Joseph Hansen

How Hitler Regime Came to Power

(12 May 1945)

Source: The Militant, Vol. IX No. 19, 12 May 1945, p. 5.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2018 by Einde O’Callaghan.
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The German working class was the strongest and best organized in Europe outside the Soviet Union when the 1929 depression paralyzed Germany, and Hitler’s organization began to attract members in large numbers. The workers of Germany who had signified in elections and otherwise that they were prepared to end capitalism and institute socialism numbered more than 16 million. They awaited only the signal from their leaders. United against Hitler these workers and their friends could have crushed Nazism like an egg shell.

But they were divided into two political parties and the leaders of both parties were opposed to militant struggle. The Social Democratic party called on those capitalists who claimed to believe in democracy to lead the fight against Hitler. Meanwhile they refused to fight for socialism. Rather than launch such a fight they chose to support the most “democratic” and “progressive” capitalists. They invented a theory to explain their action and gave it the name of supporting the “lesser evil.”

The other party in Germany, the Communist party, was dominated by Stalin. Despite its following of millions of revolutionary workers this party too avoided militant struggle. Stalin even developed a “theory” to cover up his lack of action against Hitler. Instead of trying to unite with the. Social Democrats in fighting Hitler’s gangs, Stalin called the Social Democrats the “main enemy.” The Social Democrats and the Nazis, he proclaimed, “are not antipodes, but twins.” He gave this notorious theory the name “social-fascism.”

Sounded Alarm

The followers of Trotsky were the only ones to sound the real alarm when Hitler began gathering flocks of adherents from the ruined middle class. The Trotskyists were few in numbers, but they were valiant. Against cruel persecution from all sides they did their best to point out the danger. They urged the Social Democrats and the Communists to constitute a united front against Hitler. They urged the organization of defense guards to combat Hitler’s thugs.

Trotsky had been exiled from the Soviet Union by Stalin. Hounded by reaction from every side, in ill health, without funds, isolated save for his small band of devoted co-thinkers, the great revolutionary leader nevertheless exhausted every means to warn the world working class of the mounting danger in Germany.

Despite persecution from Stalinists, Social Democrats and Nazis, the German Trotskyists got out their paper, printing and distributing it at great personal sacrifice. They knew it was a life and death struggle. On December 8, 1931, Trotsky addressed the vanguard of the German workers:

“Worker-Communists, you are hundreds of thousands, millions; you cannot leave for any place; there are not enough passports for you. Should fascism come to power it will ride over your skulls and spines like a terrific tank. Your salvation lies in a merciless struggle. And only a fighting unity with the social democratic workers can bring victory. Make haste, worker-Communists, you have very little time left!”

But all the pamphlets, leaflets, papers and meetings of the Trotskyists went unheeded. The leaders of the Social Democrat and Communist parties hooted at Trotsky in their press and tried to drown his warnings and appeals in an avalanche of slander.’ Members who called attention to Trotsky’s warnings were promptly visited with disciplinary action.

Hollow Boasts

Remmele, one of the three top leaders of the Communist Party, boasted in the Reichstag, “We are not afraid of the fascist gentlemen. They will shoot their bolt quicker than any other government.” Heilmann, a leading spokesman of the Social Democrats, could proclaim as late as January 1933, “The time when fascism was a deadly danger for the proletariat and freedom has passed away.”

Trotsky again and again declared that not only the fate of the German workers was involved, but the fate of all Europe. If Hitler. gained power then the Soviet Union faced military attack and a Second, World War far more destructive than the first war would soon break out. Trotsky called for the workers to take power in Germany before it was too late.

On January 30, 1933, Hindenburg, whom the Social Democrat leaders had supported as a “lesser evil” than Hitler, turned the power over to Hitler. Misled and confused, abandoned by their leaders, the German workers were crushed and butchered, their mighty trade unions and other organizations smashed. The Trotskyists did not escape the bloodletting. Like the workers they had tried to warn, they became victims of the Gestapo.

To the very end the Trotskyists stuck by their posts. A last minute rally by the workers was not excluded. Even in the hour of Hitler’s assumption of power, as the Militant of the spring of 1933 records, the Trotskyists tried to rally the German workers, to establish a united front against Hitler. Their call to action was lost in the frightful debacle.


Last updated on: 7 November 2018