Peter and Irma Petroff 1934

The Secret of Hitler’s Victory

Source: Book published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press, 52 Tavistock Square, London WC, 1934. Scanned, prepared and annotated for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers. Thanks to Scott Reeve for bringing this book to our attention.

Publisher’s Note

Peter Petroff is a Russian: his wife, Irma Petroff, a German. They have lived through the Red revolution in Russia and the Brown revolution in Germany. Both are now exiles from their own countries. For his part in the Russian revolution of 1905, Peter Petroff was imprisoned, but after serving two years, he escaped and fled to England, where he lived until 1917 as an active worker in the British labour movement. During the war he was interned in this country. After the October Revolution of 1917, he returned to Russia, was appointed Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Soviets, and acted as Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs in the Soviet government during M Chicherin’s absence at Brest-Litovsk. In the next few years he held various offices, but in 1925 he and his wife resigned from the Russian Communist Party. They have lived for many years in Germany, working with the Socialists. Irma Petroff, before the war a lecturer and organiser for the Social Democratic Party, was at one time head of the Education Department of the German Volga Republic. She is joint author with her husband of two books: The Economic Regeneration of the Soviets and The Economic Development of the Soviet Union. [1] When the Nazis seized power, the Petroffs’ house was raided, their library and manuscripts were destroyed, and they and their children had to live underground. Finally, they managed to escape across the Belgian frontier... In this book, they set out to answer the question that has perplexed so many onlookers in other countries: How did it come about that the apparently mighty forces of the German Left fell in one night, and without resistance, before the Nazi attack?

Chapter I: The World Stands Before a Riddle

In the short period of the Nazi rule in Germany a great deal has been written on the effects of this ‘Brown pest’. Much has been said about the beastly terror, the ghastly torturing of scores of defenceless prisoners, about the concentration camps, where tens of thousands of innocent people are languishing, the persecution and humiliation of the Jewish part of the German people, the disgraceful robbing or destruction of institutions created in the past by the hard toil and sacrifices of the working class. Yet only a small portion of the vile crimes and atrocities committed by the Nazi regime have found reflection in the press.

No serious attempt has as yet been made, however, to answer the question how, in a great industrial country with a working class of high cultural standing, it was possible for a Hitler to destroy, within a few weeks, all the rights and liberties of the people and to gain unlimited power almost without any attempt at resistance. Yet this question is of vital importance.

How was it possible that such a strong and complex working-class movement, built up in decades of struggle, a movement absorbing all spheres of life of the workers, could collapse without resistance?

Were there not five million trade unionists, a million organised Social Democrats, ready to meet the fascist onslaught? Had not the Socialist leaders at their disposal the Reichsbanner, a strong military organisation counting over a million men, built up as a protective force against fascism? Had they not with them hundreds of thousands of men and women organised in labour, sport and cultural associations (amongst whom the Freethinkers’ Union alone had more than 600,000 members), and also the youth organisations? Were not all these bodies, with their strong, influential press, their own clubrooms and meeting-places, their tremendous apparatus of paid organisers and secretaries, their numerous unpaid officials, in a position to mobilise their members rapidly?

Did not leading men of all these organisations hold important offices in the Reich, the states and the municipalities, which would have enabled them, as commissioners of police, mayors and magistrates, to use forces of the state on their side, or at all events to neutralise them? Was not a large part of the Prussian police organised in the Reichsbanner? Further, had not the Communist Party hundreds of thousands of militant members and millions of enthusiastic supporters? It is true their military organisation, the Red Front Association, was proscribed; but it existed illegally. And their auxiliary organisations – their youth, cultural and sport organisations, ‘Red Help’, ‘Anti-Fascists’, etc – were hardly less extensive than those of the Social Democrats. Here again, there was a very strong and influential press, an army of organisers and secretaries, numerous unpaid officials, a fighting spirit, an almost militarised organisation adapted to rapid mobilisation.

Yet with all this such a complete breakdown, such a humiliating surrender! Never in the world’s history has there been, after so much flag-waving and drumbeating, such a crushing defeat, such a complete collapse. The world stands before a riddle... This phenomenon cannot be explained by the treachery or cowardice of certain leaders, nor by ‘tactical’ or even ‘strategic’ mistakes. What has happened here has been a complete collapse of well-organised and trained masses in face of an enemy of whom every individual of these masses had to expect personally the severest possible persecution, a phenomenon that stands in flagrant contradiction to all the notions of mass psychology!

Nevertheless, no one who has followed with open eyes – not through party spectacles – the developments in Germany during these last years could fail to see the approaching disaster. Of course nobody could have believed that the catastrophe would arrive so suddenly and under such disgraceful circumstances; but the elements of the approaching disaster were becoming more and more apparent. Not like a thunderbolt from the hands of a god, unexpected and inexplicable, did the catastrophe come. Striking into our consciousness like lightning, it nevertheless was the final result of a long and complicated process.

The unbiased analysis of the innate laws of these developments, with complete impartiality to all parties, groups or creeds, is the object of this work. It is not an easy task. And this, not only because the Hitler bandits have seized, together with the rest of our library, the material gathered during a number of years – newspaper cuttings, pamphlets and leaflets. The difficulty is enhanced by the fact that at present thousands of responsible and active men and women of all sections of the German labour movement are suffering in the hell of the concentration camps, have been tortured or done to death. A clear understanding of the causes of failure in the past may assist in finding the way out of disaster in the future. A movement that does not learn the lessons of its defeats is doomed.

Chapter II: The Weimar Republic and its Pillars

The breakdown of the Kaiser regime in 1918 suddenly put the power of the state into the hands of the German Social Democracy, into hands that were not then prepared to take it by force.

Only with hesitation the new governing party settled down to the new situation. They did not use the newly-gained power in order to carry the revolution farther. The masses were eager to move forward – the Social Democratic Party forced them back; and it had at times to rely on the support of reactionary forces, so that the Independent Social Democratic Party withdrew from co-responsibility. In those days originated that bitter antagonism, that rift in the working-class movement, which later on led to the split also in the Independent Social Democratic Party, and which so far has defied all attempts at reconciliation.

Thus the ruling party had got itself into an ambiguous position; the feeling of timid uncertainty never left them; they could not act with the resolution of the victor who clears away all that he finds unsound, so that he may rebuild on a new, stronger foundation. Instead, they tried to patch and shore up wherever possible. Reluctantly, under pressure from the mass, they had established the Republic; timidly they tried to set it to work. To them, danger appeared to be coming chiefly from the left.

The members of the Junker caste, who had always been the support of the darkest reaction in the darkest corners of Prussia, suffered by not so much as the loss of a hair of their heads. On the contrary, they liquidated their old debts by the aid of the inflation which followed, while keeping their old power. The Republic showed itself just as willing to shower gifts on the Junkers as the monarchy. The Junkers found for their dull, arrogant, monarchist sons open doors in the new Reichswehr and in the diplomatic service of the Republic, as in the days of the Kaiser. And their old party, the monarchist reactionary German Conservative Party, after cleverly renaming itself the German Nationalist People’s Party, [2] could continue its struggle against the people, progress and liberty unmolested.

The magnates of capital, through the rapid growth of combinations and trusts, gained a monopolist position in the internal market, to the detriment of the consumers. This opened the way for them to increase the high war gains by no less high inflation gains in peacetime. Through the inflation, the state had given them a vehicle to shift the little savings of the millions into their own huge pockets, and thus hasten the proletarianisation of the middle classes, a tendency innate in the capitalist system. Their political party, the National Liberal Party, now renamed the German People’s Party, [3] had tremendous influence. In coalition with this party, the Social Democratic Party had perforce to carry on a big money policy – in its entire economic and financial policy, it was held in the net of the money lords. For this has always been the rule. In a highly-developed capitalist country, every party coming into power, even if it is socialistic, must (if it does not change the system) carry on more or less avowedly the policy of the dominating capitalist class. So it was at that time in Germany; so it is today in Sweden; so it would be tomorrow in France. It is only necessary to call to mind the part old Stinnes [4] was allowed to play during the inflation, the power wielded by Thyssen, [5] Vögler, [6] and the rest in the state, the subsidies paid by the Reich to the capitalists of the Ruhr district, and to the banks.

The Civil Code, and the old Kaiserist Penal Code, were left in force in the Republic. Even the petrified judiciary remained fixed to the bench, because this curious ‘revolution’ respected their fixity of tenure. Instead of sweeping away the entire judicial and penal system, and rebuilding it in accordance with the changed ideas of the people, merely a few useful though trifling reforms were introduced; the prisons were humanised, and frequent amnesties were granted. The fact that during the period of the Weimar Republic sentences for similar offences were heavy as lead on offenders of the left and light as a feather on those of the right – a fact which caused much bitterness and discontent among the people – was regarded by consecutive Socialist and republican governments with complacency.

In internal administration also, they refrained from radical revolutionary changes. They supported the collapsing parts of the old structure with some no- longer-avoidable little reforms. They contented themselves with filling positions which became vacant, or were newly created, with their own partisans, or at any rate with republicans. However, these newly-manufactured republican civil servants failed to infuse a new spirit; most of them became victims of the stifling atmosphere. The popularly hated Civil Service, which under the Kaiser had been evolved into a caste (’true German and pensionsberechtigt’ [7] was a byword before the war), and always trimmed its sails to suit the wind, was not reduced, but received new accretions. It realised the situation, changed its language and soon became ‘true republican and pensionsberechtigt’ (just as today it is ‘true Nazi and pensionsberechtigt’).

Even the Church, which in Germany had always been a formidable stronghold of reaction, received new revenues and new rights. Only those who had formally renounced it were liberated from its grip.

This development found symptomatic expression also in a variety of smaller things. No ‘Vendôme Column’ [8] was destroyed; the names of streets and institutes were left undisturbed. During the fourteen years of the Weimar Republic the many Socialist and democratic town councils could not find the courage to rename all those Kaiser Wilhelm Squares, Kaiserin Augusta Victoria Streets and Hohenzollern Avenues, of which there were dozens and hundreds in all towns of the Reich and all parts of Berlin. The exceptionally ugly Puppen-Allee (Dolls’ Ally, in the local vernacular), an avenue in the Tiergarten flanked on both sides with Hohenzollern monuments – this testimony to the Kaiser’s lack of taste was carefully preserved by the Republic. Even the birthday of the Republic, 9 November, they did not dare to proclaim a public holiday. In its place, 11 August, the date of the Constitution of Weimar, which satisfied nobody, was celebrated.

Instead of confiscating the properties of the imperial and lesser royal families, they were left in possession of all their property and huge sums were paid to them and their friends and concubines from the taxation of the people. Thus they were provided with the means to finance counter-revolution. In addition to that, the generals coming from the Junker caste enjoyed large pensions, even those who had risen against the Republic in the Kapp Putsch, [9] or who had taken an active part in monarchist gangs like the Orgesch or the Ehrhard Brigade. [10]

Even in the newly-formed army, the Reichswehr, these elements were accepted, and soon they had it under their control. When the Reichswehr was formed, the Socialists were in a dilemma. Just released from the war, they had little inclination to don again the grey coats which they had just discarded with a sigh of relief, and to surrender themselves to the hated militarism for another twelve years – the term of service prescribed by the Versailles Treaty. (They could not then know that the new German militarism would regard the military part of that treaty merely as a scrap of paper!) Should the Socialists advocate the workers to join the Reichswehr? Such a procedure promised little success and much loss of prestige, besides bringing the advocate himself who did not wish to join into an unpleasant position. On the other hand, there was a danger that the Reichswehr would attract exclusively reactionary, or at any rate unenlightened, elements, and thus in the hands of reactionary officers become a dangerous weapon against the working class and even against the Republic itself. This problem was well recognised and much discussed in Socialist circles, but no solution was found. Thus the inevitable happened: the Reichswehr became a reactionary force which, in the hands of reactionary officers, soon created a policy of its own and grew into a factor of first-class importance in the political life of the country.

The twelve-year term was as much a fiction as the strength of 100,000 men. With the military budget swelling under various ridiculous heads (military courts, for instance), the number of legal and illegal Reichswehr soldiers grew. Though the term of military service was twelve years, the men seemed never to get older. To prevent the lifting of the veil from these dangerous secrets, which were always respected by the Social Democrats, who professed to be pacifists, the inevitable Gessler [11] remained permanently Minister of War, no matter how often governments changed. Finally, the government did not control the army, but the army the government. Gessler left the War Office only when the counter-revolution had become strong enough to put a general in his place. First, General Seeckt, [12] next General Groener, [13] and then General Schleicher. [14]

The complete breakdown of German militarism and the Kaiser regime left the German Social Democracy as the only active force in the state, and so compelled them to take the liquidation of the war into their own hands. The lamentable short-sightedness of the Allied politicians and militarists increased the difficulties of this task, and compelled them finally to attach their signatures to that inglorious document, the Treaty of Versailles. At the moment, all sections of German public opinion were grateful to the Social Democrats for this deed. However, the situation soon changed. When the natural consequences of this treaty brought about in Germany a nationalist reaction, the opponents turned the tables upon them and pointed their fingers at them, saying: ‘It is you who have signed this disgraceful Treaty of Versailles!’

The Social Democratic Party, by jumping into the breach, had allowed the war criminals to shift the responsibility for the mad policy of the Kaiser on to their own shoulders. Their further policy made it possible, even when there was no necessity, to strengthen in the eyes of the masses the appearance of responsibility. This happened in the case of the Dawes Plan and, again, of the Young Plan. [15] In both cases the reactionary parties and the classes they represented were anxious to get these schemes adopted by the Reichstag, though trying to screen themselves from responsibility. Instead of leaving these people to answer for it, the Social Democrats rushed forward to take the burden – perhaps a very generous, but a very stupid, policy, which was used against them by their unscrupulous opponents, both from right and left, with much success.

In another respect, the Versailles Treaty had dangerous results for the internal policy of the German Republic. The clauses referring to disarmament were on the one hand so drastic, and on the other hand so full of loop-holes, that militarist minds were simply invited to evade them. As the Republic had not, at the very outset, deprived the Junkers and the militarists of their power, but, on the contrary, had left to them a free hand in the military sphere, the latter soon embarked upon a course of secret rearmament. Consecutive governments, including many Socialist ministers, consciously closed their eyes to these developments, but thereby put themselves increasingly into the hands of the militarists, who clearly understood their opportunities. As to the Communists, they were muzzled by Moscow, because the Soviet government in matters of technical and industrial assistance had established a strange mutual relationship with the Reichswehr. Thus, the regulations of the Versailles Treaty, designed to destroy German militarism, actually helped to endow it with new life.

If Social Democracy in 1918 had, in its fear of the revolutionary masses, failed to go down to bedrock and effect sweeping changes, the Kapp Putsch in 1920 and the murder of Rathenau [16] in 1922, with the popular movement arising out of it, provided it with an opportunity to make up for its omission. But as the priest of law and order it was fearful of mass action, and tried to replace it by the institution of the Staatsgerichtshof (a special court with the democratic drunkard Niedner [17] as chief judge) and by the promulgation of the infamous Defence of the Republic Act.

The Weimar Constitution gave expression to the democratic and social ideas on which the Republic was built up. It proclaimed that all power emanates from the people; it created at last the franchise system, fought for for decades: adult suffrage and secret ballot, equal and direct vote, in the Reich, the states and the municipalities. It proclaimed liberty of opinion and conscience and made some attempts at establishing a right to work or maintenance of the citizen. Nevertheless, it contained the germ of counter-revolution.

The Weimar Constitution endowed the President with far-reaching powers. He was in control of the armed forces of the country. He had the right to dissolve the Reichstag and govern the country till the next election, by Article 48 of the Constitution, which permitted him to suspend important parts of the Constitution. The part played by this article in preparing the ground for the fascist counter-revolution is well known.

The President who was endowed with such enormous powers was not elected by Parliament, which could have exercised a certain control over him, but by a direct vote of the people. While a member of parliament represented only 60,000 electors, Hindenburg [18] in 1932 received 19 million votes. That gave the President a preponderance over the Reichstag. The authors of the Weimar Constitution learned nothing from history.

The direct vote of the people had already put the power of the state into the hands of an adventurer once before.

When, in France, the saviour of bourgeois society, Cavignac (the French Noske), [19] had piled up in the streets of Paris thousands of proletarian corpses; when the achievements of 1848 had been destroyed step by step, the little Napoleon, elected by the direct vote of the people, was able, in 1851, to put an end to the republic by a coup d'état.

In Germany, when the modest achievements of the so-called revolution of 1918 had been sufficiently reduced, and when the enormous power given to the President by this Constitution fell into the lap of an old monarchist general, the way was open for counter-revolution. The way was even already mapped out for him by the Social Democratic President, Ebert, [20] when he made the Reichswehr march into Saxony and Thuringia to turn out the red governments he disliked; and down this precipitous path Hindenburg now slid, when on 20 July 1932, also with the assistance of the Reichswehr, he turned out the Prussian government, putting in its place as Commissar of the Reich the hero of wartime fame, von Papen. [21] Though there was one difference – while Ebert required two divisions for the job, the Field-Marshal von Hindenburg accomplished it with one lieutenant and four men.

* * *

The birth hour of the Republic, which was the death hour of the World War, brought to the masses of the people in Germany a rapid and considerable improvement of their position. The men returned from the war, the blockade was raised, and long-vanished foods and goods reappeared in the market – the ‘turnip period’ [22] had come to an end. The change-over of industry to peace production immediately provided work for many hands; an industrial boom began. It is true that in the following years of increasing inflation the German workers became the coolies of the whole world, but at least they had not to suffer from nerve-racking unemployment. The eight-hour day had become a reality, although it was not incorporated in an Act of Parliament, but only in the demobilisation orders. The Betriebsrätegesetz (Works Committee Act) strengthened the power of the working class; the trade unions experienced a tremendous influx of membership and became a power in the state. The workers, hitherto always politically oppressed in Germany, had gained much in self-confidence; the women had risen from second-rate human beings to citizens; the abolition of conscription had liberated youth from a much-detested servility.

Social legislation developed in every direction. Social institutions established in the towns became a model for the whole world. Here, many thousands of Socialist men and women found a field of activity where they could engage in extensive social work. From the cradle to the grave the German citizen was under the social care of the state. The maternity and infant welfare service directed its attention to the first appearance of the future citizen. Crèches, infant schools, day nurseries, school feeding, school clinics, school doctors and nurses, holiday homes, served the up-growing proletarian child. The Jugendämter (Municipal ‘Youth Service’), which were unequalled in the whole world, cared also for youth after school age – youth clubs, hostels, sports and playgrounds, occupational advice, sexual advice, classes of all kinds, were only a few of their many beneficent activities. The communal health service with its preventive measures against tuberculosis, health insurance covering numerous institutions, the insurance against accident, disablement and old age, and especially the insurance against unemployment and crisis, the municipal house-building schemes – all this is an indelible page in the history of the Weimar Republic – and, this must be admitted, also in the history of German Social Democracy, on whose shoulders the whole structure rested.

Of no less importance than its triumphs in the social field were its attainments in the cultural field. It would be no exaggeration to say that the influence of German Social Democracy has within the last thirty years, culturally, completely reshaped the German proletariat – the dance-hall girl had become a hiking girl. The reader of printed trash had grown into a literary epicure. The large masses of the German proletariat stood, as regards their interest in natural science, economics, history and high-class fiction, shoulders high above the proletarian masses of other countries. However, it must be said that apart from the 12 to 15 millions of proletarians under the influence of Communist and Socialist organisations there were also in Germany many millions of indifferent lower-middle-class people, peasants and loafers, and it is to them that Hitler now owes his strength.

Nevertheless, in the cultural field the Weimar Republic failed in many respects, and could not but fail. German political Catholicism since the days of Bismarck’s Kulturkampf [23] had created a powerful political instrument, the Centre Party, [24] which, after having been always the most faithful ally of the reactionary Junkers, now with flying banners came over to the republican ranks, at least in all those states where the monarch had been a Protestant. In Bavaria, where the throne had been occupied by the Catholic Wittelsbach, [25] the position was somewhat different. The Bavarian part of the Centre Party split up and established itself as a separate organisation under the name Bavarian People’s Party. In the Reich, however, in Prussia, and in most of the other states, the now republican Centre Party with its many working-class adherents became the second pillar of the Weimar Republic. Its acute politicians, who always knew how to suck honey out of all blossoms, utilised the situation to their best advantage. By their alliance with the atheist masses of Social Democracy they succeeded in increasing the power of the Catholic Church to an extent which they could never have attained under the avowedly Christian monarchy. Out of consideration for the ‘Republican’ Centre Party, the Social Democratic Party did not fully realise any of the demands of its own programme in the educational field – it segregated neither the state nor the school from the church, it did not even remove the blasphemy clause from the penal code. The attacks of the Communists, who called this Republic a Pfaffenrepublik (a priests’ republic) were to a great extent justified. This unholy alliance weighing down the Social Democrats has to be borne in mind; otherwise their whole policy appears incomprehensible.

In spite of all this, the revolution brought about great changes in the school system. The eight years’ primary school lost its dull, oppressive, barrack-like character. The slogan ‘school reform’ became very popular. Through the parents’ councils and parents’ meetings, the parents were interested and their collaboration was sought for. Large meetings of workers were discussing educational problems. The uniformity of the entire school system, the admission of capable proletarian children to secondary schools, which hitherto had been an almost exclusive privilege of the well-to-do, the introduction of new methods of teaching – all this was adopted in principle although never completely realised. Modern methods, improved textbooks, shaping the lessons of the children to suit the current interests and environment, cultivating the community spirit – all that was certainly great gain. With new teachers a new spirit was introduced into primary education. However, the old teachers also were retained, but only a small part of them adapted themselves. The parents were granted the right to withdraw their children from religious instruction; though where such children were in a small minority they were often subjected to persecution by reactionary teachers. In industrial, towns, largely atheist, ‘the two pillars’ came to an agreement behind the scenes in a kindly mutual accommodation – secular schools were provided for the sake of the children of Social Democrats (though opposed by the Communists, who feared losing the chance of influencing the bulk of the children). In return, the Social Democrats permitted, besides the ordinary Christian school, the provision of Catholic schools. The new methods of the secular schools, in the spirit of mutual aid, built up on the child’s world, permeated the entire primary-school system. The secular system comprised only a small part of the children (in Berlin there were about fifty such schools), but these schools became the means of an enormous educational elevation in the circles affected by them.

The secondary schools and universities were entirely neglected by the Social Democrats, who almost alone were responsible for all progress in primary education. In this field they were content with a few isolated nurseries for higher culture with a proletarian colour, like the Berlin Karl Marx College – this college being, it is true, the apex achievement for the world. Otherwise, the whole field of secondary education was left to the reactionaries. Small wonder, therefore, that the secondary schools and the universities became the breeding-ground for nationalist ruffianism. But the youth coming from those modern schools, together with those affected by the proletarian children’s movement – the Social Democratic ‘Red Falcons’ and the Communist ‘Pioneers’ – and, along with the rest of the young generation, influenced by the Socialist and Communist youth movement, have during the short period of the Weimar Republic built up a peculiar proletarian culture such as has not yet been attained in any other country. The students, however, and the pupils of the ordinary high schools still remained under the influence of the old petrified professors and teachers. Many proletarian parents consequently declined, on principle, to give their children secondary education for fear they might be lost to the working class.

* * *

In the economic history of the German Republic, three consecutive phases can be discerned – inflation, concentration, rationalisation.

The big war-profiteers like Stinnes, Thyssen, Otto Wolff, [26] et hoc genus omne, [27] who had known how to distil minted gold out of millions of corpses, now transformed themselves into revolution and inflation profiteers, or were overtaken by newcomers.

If the war had meant for these a source of new capital, the revolution and its child the Weimar Republic had provided new chances. It is true that the Republic at the outset aimed at getting rid of large fortunes, but its good intentions proved, especially in its economic policy, to be again the stones paving the way to Hell. In its unparalleled self-denial, this ‘social state’ actually bred types like Stinnes and Flick, [28] who hated the Republic and used this hatred as a moral justification for tax-defaulting, robbery of the state, and financing counter-revolutionary plots. Yet the state continued to feed them with credits which they used to further inflation, and which they ‘repaid’ in valueless paper marks.

This time of whirlwind-raging proletarianisation of the middle class, which diverted huge slices of the property of the people into the gaping jaws of industrial sharks, gave birth to that type of capitalist which indiscriminately bought up concerns and enterprises of all descriptions – the type which in the minds of their contemporaries is indissolubly bound up with the name of Stinnes. Stinnes was not the creator of mighty concerns systematically built up and internally connected. At random he bought anything: steel-works, newspapers, hotels, ships, coalmines, textile mills, foodstuffs – and politicians. Though these blown-up trusts and concerns soon burst like soap bubbles, many ruined small and medium businessmen strewed the path, and these, together with the unemployed officers and the impoverished intellectuals, formed the shock battalions of the coming counter-revolution.

When again – at the expense of the working class – the mark was stabilised, the inflation profiteers gave way to deflation profiteers; or became such. A period of comparatively coherent concentration followed, combining industrial enterprises of a definite interconnection into powerful trusts: the epoch of monopoly capitalism dawned.

Everywhere, steam power was superseded by the victorious advance of electricity, which brought about equivalent production with a much smaller number of hands. Now, in the trustified industry, an enormous mechanisation and rationalisation set in. The influx of foreign, especially American, capital strengthened the process. A far-reaching weakening of the working class and its organisations was the result. A storm attack against the social achievements of the proletariat began.

On the land, the agrarian policy of prewar times was simply continued. Supported by tariffs and subsidies, the Junkers continued to grow cereals instead of turning their attention to high-class products which would tend to make German agriculture capable of meeting competition and self-supporting without state aid, simultaneously reducing German imports. No benefit accrued to the peasants, for neither did they get subsidies worthy of mention, nor did they derive any tangible advantage from the tariffs. No wonder many of them fell under the wheels of capitalism, and the number of victims sold up increased constantly.

The reparation payments imposed upon Germany in consequence of its defeat in the war, which had been brought about by the criminal policy of her statesmen in the time of the Kaiser, increased the economic misery of the people. While the impoverished state continued to give millions by way of subsidy to the agrarians and heavy industry (700,000,000 marks of ‘compensation’ for the Ruhr magnates and 300,000,000 marks for the swindling concern of Flick, which latter had been allotted by Brüning [29] shortly before the breakdown with the silent assent of the Social Democrats, and paid out by von Papen), the masses were sinking into poverty. Workers and employees were suffering from wage cuts and unemployment; peasants and small shopkeepers from the reduced purchasing-power of their customers; intellectuals and artists from the increasing inability of the masses and municipalities to spend money on cultural objects.

Those very Junkers and industrialists who were the real gainers from the Weimar Republic took great pains to stir up the discontent of the masses, to put them against the state and to build up from their ranks a prætorian guard for its overthrow. It was they who financed, a decade before, the monarchist Orgesch, and the Ehrhard brigade. From their coffers, always well filled, thanks to the Republic and its policy, the Brown gangs were equipped and paid, and on their shoulders Hitler could now climb to power.

Thus the Republic and Social Democracy, on whose shoulders it rested, always felt themselves threatened. The more it yielded to the pressure and made concessions, the stronger grew the Communists on the other side, and menaced them from the left. The result was a vacillating, opportunist and indecisive policy. The discontent of the proletarian masses with this development, by which they found themselves cheated of the fruits of the revolution, added fuel to the fire of the Communist movement, increasing the pressure from the left.

And so Social Democracy was compelled to defend itself on two fronts. This led, not only to a vacillating policy, to a zigzag course, reminiscent of the Kaiser, it also resulted in a desire to look round for support from other quarters, which grew out of a feeling of innate weakness. Instead of Liberty and Equality, it now inscribed Law and Order on its flag. For ten years the question, wide coalition or narrow, was one of the main problems of German politics. For German Social Democrats it was no longer a question whether they should form a coalition with bourgeois parties, but merely with which of them. Even the German People’s Party, the party of the magnates of capital, was acceptable as a coalition partner. To keep these coalitions alive, by which they hoped to strengthen the Republic, they made concession after concession. The systematic piecemeal destruction of the social and political achievements of the proletariat followed. The eight-hour day was sacrificed, the social welfare services were depleted, the various benefits cut down, the wages reduced. Meanwhile, expenditure on armaments, tariffs and indirect taxation increased, while the capitalists succeeded by means of the wage tax to make even the payment of direct taxation a privilege of the working class.

All these measures naturally did not add to the security of the Republic. The Communists hated it. The supporters of the Republic outside the Social Democratic ranks were shrinking more and more.

Social Democracy never lost the feeling that the Republic was in danger. For that reason, it never dared to entrust it to anybody; it was always struggling to keep in office. However, as a result of this, in the eyes of the people, all the responsibility for the large capitalist and great landowner policies, for Versailles and its consequences, for the Reichswehr and its secret rearming, for the social and cultural depletion, for the corruption and mass-misery, finally even for the crisis, fell upon them.

Certainly, the Republic, in the first years of its existence, under the leadership of Social Democracy, had created all that which it was now partially destroying. The social state with its widespread welfare institutions was the work of their hands. The universal franchise system, the extensive liberty of speech, meeting, demonstration and press, the right of political asylum – all these cultural attainments, which had been the far-off dream of millions in the time of the Kaiser, it had struggled for, built up, and fortified. But now, when Social Democracy – like Penelope [30] – was pulling to pieces by night what it had been weaving by day, the masses were willing to see only its guilt of today, not its service of yesterday. Honesty demands today the recognition that its retrograde movement in the social, cultural and political field was not simply ‘treason’, but an attempt to save the Republic, by way of a dangerous operation – an operation like the one about which the doctor telegraphed: ‘Operation successful, patient dead.’

To protect its sick child, the Republic, Social Democracy tried to turn Prussia into a fortress; the less they could trust the inner strength of the Republic, the more they placed all their hope on the Prussian police.

In this field they attained considerable success. Under the Kaiser, the police had been so hated that no dog would take a bone from them. The Social Democrats civilised this body, transformed it, and brought it into a normal relationship with the public. They soaked it with the Republican spirit and turned it into a reliable instrument of the Weimar Republic. In this regard, they had made all preparation for a successful defence of the Weimar state. The police force was well organised, splendidly armed (with armoured cars, machine-guns, hand-grenades, machine-pistols, carbines and tear-gas bombs), and for street fighting was superbly trained. The fact that it was more seldom used against the foes of the Republic on the right than against radical workers on the left, and that the misguided Social Democratic Police President, Zörgiebel, [31] on 1 May 1929, employed it against workers celebrating May Day, thus causing the Neukölln massacre, was not the fault of its organisation, but of the policy of the government whose obedient tool it was. To keep the Prussian police in their hands, the Social Democrats were willing to make any sacrifice. The sly Centre could, as their partner in the Prussian coalition government, squeeze one concession after another from them, both in the cultural and political spheres.

Through their policy of forming coalitions with non-republican parties, the republicans had their hands tied in their struggle with the right. During the terms of office of both Gensler and Groener, the Reichswehr had received only reactionary elements into its ranks. While the police was strictly republican, the Reichswehr was sternly monarchist. The unofficial military organisations it had created, the Stahlhelm [32] and ‘Black Reichswehr’, [33] with its notorious murder gang, ‘St Vehme’, flourished. The National Socialist prætorian guard of the heavy industries in 1923 made an armed rising, which called for little courage in this indulgent Republic. The Reichswehr division, led by General von Lossow, [34] sent against the insurrectionists, exercised friendly neutrality. In contrast with that, General Müller, with his troops, sent by President Ebert against the constitutionally-elected red government in Saxony proved very energetic.

Even after the Nazi rising in Munich in 1923, the republican government took no effective steps against the armed counter-revolutionary gangs. They were able to continue their terrorism against working-class meetings without hindrance. Thus, both Communists and Social Democrats were compelled to take counter-measures – the Rote Frontkämpfer-Bund of the Communists and the Reichsbanner created by the Social Democrats with the support of other republicans quickly developed into powerful defensive organisations. While the Rote Frontkämpfer-Bund proved themselves determined fighters in the struggles in the street fighting in German towns, which took place not always without their initiative, the big Reichsbanner was possessed by an almost Tolstoyan spirit – as regards internal strife; on the other hand, they felt themselves as a reserve of the Reichswehr and defenders of the Fatherland as the ‘Young Guards of the German Republic'...

The Social Democratic Prussian Minister for Internal Affairs, Severing, [35] considering himself under an obligation to the bourgeois coalition partners for the maintenance of law and order, felt himself ‘compelled’ to prohibit the Rote Frontkämpfer-Bund, while the semi-military organisations of the Nazis and the Stahlhelm were allowed freely to develop.

In the defensive struggle against the Communists, who did not always employ straightforward methods, Social Democratic ministers and police presidents, who had been caught in the bureaucratic machine, were frightened into using measures which later came back like a boomerang and hit their own heads. Prohibition of demonstrations and meetings; censorship of plays and films; suppression of newspapers and the scandalous expedient of compulsory insertion in newspapers of governmental statements which had to be printed by the newspapers in a prescribed position without comment; increased penalties for libelling ministers; the institution of a special state court whose brutal sentences were again chiefly directed against the left – all these measures, in the long run, could not but prove scourges against the entire working class.

While the right as well as the left were eulogising dictatorship and trying hard to practise it to the best of their abilities, the Social Democrats fervently desired to be a strong rampart of democracy. Unfortunately the measures they adopted to this end proved fatal to the very democracy they were intended to protect.

Even institutions which to the superficial observer appeared to be the very perfection of democracy proved in practice to be anti-democratic. This applies to the direct election of the President by the people, but not less to the system of proportional representation, an old plank of the Social Democratic platform. It is true that election by the party list permitted a distribution of parliamentary seats which exactly reflected recorded votes. But it had certain other effects which no one had intended or foreseen, and which greatly assisted in lowering the prestige of parliament in the eyes of the people. The close ties between members of parliament and their electors prevailing in other parliaments vanished as though by a wave of the wand. This, it is true, made members independent of local wishes, but it entirely destroyed all contact with their electors, and brought them into complete dependence on their party caucuses, to whom alone they now felt responsible. It was the party caucuses who in reality appointed the members. Outstanding personalities disappeared from parliament. The politically unorganised electors found themselves powerless – they could influence the composition of parliament only as regards the strength of the various party groups, but no longer as regards individual members. The personality of the candidate ceased to play any part. Thus it became possible that the Nazi party put forward ex-criminals and that they were elected. In this way the level of the German parliaments sank to a degree that would have been quite impossible under the single-member system. But no Socialist voice was raised against this system – the party machine, the real beneficiaries of this system, controlled the press. However, it must be said that the prestige of parliament was certainly not raised by the free fights so dear both to the Nazis and Communists. A parliament having such a weak hold on the people could easily be set aside. So early as 1923, the first breach was made in the parliamentary system, when the Reichstag surrendered some of its powers to the capitalist Stresemann [36] Cabinet, empowering it to issue decrees.

This system of government by decree, by setting aside the weak parliaments, later on, under Chancellor Brüning, who was tolerated by the Social Democrats, degenerated into an orgy. Limitation of elementary political rights, reduction of wages and unemployment benefits, fixing of prices, subsidies for Junkers and capitalist concerns running into millions ('Osthilfe’, ‘Danatbank’, [37] Flick), usurpation of the functions of local government, imposition of new taxation, and finally the whole budget – all this was done by decree. When, in the name of the saving of democracy, the country for two years had been governed by dictatorial methods against the interest of the people, an emergency ladder had been constructed, then a Papen, a Schleicher, and finally a Hitler, could climb into power.

Chapter III: The Internal Decay of the German Labour Movement

The World War had changed the psychology of the international working class. One might indeed speak of a mental reversion to savagery. The human being, the individual, counted for little. Only when it was lumped together into regiments, divisions and armies, it might expect to get the attention accorded to one single grain of rice in a bag. Up till then, collectively-minded socialism had taken from individualistically-minded liberalism its humanitarian notions – its respect for the right of the human being as such. Now there was a danger of a barren barrack-like collectivism developing, which contemptuously ignored the rights of man. For several years human lives had been destroyed by machine methods; all the world over people had got used to reading day by day of thousands of killed and wounded; sensibilities had been blunted, people had lost the capacity to feel for the individual victim. That resulted in a general callousness. The soullessness of modern labour, which had reached its climax in consequence of the rationalisation, became the outstanding feature of the whole period. In every sphere of life the same tendency to the massive, the heaped-up, the organised and soulless, was noticeable. Everywhere mechanisation and rationalisation, the constant contact with automatic machines, turned a whole generation into automata, the loudspeaker overwhelmed the voice of humanity.

In Germany, during the war, a neglected, fidgety, underfed, hysterical, precocious, young generation had grown up, lacking not only in guidance but also in an inner calm and modesty, which might have induced them to learn and work out conceptions of their own. They wanted to get their views ready-made for them, like ‘reach-me-downs’. Smart and quick they got hold of socialist catchwords, then very much in fashion. Now this ‘turnip youth’ (a term reminiscent of the ‘turnip period’ of the war) living in this rationalised world, soon got into the habit of ridiculing such notions as honesty, truthfulness and loyalty, as ‘old-fashioned prejudices’.

The ideals that inspired the working-class movement before the war meant nothing to this new generation which seemed so different. The feeling of friendship and warm-hearted comradeship between the members of the party disappeared. The readiness to take up the fight against all injustice, against any oppression of man by man, wherever and in whatever form it might appear, had vanished. This generation was devoid of the sincere enthusiasm for the future free socialist commonwealth that would abolish all class distinctions, all oppression, and would guarantee to the proletariat and to mankind generally liberty of development of personality and its creative powers. It was striving only for immediate practical aims, and desired striking, simple slogans. While in prewar times every revolutionary worker had been incessantly learning, trying to become a worthy fighter for the great cause of socialism, for this postwar youth all means were good enough to attain its ends. Lies and slander, disloyalty and forgery, and the use of violence against opponents were regarded by them as legitimate weapons. They were fully convinced that the end justifies the means.

The gulf between Social Democratic and Communist conceptions widened. The growing enmity between the two sections destroyed class solidarity.

While in the Social Democratic ranks extreme revisionism predominated, according to which the ultimate object, socialism, is nothing and the ‘half-loaf’ is everything, while the Social Democrats turned from Marx to Lassalle, idealised the capitalist state, the Communists on the other hand were idealising violence and dictatorship as it materialised in Russia. Their ideal was not the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ as advocated by Marx during a short transitional period from capitalism to socialism, when the proletariat as a class uses political power in order to abolish all class distinctions, and to reorganise society on a basis of equality. Their ideal was the dictatorship of a party, its executive, its general secretary, as it developed in Russia, as a form of government for long duration based upon a strong militarised oppressive state machinery.

However, the most dangerous feature of the Communist Party of Germany was that its policy was not the result of the application of Communist principles to the changing economic and political conditions of Germany, but always followed the line taken by the governing caucus in Russia in accordance with the demands of the foreign policy of the Soviet Union. For their policy and tactics were not laid down by leaders chosen by the members of the German Communist Party, but by the department of the Russian government, the Comintern. Every team of leaders that dared to show signs of revolt was unmercifully turned out. Such ‘palace revolutions’ were frequent. Under the motto ‘Bolshevisation of the party’, all honest, thinking elements were driven out of leading positions and the party was placed under the command of a numerous corps of party officers which extended its rule also over all Communist auxiliary organisations.

The more the Stalin dictatorship oppressed the masses of the people in Russia, the more the existence of democratic liberties in neighbouring countries appeared to them as a menace. ‘It must be night where Stalin’s stars are shining.’ Consequently Moscow was carrying on a systematic struggle against the supporters of German democracy, while the friendship with the reactionary elements in Germany was as strong as it is with Mussolini. That may sound paradoxical, but an unbiased analysis of the Russian foreign policy and of the policy of the Comintern of the last decade will confirm this. All European Communist parties and their parliamentary groups are carrying out this policy, sometimes without even themselves noticing it.

At all elections, in the press, in meetings and in parliaments, the attacks of the Communists were directed chiefly against the parties of the left. The struggle against reaction seemed to them of minor importance. We need only recall to mind the curious conduct of the Communist Party during the Kapp Putsch, when they in the beginning declined to support the general strike that defeated the putsch. In this connection it is also interesting to note the friendly article by Karl Radek in Pravda, the central organ of the Russian Communist Party in those days, wherein he assured the Kapp government of the friendly cooperation of the Russian government. [38] Strangely enough, this article escaped public attention abroad. Yet from there a clear line can be traced to the negotiations between Radek and the Nazi leader Reventlow [39] during the Ruhr occupation in the Schlageter [40] case, the supply of armaments to Germany, and the friendship between the chiefs of the Red Army and the Reichswehr up to the extensive commercial relations in the first months of the Hitler rule between Stalin and Nazi Germany; relations which the inspired press tried to conceal from the poor Communists who were tortured in the Hitler hell.

In theory the Communists advocate a clear anti-national point of view. They do not divide mankind vertically into nations, but horizontally into classes. The worker has no country, he therefore has to consider every question solely from the point of view of the interest of the working class, which is identical in all countries. In international conflicts the question has to be decided in each case whether the workers of a given country should remain neutral, or actively support their ‘own’ country or its ‘enemy’ in order to defend the class interests of the proletariat. This clear international idea of class struggle as advocated by Lenin during the World War, as practised by those German Communists who in 1918 fought in the ranks of the Red Army against Germany, leaves no room for any sentimental patriotism.

However, in reality the policy of the German Communist Party had quite a different appearance. In order to catch votes, to gain influence on unenlightened elements, yes, just to further the interests of the Russian government at the French frontier, the German Communist Party did not shrink from using nationalist slogans at times, from advocating a purely nationalist policy and even from cooperation with nationalist elements, in order to attain definite objects. We need only mention the actions of the Communists during the occupation of the Ruhr, the so-called ‘red plebiscite’ which had been initiated by the monarchist Steel Helmets jointly with the Nazis, in order to turn out of office the Prussian government made up of a coalition of the Social Democrats and the Catholic Centre. [41] At the outset the Communists had, along with the Social Democrats, opposed this plebiscite. Suddenly they received counter orders from Moscow and they immediately wheeled round, and called the fascist plebiscite a ‘red plebiscite’ and harnessed themselves as the third horse to the fascist carriage. When the Nazis began to develop into a mass movement the Communists tried to dish them by excelling them in nationalism. In their propaganda during the last elections of the Republic they made extensive use of nationalist slogans. It was a despicable race between Nazis and Communists for the palm of demagogy. When in the winter of 1932 the Nazis, out of a far-seeing counter-revolutionary policy of theirs, found it opportune during the election campaign to provoke a strike at the Berlin municipal transport institutions, in order to gain influence amongst the transport workers and thus later on to make a general strike impossible, the Communists in their blind hatred against the Social Democrats walked into the trap.

As is generally known, the parliamentary system, as a form of government, was repugnant to the Communists, who wanted to replace it by the soviet system. Nevertheless, compelled by circumstances to participate in parliamentary work, they could have used parliament to do good work by sharp but honest criticism. Instead, they took every opportunity to destroy parliament, to undermine it, to discredit it in the eyes of the people. They were the first to interfere deliberately with the work of parliament by free fights and cat-calls, thus degrading the forms of public life generally. The Nazis, who though from different motives were just as hostile to parliamentarism, need only follow the road paved by the Communists, but going the whole length when they became stronger. Consequently, Communist and Nazi tactics frequently coincided, and this always caused much justifiable indignation among the parties of the left. Less justifiable was such indignation in the case of collaboration of the two extreme parties for the securing of amnesties. Under the prevailing judiciary, which threw thousands of Communist workers into prison for long terms, while systematically protecting criminals of the right, it would be dishonest to reproach the Communists for this.

The general degradation of political usage caused by the Communists had a destructive influence on the entire political life of the country. Lies and slander in the press, systematic breaking up of meetings, disruption of labour organisations, man-handling of opponents – all this destroyed the old democratic forms of public life.

The big political mass meetings with free discussion, to which the German proletariat had been accustomed for many decades, disappeared. They were replaced by a stereotyped form of ‘demonstration’, where, with much flag-waving, stereotyped speeches of the official nominees of a party were delivered, friends and opponents being precluded from expressing any opinions. This development just suited the interests of a labour bureaucracy which estranged itself from the rank and file and which had good reason to fear public open criticism.

The same methods led to similar consequences in labour organisations not constructed on party lines, when these disruptive tactics were continued. The forming of factions by the Communists, their efforts to cause splits, the disruptive activities of their agents, had a paralysing effect on all organisations. All labour bodies became emasculated, their internal life stagnated. Here again, the consequence was an increase of power for the bureaucrats, who could now denounce every disagreeable critic as a Communist, and expel him or put him out of action. Stagnation in all labour organisations was the consequence.

Jesuitism, elevated by the Communists to a principle, their hero-worship, their admiration for violence, the confusion created by their nationalist slogans, their deliberate discrediting of parliamentarism, their practical annihilation of liberty of speech, their disruption of labour organisations – all these assisted in preparing the soil, psychologically, for fascism.

It must, however, be borne in mind that the Communist Party of Germany, though in a certain sense a road-builder for fascism, has also prepared the struggle against it. It was the Communists who kept alive in the minds of the German proletariat the idea of revolution surrendered by the Social Democrats, and emphasised the socialist aim, although not in its classical form. In their organisations, at their demonstrations, throughout their actions, there was noticeable a virile and fighting spirit for which one might search in vain at Social Democratic meetings and demonstrations. It is true that, being internally corrupt, completely dependent on the Russian foreign policy, they also failed at the decisive moment; but mitigating circumstances have to be admitted. Had the Communists, at the time of Papen’s or later Hitler’s ascent to power, placed themselves at the head of an armed mass resistance, they would have been met, not only by the storm-troops of the Nazis, as would have been the case in such an action led by the Social Democrats, but also by Severing’s police, by the Steel Helmets and the Reichswehr, while the entire middle class at home and abroad would have been seized by the fear of the spectre of Communism. And the fact that, at the present moment, the Communist Party in Germany has taken up the struggle, all along the line, with revolutionary heroism and tremendous sacrifices, shows what a sound proletarian kernel it contains.

* * *

The breakdown of German Social Democracy before the assault of the Hitler gangs can only be grasped by laying bare the cracks in the building, for long noticeable, and what caused them.

Before the war, the Marxian tendency was predominant in the German Social Democratic Party. Since their disgrace on 4 August 1914, when they voted the war credits for the Kaiser, the party had hopelessly sunk in the morass of revisionism. It veered more and more to the right until it completely lost its Marxian compass. Since then it has drifted towards the most mediocre opportunism and the shallowest reformism. It regarded its revolutionary past with a contemptuous smile as a youthful sin. For decades the theorists of revisionism had tried to prove that the Marxist theory was obsolete and outworn. They declared that as a result of the development of capitalist combination, and the growth of trusts, there would be no more crises; that the theory of the concentration of capital and the increasing proletarianisation of the masses was refuted by the increasing stability of the medium enterprises, especially in agriculture, as well as by the ‘diffusion of wealth’ through the growing number of small investors; that class antagonism, far from becoming more acute, was decreasing, that there was no pauperisation of the masses. They therefore rejected the Marxian theory of class struggle and advocated collaboration with the capitalist class.

In postwar times there was an influx into Social Democracy of new masses that were not class-conscious proletarians, coming chiefly from the civil service and the bourgeois intellectuals. These people were not revisionists – they could not wish to revise the Marxian theory, just because it was unknown to them. Thus the coalition policy became the alpha and omega of the tactics of the Social Democrats, who were more and more falling into line with the capitalist state, while their socialist aim became more and more nebulous. Dozens of ministers, hundreds of prominent permanent officials, governors of provinces, police presidents and other high officials coming from the ranks of Social Democracy and their following of middle-class job-hunters, suddenly found themselves in the administration of the capitalist state. To them it seemed that a gigantic revolution had taken place, that the state had become completely changed. However, what had changed was merely their own position in the state – for the masses of the people everything had remained as it was. To this stratum of Social Democratic new bourgeoisie, numerous influential and excessively remunerative posts in the industrial undertakings of the state and municipalities also became accessible. In the party class distinctions had arisen, and became more and more accentuated.

In all working-class organisations, a powerful bureaucratic machine sprang into existence, and with it a new class of bureaucrat. This machine possessed an extensive power. It had in its hands the entire labour press; tens of thousands of posts were available in the Reich, in the states, in the municipalities and in their numerous institutions and enterprises, in social insurance, in the cooperative societies, in innumerable offices of trade unions and other labour organisations, in editorial offices and party enterprises, in the labour clubs, bookshops, libraries and welfare institutions of the working-class movement. In bestowing these posts the influence of ‘the machine’, the ‘bureaucracy’, was decisive. Thus hundreds of thousands of people became economically dependent in one way or another on this labour bureaucracy, or they hoped by its good offices to obtain a job for themselves or for a member of their family, be it only as night-watchman or scavenger. The bureaucrats knew quite well how to turn this economic power of theirs into political power. It was they who had the last word (thanks to the proportional system) in the composition of the parliamentary groups, they who directed the policy of the labour press.

This class of bureaucrats, which was nicknamed Bonzen (bosses), clung together like the ivy on the wall. By the aid of special pension and insurance societies they helped each other in dark days, and they were always ready to hush up any delinquencies of their brethren. Intermarriage among them was common, and they were in the way of becoming an hereditary caste, as they all tried to find jobs for their sons and daughters in the machine. As regards their relationship to the organised workers, they formed a compact mass, which, by and by, developed all those features which make the German civil service so unpopular. Precisely as the bishops of the early Christian Church developed from servants of their congregations into an international machine of enormous power which has been for more than a thousand years exploiting the masses, there was beginning to develop from the ranks of those who should have been the leaders in the struggle of the proletariat a new exploiting caste, separated from the mass by a quickly widening gulf. It is characteristic that the people found for this new caste the name of Bonzen, a word used in the Middle Ages to designate priests.

This development became especially pronounced in the trade unions. These old fighting organisations of the working class were scarcely recognisable. The struggle of the masses was more and more subdued; a new economic ‘pacifism’ tried to replace strikes by compulsory arbitration and to avoid labour conflicts. The conciliation system, with its compulsory arbitration fixing unfavourable wage scales, transformed the trade unions from militant organisations of free proletarians into appendages of the capitalist state. This development conferred on the trade union ‘leaders’, who became more and more respectable, the halo of statesmen weaving secret diplomatic webs. In their luxurious palatial office buildings, with their beautiful equipment in the most modern style, an army of parasitic officials completely detached from the labour movement gathered. The total expenditure on this swallowed a very considerable part of the income of the trade unions, and the chief concern of these officials was to prevent the reduction of the funds by strikes. They used all their influence to prevent strikes. Of the old militant socialist spirit of the German trade unions no trace was left. It was characteristic that, while the most terrible crisis was raging, one of the best and most advanced of the German trade union leaders, Tarnow, [42] at the last annual conference of the German Social Democratic Party called upon the party to play the part of the doctor to cure sick capitalism, a statement which caused a storm of disgust amongst the workers. However, this declaration actually was the very quintessence of the entire policy of both German Social Democracy and the trade unions.

This huge bureaucratic machine having become an end in itself had lost all contact with the members. Plato’s aphorism of the two peoples living together but speaking different languages and unable to understand each other could be fittingly applied to the machine and the members of the German trade unions. The individual member counted for nothing. The mass of the members were regarded primarily as contributors. When in difficulty, the organised worker found a more humane attitude and more goodwill to understand his position at the municipal welfare institutions than in the shoulder-shrugging bureaucrats of his union. A characteristic case by way of illustration: a long-standing member of the Central Union of Clerks and Shop Assistants, an elderly woman who being unemployed had lived for a long time on temporary jobs, had paid for seven years the highest-scale contribution, without receiving any help of any kind. She retained her membership out of sheer loyalty. Her position got worse, so that she fell into arrears for several months. In accordance with the rules, she wrote within the prescribed period asking for postponement, and not knowing that she was required to send in her membership card failed to enclose it. She was expelled and when she complained she was told that as soon as her position improved she might rejoin as a new member, thus losing all her rights. When she told her story to a circle of trade unionists, another member of the same union exclaimed: ‘Well, you have been lucky that they have not sued you for arrears, as they usually do.’

Another instance: a member of the juvenile section of the Metal Workers Union of Frankfort, a young Social Democrat, had been unemployed for a long time, and when he was out of benefit he walked to Berlin to try his fortune there. Tired and hungry, with worn-out boots, he arrived and went to his union for assistance, hoping at least to find here a bit of warm food and a friendly reception, but he got the cold shoulder. He was told: ‘You have no further right to benefit according to the rules of the union. Go and get a job, and pay your contributions again, then you may come back.’ What was the outcome? In his despair, the boy went to the Nazi storm-troops. Here nobody asked him for documents or opinions; they gave him plenty to eat, let him rest, and gave him new boots. Only then they told him: ‘If you like, you can join us...’ The trade union bureaucrats could not see a hungry boy, they could see only their rules and regulations. A member has to pay contributions. If he cannot do that, and there is no clause in the rules according him further rights, this sucked orange will be thrown on the dump. Let the Nazis pick it up if they like. And the Nazis did pick them up – in masses...

Throughout the German working-class movement, democracy was little by little abolished, giving way to a more and more avowed dictatorship of the machine. While in the small provincial towns frequently a local democracy continued which made the central despotism more endurable, in the big towns the rights of the members were surrendered more and more to the ‘body of functionaries’, in which the number of those economically dependent in one way or another on the central body was especially big. Everywhere, the machine got control of the press; usually it also controlled the appointment of lecturers to various meetings, as well as the selection of subjects – whoever was suspected of having ideas of his own could be easily muzzled and systematically excluded from lecturing and expressing his views in the press, even on questions where there was no difference of opinion, just to prevent him from getting influence. That applied to the trade unions as well as to the party and the cultural organisations. The consequence was a degradation of the press and of the internal life of the organisations, while the meetings became devoid of life. The youngsters stayed away. In the branch meetings of the Social Democratic Party the discontented faces of elderly people noticeably predominated; they frequently offered criticism, but were powerless against the machine, which worked with the precision of an automaton. The existing latent opposition in the party could never get its own way at annual conferences. The strong parliamentary group had until lately a decisive vote without being elected as delegates, thus being available to the party caucus as ‘voting cattle’. If, in spite of all this, in any organisation a dangerous opposition appeared, it was denounced as Communist, or was arbitrarily dissolved, as was the case with the Jungsozialisten (the Young Socialists) throughout the country, or in 1932 the Spandau branch of the ‘Free-Thinking Youth’.

The trade unions, cultural and sporting societies greatly suffered from the disruptive tactics of the Communists. The Social Democratic majorities of those bodies often retaliated by expelling the Communist minorities, which in such cases formed parallel societies of their own. Thus every society with a Social Democratic bias soon had a Communist counterpart, while both continued to declare that they were organised on non-party lines.

It is essential to have a thorough acquaintance with the German working-class movement to understand the consequence of this dualism. Even in prewar times German Social Democracy had striven to extend its influence over all spheres of life of its members. A Social Democrat was discouraged from joining any colourless bourgeois society. All his aspirations should be satisfied by his movement, even when they consisted of hiking, fishing, singing, sport of any kind, the study of languages, shorthand or chess. Freed from the pressure of the old regime, this network of societies and groups spread, and, wherever possible, juvenile and children’s sections were formed. The fact that in the first years after the war the political working-class movement was split up into three parts – the Social Democrats, the Independent Social Democrats, and the Communists – made the non-party form of these societies appear the natural one. Now this network of societies broke into two parts, a stronger Social Democratic one and a livelier Communist one. Thus for the politically unorganised worker to join any of these societies or sports clubs actually meant a tacit choice between the Social Democratic and the Communist tendencies. As a result the gulf was widened. The position of those elements consciously standing between the two parties became increasingly difficult.

In the guerrilla fighting of this fratricidal struggle the Communists, as the attacking party, often introduced the most despicable methods. The Social Democrats at first were highly indignant about it, but soon tried to copy them. However, while the Communists could justify the use of dictatorial methods, as being in harmony with their conceptions, the Social Democrats, who stood for democracy, in using dictatorial and autocratic methods put themselves in a false position, thus creating confusion among the workers, and disillusionment among their own members. As a consequence, the leading circles of societies under Social Democratic influence were scared of any kind of opposition, however constructive, of any different opinion, of any new idea, of any free word. Frequently, under such circumstances, they refrained for months and years from calling members’ meetings, replacing them at best by open lectures without any possibility of discussion. The limit was reached in this direction by the Social Democratic Secular School Society, which split without consulting the members. In some cases, functionaries and delegates were appointed from above. Finally, lectures and contributors to the party press were not recognised as functionaries, and were thus excluded from participating in the meetings of functionaries called to decide matters of policy.

Thus the Social Democratic masses were also psychologically prepared for dictatorship. The suspension of parliament by the Brüning government, governing by decrees setting aside parliament, accustomed the masses in the country to the methods of dictatorship. So yet another ladder was set up for a Papen, a Schleicher and a Hitler to climb to power.

The Social Democrats were living on the mistakes of the Communists, and the Communists on the mistakes of the Social Democrats. There was much swinging from side to side among the electors of the two parties – they were not satisfied by either of them. Even among the membership there was much fluctuation; the number of those who had crossed over and come back was by no means small. As regards the Communists, the fluctuation reached at times over 50 per cent of their membership. Large masses were and remained unsatisfied, many of them sank into apathy, or they left general politics alone, and devoted themselves to a special branch of cultural or similar work.

* * *

Under these circumstances, it would seem strange that between the two parties a third alternative did not evolve. Attempts at this were made, but they never succeeded. Various groups which had been expelled from time to time from the Communist Party sank into the quicksands of a barren political sectarianism, devouring each other in academic quarrels. When one of these groups was financially strong enough to run a daily paper, Arbeiterpolitik, [43] it remained without any influence whatsoever on the working class. About two years before the Hitler disaster, when an expelled Social Democratic opposition group tried to form a new party, their attempt aroused much interest, and attracted a considerable number of discontented youths. However, after a few weeks, the larger part of these youths were disillusioned and rejoined the old organisation. The new Socialist Workers Party, [44] strengthened numerically by the entry of a section of dissident Communists but morally weakened by the formation of factions, soon became the scene of endless internal strife, and, in spite of very valuable proletarian elements, it soon led the shadowy existence of a hair-splitting sect. It united the faults of both the Social Democratic and the Communist Parties. The wide gulf that splits the German working-class movement went right through that party.

All groups and factions with anarchist leanings remained also without influence. It is true they rendered a service in creating in many places possibilities for discussion, where open-minded workers of different creeds could honestly discuss political and theoretical questions. But their own views did not gain ground among the masses. In the German Republic the state appeared to the workers more as a welfare institution than as a means of oppression. This made them little susceptible to anarchistic ideas.

Chapter IV: The Crisis

The outbreak of the world crisis ought to have shown to everybody the correctness of the Marxian theory. The productive forces had outgrown the economic framework. Starvation and misery prevailed because too much food, too many goods, had been produced.

The present crisis is different from the crises of the nineteenth century, not only in its dimensions, but also in its essence. It is not simply one of the recurrent capitalist crises, it is a crisis of capitalism itself. In the nineteenth century the raising of the standard of living of the workers in consequence of the victorious onslaught of the trade unions, the creation of new demands, the acquisition of new markets, the capitalist absorption of new countries, still made a certain adjustment to keep pace in some degree with the rapid development of the productive forces. And when there were no further markets to conquer, no new territories to be brought into line, there came the World War. And it hastened the economic development of what had been colonial countries, thus turning them from markets into competitors.

In the postwar period, the enormous power accumulated by the trusts, and the weakness of the trade unions, hampered the development of the internal market; there was no rapid rise in the wage level necessary for an increased purchasing-power. In addition to that, steam power, which had given employment to many hands, was displaced by labour-saving electricity, and this, together with the increasing mechanisation and rationalisation of the enterprises, brought about a quick increase in the number of unemployed. [45] The purchasing-power of the masses decreased, consumption declined, and the consequence was a crisis of unprecedented dimensions.

One might think that, in such circumstances, the masses would flock round the Marxian theory, or rather round those organisations that advocated it. However, the contrary happened. The objective factors for a social change were mature, yet the subjective factors were missing. The oft-repeated idea that the crisis, with its increased mass misery, would have a revolutionising effect and just lead automatically to socialism again proved wrong, as it had so often done before. The well-worn joke of Bernard Shaw: ‘Socialism would long ago have arrived, were it not for the socialists’, assumed a very modern and sinister meaning.

The two working-class parties which should have been a support to the masses sinking into misery, which ought to have shown them a clear aim, and rally them round their banner in a struggle for that aim, failed, and they had to fail. A big moment had found little minds. The machines of the Social Democratic organisations that had become respectable recoiled from revolutionary aims. As the ancient Christians, when they became respectable, had done with the ‘millennium’, they would have liked to put off the ‘socialist commonwealth’ into another world beyond the grave. Unwillingness to proclaim the socialist order as the object of a revolutionary struggle of the present day made them timid and uncertain in face of the masses. For the same reason they could not resolve on energetic action for drastic palliatives that might cure unemployment for a time (a thirty-hour week, the raising of the school age, etc). Instead, they crept under the wings of reaction, seeking protection. As regards the Communist Party executive, they failed to take their own revolutionary socialist phrases seriously, and they acted merely as agents of the Russian state interests. Thus the social and economic crisis could not but lead to a political crisis, and this in a reactionary, not in a revolutionary, direction.

A general cultural and social decline set in; the period of cultural and social advance under Social Democratic leadership closed; the downfall of the government of Hermann Müller [46] in the spring of 1930, which died from the poison of the reactionary snake it had cherished in its own bosom, was the turning-point.

The Reichswehr clique, together with big industry, always ready for wage cuts, who just now had in their hands the reins of the old war-horse Hindenburg, managed to get together the ‘Cabinet of the Front-Soldiers’, under Brüning’s leadership. Its first attempt to lower the standard of living of the masses by an emergency order was wrecked by the two proletarian parties in the Reichstag, but in the following election campaign the Social Democrats failed to find their way to the hearts of the masses. They did not show any inspiring aim, nor any visible way out of the mud, nor did they call upon the masses to exert all their strength for the defence of liberty and democracy. Their chief concern was how they would work together with the Catholic Centre Party in the new Reichstag. No wonder that a part of their electors went over to the Communists. But in this election, for the first time, a new power earnestly competed for working-class votes – the Nazis.

The capitalists had recognised the danger of this crisis, and were looking for sheep’s clothing to dress their wolves in, so that they might get near to the workers. They showed themselves open-handed as regards finance for Nazi propaganda, and the American magnates of capital, who were annoyed about the German social legislation, were not stingy. The six million votes that the Nazis received were a foreboding of coming storm. The terror with which the Social Democrats were stricken did not turn them back, but led them on to the disastrous road of a toleration of Brüning, throwing them in the end into the moral abyss of the Hindenburg election. For, just as in 1918, the Social Democrats did not now dare to trust themselves and their Republic to a mass action of the proletariat. They turned rather to the right, whereby in the end they completely sawed off the branch on which they sat. Thus Social Democracy was compelled as the serf of its overlord to demolish, stone by stone, the proud building of the democratic Republic, the work of its own hands. The rights of parliament, the liberty of the press, the wage level, social insurance, unemployment benefit, municipal self-government – all this was systematically crippled by way of emergency orders, and the responsibility for all the deeds of the Brüning government was thrust on to the shoulders of Social Democracy in the eyes of the workers. ‘The Brüning government is the most hated government, and with it Social Democracy’, declared a Neukölln Social Democrat in a meeting of functionaries.

Simultaneously with this, a similar process was going on in the municipalities, and here again the responsibility rested on the Social Democrats. The crippling of the social welfare services, affecting millions of proletarians, and especially youth, at the time when these services were the last hope of the masses sinking into poverty, synchronised with cuts in the municipal expenditure on education, which hit them no less hard. School feeding was cut down, children’s holiday homes were closed, school excursions were abolished, the number of children in a class increased, the medical school service was restricted, textbooks and stationery were refused, teachers dismissed. Everything the unemployed man had been brought to regard as his and his children’s right, in times of emergency was to be taken away from him. However, the excessive salaries of the directors of municipal enterprises remained intact for a considerable time. That might appear to be of little consequence to the municipal budget, but the psychological effect on the masses was by no means insignificant.

The number of unemployed grew. In Germany the crisis raged worse than in any other country. The war and the inflation had already created a strong slum proletariat. The elements who, after the war, failed to find their way back into civil life were joined by the declassed of the lower middle class who were ruined in the inflation. These elements were discontented; they had no ideology of their own, at one time they held the Allies responsible for their position, at another the Republic, and they were longing for the flesh-pots which in the time of Wilhelm their families had possessed. Now, ever-new masses of proletarians, declassed by unemployment, were in danger of sinking into the slum proletariat. Hundreds of thousands of skilled workers, up till now well paid, suddenly found themselves consigned to constant unemployment, robbed of their economic power without hope of an improvement in the near future. The dividing-line between proletariat and slum proletariat threatened to disappear; instead, a gulf began to appear between employed and unemployed. In a most difficult position were the juveniles, who had scarcely entered the process of production before they were unemployed. They were resentful, and, inexperienced as they were, they were searching for a way of escape.

Not less discontented were the peasants, who had to look on while Junkers, like Oldenburg-Januschan, Count Kalkreuth and Hindenburg, grew fat on ‘Osthilfe’ subsidies, while they themselves got only pence, or nothing. Large numbers of farms were sold up and that led to spontaneous riots, whereby the unfortunate auctioneer got at times a good hiding, until nobody dared any more to make a bid.

Under such circumstances there was no lack of inflammable material. Large masses of despairing people were searching for a new ideology for comfort and hope. The working-class movement had failed. Social Democracy had no influence on these declassed. The Communists with their violent phrases and their revolutionary romanticism were nearer to them. But neither could they hold this shifting mob, though most of them had at some time passed through one or other of the Communist organisations. Many of them tried the Church, the Salvation Army or other religious sects. But there again they did not find what they wanted. Peculiar things happened. An expectation of a Messiah gripped large numbers of people. Business-like prophets seized their opportunity. One of them, a man named Weissenberg, [47] who pretended to cure sick people by anointing them with cream cheese, attained power and got rich. Fanatical crowds hung on his words; his little paper Der Weise Berg, in which he wrote senseless stuff, had a large circulation. One had a feeling of having awakened in the Middle Ages, or rather in the time of the decaying Roman Empire.

The growing Nazi movement understood how to take advantage of this widespread longing for a saviour, and some of them proclaimed Hitler as a ‘second Christ'; the ‘Heil Hitler’ had an electric effect and made the mediocre figure of the Bavarian soldier from Austria appear, in the imagination of his followers, as a hero and a saint. At last, here in real life, as in a trashy novel, there was a case of a nonentity playing the part of a great hero. And he played it well.

The cunning politicians who stood unseen behind Hitler did not overlook the economic or the military side of the movement they had fostered. They let the successful mob-orator Hitler promise everything to everybody – to the peasants high prices; to the workers cheap bread; to the landlords high rents; to the poor people cheap flats; to the small shopkeepers the abolition of the cooperative societies and large stores; to the consumer cheap commodities; in a word, to everybody the fulfilment of his heart’s desire. They had leaflets distributed to the unemployed, with nebulous reactionary contents, but purely Communist language, as well as new reactionary words for well-known socialist songs. They were wallowing in money and used it to establish barracks, where they kept mercenaries bought for two marks a day, giving them shelter, nourishing food prepared by the Nazi women hordes, and brown uniforms.

The state looked on in inaction. It had proscribed the Communist Rote Frontkämpfer-Bund; here it failed. Hitler’s Brown army, the storm-troops, was growing and growing. It was well armed and knew how to use its arms. Political collisions and street fighting became daily occurrences. Social Democrats and Communists were never sure of their lives; at any street corner they might be attacked by armed Brownshirts and mown down. Even at home they were not safe. The fact that the Social Democrats nevertheless failed to arm their defensive organisation, the Reichsbanner, effectively, which worked in close contact with the Prussian police, and could have counted on its arsenals, is not an honourable page in their history. Generally speaking, the Reichsbanner was trained exclusively for the defensive and was devoid of all initiative, in contradistinction to the Rote Frontkämpfer-Bund, which was armed within limits, trained for street fighting, and imbued with a very militant spirit. Against the latter, even when the Nazis were more numerous, they were knocked out, provided that republican police did not come to the rescue in time. The Stahlhelm, in reality merely an illegal section of the Reichswehr, seldom participated in these fights. The police, whose chiefs were Social Democrats, took no serious measures against the Brown gangs, while being very energetic against the Communists. It tried to prevent, as much as possible, street fighting between political opponents, to separate the fighters, occasionally to disarm small groups, but it never took any systematic action against the Brownshirts. Had these Brown gangs met with serious resistance and been forced into the defensive, they would soon have dispersed – only against opponents who showed no fight were they brave fellows.

With these mercenary hordes, Hitler would never have been able to gain power through an armed rising; the constitutional way appeared more reliable. After all, the elements for a successful counter-revolution were already present. There were the monarchist President Hindenburg, the Reichswehr command who were keen to enter politics, the reactionary officials, the monarchist nationalist judges, the reactionary capitalist parties, the impotent, discredited parliament, the Präsidial-Kabinett (President’s Cabinet – a cabinet dependent more on the confidence of the President than on parliament), which could at any moment be dismissed by a stroke of the President’s pen; Big Industry, with its millions and powerful press. So there was a wide field of manoeuvre. When the curtain had fallen on the parliamentary stage, those cliques who were acting behind the scenes gained the mastery. Why should the wire-pullers who had put a Brüning on the stage not be able to replace him by a Papen, a Schleicher, a Hitler? Of course, it still remained to arrange for a reliable claque.

An enormous propaganda apparatus was set to work; an army of agitators and scribes led an energetic attack against the ‘system’. A magic word this – the reactionaries of all shades meant the democratic Republic by it; the hungry masses, however, understood by it the capitalist system, which they held responsible for their starvation, while caring little for the democratic Republic. Now the task was to make use of the rage of the masses directed against capitalism, and divert it for the struggle against democracy. Their slogans – against the ‘system’, against the ‘bosses’, later on against ‘the government of the fine gentlemen’ – that is to say, slogans appealing to class hatred, served the purpose. Here, the nationalist slogans served only to increase the confusion. Greater was their effect in other circles – among the middle-class youth, among numerous relics of the officers and petty officers of the Kaiser’s time, among those elements of the officials who came from the Militaranwärter (ex-non-commissioned officers rewarded by state employment), as well as among the declassed coming from the middle class. These last, especially, squeezed out of all class communion, were clinging to nationalism, which seemed to offer them a new spiritual home.

The next objective was the Prussian government, the most important bulwark of the Weimar Republic. For fourteen years the Social Democratic Party had made every imaginable concession to the Centre and the other middle parties, in order to keep the Prussian government, and therefore the Prussian police, in their own hands. And they really had succeeded in keeping in their hands during the whole period the positions of the Prussian Prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior, and the Berlin Police President, as well as many other police and administrative posts in the provinces. At the same time, they had been striving to republicanise the police from the bottom upwards. The crisis, with the general disintegration which it brought in its train, was undermining the position of the Prussian government. Thus the storming of Prussia was made easier for the reaction. The old middle-class parties were rapidly shrinking, while the Nazis grew stronger from election to election.

Finally, Nazis and Stahlhelm joined forces for a storm attack on the Prussian government, attempting to bring about its downfall by a plebiscite in August 1931, though the electoral period of the Prussian Diet was already nearing its end. As we have before mentioned, the Communists had by order from Moscow lent to the Nazis and Stahlhelm their assistance, though they could not fail to see that a downfall of the Prussian government at this juncture must needs help reaction into the saddle. It is true large sections of the Communists declined to participate in this treasonable action, the plebiscite received only nine million votes and so failed to overthrow the Prussian government, but it weakened the Communist Party, thus proving after all an asset to reaction.

The crisis deepened and the growing despair of the masses had to assert itself politically. The emergency orders of the Brüning government fell on the starving masses like so many blows. The Brown flood rose. The capitalist parties melted like snow. Both Social Democrats and Communists saw only the beam in each other’s eye, but neither of them chose to notice the not less prominent beam in his own eye. Instead of standing together against the common foe, they carried on a desperate fratricidal war.

One election campaign chased another – more and more the workers were thrown back on the defensive. When Hindenburg’s term of office was drawing to a close, there was danger that Hitler might be elected in his place. Instead of using the opportunity to unite all the forces of the proletariat in one clear common action, while the Communists insisted on a candidate of their own, the Social Democrats put all their hopes on the idea of chasing the devil Hitler by Beelzebub Hindenburg. Their electors maintained their discipline, and a coalition ranging from the Social Democrats to the big capitalist German People’s Party carried through, on 10 April 1932, the re-election of Hindenburg, who received nineteen million votes. Some naive leaders of the Socialist International congratulated German Social Democracy on its ‘victory’. Yet, when these good wishes arrived in Berlin, Hindenburg’s treason had already become evident. He did not repeat his oath on the constitution – servile legal authorities declared the taking of the oath again to be unnecessary. Neither the Social Democrats nor the Communists attempted to make him repeat it, or to draw the attention of the people to this breach of the constitution. They let him alone, though they could not fail to understand the significance of this, taking into consideration the character of the old soldier. Now, in the hands of a reactionary clique, Hindenburg was completely degraded into a puppet.

In the following election campaigns – the election to the Prussian Diet on 24 April 1932, and the three elections to the Reichstag rapidly following one another on 31 July 1932, 6 November 1932 and finally on 5 March 1933 – while ever-new crowds of indifferent electors were brought to the ballot-box, both the working-class parties failed to show a practical way out of the crisis, to inspire the poverty-stricken despairing masses with new hope and courage, and rally them to the struggle for a brighter future. The Communists repeated their old worn-out slogans and directed their attack mainly against the Social Democratic Party, while the contented Social Democratic bureaucrats could not find a common language with the suffering masses of the people. They desired to preserve the existing political and social order – the masses were eager to trample it down and pull it to pieces.

At the Social Democratic election meetings, mostly taking one monotonous form of ‘demonstrations’, gloom reigned supreme. There was a palpable gulf between speakers and audiences. There was much dissension even over the mode of address. In a meeting in Saxony, Severing, one of the biggest guns of the Social Democratic Party, was shouted down when he commenced: ‘Ladies and gentlemen’ – a few days later Hitler spoke in the same hall, addressing the meeting: ‘German men and women’, and was cheered. In many Social Democratic meetings the speakers would repeat the Nazi formula Volksgenossen, inspiring the socialist audiences with contempt. These external trivialities showed how wide the cleft between leaders and masses had grown.

Instead of an incisive criticism of the capitalist system and the policy of the government, anxiously awaited by the masses; instead of demanding drastic measures against unemployment and misery; instead of holding out a prospect of a bright socialist future, the Social Democratic apologists generally confined themselves to a purely negative criticism of the contradictory programme of the Nazis, and to a rejection of the Communist slogans. Their positive proposals seemed petty and insufficient, or gave the impression of no more than pious hopes, since there was the feeling that there was no serious intention of immediate action behind it.

In these exciting times the branch meetings presented a similar picture. The appointment of speakers as well as the selection of subjects was in the hands of indifferent employees at party offices, the slaves of red tape. A Social Democratic woman lecturer complained to us that she had been asked to address a Berlin women’s meeting on ‘Socialism in the Family’ just before the breakdown... The youth ignored these meetings. The elderly people, bound up with the party for a lifetime, remained sulkily in their seats. It brought to mind Heinrich Heine’s little story of the two old people who from their childhood had been used to praying before the image of a saint painted in glowing colours in a niche. Now the image had faded, the niche was in ruins – unmindful of this, they continued to pray.

If one further considers that, up to the very height of the present crisis, one would search in the Social Democratic press in vain not only for socialist ideas, but even for the word socialism, then there can be no wonder at such a lack of enthusiasm.

Still, the fact must be emphasised that however great might be the turnover between Social Democrats and Communists, the Nazis for a long time failed to make any breach in the Marxist front. The increase in the Nazi vote came in the first place from the bourgeois parties, and also from people who had never before taken the trouble to vote.

After the Prussian elections on 24 April 1932, the Nazis became the strongest party in Prussia. However, with the German Nationalist Party and the German People’s Party added together, they still had no majority. There generally was no working majority in the Diet. There was only a negative majority. No majority could have been formed without either the Communists or the Nazis. The Communists with the Nazis and the other reactionary parties carried a vote of censure and turned out the coalition government led by the Social Democrat Braun. [48] The government tendered their resignation, but remained in office as an interregnum government until a new government could be formed, in accordance with the constitution. This short-sighted action of the Communists greatly weakened the government for the approaching struggle, and this is the only excuse that the Prussian government can urge for its disgraceful behaviour in the decisive hour. The Communists, however, were not yet satisfied with their laurels – together with the Nazis they demanded in the Diet the immediate removal of the government, whereby the road would have been open to the Nazis. Really, the proletariat were on the horns of a dilemma, having to choose between the criminal short-sightedness of the noisy Communists and the criminal weakness of the Social Democratic ‘statesmen’. No wonder that, in these circumstances, large numbers of electors lost their heads, and like a flock of sheep at a fire, deprived of the bell-wether, ran right into the flames of Nazism.

The critical hour came nearer and nearer. In the Reich, the Brüning cabinet was kicked out, although it had a majority in the Reichstag. Its place was taken by the ‘Cabinet of the Barons’, led by von Papen, a cabinet that had almost the whole Reichstag opposed to it. It was understood that the first act of this cabinet would be the dissolution of the Reichstag. Yet the Reichstag would have still had the power to vote it down and so compel the Nazis to show their hand, thus tearing off the mask from these demagogues. However, here the Social Democratic President of the Reichstag failed, and with him failed also the constitutional parties – instead of voting down the government, the Reichstag tamely submitted to be sent home by von Papen, and this without the fixing of a date for a new election. Only after some vacillation, 31 July was fixed for a general election.

Thus, on the one hand there was the Prussian interregnum government, which, although it had been voted down by a Diet with a strong Nazi element in it, still kept a firm grip on the Prussian police – on the other hand, the Reich government led by von Papen, whose constitutional standing was very questionable, together with President Hindenburg, only recently re-elected with nineteen million votes, but who had already, since then, been guilty of two breaches of the constitution, and the generals of the Reichswehr – these opposing forces were confronting each other. Papen could, in case of need, rely also on the Steel Helmets and Nazi storm-troops; the Prussian government could rely on their police, the Social Democratic Party, the Social Democratic auxiliary organisations, the trade unions, and the Reichsbanner – in case of actual hostilities, perhaps also on the Communist masses.

In this situation, balancing the forces on both sides, it was by no means clear from the outset who would arrest whom. Just this moment was the time chosen by the Social Democratic Prime Minister, Otto Braun, for a holiday. His place was taken by the Welfare Minister Hirtsiefer, [49] leader of the Catholic trade unions, with the support of the Minister of Internal Affairs, Severing, the ‘strong man’ of the Social Democratic Party. To the latter all eyes were now turned.

* * *

On the morning of 20 July 1932, Papen invited Severing to a conference. He told him that for the sake of law and order, a Commissar of the Reich was to be put in the place of the Prussian government, and called upon him to surrender his affairs in a spirit of goodwill, as otherwise he would be obliged to declare a state of siege. Severing indignantly rejected the insolent demand. He declared that only by force could he be removed from office, and left the conference under protest. Papen immediately proclaimed an order of the President, based on the notorious Article 48 of the constitution, declaring that the Prussian government was dismissed and Papen appointed Commissar of the Reich for Prussia. Papen relegated his powers to the Mayor of Essen, Bracht, [50] a member of the right wing of the Catholic Party. At the same time a second proclamation announced martial law in Berlin and appointed General Stülpnagel [51] as commander of Berlin.

In the city, which was in the throes of a violent election campaign, these proclamations, published by special editions of the papers, fell like a thunderbolt. Holding their breath, the people looked now to the Prussian Ministry of the Interior, where Severing was sitting, now to the Wilhelmstrasse, where Papen resided. [52] Motor cars filled with Reichswehr soldiers were patrolling the streets. Everywhere discussions were to be heard on the question whether the Prussian police or the Reichswehr were superior in street fighting. Bills were posted up inviting people to election meetings that had been arranged for that evening in all parts of the city.

Rumours sprang up – the police were called out – the Reichsbanner was mobilising, the police were arming the Reichsbanner. Every little detachment of the Reichsbanner that happened to be passing called attention, caused comment and gave rise to fresh rumours. All were waiting for further developments.

A special edition of the papers announced the dismissal of the Berlin police president, Grzesinsky, [53] and the vice-president, Dr Weiss, [54] by General Stülpnagel. Grzesinsky had refused to recognise the order, declaring that he would accept orders only from the Minister of the Interior. Thereupon an officer of the Reichswehr with four men appeared at the Alexanderplatz and arrested the two officials, taking them like sheep from the midst of their well-armed and entirely loyal police, while their subordinates, whom they were unwilling to order to resist, looked on in tears. The masses stood aghast, stunned, unable to understand. What would Severing do? In still greater excitement, they turned their attention to the Minister of the Interior. Surely Severing must have some deep scheme? Police patrol cars rushed through the streets. What is the Executive of the Social Democratic Party doing? With great excitement people waited for the evening meetings.

It was said the famous lawyer Alsberg [55] had been instructed to defend the two arrested police presidents and that he immediately went to the military officers’ prison where they were detained. However, he came too late. The gentlemen had been released after two hours’ detention. (The fact that this release was due to the two heroes signing, even before the arrival of their lawyer, an undertaking to refrain from performing their duties, was not yet known.)

Meanwhile, the newly-appointed Deputy Commissar of the Reich, Bracht, had come to Severing and had demanded the surrender of affairs. But Severing had declared that he would give way only to force. Suddenly the news became known. Herr Bracht had appeared again to Severing accompanied by the new-made police president, Melchior, and a few soldiers of the Reichswehr, who, however, remained outside – to this ‘show of force’ Severing had surrendered, and had retired into his private rooms, which had been graciously left to him. [56]

Nobody was willing to believe it. Yet it proved to be true...

What next?

People streamed into the meetings. Agitated audiences were sitting at Social Democratic meetings waiting. Sellers offering the recently introduced badge with the three arrows found many customers. Everywhere, inside and outside the halls, fists were raised on high with the greeting: ‘Freiheit!’ ('Freedom!’)

Finally the chairman’s bell sounded. The speaker stood up. Expectation was on all faces. All eyes were on him. But soon expectation subsided – what came were the old well-worn shibboleths. Between the speaker and the audience a barrier arose. What he had to say on the events of this historic day seemed shallow. The prospect, the conclusions one had come to hear, were absent. No word of a general strike, nothing about the calling out of the Reichsbanner, no appeal to the republican police. Nothing about struggle – only law, order, discipline. Such music the workers had not expected.

Was this the last act of the drama? It was stated that the Executive of the Social Democratic Party were holding an important meeting. Their decision was still outstanding. To this hope people clung. It is true that the meeting had been a wet blanket. All high hopes had evaporated – still, the party Executive was deliberating, the decision was yet to come.

In the large works, the workers waited all night for the order for a general strike. The Communists, during the night, distributed an illegal leaflet calling for a general strike, in support of the very government whose dismissal they had so recently violently demanded in company with the Nazis. However, they had so often called for general strikes that nobody took their calls seriously, they themselves included. Everybody ignored the cry of ‘Wolf!’

And the Social Democrats? Long was the decision awaited. When it became known, it read: ‘Our reply will be given at the election on 31 July.’

The brave old Duke of York
He had ten thousand men,
He led them up to the top of the hill,
And he led them down again.

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. The twentieth of July 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.

The election campaign continued its weary way. Reaction triumphed all along the line. In small towns and villages, the Nazis imposed a violent terrorism on the electors. The elections indeed brought an answer – the negative answer of the electors to the failure of the working-class parties. From this election the Nazis emerged as the strongest party of the Reichstag. Their votes had mounted up to thirteen millions, so that they obtained 230 seats, while the Social Democrats had got only seven million votes and 121 seats. However, even in such a parliament, the Papen government could not long hold its power. By its subsidies to the rich, and its robbery of the poor, as well as by its threats against all remaining political liberties, it aroused against itself such hatred among the people that the Nazis dared not much longer vote for it. With a majority of four-fifths, the Reichstag voted against it. It dissolved the Reichstag, but the new election on 6 November 1932 brought little change. In this election, the Nazis experienced their first set-back, losing thirty-five seats. That was the answer of the electors for their underhanded support of the Papen government.

Soon after his ascent to power, Papen had withdrawn the prohibition against the Nazi uniform. The Nazis felt themselves to be the masters of the situation and began to exercise an unbearable terror. Every day there were dead and wounded. In the working-class districts of the big towns they had to be careful of showing themselves, but in smaller places and in outer suburbs their murder gangs had nearly a free hand. The beastly murder at Potempa in Upper Silesia soon found many imitations. Hitler himself had praised and identified himself with the bloody bandits who had in the middle of the night torn an inoffensive worker from his bed, slaying him in a brutal manner in the poor home of his old mother. In Eastern Prussia, too, there were people anxious to earn such praise from their leader. The week of terror at Königsberg and its neighbourhood called forth the indignation of the civilised world. But the same terror was raging everywhere, though in a lesser degree. Its climax was reached on election day, 31 July.

The workers, ignoring party quarrels, joined hands for defensive action. In many factories, in many villages, and especially in the proletarian outer suburbs, defensive bodies spontaneously sprang up. In accordance with the character of the district, these bodies were organised either on party lines, or jointly. But in either case there was close contact. An extensive system of alarm signals within a given area, or for calling for help from a neighbouring area, was worked out. Night patrols were instituted. Every ‘red’ dweller in the huts on the outskirts of Germany’s big towns kept axe and spade ready by his bed (if he had no revolver). Knocks with the hammer on a washing-tub or on a piece of hanging iron rail were the means of signalling. Everybody tried to get at the political complexion of his neighbour. All who were ‘red’ stood together. Within the settlement, the district or the village, the ‘united front’ had become a fact. Blood was still flowing, but the feeling of helplessness vanished, thanks to the neighbourly solidarity of all those who were threatened. The party Executives of both Communist and Social Democratic Parties disliked this development. They tried hard to keep these defensive bodies, whose appearance they could not prevent, under party control, and on purely party lines. The Social Democratic Party, especially, tried to dissolve them as soon as things seemed to quieten down after the election.

The masses vigorously demanded a united front. But the two bureaucratic party machines were united only in the rejection of a united front. The Social Democratic Party had, together with the trade unions, the Reichsbanner and other auxiliary organisations, already united in the ‘Iron Front’, forming in works and factories groups called Hammerschaften. Now they simply declared that the Iron Front was the United Front! The Communist Party, on the other hand, paid lip-service to the United Front, but they clouded the idea by talking about a ‘united front from below’, a manoeuvre which amounted to asking the Social Democratic workers to quit their leaders and join the Communist organisation. This manoeuvre they accompanied by a fusillade of abuse against the Social Democratic Party.

It was perfectly clear that the united front could grow only out of common action. But that was just the difficulty, because all Communist actions were in some way or another directed against Social Democracy, while the Social Democratic leaders had as great a dread of real mass action as the devil has of holy water – under such conditions common action was unattainable. The Social Democrats propounded a curious plan. They wanted to replace the popular idea of a united front, for which the masses were clamouring, by a proposal for a ‘non-aggression treaty’. That meant in reality that the Social Democrats would do nothing, and the Communists would not attack them for it. 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.

However great the divergence of principles between Social Democrats and Communists, considering the common class interest in face of the common foe, as well as the existing balance of power, they ought to have established a united defensive front. But instead of jointly beating the enemy they apparently preferred to be separately beaten.

In face of a proletariat so eagerly carrying on a fratricidal struggle, and so weakened in its power of resistance, the Papen government could keep in power. It was not the masses who brought about Papen’s downfall, not even the Reichstag – the Papen government was kicked out by intrigues behind the scenes, where the War Minister, Schleicher, kept the wires in his hands. This general now decided to leave the darkness behind the scenes, and appear on the stage as the Chancellor.

* * *

General Schleicher is a unique figure in German politics, a figure whose part is probably not yet played out. A reactionary of the purest water, who, however, is by no means narrow-minded, and is prepared to learn from everybody: a clever far-seeing militarist. His ideal is an enlightened social militarist state. He was searching for a way to utilise the militarist element contained in Communism for his purposes, and to create for his aims a broad mass foundation in the trade unions. He understood that capitalism in its classical form was played out. Therefore he desired to build up his enlightened military despotism on a foundation of state capitalism.

With broad-mindedness unheard of in Germany, Schleicher attempted to draw to himself all the brains of the country, without caring in the least which camp they came from. From the War Ministry (whose organ was the Tägliche Rundschau) he spun his invisible threads which ran together in the Tatkreis, [57] a circle of political personalities of widely varying political creeds. Here all shades of opinion were represented, from far-seeing industrialists and military specialists to trade union leaders and Communist intellectuals; behind the scenes there were the strangest interconnections.

Like Hitler, Schleicher also aimed at utilising the anti-capitalist driving-power of the masses, diverting it from its natural course. But while Hitler as an uncouth slave of capital desired to beat down opposition by brute force and unlimited demagogy, Schleicher was busy spinning a finer web into which he was cleverly weaving tendencies and currents prevailing in the working-class movement, a web which he hoped would prove more durable. While the Hitler movement with its rough hooligan mentality remained entirely negative, trampling down everything cultural, and always destructive, Schleicher had far-reaching constructive schemes designed to save capitalist society by reforming it in the direction of a sort of state capitalism. Anti-revolutionary-minded labour bureaucrats, whom he tried to win, and not without success, seemed to him the most valuable collaborators in his task.

Schleicher’s economic schemes in agriculture were directed to taking over the bankrupt estates, and to dividing them into small holdings, where cooperative machinery and a combination of agricultural and industrial labour should play a part. The War Ministry therefore tried to get into contact with theorists on the agrarian question of all shades of opinion, especially with those of the Communist peasant movement and nationalist Landvolk movement. [58] In industry Schleicher thought of utilising the influence gained by the state by the granting of loans and guarantees to the banks, in order to exercise pressure on big industry for the purpose of a kind of planned industry under state control. Here his idea coincided with the German trade unions, on whose machinery he wanted to lean. Between them there were already secretly established very close relations, which found expression in the patriotic speeches of the President of the German Federation of Trade Unions, Leipart. [59]

The so-called ‘socialist action’ of the Social Democratic Party and the trade unions with their ‘planned industry’ hardly went much farther than Schleicher’s dreams. However, the brutal magnates of capital, whose real representative was Papen, as well as the brutal East Elbian Junkers, found the brutal methods of a Hitler more to their liking than the finely-woven nets of the clever general. [60]

Behind the scenes a severe struggle was going on. The many attempts made up till now to put Hitler by hook or by crook into power had failed. The Centre Party manoeuvred. In the Prussian Diet it elected the Nazi, Kerrl, [61] as President. It wished to keep all doors open, and not to break with anyone, in the face of this doubtful future. This ‘Pillar of the Republic’ did its best to recommend itself as a useful support to the coming power, whatever it might be.

The masses were seething with excitement; both Social Democrats and Communists were grievously disappointed with their leaders. Nevertheless, they could not break away from the old ties. There were many demonstrations of mutual sympathy between the two parties, but even now no official agreement was reached. The small Socialist middle groups tried to play the part of the honest broker in bringing about agreement between the two big parties, but the latter put them contemptuously aside, fearing to increase their prestige.

Schleicher made all sorts of concessions to the Nazis. The uniform prohibition had been withdrawn already by the Papen government on his initiative. Now he gave them permission to hold a demonstration in Berlin, in the Bülowplatz. In the Bülowplatz, situated in the east of Berlin in an avowedly red working-class district, there was the ‘Karl-Liebknecht-Haus’, the headquarters of the Communist Party. The Berlin proletariat looked upon this demonstration as an unheard-of provocation. An enormous force of police, armed with carbines, machine-guns and armoured cars, had to protect the Nazis. There were numerous skirmishes between police and Communists, while the Social Democrats as usual had asked their followers to stay at home and close the windows. But in spite of this, many Social Democrats went on this day into the streets with the Communists, and it was proved that Nazi detachments could not show their faces in working-class districts without police protection.

The workers now energetically demanded that rights granted to Nazis should be granted to them also. Social Democrats and Communists prepared for mass demonstrations. The Communists were the first in the field. On a weekday which happened to be one of the coldest days of the whole year, hundreds of thousands of Communists turned out. Underfed, poorly dressed, they tramped in thirty-five degrees of frost for hours and hours through the working-class districts of Berlin in order to march past the tribune in the Bülowplatz where their leaders stood. The presence of the prohibited Rote Frontkämpfer-Bund was felt, though there were no uniforms. A few small detachments of the Reichsbanner and of the Social Democratic Youth, as well as many individual Social Democrats wearing their three arrows, marched in the procession, and of course also the Socialist middle groups who joined in to the last man.

The Social Democrats had arranged their demonstration for the following Sunday. The weather was more favourable. From all parts of the town, their processions marched to the Lustgarten. A number of Communist groups who wanted to join in were turned away at the entrance of the Lustgarten. Even the Socialist middle groups were not welcome. The procession of the Socialist Workers Party had to wait for hours before it was decided kindly to admit them to the Lustgarten. But they did not worry and did their best to arouse some fighting spirit among the passing Social Democratic processions. Again and again they shouted in chorus: ‘SPD, KPD, SAP, müssen gemeinsam marschieren.’ (’social Democrats, Communists, Socialist Workers, must march together.’) Every Social Democratic procession marching past was cheerfully greeted. It was interesting to note how differently these processions reacted. Those from the working-class districts marching to spirited fighting-songs replied to the friendly ‘Kampfbereit’ ('Ready to fight’), the greeting of the Socialist Workers Party, with a no less friendly ‘Freiheit’ ('Liberty’), the greeting of the Social Democrats. But the processions of the well-dressed coming from the respectable districts, arriving wearily without songs, did not reply to the greetings, or made sarcastic remarks: ‘Why have you broken away from us, if you now wish to demonstrate with us?’ The strong middle-class element in the Social Democratic Party had never made itself so evident as at this demonstration, when the party had mobilised also those of its members who on other occasions would stay away out of snobbishness or indifference.

The difference between these two demonstrations separated by only a few days, but differing so widely both in composition and spirit, could not escape notice. In the Vorwärts an anxious article by Stampfer [62] appeared, pointing out that the political division that had sprung up between Social Democrat and Communist might, through economic factors active in the crisis, be strengthened, and thus become permanent. These two demonstrations showed to all who witnessed them the political and social problem of the division of the working class into two socially differing sections, an ever-sharper cleavage, thus exhibiting to all observers the underlying difficulties of the united front problem.

Meanwhile, the struggle continued behind the scenes. The gentlemen around Papen wanted to manoeuvre Schleicher out and put Papen back into power. The Reichswehr threatened to prevent this, if needs be by force. It was widely imagined that Schleicher would strike a blow. Schleicher wobbled. He had made concessions to the Nazis, whose demonstration in the Bülowplatz made possible by police protection, had weakened his position on the left. So he could not but fail.

Meanwhile Papen was negotiating with Hitler. The latter gave all desired guarantees that he, on assuming power, would not harm a hair of the heads of the Junkers, of big industry or finance capital. He also declared his willingness to accept in his cabinet Papen and Hugenberg, [63] as commissars, so to say, of big money, and to leave the economic ministries in their hands. Thereupon Papen managed to get the ageing soldier Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor on 30 January 1933.

Chapter V: Under the Brown Yoke

Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor by Hindenburg was a smack in the face to his Social Democratic electors. In order to prevent the election of Hitler they had voted for Hindenburg in spite of the abhorrence they felt for him. Now it was that same Hindenburg who put Hitler into the saddle.

The appointment of Papen as Chancellor had caused general indignation. However, the press of the left, including the Social Democratic press, could find no word of reproach against the violator of the constitution so recently elected with their aid. Schleicher’s appointment was accepted with complacency – politicians of various creeds putting various hopes in him.

Throughout this time, the Social Democratic leaders and their press tried to pacify the people ‘Hitler will not get into power; the “Iron Front” won’t allow it.’ The masses believed the oft-repeated declaration that Social Democracy would, if need be, ‘fight the fascists with the same weapons which they themselves use’, that is, by force of arms.

Under Papen and under Schleicher, the Social Democrats, as a constitutional party, could still hope to muddle through somehow, although with clipped wings. ‘The party has overcome the anti-socialist law of Bismarck, it has gone through the war, it will get through this time as well'; so they comforted themselves.

But now that they were faced with the fact of Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor, what hopes were left? Where were the ‘Iron Front’, the Reichsbanner, the general strike threatened by the trade unions in such an emergency? Nothing stirred...

And the Communists? What was left for them to lose? Had they not been trained for civil war? Had their military experts not made all preparations? Had they no terrorist groups? Where was the Rote Frontkämpfer-Bund? Were they not sufficiently armed? Was it not clear to them that only one alternative was left for them – either to wait till they were slaughtered or to fight for life? Why did not they prefer to fight, hopeless as the situation was?

Had they perhaps no free choice left to them? Had Moscow forbidden them to fight? Surely there was no lack of willing fighters. No one who witnessed their demonstration in Berlin shortly before Schleicher’s fall; who saw those hundreds of thousands tormented by hunger, without overcoats, poorly clad, with worn boots, marching through the streets in thirty-five degrees of frost, often held up for long intervals, standing in the terrible cold without leaving their places; no one who saw those resolute faces, those glowing eyes, could question the revolutionary fervour for fight of these masses who had gathered under Communist banners. Not below, but above, was the failure. Why did the Communist Party machine fail? Were they perhaps under the illusion that they would be able to steer the organisation, reshaped for underground work, through a short fascist period, so that they might afterwards step into the shoes of the quickly played-out fascists, replacing their dictatorship of ‘monopoly capital’, by a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat'?

* * *

Hitler dissolved the Reichstag, the Diets, the municipal councils. There was a hail-storm of newspaper suppressions. The storm-troops marched through the streets with the air of victors, in the manner of an army of occupation in newly-conquered territory. The new elections were fixed for 5 and 12 March. However, the working-class parties and their auxiliary organisations remained intact. Did the Nazis actually believe that they would succeed in getting a majority?

The prohibition of the Communist Party, the expulsion of its members from parliament, was expected. Some serious provocation was anticipated. Night attacks became as frequent as in July. The phrase ‘St Bartholomew’s Night’, or ‘a night of long knives’, was in everybody’s mouth. And the provocation came – but in a form which no one expected. Goering burned the Reichstag and tried to put the blame on the Communists. The attempt to involve the Social Democrats also was soon dropped. In Berlin only a few were deceived by the clumsy trick, but in the provinces it caught on at first. Today all the world knows that Goering and Hitler were the incendiaries.

The burning of the Reichstag was a beacon for the Nazi hordes. Right through the country swept a hurricane of terror against all spiritual culture, against every free idea. A crusade of extirpation against Jews and Marxists set in. The Brown beasts, with or without police escort, entered the houses of progressive and radical poets, writers, lawyers, politicians, trade union officials, socialists and Jews, tore people from their beds, books from shelves, smashed furniture, took whatever they could turn to use – clothing, watches and jewellery, rucksacks, typewriters and musical instruments. They behaved like bandits in the houses of quiet, cultured people. There were wholesale pogroms. In the streets Jewish citizens were knocked down. The stolen books were afterwards publicly burned by the Nazis, amid the cheers of learning-shy, beer-drinking students and mobs of loafers. Meanwhile the captives were taken to storm-troop barracks or public houses turned into torture chambers.

Meanwhile, between Nazis and nationalists there was little harmony. Each of the two coalition partners was toying with the thought of taking possession of undivided power by force, and turning out the other. Among the semi-military forces of these two parties – storm-troops and Steel Helmets – there was feverish activity. The fact that at the elections of the Diet of Lippe-Detmold, the nationalist electors had run over to the Nazis in crowds, had inspired the nationalist leaders with dread.

On 3 March a great procession of the storm-troops was planned to pay homage to Hitler. There were rumours that the Nazis intended to seize this opportunity to occupy the Wilhelmstrasse. Under pressure from the nationalist ministers, who had the Reichswehr behind them, Hitler cancelled part of the programme at the last moment, and agreed that storm-troops should not march through the Wilhelmstrasse, after the nationalists had promised that the Steel Helmets, for their part, who were to hold a demonstration in the evening of election day, would also avoid the Wilhelmstrasse.

The election day passed comparatively quietly in Berlin (but by no means all over Germany). The presence of strong mounted or motorised police detachments in the streets, and police or auxiliary police in front of the polling-booths, showed the great nervousness of the authorities. Only a few sandwich-men were to be seen there, generally a Nazi, a nationalist and a Social Democrat. In most parts of the town the Social Democrats had staunchly stuck to this right – loyally their sandwich-men stuck to their posts. The Communists, in view of the terror chiefly directed against them, could not retain these posts except in some of the most revolutionary districts. However, they had organised a disguised cyclist patrol service throughout the town. The election committees of the two working-class parties did not meet as usual in cafés, but secretly in private flats.

The four and a half millions of votes recorded on 5 March for the Communists in spite of the terror raging all through the Reich, as well as the seven million votes of the Social Democrats, showed how loyally the proletariat stood by its old allegiance. However, the fact that in this election Hitler, who had succeeded in bringing to the poll all the apathetic, had received, together with his monarchist allies, 52 per cent of the recorded votes, caused immense discouragement. It is true the Nazis, in addition to their terror, which muzzled their opponents, had at their disposal a tremendous propaganda and lying machine. They had at their disposal the hoardings, the survivors of the press, the broadcasting and the cinemas, they had ample means and great technical possibilities. And yet, and yet... how could seventeen million men and women vote for incendiaries, murderers and torturers? Fifty-two per cent of the electors voted in favour of being deprived in the future of all their political and human rights – what a terrible sign of humanity sinking into barbarism! This act of political suicide of a large part of the electorate acted on the minority like the paralysing gaze of a serpent.

In Berlin all sorts of rumours were circulated which were not a good foreboding for election night. Everyone who had been politically active in any way tried to find shelter for this night with relatives or friends. After the countless raids and arrests of the last week, the number of those forced to live underground constantly increased. The workers practised solidarity regardless of party distinction – the Communist harboured in his house the Social Democrat, the Social Democrat shared his own bed with the persecuted Communist, a member of the Socialist Workers Party found an abode with an anarchist. A common danger united all.

In the late afternoon of 5 March the Steel Helmets were marching through the streets in procession, as homage to Hindenburg. Hindenburg, however, was not there, as originally intended, to receive the salute. He spent this night under the protection of the Reichswehr at Döberitz. [64] Hitler had been informed that Hindenburg had been taken ill and could not leave his palace. ‘The Nazis believed that the President was on the evening of 5 March in the Wilhelmstrasse’, states a memorandum of the Chairman of the nationalist group of the Reichstag, Dr Franz Oberfohren, a document based on internal information and published in connection with the Reichstag fire. [65]

The Steel Helmets had brought into Berlin detachments from outside to attend the procession, and they remained overnight in the city, having been quartered there so as to surround the government offices. At the conclusion of the election, the Nazis also began to concentrate detachments of storm-troops from the provinces in the centre of Berlin. Everywhere their motor lorries packed with troops were hurrying through the city.

However, the Reichswehr had taken countermeasures. Dr Oberfohren states:

The Reichswehr was not idle. From the Reichskanzler Square as far as the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedachtnis Church, an armoured wireless wagon of the Reichswehr was patrolling slowly through Kant Street and New Kant Street. Not only in this street, but in all important main roads leading into the city, this wireless car was to be seen, thus the general staff was constantly informed as to the strength and movement of all incoming forces and about their quarters, because every incoming column of the storm-troops was followed by an intelligence car of the Reichswehr.

In addition to that, the Reichswehr had occupied the most important public buildings.

According to Dr Oberfohren’s memorandum, the Nazis had intended to take action at midnight. But an hour before this time a strong group of Reichswehr officers led by General Blomberg [66] appeared in the Chancellery, where Hitler, Goering, Goebbels and Frick [67] had assembled as the general staff for the coming struggle. To them Blomberg declared that Hindenburg was in Döberitz, and demanded the immediate withdrawal of the storm-troops from the capital, under the control of officers of the Reichswehr. He threatened in case of a refusal to arrest all four of them as incendiaries.

The conspiring ministers collapsed – the storm-troops concentrated in Berlin were withdrawn, and the Steel Helmets, until then kept at the ready, were allowed to sleep.

* * *

The wirepullers of the puppet Hitler understood very well that the twelve million ‘red’ electors meant, in quality as well as in fighting value, incomparably more than the seventeen millions of voting cattle and mercenaries who had fallen a prey to Hitlerism. They knew also that the millions of deluded would one day turn against them. From this resulted the necessity for them to keep their followers always well occupied and in a state of excitement. Small and big festivities, parades and similar allurements were arranged to keep them in good spirits. They took for their model the Roman demagogues at the time of the decay of the Republic, who by games and public feasts kept the masses in good humour and bought the votes of the loafers of Rome at election time. Bread they could not give to the people, but they did not stint the games.

The Day of Potsdam was the first in the series of the oncoming festivities. This festival was meant to capture the imagination of the lower middle class. Here the Nazis showed their true colours – and there was a smell of the Middle Ages. The workers held their noses; the deep chasm separating the noisy followers of Hitler from the class-conscious proletariat was clearly to be seen.

The Nazis recognised the failure of their stage-management. In the following week, attempts were made to touch up a picture that had become too near to Nature. Their ridiculous motto ‘Abolition of class struggle’ was made their key-note. In the factories the Nazis carried on a feverish campaign. By economic pressure and terror they tried to induce the workers to join the Nazi factory groups. Members of shop committees were arrested and tortured. In this way, they hoped to make a breach in the twelve-million power of the Marxists.

Now that the Nazis had, unexpectedly to themselves, obtained the majority of the recorded votes, they naturally desired to make use of the position, in order to legalise, through parliament, the naked force by which they intended to govern in future. They understood that this would increase their credit at home and abroad. Still, they did not set their foot on this road without misgiving. To free criticism they could no longer expose themselves. The Communist group of the Reichstag, which, as experience had shown, refused to be muzzled, had to disappear. The very much tamer Social Democrats it sufficed to intimidate. As regards the Catholic Centre, negotiations were possible. In these circumstances the Reichstag, already killed, could be galvanised into life with the object of voting full powers to the government.

Had the Social Democrats possessed at least so much self-respect as to decline participation in the disgraceful farce, after the arbitrary disqualification of four and a half million Communist votes, they could have helped German parliamentarism to die at any rate an honest death. But for that they lacked courage. In the ranks of their parliamentary group sifted out by the party machine there was no Matteotti. [68] But there was a Wels. [69] In the name of the parliamentary group, Wels read a tame declaration which after some criticism of internal politics, and denying full power to the government, nevertheless supported Hitler’s foreign policy.

The same leader, Wels, soon after gave in his resignation to the Socialist International. Later on he declared he had done this only to save the property of the party... The leaders of the trade unions issued a declaration expressing their willingness to cooperate also with this fascist state. Also in order to save their property... Dr Hertz [70] and other Social Democratic emissaries travelled through Europe requesting the foreign socialist press to refrain from reporting the terrible tortures meted out to active members of the working-class movement in Germany. All this in order to save their property...

And at a time when thousands had been tortured, when no town, no village, was left where the Brown beasts had not raged, when the trade union offices, party houses and printing presses had long ago been taken over by the Nazis, when hundreds of socialists had been brutally murdered, when tens of thousands had been imprisoned for months in concentration camps, subjected to humiliation – on 9 August 1933, there were still some German labour ‘leaders’ who felt no shame in asking the British trade unions to refrain from criticising German conditions...

Twelve million workers had voted red in spite of the terror. They would have been prepared to fight. But after this complete failure of their organisations, many lost heart. If the proletarian organisations were unable to take the offensive, why did they not organise passive resistance? In most industrial enterprises the Nazis formed a negligible fragment. Now they suddenly wanted to force the masses of the workers into their factory groups. Of course, no terror could have compelled millions of anti-fascists to join fascist organisations if these workers in their own legal or illegal organisations could have found moral support. But that is exactly what was lacking. There was no one who called upon the masses to resist. Left entirely to themselves, nevertheless the great majority of the industrial workers, out of a proper class feeling, declined to join. However, many Communists remained loyal to their long-practised ‘tactic of disruption’ and joined the Nazi factory groups, in order to disrupt them from within, while others – Communists and Social Democrats – did the like from egotism or cowardice. With the increase of the terror, there was an influx of Communists into the storm-troops, of Social Democrats into the Steel Helmets. Soon it was impossible to distinguish between friend and foe – between heroic illegal workers, harmless cowards, and dangerous renegades. These well-meant tactics of disruption cut both ways and minimised the power of resistance of the masses.

The climax of the campaign to win over the factory workers was 1 May, with its processions and fireworks. In Berlin, on the Tempelhof Field, enormous crowds of people gathered. They came to see the biggest firework display Berlin had ever known, although they were supposed to demonstrate for the bridging over of class antagonism and the ‘unity of the German people’. Very fitting, therefore, was the provision of good seats at £1 apiece for the smart set who had brought an ample supply of toothsome dainties, while the unemployed with hungry stomachs were crowded together down below. The following day poor women came to search for the fragments that remained, but were chased away by storm-troops lest foreign press photographers might find here a lurid illustration of the story of the abolished class antagonism.

Encouraged by the participation of such large masses in their ‘German May’, annoyed by the coldness with which the whole affair had been met by the industrial workers, reassured by the absence of any active resistance against the raising of the swastika flag on the trade union clubs and other buildings belonging to the working-class movement, the Nazis, on the following day, began to ‘take over’ the trade unions. They took over the money-boxes filled with the hardly-gained pennies of working men and women, destroying by one stroke of the pen the rights of those who had paid their subscriptions for many years; they took over the trade union offices, arrested the elected leaders and the more class-conscious ones among the technical staff, replacing them by bandits of their own, recruited mostly from the declassed Nazi ‘intellectuals’ or ex-non-commissioned officers.

The present members found themselves caught in a trap – they were not permitted to leave the unions. They were expected to continue paying contributions to maintain these gentry, but were to have no further say in the matter, as that would contradict the ‘principle of authority’. Talk on wages and working conditions became taboo. Strikes were declared illegal. Of the trade unions nothing now remains but an empty shell. The only activity left to them is to control the workers during their spare time in order to deprive them of time and opportunity for any ‘undesirable’ activity – illegal work or even private thinking.

The Nazis then threw the trade unions of all political shades, [71] into one common cauldron, adding the employers’ associations for seasoning, let their notorious Dr Ley [72] swim on top of it as a dumpling, and called the stew thus made the ‘Labour Front’.

The chief activity of this ‘Labour Front’ is the organisation of Nazi parades. In a proclamation To All Toilers, issued in the autumn of 1933, it declares: ‘According to the will of our leader, Adolf Hitler, the German Labour Front is not the place to consider questions arising out of the daily labour.’ However, when a German newspaper, the Oberpfälzischer Kurier, stated that the trade unions were disappearing, it was compelled to publish on 10 December 1933 the following characteristic démenti:The statement “the trade unions are disappearing” is not correct. The fact is that the unions meanwhile continue their existence. Only when the leader of the German Labour Front, Dr Robert Ley, finds it necessary will they be liquidated.’ The cooperatives were also taken over by the Nazis and are sharing the fate of the trade unions.

The political parties had to disappear. The Communist Party was followed by the Social Democratic Party into Nirvana, the Democrats and the Catholic Centre vanished, even the parties of the right withered away. The parliamentary debris of the capitalist parties was sucked in by the Nazis.

On 14 July 1933, the Nazi government promulgated a law declaring all political parties except the Nazi party illegal. It reads:

Clause 1. In Germany there exists only one political party, the National Socialist German Workers Party.

Clause 2. Whosoever undertakes to maintain the organisation of another political party or to form a new political party is liable to punishment... by penal servitude up to three years or by imprisonment from six months to three years.

A crusade against culture commenced. All cultural institutions and societies of the proletariat were already destroyed. The municipal secular schools and the experimental schools, with their new libertarian methods for the development of personality, were destroyed, their teachers turned out or put in concentration camps. The elementary schools were turned into nationalist drill-halls. They were designed to bring up spineless mercenaries. Hitler had declared he would take the children away from the proletariat, and the Nazi school policy clearly aimed at that. The children of tens of thousands of tortured, arrested, kidnapped or murdered workers formerly active in the working-class movement were now compelled to cheer their parents’ torturer by greeting their teacher with ‘Heil Hitler’. In many schools, Jewish children were thrust into a ghetto corner, and humiliated. In the higher schools, again, fatuous drill was introduced. Military night-practice for the older boys took the place of serious schoolwork. Even part of the normal lesson-time was to be devoted to talks on protection against gas attacks and bacteriological warfare.

The universities were left completely to the mercy of the Hitler bandits. Jews and Marxists disappeared from their professorial chairs, as well as from the auditorium. A new spirit took possession of the universities – the spirit of fanaticism and brute force. Before this new spirit, the great minds of Germany had to flee across the frontier, and even there they were not safe from the bullets of brutalised fanatics.

Science was to be made a prostitute of the fascist state. Art met with no better fate. Not ability or knowledge but creed alone became the deciding factor. The best authors fled, the great artists followed them abroad. The famous stage-managers and cinema technicians hurried after them. The mediocre ones and those devoid of ideas rejoiced – their time had come.

The German press was brought down to the Nazi level – all German newspapers are now Nazi sheets. They have become so gloomy that people refuse to read them. While foreign newspapers are imported in ever-increasing numbers, the German press is dying.

According to the report of the Institut für Zeitungskunde of October 1933, the number of German daily papers decreased from 2703 in 1932 to 1128 in 1933; 1248 newspapers had been suppressed, while 327 died a natural death. The number of weekly journals was reduced from 348 to 217; fortnightly reviews from 96 to 47, and monthly journals from 183 to 102. In 1932 the monthly average of printed copies reached 1000 millions – in June 1933 it went down to 300 million copies, a decrease of 70 per cent! The number of permanently employed editors in 1932 was 19,200, in 1933 only 5341. Even the Angriff, the organ of the Minister of Propaganda, Goebbels, with all its subsidies and official booming, lost two-thirds of its circulation – from 60,000 in 1931, it dwindled to 20,000.

Germany’s numerous good public libraries were ‘purged’ – all the treasures of libertarian thought they contained were sacrificed to Wotan, while a mob of ignorant students were the priests.

However, the ideology of the Nazis is by no means derived from the Wotan-worshipping times of Germanic paganism with its rough but honest brutality. It has more in common with the darkest times of the romanised Middle Ages, with their corrupt, sadist, cowardly cruelty, with their black superstition, their heresy hunts, witch-hunts, and bloody Jew-baiting.

Against the half-million of German Jews a ‘holy war’ was declared. Jewish scientists and artists, authors, publicists, organisers, lawyers and doctors were to be politically degraded, physically destroyed, economically ruined, morally humiliated. The mass of the Jewish population was delivered to the tender mercy of the storm-troops as an object for the gratification of their desire for social revenge. The Jews were to suffer for the sins of the Lahusens, [73] Stinnes and other ‘Aryan’ knights. Down even to the schools, where defenceless Jewish children were made to endure the whole brutality of future Wotan-warriors, this race-war was raging. Medieval superstition was revived, notions from the ancient blood cult; even the disgraceful ritual murder lie was dug up!

But the wildest hatred of the Nazis was directed against the Marxists. Thousands of men and women who had been active in the labour movement, in the political, trade union, cooperative or cultural spheres, who had been working in the free-thinking school reform or peace movement, who as scientists, poets, authors or artists, had stood up for Communist, Socialist or liberal ideas, suddenly found themselves deprived of rights and protection, at the mercy of the Brown hordes. These creatures could by day or night enter their houses, just as they thought fit, to make ‘searches’. Often such Nazi hordes passed through a town or village on motor lorries. In such places they rounded up Marxists, taking them into one of the torture houses, where they were themselves subjected to horrible torments, and compelled to witness the torturing of their fellow prisoners. Many of them were afterwards taken to hospitals with broken bones, or simply turned out into the street. But a large number remained under arrest and were taken to concentration camps, which had been established in all parts of the country. The number of political prisoners was constantly growing – in September 1933 the number exceeded 80,000.

In the concentration camps, the Nazi gaolers found a special pleasure in tormenting and humiliating especially their prominent prisoners. By order of empty-headed youngsters they had to stand to attention, to exercise, to shout ‘Heil Hitler’, sing the ‘Horst Wessel’ song, and ‘Deutschland über alles’. The dirtiest and most repulsive jobs were always kept for them. The prisoners, especially the older ones, when at work were always made to run, driven with blows and kicks. Barbarians against cultured people! The object was the physical destruction of the spiritual part of the German nation – ill-treatment and humiliation were to break the spirit, lack of sleep and insufficient nourishment the body. If these means failed, revolver bullets followed. The number of ‘executions’ considerably exceeds the number of death sentences in court... Heinrich Heine’s aphorism of Germany as one huge prison has become cruel reality.

Having carried through the imprisonment, destruction or expulsion of cultural Germany, the remainder being driven underground, the way was now clear for the Nazis to build up their ‘authoritative’ and ‘totalitarian’ state.

All the authorities and institutions of the Reich, the states and the municipalities were gleichgeschaltet (Nazified) and reorganised on authoritative lines. In the words of the Weimar Constitution: ‘all power emanates from the people'; now it suddenly emanated from ‘the leader’. He appointed his lieutenants, who in their turn set up their underlings, and so to the bottom, until a Nazi net was uniformly woven throughout the whole administration. Every kind of private association was also Nazified or dissolved. All juvenile organisations were subordinated to the ‘Hitler Youth’. All that was left of non-political social and economic societies had to conform to the totalitarian one-party state. The Church tried to maintain a certain degree of independence, but in vain. It found itself struggling in the same net.

The ‘idea’ of the ‘corporative state’, borrowed from Mussolini’s ‘classical’ fascism, according to which the corporations are permitted to put forward lists of candidates from which a consultative body for the ‘leader’ is appointed, has up to the present proved in Germany to be the same farcical humbug as in Italy. In reality, it is the fascist or Nazi caucus that holds the reins of government as agents of big money; in their hands is concentrated the executive, the administrative power, and all the armed forces of the state. Everything else exists only on paper, and serves as a curtain to hide the reality.

* * *

Fascism has now become an article for export: no people can feel entirely immune from this plague.

Fascism is the modern form of capitalist reaction. It is the last attempt of the lords of money to keep economic and political power in their own hands, when this can no longer be achieved through democratic forms. Fascism means the domination of Big Capital over the proletariat, with the aid of the slum proletariat and the despairing lower middle class.

A characteristic feature of fascism is the use of popular socialist-sounding slogans (and even socialist emblems, songs, etc) to cover their anti-socialist deeds. It is a kind of militarised dictatorship of a completely new type, supported by militarised gangsters, terrorising the population. Therefore lies, dishonesty and brute force are an essential part of the ideology of fascism. The democratic principle of liberty and responsibility, fascism replaces by the principle of authoritative leadership. For freedom of thought, of speech, of the press, for liberty of art and science, there is no room under fascism. Whereas all tyrannies of the past demanded of the ‘subject’ only passive obedience, fascism demands of everybody, from the cradle to the grave, active support.

Fascism insists upon the totalitarian state. That means it does not admit the existence of any sphere of public or private life outside the control of the fascist state. Under fascism the ‘subject’ in his work, in his social relations, his political activities, his scientific outlook, his religious fervour, his artistic taste, his sexual behaviour, his physical exercise, and even his use of spare time, is under the control of the state. Neither ancient slavery nor medieval serfdom have ever known such a measure of bondage.

* * *

However ‘totalitarian’ the fascist state in Germany may appear, it nevertheless rules only the surface. Below, subterranean Germany ferments and simmers, undismayed and unconquered. Here are gathering the forces of resistance, all those whose most precious hope it is to put an end some day to Hitler barbarity, and to put Germany again into the ranks of civilised nations. The high walls separating the different sections of the German working-class movement are crumbling – common sacrifices in the common fight against the common foe are serving as a strong cement, however much some emigrated leaders and the Communist International may try to counteract it, A new rejuvenated revolutionary working-class movement is germinating.

It can, however, become dangerous to the fascist regime only when it shows new positive socialist objectives calling forth the enthusiasm of the masses. Neither a Communist dictatorship nor the Weimar Republic have any longer any attraction for the German people. Only when the revolutionary movement, by creating a new ideology of comradeship and revolutionary solidarity, becomes a new moral force, gathering and strengthening the masses, and thus helps to overcome the boundless discouragement resulting from the complete breakdown of the German labour movement – only then will German fascism be really menaced from within.

Probably in no country of Europe had socialist ideas become the common property of the masses as in Germany. The Nazi state is therefore threatened not only by the conscious enemies of the regime, but also by the large number of those who had voted for Hitler, because they took his socialist phrases in good faith. These people fell victims to the widespread superstition that the wielder of political power can arbitrarily overrule economic laws. They therefore expected that Hitler, to whom they attributed anti-capitalist tendencies, would soon lead them out of the economic crisis.

In Italy, fascism came at the end of a crisis, the incipient improvement of the economic situation (American orders!) therefore appeared to be its work. Hitler, on the contrary, is faced with a crisis, which in Germany shows no sign of decreasing. The very existence of Hitlerism aggravates and perpetuates the crisis. All the cooking of figures and swindling manoeuvres cannot alter the fact.

After their great victory the Nazi hordes felt themselves the new masters. They believed they could not only pose in front of the working-class population and the small Jewish shopkeepers, they were anxious to play the master towards the big capitalists. In the factories they lifted their heads, and a number of Nazi factory groups took it upon themselves to appoint ‘commissars’. They counted without their host. The agrarians who could rely upon the Reichswehr and the big lords of industry with whom they were interrelated soon put an end to this. Not for this purpose had they suckled the Hitler movement on their fat wallets! They gave to Herr Hitler a few private lessons in political economy and so brought their pupil to the conviction that the affair was rather complicated. The consequence was Hitler’s declaration: ‘The revolution is at an end.’

While all arbitrary interference with industry was prohibited and disobedient commissars were threatened with the concentration camp, the power of the magnates of capital was greatly increased by the ‘Law of Reorganisation of Industry’ of 27 February 1934. Their organisations have been strengthened by the introduction of compulsory membership and have acquired dictatorial powers over all employers. Their rights and property remain free from state interference. The Nazi principle of leadership is introduced, but the appointed leaders require a vote of confidence to be carried annually by a ‘leaders’ council’.

The entire industry and trade of the country is divided into twelve groups, a leader being appointed for each of them, and a chief leader representing industry as a whole. Thus Philipp Kessler of the Siemens concern, Graf von der Goltz, late head of Ivar Kreuger’s ‘Union Bank’, [74] Krupp von Bohlen of the armament industry, Albert Vögler of the Steel Trust, and similar knights of industry, are officially sanctioned as the real masters of Germany.

Meanwhile the Minister of Agriculture, Darré, [75] had to pacify the disturbed Junkers. With special emphasis on Hitler’s agreement, he declared on 10 July 1933 that there would be no interference with the large estates, not even those most in debt. The Nazis had found a better solution of the agrarian problem – a land fund was to be formed for the creation of small holdings, and the great landlords were invited to make a gift of land for the purpose. And soon the Nazis were able to report that ‘great achievement’ – in a short time they had in this way obtained 500 hectares (about 1200 acres) of land ‘in Prussia alone’.

These were, however, only preliminaries. Now we witness peculiar plans and experiments in the agrarian policy of Nazi Germany. They have taken a leaf out of General Schleicher’s agrarian militarist schemes and set to work in order to create a caste of Cossacks on the lines so successfully practised at one time by the Czars of Russia.

Feudalism is to be revived in rural Germany. Out of the total of about five million independent smallholders, they wish to establish a special privileged caste of pure Aryan ‘hereditary peasants’ whose present estates of 7.5 to 12.5 hectares cannot be sold or divided. One-half to one million such new Cossacks are to be created, who, in return for these privileges, must undertake special military duties and political (even judiciary) functions. They thus become a new, important and reliable military force for war and civil strife.

For this purpose the Nazis now intend to utilise the land purchased during a number of years out of the taxpayers’ money for the creation of small holdings. So, poor peasants will be robbed in order to increase the size of the estates of the new Cossacks. The estates of the Junkers remain intact and will be strengthened by the provision of cheap labour and the introduction of a kind of serfdom for rural workers.

The problem of unemployment was tackled by the Nazis in various ways. At first, attempts were made to decrease the number of unemployed through labour service, subsidies to employers, and by forcing additional labour on some employers. Then Goebbels came forward with his ‘great plan’ to combat the misery of the unemployed by collecting donations. The rich people were to sacrifice one meal, the workers in employment one hour’s wage, bank depositors a small sum monthly. Now the chief efforts of the Nazis are directed to the increase of production of armaments and war materials and to the provision of public works consisting largely in building strategic roads. Women and young workers are replaced by older male workers and are taken to so-called ‘labour camps’ or handed over to the Junkers and rich peasants for exploitation. This is an ingenious way of taking them off the register, for as soon as they are considered ‘agricultural labourers’ they lose their right to unemployment benefit.

In November 1933, according to Herr Seldte, [76] Nazi Minister of Labour, there were 234,000 persons in labour service, 298,000 occupied on public relief works, and 165,000 so-called ‘agricultural assistants’. The burden of these public relief works is borne chiefly by the local authorities. No wonder therefore that the latter have reached a stage of bankruptcy. The debts of German municipalities with a population of over 10,000 in May 1934 reached 9439 million marks, while they are already in arrears with a further 595 million marks. [77] Generally the national income is decreasing, the purchasing-power of the population is shrinking. Consequently the small shopkeepers are sinking into poverty.

The greatest success in combating unemployment the Nazis have achieved is undoubtedly on the statistical front. Their statistics ‘prove’ a constant decrease in the number of the unemployed. But the total earnings of the increased number of employed persons, as reflected in the revenue derived from the wage-tax, is decreasing. Herr Goebbels is right – the object of statistics in Germany is ‘to create enthusiasm'! Meanwhile wages and unemployment benefit have been cut below starvation level. In theory the old wage agreements were supposed to remain. In reality there is a general reduction of wages, since there are no trade unions to protect the individual worker, and the workers are entirely at the mercy of brutal German employers. No general statistics on wages actually paid are available, as the statistics deal so far only with the old wage agreements which remain on paper. Some idea of the tendency towards a reduction of wages in Nazi Germany may be gained by taking actual cases. There are, for instance, the highly skilled and well-paid workers in the glass and china industry of Weiden and Neustadt. In 1928 their weekly wages reached 65 marks (£3 10s at par), in January 1933 they earned 45 to 55 marks, but in May of the same year their wages went down to 26 marks – a reduction of 42 per cent in five months of Nazi rule.

And the sinking wages are still further reduced by all sorts of compulsory reductions for various purposes. Thus, a worker earning 30.24 marks per week found his wages reduced by 0.90 marks for invalidity insurance, 1.02 marks for unemployment insurance, 1.24 marks for sickness insurance, 0.75 marks towards the state fund for the relief of the unemployed, 0.60 marks wage-tax, 1.50 marks citizen tax, 0.60 marks ‘marriage assistance’, 0.16 marks towards public works, 1.10 marks contribution for his bluff ‘trade union’ – leaving him with 22.37 marks (£1 2s 4d).

Having destroyed the trade unions and reduced the workers to slavery conditions the Nazis have legalised their system of slavery in a law establishing the subjugation of the workers to their employers. The Law for the Regulation of National Labour of 20 January 1934 is already known in Germany as the ‘Slavery Act’.

The Nazis wish to ‘abolish class struggle’ by depriving the working class of all possibilities to struggle, delivering them to the mercy of the capitalists and proclaiming the identity of the interests of exploiters and exploited.

The first clause of this ‘Slavery Act’ proclaims:

In the enterprise the employer as leader, the employees and workers as followers, are working together for the advancement of the enterprise and for the common good of people and state.

The second clause reveals what is implied by these new terms – the employer as ‘leader’ fixes wages and conditions of labour, and the workers as ‘followers’, must obey and may not even grumble. It reads:

(1) The leader of the enterprise decides for the followers on all matters of the enterprise so far as they are regulated by this law.

(2) He has to care for the followers. The latter have to observe towards him the loyalty arising out of the fellowship of the enterprise.

Clause 27 still further emphasises this peculiar relationship, empowering the employer, ‘the leader’, to fix conditions of labour, wages, and to inflict fines by dictating the Betriebsordnung (factory rules).

Fearing that the capitalists might prove too generous, Clause 29 insists that the minimum wage should not be fixed too high so as to leave scope for special favours to loyal slaves. The trade union rate is thus to be replaced by a sort of bonus system.

In enterprises employing over twenty people, there is to be formed a ‘Confidence Council’ elected by ‘secret ballot’ from a list of candidates put forward by the Nazi group in conjunction with the employer (Clause 5.10). In factories where there are no Nazi groups there can be no elections. In such and similar cases the members of the ‘Confidence Council’ are appointed by an official of the Nazi state described as Treuhänder der Arbeit.

The chief functions of the ‘Confidence Councils’ are to further ‘mutual confidence’ in the factory and to prevent conflicts (Clause 6). They have the right to appeal against decisions of the employer regarding wages and working conditions to the Treuhänder der Arbeit of the district (Clause 16). However, persistent complainants to that official may be punished (Clause 36). Such cases come under the jurisdiction of special ‘Courts of Honour’ (the latest Nazi invention!), and may be punished by reproof, fines, dismissal, etc.

This law supersedes most of the previous legislation for the protection of labour. It does away with collective bargaining. In short, it is a Nazi charter against labour. No wonder that dissatisfaction is growing all over Germany. Hitler, who wanted to ‘abolish’ class struggle, can keep in power only by intensified class struggle. He cannot carry on without terror. If, at the outset, he required torture houses, concentration camps, and gangsters to put down the opponents of the Nazi regime, today he needs them also to keep his disgruntled followers in check. The carrying out of the terror became more and more official, shifting from the storm-troops to the secret police, but the terror, sometimes diminishing, sometimes intensifying, retains its original cruel, sinister character. The imprisonment of complete detachments of storm-troops in concentration camps, the murdering of obnoxious lower-rank officers, are indications of the possibility of further developments.

Every dictator is compelled by circumstances to dismiss from the administration intelligent thinking men with a sense of responsibility. ‘He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.’ Only tools without will or character seem to him to be a guarantee for the uniformity of leadership for which he strives. In filling the various posts from the top downwards, not ability and honesty but obedience is the essential qualification. Therefore corruption and inefficiency are the characteristic features of fascist dictatorship, consequently its fear of honest criticism must constantly grow. The increasing suppression of criticism in its turn hastens the process of degradation, until the whole regime is immersed in the swamp, bursts from the inside, or is shattered from the outside.

Big Capital, the real master of Hitler Germany, does not want to permit economic experiments. The state capitalist tendencies of Schleicher appear to it suspect. Yet, under the pressure of the crisis and the fear of the awakening impoverished masses, Hitler might be driven to experiments in the direction of a certain ‘planned economy’ or state capitalism. Also as a measure of economic preparation for war, this might be conceivable – some clauses of the Nazi agrarian law can be explained only on such an assumption. Here are two conflicting tendencies at work, and it remains to be seen whether this will lead to the perpetuation of the zigzag course, or whether one of these two tendencies will get the upper hand.

State capitalism, as such, is endowed with dangerous poison fangs which can be drawn only by a genuine democratic control and by alert, compact labour organisations. As a basis of despotism, state capitalism becomes unbearable. Because an established state capitalism – as we see it today in Russia – makes the citizen in all spheres of his life dependent on the state: the state is his employer, his landlord, his tradesman, and by no change of employment or lodging can he escape from it. The state decides the admission of his children to higher schools, of members of his family to hospitals. A conflict with the state as employer might easily lead to reprisals by the state as tradesman, landlord or schoolmaster. A corrupt, petty, spiteful administration, which is a feature of every dictatorship, could not but drive the citizen to despair.

Nevertheless, the complexity of German economic life leaves little room for experiment by such unqualified hands – the incompetent bureaucratic machine of the ‘totalitarian’ state might, like the proverbial bull, destroy too much china.

Hitler therefore has solemnly renounced the ‘second revolution’, that is to say the nebulous socialist tendencies implied in his programme. This had done service in the propaganda, before the conquest of power. After dinner the world appears in a different light.

As the socialist pillar of the so-called ‘National Socialism’ (as the Nazis styled their movement) has collapsed, there remains only the nationalist pillar. On it now rests the weight of the whole structure, and it must be correspondingly strengthened.

The footings are there. Prussian militarism is alive – fourteen years’ freedom from conscription have not sufficed for it to die out. By the system of Militäranwärter, this cancer has eaten too deep into the national life. Now the plague of militarism is to be injected even into the schoolchildren.

Adventures in foreign policy are designed to divert the attention of the masses from the internal misery, from the inability of the Nazis to get rid of the internal antagonism. In derision of all treaties, Germany is openly preparing for war. The entire population is put under some sort of military training. The Nazis are trying hard to work up a war psychology.

In all departments, feverish war preparations are in progress. The armament firms are laughing up their sleeves. Despite the Versailles Treaty, Germany is by no means defenceless. Already in the days of the Republic, German militarists knew how to turn the Reichswehr into a cadre army of the American type. Germany has no lack of reserves. The twelve-year military service has remained on paper. The faces of the Reichswehr bore the marks of eternal youth – it would be necessary to include the ‘Steel Helmets’ in order to find the solution of this riddle.

Apart from that, Germany possesses a second military system – the militia. Since Hitler’s ascent to power, the storm-troops – both Brown and Black – have received a thorough military training, and assumed the character of a state institution. They have been trained not merely in the use of machine-guns and hand-grenades for street fighting – already the strong air-squadrons organised from their ranks show that far-reaching objectives have been kept in mind in their training.

Recently the insatiable militarism of the Hitler regime has, further, made all preparations for the reintroduction of conscription. For the time being it is officially veiled as compulsory labour service. By the whip of hunger as well as by direct compulsion, young men are being pressed into this third army of the ‘Third Reich’. As a result of these peculiar methods of recruiting, this labour army has a definitely proletarian character, so that the Nazis do not dare to arm it. But it is getting the necessary military training, to be turned to use at any moment.

To keep power, Nazism must have ‘victories’. With all its might, it strives for the uniting of all Germans under the swastika. It presses forward and tries to impose its barbarity on Austria, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, Alsace-Lorraine, the free Saar territory, New Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Lettland, Lithuania and Poland.

The existence of the Hitler regime therefore vastly increases the danger of war. Still, this regime has its Achilles’ heel. In retrograde dictatorships, arms have an inclination to shoot backwards. In case of war at present large masses of the German workers would undoubtedly form insurrectionary forces that would attack the regime in its rear.

Many foreign pacifists have not yet realised this situation. They direct their fire, now as before, against the Versailles Treaty. However proper and progressive their demand for a revision of this treaty was during the existence of the German Republic, today it is reactionary and dangerous. A revision of the Versailles Treaty today would mean the strengthening of the barbaric Hitler regime, whose continued existence must sooner or later lead to war. They, therefore, resemble a man bravely marching forward – life turns him round, and he continues to go forward not noticing that he is moving backward...

Hitler requires victories. The task of all friends of Progress, Peace and Liberty is therefore to see to it that in the field of foreign policy only defeat awaits him. Economic decay, humiliation in international politics, will soon open the eyes of Hitler’s followers, and thus shorten the period of suffering of the German people. Concessions to Hitler increase the war danger – dogs bite when fear is shown!

The problem of the continued existence of the Nazi regime is not solely a German question. This plague-spot threatens all nations – all nations therefore are under an obligation to stamp it out.

* * *

The international proletariat must, if it does not want to go under, defend democracy. Democracy is not a bourgeois invention. It has been gained, developed and protected by the blood of the working class. But democracy alone does not suffice, it cannot appease the hunger of the unemployed, or do away with the crisis and its consequences. The best defence of democracy is a clear-cut socialist policy. Not socialist slogans, but a clear socialist policy in accordance with the changed political and social conditions.

The present world crisis with its unprecedented dimensions, duration and severity, has led everywhere to the declassing of large numbers of proletarians; it has weakened the fighting capacity of the working class. This wholesale declassing must be countered, even now under capitalism: a drastic shortening of working hours, the raising of the school age, are important milestones on this road.

Prevention of the wholesale declassing, merciless fight against all forms of corruption, democratisation of the working-class movement, education of organised labour to revolutionary responsibility, activity and initiative, education of the masses, and especially of the youth, to revolutionary thought and action – these are the most important measures to prevent the further spread of fascism.

The victory of fascism in Italy and Germany, and Austria, shows that not local but general causes are at the bottom of this phenomenon.

Great changes have taken place in economic life; the position of the working class in state and industry has undergone extensive change – but the working-class movement has not everywhere adapted itself to the changed conditions; it has become static in its old forms of thought and organisation, and, in some cases, has drifted away from the broad masses of the people.

It has been the failure of the working-class movement in times of crisis that has opened the door to fascism. This fact contains a lesson.

The working-class movement must readjust itself, it must again become a real force in class struggle, round which will gather the whole working class in their work, their struggle, and their aspirations. It must become again virile and ready for action – it must show to the working class a prospect of a better, socialist future, and it must lead them in the struggle for the attainment of this object, making it the primary question of the day.

The epoch of steady, peaceful growth is past. A new period of hard fight confronts the proletariat. Not growth and preparation for life are now its task, but life itself – the decisive fight. This demands a change of psychology. The working class in the middle of the twentieth century cannot fight only by the ballot-box and resolutions – it must get back to its revolutionary starting-point. It must take the offensive in the decisive battle for socialism.


1. Der wirtschaftliche Wiederaufbau der Union der Sozialistischen Sowjet-Republiken (Handelsvertretung der UdSSr in Deutschland, Berlin, 1924); Die wirtschaftlichen Entwickelung der Sowjet-Union (Handelsvertretung der UdSSr in Deutschland, Berlin, 1926).

2. The Deutschnationale Volkspartei (DNVP – German Nationalist People’s Party) was formed in 1918 by means of a merger of the German Conservative Party, the Free Conservative Party and the hard-right faction of the National Liberal Party. It was chaired by Oskar Hergt (1918-24), Kuno Graf von Westarp (1924-28) and Alfred Hugenberg (1928-33). Virulently opposed to the Weimar Republic, it lost support to the more populist National Socialists, and finally ended as a junior partner in Hitler’s government of ‘National Concentration’ in 1933 before dissolving itself.

3. The Deutsche Volkspartei (DVP – German People’s Party) was formed in 1918 from the right wing of the National Liberal Party. It was led by Gustav Stresemann. Its initial opposition to the Weimar Republic softened somewhat under Stresemann’s leadership, but returned after his death.

4. Hugo Stinnes (1870-1924) was a German industrialist. Starting off in coal-mining, he diversified into shipping, transport and electricity supply. He was a founder of the DVP, and was elected to the Reichstag in 1920. He subsequently built up a publishing empire, and made a fortune during the hyperinflation by borrowing huge loans and repaying them when they were vastly depreciated.

5. Friedrich ‘Fritz’ Thyssen (1873-1951) was the son of the German iron and coal tycoon August Thyssen. A member of the DNVP, he took an active part in the nationalist resistance movement against the French occupation of the Ruhr in 1923. He took over his father’s business empire in 1926, headed several trade associations and sat on the board of the Reichsbank. He supported Hitler financially from 1923, and joined the Nazi party in 1933. He fell out with Hitler during the Second World War and was interned.

6. Albert Vögler (1877-1945) was a German industrialist. He worked in the iron and steel and mining industries and took over Stinnes’ empire in 1924. He was a founding member of the DVP. He financed Hitler during 1931-33, and played a leading role in the wartime munitions industry.

7. Pensionsberechtigt – having a right to a pension [Author’s note].

8. The Vendôme Column was erected in the Place Vendôme in Paris to commemorate the French victory in the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805. It was demolished on the order of the Paris Commune in 1871, and was rebuilt after the Commune was suppressed.

9. The Kapp Putsch was an attempt in March 1920 by right-wing forces to overthrow the Weimar Republic. Although its nominal leader was the East Prussian civil servant Wolfgang Kapp, its prime mover was General Walther von Lüttwitz, a Freikorps leader and commander of the Berlin Reichswehr. The coup collapsed after it was countered by a massive general strike called by the trade unions.

10. The Orgesch was the popular name for the Organisation Escherich, a right-wing paramilitary organisation led by the Bavarian Georg Escherich (1870-1941). It was set up in 1920 and disbanded by the Allied occupying authorities in 1921. Escherich subsequently set up similar organisations. The Ehrhard Brigade, named after Hermann Ehrhardt (1881-1971), was one of the Freikorps groups, and was set up by German naval personnel in the aftermath of the First World War. Numbering about 6000 men, it played an important role in suppressing left-wing activities across Germany, and participated in the Kapp Putsch. Many of its members subsequently joined the Nazis.

11. Otto Karl Gessler (1875-1955) was a founder of the right-wing liberal Deutsche Demokratische Partei (DDP – German Democratic Party), and was Minister of Defence during 1920-28.

12. Johannes Friedrich von Seeckt (1866-1936) was a career army officer. He was in charge of rebuilding the German army after the First World War, and was determined to subvert the military restrictions imposed by the Versailles Treaty upon Germany, including by way of secret military cooperation with the Soviet Union. After Hitler’s victory, he became a military advisor to Chiang Kai-Shek.

13. Karl Eduard Wilhelm Groener (1867-1939) was a senior career army officer. During the revolutionary period he forged a secret deal with the Social Democrat Chancellor Friedrich Ebert (qv) by which the armed forces would suppress left-wing uprisings in exchange for their supporting the new Republic. He was variously Minister of Defence, Transport and the Interior under the Weimar Republic, and retired after being attacked by the Nazis in the Reichstag in 1931.

14. Kurt von Schleicher (1882-1934) was a career army officer. He was Groener’s assistant during the revolutionary period, and also helped organise the Freikorps. In the early 1920s, he played an important role in establishing secret Soviet-German military cooperation, and also was in close contact with the unofficial ‘Black Reichswehr’ that was set up to evade the Versailles Treaty’s restrictions on Germany’s armed forces. He was the primary liaison figure between the military leadership and the political world. He became Minister of Defence in June 1932 and was Chancellor from December 1932 to January 1933, when he was replaced by Hitler. He was killed during the Night of the Long Knives in June 1934.

15. The Dawes Plan was drawn up in 1923 by a team under the US Republican Vice-President Charles Dawes, and the Young Plan was drawn up in 1929 by a team under the US lawyer Owen Young and was ratified in 1930. Both were intended to regulate the payment of the reparations that Germany was obliged to pay under the Versailles Treaty.

16. Walther Rathenau (1867-1922) was a German industrialist. He became chairman of the Allgemeine Elektrizitäts-Gesellschaft (AEG) combine in 1915, and played a major role in organising Germany’s industrial war effort. A staunch nationalist, he was a founder of the liberal German Democratic Party, and was appointed Minister for Reconstruction in 1921 and Foreign Minister in 1922. He was in favour of economic collaboration with the Soviet Union, and engineered the Treaty of Rapallo. He was assassinated by an anti-Semitic gang.

17. Alexander Niedner (1862-1930) was President of the Senate of the Supreme Court and Chairman of the Constitutional Court to Protect the Republic during 1924-28.

18. Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg (1847-1934) was a senior career army officer and a staunch monarchist. Brought back from retirement in 1914, he was appointed Chief of the General Staff in 1916, retired in 1919, but was persuaded to stand in the presidential election in 1925, which he won on the second round. He stood again in 1932, and again won on the second round, beating Hitler with support from the Social Democrats. Personally very hostile to Hitler, he was badgered by his advisors into appointing him Chancellor in January 1933.

19. Louis Eugène Cavignac (1802-1857) was a French general and statesman. He was Minister of War and then Head of the Executive Power in 1848, and led the crushing of the Paris workers’ insurrection of June 1848. Gustav Noske (1868-1946) was a right-wing leader of the SPD. At the end of the First World War, he went to Kiel to calm the sailors’ revolt. He returned to Berlin to oversee military governance. In 1919, he became Minister of Defence, ordered the Freikorps to crush the Spartakist rebellion, but resigned in March 1920 after the Kapp Putsch. During 1920-33, he served as Upper President of Hanover. He was arrested in July 1944 in connection with the failed assassination attempt upon Hitler.

20. Friedrich Ebert (1871-1925) was a saddler. A staunch right-winger in the SPD, he became its General Secretary in 1905, and Chairman in 1913. He led the first postwar German government, deploying both the regular army and the Freikorps against militant workers, and he became the first President of the Weimar Republic in February 1919.

21. Franz Joseph Hermann Michael Maria von Papen zu Köningen (1879-1969) was a military-trained diplomat. He became a leader of the right wing of the Centre Party (qv), and was a member of the Prussian parliament during 1921-32. He was appointed Chancellor on 1 June 1932, ruling by Presidential decree with the backing of Hindenburg, and resigned on 17 November. He was appointed Vice-Chancellor under Hitler, but subsequently resigned and was appointed German ambassador to Austria and then Turkey.

22. The potato crop in Germany failed during 1916, and an attempt was made to compensate by means of the late sowing of turnips, hence the ‘Turnip Winter’. The potato crop failure, combined with the British naval blockade, resulted in severe food shortages.

23. The Kulturkampf (Culture Struggle) was a series of discriminatory measures against the Roman Catholic Church introduced by the Prussian government under its Prime Minister Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck (1815-1898). It was brought to an end because of resistance from Roman Catholics and Bismarck’s recognition of the need for new allies in his opposition to Social Democracy.

24. The Deutsche Zentrumspartei or Zentrum (German Centre Party) was founded in 1870 to defend the social and political position of the Roman Catholic Church within Germany. It participated in every government coalition from 1919 to 1932, and provided four Chancellors: Konstantin Fehrenbach (1920-21), Joseph Wirth (1921-22), Wilhelm Marx (1923-25, 1926-28) and Heinrich Brüning (1930-32).

25. The House of Wittelsbach reigned in Bavaria for 738 years until its abdication in November 1918.

26. Otto Wolff (1881-1940) was a German industrialist who co-founded Otto Wolff AG, a German steel company which branched out into other metals, coal and electrical manufacturing during the 1920s. It manufactured munitions during the Second World War.

27. And all the rest of them.

28. Friedrich Flick (1883-1972) was a German industrialist. He ran an extensive coal and steel conglomerate, and was a prominent financial supporter of Hitler from 1933, donating some seven million marks to the Nazi party.

29. Heinrich Brüning (1885-1970) was the leader of the Centre Party. He was appointed Chancellor on 28 March 1930, and for the next two years ruled by Presidential decree backed by Hindenburg.

30. In the Greek myth, Penelope was bothered by dubious suitors whilst her husband Odysseus was absent. In order to keep them at bay, she pretended to be weaving a shroud for his old father, promising to choose one when she has finished it. Each evening she unravelled some of what she wove during the day, but her subterfuge was eventually discovered.

31. Karl Zörgiebel (1878-1961) was the Social Democratic police commissioner for the municipality of Berlin, whose ban on the Communist Party’s May Day march in 1929 resulted in a police confrontation and 40 deaths in barricade fighting.

32. The Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten (Steel Helmet, League of Frontline Soldiers) was the paramilitary force of extreme right-wing conservatism, generally allied with the DNVP. Founded in late 1918, by 1930 it had half a million members. In 1934, it was renamed the Nationalsozialistischer Deutscher Frontkämpferbund (Federation of the National Socialist Frontline-Fighters) and integrated into the SA, and dissolved in 1935.

33. The Black Reichswehr was a collection of paramilitary bodies assembled in an attempt by the German military leadership as one of the means to subvert the tight restrictions placed upon the country’s armed forces under the Versailles Treaty. Its membership often overlapped with those of the Freikorps groups.

34. Otto von Lossow (1868-1938) was a career army officer. He was one of the leaders of the postwar Reichswehr, and was head of the military area containing Bavaria at the time of Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch. He favoured the idea of a nationalist coup, but did not support Hitler’s bid for power.

35. Wilhelm Severing (1875-1952) stood on the extreme right wing of the Social Democrats, and was the Minister of the Interior of Prussia during 1919-26 and 1930-32, and Reich Minister of the Interior during 1928-30. He had been appointed by Noske to suppress working-class activity in the Ruhr, and he later did the same in Prussia.

36. Gustav Stresemann (1878-1929) was an industrialist who played a major role in forming the DVP from the right wing of the National Liberal Party. He was Chancellor and Foreign Minister in two cabinets during August-November 1923. His policies were to revise the Versailles settlement by negotiations with other great capitalist powers.

37. Osthilfe (Eastern Aid) was set up in the late 1920s by the Reich government to give financial assistance to bankrupt estates in East Prussia, in order to maintain political support amongst the Junker landowners. A scandal ensued when it emerged that certain Junkers used the funds for their personal comforts. The Darmstadt and National Bank (Danatbank) was formed in 1922 by a merger of the Darmstadt Bank for Trade and Industry and the National Bank of Germany. By the time it crashed in 1931 it was the second-largest bank in Germany. Its collapse was a massive blow to the country’s economy.

38. According to Jean-François Fayet, Radek wrote in Izvestia for 16 March 1920 that ‘a victory for the insurgents’ – the Kapp putschists – ‘could have positive consequences for Russia by obliging France to use Poland against Germany and no longer against the Soviets’ (Jean-François Fayet, Karl Radek (1885 – 1939), Biographie politique (Bern, 2004), p 352; thanks to Ian Birchall for this reference).

39. Count Ernst Reventlow (1869-1943) was a career naval officer. He responded positively to Radek’s speech on Schlageter (qv), developed National Bolshevik views, and had material published in the KPD’s Rote Fahne. He formed the Deutschvölkische Freiheitspartei (DVFP – German Völkisch Freedom Party) in 1924, and in 1927 took a faction of it into the Nazi party, aligning with Gregor Strasser’s current.

40. Radek’s speech ‘Leo Schlageter: The Wanderer into the Void’ was delivered to the plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International in June 1923. Albert Leo Schlageter (1894-1923) was a Freikorps member who became a hero for the German nationalist right after he was executed by the French occupation authorities for his sabotage activities during the occupation of the Rhineland in 1923.

41. The ‘Red Referendum’ took place in August 1931.

42. Fritz Tarnow (1880-1951) was a carpenter. He rose up the ranks of the woodworkers’ union, and was its chairman during 1920-33. He became an SPD deputy in the Reichstag in 1928. Arrested after the Nazis’ seizure of power, he was released after fellow SPD Reichstag deputy Hans Staudinger, masquerading as a senior Prussian official, intervened.

43. This was the paper of the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (Opposition) (KPDO or KPO – Communist Party of Germany (Opposition)). The KPO was formed in late 1928 by a group of expelled KPD members, and was led by August Thalheimer and Heinrich Brandler. Arbeiterpolitik was published on a daily basis from 1 January 1930, but had declined to a weekly within two years.

44. The Sozialistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands (SAPD – Socialist Workers Party of Germany) was formed in late 1931 by former members of the SPD. It soon attracted members of the USPD, the KPD and KPO.

45. From 1929, industrial production fell catastrophically and in 1932 it stood at 40 per cent of the 1929 level. Unemployment rose from 1.6 million in October 1929 to 6.12 million in February 1932, by which time 33 per cent of the workforce was unemployed.

46. Hermann Müller (1876-1931) was a leading SPD official. He was Reich Foreign Minister in 1919, during which time he signed the Versailles Treaty. He was twice Chancellor, leading coalition governments during March-June 1920 and June 1928 – March 1930.

47. Josef Weissenberg (1855-1941) was an occultist and mystic healer who founded various small religious sects.

48. Otto Braun (1872-1955) was a leading member of the SPD in Prussia. He was Prime Minister of Prussia for much of the Weimar period. He was also the SPD’s candidate in the Reich presidential election in 1925; he came second, but withdrew to allow a straight contest between the Centre Party’s Wilhelm Marx and Hindenburg.

49. Heinrich Hirtsiefer (1876-1941) was an official of the Christian trade unions and a member of the Centre Party. He was a member of the Prussian State Parliament and Minister for State Welfare for Prussia during 1921-33. He was held in concentration camps for a time after the Nazi takeover.

50. Clemens Emil Franz Bracht (1877-1933) was a lawyer and a member of the Centre Party. He became Mayor of Essen in 1924, and was appointed Deputy Commissioner for the Interior of Prussia in July 1932. He was a minister in both von Papen’s and von Schleicher’s cabinets.

51. Otto von Stülpnagel (1878-1948) was a career army officer. He played a key role in the Reichswehr during the Weimar period, and was military commander in France during the Nazi wartime occupation.

52. During the time of the Weimar Republic, the Reich Chancellor and the Reich President both had their official residences in the Wilhelmstrasse.

53. Albert Carl Grzesinsky (1879-1948) joined the SPD in 1897. He held various posts during the Weimar period, including President of the Berlin and Prussian police, and Minister of the Interior of Prussia during 1926-30. He banned the KPD’s Rotfrontkämpferbund in Prussia in 1929. He went into exile following his being stripped of German citizenship by the Nazi regime.

54. Bernhard Weiss (1880-1951) was a lawyer. A liberal nationalist, he became deputy head of the Berlin criminal police in 1918, and deputy head of the Berlin police in 1927. His Jewish background made him an especial target of Goebbels. He went into exile after being stripped of German citizenship by the Nazi regime, living in Britain from 1934.

55. Max Alsberg (1877-1933) was a lawyer, author and playwright. He defended the pacifist Carl von Ossietzky in a famous treason trial in 1931. Victimised under the Nazis’ campaign against Jews in the legal profession, he went into exile in Switzerland, where he committed suicide.

56. Later on Severing declared at a Social Democratic meeting at Lichtenberg that he could not have called upon his men to defend him – they would have lost their pensions! [Author’s note]

57. The Tatkreis (Action Circle) was a right-wing current that promoted the romantic anti-capitalist, nationalist and autarkic programme that was typical of the Conservative Revolutionary movement. Under the editorship of Hans Zehrer, its magazine Die Tat (The Deed) enjoyed a circulation of some 30 000 in the early 1930s, mostly amongst middle-class people.

58. The Landvolkbewegung was a militant peasant movement that arose in the late 1920s in Schleswig-Holstein in response to the worsening conditions facing small farmers. It engaged in both passive resistance and terror tactics, and its right-wing, often anti-Semitic populism enabled the Nazis subsequently to gain much support in the area.

59. Theodor Leipart (1867-1947) was a woodworker. A right-winger in his union, he rose up the trade union apparatus until he became Chairman of the ADGB in 1921. In 1932, he recommended that the ADGB unions distance themselves from the SPD, with which they had customarily been close. He attempted a reconciliation between the unions and the Nazi government, but was interned in a concentration camp for a while.

60. Since the foregoing paragraphs were written, General von Schleicher has been assassinated by the Nazis [Author’s note].

61. Hanns Kerrl (1887-1941) was President of the Prussian Landtag during 1932-34. A strong believer in Christian – Nazi unity, he was appointed Reichsminister of Church Affairs in July 1935, his job being coordinating the Christian organisations with the Nazi regime.

62. Friedrich Stampfer (1874-1957) was a journalist and worked on the SPD’s Vorwärts from 1902. He was an SPD Reichstag deputy during 1920-33, and was on the party’s Executive in exile after 1933.

63. Alfred Hugenberg (1865-1951) joined the Prussian finance ministry before being appointed by Gustav Krupp as chairman of the board of directors of Krupp Armaments Company in 1909. He owned the film company UFA and a number of provincial newspapers. With Hugo Stinnes he founded the DVP, and he funded campaigns against the Versailles Treaty, the Locarno Treaty and the Young Plan. He gave money to Hitler and was Minister of Agriculture and Economics in the very early days of the Third Reich, but resigned after six months.

64. A large army depot to the west of Berlin.

65. Ernst (not Franz) Oberfohren (1881-1933) was a teacher and a member of DNVP, which he represented in the Reichstag during 1920-33. He became leader of the party in December 1929. He resigned his Reichstag seat and retired from politics at the end of March 1933. His death on 8 May 1933 has not been explained: either he committed suicide or he was murdered by the Nazis and the killing disguised as suicide. A memorandum on the Reichstag fire, a translation of which was published in the Manchester Guardian, was attributed to Oberfohren, although it has been considered by some historians, including AJP Taylor, that this document was a product of Willi Münzenberg’s publicity organisation.

66. Werner Eduard Fritz von Blomberg (1878-1946) was a career army officer. He gravitated towards the Nazis at the end of the 1920s, and was appointed Minister of Defence in the first Nazi government. He purged the Reichswehr of Jews, and introduced the military oath of allegiance to Hitler. In 1935 he became Commander-in-Chief of the German armed forces. Disagreements with Hitler’s strategic policies and a faction fight with Göring and Himmler led to his dismissal in 1938.

67. Wilhelm Frick (1877-1946) was a lawyer. He took part in the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, and became an NSDAP Reichstag deputy in 1924. He was appointed Minister of the Interior in the first Nazi government, but he tended to lose out in power struggles with other top Nazis, and he was replaced as Interior Minister by Himmler in 1943. He was a defendant in the Nuremberg Trials and was duly executed.

68. Giacomo Matteotti (1885-1924) was an Italian Socialist Party deputy who publicly condemned electoral malpractices during the rigged elections in 1924. He was kidnapped in June 1924 by a gang attached to the Interior Ministry who were responsible for many attacks upon left-wingers, and was found murdered.

69. Otto Wels (1873-1939) was an upholsterer. He joined the SPD in 1891, and became a union and SPD official. He was the Chairman of the SPD from 1919 and a Reichstag deputy during 1920-33. Stripped of his German citizenship by the Nazi government, he was Chairman of the SPD in exile until his death.

70. Paul Hertz (1888-1961) was a member of the right-wing faction of the Independent Social Democratic Party and returned to the SPD in 1922. He was a Reichstag deputy for the USPD and then the SPD during 1920-33. He was editor of the exile papers Zeitschrift für Sozialismus and Sozialistische Aktion, and his siding with the Neu Beginnen group led to his leaving the SPD in 1938. He worked as an official in West Germany after his return in 1949.

71. There were in Germany five types of union: Socialist, Communist, Catholic, etc [Author’s note].

72. Robert Ley (1890-1945) was a chemist. He joined the Nazi party after the Beer Hall Putsch, and rose rapidly up its hierarchy, eventually replacing Gregor Strasser as its Reich Organisation Leader in late 1932. He led the Labour Front once the Nazis were in power. The general militarisation of labour during the Second World War saw his eclipse by Albert Speer and Fritz Todt. He committed suicide whilst awaiting trial for war crimes.

73. Georg Carl Lahusen (1888-1973) was the owner of Nordwolle, a giant textile concern in Bremen. He was arrested after Nordwolle became bankrupt in June 1931. In 1933 he was arrested and subsequently jailed for falsifying financial records and issuing misleading information to creditors.

74. Ivar Kreuger (1880-1932) was a Swedish entrepreneur who was known as the Match King because of the international cartel he established in the match industry, but he also built up large concerns in a wide range of sectors, often using highly unorthodox and risky financial methods. He shot himself when his business empires started to unravel.

75. Richard Walther Darré (1895-1953) was a paganist advocate of ‘blood and soil’ theories concerning the German peasantry, detailed in his two main works Das Bauerntum als Lebensquell der nordischen Rasse (The Peasantry as Life Source of the Nordic Race, 1928) and Neuadel aus Blut und Boden (A New Nobility of Blood and Soil, 1934). He joined the Nazi party in 1930, and was Minister for Food and Agriculture in the Nazi government from 1933. Although his romantic theories keyed in with the Nazi quest for lebensraum in the east, they also clashed with the industrial requirements of the Third Reich, and he was replaced in 1942. He served a short sentence for war crimes.

76. Franz Seldte (1882-1947) was the founder of the Stahlhelm and a member of the DVP, joining the Nazi party in March 1933. He was appointed Minister of Labour in January 1933 and remained in that post until the end of the Third Reich. He was captured and died in hospital before he could be tried for war crimes.

77. Der Deutsche Volkswirt, no 31, May 1934 [Author’s note].