Friday, October 02, 2009

The Second World War

Mein Kampf

By Alfred Brown

I have long been confused about the origins and early events of the Second World War, not just because I am now 88. My confusion dates back seventy years to that September morning when, delivering Daily Workers, I learned an ultimatum by Neville Chamberlain to Hitler to cease his attack on Poland had expired and we were at war with Germany. Like many others I was already confused about our alliance with and guarantee to Poland. What did we have to help that country stave off German aggression? Nothing except words of condemnation.
Air raid sirens sounded but there was no raid. There followed an autumn, winter and spring of what was called the phoney war, as far as we and our allies, the French were concerned, as Hitler got on with putting right what he saw as another error of Versailles.
Then, in May 1940, came the German attack on the French Army and the British Expeditionary Force in the West, through Holland and Belgium, avoiding the French Maginot Line of fortresses in which both Western allies had put their trust. German superiority in weapons and generals such as Rommel and Guderian overran the French army within a week. The BEF, to the West, awaited the coming of those German forces but Hitler ordered a pause, inexplicable to his generals. The full-blooded assault was never resumed. No determined land effort against the BEF was ever made. Nothing more was heard of the prong of the German offensive which reached the Channel coast. Hitler went to Paris to receive the French surrender in the railway coach in which the Germans had surrendered in 1918, while still in occupation of French territory. The BEF retreated along that coast to Dunkirk from which the men were evacuated, some with rifles, some without, but leaving all heavy equipment behind. That was, however, an unexpected achievement, to raise public spirits, even a majority of MPs, to reject the surrender terms Hitler offered.
Many must have felt confused by all that and our prospects. Was our island to be invaded? Ancient rifles, relics of 1914-18 and even earlier were handed out to part time volunteers, first known as Local Defence Volunteers, then the Home Guard, ‘Dad’s Army’, still surviving as TV’s favourite comedy. Reports of barges being assembled for invasion came as the Luftwaffe launched bombing attacks on RAF fighter stations in South East England, the Battle of Britain. That was a war by communiqué, football report fashion, numbers of German planes downed in the air for us, of British destroyed on the ground for Germans. Reporting it for the national news agency, The Press Association, I heard that the head of Fighter Command was to tell Churchill destruction of airfields was forcing his planes out of Southern England. That would mean German planes in France would be nearer than the RAF to any fighting along our coast. Was invasion imminent? Instead the Germans switched to bombing London and I switched to describing that, confused as ever.
Now, however, some sense has come into all that, from reading a book which should have been required reading for all those wanting to look into the German dictator’s mind.
The book was Hitler’s Mein Kampf [My Struggle], written in 1924 during the nine months he spent in prison of the five years sentence given him on the failure of the Munich Beer Hall Putsch of November 1923, to seize power in Bavaria ,organised by his Nazi Party and the wartime general Ludendorff.
Adolf Hitler was born in Braunau on the Austro-Hungarian border with Germany, later moving to the capital, Vienna. It was there that he developed his third great hatred, to add to those of Jews and Marxists, of the Slavs, particularly Czechs, whom he saw as destroying the German nature of Austria. An English translation of the book, then a world best seller, was published in Britain in the 1930s, the title page of my copy having the inscription ‘109th Thousand’. How many of those thousands were read by those likely to benefit from understanding Hitler’s motivations at the time one has no idea but it has shone light on my confusions. Alongside those hatreds, Hitler reveals his likes, in particular one for Britain and the British, also the role he believed we British could play in his ambitions for Germany.
It all stemmed from his experiences in the World War One. He had moved from Vienna to Munich, was called back to Austria for military service but rejected as unfit. When war broke out, however, with Germany allied to Austria-Hungary, he volunteered to serve in a Bavarian regiment and was accepted. Except when he was hospitalized from wounds, in 1916, and gassed, at the end of the war, he was continually in the front-line as a headquarters runner, earning first an Iron Cross Second Class, for bravery in December 1914 and an Iron Class First Class, a rare distinction for a corporal, in August 1918. He ended the war, after his gassing, back in Munich, in a reserve battalion. He was horrified by what he found, the collapse of the public and political will, with Jews and Marxists, as he saw it, running everything.
The Army had not been defeated. It had been betrayed by the strikes and breakdown in ordinary life at home was what Hitler believed. The truth was that Germany was not large enough to sustain, economically, the effort the war demanded. It could not feed and provide services for both its civilian population and army. As Hitler claimed, the great opportunity for victory which came with the removal of Russia from the war was frustrated by a general strike at home.
Hence the need for what was to dominate Nazi propaganda, lebensraum, or living space. The settlement of World War One had made Germany smaller. Its Eastern border had been moved West to produce a Polish corridor leading to the new international port of Danzig, separating East Prussia from the rest of Germany. Its population had been mostly Poles but included Germans. It was the World War One outcome which led to World War Two. Yet Hitler rejects the idea of restoring Germany’s 1914 frontiers as politically foolish. “They were no protection in the past nor would they mean strength in the future. They would not give the German nation internal solidarity nor provide it with nourishment.” Yet the need for lebensraum was growing remorselessly “for,” he writes, “the population of Germany increases by nearly 900,000 annually.”
Even before the war Germany was too small a country for its people and for its rulers’ ambitions of ‘peaceful economic conquest of the world’. Its alternative means of growth were territorial acquisitions within Europe, to the East, and colonisation. The latter might have been possible in alliance with Russia but by the nineteenth century it was too late except by a hard struggle. Such a struggle would be better employed gaining territory nearer home.
“For such a policy there was only one possible ally in Europe – Great Britain. Great Britain was the only Power which could protect our rear, supposing we started a new Germanic expansion. No sacrifice would have been to great in order to gain England’s alliance.”
In fact Germany’s pre-war rulers failed to consider a regular scheme of defence or plans for acquiring lands in Europe, sacrificed chances of an alliance with England and neglected to seek support from Russia.
That was written while discussing the mistakes of Germany’s past rulers but he makes it clear that his policies for the future continued to depend on British support. The old Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria and Italy in WW1 had proved disastrous for Germany. Italy remained neutral and eventually joined the Anglo-French side.
What Hitler proposed in Mein Kampf was another Triple Alliance, of Britain, Germany and Italy, no doubt, in part, with thoughts of the growing power of France, reaching down though its African territories and the effect of that, then, on the traditional British policy of balance of power in Europe.
So there it is. During all those years of Hitler’s fight for and acquisition of power, of the growing dislike of him, his policies, his actions, among many Britishers, not just left wingers like myself, did the German dictator continue to harbour those thoughts of alliance with Britain. After all the British he met, at Berlin and Berchtesgarten, were by no means ordinary left-wingers. How many, even while Britain was supposedly discussing a possible alliance with France and Russia against German aggression, would be in agreement with Hitler’s plans to go East, if it brought him up against Stalin and his hated Reds. Some of us were even of the opinion that our own prime minister, Chamberlain, was somewhat submissive to him until that confusing Polish reaction.
So were Hitler wartime actions involving Britain tempered by not just a touch of pro- Britishness? I find my confusion lessened by the thought they could well have been.
What might have happened if Hitler had behaved differently or we had accepted his offer of terms of surrender? One can only speculate but I suspect things would have been very little changed. Hitler must have known that he had to go East for his territorial enlargement and attack the Soviet Union before 1942 when, his spies must have told him, the Red Army would have its new weapons which eventually won the war.

A war to remember

SOMBRE CEREMONIES marked the 70th anniversary of the start of the Second World War across Europe last week. The war, which cost over 61 million lives, began with the Nazi German invasion of Poland on 1st September 1939 and ended on 2nd September 1945 when the Japanese Emperor Hirohito surrendered following the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by American atom bombs.
In Britain the focus was naturally on 3rd September, the day the British and French ultimatums to Germany expired, and the sacrifice of our people that followed in the struggle to defeat the Axis powers. Here, with the dubious exception of some neo-nazis and anti-semites, there is no doubt that Nazi Germany started the war in a bid for world domination.
But if you were to believe the ravings of some of the reactionary rulers in eastern Europe today you could be forgiven for thinking that it was the Soviet Union that had plunged the world into turmoil in 1939.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski says little or nothing about the pre-war Polish regime’s despicable collaboration with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. But he’s got plenty to say about the Soviet Union - blaming them for the outbreak of hostilities because they had signed a non-aggression pact with Germany and then absurdly claiming that Poland would have successfully repelled the Nazi legions if it hadn’t been for the Soviet intervention - which incidentally occurred after the Polish government had collapsed under the Nazi onslaught.
The leaders of the Baltic states elevate Nazi collaborators as heroes and bang on about demanding compensation for what they say was decades of Soviet occupation while the rest of the pack want communism equated with Nazism and outlawed.
All of this is done under the approving eye of the big-wigs in the European Union who choose to forget the people who made the greatest sacrifice in the struggle against Nazi Germany and who eventually forced the Wehrmacht on its knees begging for surrender in 1945.
War-time leader Winston Churchill said that the RAF’s battle with the Luftwaffe in 1940 was the “finest hour” in what would later be called the Battle of Britain. It certainly was, but the finest hour for the world communist movement was undoubtedly the battle for Europe.
The Soviet people, led by Joseph Stalin and the Bolsheviks, liberated half of Europe and smashed Nazi Germany while Josef Broz Tito’s guerrilla army and Enver Hoxha’s partisans drove the fascists out of the Balkans.
Communist-led resistance forces had the fascists on the run in Greece, France and Italy while others fought alongside the Red Army on the eastern front while in Asia Mao Zedong, Kim Il Sung and Ho Chi Minh led the fight for freedom against the Empire of Japan.
If it wasn’t for the Soviet Union Germany and Japan would have won the Second World War. What that would have meant can easily be seen by their actions during the conflict - the extermination of millions of Jews and all others deemed unfit to live by the Nazis; concentration camps, mass slavery and dictatorial rule by an elite of industrialists, landowners, war-lords and degenerates of every kind.
This was the world ruled by Hitler and Hirohito - a world that would have set back civilisation hundreds of years had it succeeded.
The Soviet Union is now sadly no more but nothing can take away its achievements. The words of microbes like Kaczynski and his kind will soon be forgotten. The Soviet victory will be remembered by working people for ever.

new worker editorial 3rd september 2009

70th Anniversary of the Second World War

The Falsifiers of History Have the Aim of Covering Up Their Own Preparations for Fascism and War

by Chris Coleman
National Spokesperson of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

September 3rd marks the 70th anniversary of the declaration of war by Britain and France against Nazi Germany, following Hitler’s invasion of Poland on 1st September 1939. On the occasion of this 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, the imperialists and their apologists – as did the leaders at Gdansk on 1st September – have lost no time in attempting once again to rewrite history. They have as an aim to cover up their plans for state arrangements at home which serve their dictatorial rule, and internationally their preparations for a new inter-imperialist war for the redivision of the world. The focus of their falsifications, as ever, is the role of Stalin and the Soviet Union in the lead up to the war, in particular the gross slander that Stalin “connived” with Hitler, carved up Poland and set off the war. The truth is the precise opposite.
The Second World War was a terrible catastrophe for the entire humanity. There is no doubt such a tragedy could have been avoided, or at the very least limited in its devastation. Facts, readily verifiable from the documents of the time, make clear the causes of the war. It was the ruling circles of Britain, France and the USA who re-financed and re-armed Germany to be the dominating force in Central and Eastern Europe and egged Hitler on to “Go East”, to realise his cherished dream of taking over territories such as the Ukraine and destroy the Soviet Union and Bolshevism. Faced with Hitlerite aggression, the Soviet Union called on Britain and France to sign a collective mutual assistance pact with military clauses. They refused, choosing instead to sign the Munich Agreement with Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, an act of betrayal which sealed the fate of Europe, ceding Czechoslovakia and its powerful armaments industry to Hitler, and giving him the green light to go east and attack the Soviet Union. The Polish government, imperialist itself, took the same stand, for which it was to pay so dearly. Appeasement was not a sign of weakness, as is claimed, but of connivance. The imperialist mentality was to fear communism more than fascism, to follow a short-sighted and self-serving policy which brought the most terrible devastation on the peoples of the world, including their own.
It is also fact, readily verifiable, that the Soviet Union, following the policies of Lenin and Stalin, was a factor for peace in the lead-up, the waging, and the aftermath of the Second World War. It was, after all, the October Revolution which brought the First World War to a close. It was the collective security proposals of the Soviet Union which could, if taken up by the imperialist powers, have prevented, or at least limited, the Second World War. Faced with the refusal of Britain and France to take up these proposals, the Soviet Union had no alternative but to sign a Non-Aggression Pact with Germany in order to give it time to prepare for the inevitable Nazi invasion of its territories. It was also forced to move its Red Army on 17th September 1939, into Ukrainian and Byelorussian territories seized by Poland in 1919-20, thus saving millions from the slaughter visited upon the rest of Poland, and moving its forward defensive line several hundred kilometres west. When the inevitable invasion came, in June 1941, the war took on an anti-fascist character. Millions upon millions were inspired on the world scale to participate in destroying the fascist menace. This was the main factor in the victory of the anti-fascist forces over Nazism. The policy of the Soviet Union was based on steadfast opposition to aggression, invasion, occupation and annexation, to the imperialist redivision of the world and inter-imperialist war. Despite all the waverings, the cynicism, the treachery, the obstruction of the governments of Britain, France and the USA and others, they stuck to their stand. They made huge sacrifices in order to do this, and with great proletarian generosity ensured that the war effort progressed and victory over fascism was ensured. It was not down to the failure or weakness of the policy of the Soviet Union that this victory over fascism in 1945 was not consolidated and the opportunity for peace and democracy cast aside, with the imperialist powers reverting to their old policies, which had brought such disaster to the world’s people, including their own, of “containment of communism” as their main aim, along with renewing their support for and practice of fascism worldwide.
Why the falsifications of this indisputable history? Everything points to the fact that the attack on communism today is not so much on what it is or has been, but on what it can do. In the 20th century communism solved the problems that faced humanity. It led and inspired people to make huge advances and win great victories. The crises later in the century were due to its abandonment, not its legacy. Now in the 21st century, despite the raised consciousness of the people, the result of the achievements of the 20th century, and the opportunity which that presents to take matters into their own hands, in the last 25 years of retreat of revolution the forces of reaction have been and are determined that the people will take no such initiatives, that they will leave the solution of the problems which face humanity in the hands of those who created them, in the hands of today’s so-called “benevolent despots”. Thus communism must be attacked. Its ideology and politics must be discredited. History itself must be falsified and rewritten.
The attack, the falsifications, come not merely in the form of lies, but as total disinformation which distorts the whole progress of humankind, the basis of change, motion and development, how a new society has been and is being created, and if not challenged deprive the people of any perspective, of an outlook on their lives.
As the late Hardial Bains pointed out in his important work Modern Communism,the attack is not just on communism but on all real change. History, he says, has been turned on its head, with the worst crimes of the Hitlerite fascists attributed to the communists in general, and to Stalin in particular. This disinformation is intended to disorient the workers, women and youth and provide them with no prospects whatsoever. It is also to divert the attention of the world’s peoples from the crimes being committed today by the imperialists and world reaction in the name of democracy.
The question must be put: How can one believe the stories of those who commit such dreadful and dastardly acts these very days? Guantánamo, Fallujah, Gaza, the bombing of villages in Afghanistan and Pakistan are facts of history too. How can the solution of the world’s problems be left in the hands of those who cause them, who are leading the peoples into such terrible catastrophes?
It is vital that the falsifications of history, such as of the causes and lessons of the Second World War, are exposed and combated. This is necessary not as something in itself, but as part of providing all the information, the perspective, the outlook – which only Modern Communism can do – to enable the working class and people to discuss and plan the way forward, what kind of new society is needed, how to take matters into their own hands, to bring about democratic renewal and bring into being a pro-social anti-war government, and solve themselves the problems facing society.