Leon Trotsky

How Can Fascism Be Smashed in Germany

(December 1931)

Written: 8 December 1931.
Source: The Militant, Vol. VI No. 10, 20 February 1933, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2015. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

We reprint here a section from The Workers’ United Front Against Fascism which, although written on December 8, 1931, is of intense importance right now.

The thousands upon thousands of Noskes, Welses and Hilferdings prefer, in the last analysis, Fascism to Communism. But for that they must once and for all tear themselves loose from the workers. Today this is not yet the case. Today the social democracy as a whole, with all its internal antagonisms, is forced into sharp conflict with the Fascists. It is our task to take advantage of this conflict and not to unite the antagonists against us.

The front must be directed against Fascism. And this common front of direct struggle against Fascism, embracing the entire proletariat, must be utilized in the struggle against the social democracy directed as a flank attack but no less effective for all that.

It is necessary to show by deeds a complete readiness to make a bloc with the social democrats against the Fascists in all cases in which they will accept a bloc. To say to the social democratic workers: “Cast your leaders aside and join our ‘non-party’ united front”, means to add just one more hollow phrase to a thousand others. We must understand how to tear the workers away from their leaders in reality. But reality today is – the struggle against Fascism. There are and doubtless will be social democratic workers who are prepared to fight hand in hand with the Communist workers against the Fascists, regardless of the desires or even against the desires of the social democratic organizations. With such progressive elements it is obviously necessary to establish the closest possible contact. At the present time, however, they are not great in number. The German worker has been raised in the spirit of organization and of discipline. This has its strong as well as its weak sides. The overwhelming majority of the social democratic workers will fight against the Fascists, but – for the present at least – only together with their organizations. This stage cannot be skipped. We must help the social democratic workers in action – in this new and extraordinary situation – to test the value of their organizations and leaders at this time, when it is a matter of life and death for the working class.

We Must Force the Social Democracy into a Bloc Against the Fascists

The trouble is that in the Central Committee of the Communist party there are many frightened opportunists. They have heard that opportunism consists of a love for blocs, and that is why they are against blocs. They do not understand the difference between, let us say, a parliamentary agreement and an-ever-so modest agreement for struggle in a strike or in defense of workers’ printshops against Fascist bands.

Election agreements, parliamentary compromises concluded between the revolutionary party and the social democracy serve, as a rule, to the advantage of the social democracy. Practical agreements for mass action, for purposes of struggle are always useful to the revolutionary party. The Anglo-Russian Committee was an impermissible type of bloc of two leaderships on one common political platform, vague, deceptive, binding no one to any action at all. The maintenance of this bloc at the time of the General Strike, when the General Council assumed the role of strikebreaker, signified, on the part of the Stalinists, a policy of betrayal.

No common platform with the social democracy, or with the leaders of the German trade unions, no common publications, banners, placards! March separately, but strike unitedly! Agree only how to strike, whom to strike, and when to strike! Such an agreement can be concluded even with the devil himself, with his grandmother and even with Noske and Grzezinsky. On one condition, not to bind one’s own hands.

It is necessary, without any delay, finally to elaborate a practical system of measures – not with the aim of merely “exposing” the social democracy (before the Communists), but with the aim of actual struggle against Fascism. The question of factory defense organizations, of unhampered activity on the part of the factory councils, the inviolability of the workers’ organizations and institutions, the question of arsenals that may be seized by the Fascists, the question of measures in the case of an emergency, that is, of the coordination of the actions of the Communist and the social democratic divisions in the struggle, etc., etc., must be dealt with in this program.

In the struggle against Fascism, the factory councils occupy a tremendously important position. Here a particularly precise program of action is necessary. Every factory must become an anti-Fascist bulwark, with its own commandants and its own battalions. It is necessary to have a map of the Fascist barracks and all other Fascist strongholds, in every city and in every district. The Fascists are attempting to encircle the revolutionary strongholds. The encirclers must be encircled. On this basis, an agreement with the social democratic and trade union organizations is not only permissible, but a duty. To reject this for reasons of “principle” (in reality because of bureaucratic stupidity, or what is still worse, because of cowardice) is to give direct and immediate aid to Fascism.

A practical program of agreements with the social democratic workers was proposed by us as far back as September 1930 (The Turn in the Comintern and the Situation in Germany, published by The Militant), that is, a year and a quarter ago. What has the leadership undertaken in this direction. Next to nothing. The Central Committee of the Communist party has taken up everything except that which constitutes its direct task. How much valuable, irretrievable time has been lost! As a matter of fact, not much time is left. The program of action must be strictly practical, strictly objective, to the point, without any of those artificial “claims” without any reservations, so that every average social democratic worker can say to himself: What the Communists propose is completely indispensable for the struggle against Fascism. On this basis, we must, pull the social democratic workers along with us by our example, and criticize their leaders who will inevitably serve as a check and a brake. Only in this way is victory possible.

A Good Quotation from Lenin

The present day epigones, that is, the thoroughly bad disciples of Lenin, like to cover up their shortcomings on every occasion that offers itself with quotations – often entirely irrelevant. For Marxists, the question is not decided by a quotation but by means of the correct method. If one is guided by correct methods, it is not hard also to find suitable quotations. After I had drawn the above analogy with the Kornilov insurrection, I said to myself: We can probably find a theoretical elucidation of our bloc with the conciliators in the struggle against Kornilov, in Lenin. And here is what I actually found in the second part of Vol. XIV of the Russian edition, in a letter of Lenin to the Central Committee, written at the beginning of September, 1917:

“Even at the present time, we are not duty-bound to support the Kerensky government. That would be unprincipled. It is asked: then we are not to fight against Kornilov? Of course we are. But that is not one and the same thing. There is a limit to this; it is being transgressed by many Bolsheviks who fall into ‘conciliatonism’ and allow themselves to be driven by the current of events.

“We shall fight, we are fighting against Kornilov but we do not support Kerensky, we are uncovering his weaknesses. The distinction is rather delicate, but highly important, and must not be forgotten.

“What does the change of our tactics consist of after the Kornilov insurrection?

“In this, that we are varying the forms of struggle against Kerensky. Without diminishing our hostility to him even by one single note, without taking back one word from what we have said against him, without giving up the task of overwhelming Kerensky, we say: We must calculate the moment, we will not overthrow Kerensky at present. We approach the question of the struggle against him differently: by explaining the weaknesses and vacillations of Kerensky to the people (who are fighting against Kornilov).”

We are proposing nothing different. Complete independence of the Communist organization and press, complete freedom of Communist criticism, the same for the social democracy and the trade unions. Only contemptible opportunists can allow the freedom of the Communist party to be limited (for example, like entrance into the Kuo Min Tang). We are not of their number.

No retraction of our criticism of the social democracy. No forgetting of all that has been. The whole historical reckoning, including the reckoning for Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg will be presented at the proper time, just as the Russian Bolsheviks finally presented a general reckoning to the Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionists for the baiting, calumny, imprisonment and murder of workers, soldiers and peasants.

But we presented our general reckoning to them two months after we had utilized the partial reckoning between Kerensky and Kornilov, between the “democrats” and the Fascists – in order to drive back the Fascists all the more certainly. Only thanks to this circumstance were we victorious.

* * * *

When the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany adopts the position expressed in the quotation from Lenin cited above, the entire approach to the social democratic masses and the trade union organizations will change at once: instead of the articles and speeches which are convincing only to those people who are already convinced without them, the agitators will find a common language with new hundreds of thousands and millions of workers. The differentiation within the social democracy will proceed at an increased pace. The Fascists will soon feel that their task does not at all consist merely of defeating Bruening, Braun and Wels, but of taking up the open struggle against the whole working class. On this plane, a profound differentiation will inevitably be produced within Fascism. Only by this road is victory possible.

But it is necessary to desire this victory. In the meantime, there are among the Communist officials not a few cowardly careerists and fakers whole little posts, whose incomes and more than that, – whose hides, are clear to them. These creatures are very much inclined to spout ultra-radical phrases beneath which is concealed a wretched and contemptible fatalism. “Without a victory over the social democracy, we cannot battle against Fascism!” say such terrible revolutionists, and for this reason ... they get their passports ready.

Worker-Communists, you are hundreds of thousands, millions; you cannot leave for any place; there are not enough passports for you. Should Fascism come to power, it will ride over your skills and spines like a terrific tank. Your salvation lies in merciless struggle. And only a fighting unity with the social democratic workers can bring victory. Make haste, worker-Communists, you have very little time left!

December 8, 1931

L. Trotsky

return return return return return

Last updated on: 21 January 2016