OFFICIAL ORGAN OF THE COMMUNIST LEAGUE OF STRUGGLE
(Adhering to the International Left Opposition)
Volume 2 Number 8 September 1932
I. Letters from Germany
(Ed. Note: These letters were written in June and July by Comrade Weisbord but are still timely).
14 Years of the German Republic—From Ebert to the Ex Crown Prince.
In fourteen years the German Republic has burned itself out. The rising threat of national Socialism, the unrest of the population, the frequent clashings and shootings, the great economic distress, everything points to an imminent collapse. The question is, what next? What sort of regime will follow the downfall of the Republic? The prominence given recently to the ex-royal family raises the interesting question whether the restoration of the Hohenzollerns is not probable.
It is after all the Germany of the Kaiser that remains the symbol of what was powerful and gloriously victorious. Under the Kaiser, Germany was at the supreme point of its career. For every intellectual there was the opportunity of a position in the state apparatus or in the staff of the growing concerns. For every business man there was the promise of the great success that German imperialism held out to him. For every worker there was the sop of reforms of one part or another to seduce him into inactivity.
Today everything has changed. The Republic stands for a defeated Germany, a Germany staggering under a double load of debts and reparations. The Republic has meant the enormous intensification of the class struggle and has given the working class a more favorable arena within which to mobilize its forces and openly to test its strength. With the Republic has come crisis after crisis of both a political and economic nature. Revolutions in 1918, 1921, 1923; starvation after the war; complete bankruptcy in the inflation period, and now the unprecedented economic crisis which has blasted the opportunities and careers of millions of workers and intellectuals. It is then no accident that the old soldiers in Germany march not under the banner of the Republic but under other flags, flags that bear the black swastika of Hitler’s Nazis, the emblems of Royalism, or the hammer and sickle of the Communists.
Every day deadly attacks are being made by the Nazis not only against the Communists but also against the Reichsbanner troops, men who have as their sole slogan the defense of the Republic and who carry the flag of the Republic. And the police are powerless to interfere. The Minister of the Interior Von Gayle in his opening speech declared plainly that for him the best solution of the German situation is the restoration of the Hohenzollerns. The Ex-Crown Prince is openly mobilizing his forces for this event. In Bavaria and other states similar moves for the restoration of the old dynasties have taken on great force. There is no question but that within the Nazis the monarchists play a very great role. In Austria the Nazis are definitely for a royalty,—the only question is , which royalty shall it be, Hohenzollern or Hapsburg? To understand the fever that is burning up the German Republic a glimpse of its history is necessary, tracing the origin of the contradictory forces now moving to a clash.
In 1918 Germany was defeated and crushed. The Versailles Treaty stripped Germany of all its removable wealth, tore its territory asunder and loaded it with a huge reparations payment. A revolution begun by the impoverished lower classes, aided in part by the victorious Entente, resulted in the overthrow of the Hohenzollern and Hapsburg dynasties. The big business men of Germany had not wanted this revolution and they did not help to make it. Under the Kaiser they had protection from the working class; without the Kaiser, faced by the masses in desperate plight, to whom could they turn? The working class, indeed, made every effort to push the revolution further, itself to conquer power. Had it succeeded, a European war or world revolution would have resulted. In this emergency there stepped into the breach the Socialist Party of Germany. This party which had supported the Kaiser’s was in the name of socialism, now in the name of socialism roused all classes in a united front for the republic against the Communists’ efforts for a Soviet regime.
So we have the extraordinary fact that political power passed through the fingers of the big business men only to burn them and it was left for the thick-skinned hands of the Socialist Party leaders to handle the live wires of the class struggle. It is a fact that it was the Socialist leaders who first shot down the workers struggling for power; that it was the Socialist leaders who taking power themselves, refused to wield it for socialism, but instead rallied the business men to their side and protected them from complete expropriation. It was the Socialist Ebert, first president of the German Republic who in the name of socialism performed the heroic task of saving German capital, and worked out the democratic constitution by which later even these very Socialists were to lose power.
In the meantime a veritable transformation had taken place in the economic structure of Germany. The Versailles debacle, the chaos and enormous inflation that followed in Germany virtually stripped the country of all its reserves and completely ruined wide strata of the population. The inflation produced unbelievable results. I have in my hand a newspaper that cost 80,000,000,000 marks to buy from the newstand. Figures stood in trillions. The house where I stay now was actually bought for seventy-five pfennigs or eighteen cents in cold cash! For one good Dutch Gulden (thirty-five cents) my friend stayed in the most expensive hotel for one day, traveled a whole day on the railroad and then had enough left over to live like a prince the next day as well. This period resulted in a complete cleaning out of the smaller “independent” middle classes and an enormous acceleration of trustification tendencies in Germany. Properties were bought for a song. Huge concerns like the Stinnes Trust arose almost overnight.
Hand in hand with this tendency towards trustification went a great development of State capitalism in Germany. It is only by understanding this development that we can understand the basis of what is taking place in the political world in Germany. Only today for example we read that the government has been forced to buy up the shares of the Flick steel concern to prevent it from going into bankruptcy, and so the government has added another business, steel, to its list of banks, shipping and other industries, ordinarily privately run, but now to be run by the government.
By 1925 there was ushered in a new phase of the Republic. Ebert and the Socialists were good for the period of chaos and anarchy, to carry out the repression of the working class. But by 1925 a certain stability had been secured. The election of Hindenburg in 1925 appropriately marks this period. In foreign relations it was a period of crystalization of the Versailles Treaty into the Dawes Plan, later modified by the Young Plan. This period—was marked by a huge invasion of American gold into Germany. Fully 16,000,000,000 marks have been invested in Germany by Americans. Within Germany it was a period marked by feverish economic activity. Following the inflation period, with the help of American dollars, a great period of rationalization “on the American plan” set in and an economic machine more powerful than under the Kaiser was set up, a machine that stands today us a gigantic Frankenstein in the heart of Europe.
Politically the situation was marked by the following tendencies: The old royalists began to raise their heads against simultaneously with a great efflorescence into political parties of all conceivable trends and nuances. German big business tried hard to organize a political party that could independently take power. It opened up a struggle against the Dawes and Young Plans for a new German Imperialism, etc. However the attempt was a failure, for German Big Business has the respect of no one. It has come into the scene too late, at a time when other forces, more powerful than it alone, drive it into seeking allies in other directions. The German business men were forced to ally themselves still with the Socialists to whom were entrusted Prussia and other key states and cities. However, this support of the Socialists has cost German business heavily. Were Germany an England or America the cost of the social reforms and other concessions necessary to keep the Socialists in power would not have been unbearable, but to an actual Germany this cost sooner or later had to prove too great for industry to bear and a change had to become necessary.
The great change has come with the world crisis that since 1930 has continued to grow ever deeper. The German industrialists can no longer be satisfied with the present Republic. Hindenburg gives way to Hitler or rather paves the way for Hitler. The bourgeois parties more and more begin to coalesce into one—the “National Socialist Workers Party.” Things are moving to a head-on collision. For the first time the German industrialists are breaking with their Socialists allies and are beginning even physically to attack them, as in the recent attack on the “Vorwaertz.” The Socialist Party is forced steadily backward. In the beginning it is declared that the Republic was “on the way to Socialism” that more and more would the workers control. Then in the second period it was forced back from its position of “workers Control” over the industries into one of mere social reforms. Now it has shrunk into a pure “radical” party in the European sense, that is, a party that has abandoned all pretense of struggling for social reform but now declares the great fight is to keep the Republic. In the meantime the Communists remain a force ever to be reckoned with, ever demonstrating the instability of the situation.
The third period of the German Republic is the period of its decomposition. Life flows on outside its forms. Big Business (Thynnes Trust and others) turns no longer to the costly Socialists but to the cheaper Nazis. The Nazis promise to bring back the old glory that was Deutschland’s. But the weak-chinned, Charlie-Chaplin-moustached, hysterical Hitler cannot do this. For this role there is needed a Napoleon, a dynasty, a tradition, a name; much more so that the King is needed in Italy. And the Ex Crown Prince is ready. Will he be the power that is needed or will he be only another Napoleon the Little? This is another question. At any rate the German business men need the quiet authority, the military austerity, the organizing ability of the Royalists. The Von Papen regime of Barons and Junker’s already points the way. And the Ex Crown Prince stands ready.
II.The Foreign Policy of German Big Business
German Big Business faces an historical turning point. It is a question whether German business is to be turned into a sem-colonial organization existing for the benefit of foreign powers, or whether it can again find its own place in the sun. It is needless to state that the German business magnates will fight to the bitter end against any form of colonialization even to the extent of threatening to bring the whole house of cards built at Versailles down upon the heads of the builders.
Since the war, with the resultant intensification of international division of labor, Germany lost all the strength it had had on the international field as banker and financier and became only a huge workshop better organized and more efficient than ever. Within Germany the State has taken the place of the private bank as coordinator and centralizer. From this point of view one can say that the struggle between Germany and France, for example, is a struggle between industrial capital on the one hand and financial and banking capital on the other. All the profit that capital can make in Germany is being drained by the foreign bankers in one form or another. Hence we can understand the bitterness that exists in Germany against the "banker". Hence we can understand the emphasis placed by the Nazis on “work” and “production” and against “interest slavery". Only of course to the Nazis the industrial capitalist is also a “worker". The struggle against foreign financial capital is then a struggle against the danger of being colonialized, auctioned off and bought up by capitalists of other lands.
The financial drain to which German Big Business in being subjected
takes three forms:
1. Reparations. 2. Private debts. 3. Social Insurance, that is, payments to the Socialists for protection so that the capitalist system as a whole may be permitted to continue. The economic crisis has made these drains absolutely insupportable for German business if it is to continue on an independent basis. At the same time the divisions among the capitalist powers themselves (witness for example the futility of recent disarmament conferences) has given Germany the opportunity to strike its blow for freedom.
First as to reparations. Germany has already paid twelve billion marks ($3,000,000,000) under the Dawes and Young plans. This sum could be paid only because Americans had privately invested close to sixteen billion marks in Germany. When further loans and investments from America became impossible, drastic measures had to be taken. German Big Business turns to the National Socialists because that party more than any other militantly declares it will not pay a single cent of reparations. German Big Business made every show of force to win its point, and the results at Lausanne seem to indicate that the tactic was correct. Under the Young Plan Germany would have had to pay $8,800,000,000 which in itself was a considerable retreat from the truly fantastic figures of the first reparations demands of 1920 and 1921. The arrangements restricting payments to only $750,000,000 constitute a big victory for German Big Business. Incidentally this outcome must result in a strengthening of the Fascist Nazi position so that still greater momentum for the Fascists in the coming elections may be anticipated. (This forecast was proven correct by the results of the last Reichstag elections.)
Here we must consider the relation of America to this problem. There is no question but that American opinion for the termination of reparations payments has strengthened the German and Nazi position, and has relatively isolated France. France of course stands to lose the most. Before the war she had as her allies Russia and England and during the war America and Italy. Today Russia is gone, America, financially, is in opposition to France, Italy is hostile. What can replace these allies for France, the combination of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Roumania? But these secondary scattered countries are too completely dependent on French loans and reparations to constitute effective French allies and with the reparations payments gone the situation becomes quite difficult for France. This is the reason France fought so hard, but it is also the reason why she could not enforce harsher terms.
If German Big Business has freed itself of the reparations burdens through the help of American private loans, the next question is to get rid of these loans themselves which through interest payments are weakening industrial Germany. An attempt to reduce the interest payments on German bonds is inevitable. This will be another phase of the battle front against “interest slavery” that will be carried on by the Nazis. What can America do about it? As the banks have already unloaded large quantities of these bonds it is probable that nothing will be done.
As for the third drain, social insurance, already through the Von Papan cabinet, Big Business has worked out and is beginning to enforce a complete program for the drastic and systematic reduction of all social insurance. It is preparing therefore to replace the socialists—whose services are so costly—with the dictatorship of the Fascists who even now are openly playing with the slogan of “compulsory labor". Of course there is no question but that this must lead to civil war of serious proportions, but German Big Business hopes to win this civil war and thus finally to emancipate itself from the contradictions of the post war period.
The second big task of a reconstituted German Imperialism is the re-conquest of all territory lost by the war. German Big Business is proceeding cautiously fighting first for the Danzig. This is a good tactic since it has a defensive color, since it strikes not at France—an enemy too strong to be tackled --- but at Poland and the East, and since it is possible to create such a situation in the Danzig Corridor as will make it impossible for the Poles to keep it. But for such a policy a militant party is necessary, and here again we see a reason for the growth of the Nazis. In this case their policy has the support of no less a person than Senator Borah who in a recent statement came out plainly with the viewpoint that military disturbances must result from the splitting of East and West Germany by the Danzig Corridor scheme.
But the Nazis are demanding more. One of their leaders already has raised the cry for the return of the Silesian territory taken from the Germans. Such a demand coupled with the efforts towards a union with Austria show in what direction the new German Imperialism means to expand—towards the East. Such a policy must result in the squeezing of Czechoslovakia and in the creation of great difficulties for Poland. What then will happen to the French continental hegemony based on strong buffer states between Germany and the Soviet Union which has been built-up at so much cost since the war, and which has served France so well for double-edged policy in Europe? Here we see France struck a double blow both at the Reparations Conference and in the territorial demands of the new German Imperialism. The third blow will be struck when the new German army is created. The moment it is freed from the pressure resulting from the war, Germany, with its key position on the continent can once again win the alliance of Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey as she already has won the support of Italy.
But the question still arises in what direction can Germany look for expansion on a large scale? It is clear only in the East. Germany must renew her policy of “Drang nach Osten". Here alone has she a future. She can not think of war against France at the present time. And thus she is prohibited from making a frontal attack against the indispensable allies of France, Jugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. If then she is to expand it can only be with the tacit support of France itself. (We here of course leave out entirely the possibility of other factors entering in, such as a war in the East, which would give Germany other opportunities.)
The support of France can be won through hostility towards the enemy which France has so carefully surrounded with her cordon sanitaire --- the Soviet Union. And this fact will become all the clearer and sharper in proportion as German Big Business overcomes the effects of the war and systematically proceeds to the preparatory organization of its expansion. An agreement with the West and a push towards the East, thus must be the slogan. And this slogan will be very favorably received by the West. It meets with the needs of France, coincides too, incidentally, with the difficulties of Japan with the Soviets. All of the western states hope to benefit by a war against the Soviet Union. Germany hopes to consolidate itself, to reach its old prewar status and to expand along the Baltic; the French buffer states hope to receive each a slice of territory; the big powers hope to crush the menace of Communism which receives constant support from the very existence of the Soviet Union. That such a United front is being organized, and even that perhaps this is one of the conditions for the amelioration of the German reparations burdens, the secret conversations at Lausanne may well tell us.
However, one thing stands in the way of the realization of these schemes, and that is the “Marxist” working class of Europe and particularly of Germany which would be utterly antagonistic to such a war and would actively oppose it. Again we see the historic role of the Nazis and the reason for the tendency to fuse all capitalist parties into one behind the banner of the Swastika. The victory of the Nazis means first a declaration of civil war and a thoroughgoing attempt to destroy the “Marxist” section of the working class. The collapse of the resistance of the German working class would be the signal that all is clear for the next great adventure of German Big Business on the field of world politics.
The present crisis, unprecedented in its severity has tested the organizing ability of the Germans as has nothing else since the war. The latest figures given out by “Die Wirtschaftskurve”, published by the Frankfurter Zeitung show approximately 50% of the trade union members in all Germany are out of work and about 25% more are working but part time. This means that, contrary to official figures Germany has an army of at least 10,000,000 looking for work and 5,000,000 more on part time. And this situation is now in its third year!
How has the German Government taken care of this army of unemployed? Even in the days of Bismarck the German Government had been compelled by the “Marxist” working class to recognize the necessity for social insurance. The worker received insurance against old age, accidents, illness and death. He received medical care free of charge. Even the Junkers had to admit the worker had certain claims on the State.
Now during this period of crisis the German regime, with the usual efficiency, has as carefully organized the hunger of the masses as it did during the war when starvation likewise threatened the population. The Hunger is methodically calculated and systematically increased. Quietly, without fuss, the German regime gradually intensifies the hardship and sufferings until they have reached almost the breaking point. It is no accident that the figures show, as given by the “Neue Montags Zoitung” in Berlin of June 27th, that twice the number of people commit suicide in Germany than even in the United States, and that Germany heads the lists of all nations in this respect.
At the beginning of the crisis, all unemployed workers who had paid their taxes and had worked for the previous six months received unemployment insurance for six months. The highest category of workers received 22 marks per week with 3 marks extra for wife and for each child. Other lower categories followed at intervals of 3 marks, The unemployed also received coal at reduced prices and paid 30% less rent. Young workers or those living with their parents received 6 marks.
After six months these workers were taken off the insurance fund and placed on an emergency “Crisis” relief fund for another half year. However, in this category they received a lower sum (19 marks being the highest and 10 the lowest.) At the end of the second half year the unemployed workers were taken off this special “Crisis” fund and put on what we would call the “dole”, that is, on the fund for “welfare relief” or “community charity” as the workers contemptuously refer to Here the tariff was still lower ranging from 16 to 8 marks. When a worker found this too insufficient, the government offered him compulsory work for six months—at 21 marks per week—at the end of which time he was placed again on the unemployed insurance fund but this time not in the same category in which he had been before but in the category of a 21 marks per week man. This entitled him to but very little relief and at the end of six months again he found himself reduced to the category of “Crisis” relief and then again “Community charity” and so on.
As the crisis continued, new legislation was passed which cut down this relief. Social insurance was given no longer for six months but for 20 weeks, the tariff schedules of payments were cut down, etc, Nevertheless, the most destitute could still obtain seven or eight marks a year for shoes and repairs and could get clothing free. This was the situation in Berlin where the best relief is given. Other cities get less; the country places still less.
Now, however, has come the new Von Papen decree which went into affect July first. This decree drastically reduces all relief to the unemployed and has virtually electrified the working class. The new decree does the following:
First of all it cuts down the amount of social insurance to be paid by 23% and effects a reduction of 10% and 15% in the other categories of "Crisis” relief and “Welfare” fund. From this cut alone the government has saved a half billion marks! To this is added the elimination of the reduction in house rent of 30% (which had been allowed before) for all those receiving an income of over 700 marks (about $175) a year. This, of course, affects a great number of families.
2. Secondly, a 2 % increase in taxes has been placed on those actually at work. To understand exactly what this means we must stop a moment to consider the taxes the worker must pay. He has to pay about 4% of his wages for sick and death benefit insurance, about 1% more for accident insurance, and 3 1/4 % for the relief of the unemployed. To this is now added the $2 new tax of the Von Papen decree making over 10% for these items alone. But that is not all. In addition he must pay an income tax of 10% (1% less for each dependent) and if be is unmarried another ½ %. Thus the total reaches over 20% But even this is not all. Every worker over 21 years of age must pay a special state tax of 27 marks per year. (Formerly this was but 4 ½ marks per year.)
To appreciate what a monstrous strain this is we have only to point out that the statistics show that over 17 ½ million people, or two thirds of all listed, had a yearly income of only 1500 marks (about $370) or less; that 6,000,000 more made from 1500 through 3000 marks a year (about $740) and that only 3% or about 1,000,000 people made over 5000 marks (about $1200) a year. And this in a country where the cost of many necessities is almost as great as in the United States.
3. Thirdly, the new Von Papen decree has placed a tax on salt so as to raise its price from 6 pfennigs the pound to 13 pfennigs. From this new tax alone the government hopes to raise over 70,000,000 marks per annum. It is not only salt that is taxed sky high. The tariff wall is enormous. American petroleum that costs 5 pfennigs is taxed 19 pfennigs and by the time it reaches the consumer is sold for 33 pfennigs. Here is a list of prices of necessities which the workers family has to pay. It was culled from first hand experience by the writer in Berlin.
Bread------one lb.---------4 cents
Butter------one lb.-------34 cents
Beef--------one lb.-------24 cents
Pork--------one lb.-------24 cents
Potatoes-----10 lbs.------13 cents
Coffee------one lb.--------57 cents
Chocolate--one lb.-------30 cents
Sugar-------one lb.---------8 cents
Salt---------one lb.---------3 ½ cents
Milk--------one liter-------5 cents
Eggs--------one dozen----24 cents
Peas--------one lb.----------5 cents
Apples-----one lb.---------10 cents
Oranges----each (large)----5 cents
Rent (one room and kitchen) ---$8 ½ a month
Moving pictures------------25 cents
Let the reader compare these prices with those he is familiar with in New York or elsewhere in the United States and see whether on the whole the cost of living in Berlin is less than in America.
4. Fourthly, the new decree makes a very drastic reduction in the amounts to be paid to invalided soldiers. We must keep in mind that defeated Germany never paid its soldiers a bonus and that the amount it pays for soldiers relief is less than in the United States notwithstanding the greater number of men. Only those permanently and seriously crippled received help. It is these helpless victims who must now suffer.
5. The government has decreed also a salary cut of 4% for five years for all State employees, this sum to be repaid later. When we consider that the workers wages have been cut at least 50% (now averaging from 20 to 40 marks a week (or from $5 to $10.) it is bad enough. But whom we refer to the employee and professional class we must keep in mind that there are at least 100,000 engineer, chemists, university graduates, etc. fully trained for a profession, eager and willing to work for a career, who never once since their graduation have ever had a position, have ever worked. The papers have pointed out in great headlines how this month 450,000 more school children of working age will graduate or will leave school and begin to look for work. Very few of them are destined to find jobs for a long time to come. It is no wonder then that these students, clerks, employees and professional men turn to “National Socialism” which carries on its banner “Gegen Spieserthum” (against hypocritical reaction) and promises these classes “freedom from capitalism". When we add also the fact that the Nazi leaders pay their “actives” three marks per day, in addition to food, clothing and lodging, we can readily understand the growth of the Nazis among the declassed elements in Germany. While we cannot deal here with all the results of the crisis upon the masses, and with the question of impending civil war, we must mention two other phenomena in connection with unemployment which have resulted from the present impasses In many cases workers cannot pay their rent. If they are skilled workers the government permits them to group themselves in colonies of thirty or so. It then provides material for houses and gives them a bit of land in the outskirts of the city. The houses are the property of the state for 30 years, the workers having to pay interest of 16 marks a month during this period. The workers receive state support for the first year and get credit for the work they have put into the houses. All the workers of the colony help each other and when all the thirty houses are completed choose lots for the house each one is to get. The methods used by the Government are interesting. All these workers work for a private contractor. It is he who gets the material from the government and makes a handsome profit by the transaction, since he is allowed to pay the workers wages far below the scale otherwise required. Also, in all likelihood when, as will often happen, the worker later on will have to give up the houses he has built after the state support has ended, it will be this private contractor or his banker who will take over the ground for his own benefit. In passing we should note that the effect of the crisis is always to return to more primitive methods of living and to transform the mechanic into a farmer. However, even this method of trying to declass the mechanic will be doomed to failure as the government itself knows. For the government it is only a bribe offered to the skilled worker for the moment.
The second phenomenon which has arisen on a mass scale is the so-called "Kuhle Wampe” colonies (German “Hoovervilles".) Here evicted persons carry their few sticks of furniture. From all sorts of material they build their tiny shacks and try to eke out an existence. In spite of the brave attempt to give their colonies a neat and painted appearance, through all the makeup romance one see’s the utter destitution of large numbers of people. Recently in Berlin there has appeared a motion picture “Kuhle Wampe” which aroused the indignation of the censors. It was ordered cut. But in spite of all changes it portrays the desperateness of the situation, and the desperate attempt to glean a slight ray of hope.
Ballots and Bullets
In Germany today, these two things go together. Those who would like to rely upon ballots receive bullets, while those who handle guns also make use of Parliament. Both are inextricably interwoven.
Nowhere else in the world is the class struggle so consciously developed as in Germany at the present time. Here no one dreams of denying there are classes or a class struggle. Quite the contrary, even the fiercest opponents of Marxism use the Marxist terminology. It is no accident that even the Fascists have had to name their party the National Socialist German Workers Party. Not only has every class its distinct class party, but every section of every class knows clearly where it belongs, has its own platform, its own press, its own party banner. Here is a brief sketch of the political parties in Germany today.
First, the Right Wing, the Royalists, and Trustified Business. This group has the following main divisions:
1. Royalist- cliques organized around the Hohenzollerns and the various princelets in Germany. Cliques composed of old generals and henchmen who wish a return of the “good old days” with a Kaiser regime, etc. Their central organ is the “Deutsche Herold”, their militant division, the Stalhelm. The hugenberg Nationalists, who have their own paper, the “Locale Anzeiger” are a rather large party of this group. The principal immediate strata around these political groupings are the large agrarians, the “Junkers”
2. The Nazis or the National Socialist German Workers Party. This party has now grown to enormous size and is absorbing within its ranks not only all the other elements of the “Right” but also many elements of the “Center” and even some elements of the “Left". The reason’s for this mushroom growth are to be found partly in the great widespread economic distress, partly in the method of appeal. Behind this party stand immediately the largest State Capitalist interests and enormous industrial undertakings (Thynnes combines, for example.) These interests have been able to mobilize around themselves large sections of “middle layers”, students, professional men, employees of all kinds, small business men and shop keepers, and a section of the peasantry, it is for these sections that the words “Socialist” and "Workers” have been put into the name of the party. The situation in Germany has made these sections desperate and for them a program calling for a "new deal” has been worked out. The Nazis are rabidly against the old “capitalism”, against competitive individualism, against a system where crises abound, money fluctuates, anarchical market conditions prevail, etc. They demand "Freedom, Work and Bread". They feel capitalism is dying, is in a blind alley, and convulsively they grasp in all directions for “panaceas". Their chief enemy is the “Marxists”, and against “Marxism” (that is the Communist and Social-Democratic working class) they wage their greatest struggle. Insofar as the National Socialist German Workers Party is an efficient machine with a practical program for Big Business and Trustified and State Capital it may be seriously considered, but insofar as it reflects the malarial feverish fantasies of the shipwrecked middle classes it merits consideration only from the demagogic point of view of how to manipulate phrases to befuddle people, or from the socio-psychopathic point of view as to how far the crisis has induced this social dementia. The militant arm of the Nazis is the “.A.” the Sturm Abteilungen, or Storm Troops. Naturally in such a party with such heterogeneous elements different factions abound representing different elements but held together by the need of the moment. The chief papers are “Der Angriff” (The Attack") and “Der Volkischer Beobachter” (The People’s Observer), which take slightly different points of view. The chief figure is of course Hitler, but he is rather the demagogue, the organizer. The chief theoretician figure remains Gregory Strasser, with Otto Strasser his brother, leading a faction that declares Hitler has gone too far away from his original “Socialistic” program which Strasser wishes to represent.
Second, we have the “Centre” grouping, the Catholic “Centre” and Light Industry. Between the “Right” and the “Left” stand the “Centrists” representing older capitalistic interest, interests not identified with the Junkers or with heavy trustificd capital. In the main those are Republican in the classic French sense and follow the economic school of free competition that prevails in such countries as England, for example.
1. The agrarian interests have their own party,—the Catholic Centrist Party strong in the South of’ Germany, particularly in Bavaria. Their central paper is “Germania” In the cities the Catholics have their own “Christian Trade Unions” and their paper “Kolnische Zeitung". The program is the Christian harmony of all class interest, the “golden mean” route.
2. To the right even of Catholic Centrists stands the Deutsche Volks Partei or German People’s Party with its paper the ‘’Deutsche Algemeine Zeitung”, representing conservative big business that does not wish to resort to the desperate course of the Nazis but still follows a more cautious policy against a change in the present form of the Republic and of working more closely with the Socialists.
3. The more liberal wing of democrats or republicans reside in the cities and are made up of interests such as textile, and light industries which lend themselves with great difficulty to mass production or monopolization or which have other traditional republican viewpoints. Around these elements are grouped many of the older and less desperate middle elements such as store keepers, smaller businesses, etc. The chief liberal paper is the Berliner Tageblat, These people may be compared to the “radicals” in France.
Lastly, we must reckon with the “Left” or Workers Movement. The “Left” is composed of Socialists, Communists, Anarchists and Syndicalists. Of the last two which play little role in Germany and have little future we do not need to speak here but we must deal with the other two.
1. The Socialists are the strongest political party measured by members and votes, in the ranks of the working class. Its base, however is the better paid sections of the workers, especially those in the unions which it controls. Its program is that of a non-violent evolution towards a new system of society with the present base of a republic with social reforms. Around this program many of the older sections of the “middle layers” and especially those who today have posts in the state apparatus controlled by the Socialists have rallied. It may be said the Socialist Party is the strongest bulwark of the present organized Republic. Its chief organ is the “Vorwartz” (Forward), its militant section the “Reichsbanner” troops made up of Republicans who wish only to defend the Republic, containing in its ranks both workers and elements from the liberal or “radical” Centre. The Socialist Party has organized also its “Iron Front” made up of the Socialist Party, the Trade Unions, and the Reichsbanner troops.
Recently a split has occurred within the Socialist Party, a new party being organized, the “Socialist Workers Party” which protests that the Socialist Party is not militant enough, not revolutionary enough, too corrupted with bureaucracy and pacifism, and demands a more aggressive support of the Soviet Union and a united front with the Communists. This party has even put up its own candidates in the elections but it has no real solid future and is destined to crumple between the fires of the two great forces in the workers movement, the Socialists and Communists. Its chief organ is “Kampf-Signal” (Struggle-Signal).
2. The Communists. Here are the bulk of the poorest and most exploited workers, the strongest revolutionary elements. There is a program of international proletarian revolution based on the premise that capitalism has outlived itself and the proletariat must begin to bury what is dead, as it did in Russia. Around the Communist Party many organizations of sympathizers have been built, the militant storm troops being the “red Front Fighters” now under ban. The chief paper is “rote Fahne” Red Flag). In Berlin, in Hamburg, and in some other industrial centers, the Communists have the majority of the working class behind them.
Besides the Communist Party there are various Communist opposition groups. There is the “Communist Party Opposition” headed by the old-time party leaded Brandler, standing to the “Right” of the official party. Its paper is called “Arbeiter Politik". To the “Left” of the official Communist Party stands the “Left Opposition” the German section of the movement headed by L. D. Trotsky. Its paper is the “Permanente Revolution”, and it has had a great propaganda effect upon the members and active elements within the Communist Party, its position being that under Stalin the German Communist Party has not a sufficiently international and Marxist policy.
Outside these groupings there are many other smaller groups (as also in the Right and Center divisions mentioned above) such as the “Lenin Bund”, "Der Kommunist” group, the Communist Labor Party group, and other groups like the “General Workers Union” which begin to shade off into syndicalism and anarchism. The principal tendencies however, are those we have given above.
How then have these forces deployed themselves, what have been the tactics of these groupings and the resultant general political development in Germany? To these questions we now address ourselves.
It is very clear that the Nazis have not yet reached the peak of their development and that the whole bourgeoisie, the whole capitalist class is rallying behind the Nazis as their sole hope out of the impasse in which they find themselves at present. This can be seen by the fact that the other “Right” parties tend to disappear within the ranks of the Nazis. In the Presidential elections Hugenberg withdrew in favor of Hitler and in each successive election (Hesse, Schleswig-Holstein, etc.) The steady increase of the Nazis has been also at the expense of the other parties, Nationalist, Center, and Moderate Bourgeois. Thus the capitalist class as a whole is closing its ranks behind the Nazis.
At the same time the Nazis have been playing a steady game. They know clearly that either they seize power shortly or their party, now very costly to keep up in its full war strength, and based upon premises of struggle and conquest, must go down as rapidly as it arose. The National Socialist German Workers Party exists to meet the demands of a crisis and if it cannot do this, it must blow up like a pricked balloon. At the same time the Nazi leaders do not wish to attempt a seizure of power too early. If it is at all possible they would prefer to take power legally, after due preparations. It is for this reason that they have allowed the present Von Papen regime to come into existence. The Von Papen regime is clearly but a transient regime preparing the way for the Nazis. This regime was necessary first for international reasons as certainly Hitler could not have appeared in Lausanne and second because Hitler means civil war and certain necessary steps, some of which must be taken in such a way as not to compromise Hitler directly, must be prepared.
The present tasks of the Nazis are as follows:
1. To consolidate their own ranks after the great electoral victory.
2. To win over the remnants of heavy industry that still do not believe support of the Nazis profitable. In this respect the Nazi theory of opposition to “individualism” has received tremendous impetus from the extraordinary development of state capitalism in Germany and the enormously strengthened connection between state and trustified capital. Only recently, for example, the state has bought up a good deal of the great steel Flick concern which was facing bankruptcy. The shares were really worthless. They were selling at 20. Under the pressure of rumors that the State was to purchase the shares they went up to 40. They were actually bought up by the government at 90, leaving a very handsome sum in the hands of Flick and the Dresdener Bank. A similar case is the removal of a tax especially onerous on Chemical Trust capital. And now a whole list of trusts and syndicates are appearing before the government declaring they too face bankruptcy, and demand subventions from the regime, and are receiving them. It is in this way that the Nazis are demonstrating in fact, in spite of phrases they are the sole party for the large industrialists. It is in this way too that the Nazis arc able to finance their own party and to prepare for the costly civil war.
3. To win over the monarchists and large agrarians, junkers. This has been done in many ways. More and more the monarchists are playing the leading roles. The present Von Papen regime is a Junker regime. The first meeting of the Minister of the Interior Von Gayle was with the Junkers where he declared that Germany must pay far greater attention to the welfare of the agrarians. This speech was followed by a rise in the tariff rates of almost 100% in meats and basic grains, etc.
This Nazi policy has been successful in that it has won Hindcnburg over to the cause so that he dismissed the Bruning cabinet after a meeting with Hitler and placed in its stead a regime which could pave the way for the entrance of the Nazis into power, and issued a call for a special election with the sole purpose of enabling the Nazis to take power in the speediest possible manner.
4. In relation with this task of bringing certain sections like Bavaria, south Germany etc. into line. In spite of all the noise made in Germany about the resistance of Bavaria to Nazi influence, this is only a question of haggling over what terms the monarchists and agrarian and industrialists of Bavaria are to receive at the hands of a centralized Nazi national regime. The resistance of these separate states is being steadily broken down, their refusal to legalize the Nazi storm troops being counter-ordered by Hindenburg and the whole pressure of the Reich being brought to bear to effectuate a harmony of interest. However, these things take time and it was in view of all those things that the Nazi frontal attack has been delayed.
5. The fifth task is to prepare the way internationally for the advent of the Nazi. France and the other powers must be reconciled to the step, secret agreements made, help provided. All these things can be left to a Von Papen regime.
6. The sixth task of the Nazi is to prepare in a militarist sense for their role in the civil war that is to come. Already the storm troops have been legalized while those of the Communists are still under the ban. The police have been under the control of the Socialists in key places. The task of the moment now is to purge the police, to connect the police with the army, to fuse the Storm Troops of the Nazi (about 500,000) with the armed forces of the state, to see the Nazi men are put in key positions in the governments both national and local, that arms and munitions are secured and armories assured and the storm troops carefully trained. It is a policy quite similar to that pursued by the Southerners in the United States immediately preceding the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln. The present Von Papen regime is a demonstration of the fascination of the apparatus to coincide with and to aid the attack of the Nazi from the outside.
The attack has already begun. Each day there is given in the press the list of dead and wounded in the street fighting that regularly occurs. The Berlin University was closed for two days because of the fighting. In Berlin in the proletarian quarter of Moabit barricades were actually set up in the course of one battle. In these Nazi actions one can discern the hand deliberate provocation. The battles take place in proletarian quarters where the Nazis are not strong and where they must bring in outside reinforcements. The Socialist paper “Vorwartz” actually was attacked by a group of two hundred Nazis and two if the guards severely wounded. Nor did the police interfere very much. The attack is not only against the Communists but against the Socialists and also against the Republic Reichsbanner troops carrying the flag of the German Republic. By means of these actions the Nazis prepare the way for the grand push. The bloody encounters on the street are like campaign speeches for the coming elections. The working class is demoralized, the Nazi troops are raised to a pitch of great enthusiasm. The trampling of the Republican flag in the street is deliberately designed to throw the whole republic and all of its defenders into contempt and ridicule.
To these provocative tactics that can lead only to major clashes and to civil war we must add the aid the government is giving the Nazis. Through several decrees the wages and social insurance has been cut down while the prices of necessities has been raised. Besides, these decrees have an outright provocative character designed to stir up street fights. In what other way can the decree that cut down the already extremely miserable pittance that the old-aged were receiving the state, or the decree that cut down in the most drastic manner the support that the soldiers permanently disabled from the world war had been receiving be interpreted, if not as provocative? It must be kept in mind, first that there is no soldiers’ organization as such, in Germany like the American Legion. The soldiers returning from the war took party positions .ind participated in the civil war in 1918-1919, so that there are party organizations and party soldiers storm troops but no special soldiers organizations. These soldiers, far from receiving “bonuses” were totally abandoned by the different regimes so that only the desperately crippled received aid. And now this aid has been drastically reduced. Since the Fascists have always made a play of helping the soldiers this action can only be interpreted in the sense of a provocation that would excite the masses and stir them into action for certainly the actual amount saved was relatively very little.
To these basic decrees can be added the suppression of the “Vorwartz” for five days and other papers throughout the Reich, the rumors of the suppression of’ the Communist Party, of the dispersion of the Prussian Parliament and other states liberal or socialist controlled by Hindcnburg and the establishment of a centralized directorate and of compulsory labor service for all those out of work. These rumors can only evoke the fiercest resistance from the “Left” and can inevitably provoke civil war. The regime has learned, well the lesson of the Paris battles of 1848.
Against this merging solid class front of the “Right”, the “Left” also is beginning to form its own class front. It is becoming a classic ease of “CLASS AGAINST CLASS". The Communist Party has veered from its position that the Socialists were the chief enemy to be fought and has decided the Nazis now play this role. It has proposed a united front with the Socialists and Trade Unionists to fight against the new decrees and the rise of Fascism. It has even proposed to vote for a Socialist leadership in the Landtag, the Prussian Parliament, if the Socialists were willing to refuse to carry out the new decrees of the Reich. This the Socialist Parliamentarians refused to do. However in many localities actual united fronts are taking place. In the street fighting now the Communists run to the aid of the embattled Reichsbanner troops and Socialists and vice-versa. Through this actual united front in the streets, the Nazis have been repulsed. Indeed in this street fighting it has become exposed that the Nazis are under a disadvantage for their uniform gives them away and they are young people unused to military tactics while the Socialists and Communists can fire from under cover and their ranks contain multitudes of trained and tested soldiers. Already the “Left” ‘has staged two huge demonstrations in the Lust Garten, the biggest square in Berlin, one on a Sunday called by the Communist Party and the other the next day called by the Socialist Party. In these demonstrations nearly 200,000 men and women marched and demonstrated in Berlin.
The general tactic of the “Left” working class organizations will be as follows:
1. A strong united front movement will take root. Different from previous movements this united front will be not solely or mainly in Parliament but in the streets. Already strong appeals have been made on all sides for such a united front, even by public advertisements signed by such men as Albert Einstein who of course speaks only of a ballot united front. However it is not likely that the course of 1923 will be repeated and an electioneering united front made through joint lists of the Socialists and Communists. A united front in street fighting however will and is being made. And we must keep in mind that it is the street fighting which is the form that modern German electioneering tends to take. No doubt a large national united front congress will be called to concentrate this action.
2. The street fighting will be accentuated. This is due not only to the provocative tactics of the Nazis but also to the fact that the “Left” means to show the “Right” that if Hitler comes to power it means civil war. And to prepare for this civil war these street fights involving the whole population are inevitable forerunners.
3. Should Hitler come to power, or to prevent him from coming to power, the “Left” will call a huge general strike throughout the nation. There is no question but what despite the great unemployment this strike will be extremely solid. The question is what will be the result of the strike. It is very clear that the syndicalist theory that a general strike will bring the “Right” to terms is completely bankrupt. At a time when so many of the workers are out of work and the employers have no work to offer, a general strike on the economic field will frighten no one. In fact the German workers are very skeptical of economic strikes at the present time, realizing that it does not pay to wear oneself out in small scale defensive economic battles, but that the task of the hour is a major political one, that of taking state power. The general strike then will be a strike with a political motive, against Fascism and against the political pressure of the state exerted tax increases, tariff walls, insurance relief cuts, etc. This general strike can be effective only when it leads to a general movement for the seizure of power. And there is no question but that the united front movement, conceived in the bloody street battles will have as its ultimate end: First the demand of workers’ control in the factories and second, the attempt to establish a Soviet regime. Indeed, the future of Germany is pregnant with the most radical possibilities.
“(to be continued)”
The Emigrant Returns by Albert Weisbord
It is not generally known in America that in the past year, especially, the Hoover regime has made every effort to drive out as many aliens from the “land of liberty” as possible. It has been estimated that fully 30,000 have been deported within a relatively short period of time. The third class compartments of the United States Co. Ships are often crowded with these deportees. Incidentally this has produced a good profit to the United States Shipping Co., which, outside of this transportation of deportees, has had a very slim year indeed.
The deportation of thousands of poor aliens from the United States has been strongly reinforced by the economic crisis. Many aliens, now destitute and helpless, have been obliged to apply to the United States government to be sent back to their motherland. The government has only too willingly consented and has paid their return passage on condition that the emigrant does not return for at least seven years.
Besides these two classes (deportees and removals) there is a third class. It is the class of foreign-born workers who came to America from ten to twenty years ago. After long hard work in the mines and factories they had managed to save up a couple of thousands of dollars or so. Then came the crisis. In two years without work, quickly and suddenly their savings have melted away. In the third year of the crisis they have begun to ask themselves: What can we do? No work, and what is more, no prospect of work. They have become a bit panicky. The savings of years are almost gone. It means disaster, it means to appeal to charity, it means the bread line, the flo-house. To start again from the bottom,—that would be too much. And so they recall that there is a small farm somewhere in Europe, in the homeland there are still relatives there—a refuge. Why not return? At least there one can work, one can eat! And when times get better, perhaps one can return. And so they buy tickets to the old country. And on the train one meats them.
The typical emigrant of this class is not old. This is not the former emigration where sixty-year old aliens returned to spend their last days in the old country. No, this one is thirty-five years old, strong, stocky, speaks American slang, knows Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and even Colorado well. He has traveled all over America on his various jobs. He whistles a bit of jazz and restlessly recalls, even with some amusement, the places in Europe he once used to think about with awe and wonder. He is no longer of Europe, he has traveled irretraceable miles from this backward Bulgaria, his birthplace. Even on the train the illusions are rapidly dissipated. Everywhere Europe, shorn of tinsel, is striving to become Americanized. While he, of the American tempo, must now become Europeanized.
With a superior air he begins to talk to the native Bulgarian people about America. But soon his bravado withers away. Why has he returned to this small and backward Bulgaria? Why is this strong healthy worker a failure? Where was the gold, where was the opportunity that America offered?
With a sickening feeling this worker now begins to grasp his situation. He has been a failure. He is returning not as a conqueror but as one panic-stricken, running back to his father. Not he but the others can now take a superior air. All there clustered around him now realize the crucial fact that an end must be made to all foolish illusions. America is to longer an open door. There is no longer a way out for the stifled poor of Europe. The gates of opportunity have been firmly shut. The rainbow and its pot of American eagles have disappeared—forever.
Only the Tchinovniks and police take advantage of the situation. So he has returned, eh? So he found that Bulgaria after all was better than America? And he thought he could escape? The old life was not good enough, eh? Well, it had better be good enough now. And don’t think that Bulgaria is too small to have laws and prisons and mind his police to enforce them. He had better learn his place and mind his manners—and damn quick, too.
And now for the first time, perhaps since this return, the emigrant takes in deeply the things around him. There are classes here—and he is Third Class! And it makes a big difference whether the theory is enunciated only from below, as among the radicals and Communists in America, or from above. He is traveling third Class, with the chickens and goats of the peasantry around him. His is now a separate third class waiting room (Remember the Negroes back in America, eh, Stepan?); his is now a third class life with no illusions. There are second class people now, and first class people, and a King. And he had better watch his manners and bow to all. He recalls he must register at the police station and hand over his proper records.
Well at least he can-work, at least he can eat his own bread. But he looks at the wooden plow, the panting oxen, the sack cloth clothes, the desperate poverty, the endless back-breaking toil. With a convulsion Stepan, thirty-five, strong, independent, speaking American slang, turns home, to his farm.
Let the Royalty and first and second class watch out. Stepan will become a leader of all the discontented. Strange as it may seem, America the land of freedom, the land of opportunity, will have made him an organizer and leader of the masses of backward Bulgaria. So such strange contradictions is the crisis giving birth.
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