Alex Constantine - March 13, 2014
March 12, 2014
Hillary Clinton's recent comparison of Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler is just the latest in a long string of analogies to the Second World War made by US leaders to justify their foreign policy actions.
George W. Bush almost turned such analogies into an art form, going as far as to compare those who disagreed with his invasion of Iraq to "those who appeased Hitler."
The constant use of analogies involving the Second World War is due to the fact that mythology around the war is part of the popular right-wing narrative of US history.
The popular re-telling of the Second World War is that Hitler was carrying out the Holocaust and attacking other countries, and so after a little isolationist hesitation, the US leaped into action like a Hollywood superhero. In this fantasy retelling, the US rushed into Europe, rescuing everyone from evil Hitler, and defending "truth, justice, and the American way." The US was on the side of democracy, the story goes, fighting Hitler, the dictator, and after the war, everyone loved the United States, for it proved to be the "home of the brave and the land of free."
Some aspects of this narrative resemble the truth. There is truth in the undisputed evil of the Nazis, Italian Fascists, and Japanese imperialists. No sensible human being can deny this. The images of Auschwitz will haunt humanity until the end of time.
However, the popular US narrative leaves out the many contradictions of the period leading up the war, and role big business, the Soviet Union, and other key actors in the events of 1939-1945.
Wall Street, the Real ‘Appeasers’
The US relationship with Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Japanese Imperialism was not a strictly hostile one. Many Wall Street businessmen and industrialists had friendly relations with the Nazis.
At the time, Wall Street was terrified of the Soviet Union, and of its allies, the working class movement in the United States. In the early part of the 1930s the Communist Party, the US affiliate of the Communist International, organized Unemployment Councils. These Communist led community organizations stopped people from being evicted from their homes, and broke into warehouses to distribute food to hungry families. The Communist Party led the famous 1931 "Bonus March" on Washington, where Veterans occupied the capital city, with four of them being killed in an ensuing battle.
By 1937, the US Communist Party was playing a key role in the rise of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Big business was being forced to sign contracts with its workers, while "reds" were leading mass strikes and protests. In many of these "sit down" strikes, the workers took over factories, refusing to leave until their demands were met. President Roosevelt responded to these mass uprisings by passing the Works Progress Administration, Social Security, and other popular reforms. Taxes on the rich went up.
Many of the billionaires openly thought Hitler and Mussolini had much better methods of governance; outlawing labor unions and the Communist Party, massively funding the armaments industry, and providing free labor for capitalists in prison camps.
Henry Ford, one of the most well-known industrialists in the United States at the time, was known for his pro-Fascist sentiments. He sponsored "The Dearborn Voice", a publication that spoke of Hitler in glowing terms. He printed books such as "The International Jew" which promoted the same anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that became official state doctrine in Germany. Ford visited Hitler and was awarded the Iron Cross.
The IBM computer company designed the punch card machines that were used to run the concentration camp system. Even after the US and the Nazi state were at war, IBM technicians were updating and repairing the machines, making sure the network of death camps could continue to operate, with a primitive computer keeping track of each victim.
Prescott Bush, the grandfather of the George W. Bush, did stock market trading for leading Nazis on Wall Street. His bank account was seized in 1942 under the "Trading with the Enemy Act."
Father Charles E. Coughlin, the famed "radio priest" broadcast pro-Hitler sermons across the US on his radio program. His program was sponsored by many major corporations, and his rhetoric seethed with hate.
During the Spanish Civil War, when Hitler's ally Francisco Franco overthrew the democratically elected government, the US made it illegal for anyone to support the people of Spain. People from the US who wanted to aid the Spanish people in fighting against fascism were forced to do so in violation of the law, and risked criminal prosecution.
The rhetoric of the Pro-Nazi sectors of the United States was always the same. Hitler was a good ally against "the Red Menace." The horrors of fascism should be ignored, they said, because the main enemy should be Marxism-Leninism.
‘The greatest military achievement in all history’
While many people in the US seem to be convinced that the defeat of Hitler was due singlehandedly to the efforts of US armed forces, the reality is quite different.
Even when the Second World War finally broke out, the US did not dare enter the European theater until the war was almost over. The US left the Soviet Union and its European allies to fight Hitler alone, while focusing on the Pacific. The US did not land at Normandy, until the Red Army was already marching toward Berlin, liberating concentration camps and executing Nazi war criminals.
So many would have us believe that Hitler and Stalin were allies because of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The fact is that the Soviet Union's record of anti-fascism was by the far greatest in the world.
Immediately after Hitler seized power, the Communist International called for a "People's Front Against Fascism." Shortly afterward, the Soviet Union was the only country on earth to defend Ethiopia when it was invaded by Italian fascists.
The Soviet Union's allies in the world Communist movement were the greatest enemies of fascism. They organized underground anti-fascist resistance within France, Germany, Yugoslavia, and elsewhere. To many people in the 1930s, the words "Anti-Fascist" and "Communist" were synonyms.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was only signed after years of Soviet efforts to build a world anti-fascist coalition. The United States, Britain, and other countries seemed to have no real interest in such an alliance. The 1939 pact was a necessary maneuver, and it did not last very long. Once the fighting began, over 20 million people in the Soviet Union died fighting against the Nazi invaders.
Hollywood movies such as "The North Star" and "Mission to Moscow" cheered the amazing heroism of the Soviet people in fighting the fascist invaders. US Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson declared"History knows no greater display of courage than that showed by Soviet Russia." General Douglas Macarthur called the Soviet Union's fight against Hitler "the greatest military achievement in all history."
The war lives in Ukraine
The US media often sounds confused about why people in Ukraine continue to bring up the Second World War in reference to the current conflict. The reasons should be obvious.
Svoboda openly professes love for the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, that fought against the Soviet Union during the Second World War. Svoboda has also held marches against Hassidic Jews and other national minorities.
In Kiev, after anti-Russian extremists seized the capitol building, they unfurled not just the Nazi swastika, but also the Celtic Cross insignia of the Ku Klux Klan, and the Confederate Flag of the slaveholding secessionists in the United States.
The outlawing of minority languages, and the destruction of monuments to those who fought against the Nazi invaders are sending a message. It is not subtle at all.
While Hillary Clinton compares Putin to Hitler, it is she and the US government that are backing the pro-Hitler elements in Kiev.
When the Red Army drove the Nazis from Ukraine, it drove the western banks out with them. Ukraine and the rest of the Soviet Union were the key pillar in the Socialist Bloc of countries that emerged in the post-war period.
When people across the globe broke the economic shackles of colonialism and imperialism, the Soviet Union was on their side. The Soviet Union aided South Africa, while the US dubbed Nelson Mandela to be a terrorist. The Soviet Union funded the economic development of Cuba, and the basis for what China's calls its "great revival." The most economically prosperous period in Egypt's history was when Abdul Nasser spoke of Arab Socialism, and developed the economy with Soviet aid.
Struggles for independence around the world could always depend on Soviet aid. This did not just come in the form of AK-47s, but in doctors, nurses, literacy campaigns, and industry.
After the Second World War, what had started in 1917 became a global economic phenomenon. Countries all over the world declared that they did not have to be controlled by Wall Street and London. They could chart their own course of development.
The power of symbols
The government of Ukraine has been overthrown because it dared not to join the European Union and dared to refuse some measure of IMF and EU-led economic enslavement. It has been overturned by forces who admire the Third Reich.
In Crimea, where Russian speaking Ukrainians have rejected the new regime and formed self-defense units, they are waving the "Hammer and Sickle" emblem. This is the symbol, representing power for the working people, that once defeated Adolf Hitler and his allies.
To millions of people in the world, in 1945 and today, it is this flag, not the stars and stripes, that represents anti-fascism, and the struggle for peace, democracy, and equality. Hillary Clinton may not know this, but the people of Crimea certainly do.
Caleb Maupin for RT