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The end of fascism: A momentous event some wish to forget

The West and the Indian government are failing to commemorate the end of fascism on May 9, 1945 for their own political ends

columns Updated: May 05, 2015 01:17 IST
World War II,fascism,Hitler

Of the flutter of commemorations of past events, an important anniversary is going officially unnoticed. This is the 70th anniversary of the victory over fascism, which ended World War II on May 9, 1945.

This victory is one of the most important events of the 20th century. This shaped the contours of the evolution of human civilisation in the second half of the 20th century and continues to do so today. The process of decolonisation that this victory set in motion across the globe liberated millions of people from colonial bondage. This galvanised the struggles for independence and freedom in these countries. The rise of the welfare State, the establishment of the social security network for the people across the capitalist countries and the deepening of democracy were the consequences of this victory. The definitions of modern-day democracy, civil liberties and human rights, among others, were the products of the development of human consciousness that arose as a consequence.

The six-year World War, launched by Hitler to gain control over the world’s resources, involved 61 countries, which comprised 80% of the world’s population then. The Soviet Red Army played the decisive role in defeating fascism. The western allies in this anti-fascist war — Great Britain, France and the USA — were initially hoping that Hitler would crush the only socialist State in the world then and allow capitalism to regain its lost territories. Harry Truman went to the extent of stating: “If we see Germany winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia winning we ought to help Germany and that way let them kill as many as possible.” With such an attitude, the allies did little on the front of war diplomacy and, even after Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, delayed the agreed opening of the Second Front by two years. But the heroic Soviet Red Army, under Stalin, defended and then forced the retreat of the fascist army following the first defeat of Hitler’s forces at Stalingrad. Only when it became clear that the Soviet Union was winning the war did the allied troops launch the D-day with their troops landing on the French shores at Normandy in 1944, less than a year before Hitler’s surrender. Eventually, Winston Churchill had to write to Stalin: “It is the Russian Army that tore the guts out of the German military machine.”

Retreating German soldiers from Moscow reportedly wrote on the Kremlin Walls: “Farewell Moscow!” Russians reportedly answered: “Don’t worry, we shall reach Berlin!” Indeed they did. The signal that the World War had ended and Hitler was defeated came with the hoisting of the Red Flag over the Reichstag (Hitler’s headquarters) on May 8, 1945. It was not the flag of the USA, France or Great Britain that announced Hitler’s defeat.

It is this role of the Soviet Union in liberating the world from the scourge of fascism that the West wishes to rewrite today. Undoubtedly, history is always scripted by the victor. In today’s world, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the West considers itself the victor, scripting new history and seeking to re-shape the world and create conditions for new bondages for billions inhabiting the underdeveloped and developing countries.

Unfortunately, at home, the BJP government is scripting its own ‘new’ Indian history. The Modi government is seeking to reposition India’s role in the comity of nations as a subordinate US ally. At another level, their ignoring of this anniversary arises out of the fact that the RSS never played any role in India’s epic struggle for freedom. Its main objective was and remains the establishment of an intolerant fascistic ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in India. This pursuit is advanced by spreading hatred against India’s religious minorities. Hence, its main target during colonial rule was never the British but the deepening of such communal poison.

To further this objective, the calumny against the Communists as opposing our freedom struggle continues. It is not necessary to go into the details of the richly documented history of the role of the Communists in India’s struggle for freedom. It would suffice to note that when the country was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Quit India Movement in August 1992, the then President of India, Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma, addressing the midnight session of Parliament, said: “After large scale strikes in mills in Kanpur, Jamshedpur and Ahmedabad, a despatch from Delhi dated September 5, 1942, to the Secretary of State, in London, reported about the Communist Party of India: ‘the behaviour of many of its members proves what has always been clear, namely, that it is composed of anti-British revolutionaries.’”

On the contrary, the role of the RSS during India’s freedom struggle is an open secret. The Bombay Home Department, during the 1942 Quit India Movement, observed, “The Sangh has scrupulously kept itself within the law and in particular has refrained from taking part in the disturbances that broke out in August 1942.”

Leaving aside the BJP government’s reluctance to recognising the fact that the defeat of fascism galvanised the Indian independence struggle, this event needs to be observed because of the fact that there were 2.5 million Indian soldiers who fought for the defeat of fascism. Colonial India contributed substantially in financial, industrial and military terms in fighting fascist Japan’s advance in the South-East Asian theatre. The Indian army was one of the largest contingents of the allied forces in the north and east African and southern European campaigns. It was the Japanese defeat in the Battle of Kohima that decisively forced its retreat. Such heroism and sacrifice of the Indian soldiers in the defeat of fascism can never be obliterated.

Sitaram Yechury is general secretary of the CPI(M) and a Rajya Sabha MP. The views expressed by the author are personal

First Published: May 04, 2015 23:53 IST