This work was translated by David Broder. Reprinted here with the permission from the Alliance for Workers Liberty website.
WE WANT DEFEAT
We want the defeat of our own ruling class in this war. The horsemen of industry and the barons of the banks, the Nazi bureaucrats and the generals, and all those still tricked and blinded by them will shriek that we are “traitors to the fatherland” and “agents of the enemy”. But we will hold firm. We want the defeat of our own capitalists, preferring it to their victory.
The imperialist war is not a war which serves the interests of ordinary people. It is a war of big capital, on both sides of the front. After the last war people talked of victorious peoples and defeated peoples. This was a lie. THE ‘VICTORS’ WERE THE CAPITALISTS OF ALL COUNTRIES; THE ‘DEFEATED’ WERE THE WORKERS OF ALL COUNTRIES.
In the so-called defeated countries—we German workers were well placed to see it—the masters of industry used inflation to lump the costs of the war and reconstruction on the workers and the middle classes. Even in the worst moments the big capitalists and the underhand speculators were able to enrich themselves. On the other side, in the victorious countries, the working class had to fight hard struggles to win itself a bearable standard of living.
But the imperialists’ victory over the working class was not only economic, it was also political. The capitalist class (and all ruling classes in general) have always been able to take advantage of their military success to put new chains on the oppressed classes. Think back a little! In its two years of conquests over the peoples of Europe, did the national socialist state loosen our chains even a millimetre? Did we have even the slightest freedom to express what we think and [illegible]? Were our brothers in the Gestapo any less aggressive or sure of themselves?
So let us read what Goebbels admits in one of his rare flashes of honesty: “The freedom which one people denies another will necessarily mean a certain degree of constraint back home” (Das Reich , 29th August 1943). Could that be any clearer? The freedom denied the foreigner, that is to say the oppression of the French, Poles, Russians, Blacks and Hindus, means a “certain degree of constraint”, which as we all know means the Gestapo and the Nazi whip for the German worker.
But even if Germany had won the war and German capital had filled its huge pockets with the profits taken from the exploitation of hundreds of millions of colonial slaves, [illegible], that would still have meant oppression and exploitation for the German worker. Certainly, some people [illegible] would have been able to achieve a “better” position watching over the slaves or as henchmen of our capitalist masters’ police. It was with this goal in mind that the Nazis, certain of victory, created the theory of the superiority of the German race.
Class-conscious workers want nothing to do with that. They struggle for the emancipation of the colonial slaves and for the abolition of all oppressions, not to become whip-holders in the service of the masters of industry. “A people which oppresses another cannot itself be free” wrote Marx. He who fights for colonial conquest is, in the last instance, fighting for his own oppression. It is this unavoidable truth which obliges us to say openly and unflinchingly: we do not want our own country’s capital to emerge victorious from the rapacious imperialist war.
Furthermore, we are not only opposed to the victory of our own country’s bandits, we are also opposed to the victory of the brigands on the other side. We want their defeat! It was defeat in reactionary wars which caused the first uprisings of the working class: France in 1871, Russia in 1905 and 1917, and 1918 in Germany. That is why Lenin stressed this one principle for workers of all countries: in a reactionary war, the revolutionary class must wish for the defeat of its own government.
Any prolongation of the imperialist war will mean further sacrifices, above all for the working class, impacting on its strength and on its health, on its supplies and on its lives. That is why we want the soonest possible defeat of our government. But neither desertion, sabotage nor terrorism are the means which could bring about this defeat and a quick end to the imperialist war. Proletarian class struggle is the only means which can lead us to victory. During the 1917 Russian Revolution one soldier said “sticking your bayonet in the ground still won’t get you peace”. To hasten the end of the war we must everywhere create revolutionary proletarian organisations.
Such organisations could allow the widespread extension of the early expressions of working-class anger directed against oppression by big capital and the Nazi clique and against their absurd war, causing an abrupt collapse of the system. It is for this reason, among others, that fascism has repressed all independent working-class organisations, helping it to make war for as long as possible and as easily as possible. But it should therefore be clear enough that every new local group and every new cell we build is a brick in the wall we must build. Not only to end this war, but to end all wars. For the revolutionary proletarian party fights in the first rank to lead the revolution to victory, which means replacing the capitalist system with socialism.
DOWN WITH THE WAR! DOWN WITH THE NAZI TYRANNY! FOR A SOVIET STATE!
To achieve this we fight for the defeat of our own capitalism. We know, as revolutionaries, that this will rain down much hate and many calumnies on our heads. Was Lenin not accused of being an agent of Ludendorff? Did the lying bourgeois press not throw calumnies against Liebknecht and other worthy partisans of the proletarian revolution, having us believe that they had been bribed by the enemy? Knowing that the truth told by the revolutionary class will break through all these pathetic reactionary lies, we raise the standard of the defeat of our own capitalism, the standard of working-class victory.
FOUR YEARS OF WORLD WAR
1. The military balance-sheet First and second year of the war: victory after victory across Europe. Clear Axis superiority. Third year: first clashes in the East. Retreat in the harsh winter. In summer, however, a significant new offensive. In Africa the advantage shifts between the two camps, before a German advance as far as the Pyramids. Balanced forces.
Explanation of these developments: from 1933 all production, economics, politics and all life in Germany was systematically directed towards war. This gave it a significant advantage.
But the enemies in this imperialist war had much more significant reserves to hand: powerful American industry, vast sources of raw materials across the greater part of the world, and the extent of the huge Russian reserves. Our own were small in comparison. Mr Goebbels placed his hopes in the collapse of the Russians (or at least, acted like he did). It is true that in Russia there is a lack of basic goods. But the Americans send enough goods for them to hold on. The Russians are constantly on the advance. Without doubt the third winter of the war will bring them significant territorial gains, allowing them to threaten eastern Germany.
There is no argument in favour of prolonging the war, except in the eyes of those profiting from it, big capitals and their military and political valets, the Nazis and the generals.
2. The balance-sheet for the working class The seventy-hour week, paper-money as wages and empty slogans. Deterioration of food, a lack of clothes and of the most necessary home equipment. Destroyed houses and a lack of accommodation. Families torn apart and family well-being reduced to nothing forever. Limbs mutilated, cut up or frozen. Deformities and diseases. Millions of deaths: burnt, shot, stabbed, suffocated and drowned. Men, women and children. How many families still have no loss to mourn?
3. The balance-sheet for big capital. On 1st September, the anniversary of the beginning of the war, the newspaper of the Berlin stock exchange reported its figures on capital and German stocks. Here we add the corresponding figures for 1939. In billions of marks:
Total capital: 1939: 20.29 1941: 24.9 1942: 29
Total capital of businesses whose capital is more than [illegible] million marks 1939: 7.97 1941: 11.2 1942: 14.1
Percentage of total capital 1939: 39% 1941: 45% 1942: 48.5%
The bottom line is of particular interest for the working class. It shows that big capital has grown more quickly than small capital. Even apart from new business, big capital has absorbed part of small and middle capital.
Capital is getting richer with the blood and sweat of the workers. One thing is missing from this balance-sheet: an account of the revolutionary proletariat.
PEACE! FREEDOM! BREAD!
THE REAL FACE OF THE WAR
The Wehrmacht High Command reports: “We were stationed around 50 km from Charkow. After a difficult fight we made a forward path for ourselves. One morning we took over the post office. There was a newspaper there, and to our surprise it announced in large type the seizure of Charkow (illegible). It was only eight days later that we took Charkow.”
From the front: “My brother had several frozen fingers and similarly his feet were freezing. That didn’t stop the bastards sending him back to the East. That is where he is staying...”
Extract from a letter from Hamburg: “The dead were piled up in a huge mound and burned with flame-throwers. I can only say: don’t come back here, you won’t recognise the place...”
The birth of children brings joy to the fatherland: “We had to stay in the line of fire for fourteen days. Then we had eight days’ rest. Many were those who stayed back afterwards. Sch. and K. learned the news of the birth of their children just when they had to go back to the front line. Midway, they turned on their heels. I never saw them again: soon after they were shot.”
The family is the cornerstone of the national socialist state: “My two brothers were killed, one in Russia and the other in Africa. My wife and my son also perished in the last bombardment of Berlin. I knew nothing about the fate of my parents. When I went to the lieutenant to ask for information his only response was: we have more important things to do. Now I know for sure: my father and mother are dead.”
From a soldiers’ paper produced by Fourth International comrades we reproduce one comrade’s appeal: “You know, comrades, how Hamburg suffered the most violent of attacks on 23rd July 1943. Not only once have these criminals with their incendiaries attacked: no, it has been five times. This is no longer a war: it is no more than murders and more murders. 280,000 women, children and workers lost their lives just because they are German. “I have lost everything. And for what? Just so that these capitalist bastards can have a better life and bask in their own grease.” “Dear comrades, we must put an end to this murder and tell people that none of it makes sense. They made us promises which they still haven’t fulfilled. Dear comrades, we can’t go on like this. So join us. Together we will finally put an end to this war.”
PEACE! FREEDOM! BREAD!
PEACE: Only world proletarian revolution can bring us peace and the end of all wars. FREEDOM: This is not possible for all the exploited except in the framework of a Socialist Republic of Soviets. BREAD: Only the expropriation of capital and the establishment of a socialist planned economy can guarantee bread for all and an end to economic crises.
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