From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 25 (Whole No. 84), 26 September 1931, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
Even Bruening, the eternally smiling hunger Chancellor of German imperialism, has declared, under the protest of his social democratic lackeys, who feel themselves hampered by it in their work of deception: Germany is approaching a winter which is the worst time in a century. This declaration refers, of course, not only to the economic, but also to the political sphere.
Those of our American comrades, who have attentively studied the reports from Germany, will say skeptically about such prophecies: but the same thing was announced a year ago. Did not everybody say the same thing a year ago, after the outcome of the September elections? Were not deceptive pictures conjured up before us at that time? How was it possible, in spite of this, the winter in Germany passed by orderly, without an attack by Communism or Fascism? Did the objective, the economic situation of Germany improve in this period? No, American comrades, no deceptive pictures were conjured up before you at that time.  No, the objective situation did not improve. If the purely economic development were to be considered, a completely distorted picture of the situation would be the result. Nothing better demonstrates the incorrectness of all theories of spontaneity and collapse than the German development and the unshakable truth of the doctrine of the importance of the party.
The key to the German development lies completely in the subjective attitude of the German working class and in the policy of the reformist S.P.G. and of the revolutionary C.P.G., which is however misled by the Centrists. There is no other way to introduce an analysis of the present situation than by a description of political history since the September 1930 elections.
After September 14, which produced the tremendous election success of the National Socialists (Fascists), the question of the Fascist seizure of power was put on the order of the day. The bourgeoisie itself discussed the question in all frankness. It is already obvious from the fact that in certain provinces it agreed to coalitions with the Fascists, that it was making serious preparations in this direction.
It should be remembered in this connection that the election results, numerically at any rate, were annihilating. Not only the Fascists, but also the Communists grew tremendously, and even the S.P.G. was drawn into the electoral struggle under the banner of opposition. The proletarian members of the reformist party were, besides, in open rebellion, in face of the Fascist danger they called for arms.
The S.P.G., it is true, soon swung over to support of the government. In spite of this, the bourgeoisie made up its mind on the question of Fascism only when it was made clear by extra-parliamentary struggles whether the reformists could once more hold the masses in check in the economic struggles and on the streets against Fascism, or if the success of the Communists would be more than an electoral victory, so that in the face of the threatening civil war, nothing would be left to the bourgeoisie but the Fascist bloodbath. “A revolutionary party, during the crisis of a regime, is stronger in extra-parliamentary mass struggle than within the framework of parliamentarism” (Trotsky). Unfortunately, this does not hold for the C.P.G. In the two large strikes, of the metal workers in Berlin and the mine workers in the Ruhr, as a result of its false trade union tactic, it was not possible for it to tear the workers away from the reformists and thus to prevent their betrayal. After these two defeats, the will to struggle of the German workers was broken and the question decided for the time for the bourgeoisie. To this is to be added, that also on the field of the struggle against Fascism, everything was lost, for the C.P.G., with its sectarian tactics, did not understand how to create a united front with the social democratic workers and thus to drive a wedge into the S.P.G.
We have here a striking proof of the practical lack of significance of parliament, for the actual relationships of forces were determined by quite different factors and did not correspond in the least to the composition of parliament.
The Fascists quit the parliament, their ministers quit the government. This was nothing but a clever, masked retreat. Only fools, like the ultra-radical Fascists, Stennes and Strasser, and the former pseudo-Oppositionist, Landau, who see in Fascism an anti-capitalist force, and therefore ascribe to it a certain independent role, could see in this the prologue to a Fascist seizure of power. Since then, German Fascism has been living in reserve, patiently adapting itself to all the wishes of the bourgeoisie with whom it stands in principle on the “legalizing” itself and merely filling its same basis, sacred private property, leisure hours with the murder of workers. How lacking in independence and entirely obedient it is to the call of finance capital, so hated by its supporters, is best shown by its attitude in the July bank crash, when the power was easy to take, but which was not seen by this party.
Does the defeat of Fascism in the Prussian referendum already mean that all is over with it? With such an assumption, we would fall into the error of the C.P., which every moment proclaims the decomposition of Fascism on the basis of its objective contradictions. In reality, however, Fascism will collapse only on the basis of a victorious advance of the proletariat, or when the bourgeoisie no longer requires its services ; but nothing of the kind is visible in the next period.
Extra-parliamentarily, the bourgeoisie rules today on the basis of the betrayal of the trade unions. “Parliamentarily”, through the medium of the Bruening government and its emergency decree system, which is rendered possible by the agreement of the S.P.G. Based thus upon a nominal parliamentary majority, the Bruening government has long ago sent parliament home, and settles all questions by decrees. In this way, it has cut wages and salaries, diminished unemployment insurance, removed the democratic rights (freedom of press, self administration, etc.), and all this with the aid of reformists. The reformists are today, therefore, the basis of the regime, their liquidation constitutes the key to power.
The social democrats justify their betrayal of the working class with the claim that in this way the bourgeoisie will not proceed to Fascism that this is the lesser evil. Naturally, the bourgeoisie can forego Fascism if it succeeds in attaining by degrees the same measure of exploitation and oppression that Fascism would bring it in one day, but with a greater risk.
In reality, the reformists do not fight against Bruening or against wage reductions, because every struggle today would raise the question of the capture of power by the proletariat or of a reaction with relentless sharpness; but the reformists, no matter what the price, want no capture of power by the proletariat, no social revolution, for they have long ago grown into capitalism. The bourgeoisie, for its part, pays the social democracy badly for its services, by humiliating and exposing it on every occasion (armored cruiser, plebiscite). What comrade Trotsky wrote in 1929 about the strategic line of the bourgeoisie is being completely confirmed:
“The bourgeoisie finds that the disciplining of the workers by the social democracy places high expenditures upon it. The bourgeoisie as such needs Fascism in order to hold the social democratic party in check and, if necessary, to push it aside. Fascism wants to capture power and is capable of doing it. After seizing power, Fascism will surrender to finance capital. But this is the path of convulsions, which also places high expenditures upon the bourgeoisie. This explains the vacillations of the bourgeoisie, the internal struggle in its ranks; and thereby is determined the policy it will probably pursue in the next period: to force the social democratic party, with the aid of Fascism, to help reconstruct the constitution in such a way as to combine for the bourgeoisie the advantages of Fascism and democracy, Fascism in essence, democracy in form; in this way it hopes to free itself of the increased expenditures for democratic reforms and If possible also from the increased expenditures of the Fascist upheaval. Will the bourgeoisie be able to take this road? Certainly not to the very end or for a long period of time.” (Trotsky, The Austrian Crisis, the Social Democracy, and Communism)
The swindle of the lesser evil is facilitated for the reformists by the fact that the C.P. showed itself incapable of analyzing the situation correctly, and also branded the Bruening government without further ado as a Fascist dictatorship. In fact, the Centrist analysis is false because the Bruening regime, which supports itself upon the reformist workers, has a different social basis from Fascism, which rests upon the despairing petty bourgeois masses, because its ideology is pseudo-revolutionary and not conservative, like Bruening’s its methods are terrorist and not pseudo-parliamentarian, like Bruening’s. With the declaration that Bruening is exercizing a dictatorship, nothing is said. For us Marxist-Leninists, every bourgeois regime up to now has been a dictatorship. It is a question here of the special methods. And those are different with Bruening and MacDonald from those of Hitler and Mussolini. Politicians who set themselves to be stabbed, when they are to be poisoned, can very easily fall victim to their own mistakes, and are worth nothing as strategists of the revolution.
(To Be Continued)
Berlin, September 1931
1. To get a clear picture of the situation then and today, we recommend the reader to look once more into the work of comrade Trotsky, The Turn in the Communist International and the Situation in Germany.
Last updated: 4.2.2013