individuals who were personally responsible for the Nazis crimes remain faceless. The doctrine of collective guilt imposed by the allies was taken up eagerly by the post-war German elite, the better to ensure that nobody could point the finger at them individually. Even in the face of savage repression German workers did on occasions react against Nazi policies. Between February 1936 and July 1937 the government recorded 197 strikes. Ordinary Germans protested vehemently at the euthansia programme against the mentally ill and disabled, and succeeded in stopping the policy. When their Jewish husbands were imprisoned, German women massed in Berlin in protests over three days, and won the release of 6000 men. Daniel Goldhagen rejects the explanation for German acquiescence to the holocaust, the argument that they were uniquely obedient to the state, pointing out that these 'were the same people, Germans, who had battled in the streets of Weimar in defiance of existing state authority' . But the obedience was the result of the conflicts of the twenties: the Left had been crushed, and the Nazis were now the state authority (and even that required an internal massacre of Nazi militants of the SA in the 'night of the long knives'). The effect of the 'collective guilt' idea was that it diluted the actual guilt of the Nazis and their supporters, while heaping blame on the German working class whose political defeat had been the overriding purpose of the Fascist regime. When German workers pressed their claims, they were chided to remember that they, like all Germans, were guilty. Franz Neumann wrote in 1944 that 'so vast a crime as the extermination of the Eastern Jews' was an attempt to make the masses 'perpetrators and accessories in that crime and make it therefore impossible for them to leave the Nazi boat'. This was Goebbels view as well, recorded in his diary a year earlier: 'On the Jewish question we have taken a position from which there is no escape...Experience shows that a movement and a people that has burned their bridges fight with much greater determination than those who can still retreat', he added. Between 1945 and 1949 six million Germans went through the 'denazification' process, after every adult had been required to complete a questionnaire outlining their past activities and allegiances. Of these one million were classified as followers, 25 000 offenders and just 2000 major offenders. Historian Mark Mazower judged that 'these purges left intact the same structures of power through which the Germans ruled Europe: local civil servants, police, business organizations and the press'.  The Allies could not get Germany working without using former Nazi Party members and supporters

The Second World War was a fully industrialised war. Destructive as it was, the war laid the basis for new industry. Plants created in Detroit and Dagenham, the Urals and Silesia during the war would lay the basis for the post-war boom. Hitler's expansion of production heightened the need to conquer markets for exports, and secure territory for supplies. Eastern expansion was essential for securing oil and wheat. On 4 March, 1940, James D. Mooney, a vice president of General Motors, was sent by president Roosevelt to plead for peace in Western Europe and added 'that Americans had understanding for Germany's need with respect to the question of living space'.  But Germany also needed to knock out its European rivals to secure economic expansion.  Defending the supply routes to the Empire was where Britain's interests as a trading nation lay. Roosevelt was hostile to the recreation of French imperialism after the war. The American president had no need for a strong France after the war. 'France's role as a great power is finished for good', US leader Wendell Willkie told Ilya Ehrenburg, 'it's not in our interests to restore her to her former position'

The Nazi Government made the 1 May a national holiday in 1933, and trade union leaders marched alongside national socialists. The following day their offices were occupied, and on 12 May 1933, all their property attached to the public prosecutors office in Berlin, with Nazi labour leader Robert Ley as trustee . The German Labour Front substituted itself for the unions, but as an organisation that promoted Nazi ideals to workers rather than one that represented their interests. Compulsory Labour Service (Arbeitsdienst) and Compulsory Agricultural Service (Landhilfe, the 'most feared') were introduced, and war industries were working 70 hours a week by 1936, when workers were pledged to secrecy under threat of the death penalty in the event of 'treason' . Without independent organisations, and with their leaders in concentration camps, the German working classes were prey to extreme exploitation. Though Alan Milward argues that consumption levels under fascism remained high, wages in 1937 were lower than they had been in 1929, despite full employment.  At the same time hours rose dramatically so that the profits of large companies quadrupled between 1932 and 1936. In 1932, 60 per cent of the national income fell to labour, 19 per cent to capital; after four years of Nazi rule, labour's share had fallen to 52 per cent, while capital's had risen to 28 per cent. Mark Mazower's assessment is that 'in industrial relations, fascist relations clearly lent towards the bosses' and that 'Fascism remained a low-wage economy'. But disciplining labour was not coincidental; it was the role that fascism played, and the reason that big business and the establishment supported the Nazi party.

 In Italy, under the Vidoni Palace agreement of 1925 the General Federation of Industry granted sole negotiating rights to the fascist unions, effectively outlawing independent trade unions. The militarisation of labour was not restricted to the Fascist dictatorships, though. In France decree laws increased hours in the armament industries to 60 a week  - output increases that would later feed the German military. In the US four million unemployed were organised in the Civil Works Administration in 1934, a further three million in the Works Progress Administration the following year, and 2 500 000 men aged 19-25 in the Civil Conservation Corps. The Civilian Conservation Corps (1935) took a quarter of a million Americans off the unemployment register and put them to work clearing forests and building dams. Where Britain, France and America differed from Italy and Germany was that instead of dismantling the trade unions, they had succeeded in recruiting their leaders as quasi-official supervisors. In the US, for example, the American Federation of Labour, which had reduced from four to 2.5 million members between 1920 and 1932, was boosted by official recognition as the house union of the National Relief Association.

In Britain production was boosted by the Labour Party and the unions' embrace of the war effort. On the initiative of the left, Joint Production Committees were formed in the engineering industry in 1942, where unions and managers collaborated in increasing output. Left-wingers denounced absentees for 'sabotaging' the war effort, and demanded they be prosecuted. It is true that there were considerable changes brought about by the war. Many of these tended over time to improve the material conditions of the mass of people, like the National Health Service in the UK, or the GI Bills extending education and home loans in the US. But for the most part, these reforms were necessary for continuing the process of capitalist development. And what is more, they were paid for by the phenomenal increase in output wrung from the working class through the wartime restructuring of industry. The war changed the balance between labour and capital. Most think that it shifted the balance in labour's favour. The real lesson of the Second World War was that it crushed the independent organisations of the working class. 

It was by and large the ruling classes who collaborated, and the working classes who resisted. De Gaulle's flight to London to found the 'Free French' was the only sign of dissent amongst the French elite. In the Netherlands and Belgium, ('the Belgian resistance, that was after the war', mocked the artist Marcel Marien), the collapse before superior forces led to elite collaboration. Communist parties were banned, and anti-Semitic laws imposed. While the elites collaborated, like Petain, or fled, like Queen Wilhelmina of Holland, ordinary people took great risks to challenge the occupying powers. Dutch opposition to anti-Jewish laws boiled over in protests in University towns in the winter of 1940-41, before a general strike was started by Communists beginning in the Amsterdam shipyards on 17 February 1941. 'Protest against the horrible persecutions of the Jews!', read a Communist Party poster, which urged families to take in Jewish children to save them from Nazi atrocities. The strikes shocked the German authorities and effectively sidelined the Dutch Nazi movement for the rest of the war. Sporadic demonstrations throughout France in 1941 were organised from 1942, when De Gaulle appealed for May day demonstrations, a call taken up in Toulouse, Avignon, Nice and Marseilles, where 30 000 came out. Russia's entry into the war gave the allies a much needed opportunity to re-brand their war as a 'People's War' against Fascism. On 5 March 1943, workers at the Rasetti Factory in Turin struck for higher wages, starting a general strike of 100 000 workers throughout the northern cities - and won. Workers in Milan and Genoa demonstrated for an end to the war.

The partisans' contribution was swept aside by the invading allies, who saw them as dangerous to the restoration of good order, especially as they were often Communist-led. Gradually stories emerged of the grotesque lengths to which the allies went in order to disarm them. On 8 May, as Paris celebrated its liberation, crowds came out in Algiers adding banners for their own independence. French troops opened fire on the crowd, inaugurating five days of skirmishes that left 40,000 Algerians dead.

  In the summer of 1944 partisans, by then 100 000 strong, succeeded in liberating at least 15 'partisan republics', like Carnia, Montefiorini, and Ossola, emboldened by the allied advance, and established Committees of National Liberation. British General Alexander, the Allied Commander, told the Times that the partisans were holding down up to six of the 25 German divisions Roberto Battaglia's Story of the Italian Resistance (1953), explained how the partisans had been encouraged to take on the German army and liberate the northern cities by the Allied invasion from the South. On 10 November 1944, however, General Alexander announced over the radio that there would be no advance until the spring. 'Having received the assurance that they would not be subjected to a major attack by the allies during the winter, they decided to make the most of the respite and deal the partisans a crushing blow.' British historian David Ellwood's Italy, 1943-45 (1979) and former intelligence officer Basil Davidson's memoir Special Operations Europe (1981) confirm the view that the Allies left the partisans to the Wehrmacht's mercy because they did not want to face an indigenous challenge to their authority. With the agreement of Communist Party leader Palmiro Togliatti, who returned from Moscow in March 1944, The Italian Badoglio's government was recognised by the Committees of National Liberation, who were thereby sidelined. Togliatti counselled his supporters to restrict their wider ambitions in favour of 'continuity of the state' . British representative Harold Macmillan was relieved: 'it would suit us much better not to be stimulators of a revolution, which we shall only have to suppress later' Unable to get a reasonable price, Italain farmers in the south withheld their grain and the cities starved. To restore order, the allies recreated Mussolini's police state. On 19 October 1943, a demonstration against wage and price levels was fired on, leaving 14 dead. The 'collective contracts' between workers and employers that had been introduced by Mussolini were continued by Lt. Colonel Charles Poletti for AMGOT.

The Greek partisans had, if anything, a worse tale to tell. In April 1944 the Greek Army stationed in Cairo mutinied. They were accused by Churchill of harbouring 'an unworthy fear of being sent to the front', but in fact they were demanding to be sent into battle to help free their country. British hostility to the army's demands were made clear by Sir Reginald Leeper, British Ambassador to the Greek government in exile, who telegraphed the foreign office that 'what is happening here among the Greeks is nothing less than a revolution' . Churchill had the 20,000 men rounded up and held in concentration camps in Libya and Eritrea - 'let hunger play its part', he cabled Leeper. Their mass partisan army, ELAS, also dominated by Communists, had succeeded in liberating much of the mountainous north of the country.11 But in exchange for recognising Soviet authority in Eastern Europe, Churchill had Stalin's agreement that Greece would be in the Western zone of influence - a deal he imposed with military force, telling General Scobie 'do not hesitate to act as if you were in a conquered city where a local rebellion is in progress' Astonishingly, the Allies had already sent an intelligence officer, Captain Don Stott to negotiate with the Gestapo chief in Greece, Hermann Neubacher, the transfer of fascist militias to allied command to defeat ELAS. 'This war should end in a common struggle by the allies and the German forces against Bolshevism', Stott told him. After the war, ELAS was isolated by the allies, and then gradually annihilated by a Greek Army made up of former fascist militias.

In Holland, a German Military Decree of 29 April 1943 that former Dutch soldiers would be sent to the Reich as labourers provoked a wave of strikes centred on the industrial town of Hengelo, and rapidly spreading to the mining district of Limburg and the Philips works in Eindhoven. It took ten days, and summary executions, as happened at Philips, to restore order. Pointedly, the London-exiled Dutch Prime Minister Gerbrandy broadcast from the BBC on 19 May warning 'against revolt at too early a stage', and encouraging passive resistance. In 1944, the allies again proved less than enthusiastic about strikes planned by Central Dutch Resistance Council - this time to coincide with the invasion. In retrospect, British commander at Arnhem R.E. Urquhart admitted that an unwillingness to cooperate with the Resistance contributed to major setbacks in the winter of 1944-5. From the perspective of the British military historian Foot, the resistance largely existed to serve the needs of the Allies: information gathering, aiding escaping officers, and, insofar as it engaged in the economic sphere, this was just 'sabotage', not insurrection

'The depression was finally ended not by a new prosperity but through World War II, that is, thorough the colossal destruction of capital on a worldwide scale and a restructuring of the world economy that assured the profitable expansion of capital for another period.'
Paul Mattick.

 'The higher level of the rate of exploitation which had been brought about by force was maintained for ten years after the period of fascism'
, wrote Elmar Altvater, 'the "West German economic miracle" was pre-programmed in the course of the "thousand year Reich". Mazower agrees: 'a nazi public utility like Volkswagen, or private utility like Daimler-Benz, laid down plant and equipment in the 1930s (and early 1940s) that would form the basis for post-war growth' . But these changes were not just restricted to Germany. In all of Western Europe, post-war reconstruction was boosted by the redirection of resources from consumption to investment initially made under the discipline of war.  Though they fought Germany over territory and markets, the Allies gained from the Nazi disciplining of the working class in Europe. Furthermore they redirected working class opposition to Fascism in Germany and Italy into support for the adoption of an enhanced industrial discipline at home. The ideology of the People's War proved even more effective a means winning authority over the working class than Nazi repression. Having been persuaded to sacrifice all in the struggle against Fascism, the masses were recruited to the stabilisation of capitalist production in Europe. The Allies gained by the German war against the partisans, too. Nazi defeats of national resistance movements made the second (Allied) occupation of Europe a great deal easier. In December 1943, the British Middle East HQ sent Captain Don Stott (pictured right) to negotiate with Hitler's envoy in Greece, Hermann Neubacher of the Gestapo on the best way to defeat the partisans. 'This war should end in a common struggle by the allies and the German forces against Bolshevism,' Stott told them

In the decade from 1935 to 1945 the warring nations turned their factories into engines of destruction. Between 1933 and 1936 US armaments spending rose from $628 million to $1.161 billion, by 1942 government awarded $100 billion to US business in military contracts. The growth in output was phenomenal. Aircraft production was more than twenty times greater in 1944 than in 1935. To get this much out of industry, factories had to be placed under military discipline – not just in the Fascist countries, but in the democracies too. For the workers, wartime regimentation was hard graft on low wages. Business, though, made a fortune out of the war. During the four war years, 1942-1945, the 2,230 largest American firms reported earnings of $14.4 billion after taxes, up by 41 percent on the previous four. In Germany, too 'the higher level of the rate of exploitation which had been brought about by force was maintained for ten years after the period of fascism', wrote Elmar Altvater, 'the "West German economic miracle" was pre-programmed in the course of the "thousand year Reich".' Dragooning the workforce made more money for business.

In 1935 the Nazi regime began a compulsory system of workbooks. One copy was held by the employer another by the labour exchange. Workers were barred from leaving named key sectors, like aircraft and metal production. In 1938, Goering's decree for Securing Labour for Tasks of Special State Importance effectively conscripted labour. Within a year 1.9 million workers had been subject to compulsory work orders. Japan passed a General Mobilisation Law in 1938. Japanese civilians were barred from leaving work without the say-so of the local office of the National Employment Agency, under the Employee Turnover Prevention Ordinance (1940), and given work books from March 1941. In January 1940 the British Cabinet agreed to Ernest Bevin's proposals for a Register of Protected Establishments, and in March for a Register of Employment Order. Men up to the age of 46 had to be registered by 1941. Most agreed to reassignment after a talking to at the Labour Exchange, but one million directions had been issued by 1945, 80,000 to women. Under the Essential Work Order, workers were forbidden from leaving their jobs without permission – thirty thousand orders were made, covering six million workers. In 1943, 12,500 people were found guilty of breaking a Control of Employment Order. In this way Bevin boosted the armaments industry so that it ate up 37 percent of the workforce – up from 30 percent in a year. These were the people who sweated to make Vickers-Armstrong, ICI and Hawker-Siddeley into world class businesses. nder New Zealand's National Service Emergency Act of 1942 it was an offence to leave or be 'absent from work without a reasonable excuse' in 'essential industries'. Australia's government wanted to direct labour but did not dare to overturn the rights of its states. In America, the War Manpower Commission's Chief Paul McNutt drew up a Worker Draft Bill that would have let him send labour to the North American Aviation Plant in Texas, and other war industries. In the event, America's business lobby won the government over to the idea that they could recruit labour. In fact they signed up 17 million new workers between 1940 and 1944. But as in Australia, the American authorities still kept butting in to regiment the factories – still they kept employers sweet with war contracts worth billions. n 1941, Roosevelt helped war profiteers by banning strikes and taking away labour legislation protections in the armaments industry. In 1935 he had made a dispute procedure, the National Labour Relations Board, which barred wildcat strikes. In Britain, Order 1305 banned strikes.15 In Nazi Germany a law on the National Organisation of Labour imposed the Führer-principle on the ‘shop community', with workers cast as ‘followers', while a Court of Honour heard labour disputes. By 1944 some 87,000 Germans had been jailed for breaking workplace rules, and in 1943, 5,336 of them were put to death. The model was Mussolini's Italy, where workers and bosses were put in the same corporations, and 'strikes, protest demonstrations and even verbal criticism of the government were illegal'. The battle between labour and capital that had raged between the wars was settled when governments all over came down firmly on the side of industry.

Under the discipline of war, hours spent working for the boss were ratcheted up. Roosevelt twisted arms to get rid of American workers' overtime payments. In France the average working week went up from 35 hours in 1940 to 46.2 hours in March 1944 and decree laws increased hours in the armament industries to 60 a week.21 In New Zealand workers lost overtime and holiday entitlements, and hours were put up to 48 on the farms and 54 in defence factories. In Germany, defence workers were put on a seventy-hour week, and a ceiling was put on wages in 1938. British men worked 47.7 hours a week in 1938, rising to 52.9 in 1943, but in a Factory Inspectorate survey of war plants, the sixty-hour week was the norm for men and women.24 Japanese authorities extended the working day to 11 or 12 hours in heavy industry.

The Allies used forced labour, too. Forty-eight thousand men aged 18 to 25 were sent down Britain's mines between 1943 and 1948. 21,000 seventeen year-olds were forced to dig. They were called the 'Bevin Boys' after Labour Minister Ernest Bevin. One in every ten that were called up for National Service in the Army were sent to the mines.  In Brazil 55 000 people were drafted as 'Rubber Soldiers' to work in the Amazon under a deal between US President Roosevelt and the dictator, Getúlio Vargas to fill America's rubber shortage – hundreds died of malaria.

Business recruited a whole new labour force during the war. The people working the lathes, hammering the rivets, directing the traffic, ploughing the farms were not the same people they had been. Apart from skilled workers in protected trades, the male core of the working class was sent to war. Others – women, minorities, young people, migrant labour – were recruited to fill the gaps. These new workers were easier to handle at first and worked harder to prove themselves.

Roosevelt put ten million men into the American Army, and six million more women into the workforce. In 1940, one quarter of all workers were women, by 1945, more than a third were women (a share not repeated until 1960). Two fifths of workers in the airframe industry were women, and the United Auto Workers had 250,000 women members, the United Electrical Workers 300,000.

Between 1942 and 1945, the number of black Americans in work tripled. The number working in industry grew one and a half times to 1.250 million (300,000 of them women). The number of black people working as civil servants grew from 60,000 to 200,000. The great migration of black Americans from the rural South to Northern cities changed America. One million six hundred thousand black and white moved North – but then people were moving everywhere. Between 1940 and 1947 more than a fifth of the country, 25 million people, moved county, and four and a half million moved from the farm to the city for good.
Britain was the first country ever to introduce conscription for women, and they were given the choice of war work instead. Those who refused could be fined up to five pounds a day, or imprisoned. Two million more women were put to work in the war, a growth of 40 percent. In 1941 the Ministry of Labour worked out that four fifths of all single women aged 14 to 49 were at work or in the services. Among wives and widows, two fifths were working, but only 13 percent of those with children under 14 did. Over 300,000 worked in the explosive and chemical industry, more than half their workforce, a million and a half in engineering and metal industries, 100,000 on the railways, thousands more on farms as part of the Women's' Land Army.

In Germany and Italy, the fascist governments drove wages down early on – by more than a quarter in Germany between 1933 and 1935, and by half in Italy, between 1927 and 1932. In the first year of Nazi rule, Krupp A.G.'s wage bill fell by two million RM while the workforce grew by 7,762, I.G. Farben's got a third more workers with just a 1.5 percent bigger wage bill. After that, wages rose in Germany until the outbreak of the war, when living standards were cut again. Even then, though weekly earnings rose by a quarter between 1932 and 1938, hourly rates were marginally down over the same period. So it was in Britain between 1938 and 1943, where people had more cash in their pockets 'not because their rates were relatively better, but because they were putting in more hours'. Americans, too, were earning their extra wages by working more – by 1945 their hours were up by a quarter on 1938. Japanese industrial pay was cut by a fifth under the Wage Control Ordinances of 1939 and 1940. Italians' wages came to a standstill under the Fascists, so that by 1941 they were just 113 percent of what they had been in 1913.50 By the end of the war, under the Allies, consumption was only three quarters of what it had been in 1938, and the number of calories Italians had a day had fallen to 1,747.51 In Vichy and Occupied France real wages went down as wage controls proved much more effective than price controls.

In America, a bigger wage bill was not matched by more goods in the shops, so business just put up prices to claw the money back. Around munitions plants housing was in short supply, transport was overcrowded and shop windows empty. The Department of Labor worked out that the 80 percent rise in cash wages between 1941 and 1945 was only a twenty percent rise when inflation and shortages were taken into account. Fortune reported from Pittsburgh 'to the workers it's a Tantalus situation: the luscious fruits of prosperity above their heads – receding as they try to pick them'. Though they ate well enough, their clothes and household goods were shabbier as real incomes stagnated. In Britain, too, more cash wages chased fewer goods to push prices up by half as much again between 1939 and 1941. In Germany, living costs were pushed up by a law allowing cartels to fix prices in 1935, and by 1941 household spending was down by a fifth from its already low point in 1938.

Governments grabbed workers' unspent cash for the war effort – handing it straight back to industry as payment on war contracts. In 1942 Americans were strong-armed to putting one tenth of their wages into war bonds, and in 1943 were taxed at source for the first time, a five percent victory tax.  Britons, too, felt the moral squeeze to put their money into National Savings at War Weapons Week (1941) Warship Weeks (1941 and 1942) Wings for Victory Weeks (two in 1943) and Salute the Soldier Week (1944). And like their American comrades, seven million manual workers had their first taste of Income Tax, when Pay As You Earn deductions were begun. In Germany, where a War Bond issue had fallen flat in 1938, government raided the Sparkassen savings banks where people kept their spare cash for eight billion Reichsmarks in 1940 and 12.8 billion in 1941.

The greatest cut in working class income came through rationing. Food and clothing was rationed in Germany in the first two weeks of the war. In Britain meat, eggs, milk, butter and sugar were rationed from January 1940, canned meat, fish and vegetables from November 1941, followed by dried fruit and grains in January 1942, canned fruit and vegetables the following month, condensed milk and breakfast cereal in April, syrup in July, biscuits in August and Oatflakes and rolled oats by the end of 1942. German rations were a healthy 2,570 calories for German civilians in 1939, but a cut in 1942 was found by scientists to lead to a loss of body fat in factory workers. It was under the Allies that German workers fared worst: their rations were cut to 1,100 calories in the American and British Zones. Italians' food was rationed from 1941. In Japan the rice ration of 0.736 pints was slowly adulterated with husks, and the standard calorie allowance cut from 2,400 in 1941 to 1,800 in 1945. Food for workers was kept down so that more could be spent on building up industry.

When in March 1933, after the Dutch council communist Marinus van der Lubbe burned down the parliament building, 100,000 Communists, Social Democrats and trade unionists were put in new concentration camps, and 600 killed. On May Day 1933, the leaders of the Trade Unions marched behind the Swastika, hoping to curry favour with the Nazis. On the 2nd of May union offices were occupied by brown shirts, the premises and assets seized by emergency decree. The working class were made to kneel before the Fuhrer or get sent to the camps, and their own unions were broken up.

Nazi Robert Ley led a substitute Labour Front that, being based on workplace subscriptions like the unions it replaced, was much bigger than the Nazis' old union faction the NSBO. Indeed the Labour Front quickly became one of the weightiest bodies in the Nazi state, with a lot of room to manoeuvre. The Nazis thought that they were different from the other right-wing parties because they were carrying the German worker with them, not just taking a whip to him. The masses did support the war, most of all in the early years of victory, and they joined in the big rallies.

Takn from here

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Japan and Iran

Ask most Americans why the United States got into World War II, and they will talk about Pearl Harbor. Ask him 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 on December 7, 1941. 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 he won’t know.

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 mostlly 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.

Japan relied heavily upon American oil and metals

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 US the imposed a total ban on exports of iron and steel scrap, and finally, in July 1941, by a freezing of Japanese assets and a tightening of the licensing requirements that de facto ended all trade with Japan, including oil exports.
Foreign Minister Teijiro Toyoda had communicated 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."

"Within days of the freeze announcement, PM Konoe set about arranging a meeting with Pres. Rooseveldt 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, vied Japan as untrustworthy and vulnerable, and steadfastly opposed the idea of a Pacific summit...Hull, Hornbeck, Stimson and others also 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 sine qua non 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 Prposal 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 notautomatically support Berlin in the event of a German-American war. Proposal B sought only a limited agreement in which Japan pledged to refrain from furtheroffensive 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.

Henry L. Stimson, who had been secretary of war confided to his diary after a meeting of the war cabinet on November 25, “The question was how we should maneuver them [the Japanese] into firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.” After the attack, Stimson confessed that “my first feeling was of relief ... that a crisis had come in a way which would unite all our people.

There are in the above lessons to be learned in regard to Iranian sanctions. A cornered country will bite back and America will sacrifice peace for dominance.

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Taste of War: World War Two and the Battle for Food, by Lizzie Collingham,

Lizzie Collingham, a former research fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge, estimates that 20m people died from starvation and malnutrition during the war, slightly more than the 19.5m military deaths. Collingham estimates that an 60 per cent, or 1m of the total Japanese military deaths of 1.47m, were caused by starvation or the diseases associated with malnutrition. In a total war, controlling access to food is power so, as Collingham says: “Food was the fundamental basis for every wartime economy”. The Germans well remembered the first world war experience, when the Royal Navy’s blockade broke morale, and were determined to ensure that, in Hitler’s phrase: “If anyone has to go hungry, it shall not be the Germans but other peoples." Food production and consumption had always been the primary consideration behind Hitler’s plans for seizing Lebensraum (Living Space) in the east.

Herbert Backe was an agronomist who in early 1941 devised the “Hunger Plan” that concentrated on using the Soviet Union to solve the problem of Germany’s food shortages by “diverting food from the towns of the Soviet Union, which was estimated would result in the death by starvation of 30m Soviets” Backe’s plan would solve two of the Fuhrer’s problems simultaneously: it would annihilate the right number of Russians while feeding the right number of Germans. Hitler appointed Backe as his acting minister of food and agriculture in May 1942.

Backe argued that German agriculture alone could never produce the 3,000 calories per man per day needed by an active Wehrmacht, which at its peak numbered 9.5m men, a staggering one-seventh of the German population. Germany had already been forced to cut its bread ration by 600g in July 1940 and a further 400g the following June, and by early 1943 the Wehrmacht was consuming 62 per cent of all the meat in the Reich and 40 per cent of its grain. To close “the meat and fat gap” for the civilian population, Backe told Hitler and Goering that “the war can only be continued if the entire Wehrmacht is fed from Russia”. The campaign to exterminate “useless eaters”, as the Nazis termed them, such as the Polish Jews, can in part be traced to these calculations, and Backe’s obsession with gaining what he called, in a Nazi euphemism, the Reich’s “nutritional freedom”.

Starvation was also used as a military tactic in the far east; the callous requisitioning policies employed by the Japanese were responsible for killing 2m Vietnamese in the district of Tonkin alone in 1943-44, and between 2m and 3m in Hunan, China. Countless Chinese prisoners of war were deliberately starved to death by their Japanese captors who, by their surrender in 1945, could only find 56 alive to release.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

What resistance ?

We read that Nicolas Sarkozy visited the BBC radio studio in London where the general famously urged his compatriots to resist Nazi occupation.The visit is the first by a French president to mark Gen de Gaulle's broadcast on 18 June 1940. The general had fled his country the day before as a new administration, headed by Philippe Petain, sought an armistice with Hitler. In the stirring radio appeal General de Gaulle declared himself leader of the "Free French", spawning the French Resistance, which went on to play a crucial role in defeating the Germans.He told his nation that "the flame of the French resistance must not and will not be extinguished". But historians point out that he was not seen as a saviour in 1940. They say his now revered broadcast went almost unnoticed at the time, with a very limited audience on the BBC French Service.

Only about 5 percent of the French were even nominally members of the underground, perhaps 200,000. Of these, scarcely any ever fired a shot in anger, dynamited a train or sent a clandestine radio message.French Communists coined a slogan - "the party of the 70,000 martyrs" - the number they claimed to have been executed by the Germans. The true figure, according to Porch, was fewer than 350. Even those few French who helped downed airmen often did so for the money. The standard reward for getting an escapee into Spain was about $50,000 in today's money according to a book by historian Douglas Porch, "The French Secret Services". Also Marcel Ophuls’ documentary, “The Sorrow and the Pity” cast a reproachful eye on the legions of French citizens who quietly supported the collaborationist government in Vichy. “They all tell me they did their share for the Resistance,” an aging veteran tells the camera. “I have to listen to these fairy tales without wincing.”

Oxford historian Robert Gildea makes the argument that the occupation presented “ample opportunities for profit and pleasure that many were only too ready to take.” The French were “only too delighted to procure wanted goods and sell them to the Germans.”, farmers and winegrowers “generally did well under the occupation.”, that the “French women, for their part, were equally fascinated by the Ubermenschen who had taken control of their country.” and the “Germans did their bit to tackle France’s demographic deficit by fathering between 50,000 and 70,000 children.”
The French were only too happy to turn one another in” to Nazi authorities he says in “Marianne in Chains,” a book that attempts to recreate the complex world of France during the German occupation. Regular, average citizens sent thousands of the correspondence identifying members and supporters of the resistance, black marketers and Jews. In many cases the letters were intended to get back at somebody for personal reasons and not politics or ideology. About one fourth of all accusations received by the authorities were of this kind.

Albert Speer was asked after the war about the effect of the French Resistance. He replied, "What French Resistance?”

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Monday, May 21, 2007

War and Peace

When the Third Reich surrendered in May 1945, 8 million people were left uprooted around Europe. Millions drifted through the 2,500 hastily arranged Displaced Persons camps before they were repatriated. Far from scenes of joyful liberation that should have greeted the end of Nazi oppression, files reveal desperation, loss and confusion, and overwhelmed and often insensitive military authorities. The last DP camps were closed in 1953 .

Liberated concentration camps were transformed into DP camps. Food was still scarce — often just coffee and wet black bread — and medical care was insufficient, said a report written for President Harry Truman.
Inmates were kept under armed guard to maintain order. They still wore their old striped, pjama-like concentration-camp-issue uniforms and slept in the same drafty barracks through a bitter winter.
Compounding their misery, they could watch through barbed wire fences and see German villagers living normal lives.

"As things stand now, we appear to be treating the Jews as the Nazis treated them, except that we do not exterminate them," wrote presidential envoy Earl G. Harrison in his famously quoted report to Truman after visiting that summer.

People still died at the rate of 1,000 to 1,500 a day. Corpses were stacked in front of barracks, to be carted away by captured SS guards. "Bodies frequently remained for several days in the huts, the other inmates being too weak to carry them out," Francois-Poncet wrote in a report for the Allied Military Government.

Relocating those refugees was not easy .

Racism was rampant . "Being a Kalmyk of Mongolian race, is ineligible for most Anglo-Saxon countries,"

And the sexism . "The doors are closed to unmarried mothers," said a note from strongly Catholic Ireland.

Nor should the post -war horrors of the Second World War suffered by the German working class should be forgotten . It is something that has been hidden away . The largest ethnic cleaning of modern times , forgotten about . The treatment of German POWS by the Allies , forgotten about yet it was the first redesignation of prisoners of war to circumvent the Geneva Conventions , the precedent for Bush and Guantanamo Bay .

Throughout all of 1945 the Allies forces of occupation ensured that no international aid reached ethnic German civilian population .
" I feel that the Germans should suffer from hunger and from cold as I believe such suffering is necessary to make them realize the consequences of a war which they caused..." - General Lucius Clay , then Deputy to General Eisenhower

And of course it succeeded . In early October 1945 the UK government privately acknowledged in a cabinet meeting that German civilian adult death rates had risen to 4 times the pre-war levels and death rates amongst the German children had risen by 10 times the pre-war levels .
General Lucius Clay stated in October 1945 "...By the spring of 1946, German observers expect that epidemics and malnutrition will claim 2.5 to 3 million victims between the Oder and Elbe"
German infant mortality rate was twice that of other nations in Western Europe until the end of 1948.

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