C L R James
The World Revolution 1937-1936

Chapter 12



AS THE STALINIST REGIME DESTROYED THE BOLSHEVIK party by slander and organisational terror (not against class-enemies, it must always be remembered, which all history proves to be necessary, inevitable and not in the least confined to Communists, but against honest, intelligent and devoted members of its own ranks), so it automatically transferred these methods to the International. [1]

With the final expulsion of the Opposition in 1927 went the expulsion engineered from Moscow of all Trotsky sympathisers. Souvarine had gone before; now Monatte, Loriot, Treint, in France; in Belgium Van Overstraten, in Italy Bordiga, in the United States, Cannon, Swabeck, Abern, Shachtman; in Canada, Spector, member of the Executive of the International, later MacDonald, the party secretary. The method was Stalinist: lies and slander, the ideological preparation; breach of discipline, the pretext; and then ruthless expulsion of the offending Trotskyists and all their followers. For example, Moscow, wishing to clear up the mess in China, published the following in the documents for the Sixth Congress: "Owing to a wrong conception of the tasks of the United Front, the leaders of the Communist Party of China committed a series of vital errors which considerably hampered the preparation of the revolutionary organisations for the fight and which, as later experience has shown, were the beginning of a whole chain of opportunist blunders which finally resulted in the bankruptcy of the C. P. leaders. [2]

"They believed that Chiang Kai-Shek had become a national figure, that his desertion of the revolution would weaken the revolutionary movement and that concessions must be made to him, his demands must be satisfied so that he might be preserved for the revolution." Who didn't subscribe to this interpretation had to go. Thus by July, 1928, the way was cleared for the great turn to the Left inside the Soviet Union and the International.

At the Sixth Congress in July, called after four years, Bucharin, already out of favour, still played a prominent part and announced the new policy. He was mainly responsible for the Programme of the International, a document based on Socialism in a single country and therefore valueless. The stabilisation of Capitalism was denounced as ended, which was true enough. The Opposition had been pointing out long before that the General Strike in England and the revolution in China were the precursors of new upheavals. The Stalinists denied it first, then proclaimed it as a new discovery. But from this they drew conclusions, based not on reality and Marxist understanding but solely on the necessities of Stalin's policy and the sycophantic ignorance of men like Manuilsky and Piatnitzky. Comfortable nonentities, their only qualifications for revolutionary leadership were their support of Stalin, to whom they owed all. He, on the other hand, could be sure that their lack of distinction in the days of Lenin, and their personal mediocrity would never aspire to challenge his position as supreme leader and chief theoretician. It is this subservience among his henchmen that prevents any check on Stalin's theories, however fantastic, however ridiculous, however dangerous. The Congress laid down that the world revolution was imminent, that the masses were becoming "radicalised," that they had lost faith in Social Democracy, and the Communists should prepare to lead the masses to victory. After four years the International had met, only to be still further confused and misled. The crisis was undoubtedly coming, and the masses would ultimately seek a revolutionary solution to their difficulties. But the first stage would most certainly be a growth of the Social Democracy. As a crisis deepens after a period of comparative prosperity the first move of the masses is towards the Trade Unions and so under the political leadership of the Social Democracy. The recent rise in France of the Unions from less than two millions to five million is an inevitable phenomenon, predictable and predicted. The Russian masses followed Kerensky first. The Spanish masses from 1931 followed the Republican leaders. Except possibly after the tortures of a Fascist regime, and then not with any certainty, the masses never move straight to a Communist Party but rally to the mass organisations. The Communist Party knows this and fights for its place in the mass movement, warning the workers of the inevitable treachery of the reformist leaders, laying bare the realities of each development, and guiding the growing disillusionment of the masses towards itself. Instead of foretelling this process Stalin, through his mouthpieces, proclaimed the loss of faith of the masses all over the world in Social Democracy (the MacDonald Government in Britain was still to come; millions stuck to the German Social Democracy to the end), the steady swing of the masses to Communism, and the imminent revolution. It is in this way that Lenin's successor, wielding more than Lenin's power without Lenin's brains, step by step, both in broad orientation and day to day direction, wrecked every opportunity of successful revolution. A correct orientation does not mean victory. Incorrect orientations so glaringly false lead to certain defeat. Over the new turn, however, hung the previous three years of revolution with Chiang Kai-Shek and Wang Chin-Wei, Pilsudski and the Angle-Russian Committee. Resourceful in falsehood, the Stalinists announced that a new period in post-war history--the third period--had begun. The first period was the period which had ended in 1924, the second period had ended with the defeat in China, now had begun the third and final period. The Social Democracy, who had been the chief friends in the second period, were now the chief enemy in the third. The same Social Democracy, the same parties, the same men, were yet to become, as they still are to-day, even better friends than in 1925-27. But behind all this verbiage one solid reality existed--the determination of the bureaucracy to use the International for the defence of the U.S.S.R. That was openly stated to be the first aim. The Conference took this to mean, by means of the revolution. Stalin and the bureaucracy, however, meant, in place of the revolution.


In addition to this ideological confusion the International, wounded already by the long series of expulsions, was now drained again by another organisational onslaught. All who could not pass immediately from the Social Democracy being the chief friend to the Social Democracy being the chief enemy were expelled as Right Wing deviators with abundant personal calumny. In the U.S.A. Lovestone, Gitlow and Wolfe, with the confidence of ninety per cent of the party, were driven out by the purse-controllers in Moscow. In Italy Tasca, Feroci, Santini and Blasco; in Czechoslovakia Hais and Jilek; in Austria Strasser and Schlamm, in France Doriot, then Sellier, with all their supporters; in China Chen Diu-Siu, the founder and leader of the party; in Sweden the bulk of the party and the leader, Kilboom; in Spain Nin, Andrade and Maurin (prominent leaders of the Spanish revolution to-day), in Germany Brandler and Thalheimer, and many good workers. The International has been stabbed and stabbed again by Stalin so that its growth has been stunted, the education, (which can come only from experience guided but independently undertaken and independently studied) denied it. And all in the name of discipline, orthodoxy, centralism, Leninism; whereas Lenin, great disciplinarian as he was, understood history and men too well to expect a blind obedience even from men of his own party. If you insist on obedience, he wrote to Bucharin in 1921, about the International, you will get only obedient fools. Unshakable on questions of principle, he allowed a wise laxity except at rare moments when a revolution was in danger. He trusted to events to prove him right, and they generally did, whereupon the offenders were always accepted back on the old terms. Witness his treatment of Zinoviev and Kamenev. [3] If he was wrong he admitted it fully. But Stalin, incapable of correct analysis, was always wrong, has never once in the whole history of the International ever admitted it, but always put the blame for failure on subordinates and covered up the old failures and the preparations for the new by abusing his opponents and then expelling them. He wanted obedient fools, and since 1929 he has had them. The expelled members formed different small groups; a Right Opposition was added to the Left Opposition, both, but more particularly the Trotskyists, being the target of the whole Communist Press, neither time nor money being spared to destroy them. Some, unable to find a footing in revolutionary politics, drifted back to the Social Democracy, others, like Souvarine, to anarchism, some like Doriot even reached Fascism. Some of these men were not of the stuff of which revolutionaries are made, but many of them and their followers would, under a different regime, have added their particular gifts and experience to the revolutionary movement. That they deteriorated was triumphantly pointed out by the Stalinists, though they themselves were the cause of this deterioration.


The new policy of the third period was promulgated in numerous official documents, and the attack on the Social Democracy was crystallised in the once famous phrase, that the Stalinists would give millions to bury to-day--the egregious folly of Social Fascism. In its day Stalin had all the credit for it. But like all his theoretical essays it was stolen from his chief henchman of the time.

Summing up the German failure of 1923 and blaming equally Brandler and the Social Democracy, Zinoviev, deprived of Lenin and therefore theoretically helpless, declared that Fascism had already conquered in Germany by the aid of the Social Democracy. "What is Pilsudski and the others? Fascist Social Democrats. Were they this ten years ago No. Of course at that time they were potential Fascists, but it is precisely during the epoch of revolution that they have become Fascists. What is Italian Social Democracy? It is a wing of the Fascists. Turati is a Fascist Social Democrat. Could we have said this five years ago? ... Ten years ago we had opportunists, but could we say that they were Fascist Social Democrats? No. It would have been absurd to say it them (sic). Now, however, they are Fascists. ... The international Social Democracy has now become a wing of Fascism." [4] So Zinoviev in January, 1924.

When in September, 1924, Stalin, still expecting immediate revolution, wrote his first article on international affairs, he merely copied Zinoviev in his own way. He paraphrased and elaborated thus: "Firstly it is not true that Fascism is only a fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie. Fascism is not merely a military-technical matter. Fascism is a fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie dependent upon the active support of Social Democracy. Objectively Social Democracy is the moderate wing of Fascism. There is no ground for supposing that a fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie can reach decisive results in its struggles, or in a government of a country, without the active support of Social Democracy. There is just as little ground for supposing that Social Democracy can achieve decisive results in the struggles or in the government of a country without active support by the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie. These organisations do not exclude but complement one another. They are not poles apart, but immediate neighbours. [5] Fascism is the unformed political block of these two basic organisations, which arose under the critical after-war conditions of imperialism, and is intended for the struggle against the proletarian revolution." [6] Fascism dependent upon the active support of the Social Democracy--Social Democracy being unable to govern without the active support of Fascism. This is Stalin. We must emphasise it over and over again; no one will ever understand the history of the Soviet Union and the International since 1924 unless he can grasp (and it is a difficult thing to grasp) this unique combination of economic and political ignorance and stupidity, Tammany Hall ability and ruthless determination.

Stalin wrote this in September, but a month later he proclaimed Socialism in a separate country, Social Democracy became the chief friend, and the Stalinist paraphrase and embellishment of Zinoviev was conveniently forgotten. Now with the new policy of the third period, this discarded folly was fished out and hailed as the summit of human wisdom. The actual phrase Social Fascism seems to have been Stalin's own, and the Stalinist gramophones at home and abroad, Pollitt, Cachin, Thorez and Thaelmann, vied with each other in bringing it in on every possible occasion and paying homage to the master.

In July, 1929, the E.C.C.I. held its Tenth Plenum. [7] On Page 8 the General Staff of the World Revolution analysed Fascism: "In countries where there are strong Social Democratic parties, Fascism assumes the particular form of Social Fascism, which to an ever-increasing extent serves the bourgeoisie as an instrument for the paralysing of the activity of the masses in the struggle against the regime of Fascist dictatorship. By means of this monstrous system of political and economic oppression, the bourgeoisie, aided and abetted by international Social Democracy, has been attempting to crush the revolutionary class movement of the proletariat for many years." Hypnotising themselves with words, they saw millions of workers rushing from the Social Democracy to Communism. Stalin had said it would be so and therefore it was so already: "As a result of their own experience, the German workers are abandoning their illusions concerning the Social Democratic Party." To be quite sure of destroying any liaisons which the left-ward moving sections of the Social Democratic party might seek to make with the Communist Party, the Plenum categorically instructed all sections of the C. I. to pay "special attention to an energetic struggle against the 'Left' Wing of Social Democracy which retards the process of the disintegration of Social Democracy by creating the illusion that it--the 'Left' Wing--represents an opposition to the policy of the leading Social Democratic bodies, whereas as a matter of fact, it whole-heartedly supports the policy of Social Fascism."

Page after page of the report spoke of the radicalisation of the masses, "the coming revolutionary battles," "the upward swing of the labour movement," etc., etc., while under their eyes Social Democracy was in full control of its millions of voters and the millions in the Trade Unions. The Trade Union leadership was described as the "Social Fascist trade union bureaucracy" nearly a dozen times in as many pages; all were warned against the ever-growing "Fascization" of the Trade Unions. The Plenum characterised Social Democracy as "evolving through Social Imperialism to Social Fascism," and dismissing the Trade Union leaders as "sufficiently disgraced," demanded the United Front from below. The leaders were not even to be spoken to.

All over the world the obedient fools rushed to ruin themselves. Thus it was that the British Communist Party, already functioning in an atmosphere traditionally unreceptive, disgraced itself in the eyes of the British workers by reckless talk of insurrection. Pollitt and Tom Mann were charged with proclaiming the imminent revolution. Up to late 1934 the British party continued with this glaring absurdity. In Mexico, in India, in China, in Africa it was the same. The Spanish revolution broke out in 1931. For nearly four years the small Communist Party lost its chances by playing Social Fascism in every key. Revolutionary situations as in Spain, a solid bourgeois-democracy as in Britain, Stalin whistled and his obedient fools danced. Ruinous as it was everywhere, in Germany it reached its highest scope and led the great German proletariat to its doom.


Fascism, say the Liberals and Social Democrats, [8] is provoked by Communism, and therefore they put their trust in democracy. The cowardice of the one and the hypocrisy of the other, are only equalled by their fertility in inventing absurdities. The violent destruction of the leaders and organisations of one class by another is a commonplace of history. The forms in which the different classes organise themselves politically will change according to the period. The reality of the class-struggle remains. Tsarist Black Hundreds, and F. E. Smith and his Ulstermen, were active against their enemies before they knew anything about the world revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Fascism as we know it to-day originates from post-war Italy, and its development there is instructive.

Italy is that most unstable type of modern Capitalism, a highly-developed industry (in the North) in combination with a poor and backward peasantry. Cheated by Britain, France and Belgium at Versailles, Italy faced the post-war dislocation with resources and psychology closer to the defeated than to the victorious nations. Orlando's Government fell on June 20, 1919, and Nitti came to power, to face the economic and political disorder which all European countries faced after the war. In July there were riots due to the high cost of living in both Northern and Southern Italy. Soviets were formed, and although the movement collapsed after a week, yet the ruling classes had had a warning. The Government re-organised the police, strengthened the gendarmerie, and created a special guard. But certain sections of the bourgeoisie realised quite clearly from what was happening all over Europe that the army and the police could not be depended upon to act against any powerful mass movement, for they, after all, are themselves part of the people. Various nationalist bodies full of patriotic emotion and hysteria, youths bitter at the degradation of Italy by Clemenceau, Lloyd George and Wilson, the excitement in view of the annexation of Flume and Dalmatia, all thriving on the economic confusion in the country, could easily be organised into nationalists, futurists, arditi. Socialism was the enemy and a mass Press-campaign resulted in the sacking of the offices of Avanti, the Socialist paper. Economic and social forces express themselves through men. Italian reaction was fortunate enough to find Mussolini, ex-Socialist, of great organising ability, gifts for demagogy and yet utterly unlike Stalin in that he has exceptional political intelligence and judgment. [9] He formed the Fascist Party in 1919 and Fascist propaganda, a potent political force in our time, made its appearance. We can see its origins quite clearly.

The old type of reaction, Kaiserism, Tsarism, House of Lords Toryism, has had its day, and will never deceive the working-class again. Capitalism, therefore, had to find itself a mass-basis among the petty-bourgeoisie and take on the protective colouring of a people's party. Yet lavish funds, the most intensive Fascist propaganda and all the weight of bourgeois society can never break or even seriously shake a working-class movement. It takes the cowardice and treachery of Liberals and Social Democrats to do that. At the first elections held by the Nitti Government the Socialist vote was 1,840,593 against three and a half millions for all the other parties put together; and properly organised, the social weight of workers and peasants in a nation-wide struggle for power is always immensely greater than its electoral representation. Electoral victories are heady. In the presence of the King at the opening of parliament the 156 Socialist deputies shouted, "Long live Socialism--Long live the Socialist republic!" When they left the building they were attacked by nationalists and army officers, and the masses, ready for action, replied with a general strike in Rome, which spread to Milan and the industrial cities of the North. In Milan the army fired on the demonstrators. In Mantua the masses held the city. Thenceforward it was a question ultimately either of the victory of the proletariat and the peasantry or the victory of the ruling class; but the masses could find no leadership. In April, 1920, there was a general strike in Turin which lasted for ten days. Nitti was succeeded by Giolitti, but parliament could not govern. In September, 1920, the Italian metal-workers, who had been negotiating with the Federation of Industrialists for the right of collective contracts, were threatened with a lock-out. To prevent this they seized the factories, and soon the movement had spread to the whole industrial region. The workers ran up the red flag and covered the walls with posters, "Long live the Revolution," but with the inherent discipline of an industrial proletariat they set up technical committees, administrative committees, organised militia which guarded the buildings and kept order, doing their best to carry on the work. From there the step towards an attempt at the revolutionary seizure of power could not have been too difficult, given the political requisite of party, policy and organisation. But all these were absent.

The Italian Socialist Party was split. On the 10th and 11th September it held a conference to decide whether they should make this movement a starting point of the struggle for power. By 591,241 votes to 209,569 it decided that the occupation was merely for economic purposes, and in so doing it signed its own death warrant. The astute industrialists promised to grant some form of workers' control, on paper, just as the Blum government to-day has given a forty-hour week, a rise in wages and other advantages to the workers, duly certified by law and passed through both houses. In addition to checking the onward movement of the masses, the Socialist party split into two parts, the revolutionary and reformist. The Third International, though exercising a powerful influence, could not through the inexperienced Italian Communists combine the necessary organisational and programmatic independence with the flexibility of tactic which wins the masses. [10] It was at this period that Mussolini and his Fascists, hitherto negligible, gained their opportunity. He had formed his society in March, 1919. And much as Hitler was to disguise his reaction by calling himself a National Socialist (a significant testimony of the future social organisation of mankind), Mussolini's programme had the workers and the middle classes in mind--women's suffrage, abolition of the senate, constitutional reform, eight-hour day ratified by parliament, minimum wage, sickness and old-age insurances, workers' control of production, progressive income tax reaching to confiscation in some cases, confiscation of war profits to eighty-five per cent, confiscation of the wealth of the clergy, abolition of the standing army and its replacement by a people's militia, etc., etc. But the big agrarians and industrialists who supported him knew quite well what this programme meant. It is quite true that the Bolsheviks, for reasons which we have explained, were not able to carry out much of their programme, have not been able to do so to this day. But the difference between them and Mussolini is the difference between a political movement that is hindered by economic and historical circumstances on the one hand, and on the other the crudest deception. And it is in this difference that lies the inevitable success of the one and the inevitable collapse of the other.

Once the Italian proletariat had decided not to move forward to political power, members of the lower middle classes, and even many of the proletariat itself, turned to the Fascist promise of immediate action which Mussolini was obviously ready to take. Other sections of the proletariat which did not join the Fascists fell into indifference. Yet even the 1921 elections showed 1,569,553 votes for Socialists and 291,952 for the Communists. The General Confederation of Labour had grown from half a million in 1919 to two million. But the Fascist militia were allowed to destroy the advance-guard of the proletariat and peasantry with system and thoroughness. The Communists were too few to fight and could not work the United Front tactic. The Social Democrats and the Liberals trusted to democracy, in this case the King of Italy and the Italian constitution. To their horror the King deceived them and Mussolini in 1922 marched on Rome in a railway carriage. But~his position as Prime Minister was far from secure, and the brutality and corruption of his regime, culminating in the open murder of Matteoti, the courageous Socialist deputy, on June 10, 1924, roused millions of working-men and women and their petty-bourgeois allies. On June 27 in Rome there was a commemoration of Matteoti's death. Let a Social Democrat [11] speak: "Revolt was in the air and in the minds of men. The merest trifle would have been enough to make it break out in the streets. The parliamentary opposition had announced its secession. Filippo Turati had spoken of the murdered man before the hundred and twenty-six deputies elected by the people. Immortal words had been uttered. A stroll in the streets of Rome was enough to convince anyone that some decisive action was looked for. All the roads leading to the Tiber were black with people, all waiting for the Opposition members of Parliament to leave the Chamber in a body, to betake themselves to Lungo Tevere Amaldo de Brescia, where Matteoti had been kidnapped...whither for a fortnight humble peasants, working-men and women had been coming to say a prayer and to strew the symbolic tombstone with flowers.

"But the parliamentary section of the party was of opinion that its struggle lay in keeping within the law, that law that was trodden underfoot by the Government." Parliament, Parliament, Democracy, Law, Order--it is these words in the mouths of Social Democrats that demoralise workers, not Fascist propaganda.

The immortal words did not harm Mussolini. He consolidated his position on the backs of the battered workingclass movement; then came the settlement with the petty-bourgeois dupes (not so spectacularly as Hitler on June 30, 1934; the case was not so urgent). There was civil war in the Fascist party. In Rome each of the two groups marched against each other with machine-guns and conflict was avoided with difficulty. In Turin, Genoa, Slavona, they fought openly. As early as September, 1923, Mussolini wrote in the Corriero Kalrano: "Should we be unable radically to rejuvenate the Fascist Party, then it would be better to destroy it and to permit the healthy and fresh forces which live and work within it to merge powerfully into the freer and broader national stream." The lower middle-class elements were weeded out. To-day industrialists, landlords, militarists, flourish in Italy. They have to submit to restriction and regulation by Fascism, but that is a trifle to pay for the destruction of the working-class movement. Italy's rates of wages and living standards are lower than they have been for fifty years. But deprived of their organisations the workers are helpless.


Hitler in Germany in 1924 had aimed at doing for German Capitalism what Mussolini had done for Italian. But the pusillanimous capitulation of the German Communist Party had ruined Hitler's chances. The big bourgeoisie, the militarists, have no love for these demagogic parvenus with their uncouth hordes of mercenary toughs. It is only when capitalists see that the workers, disillusioned by capitalist bankruptcy, may seize power that they turn to Fascism as a last expedient. Five years passed before Hitler got another chance. But he had the first requisite of any leader--belief in his cause. He continued with his agitation and his propaganda. He attacked Capitalism, but got few workers to join him. He attacked Marxian-Socialism and substituted his own brand which, when explained to capitalists, induced some rich and influential ones to give him millions. He could not have published dozens of daily papers and kept some half-a-million Brownshirts without their help. Only an economic crisis would give him his opportunity--and it came in 1929. The world economic crisis seized Germany first in Europe, because of all the great countries of Europe Germany was the most vulnerable. Since 1924 Germany had existed and been able to pay reparations chiefly by loans from America. In addition, trustification, monopoly Capitalism, which had gone further in Germany than anywhere else, the consequent domination of the Government by finance capital, rationalisation, with its consequent increase of unemployment and loss of purchasing power by the masses, the whole historical development of Germany between 1914 and 1929, all these meant that in Germany terrific class-battles would be fought with fateful consequences for Europe and the world. The clash had been avoided in 1924. Now nothing could stave it off.

It would be as well here to point out at once the issues at stake. If the German proletariat were victorious, it meant the almost immediate victory of the Austrian proletariat. Fascism in Italy would receive a most serious blow. In Spain the revolution which had broken out in 1931 would receive an enormous impetus and an enthusiastic ally. Most important of all, the bogey of German invasion, which is the main threat that French Capitalism uses to the French workers, would disappear at a stroke, and the French bourgeoisie would be jammed between the German workingclass movement and its own. The difficulties of economic construction in the Soviet Union would have been solved by the combination of Soviet natural resources and Germany's marvellous industrial organisation--that alliance which Lenin had so hoped for. There was the possibility of an invasion of a Soviet Germany by France and Poland, of an invasion of a Soviet Austria by Italy. The Soviet army, ready to oppose intervention, would be a powerful barrier to this, and (given a certain development of the national class-struggle) to suppose that the working-classes of Britain and France, Belgium and Holland would idly allow a Soviet Germany to be crushed by imperialists is a mirage existing only in the minds of Tory diehards and (we know it to-day) the rulers of the Soviet regime. If the Communist International functioned as it could on the basis of the world-crisis, every development in Germany would be followed by the world working-class movement and their responsibility to a Soviet Germany put clearly before them. It will be difficult enough for the imperialists to get whole-hearted participation in an ordinary imperialist war. They would imperil their own existence if they tried to interfere openly in the affairs of a Soviet Germany. [12] On the other hand the defeat of the German proletariat would be a catastrophe for Europe. The greatest anti-war force under Capitalism was the German proletariat. As long as it was powerful the war against the Soviet Union would have to begin in Berlin. But the victory of Fascism in Germany would mean (we see it to-day) the victory of reaction all over Central and Eastern Europe. It would weaken the Spanish Revolution and the French. It would mean inevitably war against the Soviet Union, it would mean all the things that face us to-day. This is not wisdom after the event. In the very first stages of the struggle they were clearly set down by the expelled Left Opposition, the existing state of parties in Germany estimated, the course of action to be followed outlined.


The first intimation of danger was the Reichstag election of September, 1930. In May, 1924, the Nazis polled 1,918,310 votes, in May, 1928, 809,541 votes. Then came the crisis. Hitler had at last persuaded important sections of German Capitalism that he could be depended upon to smash the German working-class movement. Backed not only by German but by international capital, he and his party drew to it the threatened middle classes by promising them to destroy the big chain-stores, etc., the lumpen proletariat by bribery, and every unattached voter by playing on nationalist sentiment and promising everything to everybody. Now in September, 1930, after one year of the crisis, he gained 6,406,397 votes, an increase of over five million. The blindest of the blind could see that not only the whole world but even the builders of Socialism in a single country would have to concentrate on the developments in Germany during the next few years. The workers of Germany, whom Fascism was aimed against and who alone could break Fascism, were organised in the Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party.

The Social Democratic Party during the stabilisation had developed a huge bureaucracy. With the failure of the Communist Party in 1923 the workers had quite inevitably gone hack to the Social Democracy, which had strengthened itself all over Europe on the basis of the temporary stabilisation of 1924-1929 The Social Democrats had control of the Prussian Government and thousands of posts in the Government service. Two-thirds of the police chiefs of Prussia were Social Democrats. There were nearly a hundred Social Democratic members in the Reichstag and many in the other parliaments of Germany they had jobs in State, banks, there were thousands of Trade Union officials, workers in the Party Press, right down to posts that were much smaller but yet, in post-war Germany. safe. It has been estimated that the Social Democracy had actually at its disposal in 1931 "early 290,000 actual posts. [13] Anyone with the slightest experience of workers' organisations knows that this bureaucracy, basing itself on the layers next to it, with the organisation, propaganda and finances of the party and Trade Unions in its hand, could exercise an enormous influence on the millions on which they rested.

But below these were nearly twenty millions of the German working people in town and country. In May, 1924, the Social Democrats had had only six million votes, the Communists 3,693,000. But by December, in spite of the imminent revolution foretold by Stalin and Zinoviev, the Communist Party had lost 974,000 of these votes, and the Social Democracy had gained 1,881,000, making them 7,881,000. The revolutionary problem is to turn enough of these away from their leaders. Wels, Leipart, Otto Braun, Severing, Noske and the large majority of the German Social Democrats, no more than Citrine, Bevin, Attlee, Morrison, Jouhaux, Leon Blum and the others, would not prepare workers for any sort of struggle with Capitalism. Before 1933 they were willing to come to terms with Fascism if allowed. Now that Fascism is exposed, they pretend that capitalists, faced with a choice between social revolution and Fascism will choose parliamentary democracy. They can always escape abroad. But the vast millions of Social Democratic workers have no choice but to fight Fascism or be crushed by it. They listened in Germany as they will always listen to the speeches of their leaders, they hope that these will do something, they have faith in the organisations that they have built up with so much sacrifice. Their leaders teach them to have faith in democracy, in the King of Italy, in Hindenburg, in the Popular Front, in God [14] (Walter Citrine), in everything except their own organised strength. It is usually only when the enemy is upon them that they realise that their Social Democratic leaders have scattered to the four winds and never intended to fight Fascism at all. [15] It was the business of the Communist Party of Germany to expose these Social Democratic leaders for what they were,and win enough of the Social Democratic workers, or at least neutralise the others, so as to be able to make the attack on Fascism. Whatever Hitler said, Mussolini in Italy had shown that Fascism aimed at destroying the workers' organisations and bourgeois parliamentary democracy, leaving the workers defenceless. The army and police cannot be trusted to do that, the bourgeoisie can no longer trust the bourgeois State, so it organises its bands. But it is this very factor which makes the Social Democratic worker under skilful leadership ready to fight. He is not a revolutionary. If he were he would join the Communist Party. But he, in certain circumstances, will fight in defence of what he considers to be his lawful constitutional rights. Whenever a ruling class has to take away by violence these rights, the revolutionary situation becomes a possibility.

The German Communist Party votes in 1930 had jumped from 3,300,000 to 4,600,000, nothing in comparison to the Fascist increase. But in Germany, with twenty-five large towns of over 500,000 people, with the workers dominant in the economy of the country, the combined Communist and Social Democratic vote represented the dominant social force in the country. In highly industrial countries like Germany and Britain the organized workers hold the fate of the country in their hands. The other political parties in Germany, Nationalists, Catholic, Centre Party, etc., might be numerically imposing, as they were in Russia even after October, 1917. Lenin did not fear all their votes, contemptuously dismissed the Constituent Assembly in 1918, and held the power. The ruling class v. the working class is the issue, both fighting for the lower middle-classes. Even the big capitalist parties were not homogeneous. In a crisis the Catholic Party, for instance, would split, probably to the advantage of the workers, who, were their leadership strong and decisive enough, could count on drawing the bulk of the Catholic workmen to their side. In unity for action the workers in the factories, transport and other essential services would he masters of the situation. With the policy of the United Front against Fascism, the Social Democratic worker, step by step, could be led on the basis of his own experience to fight against Fascism; and the victorious struggle against Fascism, not in parliament, but in the streets, would lead directly to power.

That was the task in the Germany of 1930. It is the task in France to-day, and ultimately, excepting the complications of a war, the task in Britain to-morrow. The German Communist party had to point out every manuevre of Hitler and the capitalists and at the same time prove to the workers that their leaders would not fight; not by telling them this but by challenging the leaders to fight. At the same time they had a quite special responsibility, to give the workers confidence that the Communist Party was not only willing but able to lead that fight. For a very noticeable thing in the elections of 1930 was that, though the Communist vote had increased by over a million and a quarter, the membership of the party had not correspondingly increased, which meant that, though many workers believed in the necessity of revolution and accepted the line of the Communist Party, they doubted the capacity of the Communist Party to carry out that line; 1923 remained in their minds.

Trotsky, in an article written from his exile in Prinkipo just after the elections, warned them that the situation demanded careful handling. [16] The six million voters for the Social Democracy did not mean that the voters were unalterably attached to the Social Democracy. Millions of these could be won by the Communists as the Bolsheviks had won millions for the October Revolution, and the German Communist Party in 1923 had been able in a few months to get the majority of the German proletariat behind it. But the Communist Party would have to drop its exaggerations and absurdities and base itself solely on realistic estimations of the political situation. With the position as it was, to take the offensive would be disastrous. The Communist Party, with the advance-guard of the workers, would be smashed to pieces, leaving the road clear for Fascism. He suggested defensive battles and an unwavering struggle for the United Front. The Social Democratic leaders would clamour that they wanted to fight. What did they propose? The Communist Party would not ask the Social Democratic worker to leave his party. Let him demand of his leaders that they take joint steps for defence, each party its own banner, its own flag, but a simply-defined programme. If the Social Democratic Party leaders accepted, so much the better. The fight would go on and the Communist Party would apologise for having misjudged them. But they would refuse. Then as the Fascist danger grew they would have the task of explaining to their members why, in face of the growing threat, they continued to refuse the quite reasonable offers of Communists who, after all, were fellow-workers and were not proposing immediate revolution, but merely common defence against an immediate danger. "There is no doubt that the leaders of the Social Democracy and a very small stratum of workers will prefer, in the last analysis, the victory of Fascism to the revolutionary victory of the proletariat." But it was precisely this preference which gave the Communist Party an opportunity to break the ranks under the control of the Social Democratic bureaucracy. "We must conclude agreements against Fascism with divers Social Democratic fractions and organisations, while placing clearly before the masses precise conditions for their leaders." This was in 1930.


So that there might be no misunderstanding of the colossal blundering and treachery which gave us a Fascist instead of a Soviet Germany with all that will mean for Europe, we cannot do better for the English reader than use the example of the present tactics of the Communist Party of Great Britain in its effort to get into the Labour Party.

The gentlemanly leaders of the Labour Party do not want them, for harmless as the Communists are to-day, the very word Communism compromises the Social Democrats with the bourgeoisie. The Communist leaders know this as well as anybody else. But they make an open application to the Social Democratic leaders. It is true that they want to get in merely to agitate for an alliance of the Soviet Union with Britain and France against Germany and Japan; under the guise of the League of Nations and collective security. But we can leave aside their aims, which do not concern us for the moment. Naturally Morrison, Citrine and the other Labour Party leaders refuse. But, small as the British party is, it has, as every party always has, influence among the Social Democratic workers in certain districts where Communists and militant Social Democratic workers have fought many fights together in the days when the Communist Party was a fighting party. Furthermore at the present moment the politically-minded workers everywhere are profoundly stirred by the war danger and the unsettled state of Europe. The British Communists are not asking for revolution. There are many good comrades among them. Why then should the Social Democratic leaders turn them down? In Social Democratic districts which are favourable to the Communist Party, resolutions are passed demanding the affiliation. Trade Union conferences do the same, Social Democratic intellectuals like Sir Stafford Cripps and G. D. H. Cole, who have not the typical Trade Union mentality and servility to bourgeois ideas of the Labour leader risen from the ranks, are sympathetic and ask why not. The New Statesman comes out in support. In every section of the Social Democratic party on every possible occasion the Communist Party urges its claim. Certain districts not only pass resolutions, but actually begin to take joint action with the Communists in defiance of headquarters. In the powerful South Wales Miners' Federation a Communist, Arthur Horner, is elected president. This is a strong lever. The Daily Worker of July 6, 1936, reports that 121 Labour Party organisations are for affiliation. In addition, in Hammersmith the South Hammersmith Co-operative Political Council, the South Hammersmith Divisional Labour Party, in all fifteen organisations in the borough, have voted for unity. This means that in that district unity for action is achieved. The Communist Party consistently offers plans for united action. The Social Democratic leaders consistently refuse. Yet the Communist Party is only recommending the same League of Nations, the same collective security as the Labour Party.

The pressure embarrasses men like Morrison and Citrine dreadfully. The Edinburgh Conference shows a Labour Party split ideologically from top to bottom. And if suddenly the war-crisis were to come nearer, and the Communist Party once more puts a concrete programme for unity before the Social Democratic leaders, these gentlemen have either to accept them or face the possibility of grave unrest and even a serious split in their ranks. For the Communist Party is irreproachable in its demands. It is not asking to make a revolution. It is merely taking the Social Democratic leaders at their word and suggesting that instead of talking they do something. In Germany by October, 1923, the Social Democratic Party was breaking to pieces under similar pressure. And in the Germany of 1923, unlike the Germany of 1930, Hitler's bands did not stalk the streets. Marxism aims merely at foreseeing, foretelling, clarifying and preparing in advance for what the workers will at a high moment of history instinctively respond to. The great millions of workers in Germany wanted to unite to fight Fascism and fought to do so, and if a campaign of the sort the British Communist Party is waging to-day had been waged in Germany, after the September election of 1930, against Fascism, Hitler could not have passed. [17] The thin layer of the Labour aristocracy would, in the moment of crisis, have been swept away like dust with a broom. How then did it happen that the German Communist Party pursued the exactly opposite policy? First, the German soil was particularly fertile for Stalin's Social Fascist stupidity. A bitter feud had divided the two parties since the murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg and the accumulated treacheries of the Social Democracy. Secondly, the expulsion from the party of all who were not prepared to accept the party-line, discipline, centralism, unity, etc., and thirdly and more important than all these, the determination of Moscow at all costs to maintain a division between France and Germany, and to sacrifice the German revolution for this end. The German Communist Party tried to break away from Social Fascism. Sections of the Social Democrats made offers for unity. That the Russian bureaucracy insisted on division, even to the extent of letting Hitler come in, is one of the most criminal blunders in history.


As far back as the middle of 1931, Trotsky, watching anxiously the tactics of the Communist Party in Germany, had seen where the Stalinist policy was leading and hoped in vain for a change. Before Hitler came into power Walter Duranty, Russian correspondent, had written in the New York Times of November 20, 1932, that "the Bolshevist Kremlin to-day regards the growth of the revolutionary movement in Europe with real anxiety." He was seeing only a fraction of the whole truth--that the Kremlin was prepared to sacrifice the workers' movement thinking thereby to save itself. That the German workers went down without a struggle when they had an even chance of victory was no fault of theirs. They were ruined by the ignorant and treacherous Soviet bureaucracy. The German Social Democracy had been declared the chief enemy long before the third period, since 1927. [18] The Soviet bureaucracy feared the German Social Democratic Party for its support of Locarno. In 1922 Germany, rebuffed by Britain and France, had signed the Treaty of Rapallo with the Soviet Union. [19] The division between France and Germany was naturally a very good thing for Russian foreign policy. But the Treaty of Locarno in 1925 seemed to Stalin and to the world at that time the beginning of a friendship, and the German Social Democracy, which pressed hard for this burying of the hatchet between France and Germany, became the special enemy of the Soviet bureaucracy. Stalin's second period had prevented this antagonism developing fully. Rut with the break-up and final exposure of the Anglo-Russian Committee and the tardy realisation that the Social Democracy was no help against a war of intervention, with the imminent growth of the war-danger, Social Fascism was directed with special ferocity against German Social Democracy. In the material collected for the Sixth Conference we see the Stalinist bitterness against the Social Democracy: " On question (sic) of International policy the attitude of German Social Democracy is in line with that of the rest of the Second International; recognition of and collaboration with the League of Nations, and bitter denunciation of the Soviet Union. German Social Democracy represents the 'Western orientation,' and it takes advantage of every opportunity to extend the cleavage between the Soviet Union and Germany." [20] Hitler proclaimed his hostility to Marxism in general, but also to France, and for Stalin, therefore, concerned with Socialism in a single country and not with revolution, Social Democracy in Germany, with its Western orientation, was the main enemy. This ruined the German revolution. Social Fascism in July, 1929, when a year before Hitler had lost a million votes, was merely another Stalinist folly preventing the Communist Party of Germany from exercising the influence it should. But after the elections of September, 1930, it was criminal. For the responsibility of leading the masses against Fascism rested and will always rest with the revolutionary party. The Social Democratic leaders are what they are, and for the revolutionary party to lay blame on them for what it knows they will do is the merest childishness. But lacking Marxist training, dead in the International since 1924, ignorant and bureaucratic, the Communist Party, under Moscow's firm guidance, professed itself quite untroubled at the results of the September elections and prophesied Hitler's early doom. On September 15, 1930, the Rote Fahne told the German proletariat: "Last night was Herr Hitler's greatest day, but the so-called election victory of the Nazis is the beginning of the end," and on the following day; " The 14th of September was the high point of the National Socialist movement in Germany. What comes after this can only be decline and fall."


During 1931 the crisis steadily intensified. The Communists could not see and the Social Democrats would not see that parliamentary government was doomed in Germany, and that this political crisis would end in a dictatorship either of the Right or of the Left. This had long been obvious to the shrewdest capitalists inside and outside Germany.

Germany's creditors began to call in loans, bank crisis followed bank crisis. The downward trend of production and trade was intensified, and Germany, instead of sliding, began to plunge. More and more groups of German capitalists began to see their way out in Hitler. The Social Democrats prated of democracy, the Communist Party redoubled their attacks upon the Social Fascists. The violence of the Fascists grew daily with their increasing financial and popular support, and in the face of this the bewildered Social Democratic worker was told a dozen times a day that the Social Democratic Party, Social Fascism, and not Fascism, was the main enemy. He was invited to form the United Front only from below, in other words, an ultimatum to leave his own party simply because the Communists told him so. Red Trade Unions, an experiment already tried and a proved failure, were started again in opposition to the Social Fascist Unions and served only to accentuate the division between the workers.

In March Bruening tried to unite Germany and Austria in a complete customs union. This would have helped German trade, given some moral confidence to Germany, and allayed for a time the spectre of German Communism. But it would have threatened the ill-gotten gains of France and the Little Entente. They forbade it. The Hoover moratorium on German debts could not check the disintegration. The Bruening Government, armed with Article 48 of the Constitution, by dictatorial decree after decree made the workers and salaried employees bear the brunt of the crisis. But the Social Democrats clung desperately to Bruening and Hindenburg. Support Bruening against Hitler, they urged the workers. He is the lesser evil.

The workers had organised themselves into the Reichsbanner, ready to fight for the defence of the republic. It was all that the Communists needed. They, while not identifying themselves with the fight for the republic, could fight side by side with the Social Democrats against Fascism. That road, as we see in Catalonia to-day, could lead only to the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat, the Social Democratic workers being driven to take it, not by propaganda but by the very logic of events. But for the Communists Hitler was the lesser evil. Destroy the Social Democracy, the dirty Social Fascists. Most probably unrealised by themselves, Moscow had shifted their propaganda slogans to compete with the Nazis in inciting all Germany to an antagonism against France, just as Moscow to-day has the French Communist Party inciting all France to antagonism against Germany. The Nazis claimed to be fighting for the national liberation of Germany from the Treaty of Versailles by war. The Communists, instead of opposing this typical imperialist slogan with the slogans of International Socialism, reinforced by the whole International, were made to compete with the Fascists by putting forward the slogan of a popular revolution for national emancipation from the Treaty of Versailles. Adventurers of the officer type, men like Scheringer and Count Stenbock-Fermoy, thinking of nothing else but an imperialist war with France, fraternised with the Communist Party on the basis of this fight for national emancipation, and brought only further disorder and confusion into the Communist Party without the slightest gain; in this field the Nazis were invincible. All this, however, had nothing to do with the struggle of the German workers, hut with Moscow's foreign policy. Then in August, 1931, came an astounding interference from Moscow in the policy of the German Communist Party.


The great stronghold of the Social Democrats was Prussia, where since 1919 they had ruled. They had had the uninterrupted command of the police, and Prussia, with Berlin, was the most powerful State in the Reich. But by the middle of 1931 the Prussian Government was in serious danger, for the Nazis were sweeping everything before them, and it was certain that at the coming elections they would be the largest single party in the Prussian Landtag. The Social Democrats, therefore, with revolutionary courage, maneuvered and manipulated so as to continue governing if no party gained an absolute majority. The Nazis were furious and demanded a referendum, their only legal means of turning out the Social Democratic Government.

Despite three years of Social Fascism the first instinctive reaction of the German Communist Party was to side with the Social Democrats against the Fascists. The Party leadership in Germany started to fight against the Referendum. That, however, meant support of the Social Democrats with their "Western orientation." Stalin made them stop their opposition to the referendum and support the Fascists against the Social Democrats. Luckily we have the evidence of Piatnitzky himself, Secretary of the Communist International. "You know, for example, that the leadership of the party opposed taking part in the referendum on the dissolution of the Prussian Landtag. A number of party newspapers published leading articles opposing participation in that referendum. But when the Central Committee of the party jointly with the Comintern arrived at the conclusion that it was necessary to take an active part in the referendum, the German comrades in the course of a few days, roused the whole party. Not a single party, except the C.P.S.U. could do that...." [21]

Thaelmann and his Central Committee are not entirely to blame for the German catastrophe. They meant well. The tradition of obedience and discipline, the faith of the German party leaders, were mercilessly exploited against the cause. On July 21 the Communist Party, suddenly forgetting Social Fascism, addressed a letter to the Social Democratic ministers, Braun and Severing, demanding a United Front for struggle on behalf of the workers' living conditions and threatening to form a United Front with the Fascists against them unless they agreed. The Social Democratic Government had shot down workers demonstrating on May Day, had passed savage repressive legislation against the Communists, banning the Communist military organisation, the Red Fighting Front, and saying openly that these actions were directed against the Communists and not against the Fascists. Like Walter Citrine and Herbert Morrison, Braun and Severing did not want any United Front. They therefore refused this proposal, as it was certain they would refuse. Social Democrats never form United Fronts because of proposals addressed to them by revolutionary parties. These proposals only assume importance when backed by the mass agitation initiated by the revolutionary party among their own party-members. On this refusal the Communist Party called on its members to support the Fascists in their referendum. During the campaign there appeared in the Communist journal, Fanfare, on the 1st August, a portrait of Scheringer, the rabid nationalist, with the following message: "Whoever opposes the popular revolution the revolutionary war of liberation, betrays the cause of those who died in the World War and gave their lives for a free Germany." The same words could have been used by Hitler in the Fascist campaign. Thaelmann himself tells how workers, miserably confused, came to the Communist party and asked if after all a Braun-Severing Government was not better than a Hitler-Goebbels Government. Thaelmann told them they were not class-conscious enough. [22] Had everything depended on them the Moscow-driven Communist leadership would have succeeded in getting the Fascists into power in Prussia since the summer of 1931. But the common sense of the German workers revolted against the blind bureaucratic stupidity above. They refused to vote, and where twenty-five million votes were required to ratify the plebiscite, the Fascists did not get half that number.

In the autumn, with the Fascist danger growing every day, and Bruening mercilessly slashing at the workers, as was inevitable, a section of the Social Democrats began to turn tentatively to the Communist Party. Breitscheid, a Social Democratic leader full of revolutionary words (a kind of Stafford Cripps), proclaimed openly that if things went on as they were going (the Social Democratic Party had been trying to negotiate with the centre, which, however, was drawing to the right) the Social Democratic Party would have to form a United Front with the Communist Party. Here was a chance that had come unasked, and in spite of all that had gone before. Faithful to Moscow, Thaelmann rejected the offer with scorn and warned the workers against it. To those who suggested that the Braun-Severing Government was better than a Hitler-Goebbels Government he said: "This influence exercised over revolutionary workers by the treacherous ideology of the lying Social Democrats, these relies of Social Democratic thought in our ranks, is, we declare, in full agreement with the decisions of the Eleventh Plenum, the most serious danger that confronts the Communist Party. [23] How great that danger is, is shown at the present time, among other things, by the latest manoeuvres of Social Fascism. It is therefore undertaking a new demagogic manoeuvre, it is 'threatening' to form a united front with the Communist party.... We have not conducted our fundamental struggle against Social Democracy with sufficient sharpness and clarity. Let us take a few examples......" [24] And his first example was, the neglect of exposing, as the most dangerous type of reformism, some thousands of, workers who, disgusted with Social Democracy, had decided to split off from the party and form a party of their own. It was not yet Communist but was heading in that direction. Social Fascism demanded that they should be violently repelled.


Moscow, seeing that the Red Referendum manoeuvre had failed, threw all pretence aside and came openly out for letting Hitler in.

On October 14, 1931, Remmele, one of the three official leaders of the Communist Party, with Stalinist effrontery announced the policy in the Reichstag. "Herr Bruening has put it very plainly; once they (the Fascists) are in power, then the united front of the proletariat will be established and it will make a clean sweep of everything. (Violent applause from the Communists)....We are the victors of the coming day; and the question is no longer one of who shall vanquish whom. This question is already answered. (Applause from the Communists). The question now reads only, 'At what moment shall we overthrow the bourgeoisie?'...We are not afraid of the Fascist gentlemen. They will shoot their bolt quicker than any other Government. (Right you are! from the Communists) ..." The Fascists, so ran the argument, would introduce inflation, there would be financial chaos, and then the proletarian victory would follow. The speech was printed with a form asking for membership of the party attached and distributed in great numbers all over Germany.

Stalinist parties are led from above. Their leaders get the line and impose it. Disobedience is labelled Trotskyism, Right deviation, and what not, and the dissidents expelled. But the situation in Germany was too tense, and violent protests from the Left Wing caused the policy to be withdrawn. But from that moment it was certain that the Communist Party leadership would never fight, and the "After Hitler, our turn" [25] was the line on which they led the party. The German leadership did not follow blindly. Some of them carried on a ceaseless struggle to the very end. But built on Moscow they faced isolation if they broke with Moscow, and the organisational vice silenced or expelled them. [26]


October, 1931, is the actual turning-point in the history of the International and therefore in the history of postwar Europe. It is usual to date this last intense period in which we live from the early months of 1933 when Fascism came to power in Germany. From October, 1931 however, we can see to-day, is the time when it was certain that Fascism would come into power. For if the revolutionary party in Germany would not give the lead to the great body of workers, then nothing could stop Hitler; the German proletariat, after the Russian the greatest anti-war force in Europe, would be stripped of its organisations and its leaders, and the greatest of imperialist wars would be unavoidable.

The question is: Why did Stalin persist in this policy? How could the Soviet bureaucracy possibly conceive that any useful purpose could be served by letting Hitler come into power? No question is more important, not only for the past but for the present. In the answer to it lies the whole complex problem of the relationship between the international working-class movement and the Soviet bureaucracy.

The root of this suicidal policy, which has had such catastrophic consequences, lies in the very nature of a workers' bureaucracy, inside as well as outside the Soviet Union. And we shall understand the Soviet bureaucracy best by noting how closely it resembles the workers' bureaucracies with which we are more familiar.

A Social Democratic bureaucracy believes first and foremost in a national Socialism. It does not consider that the success of the workers in other countries is vital to its own. The basic doctrine of the Soviet bureaucracy, Socialism in a single country, is essentially the same. Each is the ideology of a caste that is well satisfied with its own position. Each Social Democratic bureaucracy is far more hostile to its own Left Wing, the revolutionary Socialists, than to its own imperialist bourgeoisie. Citrine will stand on the same platform with Winston Churchill but will not do the same with Pollitt. [27] The Soviet bureaucracy is to-day far more murderous against Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev and revolutionaries in Russia, than it is to the bourgeoisie of France and Britain. The reason in both instances is the same. They wish to live on good terms with the bourgeoisie, if allowed, but the revolutionaries are enemies of their prestige, privileges and perquisites. Most important for the German policy, however is the fact that the workers' bureaucracies of Western Europe, from the very positions they occupy as administrators of the affairs of millions of docile workers, are incapable of conceiving that the workers whom they dominate can achieve anything, least of all the overthrow of Capitalism and the establishment of a Workers' State. To-day the Soviet bureaucracy believes exactly the same. For both, the revolution of October, 1917, was due to exceptional circumstances. The Soviet bureaucracy has not reached this position all at once, any more than the pre-war German Social Democracy reached its position of 1914 other than by a gradual process. In 1923 Stalin met opposition to his policy for the German Revolution. He maneuvered by saying: Let the Fascists attack first, though they are weak. Two years later, China offers an opportunity for a victory of the world revolution. China seems to the Soviet bureaucracy a field where a revolution can take place without the immediate complications that would ensue in Germany. Stalin is sincerely desirous of guiding the Chinese Revolution to victory. But the very qualities which make him so acceptable to the bureaucracy are the very ones which unfit him for leading a revolution. His stubborn stupidity prevents him correcting the policy, even after the disastrous experience with Chiang Kai-Shek. He has to experience the defection of Wang Chin-Wei before at last he turns to the workers and peasants. The failure is complete and henceforth the bureaucracy, as the Sixth Congress shows, with its defence of the U.S.S.R. as the first task, has lost all hope in the world revolution. The expulsion of the Opposition, the consolidation of bureaucratic power by the administrative activity of the five year plan, intensifies the process of ossification. By 1931 the bureaucracy is fully mature. Every shred of the revolutionary ardour of 1917 has completely disappeared, driven ruthlessly out as Trotskyism. Incapable of visualizing a successful revolution in Germany, the choice appears to the bureaucracy to be between Fascism and the Social Democracy. Given Stalin's foreign policy it cannot be the Social Democracy, with its Western orientation and League of Nations policy. It can only be Fascism.

To do Stalin justice, the leader of the world proletariat is so incapable of independent theoretical analysis that he had no idea of what a Fascist regime in Germany would mean. He had decreed that Fascism could not rule without the support of the Social Democracy. They were not antipodes but twins. It could not much matter which twin was in power. But even this apparently characteristic Stalinist stupidity was shared by the Social Democratic bureaucracy. When Hitler came to power Wels and Liepart, the German bureaucrats, offered to support him. They thought that they could accommodate themselves somehow to Fascism. Citrine, at the Brighten Trade Union Conference in 1933, gives us the view of the British bureaucrat not before but after the catastrophe. "All I can say is that a general strike was definitely planned and projected, but the German leaders had to give consideration to the fact that a general strike after the atmosphere created by the Reichstag fire and with 6 1/4 million people unemployed was an act fraught with the gravest consequences which might be described as nothing less than civil war." The only thing, therefore, was to let Hitler in. The attitude of the Soviet bureaucracy was exactly the same, both before and after the catastrophe. In January, 1934, at the Seventeenth Party Conference in Moscow, though Hitler had been in power one year, Stalin explained his policy. "Of course, we are far from being enthusiastic about the Fascist regime in Germany. But Fascism is not the issue here, if only for the reason that Fascism, for example in Italy, did not prevent the U.S.S.R. establishing very good relations with that country." He hoped to establish good relations with a Germany hostile to France. Almost at that very moment Otto Bauer in Austria was crawling before Dolfuss, "We declared that we would be prepared even to make concessions to the notion of a 'corporative' organisation of society and of the State, in order to make an understanding possible. It was all in vain--Dolfuss refused to enter into any negotiations." Bauer had to fight, but the workers forced it. "Why wait?" they said. ". .. Let us strike now, while we are still ready for battle. Otherwise we shall share the fate of our comrades in Germany."

One year after Hitler, Stalin and Otto Bauer were still hoping to come to terms with Fascism. Being what they were it is clear that before they had had actual experience of Hitler, the idea of the German workers fighting Fascism would not have crossed their minds. "After Hitler, our turn," is the concentrated expression of bureaucratic inertia, cowardice, ignorance and short-sightedness, Stalin could not say openly what he meant. He had to dress it up in revolutionary words, to promise the deluded German workers that the revolution would come after Hitler had come to power. The foreign policy he pursued from that same October showed that nothing was further from his mind. One final difference between 1923 and 1931 should be noted. In 1923 Stalin could almost certainly have carried the bureaucracy with him for a forward policy in Germany. In China he could have abandoned Chiang Kai-Shek at any time without the slightest change in the stability of his position, except loss of prestige to Trotskyism. But by 1931 it is most probable that any attempt to encourage revolution in Germany would have resulted in an internal upheaval. Not that Stalin would ever have suggested any such policy. But it is necessary to emphasize that after 1931 Stalin leads the International along a pre-destined and acknowledged road. To expect a change is to expect Citrine and Bevin to become revolutionary Socialists.


The Left Opposition was a small group incapable of exercising influence against two such powerful bureaucracies as the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party. Trotsky at Prinkipo, branded as a counter-revolutionary, offered directive after directive and uttered warning after warning. Handicapped as he was by being unable to keep his finger on the pulse of events from day to day, yet his collected writings on the German situation are perfect examples, forever to be studied, of Marxism applied to a living situation. On November 26, 1931, he finished a pamphlet "Germany--the Key to the International Situation." [28] He had not yet learnt of the Remmele speech, but that Moscow had been counselling retreat was already clear.

"The coming into power of the German 'National Socialists' would mean above all the extermination of the flower of the German proletariat, the disruption of its organisations, the extirpation of its belief in itself and in its future. Considering the far greater maturity and acuteness of the social contradictions in Germany, the hellish work of Italian Fascism would probably appear as a pale and almost humane experiment in comparison with the work of the German National Socialists. [29]

"Retreat, you say, you who were yesterday the prophets of the 'third period'? Leaders and institutions can retreat, individual persons can hide. But the working; class will have no place to retreat to in the face of Fascism, and no place where to hide. If one were really to assume the monstrous and improbable to happen: that the party will actually evade the struggle and thus deliver the proletariat to the mercy of its mortal enemy, this would signify only one thing; the gruesome battles would unfold not before the seizure of power by the Fascists but after it, that is: under conditions ten times more favourable for Fascism than those of to-day. The struggle of the proletariat, taken unawares, disorientated disappointed and betrayed by its own leadership, against the Fascist regime would be transformed into a series of frightful bloody and futile convulsions. Ten proletarian insurrections, ten defeats one on top of the other, could not debilitate and enfeeble the German working class as much as a retreat before Fascism would weaken it at the given moment, when the decision is still impending as to the question of who is to become master in the German household....."

Trotsky was a great executive, an organiser and administrator of the first rank. But the revolutionary temperament, fortified by intense study, is as strong as in 1917. We are in the presence of imponderables here. Some men have it and some have not. But the workers will find such leadership again. The times are propitious. It is Stalinism that blocks the way.

Trotsky, in the same pamphlet, showed the relationship of forces in Germany and the overwhelming superiority of the proletarian forces to the Fascist.

"In the meantime, the main strength of the Fascists is in their strength in numbers. Yes, they have received many votes. But in the social struggle, votes are not decisive. The main army of Fascism still consists of the petty bourgeoisie and the new middle class: the small artisans and shopkeepers of the cities, the petty officials, the employees, the technical personnel, the intelligentsia, the impoverished peasantry. On the scales of election statistics, one thousand Fascist votes weigh as much as a thousand Communist votes. But on the scales of the revolutionary struggle, a thousand workers in one big factory represent a force a hundred times greater than a thousand petty officials, clerks, their wives and their mothers-in-law. The great bulk of the Fascists consists of human rubbish...."

But the petty schemers in the Kremlin, intent on building Socialism in a separate country and engaged in the life and death struggle with proletariat and peasantry, the fruit of their long neglect and terror against Trotskyism, with Japan threatening them on the Eastern frontier, wanted only to be left alone. Trotsky made demand after demand for the United Front. The Communist Party should cease its babble about Social Fascism and offer to the Social Democratic leaders proposals for a concrete struggle against Bruening's decrees, for united committees to sweep the Fascists off the streets, and for mutual protection. Rote Fahne, the Communist paper, and Vorwaerts, the Social Democratic paper, were bitter enemies. The party should propose to every Social Democratic worker in his district and openly to the Social Democratic leaders the formation of a defence corps. Much as the Communists detested Vorwaerts, yet if the Fascists attacked Vorwaerts they would fight valiantly in its defence. Conversely they would expect help from the Social Democratic workers if the Fascists attacked Rote Fahne. Every day, on every issue, in every conceivable manner, they should struggle for the United Front, and agitate among the Social Democratic workers to demand the United Front from their leaders, while themselves offering it. The Communist reply was, as always, a stream of abuse against the counter-revolutionary Trotskyists. The Social Democrats did make offers. All are not Citrines and Bevins. The Communists brushed them aside. In the Communist International of March 15, 1932, Piatnitzky wrote: "The Social Democrats too sometimes put forward the slogan of unity. And in this the renegade Trotsky hastens to their aid with his proposal for a 'bloc' between the Communists and the Social Democrats. ... How is it possible to deduce ....the necessity of establishing a 'bloc' with the German Social Democrats, say, for the struggle against Fascism, when the Social Democrats are doing nothing but helping the Fascists?" To-day, without a tremor, the members of the International will swear that they repeatedly offered the United Front to the Social Democracy and that the defeat was due to their refusal.


On March 13, 1932, at the first ballot for the election of President, Hindenburg received 18,661,736 votes, Hitler 11,338,571, Thaelmann five million. The Social Democrats voted for Hindenburg as the lesser evil. Hindenburg had not polled a majority of the total votes and a second ballot was required. Before this second ballot the Nazis terrorised Germany. Evidence transpired that despite Hitler's repeated assertions of coming to power by constitutional means, plans had been made for a coup d'etat. On April 10, Hindenburg was re-elected with over nineteen million votes, Hitler's vote had increased by two million, but Thaelmann had lost a million votes. Three days after Bruening dissolved Hitler's Brownshirt organisation, but left the Nazi Party untouched, the same kind of dissolution that the Popular Front Government has recently applied to the Croix de Feu in France. On April 24 the Nazis won great victories in the State Parliament elections, and on May 30 Hindenburg dismissed Bruening and made Von Papen chancellor. It was a warning that the President was going to the Right. Sooner or later he would reach to Hitler. Sections of the bourgeoisie were still hoping to hold power without Hitler, or subordinate him to their own purposes. Some of them still feared the Socialism in his programme. All parties were hoping for an alleviation of the crisis to fall from heaven. Ultimately the bourgeoisie would have to come to Hitler, and the whole Communist agitation now could have centred round that single point: We struggle for the United Front, but Hitler means the destruction of the working-class movement, and the day the bourgeoisie place him in power we shall lead our workers and call on the Social Democrats for a mortal struggle.

On June 16 Von Papen, the aristocratic Junker, allowed the Brown-shirts once more to resume their activities, along with the Stahlhelm and the Republican Reichsbanner. We do not intend to go into the intrigues between Hitler, Von Papen and afterwards Schleicher. We have no time to spare for those who were horrified at Hindenburg, the old Prussian Field Marshal, "betraying the Republic" and making Hitler chancellor. Trotsky, in the middle of 1932, summed up the situation in words that ought to be branded on the foreheads of all Social Democratic, Liberal and other progressive persons: "A bloc of the Right Wing with the Centre would signify the 'legalisation' of the seizure of power by the National Socialists, that is, the most suitable cloak for the Fascist coup d'etat. What relationships would develop in the early days between Hitler, Schleicher and the Centre leaders, is more important for them than it is for the German people. Politically all the conceivable combinations with Hitler signify the dissolution of bureaucracy, courts, police and army into Fascism. .. ." [30]

By the middle of 1932, under the stress of the crisis, German production was fifty-five per cent of what it had been in 1928. Nearly seventy-five per cent of industry was at a standstill. Between January, 1930, and January, 1933, imports declined by two-thirds and exports by nearly half. In three years £I,500,000,000 had been taken from the incomes of the workers. The average weekly wage in eighteen months had been reduced from £2 2s. 2d. to £1 2s. 6d. Unemployment benefit was 37s. a month. Tax after tax crippled the workers and poor, Crisis Tax, Occupation Tax, Head Tax, Salt Tax, Turnover Tax to the small trader. But on the other hand the big magnates had been granted financial aid amounting to £144,000,000. By this time the unemployed were nearly seven million, and there were 300 suicides per week. But with Germany breaking up under their feet the Social Democracy and all their kith and kin of the Second International stood firmly for their democracy; while the Third International persisted in its United Front from below and assured the workers that they need not be worried about Hitler because Fascism was there in Germany already.

The workers were joining the Communist Party, but the absence of discussion, the stifling of criticism, the Stalinist unity of the party which had ruined the C.P.S.U. had the national Communist parties in its grip. In the first quarter Of 1932, 94,365 new members joined the party, but 53,879 left it.

Elections to the State Parliaments took place on April 14, 1932, and gave the Nazis 162 seats in Prussia, the Socialists 93, the Centre 67, the Communists 57. The Nazis seemed all-powerful, but the workers, in the face of the opposition of both bureaucracies and the increasing terror of the Nazis, were forming battalions of proletarian defence, and wherever they were formed they drove Hitler's mercenaries off the streets. In the Prussian Diet, however, the Communists joined with the Fascists and other reactionary parties to pass a vote of censure on the Coalition Government, led by Braun. This Government nevertheless still continued to rule as an interregnum Government. The Communists, still in alliance with the Fascists, called for a new government. This obviously could only be the Fascists with their 162 seats. In the Reichstag Von Papen, having no power behind him, but still hoping to manoeuvre without Hitler, had only one force to fear, the working-class movement. He knew, as all the bourgeois know, the stuff of which Social Democratic leaders are made. Yet the unity of the workers might be achieved over the heads of the makers of speeches and passers of resolutions, under the determined leadership of the Communist Party. The workers were fighting for it. But the Communists were striving to turn a Social Democratic Government out to put a Fascist Government in. Von Papen's road was therefore clear and he determined to take control of Prussia before the elections of July 31. The bitterest satirist of Social Democracy could not have invented what happened then.


On July 20, 1932, Von Papen sent for Severing and told him that the Prussian Government would be dissolved and a Commissar of the Reich, responsible to Von Papen and Hindenburg, placed in command. Severing said grandly that only force would make him submit. Basing his action on Article 48, Papen dissolved the Prussian Government and proclaimed martial law in Berlin. Grezhinsky, the Berlin police president, a Social Democrat, was informed of his dismissal by General Stuelpragel and refused to accept it. The German General knew the dirty cowards he was dealing with. He sent a lieutenant and four men, who arrested Grezhinsky and his assistant, and while their subordinates stood around in tears, carried them off. They had had the Prussian police under their command for twelve years; they could depend on them. Berlin was over seventy per cent Red, and not only in Berlin, but in all the great towns, the industrial workers were only waiting for the word. But before these two doughty warriors (how bravely they had shot down the Communists!) had spent two hours in prison they had promised in writing not to perform their duties. So much for the police. Next was the Government itself. The new deputy-commissioner with less than half a dozen soldiers went to Severing, who, before this manifestation of force, surrendered at once. And that was the end of the twelve years of Social Democratic Government in Prussia.

The masses were stupefied; they could not understand it. The workers in the large works waited all night for a general strike. [31] During the night the Communists distributed an illegal leaflet calling for a general strike. But they had called for numerous general strikes before, and which Social Democratic worker would disobey his party and join them in a general strike for a Social Fascist Government, which was the chief enemy, and which they had just joined with the Fascists to weaken' In similar circumstances, in Russia between April and October, 1917, every disillusionment of the masses with the Soviet leaders resulted in a doubling and trebling of the influence of the Bolsheviks, so close did these stand behind the Soviet leaders, kicking them forward, and ceaselessly showing the masses who were responsible for the failure to implement the workers' demands. July 20 had opened the eyes of the German workers. Say the Petroffs: "A storm of indignation raged through the masses. They felt themselves to be shamefully misled, betrayed. But having been for long years bereft of any initiative of their own, these masses could not take action without their recognised leaders. So no hand moved, no shot was fired, not a single factory closed. July 20 passed, and it had brought to the masses only a boundless discouragement. But many a fist was clenched in the pocket--it was not quite clear against whom. ... The dismissed Prussian Government later on appealed to the State Court. But it aroused among the workers only a smile of contempt." [32] It is at such moments that a revolutionary party which has followed a correct policy reaps its reward. That Braun and Severing had shot Communists made no difference to the necessity for the United Front. Lenin in hiding and Trotsky in prison offered it all the more.

With every failure of the Left the Right increases in audacity. The Nazi terror increased. There were twenty five murders during the election week-end of July 31. This violence and assurance on the one hand, the grievous failure of Social Democrats and Communists to supply anything like a lead on the other, resulted in a great increase of Nazi Votes--13,700,000 and 239 seats. The Social Democrats still had 7,000,000, the Communists 5,300,000. In Parliament the Papen Government was so openly dishonest and so reactionary that it aroused the indignation of the sorely-tried German working people, and the Nazis, by voting for it, compromised themselves in the eyes of their poorer supporters. Their violence during the election drove the proletariat still further to organise anti-Fascist defence corps. Many workers, in spite of the bureaucracy, were fighting to organise themselves as workers, but Social Democrats and Communists fought to keep these on party lines. "The workers had at last recognised that their disunity was the cause of their weakness. They energetically demanded the tearing down of all barriers. But their leaders always met their demands with dishonesty, hypocrisy, and sabotage. So it was with the Social Democrats; so it was with the Communists." [33] One can no more quarrel with the Social Democratic leaders than one can quarrel with parasites for sucking the blood of the animals on which they live. That is their nature. But the Communist action was unnatural. Stalin had analysed the situation. Let Hitler come in; he will soon collapse and then will be the revolution. In September, 1932, the Twelfth Plenum of the E.C.C.I. was held, a Plenum which should have had one subject on the agenda--the coming struggle in Germany. The Executive studiously avoided giving prominence to Germany. "Only by directing the main blows against Social Democracy, this social mainstay of the bourgeoisie--will it be possible to strike at and defeat the chief class enemy of the proletariat--the bourgeoisie." [34] That the whole future fate of the International was trembling in the balance was far from the minds of these bureaucrats. One section of the report is grandiloquently headed, "The Development of the Revolutionary Upsurge and the Preparation of the Struggle for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat." But Germany is not even first among equals. China has two lines, Poland two-and-a-half lines: Germany two-and-a-half lines, as follows: "an increase in the mass influence of the Communist Party; Social Democratic workers, in spite of their leaders, have begun to resist the terror of Fascist gangs"; Belgium and India have more space than Germany, On the specific tasks of the major Communist parties, Germany has just one more line than France, and Germany, France and China are equally treated. The Plenum was much more concerned with a resolution on the war in the Far East, and the Tasks of the Communists in the Struggle against Imperialist War and Military Intervention against the U.S.S.R.

In the official Guide to the Plenum it is the same. True they say, "Of exceptional importance to the fate of revolution in Europe and the whole world is the revolutionary upsurge in Germany." But Poland has more space than Germany, and we are informed that "the growth of the revolutionary upsurge in Poland, along with the growth of the revolutionary upsurge in Germany, is the decisive factor for preparing the revolutionary outburst in the chief Capitalist countries." [35]

Stalin and his minions in September, 1931, put Poland on a level with Germany, and told the International that the revolutionary upsurge in these two countries was a factor for preparing outbursts elsewhere.

The Guide warned against exaggerations, but explained in detail why the chief blow should be directed against Social Fascism, and why the United Front be formed only from below. No call to the masses of the world, especially in Britain, France, Poland and Austria, to stand by in defence of the German proletariat, as had been done in the first part of 1923 and when Chiang Kai-Shek was leading the Chinese workers to victory.

Independent thought having long been destroyed in the International, all its writers had developed the complementary quality of embellishing Stalin's great contribution to Marxism with loving and respectful ingenuity. The MacDonald Government was Fascist, so was the Government of Hoover, and the Government of the Gaekwar of Baroda. Anarchists were Anarcho-Fascists, Syndicalists were Syndicalo-Fascists, the Trotskyists were Trotskyo-Fascists. [36] All these puerilities, off-shoots of the Oriental idolatry Stalin demanded from all in the Soviet Union, could only harm the movement everywhere. In Germany, however, it was helping to push the working-class into the jaws of Hitler. The German Communist Party had been calling the Bruening Government Fascist, the Papen Government Fascist, later: they were to call the Schleicher Government Fascist also. In Germany Right Opposition and Left had been urging that this nonsense should cease; the Left Opposition wanted the various forms of government clearly analysed before the workers, always pointing out that Hitler's coming into power would mean the destruction of the movement and should therefore be the signal for a nation-wide struggle beginning with the general strike and ending, come what might, in revolution. Said the Guide to the Twelfth Plenum: "The Social Democrats and their Trotskyite and Brandlerite agents, while utilising this clever maneuvering of the German bourgeoisie, deny the Fascist character of the Papen-Schleicher Government, attempting to implant among the masses deceptive illusions that the victory of the Fascist dictatorship Is impossible unless Hitler comes to power, unless the Fascist domination is openly proclaimed, unless there is a German edition of the 'march on Rome.' " From between the lines peeped hints of Stalin's curious ideas on German class-relations and international politics. The German bourgeoisie, said the Guide, were afraid of Hitler. "In addition they are afraid that if Hitler comes to power it will create an extremely intense international situation for Germany, and will hasten the maturing of a revolutionary crisis." Furthermore, why argue about names. Hitler was already in power. "In Germany Social Democracy has called on the workers three times in six months to smash Fascism at the ballotbox. The result is the Hitler Government and the establishment of the Fascist Dictatorship."

The voice might be the voice of Manuilsky, but the ideas are unmistakable. That is the mentality of Stalin from his very first writings to the present day.


In that very September Trotsky finished The Only Road. It was one long plea for the United Front. "How much time has been lost--aimlessly, senselessly, shamefully! How much could have been achieved, even in the last two years alone! Was it not clear in advance that monopolistic capital and its Fascist army would drive the Social Democracy with fists and blackjacks toward the road of opposition and of self-defence? This prognosis should have been unfolded before the eyes of the entire working class, the initiative should have been retained firmly in our hands at every new stage. It was not necessary to shout, nor to scream. An open game could have been played quietly. It would have sufficed to formulate, in a clear-cut manner, the inevitability of every next step of the enemy and to set up a practical programme for a united front, without exaggerations and without haggling, but also without weakness and without concessions. How high the Communist party would stand to-day if it had assimilated the A.B.C. of Leninist policy and applied it with the necessary perseverance!" [37] Millions were disillusioned with the Social Democratic Party, but for them to leave it or at least turn elsewhere there must be another party, and every action of the Communist Party drove them away instead of bringing them nearer. There was still time. If, however, the party did not mend its ways, then the Third International was doomed and the international proletarian movement would have to begin all over again. It was then that he forecast the new Fourth International, the very idea of which is such a thorn in Stalin's side and which he is striving to destroy. "Should the worst variant materialise; should the present official parties, despite all our efforts, be led to a collapse by the Stalinist bureaucracy; should it mean in a certain sense to begin all over again, then the new International will trace its genealogy from the ideas and cadres of the Communist Left Opposition." [38] But that was still to come.

But the workers of both parties, so treacherously misled, were taking action together. Between September and November the united proletarian front in the streets grew. In September the Reichstag was dissolved. The reactionary nature of the Nazis, proved in the last Reichstag, and the instinctive strivings of the proletariat struck a great blow at Fascism. In the elections of November 6 the Nazis lost nearly two million votes and thirty-four seats. The vagaries of history had given the Communists one more opportunity to rally the forces of the proletariat. The Right were conscious of the danger to themselves. Some of them had been opposing Hitler, but they realised that if the process of disintegration continued German Capitalism would lose its only mass support, many of the lowest ranks of the Nazis would swing to the Left, and capitalist Germany would be in serious danger. Hitler, playing for position, moved to the Left, and Nazis and Communists led a great transport strike in Berlin, against the wishes of the Social Democrats. They also fought the police side by side.

At the elections in November the Communist Party increased its vote by twenty per cent, and the bourgeoisie made yet one more move. On December 2 Von Schleicher became chancellor. In addition to trying to win over the Trade Unions to his side, Von Schleicher was careful to give free play to the Nazis, and granted them permission to hold a demonstration in the east of Berlin the working-class district. The Social Democrats asked their followers, as usual, not to take part in the resistance organised by the Communists. But many of them came out, and the Nazis with all their bluff and bluster had to be heavily protected by a huge force of police, armed with machine-guns and armoured cars. The workers, aware of the danger, were getting closer and closer together on the streets. But the Communists, rooted in their Social Fascism and the United Front only from below, continued with their slogan of Social Democracy as the main enemy, and the Social Democrats were only too glad to point to the Communists as the real enemy of working-class unity, and shelter their own cowardice behind it. Then on January 30, 1933, Hindenburg appointed Hitler chancellor. To the Communist Party it was not a matter of great importance; merely another Fascist Government. They issued one of their rhetorical appeals for a general strike. It failed, as it was bound to fail. A general strike cannot be called for at will. As a deliberate act by a revolutionary party it is the fruit of a long preparation among all classes of workers, revolutionary and otherwise. But they did not mean the general strike. Long before Hitler they had been preparing to go underground. In December, Stampfer, a Social Democratic editor, had written in Vorwaerts suggesting united action between the two parties. The Communist Party took no notice. In March Hitler burnt the Reichstag. In those desperate days Stampfer went to the Russian Embassy asking for assistance, seeking ways and means to form some sort of United Front. The Communist leaders ridiculed the idea. Telegrams, letters and resolutions poured in from all over the country asking them to resist. They had never had any intention of resisting. They left the masses leaderless. "After Hitler, our turn." Meanwhile the Social Democracy was still the chief enemy. Let the workers watch and see how the Social Democracy would be the chief support of Hitler. They said it when Hitler came to power and for one year afterwards. Hitler out-maneuvered his nationalist allies, and using the Reichstag fire as the basis of his propaganda, threw the whole force of the State into a new election. The results testify as to what was the strength of the working-class movement in Germany. All Hitler's propaganda, his violence and intimidation, could not shake it. Losses were negligible. But Fascism has its duty to perform. At the last election in September Hitler had had only one-third of the votes. But he was powerful enough to begin and conclude the systematic extermination of every organisation that was not Nazi. Power, it was once more proved, does not depend on an election majority.


Then began the most dreadful part of this dreadful record of stupidity and crime. The Social Democratic leaders, proverbially stupid, had no idea of what was about to happen to them, and even if they had it would have made no difference. They were quite prepared to serve Hitler, and in the Reichstag had declared the Hitler Government to be a "constitutional and parliamentary Government." Leipart, the Trade Union leader, was quite prepared to hand over the Trade Unions to Hitler and accept their reorganisation "on the Italian model." He offered "the knowledge and experience" of himself and his colleagues to Hitler. They had sent the funds abroad. Hitler asked them to bring them back--they obligingly did so. Wels, in the Reichstag, offered to support Hitler's foreign policy--a good beginning. It should be noted that the democracy these gentlemen defend is to be defended only from the Left. Given their jobs and the opportunity to "protest," they can accommodate themselves to any amount of inroads on democracy from the Right. But the Fascist boot they bent so dutifully to kiss was only seeking to consolidate its stance before kicking these worthless turncoats from the jobs and pensions to which they clung so desperately. On May 1 Hitler ordered a National Socialist Labour demonstration. The Social Democractic leaders recommended the workers to go. On that night Hitler began the raids, the mass arrests, the murders, the confiscations of buildings and funds, directed especially against the Trade Union movement. The bureaucrats fled for their lives.

But all through and right up to early 1935 the International learnt nothing, understood nothing, and literally sent thousands of German workers to torture, imprisonment and death. This must be traced in detail, for it shows that Stalin, working out his tortuous policies, had had no idea of what Fascism meant, of what it would do in Germany. Stalin and the Stalinists really and honestly thought that Hitler was just such another as Schleicher or Papen. It was not only the demoralising defeat without a struggle that has so crushed the German proletariat and broken the faith of all Marxists in the International. It was the policy of the International after the defeat which ruined German Socialism for perhaps a decade, and started the movement to break with the Stalinists once and for all and build the new International.

On April 1 Fritz Heckert, as representative of the Communist Party of Germany, made his report to the Executive of the Communist International. Stalin's prestige came first. "As far back as 1924, the leader of the international proletariat, Comrade Stalin, gave an estimate unsurpassed in its exactness and perspicacity of the evolution of Social Democracy towards Fascism--an estimate which lies at the basis of the programme of the Comintern and the policy of the Communist Party of Germany. ... Fascism, said Comrade Stalin .. ." [39] and Heckert quoted in full the passage in which Stalin had proved to the satisfaction of the whole International that Social Democracy is a wing of Fascism, and they were not antipodes but twins. "Everything which has happened in Germany has fully confirmed the correctness of Comrade Stalin's prognosis. Hitler does not reject the support of Social Democracy." Never in history has been such degrading fanaticism.

The first law of Stalinism is to praise Stalin. The second is to abuse Trotsky. It was on Trotsky that Heckert's wrath chiefly fell for the heinous crime of proposing the United Front, and writing in the Manchester Guardian that it was the refusal to form the United Front on the basis of defence of parliamentary democracy and of the mass Trade Unions which had caused the defeat. Trotsky, said Heckert, was a "Social Fascist," Leipart was "Trotsky's ally," Trotsky was "the confederate of Hitler." "The Welses and Leiparts, however, do not come alone. They come to Hitler with Trotsky. It was he, Trotsky, who, carrying out the social orders of Hitler, tried to sling mud at the only party which is struggling against Fascism in the most difficult conditions."

The Praesidium, having heard the report, declared: "that the political line and the organisational policy pursued by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany, led by Comrade Thaelmann, before and at the time of the Hitler coup, was quite correct." Then came a typical feature of Stalin's Leninism. Exactly as in Germany in 1923 and in China in 1927, having proved their previous follies, which had ruined the revolution, correct, the International called upon the German workers to prepare for the coming revolution. "The revolutionary upsurge in Germany will inevitably grow in spite of the Fascist terror. The resistance of the masses to Fascism is bound to increase. The establishment of an open Fascist dictatorship, by destroying all the democratic illusions among the masses and liberating them from the influence of Social Democracy, accelerates the rate of Germany's development towards proletarian revolution. ... It is necessary to strengthen the Party and strengthen all the mass organisations of the proletariat, to prepare the masses for decisive revolutionary battles, for the overthrow of the Fascist dictatorship by an armed rebellion." [40] This desperate folly, approved by the Praesidium and persisted in for nearly a year, cost the lives of hundreds and the imprisonment of thousands of the finest and bravest German comrades. That Stalin and Litvinov did not believe a word of all this will, however, soon be made clear.

All through that year of 1933 the E.C.C.I. led the German workers to believe that Hitler's defeat was near. The more Hitler battered the workers and concentrated power into his own hands, the more the International sent them into the open on strikes and demonstrations, delivering them to their enemies. In the middle of 1933 Piatnitzky published a document called "The Present Situation in Germany." [41] Hitler had already launched his attack on the Trade Unions, and Piatnitzky, still encased in the armour-plate of Social Fascism, explained why. It was merely a matter of jobs. "The Fascists needed for their own supporters the 400,000 soft jobs occupied by Social Democrats." This, however, was "no easy task. .. In order that this might be achieved, it was necessary to implicate the Social Democrats in the Van der Lubbe affair, even if but for a few days, so as to provide the Fascists with a pretext for closing down their Press during the excitement--for they might possibly think of exposing the outrageous Fascist provocation.... At the same time the Fascists made use of the Social Democrats to penetrate through them into the working class, and this could be done much more easily if they thrashed them soundly first... ."

Until Stalin gave the word that Fascism and Social Fascism were no longer twins his bureaucrats were physically incapable of seeing the wholesale destruction of Social Democracy going on before their very eyes. "Put it would be a great mistake to think that the Social Democratic party has already been destroyed in Germany. Gradually the Fascists will let it have its Press back and will then permit it to continue the demagogy which it carried on before Hitler came to power. ... The C.P.G. will have to put in a great deal of work to convince the Social Democratic workers that the Social Democrats are responsible for the fact that the Fascists came to power in Germany. Anyone who thinks that the objective conditions will themselves do this work without systematic, bold and self sacrificing effort on the part of the C.P.G. is making a great mistake." A long experience has taught all Stalin's servants that the safest policy, the only safe policy, is to go on saying what he has said until he changes his mind. It is not facts, but what Stalin says, that matters. Piatnitzky claimed to see that the German proletariat was recovering from the Fascist blows. "The German Communists have shown that they know no fear. They go out into the streets. They allow their names to be openly put forward as candidates at factory committee elections in spite of Fascist terror, etc." One after another, still waiting for the Communist revolution, the German comrades were driven straight into the concentration camps and the torture chambers. He admitted that there was a temporary retreat, but "that, however, did not imply the collapse of the process of the maturing of the revolutionary crisis." The German bourgeoisie was turning and twisting like an animal wounded though not yet fatally. "In proportion as the C.P. of Germany liberates the majority of the workers from the influence of Social Democracy and leads them to the struggle against the Fascists, the conditions will mature under which armed insurrection will be converted from a slogan of propaganda into a slogan of action, under which the Party will pass on to the direct realisation of this slogan." So it went on all through the year.

In December, 1933, the Thirteenth Plenum of the E.C.C.I. was held. By this time the working-class organisations in Germany had been crushed except for a nucleus of Communists fighting magnificently but misguidedly for revolution. In its official report [42] the Plenum still harped on Social Fascism: "German Social Democracy was and still remains the banner-bearer of all the parties of the Second International which follow the steps of German Social Democracy. Social Democracy continues to play the role of the main social prop of the bourgeoisie also in the countries of open Fascist dictatorship. ..." In Germany, said the Plenum, "enormous revolutionary energy is being accumulated among the masses and a new revolutionary upsurge is already beginning." A special section was headed "Against Social Democracy and for a United Front from Below." The Plenum confirmed that the policy had been correct. But here there was a hitch. Of the three leaders of the German Communist party whose tactical line was held up as correct, Thaelmann was in prison, and Remmele and Neumann had escaped. These two men, less docile than the well-meaning but too loyal Thaelmann, had opposed the line before Hitler came to power. Now, their eyes fully opened at last by the fate to which they had led their followers, they stated that the movement in Germany was defeated, that Hitler was firmly in the saddle, that it would take a long period to rebuild the movement, and that only on an honest and realistic investigation into the causes of the defeat. Others in the International were saying the same. This for Stalin would have been a disaster. The Plenum condemned them and called on "all sections of the Comintern to ruthlessly root out opportunism in all its forms, and, above all, Right opportunism (Remmele, Neumann, the defeatists in other countries in their estimate of the prospects of the German revolution), for unless this is done the Communist parties will not be able to lead the working masses up to the victorious struggles for the Soviet power. [43] Social Fascism remained and when it went it was not on account of the working-class movement but because Moscow's foreign policy had changed.


[1] This is not a comprehensive history of the International. Large sections of its activities will remain untouched. We merely show the reasons for its collapse. It will be sufficient to indicate the main lines of development, concentrating on the greatest defeats, since there were no victories.

[2] Between the Fifth and the Sixth World Congresses, C.P.G.B., pp. 446-447.

[3] It seems that Stalin is the only leading member of his party whom he ever asked to remove from an important position.

[4] The Lessons of the German Events, p. 44-45.

[5] Another Stalinist translation is more effective. "They are not antipodes but twins."

[6] International Press Correspondence, October 9, 1924.

[7] The World Situation and Economic Struggle. Theses of the Tenth Plenum E.C.C.I. Published by the C.P.G.B.

[8] Stanley Baldwin has joined them. This is one of his favourite themes. Englishmen shall have neither Fascism nor Communism, he says every day, as if it is a matter of men preferring beer to vodka, or potatoes to spaghetti. Meanwhile the National Government gives every possible protection to Mosley. It knows that British Capitalism may need him.

[9] Mussolini is without a shadow of doubt the ablest reactionary post-war Europe has produced.

[10] Easy enough to write on paper, in this is summed up the whole profoundly difficult task of revolutionists to the actual approach of the armed uprising which is in itself a strictly subordinate matter. Trotsky has stated that the actual resort to arms is one-tenth of a successful uprising and is merely the climax to the main business--the political preparation. Nine-tenths of the Stalinists think the opposite way.

[11] Ten Years of Tyranny in Italy, by Pietro Nenni, 1934, p. 171.

[12] Under Fascism the situation is of course entirely different. But in pre-Fascist Germany, the sending of soldiers to help a France would have meant an internal upheaval.

[13] Another estimate puts it at 400,000.

[14] T.U. Conference at Brighten, 1933.

[15] Under one condition only will they ever fight: if, as in Spain, the Liberal bourgeois is placed in such a position that he must defend himself, and gives battle to Fascists. Your Social Democrat will always follow a bourgeois. In Austria in 1934 Bauer was on his knees before Dolfuss to the end. The workers began the fighting; the bureaucrats could not help themselves. This does not mean that some Social Democrats are not physically courageous men, as many revolutionaries, e.g. Zinoviev, are physical cowards. It is a political attitude that is in question here.

[16] Les Problemes de la Revolution Allemande par L. Trotsky, Paris, 1931.

[17] A campaign similar in intensity, but for united action, not organisational unity; and independence tenaciously guarded. See pp, 170-4.

[18] The Communist International between the Fifth and Sixth World Congresses, C.P.G.B., 1928, p. 98. The Essen Conference had also to fight against Right deviations. A group of comrades had set its face against the thesis adopted by the conference to the effect that the Left leaders in the S.D.P. were the chief enemy.

[19] Ebert, the Social Democratic President, swore he would never speak to Stresemann again.

[20] Between the Fifth and Sixth World Congresses, p. 94.

[21] Guide to the XII Plenum, E.C.C.I., Modern Books, p. 42.

[22] "Some Mistakes in our Work," by Ernest Thaelmann. The Communist International, December 15, 1931, p. 717.

[23] Italics his own.

[24] "Some Mistakes in our Work," by Ernest Thaelmann. The Communist International, December 15, 1931, p. 717.

[25] The Communists could not popularise this as a slogan, but under the guidance of the leadership, many of the rank-and-file used it among themselves, no doubt sincerely believing in this as Marxism.

[26] See a one-sided but revealing account of this struggle in International Press Correspondence, May 17, 1934, p. 744.

[27] Pollitt, of course, is to the right of Citrine to-day, but the aura of the October revolution still hangs around his party.

[28] Pioneer Press, New York, 1932.

[29] No one who knows, however casualty, Trotsky's writings, could countenance the stupid accusations made by the Stalinists against him of being "leader of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie", ally of Fascism, etc. Yet Karl Radek wrote these things.

[30] The Only Road, Pioneer Publishers, New York, p. 19.

[31] The Secret of Hitler's Victory by Peter and Irma Petroff, 1934, p. 80.

[32] The Secret of Hitler's Victory by Peter and Irma Petroff, 1934, p. 80.

[33] The Secret of Hitler's Victory, by Peter and Irma Petroff.

[34] The Twelfth Plenum. Theses and Resolutions (in English), Moscow.

[35] Italics theirs

[36] This list is taken from the introduction by Max Schachtman to The Third International after Lenin.

[37] The Only Road, p. 35.

[38] The Only Road, p. 91.

[39] Why Hitler in Germany? Report of Fritz Heckert, representative of the C.P. of Germany, to the E.C.C.I., with Resolution Adopted, Modern Books, P 24.

[40] Ibid

[41] Modern Books.

[42] Thirteenth Plenum of the E.C.C.I. Theses and Decisions. Modern Books.

[43] P. 32. Ibid.

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