…memory, the warder of the brain, shall be a fume…
Macbeth, act 1, sc. 7
Seventy-one years ago, May 9, 1945, was Victory Day. Nazi Germany officially signed the unconditional surrender to the Soviet Union. For Russia, WWII became the “great patriotic war”, celebrated each year, as you know, in Moscow’s Red Square.
“Nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defence,” (1) but in Russia the years did not quench the enthusiasm, and memories have not sunk into “the swallowing gulf of blind forgetfulness and dark oblivion.”(2)
In the West, unofficial history has practically erased the USSR from the victors of Nazism. This is but one example of the waiver that ideology grants to history, namely, the retention of only those facts favorable to the supported thesis – in the instance, that communism was bad. And bad, by extension, was everything they did, including victory against a common enemy.
However, Russia, not now communist, is equally bad, for it seemingly attempts to retain some independence against the final onslaught of finance-capital toward the complete domination of the world.
We have indeed reached a conclusive stage – well predicted by Marx’ interpretation of history – when,
“…every thing includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite;
And appetite, an universal wolf,
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce an universal prey,
And last eat up himself” (3)
He who doubts the gloomy truth of the lines above, should consider that the miscellaneous treaties (TTIPs and others), sanction the official transfer of power from the so-called parliamentary democracy to the grey-agencies of finance-capital behind the scene. That is, the sacralization of the victory of the few over everybody else.
But I digress. Hitler died on April 30, 1945. Meaningful events filled those 9 days, elapsing from Hitler’s death to the official Germany’s capitulation. And indeed,
“… in those indexes, although small pins
To their subsequent volumes, there was seen
The baby figure of the giant mass
Of things to come at large.” (4),
including the Cold War and the atomic bomb experimentally dropped on actual people in an apotheosis of death – under the assumed but unspoken principle that “When beggars die, there are no comets seen…”(5). Plus the rabid hatred (and destruction), of any state or anyone who would oppose the onslaught of finance-capitalism.
On May 2, Berlin had practically fallen, as there were no more sufficient troops to halt the Russian advance. On May 5, Admiral Doenitz’ provisional government declared the end of submarine warfare.
From May 5 to May 9, history records a curious choreography of surrenders on the Western front, where the allies were still advancing with difficulty.
Obscured by Hollywood’s version of history are the incredible defeats the Germans inflicted on the Allies. For example, the operation Market-Garden, designed by Marshal Montgomery to encircle the Ruhr, the heart of German industry, in a pincer movement. Where “Market” meant the airborne forces, the First Allied Airborne Army, that would seize bridges on the Rhine – and “Garden” meant the ground forces made up by British troops.
Market-Garden was the largest airborne operation to that date (17-25 September 1944). But the Allies failed to cross the Rhine. The paratroopers were overrun on September 21st, and the remainder of the 1st Airborne Division were trapped in a small pocket west of the Arnhem bridge, having to be evacuated on 25 September.
The river remained a barrier to the Allies’ advance into Germany until March 1945, weeks before Germany’s final demise – notwithstanding that the German Luftwaffe no longer existed. Three months before, a German counter-offensive had almost encircled the Allied Army in the Battle of the Bulge.
On May 2, the Russians occupy Berlin. German generals von Tippelskirch and von Manteuffel, who commanded troops in the North of Berlin, surrender to the Americans, who were not there and actually very, very far away. On May 5, in Czechoslovakia, the Germans surrender to the Americans, who also were not and would actually never arrive there.
The Germans’ decision to surrender to an absent enemy, is puzzling. According to Hollywood, the Germans were afraid of the barbaric Russians, while confiding in the civilized Americans.
But facts are stubborn, though the observation of every day gives renewed proof with how much industry, subterfuges and evasions are sought to decline the pressure of resistless argument. And how often the state of a question is altered, how often the antagonist is willfully misrepresented, and in how much perplexity the clearest positions are obscured by those whom they happen to oppose.
To explain the paradox, given the facts, we should recall the most interesting of these German surrenders – on May 6, when the fortress of Breslav (now in Poland), surrendered to the Russians. Breslav was the key of a German defensive front that had some hope of resisting the Russian advance.
One and a half hour after Breslav’s surrender, General Jodl, instructed by Doenitz, arrived in Rheims, France, 1400 miles to the West, to negotiate the surrender of all German forces to Eisenhower’s representatives. Jodl attempted to set terms suggesting that the remaining German troops could immediately switch sides and fight the Soviets, on behalf of the Allies.
It was an interesting offer, which some sections of the German elites had unofficially made to Churchill, when the war appeared lost. Equally, it was an an option already hinted at, in the Byzantine and complicated interpretations of some official documents, following Chamberlain’s negotiations with Hitler, before the war.
Jodl’s offer was a bluff. What could have made sense a few months before was now impossible. If Eisenhower had accepted the proposal, Russia, already occupying the majority of Germany, would turn instantly into an enemy. The agreement on the partition of Germany at Yalta and Potsdam would become immediately nil.
Jodl could have benefited from remembering Brutus’ words after the battle of Philippi,
“Our enemies have beat us to the pit:
It is more worthy to leap in ourselves,
Than tarry till they push us.” (6)
for, indeed, he was executed at Nuremberg.
Jodl signed an agreement ceasing hostilities at 11 PM of May 8th. Next day, May 9th General Keitel signed the surrender to the Russians.
Which is why there is a difference of one day in the celebrations of Victory Day in the West and in Russia. Historically, however, Germany’s puzzling surrenders to absent enemies show that, even during the war, there were two Western fronts. The official against Germany and the unofficial to contain the Communist contagion. The Nazi leaders were also clinging to this hope during the last year of the war.
For in the end, Fascism, beyond the reality of the millions dead and maimed, was not the real enemy of the West. Fascism was an attempt by the bourgeoisie economy to defend itself from the dual threat of crisis and proletarian subversion. For the capitalist society Fascism was a state of siege, a means of survival through the administration of an emergency dose of massive state intervention in its management.
That is, Fascism unofficially ended during the war, while the Cold War had already begun. The current pathetic denial, or begrudged acknowledgment of Russia’s immense sacrifice, and her official excommunication tell the story – to the point of glorifying the Nazis (see Ukraine). But “memory, the warder of the brain…. can be a fume”, according to political or ideological needs.
Or, as Thucydides instructed us, “If you wish to know the present, you must know its antecedents.”
As for the future, finance-capital feels its own force to be great, and, by the similar complacency with which every man surveys himself, imagines it still greater.
On the other hand, behind the exclamations and declarations of greatness and exceptionalism, there is a sense that there are cracks in the empire. But the purveyors of US foreign policy persevere against all the remonstrances and the hatred they accumulate – prompted either by the viciousness of their own inclinations, or the seducements and pressure of alluring companions.
They go forward with full career, though they behold before them the precipice of destruction.
Opening Quote. In the Play. Lady Macbeth will distract King Duncan’s servant, so that Macbeth can assassinate the king without their presence.
- Sonnet 12 (1)
- King Richard III (2)
- Troilus and Cressida (3)
- Troilus and Cressida (4)
- Julius Caesar (5)
- Julius Caesar (6)
Interesting post.. The Germans, being crushed and ground to mincemeat on ‘the Russian front’,were repositioning some of their best (surviving ) units to the west to meet the allies.. Usually when the Germans met the allies on the western front the effect was like a German knockout punch to the face, delivered by George Forman , wearing a chain mail glove..The Germans were hoping to make a separate peace with the capitalist Anglo American alliance on the grounds that the Soviet Union was ‘the greatest threat to the world” – The Soviet Union was definitely the greatest threat to parasitic global monopoly capitalism the world has ever known – In any case, Hitler still lived and wouldn’t sanction even the talk of such surrender things as they amounted to. And while Roosevelt lived the US would not betray the Soviet Union. If Roosevelt had died a year earlier and the Nazis had gotten Truman to deal with it might have been different on the American end of it. Conversely, if Roosevelt had lived another 8 years the world would probably have shaken out vastly different than it was, post war.