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Editorial: Rewriting the history of World War II has a sinister purpose

THE anger expressed this weekend by relatives of the International Brigaders and by crowds in Rome over the European Parliament’s bid to rewrite the history of the second world war is more than justified.

This travesty must be challenged wherever it raises its ugly head.

Attempts to equate communism with nazism as “totalitarian” ideologies are old hat. They began shortly after the second world war, as the propaganda machines of the US and British establishments mounted a campaign to convince populations who had known the Soviet people as allies in the fight against Hitler’s Germany that their friends in that conflict were now sworn enemies.

Western governments could not openly rehabilitate the nazis or their allies before the eyes of a world euphoric at victory, aghast as details of the Holocaust became clear and hoping that the establishment of the United Nations and adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would usher in a more peaceful and civilised age.

Unofficially, the anti-communist drive immediately co-opted fascist forces. In Asia, that meant employing the just-defeated Japanese army to put down anti-colonial movements. In West Germany, it meant whitewashing the records of hundreds of nazi officials. In one notorious case, Adolf Heusinger, who actually served as chief of the general staff of Hitler’s armies in 1944 — at the height of the Holocaust — went on to head first the West German military and after that Nato itself.

That history is pertinent because the falsified narrative that nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were jointly responsible for World War II is not designed to oppose the politics of nazism, let alone of fascism, which is not even mentioned in the European Parliament’s resolution (presumably because influential European politicians such as Matteo Salvini, an open fan of fascist dictator Mussolini, or Viktor Orban, who combines a revanchist policy claiming large parts of Romanian territory as rightfully Hungarian with a soft spot for his country’s 1930s fascist tyrant Admiral Horthy and a revolting dose of anti-semitism, would object).

These resolutions are explicitly anti-communist. They have not been deployed against the Waffen SS veterans who parade through Latvia each year.

Still less has the law banning “totalitarian” symbols in Ukraine been used to challenge the nazi ideology or Hitler worship of the Azov and Aidan paramilitary battalions deployed by Kiev against anti-fascist resistance forces in the east. 

It has been used to ban newspapers for quoting Marx, to bar the Communist Party from contesting elections and it runs alongside official hero-worship of nazi collaborators such as Stepan Bandera, whose Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) killed hundreds of thousands of Jews and Poles. It is now illegal in Ukraine to fail to portray the genocidal OUN positively — so much for the law’s opposition to “totalitarianism.”

Blaming the Soviet Union alongside nazi Germany for World War II is historical nonsense that ignores the rise of fascism and repeated attempts by the Soviets to convince Britain and France to join an alliance against it — attempts rebuffed repeatedly until, after London and Paris’s betrayal of Czechoslovakia at Munich, Moscow sought a non-aggression treaty with Germany to buy itself time before invasion.

It is an insult to the liberators of Auschwitz and other death camps, to tens of millions of Soviet citizens who gave their lives to defeat nazi Germany — in Winston Churchill’s words, “the Red Army tore the guts out of the nazi war machine” — and to communist partisans and liberation fighters who led underground resistance in France, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Greece and other countries — even in the Channel Islands.

And it is a dangerous lie because its purpose is to delegitimise the socialist left and to make respectable a racist and fascist politics that is on the rise across the EU.

Labour should be ashamed that many of its MEPs voted for this appalling motion. They, and everyone else responsible, must be held to account.

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