|Volume 48 Number 1, February 3, 2018||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
Red Army soldier raises victory flag over Stalingrad, February 2, 1943. (Colourised by Olga Shirnina)
February 2 marked the 75th anniversary of the conclusion of the famous Battle of Stalingrad in 1943, widely acknowledged as one of the most important battles during World War II and a major turning point in the struggle of the people of the Soviet Union, and all the democratic forces throughout the world, to defeat Nazi Germany and its allies. The victory of the Soviet Union's Red Army at Stalingrad played a major role in creating the conditions for further victories such as that at the Battle of Kursk and the eventual defeat of fascism. The victory at Stalingrad not only demonstrated the military prowess andheroism of the Red Army and the people of the Soviet Union but also the importance of the political and military leadership of the Communist Party, headed by Joseph Stalin. It demonstrated the superiority of the socialist system and people's decision-making power that supplied the human and material resources for such a military victory. It was a victory for the working class and people of the Soviet Union who led by the Communist Party had transformed the Soviet Union from a backward country at the time of World War I to an economic, political and military superpower by the close of World War II, one that played the decisive role in the victory over fascism.
The revolutionary events in Russia in 1917 created the conditions for an anti-war government under the leadership of the masses of the people organised in the soviets which constituted the means for the people to exercise decision-making power. Revolutionary Russia withdrew from the predatory First World War and exposed the secret treaties and anti-people aims of Britain and the other big powers. It successfully defended itself against invasion from Britain and the other big powers and true to its anti-war aims did everything possible to maintain the peace and counter the machinations of the big powers that aimed to use Nazi Germany to destroy the world's first socialist state and people's power. The Soviet Union's anti-war government and people's power created the conditions for the most resolute defence of their great achievements by strengthening democracy and establishing an economy that had the central aim of using the wealth created by the people to serve their interests. The resistance to Nazi Germany during the World War II was not therefore just a question of defending the motherland but also of defending that which the working class and people of the Soviet Union led by the Communist Party had themselves created.
The Battle of Stalingrad, re-named in 1925 in honour of J.V. Stalin's defence of the city formerly known as Tsaritsyn during the Russian Civil War, took place at a time when the Soviet Union had already borne the brunt of the treacherous invasion by Nazi Germany in 1941. It came at a time when the leaders of Britain and the United States had ruled out any second front, or invasion of Europe, meaning that the main Nazi forces were deployed almost entirely against the Soviet Union, and when Moscow, its capital, was also under attack. The Anglo-Americans also limited arms shipments to the Soviet Union during this period. These circumstances were widely interpreted as demonstrating that the Anglo-American leaders, and Churchill in particular, were still hopeful that the war between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany would be concluded by the exhaustion of both powers, or by a Nazi victory.
In June 1942, the Nazi regime launched a new offensive which aimed not only to deal the Red Army a devastating blow but also aimed to capture greater economic resources, especially the Caucasian oil fields, with which to continue and prolong the war. Stalingrad was a key strategic and industrial centre on the River Volga and was besieged by the enemy forces. The Battle of Stalingrad began on August 23, 1942, but even before the city was besieged Stalin issued the famous Order 227. "Not a Step Back! This must be our chief slogan. It is necessary to defend to the last drop of blood every position, every metre of Soviet territory, to cling on to every shred of Soviet earth and to defend it to the utmost."
The Battle of Stalingrad raged for months and was finally decided by heroic street fighting by the Red Army, and the ability of the working class and people of the Soviet Union to provide continual reinforcements and supplies. The government of the Soviet Union had already taken the precaution of relocating many of its industries further to the east and the socialist economy, which had been geared to meeting the needs of the people, showed its superiority by producing much greater quantities of more advanced weapons than its enemies. Therefore, despite the devastation of the city and the tremendous loss of life, in November 1942 the Red Army launched a counter-offensive with an attack force of three-quarters of a million combatants. By the end of that month it had completely encircled the enemy and by February 2, 1943, the German army surrendered. However, it should not be forgotten that the Soviet Union lost some 2.5 million of its citizens in the Battle for Stalingrad and the related heroic resistance to the Nazi aggressors in 1942. Nazi Germany's attempts to invade and subjugate Russia and gain supplies to prolong the war had been defeated and as a result the millions of other lives had been saved. The advance of the Red Army continued throughout 1943 and led to the major victory at the Battle of Kursk in the summer of that year. That victory heralded an advance by the Red Army which continued into 1944 - "the year of the ten great victories" - and culminated the following year with the military defeat of Nazi Germany and the hoisting of the red flag in Berlin in May 1945.
Today there are attempts to re-write the entire history of this period to create doubts about the achievements of the Soviet Union and its Communist Party which were so clearly in evidence in the defence of Stalingrad. There are similar attempts to marginalise the central importance of Stalingrad and the entire role of the Soviet Union during World War II. These are attempts to spread doubt about the nature of the socialist system and the historic role of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union at that time, to disorientate people and deny them that outlook which is essential for the success of their struggles for empowerment and decision-making power today, such as the urgent need for an anti-war government that can preserve the peace and place the interest of the people at the centre of its aims. There are also attempts to deny the crucial role of the working people of the Soviet Union and the world who played the key role in the defeat of fascism and all those who nurtured it. On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the victory at the Battle of Stalingrad there is a need for a discussion of its significance so as to draw the appropriate lessons from history.