The Guardian 25 May, 2005

Culture and Life

by Rob Gowland

Rewriting history
to slander the socialist state

Last week I commented on George W Bush’s visit to Latvia and Moscow as recounted in The Sydney Morning Herald. The Herald’s account of Bush’s Eastern European tour was sourced from Reuters, Associated Press and Agence France-Presse, but contained your standard imperialist rewriting of history in its account of the war-time history of Eastern Europe.

According to the article, "All three Baltic nations [Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania]… were occupied by the Soviet Union in June 1940 after a pact between Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia that divided up spheres of influence in Eastern Europe".

How simple history is for the writers of such articles! The political movements among the masses are irrelevant for them.

Lithuania’s growing concern at the aggressive aims of Poland’s ruling clique of fascist colonels, its fear of Germany’s intentions, and its various diplomatic appeals from time to time to Soviet Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov for protection mean nothing to them.

Nor do they distinguish between the differing positions of the three Baltic states: Estonia in the north, furthest from Poland, was the least friendly to the USSR; Lithuania in the south, closest to Poland, was the most friendly.

The threat to the Baltic states from Germany, Poland and their own reactionaries generated a mass movement in all three Baltic states against a fascist takeover. Their only defence was union with the USSR.

Note how the Herald article refers to them being divided up "between Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia", a subtle selection of words designed to make Fascist Germany and the socialist USSR appear to be variations on a single theme.

The pact the USSR signed with Germany in 1939 was a Non-Aggression Pact. Far from "dividing Europe into spheres of influence", under the pact, both sides agreed not to wage war against each other and to respect each other’s territorial integrity.

Nevertheless, the Soviet government signed the non-aggression pact only after the Chamberlain government in Britain had repeatedly rejected Soviet attempts to achieve a system of collective security that could have constrained Hitler and preserved peace.

As Roosevelt’s former ambassador to the USSR, Joseph E Davies, wrote in a letter to Presidential advisor Harry Hopkins a month after Germany invaded the Soviet Union: "Since 1936, I believe that outside of the President of the United States alone no government in the world saw more clearly the menace of Hitler to peace and the necessity for collective security and alliances among non-aggressive nations than did the Soviet government".

The British and French governments, however, were determined to try to embroil the USSR in a lone war with Germany, to the benefit of British and French capitalists.

Davies again: "The Soviets became convinced, and with considerable reason, that no effective, direct and practical, general arrangement could be made with France and Britain. They were driven to a pact of non-aggression with Hitler."

Commented the anti-fascist reporters Sayers and Kahn, "Twenty years after Brest-Litovsk [the unequal treaty between Imperial Germany and Lenin’s new Soviet government that ended WW1 for Russia], the anti-Soviet politicians of Europe had again forced Soviet Russia into an undesired, self-­defensive treaty with Germany".

For the Soviet Union in 1939, its territory included several regions that were temporarily under foreign occupation. Amongst these were the Western Ukraine and Bessarabia, which had been seized from the newly formed Soviet republic in the early ’20s by Poland and Romania respectively, at a time when the Soviet state was too weak to do anything about it.

Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Two weeks later the pro-fascist, intensely anti-Soviet Polish government fled, leaving the country to its own devices. On September 17, the Red Army moved to forestall the Germans and occupied the territories seized by Poland in 1920.

Speaking on the radio on October 1, Winston Churchill observed: "That the Russian armies should stand on this line was clearly necessary for the safety of Russia against the Nazi menace … An Eastern front has been created which Nazi Germany does not dare assail.

"When [Nazi Foreign Minister] Herr von Ribbentrop was summoned to Moscow last week, it was to learn the fact, and accept the fact, that the Nazi designs upon the Baltic states and upon the Ukraine must come to a dead stop."

As Germany overran the rest of Poland, the Soviet government signed mutual assistance pacts with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Churchill and Roosevelt were able, despite their class prejudices and rival imperialist priorities, to perceive and delineate the truth of this period. And yet, sixty-six years later the truth is cavalierly discarded in favour of blatant anti-Communist propaganda that Hitler himself would have savoured.

This ruthless rewriting of history is a crime against the people, for it is the working people’s contribution to history, and that of the socialist countries, that is most consistently rewritten, and rewritten to their disadvantage.

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