Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 49 Number 15, September 28, 2019 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

On depriving people of an outlook which favours their interests

The Munich Agreement and the Falsification of History

Chamberlain shaking hands with Hitler over the Munich agreement, 1938

September 29-30 marks the eighty-first anniversary of the infamous Munich Agreement signed between the governments of Britain and France, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in 1938. The Agreement, which handed over Czechoslovakia to occupation by Nazi Germany and dismemberment by other powers, was the culmination of the reactionary appeasement policy followed by the British government and its allies. This policy was designed to encourage and reward fascist aggression in general, such as Italy's invasion of Ethiopia, and particularly to encourage Nazi Germany to expand eastwards, to occupy territories such as the Ukraine, as well as the Soviet Union. The British government had long hoped fascism would crush Bolshevism and the construction of the world's first socialist state. The Soviet Union, faced with Nazi aggression, called on Britain and France to sign a mutual assistance pact with military clauses, based on its long held and principled policy of collective security against such aggression. The governments of Britain and France refused this offer, preferring instead to appease Hitler and Mussolini. They met in Munich without the participation of the governments of Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, having already demanded that the government of Czechoslovakia should not invoke its mutual defence agreement with the Soviet Union.

Chamberlain arriving at Oberwiesenfeld airport to sign the agreement in Munich, 1938

The Munich Agreement was a great betrayal by the governments of Britain and France, not only of the people of Czechoslovakia, but the people of all countries of Europe and the rest of the world. Winston Churchill said at the time: "The partition of Czechoslovakia under pressure from England and France amounts to the complete surrender of the Western democracies to the Nazi threat of force. Such a collapse will bring peace of security neither to England nor to France... It is not Czechoslovakia alone which is menaced, but also the freedom and the democracy of all nations." In Parliament he condemned Prime Minster Chamberlain, who had contemptuously referred to "a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing," saying: "You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour and you will have war." The Munich Agreement which, amongst other things, ceded Czechoslovakia's important armaments industry to Hitler, sealed the fate of Europe and a year later led directly to the outbreak of World War II in September 1939.

On the eightieth anniversary of the start of World War II great efforts are being made to distort and falsify this history and the causes of war. In September 2019, the European Parliament passed a resolution "on the importance of Remembrance for the future of Europe," sponsored by members on behalf of the European People's Party Group, the Progressive Alliance of Socialist and Democrats, the Renew Europe Group and the European Conservatives and Reformists Group. The main aim of the resolution was to equate communism with fascism and to claim that the Non-Aggression Pact concluded between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, in August 1939, had the effect of "dividing Europe and the territories of independent states between the two totalitarian regimes and grouping them into spheres of interest, which paved the way for the Second World War."

Chamberlain waves the infamous Munich piece of paper, "peace for our time", 1938

In short, the EU resolution is yet another attempt at the revision and falsification of history and condemns any alternative interpretation of history, most notably "the view that Poland, the Baltic States and the West are the true instigators of World War II." At the same time, the BBC has produced a docu-drama series, Rise of the Nazis, which also obscures much of the relevant history, not least because it largely focuses on the actions of individuals and ignores the fact that fascism in Germany was nurtured not only by the most reactionary circles in that country but also by the ruling circles in Britain, France and the US, which not only appeased Nazi Germany but financed and re-armed Weimar Germany, through such means as the 1924 Dawes Plan and the 1935 Anglo-German Naval Agreement.

The attempt to blame the Soviet Union and the 1939 Non-Aggression Pact as the cause of World War II is yet another attempt to turn truth on its head, to mask the nature of the appeasement policies of Britain and France and the nurturing and financing of fascism by the imperialist powers. It is also conveniently forgotten that Prime Minster Chamberlain also signed a non-aggression agreement with Nazi Germany at Munich in 1938, while the government of Poland not only signed a Non-Aggression Pact with Nazi Germany as early as 1934, but also took part in the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia following the Munich Agreement. France too concluded a Non-Aggression Pact with Nazi Germany in the months following the Munich Agreement.

The Red Army hoist the Red Flag over the Reichstag, 1945

It was the collective security proposals of the Soviet Union which could, if taken up by the imperialist powers, have prevented, or at least limited, the Second World War. Faced with the refusal of Britain and France to take up these proposals, the Soviet Union had no alternative but to sign its own Non-Aggression Pact with Germany in order to give it time to prepare for the inevitable Nazi invasion of its territories. When Nazi Germany invaded Poland, and after the Polish State had collapsed, the Soviet Union's Red Army on September 17, 1939, moved into Ukrainian and Byelorussian territories seized by Poland in 1919-20, thus saving millions from the slaughter visited upon the rest of Poland, and moving its forward defensive line several hundred kilometres west. When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, the Second World War assumed an anti-fascist character and the whole world was inspired by the sacrifices made by the peoples of the Soviet Union, as well as the decisive role which the Red Army and the government of the Soviet Union played in the defeat of fascism.

The current attempts at the falsification of this history are not new and are merely attempts by reactionary forces to present disinformation about communism in order to deny the workers and people of an outlook that favours their interests. They also have an anti-Russian character, inspired by the contention that exists between the big powers and the aim of those represented by the EU and NATO to further their geopolitical ambitions. It is vital that the falsifications of history, such as of the causes and lessons of the Second World War, are exposed and combated. This is necessary not as something in itself, but as part of providing all the information, the perspective, the outlook - which only Modern Communism can do - to enable the working class and people to discuss and plan the way forward, what kind of new society is needed, how to take matters into their own hands, to bring about democratic renewal and bring into being a pro-social anti-war government, and solve themselves the problems facing society.


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