The Second World War, like the First, was the product of the growth of inter-imperialist contradictions. It began as a war for redivision and domination of the world. The crash of 1929, and the depression that followed it, made an inter-imperialist war a certainty. At the same time, all the imperialist countries were united in their hatred of the socialist Soviet Union, seeking for any opportunity to crush it. In this complicated situation, the Soviet Union, through building her economic and military strength, as well as some very deft diplomatic footwork, made sure that the then-coming war, instead of being a war waged against the USSR by the combined forces of imperialism, would be a war between two groups of imperialist blood-suckers. Only after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 did the war assume an anti-fascist character. Even then, as the narrative below clearly demonstrates, it was the Soviet Union alone (with the support and sympathy of hundreds of millions of people around the world, including the peoples of the imperialist countries) which fought against fascism, whereas her allies, Britain and America, were throughout determined to defend their respective imperialist interests and ready to come to terms with Nazi Germany. Only the advance of the Red Army frustrated their schemes.
May the 8th this year marks the 60th Anniversary of the victory against Hitlerite German fascism, which victory is popularly known in Western Europe as VE (Victory in Europe) Day. It is indeed a festival of progressive mankind, to bring about which tens of millions of people all over the world paid with their lives. While people everywhere fought against Hitler’s fascist Germany, made sacrifices and contributed to the final victory against it, the most outstanding contribution was without doubt made by the peoples of the USSR under the victorious banner of Marxism-Leninism, the leadership of the Bolshevik Party headed by the legendary Joseph Stalin who, smashing all imperialist plots and conspiracies against the Soviet Union, led the Soviet people – indeed, the people of the world – in the successful fight against the Hitlerite plague. To rid mankind of the menace of fascism and in the interests of socialism and democratic liberty, the Soviet people lost no fewer than 27 million men, women and children.
This 60th Anniversary, this festival of progressive mankind, has become the occasion for the bourgeois falsification of history. Western bourgeois ideologists, from the Trotskyist slanderers to the penny-a-liner journalists, are busily engaged in juggling facts and falsifying events. There is a kind of division of labour between the Trotskyist variety of bourgeois ideologues, on the one hand, and the ordinary (`ordinary’ because shorn of `Marxist’ and `left’ terminology and therefore more easily recognisable and less dangerous) bourgeois ideologists, on the other hand.
Falsification of History
This 60th Anniversary, as was the case with the 50th Anniversary of the D-Day landings last year, has been greeted with a torrent of nauseatingly unctuous and hypocritical cant in the imperialist print and electronic media, with the sole purpose of hiding the meaning, content and causes of the Second World War, and to belittle the decisive contribution of the socialist USSR in smashing the seemingly invincible Nazi war machine.
Ten years ago, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the victory against fascism, we were treated to headlines such as “Germany’s fate settled in the Atlantic”; “How Hitler was defeated by his own madness”, etc.; when the fact is, as every well-informed person knows, that the fate of Nazi Germany was sealed on the eastern front, in the titanic battles of Moscow, Leningrad, Stalingrad and Kursk. Here is one example, but which typifies the thrust of the entire imperialist propaganda machine, of precisely the kind of falsification of history alluded to above:
“British democracy is alive and kicking. That is the message from the people of this country on this anniversary weekend. For those who fought to destroy Hitler’s Third Reich 50 years ago were inspired by more than a love of country, passionate though that was. They went to war and won the victory over fascism for a greater cause. This infused their patriotism and earned them immortal greatness. Ordinary folk knew in their hearts that what was at stake was no less than the survival of simple, decent values: their right to be heard, to speak their minds without fear of the knock on the door at dawn, to run their lives according to their own lights. To live and let live, to go about their daily business in freedom under the law. Above all, to make and unmake governments elected in their name.
“The struggle and sacrifice of those who fought in the European war enabled Britain to remain a sovereign nation. Let us never forget that the red, white and blue Union flag we fly this weekend flew alone in the face of an all-conquering Nazi tyranny before the tide turned in 1942. We were fighting for our own freedom and to free Europe from despotic rule” (Leading article, Sunday Times, 7/5/95).
Of course, no one except the most malicious person would deny that ordinary British people, and the British soldiers who fought in the Second World War, were inspired by the ideal of ridding humanity of the menace of fascism. That, however, is not at issue. What is at issue is the cause for which the ruling class of Britain, France and that of the United States, went to war against Germany. All objective observers agree that British imperialism went to war against Nazi Germany, not in the interests of freedom and the fight against fascism, but to protect its own colonialist and imperialist interests after all the attempts of safeguarding the same through appeasement, that is through bartering other people’s freedom in return for saving its own skin and material interests, had resulted in an ignominious and a scandalous collapse. Here, briefly, are the facts that led to the Union flag flying alone “in the face of an all-conquering Nazi tyranny before the tide turned in 1942”.
Imperialism’s Hatred for the USSR
All imperialists, of the Nazi as well as of the `democratic’ variety alike, and all imperialist politicians, social-democrats no less than Conservative, were fired by an intense hatred of the USSR, the only socialist state at the time, for the simple reason that through planned socialist construction, she was building a new life for her people, free of exploitation, oppression, unemployment, misery and degradation. And this at a time when the entire capitalist world was in the iron grip of the hitherto worst slump, which had forced fifty million working people on to the scrap heap, rendered them jobless, homeless and hungry. The Soviet Union alone stood as a shining beacon and an example to the world working class of how their lives too could change qualitatively for the better if only the state power was in the hands of the working class. Encircled as she was by blood-thirsty imperialists, the USSR was well aware of the dangers confronting it. Its leadership followed an extremely complicated, and singularly scientific policy, on the question of war with imperialism, which may be summarised as follows.
Soviet Position on War with Imperialism
First, it was the endeavour of the Soviet Union not to embroil herself in a war with imperialism.
Second, since it was not entirely up to her to avoid such a war, then, if imperialism should impose a war on the Soviet Union, the latter should NOT find herself in the position of having to fight alone, let alone face the combined onslaught of the principal imperialist countries.
Third, to this end, divisions between the fascist imperialist states on the one hand and the ‘democratic’ imperialist states on the other should be fully exploited. These divisions were real, based on the material interests of the two groups of states under consideration. Uneven development of capitalism had seen to it that Germany, Italy and Japan, having spurted ahead in the capitalist development of their economies (a development which had rendered obsolete the old division of the world), were demanding a new division, which could not but encroach upon the material interests of the ‘democratic’ imperialist states. There was thus real scope for this conflict of interests to be exploited by the socialist USSR.
Fourth, to this end, the USSR, pursuing a very complicated foreign policy, did its best to conclude a collective security pact with the ‘democratic’ imperialist states, providing, in the event of such aggression taking place, for collective action against the aggressors.
Fifth, when the ‘democratic’ imperialist states, overcome by their hatred of communism, refused to conclude a collective security pact with the USSR and continued their policy of appeasement of the fascist states, in particular that of Nazi Germany in an effort to direct her aggression in an eastwardly direction against the Soviet Union, the latter was forced to try some other method of protecting the interests of the socialist motherland of the international proletariat. Addressing the 18th party Congress of the CPSU in March, 1939, Stalin exposed the motives behind the policy of non-intervention adopted by the ‘democratic’ imperialist countries, particularly Britain and France, thus:
“The policy of non-intervention reveals an eagerness, a desire … not to hinder Germany, say, … from embroiling herself in a war with the Soviet Union, to allow all the belligerents to sink deeply in the mire of war, to encourage them surreptitiously in this; to allow them to weaken and exhaust one another; and then, when they have become weak enough, to appear on the scene with fresh strength, to appear, of course, `in the interests of peace’, and to dictate conditions to the enfeebled belligerents.
“Cheap and easy!” (Stalin, Problems of Leninism, Moscow, 1953, p.754).
Further, referring to the Munich agreement which surrendered Czechoslovakia to the Nazis (the leader writer of The Sunday Times, displaying monumental ‘forgetfulness’, studiously avoids any reference to it, correctly fearing that such a reference would at once expose the hypocritical assertion that Britain’s ruling class went to war against Nazi Germany in the interests of the fight against fascism and for “decent values”), Stalin continue: “… one might think that the districts of Czechoslovakia were yielded to Germany as the price of an undertaking to launch war on the Soviet Union …” (ibid, p.756).
By way of outlining the tasks of Soviet foreign policy, as well as by way of a veiled warning to the ruling classes in the ‘democratic’ imperialist countries, Stalin went on to stress the need “to be cautious and not allow our country to be drawn into conflicts by warmongers who are accustomed to have others pull chestnuts out of the fire for them” (ibid, p.759).
Thus it was that in the face of intransigent refusal on the part of Britain and France to conclude a collective security pact, and in the aftermath of the Munich agreement, about which the Soviet Union was not even consulted, that the latter turned the tables on the foreign policy of Britain and France by signing, on 23 August 1939, the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact.
Sixth, in signing this pact, the USSR not only ensured that she would not be fighting Germany alone, but also that the latter would be fighting against the very powers who had been trying, by their refusal to agree on collective security, to embroil the USSR in a war with Germany. On 1st September 1939, Hitler invaded Poland. Two days later the Anglo-French ultimatum expired, and Britain and France were at war with Germany.
Of course, it is understandable that imperialism even today should attack and accuse the USSR and Stalin of “betrayal” for concluding the Non-Aggression Pact with Germany (`forgetting’ conveniently that the real betrayal had taken place at Munich a year earlier), for this Pact advanced the cause of socialism and the liberation of humanity from the yoke of fascism. But those sorry Marxists who still, taking their cue from imperialism, continue to criticise the USSR for concluding the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact need to have their heads examined. They could do far worse than listen to the right-wing Austrian Professor Topitsch.
The Austrian Professor Topitsch, whose anti-communist credentials and pro-imperialist sympathies are impeccable, and who cannot therefore be accused of harbouring any soft corner for Stalin or the USSR that he led, has this to say on the issue under consideration:
“…[T]horough analysis of the interplay of the main events has led me to the conviction that … Stalin was not only the real victor, but also the key figure in the war; he was, indeed, the only statesman who had at the time a clear, broadly-based idea of his objectives” (Ernest Topitsch, Stalin’s War, London, Fourth Estate, 1987, p.4).
Further: “The events of the summer of 1939 show the fateful consequences of Hitler’s lack of statesmanlike qualities and a world-oriented political vision, and make him look very inferior to his Russian counterpart. With regard to political intelligence and political style, their relationship is like that of a gambler to a chess grandmaster, and the assertion that the Führer fell like a schoolboy into the trap set for him by Moscow can hardly be called exaggerated.” (ibid, p.7).
On the Hitler-Stalin Pact the same author writes:
“After the conclusion of this treaty Hitler and Ribbentrop may have regarded themselves as statesmen of the highest calibre; instead their actions betrayed a frightening lack of political intelligence. Whereas Stalin had thoroughly pondered over the content and phraseology of the agreements, his opposite numbers were obviously incapable even of carefully reviewing the consequences which might result for Germany from those fateful documents. In point of fact, the two treaties fitted in perfectly with Soviet long-term strategy, to involve Germany in a war with the British and the French, make it dependent on Russia and, if the opportunity should arise, bring about its extinction as an independent power. Far-sighted as he was, Stalin was already thinking at this early stage of obtaining a favourable starting point for the realisation of such plans” (P.4).
By its April 1941, Treaty of Neutrality with Japan, the Soviet Union successfully managed to achieve in the east that which it had achieved in the west through the Non-Aggression Pact with Germany.
Seventh, the provisions of the additional secret protocol went far enough to safeguard the Soviet `spheres of interests’, which proved vital to Soviet defences when the war actually reached her.
Finally, the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact bought the Soviet Union an extremely valuable period of two years for strengthening her defence preparedness before she entered a war she knew she could not stay out of forever.
When the war was finally forced on the Soviet Union she made the most heroic contribution in the crowning and glorious victory of the allies against Nazi Germany. The Red Army and the Soviet people showed their tenacity, and the tenacity and superiority of the socialist system, by defeating the Nazis in the USSR and pursuing them all the way to Berlin, liberating in the process country after country from the Nazi jackboot occupation and bringing socialism to Eastern Europe.
All revolutionary and honest bourgeois historians and politicians agree on the above summary. Only the most die-hard anti-communists, particularly the Trotskyites, ever dare to dispute it.
Bourgeois Predictions of Soviet Collapse
By the summer of 1941, through a combination of luck and some bold strokes, Hitler’s armies had chased the British off the continent of Europe and thus become the masters of Western and Central Europe, whose people groaned under fascist occupation. Hitler was at last in a position to wage war against the USSR, which he launched, under the codename Operation Barbarossa, at 3.30 am on 22nd June 1941.
When on that fateful day the German army crossed the border into the USSR, most Western bourgeois politicians and military strategists gave her no more than six weeks before what they regarded as her inevitable collapse in the face of the mighty German armed forces. Their judgement had obviously been coloured by the fate of countries such as Poland and France, each of which lay prostrate within less than two weeks of being invaded by the German army; they were affected too by the fate of the British army, so humiliatingly expelled from the Continent in the May 1940 fiasco, which goes by the name of the Dunkirk spirit. Furthermore, the bourgeois ideologues believed in their own anti-Soviet propaganda to the effect that the Soviet army had been `decimated’ and `decapitated’ as a result of the trial and execution of Tukhachevsky and other army officers on treason charges and was therefore in no position to wage war; that the Bolshevik Party had been `denuded’ of leadership consequent upon the three Moscow Trials of the leading Trotskyites and Bukharinites on charges of treason, murder, sabotage and wrecking; that as a result of `forced’ collectivisation the peasantry was sullen and therefore most likely to revolt against the Soviet regime in the conditions of war. In all this the bourgeois ideologists were cruelly deluded.
Even before the war against the Soviet Union started, the chief imperialist ideologue, namely, Leon Trotsky, made, with malicious glee, a number of predictions about the “inevitable” defeat of the USSR in the then coming war. In his `Revolution Betrayed’, he says; “Can we, however, expect that the Soviet Union will come out of the coming great war without defeat? To this frankly posed question we will answer as frankly; if the war should only remain a war, the defeat of the Soviet Union will be inevitable. In a technical, economic and military sense, imperialism is incomparably more strong. If it is not paralysed by revolution in the west, imperialism will sweep away the regime which issued from the October Revolution” (Revolution Betrayed, p.216).
In 1940, nearing the end of his life – a life full of irreconcilable hostility towards Leninism – Trotsky, with a zeal worthy of a better cause, again predicted the defeat of the USSR and triumph of Hitlerite Germany:
“We always started from the fact that the international policy of the Kremlin was determined by the new aristocracy’s … incapacity to conduct a war.
“… the ruling caste is no longer capable of thinking about tomorrow. Its formula is that of all doomed regimes `after us the deluge’ …
“The war will topple many things and many individuals. Artifice, trickery, frame-ups and treasons will prove of no avail in escaping its severe judgement” (Statement to the British capitalist press on Stalin – Hitler’s Quartermaster).
“Stalin cannot make a war with discontented workers and peasants and with a decapitated Red Army” (German-Soviet Alliance).
“The level of the USSR’s productive forces forbids a major war. … the involvement of the USSR in a major war before the end of this period would signify in any case a struggle with unequal weapons.
“The subjective factor, not less important than the material, has changed in the last years sharply for the worse…
“Stalin cannot wage an offensive war with any hope of victory.
“Should the USSR enter the war with its innumerable victims and privations, the whole fraud of the official regime, its outrages and violence, will inevitably provoke a profound reaction on the part of the people, who have already carried out three revolutions in this century. …
“The present war can crush the Kremlin bureaucracy long before revolution breaks out in some capitalist country. …” (The Twin Stars: Hitler-Stalin).
Bourgeois Predictions Belied
Not only Trotsky, but the imperialist bourgeoisie (which paid Trotsky so well, and for whom it opened the columns of its press, to write such rubbish and to spew out so much anti-Soviet venom) too believed in these baseless assertions. It therefore came as a total surprise to it when the Soviet Union, far from collapsing under Nazi attack, proved to be the only force, not only to withstand but also to defeat and smash to smithereens the Nazi war machine.
As usual, and happily for humanity, all Trotsky’s predictions were totally belied. After initial reverses in the first few weeks of the war, attributable in the main to the Nazi surprise attack, the Soviet defences stiffened. Before long they struck back. The rest of the world, like Trotsky, had given the USSR only a few weeks before collapsing in the face of the onslaught of the allegedly invincible Nazi war machine. The Red Army and Soviet people, united as one under the leadership of the CPSU and their Supreme Commander Joseph Stalin, exploded this myth of Nazi invincibility. Soviet victories in the titanic battles of Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk, Leningrad and Berlin will forever be cherished not only by the peoples of the former, great and glorious Soviet Union, but also by all progressive humanity.
Each of these battles involved upwards of a million men on each side, and, in the words of Harrison E.Salisbury, “Each inflicted on the Germans the kind of casualties which leave a lasting mark not only on an army but on a nation” (Introduction to Marshal Zhukov’s Greatest Battles, MacDonald, London, 1969, pp.12-13).
“The Battle of Moscow had been an epic event. … It had involved more than 2 million men, 2,500 tanks, 1,800 aircraft and 25,000 guns. Casualties had been horrifying in scale. For the Russians it had ended in victory. They had suffered the full impact of the German `Blitzkrieg’ offensive and, notwithstanding their losses … they had been able to mount an effective counterattack. They had begun to destroy the myth of German invincibility …” (Ian Grey, Stalin – Man of History, Abacus, p.344).
This is how Marshal Zhukov evaluates the significance of the Battle of Moscow: “The final results of the Battle of Moscow proved to be inspiring for the Soviet side and depressing for the enemy.
“A German General, Westphal, … has acknowledged that the `German army, once considered invincible, was on the brink of destruction’. … The Germans lost a total of more than half a million soldiers, 1,300 tanks, 2,500 guns, 15,000 trucks and a great deal of other equipment. …
“The Soviet counter offensive of the winter of 1941-42 was conducted under difficult conditions of a snowy, cold winter and, what is most important, without numerical superiority over the enemy. …
“For the first time in six months of war, in the Battle of Moscow the Red Army inflicted a major defeat on the main forces of the enemy. It was the first strategic victory over the Wehrmacht since the beginning of World War II. … The skilled defensive operations [by the Soviet army], the successful launching of counter-attacks and the swift transition to a counter-offensive greatly enriched Soviet military art and demonstrated the growing strategic operational-tactical maturity of Soviet military commanders and improved military mastery of Soviet soldiers in all services.
“The defeat of Germany at Moscow was also of great international significance. The people in all the countries of the anti-Nazi coalition received the news of the outstanding victory of the Soviet army with great enthusiasm. All progressive mankind linked that victory to its hopes for an approaching liberation from fascist slavery.
“The failures of German forces at Leningrad, at Rostov, near Tikhvin and the Battle of Moscow had a sobering effect on the reactionary circles of Japan and Turkey and forced them to assume a more cautious policy toward the Soviet Union.
“After the defeat of Germans before Moscow, the strategic initiative on all sectors of the Soviet-German front passed to the Soviet command. … After the defeat of the Nazis at Moscow, not only ordinary Germans but many German officers and generals were convinced of the might of the Soviet state and recognised that the Soviet armed forces represented an insurmountable obstacle to the achievement of Hitler’s objectives” (Marshal Zhukov’s Greatest Battles, pp.100-102).
Marshal Zhukov concludes his account of the Battle of Moscow with the following question, and his answer to it: “I am often asked the question: `Where was Stalin at the time of the Moscow battle?’
“Stalin was in Moscow, organising the forces and means for the defeat of the enemy. He must be given his due. As head of the State Defence Committee, and with the members of the Supreme Headquarters and leaders of the People’s Commissariats, he carried on major work in the organising of strategic reserves and the material-technical means essential for the military struggle. With his harsh demands, he achieved, one might say, almost the impossible…” (ibid, pp.102-103).
Here is another evaluation, from the opposite end of the political spectrum, of Soviet strength, which the Hitlerites, intoxicated by their own deceptive propaganda and easy victories in the West, had failed properly to take into account.
Topitsch correctly points out that Operation Barbarossa was based on an overestimation of German, and an underestimation of Soviet, military might as well as other assumptions, which began to come apart from the moment the German army crossed the Soviet frontier.
“When the Germans crossed the border into the East the feeling often came over them – from the Führer down to the common soldier – that they were thrusting open a door into the unknown, behind which Stalin had wicked surprises in store for them, and that in the end doom might be lurking in the endless wastes beyond” (ibid, p.103).
After their initial successes, gained through the tactical advantage of their surprise attack on the USSR, the Nazis began to believe that victory was already theirs and indulged in fantastic plans for the future. “But gradually it became clear that the Soviet Union was anything but a `Colossus with feet of clay’. In spite of enormous losses, this vast empire could keep hurling new masses of men and material at the invader, and soon increasing numbers of the new types of tanks and the dreaded rocket-launchers appeared on the battlefields. The fourteen-day victory developed into a war lasting at least four years, fought with the greatest bitterness on both sides, and the dramatic victories of the first weeks turned out to be the beginning of the end for the Third Reich” (p.113).
“…Stalin’s ruthless energy made sure that all reserves within the depths of the country were mobilised. Indeed, during the course of this frightful struggle the Soviet Union extended itself and took a decisive step towards becoming a superpower. By contrast, Germany was effectively diminishing itself with every step in its exhausting campaign in the East” (p.115).
The surrender on 1st February 1943 at Stalingrad, by the fascist General Von Paulus and 23 other generals, mesmerised the world. The victory of the Red Army at Stalingrad was as incredible as it was heroic. The Nazi losses in the Volga-Don-Stalingrad area were 1.5 million men, 3,500 tanks, 12,000 guns and 3,000 aircraft. Never before had the Nazi war machine, which was accustomed to running over countries in days and weeks, suffered such a humiliating defeat, a defeat “in which the flower of the German army perished. It was against the background of this battle … that Stalin now rose to almost titanic stature in the eyes of the world” (Isaac Deutscher, Stalin – A Political Biography, Pelican, London, 1966, p.472). From now on nothing but defeat stared the Germans in the face, leading all the way to the entry of the Red Army into Berlin and the storming by it of the Reichstag on 30 April 1945 – the same day that the Führer committed suicide. Six days later, Field-Marshall Wilhelm Keitel, acting on behalf of the German High Command, surrendered to Marshall Zhukov.
Reasons for Soviet Victory
How was it possible for the USSR to succeed where others had failed so miserably? There are several reasons for this success.
1. Elimination of the Fifth
First, because the CPSU and the Soviet regime ruthlessly purged the Party, the Government and the armed forces of the fifth column elements.
In addition to the testimony of the accused at the above-mentioned trials – and for this testimony there is no substitute – impeccable bourgeois sources, who cannot be suspected of the least partiality towards the Soviet regime, are on record confirming the guilt of the accused at these trials. Joseph E. Davies, at the time the American Ambassador in Moscow, who, accompanied by an interpreter, attended and carefully followed the proceedings at the Moscow trials, was profoundly impressed.
On 17 February, 1937, a month after the second trial, in a confidential dispatch to Cordell Hull, the US Secretary of State, Ambassador Davies reported that almost all the foreign diplomats in Moscow shared his opinion of the justice of the verdict: “I talked to many, if not all, of the members of the Diplomatic Corps here and, with possibly one exception, they are all of the opinion that the proceedings established clearly the existence of a political plot and conspiracy to overthrow the government” (Mission to Moscow).
Powerful, anti-Soviet forces saw to it that this truth about the Fifth Column in the USSR was not made public in the US or elsewhere in the western world.
Again, on 11 March, 1937, Ambassador Davies recorded in his diary: “Another diplomat, Minister …, made a most illuminating statement to me yesterday. In discussing the trial, he said that the defendants were undoubtedly guilty; that all of us who attended the trial had practically agreed upon that; that the outside world, from the press reports, however, seemed to think that the trial was a put-up job (facade, as he called it); that while he knew it was not, it was probably just as well that the outside world should think so” (ibid).
One week into the Third Moscow Trial (that of Bukharin and others) Ambassador Davies wrote on 8 March, 1938, to his daughter Emlen thus: “The extraordinary testimony of Krestinsky, Bukharin, and the rest would appear to indicate that the Kremlin’s fears were well justified. For it now seems that a plot existed in the beginning of November, 1936, to project a coup d’etat, with Tukhachevsky at its head, for May of the following year. Apparently it was touch and go at that time whether it actually would be staged.
“But the government acted with great vigour and speed. The Red Army generals were shot and the whole party organisation was purged and thoroughly cleansed. Then it came out that quite a few of those at the top were seriously infected with the virus of the conspiracy to overthrow the government, and were actually working with the Secret Service organisations of Germany and Japan” (ibid, p.177).
Far from weakening the Soviet regime or the Red Army these trials helped to eliminate precisely those elements who would have collaborated with the Nazis and acted as a Fifth Column. In the summer of 1941, shortly after the Nazi invasion of the USSR, Davies wrote the following appraisal of the historical significance of the Moscow trials:
“There was no so-called `internal aggression’ in Russia co-operating with the German High Command. Hitler’s march into Prague in 1939 was accompanied by the active military support of Henlein’s organisations in Czechoslovakia. The same thing was true of his invasion of Norway. There were no Sudeten Henleins, no Slovakian Tisos, no Belgian De Grelles, no Norwegian Quislings in the Russian picture …” (ibid, p.179).
“The story had been told in the so-called treason or purge trials of 1937 and 1938 which I attended and listened to. In re-examining the record of these cases and also what I had written at the time … I found that practically every device of German Fifth Columnist activity, as we now know it, was disclosed and laid bare by the confessions and testimony elicited at these trials of self-confessed `Quisling’s in Russia …” (ibid. p.180)
“All of these trials, purges, and liquidations, which seemed so violent at the time and shocked the world, are now quite clearly a part of a vigorous and determined effort of the Stalin government to protect itself not only from revolution from within but from attack from without. They went to work thoroughly to clean up and clean out all treasonable elements within the country. All doubts were resolved in favour of the government.
“There were no Fifth Columnists in Russia in 1941 – they had shot them. The purge had cleansed the country and rid it of treason” (ibid, p.179-184).
An authoritative bourgeois correspondent concluded that the “purge eliminated Russia’s Fifth Column. I found no British or American correspondent in Russia who thought that the famous confessions made by Radek, Tukhachevsky, Rykov, Krestinsky, Pletnov, Rozengolts and others had been extracted by torture” (Quentin Reynolds, Only the Stars are Neutral, New York, 1943,p.93).
Let George Sava be our final bourgeois witness. In his War without Guns, having stated that “Russia’s splendid resistance surprised many a diplomat of the democratic countries, who were convinced that Russia could not resist more than 10 weeks”, he goes on to make the following perceptive, nay penetrating, observation:
“We may not understand the intricacies of Marxism, but we should have known that the grave Hitler has been digging for conservatives and democrats alike was intentionally made big enough to bury the Russians as well. Fortunately, unlike our diplomats, the Russians did realise the dangers and that is the reason for their ruthless suppression of fifth-columnists. The executions which so horrified us and were termed enigmatic and barbaric, should have been seen in a different light by an intelligent diplomacy, particularly if they considered the fate of Norway and France and the role which fifth-columnists played in those two countries. A clever diplomat could have willingly admitted that a little well-directed shooting in France and Belgium on the Russian model might have saved Brussels, Oslo, Amsterdam and Paris”.
Thus it can be seen that once the western countries had become locked in a mortal conflict with Nazi Germany and became allies of the USSR, they had to overcome their deep-rooted anti-Comintern and anti-Bolshevik prejudices and speak out the truth in public on the Moscow trials as on many other issues; they had to admit publicly that these trials, far from weakening the CPSU(B), the Soviet government or the Red Army, had, by liquidating the Fifth Column in the USSR, strengthened the Party, the Government and the Red Army. In making this belated admission they were only confirming the historical significance of these trials as being an integral part of the USSR’s struggle – indeed the struggle of the world as a whole – against the menace of Nazi world domination.
Stalin, in his Report to the 18th Party Congress, answered the drivel uttered on this question by the bourgeois press in the imperialist countries thus:
“Certain foreign pressmen have been talking drivel to the effect that the purging of Soviet organisations of spies, assassins and wreckers like Trotsky, Zinoviev, Yakir, Tukhachevsky, Rosengoltz, Bukharin and other fiends has `shaken’ the Soviet system and caused its `demoralisation’. All this cheap drivel deserves is laughter and scorn. How can the purging of Soviet organisations of noxious and hostile elements shake and demoralise the Soviet system? The Trotsky-Bukharin bunch, that handful of spies, assassins and wreckers, who kow-towed to the foreign world, who were possessed by a slavish instinct to grovel before every foreign bigwig and were ready to serve him as spies – that handful of individuals who did not understand that the humblest Soviet citizen, being free from the fetters of capital, stands head and shoulders above any high-placed foreign bigwig whose neck wears the yoke of capitalist slavery – of what use that miserable band of venal slaves, of what value can they be to the people, and whom can they `demoralise’ In 1937 Tukhachevsky, Yakir, Uborevich and other fiends were sentenced to be shot. After that, the elections to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR were held. In these elections, 98.6 per cent of the total vote was cast for the Soviet government. At the beginning of 1938, Rosengoltz, Rykov, Bukharin and other fiends were sentenced to be shot. After that, the elections to the Supreme Soviets of the Union Republics were held. In these elections 99.4 per cent of the total vote was cast for the Soviet government. Where are the symptoms of `demoralisation’, we would like to know, and why was this `demoralisation’ not reflected in the results of the elections?
“To listen to these foreign drivellers one would think that if the spies, assassins and wreckers had been left at liberty to wreck, murder and spy without let or hindrance, the Soviet organisations would have been far sounder and stronger [Laughter]. Are not these gentlemen giving themselves away too soon by so insolently defending the cause of spies, assassins and wreckers?
“Would it not be truer to say that the weeding out of spies, assassins and wreckers from the Soviet organisations was bound to lead, and did lead, to the further strengthening of these organisations?”
Referring to the bloody but undeclared war at Lake Hassan on the Manchurian-Maritime Provinces frontier, fought between the USSR and Japanese imperialism – a war in which the Japanese got a bloody nose, which restrained them from attacking the USSR again – Stalin goes on to add: “What, for instance, do the events at Lake Hassan show, if not that the weeding out of spies and wreckers is the surest means of strengthening our Soviet organisations?” (Report to the 18th Party Congress).
Thus the convergence of honest bourgeois and proletarian views alike compels us to the only conclusion possible, namely that the accused at the Moscow trials were justly tried and justly punished and that the liquidation of the accused eliminated the Fifth Column in the USSR, which in turn strengthened the ability of the Soviet regime and its armed forces to withstand, defeat and smash the seemingly invincible Wehrmacht.
If we are to believe the bourgeois-Trotskyist drivel – that after the trials the USSR’s armed forces were left bereft of a General Staff – how, then are we to explain the existence in the Red Army of such brilliant and legendary generals, whose exploits are known the world over, as Zhukov, Chuikov, Shtemenko, Yeremenko, Timoshenko, Vasilevsky, Sokolovsky, Rokossovsky, Koniev, Voroshilov, Budenny, Mekhlis, Kulik and many, many, more?
Second, the USSR was successful because she had been building up her industry and collectivising her agriculture on the lines of socialism. The implementation of such a programme, in addition to endowing the USSR with material strength, brought a resurgence of proletarian pride in their achievements, an ardent faith in the bright future of socialism, and a grim determination to defend the gains of socialism against external and internal enemies alike. But this programme did not fall from heaven by itself, fortuitously as it were. It had to be fought for tooth and nail against its `left’ (Trotskyist) and Right (Bukharinite) opponents; it had to survive the wrecking, sabotage and treasonable conspiracies of the Trotskyite and Bukharinite capitulators and despicable lackeys of imperialism. In a word, it was a programme born out of, and amidst, conditions of fierce class struggle.
Although the Soviet Union would have dearly loved to have been left alone in peace and continue the task of socialist construction, her leadership was well aware of the dangers, of the fact that imperialism would drag her into the war. It was not, therefore, within Soviet power to avert involvement in a war with imperialism, for, as a Chinese saying has it, `The tree may prefer the calm, but the wind will not subside’. Precisely for this reason, with the impending war in mind, the leadership of the CPSU had refused, in the teeth of opposition from the camp of the Bukharinite capitulators, to slow down the tempo of industrialisation. Speaking at the Conference of Leading Personnel of Socialists Industry on 4 Feb 1931, Stalin stressed this point in his characteristically frank and unambiguous manner:
“It is sometimes asked whether it is not possible to slow down the tempo somewhat, to put a check on the movement. No, comrades, it is not possible! The tempo must not be reduced! On the contrary, we must increase it as much as is within our powers and possibilities. This is dictated to us by our obligations to the workers and peasants of the USSR. This is dictated to us by our obligations to the working class of the whole world.
“To slacken the tempo would mean falling behind. And those who fall behind get beaten. But we do not want to be beaten. No, we refuse to be beaten! One feature of the history of old Russia was the continual beatings she suffered because of her backwardness. She was beaten by the Mongol khans. She was beaten by the Turkish beys. She was beaten by the Swedish feudal lords. She was beaten by the Polish and Lithuanian gentry. She was beaten by the British and French capitalists. She was beaten by the Japanese barons. All beat her because of her backwardness, because of her military backwardness, cultural backwardness, political backwardness, industrial backwardness, agricultural backwardness. They beat her because to do so was profitable and could be done with impunity. You remember the words of the pre-revolutionary poet: `Your are poor and abundant, mighty and impotent, Mother Russia’. Those gentlemen were quite familiar with the verses of the old poet. They beat her, saying: `You are abundant’, so one can enrich oneself at your expense. They beat her, saying: `You are poor and impotent’, so you can be beaten and plundered with impunity. Such is the law of the exploiters – to beat the backward and the weak. It is the jungle law of capitalism. You are backward, you are weak – therefore you are wrong; hence you can be beaten and enslaved. You are mighty – therefore you are right; hence we must be wary of you.
“That is why we must not lag behind.
“In the past we had no fatherland, nor could we have had one. But now that we have overthrown capitalism and power is in our hands, in the hands of the people, we have a fatherland, and we will uphold its independence. Do you want our socialist fatherland to be beaten and to lose its independence? If you do not want this, you must put an end to its backwardness in the shortest possible time and develop a genuine Bolshevik tempo in building up its socialist economy. There is no other way. That is why Lenin said on the eve of the October Revolution: `Either perish, or overtake and outstrip the advanced capitalist countries’.
“We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or we shall go under” (Stalin, CW, Vol.13, pp.40-41).
As a result of this gigantic effort, in 1940 gross output of Soviet industry was 8.5 times greater than the industrial production of tsarist Russia in 1913, whereas the output of large-scale industry had increased 12-fold and machine-building 35-fold.
Thoroughly biased as he is against Stalin, the Trotskyite Isaac Deutscher, in his biography of Stalin, is obliged to make the following admission as to the decisive factors that underlay the Soviet victory in the Second World War:
“The truth was that the war could not have been won without the intensive industrialisation of Russia, and of her eastern provinces in particular. Nor could it have been won without the collectivisation of large numbers of farms. The muzhik of 1930, who had never handled a tractor or any other machine, would have been of little use in modern war. Collectivised farming, with its machine-tractor stations scattered all over the country, had been the peasants’ preparatory school for mechanised warfare. The rapid raising of the average standard of education had also enabled the Red Army to draw on a considerable reserve of intelligent officers and men. ‘We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this lag in ten years. Either we do it, or they crush us’ – so Stalin had spoken exactly ten years before Hitler set out to conquer Russia. His words, when they were recalled now, could not but impress people as a prophecy brilliantly fulfilled, as a most timely call to action. And, indeed, a few years’ delay in the modernisation of Russia might have made all the difference between victory and defeat” (Deutscher, ibid, p.535).
Deutscher also dispels any notion of popular hostility to the Soviet regime and correctly paints a picture of Soviet people possessed of strong moral fibre, a strong sense of economic and political advance, and a grim determination to defend its gains:
“It should not be imagined that a majority of the nation was hostile to the government. If that had been the case no patriotic appeals, no prodding or coercion, would have prevented Russia’s political collapse, for which Hitler was confidently hoping. The great transformation that the country had gone through before the war had … strengthened the moral fibre of the nation. The majority was imbued with a strong sense of its economic and social advance, which it was grimly determined to defend against danger from without …” (ibid, p.473).
3. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The third reason for Soviet victory was that they were led by such a revolutionary proletarian party as the CPSU, whose leadership as well as lower ranks were characterised by an unreserved spirit of dedication to the cause of the proletariat, and a self-sacrificing heroism, and commanded the respect of non-party masses. Of 27 million Soviets who died in the war, 3 million belonged to the Communist Party. David Hearst of the Guardian, in his article, written in connection with the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of VE Day and, filled with the customary anti-Stalinism (without which no bourgeois journalist can hope to keep his job and have his wallet stuffed), is compelled to make this admission:
“All contemporary accounts by war veterans testify to a high degree of ideological commitment by all sections of society in volunteering for action after June 1941, the educated and uneducated alike. Why? In what name did so many Communist Party faithful go forward to meet certain death? In the name of the motherland? In the name of the Soviet union, somehow dissociated from Stalin’s evil guiding hand, of which they themselves were among the first victims?” (Coming to the aid of the party, Guardian, Monday, 1st May 1995).
Having satisfied the moneybags, who own the Guardian, and the editor, by a reference to “Stalin’s evil guiding hand”, having thus established his impeccable bourgeois journalistic credentials, Mr Hearst nevertheless finds himself stumbling on the truth when he continues thus, by way of answering his own questions in paragraph immediately preceding:
“Contemporary eye-witness accounts point to the contrary. A typical reaction is the veteran Ivan Martinov’s: `Every one of us knows that it was the Communist Party which led everything at that time. The party formed the basis of the state machine. Everyone knew that when our servicemen were captured, the Nazi order would be, `Communists, Jews and commanders take one step forward’, and they would be shot. Therefore the massive joining of the party during the war, meant only one thing – heroism and belief in the party cause’.” (Ibid).
It may not be to his liking, but the fact of the matter is, as David Hearst must know, millions of Soviet soldiers, partisans and civilians went to their deaths with the slogan: `For the motherland and for Comrade Stalin’ on their lips – such were the love and affection with which the Soviet masses cherished their socialist motherland and its helmsman, such was the charisma (`evil guiding hand’, if it pleases bourgeois scribblers and such other anti-proletarian gentry) of Joseph Stalin, who inspired the Soviet people to unprecedented feats of heroism.
By November, 1942, the Germans occupied 700,000 square miles of Soviet territory and a pre-war population of 80 million; millions of Soviet citizens were compelled to abandon their cities, villages, factories and plants and move eastward to avoid enemy occupation. Soviet troops were compelled by the extremely difficult military situation to retreat into the interior with substantial losses in men and material. “But even during that difficult period neither the Soviet nation nor its armed forces lost faith in the prospect of the ultimate defeat of the enemy hordes. The mortal danger helped to rally our people even more closely around the Communist Party, and, despite every hardship, the enemy was finally stopped in all sectors.
“The mass heroism of Soviet soldiers and the courage of their commanders, reared by our Party, were demonstrated with particular force during the fierce fighting of that [Nov.1942] period. A positive role was played by the personal example of Party members and Young Communists who, when necessary, sacrificed themselves for the sake of victory” (Marshal Zhukov’s Greatest Battles, p.152)
4. The Union of Soviet
The fourth reason for the victory of the Soviet Union was the existence of this unique institution in the history of humanity, namely the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) – a multi-national state established by the victorious proletariat consequent upon the Great Socialist October Revolution, which had outlawed exploitation of one human being by another within each of its constituent parts, and exploitation of one nation by another. Verily it was a free and fraternal association of dozens of nations who lived together to construct a common bright future, and, where injury to one was regarded as an injury to all.
David Hearst, in the article already referred to above, cites Professor Yuri Polyakov, a historian and a member of the Academy of Science, who brings together all the reasons that inspired the Soviet people to heroic resistance and victory in the Great Patriotic War. Here is what Prof. Polyakov has to say:
“… The workers and peasants were fighting for their socialist state. A Kazakh or Kyrgyz, who under the Soviet Empire got for the first time in their history his own statehood, was fighting for his motherland, Kazakhstan or Krygyzia.
“The German invasion brought with it a very strong sense of danger to the Soviet Union. Everyone understood that the union would be destroyed under German occupation. But ideology also played its part. … The generals and officer class came from simple people who believed in the justice of the struggle and the state they were defending. In great measure this belief was linked to the belief in Soviet power, as the power that had brought economic development to the whole Union” (ibid).
And these are the words of a Professor in Yeltsin’s fiercely anti-communist Russia, where ‘historians’ were given large bribes to write ‘histories’ which painted the former Soviet Union and it leadership in the darkest colours, where, let alone poor Stalin, biographies of the great Lenin were brought which described him in these flattering tones: “Lenin was the anti-Christ. … All Russia’s great troubles stemmed from him”. Have we not always maintained that anti-Stalinism was only a cover for anti-Leninism. Since the Soviet state has been destroyed and capitalism restored, Khruschev’s successors no longer have to speak in coded Aesopean language.
Having quoted Prof. Polyakov, David Hearst concludes his article with this pertinent observation: “If this explanation is correct, the motives behind the immense effort and huge cost of pushing the Germans back have disquieting resonances for today’s post-communist leadership: the Great Patriotic War is a monument to the three institutions that Yeltsin has destroyed – the Communist Party as an organising body, socialism as a state ideology, and the Soviet Union as a working collective entity.
“Even the decision to celebrate the 50th anniversary of VE Day with a grandiose state occasion is a change of policy. Four years ago not one state leader attended the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Moscow. Last year it was the humble city of Novgorod’s turn: a relatively minor liberation compared to the massive losses at Moscow, but Yeltsin was careful to send hid greetings to the inhabitants. The 1995 campaign to reclaim the Great Patriotic War for Russia’s, rather than the Soviet Union’s history, had begun.
“Today’s debate is, as all these debates are, more about the present than the past … the events of 50 years ago are still being lived through today. Russia’s industrial decline under its painful transition to a market economy is being likened to the effect on industry of the German invasion. To Yeltsin’s opponents the war effort creates an inverted image of Russia today. `If we could do it then, we can do it again today’, is the constant assumption of any war nostalgia.
“There are too many parallels, too much undigested matter, and the state of Russia, shorn of its fraternal republics and its international influence is too young a state. The veterans are still an important electoral block: with their families they can muster about 20 million votes. They are disciplined voters, and highly politicised. So when Yeltsin mounts the podium in Red Square to take the official salute of the Veterans’ Parade on May 9, he is not just thinking of the past but this year’s parliamentary elections, and possibly next year’s presidential elections. Like all his predecessors, Yeltsin has good reason today to be cautious about the past” (ibid).
It is unquestionably true that the present-day peoples of the former Soviet Union, in marking the 60th anniversary, as indeed ten years ago on the occasion of the 50th anniversary, of their victory in the Great Patriotic War, in paying tribute to the valour, heroism, sacrifice, steadfastness and single-minded sense of purpose of their Soviet fathers and grandfathers (tens of millions remembering their own part in it) in that titanic struggle, cannot but be haunted by the memories of their socialist motherland and cannot help comparing their present-day misery (courtesy the wonders of capitalist restoration with its mafia economy, prostitution, drug-trafficking, street crime, killing of old people to get hold of their apartments, unemployment, homelessness and subservience to foreign imperialism) with the life under the former glorious Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. All this cannot augur well for the present-day Czars of Russia.
Initial Soviet Reverses
The fascist German attack on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, was followed by considerable Soviet reverses and the loss of great chunks of Soviet territory. How are those reverses to be explained? The bourgeois-Trotskyist explanation of these reverses amounts to a shameless falsification of history characteristic of this gentry. It runs variously something like this: that Stalin trusted Hitler not to attack the USSR, and hence, they argue, the Soviet-German `non-aggression pact’; that Stalin had `decimated the army corps, executing, among others, Marshal Tukhachevsky, “possibly the most brilliant Russian soldier of this century”; that there was no experienced Communist leadership, since Stalin had “either killed or imprisoned” them all; that he had neglected military preparations; that he had alienated the peasantry through “forced collectivisation”; and so on and so forth ad nauseam and ad absurdum. We have dealt with these important questions elsewhere, but shall merely note in passing that the very people who attribute Soviet reverses to lack of leadership are also the self-same gentry who attribute subsequent Soviet successes to a leaderless Soviet people!! No, these hysterical bourgeois Trotskyist fairy tales and slanders masquerading as historical explanations will not bear any serious scrutiny.
Here, then, are the real reasons for the initial Soviet reverses.
First and foremost the Hitlerites had the advantage of a surprise attack. Surprise can by no means be given the meaning given it in this context by the Trotskyists and other bourgeois ideologues, namely, that Stalin did not expect Hitler to attack the Soviet Union. What jokers these gentry are! Of course he knew that the Hitlerite fascists hated the socialist Soviet Union more than any other country and they were out to destroy communism. Any fool, even of the Trotskyist variety, was well-acquainted with this fact. So, while the fascist intentions were clear as clear can be, the actual date of the attack can still be a surprise and indeed was so. If the Bolshevik Party, and above all Stalin, entertained such illusions, it would be impossible to explain the tempo of Soviet industrialisation, the Russo-Finnish War, the incorporation of the Baltic states into the USSR, the wresting of Bessarabia from the then monarchical-fascist Rumanian regime, and the re-incorporation of the former Soviet territories in western Poland, as the Polish state collapsed in the face of the Nazi attack.
It was precisely because Stalin and the Bolshevik Party knew only too well of the intentions of German fascism and its appetite for destroying the socialist Soviet Union, that Stalin concluded the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact, which secured for the Soviet Union nearly two years of peace and a valuable opportunity for preparing her forces to repulse Nazi Germany as and when she should risk attacking the USSR despite the Pact, and also frustrated the attempts of Anglo-American imperialism to direct Hitler in the Eastern direction, towards the Soviet Union. This was the meaning and the essence of the Munich surrender by the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, to Hitler.
The Bolshevik Party, under the leadership of Stalin, turned the tables on Anglo-American imperialist ruling circles by concluding the Non-Aggression Pact with Germany, which proved so advantageous to the Soviet Union and to socialism, and so harmful to world imperialism. By its brilliant tactics, the Bolshevik Party caused its two deadly enemies – German fascism on the one hand and Anglo-French-American imperialism on the other hand – to fight against each other rather than against the Soviet Union, and finally to compel one of these enemies, namely Anglo-American imperialism, to fight on the Soviet side against German fascism.
As a consequence, the end of the war resulted in the further weakening of imperialism, giving a tremendous boost to the world proletarian and national liberation movements all over the globe, bringing in its wake People’s Democracies in Eastern Europe, the earth-shaking successes of the Chinese Revolution and the loosening and freeing from colonial grip of countless countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. In view of these results which changed the political and economic geography of the entire globe, it is understandable, and not in the least surprising, that imperialists and their ideologues – Trotskyists and ordinary ideologues – should concentrate their attack with such venom on Stalin. These venomous attacks alone are proof enough of the correctness of the brilliant tactics of Stalin.
Earlier Nazi Mobilisation
Second, the Soviet reverses can be explained by the earlier mobilisation of the Germans and the fact that they had become seasoned through two years of experience in modern warfare. The 176 German divisions brought up to the Soviet frontiers and hurled by Germany against the USSR, were in a state of complete readiness, only awaiting a signal to move into action, whereas the Soviet troops still had to effect mobilisation and move up to the frontier.
But let no one conclude from this that there were not Soviet troops on the frontier and the Germans simply walked in unhindered. The German army had met with no serious resistance on the continent of Europe. Only on Soviet territory did it meet with such resistance, which destroyed the myth of invincibility of the Hitlerite fascist troops. As a result of this resistance, the finest divisions of Hitler’s German-fascist army were destroyed by the Red Army. Thus in the first four months the losses of the two sides stood as follows:
Soviet losses – 350,000 killed, 378,000 missing, 1,020,000 wounded. A total of 1.728 million.
In the same 4 months, the German killed and wounded and prisoners totalled 4.5 million.
By the winter of 1942-43, the initiative had already passed to the Red Army. In the three months of the Red Army’s offensive in the winter of 42-43, the Germans lost 7,000 tanks, 4,000 planes, 17,000 guns and large quantities of other weapons. In the first 20 months of the war against Germany, in its defensive operations, the Red Army put out of action 9 million German fascist troops, of which no less than 4 million were killed on the battlefield. In the 3 months of the 42-43 winter offensive alone, the Red Army routed 112 enemy divisions, killing more than 700,000 and taking over 300,000 prisoners.
The outstanding encirclement and annihilation at Stalingrad of an enormous picked army of Germans, numbering 330,000, shall always remain an eloquent tribute to the fearless fighting spirit of the Red Army and to its brilliant tactics.
Absence of a Second Front
Last, but not least, the Soviet Union’s initial reverses can be attributed to the absence of a second front in Europe against fascist troops. In the absence of such a front, the German fascists were not compelled to dissipate their forces and to wage war on two fronts, in the West and in the East. Thus the German rear in the West was secured and this enabled Germany to move all its troops against the USSR, which single-handedly fought against the forces of German and her Finnish, Rumanian, Italian and Hungarian allies.
In the First World War there were two fronts, and therefore Germany was able to station only 85 of its 220 divisions on the Russian front. If one takes into account the forces of Germany’s allies during the First World War, there were 127 German divisions stationed on the Russian front.
In stark contrast, there was no second front during the Second World War with the result that of the 256 German fascist divisions, 176 were stationed on the Soviet front. If we add to these 22 Rumanian, 14 Finnish, 10 Italian, 1 Slovak, 1 Spanish and 13 Hungarian divisions, this brings the number of fascist divisions on the Eastern front close to 240. The remaining divisions of Germany and her allies performed garrison service in occupied countries such as France, Belgium, Norway, Holland, Yugoslavia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, etc., while part of them fought in Libya for Egypt against Britain.
“Because of the absence of a second front, Germany was able to keep as little as 20 per cent of its armed forces on other fronts and in occupied countries” (Zhukov, ibid, p,115).
Thus 80 per cent of the Nazi armed forces were concentrated in the East, along the entire front from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea.
As early as May 1942, Soviet Foreign Minister, Molotov, reached a complete agreement with Britain and the United States that a second front would be opened in Europe in 1942. This agreement was confirmed the following month. However, within a month of this confirmation, it had been put on the back burner, causing Stalin to send a message, in which he hardly bothered to disguise his anger, to Churchill: “As to … opening a second front in Europe, I fear the matter is taking an improper turn.
“In view of the situation of the Soviet-German front, I state most emphatically that the Soviet government cannot tolerate the second front in Europe being postponed till 1943”.
On August 12, 1942, Stalin met Churchill and US presidential envoy Harriman in Moscow. During this meeting, Churchill, fully supported by Harriman, refused to honour their earlier promise concerning the second front. A day later, in his memorandum of August 13, 1942, Stalin conveyed the Soviet anger at the Anglo-American betrayal of an agreement solemnly reached barely three months earlier in these blunt terms:
“It will be recalled that the decision to open a second front in Europe in 1942 was reached at the time of Molotov’s visit to London, and found expression in the agreed Anglo-Soviet communiqué released on June 12 last.
“It will be recalled further”, Stalin continued, “that the opening of a second front in Europe was designed to divert German Forces from the eastern front to the west, to set up in the west a major centre of resistance to the German fascist forces and thereby ease the position of the Soviet troops on the Soviet-German front in 1942.
“Needless to say, the Soviet high command, in planning its summer and autumn operations, counted on a second front being opened in Europe in 1942.
“It will be readily understood that the British government’s refusal to open a second front in Europe in 1942 delivers a moral blow to Soviet public opinion, which had hoped that the second front would be opened, complicates the position of the Red Army at the front and injures the plans of the Soviet high command.
“I say nothing of the fact that the difficulties in which the Red Army is involved through the refusal to open a second front in 1942 are bound to impair the military position of Britain and the other allies.
“I and my colleagues believe that the year 1942 offers the most favourable conditions for a second front in Europe, seeing that nearly all the German forces – and their crack troops, too – are tied down on the eastern front, while only negligible forces, and the poorest, too, are left in Europe.
“It is hard to say whether 1943 will offer as favourable for opening a second front as 1942. For this reason we think that it is possible and necessary to open a second front in Europe in 1942.
“Unfortunately, I did not succeed in convincing the British prime minister of this, while Mr Harriman, the US president’s representative at the Moscow talks, fully supported the prime minister”.
At the time when Stalin sent the above memorandum, although the Battle of Moscow had been won by it, the USSR, approaching as she was the Battle of Stalingrad, which was to test her strength to the utmost, could hardly be said to have emerged from the woods. These were singularly difficult times for her and the USSR was literally fighting for her life, for it would be another five months before the turning point of the war, the Soviet victory and the Nazi rout at Stalingrad, would be achieved. Churchill could not but have been aware of all this. And yet his response was to deny that Britain and the US had ever given any undertaking for opening a second front in Europe in 1942.
A month after the Soviet victory at Stalingrad, Churchill sent a message to Stalin stating that preparations were under way for a “cross-channel operation in August, in which British and United States units would participate”.
Stalin, quite correctly regarding this as yet another dilatory ploy, wrote back asking for “shortening these limits to the utmost for the opening of a second front in the west”, stressing “so that the enemy should not be given a chance to recover, it is very important, to my mind, that the blow from the west, instead of being put off till the second half of the year, be delivered in spring or early summer”.
But, to no avail.
Why no Second Front?
Why was there no second front in the west? There was no second front because, almost right up to the end of the war, Britain and America never gave up their duplicitous desire to come to an understanding with Hitler and leave him free to concentrate his forces on the Soviet frontier, or, if the possibility should present itself, to march hand-in-hand with Nazi Germany on Moscow. Nothing came of those desires for a variety of reasons.
That Anglo-American imperialism harboured such designs and ambitions, is clear from the following testimony.
While being compelled by the force of circumstances to be on the same side as the USSR during the Second World War, while being obliged to pay hypocritical public tributes to the resistance and heroic fighting spirit displayed by the Red Army, the western imperialist leaders, in particular Churchill, imbued as they were with a burning hatred of communism, never gave up their anti-Soviet plots. Way back in October 1942, at the height of the battle of Stalingrad, realising the impossibility of the Soviet Union being crushed by Nazi Germany, Churchill commenced his anti-Soviet planning.
Churchill’s real policy aims in the war were revealed in a secret memorandum he dictated as early as October 1942, but not revealed until September 1949 in Strasbourg, at a meeting of the European Community by Harold Macmillan. Realising the real possibility of the Nazis being destroyed by the Red Army, Churchill stated in this memorandum that instead of carrying forward the policy of genuine coalition with the Soviet Union, he believed “it would be a measureless disaster if this Russian barbarism overlaid the culture and independence of the ancient states of Europe …”. In view of this he blocked the opening of the Second Front.
In a speech which he made in Woodford, England, on 23 November 1954, he boasted in these terms: “…even before the war had ended and while the Germans were still surrendering by hundreds of thousands. I telegraphed Lord Montgomery, directing him to stack German arms so that they could be easily issued again to the German soldiers, with whom we should have to work if the Soviet advance continued”.
Churchill’s boast, made fully nine years after the end of the Second World War, proved so embarrassing in imperialist circles, then busy orchestrating the cold war crusade against the USSR by putting out the lie that they had been forced into this position by Soviet belligerence and malevolent designs towards a peace-loving west, that the Times was prompted to comment: “What purpose or good can it serve at this time … it certainly will not help to convince the Russians that the western powers are straightforward in their declarations of peace.
“Nor by suggesting that we were ready to use Nazi-indoctrinated troops in 1945, will it help the cause of West German rearmament now”.
One wonders what the reaction of the ordinary British people and soldiers would have been had they but been privy to Churchill’s thinking during the war, and that in his rabidly anti-Soviet plots he had the full agreement and backing, not only of Bevin, but also of Atlee, the darling of the Bennite-left and other prettifiers of the post-war imperialist Labour administration.
At the Yalta Conference in 1945, with the imminent fall of Germany in mind, Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill reached accord on the future of Germany, which included its de-Nazification, destruction of German militarism and of its war potential, trial and punishment of Nazi war criminals, war reparations, and the creation of a democratic and peaceful Germany. Further, Germany was temporarily to be divided into four occupation zones: eastern zone to be occupied by Soviet troops; north-western zone by British; south-western by US and a French one between the British and US zones. Berlin was to be under the control of the four allied powers. On learning of the decisions of the Yalta Conference, Hitler’s propaganda chief, Goebbels, was so infuriated that he wrote an editorial on 25 February in the fascist weekly, Das Reich, in which he stated:
“If the German people lay down their arms, the Soviets – even after the agreements between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin – would immediately occupy all of east and southeast Europe, including large parts of the Reich. Before this vast territory, including the entire Soviet Union an iron curtain would descend”.
The Sunday Times of 7 May, 1995, reporting the above-quoted remark of Goebbels, made this revealing and apposite observation:
“One of the war’s great rhetoricians had coined another memorable phrase.
“Churchill, with his expert eye for a good line, was to make it his own later. But in the fatal spring of 1945, the `iron curtain’ was a keynote phrase in German diplomacy. Even with Hitler dead and Germany in ruins it resurfaced when Count Schwerin von Krosigk, the rump Reich government’s new foreign minister, made a broadcast to the nation for the ears of western leaders on May 2: ‘In the east the iron curtain, behind which, unseen by the eyes of the world, the work of destruction goes on, is moving steadily forward.’ Insisting that Germany, too, wanted a new ‘world order’ free from war, he added: ‘But one cannot create such an order by making the wolf into a shepherd'”. (After Berlin next stop Moscow? Peter Millar)
By the end of March 1945, the Nazi leadership, fully aware that the game was up and the days of Nazi Germany strictly limited, tried to turn the tide by a reversal of alliances by convincing Britain and America that the real threat was the ‘Red Menace’ of ‘imperialist Bolshevism’. In pursuit of precisely such a reversal of alliances, the German armies, while in headlong retreat everywhere on the Western Front, offered very stiff resistance on the Eastern Front. In reply to Churchill’s communication dated 5th April 1945 that “the German armies in the west have been broken”, Stalin expressed himself in the following terms on 7th April: “The Germans have 147 divisions on the eastern front. They could safely withdraw from 15 to 20 divisions from the eastern front to aid their forces on the western front.
“Yet they have not done so, nor are they doing so. They are fighting desperately for Zemlenice, an obscure station in Czechoslovakia, which they need as much as a dead man needs a poultice, but they surrender without any resistance such important towns in the heart of Germany as Osnabrück, Mannheim and Kassel.
“You will admit that this behaviour on the part of the Germans is more than strange and unaccountable.”
Not so strange, considering that on the night of 23rd April 1945, a mere two weeks after Stalin’s above communication to Churchill, in a cellar of the Swedish consulate in the old Hanseatic port of Lübeck, Count Folke Bernadotte, envoy from allegedly neutral Sweden to Nazi Germany, and Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS, held a secret meeting at which Himmler signed a document of surrender to Britain and the US on the assumption that the latter two countries would now take over the eastern front and march on Moscow hand in hand with Germany. Hearing of the death on 12th April 1945 of ‘Jewish’ Roosevelt, Goebbels really believed that the ‘miracle’ was in the making. That this was not the case is solely to be explained by the fact that by the time of Himmler’s secret meeting with Count Bernadotte, “Hitler’s fate in the bunker was sealed by the Red Army advance. None the less, the Nazi leadership knew that Churchill had grave doubts about the fate of eastern Europe if the Soviets established hegemony. In the closing days of the war the analyses in London and Berlin were uncannily identical” (Sunday Times, ibid) (our emphasis).
Earlier still, in the autumn of 1944, when on the surface it appeared that the Allies were working single-mindedly in their final drive to victory, Churchill, with the knowledge of the Americans, entered into negotiations with Kesselring, the German commander in Italy, for a separate peace. The Soviet Union came to know of it and Stalin, in a telegram, questioned Churchill. The latter was obliged to tender an abject apology, which was accepted by Stalin.
So much then about the rubbish concerning British imperialism’s fight against fascism.
The Soviet Union had good reason to be suspicious. The virtually unopposed crossing of the Rhine at Remagen was part of a deal to get Anglo-American imperialist troops to the eastern front, particularly as the advance by the latter was spearheaded by the US military’s most rabid anti-communist, General Patton. The Soviet Union was also fully aware of Operation Sunrise, conducted by Allen Dullet, head of American special operations and future chief of the CIA, “who had repeated face-to-face talks with a senior SS general about a ‘separate’ surrender of German troops. Moscow was furious. The six-year hot war in Europe was over and the 45-year cold war had just begun” (Sunday Times, ibid).
On 28 March, General Eisenhower had informed Stalin in a telegram that after reaching the Elbe his forces would advance along the Erfurt-Leipzig-Dresden axis, thus cutting the remaining German forces in two. Not liking the sound of this proposition, on 31 March Churchill sent a telegram to Eisenhower asking: “Why should we not cross the Elbe and advance as far eastward as possible?” Churchill elaborated on this theme in a letter to Roosevelt on 1st April thus: “The Russian armies will no doubt overrun all Austria and enter Vienna. If they do, and also take Berlin, will not the impression that they have been the overwhelming contributor to a common victory be unduly imprinted on their minds, and may not this lead them into a mood which will raise grave doubts and formidable difficulties in the future?
“I therefore consider that from a political standpoint we should march as Far East into Germany as possible and that should Berlin be within our grasp we should certainly take it”.
As Roosevelt died suddenly on 12 April, Churchill never received a reply to his letter of 1st April. But Churchill persisted. With the defeat of Germany imminent, Churchill’s plan was to create a new front in Europe against the sweeping advance of the Soviet Union, which, according to him, represented mortal danger to the ‘free’ world. Under this plan, Berlin had at any cost to be occupied by Anglo-American forces, and, if possible, Prague too. As the US Joint Chiefs of Staff supported Eisenhower’s plan, Churchill lost the argument over Berlin. This, however, in no way dampened his anti-Sovietism. On 19 April, in a telegram to Anthony Eden, then visiting Washington, he regretted that Anglo-American forces where “not immediately in a position to force their way into Berlin” and emphasised the importance of Montgomery taking Lübeck as a matter of urgency – the sole purpose of this move being to cut the Red Army off from Denmark. Churchill concluded his telegram with the following words: “Thereafter, but partly concurrent, it is thought well to push on to Linz to meet the Russians there; and also by an American encircling movement to gain the region south of Stuttgart.
“In this region are the main German installations connected with their atomic research, and we had better get hold of these in the interests of the special secrecy attaching to this topic”.
In his reply, Eden expressed full agreement with Churchill’s plan, only adding, by way of a reminder: “I am sure you still have Prague in mind. It might do the Russians much good if the Americans were to occupy the Czech capital”.
But the Red Army’s inexorable march made certain that as with Berlin, so with Prague, history would write the closing chapter of the Second World War in a manner very different from that which would have met with Churchill’s approval.
Churchill, this supposedly irreconcilable warrior against Nazism, was so impressed by Goebbel’s thinking and turn of phrase, that he returned to it repeatedly in his private communications with Harry Truman, who succeeded Roosevelt as President. In his telegram of 12th May to Truman, Churchill expressed his foreboding at the turn of events in Europe in truly Goebbelsian terms: “What will be the position in a year a year or two,” he asked, “when the British and American armies have melted and the French have not yet been formed on any major scale, when we may have a handful of divisions, mostly French, and when Russia may choose to keep two or three hundred on active service?
“An Iron Curtain is drawn down upon their front. We do not know what is going on behind.
“There seems little doubt that the whole of the regions east of the line Lübeck-Trieste-Corfu will be in their hands”.
“To this must be added the further enormous area conquered by American armies between Eisenach and the Elbe, which will, I suppose, in a few weeks time be occupied, when the Americans retreat, by the Russian power.
“All kinds of arrangements will have to be made by General Eisenhower to prevent another immense flight of the German population westward as this enormous Muscovite advance into the centre of Europe takes place.
“And then the curtain will descend again to a very large extent, if not entirely. Thus a broad band of many hundreds of miles of Russian-occupied territory will isolate us from Poland”.
Barely a month before the Potsdam Conference, in a last-ditched effort to postpone the retirement, as agreed under the Tripartite Accord reached at Yalta in February, of the American forces from the areas occupied by them to their prescribed occupation zone, Churchill returned to his Goebbelsian obsession with the Soviet Union and the descent of the iron curtain in his letter of 4 June: “I view with profound misgivings the retreat of the American army to our line of occupation in the central sector, thus bringing Soviet power into the heart of Western Europe and the descent of an iron curtain between us and everything to the eastward.
“I had hoped that this retreat, if it had to be made, would be accompanied by the settlement of many great things which would be the true foundation of world peace”.
Again, facts on the ground made certain that Truman had no choice but to comply with the Tripartite Accord. This was especially so as the US still badly needed Soviet armed might for the war in the east against Japan. The successful testing of the atom bomb by the US was shortly to change all this.
Within a few weeks of the defeat of Nazi Germany Churchill instructed the War Cabinet to draw up a contingency plan for a massive attack against the Red Army resulting in the “elimination of Russia”. This was revealed by documents released by the Public Record Office in the autumn of 1998. The top secret file entitled “Russia: Threat to Western Civilisation”, Churchill’s plan, code-named Operation Unthinkable, envisaged tens of thousands of British and US troops, supported by 100,000 defeated German Nazi soldiers, turning on their war-time ally in a surprise attack stretching from the Baltic to Dresden.
The plan was based on the assumption that the Third World War would begin on July 1st 1945 – that is less than two months after VE day celebrations of the ‘Allied’ Victory in Europe. However, the plan was quickly squashed by the chiefs of staff who believed that it would involve Britain in a protracted and costly war with no certainty of victory. General Sir Alan Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, pointed out to Churchill that the Japanese had sunk two battleships that he had sent, unprotected to Malayan waters with just a dozen or two planes. The Red Army, he pointed out, had 7,000 much superior attack bombers. Any attempt to launch a pre-emptive strike against the Red Army through the Northern Corridor, the Baltic States, as envisaged by the Churchill plan, with the support of the Royal Navy, would simply mean that the latter (the Navy) would end up as iron coffins on the sea bed. The plan was dropped. 50 years later it became public knowledge through the release of the aforementioned file
As for the other ‘anti-fascist’ fighter, Truman, in 1941, before the American entry in the war, he expressed himself in the New York Times of 24th July 1941: “If we see that Germany is winning the war, we ought to help Russia; and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and in that way let them kill as many of each other as possible”.
General Leslie Groves, who was in charge of the Manhattan Project that produced the atomic weapons dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, frankly stated the anti-Soviet aims of this weapons project in these terms; “… There was never any illusion on my part from about two weeks from when I took charge, that Russia was the enemy and the Project was conducted on that basis”.
The absence of a second front reveals clearly that Britain and America had gone to war against Germany not to fight against fascism, which both of them had done much to bolster up, prior to the war, in the hope of hurling it against the USSR; that they had gone to war not in the interests of liberty and self-determination of nations, but, on the contrary, to preserve their colonial and imperialist interests against the encroachment of rapacious German imperialism. Of all the allied powers, the Soviet Union alone had entered the war and continued it until victory in the interests of socialism, liberty and the right of the oppressed and colonial peoples to self-determination.
The Long-Delayed Second Front
Eventually, at the Tehran Conference of the Big Three, which took place in December 1943, the date for the opening of the second front was agreed to be 5th June, 1944 – which had to be postponed to 6 June because of unfavourable weather.
By the time of the Tehran Conference, however, not only had the Soviet army been victorious at Stalingrad but also at Kursk, which had witnessed the biggest tank battle in history. After this, the Red Army’s inexorable march to Berlin had begun. No force on earth could stop it. Such a prospect could not but alarm and terrify Anglo-American imperialism. If the Red Army were to liberate the continent of Europe from Nazi occupation and tyranny all by herself, as she certainly had then the capacity to do, surely that would doom the rule of capital. D-Day landings, of which we hear so much nonsense every year, were launched not to free Europe and to defeat the Nazi armed forces; for the Nazi army had been smashed in the previous three years single-handedly by the Red Army, which had fought the Nazi war machine, and “tore its guts”, to use Churchill’s apt expression. In one of his last messages to Stalin, Churchill made a frank admission that the honour of sealing “the doom of German militarism” belonged to the Red Army and the Soviet Union, adding that “future generations will acknowledge their debt to the Red Army”.
It was thus to save as much for imperialism as possible that the invasion of Normandy was launched by the western allies of the Soviet Union on 6 June, 1944, in which 200,000 men and nearly 5,000 ships took part, and on which day western bombers flew 14,000 sorties. All the same, the Red Army was the first to reach Berlin and hoist the Red Flag on the Reichstag building. In the process it had liberated Eastern Europe, helped to de-Nazify it, and helped established people’s democracies, which were moving stridently along the road of socialism before having their development reversed by the triumph of Khrushchevite revisionism within the USSR itself.
Attempts to belittle Soviet Contribution
As we celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Victory against Fascism, the imperialist bourgeoisie is doing everything in its power to simply belittle or ignore altogether the decisive contribution of the Soviet Union in defeating Hitler’s fascist army. They concentrate on minor events of the war such as the Battle of the Bulge, which began on December 16, 1944, and ended with an allied victory in mid-1945, thanks to the Russian offensive, which saved the British and Americans from a crushing defeat.
In the battle of the Bulge, by his thrust towards Antwerp, in an attempt to cut off the British and American armies from the Channel, producing a ‘second Dunkirk’, Hitler had hoped to compel the British and the Americans to make a separate peace with Germany, thus leaving him free to concentrate on the USSR. But the Russian offensive in the East, which took them all the way to Berlin, not only frustrated Hitler’s plans for a separate peace, it also saved the British and the American armies from an ignominious defeat.
The relatively minor significance of the battle of the Bulge, as well as the decisive Soviet help in making an allied victory possible in this battle – both these facts are recognised by the most impeccable of bourgeois authorities. “The Battle of the Bulge was the biggest battle on the Western Front, but it was relatively minor compared with those in the East”, said John Pimlott, a senior lecturer at Sandhurst, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.
And no less a person than Winston Churchill in his book, The Second World War, acknowledges the help the Soviet Union gave to the allied armies by advancing the date of the Soviet offensive in the East in the following words: “It was a fine deed of the Russians and their chief to hasten their vast offensive, no doubt at a heavy cost of life”.
John Pimlott again: “The Russian offensive caused Hitler to transfer what remained of the Sixth Panzer Army to the Eastern Front and this relieved the pressure significantly in the Ardennes”.
Thus is it clear that on the Western Front, the biggest battle, the battle of the Bulge, which in turn was a “relatively minor affair” compared with the battles in the East, was only won with enormous Soviet help, whereas on the Eastern Front, the Soviet Union fought single-handedly for three and a half years, confronting and successfully beating 240 divisions hurled by Hitler against the USSR. Anyone with knowledge of the history of the Second World War cannot fail to notice that all the main events of that war took place on the Soviet-German Front, that it was the Soviet Union and the Red Army that in the course of three and a half long and grim years fought one-to-one against the gigantic military machine of the fascist bloc, bled it white, and then finally crushed Hitler’s Germany. The Soviet people were the principal creators of this great victory.
Before the war, as noted earlier, Trotsky had gleefully predicted the collapse of the USSR as a result of the war with imperialism. Through the kind act of one of his own followers, Jackson, who assassinated Trotsky, the latter was spared the humiliation and pain, that undoubtedly would have been his lot, of having to witness, and live with, the brilliant exploits of the armed forces and the peoples of the USSR. His followers, the present-day Trotskyites, while not daring to deny the Soviet Union’s heroic successes in the war against fascism, attribute these successes to the allegedly leaderless Soviet people. Far from recognising that the organiser and inspirer of these victories was non other than the Bolshevik party under the brilliant leadership of Joseph Stalin, these Trotskyist hens on bourgeois dung-heaps cackle ad nauseam about `Stalinist bureaucracy’ which had allegedly killed god knows how many tens of millions of peasants in `forced collectivisation’, had `decimated’ the Red Army by executing high-ranking officers before the war, and which had killed and imprisoned the `truly Bolshevik’ leaders and ‘most experienced communists’. These lies and filth are a daily (sorry, weekly) diet of the various Trotskyist anti-working class scandal sheets.
Here is an example of the counter-revolutionary trickery and deception, typical of all Trotskyist outfits, taken from one such scandal sheet, Workers Power (no.189, May 1995). In its editorial, entitled `VE Day: What is there to Celebrate?’ We shall let pass the assertion of the counter-revolutionary ignoramus, who wrote this leading article, that in 1934 “Lord Beaverbrook’s Daily Mail greeted Mosley’s British Union with the immoral headline ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirt!’ … the same Lord Beaverbrook was minister in charge of aircraft production in the `anti-fascist’ war…”. Surely something wrong editor, as Private Eye would say. Actually, to put the record straight, it was Lord Rothermere’s Daily Mail which came out with the headline greeting the Blackshirts. Lord Beaverbrook owned the Express group of newspapers, the same group with which Trotsky had such a close relationship, and in return for whose gold Trotsky wrote such a lot of anti-Soviet reactionary filth. But this is by the by. Now to the more important point at issue.
The editorial, having stated that British imperialism was fighting for its imperialist interests throughout the war, goes on to say the following counter-revolutionary hotchpotch: “That is why revolutionary socialists said then that British workers should not support their bosses’ war. Of course it was not a question of supporting Hitler either, but of saying `No truce with the British bosses, the main enemy is at home’.
“For four out of the war’s five years the real conflict was fought on the Eastern front. Twenty million soldiers and civilians were killed. Six million Jews were exterminated. Hitler had to crush the Soviet workers’ state in order to survive – even though power there had been usurped by a totalitarian bureaucracy. In that conflict the Trotskyists everywhere were at the forefront of the fight for solidarity with USSR, even though they had been the first victims of Stalin’s purges.
“That is why … socialists can and should celebrate the Red Army’s victory over fascism.
“But only with two cheers. Because what the Soviets on the Volga had in common with the Anglo-US armies on the Rhine was their political purpose: the imposition of a stable capitalist order in Europe and the crushing of working-class independence”.
And further: “Across Eastern Europe workers rose against the Nazis as the Red Army approached. Time and again they seized factories only for the Stalinists chiefs to move in and hand them back to what was left of the ruling class
“All across Europe, east and west, the real anti-fascist fighters – the partisans – found themselves disarmed and, in some cases, liquidated by the combined forces of Stalinism and imperialism.
“…Stalinism and imperialism crushed [the revolutionary] spirit. Their victory laid the foundations of a `world order’ of wars, oppression and famine, haunted by the mushroom cloud.
“That is the victory our rulers are celebrating this month – the post-war counter-revolution. That is why no worker should be waving the red-white-and-blue on 8 May”.
Let us try and unravel the real counter-revolutionary essence contained in the above contradictory and self-annihilatory mumbo-jumbo. First, we are correctly told that while the real conflict was for four years fought on the Eastern front, British imperialism was largely fighting the Germans in North Africa in the interests of safeguarding her colonial possessions and oil wealth. From this, not only the real revolutionary socialists of the day, but millions of ordinary decent working people, drew the conclusion, and put forward the demand, that Britain must open a second front in the west so as to help the Red Army which was having single-handedly to face the entire strength of the German fascist armed forces. At such a time to say “No truce with the British bosses, the real enemy is at home”, is only a subterfuge for covering a counter-revolutionary line with `revolutionary’ phraseology, an expertise in which Trotskyism is at its par excellence, for in essence, it is tantamount to saying that let the Red Army go to hell, our fight is at home and the fate of the socialist Soviet Union is no concern of ours. And yet we are told that the “Trotskyists everywhere were at the forefront of the fight for solidarity with the USSR”. Devoid of the demand for the opening of a second front in Europe to ease the position of the Soviet Union, this Trotskyist solidarity was not merely meaningless, but a counter-revolutionary activity aimed at sabotaging the mobilisation of public opinion in Britain for the opening of the second front.
Secondly, we are told that Hitler had to crush the Soviet workers’ state and that we should celebrate the Red Army’s victory over fascism. But what is there to celebrate, when in the very next sentence we are informed that the Red Army, in common with the Anglo-US armies, had but one political purpose, viz. “The imposition of a stable capitalist order in Europe and the crushing of working-class independence”? What is there to celebrate if, as we are told by this Trotskyist leader writer, the real anti-fascist fighters were “liquidated by the combined forces of Stalinism and imperialism”? What is there to celebrate if, as we are told, “Stalinism and Imperialism crushed” the revolutionary spirit of the working class and if, as we are told, “their victory laid the foundations of a `world order’ of wars, oppression and famine, haunted by the cloud”? What is there to celebrate, even with two cheers if, as we are told, the Red Army was instrumental in securing a victory whose political purpose was “the imposition of a stable capitalist order in Europe” and to crush “working class independence”? If all this is true, then not only should we not be waving the Union Jack in the celebrations of our rulers this month, we ought not to be waving the Red Flag in celebrating the victory of the Red Army, which after all, as we are told, was as instrumental as the Anglo-US armies in imposing a “`world order’ of wars, oppression and famine…”.
That being so, would it not have been better to have cut out all the guff and stated from the beginning that the Red army, being an instrument of “Stalinist bureaucracy” was indistinguishable from the Anglo-US armies; that the Soviet regime differed not a whit from the regimes in France, Britain, USA and Germany; that the war was an imperialist war on all sides; that the enemy of the workers everywhere, including the USSR, was at home; and so on and so forth. That is what the counter-revolutionary writer of this editorial wanted to say and that is what he should have said. Had he, however, done that in an honest and straightforward manner, that would have exposed his counter-revolutionary line, and the absurdity of his arguments, at once for all to see. He could have fooled no one. So he had to speak in coded language, to clothe his arguments in `revolutionary’ phraseology, in an effort to hide his counter-revolutionary Trotskyist line from the honest, but ignorant, youngsters who seduced by fashionable Trotskyist catchphrases, have the misfortune to be members of these organisations, pretending to be socialist, but which in essence are anti-proletarian and anti-communist to the core.
Anti-Soviet Plots Smashed
The Soviet Union of those days dashed the hopes of democratic as well as Nazi imperialists, who had longed to overwhelm her. In the face of the strength of Soviet socialism, the unbreakable unity of the peoples of the USSR, the might of the Red Army, the heroism of the Soviet masses, and the brilliance of her diplomacy, all imperialist anti-Soviet plots ended up in smoke.
The Hitlerites had hoped to “finish off” the Soviet Union in six to eight weeks in a “lightening war” of the kind that had succeeded in Western Europe. These hopes were based on a number of miscalculations.
First, they had counted on the instability of the Soviet system, believing that after the first serious blow and the first setbacks of the Red Army, uprisings would break out and the Soviet Union would disintegrate into its component parts, thus facilitating the advance of the German fascist hordes right up to the Urals. Instead, these setbacks strengthened the alliance of the Soviet working class and peasantry, as well as the friendship of the peoples of the USSR, converting this family of peoples of the Soviet Union into a single and unshakeable military camp, selflessly supplying its Red Army.
As Stalin put it: “It is quite probable that any other state, having suffered such territorial losses as we have now, would not have withstood the test and would have fallen into decline. If the Soviet system has so successfully passed through this trial and even strengthened its rear, then this means that the Soviet system is now the most stable one” (Speech to the Moscow Soviet, 6 Nov., 1941).
Secondly, the Hitlerite fascists had counted on the lack of fighting experience of the Red Army, but they miscalculated here too, for the morale of the Red Army proved higher than that of the Germans, because the Red Army was defending its native socialist motherland against alien invaders and, correctly believing in the justice of its cause, performed heroic and miraculous deeds of chivalry. The German army, on the other hand, was waging an aggressive war and plundering a foreign country. Having no possibility of believing even for a moment in the justice of its vile cause, it degenerated into corrupt hordes of professional plunderers devoid of all moral principles and conscience.
Hitler’s “Blitzkrieg” failed because in the defence of the socialist motherland, in the fire of this Great Patriotic War, were forged new fighters, who became a deadly menace to the German army. The Soviet people came to death grips with their bitterest and most cunning enemy, German fascism; overcoming numerous difficulties, Soviet troops fought with valour and heroism against an enemy armed to the teeth with tanks and aircraft; the Red Army, the Red Airforce and the Red Navy self-sacrificingly fought for every inch of Soviet soil, displaying unexampled bravery; side by side with the Red Army, the entire Soviet people rose in defence of their socialist motherland. This then explains why Hitler’s Blitzkrieg came to such a sorry pass.
Once he had embarked on the conquest of the USSR, Hitler’s defeat became inevitable, not only because of the moral degradation of the German fascist invaders, who had lost human semblance long ago and sunk to the level of wild beasts, but also because of their European and German rear, and most important, the might of the Soviet Union which delivered ceaseless death blows at the fascist invaders till they could take it no more and collapsed. Whereas the German army became demoralised as a result of plunder and outrages against the civilian population, the heroic fight which the people of the USSR were waging for their freedom, honour and independence evoked the admiration of all progressive humanity.
Even in the midst of this grim life and death struggle, the Soviet people, the Bolshevik Party and its leader, Joseph Stalin, never for a moment forgot the proletarian internationalist aspect of the Soviet people’s war of liberation against the German fascist invaders. Right at the beginning of the war, in his radio broadcast of 3 July, 1941, Stalin said:
“The aim of this national patriotic war in defence of our country against the fascist oppressors is not only to eliminate the danger hanging over our country, but also to aid all the European peoples groaning under the yoke of German fascism. In this war of liberation we shall not be alone. In this great war we shall have true allies in the peoples of Europe and America, including the German people which is enslaved by the Hitlerite misrulers”.
This was a theme Stalin and the Bolshevik Party were to stress again and again. On the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the October Revolution, Stalin, in his speech at a celebration meeting of the Moscow Soviet on 6 November, 1942, returned to the theme and contrasted the German and Soviet war aims in the following terms.
The German programme, he said, may be summed up as: “racial hatred, domination of `chosen’ nations; subjugation of other nations and seizure of their territories, economic enslavement of subjugated nations and plunder of their national wealth; destruction of democratic liberties; the institution of Hitlerite regimes everywhere.”
In contrast the Soviet aim was: “the abolition of racial exclusiveness; the equality of nations and the inviolability of their territories; the liberation of the enslaved nations and the restoration of their sovereign rights; the right of every nation to arrange its affairs as it wishes; economic aid to the nations that have suffered and assistance to them in achieving their material welfare; restoration of democratic liberties; the destruction of the Hitlerite regime”.
The Great Patriotic War
It is impossible to write anything like a serious and meaningful account of the Soviet war effort and its contribution in smashing German fascism and militarism and at the same time refusing to recognise the supremely important role played by Stalin. Yet, precisely this is being attempted by the bourgeoisie everywhere. There is a kind of division of labour between the imperialist bourgeoisie of the west and the new bourgeoisie of Russia. Whereas the former attempt to malign Stalin by attributing to him all kinds of imaginary blunders, the latter are trying to do the same by a conspiracy of silence. On 8th May 1995, on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Victory against Fascism, Boris Yeltsin unveiled, a giant bronze statue to General Zhukov beside the Kremlin. Zhukov certainly deserves, as do several other Soviet generals of that period, a statue to honour his services. But the desire to honour Zhukov is not what caused the Yeltsin clique to install his statue, for as Jonathan Steele of the Guardian rightly remarked at the time: “The homage to Zhukov saves the authorities from the need to mention Stalin, which always arouses controversy. His name did not come up in any of the four speeches yesterday” (Guardian, 9 May 1995).
Those who attempt to spit at the moon, end up spitting at their own faces, so runs an old saying. Attempts to belittle the role of Stalin, to malign him, will fare no better, for history has already passed judgement in the form of the glorious achievements of the former USSR, under his leadership, in every field – including, of course, the victory of the Red Army in the Great Patriotic War. Zhukov himself would have agreed with this statement.
Stalin’s leadership, during the war was nothing short of inspirational. When Moscow was under the shadow of the enemy guns, Stalin refused to leave Moscow. The traditional Red Army parade to mark the Anniversary of the October Revolution took place, as usual, in Red Square on 7 November, 1941. These are the words with which Stalin inspired the Red Army soldiers:
“Comrades, men of the Red Army and Red Navy, Commanders and political instructors, men and women guerrillas, the whole world is looking to you as the forces capable of destroying the plundering hordes of German invaders. The enslaved peoples of Europe who have fallen under the yoke of the German invaders look to you as their liberators. A great liberating mission has fallen to your lot. Be worthy of this mission! The war you are waging is a war of liberation. A just war. Let the manly images of our great ancestors, Alexander Nevsky, Dimitry Donskoy, Kazuma Minin, Dimitry Pozharsky, Alexander Suvorov and Mikhail Kutzov – inspire you in this war! May the victorious banner of the great Lenin be your lodestar!” (Emphasis added).
Although the credit for the victory must correctly be given to the Soviet armed forces and the heroic efforts of the Soviet people, no narrative of these fateful years is complete without a reference, indeed a fulsome tribute, to the undisputed leader of the CPSU(B), the Soviet people, and the Supreme commander of the Soviet forces – Joseph Stalin. Even a renegade like Gorbachev is obliged, apropos the Soviet victory in the Second World War, to admit that: “A factor in the achievement of victory was the tremendous political will, purposefulness and persistence, ability to organise and discipline people, displayed in the war years by Joseph Stalin” (Report at the Festive Meeting on the 70th Anniversary of the Great October Revolution held in Moscow on 2 November, 1987, p.25).
Ian Grey, who is a bourgeois but honest writer, has this to say on this score: “The massive setbacks and the immediate threat to Moscow would have unnerved most men, but the impact on Stalin was to strengthen his grim determination to fight. No single factor was more important in holding the nation from disintegration at this time”(ibid. p.335).
Further: “It was in a real sense his [Stalin’s] victory. It could not have been won without his industrialisation campaign and especially the intensive development of industry beyond the Volga. Collectivisation had contributed to the victory by enabling the government to stockpile food and raw materials to prevent paralysis in industry and famine in the towns. But also collectivisation, with its machine-tractor stations, had given the peasants their first training in the use of tractors and other machines” (ibid p.419).
Quoting Isaac Deutscher, who is far from friendly to Stalin, approvingly, Ian Grey continues: “`Collectivised farming had been `the peasants’ preparatory school for mechanised warfare’ …
“It was his victory, too, because he had directed and controlled every branch of Russian operations throughout the war. The range and burden of his responsibilities were extraordinary, but day by day without a break for the four years of the war he exercised direct command of the Russian forces and control over supplies, war industries, and government policy, including foreign policy” (ibid. pp.419-420).
Finally, the same writer says: “It was his victory, above all, because it had been won by his genius and labours, heroic in scale. The Russian people had looked to him for leadership, and he had not failed them. His speeches of July 3 and November 6, 1941, which had steeled them for the trials of war, and his presence in Moscow during the great battle of the city, had demonstrated his will to victory. He … inspired them and gave them positive direction. He had the capacity of attending to detail and keeping in mind the broad picture, and, while remembering past and immersed in the present, he was constantly looking ahead to the future” (p.424).
Innately hostile as he is to Stalin, Deutscher is nevertheless obliged to paint this picture of Stalin’s role during the war:
“Many allied visitors who called at the Kremlin during the war were astonished to see on how many issues, great and small, military, political or diplomatic, Stalin personally took the final decision. He was in effect his own Commander-in-Chief, his own minister of defence, his own quartermaster, his own minister of supply, his own foreign minister, and even his own chef de protocol. The stavka, the Red Army’s GHQ, was in his offices in the Kremlin. From his office desk, in constant and direct touch with the commands of the various fronts, he watched and directed the campaigns in the field. From his office desk, too, he managed another stupendous operation, the evacuation of 1,360 plants and factories from western Russia and the Ukraine to the Volga, the Urals and Siberia, an evacuation that involved not only machines and installations but millions of workmen and their families. Between one function and the other he bargained with, say, Beaverbrook and Harriman over the quantities of aluminium or the calibre of rifles and anti-aircraft guns to be delivered to Russia by the western allies; or he received leaders of the guerrillas … from German occupied territory and discussed with them raids to be carried out hundreds of miles behind the enemy’s lines. At the height of the battle of Moscow, in December 1941, when the thunder of Hitler’s guns hovered ominously over the streets of Moscow, he found time enough to start a subtle diplomatic game with the Polish General Sikorski, who had come to conclude a Russo-Polish treaty. … He entertained them [foreign envoys and visitors] usually late at night and in the small hours of the morning. After a day filled with military reports, operational decisions, economic instructions and diplomatic haggling, he would at dawn pore over the latest dispatches from the commissariat of Home Affairs, the NKVD…. Thus he went on, day after day, throughout four years of hostilities – a prodigy of patience, tenacity, and vigilance, almost omnipresent, almost omniscient” (Isaac Deutscher, Stalin, pp.456-457).
And further: “… [T]here is no doubt that he was their [the Soviet troops’] real Commander-in-Chief. His leadership was by no means confined to the taking of abstract strategic decisions, at which civilian politicians may excel. The avid interest with which he studied the technical aspects of modern warfare, down to the minute detail, shows him to have been anything but a dilettante. He viewed the war primarily from the angle of logistics. … To secure reserves of manpower and supplies of weapons, in the right quantities and proportions, to allocate them and transport them to the right points at the right time, to amass a decisive strategic reserve and to have it ready for intervention at decisive moments – these operations made up nine-tenths of his task” (ibid. p.459).
This is how Deutscher captures the victory parade in Red Square at the end of the war:
“On 24 June 1945 Stalin stood at the top of the Lenin Mausoleum and reviewed a great victory parade of the Red Army which marked the fourth anniversary of Hitler’s attack. By Stalin’s side stood Marshall Zhukov, his deputy, the victor of Moscow, Stalingrad and Berlin. The troops that marched past him were led by Marshall Rokossovsky. As they marched, rode, and galloped across Red Square, regiments of infantry, cavalry, and tanks swept the mud of its pavement – it was a day of torrential rain – with innumerable banners and standards of Hitler’s army. At the Mausoleum they threw the banners at Stalin’s feet. The allegorical scene was strangely imaginative …
“The next day Stalin received the tribute of Moscow for the defence of the city in 1941. The day after he was acclaimed as `Hero of the Soviet Union’ and given the title of Generalissimo” (ibid. p.534).
In “these days of undreamt-of triumph and glory”, continues Deutscher: “Stalin stood in the full blaze of popular recognition and gratitude. These feelings were spontaneous, genuine, not engineered by official propagandists. Overworked slogans about the `achievements of the Stalinist era’ now conveyed fresh meaning not only to young people, but to sceptics and malcontents of the older generation ….” (ibid p.534).
The victory of the USSR was also a victory for the whole of progressive humanity. That is why the 60th Anniversary must be marked as a festival by progressive humanity everywhere. At the same time, we must never forget the sacrifices made by the people of the world, especially the people of the Soviet Union, in order to free humanity from the plague of Hitlerite fascism. We must also never forget to fight in defence of the hard-won rights and democratic liberties of the working class and the oppressed people, for any complacency on this score can only be at the cost of much greater sacrifices in the future, as the German people, and with them the rest of humanity, discovered in the Thirties and Forties. This is especially important at a moment when the dark clouds of racism, national oppression and the wars unleashed by imperialism, not to mention millions starved to death each week, are a daily reality for hundreds of millions of people all over the world.
The Second World War was a product of imperialism, as was the First. It started as an inter-imperialist war to decide which group of bandits – the Anglo-French-American or the German-Italian-Japanese – were to have what share of the loot, colonies, markets and avenues for export of capital. Only the Soviet Union and the broad masses of humanity everywhere fought against fascism and for human advance. More than 50 million were killed in this war, of which 12 million were done to death in fascist concentration camps; another 95 million were left invalid. The losses of the Soviet Union alone were simply colossal.
Soviet victory came at a terrible cost. 27 million Soviet citizens, including 7.5 million Soviet soldiers, lost their lives. In comparison, the US lost just under 300,000 soldiers and the British Empire’s losses amounted to 353,652, of which Britain’s losses totalled no more than 224,723. To this must be added 60,000 civilian deaths.
In addition, a third of Soviet territory and economic resources were devastated; 1,710 towns and 70,000 villages were completely destroyed; 6 million homes and buildings were demolished; 31,800 industrial plants were stripped bare; and 98,000 collective or state farms were broken up, and their livestock, totalling 64 million animals, was destroyed or taken to Germany.
This is the cost the socialist Soviet Union had to pay. This is the cost the Soviet Union, and the Soviet people had to pay for the attempt by imperialism to prolong its outmoded life and for the betrayal of socialism by social democracy, especially German social democracy, which crushed the German revolution in 1918, restored the power of the bourgeoisie, and facilitated the rise of Nazism, thus creating a monster which eventually had to be faced, and defeated, by the Soviet Union.
And it is a measure of the resilience of the socialist system, the heroism of the Soviet people, and the leadership of the CPSU(B) with Stalin at its head, that without any reparations and outside economic help, within three years from the end of the war, the Soviet economy had been built to its pre-war level. And, in the following three years it had doubled in size – and achievement which baffled friend and foe alike.
At a time when the imperialist bourgeoisie in the West as well as the new bourgeoisie in Russia are trying to belittle the Soviet contribution, the role of the Soviet people, the CPSU(B) and its undisputed leader, it is worth remembering the titanic battles and the scale of effort involved in defeating Hitlerite Germany. The Soviet armed forces, in the course of the Great Patriotic War, managed to destroy 506 German divisions and 100 divisions belonging to German satellites. In comparison, British and American imperialism destroyed no more than 176 German divisions. In the war against the USSR, Germany lost 10 million men, accounting for three quarters of its total losses in the Second World War.
The victories of the Red Army in the historic battles of Moscow (October 1941- January 1942), Stalingrad (August 1942 – February 1943), Kursk (Spring – Summer 1943) and Berlin (Spring 1945) shall forever remain an eloquent tribute to the Soviet people, to the socialist system, to the CPSU(B) and to Joseph Stalin. Humanity at large shall never fail to express its gratitude for the contribution of the Soviet Union in the defeat of Nazi Germany.
To get an idea of the dedication of the Soviet soldier, his love of the socialist motherland and of the communist party, we cannot help quoting the following letter from Reuben Ibarriera on the Eastern Front to his mother: “I am taking advantage of a spare moment to write these few lines. You mustn’t worry about me, I am getting on OK.
“Mama, when I said goodbye to you, you told me not to be afraid. I thought that was almost an insult, and I must tell you that my hands won’t tremble when I kill those dogs.
“Once again, mama, I must tell you that I consider it an honour and a source of pride that I have the chance to fight in the ranks of the great and invincible Red Army against the tyrant of humankind. I am sure that here we will smash his teeth in, for, as I told you, here in every woman and in every man there lives a hero, a bolshevik. These people are really amazing. I can tell you that sometimes I am moved to the depths of my soul. Such people just cannot be beaten.
“That’s all for today. Much love from your loving son, whose wish is that you should keep on working harder and harder for the sake of our cause” (quoted in The Russian version of the Second World War, published in Britain in 1976).
Millions of Soviet soldiers cheerfully went to their death in the fight against fascism with the following words on their lips: “For the motherland and for comrade Stalin”.
At the time everyone, including Churchill, recognised the colossal Soviet contribution towards the defeat of Nazi Germany. On 4 February 1945, on the occasion of the Soviet Army Day, Churchill, while plotting against the Soviet Union, was nevertheless obliged to send this message: “The Red Army celebrates its twenty-seventh anniversary amid a triumph which has won the unstinted applause of their allies and has sealed the doom of German militarism. Future generations will acknowledge their debt to the Red Army as unreservedly as do we who have lived to witness their proud achievements”.
Soviet Union No More
Thanks to the treachery of Khrushchevite revisionism, the great and glorious Soviet Union, which gave so much to save the world from the scourge of fascism, is no more. Thanks to the same treachery, socialism is no more in the land of Lenin and Stalin. What Nazis with millions of soldiers, thousands of tanks and aircraft, could not achieve through four years of a most devastating war against the land of the Soviets, the revisionists achieved almost without firing any shots. From this the most important lesson to be drawn by the international proletariat is that revisionism is its most deadly enemy.
Since the collapse of the Soviet regime, the disintegration of the USSR, the imperialist bourgeoisie and all manner of reactionaries have triumphantly asserted that “Marxism is destroyed”. There is nothing new in these assertions, which are as old as Marxism itself. We conclude this article by answering these assertions in the following, never to be forgotten words of Stalin:
“It is said that in some countries in the West, Marxism has already been destroyed. It is said that it has been destroyed by the bourgeois-nationalist trend known as fascism. That, of course, is nonsense. Only people who are ignorant of history can talk like that. Marxism is the scientific expression of the fundamental interests of the working class. To destroy Marxism, the working class must be destroyed. But it is impossible to destroy the working class. More than 80 years have passed since Marxism came into the arena. During this time scores and hundreds of bourgeois governments have tried to destroy Marxism. And what has happened? Bourgeois governments have come and gone, but Marxism has remained. Moreover, Marxism has achieved complete victory on one-sixth of the globe; moreover, it has achieved it in the very country in which Marxism was considered to have been utterly destroyed. It cannot be regarded as an accident that the country in which Marxism has achieved complete victory is now the only country in the world which knows no crises and unemployment, whereas in all other countries, including the fascist countries, crisis and unemployment have been reigning for four years now. No, comrades, that is no accident.
“Yes, comrades, our successes are due to the fact that we have worked and fought under the banner of Marx, Engels, Lenin.
“Hence, the second conclusion: We must remain true to the end to the great banner of Marx, Engels, Lenin” (Works, Vol.13, pp.386-7)
Eternal Glory to all those Heroes who fell in the Fight against Fascism!
Eternal Glory to the Great and Glorious USSR!
Eternal Glory to J V Stalin!
Down with Imperialism and its variant – fascism!
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