People's Democracy

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


No. 19

May 09, 2010




Soviet People's Epic Saga of Courage, Valour and Sacrifice


Sitaram Yechury


THE victor, inevitably, scripts history. Historian's labour unearths the virtues and valour of the vanquished as well as describing the plight of 'people' caught in the crossfire. The victor, however, does not stop at authoring 'official'  history of any one event alone but seeks to rewrite, on the strength of the current victory, all history to consolidate its current hegemony. Following the collapse of the USSR and in the present conjecture of the global capitalist recession, the West seeks to reinterpret Second World War's history by equating fascism with communism. We are entering a period which is seeing a concerted aggressive anti-communist propaganda blitz being mounted both domestically and internationally. The reasons for this are not difficult to understand.

One important reason for launching an aggressive anti-communist propaganda drive is the urgent need for US imperialism to establish its credentials. This attempt to once again distort history is necessary for the advanced capitalist powers to prevent the growth of socialist ideas and Left politics, as currently seen in various countries of Latin America, in the wake of the worst capitalist economic recession since the Great Depression. The USA, today, has unprecedented levels of unemployment. EU is faring no better. Countries like Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland are reeling under severe crisis. The number of people suffering from hunger has crossed 1.02 billion � one among every six persons on earth is suffering from hunger. During this period of recession alone, 102 million additional people have joined the ranks of the hungry. Under these circumstances, in order to try and discredit any socialist alternative it is imperative for them to decry the glorious role of the Soviet Union in the defeat of fascism.




Imperialism�s predatory pursuit of profit accompanied by inhuman atrocities against the peoples of many sovereign countries across the globe is a crime that can be carried out continuously only by discrediting its staunchest opponents.

Such distortion of history to restate the 'eternality of capitalism' comes in the wake of the global recession that is throwing up the possibilities of anti-capitalist socialist alternatives. Truth is sacrificed at capitalism's altar to prevent Left's advance. The effort is to distort history with an 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 deliberately conceal 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. Over 20 million Soviet soldiers and people lost their lives.

In order to buttress the distortion of equating communism with fascism, 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. They deliberately avoid the fact that it was USSR under Stalin that in the first place proposed an anti-fascist alliance because they recognised that the war cannot be won unless there is a political line up against Hitler. 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. The London Economist must surely know that the Guardian, published from the very same London, on January 1, 1970 when the secret foreign office archives were made public after the statutory period of 30 years 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."

Why the western allies did not agree to the Soviet proposal is chillingly articulated by the then US senator Harry Truman who later became both the vice-president and the president of the USA. The day after Hitler attacked 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). It was precisely for this reason that the landing of the second front was delayed by more than two years, despite giving assurances to Stalin that this would be opened in 1942.  This was based on the hope that Hitler would destroy socialism and reintegrate one-sixth of world territory back under the capitalist order.

The landing of the second front during the Second World War by the landing of allied troops at Normandy in 1944 was portrayed as the turning point of the war that decisively defeated Nazi Germany and its Italian and Japanese allies. It is by now well documented that the second front landed at a time when it became clear that the Soviet Red Army had trounced the Hitlerite invasion of the Soviet Union and was close to reaching Berlin to seal Hitler�s defeat. The second front thus was launched primarily to ensure that the Soviet Union does not take the 'entire credit' and more importantly, to stake a share in the post-war 'spoils�.

Political commentators of the West, while refusing to place the facts squarely of the details of the Second World War, nevertheless, admit to the political aspects of the landing of the allied troops. �The lasting impact of the Normandy landings was political. The Allied armies didn�t just liberate France and the Low countries: they pushed deep into Germany, securing an armistice line � and the outer frontiers of the West in the coming cold war � much farther east than anyone had dared to hope a few months before.�  (Tony Judt, Newsweek, May 31, 2004)




In this context it is necessary therefore to briefly recollect the well researched and documented history of the Second World War. In fact, immediately after the First World War, plans were being drawn up for the further re-division of the world and preparations for another war were started. 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 1930s the scramble for the spheres of influence and economic markets, became intense. The establishment of Soviet Russia, with one-sixth 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, with the rise of fascism built its military strength massively outstripping Britain and France. Meanwhile, Japan outstripped its western rivals economically and became their dangerous rival in Asia. A division of the world, distribution of colonies, markets 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 re-divide 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. The policy 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. This new world war was beginning in the world that was already split into two opposing social and economic systems following the emergence of Soviet Union as the first socialist state.

The bloc 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. During this entire period, the Soviet Union made a series of sincere efforts to establish an anti-fascist alliance and time and again, these efforts were foiled by Britain, France and the USA. 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.

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. 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 was 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.




In the meanwhile, 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. In the twenty-two  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 Union with �the mightiest assault in human history.� 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, code naming 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 fascists presumed on the basis of their successes 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 to capture other European countries and the American continent. But all these were to be executed after the expected success of Operation Barbarossa.

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 77 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 the surprise and the massive arms detachment, the Nazis advanced 600 kms 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 memoirs, ��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.




The German �blitzkrieg� (lighting 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. 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 world was amazed when Moscow admitted its losses after nine weeks of war as including 7,500 guns, 4,500 planes and 5000 tanks. A British war journalist observed, "an army that could still fight must have had the biggest or the second biggest supply".

Though the Russians put up a heroic resistance, the Germans continued to advance reaching within 30 miles of Stalingard in the summer of 1942. �Take Stalingrad at any cost� was Hitler�s slogan. �There is no land beyond the Volga(the river in Stalingard) went the word of Stalingard. 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 Stalingard 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 Stalingard in great pincers. Over 3,00,000 Germans were caught in the trap and surrendered on the 2nd of February 1943. This changed the entire tide of the war. The German drive to subjugate the world met its first decisive defeat. A defeat that led to the suicide of Adolf Hitler. A defeat that led to the debt that the future human civilisation owes to the people of Soviet Union their freedom, liberty and development.

Though more than two grim years of battle were yet to take place, from Stalingard, 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. Retreating German soldiers, in Istra near Moscow, wrote on the walls "Farewell Moscow we are off to Berlin", the Soviet soldiers wrote below, "We will get to Berlin too". 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. Not the USA or Britain or France but it was the Soviet Union that lowered the fascist flag. On May 2, at 3 p m the Germans unconditionally surrendered.




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. This was the famous �scorched Earth� policy i.e. leave nothing behind for the Germans to survive on. 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 a regression in the path of human development. Casualties 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.

Another important factor was the rare insight which the Soviet leadership displayed in realising that the outcome of the war �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. 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 22 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 Soviets to arm themselves against Hitler�s imminent attacks.

The Soviets had managed this tremendous feat despite many a betrayal by the Allied forces. But the resolve and determination of the Soviet people, the astute military manoeuvres of the Soviet Red 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.

Russia had to pay a heavy price for this life and death struggle. 20 million of its soldiers were killed, 25 million rendered homeless, 1,700 towns and 27,000 villages were destroyed, plants were crippled and 38,500 miles of railways were torn, more than enough to encircle the earth around the equator. In 1418 days of war the Soviet Union lost nine lives every minute, 857 every hour and 14,000 lives a day. 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, 2,000 miles away! It was in such a heroic manner that the Soviet defeated fascism and in the process liberated 113 million people in the lands west of the Soviet Union.

It is this epic saga of courage, valour and sacrifice of the Soviet people that the imperialist forces are seeking to erase. It was the Communist Red Flag and the Red Army that played the decisive role in defeating fascism and liberating humanity. This radically changed the co-relation of political forces globally leading to the decolonisation of the world, emancipating millions from the yoke of foreign rule. Indeed, a new world was created.

At one time isolated from the governments of the world the Soviet Union now 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!�