Peter Petroff August 1934
Source: Labour, August 1934, p. 286;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
Whenever an economic system of society becomes obsolete, and is ripe for a change, large masses of people are seized by a feeling of insecurity. So it was during the downfall of the Roman Empire; so it was at the breakdown of feudalism; so it is to-day during the crisis of capitalism.
In Germany large masses of pauperised middle class people and other declassed elements were quite willing to give up their liberty in order to attain economic security. They have lost their liberty and become more insecure than ever.
The capitalist class were quite willing to sacrifice the culture that had been built up in centuries and to plunge into barbarism in order to maintain their economic power and privileges. The culture is being rapidly and effectively destroyed, but the “danger” of social revolution is growing.
Fascism has offered its services as an international gendarme against the working class movement. But it has proved a mad dog that is becoming dangerous to its master as well.
In the long run Fascism cannot safeguard the privileges of the money lords. It spells barbarism and insecurity for all, increases the war danger and destroys the liberty and integrity of the individual citizen.
The Labour Movement recognised this long ago. Now it is beginning to dawn upon the ruling classes in various countries.
While Hitler was killing chiefly working men and women, Socialists and Communists, he was regarded in some capitalist quarters as the “popular hero” of “New Germany.” Now that Hitler and his gang suddenly turned their guns against their own associates and murdered leading men of the ruling class, their bullets struck the very heart of Fascism while the world looked aghast at these “blood-drunken savages.”
The Nazis have, fortunately, one good quality – they manage to set everybody against themselves! The Jews, the catholics, the protestants, the monarchists, the small shopkeepers, and now also large sections of the capitalists.
And what prospects has the Fascist regime for the people? Having reduced the workers to slavery conditions, dissolved the working class into atoms, Hitler now talks about the “necessity” of still further “tightening the belt.” And Mussolini, in his speech on May 29, 1934, in the “Senate” declared: “Perhaps we are heading for a period of humanity based upon a lower scale of living which, however, should not be alarming since humanity might be capable of unimagined asceticism and heroism.”
Already potato – and margarine – queues in Germany are marking the road towards that ideal period of heroism in starvation and give some foreboding of what is in stock for the people in the coming winter.
The present economic system is such a complicated machine having constantly to adapt itself to a whirlwind of technical changes that it cannot possibly be worked with slave labour. Growing mechanisation and rationalisation is to a certain extent reducing the importance of the human factor in the process of production, but the complicated organisation and the need for constant adaptation, nevertheless, requires a high intellectual standard of the working class. The need for Europe to concentrate more and more on the production of quality commodities in the process of international competition and the division of labour between countries in the post-war period accentuates the demand for a high standard of intelligence of the workers.
Modern industry – whether organised on private capitalist or state capitalist lines cannot work efficiently without the “hostile co-operation” of well organised independent Trade Unions.
Consequently, the political system or Fascism, with its barbarian methods, comes into constant conflicts with the economic structure of capitalism.
In the crisis of capitalism a certain section of the capitalists believe to have found salvation in Fascism.
Now it becomes evident that Fascism is destroying the roots of the tree on whose fruits it proposes to feed. Instead of leading out of the crisis it accentuates the crisis and the degradation of the capitalist system.
The logical consequence of Fascism would be the destruction of machinery, the cutting down of foreign trade and the return of mankind to barbarism.
The more farseeing section of the capitalist class are beginning to recognise that Fascism is a dangerous game. So far from saving their privileges and accumulated wealth for themselves they might lose everything in the ensuing chaos and war of extermination.
The experiences of Fascism in Italy and especially in Germany, have vividly shown that Fascism leads to political, economic, cultural, social and moral degradation. The Mosleys and other would-be dictators who are living on the crumbs from the table of Nazism have nothing else: to produce but a certificate of poverty.
The bankruptcy of Fascism has become evident – even those capitalists who supported Hitlerism seem to doubt whether they have backed the right horse.
The German nation, politically and morally humiliated by Fascism, is now facing the prospect of economic and financial ruination. Regarded as an outlaw by civilised nations, it is beginning to feel as an inferior race.
Yet it would be unwise to prophesy an immediate breakdown of the Nazi regime in Germany.
The natural grave diggers of that regime – the millions of Socialist and Communist workers – have been too much demoralised by the failure their organisations to offer resistance. They are not yet in a position to break down the naked armed force that presses upon them.
Unhappy Germany might have to pass through another form of despotism – a somewhat “enlightened” military dictatorship on the lines dreamt of by General Schleicher, now murdered by the Nazis.
However, in the 20th Century the State has functions to perform for which tanks and bayonets are not quite the proper instruments.
In order to keep in power such a dictatorship will have to make important concessions to the working class – a certain measure of liberty of the press and organisation.
Such a regime undoubtedly stave off revolution for a time and would also provide a breathing space in the present European tension. Not because of the peaceful intentions of the military dictators, but because they would not be so hopelessly stupid and irresponsible as the present Nazi rulers. They would at least understand that Germany if she could carry on a war could not win it.
But such a regime also could not solve the basic problem, of our time.
The contradiction between the mighty developed productive forces and the obsolete economic relations can be solved alone by Socialism that will provide economic security, political liberty and the free development of the creative faculties of the individual citizen.