The recent decision by many Western leaders, including Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and David Cameron, to boycott the Russian commemoration on 9th May of the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazism, is an utter disgrace and a grievous and inexcusable insult to the Russian people, whose courage and enormous sacrifice was the decisive factor in the defeat of Nazism.
The reason for this boycott is, of course, no mystery. It is clearly a collective snub intended to further demonise the current Russian leadership, and especially Mr Putin himself, over the perceived attempt to destabilise Ukraine via clandestine Russian support for the pro-Russian rebels in the war-torn west of Ukraine. However, whatever the current Western quarrel with the Russian leadership, this in no way justifies such a gross and inexcusable insult to the Russian people whose immense sacrifice in the 2nd World War must never be forgotten.
Likewise the longstanding, and largely successful, attempt to rewrite history by marginalising the decisive role of the Soviet Union and the Russian people in the defeat of Nazism has never been any more than a despicable, although largely successful, example of Western anti-Russian propaganda. Most British and American citizens have grown used to, and rarely question, the comfortable and self aggrandising myth that it was the Anglo/American invasion of Normandy, and the subsequent defeat of German forces in Western Europe, that led to the defeat of Nazism.
Here are some of the facts:
The siege of Leningrad by the Nazis, lasted for 872 days, from 1941 to 1944, caused the greatest destruction and largest loss of life ever known in a modern city and cost the lives of one and a half million Russians, most of whom were civilans who starved and froze to death during the siege.
The Battle of Stalingrad from August 1942 until February 1943 was the biggest single defeat inflicted on the German forces in WW2. Russian forces succeeded in surrounding the Nazis, to whom the city of Stalingrad had already fallen. The ensuing battle is widely recognised as the bloodiest in the history of warfare. The heavy losses inflicted on the German Wehrmacht made it arguably the most strategically decisive battle of the whole war and the attrition inflicted on the German forces ultimately enabled the allied victory over Nazi Germany. Unfortunately Stalingrad too required a huge sacrifice by the Russian people and it is estimated that the total loss of life was about two million (this includes casualty figures from both sides)
The Battle of Kursk, in July and August 1943, was the biggest tank battle in history, in which russian T-34 tanks took on the might of the Nazi panzer divisions, including their new and hitherto impregnable Tiger tanks. Neither side could secure victory in this battle, but were it not for the attrition inflicted on the German forces, and particularly on their panzer divisions, by wave after wave of Russian T-34’s, the invasion of Normandy and the subsequent defeat of the German forces on the western front might never have been possible.
It has been estimated that between twenty six and thirty million Russians perished in the war. The world therefore owes a huge debt of gratitude to the Russian people which can never be repaid.
The highlight of the Russian commemoration on 9th April was the deeply moving ‘March of the Immortal Regiment’, repeated in towns and cities across the whole of Russia, and this year, on a smaller scale, in many other countries. The ‘March of the Immortal Regiment’ involved millions 0f civilians, of all ages, who marched together carrying portraits of family members – fathers, mothers, grandparents – who had fought and died in what is known in Russia as ‘The Great Patriotic War’.
This part of the commemoration was largely ignored by western television channels whose coverage concentrated exclusively on the spectacular military parade and flypast that immediately preceded it. As usual it would seem that the main interest of the western media was in depicting, for propaganda purposes, the spectacle (and the potential threat) of Russian militarism.
This brings us back to the pointedly enigmatic title of today’s blog. What has New Labour got to do with the struggle against fascism, and with the defeat of Nazism? The answer, of course, is absolutely nothing!
However, that is not to say that the British Labour Party has never had any relationship to the political idealism that inspired the Russian forces and the Russian people in WW2 to such great acts of heroism and self-sacrifice. On the contrary the original British Labour Party was directly inspired by the works of Karl Marx and by the attempt, via the Russian Revolution of 1917, to create a truly egalitarian socialist state. The socialist constitution of the British Labour Party, its’ first formal constitution, was agreed in 1918, the year after the Russian Revolution.
In recent years what has come to be known as ‘New Labour’ has completely abandoned the socialist principles on which the Labour Party was originally founded in an attempt to ‘steal the Tories clothes’, and has become a mere clone of the Conservative Party, with few significant ideological differences. New Labour has moved so far to the right, in a cynical attempt to win middle class votes, that they have become almost indistinguishable from the Tories. In doing so they have completely betrayed the British working class, including the unemployed, the long-term unemployed, and the so-called unemployable, whose interests the Labour Party was founded to represent, but who are now represented by no political party of any consequence, both Labour and the Conservatives having adopted punitive reactionary and vindictive policies and attitudes which virtually criminalize the working class, and the poor in general. These days it is virtually a crime to be poor.
The consequent lack of any real identity that would distinguish them from the Tories has led to a deep cynicism and distrust of New Labour which has certainly contributed greatly to their defeat in the recent general election. Furthermore, in attempting to explain this defeat it has become commonplace for media pundits to pronounce that no party of the left can be elected in the UK.
How can this be so? Are not the working class the majority of the population? Should it not be possible for a truly and passionately socialist party to inspire and motivate the majority population to support them in massive numbers? By the way, if the word ‘socialist’ offends you, try substituting the word ‘humanist’ instead, because that’s what we’re really talking about, not the linguistics, nor the party slogans or propaganda.
It is vital that we realise that the so-called independent news media, to which we are routinely and constantly exposed, transmits, and has always transmitted, a powerful narrative of anti-Russian, anti communist, and anti-marxist propaganda which has profound effects on our perceptions and prejudices of world events, and of other cultures, in ways that we can rarely appreciate fully, if at all. When media pundits on the BBC and elsewhere admonish us that a party of the left is unelectable in the UK we do not have to believe them. If we believe them then we can say goodbye to any chance of the fundamental change we so desperately need to achieve real social justice and egalitarianism in this society.