Let Us Remember: The massacres and crimes of the 'Great Democracies'

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The Gulf War is a forceful reminder to the working class that capitalism itself is war, the very height of barbarism, and this can only encourage it to think deeply about the kind of society it 's living in. This is why, throughout the war, the bourgeoisie of the 'democratic' countries systematically hid the extent of the destruction and maneuvers it was carrying out, and why, after the war, it organized a gigantic humanitarian campaign around the massacre of the Kurds in order to make workers forget its own crimes and its responsibility in this massacre. The bourgeoisie of the great 'democracies' has long experience at this level, both in killing and in lies and cynicism. The proletariat must remember the crimes committed by the 'democratic' bourgeoisie, as well as its direct or indirect complicity in the massacres and destruction perpetrated by Stalinism and fascism.


Lies and Cynicism from the Bourgeoisie During and After the Gulf War

Throughout the war, we hardly saw any pictures of the massacres and destruction inflicted on the Iraqi population. The absolute rule was: total blackout and a strict control of the media. To this day there are no precise figures, but it's certain that more than 200,000 civilians and nearly 250,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed, not to mention the wounded and those who will be infirm for the rest of their lives. After all the obscene boasts about 'surgical precision bombing', an American general in charge of the US air force has admitted that out of the 88,500 tons of bombs rained on Iraq, less than 7 % were laser-guided, that 70 % of the bombs missed their target and that the airmen had 'sprayed' their bombs without too much concern for pin-point accuracy, using that old and sinister method of 'carpet bombing'! One can imagine the damage done to civilian areas in such conditions. But little or none of this ever filtered through.

By contrast, the media did their utmost to convey the morbid spectacle of thousands of Kurds, women, children and the old, dying of hunger and cold, lapping stagnant water like dogs and fighting around the trucks for a crust of bread or a bottle of water.

The incredible cynicism and duplicity of the American, French and British bourgeoisie was once again demonstrated in the most sinister manner. Because not only did they use these massacres in order to make people forget their own war crimes - they were also directly responsible for this genocidal massacre which took the total number of war victims close to a million.

The bourgeoisie of the 'Coalition' had deliberately pushed for the Shiite and Kurdish rebellions. They had encouraged the Kurdish bourgeois cliques to proclaim the uprising by leading them to believe they would receive the necessary support; and then they carefully ensured that no aid was forthcoming and that Saddam Hussein had the forces he required to repress the revolt. By laying this trap, in which at least 250,000 people died, the 'Coalition' bourgeoisie killed two birds with one stone.

On the one hand, jt made it easier for their own war crimes to be forgotten by focusing attention on the new crimes of the 'Hitler of the Middle East'; and at the same time, through this massive repression, they prevented the Lebanisation of the whole region, which would have been the result of a successful uprising by the Kurds and Shiites. And they did this without getting their own hands dirty, since that devil Saddam once again took on the butcher's job. This is why although the repression took place under the eyes of the American army, it wasn't until it had been completed that the tearful appeals for humanitarian action began to be issued.

The Machiavellianism of the bourgeoisie, its capacity to manipulate events and send hundreds of thousands of human beings to their deaths, is nothing new. The horrors in the Gulf are the continuation of a long and macabre series. Throughout the decadence of capitalism, the grand 'democracies' have accumulated a huge experience in this bloody game, whether in dealing with the always dangerous situations which arise in a country defeated in war, or in justifying and obscuring their own crimes by fixing attention on the diabolic deeds of the 'other' side.

The Second World War: the crimes and massacres of democracy and anti-fascism

The list of crimes and butcheries perpetuated by those paragons of law and morality, the old bourgeois democracies, is so long that you could hardly do justice to it in an entire issue of this Review. Let's recall the First World War where the main protagonists were democracies, including the Russia of 1917 under the 'socialist' and 'democrat' Kerensky, and where the social democratic parties played a major role as purveyors of cannon fodder. The latter also didn't hesitate to put on the butcher's apron when it came to the bloody repression of the German revolution in January 1919, when thousands of workers perished in the city of Berlin alone. Let's also recall the British, French and American expeditionary corps sent to put down the October revolution; the genocide of the Armenians by the Turkish state with the direct complicity of the French and British governments; the gassing of the Kurds by the British army in 1925, etc ... The more capitalism has sunk into decadence the more its method of survival has become war and terror, and this goes for the 'democratic' states as well as the totalitarian ones.

But in the necessarily limited context of a single article, we will restrict ourselves to denouncing something that, without doubt, stands alongside the monstrous identification between Stalinism and communism as the greatest lie of the century, the so-called war of 'democracy against fascism', of law and morality against Nazi barbarism, which is still the way it is taught in school text books. A war in which the barbarism was supposedly on one side only, that of the Axis powers; a war which, as far as the virtuous democratic camp is concerned, is presented as being a purely defensive one and, to use the current terms of bourgeois propaganda, essentially a 'clean' one.

A study of the second world war not only enables one to measure the enormity of this lie, but also to understand how, during and after the Gulf war, the democratic bourgeoisie drew heavily on the experience it acquired during this crucial historic period.

The terror bombing of the German population

As soon as he came to power in 1940, the head of state of the world's oldest democracy, Britain, and also the real war leader of the Allied camp, Sir Winston Churchill, set up 'Bomber Command' - the central nucleus of the heavy bomber squadrons whose task was to sow terror in the German cities. To justify this strategy of terror, to provide an ideological cover for it, Churchill made use of the massive German bombing of London and Coventry in the autumn of 1940 and the bombing of Rotterdam, the scale of the latter being deliberately exaggerated (the Anglo-American media spoke of 30,000 victims when in fact it was more like 1000).

With this ideological cover assured, Linndeman, Churchill's adviser, could make the following suggestion in March 1942: "An offensive of extensive bombing could sap the moral of the enemy providing it is directed against the working class areas of the 58 German towns which have a population more than 100,000 ..." and he concluded by saying that "Between March 1942 and the middle of 1943 it should be possible to make one third of the total population of Germany homeless."

The British bourgeoisie then adopted this strategy of terror, but in all its official declarations, the government of His Gracious Majesty insisted on the fact that "Bomber Command was only bombing military targets, and any allusions to attacks on working class or civilian areas were rejected as absurd and as an affront to the honor of airmen sacrificing their lives for their country."

The first illustration that this was a cynical lie was the bombing of Hamburg in June 1943. The massive use of incendiary bombs left 50,000 dead and 40,000 wounded, mainly in working class residential areas. The centre of the city was entirely destroyed and, in two nights, the total number of victims was equal to the number killed by bombs on the British side throughout the war! In Kassel, in October 1943, nearly 10,000 civilians perished in a huge tempest of bombs.

Faced with certain questions about the extent of damage caused to the civilian population, the British government invariably replied that "there was no instruction to destroy homes and Bomber Command's targets were always military."

From the beginning of 1944, the terror raids on Darmstadt, Konisberg and Heilbronn claimed over 24,000 civilian victims. In Braunschweig the Allies had perfected their technique to the point where not one comer of the residential areas escaped the incendiary bombs. 23,000 people were trapped by a huge firestorm in the centre of the town and were carbonized or asphyxiated.

However there was a total black-out on all this and an American general (US forces began to participate massively in these 'extensive bombings') declared at the time that: "we must at all costs avoid giving the historians of this war any reason for accusing us 0!4irecting strategic bombing against the man in the street." Fifteen days before this declaration as US raid on Berlin had wiped out 25,000 civilians, and the general must have been quite well aware of this. The lies and cynicism which prevailed throughout the Gulf war are part of a long and solid tradition among our great democracies.

This strategy of terror inspired and led by Churchill had three objectives: first, to accelerate the military defeat of Germany by sapping the morale of the population; second, to stifle any possibility of revolt, and above all of proletarian movements. It was no accident that the terror bombing became systematic at the time when workers' strikes were breaking out in Germany and when (late '43) desertions from the German army were on the increase. Churchill, who had already played the role of bloodhound against the Russian revolution, was particularly aware of this danger. Third and final of Churchill' s objectives, particularly in 1945 with the Yalta conference of February fast approaching, was the question of using these bombings to place the 'democracies' in a position of strength faced with the advance of the Russian army, which Churchill judged to be taking place too rapidly.

The barbarism and murder unleashed by these air raids, whose principal victims were workers and refugees, reached their paroxysm in Dresden in February 1945. In Dresden there was no industry of any importance, nor any military strategic installations, and it was for this reason that Dresden became a place of refuge for hundreds of thousands fleeing the air raids and the advance of the 'Red Army'. Blinded by the democratic propaganda of the Allies, they thought that Dresden would never be bombed. The German authorities were also taken in because they set up a number of civilian hospitals in the city. The British government was well aware of this situation, and some military heads of 'Bomber Command' expressed serious reservations about the military validity of this target. The dry response was that Dresden was a priority target for the Prime Minister, and that was that.

When they bombed Dresden on February 13 and 14 1945, the British and American bourgeoisie knew perfectly well that there were nearly a million and a half people there, a large number of them women and child refugees, wounded, and prisoners of war. 650,000 incendiary bombs fell on the city, producing the most gigantic firestorm of the Second World War. Dresden burned for 8 days and the fires could be seen from 250km away. Certain neighborhoods burned so fiercely that it was weeks before anyone could enter the cellars. Out of 35,000 residential buildings, only 7000 remained standing. The entire town centre had disappeared and most of the hospitals had been destroyed.

On February 14, 450 US Flying Fortress bombers, following on from the British bombers, dropped another 771 tons of incendiary bombs. The balance sheet of what was undoubtedly one of the greatest war crimes of WW2 was 250,000 dead, nearly all of them civilians. By way of comparison, that other odious crime, Hiroshima, claimed 75,000 victims and the terrible American bombing of Tokyo in March 1945, 85,000.

Ordering the bombing of Chemnitz in the days that followed, the commandeers didn't mince their words. The airmen were told: "Your objective tonight is to finish off all the refugees who may have escaped from Dresden." With this butcher's language, one can see that the anti-fascist coalition was fully the equal of the Nazis when it came to barbarism. By November 1, 1945, after 18 months of bombing, 45 of the 60 main cities of Germany had been almost completely destroyed. At least 650,000 civilians died in these terror raids.

And in terms of shameful lying and cynicism, the Allies were equal to a Goebbels or a Stalin. In reply to the questions raised about these terrifying massacres, the Anglo-American bourgeoisie replied, against all evidence, that Dresden was a very important industrial and military centre. Churchill at first added that it was the Russians who had requested the bombing, which all historians today consider to be false; then he tried to push the responsibility onto the military, using it as a kind of smear!

The Labourites, those bloodhounds, those rotten clowns of bourgeois democracy, tried to wash their hands of this horror. Clem Atlee, who succeeded Churchill, drew this reply from the head of Bomber Command: "The bombing strategy criticized by Lord Ailee was decided by Her Majesty's government, in which he [Atlee] served throughout most of the war. The decision to bomb the industrial towns was taken, and taken very clearly, before I became commander-in-chief of Bomber Command."

The strategy of terror was a political decision, taken by the entire British bourgeoisie, and also fully involved that other great democrat, Roosevelt, the man who decided to build the atomic bomb. Democratic barbarism was equal in measure to fascist and Stalinist barbarism. The grandchildren of Churchill and Roosevelt - Bush, Mitterrand, Major - showed that they had learned their lessons well, whether in terms of massacres, blackouts, lies or cynicism[1].

How the democracies made use of the Nazi concentration camps

Another example of this long tradition is the democratic bourgeoisie's ability to hide and justify its own crimes by shining all the light on the crimes of others: in this case, the way the concentration camps were used to justify the imperialist butchery on the Allied side.

We have no intention of denying the sordid and sinister reality of the death camps, but the obscene publicity made about them ever since has nothing to do with any humanitarian considerations, still less with the legitimate horror provoked by such barbarism. The bourgeoisie, both British and American, knew quite well what was happening in the camps; however, strange as it may seem, it hardly talked about them throughout the war and did not make them a central theme of its propaganda.

It wasn't until after the war that it made them the principal axiom of its justification for the world imperialist slaughter and more generally for the defense of its sacrosanct democracy. In fact, the governments of Roosevelt and Churchill were terribly afraid the Nazis would empty the camps and expel the Jews en masse. At the Anglo-American meeting in Bermuda in 1943, the British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden expressed this anxiety and the decision was taken that "no United Nations ship should be equipped to effect the transfer of refugees from Europe." This was clear enough: better they die quietly in the camps!

When Romania, an ally of Germany, wanted to free 60,000 Jews, when Bulgaria wanted to do the same, they were met with a categorical refusal by that great freedom fighter, Roosevelt, for whom "transporting so many people would disorganize the war effort."

The unfortunate adventures in April 1944 of Joel Brandt, leader of an organization of Hungarian Jews, confirmed quite strikingly than the British and American democrats did not give a toss for the suffering of the Jews in the concentration camps: When the bourgeoisie invokes the Rights of Man, it's only for propaganda purposes and so it can quietly get on with its criminal activities behind this fig-leaf.

Eichmann, the SS head of the Jewish section, confided in Brandt, with the agreement of Himmler himself, that the Nazi government wanted to free 1 million Jews in exchange for 10,000 lorries, or even less. Armed with this proposal, Brandt went to see the Anglo-Americans convinced that they would accept. But as it says in the pamphlet, Auschwitz or the Great Alibi, published by the PCI (Programme Communiste), "Not only the Jews but the SS as well were taken in by the humanitarian propaganda of the Allies! The Allies didn't want this 1 million Jews! Not for 10,000 lorries, not for 5000, not even for nothing!"

Brandt met with a complete and categorical refusal from the governments both of Churchill and of Roosevelt, even though the Nazis had proposed freeing 100,000 Jews without anything in exchange as proof of their good faith. So the 1 million Jews were left to die in the camps.

At the end of the war, the USA kept most of the Jewish prisoners in the same camps as the Germans, in the most frightful conditions. The American general Patton even declared at the time: "The Jews are inferior to animals." Once again, where is the difference between a Nazi scoundrel and a democratic one? Throughout the war, the bourgeoisie of the anti-fascist camp didn't care a fig about what was happening to the Jews, or to the population in general. Later on it used the genocide of the Jews to hide its own war crimes, to hide the fact that it was capitalism as a whole that was responsible for the butchery of 1939-45 and all the unspeakable horror that went with it[2].

How democracy dealt with the workers' strikes in Italy (1943) and

the Warsaw Uprising (August 1944)

The massive repression against the Kurdish and Shiite population in Iraq, and the total complicity in these massacres of the countries defending 'human rights', can to a certain extent be compared to the attitude of the Allies during the Second World War. It's not a question of comparing clearly bourgeois movements in which the working class played no role at all, such as the Kurdish nationalist movement, with what happened in Italy in 1943 when the workers, at least in the beginning, were acting on their own class terrain. But once this fundamental distinction has been made, it's important to see what's common in the attitude of the democratic bourgeoisie yesterday and today.

In Italy at the end of '42 and especially in '43, there were strikes in nearly all the main industrial centers of the north. Everywhere, the demand was for more food and higher wages and some workers even called for the formation of factory councils and soviets, which went against the position of Togliatti's Stalinist PCI. The movement was all the more dangerous for the bourgeoisie in that the immigrant Italian workers in Germany also came out on strike and often won the support of their German class bothers.

It was largely in response to the workers' strikes that the decision was taken to dump Mussolini and replace him with Badoglio. The Allies, who had called on the Italian people to revolt against fascism, were then landing in the south and by autumn '43 had totally and solidly occupied the whole of southern Italy.

But anxious about this potentially revolutionary situation, they quickly stopped their advance, at Churchill's request, and stayed put in the south. Churchill, well versed in the experience of the revolutionary wave which ended the First World War, feared like the plague the renewal of such a scenario. So he convinced the USA to "let the Italians stew in their own juice" and to deliberately halt the advance of the Allied army towards the north. His goal was to give the German army the chance to break the back of the working class by occupying the entire north of Italy and all its big working class concentrations.

The German army was thus deliberately allowed to fortify its positions and the Allies took 18 months to conquer the entire peninsular. 18 months in which the workers would be crushed by the German army with the objective complicity of the Stalinists who called for national unity behind Badoglio. With the dirty work being done by the Germans, the Allies armies could then pose as the liberators of Italy and calmly impose their views by installing a Christian Democrat government.

In Greece, a country left to the British in the great division of spoils among imperialist sharks, Churchill again exercised his talents as a champion of freedom and democracy. Workers' strikes and demonstrations broke out at the end of 1944, though this movement was quickly taken over and derailed by the Stalinists who dominated the Greek resistance via the ELAS. ELAS led the Athenian population to confront, virtually barehanded, the British tanks occupying the city.

The democratic tanks of His Very Gracious Majesty bloodily reestablished order, to the point that Athens, which had not been bombed because of its status as a historic city, was soon half reduced to ruin. Churchill said to the British general in charge of the troops: "You are responsible for maintaining order in Athens, and must destroy or neutralize all ELAS bands that approach the town ... ELAS will of course try to push women and children forward whenever the firing begins. But don't hesitate to act as though you were in a conquered city where a local revolt has broken out," (A Stinas, Memoirs of a Revolutionary). Result: caught between the Stalinist anvil and the democratic hammer, thousands of workers perished.

What happened in Warsaw can be compared even more closely to the cynical strategy employed by the western bourgeoisie at the end of the Gulf war. The Red Army was at the gates of Warsaw, 15km from the city, on 30 July, 1944. It was then that the Warsaw population rose up against the German occupation.

For months, the Allies and the USSR had called on the population to rise, promising them all their aid; on the eve of the uprising, Radio Moscow called for an armed insurrection, assuring the support of the Red Army. The whole population revolted and, initially, this popular uprising, in which the workers played a great role, even though the weight of nationalism was very strong, succeeded in freeing a good part of the city from the German military occupation.

The population launched itself all the more massively into revolt because it was convinced it would soon get help. "Allied help for' our uprising seemed to go without question. We were fighting Hitlerism, and so we had the right to suppose that all the nations united in this fight would provide us with effective aid. We hoped that help would arrive immediately," (Z Zaremba, La Commune de Varsovie).

Stalin had initially planned to enter Warsaw right at the beginning of August: the German army was in disarray, and there was no serious military obstacle to this. But faced with such a widespread uprising, he changed plan and deliberately delayed the advance of the Russian army, which was kept waiting at the gates of Warsaw for two months. It only resumed its advance once the uprising had been bloodily crushed by the German army, after 63 days. He coldly declared that "this insurrection was reactionary, that he dissociated himself from this terrible and impudent adventure instigated by criminals," (Z. Zaremba).

Throughout this time, the German troops were regaining position after position in the city; there was no water, electricity or munitions and the insurgents were dwindling more and more. The latter were still waiting for help from the Russian army, but it never came, and Stalin denounced them as "seditious fascists." The population also expected help from the Americans. But apart from fine words of enthusiasm and solidarity from the British and American governments, they got no more than a few derisory parachute-drops of weapons, totally insufficient for opposing the German troops, and in fact serving to increase the number killed and wounded and prolong the vain suffering of the population of the Polish capital.

Confronted with an uprising on such a scale, Stalin had decided, like Churchill vis-a-vis Italy, to let Warsaw stew in its own juice, the aim being to swallow up Poland without encountering any serious resistance from the Polish population. If the Warsaw uprising had been successful, nationalism would have been considerably strengthened and would have thrown a major obstacle in the way of Russian imperialism.

At the same time, Stalin was playing the role of anti-proletarian gendarme, faced with the potential threat of the working class in Warsaw. Indeed, at the end of the war, he fulfilled this role zealously throughout eastern Europe, including Germany. By allowing the German army to crush the Warsaw uprising, he then only had to deal with a population that had been decimated and exhausted, hardly capable of resisting Russian occupation. At the same time he kept his hands clean because the 'barbaric Nazi Hordes' had done his dirty work for him.

On the Anglo-American side, they knew quite well what was going on, but let things be, because Roosevelt had tacitly consigned Poland to Russian imperialism. The population of Warsaw was thus coldly sacrificed on the altar of wheeling and dealing among imperialist sharks. The balance sheet of this deadly trap set by Stalin and his democratic accomplices was particularly heavy: 50,000 dead, 350,000 deported to Germany, a million people condemned to exodus and a city in ruins[3].

The cynicism of the bourgeoisie about the events in Warsaw is all the more monstrous when one recalls that it was the invasion of Poland which made Britain and France enter the war to save 'freedom and democracy' in Poland ...

When one compares the situation of August 44 in Warsaw with the aftermath of the Gulf war, and if you replace the Poles with the Kurds, Hitler with Saddam and Stalin with Bush, one finds the same ruthless cynicism, the same bloody traps where the bourgeoisie, for its sordid imperialist interests, calmly condemns tens or hundreds of thousands of human beings to be massacred - all the while mouthing on about freedom, democracy and the Rights of Man.

The second world imperialist butchery was a formidable experience for the bourgeoisie - both in the art of killing millions of defenseless civilians, and in the trick of hiding and justifying its own monstrous war crimes by 'demonizing' the opposing imperialist coalition. Despite all their efforts to give themselves an air of respectability, the 'great democracies' emerged from the Second World War covered from head to foot in the blood of countless victims

Democracy and colonial massacres

"Capitalism was born with its feet soaked in blood and filth," as Marx put it, and the crimes and genocides it perpetrated throughout the process of colonization clearly illustrate this monstrous birth. "Africa turned into a sort of commercial hunting ground for black skins ... the bones of Indian weavers whiten the planes of India," (Marx), the result of the British colonization of the Indian continent, etc, etc ... An exhaustive list of all these genocides would again be too long for this article.

However, despite all the terrible suffering it inflicted upon humanity, the capitalist system in its ascendant phase was still progressive, because by permitting the development of the productive forces, it was also developing both the revolutionary class, the proletariat, and the material conditions needed for the creation of communism.

This is no longer the case in the "epoch of wars and revolutions", the period when the system enters into decadence and becomes purely reactionary. From now on, colonial massacres are nothing but the terrible blood-price ensuring the survival of a Moloch that now threatens the very existence of the human species. In this context, the numerous colonial crimes and massacres committed by the countries of the 'Rights of Man', the old bourgeois democracies, appear for what they are: pure acts of barbarism[4].

At the end of the second world war, the victors, and in particular the three old democracies, the USA, Britain and France, promised the whole world the coming of an era of freedom and democracy - for wasn't this why so many sacrifices had been made?

Since we have already talked a lot about the role played by the British and the Americans, let's examine the behavior of the third member of this inestimable democratic gang, the country par excellence of the Rights of Man - France.

In 1945, the very day that Germany surrendered, the oh- so democratic government of De Gaulle, then including some 'communist' ministers, ordered the French air force (under the auspices of the Stalinist minister Tillon) to bomb Setif and Constantine, where national movements were daring to put into question the colonial domination of this wonderful French democracy. There were thousands of dead and wounded and some popular neighborhoods were reduced to ashes. In 1947, the French overseas minister, the very democratic and socialist Marius Moutet, organized a terrible repression of the movement for the independence of Madagascar, again using aircraft, and after that tanks and artillery. A number of villages were obliterated, and for the first time the army experimented with the sinister tactic of hurling prisoners out of aero planes to be mangled in the villages below. Total number of dead: 80,000.

At more or less the same time, the same Monsieur Moutet ordered the bombing of Haiphong in Indochina without any prior declaration of war. During the war in Indochina, the French army used torture in the most systematic way: the whole arsenal was employed. It established a very democratic rule indeed: for every French soldier killed, eight villages would be burned. A witness said that "the French army behaved like the Boches did in our country," and added that "as at Buchenwald, where human remains were used as paper weights in the offices of the camp Kommandant, a number of French officers had similar objects in their offices." Once again, there's nothing the Nazis or Stalinists can teach their democratic officer caste counterparts.

And as for the atrocities of the 'Viets', which the press of the time made so much of (let's recall in passing that in 1945 Ho Chi Minh had helped the 'foreign imperialists' to crush the Saigon Commune, cf our pamphlet, Nation or Class?), or later of the FLN in Algeria - these showed that the colonial bourgeoisies had been to a good school and were well able to apply the lessons taught by the very democratic French army.

When the nationalist rebellion broke out in Algeria, the 'socialists' were in power in France and the government included Guy Mollet, Mendis-France and the young Mitterrand, then minister of the interior. All these 'authentic democrats' responded in the same way and full power was confided in the army to reestablish 'republican order'. Very quickly, the most extreme measures were being used: in reprisal for attacks, entire villages were razed to the ground; caravans were systematically machine-gunned by aircraft. Two million Algerians, nearly a quarter of the total population, were chased from their villages or neighborhoods and parked at the mercy of the army in 'regroupment camps' where, according to a report by M Rocard, then a financial inspector, "the conditions are deplorable and at least one child dies every day."

Very quickly, general Massu and his accomplice, Bigeard, later on one of Giscard's ministers, discovered their talents as torturers. Torture became systematic and in Algiers a word became famous: 'disappeared'. A large number of those taken by the soldiery never reappeared. As was underlined in a note from inspector general Wuilhaume, addressed to Mitterrand in 1957: "blows, beatings in the bath, hose-pipes, electric shocks are being used everywhere ... In Boulemane, as in many small villages in the Aures, the torture chamber was operating day and night ... and it was no rarity to see in the officers' mess champagne being drunk from the skulls of fellagas [FLN fighters]".

In 1957 the secretary general of the Prefectory of Algiers, P Teitgen, said this about the tortures to the lawyer P Verges: "All this I know, alas, and you will understand that as a former deportee, I can no longer bear it [and so he was going to resign]. We're sometimes behaving like the Germans did." And he added that he knew all the villas in Algiers where torture was taking place ...

This declaration by a high-ranking official is particularly interesting because it once again highlights the incredible duplicity of the people who govern us, and particularly of the social democrats. Thus G Mollet declared on 14 April 1957 to the Socialist Federation of Marne: "No doubt there have been some rare but deplorable acts of violence. Bui I insist that they flowed from terrorist attacks and atrocities. As for premeditated, thought-out acts of torture, I say that if this happened it's intolerable. On this matter the French army's behavior has been compared to that of the Gestapo. This comparison is scandalous. Hitler gave out directives calling for such methods, whereas Lacoste and I have always given orders absolutely in the opposite sense."

People like Mollet pretended to know nothing, but they were quite aware of what was going on and it was they who were giving the orders. As in any band of gangsters, there are always those who order the crime, and those who carry it out. Attention is always focused on the goons, in this case Massu and Bigeard, in order to whitewash those really responsible, in this case the social democratic crew in power.

The French bourgeoisie, with its 'socialists' to the fore, has subsequently always presented the massacres and atrocities committed in Algeria[5] (from 1957 to De Gaulle's arrival in power in 1958, 15,000 Algerian children disappeared each month) as being the work of bloody handed military types who overstepped their orders. But the one giving the orders was without doubt the 'socialist' government. Once again, who is the biggest criminal: the one who executes the crime or the one who orders it?

The bourgeoisie, in its democratic version, whenever its crimes can no longer be hidden, always tries to present them as an accident, an exception, or as the work of military men over-reaching themselves. We saw this in France vis-a-vis Algeria, in the USA vis-a-vis Vietnam. All this is a sinister fraud whose sole aim is to preserve the great democratic lie.

In order to perpetuate its rule over the working class, it's vital for the bourgeoisie to maintain the democratic mystification, and it has used the definitive bankruptcy of Stalinism to reinforce this fiction. Against the lie of a so-called difference between 'democracy' and 'totalitarianism', the whole history of decadent capitalism shows us that democracy is just as stained with blood as totalitarianism, and that its victims can be counted in millions.

The proletariat must remember that when it comes to defending class interests or sordid imperialist appetites, the 'democratic' bourgeoisie has never hesitated to support the most ferocious dictators. Let's not forget that Blum, Churchill and company called Stalin 'Mister' and feted him as the 'man of Liberation'! More recently, let's recall the support given to Saddam Hussein and Ceausescu by the likes of De Gaulle and Giscard. The working class must take on board the fact that, whether yesterday, today or tomorrow, democracy has never been anything but the hypocritical mask behind which the bourgeoisie hides the hideous face of its class dictatorship, the better to enslave the working class and bring it to its knees. RN

[1] The quotes from this section are from La Destruction de Dresde, David Irving, Editions Art et Histoire d'Europe, and from La Seconde Guerre Mondiale de Henri Michel, Editions PUF.  

[2] Pierre Hempel A Bas La Guerre! A few years ago there was a whole campaign waged by the residues of the 'ultra left' around Sieur Faurisson's alleged 'revelation' about the non-existence of the concentration camps - a campaign largely recuperated by the extreme right. Our point of view has absolutely nothing to do with this campaign, which is suspicious, to say the least. It's true that, before being transformed into death camps, most of the camps were first of all labor camps; it's also true that all the morbid publicity about the camps and the gas chambers, from 1945 to today, was above all aimed at whitewashing all the crimes committed by the 'democratic' camp. But there can be no question of minimizing the very real genocide perpetrated in these camps and of banalising the barbaric horror of decadent capitalism, one of the summits of which were the massacres and crimes committed by the Nazis.

[3] La Commune de Varsovie. trahie par Staline, massacree par Hitler by Zygmunt Zaremba, Editions Spartacus.

[4] On the difference between bourgeois democracy in the ascendance and in the decadence of capitalism, it would be useful to consult our Platform and our pamphlet, The Decadence of Capitalism.

[5] Les Crimes de l'armee francais by Pierre Vidal- Naquet, Editions Maspero. While the French bourgeoisie tries to present Algeria as its last 'colonialist sin', it gives us to understand that subsequently its hands have been much cleaner. In fact, other massacres have been committed since the Algerian war, notably in the Camaroons where some bloody atrocities were committed by the French army.

Historic events: 

General and theoretical questions: