Another Russophile is Disgusted by Russia

Writing in the New York Times, not even rabid Russophile Anatol Lieven, a professor in the War Studies Department of King’s College London and a senior fellow of the New America Foundation, can contain his disgust at the barbaric dishonesty and ignorance of the people of Russia where their own history is concerned.  Russia again and again proves itself totally unable to do what other civilized nations can readily and even proudly do, take responsbility for their past mistakes and work to improve.  Instead, Russia wallows in childish denial, always pointing a finger at other and never, never at itself.  This is why Russia lags so far behind the rest of the world in development and why it seems doomed always to do so.  It’s quite true that other nations made deals with Hitler. What they didn’t do, however, is to attempt to share in Hitler’s illicit gains from imperlist aggression, nor did they make heros out of the men who made the deals, as Russia has done.

The Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, apologized this month for Poland’s role in Hitler’s partition of Czechoslovakia, stating that, “Poland’s participation in the annexation of Czechoslovakia in 1938 was not only an error, but above all a sin.” He should have added that this built on an earlier criminal error, that of Poland’s nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany in 1934, which effectively demolished France’s alliance system in Eastern Europe, and made it much harder to prevent Nazi Germany’s expansion in the mid-1930s.

As for Britain and France, there have been frequent public acknowledgments of the obvious fact that not merely did they not fight for Czechoslovakia in 1938, but that although they declared war on Germany when Hitler attacked Poland in September 1939, they did virtually nothing to help Poland militarily. Allied action on the Western front during Hitler’s conquest of Poland was derisory. In Britain’s case it could not have been anything else, since at that stage Britain had only three divisions fully equipped and prepared to fight on the Continent.

This leads to the question: If Stalin had declared war or risked war with Germany in 1939, and Hitler had extended his attack on Poland to an invasion of the Soviet Union, what would Britain and France have done to help? The answer is blindingly obvious: Just what they did to help Poland — nothing. As for the United States, its own absence in 1939 does not allow its representatives any right to take any position on these issues. Mr. Putin and other Russian representatives are perfectly entitled to point this out.

In the Polish-Russian dispute over what happened in 1939, rival myth-making is being driven by domestic political calculations on both sides. Polish right-wing politicians including the present president have used the memory of 1939 and the alleged continuity of Soviet and Russian policy to whip up nationalist feelings and bolster their support. In Russia, the Putin-Medvedev administration also has mobilized Russian nationalism and has avoided condemnation of many Soviet crimes, since it itself is largely based on institutions inherited from the Soviet Union, including the security services.

Viewed from one angle, the Polish side is more to blame for this unnecessary dispute. Russian governments have long since apologized both for the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the Katyn massacre. As for the idea of moral equivalence between the history of Nazi Germany and of the Soviet Union as a whole, that should have been laid to rest by the way in which the Soviet Union withdrew peacefully from Eastern Europe after 1989, and then imploded itself — remarkably peacefully for such a huge state. This is not something that one can imagine Nazi Germany doing.

Furthermore, it does need to be acknowledged that while Soviet victory in World War II imposed a dreadful Communist system on Poland, it also saved Poland from what would have been its infinitely more ghastly fate under Nazi rule — which we know from Hitler’s plans for the systematic destruction of the Poles as a national community.

However, viewed from another angle, the Russian government is more to blame in this dispute, because of its wider failure to address adequately the history of Soviet crimes. The fact that many of the foreign governments demanding this have completely failed to address the historical crimes of their own countries is a partial excuse for this but not an adequate one.

The Russian government owes it not just to foreign countries but to the Russian people themselves to examine and discuss these crimes, since (quite unlike in the case of the Nazis) such a high proportion of Stalin’s victims were ethnic Russians or inhabitants of what is now the Russian Federation. This is the crux of what I take to be a fair judgment on the present dispute over 1939. It is that Vladimir Putin is basically correct in his judgment on the strategic calculations of that year, but badly at fault in his judgment of the political systems of the time.

The Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, apologized this month for Poland’s role in Hitler’s partition of Czechoslovakia, stating that, “Poland’s participation in the annexation of Czechoslovakia in 1938 was not only an error, but above all a sin.” He should have added that this built on an earlier criminal error, that of Poland’s nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany in 1934, which effectively demolished France’s alliance system in Eastern Europe, and made it much harder to prevent Nazi Germany’s expansion in the mid-1930s.

As for Britain and France, there have been frequent public acknowledgments of the obvious fact that not merely did they not fight for Czechoslovakia in 1938, but that although they declared war on Germany when Hitler attacked Poland in September 1939, they did virtually nothing to help Poland militarily. Allied action on the Western front during Hitler’s conquest of Poland was derisory. In Britain’s case it could not have been anything else, since at that stage Britain had only three divisions fully equipped and prepared to fight on the Continent.

This leads to the question: If Stalin had declared war or risked war with Germany in 1939, and Hitler had extended his attack on Poland to an invasion of the Soviet Union, what would Britain and France have done to help? The answer is blindingly obvious: Just what they did to help Poland — nothing. As for the United States, its own absence in 1939 does not allow its representatives any right to take any position on these issues. Mr. Putin and other Russian representatives are perfectly entitled to point this out.

In the case of a Soviet-German war in 1939, an additional factor would have been at play, which was the openly expressed desire of some conservative circles in both Britain and France for a war between Nazism and Communism that would destroy both.

So from the point of view of strategic calculation, Stalin’s actions in turning the tables on Britain and France were quite understandable, and would have been followed by most countries in the same circumstances. The same goes for the moves to increase Moscow’s strategic depth by the military occupation of eastern Poland and the Baltic States.

So far, so realistic. However, What Mr. Putin and other Russian representatives have not fully acknowledged and perhaps do not even fully understand is that while many regimes would have followed Stalin’s strategic actions in 1939, very few would have committed the monstrous crimes that accompanied those actions: the mass murder of Polish prisoners of war; the murder of sections of the ruling class and intelligentsia in the territories Stalin annexed; and the deportation and in many cases death by starvation and disease of hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens. If these were not crimes on the scale of the Nazi Holocaust, they were nonetheless monstrous crimes, which followed on even more monstrous crimes committed against inhabitants of the Soviet Union.

Poles and others should drop the suggestion that the Soviet Union was the moral equivalent of Nazi Germany, and that contemporary Russia should acknowledge this. It is appallingly offensive to all Russians, and especially the vast number whose own families suffered terribly under Stalin.  [LR:  Note well, dear reader, that this Russophile bastard doesn’t even try to deny that the Polish assertion is correct, he merely claims Poles should lie to Russians in order to avoid offending their childish egos and prevent them from going berzerk like barbaric dogs] This approach virtually ensures a continuation of hostility between the Polish and Russian peoples, which every responsible leader should seek to diminish. Equally, Russians themselves, and everyone who has Russian interests at heart, should demand from the Russian government a much more searching public examination of the crimes of the Soviet Union against its own people and others

19 responses to “Another Russophile is Disgusted by Russia

  1. This part shows a certain typical level of ignorance of a few facts and needs correcting –

    ‘…..He should have added that this built on an earlier criminal error, that of Poland’s nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany in 1934, which effectively demolished France’s alliance system in Eastern Europe, and made it much harder to prevent Nazi Germany’s expansion in the mid-1930s.’

    The only military alliance Poland had between the wars was with France (a historic ally) and Romania prior to 1939 ie the addition of Britain.

    When the Nazis re-militarised the Rhineland in direct contravention of the Versaille Treaty Poland advised France that it would support fully any military intervention it chose to make in response to this. At this time Nazi Germany was militarily weak and the Nazis domestic political position was not consolidated.

    The French chose not to act, partially because Britain declined to support them. This gave the Poles the impression that they could not rely on French support in the event of an attack on Poland; a prescient judgement given that was precisely the case in September 1939.

    This directly led Poland signing the non-aggression pact with Nazi-Germany. It wasn’t an alliance, nor did it have secret codiciles in it in total comparison with Ribbentrop Pact.

    Poland also signed an identical pact with the Soviet Union the following year.

    Without the support and any reliable guarantees of militray assistance Poland had little option to attempt to avoid conflict with the growing menace of it’s two totalitarian neighbours between which it was sandwiched.

    Twice in the 1930’s Nazi Germany appraoched Poland to convert this to a full alliance and on both occasions it was flatly rejected. The Nazis offer being that Poland should (a) allow free transit of german troops and equpment through the Polish Corridor to East Prussia (b) participate in a future war vs Soviet Russia for which it would be rewarded with territory in the Soviet Ukraine and receive a guarantee of it’s territorial integrity.

    In refusiing this offer it made the right moral choice and in addition honoured the non-aggresson pact with the Soviet Union.

    The second of these refusals led directly to Hitler tearing up the non-aggression pact in late 1938 and Nazi Germany’s sights were then focuse on Poland.

    Hence there is a total contrast with the behaviour of the Soviet Union here that signed the M-R Pact with it’s secret codicles bi-partitioning Poland. It invaded Poland on the 17 September 17 1939. Hence it broke it’s non-agresson pact which was still in force and had another 10 years to run.

    The Soviets held a joint victory parade with the Nazis in October in Brescz, and their occupation policy in Eastern Poland wasn’t far removed from the Nazis in the West. The body count of those murdered in this period was similar (the Soviets just being a bit more multicultural in their choice of victims) and both were intent on the destruction of Poland as a nation state.

    ‘LR: Note well, dear reader, that this Russophile bastard doesn’t even try to deny that the Polish assertion is correct, he merely claims Poles should lie to Russians in order to avoid offending their childish egos and prevent them from going berzerk like barbaric dogs’

    Correct and well said La Russophobe. The fact that it is equally offensive that Russians can’t acknowledge that the R-M pact led to (and facilated) the murder of 6 million Poles (50% Jewish & 50% Catholic) and c1 million at the hands of the Soviets 1939-41 and a further 60000+ during the brutal Sovietisationof Poland post 1945 doesn’t even register with this weasel.

    As Merkel said no country suffered as much as Poland, it is the country that endured (and resisted) Nazi occupaton the longest, suffered the highest % loss of it’s population during WW2 in Europe (23%) and suffered the most infrastructure damage of any nation.

    To add to that (in spite of it’s considerable contribution to the allied war effort during the entire duration of WW2 ie Enigma, 4th largest army, etc etc) it was handed over on a platter at Yalta and Tehran to one of the two totalitarian countrys that invaded it in 1939. Which resulted in furthe rmisery for its popul;ace for another 45 years until 1990.

    So if this upsets Russians tough, if they want to wallow in Soviet Nostalgia (ie victory over Nazi Germany & becoming a superpower) they also need to fully face up to the numerous and substantial crimes (eg killed even more people than Hitler) of the Soviet Union.

    In addition every family lost at least one member of their family during the war (random executions, concentration camps etc) a not insubstantial number of those at the hands of the Soviets hands to. So these people’s feeling are not to be considered and should keep quiet about the historic truth and reality so as to not offend Russia sensibilities.

    In all mature democracies (worthy of that name) with an estblished civil society and freedom of speech and publication we openly acknowledge and discuss things that our respective nations have done in the past, the bad and the good. The rights and wrongs of these are penly debated as they should be and we aware of them.

    Russia that is not a democracy and has next to no semblance of a civil society doesn’t. Which is why, unlike Germany for example, it is not trusted and illicits antipathy from its immediate neighbours.

    Hence the author is correct initially in stating that Russia wallows in childish denial, but then contradicts himself in concluding that Russia should stay in ignorant denial (so as not to offend Russians), What an idiot!

    • @the murder of 6 million Poles (50% Jewish & 50% Catholic)

      Actually, no one knows how many people exactly died in Poland (or in the Soviet Union for that matter). It’s only a rough estimate.

      Also, even how to count the victims in the first place? What about all of Polish pre-war citiziens who were not Jewish and not Catholic, like for example the millions of Ukrainians and Belarusians? And what about the Ukrainian nationalists (killing Poles and being killed by Poles), or should we include the Volksdeutsche Germans? And so on.

  2. I actually don’t disagree as much with the author of that piece as you people do. I agree that Russia is in denial of the crimes committed by the Red Army and by Stalin during WWII in Eastern Europe; this is obvious. But I think that the correct interpretation of pre-war events, from, say, 1933 (when Hitler became Reichskanzler) to 1939, is debatable. The author of the piece has a point in suggesting that any country in the situation of the USSR would probably come to the conclusion that (a) France and England would basically do nothing to help in the event of a German invasion, and (b) that occupying Eastern Europe would give them more space with which to protect themselves from the eventuality (after 1938, I’d say certainty) of a German attack.

    On the crimes, in general, I tend to agree with you. It is obvious that the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact led to the deaths of millions of Poles, and if Russia doesn’t want to see the role she played in this, than it’s simply denial. But I wouldn’t back off so quickly from the argument that, indeed, millions of dead Poles is still less than what Hitler wanted to do to Poland — his plans went way beyond that. All in all, and hasting to add that what happened to Poland was a catastrophe, still it seems it was better than what would have happened should the USSR have been defeated by Hitler. (The same goes for the Baltics; Hitler’s plans for the Reichskommissariat Ostland were worse than what the USSR did there — which is not to say that the USSR was “nice” to the Baltic states…)

  3. Agree with your post Ashepe with two caveats.

    ‘that occupying Eastern Europe would give them more space with which to protect themselves from the eventuality (after 1938, I’d say certainty) of a German attack’

    That may be, but that was also the excuse the Soviets gave to the West to explain it’s actions (when the secret codiciles of the R-M Pact were not known)

    Also this suggests that this action was far from defensive in intent –

    Stalin’s bid for a new world order
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8218887.stm

    As does this –

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1111249.html

    ‘….Between 1939 and 1941, the Soviet Union did almost nothing to protect its western border, including the areas of Poland it had annexed, and that is why the 1941 Nazi attack destroyed the Soviet defenses. Until the day of the invasion, the Soviet Union continued to supply the Nazi war machine with raw materials while France and England fought for their lives. Stalin dismissed the repeated intelligence warnings that Hitler was planning to attack the Soviet Union. Not only that, the Soviets murdered thousands of captured Polish officers in the Katyn forest and handed the Gestapo dozens of German communist refugees, many of them Jewish, who had fled to the “socialist motherland.” ….’

  4. Bogdan of Australia

    And one more observation: In 1934 when Poland signed a non-agression pact with Germany, Hitler’s Third Reich was still regarded as a relatively benign and not particularily opressive dictatorship in comparison with the Soviet Union whose crimes were widely known to anyone who wanted to know.

    Even today we are accepting as partners in various dealings many regimes who are much more barbaric and opressive than Hitler’sThird Reich was in 1934 (Iran, North Korea, China, Syria, Burma, Zimbabve an so on and on…)

    It is a very cheap shot to condemn Poland, the country that has just managed to raise from ashes of 130 years of occupation when one looks at that from the perspective of 70-80 years.

    Doing everything that country could to ensure her own survival, Poland still refused to sink to the level of barbarity and debauchery Germany and especially Soviet Union did.

    • …and then Poland resisted the Hitler’s and Goering’s attempts of 1935-36 to get them into their anti-Soviet alliance (first realized in the Anti-Comintern Pact of 1936).

      They also tried to include China (which had close ties to both Germany and the USSR, but feared the expansion of communism), but the Sino-Japanese war in ’37 made it impossible.

    • From Publishers Weekly
      Journalist Lieven (The Baltic Revolution) offers something of a three-course menu in his latest book. The first is a commanding eyewitness account of the recent Chechen war and the personalities and power maneuvers surrounding it, followed by his analysis of the breakdown of the Russian military and, indeed, of the entire Russian political structure after the Soviet Union’s collapse. Third is a condensed history of the Chechen (and North Caucasus) region-its people, culture and attitudes, concluding with the author’s prognoses. As his subtitle might suggest, Lieven’s emphasis is on issues of Russian power-Chechnya’s strategic and symbolic significance, the breakdown of legitimacy, mismanagement and pervasive corruption within the Russian state, from Yeltsin down, which destroyed public and military morale. Russian troops who survived by theft while fighting a guerrilla war they had no training for ended up asking why they were fighting outside Russia, risking death without pay, only to inflate remote political egos and fortunes. Lieven shows enormous respect for the Chechens, whose memory of Stalin’s mass deportations between 1944 and 1958 galvanized their resolve to be free. Although helpful to understanding Russia and Chechnya today and rich in firsthand information, the work’s three main themes remain unsatisfactorily integrated, while Lieven’s indictment of post-Soviet Russia begs for a larger work, with Chechnya as one telling chapter.
      Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

  5. @It’s quite true that other nations made deals with Hitler.

    It’s quite true that other nations do deals with Putin.

  6. @Poland’s participation in the annexation of Czechoslovakia in 1938

    Btw, the pre-war Poland formed a Chechoslovak Legion from these of Czechs and Slovaks who had fled the German occupation… and later the pilots of this Legion were captured by the invading Soviets.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czechoslovak_Legion_%281939%29

    That’s to compare with the slave labour and mass murder of Polish soldiers (“there’s no Poland anymore”, not even treated as POWs but as “enemies of the Soviet power” and executed as such) by the Soviets 1939-41… some of them actually survived only because they were given to the Germans!

    And the Soviets even exterminated most of the Polish Communist Party!

  7. @As for the idea of moral equivalence between the history of Nazi Germany and of the Soviet Union as a whole, that should have been laid to rest by the way in which the Soviet Union withdrew peacefully from Eastern Europe after 1989, and then imploded itself — remarkably peacefully for such a huge state. This is not something that one can imagine Nazi Germany doing.

    It’s actually a pretty common theme in the “nazi-fiction” genre (a long-term scenario). For example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Presence_of_Mine_Enemies

  8. @”this Russophile bastard”

    OK, maybe again:

    Lieven takes the Russian defeat in Chechnya as symptomatic of the great failure of the Russian state and society as well as of the weakness of modern Russian national identity. He calls the clash “epochal in its implications between two utterly different nations” (p. 4): “It is rather as if the entire Vietnam war had been restricted to the province of Hue—and the Americans had still been beaten” (p. 5). Although it is much easier now to speak of the bankruptcy of Russian reform, Lieven wrote this book before the collapse, and in my opinion was right on target in emphasizing the importance of the Chechen war for what it told us about Russia. Few policy makers and political scientists understood the magnitude and the implications of the Russian defeat as well as Lieven does.

    Lieven is particularly effective in describing the lack of will of the Russian army to fight this war and the deep social and cultural reasons for the defeat. Politicians and military leaders committed many blunders in this war, but undermining it all was simply an unwillingness of Russian troops to risk their lives fighting a war they did not understand, bombing elderly Russians in Groznyi, defending a collapsed state that was pushing through a reform that seemed to benefit only corrupt oligarchs. Despite all of the bluster of nationalist politicians, Cossacks, and the like, what Lieven finds most striking is the rejection of imperial expansion in Russia. If Russia is ever to be an imperial threat again, according to Lieven, the lessons of Chechnia tell us that it will have to be born by a new type of Russian nationalism and national identity.

    And how did the Chechens win? In a manner, Lieven tells us, “perhaps unique” in the modern history of war: “the Chechens won not just without the support of a real state but without the help of any formal military or even political organisation, on the basis of the strengths of their society and its traditions—albeit equipped with Soviet weapons and military training” (p. 301). The last section of the book describes just how this was possible, delving into the legacy of Chechen resistance and Russian oppression and the decentralized, democratic form of social organization that proved so effective for guerilla resistance in this mountainous region.

    Lieven’s book renders convincing judgment concerning the collapse of the Russian state, the retardation of civil society, and the imperial ennui of the Russians. As a journalist, it is surprising that he does not spend more time discussing the Russian press’s vigorous critical stance on the Chechen War. This reviewer was living in Moscow during the course of much of the war and was extremely heartened by the scathing response of a good part of the national press—and parts of the public—to the war. At that point, it looked as if Russian civil society had a bright future.

    http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/genocide/reviewsw21.htm

    Come on.

    • And maybe also this:

      http://www.nybooks.com/articles/742

      “It may be deduced that Mr. Lieven’s feelings toward the Russians are somewhat less admiring. He seems, in fact, to nurse a sort of horrified fascination with them. While mainly treating the Chechen war and its causes, he pursues and captures the utter awfulness, moral and material, of the Soviet legacy—and, by extension, much of modern Russian life—with a relish that would do credit to a far more general work. Here, for example, he is taking a train from Azerbaijan, making his first trip to Chechnya in 1992:

      The train itself was close to being a wreck, icily cold, filthy, enveloped in a fug of cigarette smoke, urine, sweat, alcohol and cheap scent. As evening drew on, it crawled clanking through a hellish landscape—the oilfields of northern Azerbaijan, perhaps the ugliest post-industrial environment in the world. Hundreds, no thousands of abandoned, stunted, archaic-looking derricks sit amidst pools of oil and fragments of rusted machinery. In summer, the stench can make you physically ill; in winter grey sky, black oil and brown desert merge into a symphony of gloom. The whole tragedy of Soviet “development” was in that scene.

      And the passengers?

      The passengers were by turns tragic, pitiable and disgusting, human flotsam from the wreck of the Soviet Union, which had finally sunk barely a month earlier…. One of them was wearing a suit apparently made entirely from imitation silver thread, which shone faintly in the dim light as he made undulating lunges in my direction, hinting at various things he could sell me, including the mercenary favours of the conductress, a plump, heavily made-up, resilient-looking Russian woman in her mid-thirties.

      Bursts of disgust notwithstanding, Mr. Lieven insists that he does not belong to what he calls “the more Russophobe or paranoid Western school of thought concerning Russia” (he considers Richard Pipes and Zbigniew Brzezinski to be among the leaders of this “school”). But with friends like Mr. Lieven, Russia has no need of more unthinking enemies. If his Russia is not something to provoke fear or hatred, that is only because it has decayed into something more worthy of pity and contempt. Indeed, Russia emerges from his analysis as a place so hideous that the only thing redeeming it is the completeness with which it has allowed itself to be defeated. Bringing about that defeat has been Chechnya’s main claim to virtue—or, as Mr. Lieven might prefer, the source of its beauty.

      In trying to explain the Russian defeat in Chechnya, Mr. Lieven traces it back to the rottenness of the Russian state. He finds there to be no guiding morality in public and political life: “Corruption, crime and disobedience are not simply aspects of the present Russian state, as the analysis of some Western economists suggest—they lie at its heart.” Russia, in other words, is a nation of thieves. A similar view was fairly common among nineteenth-century writers on Russia—so perhaps it is his desire not to seem Russophobic that leads Mr. Lieven to insist on this pervasive corruption as a legacy of Soviet communism rather than as something intrinsically Russian. He argues that

      Communist “morality” supplanted traditional morality, and when it collapsed…it left moral anarchy. As a result there is no reason truly enshrined in established social, cultural or state tradition, let alone in the behavior of rulers, why Russians today should not steal or take bribes….

      But whatever the cause, Mr. Lieven gets his main point across clearly enough, which is that Russia, when it invaded Chechnya, was a country for which no sane person would willingly fight, still less die. It is true that most Russian soldiers were ready to sell their weapons to the Chechens, buy vodka with the proceeds, and turn their attentions to plundering and brutalizing civilians. And why expect otherwise? They were merely undertaking at a retail level the sort of thieving and profiteering that the Russian generals and politicians were practicing wholesale.”

  9. Just adding to some of the discussion above:

    @the Polish-Nazi German Non-Aggression Pact: As already mentioned, though no direct documents exist to support this — much of pre-war Poland’s archives were destroyed in the war — there is evidence *suggesting* from French archives that Pilsudski suggested a joint Franco-Polish pre-emptive invasion of Germany in 1934, but Paris declined.

    @Cieszyn/Tesin/Teschen: In the waning months of 1918 the Polish and Czech community leaders of this town — located in a critical mountain pass through the Carpathians — met and came to an amicable arrangement for dividing the town but both Prague and Warsaw rejected this agreement, both claiming the entire town. When Poland started distributing electoral paperwork for the upcoming parliamentary elections in Cieszyn, the Czechoslovak Army seized the town and the League of Nations OKed the Czech seizure, letting us keep a nice, scenic section but giving most of the town and its core economic assets — mines — to the Czechs. This is why the idiot Jozef Beck in 1939 decided to seize it back as Czechoslovakia was in its death throes with the Nazi dismemberment, though most Poles at the time understood we were next. Pilsudski himself was fairly moderate and had common sense but the Sanacja fools who followed him were very short-sighted in many ways. Their only defense was that much of Europe’s leadership in the 1930s were of the same calibre.

    @Western aid during the September, 1939 campaign: The Franco-Polish military alliance signed in May, 1939 obligated France to commit the bulk of its military forces to an invasion of Germany should Germany attack Poland. Throughout the September campaign, French General Gamelin repeatedly lied to Warsaw, claiming that a massive invasion of the Saarland was imminent, when as we know now he wasn’t even making preparations for any military action, except for a brief 2-day cross-border raid. Warsaw was lost sooner that might have been because of a specific promise Gamelin gave on the evening of 9. September that the French invasion would start the next day or the one after that, which prompted the Polish military leadership to gamble on an offensive across the River Bzura to try to stall the Germans until the French offensive got seriously underway. Obviously it never happened, and that offensive proved fatal to the Polish cause, wasting men and resources in a futile effort to save Warsaw. The collapse of this Polish battle on 16. September gave Stalin, who had been nagged for 2 weeks by Hitler, the confidence to finally invade Poland, which he did the following day.

  10. “that occupying Eastern Europe would give them more space with which to protect themselves from the eventuality (after 1938, I’d say certainty) of a German attack.”

    It would be much easier to swallow this “excuse” if Stalin/ the USSR had NOT
    1. annexed half of Poland to the USSR and kept it for good REGARDLESS of the FACT that the nazi threat had been eliminated FOR GOOD already by 1945 +
    2. annexed the THREE pre-war INDEPENDENT Baltic countries to the USSR and occupied and terrorized them for ALMOST 50 YEARS REGARDLESS of the FACT that the nazi threat had been eliminated FOR GOOD already by 1945 +
    3. annexed 13 % percent of the pre-war Finland (with its second largest pre-war city Viipuri) to the USSR and having kept it for good REGARDLESS of the FACT that the nazi threat had been eliminated FOR GOOD already by 1945 +
    4. occupied Europe up to the Elbe for ALMOST 50 YEARS REGARDLESS of the FACT that the nazi threat had been eliminated FOR GOOD already by 1945 +
    5. forced a communist dictatorship on all those pre-WWII independent Eastern and Central European nations for ALMOST 50 YEARS REGARDLESS of the FACT that the nazi threat had been eliminated FOR GOOD already by 1945.

  11. What is most amazing is that while Russia has publicly apologised for the Molotov-Ribbetrop Non-Aggression Pact and for Katyn, Poland has now apologised for its role in the Munich Betrayal Pact, the main perpetrators of the Munich Betrayal – Britain and France –have no intention of apologizing and even pretend that their giving Hitler a part of Czechoslovakia’s land was not the first Nazi annexation and not the act that directly led to WWII. In fact, the Western propaganda has arbitrarily declared the Nazi aggression against Poland in 1939 as the start of WWII. But in truth, WWII was started much earlier, in 1936, when the West happily allowed Nazi Germany to impose fascist dictatorship on Spain through war, with only USSR coming to the defence of the democratically elected Spanish government. And if not in 1936, then surely when UK and France gave Czechoslovakia as a “present” to Hitler in 1938, WWII was on! UK and France did everything they could to force a war between Germany and USSR, and yet now pretend that USSR’s non-aggression pact with Germany was not made out of self-preservation necessity.

    • Have you ever actually SEEN the British and French apologies regarding Munich? Here’s a hint: they started DURING THE FRICKING WAR, as early as 1939. Big difference!

      And WWII if anything started in either 1931 or 1937, when the Japanese began to push into China, thus starting the first “theater” of the war that would continue right up through the war until 1945.

      Spain in 1936 was not a theater of WWII, as it stayed neutral straight through save for some Spanish forces in the East “unofficially.” And Franco’s dictatorship was hardly savory and had ties to the Fascists, but it is very debatable whether it was Fascist itself, particularly given Franco’s conflict with the Falange. The reason nobody intervened to support the Spanish government was because Spain had been rocked by conflicts like this on a far smaller scale since the mid 19th century, and the “elected government” had previously opted to crush center-Right miners protesting (even where they did so peacefully) and Spain in general had a long history of such tit-for-tat bloodshed, and the addition of many members openly flirting with the Soviets convinced the West that they didn’t really have a dog in the fight, because unless they intervened to directly create a third faction loyal to them, they were either going to be seeing a pro-German dictatorship or a pro-Soviet one. And if they had, I imagine you would be whining about British and French “imperialist intervention in the rights of a sovereign nation”, am I correct?

      And while the USSR’s pact might have been made out of necessity, it was also done so out of greed, and resulted in millions of dead. To pretend otherwise is not only to ignore the evidence, but also to ignore the words of the signatories and their masters as documented.

  12. Hmmm, Russian “defence of democracy”???

    Has our moronic little troll ever read “Homage to Catalonia” by George Orwell, or any other 1st hand account of Russian actions in Spain?

    As for “democratically elected” well that is true of the REPUBLICANS, but it was certainly not true of the communists.

    The Republican government was responsible for many atrocities itself, including political killings, mass murders in pro Franco regions, destruction of cultural groups etc.

    “Nigel Jones responds to Paul Preston’s post of 6 December:

    I have been waiting in vain for some qualified Hispanic specialist on WAIS (which I am not) to point out some very obvious flaws in the seemingly universally accepted thesis (at least in predominantly “left-liberal” Anglo-American academia) that the Spanish Second Republic was a jolly good thing on the whole, and that the military rebels who rose against it in July 1936 were evil monsters whose only motive was to drive Spain back to the dark ages of the Inquisition with added Fascist sauce. It is a pity that our founder Prof. Hilton is no longer with us to refute such rosy-spectacled views, since as an eyewitness to events in Madrid at the time I know he would have had something to say–probably something quite pungent–on the subject, and he certainly did not subscribe to the simplistic thesis that the Republic equalled sweetness and light and the Nationalists darkness and death.

    In his absence, therefore, and with due deference to the authority of Prof. Paul Preston, I must, however inadequately, make some contra-points. It is a great pity that that great American scholar, Professor Emeritus Stanley G. Payne is not a member of WAIS, because he also could speak up more eloquently than I.

    One month before the rising, on June 16th 1936, the Spanish Cortes (Parliament) debated the state of the nation. The leader of the right-wing opposition coalition, CEDA, Gil Robles, presented the following statistics: in the four months since the election of the left-wing Popular Front Government in February 160 churches had been burned to the ground; there had been 269 political murders; 1,287 politically motivated assaults; 69 political HQs had been wrecked; there had been 113 general strikes and 228 partial strikes; and ten newspaper officers had been trashed. “Let us not deceive ourselves,” Gil Robles concluded, “A country can live under a monarchy or a republic, under Communism or Fascism! But it cannot live under anarchy. Now, alas, Spain is in anarchy and we are today present at the funeral of democracy.” Can anyone seriously dispute that Spain was in anarchy?

    The next speech was from the Monarchist leader Jose Calvo Sotelo, who demanded of the weak and vacillating Premier, a fellow Gallegan named Caseres Quiroga, that he take responsibility for ending the anarchy–or face the consequences that others would step in to do so. As Calvo Sotelo sat down, a Communist deputy, that hatchet-faced Stalinist harridan Dolores Ibarrauri–romanticised by the Left as–”La Pasionaria”–hissed, “That was your last speech!”

    Her murder threat was carried out to the letter. Less than a month later, in the early hours of 13th July, a truckload of gunmen, comprising police officers of the “Asaltos,” a special urban force of Government-loyalists set up by the Republic as an alternative to the rural Civil Guards, and an armed bodyguard of the “moderate” Socialist leader Indalecio Prieto, drew up outside the Madrid apartment of Calvo Sotelo, after having failed to find Gil Robles, (who, luckily for him was out of town on vacation). They took Calvo Sotelo away from his family, shot him in cold blood in the truck and dumped his body at a cemetery. Let’s stop for a moment and consider what this act meant in contemporary terms. It is as if, in an American context, Secret Servicemen on the White House detail guarding President Obama, had abducted and killed John McCain in Washington having failed to locate George W. Bush. Or in an English context, as if Metropolitan Police Special Branch officers guarding Gordon Brown had kidnapped and shot dead Liberal Democrat party leader Nick Clegg after failing to find Conservative party leader David Cameron. State-employed gunmen associated with the Government had killed in cold blood the leader of the Parliamentary opposition.

    That is the state of affairs against which the Army rose a few days later. Well, I for one think they were perfectly justified to do so, and if that state of affairs obtained in the UK today I hope that the Army would do its duty as Spain’s army did then.

    As for atrocities–what about the scores of thousands of clergy, nuns, and ordinary middle class Spaniards murdered by the Republicans? Hugh Thomas tells us that the clergy murdered were: 12 Bishops, 283 nuns, 4,184 priests; and 2,365 monks: some 13 percent of Spain’s total clergy. To get a picture of life for the middle classes in republican Madrid I recommend a book called *The Spanish Pimpernel* by C.E. Lucas Phillipps, which details the massacres carried out by uncontrolled murder squads–the self-proclaimed “Checas”–and the few lucky ones that a British businessman called Christopher Lance managed to snatch from thre jaws of death and smuggle to safety out of the country. Incidentally, Professor Preston says that Spain won’t be truly cured or healed of its Civil War shadows and wounds until the ageing Francoists responsible for mass murders in Nationalist territory are brought to justice and the bodies of their victims exhumed. Why doesn’t that grandstanding publicity hound Judge Garzon pursue with equal tenacity the ageing (born 1915 but still burdening the world with his carcass) Santiago Carrillo, the loathsome mass murderer who succeeded “La Pasionaria” as boss of the Stalinist Spanish Communist Party in 1960? During the war, the said Carrillo was the man responsible for “Public Order” in embattled, Communist-controlled Madrid after November 1937. In this post he was ultimately responsible for the worst single massacres in Republican Spain–the 2,000 men, women and children shot down at Paracuellos del Jarama and Torrejon de Ardoz. When is Carrillo going to be put on trial for these crimes? And when are the bodies of the victims of Communist killers–for example, that of the POUM leader Andrieu Nin–done to death by the Communists after unspeakable tortures and buried anonymously to be exhumed?

    Professor Preston claims that 55,000 people were murdered in the Republican Zone in the war and that the number of civilian victims on the Nationalist side was at least 130,000 and possibly up to 200,000. An equally distinguished authority on Spain, Professor Hugh Thomas, in the latest (2001) edition of his standard history *The Spanish Civil War* sticks to his original figure of 40,000 Nationalist executions–though admitting that this has been widely criticised as too low. He estimates Republican murders at between 54,000 and 70,000–ie. equivalent or higher than on the Nationalist side. Suffice to say that an awful lot of people–scores of thousands–were atrociously murdered on both sides during the Civil War. But why is there a belated search for justice for the victims of one side only?

    Professor Preston–understandably from his point of view–plays down the extent of Communist influence at the beginning of the Civil War. Yet the party had 130,000 members, deputies in the Cortes, and after the fusion of the Communist and Socialist youth movemnets in June 1936 (the work of the aforesaid Carrillo, then head of the Socialist Youth), its takeover of the Socialists was only a matter of time. Once the war had begun, a total Communist takeover of Republican Spain was rapidly put into effect with the aid of its chief foreign ally–Stalinist Russia.

    Aided and abetted by Stalin’s Secret Police, who soon controlled their Spanish counterparts, the Communists–in a manner that would become familiar across Europe after 1945–suborned the Spanish Socialists, ruthlessly crushed their POUM and Anarchist rivals, arresting, torturing and murdering many of their erstwhile “comrades” and holding others in private prison/torture chambers (often in former convents), stole Spain’s entire gold reserves and finally placed their obedient puppet, Juan Negrin, in the post of Premier. All this is amply documented in such works as *The Grand Camouflage* (1968) by Burnett Bolloten and *The Spanish Civil War, the Soviet Union and Communism* (2004) by Stanley G. Payne. To deny that the Spanish Republic was, to all intents and purposes, a Stalinist Communist state run by terror well before the end of the Civil War is to deny reality.

    Recognising that reality, non-Communist Republicans, led by Colonel Casado and the Socialist Julian Besteiro overthrew Madrid’s Communist masters in a coup in March 1939 and surrendered the city to the Nationalists, effectively ending the Civil War.

    None of this, of course, excuses the atrocities, repressions and excesses of the Francoists during and after the Civil War. But in a struggle as savage as that in Spain, appalling crimes were committed on both sides. Historians should recognise this and write accordingly but–with the honourable exception of scholars such as Payne–most present a false picture of a heroic democracy standing up to Fascism.

    I am old enough to have visited Franco’s Spain as a child. Somewhat later, I also visited Communist East Germany and Hungary. I know which society I would have preferred to live under–and it was not those east of the Iron Curtain. One can only hope that when the generation of historians who still think that the rotten Repulic was a cause worth fighting for have passed on, a new generation will take a more objective and fairer view of the Covil War and its legacy.

    JE comments: Nigel Jones’s historical take on the Spanish Civil War will certainly rub a number of WAISers the wrong way–most notably Paul Preston and Juan Negrin’s granddaughter, WAISer Carmen Negrin. (Historian Stanley Payne, mentioned by Nigel, is also a WAISer and still on our mailing list, although we haven’t heard from him since 2005. Stanley, if you’re reading these lines, please drop us a line.)

    Nothing in history is cleanly Manichean, and in the Spanish case I don’t think any serious historian has denied that excesses were committed on both sides. Yet Franco’s rebellion was an illegal act by any measure, and as such (atrocities notwithstanding), I do not see how it can be justified. (I’ve seen apologists for Pinochet’s 1973 coup use the virtually the same arguments that Nigel Jones is using here.)”

  13. What is most amazing is that while Russia has publicly apologised for the Molotov-Ribbetrop Non-Aggression Pact and for Katyn…

    What is most amazing is not even how Russia redefined the words “apologised”. It’s hard to imagine any non-Orwellian meaning of this word that could describe any Russian action as apology (the closest it got is the last Soviet parliament denounced the pact; and as far as Katyn… I don’t know even any denunciation, let alone apology).

    What is most amazing – compared with the Soviet Union that I remember – is that people actually believe all the BS that they see on TV. The Big Brother in the Soviet box said that the whole world supports Soviet brotherly help to Afghan people – people chuckled and moved on. If a party operative started a political pontification – the host usually offered him another shot of vodka.

    How things have changed! Today phobophobe isn’t embarrassed to repeat the BS that he saw in the same propaganda box… He is surprised that people chuckle and ignore him. He mistakes disgust for hate, and squeamishness for fear.

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