“I have always believed and I still believe that it is the Red Army that has torn the guts out of the filthy Nazis”.
—Winston Churchill, Speech in the House of Commons, October 1944
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In Australia, the 70th anniversary of this world-historic event did not receive the recognition it deserved. Yet World War One, an inter-imperialist conflict in which the working classes had no real interest, has been a prominent part of television, radio and print-media diet.
The centenary of Gallipoli received scores of millions of dollars in government funding, beginning with the Gillard Labor Government’s provision of $83 million funding for it.
How the world would have been had Hitler and the Axis powers won is too horrendous to contemplate, but it took a terrible toll to defeat them.
In that struggle, Stalin and the Soviet Union played the lead role.
I’m not usually into speculative history, but I sometimes wonder how differently things would have developed had Britain and France agreed to Stalin’s pleas for ‘collective security’ against Hitler’s rise. This would have required collective action in the advent of German aggression. Sadly, the British ruling class at that time hoped that Hitler would keep to his promise to ‘turn east’ in keeping with the ‘lebenstraum’ agenda advocated in ‘Mein Kampf’.
All that can be done now is to ensure that VE Day and Soviet Victory Day continue to be commemorated and that the lessons about the nature of fascism and the need to defend democracy be learned.
The Allied victory in World War Two shows that there is such a thing as just war – war is not “futile” – and it is a momentous mistake to turn a blind eye to, or appease, fascist regimes.
It is ironic indeed that Russian President Putin, himself bearing so many characteristics of a fascist, is trying to attach himself to the anti-fascist Stalin and the Great Patriotic War while embarking upon imperialist aggression in the Ukraine.
Lest we forget the toll of the greatest anti-fascist struggle:
419,000 Americans died
451,000 Britons died
28,000,000 Soviets died.
The Axis deaths exceeded ten million.
In the world today, fascistic regimes such as that of al-Assad in Syria are just as deserving of overthrow as were Hitler, Mussolini and Franco. There are particular similarities with the latter – the rise of fascist dictatorship in Spain in the 1930s – when the international Left called for intervention by the West to restore the elected Republican government.
Only the Soviet Union took military action against Franco. Stalin provided the Republicans with between 634 and 806 planes, 331 and 362 tanks, and 1,034 and 1,895 artillery pieces. Not to do it would have meant leaving the Republicans open to massacre. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were certainly aiding the Franco regime, with Germany supplying powerful air and armoured units, while the British and French governments retained their policy of non-intervention.
Perhaps the finest way to honour the war dead is to ensure victory for the democratic forces in Syria and those elsewhere around the world fighting tyranny. To do this, to support our brothers and sisters fighting fascist regimes, may require war, military intervention.
Sometimes, only war can defeat fascism. Tragically, it is good for something.
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