J. V. Stalin

Origin and Character of the Second World War

February 9, 1946

Source: For Peaceful Coexistence: Post War Interviews
Publisher: International Publishers, New York, 1951
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid

[From a speech to the voters of his district during the elections to the Supreme Soviet, February 9, 1946]

It would be wrong to think that the Second World War was a casual occurrence or the result of mistakes of any particular statesmen, though mistakes undoubtedly were made. Actually, the war was the inevitable result of the development of world economic and political forces on the basis of modern monopoly capitalism. Marxists have declared more than once that the capitalist system of world economy harbors elements of general’s crises and armed conflicts and that, hence, the development of capitalism in our time proceeds not in the form of smooth, and even progress but through crises and military catastrophe.

The fact is that the unevenness of development of the capitalist countries usually leads in time to violent disturbance of equilibrium in the world system of capitalism. That group of capitalist countries which considers itself worse provided than others with raw materials and markets usually makes attempts to alter the situation and to repartition the “spheres of influence” in its favor by armed force. The result is a splitting of the capitalist world into two hostile camps and war between them.

Perhaps military catastrophes might be avoided if it were possible for raw materials and markets to be periodically redistributed among the various countries in accordance with their economic importance, by agreement and peaceable settlement. But that is impossible to do under present capitalist conditions of the development of world economy.

Thus the First World War (1914-18) was the result of the first crisis of the capitalist system of world economy, and the Second World War (1939-45) was the result of a second crisis.

That does not mean of course that the Second World War is a copy of the first. On the contrary, the Second World War differs materially from the first in character. It must be borne in mind that before attacking the Allied countries the principal fascist states—Germany, Japan, and Italy—destroyed the last vestiges of bourgeois-democratic liberties at home, established a brutal terrorist regime in their own countries, rode roughshod over the principles of sovereignty and free development of small countries, proclaimed a policy of seizure of alien territories as their own policy, and declared for all to hear that they were out for world domination and the establishment of a fascist regime throughout the world.

Moreover, by the seizure of Czechoslovakia and of the central areas of China, the Axis states showed that they were prepared to carry out their threat of enslaving all freedom-loving nations. In view of this, unlike the First World War, the Second World War against the Axis states from the very outset assumed the character of an anti-fascist war, a war of liberation, one aim of which was also the restoration of democratic liberties. The entry of the Soviet Union into the war against the Axis states could only enhance, and indeed did enhance, the anti-fascist and liberation character of the Second World War.

It was on this basis that the anti-fascist coalition of the Soviet Union, the United States of America, Great Britain, and other freedom-loving states came into being—a coalition which subsequently played a decisive part in defeating the armed forces of the Axis states.

That is how matters stand as regards the origin and character of the Second World War.