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Theory & History

Marxism and the second world war

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Seventy years ago, the major powers plunged humanity into the horror of world war

Peter Taaffe, from Socialism Today, magazine of the Socialist Party, cwi in England and Wales

"Winston Churchill, wrote the following about Hitler’s rise to power (see picture opposite) in the 1939 edition of his book, Great Contemporaries: “I have always said that if Great Britain was defeated in war, I hope we would find a Hitler to lead us back to our rightful position among the nations”. The Nazis were financed and aided by the British ruling class with massive support from British big business so long as they faced east, towards attacking the Soviet Union. Thus Britain effectively backed Hitler’s rearmament programme in the 1935 Anglo-German naval agreement that allowed an expansion of the German navy that broke the Versailles Treaty’s limits."

 

And I can’t help but wonder now Willie McBride

Do all those who lie here know why they died?

Did you really believe them when they told you the cause?

Did you really believe them that this war would end wars?

But the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame –

The killing, the dying – it was all done in vain.

For Willie McBride, it’s all happened again

And again, and again, and again, and again.

© Eric Bogle

The lyrics to Eric Bogle’s haunting folk song, No Man’s Land (The Green Fields of France, or Willie McBride), set against the background of an imaginary young soldier killed in the first world war, are as relevant today on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the start of the second world war which falls on 1 September. War did happen ‘again and again’ with its countless victims and will continue to do so as long as capitalism remains. Indeed, the total number of victims of the second world war dwarfed even the carnage of the first. Estimates of the total number of casualties for the war suggest some 60 million died, 20 million soldiers and 40 million civilians.

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The Real Lessons of the Second World War

The seventieth anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War falls on 1 September. A minimum of 60 million people died (some estimates put the number as high as 77 million): 20 million military personnel and 40 million civilians. While the 'theatres of operations' did not spread to the whole of the world, it nevertheless touched most of humankind and its consequences certainly exercise a profound effect today.

PETER TAAFFE looks at the lessons of this devastating event.

Nuclear weapons were first deployed obscenely at the very end of the war on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since then a massive stockpile of weapons has hung like a terrible sword of Damocles over us, threatening to bury humankind and probably all animal life, under nuclear rubble. Why and how did we arrive at this situation, what were the causes of the Second World War, how did it differ from the First World War and, crucially, is it possible today to avoid the nightmare that our parents and grandparents endured during this catastrophe?

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August 1969 – When British troops went into Northern Ireland

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A turning point in history

August 1969 was a turning point in the history of Northern Ireland. It was then that the Labour Government of Harold Wilson took the decision to send troops onto the streets, first of Derry, then of Belfast.

The measure was presented as temporary – troops were needed, they said, because, with riots sweeping the streets, with huge parts of Derry and Belfast sealed off behind barricades and with pogroms starting to develop, it was clear that the Unionist government at Stormont had lost control. It was to be a ‘stop gap’. The troops would be withdrawn ‘as soon as law and order is restored’.

Peter Hadden, Socialist Party (CWI in Northern Ireland)

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Scotland and the National Question

Statement from the International Socialists, CWI (Scotland)

Introduction
This statement was written in September 2003 in the aftermath of the May 1st 2003 Scottish elections which saw a severe defeat for the main pro-independence, nationalist party the Scottish National Party. The purpose of this statement is to explain the approach, programme and method of the International Socialists and the Committee for a Workers International on the national question.
In doing so we seek to clarify what we believe to be a principled socialist and Marxist attitude to the national question in Scotland.

The CWI has always adopted a consistent position on the national question. The CWI has historically defended the national rights of the Scottish people. At the same time we have explained that to guarantee those rights and end poverty it is necessary to link the national struggle to the fight for socialism. In this statement, as well as outlining the analysis of the CWI, references will be made to a statement drawn up by the policy coordinator of the Scottish Socialist Party Alan McCombes. This statement entitled “Which way forward towards independence and socialism” proposed the setting up of an Independence Convention. In raising our differences with this proposal we aim to contrast our attitude toward the national question in Scotland to the ideas put forward by the leadership of the SSP.

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A socialist approach to Scottish independence

This article was written on the 6th August 2004 during the SNP leadership election campaign that saw Alex Salmond return as leader of the party. Like a number of articles written at that time this article also raises criticisms of the Scottish Socialist Party leadership's politics on the national question in Scotland. Many of the leading members of the SSP were also part of the Committe for a Workers' International and they left in 2001 after 2 years of debate and discussion over fundamental political differences that had arisen. The documents realting to the Scottish debate can be found at http://www.marxist.net/scotland/index.html. The International Socialists (CWI Scotland) worked as part of the SSP from its launch in 1998 until the split in the socialist movement in Scotland in 2006, since then we have worked to build Solidarity - Scotland's Socialist Movement. 

Salmond stands to return as leader of SNP 

The race for the leadership of the Scottish National Party took a dramatic twist recently when on the day nominations closed former SNP leader Alex Salmond announced he was standing for party convener. Salmond, only a few weeks ago, ruled out a return as party leader by quoting the words of a US Civil War leader General Sherman: “If nominated I’ll decline, if drafted I’ll defer and if elected I’ll resign.” 

Philip Stott, CWI Scotland

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25 years on – Liverpool a city that dared to fight

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On 9 July 1984 Liverpool City council, led by Militant (the Socialist Party's predecessor), won a sensational victory over the ruthless Tory government of Margaret Thatcher. They secured extra funding for the council's urban regeneration programme. The principled stand by the 47 Liverpool Labour councillors, allied to a mass movement of the city's workers and wider working class, stands in stark contrast to today's sleazy and spineless Labour leaders.

Tony Mulhearn, one of the Liverpool councillors subsequently victimised by the state and witch-hunted by the Labour Party leadership, explains the successful struggle 25 years ago.

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Thatcher’s Legacy

Brutal class warfare against the rights and the conditions of the working class

Peter Taaffe, from Socialism Today (April 2009), monthly journal of the Socialist Party (CWI England and Wales)

As the 30th anniversary of the coming to power of Margaret Thatcher – the most hated figure in Britain post-1945 – in May 1979 approaches, her record has been put under the media microscope. Predictably, it is the personality of Thatcher which has been the main subject of investigation by assorted capitalist newspapers – notably in the Observer and by Germaine Greer in the Guardian.

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