Main WIN Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Workers’ International News, November 1938


German Imperialism Burns Its Bridges


From Workers’ International News, Vol.1 No.11, November 1938, p.11-12.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Hitler’s Mein Kampf, in its doctored English version, has become during the past weeks a best-seller in the British book market. The outcome of the Czechoslovakia crisis has focussed the attention of the middle-class book reader on the personality of Adolf Hitler as revealed in his autobiography – a smug petty bourgeois philistine, incredibly ignorant and miraculously lucky. The Nazi programme has been seized upon by a horde of imitators in every country in the world ranging from a Mosley in Britain to the obscure Fuehrer in the tiniest South American republic.

Hitler’s programme was arrived at by a process of trial and error. Slogan after slogan was advanced, the successful ones retained and the rest rejected. The middle classes in Germany, driven to frenzy by the blows of the depression, were permitted to write their own programme by the simple process of keeping to the policies they approved of and quietly dropping the policies which failed to get their support. Hitler was able to promise all things, since he intended to carry out nothing.

In this way was bred the illusion that the Nazi party was the party of the middle class, and Hitler found his mass basis among the little men who were the first to be crushed in the decay of German capitalism. To-day this basis is being rapidly destroyed.

Dr. Ley, head of the Labour Front, declared at the mining experts’ conference at the end of last month that craftsmen and small traders, clerks and petty officials would be removed from their present employment and put to work of national importance, such, for example, as coal-mining. It is precisely from these classes that the Nazis received the support that carried them to victory. To-day the Nazis burn the bridges over which they passed to power, and the ex-clerks and ex-shopkeepers will reorganise their political ideas in the coalmines.

The Nazi “revolution” brought into being a horde of bureaucrats who descended on the national wealth of Germany like a swarm of locusts. The Nazi regime, in spite of the groans of the bourgeoisie, was compelled to lean on this new officialdom. But to-day Dr. Ley complains of the excessive red tape, and thousands of lesser officials are earmarked for the coalmines.

In exchanging the pen for the pick and shovel, these supporters of Nazidom will acquire the corresponding pick-and-shovel ideology; they are being proletarianised, swiftly and violently. If the German ruling class thus deprives itself of masses of its pensioners and supporters, it is under the pressure of the approaching world war. Deliberately and consciously the bourgeoisie stakes everything in a supreme effort to marshal all forces for the war.

The entire population has been conscripted for labour in factories, roads and fortifications, and the Nazis boast that in the whole of Germany there are only 16,000 fully able to work and unemployed. Women have been drawn into industry to replace workers drafted to the forts, and the 60-year olds are being drilled to replace the police force. Emigrant Germans have been traced and government arrangements made for repatriation to the fatherland with the avowed object of swelling the number of workers. The latest move of withdrawing workers from “useless tasks” in offices, bureaus and artisans’ workshops is one more step in the direction of concentrating the entire labour-power of the nation in it supreme effort to save German Imperialism.

World economy is sliding relentlessly into another universal depression, and the German capitalist class clutches desperately at the dwindling markets. The German press announced last July that a programme was under way for building nearly 1,000,000 tons of shipping in the next two years so as to increase the German mercantile marine by 25%. The increased shipping together with the canals and roads under construction to link Central Europe to the Baltic states and domination in the world market.

In the five years that have elapsed since Hitler destroyed the German trade unions and lowered the standard of living of the German working class, the fullest advantage has been taken by German capitalism of its power to produce cheaper goods than its rivals. But where in 1937 German foreign trade showed a surplus, early this year a considerable deficit was shown. The least capable of all the Powers of standing up under economic depression, German capitalism has been forced into a series of desperate adventures.

Austria was seized and plundered, the National Bank absorbed and its gold seized, industrial contracts diverted, the Habsburg treasure appropriated, the “traitors” fined and all available food reserves carried off. But Germany’s financial and trade position became worse.

The seizure of the Sudetenland and the incorporation of the rest of Czechoslovakia in a customs union was a further step in the developing trade war. If Austria was the key to Danubian commerce, Czechoslovakia opens up a path to the Baltic states, and the construction of the Rhine-Main-Danube canal, the Rhine-Baltic canal, the Berlin-Bosphorus road, the trade tour of Dr. Funk in the Balkans, the negotiations for German credits and barter agreements in South-Eastern Europe all these are incidents in Germany’s life-and-death struggle to survive in a world of economic decline.

The bloodless triumphs of German Imperialism have placed it in an advantageous strategical and commercial position, and Germany bargains between the East and the West.

On the one hand the demand for the return of the former German colonies has grown louder as the Western fortifications grow more impregnable. On the other hand Germany objects to the inclusion of the Soviet Union in any scheme for “general pacification” and welcomes the gestures of Daladier towards a Franco-German understanding.

The eyes of German Imperialism are fixed on the Ukraine, the richest part of the Soviet Union, with a population of thirty millions, with grain and cotton to feed and clothe the hungry ragged German millions, producing 85% of Soviet sugar, four-fifths of its coal, two-thirds of its iron and iron ore, half its steel, more than two-thirds of its agricultural machinery, 95% of its manganese. The industrial cities, the great tractor plant, the Dnieper hydro-electric works are the rich prizes that stand just outside Hitler’s present reach. The clamour about the former German colonies is merely part of Germany’s bargaining to gain British-French assent in the plan to plunder the Ukraine.

The same relentless pressure that thrust German Imperialism into Austria and then into Czechoslovakia still operates to force Hitler onto the path of new adventures. The South American markets for German goods are being recaptured by the United States; the trade drive into the Balkans is being bitterly contested by Britain and France with all the resources at their disposal. The German financial structure is dancing on the edge of the precipice, while the middle classes are being driven into the mines and the fortifications to join the workers in opposing the Nazi regime of slavery and starvation.

Hitler took power in 1933, in his own words, “without a window-pane being broken.” He has marched into the Rhineland, into Austria, into the Sudeten territory, in a remarkable series of bloodless victories. The cowardice and treachery of the “Communist” and “Socialist” traitors who led the German working class permitted him to take power in the first place. The antagonisms and contradictions among his imperialist rivals has allowed him to add triumph after triumph to his initial victory. If he now hopes to curve out a thick slice of territory for himself out of the side of the Soviet Union, there is only one force that can oppose his designs and that is the international working class united for the defence of the Soviet Union and for world socialism under the banner of the Fourth International.

Top of page

Main WIN Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 13.10.2005