by Yorgos Mitralias
Introduction by Oaklandsocialist: On November 19, a variety of US “peace groups”, plus speakers like former British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Green Party candidate for president Jill Stein convened a meeting for “negotiations and “peace” in Ukraine. Hiding behind that slogan was in practice support for Putin. Here, Yorgos Mitralias explains the issue in light of the response to Hitler’s invasions.)
It was enough for the Ukrainian army to advance towards Kherson and to approach Crimea to bring back the “encouragement” and “advice” of Westerners to the Ukrainian authorities to stop being “inflexible” and not to insist too much on recovering the whole of the territories occupied by Putin’s Russia! In short, they ask Ukraine to agree to be mutilated, abandoning for example Crimea to its invader and occupier…
And yet, absolutely nobody would dare to imagine today that non-collaborationist France could have given up e.g. Alsace or Normandy or Provence to Hitler’s Germany in order to make peace with its Nazi invader and occupier. Or that the Greek or Yugoslav armed resistance could have negotiated a prolonged cease-fire with the Nazi enemy when the armed forces of this enemy occupied and pillaged their countries and massacred their populations. So why is it that what was inconceivable 80 years ago for France, Belgium, Holland, Yugoslavia or Greece would be quite conceivable for today’s Ukraine? Why nobody – including the current president of the French Republic – would dare to claim today that the French resistants to the Nazi occupiers – including general De Gaulle – were too … inflexible when they swore to fight until the total crushing of the enemy, while the Ukrainian resistants – including their president Zelensky – show … inflexibility when they repeat that they want to liberate the totality of the Ukrainian territories occupied by force by Putin’s Russia?
But there is nothing new under the European sun, because what is inconceivable today was … very conceivable just before the Second World slaughter. So much so that all the leaders of the main European countries at the time (France, Great Britain, Italy and Germany) were able to proclaim that they had succeeded in preserving peace on the continent thanks to the transfer of part of the territory of an aggressed country to its aggressor. This was obviously the Munich Agreement, which took place in September 1938, the aggressed country was Czechoslovakia, which had been amputated of the Sudetenland region, the aggressor was none other than Hitler’s Nazi Germany… and we know – alas! – the tragic outcome of this story!
This terrible historical precedent deserves a closer look because it presents strong similarities and analogies with the current Ukrainian tragedy, to the point that we can say that the German-speaking Sudetenland was for Hitler what the Russian-speaking Ukrainians are currently for Putin: a pretext to invade and annex a neighboring country! As in the Ukrainian territories occupied by Putin’s army and inhabited by a majority of Russian-speaking populations, the Sudetenland was also inhabited by a majority of German-speaking populations. In both cases, only a minority of these German-speaking and Russian-speaking populations sympathized with the aggressor country that wanted to “liberate” them by invoking, as Putin does now and as …Hitler did at the time, “the right of peoples to self-determination”! And in both cases, the fact that the majority of these populations supported anti-fascist parties (the German-speaking Sudetenians) or even took up arms against the invader (the Russian-speaking Ukrainians), did not prevent Hitler and Putin from annexing their territory to the Great Reich and Great Russia respectively.
But the most important thing is that in both cases, the policy of appeasement practiced towards Hitler and Putin did not produce the expected peace but its exact opposite: the most barbaric and murderous war! Moreover, in order to arrive at a situation of all-out war in 1939-40 as well as in 2022, it was necessary to have not one but a series of increasingly important concessions in front of cynical and war-mongering dictators like Hitler and Putin. Indeed, to arrive at the final betrayal of Munich, it was necessary for the allied powers of the time to accept, practically without flinching, that Hitler blithely violated international law and treaties one after the other, by rearming Germany, remilitarizing the Rhineland, annexing Austria (Anschluss), and, of course, by intervening militarily in the Spanish Civil War. And on the other hand, for Putin to decide to occupy and annex Crimea in 2014, it was first necessary for the “Western democracies” to let him, practically without reacting, raze and massacre Grozny (1999-2000), mutilate Georgia (2008), raze Aleppo in Syria (2020), and detach the Donbass from Ukraine (2014) and Transnistria from Moldova (2006)! ((See also this article by Yorgos Mitralias “What is this strange war in Ukraine where it is forbidden to either defeat or humiliate Putin?”)
The conclusion is clear: the so-called policy of appeasement towards autocrats eager for territorial conquests is simply to whet their imperialist appetite for even more conquests! In short, appeasing them leads not to peace but to war! Moreover, we have to admit that the lessons of the European interwar period are still quite valid and applicable to our sad era characterized by the return of the same demons that set our continent on fire more than 80 years ago…
So, let’s take advantage of these lessons to avoid repeating the same tragic mistakes, which could have even more horrible and nightmarish consequences in our time. This time, we must not let our leaders fool us with their pseudo-pacifist promises, like that British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who, on his return from Munich, “sold” his compatriots the ultimate retreat from Hitler, with the following infamous words:
“My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time… Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.”. 1
Repeated in our time, this “nice quiet sleep” could be deadly…
Oaklandsocialist adds: Also see this article of Oaklandsocialist on the debate on this subject within the Biden administration in which the military wing advocates concessions to Putin.