Felix Morrow

Hitler’s “New Order” Doesn’t Work

Hitler Sought to Avoid Errors of 1914–18 Invasions, But Same Fatal Flaws Appear Again

(March 1941)

Source:From The Militant, Vol. V No. 10, 8 March 1941, p. 5.
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2015 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Copyleft: Felix Morrow Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2015. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

The latest news from Holland and Norway leaves no room for doubt: Hitler’s grand plan for ruling Europe has already broken down. The direct collisions which have now taken place in those countries between the working class and the Nazi forces are what Hitler sought to avoid by plans worked out in great detail long before the occupation of those countries.

It should be noted that all news dispatches from Holland and Norway pass through the German censors, and are likely, therefore, to greatly minimize rather than exaggerate the collisions which are taking place. Even more significant, perhaps, than any details, is the attempt of a German spokesman, last Thursday, to blame “British agents landed by parachutes or speedboats” for the wave of strikes in Holland. Matters must be extremely serious when the Nazis (like all capitalists in clashes with the workers), resort to explaining them away by blaming “outside agitators”!

Hitler’s Original plan for Europe

To understand the dynamics of the European situation at all, it necessary to understand that it was not by force of arms alone that Hitler had hoped to rule the continent. Hitler knew better than that. He knew what disaster had met the attempts of. the German imperial armies in the last war, when they attempted to secure production from the workers in occupied countries at the point of the bayonet. Hitler knew how that method of production had failed in occupied Belgium and French territory; above all, he knew how it had destroyed the morale of the German troops in the Ukraine in 1918. Troops surrounded by a universally hostile population inevitably succumb to revolutionary propaganda.

Hence Hitler sought to avoid the errors of 1914–1918. This time there would be no arrogant officers who would antagonize the population of the occupied territories. Nor would the German armies set up military rule. The necessary concessions would be made in order to find a wide stratum in the occupied lands that would come to amicable terms with Germany and govern as “independent” nations.

Above all in Norway and Holland this plan was attempted. The occupying forces carried explicit – printed – instructions strictly governing their contacts with the subjugated peoples. There were demonstrative punishments – including some executions – carried out on troops who were charged with not maintaining a correct attitude toward the Norwegian, Dutch, and French people. The Nazis sought to prove that the standard of living in Norway and Holland remained higher than in Germany – this as a proof that the occupied countries were not being ruthlessly stripped by the conqueror. The occupying forces, it was insisted, would not interfere with the native government, both national and municipal, or with the courts, the press, etc. By and large, the Nazi leadership made no great blunders; everything they could do to carry out their plan, they did.

Hitler’s Plan Proves Impossible

It turned out, however, that what Hitler considered to be the “errors” of 1914–18 were not errors at all, but basic aspects of the relation between conqueror and the subjugated peoples. It proved impossible to find the strata of collaborators that Hitler was seeking.

In Norway, the Nazis were quickly compelled to resort to the ridiculous expedient of the puppet government of Quisling’s fascists, representing nobody except the German troops. In Holland, the first attempts to use the “freedom” permitted the courts and the municipal governments led to their liquidation; and now the German commander-in-chief in Holland has declared martial law over North Holland, including Amsterdam, and over Rotterdam. The semblance of any autonomous government is thus ended in Holland, too.

In Norway, for a short time, thanks to the invaluable aid of the Stalinists, the Nazis were able to day that they had not touched the labor movement. The Stalinists denounced the official trade union leadership for “fleeing,” took over the offices of the trade unions. continued to publish their daily paper, and sought a modus vivendi with the Nazi invaders. This, however, lasted but a few months, at the end of which the Nazis outlawed the Communist Party, seized and executed or imprisoned its leaders (who had been ordered lo stay in public by the Comintern). The ridiculous attempt of the Quislingites to take over the offices of the unions and run them has now been answered by riots, murders of Quisling officials, and a complete defiance of the puppet government by the official trade union leadership of Norway.

In Holland, likewise, the semblance of collaboration between the trade union leaders and the Nazis quickly collapsed. The Nazis moved their native agents into the trade union offices, but to no effect. The great wave of strikes last week demonstrated the impotence of the native Nazi agents. Not they but bayonets finally drove the workers back to work under threat of fifteen years’ imprisonment or the death penalty for those who continued to strike.

In a word, the Nazi rule in Holland and Norway has been reduced to rule by naked bayonets. All Hitler’s desperate attempts to avoid this outcome have failed.

In “free” France the same fundamental process is unfolding. There, too, Hitler sought a wide stratum of collaborators in order to decrease the problems of the invasion. He secured the collaboration of the major section of the French bourgeoisie. But the Petain regime rests on nothing below except its military police. Far from being the fascist regime which panic-stricken democrats label it, the government has no mass base underneath it, fascist or otherwise. The French fascists, like the Dutch, Belgian and Norwegian fascists, quickly discredited themselves by their friendliness to the invader; thereafter they were branded in the eyes of the French masses as agents of the victorious enemy. The Petain government is a police dictatorship.

But even this government will not remain. The clash with the Nazis over Laval’s dismissal shows that, in the end, the Nazis will be forced to dispense with Petain and take over nakedly the direct rulership. Nazi invasions destroy the mass base of native fascism!

Why Hitler Blames “Outside Agitators”

It is especially important to understand why the Nazis resort to such a thread-bare alibi as blaming “British agents” for the latest clashes in Holland. The same formula appears in the trial before a German court at the Hague of a number of Dutch, who are called “terrorists.” They are accused of committing “acts of sabotage and terror” against the German army – and then there is added that they “reported information to the enemy.” It is similarly attempt to label those Norwegian, Dutch, Belgians, French, etc., who are involved, as “British agents.” Why?

This formula aims primarily at bolstering morale in the German army and in German civilian society. The idea that German military victories have produced irreconcilably hostile populations everywhere – this idea is deadly to the morale of both troops and civilians. For it opens up an endless perspective of armed struggle and repressions. Nothing can so demoralize even those sections of the German population which are closest to the Nazi hierarchy, as the prospect that military victories lead only to a new epoch of bloody conflicts with the subjugated peoples. Nothing can so inspire the thirteen million men and women who voted Socialist and Communist in the last election in Germany (1932) as the news that the masses of Europe are not submitting to Hitler’s rule.

These profoundly important consequences would not follow, however, if Hitler could successfully depict the collisions in the occupied countries as merely instigated by Britain. If the soldiers and civilian masses of Germany could he sold on the idea that these collisions are but part of Britain’s war against Germany, Hitler could easily weather them, No appreciable section of the German pople – and this includes the thirteen million Communists and Socialists – want a British victory over Germany. For everyone remembers or knows whaqt the last British victory meant – hunger and blockade long after cessation of hostilities, the vengeful Versailles Treaty, etc.

Hitler’s attempt to impute the latest collisions in Holland to “British agents” should serve as an index to the worthlessness of the “revolutionary” propaganda being waged by the pro-British refugee Social Democrats, the De Gaullists. etc. The activities of these agents of Britain merely help Hitler to depict all revolt and struggle in Germany and the occupied countries as the product of British instigation.

The only really effective struggles against the Nazis, both in Germany and in the invaded countries, are those which have genuine roots where they take place and have no connection with Germany’s imperialist enemies. It is clear that the latest events in Holland belong to this category. Hence the desperate measures taken by Hitler’s lieutenants to suppress them.

Trotsky Predicted Hitler’s Fatal Weakness

Although the strikes and fatal clashes in the Netherlands are a clear indication of the fatal weakness within Hitler’s “new order,” the “democratic” press has not rushed to point this out. Why?

The fact is, these latest developments in Norway and Holland run counter to the line of argumentation pursued by the “democratic” war mongers, who argue that nothing could be hoped for in the occupied countries or in Germany so long as Hitler was not defeated by the “democracies.” There will be no revolutionary movement developing in continental Europe, they say, until the military defeat of Germany. Therefore, nothing remains except to aid England and the United States in war against Germany. We could quote many a Social Democrat who has argued along this line. The great developments in Norway and Holland do not fit into their picture!

These developments, however, follow the prognosis which our movement made immediately after the Battle of France.

Leon Trotsky then wrote:

“In order to create a revolutionary situation, say the sophists of social patriotism, it is necessary to support the imperialist democracies ... They interpret Hitler’s victory not as a relative but as an absolute obstacle in the way of a revolution in Germany. They lie in both instances.

“In the defeated countries the position of the masses will immediately become worsened in the extreme. Added to social oppression is national oppression, the main burden of which is likewise borne by the workers. Of all the forms of dictatorship, the totalitarian dictatorship of a foreign conqueror is the most intolerable. At the same time, to the extent that the Nazis will try to utilize the natural resources and the industrial machinery of the nations defeated by them, the Nazis will themselves become inevitably dependent upon the native peasants and workers. Only after the victory, do economic difficulties always begin. It is impossible to attach a soldier with a rifle to each Polish, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, Belgian, French worker and peasant. National socialism is without any prescription for transforming defeated peoples from foes into friends.

“The experience of the Germans in the Ukraine (in 1918) has demonstrated how difficult it is to utilize through military methods the natural wealth and labor power of a defeated people; andd how swiftly an army of occupation is demoralised in an atmosphere of universal hostility. These very same processes will develop on a far vaster scale in the European continent under Nazi occupation. One can expect with assurance the rapid transformation of all the conquered countries into powder magazines. The danger is rather this, that the explosions may occur too soon without sufficient preparation and lead to isolated defeats. It is in general impossible, however, to speak of the European and the world revolution without taking into account partial defeats ...

“Consequently the task of the revolutionary proletariat does not consist of helping the imperialist armies create a revolutionary situation but of preparing, fusing and tempering its international ranks for revolutionary situations of which there will be no lack.” (Socialist Appeal, July 6, 1940)

Not as tools of the imperialist democracies but as independent revolutionary movements will the peoples of Europe free themselves from Hitler and fascism. That is the meaning of tie latest developments in Norway and Holland.


Last updated on: 3 October 2015