The Guardian 18 May, 2005

Culture and Life

by Rob Gowland

Bushed by history

Macabre spectacle of the month was surely the sight of the Russian army commemorating 1945’s victory over fascism with a parade in Red Square watched by a grinning George W Bush!

Bush, simultaneously rat cunning and pig ignorant, does not let his ignorance prevent him from lecturing the rest of the world at the drop of an autocue. On route to Moscow, Bush delivered pearls of wisdom about European history to the people of Riga, the capital of Latvia.

According to Bush, the socialist period in Eastern Europe (which Bush called “the captivity of millions in central and eastern Europe”, of course) was “one of the greatest wrongs of history”. That seems a statement of breathtaking inanity until you realise he is talking from the perspective of the owners of factories, banks and mines, for whom the loss of “their” property for 40 or so years was definitely a “crime”.

I am sure Bush views it as a crime — probably against both nature and God. Especially God.

Latvia was the appropriate place for Bush to make his remarks. Its neo-fascist President Vike-Freiberga has enthusiastically led her country into NATO and is demanding that Russia “apologise” for the 45 years of socialism in the Baltic states.

Bush took the opportunity of the commemoration of the war-time anti-fascist alliance to repeat the now-common US smearing of that alliance: the 1945 Yalta Conference “sacrificed freedom for stability” and delivered Eastern Europe into the “iron rule of [the Soviet] empire”.

The Yalta Conference between Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill sealed the fate of Nazi Germany and endeavoured to prevent a re-armed Germany from threatening the peace of the world again.

Bush’s view of the Yalta Conference is certainly not the way it was seen at the time. In Garson Kanin’s splendid 1945 documentary The True Glory, a shot of the three leaders meeting in Yalta is accompanied by the commentary, “The architects of freedom meet”. Anti-fascists and objective historians still see it that way today.

It was Churchill and the new US President Truman who could not even wait for the War to end before reneging on their commitments and launching a new anti-Soviet offensive, the Cold War (the war you have when your people won’t let you actually have a war). Churchill, of course, had been the architect of the very similar post-WW1 anti-Soviet blockade he christened the “Cordon Sanitaire”.

In slandering not only the Soviet but also the Roosevelt government over Yalta (a favourite line of right-wingers in the US since the McCarthyist period), Bush had the gall to imply that the Yalta Conference was equivalent to the infamous Munich agreement: “Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable”.

This from the leader of a country which no longer even bothers to negotiate, it just invades, brushing “the freedom of small nations” aside like empty beer cans.

To his credit, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin rejected the call for an apology, pointing out that the Red Army liberated eastern Europe. “Our people not only defended their homeland, they liberated eleven European countries”, he said.

Predictably, Vike-Freiberga maintains that the Russians are “lying through their teeth”. It is apparently simply too galling for Baltic anti-Communists to admit that in 1941 there were free and fair elections in the Baltic States and the three countries voted to become full Soviet republics.

As the Internet commentator Bart says, “this is hardly surprising, considering the times and the circumstances. First the countries had large ethnic Russian populations and strong fraternal and social connections from the pre-1917 days when they had been part of Imperial Russia.

“Secondly, all three countries had large, active local Communist parties and thirdly, even though Britain and France were now at war with Nazi Germany, they had totally abandoned the Baltic states to the coming Nazi onslaught and were in fact still openly encouraging Hitler to return to his stated goals of moving eastward and of ‘ridding Europe of Bolshevism’.

“Someone is ‘lying through their teeth’ all right, but it’s not the Russians.”

The pre-war anti-Communists in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania collaborated enthusiastically with the Nazis, and provided the most vicious members of punitive detachments (attacking the Communist-led partisans) and concentration camp guards.

Bush, of course, was not really interested in WW2 or anything as unnatural as an anti-fascist alliance. He simply used the anniversary to get up to his usual tricks, calling for “free elections” in Belarus.

President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus is what Bush would probably call a “hardliner”. Certainly Lukashenko has previously called for the re-establishment of the Soviet Union, something calculated to get right up the nose of that lover of liberty George Bush.

Displaying his usual monumental arrogance, Bush actually went on record “ruling out” any “deal” between Russia and Belarus that would “allow” President Lukashenko to remain in power. Surely that is a matter for the people of Belarus?

But as we know, Bush only accepts as “free”, those elections that result in victory for people he approves of.

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