Friday, June 5, 2015

Video: The Carnage of World War Two

From Richard Mellor

This is a fascinating video that a friend put on Facebook. It is fascinating enough on its own but I wanted to comment on it briefly. 

My early years were spent in a military household and I am a product of a western industrial democracy. I was born in Asia, the former British colony of what was then called Burma, now Myanmar and lived for short periods in Malaya, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) and Nigeria. I remember Nigeria but not the earlier places.

My father, although a conservative man in some ways---how could he not be spending almost a quarter century in the British Army and spending almost four years as a prisoner of war in Japan-----never taught me to hate the Japanese. He was, as a friend once commented, "A mass of contradictions."

Still, growing up in this environment I learned about the World War 11 from the British perspective. I heard about D-Day and El Alamain. I was told to read Behind Bamboo, the Jungle is Neutral and A Town Like Alice and other books and did so.  I heard of the cruelty of the Japanese and the integrity of the British and the honesty of their intentions.  Yes, we had won the war alright.  The Yanks were always popular in my home as my father was in prison camp with them and when the Americans liberated his camp they took him by ship to Mindanao.  He told me of their generosity and kindness and how they treated him like a hero.  He was not so enthralled by the way the "his own" people treated him on the British ship that took him from Mindanao to Vancouver.  He said that he was expected to work and after almost four years working for Mitsubishi in Yokohama he refused and was thrown in the brig.

Naturally, like most young working class English boys I was not enamored with the Soviets. Growing up in a western democracy I abhorred the lack of freedom, democratic rights what I understood was a totalitarian society. I thought that this was what communism was. Having never read Marx, why would I think differently?

In my later years I learned that it wasn't the British and Americans that finally defeated the Nazis, it was the Russians or Soviets opening the Eastern Front. Opposing this point of view to a friend he responded to my argument with "just check the body county Richard".

I had never really been told about the Soviet experience or the savagery of the Nazi invasion of Russia. The German invasion practically burned to the ground every village or township they came upon. In the siege of Leningrad people resorted to cannibalism to stay alive. I had no idea a million people died in Stalingrad. I also never knew that as far as percentage of the population goes, the Roma lost more of their people than most all other groups. But the Roma were always treated like animals in Europe and still are today.

I would also like to add that although this video is very revealing, it is wrong to say that the German army that fought in Stalingrad for example were Nazi's or to describe them as Nazis. They were Germans and the Germans suffered terribly from the rise of Nazism, some 70,000 died in Dresden in one evening by most accounts. Not all Germans were Nazis and I have past the point where I wonder how Germans could allow the existence of an Auschwitz, after all, we Americans have Guantanamo.

But this leads me to a point I want to make about the present dispute with the Russians. I have no love for Putin. He is a former KGB thug and is no friend of working people. But most American workers would not have a clue about the history of Europe with regards to Russia. The most violent invasions in the modern era (speaking of the recent taking back of Crimea by Russia) have been from wets to east, leaving out Genghis Kahn of course.  Napoleon put some 800,000 men in to Russia in his invasion I was taught.   And I have mentioned above about the advance of the German armies in to Russia.

Now the US has armored personnel and vehicles on the Russian border in the Baltic states.  The US has bases, personnel and arms in the Central Asian republics surrounding Russia. The US is also supporting Islamic terror groups and also fascist elements in the Ukraine. Americans of Ukrainian descent are getting rapid Ukrainian citizenship and are involving themselves in the politics and economics of that country and we must remember that the Black sea is the only warm water port for the Russians and has been for centuries. As an aside, the last two Israeli ambassadors to the US are Americans so we are living in a dream world if we don't see that there is a problem here. There is a reason the Russians are a bit upset by the provocative US actions.

It's similar to Iran.  Most American workers are not aware that the US overthrew the democratic government of Iran and installed a murderous dictator in its place or that the US and British have a long history of fomenting unrest in this region.  That the Iranian government is headed by religious fanatics doesn't negate the fact that these people have a genuine reason to be suspicious of Western intentions.

I want to stress, that for working people, neither Putin and Russia nor Obama and US imperialism can be supported in their disputes.

The video is a tragic reminder of what was an imperialist war during which millions of workers died either fighting them or as civilian victims. The existence of nuclear weapons is what has deterred some of these powers entering in to new conflicts.

Instead, we now see endless regional wars and occupations as the world's major powers struggle for control of global resources and wealth. While there may well be fewer deaths as the video implies, the present conflict have meant never ending misery, depradation, lack of basic needs like water, health care and housing for millions of the world's peoples. Massive tent cities and camps housing refugees fleeing the consequences of imperialist war and conflict are everywhere.

Refugees living in camps in Southern Europe or swamping richer countries whether in Europe or here in the US where victims of US policies flee in order to find some means of supporting their families are in actuality economic refugees in many cases, and despite being the victims they are set upon and attacked as unwanted immigrants by those whose government policies are the reason for these people leaving their homelands in the first place.

Not much has changed.

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