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Farewell to history

The capitalist world is distorting the past to stop the possible return of a socialist order, writes Sitaram Yechury.

columns Updated: Oct 09, 2009 16:39 IST

The victor, inevitably, scripts history. Historians’ labour unearths the virtues and valour of the vanquished describing the plight of ‘people’ caught in the crossfire. The victor, however, does not stop at authoring ‘official’ history of any one event alone but seeks to re-write all history to consolidate its current hegemony. Following the collapse of the USSR and in the present conjecture of the global capitalist recession, the West seeks to reinterpret World War II’s history by equating fascism with communism.

In 2004, to deflect rising global protests against the US military occupation of Iraq, on the 50th anniversary of the landing of the Allied troops at Normandy, all North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders assembled to project themselves as the champions of the victory over fascism liberating Western Europe. They deliberately concealed the fact that for every allied soldier who laid down his life, fighting fascism, there were 40 Soviet soldiers who laid down their lives. Over 20 million Soviet soldiers and people lost their lives. In 1,418 days of war, the Soviet Union lost nine lives every minute, 857 every hour and 14,000 lives a day.

On the 70th anniversary of fascist Germany’s attack on Poland (September 1, 1939, 4.40 am), which started the World War II, a similar attempt is being made to once again distort history. This is necessary for the advanced capitalist powers to seek to prevent the growth of socialist ideas and Left politics, as currently seen in various countries of Latin America, in the wake of the worst capitalist economic recession since the Great Depression. Today, the US has an unprecedented seven million people unemployed. The European Union is faring no better. Under these circumstances, it is imperative for them to decry the glorious role of the Soviet Union and, by implication any socialist alternative, in the defeat of fascism.

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

The London-based Economist must surely know that the Guardian, published from the same capital city, on January 1, 1970, when the secret foreign office archives were made public after the statutory period of 30 years said, “the cabinet papers for 1939, published this morning show that World War-II would not have started that year, had the Chamberlain government accepted or understood Russian advice that an alliance between Britain, France and the Soviet Union would prevent war because Hitler would not risk a conflict against the powers on two fronts.”

Why the Western allies did not agree to the Soviet proposal is chillingly articulated by the then US Senator Harry Truman who later became both the Vice-President and the President. The day after Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, he said: “If we see that Germany is winning we should help the Russians and if Russia is winning we should help the Germans and that way let them kill as many as possible.” (The New York Times, June 24, 1941). It was precisely for this reason that the landing of the second front was delayed by more than two years, despite giving assurances to Stalin that this would be opened in 1942. This was based on the hope that Hitler would destroy socialism and reintegrate one-sixth of world territory back under the capitalist order.

“The greatest military march in world history,” as Hitler declared, advanced 600 kilometres into the Soviet Union within a fortnight. Winston Churchill wrote in his memoirs: “Almost all responsible military opinion held that the Russian army will be soon defeated and largely destroyed.” Soon the world was amazed when Moscow admitted its losses after nine weeks of war as including 7,500 guns, 4,500 planes and 5,000 tanks. A British war journalist observed: “An army that could still fight must have had the biggest or the second biggest supply.” The 182-day battle at Stalingrad, the most heroic and decisive in the defeat of fascism changed the tide. The subsequent Soviet counter-offensive saw the fascist military might collapsing. Retreating German soldiers, in Istra near Moscow, wrote on the walls “Farewell Moscow we are off to Berlin,” the Soviet soldiers wrote below, “We will get to Berlin too.” This they did. The red flag unfurled atop the German Reichstag on April 30, 1945. Not the US or Britain or France but it was the Soviet Union that lowered the fascist flag.

Such distortion of history to restate the “eternality of capitalism” comes in the wake of the global recession that is throwing up the possibilities of anti-capitalist socialist alternatives. Truth is sacrificed at capitalism’s altar to prevent the Left’s advance.

Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP