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The Militant, 23 March 1946

Eugene Varlin

Another War Will Doom Civilization,
Analysis of World War II Reveals

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 12, 23 March 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


What will be the fate of mankind under the continued rule of capitalism with its recurrent imperialist wars? This begins a series of articles on the arsenal of death-dealing weapons concentrated in the hands of the imperialist warmakers who in their lust for world domination now threaten the total destruction of modern civilization.

* * *

American imperialism has demonstrated that it will stop at nothing in its drive to dominate the world. Less than eight months after the end of the war, open preparations for the Third World War are in full swing. The diplomatic and propaganda offensive of Anglo-American imperialism against the Soviet Union has begun.

World War II was the most destructive war in history. It was a total war that spared neither soldier nor civilian. It was a scientific war whose nature was determined by the weapons of destruction created by modern technology. And like World War I, it was an imperialist war fought for colonies, markets, and world domination.

What will World War III be like? To answer this question, it is first necessary to examine the enormous increase in the destructive power of the military weapons created during the Second World War.

The Second World War began by employing all the destructive weapons developed toward the close of the First World War, plus improvements and inventions made between the two wars. In 1918, the tank was first coming into use. The tank blitzkrieg of Poland opened the Second World War in 1939. In 1918, the primary function of military aircraft was the observation of enemy movements or reconnaissance. Large scale bombing even of military objectives was unknown in World War I. It was symbolic that the bombing of the civilian population of Warsaw opened the Second World War in 1939.

New Weapons

The war speeded up the development of new military weapons and these new weapons in turn affected the conduct of military operations. In 1939 the British Major General F.N. Mason MacFarlane declared, “There is one great worry shared by both the British and German command. The nightmare that haunts us is the fear that one of our planes may drop the first bomb that kills a civilian.” What a far cry from those days of six years ago to these!

When the German Luftwaffe bombed England in 1940, Roosevelt denounced the bombing of civilians as an inhuman crime. Two years later, American bombers were wreaking even greater and more indiscriminate havoc on German cities. Roosevelt claimed that these bombings were limited to industrial targets. In the imperialist code that meant slaughter of civilian workers had become morally acceptable.

What limited the imperialist powers was not moral scruples but the nature and quantity of weapons at their disposal. In the last year of the war, air weapons came into use which made it impossible to speak of “pinpoint” bombings of war industries. The “moral” distinction between strategic industrial and non-industrial targets disappeared. Total annihilation of the enemy population became a “legitimate” objective. Why? Because, claimed the propagandists, it “would help end the war.”

The German buzz-bomb, radio-piloted and rocket-propelled, was greeted with indignation by the outraged defenders of morality in the camp of American and British imperialism. The pilotless buzz-bomb did not distinguish between military and non-military objectives, they said. What really offended them, of course, was that the German militarists had gotten the jump on them in rocket warfare. Research in rocket bombs was soon under way in the United States.

However, in 1943, long before buzz-bombs came into use, the United States completed experiments with incendiary bombs in Utah. These bombs had been tested on a full-size replica of a Japanese village. An incendiary was perfected that could not be extinguished by any known firefighting equipment. “The scattered fragments of this bomb,” wrote the N.Y. Times, “would make a veritable torch out of any material it struck, wood or metal.”

These incendiary bombs were used to devastate the working-class districts of Germany and Japan in the last months of the war. When I was in Germany, I saw the town of Wurzburg which, two months earlier, had been bombed by these incendiaries for only 20 minutes. One-fourth of Wurzburg’s pre-war, population of 102,000 was burnt alive. I saw charred skeletons removed from ruins and dumped into mass graves in the city parks.

Drew Middleton wrote in the. N.Y. Times on June 22, 1945, that 400,000 of the inhabitants of Hamburg were killed by bombings. He stated that “thousands were baked alive in shelters as apartment houses and tenements fell burning about them.” “Apartment houses and tenements” – these were the new “military objectives” of the American war lords.

Global War

World War I was confined primarily to Europe. World War II was a global war. Only the American continents did not become battlefields. World War II was fought in Europe, Asia and Africa. But casualties were not confined to these far-flung battlefields. Any place within range of modern air power became a target. And the range, speed, number and bomb-load of aircraft increased tremendously in the course of the war. The war began with 200-mile sorties into Poland by the German Luftwaffe. When it ended, American Superfortresses were making a 3,000 mile round trip to bomb Japan.

World War II was for more destructive than World War I. On the European front alone there were 60,000,000 military casualties as compared with 37,000,000 in the First World War. In addition, civilian casualties numbered tens of millions. Japan, hardly affected by the First World War, suffered almost 6,000,000 casualties in the Second World War. There were 260,000 American casualties in World War I: over 1,070,000 in World War II.

During the war, the rate of destruction was enormously accelerated. Germany began the war with the most advanced military techniques known up to that time. Nevertheless, all her bombings of England throughout the six years of war killed’ “no more than” 60,585 civilians. On March 10, 1945, 300 Superfortresses dropped 2,300 tons of incendiaries on Tokyo, murdering almost 100,000 Japanese people. The two atom bombs dropped by two planes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are officially admitted to have killed more than 600,000 people.

General Arnold of the Army Air Forces has stated: “The weapons of today are the museum pieces of tomorrow.” The atom bombs which wiped out Hiroshima and Nagasaki have already become museum pieces. The Third World War, if it comes, will be an atomic war – and atomic war can mean the complete destruction of civilization.

(To Be Continued)

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