R. Palme Dutt
Written: May 1, 1933
Publisher: The Utopia Press, Ltd., London.
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: Chris Clayton
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2006). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
THE victory of Fascism in Germany raises the sharpest and most urgent questions for the working-class throughout the world.
Fascism holds temporarily the upper hand over the strongest working-class movement in the capitalist world. The most unlimited and violent capitalist terror is let loose in Germany. All pretences of democracy are flung to the winds. The working-class organisations are broken up. Their press is prohibited. Their buildings are seized. Tens of thousands of workers are thrown into prison. Militant workers throughout Germany are being tortured and slaughtered. The avowed object that the frenzied capitalist rulers are setting themselves is to exterminate the working-class movement, whether socialist or communist.
This is not happening in a backward or isolated country. It is happening in the centre of “civilised” Europe, in the most advanced, highly-organised capitalist country in the world, in what a few years ago used to be described by liberals and social democrats as “the freest democracy in the world,” in what was the centre of Social Democracy, of the Second International and of the reformist Trade Union International. Despite the high degree of organisation under reformist leadership the workers have been powerless to defeat this attack.
Let none say: These events concern Germany; we have no Fascism in Britain; how can we concern ourselves with the question of Fascism in Britain?
The offensive of capitalist reaction is a world offensive. It extends from country to country, through Italy, Hungary, Poland, Germany. A few years ago the leaders of Social Democracy still used to declare that Fascism could only develop in “backward” countries in Southern and Eastern Europe, but not in advanced industrial countries with a highly-organised working class, like England, France, and Germany. To-day it has reached Germany.
The world capitalist offensive has struck most ferociously in Germany, because the German working-class movement is the strongest working-class movement outside the Soviet Union, and the nearest to socialist victory; on the fate of the struggle in Germany turns the future of the movement throughout the capitalist world. Therefore, the most violent, murderous fury of the capitalist offensive is revealed in Germany. But in every country in the capitalist world, reaction rages.
What is happening in Germany will develop with equal ferocity in every country, including Britain—unless the entire united workers’ movement acts in time to defeat the offensive of capitalism. Only the united strength and action of the working class can defeat this offensive of capitalism. This is the urgent question of to-day. The whole future of the working class and of socialism is at stake.
This is the urgent issue which every socialist and every trade unionist must face, must understand how Fascism came to conquer in Germany, despite all the democratic forms and developed working class organisation, and how alone the working class can defeat Fascism.
In this situation of menace to the entire working class the Communist International, the organisation of the revolutionary working class throughout the world, has called for the united front of all workers and of all workers’ parties in every country to defeat the offensive of reaction.
The Communist International declares in its Manifesto, issued in the beginning of March, 1933:—
“The establishment of the open Fascist dictatorship in Germany has inexorably confronted millions of workers of all countries with the question of the imperative need for organising the united front of struggle against the Fascist offensive of the bourgeoisie, and, above all, against the German bourgeoisie who, step by step, are robbing the working class of all economic and political achievements and attempting to crush the workers’ movement with the most brutal methods of terror.”
Therefore, the Communist International proposes “an agreement between the Communist and Social Democratic Parties for definite actions against the bourgeoisie.”
To realise this, the Communist International proposes “a concrete programme of action” along the following lines:—
“To organise and carry out defensive action against the attacks of Fascism and reaction on the political, trade union, co-operative and other workers’ organisations, on the freedom of meetings, demonstrations and strikes.”
“To organise common defence against the armed attacks of the Fascist bands by carrying out mass protests, street demonstrations and political mass strikes.”
“To organise committees of action in the workshops and factories, the Labour Exchanges and the workers’ quarters, as well as organise self-defence groups.”
“To organise the protest of the workers with the aid of meetings, demonstrations and strikes against any wage reductions, against worsening of working conditions, against attacks on social insurance, against the cutting down of unemployment benefit, against dismissals from the factories.”
To meet the objection often raised by the reformists against common action, that the “attacks” by the Communists against Social Democracy make any common action impossible, the Communist International proposes, if an agreement for common action is reached, “during the time of common fight against capital and Fascism to refrain from making attacks on Social Democratic organisations.”
This is the plain and straightforward proposal put forward by the Communist International for the common action of the workers against the offensive of Fascism and reaction. It is a plain proposition, which should commend itself to every worker, for a practical fighting alliance against the capitalist attack, while holding over ultimate political differences during the fight.
The Second International, the organisation of the reformist workers’ parties (social democratic parties and Labour Party), has refused the proposal of the united working-class front against Fascism. In every country the Communist Parties have put forward concrete propositions to the social democratic parties and trade unions for the united working-class front against Fascism and reaction. In every country the social democratic parties and the reformist trade unions have refused.
In Britain the Communist Party put forward proposals for the united working-class front to the Labour Party, the Independent Labour Party, the Trades Union Congress and the Co-operative Party. The Independent Labour Party agreed; and the Communist Party and Independent Labour Party are now working together with the local working-class organisations throughout the country to build up the united workers’ front. But the Labour Party, the Trades Union Congress, and the Co-operative Party refused.
The National Joint Council, representing the Labour Party, the Trades Union Congress and the Parliamentary Labour Party, have issued a Manifesto entitled “Democracy versus Dictatorship” to justify their refusal. In this manifesto they put forward no concrete proposals for the fight against Fascism. Instead, they ask the workers to put their faith in capitalist “democracy”—which has just failed them in Germany.
To the workers under the lash of the capitalist attack, of capitalist violence, and of the capitalist destruction of democratic forms, they offer only a sermon of abstract principles on the beauties of “democracy” and “peaceful methods.”
“To-day, as in the past, British Labour must re-affirm its faith in Democracy and Socialism.”
“The British Labour Movement has gained political strength by its fight for democratic principles and its firm belief in the attainment of Socialism by peaceful means.”
“British Labour must . . . show the world the peaceful path to Socialism.”
How these empty phrases of abstract principles are to help the German workers under the attack of Fascism, how they are to defeat the attack of Fascism, they have no answer.
Instead, under cover of these phrases, they seek to turn the attack into an attack on Communism, on workers’ democracy, and the revolutionary working-class movement, which they seek to treat as similar to Fascism “against Dictators, Fascist, or Communist” (the Manifesto, in fact, directs its main attack against Communism, directly attacking Communism or Bolshevism by name seven times, and only referring to Fascism four times). Thus the Labour Party refuses the united working-class front against Fascism, but joins in the united front with capitalism (and with Fascism) against Communism.
On this Manifesto even the bourgeois liberal, “New Statesman and Nation,” comments (1/4/33):
“Leadership could scarcely fall lower than in the response to this crisis made by official British Labour. The Manifesto issued last week-end by the National Joint Labour Council betrayed no realisation that the issue is the destruction of the working-class movement throughout Europe.”
This bourgeois liberal commentator sees plainly what these Labour leaders cannot see, or, rather, refuse to see, and close their eyes to, behind a mist of sermons, that “the issue is the destruction of the working-class movement throughout Europe.” The Labour leaders remain blind to what all the world can see, not because they cannot see, are physically incapable of seeing, but because they cannot face it, because it cuts across their “democratic” phrases and raises the plain issue of the class struggle, because they cannot meet it, they have no answer, they have no policy—save submission.
The line of the Labour Party is the line of German Social Democracy, the line of bidding the workers trust in capitalist “democracy,” which has led to the disaster of the working class in Germany and the victory of Fascism. This same line will lead to the victory of Fascism in Britain, if the workers do not correct it in time.
The workers must be warned in time of the lying and hypocritical character of the Labour Party’s propaganda of “democracy” in the abstract, which covers in reality betrayal of the working class, servitude to capitalism, and, finally, surrender to Fascism.
The keynote of the Labour Party Manifesto and of all the Labour propaganda is that the Labour Party stands for “democracy.”
“In the pronouncement published to-day the British Labour Movement re-affirms its belief in democracy.” (“Daily Herald,” editorial, 25/3/33.)
“Against dictatorship, terrorism, violence and the denial of freedom the National Joint Council representing the Trades Union Congress, the Labour Party and the Parliamentary Labour Party, has asserted once more the principles of democracy.” (W. M. Citrine, Secretary of the Trades Union Congress in the “Daily Herald,” 31/3/33.)
“Amid the welter of nationalist sentiment, both at home and abroad, with Fascism and Communism on our flank, the Labour Party stands to-day as the only political bulwark against the destruction of democracy.” (A. Greenwood, M.P., at Wakefield, “Daily Herald,” 26/4/33.)
Thus the Labour Party claims to stand for democracy.
Is this true? Does the Labour Party stand for democracy?
Face the facts. The Labour Party in office has shown what it means by democracy when it has ruled as the Government of the British Empire.
Of the 496 million subjects of the British Empire, 424 millions, or six-sevenths, are coloured peoples despotically ruled from London without even the form or pretence of democratic control of their own destinies.
The Labour Government ruled and held in subjection these four hundred and twenty million colonial slaves, one-fifth of the human race, by armed violence, shooting and imprisoning all who dared to resist and to claim democratic rights.
Dictatorship by armed force over four hundred and twenty million people—is that democracy?
When the Indian people rose in 1930 in a mighty mass movement for their freedom, the Labour Government met them with charges and shooting, and threw into prison sixty thousand fighters for freedom within a single year—a record unequalled by Tsarism and not equalled yet by Hitlerism in Germany.
That is the Labour Party’s conception of democracy.
The Labour Government carried forward the Meerut trial of the leaders of the Indian working-class movement, including British trade unionists and socialists, who were held in prison for four years and then sentenced to barbarous sentences of transportation for life or for periods ranging to ten or twelve years. For what crimes? For the crime of preaching socialism. For the crime of building trade unions. For the crime of supporting strikes. For the crime of advocating to “deprive the King-Emperor of his sovereignty in India”—that is, for advocating the freedom of a people from foreign despotic rule.
That is the Labour Party’s conception of democracy.
The Labour Government in Britain operated the Tory Trade Union Act against the workers, arresting hundreds of workers for strike activity, setting the police against the workers, setting the secret police to spy on the working-class movement, suppressing working-class literature, and acting as the agent of the tiny minority of rich capitalists against the working class.
That is the Labour Party’s conception of democracy.
The Labour Party and the General Council of the Trades Union Congress have suppressed democracy within the working-class movement, expelling the most militant workers (including the old founders of the movement like Tom Mann), excluding duly elected trade unionists from official positions, and breaking up whole sections of the movement whenever a majority goes against them.
That is the Labour Party’s conception of democracy.
What does the Labour Party mean when it speaks of democracy? What the Labour Party means is capitalist “democracy”—that is, the existing British Capitalist State, which is in reality the dictatorship of a handful of capitalists over fifty million British workers and four hundred and twenty million colonial workers and peasants. The Labour Party fights for and supports this capitalist dictatorship in the name of “law,” “order,” and “democracy.” To maintain this capitalist dictatorship it is ready to violate all democratic forms, as seen in its rule of the Empire.
To-day the capitalist dictatorship is increasingly throwing over democratic forms, even in its metropolis in Britain, is introducing more and more anti-working-class legislation, judicial persecutions, suppressions of freedom of speech, and intensifying police measures. The Labour Party supports this process and as a Government has helped to carry it forward.
If the capitalist dictatorship advances to open Fascist forms, the Labour Party will also adapt itself to these forms. This is shown by the example of its partner, German Social Democracy, which with the victory of Fascism in Germany has passed over to the side of Fascism and declared its readiness to support it.
The claim of the Labour Party to stand for democracy is a brazen lie, disproved by its whole record and practice.
The Labour Party supports the capitalist dictatorship in the name of “democracy.”
The Communist Party fights against the capitalist dictatorship for real democracy or workers’ democracy—in which there will no longer be a small owning class monopolising the means of production, and, therefore, controlling all social forms and means of expression, but in which the working masses will own the means of production, and, therefore, for the first time be free and rule.
But the Labour Party objects that this is also a form of Dictatorship—a Workers’ Dictatorship—and, therefore, to be opposed.
Yes, it is a form of dictatorship—against the capitalist class. But there is a world of difference between one form and another. In all class society, so long, that is, as classes exist, there is inevitably dictatorship. One class rules in reality, and one class is subject, whatever the form. Only when classes are abolished, for which the Workers’ Dictatorship prepares the conditions, can all dictatorship finally disappear and be replaced by the free form of social administration of production.
But the Workers’ Dictatorship is the dictatorship of the immense majority against the tiny remnant of exploiters and their intrigues, and leading to the abolition of exploitation and, therefore, of dictatorship.
The Capitalist Dictatorship is the dictatorship of the tiny exploiting minority against the immense majority, against the working population, and leading only to increased exploitation and ever-intensified forms of dictatorship (Fascism).
The Communist Party fights for the former; the Labour Party for the latter. That is the real difference, which is only concealed behind phrases about “democracy” in the abstract.
Under the conditions of capitalism, pending the victory of the workers’ rule, the Communist Party fights for the maximum democratic rights for the workers, for freedom of speech, meeting and organisation, for the right to strike, for free elections, for the abolition of the monarchy and aristocracy, for the right of self-determination, including the right of secession, of all the subject nations in the Empire, etc. Thus the Communist Party is in the forefront of the fight for democracy, of the fight for freedom, at every stage.
The Labour Party, on the other hand, because it supports the existing capitalist state (in the name of “democracy”), necessarily supports also the open reactionary, anti-democratic features of that state, supports the monarchy and aristocracy, supports the existing anti-democratic electoral laws, supports the enforced subjection of the colonial peoples (with the aid of air-bombing, when necessary—always in the name of “democracy”). The Labour Party leadership is thus revealed in practice as the gaoler of democracy and the bloodstained enemy of every fight for freedom.
In the same way, the Communist Party leads the fight against Fascism in every country where Fascism has shown itself. Social Democracy surrenders to Fascism and passes over to Fascism.
The Labour Manifesto claims that the Labour Party is against “violence” and for “peaceful means,” and is, therefore, equally opposed to Communism and to Fascism. The falsity of this is sufficiently exposed by the war record of the Labour Party, as of all Social Democracy.
The Labour Party took on the role of recruiting sergeant for the imperialist butchers, joined the war governments, and urged on the workers to slaughter one another. The Labour Party violated every principle of international socialism, broke its own pledged word at international congresses, and chose the path of imperialist violence.
To-day the Labour Manifesto tries to cover up this record, written in the blood of millions, with the following innocent picture: “Before the war, British Labour denounced Russian tyranny. During the war, British Labour denounced the Secret Treaties that sowed the seed of reaction throughout Europe. After the war, British Labour denounced the vengeful follies of Versailles.”
Every part of this statement is false.
“Before the war, British Labour denounced Russian tyranny.” On the contrary, British Labour not only maintained the Liberal Government in office, whose policy was an alliance with Tsarism; but, with the war, British Labour entered into direct alliance with Tsarism: Henderson in the Coalition Government was the ally of the Tsar.
“During the war, British Labour denounced the Secret Treaties.” On the contrary. British Labour in the War Cabinet maintained the whole system of the Secret Treaties and kept them secret. It was the Bolsheviks who published them to the world.
“After the war, British Labour denounced the vengeful follies of Versailles.” On the contrary. The Versailles Treaty was ratified by the entire Labour Party in the House of Commons; not a single one opposed it. The Labour Party and the Second International bear the full responsibility of the Versailles Treaty. The Versailles Treaty bears ineffaceably upon it the signature of the Chairman, of the Second International Vandervelde.
With these little “corrections” of fact, the statement becomes correct.
Violence in the imperialist war; slaughter of millions for the profits of imperialism and for the secret treaties; building of armaments since the war; air-bombing in the colonies; terror in India; police violence in Britain: that is the record of the Labour Party which now preaches “peaceful methods” and “non-violence” to the workers when it is a question of workers’ self-defence against the Fascist murder bands.
This is the meaning of the Labour Party policy of “peaceful methods”—unlimited violence for the exploiters, peaceful submission only for the workers.
Fascism, argues the Labour Manifesto, is the consequence of Communism.
“Reaction of the ‘Left’ is displaced by triumphant reaction of the ‘Right.’”
“The fear of the dictatorship of the working class has evoked the iron dictatorship of Capitalism and Nationalism.”
The exact reverse is the case.
Not the strength of the workers, but the weakness of the workers, the readiness to reject militant struggle in favour of peaceful methods and parliamentarism, invites the attack of Fascism.
The examples of a whole series of countries now make certain this generalisation beyond the possibility of dispute. Where the majority of the working class has followed the line of Communism (the Soviet Union), Fascism has not been able to appear. Where the majority of the working class has followed the line of Reformism (Germany, Italy, etc.), there at a certain stage Fascism inevitably grows and conquers. When does this stage arise?
Fascism arises when the working-class movement has grown to a point of strength where it should advance to the seizure of power, when the bankruptcy of the old regime is revealed, but the working class is held in by reformist leadership.
In this situation, owing to the failure of the decisive working-class leadership to rally all discontented strata, the discredited old regime is able to draw to its support under specious quasi-revolutionary slogans all the wavering elements, petit-bourgeoisie, backward workers, etc., and on the very basis of the crisis and discontent which should have given allies to the revolution, build up the forces of reaction in the form of Fascism.
The continued hesitation and retreat of the reformist working-class movement at each point encourages the growth of Fascism. On this basis Fascism finally steps in and seizes the reins, not through its own strength, but through the failure of working-class leadership.
In this way the collapse of bourgeois democracy, which is in any case inevitable with the growth of the capitalist crisis and decline (the decay of Parliament in all countries), is succeeded, not by the advance to proletarian democracy, but by the regression to Fascist dictatorship.
Contrast the experiences of Germany and Russia.
In Russia the workers, under the leadership of the Communist Party, followed the line of unyielding class struggle, of revolutionary mass struggle, leading finally to armed struggle, and faced all the practical consequences and tasks this line involved. What was the consequence? They were able to smash all the thugs that tried to break their movement, to smash all the Black Hundreds and pogrom system of Tsarism, to smash Korniloff and his Savage Division that sought to break the revolution, to smash Kolchak and Denikin and Churchill, and build the workers’ power that is able to go forward to-day with Socialism in the midst of world reaction.
In Germany, the workers by their revolutionary fight (against the opposition of Social Democracy, which tried to save Kaiserism to the last) won power in 1918. But the German workers followed the lead of Social Democracy, believed in the promises of the peaceful progress to Socialism through parliamentary democratic institutions, and disbanded their Soviet power in favour of parliamentary democracy.
To-day the outcome is manifest. Every gain of the revolution is lost. The whole movement is swept back. Fascism rules. Only because the workers gave up the power they held, was Fascism able to seize power. Fascism rules because of Social Democracy.
The lesson of Germany is the classic lesson for the working class of the whole world, how Social Democracy builds up Fascism.
In Germany the workers held all power in their hands in 1918. Kautsky, the leader of German Social Democracy, could write in 1931 (in his Preface to the third edition of “The Proletarian Revolution”):—
“In November, 1918, the Revolution was the work of the proletariat alone. The proletariat won so all-powerful a position that the bourgeois elements, to begin with, did not dare to attempt any resistance.”
That was fifteen years ago. Where is that power to-day? What have the leaders of Social Democracy done with that power which the German workers won by their blood and their sacrifice and hopefully entrusted to their hands for the fulfilment of the Socialist Revolution?
The leaders of Social Democracy, in the name of “democracy,” gave the power back to the bourgeoisie, disarmed the workers, armed the officers’ corps, suppressed the workers’ councils, drowned the workers’ resistance in blood, chained the workers’ organisations to the service of capitalist restoration, and on this basis proclaimed the victory of “freedom” and “peace.”
In the early years after the war in Germany, Social Democracy in power could have cleared out every nest of future Fascism while the counter-revolution was still weak. Instead, it built up the counter-revolution.
It maintained the old bureaucratic machine, the universities, the schools, the law courts, as hot-beds of open reaction and Monarchism. It even watched holily over the fortunes of every Hohenzollern and every princelet to ensure them their enormous revenues which they could, in turn, pay out as subsidies to Fascism.
Social Democracy drew the workers away from Socialism along the fatal line of co-operation with capitalism in the economic and political fields, of faith in rationalisation and organised capitalism. Social Democracy rejected the united working-class front, and broke up the power of the trade unions by the wholesale expulsion of all militant elements and sections.
Fascism grew up under the smiling eyes of Social Democratic Police Presidents, at the same time as any attempt of the workers to organise in defence was broken up and disbanded. Zörgiebel, the Social Democratic Police President of Berlin, shot down the workers’ May Day demonstration in 1929. The Social Democrats banned the Red Front, the workers’ fighting organisation of defence against Fascism. But they gave free play to the Nationalist Stahlhelm and to the Nazi Storm Troops to organise.
When Fascism at length drew close to power, Social Democracy advised the workers to elect Hindenberg as President, as the sure guarantee against Fascism. Hindenburg was elected by the support of Social Democracy, and Hindenburg called the Fascists to power.
It was Social Democracy that supported the suppression of democracy under Bruening and Von Papen and Schleicher, that taught the “toleration” of the emergency presidial regime under which the final Fascist coup was prepared.
It was Social Democracy that, when the direct attack and coup was begun in July, 1932, with Von Papen and the dictatorial removal of the Social Democratic Government in Prussia, refused once again the united front, warned the workers against any attempt at resistance, and bade them place their entire confidence in Social Democracy, in the Republican Banner and in the Iron Front to protect the constitution.
Even up to the last, after the nomination of Hitler, Social Democracy rejected the ever more urgent proposals of the Communist Party for a united front to defeat Fascism, and, instead, in its Manifesto of January 31st, warned the workers against “undisciplined action”; “Rally therefore to the Iron Front! Obey its orders, and its alone!” Within a few weeks the Iron Front was voluntarily dissolved by the Social Democratic leadership without having attempted a gesture of resistance.
Fascism, stage by stage, rose to power in Germany solely because the way was prepared for it at every point by Social Democracy. Under no other conditions could Fascism have come to power in Germany.
To-day Social Democracy in Germany crowns its handiwork of betraying the workers to Fascism by seeking to make peace with Fascism and passing over to Fascism.
Even while the workers, not only Communist, but Social-Democratic workers, are being beaten up and murdered by the Fascists; while the entire Social-Democratic and Communist Press is suppressed; while the local workers’ buildings and trade union buildings are being sacked and destroyed: these Social Democratic and reformist trade union chiefs are coming over with whining phrases to curry favour with the Fascist masters, to vow their docility and to enter into their service.
Wels, the leader of German Social Democracy, writes to Von Papen to urge that Social Democracy has kept clear of any united front with Communism and should therefore be tolerated by Fascism.
Wels makes the official declaration of the party at the opening of the Reichstag—the only opportunity for any leader of the workers to make a public statement in Fascist Germany—and uses the opportunity to pour out a stream of servility; to declare his “endorsement” of one statement after another of Hitler; to protest against “exaggerated reports abroad”; to agree that the Fascist Government must “take strong measures”; to boast that for Hitler, only Social Democracy made it possible for a working man to come to power.
Stampfer, the former Editor of “Vorwärts,” writes in the bulletin of the party: —
“The victory of the Government parties makes it possible to govern strictly in accordance with the constitution.”
“They have only to act as a legal government, and it will follow naturally that we shall be a legal Opposition; if they choose to use their majority for measures that remain within the framework of the Constitution, we shall confine ourselves to the role of fair critics.”
Leipart, Secretary of the German Trade Unions, officially on behalf of the Trade Union Federation, writes to offer its services to the Government “to be of service to the Government and Parliament through its knowledge and experience.” Fascist Commissars are accepted at the head of the trade unions; the reformist trade anions decide to take part in Hitler’s Fascist May Day demonstration; the reformist trade unions seek to enter into the apparatus of Fascism. Encouraged by this yielding attitude of the trade union chiefs, Fascism does not hesitate to take complete control of the German trade union machine; and even goes through an elaborately staged performance of throwing the trade union chiefs into prison in the midst of their vows of devotion to Fascism.
German Social Democracy passes out of the Second International to protest against the publication of “exaggerated accounts” critical of the Fascist regime; that is to say, demonstratively cuts even any pretence of relations with the international working class in order to seal alliance with National Fascism.
This is the same process as Social Democracy has revealed in every country where Fascism has conquered. It is the same process as showed itself with D’Aragona and the reformist trade union leadership rallying to Mussolini, with the reformist socialist and trade union leadership in Spain around Primo de Rivera, with the rallying in Bulgaria to Tsankov, and in Poland to Pilsudski. This same process is now taking place in Germany with even more shameful completeness and speed.
The Second International is in break-up. Its main section, German Social Democracy, has passed out. The remaining leaders of the few remaining countries try in vain to throw the blame on German Social Democracy. Only a short time ago the leaders of the Second International were repudiating with indignation the Communist charge against them of “Social Fascism” (i.e., that Social Democracy was assisting the development of Capitalism to Fascism) as a malicious “calumny.” To-day it is Vandervelde, Chairman of the Second International, it is Adler, Secretary of the Second International, who are accusing the main section of the Second International, German Social Democracy, of passing over to Fascism.
Such is the completion of the line of Social Democracy. The Social Democratic leadership first betrays the workers to Fascism, and then passes over to Fascism.
The Communist Party alone carries on the fight unbroken, in the face of all the persecution and terror, raising the banner of implacable struggle against Fascism, and extending its activities on an ever-increasing scale (300,000 sale of the first issue of the illegal “Rote Fahne”; victories in Factory Councils elections; leadership of strikes).
It is thus made clear to all that the question of Social Democracy and of Communism is not a question of two alternative paths of advance for the workers’ struggle. The path of the “democratic advance to Socialism” is a blind alley, ending in Fascism. In the hour of crisis the Communist International alone leads the workers’ struggle.
The lesson of German Social Democracy must be learnt by the working class of every country.
The line of the Labour Party is identical with the line of German Social Democracy.
That is the important fact to face.
In vain the Labour Party and Trades Union Congress leadership seek to shelve their responsibility, and to separate themselves now from the line of German Social Democracy and trade unionism by throwing the blame on Wels and on Leipart. It is obvious to all that their line is identical, that there is not the slightest difference in principle between Wels, Henderson and Vendervelde, or between Leipart, Citrine and Jouhaux.
Take the declaration of Leipart on behalf of the German Trade Union Federation surrendering to Fascism:—
“The trade unions have come into being as the organised self-help of the working class in the course of their history, through natural causes, have become more and more fused with the State itself.
“The social tasks of the trade unions have to be fulfilled, no matter what the form of the State régime is. . . .
“The trade unions are fully prepared, even beyond the field of wages and working conditions, to enter into permanent cooperation with the employers’ organisations.
“A State supervision of such collaboration could in certain circumstances be conducive towards raising its value and rendering its execution more easy.
“The trade unions do not claim to influence directly the policy of the State. Their tasks in this respect can only be to direct the just claims of the workers to the attention of the Government with reference to its measures of social and economic policy and legislation, and also to be of service to the Government and Parliament through its knowledge and experience in this field.”
Is not this the very language of the entire reformist Trade Union International, of Citrine, of the Mondist line of co-operation with the employers and trade union “participation” and “responsibility” in capitalist industry, of every reformist trade union official?
The line of Mondism, the Trades Union Congress Citrine-Cramp-Bevin line of co-operation with capitalism, already contains in germ the whole line of Fascism. Did not Mond himself say: “Fascism is tending towards the realisation of my political ideals, namely, to make all classes collaborate loyally”? (Sir Alfred Mond, interview in Rome, “Daily Herald,” 12/5/28.)
Such are the partners and colleagues of the British Labour-Trade Union leadership, who speak in words against Fascism.
The line of reformist trade unionism, of co-operation with capitalism and co-operation with the capitalist State, logically and inevitably works itself out to its completion as the line of Fascism.
The only difference between the British and French reformist leaders, on the one hand, and German Social Democracy, on the other, is the difference in the stage of development and the system of their bourgeoisie.
The British and French leaders can still indulge in the luxury of denouncing Fascism in words (so do their bourgeoisie; so do Chamberlain and Churchill, when it suits the purposes of British policy) while refusing all working class action against it—because the system of their bourgeoisie is not yet Fascism, but “only” imperialist violence, which they support in the name of “democracy.”
But beneath the difference of form the reality is the same. Both oppose the united working-class front. Both attack Communism. Both support their own bourgeoisie. The same policy can only lead to the same outcome.
The British Labour Party is already assisting the development of the British capitalist state in the direction of Fascism. If the time comes, it will adapt itself to Fascism, exactly as German Social Democracy has done.
The Labour Party calls on the workers to place their confidence in “British democracy” and “parliamentarism,” in “constitutional methods” and “the British Constitution,” as the surest defence against Fascism. It warns the workers against the Communist line of class struggle as the only defence against Fascism.
But it is precisely within the forms of so-called “democracy” that Fascism is prepared. This is the whole lesson of Germany. The entire Fascist regime was prepared, step by step, within the four corners of the Weimar “democratic” constitution. All the emergency regimes, the dictatorship, the suppression of every liberty, were carried out under one clause or another of the Weimar Constitution. They were carried out with the support of the parties of “democracy,” always in the name of “saving democracy” and “saving the constitution,” until finally the Fascist regime was established. To-day also German Social Democracy supports Fascism in practice in the name of “the constitution” (“strictly in accordance with the constitution”—Stampfer).
The same process will happen, is already beginning to happen, in England. Through the forms of the “democratic” constitution, the Fascist dictatorship is step by step prepared. In every “democratic” constitution there are always a hundred loopholes, legislative, executive, administrative and judicial, through which the ruling class can establish its emergency special powers in time of need, turn the constitution upside down, and nullify all the supposed democratic liberties—always within “the constitution.”
The parties which place themselves on the basis of “the constitution” in the name of “democracy” are compelled in practice to support this process, so long as they remain on the basis of legal, constitutional methods. In this way the workers are step by step disarmed and paralysed before the final coup—always in the name of the “democratic constitution,” and even of its “defence against Fascism”—until the final coup of Fascism finds them completely helpless, and is easily carried through without resistance. Thus the preaching of confidence in capitalist “democracy” and “the constitution” as the safeguard against Fascism, in the place of the real struggle, directly assists the advance of Fascism.
The truth is that, in the final analysis, even the maintenance of formal “democratic” rights within bourgeois democracy depends entirely on the strength of the working-class struggle, and not on any grounds of “legalism,” “constitutionalism,” etc. Only under the fear of the revolutionary working-class offensive at the close of the war did the capitalist class hastily extend democratic rights in every country (German Weimar Constitution, 1918, Representation of the People Act in Britain, etc.). To-day, with the weakening of the working-class offensive owing to the disorganisation by Social Democracy, the capitalists are actively engaged in withdrawing these democratic rights in every country.
The line of Social Democracy, of the promises of the “democratic path to socialism,” of trust in capitalist “democracy” and legality, of the refusal of the united working-class front, of unity with capitalism, leads inevitably to the victory of Fascism and the servitude of the working-class.
If the British workers put their faith in the Labour Party as the defence against Fascism, they will suffer as cruel an awakening as the German workers, who put their faith in German Social Democracy. Let the warning be taken in time.
The sole path to defeat Fascism is not the path of trust in capitalist “democracy” and “peaceful methods” in face of the realities of capitalist violence, but the path of the class struggle, of working-class unity in the fight, of the united working-class front in action.
The united working-class front of struggle must be built up with entire strength of the working-class, extending to all working class organisations, to every trade union and co-operative, to every factory and workshop.
This is the path which the Communist Party fights for, and for which it has set out the concrete proposals in its United Front appeal.
The wide response and enthusiasm with which the United Front call of the Communist Party has been received throughout the working-class shows how strong already is the working-class will to unity in action, and how completely the Manifesto of the Labour Party and Trades Union Congress General Council fails to represent the views of the mass of the workers.
The task now is to organise this growing will to unity. We must proceed to the immediate practical steps to secure this.
In every trade union branch and local Labour Party, in every working-class organisation, all militant workers need to take up the question of the united front, to join in building the local united front, and to demand of their organisations, on a national basis, to build up the united front of struggle on a nation-wide scale.
All the active workers throughout the country, who have expressed a desire for common action, should throw themselves into the campaign. They should raise the question in their trade union branch, and in other working-class organisations with which they may be associated. Trade union branches and trades councils should pour in resolutions for the agenda of the next Trades Union Congress and Annual Conference of the Labour Party, demanding the taking up of the united front proposals. Through the trade union Press, through local Labour journals, through factory papers, in every form the issue should be raised; attentions should be called to the gravity of the situation, and it should be made clear why we must all get together and build up unity with other trade union and working-class organisations.
There are already in existence a number of powerful rank and file trade union movements. These can play a great part in carrying forward the united front movement. The militants in these organisations can accomplish enormous results in the factories and shops, in the garages, in the railway depots, in raising the issue of united action.
Only in this way, by continual ever-growing agitation of all militant workers throughout the country, and by ever-growing realisation of the united front in action in every locality, will the all-embracing united working-class front be built up which can defeat Fascism.
Fascism sets out to destroy the working-class movement. It will fail. The experience of a century reveals that the working-class movement grows ever stronger and more certain of victory in the face of every persecution and terror and butchery at the hands of its enemies.
“Wherever, in whatever shape, and tinder whatever conditions the class struggle obtains any consistency, it is but natural that members of our Association should stand in the foreground. The soil out of which it grows is modern society itself. It cannot be stamped out by any amount of carnage. To stamp it out, the Government would have to stamp out the despotism of capital over labour—the conditions of their own parasitical existence.”—(MARX: “The Civil War in France”).
But what is in question now, is not the inevitable future collapse of Fascism. What matters now is the speed with which the international working-class can gather its forces and drive back this offensive, before it has developed further, before it has developed to the point of world-war and direct attack on the Soviet Union which now threatens; can prevent the enormous losses and sacrifices which a prolongation of this struggle will mean, and can rapidly transform the present situation to the revolutionary offensive.
The menace and urgency of the present situation is very great. There is no time to lose.
The united working-class front against the growing offensive of capitalist reaction must, and will, be built up in every country, in spite of the sabotage of the handful of leaders of the Second International. The whole situation confronting the working-class more and more manifestly demands and compels it.
May 1, 1933.