It's been suggested that fascist movements of post-WW1 Europe emerged in reaction to the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and against worker sympathies to similar internationalist socialist movements thru-out the rest of Europe. In particular, civil war in Spain broke out before WW2 even started; it was a struggle between socialists and fascists. Similar crises were boiling in Italy, Hungary, and elsewhere. However, we now know that WW2 was fought to stop Nazis from taking over the world, and in particular to eradicate Nazi racism and white supremecist ideology, beginning with a noble effort to defend Poland against Nazi aggression. Ultimately, the Allies were only partially successful, because tragically the Holocaust wasn't stopped.

What evidence is typically used to argue that WW2 was a struggle between Fascism and Communism, rather than a war to end racism?

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    Are we talking about the same World War II here? The one that took place between about 1939 and 1945? The one that was basically a result of unresolved tensions from World War I?
    – Mark
    Mar 2, 2019 at 2:11
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    "we now know" - please omit this phrase and provide citations. This reads like an argument, not like a question. What research have you done? What sources have you consulted?
    – MCW
    Mar 2, 2019 at 13:08

1 Answer 1


Theoretical conceptions of history as "grand events" with "meanings" are highly controversial amongst historians. Historians generally prefer to talk about processes causing further processes. In relation to WWII, the idea that WWII was fought in order to end racism or exterminationalist racism is rare.

The defeat of the exterminationalist German government is usually portrayed in the light of:

  • France and the United Kingdom's failed efforts to hegemonise central Europe through alliance systems, and their eventual decision to honour their covenants with minor states;
  • The Soviet Union's broad ambitions to hegemonise an international revolutionary movement while maintaining its territorial integrity from feared external capitalist powers; and,
  • The close economic and political ties between the United Kingdom and the United States in the context of the economy of the United States' massive abundance and the posture towards open trade that resulted from this economic dominance.

None of these explanations are rooted in anti-exterminationalist politics. As the Soviet presentation of evidence at Nuremberg in relation to mass killings of Soviet citizens demonstrates—the only great power to be directly effected by a racist plan to eliminate large ethnic groups amongst its population—the Soviet Union as the only power potentially motivated by anti-racism did not propagandise its war as anti-racist but rather as anti-fascist.

The United Kingdom and United States as political and cultural agents redescribed their war efforts after the war to contextualise them in terms of anti-genocidal activity, but such recontexualisations of the purpose of their war efforts ring hollow. Liberating the camps was a side effect of defeating German imperialism.

Despite the Japanese state's ethnically motivated massacres of populations, the extermination of entire ethnic groups never seems to have been a feature of the process of Japanese war. The states fighting Japan did not contextualise their war in terms of opposing exterminationalist racism. The states fighting Japan did not specifically contextualise the racism of Japan as significant as opposed to the killing of civilians or invasion of states and colonies.

The most significant theoretical narrative which centres Communism as the cause for WWII is a variant of the marxist "imperialist war" thesis. This thesis posits that competing imperial economic blocs in capitalism will be drawn into war over the manner in which the global periphery and minor powers are hegemonically controlled. The corollary being that if an area or state was, or was apparently, communist that stamping out this potential to bring down capitalism in general would be an attractive policy move. While the marxist concepts around "imperialism" or "world systems" can adequately explain the war in relation to Poland or China, in relation to the attempted conquest of the Soviet Union it is worth noting the strong anti-communist motivation of states in Central Europe. These motivations were often pitched at the level of "civilisation" or "culture," at a level fully aware of the imagined potential for communism to transform world cultures, and to oppose such a transformation.

The chief evidence here being the attitudes of states drawn into Germany's periphery: Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, Spain. In all of these states right wing anti-communist governments, some arguably "fascist" from a Marxist perspective, volunteered aid or participated directly in an effort to subdue the Soviet Union as an imagined communist threat. This can be differentiated from Finland's attempts to ensure state integrity or Germany's desire for imperial conquest and to racially discipline through murder 90% of the Soviet Population west of their intended stop line.

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    Given that Germans argued to defend culture against civilisation in WWI (and 'Russian' barbarism/despotism/tsarism in the East…), that part would benefit from some clarifications (who pitched what, when, or described/analysed it afterwards as such&such) and of course: sources! Mar 2, 2019 at 11:58

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