Saturday, May 9, 2015

День Победы


Remembered Victory

The media have, justly, been giving ample coverage to today’s Victory Day celebrations in Russia, commemorating the defeat of the Axis in World War II.   The coverage of this largest-ever patriotic-military display  has been better than perfunctory, examining in addition  the political undercurrents which -- more than a typical Fourth of July celebration in the States these day, say -- deeply color this year’s remembrances.

There is one aspect of the generally unisonous coverage  that I wish to take issue with, however.   The tone of the presentation in America -- and this, through no fault of the Russians -- has been skewed by the increasing hegemony of sentimentalist Victimology in the American media’s treatment of just about anything.   Again and again, the reporters intone:  The Soviet Union suffered 27 million dead over the course of that conflict.  An enormous (key word) “Sacrifice”.
Now, a funeral is not the time for the historian to step into the pulpit;  but these deaths happened seventy years ago;  moreover, they are being cynically instrumentalised by Putin  to revive the cult of Stalin -- and thus, of Putin himself.  (Kudos to the media for having reported the recent law making it a crime to criticize the USSR’s behavior in that war.)

First, a bit of moral clarity, to clear the head of the fumes of sob-story sentimentalism.   If, seeing someone about to drown, you leap into the pounding sea to save them, and so doing, die, then you can properly be said to have sacrificed  your life.   (Note:  A sacrifice can be in a good cause or a bad one;  that is not the point.)  But if you are simply sauntering down the sidewalk chewing gum, and you get squooshed by an asteroid -- that is not a sacrifice;  that is just bad luck.
Similarly:  If you spot someone being beaten or robbed, and intervene, you are sacrificing your own safety.   But if you yourself have been backed into a corner and are being pummeled with murderous intent, your fighting back, while prudent, is hardly a “sacrifice”.

Now:   What the USSR suffered in the war was, morally, closer to bad luck than to sacrifice (as we shall show), nay indeed was worse than the mere bad luck of the stroller in the parable, who after all did not provoke the asteroid in any way -- did not shake his fist at Olympus and cry “Bring it on!”  But the Soviets, to some extent, indeed Brought It On.

(1)  First, by the Stalinists’ instructions to the Comintern.   Although the KPD had no love lost for the Nazis, they nevertheless, on instructions from Moscow, during “Third Period” Stalinism (inaugurated 1928) objectively treat the SPD and other labor/reformist parties as the main enemy of the moment (the Nazis presumably to be mopped up later).   Had they formed (as the pejorative catchphrase had it, back in the day) a “United Front from Above” against the Brownshirts, Hitler might never have come to power.
To be sure, one he did come to power, and all moderate or progressive forces had been crushed like a bug, such Kommunisten as remained did, belatedly, try to oppose the Nazis, faute de mieux.  But it was way too late, and partly their own fault.

(2)  Second:  For several months prior to the outbreak of world hostilities in September of 1939,  France and Britain had been courting Stalin to form a pact directed against potential further aggression from Germany, in particular in preventive defense of Poland.  Stalin toyed with them, then let them drop.  Instead -- stunning the world -- he signed a pact with Hitler.  That was the signal for Hitler to launch his Blitzkrieg.  As for Poland, Stalin and Hitler carved the thing up between them in advance (along with much else along Spheres-of-Influence lines).  Had Stalin not done this, WWII might never have occurred, or might have been quickly decided quite differently if it had;  for Hitler was, tactically, more cautious (in the early days) than most folks are aware of.  (Cf. his gingerly occupation of the Ruhr, the plebiscites in Sudetenland and the Saar, etc.)
Presumably, those events are among those that are now illegal to criticize.

As for the Komintern … during the Popular Front that succeeded the Third Period, the various CP’s did form anti-fascist alliances.   But the instant Stalin inked his Nazi pact, they all turned on a dime and began denouncing the democracies instead.  So much for anti-Nazi steadfastness.

(3)  During the purges that began in earnest in 1937, Stalin choreographed the legal murder of the flower of the early leading Bolsheviks.   In itself, that is not germane to our tale.  But he followed it up with the decapitation of the Soviet officer corps, thus greatly weaking his army on the eve of world conflict.  Worse than imprudent -- reckless.

(4)   True, the Soviet Union did eventually fight the Nazis; and it may well be that the average Soviet soldier was unusually valorous, I don’t know.  But Stalin did not turn against Hitler until Hitler turned on him -- to Stalin’s astonishment.  Stalin had even had advance warning of Unternehmen Barbarossa from a well-connected spy in Tokyo, but discounted the warning:  he just couldn’t believe that his good buddy Adolf would do that.
In short:   When he had a free and unforced choice whom to ally with,  Stalin chose Hitler.   Only when backed into a corner did he fight back.

So:   Not to be churlish, but to depict the events being commemorated today as a noble “sacrifice” on the part of the USSR, is to be blinded by the Care Bears version of world history.   Putin has been working towards reviving the cult of Stalin as part of his pursuit of the “Total Vertical”.   The West should not be his cheerleader in that plan.

~


As for genuine sacrifice:  Britain and France get at least half credit.  True, they tried apeasement for several months;  but knowledge of the futility of this  is due to hindsight.  Indeed, if Hitler had succumbed to one of the various assassination attempts, or had choked on a grape-pip, history might commend the Munich Pact as having spared the continent another war.   Only after Hitler invaded Poland -- while still making irenic gestures and cooing noises towards the West (noises that had become all too familiar, and to which the West was now immune) -- did France and Britain realize that it was only a question of sooner or later, and the longer they left it to later, the stronger Hitler would be when he eventually turned on thém.   So, they hadn’t been driven into a corner yet, but they could foresee the corner:  thus, at that point, declaring war on Germany was a matter of enlightened self-interest, not sacrifice.   Still, the general public was not widely aware of that, and grumbled at “dying for Poland”.  Also, none of the various other European states and statelets  came to their aid;  so, kudos, as far as it goes.



On the other hand, full marks go to Canada, which got into the game early, ramping up arms production to (prospectively) support Great Britain, and punching well above her weight in the war, when it came.  This, though Canada hadn’t been attacked, and was not likely to be.
(The U.S., of course, stayed out of it until Pearl Harbor forced their hand.)
~

In Washington,  the festivities were, by contrast, non-political, and much lower-key:  an Antique Airshow -- A Good Time Was Had By All.   (In fact, I wasn’t even aware of the Washington celebration, though I listen to a D.C.-based radio station;  they gave much more coverage to the event in Russia.)

Basically, for better or worse, Americans don’t pay a lot of attention to world history, and certainly do not ‘get’ the deep psychopolitical currents that roil the Old Continent.   Thus, here an original twist on the commemoration, from Berlin, at which Americans would merely blink:

Reichsbürger scheitern beim Sturm auf den Reichstag
Rechtsextreme Demo am Hauptbahnhof - aggressive Stimmung gegen Journalisten

Der 8. Mai als Tag der Befreiung vom Hitlerfaschismus ist ein Tag, der an die grausamen Folgen von Nationalismus und Faschismus erinnern soll. Doch in Berlin nutzen Rechtsextreme, Reichsbürger und braune Esoteriker das Datum für ihre eigenen Zwecke. Auf zahlreichen Demonstrationen stellen sie ihr völkisches Weltbild zur Schau - welches sie selbst als antifaschistisch verbrämen. Unterstützung erhalten die Extremisten von den Nachtwölfen aus Russland.

We cum 2 celebrate with U

~

In eastern Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists put on a demo similar in sabre-rattling tone, though not in scope, to that of Putin.
In Kiev, no military parade at all:  Just a laying of a bouquet at the tomb of the unknown soldier.

~

Yet another layer beneath these nation-specific undercurrents, lies another, inchoate, and more obscure, which spans Europe.  


(1) Visible and above the depths of public sentiment,  there is one hegemonic ideology reigning in “Europe” -- “Europe” in the European sense of the ECC:  the Eurocrats.   These answer to no constituency, but carry on merrily, demanding this and legislating that.  The overall silhouette of their proposals is to abolish traditional European national cultures, and to let go even of much (like Christianity, traditional marriage, or masculine valor) that has long spanned political boundaries,  and allow the European peninsula (for so it suddenly appears, exposed and frozen, on the map) gradually to melt into the African and Middle-eastern landmass, without resistance.

(2) In antithesis to this, are worries whether that is such a good thing.  Nervous glances at what-all is happening throughout Africa and the Middle East, are not reassuring.   Such worries churn the gut of das Volk, of la France profonde, but are scarcely permitted to disturb the Narrative in the bien-pensant media.   So soon as a Swede, or a German, gives voice to qualms, he is shushed up and branded a Nazi;  and we have already disposed of them.
And this is where Putin comes in:  not from stage left (Stalin), but stage right.
[No time to develop this analysis further here;  meanwhile, the catchword for this countercurrent is:  Eurosibérie.]

Putin and his biker buds

[Update 11 May 2015]  Can’t make this stuff up:


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