Capitalist Barbarism and Ideological Manipulations
The 60th anniversary of the liberation from the concentration camps, of the bombing of Dresden, of Hiroshima, of the capitulation of Germany
2005 abounds in gruesome anniversaries. The bourgeoisie has just celebrated one of them - the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps in January 1945 - with an ostentation that outdid the 50th anniversary of the same event. This comes as no surprise. For the last sixty years, parading the monstrous crimes of the side defeated in World War II has proved the surest means of absolving the Allies from the crimes that they too committed against humanity during and after the war. It has served moreover to present democratic values as the guarantee of civilisation against barbarity. Similarly, we can expect that the anniversary of the capitulation of Germany in May 1945 will also be greeted with a special fanfare. The Second World War, like the first, was an imperialist war fought by imperialist brigands and the slaughter it generated (50 million dead), was a dramatic confirmation of the bankruptcy of capitalism. Nowadays the bourgeoisie is obliged to accord great importance to the commemoration of the Second World War, precisely because the mystifications wreathed around it are beginning to wear thin. An increasing amount of evidence, that has long been denied and dissimulated, is beginning to emerge. One example is the fact that the Allies knew of the existence of the extermination camps and did nothing to put them out of action. Such evidence raises the question of the degree of Allied responsibility for the Holocaust. It is up to revolutionaries, who are always the first to denounce the barbarity of both camps, to wage a battle against bourgeois mystifications that try to keep the crimes of the allies out of sight or at least to play them down. It is also their task to expose the inconsistencies in the bourgeoisie's attempts to "excuse" the barbaric acts committed by the "democratic" camp.
Why such a hubbub about the liberation from the concentration camps?
The commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the allied landings in June 1944 has already been vested with an importance even greater than its 50th. Aware that the memory of such an event must be permanently maintained if it is to remain vivid in the minds of the living, the bourgeoisie has not skimped on the means used to revive the image of all those young recruits, who offered themselves up in their tens of thousands to be massacred on the beaches, believing that they were fighting "for the freedom of their fellow men". For the bourgeoisie it is of the utmost importance that the mystification that made the mobilisation of their elders possible remains in the minds of the new generations; that the illusion remains that to fight in the democratic camp against fascism was to defend human dignity and civilisation against barbarism. That is why it is not enough for the ruling class to have used the American, English, German, Russian or French working class as canon fodder: they are directing their sick propaganda specifically against the present generation of proletarians. Today the working class is not prepared to sacrifice itself for the economic and imperialist interests of the bourgeoisie. Nevertheless it is still vulnerable to the mystification that it is not capitalism that produces the barbarity in the world, but that the latter is the responsibility of certain totalitarian powers that are the sworn enemies of democracy. The idea that the Jewish genocide is "unique" (and therefore not to be compared with other instances of genocide) plays a central role in the persistence of this democratic mystification today. In fact it is because of its victory over the totalitarian regime that tortured the Jewish people, that the Allied camp and its democratic ideology could consolidate the lie that it was the guardian against the utmost barbarity.
In the aftermath of World War II, and even in the subsequent two decades, it was only a small minority, mainly limited to the internationalist revolutionary milieu, who placed the barbarity of the Allies side by side with that of the Nazi camp. That was to change gradually following the return of the proletariat to the international scene in 1968. Questions began to be asked about a whole series of mystifications and lies that had been produced and maintained during nearly half a century of counter-revolution (in the first place, the lie about the socialist character of the Eastern bloc countries). The process has been encouraged by the endless stream of military conflicts since the Second World War, in which the great democratic countries have supplied material for critical reflection by showing themselves to be champions of barbarism (the United States in Vietnam, France in Algeria…). The flight towards barbarism and chaos since the 1990s comes across as the coronation of the most barbaric century in history, despite the renewal of the democratic mystification engendered by the campaigns on the collapse of Stalinism. Over the last 15 years the great powers, often the "democratic" ones, have had an obvious responsibility for the outbreak of conflicts. We can cite the United States’ leadership of the anti-Saddam coalition in the first Iraq war that caused, directly and indirectly, up to 500,000 deaths; the great Western powers in Yugoslavia (twice) with their "ethnic cleansing", including that of Srebrenica in 1993, carried out by Serbia and covertly backed by France and Great Britain. Then there is the Rwanda genocide orchestrated by France, which produced almost a million victims; Russia's continuing war in Chechnya, which also involves ethnic cleansing, and the barbaric Anglo-American intervention in Iraq. In some of these conflicts we even see reproduced the scenario of the Second World War: a dictator (Saddam Hussein in Iraq or Milosevic in Yugoslavia) is spotlighted to take the blame for the hostilities and deaths. No matter that this dictator had previously been a respectable person in the eyes of these democrats, with whom they had maintained cordial relations before they found him more useful as a scapegoat.
In this situation, it is not surprising that the pill of the "uniqueness" of the Jewish genocide is increasingly difficult to swallow for those who have not been bludgeoned by such ideological brainwashing for a whole lifetime. To see the Holocaust as a particularly abject and shameful moment in an ocean of barbarity, rather than as a specificity, requires the power of criticism. It requires a refusal to succumb to the really revolting guilt and intimidation campaigns of the bourgeoisie, who label those who reject and condemn the Allied camp as well as that of the fascists, as indifferentists, negationists (those who deny the reality of the Holocaust), as anti-Semites, neo-nazis. This is why the new generations are more inclined to distance themselves from the lies that have poisoned the consciousness of their elders. This is recognised in comments from schoolteachers, who have to give courses on the Shoah. "It is difficult to get them [the students] to accept that it is any different from other acts of genocide" (Le Monde, 26th January, "L' attitude réfractaire de certains élèves oblige les enseignants à repenser leurs cours sur le Shoah").
The bourgeoisie plays hard on the feelings that the description of the suffering of the millions lost in the concentration camps is bound to evoke. It does so in order to hamper a tendency towards a growing awareness of the real character of the second international butchery, and of democracy. They then divert the real responsibility for these horrors and for those of all wars, onto one dictator, one regime, one country in order to cover the back of the system itself, of capitalism. To make the scenario all the more effective, they have to go on hiding and distorting the crimes of the big democracies during the Second World War.
Behind the terror and barbarism of the Allies and of Nazism lie the same motivations of the state
The experience of two world wars shows us what the common characteristics are that explain the heights of barbarity now reached, which are the responsibility of all the camps involved:
The most sophisticated technology is reserved for the military, which drains society's strength and resources, as does any form of war effort. The technological development between the First and Second World War, particularly in aviation, means that military confrontations are no longer limited to the battle field, where the opposing armies are face to face. Rather the whole of society becomes the theatre of operations.
An iron corset encircles the whole of society in order to bend it to the extreme demands of militarism and war production. The way that this was done in Germany is a caricature. As military difficulties increased, there was an intense need for manpower. In order to satisfy it, during 1942 the concentration camps became an immense reservoir of cheap human material, that was inexhaustibly renewable and able to be exploited at will. At least a third of workers employed by the big companies, such as Krupp, Heinkel, Messerschmitt or IG Farben were deportees.
The most extreme means are used to impose oneself militarily: mustard gas during the First World War, which, up until its first use, was said to be the ultimate weapon, that would never be used; the atomic bomb, the supreme weapon against Japan in 1945. Less well known but still more murderous, was the bombing of towns and civil populations during the Second World War, in order to terrorise and decimate them. Germany was the first to use this strategy when it bombed London, Coventry and Rotterdam. The technique was perfected and made systematic by Britain, whose bombers unleashed real fire balls at the heart of the towns, raising the temperature to over a thousand degrees in what became a gigantic inferno,
"The crimes of Germany or Russia should not make us forget that the Allies themselves were possessed of the spirit of evil and outdid Germany in some ways, specifically with terror bombing. When he decided to order the first raids on Berlin on 25th August 1940, in response to an accidental attack on London, Churchill assumed the devastating responsibility for a terrible moral regression. For almost five years, the British Prime Minister, the commanders of Bomber Command, Harris especially, attacked German towns relentlessly (…)
This horror reached its zenith on 11th September 1944 at Darmstadt. In the course of a remarkably concerted attack, the entire historic centre disappeared in an ocean of flames. In 51 minutes, the town was hit by a volume of bombs greater than those dropped on London throughout the whole war. 14 000 people died. As for the industrial zone, situated on the outskirts and which represented only 0.5% of the Reich's economic potential, it was hardly touched." (Une guerre totale 1939-1945, stratégies, moyens, controverses by Philippe Masson). The British bombardments of German towns killed nearly 1 million people.
Far from moderating the offensive against the enemy and so reducing the financial cost, the rout of Germany and Japan in 1945 had quite the opposite effect. The intensity and cruelty of the air raids was redoubled. This was because what was really at stake was no longer victory over these countries; this had already been won. The purpose was in fact to prevent parts of the German working class from rising up against capitalism in response to the suffering caused by the war, as had happened at the time of the First World War. So the British and American air raids were intended to annihilate those workers who had not already perished on the military fronts and to throw the proletariat into impotence and disarray.
There was another consideration as well. It had become clear to the Anglo-Americans that the future division of the world would place the main victors of World War II in opposition to one another. On one side there would be the United States (with Britain at its side, a country that had been bled dry by the war). On the other side would be the Soviet Union, which was in a position to strengthen itself considerably through conquest and military occupation, that would follow its victory over Germany. Churchill expressed his awareness of this new threat in the following unequivocal words. "Soviet Russia had become a mortal danger for the free world, [so] it was necessary to create a new front, without delay, to arrest its advance and this front had to be as far East as possible in Europe". So a concern of the western Allies was to set limits to Stalin's imperialist appetites in Europe and Asia by means of a dissuasive show of force. This was the other purpose behind the British bombardment of Germany in 1945 and it was the sole reason for using atomic weapons against Japan.
The fact that military and economic establishments were targeted less and less, as these had become secondary, demonstrates the new stakes in the bombings, as in the case of Dresden:
"Up to 1943, in spite of the suffering inflicted on the population, the raids still had a military or economic justification, aimed as they were at the large ports in the north of Germany, the Ruhr complex, the main industrial centres or even the capital of the Reich. But from the autumn of 1944, this was no longer the case. With a perfectly practised technique, Bomber Command, which had 1,600 planes at its disposal and which was striking at a German defence that was increasingly weak, undertook the attack and systematic destruction of middle sized towns or even small urban centres that were of no military or economic interest.
History has excused the atrocious destruction of Dresden in February 1945 under the strategic pretext that it neutralised an important rail centre, behind the Wehrmacht's lines as it engaged the Red Army. In fact, the disruption to rail traffic did not last more that 48 hours. However there is no justification for the destruction of Ulm, Bonn, Wurtzburg, Hidelsheim; these medieval cities, these artistic marvels that were part of the patrimony of Europe, disappeared in fire storms, in which the temperature reached 1,000-2,000°C and which cause the death and dreadful suffering of tens of thousands of people" (P. Masson).
When barbarism itself becomes the main driving force towards barbarism
There is another characteristic shared by the two world conflicts: just as the bourgeoisie is unable to maintain control of the productive forces under capitalism, so too the destructive forces that it sets in motion during all-out war tend to escape its control. Equally, the worst impulses that have been unchained by the war take on a life and dynamic of their own, giving rise to gratuitous acts of barbarity that no longer even have anything to do with the aims of the war, however despicable the latter may be.
In the course of the war, the Nazi concentration camps became a huge machine for killing all those suspected of resistance within Germany or in the countries it had occupied or that were its vassals. The transfer of detainees to Germany became a way of using terror to impose order in zones occupied by Germany. But the increasingly hurried and radical nature of the means used to get rid of the population in the camps, the Jews in particular, shows that the need to impose terror or for forced labour was less and less a consideration. It was a flight into barbarism in which the only motive was barbarism itself. At the same time as these mass murders were taking place, the Nazi torturers and doctors carried out "experiments" on the prisoners, in which sadism vied with scientific interest. These individuals would later be offered immunity and a new identity in exchange for collaborating with projects in the United States that were classed as "military defence secrets" (the operation was known as "Project Paperclip").
The march of Russian imperialism across Eastern Europe towards Berlin was accompanied by atrocities that betrayed the same logic:
"Columns of refugees were crushed under tanks or systematically strafed from the air. The entire population of urban centres was massacred with refined cruelty. Naked women were crucified on barn doors. Children were decapitated, had their heads beaten to pulp with sticks, or were thrown alive into pig troughs. All those in the Baltic ports who did not manage to get away or who could not be evacuated by the German navy, were simply exterminated. The number of victims can be estimated at 3 or 3.5 million (…)
“This murderous madness was visited unabated on all the German minorities in Southeast Europe, in Yugoslavia, Rumania and Czechoslovakia, and on thousands of Sudeten Germans. The German population in Prague, which had been established in the city since the Middle Ages, was massacred with a degree of sadism rarely witnessed. Women were raped and then their Achilles tendon cut, condemning them to bleed to death on the ground in terrible agony. Children were machine gunned at school entrances, thrown into the road from the top floors of buildings or drowned in basins or fountains. Some were walled up alive in cellars. In all there were more than 30,000 victims.
“The violence did not spare the young signals auxiliaries of the Luftwaffe, who were thrown alive into burning haystacks. For weeks the Vltava (Moldau) carried thousands of corpses, sometimes of whole families nailed to rafts. To the horror of the witnesses, a whole sector of the Czech population displayed a savagery that belongs to another age.
“In fact these massacres were the product of a political will, of an intention to eliminate, with the help of a stirring of the most bestial impulses. Given Churchill's concern at Yalta at seeing new minorities arise within the framework of the future frontiers of the USSR or Poland, Stalin could not help declaring sarcastically that there could no longer be a lot of Germans in these regions…" (P. Masson).
The "ethnic cleansing" of the German provinces in the East, was not the responsibility of Stalin's army alone but was done with the co-operation of the British and American armed forces. Although, even at this time, the lines for future tension were already drawn between the USSR and the United States, these countries and Britain still co-operated without reservations in the task of removing the proletarian danger, by the mass murder of the population. Moreover, they all had an interest in ensuring that the yoke of the future occupation of Germany could be exercised over a population, that had been made passive by all the suffering it had gone through and that included the least number of refugees possible. This aim in itself incarnates barbarism but it was to become the departure point for an uncontrolled escalation of brutality at the service of mass murder.
Those refugees who escaped Stalin's tanks, were massacred by the British and American bombardments, which employed considerable means to simply exterminate them. The cruelty of the bombardments over Germany, whether they were British, and ordered by Churchill in person, or American, were intended to kill as many as possible with the maximum savagery:
"This will to systematically destroy, which was close to genocide, went on until April 1945, in spite of the growing objections of Air Marshal Portal, the commander-in-chief of the RAF, who wanted to direct the bombings against the oil industry or transport. In the end even Churchill, as a good politician, became concerned, when there were reactions of indignation in the press of the neutral countries and even from a sector of British public opinion" (P.Masson).
the German front, the American raid of 12 March 1945 on the harbour
town of Swinemunde in Pomerania probably caused more than 20,000
victims, according to estimates. It targeted the refugees who were
fleeing from Stalin's advancing troops and who were gathered together
in the town or already aboard the boats.
"A large belt of parks bordered the beach. It was here that the bulk of the refugees were concentrated. The 8th American army knew this perfectly well, this is why it had loaded its planes with 'tree breakers'; bombs with detonators which explode as soon as they come into contact with branches.
“A witness relates having seen the refugees in the park 'throw themselves to the ground, so exposing the whole of their bodies to the action of the tree breakers’. The bombers had traced the boundaries of the park precisely with tracer lights. So the carpet bombs fell in a particularly restricted zone, meaning that there was no means of escape (…)
Among the large merchant ships, which sailed - the Jasmund, Hilde, Ravensburg, Heiligenhafen, Tolina, Cordillera - it was the Andros which sustained the heaviest losses. It set sail from Pillau, on the coast of Samland, the 5th March, on its way to Denmark with two thousand passengers aboard" (Der Brand. Deutschland im Bombenkrieg 1940-1945 by Jörg Friedrich).
"At the same time and in addition to these massive attacks, there were repeated raids by tactical air command fighter-bombers. These raids (by the Americans as well as the British) targeted trains, roads, villages, isolated farms, as well as farmers in their fields. Farm work was limited in Germany to the hours of dawn or dusk. There were machine gun attacks at school entrances and the children had to learn how to protect themselves from aerial attacks. During the bombardment of Dresden, the allied fighters attacked the ambulances and fire engines that converged on the town from nearby cities." (P.Masson).
On the Far Eastern front, American imperialism acted with the same brutality: "To return to the summer of 1945. Sixty-six of the largest towns in Japan had already been destroyed by fire following napalm bombardments. A million civilians in Tokyo were homeless and 100,000 people had died. To repeat the words of Curtis Lemay, the general of the division responsible for the firebombing, they were 'grilled, boiled and cooked to death'. President Franklin Roosevelt's son, who was also his confidant, said that the bombings had to continue 'until we had destroyed about half of the civilian population of Japan'. On 18th July, the Emperor of Japan sent a telegraph to President Harry S. Truman, who had succeeded Roosevelt, asking once more to make peace. His message was ignored. (…) A few days before the bombing of Hiroshima, vice admiral Arthur Radford boasted: 'Japan will end up as a country without towns - a population of nomads'." ("From Hiroshima to the Twin Towers", Le Monde Diplomatique of September 2002).
Ideological fog and lies to cover up the cynical crimes of the bourgeoisie
There is yet another characteristic of the bourgeoisie's behaviour, which is particularly present in war, and even more so in all-out war. Those of its crimes that it does not decide to erase from history (as the Stalinist historians had already begun to do in the 1930s), are dressed up as their opposite; as courageous, virtuous acts that enabled them to save more human lives than they destroyed.
The British bombardment of Germany
With the Allied victory, a whole segment of the history of the Second World War has disappeared from the records: "the terror bombings have fallen into almost total oblivion, as have the massacres carried out by the Red Army or the terrible settling of scores in Eastern Europe." (P.Masson). Of course, these acts are not included in the commemoration ceremonies for these "gruesome" anniversaries. They are banished from them. There remain just a few historical testimonies, that are too deeply rooted to be openly eradicated and so are given a "media make-over" in order to render them inoffensive. This is the case with the bombing of Dresden in particular: "…the most beautiful terror raid of the whole war was the work of the victorious allies. An absolute record was made on 13th and 14th February 1945: 253,000 dead, refugees, civilians, prisoners of war, labour deportees. No military objective." (Jacques de Launay, Introduction to the French 1987 edition of David Irving's book The destruction of Dresden.
Nowadays it is customary for the media, when covering the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Dresden, to give the number of victims as 35,000. When the number of 250,000 is mentioned, it is promptly attributed to either Nazi or Stalinist propaganda. The latter "interpretation" is not very consistent with the great concern of the East German authorities, for whom at the time, "there was no question of spreading the correct information that the town had been overrun by hundreds of thousands of refugees, fleeing from the Red Army." (Jacques de Launay). In fact at the time that the bombardments occurred, Dresden counted about 1 million inhabitants, of which 400,000 were refugees. In view of how the town was devasted, it is hard to imagine that only 3.5% of the population perished!
The bourgeoisie's campaign to render innocuous the horror of Dresden by minimising the number of victims is complemented by another one, aiming to present the legitimate indignation that this barbaric act excites, as an expression of neo-Nazism. All the publicity given to the demonstrations in Germany, mobilising the nostalgic degenerates of the 3rd Reich to commemorate the event, can only serve to discourage any criticism casting doubt upon the Allies, for fear of being taken for a Nazi.
The atomic bombardment of Japan
Unlike the British bombardment of Germany, where great pains are taken to hide its enormity, the use of the atomic weapon for the first and only time in history, by the world's most powerful democracy, has never been hidden or minimised. On the contrary, everything possible has been done to publicise it and to make clear the destructive power of this new weapon. Every provision had been taken to do this even before the bombing of Hiroshima on 6th August 1945. "Four cities were marked out [to be bombed]: Hiroshima (major port, industrial city and military base), Kokura (main arsenal), Nigata (port, steelworks and oil refinery) and Kyoto (industries) (…) From that moment on, none of the cities mentioned above were touched by bombs. They had to be damaged as little as possible in order to put the destructive power of the atomic bomb beyond discussion." (Article "The bomb dropped over Hiroshima" on http://www.momes.net/dictionnaire/h/hiroshima.html). As for the dropping of the second bomb on Nagasaki, it expressed the intention of the United States to show that it could use nuclear weapons whenever necessary (which was not true in fact because the other bombs that they were building were not yet ready.)
According to the ideological justification for this massacre of the Japanese population, it was the only way to ensure the capitulation of Japan and save the life of a million American soldiers. This is a gross lie which is still propagated today: Japan had been bled dry and the United States (having intercepted and decoded the communiqués of the Japanese diplomatic corps and headquarters) knew that they were ready to capitulate. But they also knew that for Japan there was a limiting condition to their capitulation; the Emperor Hirohito was not to be removed. So, as they had the means to prevent Japan from accepting total capitulation, the United States made use of it by drafting ultimatums in such a way as to imply that the removal of the Emperor would be required. It must also be stressed that the American administration never explicitly threatened Japan with a nuclear attack, from the time of the first successful attempt at a nuclear explosion at Alamogordo, in order of course to leave it no opportunity to accept America's conditions. Having dropped two atomic bombs to demonstrate the superiority of this new weapon over all conventional arms, the United States achieved its ends, Japan capitulated and …the Emperor remained. The complete futility of using the atomic bomb against Japan in order to force it to capitulate has since been confirmed by the statements of the military, some of them high ranking, who were themselves staggered by such cynicism and barbarity.
The Allies complicity in responsibility for the Holocaust
"The silence of the Allies complemented that of the Europeans. Although completely aware of the fate of the Jews from 1942 onwards, neither the British nor the Americans were particularly concerned about it and they refused to include the struggle against genocide in their war aims. The press reported deportations and massacres but this information was relegated to the twelfth or fifteenth page. This was particularly clear in the United States where there had been a virulent anti-Semitism since 1919" (P Masson, op. cit.)
When the camps were liberated, the Allies pretended to be surprised at their existence and at the massive exterminations carried out inside them. Up until recently they have been denounced only by a few honest historians and by revolutionary minorities. But over the last twelve years this deception has been uncovered by those in an official position or by the official media. For example, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said on 23rd April 1998 at the "March of the Survivors" in Auschwitz: "It would not have been difficult to stop it. It would have been enough to bomb the railway lines. They [the Allies] knew about it. They did not bomb them because at the time the Jews had no state, no military and political force to defend themselves". Likewise the French magazine Science et Vie Junior writes: "In the spring of 1944, the Allies took detailed photographs of Auschwitz-Birkenau and bombed the factories in the vicinity four times. No bomb was ever dropped on the gas chambers, the railway lines or the crematorium furnaces of the death camp. Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt were informed as early as 1942 by the representative of International Jewish Congress in Geneva and later by the Polish resistance of what was going on in the camps. The Jewish resistance asked them to bomb the gas chambers and the crematorium furnaces at Auschwitz. They did not do so or, in the case of Churchill, their orders were not executed." (No. 38, October 1999, supplement to the series: the Second World War). The procedure is as old as the world itself: cast blame on the underlings in order to save face! Even the most honest reply to this situation defends the respectability of the allied camp: "Why, given that the Allied air force had bombed a rubber factory 4 kilometres away? The answer is terrible: the military had other priorities. For them the main thing was to win the war as quickly as possible and nothing was to delay this primary objective" (ibid). Every effort is made to avoid raising the real issue: Allied complicity in the Holocaust.21 They had refused all the proposals of the Germans to exchange the Jews for lorries, or even for nothing. They did not on any account want to be lumbered with a population that they did not know what to do with, not even if it meant saving these lives.
The bourgeoisie: a class of gangsters
How can we explain the fact that secrets, that had been so well kept over the years, end up being bandied about publicly? In the article that quotes Netanyahu's speech of 23rd April 1998 at Auschwitz (see above), there are elements of a reply. "Obviously the pressure exerted on Netanyahu by the European countries and the United States in particular, before his departure for Poland, regarding the negotiations with Yasser Arafat, explains why he resorted to the subject of the victims of the Shoah" ("The debate on the written history in Israel about the Shoah: the case for Jewish leadership" by Raya Cohen, University of Tel-Aviv). Essentially it was in order to ease the pressure that the United States was exerting on Israel in the negotiations with the Palestinians, that Netanyahu put a spanner in the works, intending to sully the reputation of Uncle Sam. By making it explicit that it wanted to be more independent of the United States so that it could play its own card, Israel did no more than situate itself within the same dynamic traced by all the vassals of the United States within the old Western bloc, after its disappearance in 1990. Other countries, such as France or Germany, have pushed this dynamic further by contesting American leadership openly. This is why the new rivals, and old allies, of the United States are more and more in favour of asking publicly the question: "why did the Allies, who knew about the Holocaust while it was going on, not bomb the camps?" They do so in order to encourage anti-American sentiment, which is developing as antagonisms with the major international power intensify. The United States, and also Britain, must expect to be confronted in the future with the need to answer more explicit criticisms about their own responsibility for the Holocaust.
Germany, in particular, has an interest in breaking the ideological consensus in favour of the victor, which has existed since 1945. At the same time it wants to relinquish its status as a military dwarf, which is a result of its defeat. Since its reunification at the beginning of the 1990s, Germany has availed itself of the means to assume military responsibility internationally in so-called "peace-keeping" operations, in Yugoslavia particularly, and more recently in Afghanistan. German policy to assert its status as main challenger to American leadership (even if it is still far from being able to rival the latter) corresponds to a desire on Germany's part to return to a leading role on the imperialist chessboard. One of the preconditions for it to play the part is that it put an end to the shame of its ingrained Nazi past and "rehabilitate" itself by showing that, during World War II, the barbarism was on both sides. This is not very difficult, given the evidence. It is quite appropriate that the ideological offensive of Germany is undertaken by those who declare that their battle is subordinate to their defence of democracy and who do not spare their denunciation of Nazi crimes. As is shown in an article that appeared in a special issue of Der Spiegel in 2003 and entitled "Jörg Friedrich's book Der Brand, the polemic around the strategic bombardments reopened", this ideological offensive has produced a lively media exchange between Germany and Britain. Der Spiegel writes: "As soon as extracts from this exhaustive work on the bombardments carried out during the war by the Allies against Germany in the period 1940-45, was published in Bild-Zeitung, British journalists attacked the Berlin historian. They ended up by constantly asking the same question: 'How can you depict Winston Churchill as a war criminal?' Friedrich explained repeatedly that in his book he avoided making any judgement of Churchill. 'What's more, he cannot be a war criminal in the legal sense of the term', Friedrich replied, 'as prosecutions are never made against the victors, even when they have committed war crimes'."
Der Spiegel continues: "It is not surprising that the conservative Daily Telegraph should sound the alarm and condemn Friedrich's book 'as an unprecedented attack against the Allies' conduct of the war'. In the Daily Mail the historian Corelli Barnett fumes that the German fraternity has joined the 'heap of dangerous revisionists' and 'is trying to make 'Churchill's support for the carpet bombings morally equivalent to the unspeakable crimes of the Nazis', 'an infamous and dangerous nonsense'. (…)
“Churchill - a real man of war - was also an ambivalent politician. It was this charismatic Prime Minister who pushed for the 'annihilation' attacks against German cities. But when he later saw the films of the cities in flames, he asked:’Are we animals? Are we going too far?'.
“At the same time, it was he himself, who - just like Hitler and Stalin - took upon himself all the important military decisions and he, at the very least, approved the constant escalation of the bombardments."
Moreover, Germany is also developing a diplomatic offensive. The primary aim of the latter is to win moral reparation for the detriment accrued through the loss of its historic influence in a number of Eastern European countries, due to its defeat in the Second World War. In fact, "about 15 million Germans had to flee from Eastern Europe after the defeat. Nazis or non-Nazis, collaborators or resistance fighters, they were chased out of regions, in which they had been settled for centuries: the Sudetens in Bohemia and Moravia, the Silesians, the eastern Prussians and the Pomeranians" ("La 'nouvelle Allemagne' brise ses anciens tabous", Le Temps – a Swiss periodical - of 14th June 2002). In fact, under the pretext of working for humanitarian ends, at Germany's initiative, a "European network against the displacement of populations" has been created. It is motivated by "the idea that the displacement of the German population was an 'injustice' carried out for ethnic reasons, that were hidden by the Potsdam Agreement'" ("Informationen zur Deutschen Außen-politik" of 2nd February 2005; http://www.germanforeignpolicy.com). In a speech supporting this "network" made in November 2004 before a commission of the European Council, Markus Meckel, SPD deputy with special responsibility for international questions, said: "Certainly there are dictators, such as Hitler, Stalin and, recently, Milosevic who have given orders for such displacement of populations. But democrats, such as Churchill and Roosevelt accepted ethnic homogenisation as a means of political stabilisation". The document quoted (Informationen zur…) summarises the speech: "Meckel aggravates the provocation by adding that the whole world would now agree in describing the forced migration of the German populations, as an attack on human rights. 'The international community now condemns', he explains, 'the behaviour of the victors in the war. It seems to think that they acted no differently from the racist dictatorship of National Socialism’."
Obviously we cannot expect that any fraction of the bourgeoisie brings to light the crimes committed by other fractions of the bourgeoisie, for any other reason than the defence of its own imperialist interests. Indeed the bourgeois propaganda using revelations about the crimes of the Allies during the Second World War is to be fought with the same determination, with which we fight against the allied and democratic propaganda, using the crimes of Nazism in order to re-construct their political virginity. All the tears shed for the victims of the Second World War, by whatever fraction of the bourgeoisie, are no more than nauseating hypocrisy.
The most important lesson to draw from the six years of slaughter of the second world slaughter, is that the two camps that fought it out, and the countries that followed them, were all the rightful creation of the vile beast that is decadent capitalism, no matter what ideology they used; Stalinist, democratic or Nazi.
The only denunciation of barbarism that can serve the interests of humanity is that which goes to the root of this barbarity and uses it as a lever for the denunciation of capitalism as a whole. And which does so with a view to overthrowing it, before it buries the whole of humanity under a heap of ruins.
LC-S (16th April 05)
1 Read our article "D-Day landings, June 1944; Capitalist massacre and manipulation" in International Review n118.
2 See our article on the 1944 commemorations: "50 years of imperialist lies" in International Review n78,
3 As far as the working class in the fascist camp is concerned, it was regimented and decimated in its millions in the German army by means of the most brutal terror.
4 Essentially it was the Communist Left that denounced the Second World War as an imperialist war, as it had the First. It defended the position that the only responsible attitude that revolutionaries could take, was the most intransigent internationalism and the refusal to support either of the two camps. This was not the attitude of Trotskyism, which supported Russian imperialism and the democratic camp and so paid its passage into the bourgeois camp. This explains why some branches of Trotskyism (such as Ras l'front in France) specialise in radical anti-fascism. They manifest a savage hatred of any activity or position that denounces the Allies' ideological use of the death camps, such as the pamphlet published by the International Communist Party, Auschwitz or the great alibi.
5 See our article "The massacres and crimes of the 'great democracies'" in International Review n66.
6 See our article "The Year 2000; the most barbarous century in history" in International Review n101.
7 See the book L'inavouable: la France au Rwanda by Patrick de Saint-Exupéry, which gives details showing how France (under Mitterand) armed, trained, supported and protected the Hutu executioners in order to defend its own imperialist interests in Africa.
8 This speedy way of organising forced production had been inaugurated in some ways at the time of the First World War but in a different area, that of army discipline. In France, the troops were sent into battle with a line of machine guns behind them, manned by policemen, who had orders to fire on anyone refusing to advance towards enemy lines.
9 Philippe Masson can hardly be suspected of having revolutionary sympathies as he is head of the history section of the [French] marine's history service and teaches at the naval war senior school [in France].
10 From the end of 1943 workers' strikes broke out in Germany and the number of desertions from the German army tended to increase. In Italy, at the end of 1942 and especially in 1943, a large number of strikes broke out in the main industrial centres in the north.
11 Memoirs, Volume 12, May 1945.
12 See our article "50 years after the first atomic bomb. Hiroshima: the lies of the bourgeoisie" in International Review n83.
13 An instruction given by General Keitel on 12th December 1941, that goes under the name of "Night and Fog", explains: "intimidation can only have a lasting effect by means of the death sentence or by using means that leave the family (of the guilty party) and the population in doubt about what has happened to the detainee".
14 Although it did not give rise to such a systematic policy of elimination, the ill treatment inflicted on the German population that was deported (to the Eastern countries) or who were prisoners of war (held in the United States and Canada), as well as the famine that raged throughout occupied Germany, led to 9 to 13 million deaths between 1945 and 1949. For more information, read our article "Berlin 1948. The Berlin airlift hid the crimes of allied imperialism" in International Review n95.
15 In certain instances such co-operation also involved the German army, to whom fell the task of destroying the Warsaw population. The latter rose against German occupation after it had been promised aid from the Allies. While the SS massacred the population, Stalin's troops were stationed at the other side of the Vistula, waiting for the job to be done. In the meantime the help that the British promised obviously never arrived.
16 "In 1948, an Allied enquiry revealed that, from 1944 the High Command had decided to commit’such an atrocity as to terrorise the Germans and force them to stop fighting’. The same argument was to serve six month later for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The enquiry concluded that the action was’"political and not military’ and did not hesitate to describe the bombing of Dresden and Hamburg as ‘terrorist acts on a large scale’. No political or military figure was ever tried." (Réseau Voltaire of 13th February 2004: "Aerial terrorism", Dresden; 135,000 civilian deaths, see http://www.reseauvoltaire.net/article12412.html).
17 The author of this book is David Irving, who has recently been accused of adhering to negationist theses. Such an evolution on his part, if true, would not give a favourable impression of the objectivity of his book The destruction of Dresden (French edition of 1987). However it is worth noting that his method, which as far as we know has never been seriously put in doubt, does not bear any sign of negationism. The preface to this edition is written by Air Vice-Marshall Sir Robert Saundby. He does not come across either as a rabid pro-Nazi or as a negationist, and he says, among other things: "This book relates honestly and dispassionately the history of a particularly tragic episode of the last war, the history of the cruelty of man to man. We hope that the horrors of Dresden and Tokyo, Hiroshima and Hamburg will convince the whole human race of the futility, the brutality and the profound uselessness of modern war". What is more, we find in the English 1995 edition of this book, which is an update (entitled Apocalypse 1945), the following passage: "is there a parallel between Dresden and Auschwitz? In my opinion both teach us that the real crime of war, as of peace, is not genocide - which supposes implicitly that posterity will offer its sympathies and condolences to a particular race - but rather innocenticide. Auschwitz was a crime, not because its victims were Jews but because they were innocent." (our emphasis). Lastly, in order to dissipate any doubts that may exist that the author has exaggerated, we note that the French edition of 1963, which estimates the number of victims at 135,000, quotes the estimates given by the American authorities, who give the number of victims as over 200,000.
18 "A first wave of bombers passed over the city on the evening of 13th February at about 21.30 hours. They dropped 260,000 scatter bombs, which spun down and exploded, boring through the walls, floors and ceilings of the habitations. (…) At 3°'clock in the morning a second wave of bombers rained down 280,000 incendiary bombs with phosphorous and 11,000 bombs and mines, all in 20 minutes. (…) The fires spread all the more easily as the buildings had previously been gutted. The third wave took place 14th February at 11.30. For 30 minutes it too dropped incendiary and exploding bombs. In 15 hours there was a total of 7,000 tons of incendiary bombs that fell on Dresden. They destroyed more than a half of the habitations and a quarter of the industrial zones. A large part of the city was reduced to cinders (…) Many of the victims went up in smoke as the temperature was often more that 1000°C" (extracts from the article "14th February 1945: Dresden reduced to ashes", that can be found at the following internet address
We must add to this a "detail" that emerges in the article "13th and 14th February, 7,000 tons of bombs" in the newspaper Le Monde of 13th February 2005, which explains the large number of victims. "The first wave of bombings took place a little after 22.00 hours. The sirens had gone off some twenty minutes earlier and the inhabitants of Dresden had time to take refuge in the cellars of the buildings, as the number of shelters was insufficient. The second wave came at 01.16 hours in the morning. The warning sirens were no longer working as they had been destroyed by the first bombardment. In order to escape the torrid heat caused by the fires - up to 1 000°C - the population spread out through the parks and along the banks of the Elba. There they were attacked by the bombs."
19 The second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, although in was not included in the planned targets. This was because weather conditions were unfavourable over the cities selected and because it was not possible for the bomber, that had the atomic bomb on board, to return to base as the nuclear charge had been ignited.
20 Admiral Leahy, head of general staff under the presidents Roosevelt and then Truman: "It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons. The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages." (William Leahy, I Was There, 1979, pg. 441). General Eisenhower, "I voiced (…) my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of 'face'." (Dwight Eisenhower, Mandate For Change, pg. 380). General Douglas Macarthur: "When I asked General Macarthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted. What, I asked, would his advice have been? He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor." (Norman Cousins, The Pathology of Power, pg. 65, 70-71).
21 See our article "The Allies' complicity in the responsibility for the Holocaust" in our pamphlet [in French] Fascism and Democracy: two expressions of the dictatorship of capital.
22 Moreover, they are preparing to publish the archives that show that the existence of the camps was known. This is in fact the only consistent move possible. So "in January 2004, the archive department for aerial reconnaissance at Keele University (Britain) published, for the first time, the aerial photos showing the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in action. They were taken by Royal Airforce planes in the summer of 1944. These astonishing negatives, in which can be seen the smoke from the furnaces in the open air and the organisation of the extermination camp, had to wait sixty years before they were made public" (Le Monde of 9th January 05, "Auschwitz: la prevue oubliée"). A debate is taking place with ready-made, false answers, such as "it was not the Auschwitz camp that the planes photographed at the time, it was rather an enormous German petro-chemical plant. In their hurry, those responsible for analysing the negatives, did not realise that the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps, which were close to this factory for synthetic oil production, belonged to the same complex" (ibid).
23 Concerned about its German accomplice's appetite for imperialist expansion, France has done what it can to oppose this plan.