File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 256

Date: Mon, 13 Oct 1997 13:27:35 -0400
Subject: M-I: Ernest Mandel on "The Meaning of WWII"

I only stumbled across this book through Norman Geras's hostile reference
to it in his recent NLR article on Marxism's inability to "explain" the
Holocaust, which is really more about Geras's inability to understand Marxism.

I suspect that this Verso title from 1986 is long out of print, but if you
spot a used copy or can get a hold of it in the library, it is strongly
recommended. Although Mandel makes no reference anywhere to Von
Clausewitz's dictum of war being a continuation of politics by other means,
this is the spirit that informs every page of the short (169 pages) but
extremely dense book.

There are references to a vast array of specialist literature ranging from
diplomatic papers to military strategy and tactics and all of it is
integrated into a Marxist analysis.

Here is a sample:

"Once the Battle of Britain was lost and Operation Sea Lion cancelled, the
Blitzkreig had to be extended to other areas, as time was beginning to run
out. The German High Command would have preferred a mopping-up operation in
the Western Mediterranean and North-West Africa. This indeed made sense
from a strategic point of view, both in the short-and long-term. By taking
Gibraltar and securing the Moroccan and North-West African coast up Dakar,
German imperialism would have created much more favorable conditions for a
future onslaught against Egypt and the Middle East and against the
Americas. But that operation (Undertaking Felix) hinged upon the consent
of, if not active cooperation by, Franco and Petain. Here formidable
military-economic and political-psychological obstacles arose.

"The Spanish army had been severely weakened as a result of the Civil War.
The country's economy was in ruins. There was starvation in several
regions. the same applied, mutatis mutandis, to Vichy France's army and
economy, both in the rump metropolis and in the colonies. Under these
circumstances, any military large-scale operation would have to be fully
funded, armed and supplied by Germany itself, whose lines of communications
were already considerably stretched (the distance between Bordeaux-Dakar is
longer than that between Berlin-Stalingrad). It also meant putting large
quantities of arms at the disposal of forces about whose reliability as
allies Hitler had the gravest doubts (they could be turned against Germany
either by the generals themselves or by the soldiers--the vast majority of
both the French and Spanish masses were hostile to an outright alliance
with Germany). The reluctance of Franco and Petain fully to commit
themselves to active military cooperation with Hitler was intensified by
the outcome of the Battle of Britain: doubts began to arise whether the
German upstart adventurer could really win the war. Hitler himself did not
feel like committing great resources to Undertaking Felix, since he would
need them once the operation aginst the Soviet Union commenced. So, after
hesitating for some months, Operation Barbarossa, planned as early as July
1940, became the next Blitzkreig."

Louis Proyect

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