We address here a recent article published by The Telegraph on 07.03.22, written by Oxford trained BAFTA winning British historian and mockumentary film maker Laurence Rees. The article was titled “Putin has learnt nothing from his beloved Soviet history books” with a subtitle reading “The Russian president is obsessed with the Second World War – but he’s missed obvious lessons from Stalin’s disastrous Finnish campaign”.
We shall leave aside the drivel of unsubstantiated accusations and speculation throughout the article, concentrating instead on dealing with the arguments presented and correcting the historical revision he attempts. One thing has to be pointed out though: calling Putin “obsessed with the Second World War” is a bit rich coming from a historian whose whole career has been dedicated to revising the history of the Second World War. And would it not be strange and unnatural for the current Russian leader to have anything less than a most urgent focus on the history of the Great Fatherland War, at a moment when imperialist aggression is once again setting its sights on Russia?
Mr. Rees’ argument about the lessons Putin missed boils down to this: Putin has gone into Ukraine too softly, and therefore has committed the same mistake that Stalin committed against the Finns in 1939. According to Mr. Rees Stalin invaded Finland in 1939 and underestimated the Finns initially, but later corrected his mistake and put a bigger force into the offensive which led to a Soviet victory. He states: “what is worrying is that he [Putin] may now have decided, like Stalin, to commit overwhelming force to the offensive in order to blast his way to victory at whatever cost.” Or maybe what he finds really “worrying” is the possibility that Putin’s Russia may emerge from the present fray as triumphant as did Stalin’s Russia before.
In 1939 Finland acted as a cat’s-paw for Nazi Germany. Finland was closely allied with Nazi Germany as they went on to fight side by side throughout the war, most notably in the siege of Leningrad. This alliance prompted Churchill to write to Stalin in a letter received on September 6, 1941, a few days before the beginning of the siege of Leningrad: “We are willing to put any pressure upon Finland in our power, including immediate notification that we will declare war upon her should she continue beyond the old frontiers. We are asking the United States to take all possible steps to influence Finland.” This siege is famously the most brutal siege in history, considered by many to be a genocide as it targeted the civilian population, costing an estimated 3.5 million casualties.
This use of Finland by Nazi Germany is reminiscent of the way the USA is currently using Ukraine, which has been provoking Russia with aggression on its border since the 2014 coup d’etat. Ukraine is acting as a cat’s-paw for the USA rather as Finland did for Nazi Germany. Mr. Rees fails to even consider that there could be reasons why Russia has had to intervene in Ukraine, and likewise reasons why Stalin might have had to engage Finland. The fact that in both cases the Soviets and Russians proceeded slowly, in a humane way, is beyond his comprehension. For the Russians war is an extension of diplomacy, not a genocidal drive to murder populations. Only an imperialist would fail to understand that wars could happen for other reasons than conquest. It would never occur to Mr. Rees that Russia is trying to save Ukraine whilst the USA is trying to destroy it.
Rees takes exception to a speech by the Russian president in which he points out the betrayal of Czechoslovakia by Britain and France in the Munich Agreement, and demonstrates the gulf which divides this piece of Anglo-French treachery from the tactically astute non aggression pact with Germany by means of which Russia was able to avoid being bounced prematurely into war with Germany. By this masterly move Stalin at a stroke outfoxed the best-laid plans of Britain and France to watch from the sidelines whilst Germany and Russia exhausted each other, leaving the older colonial powers to retain their dominance. Instead Russia gained the breathing space to put socialist industry on a war footing, giving the material foundation so necessary for the struggle to emancipate the world from fascism. This isn’t quite how Rees sees the matter however.
“When the British and French signed the Munich agreement in 1938 with Hitler … they did not come to a secret agreement with him to carve up eastern Europe between them, as Stalin did with Ribbentrop with the Nazi/Soviet pact … Putin subsequently made the incredible claim that Soviet troops never invaded Poland in September 1939. He alleged that the Poles had lost control of the country, and consequently ‘there was no one to talk to about it [the Soviet incursion] … the Red Army did not invade those territories in Poland. German troops entered them and then left, and after that the Soviet troops entered.’ This idea would be laughable were it not such a disgraceful distortion of the history. The plain fact is that Hitler and Stalin had agreed to divide Poland between them.”
Now let us address Mr. Rees’ ludicrous historical revision with the correspondence between Stalin and Churchill at the time. In a personal message from Stalin to Churchill signed July 18, 1941, Stalin wrote:
“It is quite obvious that the German forces would have been far more advantageously placed if the Soviet troops had had to counter the blow [Operation Barbarossa], not along the line Kishinev – Lvov – Brest – Bialystok – Kaunas and Vyborg, but along the line Odessa – Kamenets Podolsk – Minsk and the vicinity of Leningrad.”
To which Churchill replies in a letter received by Stalin on July 21:
“I fully realise the military advantage you have gained by forcing the enemy to deploy and engage on forward Western fronts, thus exhausting some of the force of his initial effort.”
Not only is it true, as Churchill confirms, that it made military sense for the Soviet Union to march into what was then arguably Eastern Poland and set up defences along the line defined by the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, known as the Curzon line since 1919 (more or less the borders of Poland today). It so happens that after the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, the government fled to Romania, abandoning the country which was in a state of chaos, and hence as Putin correctly pointed out the Soviet Union had no one to ask for permission to enter.
The question at the time was simply whether to let Nazi Germany take all the Polish territory up to the line mentioned above by Stalin, or to try and impede their invasion of the Soviet Union by halting them at the Curzon line. Furthermore, the territories that the Soviet Union supposedly invaded i.e. the east of Poland, were themselves not Polish. These were territories east of the Curzon line that Poland annexed in the Polish-Soviet war with the assistance of Britain, France and the USA, in which up until 1939 Poland executed brutal genocidal repression against the Ukrainian and Belorussian people they occupied, making the Soviet “invasion” more aptly described as a liberation. The fact that these territories are now undisputedly Belorussian and Ukrainian are a result of this fact.
The Polish state had previously refused any support from the Soviet Union when it came to protection against German aggression. The Polish state of the 1930s had truly cosied up to Nazi Germany signing a non-aggression pact with Hitler as early as 1934, holding joint military exercises with the Wehrmacht to practice invading the Soviet Union, and in 1938 at Munich with the full consent of Britain and France, annexing Czechoslovakia together with Germany and fascist Hungary. All of this and much more was conveniently omitted by Mr. Rees.
Britain and France didn’t just come to an agreement to carve up Eastern Europe at Munich, they came to an agreement to carve up central Europe – all as part of their efforts to appease Nazi Germany, to strengthen her and persuade her to invade the Soviet Union. Furthermore, together with the USA, they are fully responsible for building up Nazi Germany and unleashing it on Europe and the Soviet Union. The USA, Britain and France are responsible for causing the Second World War. Stalin did what was necessary to defeat Nazi Germany, ultimately leading to the unquestionable victory of the Soviet Union in the Second World War, thanks to which the whole of Europe was liberated from the scourge of Nazism.
Fascism in the Ukraine
Finally there is a lie repeated all too frequently as of late which Mr. Rees parrots in his article, that is:
“Regardless of the complexities of this history, the idea that the current leaders of Ukraine are Nazis is not just ludicrous, but – given the fact that the President of Ukraine is Jewish – utterly contemptible.” By this logic, the zionists cannot be identified as fascists because they are jews! Relying on such a facile argument in order to deny the nazification of Ukraine is truly contemptible.
The evidence that Ukraine has become a Nazi state is overwhelming. There has been extensive reporting even from Western mainstream media such as the BBC about this fact. The Oliver Stone documentary Ukraine on Fire is a good source of information for how big the organised Nazi presence is in Ukraine and its role in the 2014 coup. It is no secret that the Nazi Ukrainian state since 2014 has been censoring opposition media, targeting political opposition, removing street names, statues, art, literature and any forms of culture from Ukraine’s socialist past in the Soviet Union. It has also glorified Ukrainian Nazi collaborators such as Stepan Bandera, raising monuments to them and naming streets after them; it has allowed pogroms, desecration of Holocaust memorials and threats to Jews, murders and rapes of opposition protestors (see the Odessa massacre where 42 civilians were burned alive in the trade union building). It has gone further and integrated famously neo-nazi paramilitary groups such as the Azov battalion into the Ukrainian armed forces. Literal swastika tattoo wearing Nazis now occupy high ranking positions in the Ukrainian government, police, army and media.
But where did all these Nazis come from? How did Ukraine become like this? To answer this question we must look at the USA and its role since the Second World War using Nazis to fight the Soviet Union in the cold war. From the CIA documents of project Aerodynamic which date back to 1951, which were declassified in 2007, we can get a sense of how far back this cultivation of Nazis stretches, the purpose of which as stated in the document was:
“… to provide for the exploitation and expansion of the anti-Soviet Ukrainian resistance movement for cold war and hot war purposes. Such groups as the Ukrainian Supreme Council of Liberation (UBVR) and its Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), the Foreign Representation of the Ukrainian Supreme Council of Liberation (ZPUHVR) in Western Europe and the United States, and other organizations such as OUN…”
We now know for a fact that the CIA used the Nazis and their collaborators, not just from Germany but throughout Europe, to continue to attack the Soviet Union throughout the cold war. We also know for a fact that this support for Nazis did not stop in 1990 and is now being used to attack Russia itself. The collective West has become Nazified in its imperialist drive to annihilate Russia, and this should be opposed by every conscious worker in the world. The Russian armed forces have gone about the work of denazification with great thoroughness, and we wish them the best success.