- by Seamus Carey
- The Guardian
- Issue #1961
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave an address at the Victory Day parade in Red Square, Moscow, on 9th May. The event marked the 76th anniversary of the defeat of Nazism in 1945, when Soviet troops captured Berlin and liberated Germany from Nazi rule.
“Our dear veterans, we bow before your courage and strong spirit and thank you for this immortal example of unity and love for our Motherland.
“You proved that only together it is possible to achieve what seems impossible. You defeated a merciless enemy, defended your home, your children, and your country. You came out an absolute victor in the battle against Nazism and eternalised the memory of the 9th of May, 1945.”
This speech occurs in the context of the ongoing efforts by reactionary forces in Europe to rewrite the history of WW2, to equate fascism and communism, to deny the fact that the greatest contribution to defeating Nazi fascism was the heroic efforts of the Soviet people, and instead to claim that the Soviet Union is somehow to be blamed for the outbreak of the war.
These outrageous claims amount to whitewashing fascism – which is no surprise, as many of the forces promoting these lies (including political parties, think tanks, academic institutions) are fascists or sympathetic to fascism. The public rehabilitation of historical fascists and Nazi collaborators by governments including those of Ukraine, Poland, and Hungary is an obvious sign of this, but the surge in far-right movements and ideology spans the whole of Europe, and many other countries around the world.
This serves two distinct purposes: the demonisation of socialism and communism, and the demonisation of today’s Russia. While much of the ideological shift comes from forces within Europe, the United States has also played a major role in promoting and fostering these attitudes. The US has particularly sought to oppose and hamper economic relations between the EU and Russia, to weaken Russia’s growing power and keep the EU in a subordinate position to US hegemony.
Putin is no communist, and his public comments on the Soviet legacy over the years have been inconsistent and often strongly negative. But the increasing conflation of the Soviet Union and today’s Russia promoted by the reactionary forces in Europe, the outright lies denigrating Russia’s history, and the weaponisation of these against Russia, have pushed the Russian government into a position of defending more aspects of the Soviet legacy, particularly in WW2. The rise in positive views of the Soviet Union and Stalin among the public in Russia, from both communist and nationalist perspectives, makes this move even more opportune for Putin, at least domestically.
“This year, we celebrate 80 years since the beginning of the Great Patriotic War.
“The 22nd of June, 1941, is one of the most tragic dates in our history. An enemy attacked our country and invaded our land to kill and to spread death and pain, horror and immeasurable suffering.
“This enemy not only wanted to overthrow the Soviet political system but also to destroy us as a state, as a nation and wipe our peoples off the face of the earth. […]
“It has been almost 100 years since the time when the abominable Nazi beast was gaining insolence and predatory strength in Central Europe. The slogans of racial and ethnic supremacy, antisemitism and Russophobia were becoming more and more cynical. Agreements designed to stop the landslide towards a world war were easily broken off.
“History demands that we learn from it. Unfortunately, attempts are made to deploy a large part of Nazi ideology and the ideas of those who were obsessed with the delusional theory of their own supremacy. […]
“Our people know too well how this can end. Every single family in our country cherishes the sacred memory of those who fought for our Victory and we will always be proud of their feats.”