The German-Fascist Aggressors
Pravda Newspaper, 23 June 1941.
“Fascist Germany committed a looting attack on the Soviet Union. Our valiant army and navy and brave hawks of the Soviet air force will inflict a crushing blow to the aggressor. The government calls upon the people and the citizens of the Soviet Union to strongly unite their ranks around our glorious Bolshevik Party, around the Soviet government and around our great leader – Stalin. Our cause is just. The enemy will be defeated. Victory will be ours.”
Joseph Stalin, Report Given at a Meeting of the Moscow Council of People’s Deputies on the 24th Anniversary of the October Revolution, 6 November 1941
“The German-fascist invaders are plundering our country, destroying the towns and villages created by the labours of the workers, peasants and intellectuals. The Hitlerite hordes are murdering and outraging the peaceful inhabitants of our country, having no mercy on women, children or old people. Our brothers in the regions of our country seized by the Germans are groaning under the yoke of the German oppressors.”
■ The Essence of the Myth
Another mythical term: in this war, all opponents of the Soviet Union were fascists.
■ Fast Facts
The term “fascists” has been transformed by Soviet propaganda to an ideological bogey man in order to identify all their opponents: before, during and after the Second World War.
■ Detailed Facts
Joseph Stalin in a report at the meeting of the Moscow Council of People’s Deputies on 6 November 1941 for the 24th anniversary of the October Revolution justified why the Hitlerites could not be considered National-Socialists:
“Can the Hitlerites be regarded as nationalists? No, they cannot. Actually, the Hitlerites are now not nationalists but imperialists. As long as the Hitlerites were engaged in assembling the German lands and reuniting the Rhine district, Austria, etc., it was possible with a certain amount of foundation to call them nationalists. But after they seized foreign territories and enslaved European nations and began to reach out for world domination, the Hitlerite party ceased to be a nationalist party, because from that moment it became an imperialist party, a party of annexation and oppression…Can the Hitlerites be regarded as socialists? No, they cannot. Actually, the Hitlerites are the sworn enemies of socialism, arrant reactionaries and Black-Hundreds who have robbed the working class and the peoples of Europe of the most elementary democratic liberties…And if these brazen imperialists and arrant reactionaries still continue to masquerade in the togas of ‘nationalists’ and ‘socialists,’ they do this in order to deceive the people, to fool the simpletons and to hide under the flag of ‘nationalism’ and ‘socialism’ their piratical and imperialist nature.”
The ideological “fascist” bogeyman in Soviet propaganda previously appeared on the pages of the pre-war press in order to determine the diverse political regimes from Italy to Poland. The next step of Soviet propaganda was to replace the concept of National-Socialist with fascist, the word “fascism” thus acquired a negative connotation and it became common to define all “nationalist-socialist” ideologies which competed with communism or with political regimes that were in conflict with the USSR. We should try to understand how and why this happened.
First, one has to recall who the fascists were, where and when they came from.
Fascists were members of the Italian Union of Combatants (Fasci Italiani di Combattimento) which was founded by Benito Mussolini in 1919. “Fasci” in Italian means “union”, where the name “fascist” takes its name. On the basis of this union, the National Fascist Party was formed in 1921 (Partito Nazionale Fascista, PNF).
On 28 October 1922, the fascists conducted the March on Rome (Marcia su Roma) under which the Italian King Victor Emmanuel III was pressured to ask their leader (“Duce”) Benito Mussolini to form a new government. In a few days, on 31 October, Mussolini was appointed the Prime Minister of Italy, which from this time and practically up to the end of the Second World War was considered a fascist state.
Soviet propaganda significantly expanded the geography of this term. Apart from fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, propagandists called Francisco Franco’s Spain, Miklos Horthy’s Hungary, Ion Antonescu’s Romania, Ante Pavelic’s Croatia and Jozef Pilsudski’s Poland “fascist”.
The Germans always called themselves National- Socialists. Preelection poster of the Nazi party, 1932
Later, the Soviet government branded the ideology and activities of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists as “fascists”.
At times, it was complete absurdity. For example, Soviet propaganda called the government of Yugoslavia under Josip Broz Tito “fascist”, the leader of the anti-Nazi partisan struggle (among other things – against Ante Pavelic’s Ustase units).
Did Nazism and fascism have anything in common?
The Fuhrer of the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler was never in the ranks of the Italian fascist movement. Since 1919, he was a member of the German Workers Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, DAP), which in 1920 transformed itself to the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterparteir, NSDAP). Germany, when it was headed by the Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler from 1933 to 1945, was a Nazi state and not a fascist one. Any term other than Nazis or National-Socialist is an incorrect association with Hitler, his supporters and the political and military structures of the Third Reich.
Nuremberg parade (6 September 1937)
Why did Stalin avoid using the term “national-socialist”? It can be assumed that he feared that Soviet propagandists would find similarities between the Nazis and the communists. The historical precursor of the Russian Communist Party was the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party and had an extremely similar name to the National Socialist German Worker’s Party. Stalin did not like using the same term as Hitler – “socialism”.
So, in the Soviet Union in the 1930s a tradition of calling the German National Socialists (Nazis) fascists was established.