Culture and Life
by Rob Gowland
Victory Day — cause for celebration
May 8 was the 55th anniversary of VE Day. On that day in 1945, Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered to the Allies. The war in Europe was over. Well, not quite. The remaining Nazi forces in Eastern Europe did not officially surrender until the following day, May 9. On that day Stalin announced that "the historic day of the final defeat of Germany, the day of our people's great victory over German imperialism has arrived". But whether one recognises Victory Day as May 8 or May 9, neither was given much recognition in the Australian media or by Australian public figures this year. This is no small thing. WW2 was the most titanic struggle that the human race ever experienced. It cost tens of millions of lives and consumed enormous resources. It deformed the economy of the world and brought tremendous suffering to a generation. Equally, the victory over fascism was one of the most momentous events in human history. Had the fascist powers won, as they could have — indeed, would have — without the Soviet Union's colossal contribution, Churchill's prediction of "a new dark age" would have become a hideous reality. Bourgeois propagandists downplay the fact that the Soviet Union played the leading part in defeating the Axis. In fact, they try to dismiss it altogether. But it's the truth. At one point in the War, when Churchill in correspondence with Stalin referred to the British campaign in North Africa on equal terms with the war on the Eastern front, Stalin tartly pointed out that "Hitler has 25 divisions in North Africa. He has 250 in the Soviet Union." The United States lost 800,000 in the War. The Soviet Union lost 26 million. Of the young men born in the USSR in 1921, only four percent survived the War. China lost a further 20 million or more fighting Hitler's ally, Japanese imperialism, which like its German counterpart had an equally racist and dehumanised approach to the people it was intent on conquering. The Chinese had to fight not only the Japanese but also the treacherous US- backed Kuo-min Tang whose leaders were more interested in fighting the communists than the invader. The United States military's principal theatre of operations was against the Japanese. US losses however would have been inestimably greater if the USSR had not kept the crack Japanese Kwantung Army pinned down along the Soviet border for the duration of the War. Despite the ferocity of the fighting in the west, the Soviet military kept the Special Red Banner Army of the Far East along their Siberian border facing the Japanese, who had tried repeatedly to invade Soviet territory ever since the Revolution. In fact, invading Soviet territory was what the Second World War was really all about. The imperialist powers actually encouraged Germany and Japan to develop their war aims because the leaders of both countries were aggressively anti-communist and indicated that their territorial ambitions lay in the dismemberment of the Soviet Union. Germany would seize the "lebensraum" it wanted in the west of the USSR, Japan would seize Siberia. So keen were the most reactionary capitalist corporations and their politicians to see the end of the USSR, that they turned a blind eye to the threat posed to themselves by the imperialist ambitions of Germany and Japan. The appeasement of Hitler by Britain and France is well known, but together with the USA they pursued the same policy towards Japan's seizure of first Manchuria and then the rest of China because they believed that an invasion of the Soviet Union would follow. But the Japanese army got its nose bloodied by the Soviet military at Lake Hasan in 1938 and again in 1939 at Khalkhin-gol when they invaded the Soviet protectorate of Mongolia. So the Japanese militarists took a leaf out of Hitler's book and signed a non-aggression pact with the USSR to protect their backs while they set about double-crossing their former imperialist "friends". For the pro-fascist elements of imperialism, it was the wrong war against the wrong enemy. But the threat had become so apparent that even some of the imperialists could see it. The anti-fascist alliance was born. Such was the strength of the anti-fascist alliance and the popular movement against war and fascism that underpinned it, that it was able to withstand the constant attempts by imperialist leaders to sabotage and disrupt it, and turn it to their advantage. Under the influence of the anti-fascist alliance, tens if not hundreds of millions of people consciously considered the question "What kind of world do we want after the War?" The answer was not to imperialism's taste. Capitalist governments and capitalist media would like to bury forever any reference to the anti-fascist alliance or the central role of the socialist Soviet Union (and the communist led resistance movements) in the defeat of fascism. They would like us to forget that fascism — not just Germany — was defeated. But we have no right to forget and every reason to remember — and to celebrate Victory Day (on whichever date you pick).