There have been the most extraordinary efforts made throughout Europe in the past few years to re-write the history of the Second World War, designed primarily to foster the myth that communism is merely a form of fascism. For this reason, hack historians are going overboard to deny the glorious role played by the Soviet Union in the victory over fascism.
This scurrilous effort is a response on the part of the upholders of the capitalist system to the sense of let-down felt by the people of the countries of the former Soviet Union and the people’s democracies of eastern Europe who had been led to believe that the restoration of capitalism in their countries would lead inevitably to an era of increased prosperity and wellbeing. Of course, the opposite has been the case for the overwhelming majority of the people. Many have lost their jobs, their homes, their access to education and healthcare. Nearly everybody lives in considerably straitened circumstances. It is no wonder, then, that their thoughts inevitably turn to the advantages of communism and that people are susceptible to being mobilised once again for the overthrow of capitalism.
It is in these circumstances that the bourgeoisie and their lickspittle political and ideological minions need to redouble their efforts to blacken the name of communism, while thugs are mobilised to destroy all the visible symbols of the great and glorious communist past to which the bourgeoisie is determined the working masses will not be allowed to return. Besides the destruction of statues of prominent communist leaders such as Lenin and Stalin, we are now seeing such acts of vandalism as the demolition of the Palast der Republik in Berlin and the Soviet war memorials in the Baltic States and Georgia.
On the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the victory over fascism which we celebrate on 9 May this year, we find it apposite to revisit the history of the Second World War as well as the role played by the Soviet Union, in contrast to that played by the various imperialist powers that opposed Hitler.
The major reason lying behind the outbreak of the second world war was the unresolved contradiction that had led to the first world war, namely, that Germany, being a vigorous and rising imperialist power, was demanding from old and senescent imperialist powers such as Britain, France, Holland and Belgium, a redistribution of spheres of influence in the world in line with the new balance of forces. Having lost the first world war, Germany, far from securing its ‘fair share’ of imperialist loot, was subjected to the humiliation of the unjust Paris peace treaties which were inevitably to propel it into renewed warfare once circumstances allowed. Moreover, these treaties also failed to do ‘justice’ to Japan, although it had been an ally of the old powers, and so ensured that Japan ended up as an ally of Germany in this renewed warfare.
Meanwhile, the United States had emerged from the first world war with its industrial and financial might considerably strengthened at the expense of the European combatants. It was able to seize for itself hegemony over Latin America, and was openly challenging Japanese interests in the Far East.
France’s strategy for expansion and increased domination lay in taking the new state of Poland under its wing and attempting to secure control over the small nations of Eastern Europe dependent upon France for their existence and prosperity. It was in these circumstances that France insisted that an outlet to the Baltic Sea be created for the new state of Poland in spite of the fact that this could only be done by incorporating into Poland territories which contained a majority of Germans, a cause which, along with the creation of a separate ‘Free City’ of Danzig, was the source of considerable German resentment.
In addition, the Polish government imposed the Treaty of Riga upon the infant Soviet Union, in opposition to British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon who considered it prudent to draw the eastern border of Poland along purely ethnographic lines, bringing the western parts of the Ukraine and Belarus, dominated by Polish landlords, into ‘eastern Poland’, even though their populations were overwhelmingly non-Polish.
Half-heartedness of old imperialists’ opposition to fascism
A new contradiction that had not been present at the time of the outbreak of the first world war was the contradiction between the imperialist countries and the land of socialism.
This was to have a devastating effect on the ability and willingness of the old imperialist powers to confront German imperialist ambitions, as the old imperialist powers by and large considered the world socialist movement to be an even more serious threat to their interests than upstart imperialist powers such as Germany and Japan. Their strategy was to persuade German imperialism to fulfil its expansionist desires by directing its aggression against the Soviet Union. Hence Neville Chamberlain’s notorious attempts to appease Hitler by failing to defend small nations like Austria and Czechoslovakia against German expansionist designs instead of backing Soviet proposals for ‘collective security’ to be organised through the League of Nations. In addition Britain intervened to prevent the League condemning the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and the Italian conquest of Abyssinia and entered into the Anglo-German Naval Agreement of 1935 breaching the limits on German rearmament imposed by the Treaty of Versailles.
The Soviet response
Soviet foreign policy in these conditions centred on trying to seek an alliance with the old imperialist powers against German aggression. However, as Molotov, the Soviet foreign minister, explained:
“…on the one hand, Great Britain and France offered to guarantee the Soviet Union military assistance against aggression in return for like assistance on the part of the USSR. On the other hand, they hedged round their assistance with such provisos regarding indirect aggression as were calculated to convert this assistance into a fiction and to provide them with a formal legal excuse for evading the rendering of assistance and for leaving the USSR isolated in face of an aggressor. Just try to distinguish between such a ‘pact of mutual assistance’ and a pact of more or less camouflaged chicanery.
“The conclusion of a pact of mutual assistance against aggression would only have been of value if Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union had arrived at an agreement providing for definite military measures against the attack of an aggressor …. However nothing came of the military negotiations. The difficulty they encountered was that Poland, who was to be jointly guaranteed by Great Britain, France and the USSR, rejected military assistance on the part of the Soviet Union. Attempts to overcome the objections of Poland met with no success. More, the negotiations showed that Great Britain was not anxious to overcome these objections of Poland, but on the contrary, encouraged them.”
In these circumstances the Soviet Union had to defend itself against the attempts to make it the main target of German aggression and did so by actually negotiating a non-aggression pact with Germany. Molotov pointed out in his speech of 31 August 1939 ‘On the Ratification of the Soviet-German Pact of Non-Aggression’:
“It is our duty to think of the interests of the Soviet people, the interests of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. All the more since we are firmly convinced that the interests of the USSR coincide with the fundamental interests of the peoples of other countries.”
We have to accept that this was not always clearly enough understood by some Communists at the time and since. Rather than analysing rationally the concrete conditions under which the pact was concluded, and understanding that this pact was a key move in securing victory over German fascism, they fall rather easily into the trap laid for them by anti-communists of equating communism and fascism as mutual enemies of ‘democracy’. The fact of the matter, however, is that the communists are far stronger defenders of democracy, even bourgeois democracy, than are the representatives of the bourgeoisie, and the only defenders of genuine, participatory, democracy for the working class and oppressed masses, as opposed to the representative democracy of the bourgeois order which in reality is democracy only for the bourgeoisie.
Soviet victory over fascism
The Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact in the event gave the Soviet Union a respite of less than two years. The German imperialists launched their attack on the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, and at the time it was widely expected that the Soviet Union would capitulate within weeks.
Hitler proclaimed when launching the attack on the Soviet Union, codenamed Operation Barbarossa, that “We have only to kick in the front door and the whole rotten [communist] edifice will come tumbling down’”. However, the Soviet Union had not sat idle during the months the Non-Aggression Pact was in force, but had made extensive preparations to withstand the expected eventual attack. Much to the surprise of bourgeois military analysts, the Nazi offensive was forced to a grinding halt outside Moscow.
The bourgeoisie likes to pretend that it was only the Russian winter that defeated the mighty German war machine. The truth of the matter, however, as Marshall Zhukov explained was that “it was not the rain and snow that stopped the Nazi troops at Moscow. The more than a million strong élite Nazi force was crushed by the iron will, courage and heroism of the Soviet troops who were there to defend their people, their capital, their country.” They fought like tigers, and they fought to defend their liberty and their proletarian democracy.
General Douglas MacArthur wrote of the counterattack at Moscow “In none of the campaigns of outstanding leaders of the past have I observed such effective resistance to the heaviest blows of a hitherto undefeated enemy … The scale and grandeur of the effort mark it as the greatest military achievement in all history”.
Hard-won, spectacular and brilliant victories followed for the Soviet forces at Stalingrad, Kursk and Leningrad and were crowned by the Soviet liberation of Berlin. All these victories, however, could only be won at the cost of lives of millions of Soviet heroes and heroines willing to give up their lives to defend freedom, justice and democracy.
However, in the countries where the populations formerly enjoyed socialism the bourgeoisie is much less secure than it is in western Europe and America. For this reason, it is most likely in the former socialist countries to resort to fascism as the only means of keeping the exploited and oppressed masses of those countries in check. The tendency among the British bourgeoisie will be, as it was in the days leading up to the second world war, to appease the fascists in the interests of anti-communism, and even to applaud their vandalism.
As communists, we cannot allow the memory of these heroes and heroines to be defiled by fascistic attempts to rewrite history.
We cannot allow the monuments erected in their honour to be destroyed, nor tolerate any attempt either to glorify their fascist and collaborator enemies – much less any attempt to drag their glory down to the level of fascist filth. We must proudly stand up and defend the truth.