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Chauvinist propaganda marks ‘V-E Day’ events
U.S. rulers use it to rationalize imperialist wars today
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Separating myth from reality about the causes and outcome of World War II
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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 69/No. 20May 23, 2005


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lead article
Chauvinist propaganda marks ‘V-E Day’ events
U.S. rulers use it to rationalize imperialist wars today
Cartoon published on front page of Aug. 18, 1945, Militant with banner headline “There Is No Peace!” upon end of World War II.

Waving the bloody shirt of “the victory of democracy over fascism” in 1945, U.S. president George Bush completed a five-day trip to Europe May 10. Bush joined celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the so-called Victory in Europe Day in World War II. That’s when the U.S. armed forces and the rest of the Allied imperialist powers defeated the Axis bloc of competing imperialists in Germany. (For an explanation of the historical background see feature article.) Washington and its allies used Bush’s tour and the surrounding events to crank up chauvinist propaganda in an attempt to rationalize recent imperialist assaults on Iraq and Afghanistan and prepare for future wars.

The trip included stops in the Netherlands, Russia, Latvia, and Georgia. Visits to the latter two became a source of conflict with the government of Russia, which also used the events to falsify history.

In a May 8 ceremony by a cemetery for some 8,300 U.S. soldiers who died in World War II and are buried in Margraten, Netherlands, Bush sought to tie the U.S. rulers’ victory over their imperialist rivals in the second world war to Washington’s current foreign policy and military plans carried out under the banner of promoting “democracy.”

“We commemorate a great victory for liberty,” said Bush. “The world’s tyrants learned a lesson—there is no power like the power of freedom and no soldier is as strong as the soldier that fights for freedom. The free and peaceful world that we hope to leave to our own children is inspired by their example.” As he spoke, some 3,000 Dutch troops patrolled the area, while NATO surveillance aircraft monitored it from above.

Bush began his trip with a two-day stop in the former Soviet republic of Latvia, where President Vaira Vike-Freiberga awarded the U.S. president the country’s “Three-Star Order” medal, calling him a “signal fighter for freedom and democracy in the world.”

Several days earlier, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov had sent a formal letter of protest to U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice objecting to Bush’s plan to visit Latvia and Georgia.

In remarks presented in Riga, Latvia’s capital, Bush hailed the role played by Washington in backing the ouster of the pro-Moscow government in the former Soviet republics of Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, and their replacement with ones backing stronger ties with the U.S. government. “The idea of countries helping others become free, I hope that would be viewed as not revolutionary but rational foreign policy, as decent foreign policy,” said Bush.

On May 7 Bush held a news conference in Riga together with the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, the three former Soviet Baltic republics, all of which had joined the European Union and NATO a year ago. Bush said “free and open and fair” elections should also take place in the Russian republic of Belarus. The government of Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus’s president, is often described in the capitalist media as “the last dictatorship in Europe.” Russian president Putin has backed Lukashenko’s regime.

A report filed from Riga by the Associated Press described the staged character of Bush’s visit. “Though the official welcome to Bush was warm and the select crowds at his appearance enthusiastically waved American flags alongside Latvian ones, much of this picturesque capital was locked down for Bush’s visit,” AP reported. “Shops and restaurants were shuttered and, since the government recommended that residents leave town, the winding cobblestone streets were virtually empty of people.”

The governments of Lithuania and Estonia boycotted the celebration in Moscow after Putin refused to condemn the occupation of the republics by the Stalinist government of the Soviet Union. The president of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili, also declined to attend in a dispute over the continued presence of a Russian military base in that republic.

In August 1939, Soviet premier Joseph Stalin signed a nonaggression pact with the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler, dividing up Poland and giving Moscow control over Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. In the following months the three Baltic countries were forced to accept the presence of Soviet bases, leading to their total occupation in mid-1940. Shortly thereafter, they were annexed to the Soviet Union. During World War II, German forces overran and occupied the three republics, until Soviet troops recaptured them toward the end of the war.

An article entitled, “The Second World War is still being fought,” by Adam Krzeminski, editor of the Polish magazine Polityka, first published in the March 23 issue of the magazine, reflected the differing attitudes toward the causes and outcome of World War II among governments in Europe. “To all intents and purposes there were as many Second World Wars as there were nations,” Krzeminski said.

“Apart from that, among the truly victorious powers, only Great Britain and the USA did not change front during the war, which does not mean they did not change their attitudes to Poland. Moreover, with the exception of Poland most of the countries involved in the war actually changed sides, above all France, which under the Vichy governments withdrew from the war, considerably augmenting German military capability. Until 1941 the USSR was allied to the Third Reich; to some point so were Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Romania, and Finland.”

In a May 9 military parade in Moscow to celebrate the Allied victory in World War II, Bush joined 57 government officials. These included Putin, German chancellor Gerhard Schr÷der, French president Jacques Chirac, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, Japan’s premier Junichiro Koizumi, and China’s president Hu Jintao.

Some 27 million people died in the Soviet Union during the second world war. Workers and peasants there made enormous sacrifices in beating back German imperialism’s invading armies, which aimed to overturn the only workers state in existence at the time and reestablish capitalism in the Soviet Union. As the featured article in the center spread explains, the toll was magnified because of the policies of Stalin’s government, including Moscow’s decapitation of the Red Army command and the demobilizing consequences of the Stalin-Hitler pact.

In his remarks, Putin tied “V-E Day” to the U.S.-led “war on terrorism” today. “Faced with the real threat of terrorism today, we must therefore remain faithful to the memory of our fathers,” he said. “It is our duty to defend a world order based on security and justice and on a new culture of relations among nations that will not allow a repeat of any war.”

The Moscow event was largely staged for the media and invited guests. Some “veterans desperate to join the parade were turned down by security guards,” said the Associated Press. “I was badly wounded in battle fighting for the Soviet motherland. Don’t I have the right to be here?” Pyotr Komarov, 79, told an AP reporter.

The following day, Bush addressed tens of thousands of people in Tbilisi, Georgia, in the first visit by a U.S. president to this former Soviet republic. Bush praised the Georgian government for sending troops for the U.S.-led occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, vowed to help Georgia attain NATO membership, and opposed the Moscow-backed drive by South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions for independence.

“When the Afghan people defied terrorists to vote in that nation’s first free presidential elections, Georgian soldiers were there to provide security. And last year…you increased your troop commitment in Iraq fivefold,” Bush said. “We encourage your closer cooperation with NATO,” he added. “At the same time, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia must be respected.”

Georgia is located between the Black Sea, and Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey. This gives it “strategic importance far beyond its size,” notes the State Department’s web site. It is directly on the route of a U.S.-backed pipeline linking Caspian Sea oilfields to world markets.

Meanwhile, as Washington and its allies celebrated “V-E Day,” the government of Algeria pointed out that Paris killed tens of thousands of Algerians who were demanding independence at the end of World War II. In a May 7 speech, Algeria’s president Abdelaziz Bouteflika asked the French government to admit its role in massacring 45,000 Algerians who took to the streets on May 8, 1945, to demand independence from France, reported Reuters.

“When the heroic Algerian combatants returned from the fronts in Europe, Africa, and elsewhere,” said Bouteflika, “the French administration fired on peaceful demonstrators.” At the time French colonial forces mounted air and ground attacks against protesters in several Algerian cities, particularly SÚtif and Guelma.

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