From New International, Vol.12 No.3, March 1944, pp.82-83.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
With the opening of the first general elections in Germany  we shall have a parliamentary picture of the state of political consciousness of the German people after thirteen years of unexampled oppression and terror. True, the reflection of the elections will not be that of a boudoir mirror; rather that of distorting mirrors one finds in “funny houses” in amusement parks. Only, one finds little occasion to laugh at political disfigurations.
The German people are racking their brains, trying to work out a balance of the past fifteen years. And, to whom will the bill be presented? The bill for a half generation of political terror, for the hundreds of thousands of enemies of the regime who perished under circumstances that cause even the most cold-blooded observers to blanch and mutter words of indignation? Death under this regime was not the expiation for a capital crime, but a political expedient to tear the tongue out of misery. Today the allies hold the German people as a whole responsible for the crimes of Nazism. How can they absolve themselves, and at the same time bring the Nazis and the forces which helped them to power to account, and infinitely more important, lay the basis for a system where fascism can never rise again?
To whom will the bill for war losses be presented? These losses exceed dry numerical calculations. But it might help understanding to present some figures.
In Mannheim, by no means the worst bombed city, out of 21,338 homes, 16,821 were reduced to rubble.
The factories were hit much worse than private dwellings, and working people lost the market where they could bring their only worldly possession: their labor power. They lost the source of common commodities we have come to regard as almost essential for existence.
Doctors lost their apparati, musicians their instruments and notes, students must get along without their books and libraries.
Life is reduced to its barest essentials.
But that is only the beginning of the account. What of the 8,000,000 soldiers who perished on the front? The 3,000,000 who perished during the bombings, the million who perished in concentration camps?
And what of – and this cannot be expressed in figures – and if it could, they would be astronomical – the suffering, the terror, the uncertainty, the bereavement, that was borne by all.
A house can be rebuilt. But what can replace a limb, or the mother, wife and two kids one knows are still lying under this debris. What can erase the memory of three years on the Russian front, the memory of the nightly terror and panic at the air-raid alarm, living like rats in cellars or soldiers in mud and snow.
“Who will answer for this? And how can we tear ourselves from the nightmare of the past and find a way out of the blind alley of the future.”
Here the leading working class parties step in to offer their leadership. The program of all parties is essentially the same. (The principal parties: Social-Democratic Party (SDP), Communist Party (KP), Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The cornerstones of their programs: The reconstruction of Germany, and the establishment of democracy. The KP calls for the expropriation of Nazi political leaders and war criminals, the expropriation of Junker landholdings and division among farmers, and the “giving up” (Übergabe) – it avoids the words socialization and socialism – of all public enterprises and enterprises that serve consumers’ needs. It also, apparently agrees with the allied contention that all Germans are responsible for the crimes of Hitler, for in the program stands: “10. Recognition of the obligation to make good the damages and losses caused other peoples through the Hitler aggression. Just division of the ensuing burdens according to the principle, the rich must bear a greater share of the burden.”
Is this not a gross insult to the German working class?
The SDP descends from the hills like Rip Van Winkle. Having slept through the Hitler regime, it returns, ready to carry on where it left off in 1932. For the general election in Gross-Hessen it joins with the three other parties in an election agreement: please don’t laugh when you read this. It’s really very serious:
Realistic election campaign.
Resolution of the four Gross-Hessen Parties.
The leadership of the SDP, KP, SDU and LDP came to an agreement to carry on the election campaign with discipline, propriety and mutual esteem (!!!) ...
3. ... no one-sided charging of a particular party with the historical guilt for the collapse of the Weimar Republic.
4. Instructions to all speakers who address meetings to refrain from any polemic that is not to the point.
5. No casting of suspicion upon or slander against members of other parties.
6. Instead of hate, intrigue, slander, the summoning of all constructive forces for the realization of a genuine democracy.
In the same issue of the newspaper in which this resolution appears we read:
Attention! The declaration appearing below, of the KP, represents a distortion of the facts and a break from the agreement of the four parties for a fair election campaign.
And here follows the article of the KP:
Unity despite everything.
The split in the German working class has, since 1914, exclusively served German imperialism, to the harm of the entire German people and the peace of the world. The continuation of the split would serve only the same circles. And already it can be established that the reactionaries are doing everything to hinder the unity of the German working class ... Therefore, we Communists are for unity, and nothing can bring us from the path we have begun to beat
We do not step into this path because we received an “order” from somewhere. We do it because we have drawn the bitter lessons from the past and because we have recognized the absolute necessity of the unity of the German working class and of all democratic forces for the saving of Germany and the German people from irrevocable ruin.
Then follows a declaration that millions of German workers are standing aside because they are waiting for this unity to take place. And the resolution of the 144 SDP functionaries rejecting unity (more about this later) does not change the facts.
Then follows a typical Stalinist polemic:
Against the declarations of this (SDP) resolution in which slanders and historical falsifications hold the balance in the interest of truth and in the interest of unity we establish the following:
1. With their declaration the 144 take over the arguments of Antibolschewismus from the hands of the Nazis ...
2. With indignation the communists criticize the attempt of the 144 through underhanded and lying allusions to the situation in the East (Russian) Zone – again like the Nazis – the drive a wedge into the ranks of the United Nations and so to support the wish of all reactionaries for a war against the SU ...
5. Only in the interest of the creation of unity do we declare that it is unfeasible today to discuss the past ... In the interest of unity we communists have considered the mistakes of the past only as historical facts, without forgetting, however, who forbade the Red Front Bund, a cutting weapon against Fascism. We have not unrolled the question, who was responsible for the blood-bath of May 1, 1929 in Berlin, or who chose Hindenburg, the protector of Hitler; we have not thrown into the debate the question, who, together with the Kaiser Generals let workers be shot upon, nor the question, who voted for the building of armored cruisers.
In the interest of the workers movement we have not discussed yet – but we have also not forgotten – the support of the Social-Democratic Reichstag faction in the sitting of 17 May 1933 of Hitler’s foreign policies ...
We communists emphasize: just as we knew that Hitler would follow Hindenburg, that Hitler means war, and that total war must lead to Germany’s total defeat, so exactly do we know that in spite of all sabotage attempts the United party of the German working class will come into being ...
The struggle within the SDP on the question of unity emphasizes the fact that today there is no Germany in a political or national sense. There is just a territory inhabited by German speaking people, governed by foreign powers, and occupied by foreign armies.
The SDP and KP in the Russian zone adopted a resolution in favor of unity. This resolution was presented to a conference of the SDP of the American and British zones by the leader of the SDP in the Russian zone, Grotewohl. At the conferences in Hanover and Frankfurt these resolutions in favor of unity were decisively rejected. With indignation the SDP in the American and British zones stated they would not be dominated by the East Zone. As a matter of fact it was put even stronger. They rejected the attempt of Berlin to “dictate” the laws of party operation instead of trying to decide questions by democratic procedure.
Part of the West Zone resolution:
So long as a unified Germany does not exist politically, can there also be no organizational unity of the SDP of Germany. The Central Committee of the SDP in Berlin wields the leadership only for the eastern occupation zone. The party of the western zone will be led by its elected chief. Agreements and decisions of the SDP in the east zone are not binding ... for the west zone. Here the action of the party will be directed by its own decisions.
Then comes the statement that made the KP blue in the face that:
... there is no possibility for the unity of all the workers as long as the interested parties do not show complete and actual independence from every foreign power. The SDP can and will not deny itself freedom in its resolutions and judgments. It will not let itself be robbed of the possibility, in the future, of criticism of circumstances, that she must, out of socialist and democratic grounds, criticize. That the KP uncritically gives up this essential right, brings us to the fact, that the politics of the German people are not the politics of international socialism.
Then further on the declaration declares the KP
... shows everywhere the wish, through disregarding of actual prerequisites and of the relation of forces between itself and social-Democrats, without consideration, to take over the leadership. By means of force and guile it carries on a politic of splitting and playing of one against the other of the separate sections of social-democracy ... According to the wish of the KP it is not a question of uniting the workers, but the conquering of the SDP by the KP.
Now, I will give you an idea of how the first general election shaped up. Last Sunday 17 Kreise (a Kreis is a larger city and the surrounding smaller cities and towns) went to the polls. Today, a week later, 22, the remainder, will vote. Here is how the 17 Gross-Hessen Kreise voted:
First a preliminary vote. Only 7 per cent were excluded from the polls, most of them National Socialist activists. Of those entitled to vote 83 per cent went to the polls, a fact which surprised me very much. Perhaps I overestimated the apathy, but I had formerly only personal impressions to go by. In Kassel 90 per cent went to the polls!
Of 376,794 who voted, 151,861 (or 40 per cent) voted SDP; 99,591 voted DCV; 11,255 voted KP (4 per cent); 5,662 voted LDP. Also note: 40-45 per cent  of the votes were cast by women. Almost one-fourth of the votes were cast for splinter parties, practically all non-socialist.
1. General elections have been held in Gross-Hessen.
2. I have since read in Neue Zeitung, Military Government paper, that the women vote accounts for 60 per cent of the total. This is a more likely figure than the above, since the female population today is larger than the male.
Last updated on 1.10.2005