(Slightly abridged translation of the original Turkish document “Normandiya 2004: Emperyalist Demagoji ve Devrimci Gerçeklik”)
27-30 June 2004
D-Day Buffoonery of Imperialists
60th anniversary celebrations of the Normandy landings were accompanied by a new bout of imperialist demagoguery with respect to “war on terrorism” and attempts at suppressing the decisive role the Soviet Union played in the victory against fascism during the Second World War. For instance, while visiting Poitiers on June the 4th, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin expressed his thanks to those who allegedly “liberated France and Europe”. On the other hand, US President George W. Bush spoke in the same vein at the celebrations, where presidents and prime ministers of 20 countries were present. He argued that the US had played a key role in the liberation of France and Europe from Nazi occupation. Comparing the fight against the fascist block with the fight against “terrorism”, and omitting the decisive contribution of peoples of the Soviet Union in this life and death struggle, he added:
“Across Europe, Americans shared the battle with Britains, Canadians, Poles, free French, and brave citizens from other lands taken back one by one from Nazi rule. In the trials and total sacrifice of the war, we became inseparable allies. The nations that battled across the continent would become trusted partners in the cause of peace. And our great alliance of freedom is strong, and it is still needed today.”
US monopoly capital had replaced Hitler fascism in the aftermath of the Second World War and been responsible for countless aggressive wars, massacres and fascist coups d’etat and been the main source of imperialist terrorism and wars. Therefore Bush’s statements represent nothing less than a complete distortion of historical record and an attempt to twist current realities. After the events of 11 September 2001, American brigands further escalated their fight against the workers and peoples of the world, particularly against Arabic and Muslim peoples under the guise of “war on terrorism.” At the same time, they escalated their attempts at strengthening their positions vis-a-vis other imperialist powers, including Western European imperialists. However, anti-imperialist struggle of the workers and peoples of the world, including that of American workers led by the heroic resistance of peoples of Iraq, Colombia, Afghanistan and Palestine deflated the arrogance of American neo-fascists, despite their overwhelming tactical superiority. Further, it encouraged other imperialist powers and laid the way for the strengthening of their cowardly, hypocritical and hesitant opposition to US hegemony.
US imperialists had entered the anti-fascist Second World War, the main burden of which was to be carried by the peoples of the Soviet Union and peoples of other Asian and European countries, belatedly and first of all to protect their imperialist positions against the onslaught, particularly of Japanese militarists; the influence of the American and European anti-fascist public opinion played a very secondary role in this decision as well. Participation in the anti-fascist war did not change the reactionary character of US monopoly capital in the least. Throughout the war US monopolies continued to cooperate with their German counterparts; US armed forces continued to remain strictly segregated along racial lines; the US incarcerated is own citizens of Japanese origin in concentration camps; US forces systematically bombed civilian targets, including schools, hospitals and residential areas and last but not least, the US opened its doors to German and Japanese war criminals towards the end of the conflict etc. Despite all these negative features, though its contribution towards the defeat of the Axis was limited and relatively insignificant, the US objectively played a progressive role in the Second World War. Therefore, it would be incorrect to compare role of the US in the present “war on terrorism” with the role this country played in the Second World War. Indeed the route followed by US imperialists throughout the whole period following the end of the Second World War is similar to the route followed Hitler fascism and Japanese militarism. On the other hand, for decades American politicians and generals have been accustomed to greatly exaggerate their country’s role in the Second World War (and conversely to minimize the role of the Soviet Union) and in this manned have tried to exploit the anti-fascist sentimets and revolutionary memory of workers and peoples of the world and tried to present their imperialist aggression as a continuation of the war against Nazizm. Now we can return to their strivings to distort the historical truth of the Second World War in the context of the Normandy landings.
Decisive Role of the Soviet Union in the Anti-Fascist War
For decades, the imperialist bourgeoisie has been trying to suppress the facts that the Second World Was in essence a Nazi-Soviet war and it was the peoples of the Soviet Union who shouldered the main burden of the war; facts acknowledged by even more or less objective bourgeois historians. Immediately after the formation of an alliance between the US, Britain and the Soviet Union, Stalin had called on Washington and London to open a second front in the West. But the Western “Allies” opened this front only in June 1944, when it became obvious that the Soviet Union was capable of defeating Nazi Germany all by itself. The US and Britain had based their calculations on their expectation of a mutually ruinous war between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany which would allow them to intervene afterwards and impose their imperialist diktat on both. This, of course, was nothing but another version of the pre-1939 infamous “appeasement” policy of Britain and France, who wanted to incite and encourage Nazi Germany to attack the Soviet Union.
It is true that Britain and starting from December 1941 the US fought against the Axis powers in North Africa, Balkans, the Far East and Sicily and Italy. However, from a strategic point of view, these were operations of local character; the decisive battles of the Second World War were being fought between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. For instance, when Wehrmacht launched its Operation Barbarossa on 22 June 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union with a force comprising 153 German and 37 satellite divisions, a huge army which had a clear advantage over the Red Army with regard to firepower, weapons, equipment and experience in warfare.
Though repulsed at the gates of Moscow in December 1941, the invaders launched another attack in May 1942 in which 179 German and 61 satellite divisions took part. This figure rose to 193 German and 73 satellite divisions in June 1942. While the Soviet Union was compelled to deploy siginificant forces in its eastern and southern borders due to the hostile stand of Japan and Turkey, Germany was content with keeping only 30 divisions in the west, since there was no sign of a second front in sight.
For some time, the delay in the opening of a second front continued to benefit Nazi Germany to conduct fresh and even stronger attacks despite the blows it received from the Red Army. So, declaring total mobilization, German High Command massed 257 divisions supported by new and more modern tanks and artillery in the vicinity of Kursk and Belgorod in the summer of 1943. But, the German offensive which began in July 1943 was stopped and repulsed by a more experienced, better led and better equipped Red Army.
However, the efforts of the Red Army and the peoples of the Soviet Union to stop the Nazi wave of aggression and roll it back compelled them to pay a very high price and demanded an enormous sacrifice. According to Andrew Rothstein, the number of Red Army martyrs stood at 4.2 millions on 22 June 1943. At this date, the number of British casualties was only 319,000 (including 92,000 dead) and in October 1943 American causalties stood at 81,000. According to various sources, during the Second World War 13.6 million soldiers and nearly 8 million civilians lost their lives in the Soviet Union. Total (military and civilian) British death toll stood at 332,000 and total American death toll stood at 298,000. Some sources give even higher estimates for the casualties of the Soviet Union.
Peoples of the Soviet Union, the CPSU (=Communist Party of the Soviet Union) and the Red Army faced stupendous difficulties due to the Nazi occupation of economically most advanced regions of their country. The atrocities perpetrated by Nazi hordes led by the Hitler clique, the implacable enemy of socialism and homeland of workers and toilers, against Soviet prisoners of war, captured partisan fighters and the civilian population and the level of destruction they brought about were of unheard of proportions.
“And yet, when the cost of German invasion came to be calculated,” said Andrew Rothstein, “-the enormous number of factories wrecked, nearly half the State farms and machine and tractor stations destroyed, 98,000 out of the 236,000 collective farms wrecked and plundered of all their property, the tens of thousands of railway stations, hospitals, clinics, schools and libraries burned down or blown up, the millions of horses, cattle, ships and pigs killed or driven off by the Germans, 4,700,000 dwelling houses they destroyed in town and country- it was a fearful burden with which the Soviet peoples were left.” (A History of the U.S.S.R., Middlesex, Penguin, 1951, p. 329) “On November 3rd, 1942” he said, “an Extraordinary Commission for the Ascertaining of Nazi Atrocities was established…
“When the Commission presented its final report on German atrocities, on September 13th, 1945, it was as a result of painstaking compilation and sifting of evidence in which over seven million workers, collective farmers, technicians and scientists took part. Apart from the demolitions and destructions already mentioned… it may be noted that the Germans burned down or otherwise demolished 82,000 elementary and secondary schools, over 600 research institutes and several hundred institutions of higher education. They carried off vast quantities of equipment, archives, manuscripts and other property from these and other places of learning. In the schools and public libraries alone they destroyed more than 100 million volumes. They blew up, after stripping bare of all their valuable scientific equipment, the two famous Russian observatories at Pulkovo, near Leningrad, and Simeiz, in the Crimea. Many hundreds of museum and art galleries, and 44,000 theatres and clubs, were destroyed by the Germans. They also looted the former Imperial palaces near Leningrad, and desecrated the Pushkin and Tolstoy museums, at the country seats which had once been the homes of the great writers, using furniture, books and rare manuscripts as fuel. They did the same at the house of the composer Tchaikovsky. Twelth-century churches and monasteries at Novgorod and Chernigov, monuments of ancient Slav architecture before the coming of the Mongols, the world-famous Church of the Assumption at the Kiev monastery built in 1073 and many hundreds of other churches of all Christian denominations, as well as synagogues, were levelled to the ground.” (Ibid, pp. 330-31.)
Alexander Werth, who was in Russia during the war, has narrated the Nazi-Soviet war in his book, Russia at War, 1941-1945. In this book, he pointed out the much more determined stand German troops exhibited in their resistance against the Red Army on the Eastern Front, which contrasted with their weaker or much weaker resistance against US and British forces. Speaking of the Russian offensive, he said:
“The victories of 1944 were spectacular, but very few of them were easy victories. The Germans fought with extreme stubbornness in Poland.., at Ternopol in the Western Ukraine… and, later, in Hungary and Slovakia. German resistance was also particularly fierce in all areas on the direct road to Germany, notably in the areas adjoining East Prussia and, later, in East Prussia itself.
“The Germans were, at last , obviously outnumbered…
“Yet the German tendency to resist the Russian army at any price, and to resist the Western Allies less strongly, became more and more pronounced as the war was moving to its close. The Vistula line opposite Warsaw; Budapest; East Prussia; and, later, the Oder Line were defended more desperately by the Germans than any line or position in the west.” (Russia at War, 1941-1945, Londra, Pan Books, 1964, pp. 688-689)
I believe all these bits of information suffice to show the real dimensions of the Normandy landings, which US and British imperialists implemented towards the end of the Second World War after a long period of hesitation and delay. And they also suffice to show the falsity and hypocrisy of the claims of Washington and London, who try to portray themselves as the real architects of the liberation of Europe from fascist terror and yoke. Further, they betray the endless class hatred of the imperialist bourgeoisie against socialist Soviet Union, the CPSU and Stalin and their strivings to cover their cooperation with fascist powers and their remnants, especially before and in the wake of the Second World War. But there is a current political agenda behind this disinformation campaign as well; this campaign betrays the plans of the US and its close allies, Britain and Israel to tread the path of Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito and impose their fascist and militarist aggression on the workers and peoples of the world.
What was the Situation on the Western Front?
What were the real dimensions of the Normandy landings, which the imperialist propaganda machine has turned into the topic of countless works of fiction and cinema, an operation purportedly has liberated France and Europe from Nazi occupation. Let’s take a look at this aspect of our subject matter.
This landing was implemented with the participation of nearly 176,000 troops under the protection of 9,500 warplanes and 600 savaş warships, which were accompanied by 4,000 other ships and boats and was indeed an impressive operation. However, when the June landings were launched, the end of the war was already in sight; the Nazi war machine was irreparably damaged as a result of the heavy blows of the Red Army and Soviet partisan detachments. But, even at the time of D-Day, the battles and operations on the Western Front were far from being on the same scale as those on the Eastern Front, where the Red Army continued to engage the main force of the Wehrmacht. In June 1944, Nazis had 259 division in the East, while they held the Western Front with only 60 divisions. To comprehend the position of German forces in the West in general and their fighting capacity in particular, I will refer to the testimony of a German commander, Lieutenant General Bodo Zimmerman. General Zimmerman had retired from the German Army in 1920, but was recalled to the General Staff in 1939. He was the Chief Operations Officer to Commander-in-Chief West from 1940 to 1942 and of Army Group D from then until the German surrender.
General Zimmerman refers to the arguments of Field Marshall von Rundstedt, the commander in-chief of German forces on the Western Front, who as early as February 1943, that is 16 months before the expected opening of the Second Front, expressed his deep concerns with regard to the situation in the East. According to Zimmerman, Rundstedt was of the opinion that “the eventual battle against the British and Americans in France could be and, perhaps was being lost on the Eastern Front before ever the Anglo-Saxon armies set foot on the Continent. The men, the guns and the tanks which would be needed to repel the probable invasion were being consumed in the vast holocaust at the other end of Europe.” (Seymour Freidin and William Richardson, The Fatal Decisions, New York, William Sloane Associates, 1956, p. 200) Zimmerman points out that the German forces on the Western Front were positioned to defend a long front stretching from Holland, along the Channel and Biscay coasts, to the Pyrenees, then along the Mediterranean to Toulon and were also responsible with the support of part of the Italian Fourth Army for the front from Toulon to the Italian frontier. Due to the constant transfer of the best and most experienced troops and high quality military equipment to the Eastern Front, the Western Army was entirely insufficient for the task it was assigned to implement. “As a result organizational and tactical dispositions in the West,” says Zimmerman “were a mere patchwork. Commanders, troops and equipment became, quite frankly, second-rate. From 1943 on, the basis of the Western Army consisted of over-age men armed with over-age weapons. Neither the one nor the other were a match, even physically, for the demands of the coming heavy invasion battle.” (Ibid, pp. 201-02)
Zimmerman also exposes the bluff of the Atlantic Wall, which was supposed to stem the tide of the Allied invasion. “To conceal the real weakness of Germany’s western defenses,” he says, “Hitler ordered the building of fortifications along the coast, with greatest intensity along the Channel, during 1942. Gigantic concrete structures sprang up, but of course, it was impossible to complete these strong fortifications everywhere, let alona arm this ‘Atlantic Wall.’ The French Mediterranean coast… was not fortified at all. Owing to supply shortages most of the weapons for the Atlantic Wall, down to mines and even barbed wire, were taken from the old West Wall along the Franco-German frontier.” (Ibid, p. 202)
On the other hand, the Luftwaffe and the German Navy as well, were in no position to pose any threat to the much more superior US and British air and naval forces. According to Zimmerman,
“In the air we anticipated that we would be outnumbered in the ratio of 50 : 1. Our naval forces were, as already stated, virtually non-existent.” (Ibid, p. 210) Another source, Robert Goralski’s World War II Almanac, 1931-1945, states that against the 12,837 planes (of which 10,521 were warplanes) of the Western Allies, the Germans had only 319 planes (of which around 100 were warplanes), whereas against the almost non-existent German Navy, the Allies had mustered a gigantic fleet consisting of 6 battleships, 23 cruisers, 122 destroyers, 360 PT boats and hundreds of small combat crafts.
Unmatched superiority of US and British forces on the Western Front forbade all large-scale movements of German forces right from the start of the Normandy landings; this imbalance of forces made it extremey difficult for the Germans to conduct reconnaissance, to maneuver, to provide munitions and food to the trooops who were heavily engaged and even to withdraw their forces, especially during daylight. To summarize, we might say that the Normandy landings, lauded by Elisabeth II, the British Queen during the 60. anniversary celebrations as “one of the most dramatic military operations in history” were realized under extremely unfavorable conditions for the Germans and at a moment when the Red Army had greatly damaged the Wehrmacht.
But, that is not all. Merely 16 days after the Normandy landings, that is on 22 June 1944, the Red Army began a much bigger operation against the German Army Group Center and at the end of two month-long intensive battles repulsed fascist invaders to the approaches to Warsaw in the north and those of Carpathian mountains in the south. Throughout June Soviet partisan brigades, comprising Jewish fighters and former concentration camp internees carried out sabotages against German military targets and planted tens of thousands of demolition charges to sever communication lines of the German Army Group Center with its bases in Poland and Eastern Prussia. On the third anniversary of the start of the aggression of Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union, the Red Army launched its Operation Bagration attacking the fascist invaders along an 800 kilometer line. In the pitched battles that raged until August 1944, a total of 4 million soldiers, 7,500 tanks and 7,000 warplanes were involved from both sides. As a result of Operation Bagration, which forced the German High Command to transfer its limited elite formations from Western theater engaging American and British forces, Belorussia and Eastern Poland were liberated. Notwithstanding the fact that Operation Bagration was much bigger than the Normandy landings and had dealt much heavier blows at the Wehrmacht, it is almost unknown in the West. In his article titled “Saving Private Ivan”, Mike Davis stressed the significance of Operation Bagration. He also pointed out the democratic and internationalist character of the Red Army in contrast to its racially segregated American and British counterparts, reminded the presence of various high ranking generals of non-Russian origin, such as Chernyakovskii (a Jew), Bagramyan (an Armenian) and Rokossovskii (a Pole) in the Red Army and called for an acknowledgement of the gigantic selflessness of Soviet soldiers. He said:
“Thank Ivan. It does not disparage the brave men who died in the North African desert or the cold forests around Bastogne to recall that 70% of the Wehrmacht is buried not in French fields but on the Russian steppes. In the struggle against Nazism, approximately 40 ‘Ivans’ died for every ‘Private Ryan’. Scholars now believe that as many as 27 million Soviet soldiers and citizens perished in the second world war.
“Yet the ordinary Soviet soldier – the tractor mechanic from Samara, the actor from Orel, the miner from the Donetsk, or the high-school girl from Leningrad – is invisible in the current celebration and mythologisation of the ‘greatest generation.’ ”
In the wake of the Normandy landings of 6 June 1944, US and British troops had, a as a result of a series of battles lasting till the end of August, had driven the German forces out of France with the support of French partisans and De Gaulle’s Free French forces and then entered Belgium and later Holland. But they were forced to appeal for the help of the Red Army, when the Germans launched a counter-offensive in the Ardennes region of Belgium in December 1944. I will demonstrate this through the testimony of a very “trustworthy” witness, Mr. Winston Churchill. Churchill is known to have mobilized the British government and other imperialist powers to strangle the young Soviet Republic in its cradle in 1918 and to have provided support for the Russian White Guards for this purpose; he also is known -together with US President Harry Truman- to have played a key role in the launching of the “Cold War” in the wake of the Second World War and again a decisive role in the suppression of the Greek revolutionary movement led by the Greek Communist Party in 1946-49. He was and remained to the end of his life one of the foremost enemies of the working class, revolution and communism. However, he had not hesitated to forge an alliance with the Soviet Union during the Second World War to protect the interests of the British Empire. Therefore, his words with regard to the performance and stand of Stalin and the Red Army during those hot days of the war shall be instructive. In the aftermath of the German offensive of December 1944, Churchill sent a message to Stalin on 6 January 1945.
“The battle in the West is very heavy,” said Churchill, “and, at any time, large decisions may be called for from the Supreme Command. You know yourself from your own experience how very anxious the position is when a very broad front has to be defended after temporary loss of the initiative. It is General Eisonhower’s great desire and need to know in outline what you plan to do, as this obviously affects all his and our major decisions… I shall be grateful if you can tell me whether we can count on a major Russian offensive on the Vistula front, or elsewhere, during January, with any other points you may care to mention… I regard this matter urgent.” (Correspondence Between the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R. and the Presidents of the U.S.A. and the Prime Ministers of Great Britain During the Great Patriotic War, Moscow, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1957, Volume 1, p. 294)
Stalin responded to Churchill’s message on 7 January 1945. “It is extremely important to take advantage of our superiority over the Germans in guns and aircraft,” he said. “What we need for the purpose is clear flying air and the absence of low mists that prevent aimed artillery fire. We are mounting an offensive, but at the moment the weather is unfavorable. Still, in view of our Allies’ position on the Western Front, GHQ of the Supreme Command have decided to complete preparations at a rapid rate, and, regardless of weather to launch large-scale offensive operations along the entire Central Front not later than the second half of January. Rest assured we shall do all in our power to support the valiant forces of our Allies.” (Ibid, pp. 294-95)
Gladdened by Stalin’s response, Churchill sent a second message to him on 9 January 1945. “I am most grateful to you for your thrilling message,” said Churchill. “I have sent it over to General Eisenhower for his eye only. May all good fortune rest upon your noble venture…
“The news you give me will be a great encouragement to General Eisenhower because it gives him the assurance that German reinforcements will have to be split between both our flaming fronts.” (Ibid, p. 295)
Following the start of the Red Army offensive Churchil sent another message to Stalin on 17 January, where he expressed his satisfaction. “On behalf of His Majesty’s Government, and from the bottom of my heart,” said Churchill, “I offer you our thanks and congratulations on the immense assault you have launched upon the Eastern Front.” (Ibid, p. 300)
The Red Army began its offensive on 12 January 1945, that is a couple of days before the date mentioned by Stalin and once more routed the German forces and thus relieved the pressure on US-British forces. In his Order of the Day, No. 5, announced on February 23rd, 1945, Stalin made the following assessment about the operation:
“In January of this year, the Red Army brought down upon the enemy a blow of unparalleled force along the entire front from the Baltic to the Carpathians. On a stretch of 1,200 kilometres (750 miles), it broke up the powerful defences of the Germans which they had been building for a number of years. In the course of the offensive the Red Army by its swift and skilful actions has hurled the enemy far back to the west.
“The first consequences of the successes of our winter offensive was that they thwarted the Germans’ winter offensive in the west, which aimed at the seizure of Belgium and Alsace, and enabled the armies of our Allies in their turn to launch an offensive against the Germans and thus link up their offensive operations in the west with the offensive operations of the Red Army in the east.” (Stalin, Works 16, Moscow, Foreign Languages Publishing House, p. 18)
To be able to avert the repetition of the tragic experience of history, all workers, toilers and progressive intellectuals have to learn the lessons of the Second World War and its aftermath and draw the necessary conclusions from them. Today, the German-Italian-Japanese Axis, that is the fascist bloc of the Second World War has been replaced by the “axis of evil” comprising the US and its British and Israeli partners. They have been threatening the whole toiling humanity with imperialist state terror and neo-fascist slavery, through the Fourth World War they allege to have launched: “You either will capitulate or die!” Working classes and other toilers are duty bound to neutralize this threat and repulse this attack, which is being implemented in Palestine, Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq and elsewhere. The present intensive and uninterrupted disinformation and black propaganda campaign organized by US imperialists striving to make the next hundred years an “American century”, is an organic part of the this campaign of imperialist terror and war. Prevention of a repetition of the imperialist aggression of the 1930s and 1940s on an even larger scale and of massacres of genocidal dimensions shall be possible only through the assimilation of the lessons of history and the overthrow of the capitalist-imperialist system. Yes, we workers, other exploited toilers and progressive intellectuals should “thank Ivans” for the supreme sacrifices they have made. And we should stand against US imperialist terrorists and their British and Israeli allies who have begun to convert the world into a hell and march along the route blazed by Ivans led by Stalin and the CPSU, along the road blazed by the Red Army, to carry on the struggle against fascism and imperialism to its logical conclusion and crown this struggle with the founding of a classless society. That is the only way out for the toiling humanity.