Book Review from the November 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard
The Struggle for Hearts and Minds. Essays on the Second World War by Raymond Challinor (Bewick Press)
This book lives up to its title, being a collection of articles written for different journals over the years on working class discontent in Britain during the Second World War.
Challinor is under no illusion as to why the war was fought, not to 'defend democracy' and 'defeat fascism' but to defend the conflicting economic and strategic interests of the ruling classes of the countries involved.
He gives a good account of what these interests were but his main theme is about how warring governments also have to take steps to maintain 'the will to fight' amongst the population they rule over. His contention is that, on a number of occasions in Britain, this was in danger of being undermined, but that this was hushed up - and so successfully contained - by the authorities.
Challinor describes how the Labour Party was a loyal defender of the British Empire (one of the key issues at stake in the war) both before and during the war, even ordering the bombing of tribespeople in Iraq to protect British oil interests there. He reminds us too of the ultra-jingoist position adopted by the Communist Party, though only after the German attack on Russia on 21 June 1941. Before that they had loyally supported the Nazi-Soviet Pact, calling for a negotiated peace with Germany, a demand Challinor shows had more widespread support amongst people (and not just Moscow puppets or Nazi sympathisers) than we have been led to believe.
Challinor writes as a Trotskyist (though at the time he was a member of the old ILP, not that the two were incompatible) and so exaggerates not the discontent itself, but the possibilities of exploiting it for anti-war ends. Despite this, this is a book which will be of interest to Socialists. It also contains a number of well-aimed cartoons, one which we reproduce here.