Was World War Two fought for a progressive cause?
Go read Reading the Maps' great post where he argues that Anzac Day actually does a grave disservice to the Anzacs who fought against fascism in World War Two, because it links them to "criminal enterprises" like the Vietnam War.
Maps says WWII is the only conflict New Zealand and Australian troops have been involved in that was fought for a progressive cause - the war against fascism. This is a view I have sympathy for - especially since I read the autobiography of British philosopher Bertrand Russell a few years ago. Russell, a prominent pacifist during the First World War, saw no contradiction in opposing WWI and supporting the war against Hitler.
That said I also think there is a lot in British historian Eric Hobsbawm's characterisation of the entire period 1914-1945 as the "Second Thirty Years War". Hobsbawm likens the mix of major battles and smaller skirmishes throughout the period as being similar to the drawn out war of the 17th century. So, if there had been not been WWI and Versailles it is unlikely there would have been WWII and Hitler.
NZ can be proud to be the only country besides the USSR to show their opposition to the threat to democracy posed by fascist Spain, when our so called Allies (mostly under right wing leadership) supported the policy of appeasement, right up to the point Hitler invaded Poland.
Right wingers who support imperialist wars have a habit of screaming 'appeasement' at left wing opposition, rather than confronting the issues at hand. It is an irony that 'appeasement' largely represents baggage for the right. Prior to the start of the war in 1939, support for the policy of appeasement was most widespread among right-wing conservatives.
According to Hobsbawn:
"Many a good conservative felt, especially in Britain, that the best of all solutions would be a German-Soviet war, weakening, perhaps destroying both enemies, and a defeat of Bolshevism by a weakened Germany would be no bad thing"*.
British Intelligence services continued to concentrate on the 'Red menace' to such an extent that they did not abandon it as their main target until the mid 1930s. It would not be the first or the last time right wing foreign policy 'hawks' had their priorities all out of whack.