Should anarchists have supported the Allies in WW2?

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Tom Henry
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Sep 20 2017 01:40
Should anarchists have supported the Allies in WW2?

This, on another thread on the recent phenomenon/discussion of Antifa, which makes the connection between our local opposition to fascists and the possibility of a more general opposition:

Quote:
Anti-Fascism is less an ideology than it is a strategic perspective based upon the necessity of resisting fascism by any means necessary.
[…]
The Democrats, the Labour Party along with most other socialist or progressive parties have no interest in uniting with working class communists and radicals as part of an Anti-Fascist front, they have no interest in Anti-Fascism full stop, because at this point they aren't at war with a fascist government and they're not in a position where they must unite into a coalition of Anti-Fascist governments in order to resist an existential threat posed by fascist expansionism.

https://libcom.org/forums/theory/chomsky-antifa-17082017?page=1#comment-598254

This, from Philip Sansom, one of the UK War Commentary anarchists jailed in 1945 for opposition to the Second World War:

Quote:
What, after all, did the anti-war movement amount to? […] There was the anarchist movement, small but quite clear and united, with the exception of some of the Spanish exiles, recently (i.e., 1939) fled from Spain, who held that the defeat of Hitler and Mussolini would inevitably lead to the downfall of Franco. These comrades, experienced in the anti-fascist struggle in Spain, had much to tell us about the Spanish Revolution, but were sadly naive about world politics. We knew the ‘democracies’ would much rather see a fascist state in Spain than another revolution, and we have been proved right.

https://libcom.org/history/anarchists-against-army-philip-sansom

Sansom continues:

Quote:
We were revolutionaries, not traitors. Because we would not fight for Churchill and the British Empire (remember Britain still ruled in India, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia...) did not mean that we wanted Hitler to win. What we wanted — and what anarchists in Germany, Italy, France, America, Japan and, as far as we could guess, in Russia too, wanted — was for the people of their own countries to make a social revolution against their own warring rulers, to establish a social order in which capitalism, with all the internal and external violence upon which it depends (crystallised for the anarchists in ‘the state’) was swept away and replaced by the truly free society.

https://libcom.org/history/anarchists-against-army-philip-sansom

Yes, obviously, the anarchist ‘Spanish exiles’ were ultimately mistaken in their hope that the defeat of Hitler and Mussolini might lead to the removal of Franco (and the possibility of a resurgence of revolution in Spain).

But were the anti-war anarchists centred around War Commentary, despite the times they lived in, wrong to abstain from the fight against the very real threat of an ‘expansionary fascism’ in Europe, and even to argue that soldiers should abandon the fight against the specific threat of Fascism represented by Hitler and Mussolini in order to fight a more general struggle against capitalism at home? Was that struggle at home any more, in reality, than a pipe-dream?

Was the War Commentary group attempting to sabotage the effort against fascism?

Surely, if the threat of fascism must be countered in the most effective way ("by any means necessary") then the Spanish exiles here were right? Should Philip Sansom and the others have signed up and encouraged others to do the same? What do we think about this?

(This was discussed before, but not in the context of discussion that has taken place on Libcom since 2009/10: https://libcom.org/forums/history-culture/anarchist-position-ww2-30122009 )

Tom Henry
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Sep 20 2017 01:45

The Trotskyists were also against participation in the WW2, unless it was on the side of the Soviet Union, which in the 1930s was widely regarded as the only and ultimate defence against fascism, despite its problems:

http://www.icl-fi.org/english/wv/894/qotw.html

https://www.marxists.org/archive/grant/1941/07/fascism.htm

Sansom writes of the Trotskyists in the UK:

Quote:
There were the Trotskyists, maintaining a slightly uneasy position (as ever) in view of an antifascist position… The Trotskyists concentrated on the working-class struggle at home; a valid enough activity which eventually brought them under attack from the government, after years of slander and vicious attack (both verbal and physical) from the Communists.

https://libcom.org/history/anarchists-against-army-philip-sansom

And the British Communist Party:

Quote:
The Communist Party (Stalinist, as we would now identify it) changed its line three times during the war. For the first 10 days, in September 1939, the CP supported the war, seeing it as continuation of the anti-fascist struggle, and being just a wee bit slow in understanding the implications of the Hitler-Stalin pact ‘for Peace and Socialism’ which had been concluded in August. After 10 days of vocal devotion to the antifascist struggle, however, the British CP got its orders from Moscow and promptly switched its line to opposition to the war, now using class arguments common to the Left: that it was a capitalist-imperialist war in which the working class had no interest.

[…] But the opposition did not last long, for as soon as Hitler invaded Russia, in June 1941, the Communist Party reversed its line to support for the war once again. Immediately, the ban on the Daily Worker [banned due to it’s anti-war position] was lifted — Stalin was now an ally of democracy.
From that moment on, the Churchill government had no more loyal patriotic allies than the Communist Party.

https://libcom.org/history/anarchists-against-army-philip-sansom

Black Badger
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Sep 20 2017 04:13

I seem to remember from my Anarchism 101 class that anarchists are against war, which is an extension of state policy into international relations. Principled anarchists would never support the imperialist designs of their respective country's rulers. A better question would be "How often have anarchists ignored their principles?"

wojtek
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Sep 20 2017 06:23

The anarchist case seems naive, which obvs is a self-fulfilling prophecy, but whatever.

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Craftwork
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Sep 20 2017 10:38

Should anarchists have supported the Allies in WW2?

No

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Steven.
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Sep 20 2017 11:14

Yeah apart from principles, I think the key issue here is is it worth fighting, killing and dying for the Allies.

To assess that, we need to look at what the Allies did.

The propaganda about the war says it was a war of democracy against fascism. That is that accurate? If you look at a map of the world, showing what countries were democratic and which weren't, you would see an awful lot of dictatorships run by the Allies (the Eastern bloc under the USSR, Southeast Asia under the US, South Asia, the Middle East and much of Africa under the UK, North Africa under France…).

You would also see repression dissent, and mass killings by Allied powers, for example the Bengal famine caused by the British which killed around 3 million.

You will also see Allied powers put Axis officials in charge all over their occupied territories, as they still needed them as a bulwark against the working class and radical or anticolonial movements.

For example in Korea, the US put the Imperial Japanese officials back in charge. After massive public outcry, they put Americans in charge nominally and renamed the Japanese officials "advisors". The US later dissolved the Korean government and replaced it with a military dictatorship, and massacred anyone who protested against it.

In Greece, the UK made links with the fascists, while the war was still ongoing, massacred anti-fascists, and helped set up a fascist dictatorship.

The crimes of the Axis are horrific, of course, but those of the Allies are comparable.

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boozemonarchy
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Sep 20 2017 12:19

The cause of the international working class did not evaporate when the ruling class was having a conflict over turf rights. For some groups of worker's, it was a good time to press their advantage and it is that struggle anarchists should support.

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boozemonarchy
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Sep 20 2017 12:19

Dp

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darren p
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Sep 20 2017 13:35

I think it's better phrased as "should Anarchists support Churchilians and Stalinsts?". Like the above posters have said, the allies weren't at war "against fascism"

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fingers malone
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Sep 20 2017 18:14

If you were in France, Yugoslavia etc and trying to fight in a resistance movement, wouldn't you be somewhat dependent on the Allies for resources? Isn't that a lot of the reason for anarchists supporting 'The Allies', the need for weapons and supplies?

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jef costello
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Sep 20 2017 19:57

Resistance movements were dependent on the Allies for supplies but resistance movements weren't necesssarily good and the allies, like anyone supplying weapons in a conflict, did it strategically. The allies fought with each other over who to supply, had groups fight amongst themselves and starved groups that they felt might become difficult later on, or who didn't swear fealty quite right.
If capitalists are handing out weapons it isn't likely to be out of the goodness of their hearts.

ajjohnstone
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Sep 20 2017 20:20

I've read that the militarisation of resistance led to the Civil War in Syria and genuine opposition to the Assad dictatorship became a proxy war among regional and global players due to what has been mention the need for arms and hardware and logistics in a military fight thus making you dependent on outside countries for supplies.

I once read a book , a long time ago so author and title i forget, made the point that the French Resistance was not popular. Collaboration was the prevailing situation for the maority of the population.

As for Yugoslavia, i also read that Yugoslavians killed more Yugoslavians than Germans and i'm not referring to the Chetniks.

The SPGB held fast to their anti-capitalist war position even if it meant political ostracisation more so that opposition to WW1

(As an aside a work colleague CP dad was sent to Peterhead Prison for refusing to be conscripted but as stated, Once Russia was invaded...the principled stand against the capitalist war-mongers flipped.

Also I know i have said it before, but another work-colleague, an ex-RSM, once said to me...If the Soviets invaded the UK and occupied it, the only thing that will change for you and me, instead of a crown on our caps it will be a red star and we'll still be posties.)

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Steven.
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Sep 20 2017 21:19
fingers malone wrote:
If you were in France, Yugoslavia etc and trying to fight in a resistance movement, wouldn't you be somewhat dependent on the Allies for resources? Isn't that a lot of the reason for anarchists supporting 'The Allies', the need for weapons and supplies?

I think that's a different question. I think when politicos talk about "support" in abstract it's pretty meaningless. So if we think about it in practical terms, for those of us who would have been in the UK or US, that would mean do we join the army or not, do we encourage others to join the army or do we encourage draft avoidance and mutiny, and do we support increasing production in essential industries or do we support sabotage and strike action.

In the UK or US if you joined the army you would be as likely to end up stealing food from Bengalis, murdering colonial subjects or massacring Koreans as fighting Nazis.

So I would say it would have been better to advocate conscription resistance/mutiny and fraternisation. And advocate breaking no strike pledges in essential industries.

For people in occupied countries the situation would be different. As elements of resistance movements were bourgeois nationalist, and so perhaps not worth fighting for (for example, many resistance fighters in Poland ended up getting locked up or executed by their Soviet "liberators"). But other elements of resistance movements were fighting directly for working class interests: for example running underground railroads, helping Jews escape, exposing the Holocaust, etc.