People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 37

September 13, 2009

Imperialist Falsification of History


Sitaram Yechury


SINCE the dismantling of socialism in the USSR and Eastern Europe, which shifted the international correlation of forces in favour of imperialism, a virulent ideological offensive  against Communism and everything progressive has been mounted.   This ideological anti-Communist offensive, amongst  all else,  crucially evolves around distorting the history and achievements of socialism and the tremendous positive impact it had on the development of human civilisation in the 20th century world history.


September 1, 2009 marks  the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War when fascist Germany  attacked Poland. Using this occasion, imperialism and its pen pushers have  unleashed an ideological offensive by seeking to equate  fascism with Communism and Hitler with  Stalin. 


The unabashed mascot of imperialism and capitalism, the  Economist  says "the Kremlin should admit that Stalin was Hitler's accomplice before 1941". The reference here is to the 1939 non-aggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union, which, in any case, Hitler violated with fascist impunity in 1941. They conveniently conceal the fact that rejecting the Soviet Union's proposals for a united front against fascism, both Britain and France entered into similar pacts with Germany earlier. If Prague today is  a `museum city', it is because Hitler moved in there, as in much of Eastern Europe, that were ceded,  by spineless western powers, in the Munich pact of 1938. Hitler's defeat alone liberated these areas.  This is now being `reinterpreted' as Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe post WW-II!


Earlier in 2004, to deflect rising global protests against US military occupation of Iraq, on the 50th  anniversary of the landing of the allied troops at Normandy in 1944, all NATO leaders  assembled to project themselves as the champions of the victory over fascism and liberators of  western Europe. They deliberately concealed the fact that for every allied soldier who laid down his life, courageously fighting fascism, there were forty Soviet soldiers who laid down their lives. 63,963 allied soldiers lost their lives in this battle. In contrast, over 20 million Soviet soldiers and people lost their lives.


The effort, therefore, is to once again, distort history with the intent to intensify the anti-Communist propaganda by seeking to portray the victory of the western allies in the Second World War as the triumph of the struggle against fascism and communism. They hence deliberately avoid the fact that it was USSR under Stalin that in the first place proposed such an anti-fascist alliance because they recognised that the war cannot be won unless there is a political line up against Hitler.


On that occasion, it was necessary for imperialism to close ranks in the background of widespread global protests against US military occupation of Iraq.  The projection as �champions of the free world� combating both fascism and Communism becomes an essential element of such a strategy.  This, in turn,  requires the falsification of history. 


In a similar vein, on July 3, 2009, a regular parliamentary assembly session of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe adopted a resolution hailing the European Union and equating Communism and fascism.


Such anti-Communist propaganda  is all the more required for imperialism today in the wake of the worst capitalist economic recession which, many estimate  is worse than the great depression of the 1930s.  In the USA alone, the number of unemployed  is crossing the 7 million mark.  World Bank has forecast that 2009 will be the first recorded decline in world output since the Second World War. Under these circumstances, the potential  for a surge in popular movements seeking  an alternative to  capitalism must be kept in check by imperialism.  The experience of the defeat of pro-imperialist neo-liberal candidates in a series of elections in Latin America throws up such possibilities which imperialism seeks to  eliminate before they become a potentially greater threat.  Decrying the Soviet Union and by implication, any socialist alternative, thus, becomes central to imperialism's ideological offensive today.


In the process, they seek to obfuscate the fact that fascism is a capitalist recipe to meet an intense crisis of monopoly capital.  Remember, fascism arose from the debris of the great depression as Georgi Dimitrov, in his report to the Communist International, pointed out :  �Fascism puts the people at the mercy of the most corrupt and venal elements but comes before them with the demand for an honest and incorruptible government speculating on the profound disillusionment of the masses...fascism adapts its demagogy to the peculiarities of each country. And the mass of the petty bourgeois and even a section of the workers, reduced to despair by want, unemployment and insecurity of their existence fall victim to the social and chauvinist demagogy of fascism".


Further, �It is in the interests of the most reactionary circles of the bourgeoisie that fascism intercepts the disappointed masses who desert the old bourgeois parties.  But it impresses these masses by the vehemence of its attacks on the bourgeois governments and its irreconcilable attitude to the old bourgeois parties".


Hence, it is only capitalism that can morph into fascism while  Communism whose objective is human liberation is in natural antagonism with both capitalism and fascism.


In the light of this ideological offensive, it is necessary for us to briefly recollect the history of the Second World War and how the Soviet Union managed to defeat fascism and, thus, set in motion the process of decolonisation and the liberation of millions of people in the colonial world, including India. 




ON the warm summer evening of the last day of August 1939, a group of Nazis wearing Polish military uniforms broke into a local radio station in the German-Polish border town Gleiwitz. One of the �Poles� broadcast a shot speech to the effect that it was high time to start a war against Germany. While he was speaking the rest of the group faked an exchange of fire with German border guards. A pretext for an attack on Poland was created.


A few hours later at 4.40 am on September 1, a German battleship, which had lain at anchor in the port of Gdansk on a �friendship visit� opened fire with all her guns and disgorged a 4,000 strong armoured landing party. Simultaneously the German Army rolled into Poland along the entire border, while German aircraft dropped thousands of tons of bombs on the sleeping towns and villages of this peaceful country.


Thus began the Second World War. The bloodiest of wars fought in human history which lasted for six long years. More than 50 million people were consumed in the flames of the most destructive of wars in human history. Sixty one states accounting for 80 per cent of the world�s population were involved.




Preparations for such a war, however, started many years earlier. Infact, immediately after the First World War, plans were being drawn up for further re-division of the world.


The early thirties saw a massive economic crisis in the capitalist countries � the great depression � reaching its lowest in 1932. In US, production fell by 50 per cent and in Germany by 40 per cent during 1929-32 manifesting in massive unemployment and lowering of living standards.


At this time, just prior to the war in the huge area of Africa only Liberia and Ethopia remained formally independent and in Asia only Nepal and Thailand. All told the Colonial Empire of Britain before the war exceeded the metropolitan country�s territory 120 times, that of Belgium 77 times, that of Netherlands (Holland) 60 times, that of Portugal 23 times and that of France 21 times.


The fierce exploitation of the colonies and the appropriation of resources had always been an important source of profit which stimulated the economies of the capitalist countries. Thus, during the economic crisis of the 30s the scramble for the spheres of influence and economic markets became intense. The establishment of Soviet Russia, with 1/6th of the world being outside the imperialist orbit, further intensified this scramble.


Another factor which had an important bearing on the war was the fact that Germany, after the First World War, quickly recovered its military and economic strength outstripping Britain and France. Meanwhile Japan, outstripped its western rivals economically and became their dangerous rival in Asia. The division of the world, distribution of colonies, market and spheres of influence carved out as a result of the first war was no longer tenable to the new alignment of forces.


Germany, Japan, with Italy following suit, were drawing up plans to redivide the world at the expense of Britain, France and United States. But these countries, which dominated large parts of the world, would not cede their positions without a fight. This led to the emergence of three hotbeds of war by 1930s. In Europe (Fascist Germany), in Asia (Fascist Japan) and in Africa (Fascist Italy).


Many wars were fought in these hotbeds: Japan�s annexation of Manchuria in 1932, Italy�s establishment of Italian East Africa by conquering Ethopia, Eritrea and Somalia in 1935; the open declaration of the racist doctrine of world domination by Germany in 1933, its militarisation, disregard and violation of the League of Nations and Versailles Peace Treaty of 1919 and finally its instigation of the Spanish Civil war in 1936 created an extremely tense situation in Europe. With these actions the lines were drawn between the two groupings and tensions intensified.




This new world war was beginning in the world already split into two opposing social and economic systems following the emergence of Soviet Union as the first socialist state.


The policies of the rival imperialist groups were shaped by the following principal factors. On the one hand, both camps were acutely divided by differences. On the other, they all shared a point in common: extreme hostility to the Soviet Union. Both camps sought to restore their once unchallenged world domination. This required the elimination of socialism in Russia.


The block led by Nazi Germany was preparing to crush the Soviet Union through its own military forces. The Anglo-France-American bloc wanted to achieve the same aim by using somebody else as a cat�s paw. It aided and abetted the opposing bloc into attacking the Soviet Union and hoped that the Soviet Union on the one hand and fascist Germany and Japan on the other, would bleed themselves to death in a protracted war.


This idea was formulated in no uncertain terms by the US senator H Truman who later became the vice- president and the president of United States. In a statement, the day after the Nazi attack on Soviet Union, he said, ��.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 fact, the allied partners aided and abetted the fascists with a view of achieving the above aim. For instance, the events of French compromise with Italian fascists over Ethiopia and the Anglo-French compromise with Germany regarding Czechoslovakia. The latter was formalised in the notorious Munich Policy where Germany, Britain and France entered into bilateral treaties of non-aggression, giving a green signal to Germany to attack the East.


During this entire period, the Soviet Union made a series of sincere efforts to establish an anti-fascist alliance of the three allied powers and the Soviet Union to resist fascist invasions. Time and again, these efforts were foiled by Britain, France and USA who were still pursuing their policy of letting the fascist and socialist forces bleed to death amongst themselves.


When on January 1, 1970 secret foreign office archives were made public after the statutory period of 30 years the British newspaper Guardian observed, ��.. 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 advise that an alliance between Britain, France and the Soviet Union would prevent war because Hitler would not risk a conflict against powers on two fronts.�


The aim of Western powers was very clear: to expose the Soviet Union to an attack from fascist Germany in Europe and Japan in Asia.


It is in this background the Soviet Union entered into the famous no-aggression pact with Germany in August 1939. This ten year pact considered by many as a stroke of military genius of Joseph Stalin enabled the Soviet Union to gain some time for strengthening its defence potential. It also undermined the schemes of Japan who had hoped that a German attack on Soviet Union would have made it easier for them to mount a big offensive against Mongolia and Soviet far-east. And in April, USSR and Japan signed the neutrality pact. These moves gave Soviet Union some time to prepare itself militarily against the imminent fascist attack.




It is in the background of such developments that the Second World War was fought.


After a delay of two days after the Nazi attack on Poland, Britain and France declared War on Germany. But this did not signify anything, for neither of them took any action for the next nine months. In the meanwhile the occupation of Poland was complete in October 1939.


In April 1940, Germany occupied Norway and Denmark. In May, they virtually ran over Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg and attacked France. On  June 22, the French army laid down arms. A considerable part of France including Paris was occupied by the fascists. The unoccupied part was being ruled by their puppet regime.


German fascism encouraged by the compromise formula worked out by Britain and France was emboldened to attack their spheres of influence. The crushing defeats that the Allies faced in 1940 made them realise that their very existence is in danger. This realisation coupled with the growing powerful anti-fascist movements in their own countries and colonies demanding of their governments to take concrete steps against fascist invaders, brought about a change in the character of opposition to fascism on the part of Britain, France and USA.


On July 16, 1944, Hitler endorsed the plan �Sea Lion� to attack Britain. In fact, while publicising preparations for the invasion of Britain, Hitler was making all out mobilisation on the Eastern Frontiers � against Soviet Union. With the easy victory over France, the fascists assessed that the next blow should be on the Soviet Union which remained the main obstacle to world domination. Therefore, while involving Britain and the allies in diversionary combats, Hitler moved the majority of the troops to East, settling his accounts and strategy with his allies � Italy and Japan. On December 18, 1940, he signed the Directive 21, known as Operation Barbarossa, codenaming it in honour of the medieval emperor Fredrich I Barbarossa. Only nine copies of this directive were prepared. This was the plan to attack Soviet Union while continuing the attack on Britain.


Confident about the success of this plan, which the fascist presumed on the basis of their success in Europe, to last �no longer than six weeks�, they worked out plans to conquer the East.


The Directive 32 codenamed Orient was to capture Afghanistan and India. Subsequent to this, they even worked out operations Tannebaum (capture of Switzerland), Silberfuchs (capture of Sweden) Felix-Isabella (capture of Spain and Portugal) Ikarus (capture of Iceland) apart from the capture of Britain (Operation Sea Lion) and the American continent. But all these were after the success of operation Barbarossa. And it is precisely here that the fascists met their defeat. A defeat that led the fascists to meet their defeat. A defeat that led to the suicide of Adolf Hitler. A defeat that led to the impact, that the future human civilisation owes to the people of Soviet Union their freedom, liberty and development.




In the 22 months of the non-aggression pact, Hitler, saw that the lone neutral hand of Soviet Union had checked him more than he had been checked by all Europe�s combined armed forces � Poles, Danes, Norwegians, Dutch, Belgians, French, Greeks, Yugoslavs, and British. He therefore turned and struck the Soviet Unionthe mightiest assault in human history.�


At dawn June 22, 1941, Hitler in violation of the non-aggression pact struck a surprise attack on the Soviet Union. �Our object is to rout the Russian forces and crush the state�.it is to be a war of annihilation�, declared Hitler and thus begun �the greatest military march in world history�. Hitler did not overstate. He moved seventy seven per cent of his armed forces against the Soviet Union along the entire length of the Soviet border. Through his conquest in Europe, he had gained access to the entire Western front of the Soviet Union. Taking advantage of his surprise and the massive arms detachment, the Nazis advanced six hundred kilometres by July 10. The whole world came to  a definite conclusion that the Soviet Union was routed. Summing this opinion, Winston Churchill wrote in his memories. ��.almost all responsible military opinion held that the Russian army will be soon defeated and largely destroyed�. Germans advanced rapidly in the first few weeks towards Leningrad in the North, Moscow in the centre and towards Stalingrad after routing Kiev.


But the Germans did not find it easy going and were effectively stopped by the Russian people in the winter of 1941 from capturing Moscow. The whole world was amazed when Moscow admitted its losses after nine weeks of war as including 7,500 guns, 4,500 planes, and 5000 tanks. �An army that could still fight must have had the biggest or second biggest supply,� observed British war journalists. The German �blitzkrieg� (lightning attack) did not work with the Russians. Hitler was frustrated in his rapid plans for world domination. The resistance faced by the Nazis in Moscow overawed the entire world and the Nazi losses were mounting consistently.


Though the Russians put up a heroic resistance, the Germans continued to advance reaching 30 miles of Stalingrad in the summer of 1942. �Take Stalingrad at any cost� was Hitler�s slogan, There is no land beyond the Volga (The river in Stalingrad)� was Stalin�s response. Thus the battle continued for 182 days - the most heroic of the battles in Second World War whose outcome was the most decisive. Men and women of Stalingrad fought from every rooftop battling thousands of tanks and planes for over six months. Then arrived fresh reserves trained in Siberia and attacked the German detachments from the rear and took the city of Stalingrad in great pincers. Over 300 thousand Germans were caught in the trap and surrendered on February 2, 1943.


This changed the entire tide of the war. The German drive to subjugate the world met its first decisive defeat.


More than two grim years of battle were yet to take place. But from Stalingrad, the Germans were forced to retreat. In 1943, the Germans were driven out of Ukraine by the Russians. In the early summer of 1944, they were driven out of the Soviet Fatherland. In July, the same year, the Soviet Armies faced them in Warsaw. In April 1945, the Red Army stood in Berlin.


The Soviets had shown to the world that no army is invincible. But they had to pay a bitter price to rid the world of fascism. During the 1418 days of war ranging the entire length of the border, the Soviets sacrificed twenty million people, every minute of the war caused them 9 lives 857 every hour and 14,000 lives a day. The Nazis lost a total of 607 divisions � 3 times more than what they lost on all other fronts of their fight in this war against the Soviet Union.




But how did the Russians perform such a gigantic task? �The front is not where the cannon roars�, was the slogan, �it is in every workshop, house, in every farm�.  The massive effort of mobilising the entire people to defend socialism was contained in the first war speech delivered by Joseph Stalin where he said, �The Germans have unleashed a war of extermination� death to the German invader�. The tremendous feat of coordinating the civilian defences and military operations had taken the whole world by surprise. The Germans who had so far looted the conquered territories found the Russians evacuating all food supplies, all machinery and leaving for the Germans only barren land. They had systematically destroyed all things that could have been of use to the German invaders. The blowing up of the Great Dnieper dam startled the world with the realisation that the Russians took this war far more seriously than any other nation. For, it was only the Russians who had realised that victory of fascism meant not only the annihilation of socialism but a regression in the path of human development. Causalities of such a victory of fascism would have been the people of the world - forced to live a life of subjugation and terror. The defeat of fascism meant the liberation of mankind. For this, the whole world owes it to the Russian people their very existence and liberty.


Another important factor was the rare insight which the Soviet leadership displayed in realising �this was not going to be decided by the force of arms alone but by the political line up of the world�. (Joseph Stalin). It was important that a world line up against socialism would have to be prevented and in its place a broad anti-fascist line up had to be created. All efforts of Soviet Union were directed at achieving this all important political line up. In retrospect, one can now visualise that if such a line up had not come about, the history of the world would have been different. Stalin refrained from fighting the fascists in Poland in 1939 or attack Hitler during his Balkan campaign, for, these actions would have definitely brought about a world line up against USSR. Stalin saw Hitler had utilised the twenty two months of non-aggression pact to seize the wealth of Europe but these months had also taught the people of Europe and of the world the nature of fascism. This pact, therefore, served the purpose of uniting the anti-fascist forces on the one hand and on the other, gave time for the Soviet to arm themselves against Hitler�s imminent attacks.


Having established these objectives, Stalin gave the orders for a counter-offensive on the Nazi invaders. Thus while the whole world was under the impression that the Russians were being routed, Stalin was patiently preparing and arming for the counter-offensive. Thus, when the first town near Moscow, Istra, was liberated by the Soviets, the retreating German soldiers wrote on one of the walls, �Farewell Moscow, we are off to Berlin�. Soviet soldiers wrote below this, �we will get to Berlin too.� And this they did.


The whole world saw, with pride and honour the unfurling of the red flag with a hammer and sickle on top of the German Reichstag, the capital of Hitler on April 30, 1945. Note that it was not the US, French or the British flag but the Red flag and the Soviet Red Army that signalled the vanquishing of fascism. On May 2, at 3 am the Germans unconditionally surrendered.


The Soviet had managed this tremendous feat despite many a betrayal by the Allied forces. The second front which had to land in 1942 to attack the Nazis from the West was deliberately postponed by the British and the Americans with a view that the German and Soviet would bleed themselves to death and they shall enter the picture to claim victory! But the resolve and determination of the Soviet people, the astute military manoeuvres of the Soviet army, and above all the correct political appreciation of the reality drove the Germans out of the Soviet Union. Hitler had once declared that where Moscow stands, a huge sea will be created obliterating the capital of Bolshevism from future civilisation. It is this very city that remained the citadel of victory over fascism. The second front landed only in 1944, when for all practical purposes the defeat of fascism was imminent.


Russia had to pay a heavy price for this life and death struggle. 20 million of its soldiers were killed, 25 million rendered homeless, 1700 towns and 27,000 villages were destroyed, more than 3000 industrial plants were crippled and 38,500 miles of railways were torn, more than enough to encircle the earth around the equator. But despite such losses, the Soviet people started rebuilding their country even before the war was finished. While the soldiers were fighting in Europe, the people were rebuilding the factories and their farms. To the extent, that the Soviet army received in Warsaw an uninterrupted supply directly from the Urals, 2000 miles away!


It was in such a heroic manner that the Soviets defeated fascism and in the process liberated 113 million people in the lands west of the Soviet Union.


At one time isolated from the governments of the world, the Soviet Union stood commanding all the progressive people of the world and uniting all forces prepared to fight for peace and progress. From a position of isolation it rose to a position of command and respect. This is most adequately described in a joke that was current in the immediate post war period. At the time of signing the declaration of the United Nations, the three leaders of the world � Winston Churchill, Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin were reported to have met at the breakfast table. Churchill said, �I had a strange dream last night. I dreamt that a world government was formed and I was elected as its prime minister.� To which Roosevelt said, �It is peculiar Mr Churchill, I also had a similar dream, but I dreamt that I was elected as the prime minister.� Patiently enduring this conversation, Stalin remarked, �It is very peculiar indeed, gentlemen, that I also had a similar dream. But I do not recollect having appointed either of you as the prime minister!�