by Ernest Mandel
Chapter 4 Resources
World wars ....result from the operation of the law of uneven development, that is, from the contradiction between the tendency of the industrial-financial balance of imperialist forces to undergo periodic modification (through the upsurge of specific bourgeois classes previously retarded in their development) and the tendency for the division of the world into spheres of influence to remain frozen for a longer period. This last division is reflected in military naval build-up, in international alliances and preferential trade, custom and monetary systems which change much more slowly than the industrial-financial relationship of forces in and of themselves.
....German military-industrial establishment had embarked systematically on a huge programme of stockpiling vital raw materials before the start of the war. Indeed, this had become one of the essential aspects of war preparations.3 Once war had begun, and after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, important additions came from, or via, the Soviet Union itself.4 Ianthe second place, the same establishment had systematically organized the substitution of chemical raw materials (above all synthetic rubber and oil), generally drawn from coal, for natural ones, which it knew it would lack in case of a prolonged war. These preparations were quite successful, although they made the resources vulnerable to concentrated aerial attack. In the third place, military conquest and long-term occupation of specific territories gave the German war machine access to riches it could neither produce nor afford to buy. To mention one example: by occupying France, Germany acquired a stock of natural gasoline larger than the whole annual production of synthetic oil in German factories. The German High Command, and Hitler personally, were absolutely obsessed with this aspect of direct physical plunder, and on several occasions modified basic military priorities in line with thatobjective.5 In the fourth place, military strength enabled Germany to blackmail neutral powers into 'selling' raw materials either against increasingly valueless paper currency or by exchange in the form of barter. The outstanding example of this was Swedish iron ore, but Turkish chrome and Portuguese wolfram also featured.6Henri Michel has summarized Sweden's collaboration with the Third Reich thus: 'From 1940 onwards, and throughout the war, Sweden supplied Germany with virtually all the iron-ore that it did not process itself, or some 9 million tons a year. After initial objections, it allowed the Wehrmacht to dispatch or withdraw troops and equipment across its territory by rail, or through its coastal waters. Between July and December 1940, 130,000 moved across Sweden in this fashion, in both directions, and more than500 wagons. By the time that a whole German division, with guns and baggage, travelled through Sweden to the Finnish lines against the Soviet Union in June 1941, Swedish neutrality was scarcely more than a fiction, as Nazi aircraft flew freely through its airspace.
....Japan, the 1941-2 offensive had the single important goal of reaching Indonesian oil and bauxite, Malaysian rubber and tin, and Indochinese, Thai and Burmese rice, so as to create the large and stable pool of raw-material resources required for a long war against China, the USA and Britain. Thereafter, the transportation of these materials to the homeland, hence the need to keep the sea-lanes between Singapore and Yokohama/Kobe open, became the key medium-term military objective of Japanese imperialism.
....To produce tanks and airplanes you need machine-tools, steel and aluminum; and to produce these you need other machine-tools, iron ore, coke, bauxite, oil or coal.
....The problem of the manpower needed both for a monstrous growth in the armed forces, and for the industry capable of supplying them with a steady flow of more and more sophisticated weapons, became a growing source of crisis and a subject of agonizing choices for all major powers during WWII - with the exception of the USA.