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International Socialism, Autumn 1966


Geoff Winn

Incidents at Thalburg


From International Socialism, No.26, Autumn 1966, p.34-35.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Nazi Seizure of Power
William S. Allen
Eyre and Spottiswoode, 30s.

This study is the first to record the Nazi advance at grass root level. Allen examines in great detail the experience of Thalburg – the fictitious name of a small town of 10,000 people somewhere in Central Germany from 1930 to 1935. Thalburg had a very strong petit-bourgeoisie – the raw material from which the Nazis forged their movement. In September 1930, in the first ballot of the depression period, the Nazi vote went up fifteen-fold – over a quarter of Thalburg’s population placed its hopes in Hitler. Within three years the Nazi advance was such that they took over 60 per cent of the town’s votes in the last elections of March 1933.

Allen warns us that Thalburg was never a typical German town. ‘Few places in Germany began the Third Reich with a two-thirds vote for the NSDAP, the national average being of the order of two-fifths ... But it was in the hundreds of localities like Thalburg all over Germany that the revolution was made actual. They formed the foundation of the Third Reich.’ Allen locates the reason for Nazi victory mainly in the desire on the part of Thalburg’s middle class (particularly civil servants and state employees) to suppress the working class and its political expression, the SPD.

The working-class allegiance to the SPD remained fairly stable over these vital years – but the Social Democrats failed to understand the nature of the Nazi appeal. The tragic predicament of the Social Democrat becomes clear. They maintained the facade of a revolutionary movement – yet had no intention or strategy of carrying through a revolution. However, their vague ‘Red’ tradition meant that they were capable of getting nothing but working-class support. They ended up defending the wretched status quo – capitalism in crisis – while the NSDAP offered a way out.

Of course, the mechanics of Nazi advance at the small-town level are only a small part of the total story of their accession to power – but it is a vitally important part – and thanks to Dr Allen for illuminating it so well.

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