Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 9, 2010

Howard Zinn and the myth of the “People’s War”

Filed under: antiwar,Stalinism — louisproyect @ 6:47 pm

Despite serving as a bombardier, or perhaps because of it, Zinn opposed the idea that WWII was a “People’s War”

In the days following Howard Zinn’s passing, there was some discussion on the Marxism list trying to put him into an ideological context. One subscriber wrote:

I don’t want to start a … flame war over the dubious merits of “A People’s History.” Howard Zinn had an enormously influential career and is beloved by the American left. His “Voices of a People’s History” is of great merit as a collection of source material which will enrich the study of American history. He was, in many ways, the Charles Beard of this era which is fitting considering how of his work replicates Beard’s approach.

This led another subscriber, a professional historian, to respond:

Classing Zinn as a “Beardsian” seems not to understand these central differences related to race. This isn’t some triviality like misunderstanding Whig foreign policy. There is the racial conquest of the continent foundational to the civilization, and the entire racial enslavement of Africans. Related, too, are the issues of Jeffersonian, sectionalism and the agrarian particularism for which Beard had great affinities and Zinn regarded with due skepticism.  In this regard, the “Marxist” writers of the 1930s and 1940s were far more “Beardsian” than Zinn. Indeed, these are some of the central issues that distinguished the body of New Left scholarship from the old line dogmas of those writers connected with the CP.

This discussion led me to thinking about Zinn’s approach to WWII in chapter sixteen of “People’s History of the United States”, titled appropriately enough “A People’s War?” (The entire book can be read online here.) Written in 1980, the book adopts a “revisionist” perspective that was associated with a number of younger New Left historians such as Gar Alperovitz whose 1965 book “Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam” revealed U.S. war aims as setting the stage for the Cold War.

Along with many other “revisionists”, Alperovitz studied history at the University of Wisconsin under William Appleman Williams who was a seminal figure of the New Left. Williams was born in 1920 and could be seen as a contemporary of Zinn. His 1959 “The Tragedy of American Diplomacy” was a highly influential work, arguing that the U.S. had imperial ambitions from the days of Thomas Jefferson.

Charles Beard is widely recognized as having an influence on Williams and those who followed in his footsteps. Best described as an “economic determinist”, Beard is known for a kind of class analysis of the American constitution. But he is most controversial for his refusal to toe the line on WWII. As a member in good standing of the Progressivist current in American politics, he was immune to the pressures that allowed CP historians to get on FDR’s bandwagon.

While Beard might not have deployed the analytical tools of “The 18th Brumaire” in his writings on WWII, he was much more in line with Marxist principles in refusing to treat WWII as a “people’s war”. Unlike the “revisionists”, the Stalinist Daily Worker celebrated the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On August 8th, 1945, the paper’s military analyst wrote “We are lucky to have found The Thing and are able to speed the war against the Japanese before the enemy can devise countermeasures. Thank god for that.” He added: “So let us not greet our atomic device with a shudder, but with the elation and admiration which the genius of man deserves.”

The Stalinist fools had little inkling that Truman only bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to “teach the Russians a lesson” as Gar Alperovitz reported.

The term “New Left” was largely coined in order to distinguish the 1960s radicals from the political dry rot that the Communist Party had bequeathed. To some extent, it was also a rejection of the dogmatism of all Marxist groups but whatever the movement lacked theoretically it made up for politically by breaking with the social patriotism of the CP.

It was to Howard Zinn’s everlasting credit that he identified with this outlook, even though he never attacked the CP specifically for its WWII treachery. To generations of young people, he demonstrated that WWII was an imperialist war even if it coincided with anti-imperialist struggles and the necessary defense of the USSR. For the veterans of the New Left who had absorbed his analysis, they were in a much stronger position to resist new efforts to “fight fascism”, especially in Yugoslavia and Iraq—two arenas that people like Christopher Hitchens have specifically likened to the efforts to defeat Hitlerism.

Although I had been thoroughly inoculated against the “People’s War” garbage during my training in Trotskyist politics, I found Zinn’s chapter on WWII essential in writing an article on Zimmerwald and Imperialist “Humanitarian” Interventions in 1992 prompted by a British Stalinist’s support for NATO intervention on the original Marxism mailing list. Parenthetically, I should mention that Britain did not appear to have the kind of political cleansing that the New Left historians carried out here. Lacking the equivalent of a Gar Alperovitz or a Howard Zinn, they seem far more susceptible to the sort of “People’s War” malarkey that typifies the Socialist Unity blog that in the interest of transparency should probably be renamed Stalinist Unity.

Here are excerpts from that article that rely heavily on Beard and Zinn:

Washington’s anti-fascism was the result of a recent “conversion”. American businesses sent oil to Italy in huge quantities after Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in 1935. Mussolini used the oil to keep the war against the African colony. When the fascists rose up in Spain in 1936, Roosevelt declared his neutrality while the fascist powers gave complete aid to the Francoists. This ensured the victory of fascism in Spain.

What brought the United States into the war was not a determination to rid the world of fascism, but a response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It was only when Japan threatened US economic interests in the Pacific that Washington entered the war. There is a transcript of statement made to the War Cabinet by Henry Stimson in November, 1941 that confirms this interpretation. Charles Beard cites it in his “President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War 1941.”

One problem troubled us very much. If you know that your enemy is going to strike you, it is not usually wise to wait until he gets the jump on you by taking the initiative. In spite of the risk involved, however, in letting the Japanese fire the first shot, we realized that in order to have the full support of the American people it was desirable to make sure that the Japanese be the ones to do this so there should remain no doubt in anyone’s mind as to who were the aggressors. We discussed at this meeting the basis on which this country’s position could be most clearly explained to our own people and to the world, in case we had to go into the fight quickly because of some sudden move on the part of the Japanese. We discussed the possibility of a statement summarizing all the steps of aggression that the Japanese had already taken, the encirclement of our interests in the Philippines which was resulting and the threat to our vital supplies of rubber from Malay. I reminded the president that on Aug. 19 [1941] he had warned the Japanese Ambassador that if the steps which the Japanese were then taking continued across the border into Thailand, he would regard it as a matter affecting our safety, and suggested that he might point out that the moves the Japanese were now apparently on the point of making would be in fact a violation of a warning that had already been given.

Beard belonged to the earlier Progressive school of history and politics. Other members were John Dewey the philosopher and cultural historian Vernon Parrington. The Progressives predated the intellectual milieu of both the CP and the New Deal–granted they are somewhat identical–and were much less likely to believe WWII war propaganda. These were people of Eugene V. Debs’ generation and likely to take the “people’s war” rhetoric with a grain of salt.

Beard was a scholar of tremendous integrity, but his outspoken opposition to World War Two caused him to become a rather isolated figure in the world of cold-war liberalism. Younger liberal historians considered him an odd duck and perhaps a little disturbed. Thomas Kennedy, in his “Charles A. Beard and American Foreign Policy”, entertained critical speculations that Beard was surely deaf and possibly senile when he went on the attack against WWII. He cites a critic who views Beard’s attacks on Roosevelt as “superstitions that occupied Beard in his senility.”

Of course, Beard was completely sane and clear-headed. It was the muddle-headed New Deal liberals and their CP chums who had lost control of their sanity. A new generation of “revisionist” historians came along in the 1960’s and put their support behind Beard’s interpretation.

Did the United States intervention as an ally of the USSR against the Nazis prove that it was fighting a “people’s war” as opposed to a war based on the need for power and profit? One can question the purity of the motives in the war with Japan, but how can anybody gainsay the crusade for democracy in Europe?

To begin with, Washington showed no intention of extending democracy to the colonies of its European allies. Diplomat Sumner Welles assured the French that they could hold on to their colonies. He said, “This Government, mindful of its traditional friendship for France, has deeply sympathized with the desire of the French people to maintain their territories and preserve them intact.”

Lurking beneath the surface of altruistic government propaganda of the sort uttered by Henry Wallace was the occasional honest assessment. Secretary of State Cordell Hull said “Leadership toward a new system of international relationships in trade and other economic affairs will devolve very largely upon the United States because of our great economic strength. We should assume this leadership, and the responsibility that goes with it, primarily for reasons of national self- interest.” The poet Archibald MacLeish, at that time an Assistant Secretary of State, predicted the outcome of an allied victory. He declared, “As things are now going, the peace we will make, the peace we seem to be making, will be a peace of oil, a peace of gold, a peace of shipping, a peace, in brief…without moral purpose or human interest.”

Did WWII rescue European Jewry to some extent? Supporters of imperialist intervention in Bosnia tend to make analogies with this presumed mission of WWII, but Roosevelt had no interest in saving the lives of Jews. I need not go over this sad tale in detail. You should read “While 6 Million Died”, by NY Times reporter Arthur D. Morse, which details the indifference at best, and anti-Semitic hatred at worst, that existed in the US State Department. The President refused to take decisive action against the Nazis and caused the deaths of many thousands of Jews.

Despite the no-strike pledge of Communist Party, the class-struggle continued at home with mounting fury. During the war, there were 14,000 strikes, involving 6,770,00 workers, more than in any period in American history. A million miners, steelworkers, auto and transportation workers went on strike in 1944. In Lowell, Massachusetts, there were as many strikes in 1943 and 1944 as there were in 1937. It was a “people’s war” in the eyes of CPers and their liberal allies. Despite this, textile workers there resented the fact that the bosses’ profits grew by 600% during the war while their wages only went up by 36%.

(I gathered much of the information above from chapter 16, “A People’s War?”, in Howard Zinn’s indispensable “People’s History of the United State 1942-Present”. A new edition of this classic has just appeared and I urge people to make time for careful study of this work. Howard Zinn was a bombardier on a B17 and flew in many missions during WWII. His disgust with allied bombing of Dresden and Hiroshima turned him into a pacifist.)

25 Comments »

  1. A very interesting piece on the legacy of both Beard and Zinn. Perhaps Zinn can be most accurately defined as a Beardsian after all. I have always thought that while “A People’s History” is certainly both undeniably popular and unquestionably significant, it is still a work shaped by a radical populism tinged with anarchism. There is certainly nothing wrong with left wing populism so who says you have to be a Marxist.

    After reading interviews by Zinn on his war experience, I would disagree that it was Dresden
    and Hiroshima that propelled him into pacifism. For Zinn it was a bombing raid he was in at the very end of the war targeting a surrounded German garrison. He said it was a horrible exercise in barbarism that he would later equate with the use of napalm in Vietnam and which he would be haunted by for the rest of his life..

    Comment by Stiofan — February 9, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

  2. in addition to zinn’s chapter on WWII, i would really recommend reading Jacques R. Pauwels’ The Myth of the Good War: America in the Second World War, which is a short, but brilliant synthesis of German, Canadian and American “revisionist” writings on World War II…

    Comment by dermokrat — February 9, 2010 @ 8:52 pm

  3. I also recommend Mickey Z.’s Saving Private Power: The Hidden History of “The Good War”

    http://www.softskull.com/detailedbook.php?isbn=1-887128-45-X

    Comment by louisproyect — February 9, 2010 @ 8:58 pm

  4. Perhaps Britain didn’t go through the “political cleansing”, because of the immediacy of the devastation in London and elsewhere during the war?

    There are three cases I can think of where military intervention actually may have in anyway stopped or stop a genocide. 1) Allied intervention in World War II 2) Indian intervention in East Pakistan 3) Vietnamese intervention in Cambodia. It should be noted that the United States actively opposed and did everything to prevent the last two. In the case of the genocide in Bangladesh Nixon even sent the 7th fleet to the Bay of Bengal to intimidate Gandhi.

    I agree that hagiographies of World War II as the “people’s war” instead of an inter-imperialist conflict tend to give cover to “humanitarian interventions”, but is it too much to say that FDR and others within the US and British governments were both motivated realpolitik and an ideological abhorrence of fascism?

    Comment by Bhaskar — February 9, 2010 @ 9:30 pm

  5. Yes, it is too much to say that FDR had an ideological abhorrence of fascism.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 9, 2010 @ 9:32 pm

  6. Is it too much to say that FDR and others within the US and British governments were both motivated realpolitik and an ideological abhorrence of fascism?

    What an odd question.

    In Our Time: The Chamberlain-Hitler Collusion by Clement Leibovitz and Alvin Finkel, Introduction by Christopher Hitchens
    Clement Leibovitz and Alvin Finkel challenge the familiar understanding of Munich as the product of a naive “appeasement” of Nazi appetites. They argue that it was the culmination of cynical collaboration between the Tory government and the Nazis in the 1930s. Based upon a careful reading of official and unofficial correspondence, conference notes, cabinet minutes, and diaries, In Our Time documents the steps taken under diplomatic cover by the West to strike a bargain with Hitler based upon shared anti-Soviet premises. (Monthly Review Press)

    Comment by lajany otum — February 9, 2010 @ 11:48 pm

  7. Damn straight it’s “too much to say that FDR and others within the US and British governments were both motivated realpolitik and an ideological abhorrence of fascism?”

    That stale DSA reading of Uncle Sam’s role in WWII is identical to, and just as putrid as, the CPUSA’s. Strange bedfellows that are both just plain wrong, not to mention a huge political obstacle for the left insofar as they advocate working people vote for one perfidious democrat after another.

    In the article linked below Allen Nasser disproves incontovertibly once & for all the myth that FDR had an “ideological abhorrence of fascism?”

    http://www.counterpunch.org/nasser10032008.html

    Lou’s article here is timely because while he holds the view that the Russian question has little importance for the left moving forward I hold that question equally as important as the WWII question insofaras it’s inconceivable that you can build a viable left movement without workers understanding which side of wars they’re supposed to be on, both past, present & future.

    Bottom line is this debate will prove to have as many detractors as the Russian question and that’s a good thing insofar as maybe some mythology can be exposed.

    Speaking of Dresden, it wasn’t just bombing Japan that Uncle Sam was “teaching the Russians a lesson” in, but Dresden too, as on the eve of the bombing of Dresden the Red Army was poised to take over that city which housed the vast bulk of Germany’s indusrtial machine tools, that is, the machines that made the machines. The mythology propogated by liars like FDR was that it was to “terrorize” the German civilian population. The reality was that it was an atrocity committed purely to stop the Red Army from getting German technology.

    As an aside it’s interesting too that despite all the allied bombings Germany’s industrial production rose steadily until sometime in 1944.

    I’m not so sure about Zinn’s pacifism either. I think there were wars that, in his heart at least, he chose sides. For example, if he saw Avatar before he died I doubt he’d advocate non-violence for the Navi, albeit a fictional war.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — February 9, 2010 @ 11:54 pm

  8. BTW — Often cited as one of the great literary works of the 20th century, the first novel in the world to expose the American myth of the “good war” was CATCH 22, written by Joseph Heller in 1961, another Jewish-American bomber pilot who, like Zinn, mindlessly dumped bombs on Italian villages with zero strategic significance.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — February 10, 2010 @ 12:16 am

  9. Thanks to Karl for mentioning Joseph Heller. I was planning to say a word about him, but forgot. Heller, along with Zinn, was someone who experienced the horror of WWII directly and was less inclined than people like Tom Brokaw and Tom Hanks to write valentines to it.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 10, 2010 @ 12:19 am

  10. I second Louis’ recommendation of Mickey Z.’s ‘Saving Private Power’. The Daily Worker supporting the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki reminds me of another classic example of how wigged out the Stalinist parties were during the war. In his ‘Marxism at the Millennium’, Tony Cliff recalls:
    “The zigzags quite often caught local Communist Party leaders out. A couple of months after the beginning of the Second World War I was arrested, and was in the same prison as the general secretary of the Palestinian Communist Party. When the war broke out he thought that it was an anti-fascist war, as he had argued for months before. So he decided to volunteer to join the British army. But government wheels move slowly, and after two months he got a reply to his appeal, saying he could leave prison and join the army. But meanwhile he found out that the war was not an anti-fascist war, so he refused to leave prison and join the army. There were four Trotskyists in the prison, and we used to say we were prisoners, but that Meir Slonim, the general secretary, was a volunteer prisoner. As a matter of fact the zigzags in the Communist Party were demonstrated in one street of Haifa. On one wall appeared the slogan: “Long live the anti-fascist war. PCP [Palestinian Communist Party]”; next to it another slogan: “Down with the imperialist war. PCP”. When Germany invaded Russia in 1941 another slogan appeared, “Down with Hitler and his secret ally, Churchill. PCP”. Shortly afterwards another slogan appeared: “Long live the Red Army and its ally the British army. PCP”. And all these slogans referred to one and the same war.”

    Comment by tim — February 10, 2010 @ 12:46 am

  11. #4 claims: “….military intervention actually may have… stopped… genocide [with]…. Allied intervention in World War II… [and] Vietnamese intervention in Cambodia.”

    As the several examples commenters have provided conclusively show, Hitler’s genocide was hardly a concern for FDR & Churchill, as they both viewed Jews, Gays, Communists, Gypsies and other non-whites with equal disdain.

    Hitler abruptly attacked the USSR not so much for Baku oil (he could have gotten oil in Africa if he didn’t neglect Rommel) but rather because he concluded that the exponetial growth (even during world depression) of the USSR’s PLANNED ECONOMY would overwhelm & thwart his Thousand Year Reich.

    Turns out that even if Hitler never attacked Britain and both the UK and USA remained neutral while the Nazis embarked on Operation Barbarossa, the USSR, despite Stalin’s abject incompetence & schizoid blunders, would have eventually beaten the Nazis and overrun Germany, liberating those left in the concentration camps.

    It’s that fact that accounts for why so many Jews world wide loathe to hear criticisms of the USSR to this day.

    Contrary to Hollywood mythology the USA’s role in WWII was tiny compared to the USSR’s. At the height of the war I think it was something like a dozen American Divisions (being conservative) on the Western Front versus something like 119 USSR divisions at the Eastern Front. After all, 500,000 Americans died whereas anywhere from 25 to 50 million Soviets died.

    In a debate with a Professor (a DSAer no less) I once asked “what decisive material aid exactly did the USA give to the Red Army?” and all he could muster was “10,000 trucks.” I expressed doubt that 10,000 trucks decided the outcome of WWII.

    He could have retorted that Allied bombings were decisive but I would have had him account for why Germany’s industrial output rose progresssively until sometime in 1944?

    The next fallacy is that somehow the NVA prevented genocide in Cambodia. What? Scholars consider the definition of “genocide” as the systematic destruction of one ethnicity by another, like the US Cavalry passing out Small Pox infected blankets to Indians, or the African Slave Trade. Cambodians killing Cambodians in a Civil War doesn’t meet anybody’s criteria for genocide, unless we want to call Abraham Lincoln a genocidal maniac as well, considering he got more Americans killed than all the other US Wars combined.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — February 10, 2010 @ 1:44 am

  12. The President refused to take decisive action against the Nazis and caused the deaths of many thousands of Jews.

    I think that’s a bit of a strange way of stating that, as it was rather the nazis’ genocidal actions that caused their deaths

    Hitler abruptly attacked the USSR not so much for Baku oil (he could have gotten oil in Africa if he didn’t neglect Rommel) but rather because he concluded that the exponetial growth (even during world depression) of the USSR’s PLANNED ECONOMY would overwhelm & thwart his Thousand Year Reich.

    no. if you read “Mein Kampf”, it becomes clear that Hitler viewed history as a social-darwinistic struggle between peoples, and that the aryans should colonize Eastern Europe to the Ural, enslave the population there etc. – written in 1923, when no “exponetial growth” of the SU industry was in sight

    the Red Army was poised to take over that city which housed the vast bulk of Germany’s indusrtial machine tools

    could you give any kind of sources? from what I know, Dresden was an important railroad corssing. And the Russians actually wanted it bombed

    At the conclusion of his extended presentation, General Antonov made three specific requests for Allied assistance to the Russians: 27

    Our wishes are:
    a. To speed up the advance of the Allied troops on the Western Front, for which the present situation is very favorable: (1) To defeat the Germans on the Eastern Front. (2) To defeat the German groupings which have advanced into the Ardennes. (3) The weakening of the German forces in the West in connection with the shifting of their reserves to the East (It is desirable to begin the advance during the first half of February).
    b. By air action on communications hinder the enemy from carrying out the shifting of his troops to the East from the Western Front, from Norway, and from Italy (In particular, to paralyze the junctions of Berlin and Leipzig).
    c. Not permit the enemy to remove his forces from Italy.

    you just seem to recycle soviet/east German propaganda myths intended to lay blame at the feet of the USAF in order to win the hearts of the east German population, which even used the victim numbers inflated by the Nazis, which were later popularized in the West by David Irving.

    it’s inconceivable that you can build a viable left movement without workers understanding which side of wars they’re supposed to be on, both past, present & future.

    why?

    Comment by PfromGermany — February 10, 2010 @ 11:14 am

  13. [no. if you read “Mein Kampf”, it becomes clear that Hitler viewed history as a social-darwinistic struggle between peoples, and that the aryans should colonize Eastern Europe to the Ural, enslave the population there etc. – written in 1923, when no “exponetial growth” of the SU industry was in sight]

    On the contrary, Hitler undoubtedly could imagine, as Lenin did in 1921 when he first proposed the NEP, (which became the basis for all subsequent 5 years plans) that rapid industrialization could be buttressed by collectivization of agriculture and a planned economy based on state owned factories. Hitler wouldn’t admit this in his opus of course for it might lend credence to Leninism.

    [could you give any kind of sources? from what I know, Dresden was an important railroad corssing(sic). And the Russians actually wanted it bombed]

    A quick Wiki search says that Dresden was Germany’s 7th largest city & there were over 110 factories and 50,000 workers employed in the arms industry alone. Other sources say 70,000. Being the only big city virtually unscathed up to that point, it contained the vast bulk of what was still useful in German technology.

    According to the knowledgerush encyclopedia “It has been claimed that the bombing was at the request of the Soviet Union, to attack a German armoured division in transit through the city. However, RAF briefing notes indicate that one of the motives was to show ‘the Russians when they arrive, what Bomber Command can do’ (that is, to intimidate the Soviets).”
    http://www.knowledgerush.com/kr/encyclopedia/Bombing_of_Dresden/

    A quick Googling of the war factories in Dresden show the city housed the Zeiss-Ikon optical factory and the Siemens glass factory which made precision optical equipment for gun sights. There were multiple aircraft components factories; a poison gas factory (Chemische Fabric Goye and Company); an anti-aircraft and field gun factory (Lehman); plus the tooling to build electrical fuses for the military as well as X-ray machinery (Koch and Sterzel A.G.), gears and differentials (Saxoniswerke), and electric gauges (Gebruder Bassler) — this in addition to having virtually all of Germany’s unused rail stock and the machinery to produce it.

    Churchill’s & FDR’s intelligence apparatus showed that Dresden “contained factories building radar and electronics components, and fuses for anti-aircraft shells and other factories produced gas masks, engines for Junkers aircraft and cockpit parts for Messerschmitt fighters.” http://www.knowledgerush.com/kr/encyclopedia/Bombing_of_Dresden/

    [it’s inconceivable that you can build a viable left movement without workers understanding which side of wars they’re supposed to be on, both past, present & future.

    why?]

    Why you ask? Why do educated Black people stress to their youth the importance of knowing their people’s history?

    That’s like asking why did Zinn write his opus “A People’s History of the United States?”

    Why you ask does a viable left need workers to understand the class character of all wars past, present & future? So they don’t get fooled again — that’s why.

    The real question that’s on topic here is how do YOU view WWII? Like Zinn, Heller, & the Trotskyists, or like liberals, social democrats and Stalinists?

    Lastly, regarding comment # 1 where Stiofan asks: “There is certainly nothing wrong with left wing populism so who says you have to be a Marxist.”

    A wise old radical sage once explained to me when I was a youth that the “essence of Marxism is really documenting the history of the struggles of the workers & oppressed that wouldn’t otherwise be documented in bourgeois culture” so in that sense I regard Zinn as one of America’s greatest Marxists. As such his contribution to Marxism was definitely needed and will be sorely missed.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — February 10, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

  14. somehow, you missed the bits that don’t support your theory about destroying factories before the Russians could get them:

    The USAF report also states that two of Dresden’s traffic routes were of military importance: north-south from Germany to Czechoslovakia, and east-west along the central European uplands.[33] The city was at the junction of the Berlin-Prague-Vienna railway line, as well as the Munich-Breslau, and Hamburg-Leipzig.[33] Colonel Harold E. Cook, a US POW held in the Friedrichstadt marshaling yard the night before the attacks, later said that “I saw with my own eyes that Dresden was an armed camp: thousands of German troops, tanks and artillery and miles of freight cars loaded with supplies supporting and transporting German logistics towards the east to meet the Russians. […]
    In the raid, major industrial areas in the suburbs, which stretched for miles, were not targeted.[3] According to Donald Miller “the economic disruption would have been far greater had Bomber Command targeted the suburban areas where most of Dresden’s manufacturing might was concentrated”[36

    —-

    there is nothing “undoubtedly” about the thoughts you presume Hitler to haved had. Hitler possesed a rather clear worldview, in which history amounted to Race Wars for “Lebensraum”

    Personally, I think WW II would have lasted for years longer if the USA hadn’t intervened. The 1,5 million German soldiers on the Western Front would have fought the Red Army instead, and without the bombing raids, German war production would have surely been even higher. So, for all the wrong reasons the USA shortened the war, and I’d guess that spared millions of lifes.

    I just don’t see what good would have come out of an isolationist stance by the USA

    Comment by PfromGermany — February 10, 2010 @ 6:21 pm

  15. Hitler possesed a rather clear worldview, in which history amounted to Race Wars for “Lebensraum”

    Hitler drew another example of mass murder from American history. Since his youth he had been obsessed with the Wild West stories of Karl May. He viewed the fighting between cowboys and Indians in racial terms. In many of his speeches he referred with admiration to the victory of the white race in settling the American continent and driving out the inferior peoples, the Indians. With great fascination he listened to stories, which some of his associates who had been in America told him about the massacres of the Indians by the U.S. Calvary.

    He was very interested in the way the Indian population had rapidly declined due to epidemics and starvation when the United States government forced them to live on the reservations. He thought the American government’s forced migrations of the Indians over great distances to barren reservation land was a deliberate policy of extermination. Just how much Hitler took from the American example of the destruction of the Indian nations his hard to say; however, frightening parallels can be drawn. For some time Hitler considered deporting the Jews to a large ‘reservation’ in the Lubin area where their numbers would be reduced through starvation and disease.

    James Pool, “Hitler and His Secret Partners”, (p. 273-274).

    Comment by louisproyect — February 10, 2010 @ 6:31 pm

  16. strangely enough, Indians in Karl May-novels are often presented as noble savages – that’s why the East Germany produced almost as many Winnetou-movies as Western Germany

    There is a very good book about Hitler’s youth in Vienna, called Hitler’s Vienna: A Dictator’s Apprenticeship by Brigitte Hamann. It shows that most ideas from “Mein Kampf” were present in pre-War Vienna – including the idea of Eastern colonization

    Comment by PfromGermany — February 10, 2010 @ 7:17 pm

  17. [Hitler possesed a rather clear worldview, in which history amounted to Race Wars for “Lebensraum”]

    Right, just like Lenin had a clear worldview. So if Lenin could envision exponential growth in industry flowing from a planned economy and collective farming in 1921, so could Hitler in 1923.

    [somehow, you missed the bits that don’t support your theory about destroying factories before the Russians could get them]

    You got it backwards since somehow you missed the big parts where Dresden wasn’t just a big railroad crossing as you initially claimed. Moreover, since the RAF admitted it wanted to intimidate the Red Army is it such a stretch to imagine that they also wanted to deprive the USSR of advanced optics technology, radar & xray technology, electrical fusing technology for shells, gear and differential technology for the Red Army, which was, after all, a state on wheels, not to mention aircraft technology and Germany’s last reserves of rail stock and the machines to forge it.

    [Personally, I think WW II would have lasted for years longer if the USA hadn’t intervened.]

    My point was that while I’ll concede American Imperialism may have shortened the war they weren’t decisive in ending it in the long run, but the Red Army was, and would have ultimately overran Germany without the US.

    [I just don’t see what good would have come out of an isolationist stance by the USA]

    There’s obviously a lot you don’t see since your take on that war appears to be the same as liberals, social democrats & stalinists.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — February 10, 2010 @ 7:35 pm

  18. I meant “clear to us”. Do you actually believe Hitler to be clear thinker? you must be joking!

    is it such a stretch to imagine

    well, yeah, becaue obviously all those factories weren’t the focus of the attack. imagination isn’t a good historical argument

    “in the long run” the red army would have won. but why would that have been a better outcome? millions of people more would have been killed, even bigger areas of Europe would have come under stalinist controll – sorry, I don’t see that as a more desirable outcome

    Comment by PfromGermany — February 10, 2010 @ 8:30 pm

  19. Of course you “don’t see that as a more desirable outcome” because, like I said, your take on WWII is that of a typical liberal.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — February 10, 2010 @ 10:50 pm

  20. then explain to me why in your eyes West Germany would have been better off under Stalinism!

    Comment by PfromGermany — February 11, 2010 @ 10:19 am

  21. For starters you’d have zero US Military bases full of drunken undereducated futurecops snorting paychecks away on heroin, puking out dorm windows onto the sidewalks below.

    For the rest of the reasons you’ll have to wait for the publication of my book: “Liberalism: Why It Never Prevented A Single War.”

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — February 11, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

  22. [I should mention that Britain did not appear to have the kind of political cleansing that the New Left historians carried out here. Lacking the equivalent of a Gar Alperovitz or a Howard Zinn, they seem far more susceptible to the sort of “People’s War” malarkey that typifies the Socialist Unity blog that in the interest of transparency should probably be renamed Stalinist Unity.]

    This is not entirely accurate. Although the great historians Christopher Hill , E. J. Hobsbawm, and E. P. Thompson were older than the New Left generation, and Communists, much of their work appeared during the 1960s and served as inspiration for the American “revisionist” historians. They all eventually broke with Stalinism but continued as active Leftists, unlike many disillusioned American ex-CP scholars. The younger group around New Left Review – Robin Blackburn, Alex Cockburn, Perry Anderson, Tariq Ali and others, wrote and published independent Marxist analyses with a level of theoretical sophistication missing from the writings of virtually all their American counterparts. The political and cultural journalism in British publications of the 1970s like “Seven Days” was more original and exciting than most left journalism in the U.S. during that period. Much work by the Americans was new and valuable, but there is no justification for U.S. exceptionalism here.

    Comment by Stuart Newman — February 13, 2010 @ 4:48 am

  23. > no. if you read “Mein Kampf”, it becomes clear that Hitler viewed history as a social-darwinistic struggle between peoples

    I would also have to add that if you read Hitler’s Table Talk it is apparent that he regarded the USSR with complete contempt at the time that Operation Barbarossa was launched. He honestly expected that racial impurities would cause a swift collapse of the USSR and even as late as 1942 he was maintaining that the outcome on the eastern front had already been wrapped up as surely as the North American Indian Wars were wrapped up by the white man. He shows a completely mindless underestimation of the capabilities of the USSR even when Stalingrad was fast approaching. None of this supports the contention that Hitler moved when he did out of concern that Soviet industry would outpace the Third Reich. From all available documents Hitler simply decided on Barbarossa when he did out of the belief that this was the only way to force Britain to sue for peace. He was completely casual when evaluating Soviet capabilites and just thought of the whole thing as an auxiliary to his attempts to cause Churchill’s downfall.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — May 30, 2010 @ 1:16 pm

  24. Of course. Ignorant fools that they were, Hitler and his Generals considered it irrelevant the fact that the USSR bypassed the great depression and was industrializing by leaps & bounds with centralized planning.

    That the soviets might have a relatively robust economic model ouside the sphere of private property which aided the technical sophistication of its fast growing military, not to mention provided a beacon of hope for proletarian movements across Europe & Asia, couldn’t possibly have played any role in his decision to suddenly about face from his campaign in England & launch the surprise attack of Barbarossa.

    That he was instead motivated purely by racist contempt of the Slavs makes perfect sense.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — May 30, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

  25. It is a complicated issue. Fascism had to be stopped. So glory to the soldiers of Yugoslavia who threw themselves in front of an enemy that outnumbered and outgunned them 100 to 1. Glory to all the resistance fighters from Belgium to Greece to Vietnam, the millions of Soviet troops who went off to certain death, the women and children who were both victims and participants in the war building tanks planes guns and oftentimes joining in the fight themselves. the whole world owes them a debt of gratitude. One myth we have been taught is that the US role was most important, thats not really true. All the same glory to our veterans who fought and the more than 400,000 that died, we were participating in liberating people. The leaders of US capitalism of course wanted to replace the Germans, they even reinstated Nazis into the West German government and army for the anticipated war against the Soviet Union. They locked up thousands of French resistance fighters because the only French that did fight back for France’s honor were mostly communists. So one form of Fascism was traded for another, while FDR wasn’t perfect he was a popular leader that accomplished a lot, I think it good he was elected to more to two terms, its a stupid myth that we are better off with a government that is constantly shifting in and out leadership. Truman sold out the new deal, he sold out all the ideals we had fought for. The nuclear bomb dropped on Japan was the biggest single act of terrorism in world history, it was the killing of civilians to coerce a political goal, It had everything to do with us scaring the whole world. Its a little known fact that Soviet Mongolian and Chinese troops launched a successful offensive in the weeks before the bombing that had already drove the Japanese out of half of China. Perhaps the real reason for dropping the bomb was to end the war before “communist” forces liberated all of China Korea and Vietnam.

    Comment by Beznik — October 19, 2010 @ 6:24 am


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: