Peter Petroff August 1935
Source: Labour, August 1935, p.287;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
Strenuous attempts are being made to create the impression that the majority of the German people are supporting the Nazi Government.
This has never been true, and to-day the discontent in Germany is greater than ever.
The organised workers – social-democratic and Communist electors – never turned Nazi. Individuals became traitors, but the rank and file of the working-class parties remained at heart what they were. The Nazis destroyed their organisations, confiscated their property and robbed them of their liberty and human rights, but they never succeeded in winning them over.
An analysis of the election results during the whole period of the Republic shows that the working-class parties maintained their position. At the last honest election under republican law, already under severe Nazi terror, Social-democrats and Communists together received over 12 million votes, almost the same figure as in 1928, while their highest figure (July, 1932) had been 13.3 millions.
Nor did the Nazis succeed in gaining the support of the Catholic workers. In 1933, the Catholic “Centre Party” got 44 million votes – the highest figure it attained since the elections to the National Assembly.
Since that time the opposition to the Nazi regime – though driven underground – has increased in volume and intensity. Millions of indifferent people who had been roused by the Nazi propaganda and won by their promises have now become disappointed and bitter enemies of the regime.
The economic condition of the country is deteriorating. Only the war industry is expanding, partly owing to subsidies from the Government. The production of articles of consumption for the internal market is decreasing, the same applies to those industries which are working for export. Germany’s foreign trade in 1934 showed a passive balance of 284 million marks: in the first six months of to 1935, the balance is even more unfavourable. In order to increase the export the Government is creating a special dumping fund by imposing payments of 2-15 per cent. of their turnover on manufacturers. This fund is to be used to subsidise exporters to the amount of 25 per cent of the value of the goods they export.
The internal market is suffering from artificially increased prices in conjunction with the rapid lowering of the purchasing power of the population.
The import of foodstuffs has decreased since 1932 by approximately one-third, and has been compensated by an increase of home production only to a small degree. The rise in prices accompanied by a reduction of purchasing power has led to a considerable decrease in the consumption of food and to the lowering of the standard of life. The population is starving, unable to pay the high prices imposed by Hitler’s policy of “self-blockade.”
Wages have gone down and down. The wage inquiry of the Nazi “Labour Front” showed the average gross wage of industrial workers to be 26.22 marks weekly, deductions for insurance, taxation, etc., amounting to about one-fourth. As can be seen from the contributions to the invalidity insurance, wages above 48 marks (£2 8s.) a week hardly occur. For some time the skilled workers in the armament industry were still in a somewhat privileged position. Now there is a general tendency to level wages.
The depletion of all social services and the severe cuts in unemployment benefits (by one-third and more) further lowered the standard of life. The Nazi Government is appropriating hundreds of millions of marks from the insurance funds of the workers (1933, 200 millions from the unemployment insurance alone) for the exchequer to be spent on armaments.
No wonder that the working-class population of Germany is in a state of despair. The severe political and moral oppression and the general cultural degradation are intensifying the existing tension. A general discontent is growing amongst all classes of the German people.
The defeat of the Nazis at the “elections” to the so-called Confidence Councils, the fact that the elections to these precious Councils had to be postponed in the Saar district, the developments in Danzig, the wave of subdued labour unrest now passing all over Germany – all this shows that the Nazi regime is being driven into the defensive. The newly increased terror cannot stem the tide of disaffection.
There is a growing feeling of solidarity amongst the workers who have learned from their bitter experiences of the last three years, and expect their salvation now only from a return to collective working-class action. The terrible feeling of isolation is beginning to disappear.
The opposition to the brown occupation is also growing amongst other parts of the population. The religious oppression compels the churches to greater activity against the regime; the new wave of anti-semitism increases the indignation amongst the suffering Jews; the intellectual slavery, the turning of schools and universities into barracks brings the intellectuals, teachers and students into opposition to the totalitarian State; the economic oppression of women and the cruelties of the regime towards children and parents force the women to revolt; even amongst the peasantry suffering from lack of credits and local oppression there is dissatisfaction.
The compromise attained between the regime and the Reichswehr generals has eliminated the possibility of finding a way out of Fascism through a temporary military dictatorship – a hope cherished by a discontented section of the Capitalist class.
The opposition of the various sections of the population is not yet co-ordinated and lacks organisation. It finds queer expression in many ways – religious, particularist, cultural, social. Nevertheless, there is a marked psychological change and the regime is being driven into the defensive.