Human Smoke: the barbarity of the Second World War

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This review of a new book that contains damning evidence against the idea of World War Two as a ‘Good War' is by a close sympathiser of the ICC.

The title of the book Human Smoke - The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilisation refers to a Nazi officer's description of the debris of humanity falling from the sky from where it was sent through the chimneys of the ovens in the concentration camps. The book, written by Nicholson Baker and published by Simon and Schuster, has an interesting narrative that mostly includes sections of newspaper and magazine articles, radio pieces, memoirs, diaries, state directives and documents.  It begins in the 1920s, with Winston Churchill's new enemy the "sinister confederacy" of international Jewry and, a few years later, his welcoming of Signor Mussolini to anti-Bolshevism, where "Italian fascism had demonstrated that there was a way to combat subversive forces...".  It covers the period up to the end of 1941 with Churchill in Ottawa telling its parliament that the "Hun" would be "cast into the pit of death and shame... and only when the earth has been cleansed and purged of their crimes and of their villainies will we turn from the task which they have forced upon us".

Nicholson is apparently a pacifist and he uses many quotes from Gandhi and the Quakers. The whole period outlined shows not only the complete inability of pacifism to stop imperialist war, but how, in the end, it eventually supports one side against another. Even so, for the hard evidence involved against the victor's version of the Second World War, the book is an eye-opener on the complicity of democracy in genocide and some of the greatest mass murders in history. First though it's necessary to outline a marxist framework for the whole period.

Fascism: product of capitalist counter-revolution

In June1931, two years before the council communist Marinus van der Lubbe was arrested in front of the burning Reichstag, Hitler said in an interview, that the building looked like a synagogue and the sooner it was burnt down "the sooner the German people will be free from foreign influences". The democratic accession to power of Hitler in 1933 marked a decisive victory for the forces of counter-revolution; the rise of fascism to power was the product of the proletariat's defeat and not its cause. Fascism and democracy are two sides of the same coin. The barbarity of the Nazi regime and its Holocaust wasn't a monstrous accident, the product of "evil" or of a few deranged minds, but an outcome of decadent capitalism and this barbarity was equalled by democracy in all its horror, cynicism, lies and crimes against humanity. The crushing of the German revolution around 1918-23 was the first major act of the capitalist counter-revolution. Hitler's original power base, the SA had its roots in the counter-revolutionary Freikorps which, a decade earlier, assassinated thousands of communist militants in Germany in the name of Social Democracy.

What German capital expressed through its embrace of fascism wasn't an aberration based on this or that so-called national characteristic, but the fundamental need of nationalism, all nationalisms, to carve out a bigger slice of the world for themselves at the expense of their rivals: "War becomes the only means for each national capital to try to extricate itself from its difficulties, at the expense of rival imperialist states" (Gauche Communiste de France 14.7.45, quoted in International Review no. 78, ‘50 Years of Imperialist Lies'). Given the particularities of German capital at that time, the defeat of German imperialist power in WWI and the defeat of the revolutionary wave in that country, fascism was a particular form of state capitalism that was born of German imperialism and western democracy. It took a brutal form but in essence its state capitalism was part of a worldwide phenomenon affecting all the major capitalist countries. Like the USA, Britain and France, Germany embarked on programmes of public works and welfare but with its proletariat crushed, the centralised German state apparatus oriented the economy directly towards war. After the decisive defeat of the working class in Germany, Jews and other minorities became the scapegoats of the Nazi regime and the latter's characterisation of them, "cosmopolitan blood-suckers", was essentially shared by the democratic regimes of Britain, France, Russia and America, particularly in relation to the connection they all made between Jewry, internationalism and marxism.

The democracies arm Hitler

The ‘democracies' didn't have very much to say about the Nazi concentration camps at the time that they were being built and put to use; they certainly did nothing to put them out of action or assist their condemned and miserable inmates during the worst of times; but directly after WWII the Allies, for whom the proletariat was still a major concern, developed a whole propaganda campaign regarding the concentration camps. This massive campaign, which persists today from infant school to the grave, allowed the Allies to hide their own murderous crimes, complicities and genocides and to vaunt the moral superiority of victorious democracy.

Churchill and Roosevelt were both anti-Jewish, as were the regimes that they represented; and both slammed their doors to Jewish immigration from Germany throughout. Apart from vaguely looking at real estate for Jewish settlements in inhospitable parts of Latin American and Africa (where they would share the terrain with Tsetse Flies and various forms of plague), both governments did nothing to increase quotas of Jewish refugees. The tales of the concentration camps of Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachenhausen, though not yet fully operational, were known to both governments by 1938, as was the murder of workers and the treatment of Jews and other minorities prior to that.  In Britain in 1940, thousands of Jewish refugees between 16 and 60 were rounded up by soldiers with fixed bayonets and taken to detention camps. The age was later increased to 70 where they were met with "deplorable and disgraceful" conditions, according to Lord Lytton (22.8.40). In May of that year, a thousand CID officers rounded up "enemy aliens", ie, several thousand women workers of German and Austrian origins and their children, and sent them to the Isle of Man. Eleven thousand, mostly Jews, were held in detention facilities. At the Mooragh camp on the island some Jews published a newspaper that said that the war of liberation of Western civilisation had begun "by imprisoning the most embittered enemies of its own enemies". The British authorities shut the paper down.

In the lead-up to war, in building up Adolf Hitler as their policeman of Europe, the west provided his gangsters not just with the small arms needed to begin its reign of terror, but heavier, more deadly equipment. In 1934, the French arms supplier Schneider supplied tanks to Germany. The British company Vickers provided bombers and other arms, as did Boeing. US manufacturers were selling Germany crankshafts, cylinder heads and control systems for anti-aircraft guns. The Sperry Corporation shared patents with Germany on bombsights and gyroscopic stabilisers and BMW brought Pratt and Whitney engines. The USA, like Britain, also sold ‘non-military' guns and ammunition to Germany.

Starvation and terror bombing as weapons of democracy

In the dance of death leading up to the outbreak of war, and to some extent during its first year or so, all the combatants tried to paint themselves as victims of the other. Hitler said early on: "We will not make the mistake of 1914. We now have to lay the blame on our enemy".

"No matter how much it has successfully prepared the population for war on the ideological level, the bourgeoisie in decadence cloaks its imperialist wars in the myth of victimisation and self-defence against aggression and tyranny. The reality of modern warfare, with its massive destruction and death, with all the facets of barbarism that it unleashes on humanity, is so dire, so horrific, that even an ideologically defeated proletariat does not march off to slaughter lightly. The bourgeoisie relies heavily on manipulating reality to create the illusion that it is a victim of aggression, with no choice but to fight back in self-defence"  (IR. 108, ‘The Machiavellianism of the Bourgeoisie'). The defence of the national capital, common to the imperialist thrusts of both fascism and democracy, has to cloak itself in the mantle of victim; and for democracy that meant acting the "peace lovers" against tyranny and expansionism. We can see the same game of imperialism being played out today by the west over the events in Georgia. The book amply confirms the provocations of the democracies, Britain and America in particular, in the words and policies of their own regimes, towards both Germany and Japan, in order to appear the wronged party and brainwash their own populations to support and fight for their own imperialist aims.

From the forgery of the Zinoviev letter days before the British election of 1924 (very likely written by himself), to his opinion of being "... strongly in favour of using poisoned gas on uncivilised tribes", step forward the man of the British bourgeoisie, Winston Churchill. Added to what we already know of this expression of barbarism, Baker's book is damning. In order to pursue what was being called ‘the people's war' the whole policy of Churchill on behalf of his putrid class was to murder as many workers and civilians as possible. With its naval superiority, British imperialism enforced a food blockade on mainland Europe. It affected all the German occupied parts, including Belgium (‘plucky little Belgium' of World War I), Holland, Poland, Greece, Norway and others. Ex-US President Herbert Hoover proposed lifting the blockade, but the starvation of men, women and children was the policy of Churchill and his Ministry of Economic Affairs. Hoover wrote: "When Churchill succeeded Chamberlain... he soon stopped all permits of food to Poland" with the result of bodies lying on the streets of Warsaw and the death rate of children ten times higher than the birth rate. In a speech to the House of Commons, August 1940, on why he was refusing requests to lift the blockade, Churchill said: "Fats make bombs and potatoes make synthetic fuel". He added: "The plastics used now so largely in the construction of aircraft are made of milk"! Refusing to let the Red Cross food ships deliver even the smallest amount of milk to France led the French to call Churchill "the famisher". The blockade went on. In the German-occupied territories lived forty million children. How many hundreds and thousands, possibly millions of these vulnerable children died of disease, malnutrition or starvation? The British bourgeoisie certainly wasn't keeping count and the general information that Baker gives comes from the Quakers. Add to this the old, the sick, pregnant women and it must have been millions.  Hoover called this a "holocaust" years before the word was give a capital letter and applied exclusively to the abomination of the Nazi death camps.

The starvation of civilians wasn't the only policy of the British bourgeoisie; there was also the deliberate bombing of civilians overseen by the arch-terrorist Churchill. There were two aims to the saturation bombing of civilians by the Royal Air Force: one was to provoke a response to the increasingly devastating carnage, ie, to get Luftwaffe to bomb British working class areas in retaliation thus pulling the population behind the bourgeoisie - a ploy that largely succeeded. And secondly, the aim was to kill, maim and terrorise as many German civilians as possible - the primary aim wasn't industry or the war machine. Very early on in the war, the RAF were dropping bombs on working class areas and then coming back to strafe with machine guns the firemen trying to put out the blazes. The British Air Ministry produced a new policy report on bombing, 24.4.41: "It is only possible to obtain satisfactory results by the ‘Blitz' attack on large working class and industrial areas of the towns". An appendix concluded, "delayed action bombs should make up 10% of the tonnage dropped". Previous head of the RAF, Lord ‘Boom' Trenchard, said the way forward was to drop more tonnage where most people live, so that fewer bombs would be wasted. Charles Portal, Head of the RAF, agreed. Head of Bomber Command, Richard Peirse gave these orders on 5.7.41: "(destroy) the morale of the civilian population as a whole, and of the industrial workers in particular". Churchill called for the "largest quantity of bombs per night" and the RAF started night bombing.

Baker's book looks at other interesting areas notably the disgust of many Germans of the treatment of the Jews. The were demonstrations in Bremen and Baker reports that the population were so disgusted in Berlin that "the Nazis found it necessary to distribute handbills saying that the Jews were to blame for everything". The handbills added that anyone being friendly to Jews committed treason. There are reports of Germans showing politeness and civility to elderly Jews wearing their yellow badges on public transport. The Gestapo was sufficiently concerned to inform all its branches that "persons of German blood continue to maintain friendly relations with Jews and appear with them in public in a blatant fashion". The answer was terror: make and publicise examples by sending both Germans and Jews involved to concentration camps.

Baker's well-researched book, covering the build-up and the first two years of WWII, amply confirms the marxist position that both fascism and anti-fascism are two sides of the same imperialist coin.  

Baboon, 20/9/8

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