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James M. Fenwick

Off Limits

(24 June 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 25, 24 June 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.

The photograph set into this column was not taken backstage at a performance of The Student Prince, nor is it from an Erich von Stroheim film. These well-fed army officers, resplendent beneath the Order of Suvorov, the Polish Virtuti Cross, the Order of Bogdan Khmelnitsky, the Czech Order of the White Lion, the U.S. Legion of Merit, etc., are real men from a real world – however it may seem at times to bear the character of dream fantasy.

Marshals Rybalko and Konev

These men are Marshals Rybalko and Konev of Russia, as seen at a recent reception in Prague. In them is symbolized the whole degeneration of Russia from a country which in 1918 blazed forth as the hope of humanity to a country which in World War II evoked almost nothing but fear and despair from the oppressed masses of Europe.

They are the Russian counterparts of the late “Georgie” Patton of the varnished helmet liner and unvarnished military arrogance, or of the very swish de Lattre, the French general with a pleasant fancy for inspecting his officers’ underwear and for constructing, with the aid of lend-lease equipment and the labor of French enlisted men, huge gardens à la française to while away the time while occupying Germany.

Totalitarian Generals

But they are much more powerful figures than Patton or de Lattre, who were, when all is said and done, only the rather badly paid mercenaries of United States and French capitalism. Konev and Rybalko are not unimportant parts of the Russian bureaucracy which maintains a vise-like grip over Russia at the expense of the interests of the Russian workers and of the working class of the world as well.

It is these men who helped formulate and carry out the concept that it was not German capitalism which was responsible for the war but that the whole German nation was guilty. As a result, since the German soldier saw no way out for himself, he fought to the bitter end, causing needless destruction and death.

It is these men who aided in creating such a repulsive regime within Russia that the very name of socialism or communism became defiled. Veterans who were in the ETO will recall the slogans painted upon walls and buildings by Germans in the final days of the catastrophe: “Fight – or Siberia!” “Fight – or Bolshevik Chaos!” The power of this fear was undeniable. What veteran who was in Germany cannot recall the fright of the Germans when a United States unit prepared to move and the rumor spread that a Russian unit was to replace it?

It is these generals who aided in instilling in the Russian troops that fierce nationalism which led to unprecedented orgies of looting, raping and brutality when the Russian armies entered Germany.

It is these gilded representatives of the bureaucracy who helped organize the removal of German factories, food supplies, cattle and railroad equipment to Russia, reducing a once great country to a new barbarism. It is they who have brought into Germany the rule of the NKVD, reopened the Nazi concentration camps for working class opponents of Stalinism, and stifled the development of all independent working class activity.

The Fruit of Stalinism

The result is that after the unparalleled destruction, bloodshed and sacrifice of World War II, Europe is riven by nationalist hatreds as it never has been before in modern times, socialist consciousness has all but been destroyed, and World War III is being slowly prepared before the eyes of the whole world.

For this condition these ruthless defenders of the privileges of the bureaucracy, these heroes of the diplomatic vodka bouts and the hors d’oeuvre tables, these warrior princes weighted down by jewelled decorations commemorating the reactionary past of Russia, these perpetuators of all that is rotten in the military tradition, these oppressors of whole nations and exterminators of socialism must bear their full share for the catastrophe of the war that has ended and the cataclysm which is being prepared in the chancellories of the world.

Between the Red Army of Lenin and Trotsky’s time and the Russian army of today lies a gulf as wide as the distance between socialism, the salvation of mankind, and bureaucratic collectivism whose best representatives are pictured at the head of this column.

Every veteran will recognize the type.

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