Leon Trotsky

I See War with Germany


Written: 1932.
Source: The Militant, Vol. V No. 29 (Whole No. 125), 16 July 1932, p. 2.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2012. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

World politics have at present two focal points unusually remote from each other: one on the Mukden-Pekin line, the other on the Berlin-Munich. Either one of these points of infection is enough to destroy the “normal” course of events on our planet for years – for decades. However, the day-by-day work of the diplomats and official politicians looks as though nothing unusual were happening. It looked the same along in 1912 during the Balkan War which was the overture to 1914.

For some reason – grossly slandering an intelligent bird – people call this an ostrich policy. The ornamental decision adopted by the League of Nations on the Manchurian question is a document of impotence without equal even in the history of European diplomacy: no self-respecting ostrich could possibly sign his name to it. This blindness – in some cases, of course, quite voluntary – to what is preparing in the Far East, has at least this mitigating circumstance: that events there will develop at a comparatively slow pace. The East, although awakening to a new life, is still far from the “American”, and even the European, tempo.

Germany is a different matter. The blind alley into which Europe, Balkanized at Versailles, has now run finds a concentrated expression in Germany, where it has taken the political form of “National-Socialism.” In the language of social psychology this political tendency might be described as an epidemic hysteria of despair among the intermediate classes: the ruined small trader, craftsman, and peasant; in part, too, the unemployed proletarian; the officer and non-commissioned officer of the great war, still wearing the symbols of distinction but without rations; the clerk of the closed-up office; the bookkeeper of the bankrupt bank; the engineer without occupation; the journalist without salary or prospect; the physician whose clients are still sick but have forgotten how to pay.

Hitler has refused to answer questions about his domestic program on the ground that it is a military secret. He is not obliged, he says, to give away his secret methods of salvation to his political enemies. This is not very patriotic, but it is clever. In reality Hitler has no secrets at all. However, we are not here concerned with domestic policies. In the matter of international politics his position seems at first glance a little more definite. In his speeches and articles Hitler declares war on the Versailles Treaty, whose creature he himself is. He specializes in terms of abuse directed against France. But as a matter of fact if he came into power he would become one of the chief pillars of Versailles, and would turn out to be a mainstay of French imperialism.

These assertions may seem paradoxical. Yet they flow inexorably from the logic of the European and international situation when correctly analyzed – when the analysis starts, that is, from the basic factors of politics, and not from phrases, gestures, and the other trash of the demagogue.

Hitler Will Need Allies

The German Fascists declare that they have two enemies: Marxism and Versailles. By “Marxism” they mean two German parties – the Communists and the social democrats, and one state – the Soviet Union. By Versailles, they mean France and Poland. In order to understand what will be the actual international role of a National-Socialist Germany, it is necessary to weigh briefly these elements of the problem.

The relation between Fascism and “Marxism” is sufficiently clear from the experience of Italy. Mussolini’s program, up to the day of the operetta march on Rome, was no less radical and no less mystical than that of Hitler. The reality turned out to be merely a struggle against revolutionary and oppositional forces. Like its Italian prototype, German National-Socialism can come to power only after breaking up the workers’ organizations. This, however, is no simple task. Civil war lies on the road between the National-Socialists and the power they seek. Even if Hitler should get a parliamentary majority by peaceful methods – which may safely be excluded from things possible – he would find it necessary just the same, in order to inaugurate a Fascist regime, to break the backbone of the Communist party, the social democracy, and the trade-unions. And this is a very painful and prolonged surgical operation. Hitler himself, of course, understands this. That is why he is not at all disposed to accommodate his political plans to the uncertain destinies of German parliamentarianism.

While covering himself with phrases about legality, Hitler is awaiting the opportune moment to strike a short and sharp blow. Will he succeed in this? It is no easy task. But it would be unpardonably light-minded to consider his success impossible. And by whatever roads Hitler might come to power – whether through open doors or by breaking in – the Fascization of Germany would mean in any case a severe domestic conflict. This would inevitably paralyze the forces of the country for a considerable period of time, and compel Hitler to seek in surrounding Europe, not revenge, but allies and protectors. From this fundamental consideration our analysis must begin.

In their struggle against Fascism the German workers will naturally seek support in the Soviet Union, and they will find it. Can you imagine for a moment that in these circumstances Hitler’s government will risk getting into an armed conflict with France or Poland? Between the proletariat of a Fascist Germany and the Soviet Union stands Pilsudski. Pilsudski’s help, or at least his friendly neutrality, will be infinitely more important to Hitler, absorbed in the Fascization of Germany, than the liquidation of the Polish Corridor. How insignificant this question will seem to Hitler – and indeed the whole question of the boundaries of Germany – in the midst of his bitter struggle to get the power and to keep it!

Pilsudski would be for Hitler a bridge toward friendship with France – if indeed there were no other bridges closer by. Even now there are voices heard in the French press – as yet only in its secondary organs – “It is time to steer our course by Hitler!” To be sure the official press, led by Le Temps, takes a hostile attitude to the National-Socialists. But this is not because the masters of fate in contemporary France take Hitler’s martial gestures seriously. No, what frightens them is the path by which Hitler can alone come to power – the path of civil war, a thing whose outcome cannot be predicted by anybody. May not his policy of a state overturn from the Right unleash a revolution on the Left? That is what the ruling circles in France are worrying about – and quite justifiably, too.

But one thing is clear: If Hitler did overcome all obstacles and arrive in power, he would be compelled, in order to get a free hand within his own country, to begin with an oath of loyalty to Versailles. Nobody on the Quai D’Orsay has any doubt of that. Moreover, it if well understood there that a military dictatorship of Hitler, once it was firmly established in Germany, might become a considerably more reliable element in the French hegemony over Europe, than the present German governmental system, whose mathematical formula consists almost entirely of unknown quantities.

War Would Be Inevitable

To imagine that the ruling circles in France would be “embarrassed” to act as patrons of a Fascist Germany would be quite childishly naive. France is now relying upon Poland, Roumania, and Yugoslavia, three countries ruled by a military dictatorship! Is this accidental? Not in the least. The present French hegemony over Europe is a result of the fact that France still remains the sole inheritor of the victory of the United States, Great Britain, Italy, and herself. (I do not name Russia here since she did not participate in the victory, although she paid for it with the greatest number of human lives.) From the hands of the most powerful combination of world forces which history has known, France has received an inheritance which she will not let go of, but which is too heavy for her narrow shoulders. The territory of France, her population, her productive forces, her national income – all these are obviously inadequate to support her lordly position. The Balkanization of Europe, the stirring up of antagonisms, the struggle against disarmament, support to military dictatorships – these are the methods necessary to pro. long the hegemony of France.

The forcible splitting-up of the German nation enters into the system as a link quite as necessary as the fantastic boundary lines of Poland with its famous Corridor. In the language of Versailles, “Corridor” is the name given to an operation which other people call removing a rib from a living organism. When France, while supporting Japan in Manchuria, swears to God that she seeks peace, this only means that she stands for the inviolability for her own hegemony – that is, her right to dismember Europe and reduce it to chaos. Immoderate conquerors, as history testifies, are always inclined to “pacifism”, because they dread the revenge of the conquered.

A Fascist regime – a thing which could be realized only at the price of bloody convulsions and a new exhaustion of Germany – would be for that very reason an invaluable element in French hegemony. From the side of the National-Socialists France and her Versailles system have nothing at all to fear.

Would Hitler in power, then, mean peace? No, Hitler in power would mean a re-enforcement of French hegemony. But exactly for this reason Hitler in power would mean war- – not against Poland, not against France, but against the Soviet Union.

The Moscow press has spoken more than once in recent years about an approaching military intervention in the Soviet Union. The author of these lines, has more than once objected to this kind of snap prognosis – not because he thought that there was in Europe, or on the rest of the planet, any lack of the evil will to war against the Soviet Union. No; there was no lack of that. But for such a risky undertaking the disagreements and resistances were too great, not only between the different European states, but still more within each of them.

There s hardly a politician worthy mentioning who now imagines that the Soviet Republic could be settled with by means of armies improvised along the border or simple landing operations. Even Winston Churchill no longer believes that, notwithstanding the very wide gamut of his political vocal exercises. An experiment of this kind was more than well made during the years 1918–20 when Churchill, according to his own proud boast, mobilized “fourteen nations” against the Soviet Union. How happy the British exchequer would be now to have back those hundreds of millions of pounds spent on intervention in Russia!

But we mustn’t cry over split milk. Besides a good lesson was paid for with that money. If at that time, in the first years of the Soviet Republic when the Red army was sill walking in Its baby shoes – alas, in those years it often had nothing on its feet at all! – the troops of “fourteen nations” could not win the victory, how much less hope there is now, when the Red Army is a mighty force, with a victorious tradition, with young and yet experienced officers, with inexhaustible reserves raised up by the Revolution, and with sufficiently opulent military stores!

The united forces of the encircling nations, even if they could be dragged into the adventure, would be small for the task of intervention in the Soviet Union. Japan is too far off for an independent military role against the Soviet Union, and moreover the Mikado’s government will have troubles enough near-by in the coming years. To make intervention possible, a great, highly industrialized, and moreover continental European empire would be needed – one which would desire, and be able, to take upon itself the principal weight of a holy pilgrimage against the Soviets. To be more accurate – a country would be needed which had nothing to lose. A glance at the political map of Europe will convince you that such a mission could be undertaken only by a Fascist Germany. More than that, a Fascist Germany would have no other road left to go. Having come to power at the price of innumerable victims, having revealed its bankruptcy in all domestic problems, having capitulated to France and consequently to such semi-vassal states as Poland, the Fascist regime would be inexorably compelled to seek some sort of gambling way out of its own bankruptcy, and out of the contradictions of the international situation. A war against the Soviet Union would grow out of these circumstances with fatal necessity.

To this pessimistic prognosis you might reply by citing the example of Italy, with whom the Soviet Union has established a modus vivendi. But that objection is superficial. Italy is separated from the Soviet Union by a series of intervening countries. Italian Fascism rose with the yeast of a purely domestic crisis – the national claims of Italy having been satisfied liberally enough at Versailles. Italian Fascism came to power shortly after the great war, at which time there could be no talk of a new war. And finally Fascist Italy remained lonely, and nobody in Europe knew how stable the Fascist regime would prove, on the one hand, or the Soviet regime on the other.

In all these respects, the position of Hitler’s Germany would be fatally different. An external success would be necessary to it. The Soviet Union would be an intolerable neighbor. We remember how long Pilsudski hesitated before signing the pact of non-aggression with Russia. Hitler side by side with Pilsudski – that alone almost answers our question. On the other hand France cannot help understanding that she is not in a position to keep Germany permanently disarmed. The French policy will be to turn Fascist Germany against the East. That will offer an escape valve for the national indignation against the Versailles regime, and – who knows? – maybe we will have the good luck to find along this road new sources for the solution of that most sacred of all world problems, the problem of reparations.

Russia Must Be Prepared

If you take on faith the assertion of the Fascist prophets that they will come to power during the first half of 1932 – though we are far from believing these people on their mere word – it is possible to lay out in advance a sort of political calendar. A couple of years must be set aside for the Fascization of Germany – for crushing the German working class, creating a Fascist militia, and restoring the cadres of the army. Along about 1933-34, then, the conditions for a military intervention in the Soviet Union would be adequately ripe.

This “calendar” of course assumes that the government of the Soviet Union will be meanwhile patiently waiting. My relations with the present Moscow government are not such that I have any right to speak in its name or refer to its intentions, about which I, like every other reader and man of politics, can judge only on the basis of all the information accessible. But I am all the more free to say how in my opinion the Soviet government ought to act in case of a Fascist state revolution in Germany. Upon receiving the telegraphic communication of this event I would, in their place, sign an order for the mobilization of classes. When you have a mortal enemy before you, and when war flows with necessity from the logic of the objective situation, it would be unpardonable light-mindedness to give that enemy time to establish and fortify himself, conclude the necessary alliances, receive the necessary help, work out a plan of concentric military actions – not only from the west but from the east – and thus grow up to the dimensions of a colossal danger.

Hitler’s shock troops are already singing all over Germany a marching song against the Soviets, composed by a certain Doctor Hans Buchner. It would be imprudent to let the Fascists drawl this martial air. If they are destined to sing it, let them sing it staccato.

Whichever of the two might happen to take the formal initiative, a war between a government of Hitler and the Soviet Government would be inevitable, and that too at a very early date. The consequences of this war would be incalculable. But whatever illusions they might cherish in Paris, one thing could be confidently asserted: In the flames of a Bolshevik-Fascist war, one of the first things to burn up would be the Versailles treaty.

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Last updated on: 23.12.2013