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On Point

Seventy Years After the Hitler-Stalin Pact


by Austin Bay
August 26, 2009

"Communazi" became magazine shorthand for their collaboration, dark slang connecting the two totalitarian ideologies of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany after they ratified the Hitler-Stalin Pact.

That faux-peace agreement and its secret protocols, signed 70 years ago on Aug. 23, 1939, divided Eastern Europe between the Nazis' swastika and the communists' hammer and sickle. The pact shocked Western Europe and the U.S., but Poland, in the land trapped between the armies of National Socialism and Marxist Internationalist Socialism, understood the immediate implications. Poland's two old enemies, both with territorial and imperial ambitions, were setting the political conditions for war.

And war came on Aug. 31, 1939, when the Germans faked a Polish attack on a German border outpost, giving Berlin a pretense. The panzers attacked in the early hours of Sept. 1, beginning what Nazi propagandists' dubbed the Poland Campaign and what contemporary history books call World War II.

The term "communazi" is illustrative, for both murderous, anti-liberty ideologies demand state control of the economy, culture and media, and both crush individual autonomy. The communists' clever spin that enthralled Western intellectuals was to "redefine" democratic and liberal terms to camouflage their authoritarian goals. George Orwell called it Newspeak in his classic novel, "1984." Even the revelations of the summer of 1989, when Eastern Europe began to slip from the Soviet Union's post-WWII grasp, failed to shake many of the Marxist faithful in the West.

The Hitler-Stalin Pact did not shake Marxist true believers in 1939, either. After Poland fell, with first Germany claiming territorial spoils, then Russian troops moving in from the east, Western communists kept faith with Moscow.

Time Magazine wrote on April 15, 1940, the month before the German assault on France, "Active new (France) Premier Paul Reynaud last week ordered Minister of Interior Henri Roy to get ready a decree making any further Communist or Nazi agitation in France punishable by long imprisonment or death. Police said current Red propaganda in France almost exactly duplicates Nazi propaganda urging the Allies to make immediate peace." The Time article specifically addressed the "communazi" phenomenon.

The communists, with their Nazi allies, were undermining Western defenses with propaganda and political agitation.

The cozy collaboration ended when Adolf Hitler launched a sneak attack on Russia in June 1941. The reeling Soviets suddenly became an ally of the West. "Communazi" became banished jargon. The Reds had switched sides again. During the 50 years of Cold War following WWII, however, communists used the same anti-Western and anti-American propaganda tropes Hitler used, with a more pernicious and long-lasting effect.

Much of al-Qaida's anti-American propaganda builds on Soviet anti-American agitprop spread throughout the Middle East and developing world by communist cadres. Sexual sensationalism, control of Hollywood and Wall Street by evil capitalists, and cowboy militarism crop up in al-Qaida's list of American faults and were included in both communist and Nazi anti-American bilge.

The careful revolutions of 1989 and the subsequent end of the Cold War freed most of Eastern Europe from the Soviet empire, but the "communazi" collaboration in the Hitler-Stalin Pact left a few territorial disputes that still have geostrategic implications.

Moldova is an example. Based on an understanding of "spheres of influence" hammered out by the Soviet and German foreign ministries, one Hitler-Stalin pact protocol gave a slice of Romania to the Soviet Union. That slice became the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR). Post-Cold War, the SSR became the nation of Moldova.

Many Moldovans see themselves as ethnically Romanian. However, a separatist, pro-Russian "statelet," Transdniestr, exists within Moldova, and ethnic Russians living in it are "protected" by Russian troops.

A majority of Moldovans believe Russia prefers this fractured situation. Through Transdniestr, Moscow extends its "sphere of influence" and can disrupt Moldova and vex Romania. Moscow does not like the fact Romania joined NATO. Moscow routinely accuses Romania of making trouble in Moldova and notes Romania annexed the region from Russia after World War I.

Modern Moldova remains in a bind.

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