Remembering WWII

The West : Varieties of Fascism

By tortilla con sal

Few things could be more symbolic of Western Bloc decline and desperation than those countries’ absence from the 70th Anniversary commemoration of the end of World War 2 in Moscow today. The political leaders of North America and Europe stayed away in protest over the Russian Federation’s support for the Russian speaking population in Ukraine. Today, while the majority of the world joins Russia in celebrating the defeat of Nazism, US and European governments train and arm Nazi militias in Ukraine and genocidal takfiri terrorists in Syria.

Current Western Bloc foreign policy is the logical development of those countries’ imperialist, colonial past. During the Second World War, what Europeans found so shocking about Nazi crimes was that the victims were white Europeans. In the very moment of the Western and Soviet allies’ victory against Nazism, the French colonial authorities masscred around 45,000 Algerians in Setif with impunity. Throughout Asia and Africa, the Western colonial elites oversaw the massacre of millions of people, from Setif, to Madagascar to Cheju in Korea. They did so to salvage what they could of the pre-war colonial order and fix in place the post-1945 system of neocolonialism and Cold War.

Britain offers a good example of the way in which a ruling oligarchy could game the electoral system to defend its power and control. The 1945 election is often presented as a radical democratic moment. But 70 years on, its meaning in domestic and international terms looks different. Domestically, that election was a safety valve allowing Britain’s imperialist elite to stabilize their power in the face of strong egalitarian social pressures. Overseas, Britain’s ruling class agreed a new imperialist division of labour with the United States and France, working against the Soviet Union

70 years on, Britain has just had an election in which a right wing government has been re-elected with the support of only 25% of the electorate.

The same would have been true had the vote favoured its centre-right opponents. Electoral politics in the Western Bloc countries have degenerated a long way from the apparently radical moment of 1945, offering voters an ever-narrower range of options.

In 1944, leading US Democrat politican Henry Wallace remarked,

“The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.”  (Henry A. Wallace, The Danger of American Fascism, New York Times, April 9, 1944.)

Successive elections in North America and Western Europe demonstrate the perennial truth of Wallace’s insight. Even so, Western liberal and social democrat opinion bends over backwards to pretend that the Western political system of electoral democracy is one of impregnable moral authority, resilient in the face of fascism. In fact, almost all Western countries maintain a system, punctuated by mostly irrelevant elections, of oligarchic corporate consumer capitalism founded in large part on the very practice Henry Wallace denounced back in 1944.

Outside North America and Europe, the majority world sees very little change in the imperialist practice of Western countries. Since 1945 hardly anything has changed in the marriage of Western corporate owned political interests with the coercive security and military apparatus of the State. If anything this fascist political archetype predominates more than ever in the countries of the Western Bloc. The affinity in moral terms between imperialist Western governments and the fascist regimes defeated above all by the Soviet Union in 1945 is undeniable.

The history of US government support for Latin American fascist dictatorships, for apartheid South Africa and Israel’s colonialist settler State since World War 2 is damning. Now, more blatantly than ever, events in Ukraine and Syria as well as continuing Western neocolonial interventions in Africa all point to a fascist policy continuity that should surprise no one. Current United States and European support for the fascist conspiracy against Venezuela’s legitimate government is the natural corrollary of US and European government involvement in the fascist putsch in Ukraine.

In the economic sphere, that fascist affinity is self-evident in the drive by Western Bloc elites to impose supra-national corporate welfare deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. However much fascism shape-shifts in time and place, its varieties conform to the same formula : poisonous information media; economic, financial and trade gangsterism; crude social and political intimidation and, ultimately, murderous armed aggression. For Latin America and the Caribbean, the 70th Anniversary commemoration in Moscow is one more reminder of the sacrifice to pay once fascism takes power.

70 years after WWII, there were few people in Donetsk who still remembered living through war, seeing atrocities committed in the name of fascism or how hard it was to restore peace. Those same veterans, now in their twilight years, watch in dismay as younger generations fail to resolve their differences peacefully and resort to military action. Once again, young people fight, die, and lay buried beside those who gave their lives for peace in WWII.

RT Articles on Victory Day

The Historic Role that Soviet Women Played in Defeating the Nazis in World War II

Saluting WWII Heroes on the 70th anniversary of V-Day

By Donald Gallegos

The “Fighting Girlfriend”

In April of 1943, 38-year-old Ukrainian Mariya Oktyabrskaya (originally from a peasant family in the Crimean Peninsula) learned that her husband had been killed on the eastern front two years before. The devastating news angered her to a point where to vent her rage she sold all her possessions and used the money to buy a T-34 medium tank for the Red Army on the condition that she’d be the driver.

After five months of training, Oktyabrskaya and her tank, the “Fighting Girlfriend,” joined the 26th Guards Tank Brigade near Smolensk, Russia. On October 21, 1943, Oktyabrskaya and her tank took part on an assault on the German lines. Any impression that the “Fighting Girlfriend” was merely a propaganda ploy or a stunt were swept away when she smashed Nazi machine gun nests and artillery pieces to smithereens.

On several occasions when Oktyabrskaya’s tank was damaged she would jump out and make repairs to get her crew back in the fight. Oktyabrskaya’s luck ran out in the village of Shvedy near Vitebsk while, when crushing German trenches and machineguns, her tank was hit by an anti-tank shell. After repairing the tank’s tracks a shell exploded near Oktyabrskaya and she was hit in the head with shrapnel. She remained in
a coma for two months before dying on March 15, 1944.

Mariya Oktyabrskaya was posthumously awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union.

Escaping from the Nazis in a Nazi bomber

When 27-year-old Mordovian Senior Lieutenant Mikhail Devyatayev (from the Romanian speaking minority in the Western USSR) bailed out of his burning aircraft, he hit the plane’s stabilizer, knocking himself unconscious. Landing in German held territory, he was soon captured. After being held first at the Łódź concentration camp in Poland, then later the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany, Devyatayev knew being an ace pilot put his life in danger, so he managed to trade identities with a dead Soviet infantryman.

With his new identity Devyatayev was transferred to a camp in Usedom, an island in the Baltic Sea, working as part of a forced labor crew for the German missile program, repairing runways and clearing unexploded bombs by hand. It was there that he along with other Soviet nationals became convinced that it would be better to die trying a daring escape than die as prisoners.

So, on February 8, 1945, Devyatayev and nine other Soviet POWs went to work on the runway where one member of the group killed the guard with a crowbar and stripped him of his uniform. Devyatayev, the only pilot among them, lead them to the hangar where they stole the camp commandant’s Heinkel Bomber.

Flying east, the escapees evaded German fighters and landed in Soviet territory. The escapees provided crucial information about the German missile program, including the V-2 rocket, the first man-made object to cross the boundary of space. However, Soviet law enforcement thought it was impossible that prisoners could have taken over an airplane and escaped without cooperation from the Germans. Believing the escapees to be spies, Devyatayev and the others spent the remainder of the war in penal military units or prison.

Later when the head of the Soviet Space Program, Sergey Korolyov, personally argued that the Soviet space program owed its efforts to the information provided by Mikhail Devyatayev and the other escapees, Devyatayev’s name was finally cleared.

On August 15, 1957, Devyatayev, the youngest of 13 children born to a Mordovoan peasant family, became a Hero of the Soviet Union and an honored citizen of the Mordovian Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic. Within months, the USSR launched the first ever artificial satellite into Earth orbit. Devyatayev died in 2002 at the age of 85.

Lethal Soviet “Night Witches”

On October 8, 1941, Joseph Stalin ordered the creation of three all-women’s aviation regiments. One in particular, the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, became more famously known by their World War II Gernman nickname, Nachthexen, or Nightwitches (pictured above). From June 1942 to May 1945 the 588th flew nonstop missions. One woman, Nadezhda Popova, flew 18 missions in one night.

In a war where the latest technology was applied to the weapons of war, the 588th were given Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes to fly, usually used for training or crop-dusting. The light Po-2s were held together with wood, wire, and fabric, carried no guns or parachutes, and only had a cruising speed of 68mph and maximum speed of 98mph. Often when the plane went in for an attack the pilot would bring the engine to an idle or shut it off completely to silently glide in to drop six bombs at a time. The bombardier would then have to climb out to crank-start the engine in midair.

For their bravery on the Taman peninsula, during the battle of the Caucuses, the 588th Night Bomber Regiment was renamed the 46th Taman Guards Night Bomber Regiment. Together, they flew 24,000 sorties and dropped over 23,000 tons of bombs on the invaders. At its height, the 588th/46th Taman Guards numbered forty pilots, thirty were shot down. None were captured. Twenty three were awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union.

The Gestapos most wanted person

New Zealander Nancy Wake, the “White Mouse,” was public enemy number one in German-occupied France, with a five million-franc bounty on her head.

In the summer of 1940, Wake was living in Marseille when the Nazis invaded. She became a courier in the French Resistance before joining the escape network of Captain Ian Garrow. The Gestapo called her the White Mouse because of her ability to elude capture.

After the German occupation of Vichy in November 1942, Wake subsequently fled to Britain, via Spain, where she joined the Special Operation Executive, formed to conduct espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe. Over the next year she became “a very good and fast shot” and put many of her male counterparts to shame in training.

When she completed training she was sent back to France to act as a liason between London and the Maquis, rural guerilla bands of French Resistance fighters.

In the early morning hours on April 30, 1944, Wake was parachuted into the Forest of Tronçais. Upon discovering her tangled in a tree Captain Tardivat, head of the local Maquis group, called up to her, “I hope that all the trees in France bear such beautiful fruit this year,” to which Wake replied, “Don’t give me that French s–t.”

Her duties included allocating arms and equipment and recruiting, helping to forge a force of over 7,000 individuals. Up to the liberation of France, Wake and her compatriots attacked the Gestapo headquarters in Montluçon (where she killed a guard with her bare hands), destroyed factories, cut rail lines, killed a German spy among the Maquis ranks and took command of the order of battle when her section leader was killed.

After the war she was awarded the Légion d’Honneur, Croix de Guerre, the George Metal and U.S. Medal of Freedom, among others.

“More than 300 Nazis fell by your gun”

In June of 1941, 24-year-old Ukrainian history student Lyudmila Pavlichenko was one of the first volunteers at the Red Army recruiting office in Kiev when the German and Romanian fascists invaded.

She was given the option to become a nurse but flatly refused it and requested to join the infantry. Being a sharpshooter in a DOSAAF (Volunteer Society for Cooperation with the Army, Aviation, and Fleet) club she was accepted and assigned as a sniper to the Red Army’s 25th Rifle Division on the Southern Front.

With an older bolt-action Mosin-Nagant rifle she took out two German scouts near Odessa, Ukraine. For the next 75 days, in the fighting for Odessa she recorded another 180 kills.

When the Red Army pulled back to Sevastopol, on the Crimean Peninsula, Pavlichenko undertook the riskiest part of a snipers job – counter sniping, where she would engage an enemy sniper for hours, and sometimes days, until her dueler would “make one move to many.” During the Crimean campaign Lieutenant Pavlichenko recorded another 257 kills, including 36 enemy snipers.

Pavlichenko’s popularity soared. Red Army officials wanted her to train new snipers and German propagandists declared over loudspeakers and radio that they would tear her into 309 pieces. This later made her proud: “They know my score (309 confirmed kills),” she would exclaim.

When Pavlichenko was wounded for a fourth time in May 1942 she was pulled from the fighting. She was sent to Canada and the United States for a publicity visit where she became the first Soviet citizen received by a U.S. President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

In Washington she was stunned by the ridiculous questions the press put to her. Questions about powder, lipstick, silk and garters on the frontlines and criticism over the length of her uniform skirt (too long by American standards) and its ugly color.

At a rally in Chicago, Pavlichenko called on the West to open its long-delayed second front as the Red Army was facing the lion’s share of Nazi forces. She received a great ovation when she called out, “I am 25-years-old and I have killed 309 fascist occupants by now. Don’t you think, gentlemen, that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?” However, the second front she called for wouldn’t materialize until after two more bloody years when the Red Army already had the Nazis on the run.

On her U.S. tour she spoke out against the racial segregation and gender discrimination in the U.S. armed forces, something that did not exist in the Red Army. U.S. anti-fascist folk musician Woody Guthrie immortalized her trip in his 1946 song, “Miss Pavlichenko.”

Pavlichenko was promoted to Major when she returned to the Soviet Union and also awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union.

When the war ended Lyudmila Pavlichenko returned to school and later became a historian and research assistant for the Soviet Navy. Pavlichenko died on October 1974 at the age 58.

The symbol of Soviet resistance

At 3:16 AM on June 22, 1941, the Axis powers executed Operation Barbarossa, the code name for Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union.

In one of the first battles of Operation Barbarosa, the Germans planned to seize the city of Brest and the Brest Fortress, located on the far west border of Belarus. The fortress was defended by over 9,000 soldiers.

During the first hours of the invasion, German army artillery opened fire on the unprepared fortress. In the city of Brest there was massive panic as shells fell from the sky, inflicting massive casualties on civilians as well as troops. Roughly an hour after the initial shelling, the first German assault on the fortress took place. Soviet defenders were only able to defend isolated strongpoints, the most important of which was Brest Fortress.

Over the next week the Nazis attacked the fort with infantry, panzer tanks and Luftwaffe bombers, slowly taking small parts of the fort. Inside the fort, civilians acted as medics and defenders, while children helped by reloading machine gun belts and sometimes became scouts, relaying enemy movements.

On June 26, Red Army regulars under the command of Major Ivan Zubachyov reached the Fort. Major Zubachyov, along with Political Commissar Yefim Fomin, attempted to pull out of Brest and link up with the rest of the Red Army. After a fierce battle, both Zubachyov and Fomin were captured. Political Commissar Yefim Fomin was immediately shot for being a commissar and a Jew.

When the Germans put Fomin against a wall of the Fort to be shot, he shouted, “Don’t lose your spirit! We will be victorious!”

The official battle ended on June 29. However, deep within the catacombs of the Fort, remnants of the resistance kept fighting for another month. An
unknown defender carved this inscription into the wall: I’m dying but I won’t surrender. Farewell, Motherland. 20.VII.41.

In the end 2,000 Soviets were killed and about 6,800 were captured. The defense of Brest Fortress became a symbol of the fighting spirit of the Soviet people, that they would not go down quietly.

Yefim Fomin was posthumously awarded the Order of Lenin in 1957 and promoted from Regimental Commissar to Divisional Commissar in 1991.

Ukraine, NATO and History: Communists Defeated Nazis in WWII

By John Catalinotto
Berlin 1945. Red flag on the Reichstag.

Seventy years ago, on May 8 and 9, 1945, millions all over the world gave shouts of joy and relief as the Nazi regime in Berlin crumbled while the Soviet Union’s Red Army rolled into the German capital and hung the red flag with its hammer and sickle on top of the Reichstag building, the parliament. Throughout Europe in 1945 and the years following, even the enemies of the USSR had to acknowledge its primary role in the Nazi defeat.

This year is the 70th anniversary of that great victory. However, the U.S.-led NATO governments have turned the world’s celebration of the defeat of Nazism into an ideological offensive against the Soviet Union and against today’s Russian Federation.

The imperialist West has used every effort to diminish the Soviet role in smashing fascist Germany. It has used this distortion of history as a weapon against Russia, which, even though now a capitalist country, has become an obstacle to U.S. world domination.

By 1945, not only had Nazi rule super-exploited and oppressed workers and nations throughout Europe, it had carried out programs of extermination of vast sectors of the population.

In 1945 and the following decades, it would have been nearly impossible to erase the truth of the Soviet role in winning the war. Germany’s early victories, beginning with its invasion of the USSR along an 1,800-mile front in June 1941, had ended with its defeat at Stalingrad in the winter of 1943. Germany was driven back, despite having more than three-fourths of its troops on the Soviet front.

The Soviet Red Army had carried the weight of the war and deserved the major credit for smashing Nazism. Communist parties allied to the USSR also led the resistance movements in countries occupied by German imperialism.

Not only Russians but all the peoples of the multinational USSR had also suffered the greatest casualties that Nazi-led German imperialism had inflicted. Some 27 million Soviet citizens died.

The British and U.S. forces waited until June 1944 to open up a second front with the attack at Normandy. While this invasion and the later “Battle of the Bulge” have prominence in U.S. military history, the fighting on the Western Front never reached anywhere near the magnitude of that in the East. People all over the world, and especially the working class of Europe and even of the United States, knew of the Soviet role. Even decades of Cold War propaganda were unable to erase it from the collective memory.

Propaganda war part of attack on Russia

With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the imperialist ruling class in the West had another opportunity to rewrite the history of World War II. The goal of its bought-and-paid-for “historians” was to erase the heroic contribution of the Red Army and the first socialist state in the defeat of fascism. This effort has reached a fever pitch this year, as the imperialist West had already begun an attack on Russia.

This imperialist offensive has extended the NATO military alliance to countries bordering Russia. It allied with Ukrainian fascists to place an anti-Russian coup regime in Ukraine, provoking a civil war. Even though Russia is now a capitalist country and no longer part of a socialist USSR — whose very existence had challenged the rule of world imperialism — Washington and its allies still aim to eliminate this competitor.

To ensure that the 1945 Soviet victory would also be a part of the Russian legacy, the current Russian government mobilized major celebrations in Moscow and across the Russian Federation. Reports were that a total of 20 million people participated, with 16,000 Russian troops marching in Moscow past 3 million people. From the viewpoint of internal mass mobilization, Russia showed it was far from defenseless against Western aggression and that its population supported the government’s refusal to submit to NATO.

President Vladimir Putin had invited all the countries involved in the anti-Hitler alliance to the Moscow celebration, including the current German government. NATO’s current offensive against Russia, however, pressured many to reject this invitation. Competitive celebrations were organized in NATO capitals and in some of the Eastern European states that have been turned into imperialist client states. The key places of conflict, however, were Moscow and Berlin.

Together with Putin in Moscow were Chinese President Xi Jinping, Cuban President Raúl Castro and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, along with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other high-level representatives from South Africa, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India and the former Soviet republics. NATO leaders, however, turned down the invitation.

German workers fear wider war

The other capital most affected by this anniversary was Germany’s. The Berlin imperialists are securely tied, both politically and militarily, to U.S. imperialism, whether they like it or not. Thus they have done nothing to confront Washington’s provocation of Russia in Ukraine and have joined sanctions against Russia.

On the other hand, the sanctions cost German business much more in trade and investment than they do U.S. industry and banking. Sometimes this contradiction leads to exposures in the usually pro-NATO German corporate media regarding the role of fascists in the Ukraine regime, for example, or Kiev’s outrageous corruption.

The masses in Germany, especially the working class, oppose and fear a wider war in Ukraine, which is even more important than the maneuvers of the Bonn government. Such a war, which could involve NATO and thus German forces, seems all too close. Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, is only 750 miles from Berlin.

In many German cities — among them Frankfurt am Main, Stuttgart, Tübingen, München, Heidelberg and Berlin — there were demonstrations from May 8 to 10 by anti-fascist and pro-peace groups. They protested racism, xenophobia against refugees and the militarization of German foreign policy.

On May 10 in central Berlin, several thousand demonstrators gathered behind a banner reading “70th anniversary of liberation.” Many carried red flags to show that the German working class, too, was liberated from the Nazi yoke by the Red Army victory.