Source: Fourth International, Vol. 3 No. 6, June 1942, pp. 186–191.
Transcription/XHTML Markup: Ted Crawford and David Walters
Proofreader: Einde O’Callaghan (August 2015).
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What is Stalin’s attitude toward a second Versailles Treaty? That is, toward a “peace” which will require a Hitlerless Germany to “confess” war guilt, pay reparations over a period of decades to the Allies, submit its finances to control by Anglo-American committees, pay the costs of occupying armies and, in short, begin a “new” life under the control of Germany’s imperialist rivals?
In his Order of the Day to the Red Army on its 24th anniversary (February 23), Stalin denied that the Red Army’s aim “is to exterminate the German people and destroy the German State.” For, he said, “it would be ridiculous to identify Hitler’s clique with the German people and the German State. History shows that Hitlers come and go, but the German people and the German State remain.” But this declaration by Stalin does not answer the question: what is his attitude toward a second Versailles? The first Versailles Treaty did not avowedly aim to “exterminate the German people and destroy the German State.” It “merely” fettered them, strangling Germany’s productivity and starving the German people, prevented the economic unification of Europe and paved the way for fascist exploitation of the national hatreds engendered by the oppression of Germany embodied in the Versailles Treaty and the League of Nations.
Stalin has already publicly endorsed the idea of a League of Nations with more teeth as a “solution” to the post-war situation. This concept was embodied in the third point of the Polish-Russian “declaration of friendship and mutual aid, “ signed December 4, 1941, which stated:
“Once the war has been brought to a victorious conclusion and the Hitler criminals duly punished, the task of the Allied Governments will be to establish a just peace. This can only be achieved by new organization of international relations based on the association of democratic States in union. Such an organization to be a decisive factor must have respect for international law and be supported by the armed forces of all the Allied Governments. Only under such conditions can Europe be reestablished and the defeat of the German barbarians achieved; only thus can it be guaranteed that the catastrophe caused by the Hitlerites shall never repeat itself.” (NY Times, Dec. 6, 1941. Our emphasis)
A “just peace” maintained “by the armed forces of all the Allied Governments” – what is this but a second Versailles and a revamped League of Nations? World imperialism displays little ingenuity in its catastrophic decline and simply repeats in this war its formulas of the last war. With this difference, that this time they are underwritten by the Soviet government. This alone betrays the unbridgeable gulf between the government of Stalin and the government of Lenin and Trotsky.
Let Stalin produce a statement by Lenin that a “just peace” could be created by Allied bayonets! We need cite but one of Lenin’s many references to Versailles, from his 1920 introduction to Imperialism:
“The Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty dictated by monarchist Germany, and later on, the much more brutal and despicable Versailles Treaty dictated by the ‘democratic’ republics of America and France and also by ‘free’ England, have rendered very good service to humanity by exposing both the hired coolies of the pen of imperialism and the petty-bourgeois reactionaries, although they call themselves pacifists and socialists, who sang praises to ‘Wilsonism,’ and who insisted that peace and reform were possible under imperialism.” (Imperialism, by V.I. Lenin, International Publishers, 1939.)
The logical cornerstone of a second Versailles Treaty, as of the first, must necessarily be a “war guilt” clause, justifying the crushing of Germany in peacetime by its imperialist rivals. The first Versailles Treaty was not signed by the Kaiser but by the Weimar Republic, product of the 1918 revolution. To compel the Weimar Republic to “confess” German war guilt and pay reparations meant that not only the Kaiser who fled, but also the German people who remained, were guilty and must atone for the war. Similarly a second Versailles must be justified by blaming not only the Nazis but also the German masses who will bear the burden of the peace treaty.
Lenin’s scorn for the Versailles Treaty was exceeded only by his hatred of those who blamed the masses for the crimes of the imperialist ruling class and the chauvinist labor leaders. For Lenin it was axiomatic that the structure of capitalist society made it impossible for the great masses to determine their own will and destiny directly. Capitalist control of economic and political power, the schools, newspapers, radio, etc., as well as the lack of homogeneity in the composition of the masses, means that even capitalist “democracy” is a form of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Nor can that dictatorship be overthrown directly by the masses. The heterogeneity of the masses makes it impossible for them to struggle except through the leadership of workers’ parties. The class and the party are by no means identical. Furthermore, the leadership and the masses of the party are not the same thing. Class, party and leadership – these three precise concepts are the foundation stones of Leninist politics. Under no conditions did Lenin ever blame the masses – always he blamed specific parties and above all the leadership of those parties, for the failure to overthrow capitalism.
In his famous polemic against Kautsky, Lenin deals with the question of responsibility for “socialist” support of the first imperialist war and of Germany’s crushing of the revolution in Finland, the Ukraine, Latvia and Esthonia. Writing under military censorship, which protected the pro-war German Social-Democracy from left-wing criticism, Liebknecht had used the formulation that “the proletarians of Europe” were guilty of treachery to the Russian and international revolution. Kautsky had denied Liebknecht‘s accusation.
“When the proletarians of Europe are accused of treachery, Kautsky writes, it is an accusation against unknown persons.
“You are mistaken, Mr. Kautsky! Look in the mirror and you will see these ‘unknown persons’ against whom the accusation is levelled ... The accusation expresses a clear appreciation of the fact that the German proletariat betrayed the Russian and international revolution, when it strangled Finland, the Ukraine, Latvia, and Esthonia. This accusation is directed primarily and above all, not against the masses, who are always downtrodden, but against those leaders who, like the Scheidemans and Kautskys, failed in their duty to carry on revolutionary agitation, revolutionary propaganda and revolutionary work among the masses to combat their inertness, who in fact worked against the revolutionary instincts and aspirations which are always aglow in the depths of the oppressed classes ... In all his writings during the war Kautsky tried to extinguish the revolutionary spirit, instead of fostering and fanning it.
“Kautsky does not understand that owing to the censorship prevailing in the German Empire this ‘accusation’ was perhaps the only form in which the German socialists who have not betrayed socialism, Liebknecht and his friends, could express their appeal to the German workers to throw off the Scheidemanns and the Kautskys, to push aside such “leaders,” to emancipate themselves from their stultifying and lying propaganda, to rise in revolt in spite of them, without them and over their heads. It was the call for revolution!” (The Proletarian Revolution and Renegade Kautsky, by V.I. Lenin, International Publishers, 1939. Emphasis in the original.)
Revolution over the heads of the Kautskys – but necessarily under the leadership of a party and its leading cadres. Neither revolution nor any lasting effort was possible for the masses except under the leadership of a revolutionary party, Lenin explained over and over again. Hence to blame the masses is either stupidity or the classical trick of scoundrels seeking to unload their responsibility upon the masses.
This idea was written into the fundamental documents of the Communist International in the time of Lenin and Trotsky. In the thesis, The Role of the Communist Party in the Proletarian Revolution, the Second Congress declared:
“A sharp distinction must be made between the conception of ‘party’ and ‘class’ ... The confounding of these two conceptions – of party and of class – can only lead to the greatest errors and confusion. Thus, for instance, it is clear that notwithstanding the disposition or prejudices of certain parts of the working masses during the imperialist war, the workers’ parties ought to have counteracted these prejudices, defending the historical interests of the proletariat, which demanded of the proletarian parties a declaration of war against war.
“Thus in the beginning of the imperialist war of 1914, the social-traitor parties of all countries, in upholding the capitalists of their ‘own’ countries, unanimously declared that such was the will of the people. They forgot at the same time that even if this were so, the duty of the workers’ party would have been to combat such an attitude of the majority of the workers, and to defend the interests of the workers at whatever cost. At the very beginning of the twentieth century the Russian Mensheviks of the time denied the possibility of an open political struggle against Czarism, on the ground that the working class in general was not yet ripe for the understanding of the political struggle. So also the right wing of the Independent Socialist Party of Germany, in all its compromising, has referred to the ‘will of the masses,’ failing to understand that the party exists precisely for the purpose of marching ahead of the masses and pointing the way.” (Theses and Statutes of the Communist International, adopted by the Second Congress, reprinted by the United Communist Party of America, 1920)
Such, in brief, is the Leninist concept of the relation between imperialist rulers, the working class and its parties and leaders. On this basis it is impossible to blame the masses for the crimes of the imperialists and their labor lieutenants. From the point of view of Bolshevism it would be impossible to justify a second Versailles – quite apart from the fact that Bolshevism considers all the imperialists on both sides equally guilty of instigating both world wars.
This Bolshevik concept of the masses is now flagrantly and openly rejected by the Stalinists. They are now blaming, not the leaders and parties of the German proletariat – which means the Stalinist leaders first of all – but the masses: A veritable compendium of such Stalinist libels against the German proletariat has recently been printed by the Communist Party publishing house in this country, Workers Library Publishers. It is the March 1942 issue of World Survey, the Stalinist monthly which has replaced the Communist International (nothing is now published in the name of the Comintern, since June 22, 1941).
Let us examine this Stalinist compendium, article by article. First comes Stalin’s Order of the Day of February 23 to the Red Army, to which we have already referred. Next comes an article by E. Gerey, For the Complete Defeat of Hitler Germany, which climaxes with this gem:
“But what are the soldiers of the Nazi robber army fighting for? What makes them fight and die, save lust for personal enriehument, save the sadist instinct of a murderer ...?” (p. 16)
Such is the Stalinist description of the German proletarians conscripted by the fascist dictatorship!
Next is an article by M. Kalinin, President of the Soviet Union, built around a series of letters allegedly found on German casualties and prisoners. The letters, expressing desire for loot from Russia, are adduced by Kalinin to show “to what extent” and “how deeply” the fascist plans “are rooted among the German soldiers” (p. 28).
The next article is The German Nation at the Cross-roads of History, by Peter Wieden. It blames Hitler fascism upon the German nation and its past history, quite in the spirit of Sir Robert Vansittart, Churchill’s chief exponent of Germany’s inveterate character. We quote:
“Never would fascism have attained such power over Germany were it not in a position to gain a foothold and maintain itself by a long historical chain of victories scored by the forces of reaction over the German people. Hitlerism is, of course, the direct and most extreme expression of reactionary German imperialism. But the specific features of this German imperialism, its inordinate brutality, aggressiveness and degeneration, are to a certain extent explained by the peculiar historical development of the German nation ... Every time the German people were confronted with vital issues of nationhood they fell under the influence of reaction, after a transitory revolutionary upsurge. Hence they traversed a wrong path, the path of ‘national misfortune’ leading to catastrophe. People who today ask how it was possible for a nation that gave the world Goethe and Heine, Marx and Engels, to sink so low in Hitler barbarism must take note of these fatal winding paths of German history” (p. 38).
“The British and French spirit was a broad social spirit; the German spirit contemplated the solitude of the universe and was saturated with the provincial narrow-mindedness that had accursed the lot even of Germany’s greatest poets and thinkers. Only two great men of the German people overcame this discrepancy ... Marx and Engels ... Nor is it accidental that these outstanding champions of German salvation and its future had to live in exile and their voice of enlightenment and warning could reach Germany only from afar” (p. 41).
“National traditions of the German people, not based on any revolutionary experience, were historically interwoven with reaction, militarism and predatory wars ... The German working class [after 1871] grew at a rapid pace, winning its place in the social life. Marx and Engels armed it with the epoch-making ideal of scientific socialism. But at the same time the German working class was influenced by the reactionary traditions of the German nation. Lassalle – that shadow of Bismarck in the German labor movement – was but the first forerunner of the notorious ‘national socialism,’ and his ideological influence was never completely overcome by Marxism. Even such a profound Marxian scholar as Franz Mehring did not appreciate the great significance of the struggle which Marx and Engels waged against Lassalle. Mehring even tried to ‘re-store the honor’ of Lassalle, considering it possible to form some ‘synthesis’ of Marx and Lassalle.
“Reformism within the German labor movement deliberately clung to Lassalle and made of this Prussian nationalist its idol ...
“Democratic ideas in Germany were just as frail as plants grown in a cellar without light or sun” (p. 43).
In every line this is a deliberate falsification of the history of the German proletariat.
It is a deliberate lie that Lassalle was the forerunner of the Nazis; Marx was merciless with Lassalle’s errors, but he also wrote when Lassalle died:
“What rejoicing will reign among the factory owners and the Progressive swine – Lassalle was after all the only chap they were afraid of in Germany itself.
“Lassalle’s misfortune has been damnably in my head these days. After all he was still one of the old guard and the enemy of our enemies.”
Mehring was absolutely correct in saying that Lassalle’s imperishable achievement was the founding of the first German working-class party. But the question of Lassalle is a very minor one. Lassalle died in 1864 and then came the great development of the German proletarian movement. How can one mention Lassalle and say not a word about Wilhelm Liebknecht, August Bebel, and the great flowering of the German socialist and trade union movement beween 1870 and 1910, forty years’ development which inspired the proletariat of the whole world and was its direct teacher! Yet this Stalinist falsifier does just that. The gigantic progressive work of the German Social-Democracy during a half century, on the shoulders of which Lenin was able to climb – without which, indeed, the Russian revolution would have been inconceivable – all this is wiped out for Stalin’s reactionary purposes.
Why did the German Social-Democracy degenerate into reformism and chauvinism? This Stalinist falsifier makes it appear as a “German” phenomenon. But the same thing happened in England, France, the United States, Russia where the founder of Russian Marxism, Plekhanov, became a social-chauvinist – it was a world phenomenon caused, as Lenin so clearly explained, by the 1870–1914 development of imperialism and of a labor aristocracy linked by its interests to imperialism.
Stalinism, paying lip-service to Leninism, must concede that World War I, as Lenin said, was an imperialist war for which both sides were equally guilty. Yet Wieden writes in his article:
“From the very start Germany was a very noisy and aggressive imperialism, always brandishing weapons and always causing a feeling of alarm and war fever in Europe ... German imperialism was forging ahead toward war and a new division of the world.” (p. 4)
To write this, without saying a word about the equal guilt of the other imperialist powers, is tantamount to underwriting the war guilt clause of the Versailles Treaty.
With this preliminary sketch of German “history,” Wieden then goes on to falsify the post-war history of the German proletariat, placing on its shoulders the blame for the failure to carry through the proletarian revolution.
Of the abortive revolution of 1918, he writes:
“For Germany the war ended with a military and political collapse. It was the collapse of the reactionary forces that had driven Germany into the war. It opened up a great opportunity for the German people to mend their crippled history by really crushing reaction and indissolubly linking up the national problem with democracy and socialism. But this chance too was passed by. Once more the destinies of the German people were in the clutches of reaction ... The opportunistic leadership of German Social-Democracy shouldered tremendous historical responsibilities when they sided with the forces of counter-revolution” (p. 45).
That the German workers did rise, arms in hand, crushing the Junkers and capitalists, creating Soviets, only to he cheated of the fruits of revolution by the reformists – of this there is not a word by the Stalinist “historian.” Why didn’t the Spartacists, forerunners of the Communist Party, lead the German workers to victory? This, the key question of the 1918–19 events, is not even hinted at by the Stalinist falsifier; he does not even mention the Spartacists! The tragic errors of the Spartacists, the immaturity of their strategy and tactics, hence the profound lesson that the cadres of the revolutionary party are not built overnight in the midst of revolution-of all this not a word in the Stalinist “history.” Instead, we are told “the chance was passed by” – by the masses presumably – thus continuing the false picture of the “peculiar” characteristics of the German proletariat.
Despite the counter-revolutionary work of the Social-Democracy; despite the blood-bath by Noske – 15,000 proletarians were murdered during the first nine months of 1919 in incessant civil war encounters – the young Communist Party of Germany quickly grew into a mass party. Despite its defeat in the March Action of 1921 – a premature insurrection – it grew to over 500,000 members in 1922. In 1923 the situation was again revolutionary. Disinterested observers concede that in the summer of 1923 the Communist Party was unquestionably the leader of the great majority of the German proletariat. Inflation and starvation were driving the petty-bourgeois masses to accept the revolutionary way out. What happened then? Here is Wieden’s three-sentence reference to this great turning-point of modern history:
“In 1923, things came to a decisive clash between the forces of reaction and those of revolution, decisive for a long period. The defeat of the revolutionary forces was a national tragedy for Germany. The way was now finally cleared for German imperialism to solve German problems after its own fashion – by a sanguinary war for world domination” (p. 45).
Every word here is false. There was no “decisive clash.” On the contrary, the Brandler leadership of the Communist Party did not summon the masses to revolution, but supinely let the opportunity pass by. Behind Brandler stood the troika, in Moscow: Zinoviev, Bukharin and Stalin, the latter advising (in reality ordering) Zinoviev and Bukharin to “curb” the German party. The troika and the Brandler leadership bear the responsibility for failing to act in 1923, not, as Wieden falsely claims, that failure was the result of a “decisive clash.”
Equally false is his claim that by the failure of 1923 “the way was now finally cleared for German imperialism” for war. Wieden says this solely to hide Stalin’s responsibility for the events of the next ten years, above all the fact that the great German Communist Party, numbering 600,000 members and polling six million votes in 1932, went down in March 1933 without a struggle, not even such a rearguard struggle as the Social-Democrats of Austria conducted in 1934 against Dolfuss’ artillery.
To these falsehoods, Wieden adds this version of the events of 1929-33:
“The world economic crisis which broke out in 1929 brought social tension to an extreme limit ... The horrible impoverishment of the masses as well as the development of the class consciousness of the German workers created favorable prerequisites for a new revolutionary upsurge. The German imperialists felt the ground burning under their feet ... Their plans were aided by several factors. One of these was the policy of Social-Democracy, which was repelling the petty-bourgeois sections of the people. Split and undermined by internal strife, the working class possessed only a limited power of attraction for other sections of the toiling people. Millions of peasants, civil servants, office employees and intellectuals looked into empty space.
“Catastrophic unemployment was demoralizing a part of the working class. Incited, desperate and politically illiterate masses came into motion and were prepared to follow any demagogue, even if he promised them the moon. In those critical and decisive hours for the nation all the reactionary chauvinist traditions were resurrected and plunged on Germany like a filthy and turbid rain.” (p. 45)
But where was the great German Communist Party in all this? The Russian proletariat in the summer of 1917 was also “split” and the catastrophes of the war were driving the far more “desperate and politically illiterate masses” of that predominantly petty-bourgeois country “to follow any demagogue.” But it was the Bolshevik party that conquered in Russia, while the fascists won in Germany. Lenin would first of all ask the key question: Why didn’t the German Communist Party succeed in carrying the masses to victory, what was wrong with its policies and slogans? But Stalinism, instead, blames its own crimes upon the masses. Not a word about the capitulation without a fight by the Stalinist leaders in Germany; instead “the reactionary chauvinist traditions were resurrected” – having been previously forged as “history” precisely in order to cover up Stalin’s crime in aiding Hitler to power.
The next article in this Stalinist compendium, From the Reichstag Fire to World Conflagration, by G. Friedrich, for a moment appears to grapple with a real question:
“In November, 1932, in the elections, Hitler’s party lost no less than 2,000,000 votes, while the Communist Party of Germany secured a brilliant victory, receiving 6,000,000 votes.
“How, then, could Hitler ‘seize power’ under such conditions?” (p. 47)
This very pertinent question is, however, immediately reduced to the obvious fact that Hitler did not seize power in a revolutionary sense but “was smuggled to the Premiership by backstairs intrigues of his capitalist promoters.” True enough, but that does not answer the essence of the question: How could Hitler outlaw the Communist Party and crush the trade unions only a few weeks after six million workers had voted Communist and seven million others had voted Socialist? The essence of the question neither Friedrich nor any other Stalinist dare answer, for to answer would be to condemn Stalin and his lackeys in the German leadership who, having let Hitler come to power, had their passports and airplane tickets and fled to Moscow, leaving the masses leaderless. Instead of answering the question, Friedrich writes:
“The Reichstag Fire [of March 1933] ushered in an epoch of German history, an epoch great only for its disgraceful, hideous and vile crimes which have brought shame on the whole German people” (p. 49).
To say it brought shame on the whole German people – that means to blame the masses for the crimes of the Nazis! Friedrich concludes his account of the Reichstag fire and trial with the following:
“At that time the masses of people failed to continue the struggle and to lead it to its logical end. The quicker, the more thoroughly must we now make up for lost time” (p. 55).
“The masses” failed, and “we” – presumably the Communist Party of Germany – must now make up for “lost time” – time lost by the masses. But where were “we,” the Communist Party of Germany, the Communist International and the Soviet Union and its Red Army in 1933? Even before Hitlerism came to power, Trotsky urged that if the Nazis should come to power the Red Army must mobilize to prevent the onslaught against the Soviet Union which was Hitler’s fundamental aim. “We” were Stalinists, who fled the battle in Germany and conducted Stalin’s cowardly and provincial foreign policy in the Kremlin, and now end up by blaming the downtrodden masses of Germany for the catastrophe.
All the preceding articles are, however, mere curtain raisers for the article of K. Erwin, From the Intoxication of Victory to Bitter Sobering, which is ostensibly written by a Communist Party leader from inside Germany in December 1941.
Erwin’s article is one long condemnation of the German masses for failing to prevent the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union, and for continuing to obey the Nazi rulers. Here is Erwin’s account of events in Berlin on June 22, 1941, the day Hitler attacked the USSR:
“By seven in the morning our comrades were on the way to factories with instructions to organize protest meetings by direct action. I made my way to one of our secret meetings to confer with our people.
“... There were, of course, no signs of enthusiasm by the populace, and alarm and defection could be felt everywhere ...
“Obviously Hitler had a reason to fear his people and was ready to handle then roughly. We Communists, too, expected an unquiet day in Berlin. We were indeed convinced that after the conclusion of the German-Soviet Pact, Hitler would not be able to swing our people over to war against the USSR. We trusted the wisdom and class consciousness of the Berlin worker. But subsequent events show that we miscalculated.
“ Toward evening it became clear that the Berlin worker would not budge. Attempts by our comrades to hold mass meetings near factories met with no success. All we could manage were small clandestine meetings of our Party organizations and sympathizers in various districts ...
“At that time we saw with distress and affliction that the war, like a wave, was sweeping over the heads of our party organizations, which were just coming back to life ... (pp. 56–57)
And Erwin blames, not the 19-year false course of Stalinism in Germany, but the disoriented and disorganized masses:
“Explanation can be found for the cowardice of those who, while opposed to the criminal anti-Soviet war, nevertheless tried to advance some rotten excuse for their capitulation. Some of them reasoned in a purely philistine manner: ‘It’s like banging your head against a stone wall. The Nazis are strong, and if you put up a fight you will either be killed or land in prison.’ But these people forget that had the Russian workers taken this line they would never have overthrown Czarism and abolished the rule of the landlords and capitalists.
“Among the former Social-Democrats there were no small number who preferred to have others pull the chestnuts out of the fire for them. They took the view that ‘it is too early to come out. We must wait until the Russians break Hitler’s neck.’
“Anti-Nazi soldiers at the front tried to find some justification by referring to military discipline. ‘We are soldiers,’ they argued, ‘and have no choice but to obey orders’ (pp. 55–6. Our emphasis)
“No little work is required to expose the cowardly attempts of certain anti-fascist elements who gloss over the question of responsibility which our working class and our people bear for the war against the Soviet Union. ‘Only the Nazis are responsible for the anti-Soviet war and for the German Army’s invasion of the USSR,’ these people maintain. That the Nazi villains are responsible is, of course, beyond a doubt. But we say that those who actually encouraged such crimes by their passivity and silence must bear their share of responsibility. Whoever remains silent exposes himself as a participant in, the Nazi crimes.” (p. 67. Our emphasis)
It is hard to find words adequate to characterize these vile libels on the German proletariat. In 1918 the German proletariat made an armed revolution and was cheated of its fruits by the Social-Democratic leadership ; in 1923 it was cheated by the Communist Party and Stalin; at every point from 1918–33 the proletariat evinced its readiness to die in the struggle for a better world and instead was delivered into Hitler’s hands by Stalinism and Social-Democracy. Exhausted by fifteen years of heroic but unavailing struggle, the German proletariat could still cast thirteen million votes for Socialism and Communism on the eve of Hitler’s victory. There is no doubt that after this exhaustion the German masses, when Hitler’s uninterrupted series of diplomatic victories was followed by even more gigantic military victories, succumbed to chauvinist intoxication. Having been betrayed by the working-class parties, they were morally overwhelmed by Hitler’s successes. But chauvinist intoxication is not peculiar to the German proletariat. Even the Russian masses of Czarist Russia succumbed to it in 1914, and their heads did not clear until defeats and hunger came – and the Bolsheviks explained what was happening, cautiously gathered together class-conscious workers by ones and twos, and waited for the inevitable opportunity.
Instead of explaining to the German workers, along comes a Stalinist bureaucrat – more accurately, he sends the devoted rank and filers to the factories to sacrifice themselves in the attempt to hold open meetings “by direct action” while he safely goes to a “secret meeting” – and condemns the German proletariat for failing, at the peak of Hitler’s power and victories, to stop the war! The devoted workers, who remain true to socialism and to Leninist methods of work, and who argue that it is impossible to come out openly under those conditions, this vile bureaucrat condemns: “the Berlin worker would not budge.” He (probably writing not from Berlin but from Switzerland, from the internal evidence) sneers at anti-Nazi soldiers who explain that at this stage they have no choice but to obey orders. He answers the German proletariat with the ultimatum that they bear the responsibility for the war against the Soviet Union! Hitler could not want anything better than this Stalinist combination: the bureaucratic sacrifice of the party cadres in adventurist attempts to hold public mass meetings under the Nazi dictatorship on the day the Nazi-Soviet war begins, and the threat that those “must bear their share of responsibility” who “encouraged” Hitler by passivity and silence. The adventurism prematurely exposes and destroys the anti-fascists; the threat of post-war punishment keeps the masses in subjection to Hitler.
Lest there still be any misunderstanding about the extent to which the Stalinists blame the great masses of Germany, still another article in the same Stalinist compendium is entitled The Fascist Murderers and Their Accomplices Will Be Called to Responsibility, and itemizes among the “accomplices” the following:
“The responsibility ... falls on Hitler ...
“But the responsibility is shared also by those soldiers who, fulfilling the criminal orders of their superiors, reduce to ruins the Soviet towns and villages, loot the population and collective farms in order to supply the fascist hordes, and take part in the execution of death sentences against the Soviet citizens.
“These nightmarish crimes disgrace the German nation. No one in Germany can today make the excuse that these atrocities were unknown because the fascist rulers hid the facts from the German people. Thousands of letters written by German soldiers relate how the Hitler warriors ‘organize,’ that is, steal; how they maltreat civilians. These letters speak of these things as ordinary common occurrences. And what about the thousands of letters received by the German soldiers at the front from relatives and friends, particularly in the first months of the war, with numerous requests to ‘organize’ and send them various valuable articles which under no circumstances can be classed as war trophies.
“... And if the German people and primarily the German working class will continue silence, if they fail to raise a powerful voice of protest, they will be inviting responsibility for the crimes committed by the Hitlerites in their name.
“What moral deterioration of the average German is expressed in these words, ‘but these Poles are not Germans’ therefore everything is permissible.” (pp. 80–81. Our emphasis)
Thus the Stalinists list among Hitler’s “accomplices” the soldiers who obey military orders, their families who receive articles from them, and the “average German.”
Precisely this fear of the masses that they will be burdened with the responsibility for the war if Germany loses is Hitler’s main weapon in maintaining his hold on the army and civilian population, as even these Stalinist bureaucrats inadvertently bring out. In his article assertedly written from Germany, Erwin writes:
“The majority [of the workers] believed that the sole path to peace was through Germany’s victory.
I particularly stress this point, for it formed one of the greatest difficulties in our work of carrying out the slogan issued by the Central Committee of our party, namely ‘Strike at Hitler from the Rear!” (p. 59)
“The German soldier is fighting but without any belief, hope or perspective, like a trapped wolf who has no other choice” (p. 64).
“The average German ... realizes that he will be called to answer. For the first time there is a feeling of fear for the grim hatred of other peoples, a fear that literally encircles present-day Germany. This fear is utilized by Hitler for his own foul ends. ‘We will all be hanged from one rope in case of defeat,’ Goebbels tells the German people. The Nazis want to keep the German people and the German army in submission through fear of defeat.” (p. 64)
Why does the majority believe that only German victory gives them any hope for peace? Obviously they fear a second Versailles. The soldier “like a trapped wolf who has no other choice” likewise fears a second Versailles. The “fear of defeat” can be only fear of a second Versailles. What, then, do the Stalinists answer to these workers and soldiers, in order to reassure them about the post-war world? Here are two answers, given by Erwin:
“The Nazis want to keep the German people and the German army in submission through fear of defeat. But the greater the dimensions of Germany’s present catastrophe the less do the people fear defeat, for no future can be worse that what they are living through at present.” (p. 64)
“Following in the wake of Goebbels, the Nazis are trying to intimidate the workers with a bogey of a new Versailles. To this the workers reply and with very good reason, ‘The Soviet Union is not engaged in a war of conquest. It is fighting against Nazi Germany, which attacked it. The Nazis will suffer; all the better for the German people.’”
Note these Stalinist answers well! They tell everything we need to know about Stalinist policy now and Stalinist perspectives for the peace conference. “We fear a second Versailles,” say the German workers. The Stalinists answer: (1) It will be no worse than what you already have and (2) anyway, the Soviet war is progressive.
But not a word pledging that the Kremlin and the Comintern will fight side by side with a workers’ Germany against a second Versailles! Not even a half-promise that there won’t be a second Versailles! On the contrary, these Stalinist answers implicitly assume the likelihood of a second Versailles.
Paying lip-service to the doctrines of the founder of the workers’ state, Stalinism at each further stage of its degeneration must openly reject still another tenet of Leninism. Now it has reached the point of openly denying Lenin’s conception of the relation of class, party and leadership. Paving the way for collaboration in writing a second Versailles Treaty, Stalinism blames the German proletariat for the plight to which it was brought by Stalinism and Social-Democracy.
But Stalin’s “war guilt” clause will be no more accepted by the German proletariat, and the vanguard of the world proletariat which completely solidarizes itself with its German brothers, than they accepted the “war guilt” clause of the first Versailles Treaty. Gagged by Hitler and betrayed by Stalin, the German proletariat cannot give its own answer today. But it will answer, of that we are certain. Marx and Engels, Mehring and Clara Zetkin, Wilhelm and Karl Liebknecht, were not accidental products of the German proletariat. The section of the proletariat which for fifty years inspired the world proletariat by its achievements will rise again, and when it will, it will settle accounts not only with the Nazis and their capitalist masters, but also with their Stalinist libelers.
1. The Social-Democratic leadership, in turn, pointed to the threats against a German Soviet government which were being made by the “democracies.” For example, on March 17, 1920, Lord Kilmarnock presented to the German government a note from the Allied Supreme War Council, threatening to stop all deliveries of food and raw materials if a Soviet government were to take power – the same measures by which the Allies crushed the Hungarian Soviet Republic. The Allies also encouraged the formation of the counter-revolutionary Freikorps armed bands, forerunners of (and later incorporated into) the Nazis, to prevent the Bolshevization of Germany. Considering the Social-Democracy as playing the role of Kerensky, the “democracies” from the first favored the German reactionary parties against the workers’ parties. But this Stalinist compendium breathes not a word about the counter-revolutionary role of Stalin’s present “allies.”
Last updated on: 21 August 2015