By HARDIAL BAINS
September 1 marks the anniversary of the invasion of Poland by the Hitlerites in 1939. Instead of condemning the Nazis, reactionary forces such as the Harperites use disinformation to rehabilitate the reputation of Nazi war criminals and to cover up who were the victims of fascism in whose name the peoples of the world declared “Never Again!” At this time of year, they use the anniversary of the German-Soviet non-aggression pact signed on August 23, 1939 to claim that this was an act of appeasement, not a tactical move for the Soviet Union to buy time to arm itself for an inevitable confrontation with the Nazis. The disinformation is also used to suggest that it was the Soviets and not the Nazis who invaded Poland in September 1939 and started the war in Europe. This is to hide the fact that it was the European powers that actively appeased the Nazis and permitted the invasion of Poland, while the Soviets fought to defend that country and its people at every turn. Ultimately, this disinformation about the causes of World War II is to justify and commit similar crimes in the present.
Hardial Bains, in his book Causes and Lessons of the Second World War, points out that the war began as “a war between imperialist powers and it only took on an anti-fascist character once the Soviet Union entered the war as the defender of freedom and democracy. Hitler took advantage of Britain’s and France’s policy of appeasement and their refusal to form a mutual assistance pact with the Soviet Union to further his own inter-imperialist contention with Britain and France. He attacked and occupied their eastern ally the Republic of Poland which was itself imperialist. Britain’s and France’s refusal to take advantage of the Soviet Union’s policy of peace and good neighbourly relations and refusal to sign a pact of mutual assistance with the Soviet Union led to one of the greatest tragedies for the Polish nation.” An excerpt from the book is posted below.
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Poland in 1939 and before refused to forge a united front with the Soviet Union when it offered to sign a mutual assistance treaty with Britain, France and Poland providing for military assistance if the Hitlerites attacked Poland. The Polish government, acting on instructions from Britain and France, and blinded by their own anti-communism, refused to grant the Soviet request to permit the Red Army to cross Polish territory so as to set up a forward line of defence should the Germans attack Poland. […]
Poland, in the thirties, relied upon an alliance of a sort with Britain and France […]. Events proved what sort of alliance it was, what sort of guarantee the French and British imperialists had undertaken on behalf of the Polish state. On September 1, 1939 when the Hitlerites attacked Poland at 4:15 a.m. with their planes targeting all the cities and all the villages and towns, killing thousands of people in a massive assault, the only support Britain could give was some condemnation on the radio waves and two days later declare that Britain was at war. […F]or the next six years no British soldier was ever to set foot on the soil of Poland to liberate the Polish people. While Hitler’s Wehrmacht of 1,850,000 troops, 3200 tanks and 2000 combat aircraft, a fleet of battleships, over two-thirds of Germany’s entire combat force at that time, destroyed the Polish state and massacred the Polish people, France, with its army of four million facing a German force of less than a million on the western front, waged its ‘phony war ‘ i.e., sat on its hands. The U.S. President sent a telegram to the Polish government condemning the Nazi Germans for mass bombing Polish cities. Yet it is said today that the U.S., Britain, France and others, ‘defended Poland’ while the Soviet Union of J.V. Stalin “occupied Poland.” They are trying to suggest to the world that Stalin was an aggressor against Poland in the same fashion that Hitler was an aggressor.
On September 17, 1939 the leaders of the state of Poland which had landed the Polish nation into such a tragic impasse, whose political offspring are speaking today in the same chauvinist language of the imperialists, fled from Poland and were interned in Rumania. A clique of like-minded political figures were appointed as the Polish-government-in-exile, which the chauvinists today call the “continuation” of the Polish state.
The Soviet Army marched onto the territory of Poland only when the Polish state was in a condition of complete collapse. It marched onto territories of the Ukraine and Byelorussia annexed by Poland during the Polish-Russian War of 1919-1920. The majority of the population inhabiting these territories were either Ukrainian or Byelorussian and relatively less were Polish. Of a total population of 13 million people, more than 7 million were Ukrainian, 3 million were Byelorussian, more than 1 million were of Jewish origin and more than 1 million were Poles. No doubt, one of the reasons the former Polish state did not want to enter into a mutual assistance defence treaty with the Soviet Union is because the oppressed nationalities within their borders would demand self-determination and their desire to be reunited with the Ukraine and Byelorussia.
The London government-in-exile never gave up trying to re-incorporate these territories, and Polish chauvinists today still complain about the ‘lost territories.’ For this they bitterly condemn Stalin and the Red Army. Polish reaction hated the loss of their conquered territories, the loss of the Ukrainian, Byelorussian and Jewish workers and peasants who the Polish bourgeoisie and landlords exploited and oppressed. It was never in the interest of the Polish nation to have annexed those lands in the first place. When they speak of Stalin’s ‘invasion’ of Poland, they do not mention that the Soviet Union handed over the city and district of Vilno to Lithuania, not because Vilno had a majority Lithuanian population, but because it had been forcibly wrested from Lithuania by Poland. Furthermore, it was a city associated in the historical past with Lithuania and the aspirations of the Lithuanian people. It became the capital city of Lithuania.
The former Polish state also had a bad conscience about the territory Poland annexed from Czechoslovakia. On October 2, 1938, right at the time the Munich betrayal by Britain and France allowed Hitler to annex the Sudentenland in western Czechoslovakia in the name of the German nationality living there, the Polish army marched into Trans-Olza, Czechoslovakia, occupying Western Teschen and Frystat in the name of the Polish nationality living there. The semi-fascist Polish government was at one with Hitler, Chamberlain, Daladier and Mussolini in dismembering Czechoslovakia, even if they weren’t personally at Munich. They acted like brigands. Today the Polish chauvinists leave out the date October 2, 1938 in their official chronicle of events leading up to the tragedy of September 1, 1939. They want to white-wash the imperialist geo-politics and unprincipled manoeuvres of the Polish government at that time precisely because they […] are following the same disastrous and chauvinist course of inter-imperialist geo-politics today.
Once Poland was under the clutches of Hitler, the Nazis perpetrated one of the worst crimes history has ever known against any nation. Poland suffered the largest number of casualties, in terms of the numbers of individuals killed per thousand population, of any country in Europe. Poland suffered a loss of about 6 million people killed. Direct extermination by mass murder, death camps and so on took some 1,750,000 Polish lives; 2,700,000 Polish Jews were exterminated; more than 50,000 out of 75,000 Gypsies living in Poland were exterminated; some 12,000 mental patients and mentally retarded people were murdered; thousands of Polish prisoners of war, men and officers, were systematically shot. Within the first six weeks of the nazi occupation, some 40,000 Polish intellectuals, political personalities and other leaders were shot by the S.S. in a project called “clearing the political ground.” About 38-39% of Poland’s 1938 assets were destroyed, estimated to be worth $49.2 billion (pre-war U.S.). Warsaw was razed to the ground. Poland suffered the highest per capita loss of property in Europe as a result of the war.
Hardial Bains. Causes and Lessons of the Second World War. Toronto: MELS, 1990, pp. 18-23.
This article was originally published by TML Weekly Information Project, September 5, 2015 – No. 32