British Supterfuge: Courtine & Katyn

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Winston Churchill is depicted as a ‘hero’ of the bourgeoisie. This is not surprising as he continuously exhibited opinions (and behaviours) motivated through rightwing, nationalist ideology. This admirer of Adolf Hitler (prior to WWII), made no secret of his casually racist attitude, and inherent antipathy toward the communist regime of the USSR. Churchill, for instance, never eulogised Stalin, (or indeed recognised the many important achievements of the Soviet system), in the way that he was prepared to grant the benefit of the doubt toward Nazi Germany. This rotund, cigar puffing, middle class man, eventually would commit the British working class to a highly destructive modern war, and use them as pawns on the bourgeois battlefield – as two imperialist systems fought one another to near material destruction. Whilst avidly detesting any notion of working class hegemony, fairness, and justice, Winston Churchill (and his British bourgeois allies), actively courted the Soviet regime as it became clear that the British military forces were unable to check the advance of the well organised, highly motivated, and modern Nazi German war-machine. The German use of armoured spearheads in their ‘blitzkrieg’ (i.e. ‘lightning war’) strategy was new and innovative, and had the effect of simultaneously ‘piercing’ and ‘encircling’ enemy forces organised in conventional formations of static defence. The British imperialist system of military organisation was premised upon the idea that the ‘natives’ being controlled by it, were technologically and culturally unable to muster the systemic organisation required to successfully confront it. A modern, industrialised military force could merely ‘stand to’ in its defensive positions, and wipe-out any attack with immense and over-whelming fire-power. Following the defeat of imperialist Germany in 1918, and the failure of Britain, France and the USA, to successfully administer and influence the imposed ‘Weimar Republic’, German society collapsed and dichotomised into viciously competing far-left and far-right political camps – a situation that eventually led to the victory of the latter, and the rise of Adolf Hitler’s ‘National Socialist’ regime – a regime that Stalin would eventually describe as being neither ‘Nationalist’ nor ‘Socialist’, in origin, but rather a manifestation of the most vicious form of imperialism.

The bourgeois governments of Western Europe and the USA, caught in their usual indecision and hypocrisy, were opposed to communism of any kind, and were initially favourably indisposed toward the Hitlerite regime, as being very much the defender and saviour of European culture and tradition. Communism, on the other hand, represented the end of the power of the exploiting bourgeoisie and its transformation into the state of Socialism. The inherent conservatism of the bourgeoisie influenced and directed the policy of pre-WWII Western governments, and led to an official policy of resistance to the USSR, either demonstrated openly, or politically pursued behind the scenes. This duplicitous approach evolved after the 1917 Russian Revolution and the subsequent establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), but was also clearly evident in the devastated trenches of WWI France. The Csar had authorised the raising of a Russian Expeditionary Force of 20,000 men, which sailed for Marseilles via Singapore and the Suez Canal. These Russian men saw action at Laon, and Arras; and fought bravely alongside the British Army at Amiens. Following the Russian Revolutions of 1917, however, which saw the Bolshevik (Communist) regime under Lenin come to power, many troops of the Russian Expeditionary Force saw no reason to continue fighting (and dying) in a bourgeois war that Russia had officially withdrawn from. The French military authorities disarmed these men and herded them into a concentration camp at a place called Courtine. This unjust treatment led to further agitation amongst the Russian soldiers, which culminated in the French using artillery to open fire on the camp. This led to the death of between 300 – 400 Russian men. The British government and its military authorities in France, did nothing to assist their Russian allies. Those who survived the massacre at Courtine were eventually deported back to Soviet Russia, and their previous military contribution to the British and French victory of WWI, all but forgotten and ignored. Many of these men immediately enlisted in the new communist armed forces formed in Bolshevik Russia, and participated in the war against invading Western forces.

This war came about because the bourgeois West attempted to militarily destroy the Bolshevik regime during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1921 – a war that was eventually won by the newly formed ‘Red Army’. The West was defeated, and Lenin was able to spend his remaining years forging the Soviet State out of the ruins of the peasant Csarist regime he had inherited. Following this military defeat, the governments of the bourgeois West continued to smart and agitate against the USSR. This attitude of impotent hatred formed the central core of Hitlerite ideology, and provided the foundation of Churchillian rhetoric. Churchill opposed Hitler not because he was opposed to rightwing ideology – on the contrary, he was thoroughly rightwing himself – but simply because the dramatic rise of Nazi Germany represented an ‘imperial’ challenge to the declining British Empire. Churchill was defending the bourgeois notion of the British Empire, and not the rights of humanity, when he pitted the British working class against the German working class. Churchill believed that when the Nazis invaded the USSR, he could kill to birds with one stone, and whilst giving a tacit support to the Soviet resistance (and sacrifice), he could sit back and watch the Nazis and Soviets destroy one another’s regime. When both regimes were suitably weakened, Churchill could commit the British forces to consolidate military and political control over Germany and the USSR. In this task, Churchill sought to crush both German National Socialism, and Soviet Communism.

Part of this duplicitous policy pursued by Churchill was the supplying of the Soviet Union with small amounts of mostly obsolete military equipment, whilst forming the Polish Government in London. This ‘government’ was deliberately composed of ardent anti-Soviet Polish nationalists, who worked to continuously undermine any and all progressive Soviet initiatives, backed by the British authorities who remained ominously ‘silent’ with every unfounded criticism that emerged from these Poles in exile. In 1941, the Russian authorities established a Polish Army on Soviet soil under the command of the Polish General Anders. This army had been set-up with the agreement and permission of the London Polish Government with the understanding that in return, this Polish Army would fight alongside the Soviet armed forces in the Defense of Russia against the invading Germans. By December of that year this army numbered some 73,000 men, all were well fed, adequately clothed, professionally trained, and well looked after. This army would eventually number 96,000, but it became obvious that neither General Anders, nor the Polish government in exile, would honour their agreement to help defend the USSR. As the Nazi military machine moved toward Moscow, the London Poles (together with General Anders) refused to allow the Polish Army to go into action. Churchill, the man behind the duplicity, casually suggested that this army might leave the Soviet Union via Iran. At this time, many Russians felt uneasy about having a sizable ‘reactionary’ military force in the heart of the Soviet Union. As the situation could not be satisfactorily resolved, Stalin eventually agreed for General Anders and his Polish Army to leave Soviet territory and travel to Iran. Anders and his men left Soviet Russia on the 22nd of August, 1942 – the eve of the Battle of Stalingrad.This apparently cowardly behaviour of the Polish authorities in London (and the Polish Army in the USSR) can be compared and contrasted with the exemplary conduct of the de Gaulle’s French Normandie Squadron which fought bravely on the Russian front, and the famous Czechoslovak unit of between 2,000 – 3,000 men commanded by Colonel Svoboda. This Czech unit suffered substantial casualties in its first great engagement, but its stoicism and support for the Soviet homeland (whilst under fire) caught the attention of the Russian authorities and Svoboda received the Order of Lenin, whilst eighty-two of his men were decorated in acknowledgement for their service. The example of ‘internationalism’ set by these (and other foreigners) living in the Soviet Union, starkly contrasted with the attitude (and official policy) of bourgeois ‘nationalism’ pursued by the Polish Government of London exiles, and General Anders, who refused fight for the Soviet Union in its hour of greatest need. Soviet-Polish relations diminished further in the middle of April, 1943, when Goebbels’ propaganda machine announced that retreating Nazi forces had discovered a number of mass graves in the Katyn Forest area (near Smolensk), purportedly containing the bodies of thousands of men apparently dressed in Polish officer uniforms. All the bodies exhibited bullet wounds to the back of the head. The Polish nationalists in London had been making an issue of Polish prisoners of war captured by Soviet forces as they entered Eastern Poland in 1939. These prisoners – both officers and enlisted men – had been distributed throughout the Soviet Union, and many of them had enlisted in General Anders’ Polish Army before refusing to fight and leaving the USSR for Iran. In 1941, the Nazis had staged a similar ‘Victims of Bolshevik Terror’ exercise in Lwow, Poland, which was eventually discredited and disproven by hundreds of eye witnesses. The Katyn incident was different in that the London Poles immediately took the side of the accusing Nazi authorities and started disseminating the anti-Semitic myth that 10,000 Polish officers were murdered by a unit of ‘Jewish Commissars’ serving in the Red Army. This Nazi-type propaganda emanated from the London Poles completely unopposed by the British authorities in a time of war (and heightened security), and could only have done so through the expressed permission of the Prime Minister – Winston Churchill.

The propaganda offensive of the Nazis coincided with their military machine suffering one military reversal after another in Soviet Union, as the Red Army began to slowly make its way towards Berlin. The purpose of the fabricated Katyn incident was to discredit the Soviet Union in the eyes of the bourgeois West, and attempt to drive a wedge between the advancing Red Army, and its European and American Allies. The Russian authorities made it clear that there had never been any 10,000 ‘lost’ Polish officers, and that the London Poles were trying to undermine the Soviet regime with obvious lies. The same authorities stated that General Anders left the USSR in 1942 with 75,491 soldiers accompanied by 37,756 relatives, but that at this time there were still around 300,000 to 400,000 Poles still living in the Soviet Union. General Anders would later write a book repeating the Nazi German allegations, supporting the Hitlerite idea that the Soviets had massacred Polish officers in 1940. Despite factual evidence to the contrary, the narrative Anders established has been accepted in the bourgeois West as a ‘true’ and ‘accurate’ representation and recording of historical events that is copied without critical thought from one book to another, and from documentary to documentary. In many ways Hitler’s attempt to destabilise and dehumanise the Soviet regime found its greatest effectiveness through the betrayal manifested by General Anders himself, who along with his fellow nationalist Poles, did nothing to defend Russia whilst receiving free food, clothing and above all protection, when Soviet citizens were dying in their thousands due to Nazi aggression. The behaviour of the London Poles eventually led to the Russians ‘suspending’ direct political communication with their government in exile, claiming that it was unrepresentative of the Polish people and undemocratic in both its structure and operation. Instead, the Russian authorities acknowledged the pro-Soviet Union of Polish Patriots as the true representatives of the Polish people and set about (on May 9th, 1943), recruiting and training a new Polish Army on Soviet soil which became known as the Tadeusz Kosciuszko Division. The Soviet authorities made it clear that it was opposed to all forms of nationalism – particularly pan-Slavism – but pointed-out that all people were equal, and that nationalities were respected.

The new Polish Division had its pristine barracks in a pine forest on the banks of the Oka River, situated between Moscow and Riazan. The British BBC reporter (originally of Russian birth) – Alexander Werth – was one of the very few foreign journalists to be given exclusive access not only to frontline areas, but also recently ‘liberated’ villages, towns, and cities, and witnessed first-hand the barbarism of the Nazi German presence in the USSR. He visited the camp of the Tadeusz Kosciuszko Division on July the 15, and reported on its very good state and high moral. Unlike the secular Red Army, this Polish Army began its day with an open-air mass (facilitated by an attending catholic priest – one Father Kupsz – a Polish partisan), in front of an elaborate set of iconic panels depicting the integration of religious belief with the reality of Nazi atrocities committed in Poland. The Division numbered around 15,000 officers and men (including Jews), all drawn from volunteers who were displaced Poles living in the Soviet Union. This number included around 600 women who were technically termed ‘auxiliaries’, but whom carried-out not only tasks of labour, but in reality also served as frontline troops. Also present were nurses who served in the Division’s medical unit. Many of its members had been either partisans fighting behind the enemy lines, or had been soldiers in the Red Army and had fought in various important battles – including Stalingrad, etc. Every morning whilst on parade, the Division would sing the military oath which expressed the Polish nation’s gratitude toward the Soviet Union, pledging to liberate Poland whilst defending mother-Russia. Around the camp could be seen the flags of the Soviet Allies – the British, French, Polish, Czech, and the USA, etc. So important did the Soviet authorities consider this Division, that it was armed with exactly the same high standard military equipment usually issued to prestigious Soviet Guard Regiments. Around 80% of its weaponry was comprised of either ‘semi’, or ‘automatic’ infantry assault rifles. A number of companies also possessed ‘stove-pipe’ anti-tank rifles, and there were several machine-gun, mortar and artillery units, as well as T-34 tanks. All this equipment was Soviet made, except for the presence of one or two American-built trucks and jeeps. This Division was said to possess a fire-power seven times stronger than that of an average Polish infantry formation circa 1939.   The Tadeusz Kosciuszko Division later distinguished itself in battle fighting the Nazis in its ongoing attempts to liberate Poland, and defend the Soviet Union. In these tasks the Tadeusz Kosciuszko Division suffered heavy casualties fulfilling its duty toward the USSR, and remains a highly respected military formation.

In September 1943, the Red Army liberated Smolensk (and the Katyn area) from Nazi occupation. In April 1943, the German High Command had released its own findings on the Katyn incident – a version of events which was wholly supported and embraced by the London Poles, without recourse to objective and corroborating evidence. Indeed, this is how the German propaganda entered British (and Western) academia unopposed, and came to be accepted as ‘fact’, rather than the racially motivated fabrication that it undoubtedly was. Churchill, through his measured duplicity, was already preparing the groundwork for a future ideological and military conflict with the Communist Bloc. The London Poles became the voice of dissent and resistance for the British and Americans, to the existence of the Soviet Union in the world, perpetuated through the usual bourgeois notion of rabid, racially motivated nationalism. To counter the false allegations invented by the Nazi regime, and embraced by the London Poles, the Soviets conducted their own investigation into the events surrounding Katyn. This Russian report was finally published on January 15th, 1944 and a press conference held in the Katyn Forest attended by Western reporters, and other interesting individuals, including Kathie Harriman, the daughter of the US Ambassador Averell Harriman. There had been only a few hundred bodies discovered by the Russian authorities, buried in the Katyn Forest area, and not the 10,000 claimed by the Nazis or the London Poles. All were dressed as Polish officers and had been executed with a single shot delivered to the back of the head. The ammunition used was of German manufacture, a fact that even Goebbels had to acknowledge in his diary. He attempted to explain this inconvenient fact away by claiming that German ammunition was sold to pro-Nazi factions in the Baltic States, and that it was this ammunition which was captured and used by the Red Army in its murder of these men in March 1940. However, this is revealed as a ‘lie’ by the fact that the Red Army had not entered the Baltic States until three months after the alleged incident was supposed to have taken place in the Katyn Forest, and therefore did not have access to German ammunition. Another obvious inconsistency evolved around the apparent age of the bodies. Were the bodies killed in 1940 by the Russians as the Nazis suggested (and the London Poles believed), or after July 1941 by the German invaders (as the Soviet authorities alleged)? Until July 1941, the Katyn Forest area had been a well known picnicking place for the people of Smolensk. It was only after July 1941 that the Nazi occupiers placed barbed wire around the area and prevented free movement in and out. Prior to July 1941, there was certainly no reported evidence of the presence of massed graves in the forest. What adds weight to the Russian claims of a German initiated massacre is the relative ‘freshness’ of the corpses, even in early 1944, despite the claims of General Anders, who never visited the Katyn Forest, or made any mention of Soviet brutality toward either himself or his Polish men whilst in Russia. Anders was of the opinion that the ‘type’ of soil in the Katyn Forest had inadvertently ‘preserved’ the bodies, giving the false impression of their death being nearer in time to the examiners, than was really the case.

Many local witnesses came to give evidence to the Russian Committee of Enquiry. This testimony constituted a convincing body of evidence that the Germans had captured these Polish officers 1941 whilst rapidly advancing into the Soviet Union, and decided to eradicate them as surplus to requirement as they moved on. This decision was taken in part due to the fact that the railways were in great disarray as the Soviets retreated and the German set about destroying the area, and that there was no transport available to move the victims whilst still alive. Other witnesses suggested that some of the victims had been killed by the Germans elsewhere and had been transported by trucks to the Katyn Forest area for burial in mass graves, whilst other reported hearing gun-shots fired by Gestapo-men in the forest. It was also clearly established that the death of these men had been carried-out in a typically ‘Nazi-style’ fashion, an atrocity initiated by a regime that became well known for the millions of people it killed under Hitler’s reign. The British Embassy in Moscow at the time of the Russian Committee of Enquiry, sensing that the mounting evidence was proving the London Poles to be incorrect, concocted yet another version events which stated that it was true that the Russians had not killed the Poles in 1940, but rather in 1941 when the Red Army had been forced to retreat from the area due to the strength of the German onslaught! This was obviously a face-saving exercise in support of Winston Churchill’s anti-Soviet stance. The Soviet Union was the victim of Nazi terror, but due to the religiously inspired inverted consciousness inhabited by the bourgeois West, everything is turned upside down, and the wrong way around. The Soviets become the devilish perpetuators of the very terror they were victims of, and the aggressive Nazi regime was transformed into the angelic protector of Western morals and virtue. The fact that the Nazi regime killed these men in reality is inverted into the false idea that the Soviet authorities carried-out this callous act, and serves to demonise the Socialist and Communist cause. In effect, this deliberate distortion of history served as the foundation for the subsequent Western invention known as the ‘Cold War’, which justified its highly aggressive stance toward the Soviet Union as an act of self-defence against ‘imagined’ Russian violence and duplicity. The Katyn Forest massacre was just one of many carried-out by the Nazi regime whilst operating in the Soviet Union. This regime killed millions upon millions without conscience for its destructive actions. Blaming the Soviets for this crime is tantamount to blaming the slave for the ill-treatment he receives at the hands of his master. The bourgeois psychology of duplicity is easily identified and rectified when its inversion is understood and turned the right way around. It is only the ignorance of racially motivated nationalism that keeps the lie of the Katyn Forest massacre alive as being attributed to the very regime that was attempting to end nationalism for the betterment of all human society. The real question is why the hero of the British bourgeois – Winston Churchill – authorised the acceptance of Nazi propaganda as the factual interpretation of the Katyn Forest incident, at exactly the same time that thousands of British working class men were fighting and dying at the hands of the Nazi German regime?

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