James P. Cannon

Saving Germany From Whom?

Written: July 1931.
First Published: Editorial Notes, The Militant, New York, Vol. 4, No. 14, 11 July 1931, p. 4.
Source: Microfilm collection and original bound volumes for The Militant provided by the Holt Labor Library, San Francisco, California. Additional bound volumes from Earl Gilman’s collection, San Francisco, California.
Transcription\HTML Markup: D. Walters.
Proofread: Einde O’Callaghan (January 2012).
Public Domain: This work is in the under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Trotskism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

If the Hoover proposal for the suspension of war debts and reparations fails to hold back the proletarian revolution in Germany, it will not be for lack of support in the capitalist camp. In the chorus of praise which has greeted the new intervention in Europe from all the bourgeois parties and factions, there is not a note of discord to be heard. Everything is in close harmony, as though all the parts had been assigned and rehearsed in advance in readiness for the signal of the maestro. The unison is even superior to that of a practiced orchestra and more firmly based. They are all united behind the scheme by the compulsion of common interest in the existing social order, which is directly menaced by the situation in Germany. That is the real secret of the marvelous unanimity.

From this standpoint one of the applauding voices deserves a special mention. On July 1 Norman Thomas hailed the moratorium policy as a step to save Germany and Europe from “collapse.” Speaking before the Union Theological Seminary, as quoted by the Times of the following day, he said: “The collapse of Germany under the Hitlerites or Communists threatens the collapse of all Europe, or even all of Western civilization. Although Hoover’s plan does not go far enough, it is good, as far as it goes.” To Hoover and his Wall Street backers, this point of view is irreproachable. Support from the left is necessary for the politicians of reaction, and highly valued by them. But how should the workers, many of whom imagine Thomas speaks in their interest, regard this utterance?

Thomas is fearful of a “collapse of all Europe, even of all of Western civilization,” regardless of whether this collapse occurs under the Communists or the fascists. It would be in place to ask, first of all, what such a “collapse” under the Communists would consist of, and who stands to lose and who stands to gain by it. Hoover and Company could answer that question without a moment’s hesitation. They thought of it beforehand, and that is why they acted.

It ought to be obvious to every worker who stops to think – and there are many of them who have time and reason to think these days – that Thomas’s fear of a “collapse … under the Communists” is an echo of the fear of the ruling class, and not an expression of the interests of their exploited victims.

But – it may be objected – Thomas said he also feared the fascists. Yes, he did say it and he does fear them. In that sentiment he defends the special interests of the Social Democracy, which would be deprived of its function if bourgeois democracy – the present form of capitalist class rule in Germany – were supplanted by a fascist dictatorship, another form of the same class rule.

This question is not without importance to the workers in the course of their liberation struggle, but their problem is in no way solved by the prevention of fascism. Their fundamental task is the overthrow of capitalism, which, under the regime of democracy, finds its strongest base of support in the Social Democracy. The remarks of Thomas on the Hoover plan were, in essence, an appeal to the capitalists to rely on his support and an assurance that it is the most reliable.

The Daily Worker on July 6 quoted the speech of Thomas with the reference to the “Hitlerites” deleted. An oversight, perhaps, of a careless editorial writer? Far from it. The Daily Worker couldn’t conveniently quote a declaration of Norman Thomas against the fascists because it is telling its readers every day that Social Democracy and fascism are the same thing, or nearly the same thing, and that there is no real conflict between them. The theory of “social fascism” must be vindicated even if it requires a little garbling of quotations – An abominable practice, it is true, but it cannot be helped. Everyone contributes according to his ability. The Stalinists are able to muddle questions. They do that industriously.

Last updated on: 5.1.2013