In Ukraine, a swastika-wearing gang called “the Right Sector” was the primary force in the campaign of street violence and terror that brought down the elected government. The “Right Sector” is just one of a number of Ukrainian ultra-nationalist groups that openly admires Hitler. Various figures in the Kiev-based regime, backed by the United States as it threatens Russia, have openly praised Adolph Hitler. The Kiev regime is dependent on these crazed anti-Russian fanatics as it wages a war against its own population in the East.
In Syria, the US has aligned itself with Takfiri extremists. These are armed Islamic groups that call for the extermination of those who hold unacceptable religious beliefs. The Takfiris are known to torture, recruit child soldiers, and commit other heinous crimes against humanity. They are known to summarily execute people by means of beheading for nothing other than their religion or ethnicity. The US government and its allies have funded these forces in the hopes of toppling the Syrian Arab Republic.
In Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and other Bolivarian countries, the US-backed “opposition” contains many who admire fascist dictators Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet. The anti-Bolivarian minority in Latin America openly talks of a campaign of terrorist violence to overthrow the elected, pro-socialist governments. Venezuelan official Robert Serra was already assassinated by these extremists, and their campaign of violence is likely to escalate as these popular anti-capitalist governments solidify themselves.
Even within the US borders there has been a revival of fascist and Neo-nazi sentiment. The Ku Klux Klan revealed itself on the streets of Ferguson, threatening those who dared protest the killing of Michael Brown. Anti-immigrant groups in Arizona and New Mexico often display swastikas and advocate what they call “racial purity” in the United States. Anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe Arpaio has proudly taken photographs with white nationalists, and figures aligned with white supremacist groups hold public office in some parts of the southwest.
How can any of this be morally justified? The crimes of Nazis and fascists are well known and well documented, and horrify anyone with a basic sense of human morality. In addition, so much of the national identity of people in the US for the last seven decades has been based on concepts like “freedom” and “democracy.” To be aligned with forces who call for fascist dictatorship and racial slaughter is antithetical to the propaganda about “the American way of life.”
In order to justify the current policies of the United States government, both domestically and internationally, a campaign of historical revisionism is being waged. Writers like Timothy Snyder and Roger Moorhouse are being widely promoted throughout US media. Timothy Snyder is treated as an “expert” on Ukraine and gives interviews on the subject on almost every TV network. Snyder’s book Bloodlands is widely circulated, reviewed and promoted. More recently, Moorhouse’s book The Devil’s Alliance has been reviewed in the Wall Street Journal and other prominent publications.
These texts are not about current events in Ukraine, Venezuela, Syria, or Arizona. Rather these texts speak only of events that took place in the 1930s and 40s. However, these historical texts are being widely circulated because they serve to justify the current actions of the rulers of the United States.
The message of these books is simple: “Soviet communism and German Nazism were morally equivalent.” If this historical falsehood can be established, continued US support for fascism can be rendered far less immoral.
One primary talking point of these historical revisionists is that the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were at one point “allies.” This is the message of Moorhouse’s The Devil’s Alliance and is stated in Snyder’s Bloodlands.
This is absolutely false. The Soviet Union and the German Nazi state were never allies. At no point did the two governments ever express mutual admiration for each other. The 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact did not constitute an alliance. The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were antagonistic societies, based on principles that were absolutely contrary to each other. The two societies not only never aligned, but could not peacefully coexist.
Anti-Sovietism: The Foundation of Nazism
What separates fascism from other forms of western capitalism, and even from other autocratic police states, is its obsession with ideology. While police states and military regimes will repress and slaughter for purely pragmatic reasons, fascism is unique in its ideological approach. Fascism is not identified by mere repression, but by the building of a mass movement that carries out extreme acts of extrajudicial violence. Fascist states are dependent on a mass base of bloodthirsty fanatics, who willingly carry out its operations.
The entire ideological foundation on which the Nazi State, led by Adolph Hitler, based itself was anti-communism and anti-Sovietism. The National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) was founded in the 1920s, when the Social-Democratic Party and the Communist Party were largely influential in German society. Hitler proclaimed that “decades of Marxism have ruined Germany. Bolshevism would destroy her. The fairest territories of the earth would be reduced to smoking heaps of ruin.”
Hitler’s book Mein Kampf (My Struggle) is considered to be the sacred text of German Nazism. The book is partly an autobiography of Hitler, and partly a document laying out the principles and beliefs of the Nazi movement. In the text, Hitler blames the defeat of Germany in the First World War on the influence of Marxism in German society. He goes on to proclaim Marxism to be a Jewish conspiracy. From there, the pages of Mein Kampf argue that the reason Marxism and “Bolshevism” had never been defeated by previous German governments was due to the lack of a strongly anti-communist ideology. Hitler presents Nazism as an ideology with which to rally the German people, so they can defeat the “menace of Bolshevism” and restore Germany to its previous greatness.
Both before and after taking power, Hitler numerous times stated that the official goal of Nazism was to “rid the world of Bolshevism.” In 1933, one of the first acts of Germany’s new chancellor was to fly to Vatican City in Rome. At the Vatican, Hitler asked the Pope to call for a holy crusade and order Catholics from around the world to attack the Soviet Union.
The extreme suppression of civil liberties in the aftermath of Hitler’s seizure of power was allegedly done in response to the burning of the German Parliament building, the Reichstag. Hitler blamed this act on the German Communist Party, claiming they had done it on orders from the Soviet Union. Communist leaders Georgi Dimitrov and Ernst Thalmann were arrested, and the Nazi state went to great lengths of falsely convincing the German public that the parliament building had been destroyed by Soviet-inspired conspiracy.
The entire foundation of Nazism was anti-communism, and the entire justification for nearly all of its actions was hatred for the Soviet Union. The persecution of Jews was carried out on the basis that “Jewish Marxism” was to blame for the country’s woes, and that German Jews were secretly loyal to the Soviet Union.
If an alliance between the USSR and Nazi Germany had ever been formed, it would have discredited the Nazi state completely. The fanatical rank and file, as well as even the upper levels of the leadership of the Nazi Party, were all motivated by extreme hatred for the Soviet Union and the ideology of Marxism-Leninism, which it promoted internationally.
In addition, the Nazi state promoted extreme hatred for the peoples of the Soviet Union on a racial basis. Nazism viewed the Slavic peoples as genetically and culturally inferior to Western Europeans. The contempt that Nazis had for Jews may have been their primary racial obsession, but Slavs, Africans, and at some points Asian and Latino peoples were also deemed racially inferior to “Aryans.”
These racial theories of Nazism cause big problems for modern Hitlerites as they attack progressive anti-imperialist governments and progressive forces, with the backing of Wall Street. The growing Latin American skinhead fascist movements, which displayed themselves during recent turmoil in Brazil, have not been able to sufficiently address the fact that Nazis saw brown-skinned peoples as racially inferior. In addition, it is no secret that while the Nazis made alliances with anti-communist forces in Ukraine, the Nazi ideology still defines Ukrainians as Slavs, and thus ethnically inferior to Aryans.
For any “Nazi-Soviet Alliance” to have taken place, the Nazi state would have been required to repudiate the very foundations of its entire ideology and existence. This did not happen during the pact of 1939, nor at any point in the existence of the Third Reich.
The Nature of Soviet Socialism
Just as the Nazi state depended on a rank-and-file movement of bloodthirsty fanatics to exist, the Soviet Union depended on millions of people who could be motivated to take action by ideology. The ideology of the millions of people who were the strength of the Soviet Union was absolutely contrary to those of Nazi Germany.
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union, basing itself on the ideology of Marxism-Leninism, was virulently hated by the German Nazis because it was their almost absolute opposite.
The Nazi Party based itself on racism, anti-Semitism, and theories of racial superiority and inferiority. The Soviet Union was not only opposed to such principles, but actually outlawed them in its constitution. Preaching racial hatred or supremacy in the Soviet Union could result in being arrested and imprisoned.
Harry Haywood, an African American who visited the Soviet Union in the 1930s, described how a drunk man who made a racist comment to him on a train was immediately taken into custody by the police, and forced to apologize to him in addition to further penalties.
The founder of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin, famously castigated the South African Communist Party for its support of racism in the trade union movement. The South African Communist Party was forced to adjust its entire political program to entirely exclude racism, as a condition of entering the Communist International.
The Nazi state based itself on an obsession with the German nation, singing “Deutschland Uber Alles” (Germany Over Everything) as its national anthem. The slogan on which the Soviet Union and its allies around the world based themselves was “Workers and oppressed peoples of the world, unite!” Lenin had added the phrase “and oppressed peoples” to the early slogan coined by Karl Marx.
Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union during the 1930s, was not ethnically Russian, but of Georgian heritage. Stalin had written extensively about the right of oppressed nationalities to self-determination and independence.
When Italy invaded Ethiopia, the Soviet Union loudly supported the African peoples in their fight against the European invaders. When the Spanish Republic faced a fascist insurgency, backed by Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, the Soviet Union was the only country to send military aid to the Spanish Republic.
The Soviet-led Communist International worked to build a “People’s Front Against Fascism” in each country that its forces existed. The Soviet Union sent military and financial assistance to underground armed resistance groups in Germany, Italy, France, Yugoslavia, Albania, and all other areas the Nazi regime was able to dominate. Over 26 million people in the Soviet Union perished in the fight to defeat Nazi Germany.
Hostility from the West
The Soviet Union had spent almost a decade attempting to build an anti-fascist alliance, only to be repeatedly snubbed by Britain, France, and the United States. The “Neutrality Act” passed by the US Congress made joining an anti-fascist alliance with the USSR illegal.
Many wealthy billionaires in the United States openly admired Hitler. Henry Ford was awarded the Iron Cross by Adolph Hitler, and distributed anti-Semitic and pro-Hitler books and newspapers at car dealerships.
The owners of the General Motors Corporation sponsored the radio broadcasts of Hitler supporting Roman Catholic Priest Charles Coughlin. General Motors also employed a pro-Hitler organization called the “Black Legion” to attack labor unionists.
IBM, which now has facilities on illegal Israeli settlements, had a close financial relationship with the Nazi state. IBM designed the punchcard machines used by the Nazis to run their concentration camp system.
Prescott Bush, the grandfather of former US President George W. Bush, had his accounts seized under the “Trading With the Enemy Act.” Bush’s Wall Street firm had essentially been operating as a stockbroker for the Nazi state.
The British Royal Family and many wealthy British bankers had a financial relationship with the Nazis, lending them money in order to enable their repression and military expansionism.
The Soviet Union had worked very hard to build an anti-fascist alliance with the west, but was unable to do so. Western bankers and capitalists had too much admiration for Hitler for such an alliance to be formed.
The Pact of 1939
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 did not contain any approval or validation for Nazism or the actions of the Nazi state. The pact did not result in any joint military activities. The pact did nothing more than establish that the two countries would not engage in military activities against each other for a brief period.
While the pact was in effect, the Soviet-aligned communist parties of the world did not cease their anti-fascist activities. Protests against pro-Nazi and pro-fascist organizations continued. Boycotts of goods from Germany, Italy, and Japan did not cease.
Many leftists raised objections of one kind or another to the nature of the pact, or the way it was carried out. Many Jewish leftists and Social-Democrats in the United States felt the pact was inappropriate, and were very vocal about this. Trotskyists composed a song entitled “My Darling Party Line” that mocked the pact. The pact, which changed the relationship between the Roosevelt Administration and the US Communist Party, resulted in communist leader Earl Browder being briefly imprisoned for a passport violation.
However, no one could argue that the 1939 Non-Aggression Pact constituted an alliance. The pact was a temporary measure, done in the hopes of holding off what Soviet officials and all voices representing the Nazi state deemed to be inevitable: a Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
TIME Magazine and other media attempted to use the pact to malign the Soviet Union. Prominent Trotskyist Max Shachtman used the pact to justify his theory of “Bureaucratic Collectivism.”
However, a large number of intellectuals and artists stepped up to defend the Soviet Union against these attacks. Ads in newspapers, signed by many prominent non-communists, declared that the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany simply could not be morally equated. This sentiment was widespread in the labor movement and all throughout US society.
In 1941, when the US and the Soviet Union became allies against the Nazi state, there was no confusion among the US public. The pact that Japan, Italy, and Germany had signed prior to the outbreak of the war had been entitled “The Anti-Comintern Pact.” The anti-communist nature of fascism, and the anti-fascist nature of communism, were commonly understood.
During the Cold War, the writings of George Orwell – author of the phrase “who controls the present, controls the past” — were used to foment hatred of the USSR among the US public. Orwell’s texts are currently taught to schoolchildren throughout the US. Most people in the United States base their knowledge of communism not on Soviet history, but on Animal Farm, Orwell’s allegorical novel about livestock.
Anti-communism as an aspect of US media, culture, and society did not end with the Cold War. As the standard of living of western capitalist societies declines, anti-communism is becoming much more shrill and prevalent.
As homes are foreclosed, wages go down, and police repression increases in the United States, the capitalists are reduced to: “Sure our system is bad — but look how bad things could be if we got rid of it!”
This logic is expanding on an international level as well. In Ukraine, Venezuela, and elsewhere, the United States is reduced to: “Sure we’re aligned with Nazis — but at least we are fighting against communists!”
The mythology of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact — and more widely of “Stalin was worse than Hitler” — has huge implications for global events, as well as political struggles within the United States.
As many epic battles are breaking out in the 21st Century, one of them is the battle to define the history of the 20th Century. To some, history may seem abstract, irrelevant, and disconnected from the tasks at hand, but this is a misconception.
History defines the framework from which we view the present. For oppression to continue, history must continue to be written by the oppressors. For things to improve, the real history of resistance and revolution, including the great achievements of the Soviet Union, must come into popular consciousness.
Caleb Maupin is a political analyst and activist based in New York. He studied political science at Baldwin-Wallace College and was inspired and involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.