R Arun Kumar
ON this 9th of May, the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War will be observed. The rising of the Red Flag on the Reichstag, a day before in 1945, signaled the end of the war and the decisive defeat of the Nazi, fascist forces. Hitler, who symbolised the evil Nazi-fascists, committed suicide in his bunker on April 30, 1945, with the Red Army only streets away in Berlin. He was unable to digest the reality of his faltering dreams and failed ambitions.
True to the axiom that 'success has many fathers', 70 years hence, many countries are claiming the credit for defeating Nazism and bringing an end to the Second World War. Of course, every stone pelted at the fascists contributed to their defeat. But this should not mean that the role of people other than themselves should be disparaged. Polish president is on record claiming that it is 'Ukrainians' who had liberated Poland and not the Soviet Red Army. The European Union (EU) and the United States are actively encouraging brazen distortion of history, belittling the role of Soviet Union and the Red Army and glorifying the role played by the US, Britain and France.
Unfortunately, their systematic attempts appear to have some affect on popular perceptions. According to a recently conducted survey, “only 13 percent of the residents of Britain, France, and Germany believe that Europe was liberated from fascism by the Soviet Red Army. Over the past months, the role of the Soviet Army in defeating Nazism and liberating Europe has been diminished in the public eye through anti-Soviet and anti-Russian propaganda. With 43 percent of respondents saying the US played the key role, and 20 percent that it was the Brits, over a fifth of respondents, 22 percent, were unable to answer the question”. Indeed, distorting history and misrepresenting facts seems to be not the exclusive preserve of the BJP alone! 'Friends of BJP', with equally tainted hands, adept in (mis)using history to suit their political objectives, happen to appear worldwide.
To put the record straight, let's restate some facts. The Second World War which broke out on September 1, 1939, raged for six years. It involved 61 states with a population of 1,700 million people (80 percent of the world's population at that time). It is also pertinent here to recall that it was a war started by the imperialist forces to gain control over world resources and was also targeted at dealing a death blow to the only socialist power at that time, the Soviet Union.
The war took a heavy toll of human lives – 70 million people died, of which, more than 40 percent belong to the Soviet Union alone. Germans destroyed more than 1,710 cities, towns and settlements, more than 70,000 villages, over 32,000 industrial enterprises and 65,000 kilometers of railway lines in the Soviet Union. The material loss in that country was pegged at 2,600,000 million roubles – no country in human history has suffered such losses and devastation in any war. These are only a few of the many statistics that go on to prove that it is the Soviet Union and the communists, who bore the brunt of the Nazi attack and played an important role in the defeat of the Nazis. Though these facts are sought to be cold-storaged today, the leaders of the imperialist countries of that day were forced to acknowledge them.
Franklin D Roosevelt, the then president of the USA stated: “The Red Army and the Russian people have surely started the Hitler forces on the road to ultimate defeat and have earned the lasting admiration of the people of the United States”. Edward R Stettinius, Secretary of State in the Roosevelt administration wrote: “If the Soviet Union had failed to hold on its front, the Germans would have been in a position to conquer Great Britain. They would have been able to overrun Africa, too, and in this even they could have established a foothold in Latin America”.
The then British prime minister, Winston Churchill wrote to Stalin: “It is the Russian army that tore the guts out of the German military machine”.
Even the Nazi General, Bodo Zimmerman stated: “It would be no exaggeration to say that the Eastern Front steadily pumped all the efficient manpower and combat equipment out of the German armies in the West...From 1943 on, the backbone of the Western Front was made up of elderly men armed with outdated weapons”. K Riecker, a German historian put it more bluntly: “When in summer of 1944, the Western Allies began storming the 'European Fortress', the outcome of the Second World War had practically been decided by Germany's defeat in Russia...after three years of strenuous fighting in Eastern Europe, the German army was so weakened that it could no longer offer any stiff resistance to the American and British forces which landed in Normandy”.
Suffice it with the message of the then provisional government in Poland: “We wish to convey to you, and through you to the entire Soviet people (emphasis added), our warmest congratulations and greetings on the victorious conclusion of the war against Nazi Germany, on the brilliant victory which has saved world civilization and culture from the fascist barbarians”.
These being true facts, neither the Soviet Union, nor the communists ever downplayed the role of their allies in the fight against Nazi-fascists. This, despite the knowledge of imperialist intentions, well expressed by Harry Truman: “If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany and that way let them kill as many as possible...” Guided by this philosophy, both the British and the US had shown little or no interest to the efforts of the USSR to prevent a war in 1939, where they did their utmost to wreck the talks by employing delaying tactics and sending low-ranking officials.
In spite of the best efforts of the imperialist countries, the people of the world and many European countries, remember the heroic role played by the Soviet army. The Soviet army fully or partially liberated the territories of 11 countries in Europe with a population of 113 million and furthermore provided inspiration to the worldwide anti-imperialist struggle and helped liberate many other countries.
As part of their efforts to erase this historic legacy, many regimes in Europe are denying permission for a rally retracing the route traversed by the Red Army to Berlin from Moscow. Opposing the acts of their governments, many people of these countries have come out expressing support to the rallyists.
The regimes in Europe are not alone in their acts of trying to re-write history. The current prime minister of Japan, Abe, is trying to rouse jingoist fervour among the Japanese, by invoking national chauvinism and sanitising Japan's wartime record. He stated that Japan’s occupation of parts of China and the Korean peninsula could not be described as an invasion. In return for a strong US commitment to Japan’s security, including taking its side in any conflict with China, Japan has become a more willing player in its security arrangements with the US. The reinterpretation of the constitution and the new defence guidelines are part of Abe’s bid to soften Japan’s constitutional commitment to pacifism.
World over, what we are noticing is a growth in the right-wing forces, who are trying to harvest popular discontent from the global economic crisis. Recent reports indicate that the collective wealth of Britain’s richest people has more than doubled in the last 10 years. This year, the wealthiest 1,000 individuals and families have a combined fortune of over £547 billion, which has more than doubled since a total of under £250 billion recorded in 2005. The same is true in the US too. Since the official end of the last recession in June 2009, the wealthiest 1 percent households have captured 91 percent of all the net income gains. At the same time, median family real incomes have consistently fallen 1-2 percent every year since 2009. For those below the median, the real income decline has been even greater. What these statistics foretell is that, while the real wages of workers are getting squeezed by the day, the profits and super-profits of the top 1 percent are increasing phenomenally. 21st century capitalism, championing financial speculation is siphoning off super-profits at the cost of unleashing chaos in peoples' lives.
Ruling classes do not want the resultant anger to throw a challenge to their hegemony. For this reason, ignoring the lessons taught by history, they are not averse to encourage the growth of right-wing, fascist forces, as we are witnessing in Ukraine. Exposing their nefarious designs, building resistance and struggles – to regain both our rights and consciousness – is the real tribute we can pay to all those valiant fighters who gave their lives to free the earth from fascist scourge.