The Guardian 27 April, 2005
60th anniversary of
the defeat of fascism in WW2
Hitler came to power in Germany in January 1933 and immediately started to suppress all opposition to Nazi rule. Trade Unions were smashed, the Communist Party was banned and all opposition parties and individuals were silenced by the terrorist dictatorship that was imposed. The Nazis preached the superiority of the German race and launched a program of rearmament and preparations for war.
The Soviet Union together with the communist parties around the world launched a campaign to warn that fascism meant war and that if Hitler was to be stopped a world-wide anti-fascist front had to be created. The Soviet Union called for a system of collective security against the rise of fascism.
Unfortunately the western powers, led at that time by the British and French Governments and a number of other European countries, encouraged the rearmament of Nazi Germany believing that its virulent anti-communism meant it could be used to attack and destroy the socialist Soviet Union. They rejected any collective security pact with the Soviet Union.
The first example to prove that fascism was synonymous with war came when Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy supported the fascist uprising of some Spanish generals who, after a long and bloody war, imposed the Franco dictatorship in that country.
Of all the European countries, only the Soviet Union came to the aid of the democratically elected Spanish republican government. However, Franco was successful and emboldened by the weakness of the British and French governments, Nazi Germany intensified its war preparations.
The 7th Congress of the Comintern held in Moscow in 1935 was an important milestone. It warned the world of the real nature of fascism describing it as the “open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinist and most imperialist elements of finance capital”.
All the attempts of the Soviet Union to achieve a united opposition to the expansionism and war threatened by the Nazis were in vain. Instead of invading the Soviet Union immediately as some western leaders hoped, the Nazis first overran the whole of Western and Central Europe, including France and commenced the bombing of Britain.
On June 22, 1941 the Nazis finally invaded the Soviet Union and in this very act, created the circumstances that would lead to the defeat of the Nazis and fascist regimes of Germany and Italy and, in the Pacific area, the Japanese militarists. By 1943 the Japanese armies had overrun most of Asia and the islands of the Pacific as far south as PNG which at that time was a British and Dutch colony. The Japanese had invaded China in 1931.
Far from the Soviet Union collapsing under the weight of the Nazi attack, as all other European countries had done, the people of the Soviet Union resisted the Nazi onslaught and, after suffering huge casualties, the Soviet Red Army stopped the Nazi advance on the outskirts of Moscow. It was here that the first defeats suffered by the Nazi armies were inflicted.
It was finally in the crucible of war that the common front against the Nazis for which the Soviet Union had been calling for many years, was achieved.
A pact of mutual assistance was concluded between the Soviet Union and Britain which at that time was led by Winston Churchill.
The battles fought on the Soviet front became a legend among those who were involved throughout the world in the struggle against Nazism and fascism.
The scorched earth policy, the formation of the guerilla units fighting in the rear of the German armies, the transport of whole industries from the western regions of the Soviet Union to the interior, the names of Soviet Army commanders such as Marshalls and Generals Zhukov, Rokassovsky, Sokolovsky, Vassilevsky, Konev and, of course, Stalin who was commander-in-chief of the Soviet armies, became household names.
The sieges of Leningrad and Moscow and the heroic resistance at Stalingrad have gone down in the annals of military history. The Battle of Kursk was the biggest tank battle ever fought by tank brigades. These battles were also the scenes of major defeats suffered by the Nazi armies. These Soviet victories prepared the way for the offensives of the Soviet Red Armies that eventually resulted in the Nazi armies being driven out of the whole of the territory of the Soviet Union, the crushing defeat of the Nazis and the liberation of Eastern Europe. It was the Soviet armies that liberated Berlin and hoisted the red flag over the German Reichstag in that city. It was the Soviet Red Army that liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp and released from this living hell those who survived in this concentration camp that will forever remain as a reminder of the barbarity of fascism.
The struggle for the defeat of the Nazis last from June 1941 to May 1945. In this time the Soviet Union suffered at least 27 million killed, the total or partial destruction of 1710 towns and more than 70,000 villages and hamlets and had its industrial capacity wrecked.
In this period the people of Britain, Australia and other countries campaigned for the opening by the western powers of a second front in Europe. This was eventually achieved and British, Free French, American and other armed forces attacked the Nazis in Western Europe. The US had joined the war in Europe and the Pacific following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.
The sweeping consequences of the defeat of fascism and the part played by the socialist Soviet Union had far-reaching consequences in Europe and Asia. A number of socialist countries came into existence in Eastern Europe after their peoples drove out the quislings (collaborators and traitors) who had sided with the fascists.
But the consequences were not limited to Europe. The defeat of Japanese militarism in the Pacific, in which the Soviet Armies also played a very significant but often ignored part, resulted in the victory of the Chinese revolution and the formation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Successful revolutions also took place in Vietnam and in part of the Korean peninsula.
The defeat of fascism also led to the intensification of the struggles of the colonial people against the occupation and exploitation of their countries. Indonesia won its independence from Dutch colonialism. India threw off the yoke of British colonialism. Malaysia and Singapore became independent. One after another the many colonial countries in Asia and Africa became politically independent.
As a result of these far-reaching developments the western powers which refused to accept the loss of their colonies and the sweep of socialist revolutions in Europe and Asia, launched the Cold War which was a political, economic and military campaign with the aim of restoring capitalism in all the socialist states and re-imposing colonialism in one form or another.
In the post-war period the US has established military bases in over 100 countries and, using modern technology, is attempting to militarise space with the objective of imposing its control over the whole of the world.
Once again there is a major attack being made on the democratic rights of the people. Trade unions are being suppressed, progressive minded individuals are being ostracised in the media and the exploitation of working people, pensioners, the sick and the elderly is being intensified.
Concentration camp type detention centres have been established, in the first place to house refugees. But these could be used to imprison others as the new struggles against war and new forms of fascism arise.
Nazism and fascism was defeated in the 1940s as a result of the struggles of the people of many countries who came to see that fascism meant war, racism, oppression, intensified exploitation and the most barbaric social and political policies.
Today a similar front is needed to defeat the new threat of widespread war, the poverty created by the savage exploitation by the transnational corporations, the attempt to re-impose colonial regimes, the destruction of democratic rights and in some countries the type of terror used against the people by the Nazis in the 1930s and ’40s.