On this 73rd anniversary of the conclusion of WWII it is as fitting a time as any to discuss the acute nostalgic trend in the imperialist countries to remember it, through rose-colored glasses, as the last just war. In sharp contrast to the memory of WWI—what little exists of it—the people of the imperialist countries, especially in the west, remember their roles in the war as righteous and necessary, believing it to have been a war fundamentally against fascism and the perpetrators of the holocaust. This is what is played out in every WWII film, with a tolerance for blatant propaganda that would be unacceptable anywhere else. Why is it that we can see WWI with the sobriety of hindsight and through a materialist lens, as having fundamentally been an inter-imperialist conflict, yet WWII is remembered as a grand struggle against true evil?
At least for the western powers, very little changed in terms of motivations between WWI and WWII. The redivision of the world, the encirclement and annexation of new colonial territories, the resolution of old international contradictions, and the systematic destruction of the proletarian and people’s movements of the world were on the agendas of all involved except, of course, the Comintern. While retroactive works of shameless propaganda, like Dunkirk and Darkest Hour attempt to rescue the war effort from the jaws of reality, the picture they paint is almost amusingly distorted. They are ultimately nationalist films, which take liberties they feel entitled to, given their enemy in the conflict. Those who did not support imperialist war are made out to be weak, “anti-glory” politicians or pro-fascist figureheads, and the rampant defenders of empire and colonial genocide are made heroes and transformed, through movie-magic, into sympathetic modern liberals and anti-racists.
Why go through the trouble? What interest do the imperialists have in the idea of the “last just war” and what relevance does it have today? It is abundantly clear to everyone that the stage is being set for a new global conflict, involving all the imperialists and ambitious world powers seeking empire, and the major obstacle of all their “great” efforts is a deep apprehension among the people. This is not being done in deliberate, top-down fashion, with the media working under direct instruction from the central bureaucracies of the monopoly bourgeois—at least not always—but is most often a set of convenient trends, opportunistic marketing strategies playing on the anxieties of a buying public. WWII, having the reputation it does, and hanging still in the minds of everyday people as a defining moment in human development, is an important propagandistic tool. The other side is like Hitler and the Nazis, and therefore it is our duty to act as the “greatest generation” did and stop them—preemptively, this time.
Let us have no illusions of the nature of WWII or of their current mobilization. Before the war, the imperialists saw the fascists as companions or competitors, but never as a fundamental threat. After all, the common enemy of all imperialists—tory, democrat or nazi—was the Comintern, and it under the strategic cover given to all anti-communist forces at the time that the fascists took state power in the first place. While the peculiarity of Nazi politics must be considered, it is the nature of imperialist powers to come into conflict with one another. For Germany to come into its own as an imperial power, it had to challenge the post-Versailles order, dominated then by the British and French, who had, along with their allies, monopolized the world within their all-encompassing colonial empires. To protect this order, Germany had to be defeated. It was this contradiction, not concern for the political dissidents, Jews and other oppressed people of Germany which motivated the allied response.
The result of the war was, after all, a return of at least half the world to a mutated and hyper-militaristic version of the former post-Versailles order, that of u.$.-centered Atlanticism, challenged only by the communists. So non-antagonistic were fascist functionaries to the imperialist world order that many of them would be reinstalled in post-war governments. Former Nazi criminals became indispensable assets to NATO, and fascists throughout the east were rehabilitated as anti-communist “freedom fighters” struggling against so-called Soviet oppression. Yet, in the cinemas and political grandstands, this was our finest moment. Indeed, imperialism does not get better than the unilateral use of nuclear weapons and firebombs against civilian populations for the sake of conquest and imperial hegemony. Now, with even more horrific weapons at their disposal, they wish to push us over into yet another world war, evoking the heroism of their “anti-fascism” 73 years ago.
At time of writing, Russia is putting on the annual “Victory Day” parade, displaying new weapons of war that will likely see contact with amerikan ones in the near future. The USSR’s righteous struggle against fascism and imperialism for the preservation of socialism is now being appropriated by Russia to put on its own verbose display of imperial might. All around, the symbolism and history of WWII has been twisted to augment imperialist escalation, and it is our duty to oppose it. No matter what twisted imagery the imperialists call up, we must set the record straight, not only then but now. We will not allow the u.$., or the british, or any of the so-called “allies” to dress mobilization in the silks of faux national innocence, nor to summon up the specter of genocide to threaten the oppressed nations of the world with horrific and ultimately ironic sobriquets like an “Axis of Evil”. We must adopt the initial and correct Comintern line, informed by the experience of the communist movement in the first world war: oppose imperialist provocations, support revolutionary defeatism and develop the communist movement.