Ted Grant

The Workers’ War Is The Class War!

Written: June 1940
Source: Youth for Socialism, vol. 2 no. 10 (June 1940)
Markup/Proofread:: Emil, Maarten 2007

The allies and Germany have begun a war to the death, a ruthless war of extermination. The scale of the casualties can be judged by the fact that in the first few days one quarter of the Dutch army was wiped out. Mass air raids on Rotterdam, which according to the News Chronicle only lasted three days, destroyed one third of the city’s buildings. Out of a population of half a million, according to the same source, 100,000 were killed or injured. That is the grim reality of totalitarian warfare.

Hitler has launched his threatened blitzkrieg in an effort to gain victory this year. He has staked everything on destroying France and Britain before they can use the tremendous potential reserves of material and the access to the whole world which control of the seas implies.

Meanwhile, Italy is also preparing to assure herself a ‘place in the sun’ and to assume a role of active belligerency. While the world is being carved up once more, Italian capitalism, in the same impasse which led German imperialism to attempt to stave off the crisis of the regime of expansion, is compelled to prepare to enter the slaughter, with all its attendant risks, if it is to survive.

The Balkans and Switzerland watch with trembling horror the clash between the great imperialist powers which has already engulfed the Low Countries and Norway. No more than these can they escape the spreading of the world conflagration to their territories.

Meanwhile, diplomatic preparations for extending the war go on apace; preparations in which the struggling camps swing from one position to the opposite as fast as Hitler’s Panzer Divisions can penetrate enemy territory. Russia, which only a short time ago was being described as only one remove from Nazi Germany, is now being assiduously wooed by the Allies for a trade pact which cannot but have political repercussions. As a gesture of good will Stafford Cripps is being sent to Moscow as Britain’s ambassador. The attempt is now being made to use Russia as a counterbalance to Germany and Italy in the Balkans. Until recently this role was reserved by the Allies for Italy in order to curb ‘Russian and German ambitions’ which conflicted with the ‘interests of Italy’ in South Eastern Europe.

More and more openly American imperialism prepares to intervene in order to destroy the menace of a German imperialist domination of Europe which could only lead to war within a limited time. The lightning speed of the German advance has upset all calculations and forced the American capitalists to disclose their aims sooner than they planned. Even before the American presidential elections, especially if Italy enters the war, it is likely that America will be drawn into the conflict. The speeches of Roosevelt, Hull, and other spokesmen of American capitalism, guarded as they are, reveal this clearly.

Armageddon is upon us. Millions will be crushed under the advancing tanks and warplanes. After five days of total war Holland was threatened with an epidemic of typhoid fever; the diseases which result from war will claim even more victims than the bombs, the gas, and all the instruments of destruction. Impartially, the germs will attack belligerents and neutrals alike – all humanity will suffer from the scourge of war!

Faced with the sudden shock of German occupation of the Channel ports, which brings the war to their doorsteps, there has been a slight resurgence of patriotism among British workers. Their lukewarm indifference has given way to a state of alarm. There seems to be no way out of the impasse except to continue the war to overthrow Hitler.

Advocates of the “Stop the War” policy are attempting to educate the imperialist beasts of prey to live together peacefully when there is not enough meat to go round. The hopeless inadequacy of this stupid policy has been branded on mankind in letters of fire by flame-throwing tanks. There is not enough room in this world for both German and British/French imperialism to exist side by side. One side must destroy the other in an attempt to monopolise the whole globe.

The dilemma which faces the British and French workers is no different to that which faces the German workers. Victory for Hitler means a monstrous tyranny over all Europe. Victory for the Allies would mean a new and heavier Versailles Treaty being imposed upon the German workers which would enslave them to the victors. Faced with such an alternative they have no recourse but to support German imperialism.

Workers throughout the world are not interested in the victory of either imperialism. Herbert Morrison has already explained that after ‘we’ (i.e. British capitalists) are victorious there will be 7 million unemployed in Britain. R.S. Hudson, minister for Agriculture, has explained that the standard of living of the nation will be lower than for the past century. These are to be the glorious fruits of victory which Churchill has promised us are to come only after the ordeal of blood, toil, sweat and tears.

This war can be ended and the slaughter stopped only by striking at the cause of the conflict; capitalism has brought us to this fratricidal combat. The workers and soldiers of all lands must stretch the hand of friendship across the frontiers. Hateful though Hitler’s fascism is to British workers, our enemy is not the German people, but the British capitalists at home. If we can carry on the struggle here we can leave the German workers to settle with Hitler.

The alternative is clear: already the British capitalists, now that the real fighting has started, are setting about the creation of a totalitarian state. As the war increases in intensity and the discontent of the workers grows, so the measures of repression will become harsher. Soon there will be little to choose between the regimes in Germany and England.

There can be no going back to the old days of democracy – win, lose, or draw! Capitalist democracy is finished. Not Hitler versus democracy is the issue, but totalitarianism against the working-class.

The conquest of power by the workers and the establishment of a Socialist United States of Europe is the sole way of banishing war and rebuilding shattered Europe.

It is by the youth of all lands, and not least of Britain, who are sacrificed to the Moloch(1) of capitalism, that there will be built up the revolutionary socialist leadership which can lead the workers to the accomplishment of this task.


(1) Moloch - a tyrannical power to be propitiated by human subservience or sacrifice; “the great Moloch of war” – God of the Ammonites and Phoenicians to whom parents sacrificed their children.