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The civil war caused the Bolsheviks to adopt what they called War Communism—breakup
of landed estates and forcible seizures of other agricultural lands
and products. This forced peasants to sell food without profits to city
dwellers. There were food shortages and a breakdown in the money system.
Even small scale capitalist production was suppressed. Many city workers
fled to the countryside in search of food. In February, many peasants
had stopped working, and many factory workers went on strike. The war
with Poland was still on, and the last foreign armies had not left.
The Red Army and police used force to break up protests and strikes.
Then came the Kronstadt rebellion! Several thousand revolutionary sailors, soldiers and workers guarded a huge naval fortress on Kotlin Island just 55 kilometers from the capital. They held a conference at the end of February. A Provisional Revolutionary Committee was constituted and proposed 15 demands to the Bolshevik government. Here are the most poignant points:
1. Immediate secret elections to the Soviets.
2. Freedom of speech and of the press.
3. The right to assemble, and freedom for trade union and peasant associations.
4. The liberation of all political prisoners of the Socialist parties, and of all imprisoned workers and peasants, soldiers and sailors belonging to working class and peasant organizations.
5. The abolition of all political sections in the armed forces; no political party should have privileges for the propagation of its ideas.
6. Equalization of rations for all workers, except those engaged in dangerous or unhealthy jobs.
7. Granting peasants freedom of action on their own soil, and the right to own cattle provided they look after them themselves and do not employ hired labor.
8. Handicraft production allowed provided it does not utilize wage labor.
On March 7, 60,000 Red Army soldiers crossed over the frozen Baltic Sea and attacked the fortress. The next day, the Tenth Bolshevik Party Congress met. By its conclusion, on March 16, it decided to end War Communism and begin the New Economic Policy (NEP). On March 18, the Treaty of Riga was signed ending the Polish-Soviet War. The next day, the Kronstadt rebellion was put down. Several thousand revolutionaries differing over policies had killed one another, between 500 and 2,000 rebels were executed, and thousands imprisoned. It is still debated whether the rebellion was purely an internal one or was part of an international conspiracy hatched in France. Regardless, comrade killed comrade.
With NEP, Lenin was admitting that a worldwide revolution was not around the corner; the proletariat also had to embrace the peasantry as partners; and socialism could not be truly shaped so soon. NEP allowed a limited market, small private businesses, and eased restrictions on some political activities.
The key shift involved the status of agricultural products. Rather than simply requisitioning agricultural surpluses in order to feed the urban population, NEP allowed peasants to sell their surplus yields on the open market. The state still maintained ownership of what Lenin deemed the “commanding heights”: heavy industry (coal, iron, and other metallurgical sectors) along with banking and financial components. State industries would have flexibility in making decisions.
The economy expanded. Much trade was taken over by full-time merchants, who were denounced as “speculators” by leftists, and resented by the public. The growth in trade, though, did generally coincide with rising living standards in the city, and the countryside where 80% lived.
The Soviet NEP was essentially a period of “market socialism” and lasted until 1929. Agricultural yields recovered and improved. The break-up of the landed estates gave peasants their greatest incentives ever to maximize production, and peasant spending gave a boost to the manufacturing sectors. As a result, the Soviet Union became the world’s greatest producer of grain.
Women worker delegates to Communist Congress
Factories did not recover as rapidly having been badly damaged by wars and capital depreciation. Some enterprises were organized into trusts or syndicates representing one sector of the economy, which contributed to imbalances between supply and demand. With little state control, trusts sold products at higher prices.
The slower recovery of industry posed problems for the peasantry since price indexes for industrial goods were higher than those for agricultural products. Peasants had to produce more grain to purchase consumer goods. As a result, some peasants withheld agricultural surpluses in anticipation of higher prices, thereby contributing to shortages in the cities. The Communists attempted to bring prices down for manufactured goods,
stabilize inflation by imposing price controls on essential industrial goods, and break-up the trusts to increase economic efficiency.
Lenin was shot on August 30, 1918 at a Moscow factory by Feiga Kaplan. She was an angry young Socialist Revolutionary, who believed Lenin had betrayed the revolution when he banned her party. Kaplan used a pistol to shoot him in a shoulder and the neck, which punctured a lung. She said she acted alone. She was executed three days later, and many fellow members were shot without trials.
Lenin never fully recovered and had three strokes between May 1922 and March 1923, which impaired his speech to the point where he could not speak. Following his last stroke, a troika—Joseph Stalin, Grigory Zinoviev, and Lev Kamenev—took over party and state leadership. These three, along with Lenin, Trotsky, Grigori Sokolnikov and Andrei Bubnov made up the first Politburo from the start of the revolution.
Before Lenin died, on January 21, 1924, he presumably dictated two letters
in December 1922, which became known as Lenin’s Testament. Many who supported Stalin then and now cast aspersions on its veracity. If there was a testament, Lenin apparently dictated it to his secretary. Lenin criticized Stalin’s leadership and urged his removal as general secretary. In May 1924, the Central Committee discussed the testament but no action was taken nor was it published. (1)
Lenin and Stalin during last days of Lenin's life
During Lenin’s sickness, serious differences arose between Stalin and Trotsky. Among them were whether socialism could be built only in one country (Russia), Stalin’s view; or if it was necessary to make a permanent revolution both internally and by actively encouraging a worldwide revolution, professed by Trotsky. By the end of 1924, Stalin was able to maneuver Trotsky out as commissar of war. Trotsky was dismissed, in part, for heading the Left Opposition fraction, 1923-7.
Trotsky was dropped from the politburo entirely in 1926 when he formed the United Opposition with Zinoviev and Kamenev. They opposed some policies of Stalin and Nikolai Bukharin, editor of the party newspaper “Pravda” and general secretary of the international Comintern. But the three lost influence as a result of party disputes. In October 1927, they were expelled from the Central Committee and expelled from the Communist Party in December. In early 1928, Trotsky and other leading members of the Left Opposition were sentenced to internal exile. Zinoviev and Kamenev admitted mistakes and were readmitted. In February 1929, Trotsky was exiled to Turkey. He was eventually murdered in Mexico, August 20, 1940. Ramón Mercader, a Spanish-born NKVD agent, had infiltrated Trotsky’s inner circle. He killed Trotsky with an ice axe. Mercader served 20 years in a Mexican prison. Stalin presented him with an Order of Lenin in absentia.
Different ideas, Western subversion and paranoia
In every revolution, or transformational economic upheaval leading from one system to another, there is always counter-revolution. Internal conflicts and transformations are often utilized by foreign powers to their advantage. We’ve witnessed this for millenniums, and the Russian movement to transform from the feudal-capitalist system to a socialist one was no different or, perhaps, it was the most threatening one.
No one had attempted to interfere with United States’ sovereignty and its imperialism between 1812 and 1941, but it did not reciprocate—its interventions in other States is classic in scope. So, by 1917, it was already routine to stop changes in countries that it regarded as unprofitable for Wall Street. Certainly a Russia, and then Soviet Union, that would rule its own resources and make its own economy distinct from that of the U.S. (U.K, Europe generally, along with Japan) could not be tolerated. Subversion and military intervention started from the first, as we have already seen. And when the great bear of the nation was nearly on its knees from so much violence and lack of food, its leaders naturally could see enemies where there were none—paranoia sets in, and causes mistakes and even immoral actions. The reality of subversion, of infiltration by mighty enemies is so omnipotent and omnipresent, that this can cause one to oversee that actions chosen could also be caused by one’s paranoia.
As I wrote at the beginning of chapter seven, “it is not my intent to delve into or analyze Russia’s internal developments, socialism’s growth and failure, its leaders’ wisdom or lack thereof….” but I do present some pertinent facts, as much as I can discern, about some of the purges and internal violence that took place in Russia. This is relevant to the overall theme of this book.
With the end of Communist party fractions, Stalin had a free hand for a while. In 1929, he launched the first Five-year plan with near total collectivization of agricultural and industry. There was a famine in 1932-3, and resistance to some measures propped up among some party members, much of the peasantry, and some military leaders. The term “purge” in Soviet political slang was an abbreviation of the expression purge of the Party ranks. In 1933, the party expelled about 400,000 people, 18% of its membership. An equal number had already been purged since 1921.
The “Great Purge”, or “Great Terror”, or the “Yezhov doings” occurred from 1936 to 1938. Nikolai Yezhov was head of the Soviet secret police (NKVD), formed in 1934. This campaign included three major trials and a large-scale “cleansing” of Communist party leaders and other members, government civil servants, Red Army leaders, artists and intellectuals, and repression of peasants.
In these “Moscow Trials” confessions of betrayal to the revolution were voiced and hundreds of defendants were executed, even Politburo members and two NKVD leaders, including Yezho and his predecessor Genrikh Yagoda. Of the original seven Politiburo leaders, whom Lenin had picked, only Stalin remained. Lenin had died; Trotsky was exiled; Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bubnov were executed (1936-7), and Sokolnikov was killed in prison (1939). Even Stalin’s closest ally, Bukharin, was arrested in February 1937 on suspicion of trying to overthrow him. Bukharin was executed in March 1938.
Figures vary according to sources, but hundreds of thousands up to one or two million of what was called “fifth column of wreckers, terrorists and spies” were killed or imprisoned in Corrective Labor Camps, what some call the Gulag. The term “repression” was officially used to describe the prosecution of people considered to be counter-revolutionaries and enemies of the people.
These internal trials and tribulations took place during the Spanish Civil War in which the Soviet Union was the only active supporter of the Spanish Republic. One wonders what the Soviet soldiers fighting in Spain thought about the purge underway when it hit their officers too. Stalin suspected many of his officers of conspiring with Germany. Of the top 29 marshals, admirals and generals, 24 were purged—imprisoned or executed. Hundreds of division commanders were purged as well. Twenty to thirty thousand members of the armed forces were executed. Thirty percent of officers dismissed were allowed to return to service when World War II broke out.
The most prominent general executed was Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky. He had commanded the Soviet Western Front in the Soviet-Polish War, was the Red Army chief of staff (1925-8), and performed other important military and theoretical duties until Stalin accused him of treason. It was claimed that he had engaged in correspondence with some persons in the German high command. He was executed on June 12, 1937. His reputation was rehabilitated in the 1960s.
These purges were taking place as Adolf Hitler was remilitarizing the German Army. On the one hand, Stalin was “cleansing” his army, while increased the number of soldiers to 1,300,000 men, more tanks (10,000) and more front line planes (5,000).
The so-called Kulak Operation—or the campaign to eliminate anti-Soviet elements—occurred during the trials. Kulaks were originally affluent peasants in the Ukraine. The term took on general reference to any independent peasant owning a couple hectares or more, and included those who resisted delivering products to the city. Lenin had called them “bloodsuckers” fattened by famines. Orthodox Church clergymen were also caught in this sweep. Most of the 35,000 Kulaks were arrested. Poles suspected of “diversion-ism” were also arrested and many executed in this period.
At the same time, Soviet troops were engaged in military conflict with Japan once again, known as the Soviet-Japanese border conflicts. This was a series of battles and skirmishes over borders, and included the puppet states of Mongolia (Soviet) and Manchukuo (Japan). These conflicts flashed on and off between 1932 and 1939. In May 1939, the Soviets finally inflicted a decisive defeat. During this mini-war, the Russians lost another 32,000 troops; the Japanese 20,000. On April 13, 1941, the two nations signed the Japanese–Soviet Non-aggression Pact, assuring neutrality during World War II, which was about to begin for the Soviets.
This agreement, aka the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact, followed another pact that Japan had made with Germany and Italy, the Tripartite or Berlin Pact, signed on September 27, 1940. But rather than stressing neutrality, it called for a joint military alliance in the event of an attack. Japan recognized the leadership of Germany and Italy in establishing “a new order in Europe”. They, in turn, recognized Japan in establishing “a new order in Greater East Asia”.
The Berlin Pact was directed mainly at the U.S. Within months, several East European countries signed on: Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Croatia.
Shortly after the Soviet victory against the Japanese, NKVD operatives were set up in the Mongolian People’s Republic. Many thousands of people accused of being “pro-Japanese spies” were executed. Buddhist lamas were among them.
Within months after these violent processes took place, the Soviet Union invaded Finland, on November 30, 1939. Russia was worried that Germany would come there first, and Leningrad was just 32 kilometers from a Finland-Russian border. Stalin first offered an exchange of territory that would allow a buffer zone for Russia, especially to protect Leningrad. But Finland refused. The war was short-lived, but extremely costly for the Red Army now run by new and inexperienced officers.
Soviet casualties amounted to roughly 300,000 about half killed, while
Finland suffered one fourth that. Finland lost 20-30 tanks and 60 aircraft.
Soviets lost 1,200 to 3,500 tanks and 250 to 500 aircraft. But Russia
got what it wanted in the Moscow Peace Treaty, March 13, 1940, a buffer
Many Russians not caught up directly in internal conflicts looked up to Stalin as their strong leader. Others feared him as a brutal cultist of his own personality. With Hitler advancing closer to the Soviet Union, having easily taking the Western front, and the Soviet military weakened by purges and the Finnish and Japanese mini-wars, a socialist future looked grim. Stalin, however, thought the purges strengthened his hand in the eventuality of a Nazi invasion.
Operation Barbarossa was the Axis code name for Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, on June 22, 1941, 22 months after signing the non-aggression pact. Germany first sought to conquer western Soviet Union so that it could seize Caucasus oil and agricultural resources. It planned to repopulate the territory with Arian Germans, who would use Slavs as a slave-labor force for the Axis war-effort. (2)
It should not have been any wonder that Nazi Germany would invade the Soviet Union. Adolf Hitler wrote his intention as early as 1925 in Mein Kampf, in which he asserted that the German people needed to secure Lebensraum to “ensure the survival of Germany”.
In the two years of détente leading up to the invasion, Germany and the Soviet Union signed political and economic pacts for strategic purposes. Simultaneously, Germany’s military was planning an invasion of the Soviet Union.
Over the course of three years of war inside the Soviet Union, Germany sent about four million troops along the 2,900 kilometer western front, which was the largest invasion force in the history of warfare. Germany deployed some 600,000 motor vehicles, about 5000 aircraft, and between 600,000 and 700,000 horses for non-combat operations.
German forces achieved major victories and occupied some of the most important economic areas, especially in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Despite these successes, the German offensive stalled in the battles of Leningrad and Moscow, and subsequently the Soviet winter counteroffensive pushed German troops back. The Red Army repelled the Wehrmacht’s strongest blows and forced the Germans into a war of attrition.
The failure of Operation Barbarossa proved a turning point in the fortunes of the Third Reich. Now the Eastern Front was open, and more forces were committed there than in any other theater of war in world history. The Eastern Front became the site of some of the largest battles, most horrific atrocities, and highest casualties for Soviet and Axis forces.
The German armies captured 5,000,000 Red Army troops, who were denied the protection guaranteed by Geneva Conventions. The Nazis deliberately starved to death, or otherwise killed 3.3 million military prisoners, as well as huge numbers of civilians through the “Hunger Plan” to starve Slavs. Nazi death squads (Einsatzgruppen) and gassing operations murdered 1.4 million Soviet Jews as part of the Holocaust. That was over half the Jews then living in the Soviet Union.
Just in the first six months of the war several million Russian civilians were murdered, starved to death or died of war-related diseases. Five million Soviet troops were killed or seriously wounded—some died of starvation and diseases. 1,710 towns and 70,000 villages were razed. 21,200 of 23,000 Soviet aircraft were destroyed—2,000 on the first day of the invasion. 20,500 of its 23,000 tanks were destroyed.
The Soviet people had to die in the multi millions before Westerners could see that the Soviet people would eventually beat the Germans, and then decided to back them. This truth was corroborated by the United States second ambassador to the Soviet Union, Joseph Davies.
The U.S. had withdrawn its ambassador to Russia in November 1917 after refusing to recognize the revolutionary government. Under FDR, diplomatic relations were reestablished in 1933. William Christian Bullet was the first ambassador (November 1933-May 1936).
Davies represented the U.S. from November 1936 to June 1938, about which he wrote a book. In Mission to Moscow (Simon & Schuster, N.Y., 1941) was made into a film in 1943. Davies portrayed how desperate Russians had felt about an eventual war with Germany even before the invasion, given that England and France, and isolationist U.S. refused to make a defensive alliance. Davies wrote that the Soviets knew that the West’s illegal but profitable aid in rearming Hitler was not meant to be a “bulwark” but meant to war on them. The August 1939 non-aggression pact was therefore necessary, in order to derail that invasion for a time. Davies also took Stalin’s part in the need for the internal purges.
Half a year after the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, its Asiatic ally invaded the United States at Pearl Harbor naval base on the Hawaii colony. The Empire of Japan declaration of war on the United States and the British Empire was published on December 8, 1941, shortly after Japanese forces had attacked both Pearl Harbor and British forces in Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
In response, the United States Congress declared war on the Empire of Japan the same day, justg nine hours after the UK declared war on Japan.
Pear Harbor was attacked by 353 Imperial Japanese aircraft launched from six aircraft carriers. All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, four sank. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed. 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others wounded. Japanese losses were light: 64 servicemen killed; 29 aircraft and five U-boats lost. One Japanese sailor was captured.
Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. The U.S. responded with a declaration of war against them.
Two years after the U.S. entered the war, and two and one-half years after the Nazis had invaded the Soviet Union, the U.S. and U.K. welcomed the hated Communists to a conference in Iran, in order to forge a joint strategy.
The Tehran Conference was a strategy meeting of Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill from November 28, to December 1, 1943. The first West-USSR war cooperation had just taken place—the Anglo-Soviet Invasion of Iran, August 25-September 17, 1941. This operation assured oil supplies for the Allies, especially Russia on the Eastern Front. The conference was held in the Soviet Union’s embassy in Tehran, the first of the “Big Three” World War II conferences, and followed on the heels of the Cairo Conference without Stalin.
The Cairo Conference of November 22–26, 1943, held in Egypt, outlined the Allied position against Japan and made decisions about postwar Asia. The meeting was attended by Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek of the Republic of China. Joseph Stalin did not attend because his meeting with Chiang could have caused friction between the Soviet Union and Japan. Due to the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact, the Soviet Union was not at war with Japan, whereas China, the U.K. and the U.S. were.
The main agreement at Cairo was to continue deploying military force until Japan’s unconditional surrender. The allies sought to restrain and punish Japan’s aggression without involving themselves in territorial expansion after the conflict. Japan would be stripped of all the islands in the Pacific, which she had seized or occupied since the beginning of the First World War. All the territories Japan had seized from the Chinese would return to China—Manchuria, Formosa and the Pescadores. Korea must also be returned and, “in due course shall become free and independent”.
At Tehran, the main outcome was the Western Allies’ commitment to open a second front against Nazi Germany, which would bring relief to Russia.
A prelude to a second front began as soon as the German-Soviet war broke out in June 1941. Churchill voiced assistance to the Soviets and an agreement to this effect was signed on July 12, 1941. When the United States joined the war in December, a combined chiefs of staff committee was created to coordinate British and US American operations as well as their support to the Soviet Union. There was the question of opening a second front to alleviate the German pressure on the Red Army on the Eastern Front. It was also agreed that the U.S. would aid Britain and the Soviet Union with credit and material support.
Sevastopol Battle 1944 by Russian artist Pavel Petrovich on loan from St. Petersburg museum to Malaga Spain's Ruso Museum.
Nevertheless, it took three years after Churchill’s original promise, and seven months after the Tehran agreement before the second front opened. Large-scale combat forces landed at Normandy in June 1944, and fought until Germany’s defeat in May 1945.
The Yalta Conference, also known as the Crimea conference, was held from February 4 to 11, 1945. The three States were again represented by Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. The conference convened in the Livadia Palace near Yalta in Crimea, Soviet Union. Its aim was to shape the liberation of Europeans, a post-war peace and collective security.
By then, Red Army Marshal Georgy Zhukov’s forces were 65 km from Berlin. The Red Army had occupied all of Poland, and held much of Eastern Europe with three times the force than the other Allied forces had in the West.
Stalin’s position at the conference was the strongest. Roosevelt wanted Soviet support in the U.S. Pacific War against Japan, specifically for the planned invasion, Operation August Storm, and he wanted Soviet participation in what became the United Nations. Churchill pressed for free elections and democratic governments in Eastern and Central Europe, namely Poland. Stalin demanded a Soviet sphere of political influence in Eastern and Central Europe as an essential aspect of the USSR’s national security strategy. He agreed to join the UN, given the understanding of veto power for permanent members of the Security Council, which would ensure that each country could block undesired decisions.
Stalin agreed that the Soviet Union would enter the Pacific War three months after the defeat of Germany—a pledge he fulfilled. All three leaders agreed that, in exchange for potentially crucial Soviet participation, the Soviets would be granted a sphere of influence in Manchuria following Japan’s surrender. Stalin also agreed to keep the nationality of the Korean Peninsula intact as it entered the war against Japan
The key points of the meeting are as follows:
• Agreement to the priority of the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. After the war, Germany and Berlin would be split into four occupied zones. Stalin agreed that France would have a fourth occupation zone in Germany, but it would have to be formed out of the U.S. and British zones.
• Germany would undergo demilitarization and de-Nazification.
• German reparations were partly to be in the form of forced labor to repair damage that Germany had inflicted on its victims.
• Creation of a reparation council to be located in the Soviet Union.
• It was agreed to reorganize the communist Provisional Government of the Republic of Poland, which had been installed by the Soviet Union “on a broader democratic basis,” with elections. The Polish eastern border would follow the Curzon Line, and Poland would receive territorial compensation in the west from Germany.
• Stalin agreed to participate in the UN. Stalin requested that all of the 16 Soviet Socialist Republics would be granted UN membership. This was taken into consideration, but the two Allies denied membership to 14 republics. After Roosevelt’s death, Truman agreed to membership for Ukraine and Byelorussia while reserving the right, which was never exercised, to seek two more votes for the United States.
• As a result of Stalin’s agreement to fight the Japan Empire, the Soviets would take possession of Southern Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands, the port of Dalian would be internationalized, and the Soviet lease of Port Arthur would be restored.
• Nazi war criminals were to be found and put on trial.
• A “Committee on Dismemberment of Germany” was to be set up.
Potsdam Conference aka Berlin Conference of the Three Heads of Government of the USSR, USA and UK was held July 17-August 2, 1945, five months after Yalta and two months after Germany surrendered. It took place in Potsdam, Germany. The powers were represented by Stalin and Winston Churchill, and later by Clement Attlee, and President Harry S. Truman. Roosevelt had died on April 12.
They were to decide how to administer defeated Nazi Germany, which had agreed to unconditional surrender on May 8. Goals also included the establishment of post-war order, peace treaty issues, and countering the effects of the war.
In the time since the Yalta Conference, a number of changes had taken place which would affect their relationships and the world’s future. Stalin insisted that Soviet control of some Central and Eastern Europe was a defensive measure against possible future attacks, asserting that it was a legitimate sphere of Soviet influence. Truman’s abrupt entrance into the theatre was most unfortunate for a future peace with the Soviets due to his unrepentant anti-communist ideology, and with his soon-to-be creation of the Central Intelligence Agency, whose mission would be world domination. And Labour Party leader Clement Attlee had unexpectedly beaten Churchill in the election, July 26 mid in the Postdam Conference.
The Potsdam Conference resulted in: (1) details for Japan’s unconditional surrender; (2) an agreement regarding Soviet annexation of former Polish territory east of the Curzon Line; (3) provisions to be addressed in an eventual Final Treaty ending World War II for the annexation of parts of Germany east of the Oder-Neisse line into Poland, and northern East Prussia into the Soviet Union; (4) German industrial war-potential was to be eliminated by the destruction or control of all industry with military potential.
Most other issues were reconfirmation of Yalta agreements. This included dealing with Japan’s occupation of Korea, in which a temporary division was made. This soon happened at the infamous 38th parallel. Korea was to eventually become “free and independent”, “mindful of the enslavement of the people of Korea” by Japan, as had been established at the Cairo Conference.
Truman mentioned an unspecified “powerful new weapon” to Stalin during the conference without mentioning its atomic nature. While still at the conference, Truman gave Japan an ultimatum to surrender (in the name of the United States, Great Britain and China), or meet “prompt and utter destruction”. Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki did not immediately respond. Truman then dropped the bombs on Hiroshima, August 6, and Nagasaki, August 9, murdering nearly 200,000 people, mostly civilians, and many more from radiation poisoning in years to come.
The justification was: preserving American lives by ending the war swiftly, and both cities were legitimate military targets. According to Truman’s diary notes of July 25, 1945, he told Secretary of War Henry Stimson to use the bombs so that “military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital or the new.”
However, Japan was already smashed and ready to surrender, especially when the Soviet Union invaded just hours before the A-bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Japan surrendered to the Soviet Union on September 2, after surrendering to the U.S. on August 15. The surrender ceremony took place on September 2 on the USS Missouri flying the flags of the United States, Britain, and China, alongside the Soviet Union.
The timing of using the A-bomb suggests that Truman did not want Stalin
involved in the terms of Japan’s surrender, contrary to the Tehran
agreement. Truman even delayed the Potsdam Conference in order to be
sure of the functionality of this “powerful new weapon”.
The Trinity test on July 16 was the first-ever test of a nuclear weapon
(yield of 20 kilotons).
A-bombing Japan: immoral genocide and unncessary
Major General Curtis LeMay opposed using the A-bomb in Japan not out of moral concerns. He was ready to use it against Russia and perhaps Cuba and China during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But LeMay knew it was unnecessary, and he wanted credit for having destroyed the country. He had designed and implemented the systematic strategic bombing campaign in the Pacific Theater, and pioneered low-altitude nighttime firebombing raids. On March 10, 1945, more than 300 B-29s dropped incendiary bombs over Tokyo. Over 100,000 people died. LeMay then directed similar raids at every major industrial city in Japan. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were burned alive. The U.S. knew the war was ending. Japan could not last much longer. Sustained, massive destruction was routine by August 1945.
Dropping “Little Boy” and “Fat Man”—cute nick-names for genocidal atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—was thoroughly unnecessary.
“On September 20, 1945 the famous ‘hawk’ who commanded the Twenty-First Bomber Command, Major General Curtis E. LeMay (as reported in The New York Herald Tribune) publicly said flatly at one press conference that the atomic bomb ‘had nothing to do with the end of the war.’” “He said the war would have been over in two weeks without the use of the atomic bomb or the Russian entry into the war.” http://www.colorado.edu/AmStudies/lewis/2010/atomicdec.htm
“Soviet offensive, key to Japan’s WWII surrender, was eclipsed by A-bombs”
This was Fox News headline, August 14, 2010.
“As the United States dropped its atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, 1.6 million Soviet troops launched a surprise attack on the Japanese army occupying eastern Asia. Within days, Emperor Hirohito’s million-man army in the region had collapsed.
“Following the German surrender on May 8, 1945, and having suffered a string of defeats in the Philippines, Okinawa and Iwo Jima, Japan turned to Moscow to mediate an end to the Pacific war…Joseph Stalin had already secretly promised Washington and London that he would attack Japan within three months of German’s defeat. He thus ignored Tokyo's plea, and mobilized more than a million troops along Manchuria's border. Operation August Storm was launched Aug. 9, 1945, as the Nagasaki bomb was dropped, and would claim the lives of 84,000 Japanese and 12,000 Soviet soldiers in two weeks of fighting.” http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/08/14/historians-soviet-offensive-key-japans-wwii-surrender-eclipsed-bombs.html
“The Bomb Didn’t Beat Japan, Stalin Did” was
Foreign Policy journal writer Ward Wilson’s headline, May 30,
“In the summer of 1945, the U.S. Army Air Force carried out one of the most intense campaigns of city destruction in the history of the world. Sixty-eight cities in Japan were attacked and all of them were either partially or completely destroyed. An estimated 1.7 million people were made homeless, 300,000 were killed, and 750,000 were wounded. Sixty-six of these raids were carried out with conventional bombs, two with atomic bombs. The destruction caused by conventional attacks was huge. Night after night, all summer long, cities would go up in smoke.”
“If the Japanese were not concerned with city bombing in general or the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in particular, what were they concerned with? The answer is simple: the Soviet Union.
“…Foreign Minister Togo Shigenori hoped that Stalin might be convinced to mediate a settlement between the United States and its allies on the one hand, and Japan on the other…The destruction of Hiroshima had done nothing to reduce the preparedness of the troops dug in on the beaches of Japan’s home islands…they were still dug in, they still had ammunition, and their military strength had not been diminished in any important way. Bombing Hiroshima did not foreclose either of Japan’s strategic options [diplomacy or continuing the war].
“The impact of the Soviet declaration of war and invasion of Manchuria and Sakhalin Island was quite different, however. Once the Soviet Union had declared war, Stalin could no longer act as a mediator — he was now a belligerent. So the diplomatic option was wiped out by the Soviet move. The effect on the military situation was equally dramatic. Most of Japan’s best troops had been shifted to the southern part of the home islands…When the Russians invaded Manchuria, they sliced through what had once been an elite army…The Soviet 16th Army — 100,000 strong — launched an invasion of the southern half of Sakhalin Island. Their orders were to mop up Japanese resistance there, and then — within 10 to 14 days — be prepared to invade Hokkaido…”
“The Soviet invasion made a decision on ending the war extremely time sensitive. And Japan’s leaders had reached this conclusion some months earlier. In a meeting of the Supreme Council in June 1945, they said that Soviet entry into the war ‘would determine the fate of the Empire.’ Army Deputy Chief of Staff Kawabe said, in that same meeting, ‘The absolute maintenance of peace in our relations with the Soviet Union is imperative for the continuation of the war.’”
“When Truman famously threatened to visit a ‘rain of ruin’ on Japanese cities if Japan did not surrender, few people in the United States realized that there was very little left to destroy. By Aug. 7, when Truman’s threat was made, only 10 cities larger than 100,000 people remained that had not already been bombed. Once Nagasaki was attacked on Aug. 9, only nine cities were left.”
Ward Wilson’s conclusion: “Attributing the end of the war to the atomic bomb served Japan’s interests in multiple ways. But it also served U.S. interests. If the Bomb won the war, then the perception of U.S. military power would be enhanced, U.S. diplomatic influence in Asia and around the world would increase, and U.S. security would be strengthened. The $2 billion spent to build it would not have been wasted. If, on the other hand, the Soviet entry into the war was what caused Japan to surrender, then the Soviets could claim that they were able to do in four days what the United States was unable to do in four years, and the perception of Soviet military power and Soviet diplomatic influence would be enhanced. And once the Cold War was underway, asserting that the Soviet entry had been the decisive factor would have been tantamount to giving aid and comfort to the enemy.”
Translation: The main reason to drop nuclear weapons on defenseless civilians was to threaten the Soviet Union, to show the bear that it must buckle under to the eagle’s worldwide domination. Another reason was to show the whole world how ruthless the United States can be if any people resist its wishes, or try to overthrow it.
Nevertheless, the U.S. Army did not want the world to know what it had done to human beings. It was left to an Australian war correspondent Wilfred Burchett of UK’s “Daily Express” to tell the wider world that the residents of Hiroshima were suffering. The following comes from, “The Fallout: the medical aftermath of the day that changed the world,” published here: http://hiroshima.australiandoctor.com.au/
Burchett story was headlined “The Atomic Plague”.
“I write this as a warning to the world.
In Hiroshima, 30 days after the first atomic bomb destroyed the city and shook the world, people are still dying, mysteriously and horribly — people who were uninjured by the cataclysm — from an unknown something which I can only describe as atomic plague.
Hiroshima does not look like a bombed city. It looks as if a monster steamroller had passed over it and squashed it out of existence. I write these facts as dispassionately as I can in the hope that they will act as a warning to the world. In this first testing ground of the atomic bomb I have seen the most terrible and frightening desolation in four years of war. It makes a blitzed Pacific island seem like an Eden.”
“Burchett had covered the US war against the Japanese from Burma through the island-hopping campaigns of the Pacific and had arrived in Japan on a ship with US Marines,” wrote an unnamed person.
“He quickly shrugged off the restrictions of US military control
in Tokyo and beat the official press delegation to Hiroshima by jumping
on a local train.
“After a hazardous 21-hour journey surrounded by resentful Japanese soldiers, Burchett hopped off the train in Hiroshima. It was 3 September. What he saw there shocked him and transformed his views forever.
“He walked three miles to the centre of the blast and saw only piles of rubble — the only things standing were a few shells of concrete buildings. It soon became clear that tens of thousands of Hiroshima residents had been killed by the blast and heat wave of the bomb.
“With the help of the Japanese Domei press agency, Burchett visited one of the few hospitals still functioning.” Burchett wrote:
“In these hospitals I found people who, when the bomb fell, suffered absolutely no injuries, but now are dying from the uncanny after-effect. For no apparent reason their health began to fail. They lost appetite. Their hair fell out. Bluish spots appeared on their bodies.
And the bleeding began from the ears, nose and mouth. At first the doctors told me they thought these were the symptoms of general debility. They gave their patients vitamin A injections. The results were horrible. The flesh started rotting away from the hole caused by the injection of the needle. And in every case the victim died.’”
“Burchett spoke to Japanese doctors who said that 100 patients a day were dying of this mysterious illness, which they believed was caused by radioactivity released from the atomic bomb that had permeated into the ground, dust and water supply.
“Burchett reported that visitors to the city — including the first teams of Japanese scientists — also experienced strange symptoms such as wounds that would not heal and susceptibility to infections.”
I met Wilfred Burchett at the Assembly for Peace and Independence of the People of Indochina held at Versailles, France, February 1972. I was there as both an “underground media” reporter for the “Los Angeles Free Press,” and as an anti-war activist. He struck me as a modest and honest man, one whose copy could be relied upon. We spoke of doing some work together in Cuba but it never came off.
Another Australian reporter, John Pilger, whom I also read for understanding, conducted a film interview with him, in 1983, shortly before Burchett died. See it here: http://johnpilger.com/videos/vietnam-the-quiet-mutiny.
While Allied leaders were meeting at Potsdam to decide how to divide up Europe in a new era of peace, and while Russia organized its promised invasion of Japan to help its ally, the United States of America, Britain’s prime minister was preparing to invade Soviet troops in Europe to prevent a new world in peace.
Operation Unthinkable was the code name of a plan to basically break-up the Soviet Union, which Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered. The British Armed Forces’ Joint Planning Staff presented Churchill with a plan on June 8, just before the Potsdam Conference. It called for a surprise attack on Soviet forces stationed in Germany, to “impose the will of the Western Allies” on the Soviets. “The will” was ostensibly meant to be “a square deal for Poland”. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/world-war-two/world-war-two-in-western-europe/operation-unthinkable/
This plan set the stage for the Cold War with the Soviet Union. It was kept secret until 1998. You can see more about it on this alternate history hub video.
The hypothetical date for the start of a UK-US invasion of Soviet-held Europe was scheduled for July 1, 1945, four days before the originally set UK general election. There would be a surprise attack by 47 British and U.S. divisions in the area of Dresden, in the middle of Soviet lines. This was half the British, U.S. and Canadian troops in Europe at that time. But since the Soviet Union still had 11 million combat ready troops, 6.5 million of whom were on the German front, the two Western powers would be outnumbered 2.5 to 1. So Churchill planned to rearm 100,000 enemy German troops to fight alongside their victors.
Churchill was so livid that the Soviets had not been defeated by the Nazis, and instead had expanded their might into Eastern Europe that he was willing to use the new nuclear weapons that he knew Truman had. Churchill had been informed about Operation Manhattan, and he considered using the big bombs on Moscow, Stalingrad and Kiev. His Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery was stockpiling captured German weapons “for future use”, and Stalin’s counter-intelligence found out about the plan.
The Soviet Union had yet to launch its attack on Japanese forces, which was to occur within five weeks. Some Western planners were worried that if attacked the Soviet Union would instead ally with Japan. Truman didn’t like Churchill’s plan and then with a Labour Prime Minister the plan was dropped as infeasible—until another day.
Russian Dead Remembered
By the end of the war, the Soviets had lost 13% of their population of 190 million. In contrast, the U.K. lost 1% of its 48 million people—67,000 civilians, 383,000 military; US Americans lost 0.32% of its 131 million people—12,000 civilians, 407,300 military. (3)
Statistics can seem blurry. I can’t avoid, however, arithmetically showing how much the Russian people suffered, at least in numbers of casualties in the first four decades of the 20th century.
1. Japan war, 1904-5=40,000-70,000 dead; 150,000 wounded.
2. World War I, 1914-17=ca.3.2 million soldiers & civilians dead; 3.7-5 million wounded.
3. Russian Civil War, 1917-21+=ca. 9 million soldiers & civilians dead; at least 3 million wounded (the greatest casualty rate of any single European country in war to date).
4. Japanese and Finnish mini-wars, 1939-40=ca. 180,000 soldiers dead; ca. 200,000 wounded.
5. World War II, 1941-45=27 million dead, between 16-18 million civilians, 9-11 million soldiers; at least 22.6 million wounded.
Not attempting to calculate how many millions of Soviet people perished due to purges and famines in the 1920s-30s, I surmise that the declared wars with foreign forces (and the White Army) caused at least 40 million dead and 30 million wounded (the wounded figures are quite low and not well corroborated). At this low calculation that would mean the number of casualties would represent 40% of Soviets who survived WWII, and half the number of Russians living today.
A people do not forget so many dead and handicapped countrymen whilst it is easier for US Americans and Brits who lost so few, in comparison. Western leaders continue those wars they began years ago in the Middle East; and are ripe for more wars, for demonizing President Vladimir Putin, hoping still to take over Russia’s vast territory with so many resources. So much more money! Hopefully, not so many of the West’s people are willing to murder others and to risk their lives for the few super wealthy warmongers.
1. Excerpts from December 24, 1922 letter: “Our Party relies on two classes and therefore its instability would be possible and its downfall inevitable...the prime factors in the question of stability are such members of the C.C. [Central Committee] as Stalin and Trotsky. I think relations between them make up the greater part of the danger of a split, which could be avoided, and this purpose, in my opinion, would be served, among other things, by increasing the number of C.C. members to 50 or 100.”
“Comrade Stalin, having become Secretary-General, has unlimited authority concentrated in his hands, and I am not sure whether he will always be capable of using that authority with sufficient caution. Comrade Trotsky, on the other hand…is distinguished not only by outstanding ability. He is personally perhaps the most capable man in the present C.C., but he has displayed excessive self-assurance and shown excessive preoccupation with the purely administrative side of the work…”
Excerpt from December 25, 1922 letter:
“Stalin is too rude and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealing among us Communists, becomes intolerable in a Secretary-General. That is why I suggest the comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post and appointing another man in his stead who in all other respects differs from Comrade Stalin in having only one advantage, namely, that of being more tolerant, more loyal, more polite, and more considerate to the comrades, less capricious, etc.” http://www.historyguide.org/europe/testament.html
2. See Norman Rich’s Hitler's War Aims Ideology: The Nazi State and the Course of Expansion. W.W. Norton, 1973, and Wikipedia.
3. Estimates of total deaths during the war vary from 50 to 80 million; between 50-55 million civilians, and 20-25 million military. 17% of 35 million Poles: 5.6/5.8 million civilians, 240,000 military. 10% of 69 million Germans: 1.5-3 million civilians, 4.4-5.3 million military. 4% of 71 million Japanese: 550-800,000 civilians, 2.1-2.3 million military. 3% of China’s 520 million population: between 12 and 18 million civilians, over half from starvation and diseases; 3-3.7 million military. 1% of 44 million Italians: 153,000 civilians, 320-340,000 military plus 20,000 conscripted Africans. Many more millions in other nations, including gypsies.
The total numbers of Chinese dead is second to the numbers of Russians. Both countries were victims of the Axis powers, and are now considered enemies of the current Allies, who during the world war lost far fewer people. The allies, except for Poland, lost less than 1% of its peoples compared to 13% Russians. In fact, the greatest percentage of deaths to a population occurred in Poland.
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