Leon Trotsky

Hitler the Pacifist

(November 1933)

Written: 23 November 1933.
Source: The Militant, Vol. VI No. 57, 30 December 1933, p. 3. [1]
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2016. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

Hitler wants peace. His speeches and his interviews on this theme are constructed on an ancient formula: war is incapable of solving a single question, war threatens the extermination of the superior races, war brings the ruin of civilization in its wake. The classic argumentation of the pacifists for hundreds of years! All the more consoling is the fact that the Chancellor of the Reich has already succeeded in convincing several foreign journalists of his absolute sincerity. It is true that another pacifist whose sincerity is not open to the least suspicion, Karl Ossietzki, can ask why he continues to remain in a concentration camp, if the leader of the present government applies his fundamental theme assiduously, if not with very much talent. But Ossietzki is imprisoned for the very reason that he should not be able to pose embarrassing questions.

The Arguments of Hitler

The arguments of Hitler are convincing in the degree that they have volume. All the ministers, all the orators, all the journalists swear that the Third Reich has been called into being to realize the fraternity of people. If all of National Socialist Germany is learning to handle arms, it is only in order the better to become impregnated with hatred for them. Even von Papen who, as early as May 13th, still preached that the true Germany ought to die young on the field of battle and not from hardening of the arteries, does not cease to repeat now, that there is nothing more worthy than to give up the ghost peacefully surrounded by one’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The peoples of Europe passionately want the preservation of peace. No wonder that they lend an ear full of hope, to the bulky argumentation from Berlin. It is not very easy to dispel their doubts. Many are asking: and what is to be thought, for instance, of Hitler’s autobiography which is entirely built up on the irreconcilability of the interests of France and Germany? An appeasing explanation has already been given: the autobiography was written in prison, when the author’s nerves were disordered and it is only through an obvious negligence of the minister of propaganda that this disturbing book continues to this day to serve as the basis for national education.

“Peace” Instead of “Struggle”

Once the question of “equality of rights” is determined in favor of the Third Reich, Hitler will prepare the publication of a new edition, more reassuring. If the book has been called up to now, My Struggle, the principal object of My Struggle being the Versailles Treaty, in the future it is very probable that it will be called My Peace and that they will append to it a report of the National Socialist physicians attesting that the nerves of the author are in better order. And the Leipzig trial shows that the medico-legal expert testimony of the Nazis merits unbounded confidence. If in this world there existed only sincerity and love of peace, life would probably be made an eternal delight. But unfortunately side by side with these virtues stupidity and credulity still live on. Who will have to pay for them?

The author of these lines has already at one time attempted to draw the reader’s attention to a remarkable document, the Open Letter from Hitler to the then Chancellor of the Reich, von Papen, Unfortunately our weak voice obviously has not reached its destination. The Open Letter has not become, as we had hoped, the brief of all editors and all diplomatic chancelleries. And it is well deserving of that. The recently published political document of German propaganda are also incontestably, very instructive. But they have the drawback of being secrets. One can always suspect a falsification.

Hitler’s Open Letter

The Open Letter is not a secret document. This pamphlet was officially published by the Nazi party on October 16, 1932, three months before Hitler’s seizure of power. His nervous system by that time should have succeeded, we must believe, in completely recovering from the tests of 1923, Hitler already felt himself almost in the government. There remained only the hurdling of the last obstacles. The ruling classes looked towards him hopefully, but not without fear. They were particularly apprehensive of any adventure in “romantic” chauvinism. The aim of the Open Letter was to assure the possessing classes, the bureaucracy, the generals, the immediate retinue of Hindenburg that he, Hitler, contrary to the light-minded avenger von Papen, would pursue his ends with the greatest caution. The Open Letter discloses a complete system of foreign policy, which only now assumes its full importance. The withdrawal of Germany from the League of Nations was received throughout the entire world as an unexpected and unreasonable improvization. However, it is stated with absolute precision in the Open Letter why Germany would leave Geneva and how it would be necessary to arrange this break.

Nazi Foreign Policy

The exceptional value of this letter consists in that Hitler was still forced in those days to battle and polemic, rashly unveiled the secret springs of his future foreign policy. The point of departure of the Letter is the same as that of the autobiography: the interests of France and Germany are absolutely irreconcilable; on its own inclination France cannot come to an agreement on the basis of a change of relationship of forces in favor of Germany; Germany cannot hope to obtain “equality of rights” by means of discussion in international conferences; in order that international diplomacy recognize Germany’s right to rearm, the Germans must rearm beforehand. But that is precisely why it is impossible to demand aloud the rearmament of Germany as von Papen does. It is the slogan of a “popular movement” but in no case of diplomacy. A government conscious of its responsibilities, – that is the government of Hitler and not of von Papen, – should demand only the disarmament of France. And since France is no case could agree to that, Germany should leave the League of Nations in order thus to free its hands. So as to make war? No. Germany is still too weak for its government to speak in the near future in any other language than that of pacifism.

Recreating German Militarism

Invoking the “danger” which threatens it in the East, and utilizing the antagonisms among the states of the West, Germany should recreate the basis of its militarism, gradually, by proceeding from the general to the particular, to the special. In order to conduct this work to a successful end, there must be a national conspiracy of silence; above all the Ossietzkis must be kept under lock and key! A government conscious of its responsibilities must take the instruments of pacifism in its own hands. By following this path they will succeed, in the course of several years, in preparing a radical change in the relation of forces. After that they will be able to pass anew from My Peace to My Struggle and even to My War.

Such is Hitler’s plan. The plan flows from the whole situation, external and internal. Hitler himself has taken care to give humanity a key, – or, to use a more precise expression, a master-key, – in order to penetrate the secrets of his future international policy. With all due respect to the testimony of the two deeply-moved journalists, we prefer to base ourselves on the declarations of Hitler himself, supported by an imposing system of direct and indirect proofs.

From a fact, even a strongly established one, different practical conclusions can be drawn. Various answers can be given to the policy of Hitler. Least of all is it the intention of the present article to give any counsel whatever to those who decide the fate of Europe: surely they themselves know what they have to do. But the premises of a realistic policy, whatever its aims and methods, is an understanding of the situation and the forces at work in it.

Hitler’s Calculated Plan

We must see what is. Hitler has left the League of Nations not under the blow of a nervous improvisation, but in conformance with a coldly calculated plan. Hitler has himself assured the “national” conspiracy of silence. He carries on his work in the direction of a radical change in the relationship of military forces. It is precisely now, when this work has already begun but is still far from having given decisive results, that Hitler must employ the greatest caution in the European arena. Do not frighten anyone, do not irritate anyone; on the contrary, open wide the arms. Hitler is ready to cover the walls of the war factories with pacifist speeches and non-aggression pacts. Paris vaut bien une messe! (Paris is well worth a mass!). If a clear, simple, non-diplomatic formula of the pacifist offensive is necessary, it is the following: for the next two or three years Hitler must painstakingly avoid a preventive war on the part of his opponents. Within these limits his pacifism is absolutely sincere. But within these limits only.

November 23, 1933

L. Trotsky

Note by MIA

1. This text was translated from French – in the following issue of The Militant (Vol. VII No. 1, 4 January 1934) a correction notice was published correcting a large number of errors. The errors have been corrected in this version of the text. The correction note can be seen here.

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Last updated on: 8 February 2016