Support our Troops: Remembering the Communists that Won World War II

In addition to the pandemic, presidential election, economic depression, and UFO video, 2020 also marks the 75th anniversary of World War 2. The war led to the United States becoming the dominant imperialist power and the USSR becoming a global superpower, so it’s impossible to overstate World War 2’s significance to modern history. Like all history though, bourgeoisie media has totally distorted the actual event. Western media has used the 75th anniversary to publish a flood of articles which overemphasize the contribution of the western imperialist powers in defeating the Axis, while downplaying the much larger contribution of communist forces. This propaganda campaign has been extremely effective. When the European war ended in 1945, French pollster Ifop found that 57 percent of French people thought the USSR  contributed the most to the war effort, while just 20 percent of French people thought the United States did. By 2004, the polls results had reversed, with just 20 percent of French people putting the Soviet Union first and 58 percent putting the U.S. first. This article is far from all encompassing, but it is an attempt to shed light on the monumental contribution and sacrifice of communists in defeating fascism.

Chinese Communist Resistance

China, despite being absent from most western historical accounts, is one of the largest theaters of the conflict. In fact, many historians now point to the 1937 Japanese invasion of China as the true start of the war. But even this 1937 invasion was just the resuming of a brutal invasion and occupation that began in 1931. 

Japanese forces committed genocide in many areas they occupied. People would be killed outright, and others would be kidnapped for forced labor or prostitution. It’s estimated that up to 410,000 women in total were forced into sex slavery by Japanese authorities. The Rape of Nanjing, in which 300,000 Chinese civilians were raped and/or murdered within a 6 week period, is usually cited as the worst Japanese atrocity. Truthfully, Japanese occupation was a never ending nightmare of such massacres. The Japanese government at the time was fascist to the core, with a god emperor as the official authority and powerful military leaders making most actual decisions. Unsurprisingly, this government was also fanatically anti-communist, and being a communist or anarchists was made a criminal offense in 1925. 

China in 1931 was in the midst of a protracted civil war, making it an opportune military target. Communist forces led by Mao Zedong and supported by the Soviet Union were fighting capitalist forces led by Chiang Kai-shek and supported by the western imperialist powers. Even after the initial Japanese invasion in 1931, both nationalist and communist forces focused on fighting each other rather than Japan. While the “Soviet Republic of China” held only small amounts of territory during this time, the communists instituted land reform, educational programs, medical programs and increased women’s political participation. However, in 1934 nationalist forces managed to completely encircle the Soviet and bomb it in an attempt to destroy the communists. 

Approximately 100,000 fighters of the Chinese Red Army managed to break through this encirclement and begin the Long March. The nationalists promptly massacred many of those left behind. Surviving communist fighters marched through 6,000 miles of China’s toughest terrain, while constantly fighting the nationalists for more time. Only 7,000 of the communists eventually made it to the Shenshi Soviet in 1935, but 7,000 would prove to be enough. 

1935 is also when major communist resistance began to form in occupied Manchuria. Most significantly, the Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army led a heroic local guerrilla resistance against overwhelming Japanese forces. In the most famous example of resistance, eight girls and women aged 13-23 fought toe to toe with a massive Japanese force. The communists fought so well that the Japanese thought they were dealing with a much larger Chinese force. Eventually cornered and facing capture, the 8 girls and women chose to drown themselves in a nearby river to avoid being tortured into betraying their comrades. Yet, brave as the resistance was,  Mao knew that the communists couldn’t defeat the Japanese with heroism alone. That’s why in 1937 he proposed an anti-Japanese alliance with Kai-shek. While Kai-shek initially wanted to continue the civil war, his own generals arrested him and forced him to agree to the truce.

While with the truce the communists technically fought under the nationalist banner, the communists quickly took over as the main armed opposition to the Japanese occupation. In 1940, Chinese communists launched the “Hundred Regiments Offensive” in which 400,000 communist troops attacked the Japanese simultaneously in 5 provinces during one of the largest operations of the entire war. For reference, the U.S. landed only 73,000 troops during the entire Normandy campaign. The “Hundred Regiments Offensive” was a resounding success, and the first large scale defeat of Japanese military forces in WW2. Communists in China would continue to tie down the bulk of Japanese forces throughout the war. 

Korean Communist Resistance

Japanese occupation was equally brutal in Korea, which had been a Japanese colony since 1905.  Unsurprisingly, Korean resistance to Japanese colonialism was also fierce and included both Korean communists and non-communists alike. By 1910, Korea had lost any semblance of independence and its government was completely taken over by Japan. Many Korean communists joined up with the previously mentioned Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army, which also fought in Korea as well as Manchuria. In fact, two of the eight girls previously mentioned are Korean. 

The most well known battle within Korea was the The Battle of Pochonbo. In 1937, 150 Chinese and Korean fighters commanded by Kim Il-sung managed to capture an entire town briefly in Korea. Despite being heavily outnumbered, the communists seized the town and inflicted heavy casualties on the Japanese before making a tactical withdrawal. Il-Sung wrote that “The Battle of Pochonbo showed that imperialist Japan could be smashed and burnt up, like rubbish. The flames over the night sky of Pochonbo in the fatherland heralded the dawn of the liberation of Korea, which had been buried in darkness.” Embarrassed at its defeat by a numerically weaker and under equipped Korean resistance, Japanese forces relentlessly hunted Il-Sung and his forces across Korea. Il-Sung became a national hero overnight, and he eventually managed to retreat to the Soviet Union where his forces were retrained, reequipped, and folded into the Soviet Red Army. 

Communist Partisans

The genocide known as the Holocaust is probably the most well known event of World War 2. Axis forces, which included Germans, Italians, Hungarians, Finns, Ukrainians, and other fascists, killed or enslaved all people they considered socially undesirable in territory they occupied. European Jews were specifically targeted for complete extermination by Axis forces. While many people were killed within concentration camp gas chambers, many were also simply shot or starved to death. The German plan for genocide was directly based on genocides committed by the U.S and English empires.

The Holocaust naturally encouraged ferocious resistance within occupied Soviet territory in particular. The largest  fighting force within this territory was undoubtedly communist partisans. These partisan groups became active immediately when Axis forces invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. Initially made up of Red Army soldiers now behind enemy lines,  and a massive amount of recruits, these partisans attacked supply lines, fought off Axis punitive attacks, disrupted communication, and killed fascists. Within just a few months of the Axis surprise attack, there were 90,000 explicitly communist partisans operating in occupied Soviet territory.  In Belarus, Communist Partisans had territorial control over 60% of the country by the time the Red Army arrived in 1943. Communist Partisans in occupied Ukraine fought both Ukrainian fascists and Axis forces. Communist partisans were most active within Russia. According to German estimates, 75% of all occupied Russian territory had a significant partisan presence. In fact, there were so many partisans that Axis forces in many areas had to stick strictly to roads and cities, because the countryside was overflowing with communist partisans. 

Communist partisans were active in every European country. In Poland, members of the Gwardia Ludowa fought in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, although the Polish nationalist partisan groups were admittedly larger within occupied Poland. Communist partisans were also extremely active in Italy, where they captured and executed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, his cabinet, and mistress. The Communists took the dictator’s body to a square where hundreds had been put to death by the fascists over the years People came from all over Italy to desecrate the dictator’s corpse. 

In France, communists and socialists made up a large amount of all resistance, even though the “left-leaning” government of France had attempted to execute the communist leadership directly before the war. By 1944, it’s estimated that there were 100,000 explicitly communist partisans fighting in France, and a large number of socialist partisans as well.

Even Finland, an Axis country, had a significant communist partisan presence. In addition to attacking small military posts within Finland, the partisans also distributed communist newspapers in both Finnish and Russian. Finnish authorities responded to the attacks by putting Russian speaking populations in concentration camps.

Most famous of all European partisans was “Tito’s Partisans”, or the forces that fought under communist leader Josip Broz Tito in Yugoslavia. While the Yugoslav partisans initially worked with Serbian Chetnik Nationalists, it quickly became apparent that the Chetniks were openly collaborating with the Axis occupation. However, this open collaboration did force the western allies to join the Soviet Union in supporting and recognizing Tito’s partisans as the legitimate government of Yugoslavia. Even the former king recognized Tito as the new Prime Minister and issued calls for all Yugoslavs to join in the communist resistance. By 1944, These partisans had managed to liberate nearly all of Yugoslavia. With the Soviet Red Army protecting the partisans vital right flank, Tito’s partisans unleashed a massive attack that routed remaining Axis forces and completely liberated the country.

Communist partisans were also active in Moldova, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and other european states.

Soviet Red Army

“Anyone who loves freedom owes such a debt to the Red Army that it can never be repaid”  said Ernest Hemingway

The fighting on the Eastern Front in World War 2 is the largest fighting in human history. More combatants died on the Eastern Front than all other theaters of World War 2 combined.  According to British historian Richard Overy, “Soviet forces destroyed or disabled an estimated 607 Axis divisions between 1941 and 1945.” For comparison, the U.S. fielded less than 100 divisions during the entire war. Additionally, the Soviet Red Army was the first army to defeat the German Wehrmacht and the 1941 Battle of Moscow is regularly cited as the turning point of the entire war. 

While the Axis and western Allies expected the Soviet Union to collapse within a few weeks, Soviet troops fought valiantly against overwhelming odds from the very beginning of the war. A few examples of this valor:

The Brest Fortress was supposed to be captured on the first day of the Axis invasion, yet Soviet defenders fought in the encircled fortress ruin for over a month. The doomed soldiers carved “We’ll die but we’ll not leave the fortress” and “I’m dying but I won’t surrender. Farewell, Motherland” on the walls of the fortress.

A few weeks later a single outdated Soviet tank broke through the German lines and wreaked havoc on German supply trucks. The tank was encircled by four anti-tank guns, a handful of Panzer tanks, and German engineer soldiers. Yet the old KV-1 tank held out for an entire day and was only destroyed after engineer infantry overwhelmed it’s single machine gun at night and blew it up at point blank range. 

In late 1942, Natalya Kovshova took command over her sniper unit after her commanding officer was killed. As the Soviet troops began to be overwhelmed, a soldier asked to retreat and Kovshova replied with the infamous line “not one step back!” Eventually, the Soviet unit was reduced to just Kovshova and her spotter, Mariya Polivanova. As the fascists surrounded the doomed pair, they kissed before detonating grenades to kill themselves and the swarming fascists.

Pavlov’s house in Stalingrad became a legend when Yakov Pavlov led a heroic stand there. Pavlov and only four survivors of his unit managed to capture the apartment complex and were promptly reinforced with about 30 additional Soviet troops. German troops surrounded the building and launched nearly constant attacks against it. For two months, Pavlov’s House held against the onslaught, even knocking out Panzer tanks with an anti-tank rifle fired from the roof. Up and down the Soviet line, fearless resistance was the norm rather than the exception. 

The war in Europe ended in 1945 when Soviet forces captured Berlin

The war in Asia would end that same year when the Soviet Red Army destroyed the elite Japanese Kwantung army in Manchuria. The Soviets had previously defeated Japan in several large battles during the war, but had never formally declared war on Japan and instead focused on defeating Germany. However, that changed in August 1945 when the Red Army attacked the Japanese fascists in Manchuria. Within a month, over a million Japanese fascist soldiers were killed or captured. American historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa says “The Soviet entry into the war played a much greater role than the atomic bombs in inducing Japan to surrender because it dashed any hope that Japan could terminate the war through Moscow’s mediation.”

A Simple Point

An overused idiom regarding World War 2 is that “there were no good sides.”, usually in reference to vague “war crimes” committed by communist forces. Undeniably, some of the tens of millions of communist fighters during the war committed heinous war crimes that should never be excused. However, at its core World War 2 is a war against Imperialism. The Soviet Union, China, Korea,and many other countries were in the process of being violently colonized throughout the war. By claiming that “there were no good sides”, bourgeois historians dodge the essential question of colonialism and imperialism. Worse, they conflate the violence of the oppressed with the violence of the oppressor. What should be a monumental historic achievement for international communism, the defeat of fascism, is instead reduced to a topic best avoided within the west. Yes Communist forces committed war crimes, notably the Katyn massacre. However, communist forces still are clearly the good side. Communists almost single-handedly stopped multiple genocides, and no amount of lies can distort this fundamental truth. The 75th opportunity is a somber reminder of the horrors Imperialists are willing to inflict for capital, but it’s also a reminder of what happens when brave people stand up and fight back. 

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