History of World War II 1939–1945 The origin of war. The struggle of progressive forces for the preservation of peace

Marx-Engels |  Lenin  | Stalin |  Home Page

  History of World War II 1939–1945 The origin of war. The struggle of progressive forces for the preservation of peace 
Selected Articles from the History of World War II 1939–1945 in 12 volumes.
PDF Download

2. Aggravation of contradictions between the imperialist states

In the post-war years, a continuous process of further sharpening of the fundamental contradictions inherent in imperialism unfolded. It was based on deep economic factors operating both within individual countries and in the capitalist world economy as a whole.

The contradiction between the social character of production and the private property nature of capitalist appropriation became extremely acute. It was precisely this that caused the deep and protracted crises of overproduction that shook the capitalist world. With the end of the First [18] World War and the imperialist military intervention against the Soviet state, the economic crisis of 1921-1923 unfolded. The stabilization of capitalism that followed was temporary, relative and partial. Then the world economic crisis of 1929-1933, the most destructive in the history of capitalism, broke out. He was replaced by a long depression of a special kind. Since 1937, an economic crisis arose again in a number of capitalist countries, the development of which was interrupted by the World War.

The tense economic situation in the capitalist countries has given rise to a systematic underutilization of the production apparatus and made unemployment a chronic, ineradicable phenomenon. The capacity of domestic markets, limited by the low purchasing power of the population, predetermined the increased role of foreign markets for the capitalist states.

But these markets, too, shrunk as a result of Russia's falling out of the orbit of the world capitalist economy, the development of the national liberation movement of the peoples of the colonies and semi-colonies, and also because capitalism continued to keep the population of the colonial countries in poverty. All this testified to the disorganization of the world capitalist economy, generated by the general crisis of capitalism and constituting one of the most important aspects of this crisis {47} .

The successful development of the socialist system, represented in those years by the Soviet Union, exposed the hostility of imperialism to the fundamental interests of the peoples, its inability to solve urgent socio-economic problems, and contributed to the widespread dissemination of socialist ideas. The struggle of the old, outdated capitalist system against growing socialism further aggravated the internal contradictions of imperialism.

The uneven development, which is an unconditional law of capitalism, acquired new features after the First World War. The general crisis of capitalism intensified the tendency to slow down technical progress. But this trend in some countries, for example in England, manifested itself to a greater extent, in others it had less effect (Germany and Japan). After the First World War, the further aggravation of the uneven development of capitalism was connected to a large extent also with the international economic policy of monopoly capital. The growing importance of international monopolies was evident. A major role in changing the correlation of economic potentials belonged to the course pursued by the ruling circles of the victorious capitalist powers in relation to Germany.

Germany's manufacturing capacity suffered from the war, reparations and the occupation of the Ruhr by France and Belgium in 1923; for a number of years the fixed capital of industry was not renewed. There were not enough funds for a broad modernization of production, especially since Germany, deprived of colonies, had no external sources of profit. Its capitalist opponents in the First World War could, it seemed, triumph over their most dangerous competitor, the revival of whose economic potential could inevitably drag on for many years, while production in other capitalist countries would go forward.

But at a critical moment (1923-1924), a new foundation began to be laid under the tottering edifice of German imperialism. The American monopolies played the leading role in this. They were not guided by compassion, so alien to the imperialists. On the contrary, [19]Overseas monopolists wanted to profit at the expense of the working people of Germany, to use it for the purposes of war against the USSR. In Germany, the costs of production, especially wages in the early post-war years, were low, which promised extraction through the exploitation of the working class. By strengthening the power of capital in Germany, reactionary circles in the United States sought to turn that country into a kind of "anti-Bolshevik bastion" in Europe. They consciously staked on the revival of the military might of German imperialism, seeing in it a suitable weapon for carrying out their plans against socialism, the national liberation of the peoples, democracy and peace.

An important milestone on the way to the formation and implementation of this political course dangerous for the cause of the world was the Dawes Plan, approved by the victorious powers in August 1924 and consolidating the leading role of the United States of America in the German question. The occupation of the Ruhr by French troops ended. Loans were provided to revive the German economy and military potential. It is estimated that only in 1923-1929. Germany received about 4 billion dollars of foreign loans, 2.5 billion of them from the USA {48} .

The financial support of the USA and Great Britain made it possible for the German monopolies within 5-6 years to recreate heavy industry and a powerful war industry—the most important precondition for future aggression. The main source of reparation payments, which Germany still had to pay, became taxes on consumer goods, which meant that the burden of reparations was transferred to the shoulders of German workers. The Dawes Plan was designed to sell German industrial products on the Soviet market, which was supposed to disrupt the industrialization of the USSR and turn it into an agrarian and raw material appendage of capitalist Germany.

With the help of the United States, the shortage of military-industrial raw materials in the country was overcome, the production of synthetic fuel, artificial rubber and fiber was launched, the cannon king Krupp was saved from bankruptcy, and German heavy industry was updated and modernized in a few years. The revival of the heavy industry and the military industry of Germany proceeded on the basis of not the old, but the new, most advanced equipment and technology for that time. German industry in terms of technical equipment soon surpassed the industry of other capitalist countries of Europe.

The flow of capital from abroad contributed to the further concentration of production and the development in Germany of the system of state-monopoly capitalism.

The United States secured a large share in German industrial enterprises. The monopolies of the overseas power became owners or co-owners of the Opel automobile company and Ford factories in Germany, the electrical and radio firms Lorenz and Mixt-Genest, the Hugo Stinnes coal concern, the Deutsche Americanische Petroleum oil concern, and the chemical concern IG Farbenindustri, the united Steel Trust and other industrial giants.

One of the main authors of the Dawes Plan, the German financial king Schacht, who later played an important role in the establishment of the fascist dictatorship, frankly admitted that he "financed the rearmament of Germany with money belonging to foreigners." With the revival of Germany as a first-class industrial [20] power, the German militarists again found an industrial base for their plans for new aggression.

The German government discussed the problems of a new world war even when the first world war had not ended. Two meetings were devoted to this issue in the War Ministry, held on June 14 and September 5, 1917. At the first of them, the view was expressed that Germany should “develop economic life as best as possible in a peacetime period, adapting it to military use .. The more we develop the economy in peacetime, the better we are prepared for war. Under no circumstances should this process be allowed to weaken .. The meeting participants spoke of a future war as something predetermined. But with regard to the period that would be needed to recreate the military-industrial potential, they did not show much optimism. Characteristically, the discussion of these problems was continued eight years later in the imperial ministries of economy and defense {50} , as if there was no defeat of Germany in the First World War, the November Revolution and the formation of the Weimar Republic.

The hurricane of the economic crisis of 1929-1933. hit Germany hard. Its ruling circles took advantage of the moment to increase political and economic pressure on the working people. Unemployment in the country has reached enormous proportions. The German monopolists looked with malice at their neighbors in the West, who took advantage of Germany's defeat to seize many foreign markets. They could not put up with the fact that Germany's share in the exports of the capitalist countries was inferior to England. The share of individual countries in the total exports of the capitalist world in 1929 (in percent) was: USA - 15.6, England - 10.7, Germany - 9.2, France - 5.9 {51}. Germany became the most dangerous competitor in the world markets not only for England and France, but also for the USA. It sought to seize the dominant position in their markets, while its rivals made every effort to maintain and consolidate their monopoly. Already in this struggle lay the deep causes of the Second World War.

Table 2 can give an idea of ​​the uneven development of capitalism after the First World War and until the mid-1930s.

The data in this table show the rapid growth of production in Germany and especially in Japan in comparison with the USA, England and France. One of the manifestations of the uneven development was that Germany overcame the consequences of the economic crisis of 1929-1933 in a relatively short time, and in the USA, England and France, even in 1935, the volume of production in heavy industry remained below the pre-crisis level. In Japanese industry, even those industries for which the country did not have the necessary amount of its own natural raw materials developed rapidly.

Thus, a new correlation of economic potentials took shape in the capitalist world. It less and less corresponded to the existing distribution of colonial possessions. Before the First World War, Germany had colonies in Africa and the Pacific, although they were 10 times inferior to the British in terms of territory and 30 times in population. After the First World War, Germany was deprived of all colonies, while England increased them even more. The relevant data are given in Table 3. [21]

Table 2. Development of a number of sectors of the economy of the main capitalist countries in 1920-1935 {52}

years USA England France Germany (including Saarland) Japan

Coal mining (million tons)

1920 597 233 24 229 29

1925 528 247 47 285 32

1930 487 248 54 302 31

1935 385 226 46 290 38

Iron smelting (million tons)

1920 38 eight 3 7 one

1925 37 6 9 12 one

1930 32 6 ten 12 one

1935 22 7 6 13 2

Steel production (million tons)

1920 43 9 3 eight 0.8

1925 46 eight eight fourteen 1.3

1930 41 7 9 13 2.3

1935 35 ten 6 16 4.7

Electricity generation (billion kWh)

1930 115 12 17 29 16

1932 99 fourteen fifteen 24 eighteen

1934 110 17 17 31 23

1935 119 19 eighteen 37 25

Aluminum smelting (thousand tons)

1920 89 eight 12 31 No information

1930 103.9 13.2 24.6 30.7

1932 47.6 10.2 14.4 19.3

1935 54.1 15.1 22 70.8 2.7

Note. Electricity production in Germany in 1930-1934 without the Saarland. In England - vacation from tires, in other countries - gross output.

Table 3. The size and population of the colonial possessions of the imperialist powers {53}

Countries Area (million square kilometers) Population (million people)

1913 1920 1913 1920

England 29.7 34.6 376.7 406.2

France 10.5 11.7 53.4 53.4

USA 0.3 0.3 9.7 12.4Germany 3.0 Did not have 12.3 Did not have


The struggle in foreign markets proved to be more intense and more important for the capitalist countries than before. This was explained by the general reduction in the sphere of exploitation as a result of the Great October Socialist Revolution and the upsurge of the national liberation movement caused by it, the lack of sales markets, overproduction crises, and, finally, the increased role of many types of colonial raw materials and fuel, especially oil. A radical redistribution of the world on the basis of the use of armed force seemed to the monopolists the only way out.

As before the First World War, in the capitalist world the question arose of a radical redistribution of the colonies and spheres of influence in accordance with the real correlation of forces of the "great" powers. The development of this contradiction inexorably led to a new pre-war political crisis, to the armed struggle of the imperialist states.

Along with the contradictions between yesterday's winners and the vanquished, the rivalry between the winners themselves intensified.

Using their economic power, the American monopolies pushed back British competitors, especially where their positions were most vulnerable. "America has replaced Germany as England's main rival in financial and commercial matters, as well as in the field of maritime power, noticeably ousting the latter from monetary and financial control over the world market" {54}. The vulnerable areas of Great Britain were its dominions: Canada, Australia, New Zealand; a number of dependent countries of Latin America: Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay; finally, some countries in Southeast Asia, as well as China. The United States of America has successfully used such an important weapon of economic enslavement as the provision of loans and the use of the power of finance capital. Already in 1925, the XIV Congress of the CPSU(b) noted "the unprecedentedly increased role of the North American United States, bordering on their world financial hegemony ..." {55} .

The ever-increasing expansionist aspirations of US imperialism in relation to Southeast Asia and the Pacific ran into a counter flow of expansion coming from Japan. The First World War was widely used by Japanese imperialism to seize important strategic and economic positions. Japan, having gained a foothold in China, turned it into its colony, its goods penetrated the markets not only of many neighboring countries, but even of Mexico and other states of the Western Hemisphere. However, many of Japan's acquisitions were taken away from her at the Washington Conference, where England acted as a united front with the United States against Japan on a number of issues.

In subsequent years, British diplomacy flirted with Japan, seeking to take advantage of Japanese-American imperialist contradictions. This further aggravated the antagonism between the US and Great Britain. In 1927, the President of the United States, Colonel Coolidge, angrily reported to Congress: "Japan cooperates with us in many respects, but we are unable to come to an agreement with Great Britain" {56} . Two years later, when discussing the naval construction program in Congress, Senator Walsh of Montana declared with utmost frankness: “It is quite obvious that the construction of cruisers proposed by the bill is designed for war first with England, second with Japan” {57} . [23]

If the United States of America was not always able to enlist the support of England in the affairs of the countries of Southeast Asia and the Pacific basin, then in European affairs there was a far-reaching agreement between them in an effort to turn Germany, hostile to them, into their ally against the Soviet state. With the passage of time, a similar direction of the joint Anglo-American policy was increasingly asserted in relation to Japan.

France found itself in a difficult position after the First World War. Previously, with insufficient military and economic potential, its positions in Europe were largely determined by an alliance with Russia, which raised the political weight of France. Having taken an irreconcilably hostile course towards the Soviet country and having made it their task during the years of armed intervention to recreate a Russia of the tsarist type, French politicians ultimately sacrificed the prestige of their state to class interests. The ruling circles of France tried to compensate for the loss of the alliance with Russia against Germany by military blocs with Poland and the Little Entente {58}. These blocs were anti-Soviet in nature, did not meet the true national interests of France and therefore could not strengthen its position in Europe, including in relation to Germany. Attempts to keep the German economy at the level of the first post-war years, even with the use of violent policies (the occupation of the Ruhr), suffered a complete collapse, which, with the adoption of the Anglo-American Dawes Plan, marked the end of the period of relative predominance of France in post-war capitalist Europe and the transition of the leading role to England and USA. The Anglo-French Entente also ceased to exist. The subsequent steps of British diplomacy, which equalized the rights of victorious France and defeated Germany (as was done at the Locarno conference), contributed to an even greater aggravation of imperialist contradictions in Europe.

France's new position among the European capitalist powers encouraged the Italian imperialists, who had long since set their sights not only on the French and British colonies in Africa, but also on the adjacent part of French territory.

A stormy battle broke out between Italy and France at the London Naval Conference in 1930 over a naval construction program. On its agenda was the issue of extending to cruisers, destroyers and submarines the proportion that was adopted at the Washington Conference in 1922 in relation to the largest warships. The essence of this proportion was that the combined tonnages of the battleships of the United States, England, Japan, France and Italy were to be related, respectively, as 5: 5: 3: 1.75: 1.75, and aircraft carriers as 5: 5: 3: 2 .22 : 2.22. However, the new agreement was adopted at the London Naval Conference only between the USA, Britain and Japan. France and Italy did not join the agreement because they could not, despite all the efforts of British diplomacy, agree among themselves. France demanded a higher relative share for itself, with which Italy disagreed. It turned out to be impossible to resolve this conflict, and the Italo-French agreement on limiting the total tonnage of cruisers and submarines was not reached.[24]

The appetites of Italian fascism increased, as England supported Italy to a large extent in the struggle against France. British diplomacy, drawing closer to fascist Italy, sought to find an ally against France and turn the predatory claims of Italian imperialism towards her, use it to strengthen its positions in the world, as well as for aggression against the USSR.

The Anglo-Italian rapprochement had a negative effect on the situation in Europe, undermining even those weak foundations of European security that bourgeois France tried to create in its own interests. Hungary (the Italo-Hungarian friendship treaty of 1927) and Bulgaria were drawn into the orbit of Anglo-Italian policy. To disintegrate the Little Entente from within, Italy tried to come to terms with Yugoslavia and weaken France's allied relations with Romania. In 1926, for this purpose, an Italian-Romanian treaty was concluded on an anti-Soviet basis. With the support of British diplomacy, Italy asserted its dominance over Albania (the Italo-Albanian treaty of 1926, which made Italy its "guarantor").

The long-standing litigation between Italy and Germany continued in connection with Italian claims to part of the territory of Austria. At times, it took on a sharp form, and Italy even allowed itself to unequivocally threaten its rival, who for the time being tried to avoid conflicts.

A world war was brewing within the capitalist world. In this world, there were a number of directions in which a new global military battle could unfold. “What do the kings of industry want by once again organizing a worldwide slaughter? M. Gorky wrote during these years. “They imagine that the war will help them jump out of the clutches of the economic crisis created by the anarchy of production, the idiocy of the passion for profit” {59} .

Along with the hostile tension in relations between the imperialist powers, the contradiction between the two opposing social systems also intensified. The cunning aspirations of the ruling circles of capitalist countries to take the imminent war beyond the limits of the capitalist system that gave rise to it and to try to resolve the internal contradictions of this system, as well as the class antagonism of the two systems, by means of a war against the Soviet Union, became more and more dangerous. The Joint Plenum of the Central Committee and the Central Control Commission of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks noted in 1927 that “preparation for war against the USSR means nothing more than the reproduction on an extended basis of the class struggle between the imperialist bourgeoisie and the victorious proletariat. That will be the class meaning of this war.” The decision of the plenum emphasized{60} .

The contradictions of imperialism and its class antagonism towards the Soviet Union determined the growth of militarism in the internal life, ideology and politics of the main capitalist powers. Militarism was called upon to serve the class goals of the domestic and foreign policy of monopoly capital. As far back as 1908, V. I. Lenin wrote about the social functions of militarism [25] : “Modern militarism is the result of capitalism. In both its forms, it is the "vital manifestation" of capitalism: as a military force used by the capitalist states in their external conflicts ("Militarismus nach aussen", as the Germans say) and as a weapon in the hands of the ruling classes to suppress every kind (economic and political) movements of the proletariat (“Militarismus nach innen”)” {61} .

After the First World War, militarism manifested itself most clearly in the growth of armaments in the capitalist world, in the aggressive foreign policy of the capitalist states, and in the ideological preparations by imperialism for new wars.