May 10, 2020
Red Flag over Reichstag - 75 Years

R Arun Kumar

MAY 9 is the day when the Second World War had officially concluded with the surrender of the Nazi Germany and is hence observed as ‘Victory Day’. This year marks its 75th anniversary and is being observed world over in the midst of acute economic crisis, often compared with the Great Depression of the 1930s. Adding to this is the Covid-19 pandemic, which further exposed the hollowness of neoliberal capitalism and its crisis ridden model.

In the leading capitalist countries, when 1933 is compared with 1929, industrial output dropped by 64 per cent in the US, 88 per cent in Britain, 81 per cent in France and 65 per cent Germany. World trade contracted by 65 per cent. Mass unemployment rose exponentially – nearly one and half crores in the US, 50 lakhs in Germany, 26 lakhs in Britain and more than 30 crores throughout the capitalist world. As a way out of this severe crisis, imperialist countries fought for markets, spheres of influence and for a redistribution of colonies. This had led to the beginning of the Second World War.

Germany was tacitly helped by the world imperialist countries, specifically the US and the UK in the build up to the war. Imperialists believed that a militarised Germany would defeat USSR and rid the world of the ‘socialist menace’. Between 1923-1929 alone, Germany received about 4,000 million dollars in foreign loans including 2,500 million dollars from the USA. It is with these funds that Germany revived its armament industry.  Britain had entered into an agreement with Hitler to help in increasing the German navy by more than five times. This agreement was signed after Hitler withdrew from the League of Nations, repudiated the Treaty of Versailles and started universal military conscription. The assistance provided by both the US and the Britain for the revival of the war monopolies in Germany is mentioned by a leading German capitalist in Nuremberg prison, “If you want to put on trial the industrialists who helped Germany arm itself, you must put to trial your own industrialists”.

The repeated warnings of the Soviet Union to the danger posed by German militarisation were wantonly ignored. When Germany had annexed Austria in March 1938, Soviet Union requested all the ‘Great Powers’ to take an unambiguous stand against Germany, saying that ‘tomorrow might be too late’. The ‘great powers’ of that day – US, UK, France – refused. Moreover, in September 1938, discussions were held between Britain, France, Germany and Italy in Munich. Here, Britain and France consented to the German annexation of Czechoslovakia, as a part of their appeasement policy. The parties involved in the discussions, described the Munich deal as the beginning of a ‘new European order’ that would assure ‘peace in the lifetime of the present generation’.

The Anglo-German declaration that followed the Munich Pact on September 30, proclaimed the wish of both the countries, ‘never to go to war with each another again’. Similar declaration was made by the French and Germans together in December 1938.

The imperialist countries were blind to the threat posed by fascism, as they were driven by their desire to ensure the death of the first socialist workers’ State – the USSR. They believed that Hitler would do this job for them.

The eighteenth Congress of the CPSU, held in March 1939, called attention to the German war designs and opined that fascist Germany’s main target would be the socialist USSR. The USSR pushed for talks with Britain and France and for an agreement ensuring cooperation between the three countries against aggression. Britain and France wanted Soviet Union’s assurance of support if Germany invades their countries, but refused to offer their support to the Soviet Union, in case of German invasion. Soviet Union’s proposals based on ‘equal rights and equal commitments’, were turned down by them. The reason for the British reluctance to commit into an alliance with the USSR was that, it was at the same time, clandestinely conducting talks with Germany, to which it had attached greater importance.

The Guardian, in its January 1, 1970 issue, when the secret foreign office archives were made public said, “the cabinet papers for 1939, published this morning show that the Second World War would not have started that year, had the Chamberlain government accepted or understood Russian advice that an alliance between Britain, France and the Soviet Union would prevent war because Hitler would not risk a conflict against the powers on two fronts”.

After all these failed attempts, considering the true nature of the imperialist countries, the Soviet Union was forced to enter into a ‘non-aggression pact’ offered by Germany in August 1939. This became necessary in order to buy time to prepare the country for the eventual Nazi attack.

The Second World War, officially started in September 1939, with Germany’s attack on Poland. Though Britain and France declared war on Germany as allies of Poland, they British prime minister of that period, Chamberlain was on record stating in December 1939, that ‘I don’t think the Germans have any intention of attacking us’. French President Charles de Gaulle accepted in his memoirs that he too nursed similar illusions. All through this period, French and Britain monopolies continued with their supply of material to the German invaders.

Exposing their anti-communist character and indirectly helping the fascists, de Gaulle, had banned Communist Party in France in September 1939 and arrested thousands of communists. A French journalist wrote: “All we heard was: ‘war on Russia’! The anti-communist delirium reached its peak and assumed epic forms”.

Blinded by their anti-communist hatred, they allowed a free run to the German armies, which in few months, swept over most of the countries in Western Europe. Buoyed by these victories, Germany then turned towards Soviet Union, its main target. Harry Truman was reported saying the day after Hitler attacked Soviet Union: “If we see that Germany is winning we should help the Russians and if Russia is winning we should help the Germans and that way let them kill as many as possible” (The New York Times, June 24, 1941).

In June 1941, the Nazi attack on Soviet Union began. From that day to the end of the war, a major part of the German attack was concentrated on the Soviet Union. The length of the Soviet-German front in different years was varying from 2,200 to 6,200 kilometres while the Allies front never exceeded 800 kilometres after the landing at Normandy and 300 kilometres in Italy. Active hostilities were conducted on the Soviet-German front for 1,320 days out of a total of 1,418 days, which is 93 per cent of the total fighting time. The corresponding figure for the African, Italian and West European fronts being 1,094 days of a total of 2,069 days, which is 53 per cent of the total fighting time. The German army suffered its heaviest losses on the Soviet-German front – more than 73 per cent of its man power, 75 per cent tanks and aircraft and 74 per cent artillery were lost in this front.

The CPSU matured into a truly fighting party during the war years. First, it ensured concerted political, administrative and economic management of the country in all spheres of life. Secondly, it dispatched its own best forces to the front. The call ‘Communists – Forward!’ was heard at the most difficult sections of the front where the situation required special courage and heroism. During the war, the Party organisations in the Army and Navy accepted 38,20,000 members. Hundreds of thousands of them had died in the war. The number of Party members increased despite these huge losses, rising from 13,00,000 in 1941 to 30,00,000 in 1945, at the end of the war. Almost every second solider in the Red Army was either a member of the Party or the Komsomol (young communists). Thirdly, at the rear, the Communist Party was the organiser of military production. The Party put forward the slogan: 'Everything for the front, everything for victory'. The Party suffered tremendous losses in the war years: three million Communists gave their lives in the fight.

People responded to the Party’s call: “We promise our mothers who gave us life, we promise our people, the Party, the Soviet government, that as long as our hands can hold a rifle and our hearts beat in our breasts, to our last breath, we shall fight relentlessly and destroy the fascist scourge”.

Communists were the first and for a long time the only organised political force leading a real struggle against fascism. The communist and workers' parties of fascist occupied countries – Yugoslavia, Greece, Albania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark and Norway – waged a bitter struggle against fascist enslavement.

In the countries comprising the fascist bloc – Germany, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Japan, Finland – the conditions of struggle were particularly difficult. Communist parties had to work deep underground, amidst the conditions of terroristic dictatorship.

Analysing the role of communists in the resistance movements E J Hobsbawm writes: “Two characteristics helped the communists to prominence in the resistance: their internationalism and the passionate, quasi millennial conviction with which they dedicated their lives to the cause. The first allowed them to mobilise men and women….and the second generated that combination of bravery, self-sacrifice and ruthlessness which impressed even the adversaries”.

The war took a heavy toll of human lives – 70 million people died, of which, more than 40 per cent 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 railways in the Soviet Union. The material loss in that country was pegged at 2,600,000 million rubles – 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.

The victory over the fascist-militarist bloc was, thus, an event of great historical significance. It is a landmark in the history of mankind in which communists played role that the whole world can be really proud of. Efforts to erase this glorious chapter from history should never be allowed and can never be possible.