Soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko was credited with killing 309 fascist invaders
With the Trump government in the United States turning an already opaque and Kafkaesque machinery of violence against the marginalised into a more overt American fascism, and the rise of the far right throughout Europe, mechanisms of resistance have to be considered.
It is tempting to give in to the myth of the Second World War as a noble war against fascism, but the reality is that the countries on the Allied side fought to preserve a very specific set of interests. Britain’s national myth-making sees modern right-wingers (and some left-wingers) imagine a world where Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany; but the reality is that the USSR’s Great Patriotic War saw much higher casualties, and the remembrance of Britain as unique serves a very specific set of interests.
Such myth-making also ignores the role of empire in the Second World War. The fixation on the European battles ignores Britain’s role in North Africa in particular—a battle that was primarily required by the needs of English imperialists to maintain their dominance.
Such points are not made to diminish or minimise the losses of British forces in defeating Hitler—which, it goes without saying, was a good thing—but instead to point out that the British forces (and the American and indeed Soviet forces) were not solely motivated by a nebulous idea of “good” but were reacting within a situation where a complex interrelation of interests saw them combat fascism.
This point is important because it underlines one thing: that it cannot be relied on to happen again.
Indeed the myth-making of the Second World War is now employed in a reactionary form. Witness Tommy Robinson’s goons making Nazi salutes in London as they declare their aim to “take their country back.” This kind of bungled and incoherent world view is just a more vulgar form of the sort of state racism that is embodied by Theresa May’s Conservative Party, whose “hostile environment” policy only came under scrutiny when it came up against another exercise in national myth-making, the horrific treatment of the Windrush immigrants (the name given to a large group who arrived in England from Jamaica in 1948 on the troopship Empire Windrush).
But such a fixation misses the terrible treatment of thousands of other human beings who were not fortunate enough to be part of a generation that caught the national imagination. In France, Emmanuel Macron recently used a remembrance service for the French Resistance to chastise a student for singing “The International” and for not addressing him by his formal title—the vulgar mask of neo-liberalism slipping for a moment to show the authoritarianism hidden underneath.
So what is the answer to the rising tide of the far right? Well, in order for the social conditions to exist where opposing fascism is reflexive we need to build socialist organisation. Fascism is just the degenerate form of capitalism, the fear of a populace that can envisage no alternative asking for a paternal hand to “control the market” and stifle the cycle of boom and bust, which it blames on the sedition of some immigrant or deviant Other.
But it’s obvious that markets cannot do anything but boom and bust; and therefore fascism is merely the great sleight of hand of capitalism, offering the nation control of its destiny but instead only handing the bourgeoisie total social domination. Therefore it is only socialism that can truly fight fascism, as socialism is in every way antithetical to it.
We see already with Fine Gael’s alliance in the EU Parliament with the right-wing Hungarian Civic Alliance (Fidesz) that neo-liberalism has no issue with doing deals with fascists. “Fortress Europe” is the European liberals’ and right’s attempt to pander to base xenophobia to protect their real prize: the European Union itself.
It is for this reason that socialists should have two aims: firstly, to organise in the grass roots to defend people in our communities from fascist violence and to oppose their marches and events, but equally importantly socialism needs state power if it is to resist the march of fascism. That should be the real lesson of the Second World War.