Monday, June 1, 2015

Victory over Fascism: Repercussions for World Politics

Abdul Rahman

Amidst the attempt to rewrite the history of the Second World War, the world is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s Victory over Nazi Germany this year. It was on May 9th 1945 when the Soviet Red Army took control over Berlin; the capital of Nazi Germany. This event has been decisive in shaping world history in more than one way. This victory sealed the fate of fascism and established the Soviet Union as one of the greatest powers in international politics. The exclusive claims over the legacy of democracy and protection of humanity put forward by the liberal world, their attempts to vilify socialism as an undemocratic ideology were discredited by the narrations of sacrifices made by the world’s first socialist nation and its people during the war. Perhaps this is the reason that even after 25 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, many nations are unwilling to acknowledge the facts and are trying to manipulate them. This attempt is accelerated due to the re-emergence of fascism in Ukraine and other parts of the world including in our own country.

Recent surveys among the youth, the generation born much after the war, have established the superiority of  juicy propaganda over dry facts in catching the mind of people. According to the survey,  more than 50 percent of the respondents think that it was the US army which won the war against Nazism. The results of the survey regarding the general facts of the Second World War among the post 1990 generation show that majority knows nothing about the contribution of Soviet Union.[1] In times where Hollywood movies substitute history it is very easy for fascism to re-emerge. Hence, the celebration of victory day is necessary not only as a reminder of the brevity and sacrifices of the people who fought and won the war. But also to remind the gravity of the danger which fascism carries. The celebration is also a reiteration of the ways to fight against attempts to destroy the progressive legacies and to pay homage to the unfailing commitments to the ideas of socialism and equality.

The Second World War was not a war between the liberal USA, its west European allies and Fascist Germany. The Allies against the Axis powers were a mixture of liberals and socialists. It was a real United Front which was first conceived by the Soviet leadership in the early 1930s itself. The reluctance of the liberals to join hands with communists prevented a united fight against fascism for seven years making it stronger. This ‘deliberate amnesia’ is an essential feature of anti-socialist propaganda. In order to prevent the propaganda to become history, facts and critical scholarship is required. This is an attempt to do so.

The Second World War was a culmination of churnings created by capitalism and nationalism among the European ruling classes. The stirrings of nationalism and imperialism gave birth to various continental, regional and sub-regional conflicts in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the twentieth century these stirrings, added with ‘modern’ war machines and sheer geographical spread, gave birth to the idea of “World Wars”; the first of which ended without any conclusive settlement. The Second World War therefore was conceived during the so called peace-conferences after the First World War in 1919. Unwillingness of the victors in the First war, the so-called liberal world, to shed the hegemonic control over the colonies was the reason that Germany was ruthlessly targeted. National humiliation and socio-economic crisis caused by sanctions imposed by the victors killed all hopes of democracy in Germany and Italy and popularised Fascism and Nazism as resistance forces. Instead of worrying over the rising chauvinistic and jingoistic nationalism, expressed through anti-socialist proclamations in both Italy and Germany; the liberal west, Great Britain and the USA in particular, was happy that socialism was meeting its nemesis.[2] Nazism and Fascism were the Frankenstein monsters created by the liberal world’s policies of appeasement of Nazism and isolation of the Soviets. The Soviet attempts to build a strong anti-Nazi United Front were defeated by the disinterest shown by Great Britain and France as late as in April 1939.[3]

The liberal world was not bothered much about the rise of Nazism and Fascism. Its primary target was Socialism. For the liberal west, the ideological and material challenges created by Soviet Union were more real than the anti-liberal racist ideas of Hitler and his allies. No matter what several ‘renowned historians’ argue, the allegations that Soviet Union collaborated with the Nazis during the Anti-Aggression Pact of August 1939 is nothing but propaganda against Soviets. We do not have space here to go into the details of the treaty. Suffice would be to say that any objective history of the period cannot be indifferent to the crucial facts on the ground. Those who claim that Soviet reluctance to war in 1939 is equal to taking side with Nazism have either no sense of history or are indulging in deliberate manipulation and misinterpretation of the facts. The treaty was a pure act of defensive diplomacy sans any conspiracy against liberalism. The Soviet Union had been involved in building anti-Nazi popular Front ever since 1933.[4] So, the argument that the treaty was a sign of soft Soviet approach to Nazism is deliberate distortion of history. The fact was that when whole of the liberal block was turning a blind eye to the deeds of Fascism in Abyssinia, Manchuria and Czechoslovakia and was busy appeasing Hitler[5] it was only the Soviet Union which was actively resisting the rise of Nazism.

All this was before the war started. Once the war was a real thing did liberals change their attitude? Instead of realising the importance of a joint fight against Fascism, the liberal world adopted an opportunistic stance. They saw an opportunity in the rise of Fascism to settle the communist block. We know that there were three main declared enemies of Hitler: Communism, Homosexuality and Jews. The real intentions of the Western block vis-à-vis their Soviet Allies was most visible in the instances of delaying the opening of the crucial second front in France. However, this was not an isolated incident. There were many such occasions during the course of the war which show that the liberal world used the opportunity to neutralise the ‘threat’ from the communism.

The victory in such hostile conditions was really commendable. The sacrifices made by the Soviet army and common people in defending the revolution and spreading it throughout Central Europe and later in the rest of the world were remarkable. The fruits of the victory however did not remain within the Soviet and communist block. It was for the world to relish. The Soviet army during the course of the war liberated around a dozen countries. The so called liberal world was saved by communists and hence it established a second pole in the world politics for the future generations. The extent of the sacrifices made by the Soviets is well known. They alone lost almost 25 to 40 million (around 15% of the total population in 1940) people during the Great Patriotic War as it is called in Russia. This number is almost half the number of total casualties during the six years of the war in which more than 60 states were directly or indirectly involved. For a country which was trying to build socialism from scratch, the tremendous loss of infrastructure was demoralising. The Soviet Union had to cope with the loss of human resources in the post-war reconstruction of the country. The material gains achieved during the short period from 1929 to 1938 were undone by the massive destructions caused by the War. The death of a substantial number of working population weakened the hopes of a prosperous and egalitarian society dreamt by the Soviet people.

The significance of the victory over fascism in the Second World War is not limited to the protection of liberal and democratic ethos in the western societies and survival of the Soviet Union as a hope of working class utopia. The danger of Fascism was grave enough for both liberalism and socialism. However, there were other long term repercussions of the victory. It marked the end of the brutal persecution of Jews, Romas and other such communities. It is a well known fact that racial hatred was made commonsensical by Hitler’s regime throughout the territories it captured during the course of the war killing millions of religious minorities and sects. The victory also paved the way of the fall of colonialism despite Great Britain and France being on the victors’ side. The rise of Soviet Union ended the hegemony of Great Britain and making it an insignificant player in world politics. The liberation of almost two thirds of humanity from the direct colonial occupation was one of the most important achievements of the Second World War.

The victory of the Soviet Union in the war was a sign of resilience of the communist state. The success in the Great Patriotic War helped international communist movements in Vietnam, China and other such places. It established confidence in the Soviet Union among all those leaders who wanted to create free societies. The reluctance of most of the nationalist leaders of the newly independent countries (the so called Third World) to rely on their ex colonial masters was strengthened due to the rise of the Soviet Union and its stands against fascism and imperialism. Its presence was a bulwark against any unilateral intervention. Most of these states tried to imitate the Soviet model of economics which despite being weak and half hearted attempts provided some relief to the masses in terms of social security schemes and crucial state interventions in the fields of education, health and housing.                  

It has been 70 years since that victory. The world has seen many ups and downs and the one of the most important downside has been the fall of the Soviet Union itself in 1991. In 1970s the re-emergence of neo-right and the socialist block’s own failures to live up to the expectations of the people created a scope for the reactionary forces to re-emerge and become strong. The neo-liberal economy created tremendous hopes among the crisis ridden populations throughout the world. That the hopes were misplaced is getting clear gradually. The neo-liberal economy did nothing but weakened the existing social security measures available to people. The loss of hopes in the established values and institutions created during the post-war period once again prepared ground for the rise of Fascism. The fall of Soviet Union has eliminated any check on the great powers which is reflected in the unilateral interventions taken up by the USA in different parts of the world.  

Neo-liberalism is neo-colonialism and re-assertion of imperialism. The slogans of human rights and democracy cannot disguise the real intentions of the liberal world. The last few decades have seen numerous wars against the people in different parts of the globe. The loot of Africa, killings in erstwhile Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Somalia, Iraq etc and continuation of Israeli occupation of Palestine are some of the examples of the imperialist wars. Once again the world is witnessing rivalries similar to beginning of the twentieth century and once again there is resistance to all these inter-imperialist rivalries. The reactionary web is very much clear in front of everyone to see. However, there is no strong socialist alternative in front of the people. One significant example of this phenomenon is the rise of BJP in India. The neo-liberal economic policies followed since the late 1980s have many a times driven people to such hopeless conditions that they are desperate to get a messiah. Similar to Hitler in post-First World War Germany, in post-liberalised India Modi is that messiah. One need not quote other similarities in the programme and practice of the political formation he leads. The messiah is making the loot of resources palatable to the masses while giving them hopes of ‘development’ and ‘strong nation’. The revival of ‘Aryan Glory’ needs persecution and destruction of all ‘pollutants’; hence the cleaning and purification of the communities.     

As during Hitler’s time there is once again a crisis in different parts of the capitalist world including our own country. Fascist forces, due to lack of any viable alternative, are gaining power and becoming stronger using yet another opportunity provided by capitalism. Though there is no Soviet Union today the left forces are still the only hope for the depressed masses.


[2] An Anti-Comintern Pact was signed between Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Japan in 1937, See

[4] See the full text of the speech given by the Georgi Dimitrov at the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International on August 1935

[5] The Munich Agreement of 1938 signed by Great Britain and Germany which legalised the Germany claims over Czechoslovakia

The author is Assistant Professor at Gargi College, Delhi University

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