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Unnecessary Wars

October 21st, 2016

A long-running theme of this blog has been the disaster of the Great War, and the moral culpability of all those who brought it about and continued it. It’s fair to say, I think, that the majority of commenters have disagreed with me and that many of those commenters have invoked some form of historical relativism, based on the idea that we shouldn’t judge the rulers (or for that matter the public) of 1914 on the same criteria we would apply to Bush, Blair and their supporters.

It’s fascinating therefore to read Henry Reynolds’ latest book, Unnecessary Wars about Australia’s participation in the Boer War, and realise that the arguments for and against going to war then were virtually the same as they are now. The same point is made by Newton in Hell-Bent: Australia’s leap into the Great War (recommended in comments a while ago by James Sinnamon. He shows how, far from loyally following Britain into a regrettably necessary war, leading members of the Australian political and military class pushed hard for war. In Newtown’s telling, the eagerness of pro-war Dominion governments helped to tip the scales in the British public debate and in the divided Liberal candidate. I don’t have the expertise to assess this, but there’s no escaping the echoes of the push towards the Iraq war in 2002 and early 2003, when this blog was just starting out.

The case against war was fully developed and strongly argued in the years before 1914, just as the case against slavery was developed and argued in the US before 1861. Those who were on the wrong side can’t be excused on the grounds that they were people of their time.

The only defence that can be made is that those who were eager for war in 1914 had not experienced the disaster of the Great War and its consequences. The failure of today;s war advocates to learn from this disaster makes their position that much worse. But the same is true of anyone defending the warmakers of 1914 on any grounds other than that of their ignorance.

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  1. Newtownian
    October 21st, 2016 at 13:01 | #1

    The case against war was fully developed and strongly argued in the years before 1914, just as the case against slavery was developed and argued in the US before 1861. Those who were on the wrong side can’t be excused on the grounds that they were people of their time

    And yet we still celebrate Galipoli and Churchill, its megalomaniac architect. And a ‘case against slavery’ had to even be made ? (Your words John read a little strange – as though for any sane human being a case needed to be made in the first place).

    A more recent example of this everyday madness you didnt mention was the Great Cold War of 1947 to 1989. An interesting academic analysis/view of which can be found here – GRAY, C. S. 2007. The Implications of Preemptive and Preventive War Doctrines: A Reconsideration. Strategic Studies Institute. Carlisle, PA: Army War College,. Nowhere in this 75 page report does Dr Strangelove get a mention. Rather its all dry analysis of pros and cons.

    It true one has to admit on the one hand the strategy worked as we are still here. On the other especially given all the near misses (Cuba, Berlin, Abel Archer) we nearly werent here. This would be an interesting additional hypothetical to put to your detractors. At the very least it would help identify who were utterly balmy.

    A lateral question to be asked is just who was responsible. MacNamarra has famously partial recanted. What a mea culpa. On the other hand I doubt Curtis LeMay (aka Buck Turgidson) ever did, as he seems to have inhabited a world whose main modern parallel are the post apocalypse video games advertised for Playstation. And what is the role of the academy in this? Those people who provide the rationalizations that allow madmen to believe they are sane.

  2. Tim Macknay
    October 21st, 2016 at 13:24 | #2

    @Newtownian

    And a ‘case against slavery’ had to even be made ? (Your words John read a little strange – as though for any sane human being a case needed to be made in the first place).

    I think you’re being a bit anachronistic there. Obviously a case against slavery had to be made when it was an institution that had been in place for centuries (indeed since time immemorial), and was supported by powerful economic interests. The fact that it seems so obviously wrong and evil now is a reflection of the fact that social progress is possible, but it wasn’t always that way. Consider that it is well within living memory that homosexuality was broadly regarded as a disgusting and criminal perversion, and now it is more commonly thought of as a normal human variation (notwithstanding the persistence of the older view in some quarters). Values can change, sometimes profoundly.

  3. Troy Prideaux
    October 21st, 2016 at 13:38 | #3

    Tim Macknay :
    Consider that it is well within living memory that homosexuality was broadly regarded as a disgusting and criminal perversion, and now it is more commonly thought of as a normal human variation (notwithstanding the persistence of the older view in some quarters). Values can change, sometimes profoundly.

    Condition that *in western/open society*. Most of the worlds population would likely still hold that old religious based view.

  4. October 21st, 2016 at 13:50 | #4

    This dovetails with my idea that most wars of the last two centuries were caused not by philosophies, religions, or nationalism, but by aggressive values such as acquisitiveness and opportunism and a general propensity to look for weakness to try to exploit it. These things appeal to many leaders as well as to the masses. When this is reflected in government policy, the result is war. It comes from a predatory mentality. The philosophies are mostly just an excuse.

    Hemingway said wars are caused by undefended wealth. This is true but implies that the victims are to blame. The truth is that wars are caused by those that pursue wealth aggressively (i.e. not through a transaction or trade of some type).

    Paranoia is not a value, but can also contribute. It is said that the Kaiser was obsessed with France’s long history of aggression. In his mind, he had to attack in order to prevent the French from running amok yet again. He was right of course. The French went on the offensive at the beginning of the war, and went on the defensive only after their own invasion of Germany failed and most of their army was outflanked. The Allied narrative of the Western Front was that of France trying to retain or regain territory, but it could have gone the other way.

    Wars are caused by leaders with a propensity for aggression.

  5. Tim Macknay
    October 21st, 2016 at 14:07 | #5

    @Troy Prideaux
    Yes, of course.

  6. Tom the first and best
    October 21st, 2016 at 17:03 | #6

    If the British Empire had staid out of the war, would Germany have won?

    What would be the consequences of that?

    Would it mean a German takeover of France, that would have left the UK in a weakened position in case of a future war with Germany (the rising power of its day, challenging the UK`s dominance and thus there being a reasonable chance such a war would have occurred)?

  7. Peter T
    October 21st, 2016 at 20:57 | #7

    When a system is under severe strain, conflict of one sort or another (ie civil or international war) becomes so very likely that we celebrate the few occasions that some combination of widespread common sense and inspired leadership manages to avert it. Europe (of which Australia was part) was under very severe strain in the decades before 1914 (rapid technological and social change, major internal political challenges, rapid changes in international standing and relative power, long-established social mores fading fast and so on). While the policymakers were culpable, their chances of avoiding a crash were slim indeed.

    As an example, Dominic Lieven outlines in detail in Towards the Flame the extent to which even the most war-averse of Russia’s elite, acutely conscious as they were of Russia’s many internal weaknesses, were hemmed in by the bellicosity of key sections of public opinion. The same was true in France, Austria-Hungary and even, to a considerable extent, Britain. While, in Germany, pretty much the entire political class was obsessed with talk of war or violent coup.

    Those who drag a country to war are to be condemned. Those who are dragged, pitied.

  8. Julie Thomas
    October 22nd, 2016 at 08:54 | #8

    Who knew that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were pacifists and that they were banned during WWII?

    It is an interesting story and the initial development of the JW religion is one of the threads of dissent that were happening prior to 1914.

    “Jehovah’s Witnesses grew out of an American Protestant Bible study group established by Charles Taze Russell in the early 1870s,ii and the sect’s teachings had reached Australia by 1896.

    “Russell stressed a particular millenarian eschatology based on a belief that the end of the world was near, and that Christ would destroy all worldly kingdoms and replace them with a paradise earth populated by Witnesses.iii

    “Russell believed that this paradise was open to all who would accept the message, thus the sect had a moral and spiritual obligation to spread the word to as many people as possible. As the end of the present system was imminent, Russell advised the Witnesses not to vote, hold public office or serve in the military.

    “By the 1930s, under the Presidency of ‘Judge’ Joseph Franklin Rutherford, the Witnesses aggressively attacked big business, politics and religion. They were politically neutral and were vocal opponents of military service. As a result of these ‘subversive’ practices,v

    “the Witnesses were banned all over the world during the Second World War and in some countries their literature was banned, they were subject to mob violence, and individual Witnesses were persecuted, imprisoned and executed as conscientious objectors.

    “In September 1939, Prime Minister Robert Menzies announced that as a consequence of Britain declaring war on Germany, Australia was also at war. Australia was placed on a war footing, the National Security Act was passed, and calls for volunteers for the Second AIF were made.

    “Surveillance of organizations thought to be dissident or disloyal began, and the Communist Party of Australia was banned in June 1940. In that same year, the 2,500 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia became the object of surveillance by the Army, the Navy, Military Intelligence, the Police and the Commonwealth Investigation Branch.”

    In 1940, ” A copy of a Witness publication distributed during the Anzac Day procession… not only savaged Roman Catholics but linked Mannix to major figures in organised crime:

    The publication said that;

    “The Roman Hierarchy is the direct cause of most of the poverty and crime in the world. Its teachings are not uplifting in spite of its boastings as proved by the large percentage of criminals from the drunk and the disorderly to a hanging matter who are of the Roman faith. What price Al Capone, ‘Legs’ Diamond, Dr Mannix … and scores of others? Right down the ages a rogues’ gallery could have been established from the wicked and depraved children of the Hierarchy.”

    I’m going to raise this with them next time they call and try to convert me.

    The complete story is here.

    http://www.flinders.edu.au/sabs/fjhp-files/2008/JaynePersian2008.pdf

  9. Tim Macknay
    October 22nd, 2016 at 11:04 | #9

    @Julie Thomas
    Yes, there was also a High Court case about it. The JW’s challenged the ban on the basis that it violated the guarantee of freedom of religion under section 116 of the Constitution. The Court ruled that the defence of the Constitution came before any rights protected under it, so the ban was upheld.

  10. Tim Macknay
    October 22nd, 2016 at 11:08 | #10

    @Julie Thomas
    Thanks for the link BTW, very interesting. I always had a vague idea that the JW’s didn’t like Catholics, but I didn’t know the background. People used to tell me that if you told the JW’s you were Catholic when they came around, they didn’t bother to try to convert you. Not sure if it was true though – I can’t remember if I ever tried it.

  11. Julie Thomas
    October 22nd, 2016 at 13:28 | #11

    @Tim Macknay

    It is a good story about something that few people know about and the fact that we don’t know about it is another of the things that allow “the bellicosity of key sections of public opinion” – as Peter T says – to flourish and to move in one direction or another.

    The author’s argument that “the banning of the Witnesses had as much to do with personal politics and a cavalier attitude to fundamental legal principles of religious freedom as with broader issues of national security”, may be irrelevant if the dynamics of the system, due to the influence key aggressive individuals have or for any other of the possible influences that determine which way an unstable system moves.

    It’s a real bummer for them that the world didn’t end on any of the predicted dates though. They don’t like that question either when they come to the door. 🙂 They seem to have survived as a sect with all their weird beliefs and they are another part of the famous Australian way of life that is apparently disappearing 🙂

  12. John Quiggin
    October 22nd, 2016 at 13:49 | #12

    “Al Capone, ‘Legs’ Diamond, Dr Mannix ” That’s a trio I’ve never seen grouped together before.

  13. Tom the first and best
    October 22nd, 2016 at 14:56 | #13

    Public opinion is a complex issue.

    Bellicose public opinion is often increased by loud and powerful bellicose voices, who are the type try and often succeed in dominating public opinion by being louder. If they are seriously promoting a proposed unlawful war, it might be worth considering prosecution for insighting an unlawful war.

    The accuracy of determining what public opinion is has increased dramatically in the last century with polling and multiple voices getting fora.

  14. Julie Thomas
    October 22nd, 2016 at 16:08 | #14

    @John Quiggin

    A category error you reckon?

  15. October 22nd, 2016 at 16:14 | #15

    @Newtownian

    As for the case against slavery being made, it seems to me that there are people in the present day making the case for a partial re-introduction of slavery. Workers for $2 a day anyone?

  16. sdfc
    October 22nd, 2016 at 20:40 | #16

    I didn’t know Brian Mannix was a doctor.

  17. Lesley de Voil
    October 22nd, 2016 at 21:33 | #17

    sdfc, it refers to Dr Daniel Mannix, Archbishop (RC) of Melbourne for many years.

  18. paul walter
    October 23rd, 2016 at 04:32 | #18

    That last para is poetic. A hard rain’s gonna fall…

  19. GrueBleen
    October 23rd, 2016 at 07:26 | #19

    @Tom the first and best
    Your #6

    Pardon my tardy response but yes, counterfactuals are fun, aren’t they, so I too would like to propose a couple:

    1. What would have happened if Australia had stayed entirely out of WWI ? Would it have changed the outcome in any way given that it was the entry of America that finally ended the war.

    Official numbers are that about 60,000 out of 400,000 enlisted Australians were killed in WWI and there’s good reason to consider that number grossly understated if deaths shortly after the war – eg in 1919 and 1920 – are included.

    David Noonan has written:
    “As a proportion of its fighting force of men who were actually exposed to a theatre of war, Australia’s army suffered more deaths, more hospitalisations for wounding and more hospitalisations for illness and injury than the armies of Britain, Germany, France, Canada or the United States. Winning this war came at too high a cost for this young nation; for Australia, the First World War was indeed a pyrrhic victory.”

    2. What would have happened if, instead of “going to war for a scrap of paper” (as the German Kaiser described it), Great Britain had thrown its power and influence into preventing WWI ?

    Would that have meant that it wouldn’t have been that:
    “What had started as a small, local problem in the Balkans was turning into the biggest and most brutal war the world had ever seen.”

  20. Ikonoclast
    October 23rd, 2016 at 07:28 | #20

    What’s that quote from the Big Short?

    “Truth is like poetry. Nobody likes f***ing poetry.”

    It’s an exaggeration of course. There are a few who like truth and poetry.

  21. Greg McKenzie
    October 23rd, 2016 at 08:26 | #21

    It was the Greek philosophers who started the academic war against poetry. Read Plato and you get the sense that the Greek poets were evil twisters of facts into dangerous fiction. In the Twentieth century, the poets won. Taking Homer as some sort of role model, they glorified war and turned military disasters into nation building moments. I am just waiting for someone to become poetic about the Vietnam War, now that would be evil. My father went to war, his brother was in the Australia Army from 1939 until 1945 and they both condemned war as a waste of their mates’ lives.

  22. GrueBleen
    October 23rd, 2016 at 08:49 | #22

    @Ikonoclast
    Your #20

    Like this, you mean ?

    Dulce et Decorum Est
    By Wilfred Owen

    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

    Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
    And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
    Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

    In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

    If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori
    .

  23. Tom the first and best
    October 23rd, 2016 at 11:49 | #23

    @GrueBleen

    1. I am not sure that Australia could have stayed out of WWI. Australia was very culturally and politically British at the time, with strong support for the war at the start. The UK was also still responsible for foreign policies such as wars at the time and the UK Parliament still had full legislative authority over Australia at that time and could have tried to impose the war on Australia against the Government`s wishes. That could have got messy for Australia.

    The deaths, on all sides, were far too high in WWI and much could have been done to significantly reduce them in number.

    2. Had the British put their full might behind stopping the war, it might have been stopped. However the UK did not want Germany to dominate Europe (which baring WWII, they held off for about a century) and a German victory would have made Germany the clear dominate power in Europe. The UK probably would not have gone to war if the neutrality of Belgium was the only issue at stake, there were larger policy issues at stake and the Kaiser is hardly a neutral source.

  24. Ikonoclast
    October 23rd, 2016 at 11:55 | #24

    War has developed a bit of an image problem since the advent of the TV age. That’s a good thing but still it hasn’t stopped them. What’s it going to take?

  25. Tom the first and best
    October 23rd, 2016 at 12:02 | #25

    Also, given British naval superiority was such a significant part of Australia`s defence planning, not coming to the aid of the UK would have hurt our ability to be defended.

  26. Peter T
    October 23rd, 2016 at 20:55 | #26

    @Tom the first and best

    The British did put considerable weight behind stopping a general war. They initially refused to back the French and Russians and proposed a general conference (the accepted way of settling great power differences). What pushed them was German demands on France, German refusal of a conference, the invasion of Belgium and the background of a decade of bellicose behaviour from Germany coupled with the German threat to command of their home waters.

  27. GrueBleen
    October 24th, 2016 at 01:38 | #27

    @Tom the first and best
    Your #23 and #25

    the UK Parliament still had full legislative authority over Australia at that time and could have tried to impose the war on Australia against the Government`s wishes. That could have got messy for Australia.

    Well I’m really glad we took the totally unmessy step of entering WWI without being commanded to by Britain, then. Just think, we might have had to deny some British Parliamentary legislation and instead all we did was sent hundreds of thousands of Aussies overseas and get tens of thousands of them killed with nearly as many to die in the next few years as well. So much cleaner, wasn’t it.

    Of course, as the early volunteer rate for service in WWI showed, British intervention wasn’t needed, but as the failure of Billy Hughes’s conscription plebiscites showed, Aussie enthusiasm for dying for the Empire wasn’t unlimited. So, I would say that Australia could have stood out of WWI if enough Aussies had wanted too – after all, what would Britain be able to do about it, come and invade us ?

    The deaths, on all sides, were far too high in WWI and much could have been done to significantly reduce them in number.

    Oh, ok, how many deaths would you call just enough, then ? 30,000 perhaps ?

    Had the British put their full might behind stopping the war, it might have been stopped. However the UK did not want Germany to dominate Europe

    Right, so of course the rabid slaughter of WWI – estimated to be about 11 million military personnel and 7 million ‘civilians’ along with a lot more in the few years after 1918 – was just a small price to pay to prevent Germany from “dominating Europe”. I’m sure we can all agree to the wisdom of that.

    not coming to the aid of the UK would have hurt our ability to be defended.

    Oh yes, all those Royal Navy vessels patrolling around Australia and defending our shores. But just who were they defending us from ? I don’t think America was interested in invading us back then.

  28. Kevin O’Neill
    October 24th, 2016 at 04:58 | #28

    Greg McKenzie – there are numerous Vietnam veterans that turned to poetry; my favorite is Michael Casey. Here’s an excerpt from ‘A Bummer’ from his first book, Obscenities:

    If you have a farm in Vietnam
    And a house in hell
    Sell the farm
    And go home

  29. John Bentley
    October 24th, 2016 at 09:00 | #29

    John after reading Richard Davenport-Hines book on the great man “The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes I now have a better understanding of why the Great War began and why WW2 began.

    Furthermore, there can be no such thing as a good war, all wars are bad on any level of understanding. I say that as a son of WW2 veteran. Churchill sent my father to Greece to become cannon fodder for the Germans. This manouvre was executed by Churchill on the pretext of trying to get the US to support the British.

    While men lust for power, money and glory we will always have wars!!!

  30. October 24th, 2016 at 09:55 | #30

    In economic terms, WWI was a continual auction for primacy in Europe. Simplifying grossly, Germany opens. “I bid 50,000 dead German soldiers.” France says “I see your 50,000 dead and raise you 10,000”. Germany counterbids 70,000. Continue to 11 million.The point being that at any given moment in the war all the old deaths were sunk costs, and as such irrelevant; the original objective – mastery in Europe – was thought to be worth the number of extra deaths in the next bid, and it was only those extra deaths that were at issue, which meant that it was worth bidding. If the Germans had had to open with a bid of five million, or if they had and the French had to decide whether to bid six million, the results might have been different; but that’s not the way it worked.

  31. Greg McKenzie
    October 25th, 2016 at 08:00 | #31

    Kevin O’Neill, the only poetry I heard from the Vietnam regs at Singleton was all unprintable. Most were senior NCOs just back and very scarred individuals. My next door neighbour was conscripted and came back a broken man, he eventually killed himself. Nothing very poetical there. But I do take your point about dark side poetry, until the Vietnam conflict I did not get poetry at all, but the dark stuff makes sense. Let’s not ever let the Vietnam conflict get to become another nationalistic myth. War is hell and few people come back from hell unharmed.

  32. anthony nolan
    October 26th, 2016 at 20:10 | #32

    Well sir, I’ll briefly recount a family tale, documantarily verified, in which a great uncle who was well in touch with the anti-war arguments of the IWW, initially refused to enlist in WWI and then succumbed, after small town pressure in a mining community full of Wlesh, Scots and the Eglish, to anonymous white feathers in the mail. The sign of the coward. An homosexual (relish that) and a pacifist he managed to enlist in the field ambulance where he was posted to Egypt and France. According to official docs presented by the Museum of Wars and Bloody Nation Building, he spent a large amount of time AWOL or recuperating from an STD, apparently most of them, in hospitals in London.

    A sensible man who who responded to the horrors of the battle front by running away and rooting himself senseless whenever possible.

    He retired to a lower-Hunter nest where he became a ‘personal attendant’ to a Chinese market gardener once known as ‘Chinaman’s Hollow’ but which is now, amazingly, dedicated as a peace park by the local council.

    Having inherited his opium pipe, locally employed as an undistinguished clerk, one day I read about how opium poppies had been discovered growing in the area then known as ‘chinaman’s hollow’. The state authorities were tearing out the largest wild cannabis crop in Australian history, on the banks of the Hunter River, sometime in the early seventies, when they discovered my great uncle’s heritage.

    A solid contribution to Australia, the clever old bugger, as they say, from a man who was as well educated then as to the insane hazards of life as anyone could be today. A clever ct to follow.

  33. October 27th, 2016 at 13:29 | #33

    Professor Quiggin wrote:

    The same point is made by Newton in Hell-Bent: Australia’s leap into the Great War (recommended in comments a while ago by James Sinnamon.

    Thank you, Professor Quiggin.

    In 2014 – before July 2014 when “Hell-Bent” was published – I have deduced – Douglas Newton also published “The Darkest Days – the Truth Behind Britain’s Rush to War, 1914”. Other titles by Douglas Newton listed on DouglasNewton _dot_ net include: “Germany 1918 – from Days of Hope to Years of Horror” (2016), “British Policy and the Weimar Republic” (2016), “British Labour, European Socialism and the Struggle for Peace 1889-1914” (2016). (He seems very prolific in writing about topics which are of interest to me. I will be sure to make enquiries at my local bookshop and library.)

    Anthony Nolan, your grandfather’s experience seems similar to those of Ernest Hemingway in Italy in 1918 as described in his book “A farewell to Arms” (1929).

    I disagree with what John Bentley wrote:

    Churchill sent my father to Greece to become cannon fodder for the Germans. This manouvre was executed by Churchill on the pretext of trying to get the US to support the British.

    /p>

    … which appears to have become established wisdom. Had Churchill (for all his terrible faults) not sent Commonwealth forces to Greece, Hitler would have been able to launch his invasion of the Soviet Union some weeks earlier than 22 June 1941 and the German Army would have almost certainly defeated the Red Army before the 194/42 winter set in.

    The consequences for humanity would have almost certainly been even more terrible than that which subsequently occurred. Eastern Europe, and much of Russia, would have been depopulated, with starvation, bullets and extermination camps, to create Lebensraum for the Aryan “master race.”

    Today, almost certainly, we would, at best, be living in a bi-polar world, divided up between the Third Reich and the United States.

    The terrible sacrifice made by Australians, New Zealanders, British and Greeks against the Italians and Germans in 1941 was clearly a sacrifice that was vastly preferable to the alternative.

    So, whilst I agree with Professor Quiggin that the First World War was a stupid unnecessary slaughter, humanity truly had a stake in the outcome in the Second World.

    The “Balmain Trotskyists”, including Nick Origlass, Issy Weiner, Jim McLelland and Laurie Short, in accord with the views on held by Leon Trotsky, before his murder in August 1940, applied the template, through which they had correctly viewed the First World World War, to the Second World War.

    As shown in “The Battle for Australia” (2013) by Bob Wurth, industrial action by trade union militants as advocated by the “Balmain Trotskyists” on a number of occasions, hampered efforts to defend Australia. This included industrial action on the Darwin waterfront in January 1941 (p59, p107).

    The contrary view, which applies the abovementioned Trotskyist paradigm, which I consider flawed, to the Second World War is to be found in “Australia’s Pacific War” (2011) by Tom O’Lincoln.

  34. John Quiggin
    October 27th, 2016 at 15:36 | #34

    Thanks for these further references, James. I’ll chase the Newton links.

  35. GrueBleen
    October 28th, 2016 at 08:50 | #35

    @James
    Your #33

    Today, almost certainly, we would, at best, be living in a bi-polar world, divided up between the Third Reich and the United States.

    So, you reckon the Third Reich would have conquered the whole of Asia, then ? Japan and China would have been speaking German ? And India ?

  36. October 29th, 2016 at 14:41 | #36

    @GrueBleen,

    I have since corrected what I wrote above that
    @GrueBleen,

    After I made that post, I modified what I had written above on an adapted copy of that post published on my own web-site:

    Today, almost certainly, we would, at best, be living in a world divided up between the German Third Reich, the Empire of Japan and the United States. At worst, we would be living in a bi-polar world, split between Germany and Japan.

    Had Nazi Germany, and its allies Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Italy – conquered the Sovier Union, they would, from the resources they would have been able to plunder from Russia and other Soviet republics, been able to give Japan sufficient resources to conquer the rest of Asia and Australasia.

    What made it posssible for the Soviet peoples to prevent this, but at terrible cost were:

    1. The delay to the launch of Operation Barbarossa caused by the necessity of Nazi Germany to first conquer Greece and Yugoslaeavia. Clearly the bravery of, and sacrifice by, Australians (including John Bentley’s late father), New Zealanders, British, Greeks and Yugoslavs in early 1941 almost certainly changed the outcome of that war; and

    2. Supplies from the United States of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and the entry of the United States into the war against Japan on 7 December 1941 and against Nazi Germany a few days later.

    So (as I said above), unlike the case with the First World War, the Second World War was one in which humanity had a vital stake in the outcome.

    Australia’s Labor Prime Minister John Curtin, who conscripted Australians to fight against the Axis powers during the Second World War, campaigned to defeat conscription during the First World War.

    Clearly, if he were around today, he would agree with me.

  37. GrueBleen
    October 29th, 2016 at 16:32 | #37

    @James
    Your #36

    a bi-polar world, split between Germany and Japan

    .

    So, who would have conquered the Americas (North, South and Canada) and why wouldn’t the victor have used the enormous industrial and resources (eg oil) facilities of the ex-USA to conquer the other one ? I presume neither would have been interested in Africa, and presumably you would expect Japan to conquer China and India.

    the Second World War was one in which humanity had a vital stake in the outcome.

    Mebbe. What do you estimate is the lifetime of the human race ? One million years ? 10 million years ? One hundred million years ? One hundred years ?

  38. Collin Street
    October 30th, 2016 at 06:48 | #38

    Hitler would have been able to launch his invasion of the Soviet Union some weeks earlier than 22 June 1941 and the German Army would have almost certainly defeated the Red Army before the 194/42 winter set in.

    Well, no, because the red army was retreating in reasonable order and had lots of strategic depth: it wasn’t close to beaten by the time the german advance peaked, and additional materiel deployed against it wouldn’t have pushed it over.

    Which isn’t to say that the greek invasion was wasted or anything — the greek campaign may have even been a net bonus — it’s just that it didn’t have the critical effect you think it had.

    [Churchill had a full-on obsession with opening sideshows that were supposed — by long and implausible chains of consequences — to be “decisive”; it’s dardenelles all over again. Probably this killed more men than it saved — burma certainly did — probably most of them were colonials and coloured, apparently because churchill didn’t have a very high regard for the fighting abilities of the english.]

  39. October 31st, 2016 at 11:56 | #39

    GrueBleen wrote:

    So, who would have conquered the Americas (North, South and Canada) … ?

    Given the United States’ meddling in Latin America after the Second World War – in Guatemala, Costa Rica, British Guiana, Haiti, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Uruguay, Chile, Jamaica, Argentina, etc., could the outcome possibly have hardly been better be any better in world in which Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and their had conquered the Soviet Union and Japan had conquered the rest of Asia and Australasia.

    A United States government, that was prepared to make peace with such evil, would hardly be a government would be less prepared to meddle in the affairs of Latin America, with or without the collusion of the Axis powers.

    Collin Street in response to:

    Hitler would have been able to launch his invasion of the Soviet Union some weeks earlier than 22 June 1941 and the German Army would have almost certainly defeated the Red Army before the 194/42 winter set in.

    … wrote:

    Well, no, because the red army was retreating in reasonable order and had lots of strategic depth: it wasn’t close to beaten by the time the german advance peaked, and additional materiel deployed against it wouldn’t have pushed it over.

    In 1941, the Red Army suffered catastrophic defeat after catastrophic defeat. Time and time again – at Smolensk, Minsk, Kiev, vast armies were encircled and hundreds of thousands died and hundreds of thousands more were captured.

    By the time Nazi Germany was defeated, a staggering number of Soviet citizens had died. The numbers are estimated to be between 20 million and 25 milliod n military and civilian. By Comparison (from my recollection), around 400,000 Americans had died and 300,000 members of the British Commonwealth had died. As terrible as these death tolls are, they are more than an order of magnitude less than that of the Soviet Union.

    Years ago, in a television documentary about that war, I learnt that of every 200 soldiers in the Red Army in 1941, only 3 were still alive at the end of the war. This even makes the Jewish holocaust look tame by comparison.

    The person who, more than anyone else, helped make this possible was Stalin. Stalin had infamously purged the best officers from the Red Army in 1938.

    In 1939, by signing the Stalin-Hitler pact and supplying Nazi Germany with vast quantities of raw materials, he made it possible for Nazi Germany to conquer Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and France. Fortunately for both the British and the Soviet Union, this proved insufficient to enable Nazi Germany to invade Britain in 1940.

    Stalin was warned repeatedly, by the Americans, the British, his own agents, including the German Communist Richard Sorge, who worked in the German embassy in Tokyo, that Nazi Germany was going to invade in the middle of 1941, but he ignored those warnings. On one occasion, a German soldier, who escaped to the Red Army lines to warn them of the invasion, was shot.

    The terrible slaughter of Red Army soldiers did not end with the first defeat of German Armies at Moscow in the winter of 1941/42. The death toll suffered by the Red Army in its victory at Stalingrad was twice that suffered by Nazi Germany.

    The terrible carnage continued right up until the defeat of Nazi Germany in May 1945.

    If it were not for Stalin, Nazi Germany would have been defeated years earlier, at a small fraction of the cost to the British Commonwealth, America, France and other allies and most of all, to the Soviet Union.

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