Leon Trotsky

Germany, The Key to
the International Situation

(November 1931)

Written in exile in Turkey, November 26, 1931.
Bulletin of the Opposition, no. 25–26, November-December 1931.
Also appeared as pamphlet by Pioneer Publishers early in 1932.
Translation by Morris Lewitt.

It is the aim of this pamphlet to indicate, at least in its general outline, the composition of the political world situation today, as it has resulted from the fundamental contradictions of decaying capitalism, complicated and sharpened by the severe commercial, industrial, and financial crisis. The following hastily sketched reflections, far from embracing all countries and all questions, are to be the subject of serious further, collective treatment.


The Spanish revolution [1] has created the general political premises for an immediate struggle for power by the proletariat The syndicalist traditions of the Spanish proletariat have now been revealed as one of the most important obstacles in the way of the development of the revolution. The Comintern was caught unawares by the events. The Communist Party, totally impotent at the beginning of the revolution, occupied a false position on all the fundamental questions. The Spanish experiences have shown—let it be recalled once more—what a frightful instrument of the disorganization of the revolutionary consciousness of the advanced workers the present Comintern leadership represents! The extraordinary delay of the proletarian vanguard lagging behind the events, the politically dispersed character of the heroic struggles of the working masses, the actual assurances of reciprocity between anarchosyndicalism and Social Democracy—these are the fundamental political conditions that made it possible for the republican bourgeoisie, in league with the Social Democracy, to establish an apparatus of repression, and by dealing the insurgent masses blow for blow, to concentrate a considerable amount of political power in the hands of the government

By this example, we see that fascism is not at all the only method of the bourgeoisie in its struggle against the revolutionary masses. The regime existing in Spain today corresponds best to the conception of a Kerenskiad, that is, the last (or “next-to-last”) left government, which the bourgeoisie can only set up in its struggle against the revolution. But this kind of government does not necessarily signify weakness and prostration. In the absence of a strong revolutionary party of the proletariat, a combination of semireforms, left phrases, and gestures still more to the left, and of reprisals, can prove to be of much more effective service to the bourgeoisie than fascism.

Needless to say, the Spanish revolution has not yet ended. It has not solved its most elementary tasks (the agrarian, the church, and the national questions) and is still far from having exhausted the revolutionary resources of the popular masses. More than it has already given, the bourgeois revolution will not be able to give. With regard to the proletarian revolution, the present internal situation in Spain may be characterized as pre-revolutionary, but scarcely more than that It is quite probable that the offensive development of the Spanish revolution will take on a more or less protracted character. In this manner, the historical process opens up, as it were, a new credit account for Spanish Communism.


The situation in Britain can likewise be termed, with a certain degree of justification, pre-revolutionary, provided it is strictly agreed that a period covering several years of partial ebbs and tides can elapse between a pre-revolutionary and a directly revolutionary situation. The economic situation in Britain has become extremely acute. Still, the political superstructure of this arch-conservative country lags extraordinarily behind the changes in the economic basis. Before resorting to new political forms and methods, all the classes of the British nation are attempting time and again to ransack the old storerooms, to turn the old clothes of their grandfathers and grandmothers inside out The fact remains that, despite the dreadful national decline, there does not exist in Britain as yet either a revolutionary party of any significance or its antipode—a fascist party. Thanks to these circumstances, the bourgeoisie has had the opportunity to mobilize the majority of the people under the “national” banner, that is, under the most hollow of all possible slogans. In the prerevolutionary situation, the most obtuse conservatism has acquired tremendous political predominance. It will in all probability take more than a month, perhaps more than a year, for the political superstructure to become adapted to the real economic and international situation of the country.

There is no ground for assuming that the collapse of the “national” bloc [2]—and such a collapse is inevitable in the relatively near future—will lead directly either to the proletarian revolution (it is a matter of course, that there can be no other revolution in Britain) or to the triumph of “fascism.” On the contrary, it may be assumed with much greater probability that on her path to the revolutionary solution, Britain will go through a lengthy period of the radical-democratic and social-pacifist demagogy of Lloyd-Georgism and of Labourism. [3] There can therefore be no doubt that Britain's historical development will grant British Communism ample time to transform itself into the genuine party of the proletariat at the moment it will be confronted with the solution. From this, however, it does not at all follow that we can afford to continue losing time with disastrous experiments and centrist zigzags. In the present world situation, time is the most precious of raw materials.


France, which the sages of the Comintern had placed a year and a half or two years ago in “the foremost ranks of the revolutionary upsurge,” is in actuality the most conservative country, not only of Europe, but perhaps in the entire world. The relative stability of the capitalist regime in France has its roots, to a large extent, in the country’s backwardness. The crisis has less telling effects on it than on other countries. On the financial field, Paris even attempts to vie with New York. The present financial “prosperity” of the French bourgeoisie has its direct source in the robbery of Versailles. But it is precisely the Versailles peace itself that contains the chief threat to the entire regime of the French republic. Between the size of the population, the productive forces, and the national income of France on the one hand, and her present international position on the other, there is a crying contradiction which must inevitably lead to an explosion. To maintain her short-lived hegemony, “nationalists as well as Radical Socialist France is forced to depend upon the support of the whole world’s most reactionary forces, of the most archaic forms of exploitation, of the abominable Rumanian clique, of the decadent Pilsudski regime, of the dictatorship of the Yugoslavian military; to uphold the dismemberment of the German nation (Germany and Austria), to defend the Polish corridor in East Prussia, to aid Japanese intervention in Manchuria, to spur the Japanese military clique against the USSR, to come forward as the chief enemy of the liberation movement of the colonial peoples, etc. The contradiction between France’s secondary role in world economy and her immense privileges and pretensions in world politics will become more distinct every month, will heap dangers upon dangers, upset her internal stability, promote restlessness and discontent among the masses of the people, and create ever deeper political displacements. These processes will undoubtedly manifest themselves as early as the next parliamentary elections.

On the other hand, however, all indications compel us to assume that, if no great events take place outside of the country (the victory of the revolution in Germany or, contrariwise, the victory of fascism), the development of the internal relationships in France itself will, in the next period, take a relatively “normal” course, which will open up for Communism the opportunity to utilize a considerable period of preparation in which to consolidate itself prior to the advent of the prerevolutionary and revolutionary situation.


In the United States, the most powerful capitalist country, the present crisis has laid bare frightful social contradictions with striking forcefulness. After an unprecedented period of prosperity, which amazed the whole world with its fireworks of millions and billions, the United States suddenly entered a period of unemployment for millions of people, of the most terrible physical misery for the toilers. Such a gigantic social convulsion cannot fail to leave its traces on the political development of the country. Today it is still hard to ascertain, at least from a distance, any substantial amount of radicalization in the American working masses. It may be assumed that the masses themselves have been so startled by the catastrophic economic upheaval, so stunned and crushed by unemployment or by the fear of unemployment, that they have not as yet been able to draw even the most elementary political conclusions from the calamity that has befallen them. This requires a certain amount of time. But the conclusions will be drawn. The tremendous economic crisis, which has taken on the character of a social crisis, will inevitably be converted into a crisis of the political consciousness of the American working class. It is quite possible that the revolutionary radicalization of the broadest layers of workers will reveal itself, not in the period of the greatest conjunctural decline, but on the contrary, during the turn toward revival and upswing. In either case, the present crisis will open up a new epoch in the life of the American proletariat and of the people as a whole. Serious reshufflings and clashes among the ruling parties are to be expected, as well as new attempts to create a third party, etc. With the first signs of economic recovery, the trade-union movement will acutely feel the need to tear itself from the clutches of the despicable AF of L bureaucracy. At the same time, unlimited possibilities will be opened up for Communism.

In the past, America has known more than one stormy outbreak of revolutionary or semirevolutionary mass movements. Each time they died out quickly, because America each time entered a new phase of economic upswing and also because the movements themselves were characterized by crude empiricism and theoretical helplessness. These two conditions belong to the past. A new economic upswing (and one cannot consider it excluded in advance) will have to be based, not on the internal “equilibrium,” but on the present chaos of world economy. American capitalism is entering an epoch of monstrous imperialism, of uninterrupted growth in armaments, of intervention in the affairs of the entire world, of military conflicts and convulsions. On the other hand, in Communism the masses of the American proletariat have – or rather, could have, provided with a correct policy – no longer the old melange of empiricism, mysticism, and quackery, but a scientific doctrine equal to any event. These radical changes permit us to predict with certainty that the inevitable and relatively rapid revolutionary transformation of the American proletariat will not be the easily extinguishable “bonfire?” of old, but the beginning of a veritable revolutionary conflagration. In America, Communism can confidently face a great future.


The Czarist adventure in Manchuria led to the Russo-Japanese war; the war—to the 1905 revolution. The present Japanese adventure in Manchuria can lead to revolution in Japan.

At the beginning of the century, the feudal-military regime of that country could still successfully serve the interests of the young Japanese capitalism. But in the last quarter of a century, capitalist development has brought extraordinary decomposition in the old social and political forms. Since that time, Japan has more than once been on the brink of revolution. But she lacked a strong revolutionary class to accomplish the tasks imposed on it by the developments. The Manchurian adventure may accelerate the revolutionary catastrophe for the Japanese regime.

Present-day China, no matter how enfeebled it may be by the dictatorship of the Kuomintang clique, differs greatly from the China which Japan, following the European powers, despoiled in the past. China has not the strength to drive out the Japanese expeditionary forces immediately, but the national consciousness and activity of the Chinese people have grown enormously; hundreds of thousands, millions of Chinese have gone through military training. The Chinese will rig up newer and yet newer armies. The Japanese will feel themselves besieged. The railroads will be of far greater service for war than for economic purposes. More and more new troops will have to be sent out. The Manchurian expedition spreading out will begin to exhaust Japan’s economic organism, increase the discontent inside the country, sharpen the contradictions, and thereby accelerate the revolutionary crisis.


In China, the necessity for a determined defense against the imperialist invasion will also provoke serious internal political consequences. The Kuomintang regime arose out of the national revolutionary mass movement which was exploited and strangled by the bourgeois militarists (with the aid of the Stalinist bureaucracy). Precisely for this reason, the present regime, shaky and full of contradictions, is incapable of initiating a revolutionary war. The necessity for a defense against the Japanese tyrants will turn more and more against the Kuomintang regime, nourishing the revolutionary sentiments of the masses. With a correct policy, the proletarian vanguard can, under these conditions, make up for all that was so tragically lost in the course of the years 1924-1927.


The present events in Manchuria prove particularly how naive those gentlemen were who demanded of the Soviet Union the simple return of the Chinese Eastern Railroad to China. That would have meant surrendering it voluntarily to Japan, in whose hands the railroad would have become a weapon against China as well as against the USSR. If anything at all had hitherto prevented the Japanese military cliques from intervention in Manchuria, and if anything may still hold them within the bounds of caution today, it is the fact that the Chinese Eastern Railroad is the property of the Soviets. [4]


Cannot the Manchurian adventure of the Japanese nevertheless lead to war with the USSR? It goes without saying that this is not excluded even with the wisest and most cautious policy on the part of the Soviet government. The internal contradictions of feudal-capitalistic Japan have obviously unbalanced her government. There is no lack of instigators (France). And from the historical experiences of Czarism in the Far East we know what an unbalanced military-bureaucratic monarchy is capable of.

The struggle unfolding in the Far East is, of course, carried on not for the sake of the railroads, but over the fate of all of China. In this gigantic historical struggle, the Soviet government cannot be neutral, cannot take the same position with regard to China and Japan. It is duty-bound to stand completely and fully on the side of the Chinese people. Only the unflinching loyalty of the Soviet government to the struggle for the liberation of the oppressed peoples can really protect the Soviet Union on the Eastern frontier against Japan, Britain, France, the United States.

The ways in which the Soviet government will support the struggle of the Chinese people in the coming period depend upon the concrete historical circumstances. If It would have been absurd to surrender the Chinese Eastern Railroad voluntarily to Japan earlier, then it would be just as absurd to subordinate the entire policy in the Far East to the question of the Chinese Eastern Railroad. There is much to suggest that the behavior of the Japanese military clique on this question has a consciously provocatory character. The direct instigators of this provocation are the French rulers. The aim of the provocation is to tie the Soviet Union down in the East. All the more firmness and farsightedness is required on the part of the Soviet government.

The fundamental conditions of the East—its Immense expanse, its countless human masses, its economic backwardness—give all processes a slow, drawn out and crawling character. In any case, there is no immediate or acute threat to the existence of the Soviet Union from the Far East. During the coming period, the main events will unfold in Europe. Here great opportunities may arise, but from the same source also, great dangers threaten. For the present, only Japan has tied its hands in the Far East The Soviet Union must for the present keep Its hands free.


On this hardly peaceful political background of the world, the situation in Germany stands out sharply. The economic and political contradictions have here reached unprecedented acuteness. The solution is approaching. The moment has come when the pre-revolutionary situation must be transformed into the revolutionary—or the counter-revolutionary. On the direction in which the solution of the German crisis develops will depend not only the fate of Germany herself (and that is already a great deal), but also the fate of Europe, the destiny of the entire world, for many years to come.

Socialist construction in the USSR, the course of the Spanish revolution, the development of the prerevolutionary situation in England, the future of French imperialism, the fate of the revolutionary movement in China and India—all this directly and immediately rests upon the question of who will be victorious in Germany in the course of the next few months: Communism or fascism?


After last year’s September elections to the Reichstag, the leadership of the German Communist Party declared that fascism has reached its culmination, and that henceforth it would rapidly disintegrate and clear the road for the proletarian revolution. The Communist Left Opposition (Bolshevik-Leninists) at that time ridiculed this giddy optimism. Fascism is a product of two conditions: a sharp social crisis on the one hand; the revolutionary weakness of the German proletariat on the other. The weakness of the proletariat is in turn made up of two elements: the particular historical role of the Social Democracy, this still powerful capitalist agency in the ranks of the proletariat and the inability of the centrist leadership of the Communist Party to unite the workers under the banner of the revolution.

For us, the Communist Party is the subjective factor; the Social Democracy is an objective obstacle that must be swept away. Fascism would actually fall to pieces if the Communist Party were able to unite the working class, transforming it into a powerful revolutionary magnet for all the oppressed masses of the people. But the policy of the Communist Party since the September elections has only aggravated its inconsistencies: the empty talk of “social fascism,” the flirtations with chauvinism, the imitation of genuine fascism for the purpose of petty market competition with it, the criminal adventurism of the “red referendum”—all this prevents the Communist Party from becoming the leader of the proletariat and of the people. During the last few months it has brought under its banner only those new elements whom the great crisis has almost forcibly pushed into its ranks. Despite the disastrous political conditions existing for it, the Social Democracy has been able, thanks to the aid of the Communist Party, to retain the great bulk of its following and has up to the present escaped with considerable, to be sure, but nevertheless only secondary losses. Insofar as the fascists are concerned, despite the recent bragging of Thälmann, Remmele, and others, and in complete conformity with the prognosis of the Bolshevik-Leninists, they have taken a great leap forward since September of last year. The Comintern leadership has been unable either to foresee or to forestall anything. It can only register the defeats. Its resolutions and other documents are—alas!—only snapshots of the rear end of the historical process.


The decisive hour is very close. But the Comintern does not want or rather fears, to give itself an account of the actual character of the present world situation. The presidium of the Comintern gets by on meaningless agitational scraps of paper. The leading party of the Comintern, the CPSU, has taken no position whatsoever. As if the “leaders of the world proletariat” had mouths full of potatoes. They plan to keep mum. They intend to sit tight. They hope to wait it out. They have substituted for the policy of Lenin ... the policy of the ostrich. One of those decisive moments in history is closely approaching, when the Comintern, after a series of big but still “partial” mistakes which have undermined and shaken up the forces accumulated in its first five years, risks committing the capital, fatal error which may erase the Comintern as a revolutionary factor from the political map for an entire historic epoch.

Let blind men and cowards refuse to notice this. Let slanderers and hired journalists accuse us of being in league with the counterrevolution! Isn’t it well known that counter-revolution is not that which entrenches world imperialism, but that which interferes with the digestion of Communist bureaucrats? Calumny cannot intimidate the Bolshevik-Leninists or restrain them from fulfilling their revolutionary duties. Nothing must be concealed, nothing minimized. We must tell the advanced workers loudly and clearly: after the “third period” of adventurism and boasting, the “fourth period”—of panic and capitulation—has set in.


If the silence of the present leaders of the CPSU were translated into articulate language, it would sound like “Leave us in peace!” The internal difficulties of the USSR are extraordinarily great. The uncontrollable economic and social contradictions are growing more and more acute. The demoralization of the apparatus, the inevitable product of a plebiscitary regime, has taken on truly menacing proportions. The political relationships and, above all, the relationships inside the party, the relationships between the demoralized apparatus and the dispersed mass, are as tense as a taut wire. The wisdom of the bureaucrats consists wholly of waiting, of procrastinating. The situation in Germany quite obviously threatens convulsions. But the Stalinist apparatus fears convulsions precisely more than anything. “Leave us in peace! Let us first disentangle ourselves from our extremely sharp inner contradictions and then ... we shall see.” This is the mood in the higher echelons of the Stalinist faction. It is precisely this sentiment that is concealed behind the scandalous silence of the “leaders” at the very moment when it is their most elementary revolutionary duty to speak out clearly and distinctly.


It is not at all astonishing that the perfidious silence of the Moscow leadership has become a panic signal for the Berlin leaders. Now, when it is necessary to prepare to lead the masses in decisive struggle, the leadership of the German Communist Party displays confusion, equivocates, wriggles out with phrases. These people are not accustomed to independent responsibility. Above everything else, they are now dreaming of a way of proving that “Marxism-Leninism” demands avoidance of the struggle.

In this connection they have not as yet created a complete theory. But it is already in the air. It is carried from mouth to mouth and glimpsed in articles and speeches. The sense of the theory is the following: fascism is growing unrestrainedly; its victory is inevitable in any case; instead of “blindly” throwing ourselves into the struggle and permitting ourselves to be crushed, it is better to retreat cautiously and to allow fascism to seize power and to compromise itself. Then—oh! then—we will show ourselves.

Adventurism and lightmindedness give way, according to the laws of political psychology, to prostration and capitulation. The victory of the fascists, considered unthinkable the year before, is looked upon as certain today. Some Kuusinen or other, inspired behind the scenes by some Radek or other [5], is already preparing for Stalin the brilliant strategic formula: retreat in good time, lead the revolutionary troops out of the line of fire, and lay a trap for fascism in the form of ... state power.

Were this theory to entrench itself in the German Communist Party, determining its course for the next few months, it would signify a betrayal on the part of the Comintern of no lesser historical proportions than the betrayal of the Social Democracy on August 4, 1914, and at that, with much more frightful consequences. [6]

It is the duty of the Left Opposition to give the alarm: the leadership of the Comintern is driving the German proletariat toward an enormous catastrophe, the essence of which is panicky capitulation before fascism!


The coming to power of the National Socialists would mean first of all the extermination of the flower of the German proletariat, the destruction of its organizations, the eradication of its belief in itself and in its future. Considering the far greater maturity and acuteness of the social contradictions in Germany, the hellish work of Italian fascism would probably appear as a pale and almost humane experiment in comparison with the work of the German National Socialists.

Retreat you say, you who were yesterday the prophets of the “third period”? Leaders and institutions can retreat. Individual persons can hide. But the working class will have no place to retreat to in the face of fascism, and no place to hide. If one were really to admit the monstrous and improbable, that the party will actually evade the struggle and thus deliver the proletariat to the mercy of its mortal enemy, this would signify only one thing: the gruesome battles would unfold not before the seizure of power by the fascists but after it, that is, under conditions ten times more favorable for fascism than those of today. The struggle against a fascist regime by a proletariat betrayed by its own leadership, taken by surprise, disoriented, despairing, would be transformed into a series of frightful, bloody, and futile convulsions. Ten proletarian insurrections, ten defeats, one on top of the other, could not debilitate and enfeeble the German working class as much as a retreat before fascism would weaken it at the very moment when the decision is still impending on the question of who is to become master in the German household.


Fascism is not yet in power. The road to power has not yet opened up for it The leaders of fascism still fear to risk it: they realize that there is too much at stake, that their necks are in danger. Under these circumstances, the moods of capitulation among the Communist chiefs can suddenly simplify their problems and facilitate their tasks.

If at present even influential layers of the bourgeoisie fear the fascist experiment, precisely because they want no convulsions, no long and severe civil war, then the capitulatory policy of official Communism, clearing the road to power for the fascists, would completely push the middle classes and the still vacillating sections of the petty bourgeoisie, as well as considerable sections of the proletariat itself, to the side of fascism.

It goes without saying, that someday triumphant fascism will fall as a victim to the objective contradictions and to its own inadequacy. But for the immediate, foreseeable future, for the next ten to twenty years, a victory of fascism in Germany would mean a break in the continuity of revolutionary development collapse of the Comintern, and the triumph of world imperialism in its most heinous and bloodthirsty forms.


A victory of fascism in Germany would signify an inevitable war against the USSR.

In fact, it would really be sheer political stupidity to believe that once they came into power, the German National Socialists would begin with a war against France, or even against Poland. The inevitable civil war against the German proletariat will bind fascist foreign policy hand and foot in the first period of their rule. Hitler will need Pilsudski just as much as Pilsudski will need Hitler. Both alike will become tools of France. If the French bourgeois fears the seizure of power by the German fascists at the present moment, as a leap into the unknown, even so French reaction, in its nationalist as well as in its Radical Socialist form, will stake all on fascism the day of Hitler’s victory.

None of the “normal” bourgeois parliamentary governments can risk a war at the present time against the USSR: for it would bring with it the threat of immense internal complications. But if Hitler comes to power and proceeds to crush the vanguard of the German workers, pulverizing and demoralizing the whole proletariat, the fascist government will be the only government capable of waging war against the USSR. Naturally, it will act under such circumstances in a common front with Poland and Rumania, with the other border states, and in the Far East with Japan. In this enterprise, the Hitler government would be only the executive organ of world capitalism as a whole. Clemenceau, Millerand, Lloyd George, Wilson could not directly carry on a war against the Soviet government; but they were able, in the course of three years, to support the armies of Kolchak, Wrangel, and Denikin. [7] In case he is victorious, Hitler will become the super-Wrangel of the world bourgeoisie.

It is needless, yes, and impossible, to predict today how such a gigantic duel would end. But it is absolutely clear that if the war of the world bourgeoisie against the Soviets breaks out after a seizure of power by the fascists in Germany, then that will mean frightful isolation and a fight to the death under the hardest and most dangerous conditions for the USSR.

The crushing of the German proletariat by the fascists would already comprise at least half of the collapse of the Soviet republic.


But before this question can enter the arena of European battles, it must be decided in Germany. That is why we say that the key to the world situation lies in Germany. In whose hands? For the present still in the hands of the Communist Party. It has not lost it yet. But it may. The leadership is steering it in that direction.

Everyone who preaches a “strategic retreat,” that is, capitulation, everyone who tolerates such preaching, is a traitor. The propagandists of retreat before the fascists must be considered unconscious agents of the enemy in the ranks of the proletariat.

The most elementary revolutionary duty of the German Communist Party demands that it say: fascism can come into power only after a merciless, annihilating civil war to the bitter end. Above all, the worker-Communists must know this. The Social Democratic workers must know it, the nonparty workers, the whole proletariat. The whole international proletariat must know this. The Red Army must know it beforehand.


But is not the struggle really hopeless? In 1923, Brandler enormously overestimated the power of fascism and thereby covered up his capitulation. The international labor movement is still suffering the consequences of that strategy today. The historic capitulation of the German Communist Party and the Comintern in 1923 served as the basis for the subsequent rise of fascism. At present, German fascism represents an immeasurably greater political force than eight years ago. We have continually warned against underestimating the fascist danger, and it is not for us to deny its existence at present. It is precisely for this reason that we can and must say to the revolutionary German workers today: your leaders are again slipping from one extreme to the other.

In the meantime, the main strength of the fascists is their strength in numbers. Yes, they have received many votes. But in the social struggle, votes are not decisive. The main army of fascism still consists of the petty bourgeoisie and the new middle class: the small artisans and shopkeepers of the cities, the petty officials, the employees, the technical personnel, the intelligentsia, the impoverished peasantry. On the scales of election statistics, a thousand fascist votes weigh as much as a thousand Communist votes. But on the scales of the revolutionary struggle, a thousand workers in one big factory represent a force a hundred times greater than a thousand petty officials, clerks, their wives, and their mothers-in-law. The great bulk of the fascists consists of human dust.

The Social Revolutionaries were the party with the greatest numbers in the Russian Revolution. In the first period, everyone who was not either a conscious bourgeois or a conscious worker voted for them. Even in the Constituent Assembly, that is, after the October Revolution, the Social Revolutionaries formed the majority. They therefore considered themselves a great national party. They turned out to be a great national zero.

We do not want to equate the Russian Social Revolutionaries with the German National Socialists. But there are, undoubtedly, similarities between them that are very important In clarifying the question under discussion. The Social Revolutionaries were a party of hazy popular hopes. The National Socialists are a party of national despair. The petty bourgeoisie has always shown the greatest capacity to pass from hope to despair, dragging a part of the proletariat along with It. The great bulk of the National Socialists is, as was the case with the Social Revolutionaries, human dust.


Seized with panic, these apologies for strategists are forgetting the chief thing: the great social and fighting advantages of the proletariat. Its forces are not spent. It is capable not only of struggle, but of victory. The stories about the low spirits in the factories reflect in most cases, the low spirits of the observers, that is, of the party functionaries who have lost their heads. But we must also take into consideration the fact that the complex situation and the confusion among the leaders cannot but alarm the workers. The workers understand that great battle requires firm leadership. The workers are not frightened by the strength of fascism or by the necessity of a ruthless struggle. They are disturbed only by the uncertainty and wavering of the leadership, by their vacillations at the critical moment. Not a trace of depression and dispiritedness will remain in the factories just as soon as the party raises its voice firmly, clearly, and confidently.


Without a doubt, the fascists have serious fighting cadres, experienced shock brigades. We must not make light of this: the “officers” play a big part even in the civil-war army. Still, it is not the officers, but the soldiers who decide. The soldiers of the proletarian army, however, are immeasurably superior, more trustworthy and more steadfast than the soldiers of Hitler’s army.

After the conquest of power fascism will easily find its soldiers. With the aid of the state apparatus, an army of the pet sons of the bourgeoisie, of intellectuals, counter clerks, demoralized workers, lumpenproletarians, etc., is easily created. Example: Italian fascism. Although here it should be mentioned that the Italian fascist militia has not as yet gone through a serious historical test of its fighting value. But German fascism is not yet in power. It has still to conquer power in a struggle with the proletariat. Will the Communist Party enter this struggle with worse troops than those of fascism? And can we assume, even if only for a moment, that the German workers, who have the powerful means of production and transportation in their hands, who have been bound together by the conditions of their work into an army of iron, of coal, of railroads, of electrical wires, will not prove to be immeasurably superior in the decisive struggle to Hitler’s human dust?

Another important element in the strength of a party or a class is the idea which the party or the class has of the relationship of forces in the country. In every war the enemy strives to create an exaggerated idea of his strength. That was one of the secrets of Napoleon’s strategy. In lying, Hitler can in any case be no worse than Napoleon. But his boasting becomes a military factor only at the moment the Communists begin to believe him. More than anything else, a realistic inventory of forces is immediately necessary. What do the National Socialists have in the factories, on the railroads; in the army, how many organized and armed officers have they? A clear social analysis of the composition of both camps, a constant and vigilant calculation of forces – these are the unfailing sources of revolutionary optimism.

At present the strength of the National Socialists lies not so much in their own army as in the schism within the army of their mortal enemy. But it is precisely the reality of the fascist threat its growth and proximity, the consciousness of the necessity of averting it at any cost, that must inevitably push the workers toward unity in the name of self-defense. The concentration of the proletarian forces will take place all the more quickly and successfully, the more reliable the pivot of this process, the Communist Party, is shown to be. The key to the situation still rests in their hands. Woe to them if they lose it!

In the course of the last few years, the functionaries of the Comintern have shouted on any and every occasion, often unwarrantedly, of the immediate war danger threatening the USSR. Today this danger is taking on a real character and concrete outlines. It should be axiomatic for every revolutionary worker that the attempt of the fascists to seize power in Germany must lead to the mobilization of the Red Army. For the proletarian state, it will be a matter of revolutionary self-defense in the most direct and immediate sense. Germany is not only Germany. It is the heart of Europe. Hitler is not only Hitler. He is the candidate for the post of a super-Wrangel. But the Red Army is also not only the Red Army. It is the arm of the proletarian world revolution.


P.S. The work Against National Communism! by the author of the present pamphlet has called forth some equivocal applause in several of the Social Democratic and Democratic papers. It would be not only strange, but even unnatural, at a time when German fascism successfully exploits the gravest mistakes of German Communism, for the Social Democrats not to attempt to exploit open and sharp criticism of these mistakes.

Needless to say, the Stalinist bureaucracy in Moscow as well as that in Berlin scrambled for the articles of the Social Democratic and Democratic press on our pamphlet, as if they were a precious gift: at last they have discovered real “evidence” of our united front with the Social Democracy and the bourgeoisie. People who went through the Chinese revolution hand in hand with Chiang Kai-shek and the British General Strike hand in hand with Purcell, Citrine, and Cook – it was not at that time a matter of articles, but of grandiose historical events – are forced to cling with joy to the episodes of newspaper polemics. [8] But we do not fear to face our accusers on this plane, too. It is necessary only to reflect and not to froth, to analyze and not to rail.

Above all, we ask the question: who has been aided by the absurd and criminal participation of the German Communist Party in the fascist referendum? The facts have already given an irrefutable answer to this question: the fascists and only the fascists. It is precisely for this reason that the chief inspirer of this criminal adventure has renounced his paternity rights: in a speech before responsible party functionaries in Moscow, Stalin defended the participation in the referendum, then caught himself in time and prohibited not only the text from being printed, but even all mention of the speech in the newspapers.

Of course, the Vorwärts, the Berliner Tageblatt, and the Wiener Arbeiterzeitung – especially the latter – quote our pamphlet with the most extreme dishonesty. Yes, and can anyone expect honesty with regard to the ideas of the proletarian revolution in the bourgeois or the petty-bourgeois press? However, we are willing to disregard the distortions and begin to meet the accusations of the Stalinist functionaries. Let us recognize that insofar as the Social Democracy fears the victory of the fascists, reflecting in this the revolutionary alarm of the workers, they have a certain objective right to utilize our criticism of the policies of the Stalinists which have rendered an enormous service to the fascists. The basis for this “right” of theirs is not however, our pamphlet but your policies, oh wise strategists! You say we have shown that we are in a “united front” with Wels [9] and Severing? Only on that ground and only within those limits, in which you have shown that you are in a united front with Hitler and his Black Hundreds. And here, too, still with this difference: that in your case it was a joint political action, in ours a matter, in the last instance, of opponents making ambiguous use of a few quotations.

When Socrates laid down the philosophic principle “Know thyself,” he undoubtedly had Thälmann, Neumann, and even Remmele himself in mind.

The Rise of Fascism in Germany Index

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Last updated on: 18.5.2013