1944 commemorations: 50 years of Imperialist Lies, Part 1

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Printer-friendly versionSend by email Never have the D-Day landings of 6th June 1944 been commemorated with such pomp and circumstance. Never has the victory in Europe of the “Allied” imperialists given rise to such intensive media brain-washing. Its purpose is, once again, to hide the imperialist nature of the second world holocaust, like the first. It is not enough for the bourgeoisie to drag out the old fascist bogeyman again; they have to use the dregs of its own decomposing society. In Germany itself, just after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, a growing publicity was devoted to the partisans of a return to “German greatness”, behind the activities of skinhead gangs. Murders and arson directed against the Turkish community served as a backdrop to the diabolical spectacle served up by the media of the enemies of “democracy”, heirs to the “brown plague”. A few neo-nazi hooligans fighting immigrant workers was blown up into nazis “hunting down foreigners in the streets of Magdeburg”... and we’re meant to understand that this is just like Hitler in the 1930s. In Italy, the demogogue Berlusconi takes power and appoints three far-right ministers; shortly afterwards, the Vicenza town council authorizes a march by some hundred neo-nazis with swastika flags. All of a sudden, the politicians cry out against this new “march on Rome”. The real march was organised by the bourgeois left on 25th April, which despite the rain succeeded in drawing 300,000 people in behind the banner of anti-fascism. The truisms of the post-1945 world order were given free rein. 

In France, both CP and SP leaders waved the fascist menace, after long years in power when they used the far right Le Pen as bogeyman. To complete the tableau of the resurgence of the “fascist menace”, a dozen Waffen SS veterans visiting the Normandy beaches was held up as an example of the rising tide of “enemies of democracy”.

The 50 million dead in World War II are invoked as the victims of “Nazi barbarism” alone, from CNN to the most insignificant local paper. In most European countries, the slightest actions of a few hooligans are blown up out of all proportion. Right on time, Hollywood turns out a film on the massacre of the Jews in Europe, and exalts the idealism of the brave GIs who died in their thousands on the Normandy beaches in the name of “freedom”.

These militarist festivities carefully avoid mentioning the crimes of the “victorious democracies”, which are certainly enough [1] to put the democratic leaders in the same company as Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito. But even this is a concession to the false personification of “war crimes”. The dictators are only subordinates. It is the bourgeoisie as a social class which is the principal war criminal. When the sinister Goebbels declared that a lie repeated often enough becomes a truth, his cynical opposite number Churchill could assert that “In times of war truth is so precious that it should always be safeguarded by a rampart of lies[2].

Hitler’s Victorytc "Hitler’s Victory"

Most of those enrolled in the two opposing camps hardly went to war enthusiastically, being still traumatised by the deaths of their fathers’ generation 25 years previously. The massive exodus in France, the terror of the Nazi state exercised over the German population, the massive deportations of state capitalist Stalinism: none of this is revealed in the complacent news reports of the time which are being rehashed for us today. All the “objective” but nonetheless abject documentaries and articles are dominated by one name: Hitler! uring the Middle Ages, the Plague was seen as the scourge of God. In the midst of decadent capitalism the bourgeoisie has found an equivalent for Holy Democracy: the Brown Plague. Successive ruling classes throughout history have invoked a higher evil in order to fabricate a commonalty of interest between the oppressed and their exploiters. The personification of events around the dictators, or Allied generals, is very useful to cover the fact that they were nothing but the spokesmen for their respective bourgeoisies. The magic of names is used to make the classes disappear at the moment of war: in a new crusade against evil, everyone is bound to join in unity.

1933, the year of Hitler’s accession to power, is a key date, as the revolutionaries of the Bilan group showed, not because it marked the “defeat of the democracies”, but because it meant the decisive victory of the counter-revolution, above all in the country were the proletariat was traditionally the strongest component in the workers’ movement. Hitler’s arrival in power cannot be explained solely by the humiliating treaty of Versailles in 1918, whose demand for “reparations” drove Germany to its knees. It was due above all by the proletariat’s disappearance from the social scene, as a threat to the bourgeoisie.

In Russia, the state was beginning to massacre Bolsheviks and revolutionary workers on a grand scale, with the silent approval of the Western democracies which has done so much to arm the White armies. In the Germany, the Weimar Republic’s social-democratic régime had quite naturally given way to Hitler’s Nazis after their victory in the republican elections. The “socialist” leaders who had massacred the revolutionary German workers - Scheidemann, Noske and Co - democratically gave up their ministries. They were never troubled during the next five years of the Nazi régime.

The struggles in France and Spain during the 1930s were only the fag-ends of strikes compared with the size of the defeat suffered by the working class internationally. Fascism’s electoral victory in Italy and Germany was not the cause, but the product of the proletariat’s defeat on its social terrain. In secreting fascism, the bourgeoisie invented, not a new kind of régime, but a state capitalism along the same lines as the Roosevelt New Deal or Stalinist capitalism. In time of war, the bourgeoisie’s factions naturally unite at the national level, since they have eliminated the proletarian threat worldwide, and this unification may take the form of the Nazi or Stalinist parties.

The “rising danger” was organised in complicity with Stalin and the Russian bourgeoisie by the Communist Party vassals of the new Russian imperialism, under the cover of the Popular Front ideology, which kept the workers disoriented behind the programmes of national unity and the preparation for the imperialist war.

The French CP hoisted the patriotic tricolour in 1935, with the signature of the Laval-Stalin Pact, committing the workers to get themselves massacred: “If Hitler, despite everything, starts a war, he should know that he will have to face the united people of France, with the Communists in the front rank, to defend the country’s security, and the liberty and independence of the people”. It was the CP in Spain that broke the last strikes, and shot down the workers with the help of the GPU, before Franco came to finish off their dirty work. The Stalinist leaders then took refuge in France and Russia, as De Gaulle and Thorez were to do when they fled to London and Moscow respectively.

The Road to Imperialist Wartc "The Road to Imperialist War"

From 1918 to 1935, war had continued all over the planet, but these were limited wars far from Europe, or wars of “pacification”, such as those conducted by French imperialism in Syria, Morocco, and Indochina. For the revolutionaries of the Bilan group, the first serious warning came with the war in Abyssinia, involving British imperialism and Mussolini’s army. It served the interests of some of the Western allies to identify fascism and war. The blame for the next World War could thus be laid largely at fascism’s door. The fascist scarecrow was given greater credit with the victory of Franco’s army in 1939. Allied propaganda could prove its case by pointing to the hundreds of thousands of victims of Francoism. A period of status quo followed, in the name of a search for “peace”, while Germany carried out the remilitarisation of the Rhineland, then the Anschluss with Austria in 1938. The Munich Conference of 30th September 1938 was followed in October by Germany’s seizure of the Czech Sudetenland. The Czech’s had not even been invited to attend at Munich, and when the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia itself in March 1939, neither France nor Britain lifed a finger. Daladier and Chamberlain, on their return from Munich, were greeted enthusiastically by the crowds who believed that “peace” had been saved, but in fact both sides were playing for time. Official historians have since been content to explain events by the inadequate rearmament of the French and British states. In fact, the war-time alliances had not been finally settled: the German bourgeoisie still cherished the hope of an alliance with France and Britain against Russia. The German people were every bit as deceived as the French and British:

(...) The Germans acclaimed Chamberlain wildly, seeing him as the man who would save them from war. More people cane to greet him than had come to greet Mussolini (...) Munich was festooned with Union Jacks, the crowds ecstatic. WHen Chamberlain returned to Heston aerodrome he was welcomed like the Messiah. In Paris, a public subscription was proposed to offer a gift to the British Prime Minister[3].

In 1937, the Japanese began their final invasion of China, seizing Peking and threatening US hegemony in the Pacific. On 24th August 1939, the Russo-German pact burst like a thunder-clap, leaving Hitler’s hands free to begin his assault on Western Europe. In the meantime, the German army invaded Poland on 1st September, joined by the Russians. Unwillingly, the French and British governments declared war on Germany two days later. The Italian army grabbed Albania. Without any formal declaration of war, Stalin’s army invaded Finland on 30th November. In the April of 1940, the Germans landed in Norway.

The French army began its offensive in the Saar, but was halted at the cost of a thousand men on either side. Stalin gave the lie to his supporters, who had pretended that the Russo-German treaty was a pact with the devil to prevent Hitler from attacking Wester Europe, by declaring:

It is not Germany that has attacked France and Britain, but France and Britain that have attacked Germany (...) After the commencement of hostilities, German made peace proposals to France and Britain, and the Soviet Union openly supported Germany’s proposals. The leading circles of France and Britain brutally rebuffed both Germany’s peace proposals and the Soviet Union’s efforts to bring the war speedily to an end”.

Nobody wanted to take responsibility for starting the war, before the proletariat. After the war, indeed, governments no longer appointed “Ministers of War”, only “Ministers of Defence”. It is likewise striking to see the Nazi state’s desire to appear as the aggressed party in Germany itself. Albert Speer notes in his Memoirs this private declaration by Hitler: “We will not make the same mistake as in 1914. We now have to lay the blame on our enemy”. On the eve of the war with Japan, Roosevelt repeated the same thing: “The democracies must never appear as the aggressor”. The nine months of inactivity, known as the “phoney war”, confirm this hesitation of all the belligerants. The historian Pierre Miquel notes that Hitler put off the attack on the West no less than 14 times due to the German army’s lack of preparation and poor weather conditions.

On 22nd June 1941, Germany turned on the USSR, taking completely by surprise that “brilliant strategist” Stalin. On 8th December, after letting the Japanese massacre its own soldiers at Pearl Harbour (the attack was known well in advance by the secret service), the United States could pose as the “victims” of Japanese aggression and declare war on Japan. Germany and Italy finally declared war on the US on 11th December 1941.

This brief survey of the diplomatic road to world war, in a situation where the world proletariat had been reduced to silence, prompts a few remarks. Two local wars (Abyssinia and Spain) had finally stamped the fascists as war-mongers, after years of media excitement in Europe, denouncing Hitler’s and Mussolini’s demands, as well as their military parades: the latter were certainly better organised than the French 14th July, or the American or British nationalist festivities, but no less absurd. Two more local wars at the heart of Europe (Czechoslovakia and Poland) led to the rapid defeat of the “democratic” countries concerned. The “shameful” failure to come to the aid of Czechoslovakia (and Spain) made the “defence of democracy” and bourgeois freedom inevitable after Poland’s invasion by the two “totalitarian” powers. Politico-diplomatic manoeuvres can drag on for years. Armed conflict can settle matters on the ground in a few hours, at the price of a terrible slaughter. The war did not really become a World War until a year after Germany’s conquest of Europe. For more than four years, the US did not attempt any decisive operations against the invaders, leaving the German army to play the gendarme in Europe. The United States, far away from Europe, were initially more concerned by the Japanese threat in the Pacific. The World War lasted longer than the local wars had done, and this cannot be explained solely by the power of the German army or the ups and downs of imperialist diplomacy. It is well-known, for example, that a part of the American bourgeoisie would have preferred to ally itself with Germany rather than with Stalin’s “communist” régime, just as the German bourgeoisie had tried in vain to make an alliance with France and Britain against the “Reds”. Hitler’s government made peace overtures to Britain in 1940, in 1941 just before the beginning of the Operation Barbarossa onslaught on Russia, and after the defeat of Mussolini’s North African army. The British were all the more hesitant, in that they were tempted to leave the two great totalitarian powers destroy each other. But it would be wrong to rest here, and to argue as if the principal opposing class for every bourgeoisie, the proletariat, had simply disappeared from the concerns of the imperialist leaders thanks to the “unifying” - and “simplifying” - war!

Moreover, marxists cannot reason on war in itself, independently of historical periods. For youthful 19th century capitalism, war was essential in opening the possibility of further development, opening new markets at the point of the bayonet. This was shown in 1945 by the French Communist Left (GCF), one of the rare groups to have held high the standard of proletarian internationalism throughout World War II: “... in its decadent phase, capitalism has historically exhausted all possibilities of development, and finds in modern imperialist war the expression of this decadence which without opening the possibility of any further development of production, engulfs in the abyss the productive forces and heaps ruin on ruin, faster and faster (...) The more the market contracts, the more bitter becomes the struggle to possess sources of raw materials and to dominate the world market. The economic struggle between economic groups is increasingly concentrated, to its most complete form in the struggles between states. The exasperated economic struggle between states can only be resolved, in the end, by armed force. War becomes the only means for each national imperialism to try to extricate itself from its difficulties, at the expense of rival imperialist states[4].

National Unity during the Wartc "National Unity during the War"

Bourgeois historians tend to gloss over the rapid defeat of the once great French power. The German army’s attack was not delayed solely by the weather. The German state apparatus did not make a mistake in choosing Hitler, nor was it composed of imbeciles only able to march the goose-step. The main reason was once again the play of secret diplomatic consultations. Alliances can be overturned, even in the middle of war. Moreover, ever since the mutinies of German soldiers in 1918, the German bourgeoisie had taken care to see that their troops did not go hungry... The German bourgeoisie of 1938 was the heir of the Weimar Republic, which had bloodily crushed the attempt at proletarian revolution in 1919; the SS battallions were based on the old Frei Korps which a socialist government had used to crush the workers in revolt. Neither the eruption of the Paris Commune in 1870, nor the 1917 October Revolution, nor the Spartakist insurrection of 1919 had been forgotten. Even politically in defeat, the working class remained a danger in the face of a long imperialist war.

German imperialism’s rapid victory in Czechoslovakia was the result of a war of nerves, bluff, and careful manoeuvring, and above all of speculation on other governments’ fear of the consequences of a war generalised too quickly, and without the definite adherence of the proletariat. Whereas the French generals had stuck to the old conceptions of a “war of position” developed during the 1914-18 conflict, the German general staff had modernised its strategy in favour of the Blitzkrieg (“lightning war”). According to this conception (much in vogue today, as we can see from the Gulf War), a slow advance without a ferocious strike was doomed to defeat. Worse still, since the population’s readiness for war was fragile, letting the war drag on and giving the combattants the possibility to address each other from the trenches led to the risk of mutinies and social explosions. In the 20th century, the working class has inevitably become the first battalion against imperialist war. Hitler himself at one point confided to Albert Speer: “industry is a favorable factor in the development of communism”. As he also told Speer - who became his Minister for Munitions during the war - following the introduction in 1943 of the forced labour system in France, strikes and revolts which hold back production are a risk to be run in time of war. The German bourgeoisie had inherited its reflexes from Bismarck, whose invasion of France had been blocked by the Parisian workers’ insurrection against their own bourgeoisie. He had been concerned then at the risk of contagion amongst the German workers and soldiers, as in fact happened nearly 50 years later when the German proletariat reacted to the war on revolutionary Russia by an insurrection against their own ruling class.

And yet, after the sudden halt of their first offensive, the Germans conducted a “war of boredom” for almost a year. Germany wanted above all to open up Lebensraum (“living space”) in the East, and would still have preferred to ally itself with the two Western democracies rather than waste its military potential by invading them. Germany supported Laval and Doriot, one-time pacifists claiming to be socialists, and who wanted to help the German war effort. These pro-fascist tendencies, who called for a Franco-German alliance, remained a minority. The bourgeoisie as a whole had no confidence in the proletariat’s readiness to mobilise for war. The French working class had not been defeated head-on, with bayonets and flame-throwers, as it had in Germany in 1919 and 1923.

The German bourgeoisie therefore advanced cautiously in a country which it knew to be fragile, not so much militarily as socially. In fact, they needed only watch the slow decomposition of the French bourgeoisie, with its cowardly generals on the one side and the pacifists, soon to become collaborators on the other, the latter keeping the workers in impotence.

The Popular Front had helped in the effort of rearmament (while disarming the workers politically), but had not completely succeeded in achieving national unity. Certainly, the police had broken many strikes, and interned hundreds of militants, who were not themselves very clear as to how to oppose the war. The left of the French bourgeoisie had calmed the workers with all the claptrap of the Popular Front and the congés payés (paid holidays), during which the workers were mobilised. The extreme left pacifist fractions completed the task of undermining any class alternative. The anarchists, who were still very influential in the unions, finished off the Stalinists’ work of sabotage, publishing the 1939 leaflet “Peace Now” in September 1939, signed by a gaggle of intellectuals “(...) No flowers in the gun-barrels, no heroic songs, no cheers as the troops depart. And we are told that it is like this in all the belligerant countries. The war stands condemned from day one, by the majority of its participants both on the front, and in the rear. Let us then make peace quickly”.

“Peace” cannot be an alternative to war in decadent capitalism. Such resolutions onyl encouraged the “every man for himself”, individual solutions and the flight abroad for those who could afford it. The proletarians’ disarray was increased, their alarm and their impotence concentrated on the general rout of the left parties and groups which had claimed to defend their interests, and left them trapped in anti-fascist “common sense”.

The disintegration of French society was such that the “drôle de guerre” (“phoney war”) on one side, the “komischer Krieg” on the other, was only an interlude allowing the German army, after a bloody bombardment of Rotterdam (40,000 dead) to push through the fragile French Maginot Line on 10th May 1940, almost without resistance. The French officers were the first to flee, leaving their troops flat. The populations of Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg, and the north of France including Paris and the French government, fled in a mass, uncontrolled and panic-stricken dash towards the centre and south of France. This was one of the most gigantic exodus of modern times. This lack of “resistance” by the population was to become a subject for reproach by the ideologues of the maquis (many of home, like Mitterand and the Belgian and Italian “socialists”, only turned their coats in 1942), and was used after the war to blackmail the working class into sacrificing itself for the reconstruction.

The Blitzkrieg nonetheless caused 90,000 deaths and 120,000 wounded on the French side, 27,000 dead on the German. The collapse left ten million people refugees in terrible conditions. One and a half million POWs were sent back to Germany. And this was nothing compared to the 50 million dead in the slaughter to come.

In Europe, the population suffered the worst civilian casualties humanity had ever seen in war-time. Never had so many women and children joined soldiers among the dead. For the first time in history, the civilian casualties were greater than the military.

With its “Bismarckian” reflexes, the German bourgeoisie took care to divide France in two: an occupied zone, the north with the capital, to guard the coast against the British; and a free zone, the south, given legitimacy by the puppet government of General Pétain, the “hero of Verdun”, and the ex-socialist Laval. This collaborationist state took the load off the Nazi war effort for a while, until the Allied advance led German imperialism to boot it out.

The constant fear of a workers’ uprising against the war, weakened as they were, appears even amongst the right. A collaborationist paper, L’Oeuvre, speaks crudely of the occupying forces’ need for trades unions - the so-called social victory of the Popular Front - and in similar terms to those of any Left Wing or Trotskyist party: “The occupiers have the greatest concern not to antagonise the working class, not to lose contact, and to integrate them into a well-organised social movement (...) The Germans hope that all workers will be integrated into corporatism, and for this it seems that cadres will be necessary who have the real confidence of the workers (...) They need men who have authority, and whom others will follow[5].

From 1941 onwards, some in the collaborationist French government began to worry about the termporary nature of the Occupation, and the guarantee of social order that came with it. The Pétainist bourgeoisie and De Gaulle’s exiled Free French kept up discreet contacts, their main concern being to maintain social and political order in the transition from one epoch to another. The ideology of the - very weak - Resistance movement, propagated by the liberal fraction exiled in Britain and by the Stalinists of the PCF in France, at first had great difficulty in attracting the workers into a National Union for the country’s “Liberation”. In 1943 the German bourgeoisie helped reinforce the ranks of the “terrorists” despite itself, by instituting “the relief” - one worker forced to labour in Germany in exchange for each POW allowed to return to France. But fundamentally, it was the left and far-left parties who succeeded in drawing the workers into the Resistance on the basis of the “victory of Stalingrad”.

Changes of imperialist alliance and the proletariat’s possible reaction are lines of orientation for the bourgeoisie in the midst of war. Formally, the turning-point in the war came in 1942, with the halt to Japanese expansion and the battle of El Alamein, which freed the oil fields. In the same year, began the battle of Stalingrad, where the Stalinist state gained a victory thanks to the help of US military supplies (tanks and weapons that were more sophisticated than Russia itself could produce to confront the modern German army). During secret negotiations, Stalin had used his promise to declare war on Japan as a bargaining counter. The war could then have been brought to a rapid conclusion, especially since a part of the German bourgeoisie was keen to get rid of Hitler, and made an attempt to assassinate him in 1944. The Allies left the plotters isolated, to be wiped out by the Nazi state (Admiral Canaris’ Valkyrie plan).

But this did not take account of the Italian proletariat. It was necessary to prolong the war for two years in order to massacre the proletariat’s best forces, and avoid as hasty a peace as in 1918, concluded with the revolution at its heels.

Following the eruption of the Italian proletariat, 1943 was a turning-point in the war. At a world level, the bourgeoisie used the isolation and defeat of the Italian workers to develop the strategy of the Resistance in the occupied countries, in order to gain the populations’ support for the future capitalist peace. Up till then, most of the Resistance groups had been made up essentially of tiny minorities of nationalist petty-bourgeois, using terrorist methods. The Anglo-American bourgeoisie was to glorify the Resistance ideology more pragmatically after the victory at Stalingrad and the pro-Western turn of the CPs. The workers did not see much difference between exploitation by a German or a French boss. They had shown no desire to die in the name of Anglo-French imperialism to support Poland, they had made no effort to involve themselves in a war which seemed to have nothing to do with their interests. To mobilise them with a view to defending “democracy”, they had to be given a perspective which seemed valid from the class point of view. Stalingrad as the war’s turning-point, and the possibility of putting an end to the demands of the occupying army, of regaining “freedom”, even with “their own” police, raised the workers’ hopes, along with the “liberating communism” represented by Stalin. Without this lie (and the further oppression of “the relief”), the workers would have remained hostile to the armed Resistance bands, whose exactions increased the violence of Nazi terror. Without the support on the ground of the Stalinists and Trotskyists, the bourgeoisie in London and Washington would have had no hoping of bringing the workers into the war. Contrary to 1914, it is was not a question of lining the workers up in ranks to send them to the slaughter, but of gaining their adherence on the civilian terrain, in the Resistance network, behind the cult of the glorious victory of Stalingrad!

In fact, in both Italy and France many workers joined the maquis encouraged by the illusion of returning to the class struggle, and the Stalinists and Trotskyists even offered them the fraudulent comparison with the Paris Commune (weren’t the workers rising against their own bourgeoisie led by the new Thiers - Pétain - while the Germans occupied France, as before?). In the midst of a population terrorised and impotent since the outbreak of war, many workers enrolled in the Resistance bands went to their deaths under the impression that they were fighting for the “socialist liberation” of France or Italy, in other words in a new “civil war against their own bourgeoisie”; just as in 1914, the German and French workers had been sent to the front under the pretence that Germany and France “exported” socialism. The Stalinist and Trotskyist resistance groups concentrated their blackmail on the workers to put them “in the front line of the struggle for the independence of peoples”, in a key sector for the paralysis of the economy: the railways.

At the same time, and unknown to the workers, the domination of pro-Allied right-wing factions in the Resistance, for the restoration of the old capitalist order after the peace, was the object of a bitter struggle. Teams of American secret agents from AMGOT (Allied Military Government of the Occupied Territories) were sent to France and Italy (this was the origin of the P2 Lodge and the US and Italian bourgeoisie’s complicity with the Mafia), to ensure that the Stalinists did not grab enough power to attach themselves to Russian imperialism. From start to finish, the Stalinists new the limits of the role assigned to them, especially where they were most skilled: sabotaging the workers’ struggles, disarming the more utopian Resistance groups, and beating down those workers who protested at the demands of reconstruction. Immediately after the “Liberation” - and as a proof of the complicity of all bourgeoisies against the proletariat - the Western ruling class - while condemning, for form’s sake, a few “war criminals” - recruited a number of ex-Nazi and Stalinist torturers as useful secret agents in most of the European capitals. These new recruits’ first task was of course to counter their opposite numbers on the Russian side, but above all to struggle “against communism”, in other words against the natural goal of any generalised autonomous struggle by the workers themselves, which was inevitably a threat after the horror of war and the shortages that followed it.

The massive destruction of the proletariattc "The massive destruction of the proletariat"

We will leave the bourgeois to debate amongst themselves the exact number of dead in each country [6], but there is no doubt that the Russians suffered most: 20 million dead on the European front. These were conspicuous by their absence from the festivities marking the 50th anniversary of the Normandy landings. Today’s Russian historians continue to accuse the United States of delaying the landings in order to bleed the USSR further, with a view to the Cold War to come: “The landings came when Germany’s fate was already sealed by the Soviet counter-offensive on the Eastern front[7].

At the end of the fat years of reconstruction, the bourgeois liberals with their high priest Solzhenitsyn began to wax indignant over the millions dead in Stalin’s gulags, pretending to forget that the real crowning of the counter-revolution came with the utter complicity of the West... in the war. We know how merciless is the bourgeoisie after a proletarian defeat (tens of thousands of Communards, their wives and children, were slaughtered and deported after the defeat in 1871). The way that World War II was conducted allowed it to increase tenfold the massacre of the class which had so frightened it in 1917. The Russians bore the weight of 4 years of war in Europe alone. It was only at the beginning of 1945 that the Americans set foot in Germany, reducing the numbers of their own dead and preserving their social peace. The millions of Russian victims showed a tragic heroism indeed, since without American military assistance the backward Stalinist régime would have been defeated by an industrialised Germany.

After such a blood-letting, the Russian state had no need of democratic niceties to impose order. The Allies let the Russian soldiery take its revenge on millions of Germans, raising Russia to the status of “victorious power”, which experience since 1914 has shown helps to keep the social peace. The Russian government and its dictator let the German’s massacre the proletariat in Warsaw, just as they left hundreds of thousands of civilians die of cold and starvation in Stalingrad and Leningrad, and according to Souvarine attributed the millions of deaths in the gulag to the war.

To satisfy the victorious imperialisms’ appetites (the Stalinist régime dismantled all the factories in Eastern Europe, while the West profited from the reconstruction paid for by the US), it was necessary that the proletariat should not try to steal the bourgeoisie’s “Liberation”.

An intense propaganda campaign was conducted in both the West and the “totalitarian” USSR over the genocide of the Jews, which the Allies had known about since the beginning of the war. As some more serious historians have recognised, the explanation for this genocide is to be found not in the Middle Ages, but in the framework of world war. The massacre reached a fantastic intensity after the beginning of the war with Russia, to resolve more rapidly the problem of the huge masses of prisoners and refugees, especially in Poland. The Nazi state was concerned to feed its own troops, if this meant sending to an early grave a population that held back the war effort (bullets had to be saved for the Russian front, especially since wiping out such huge numbers individually had proved demoralising even for the killers). At Bermuda conference in 1943 the Allies had decided to do nothing for the Jews, preferring to let them be exterminated rather than try to handle the enormous exodus that would have come as a result of a Nazi expulsion of the Jewish population. A number of negotiations were conmducted via Romania and Hungary. All met with Roosevelt’s polite refusal. The best-known proposal, masked today behind the limited humanist action of a Schindler, was made by Eichmann to Allied representatives: 100,000 Jews against 10,000 trucks. The Allies refused the exchange, in the words of the British state: “transporting so many people would be likely to damage the war effort[8].

This genocide of the Jews, the Nazi “ethnic cleansing” was a perfect excuse for any barbarity in the Allied “victory”. The camps were opened to enormous publicity.

The rampart of lies designed to assign a diabolic status to the defeated camp has served to silence any questioning of the Allies’ terror bombing, designed above all to silence the world proletariat. Some figures are enough to unmask the horror:

 - July 1943, Hamburg, 50,000 dead;

 - 1944, Darmstadt, Königsberg, Heilbronn, 24,000 dead;

 - Braunschweig, 23,000 dead;

 - 13th-14th February 1945, Allied planes carried out an intensive bombardment of Dresden, a town full of evacuees, causing 250,000 deaths: it was one of the war’s most terrible crimes;

 - in 18 months, 45 of Germany’s 60 main towns were virtually destroyed, and 650,000 people killed;

 - in March 1945, the bombardment of Tokyo killed 80,000 people;

 - in France, as elsehwere, the working class areas were the main targets: thousands were killed in Le Havre and Marseille, while during the landings the bombing of Caen and other towns caused thousands of deaths among the civilian population, to add to the 20,000 dead on either side among the troops;

 - four months after the Reich’s surrender, with Japan practically on its knees, the most terrifying weapon of all time obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, under the pretext of saving American lives; it was necessary that the proletariat remember for years to come that the bourgeoisie is an all-powerful class...

In a future article, we will consider the working class reaction during the war, passed over in silence by official historians, as well as the positions and activity of the revolutionary minorities of the time.

Damien 


[1] See International Review 66: “The massacres and crimes of the great democracies”, 3rd Quarter 1991.

[2] The Secret War, A.C. Brown.

[3]  34-39: L’Avant-guerre, Michel Ragon, Ed Denoël, 1968.

[4] Report on the International Situation, 14th July 1945.

[5] L’Oeuvre, 29th August, 1940.

[6] See the International Review, op. cit., as well as the Manifesto of the ICC’s 9th Congress: Communist Revolution or the Destruction of Humanity.

[7] Le Figaro, 6 June 1994.

[8] See L’Histoire de Joël Brand by Alex Weissberg. Half a century later, the refugee problem still encounters the same shameful capitalist restrictions: “For economic and political reasons (each refugees costs some $7,000), Washington does not want the number of Jewish refugees to increase to the detriment of other exiles - from Latin America, Asia, or Africa - who have no support and may be more “persecuted”” (Le Monde, 4th October 1989). Maastrichtian Europe is not to be outdone: “... for Europe, most asylum seekers are not “real” refugees, but ordinary economic migrants who cannot be tolerated on a saturated job market” (Libération, 9th October 1989). This is where decadent capitalism ends up. Unable to develop the productive forces, it prefers during times of war or peace, to leave a great part of humanity to die a lingering death. The hypocritical impotence displayed in the face of the “ethnic cleansing” in ex-Yugoslavia, or of the ungeard-of massacre of 500,000 human beings in Rwanda, shows what capitalism is capable of TODAY. By letting these massacres happen, just as they did with the genocide of the Jews, the Western democracies pretend they have nothing to do with the horror, when in fact they are its accomplices, and even play a more direct part than they did during the Nazi epoch.

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