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English Trade Union Congress Swallows Lie;
Links German Workers to Fascists

(October 1944)

From Labor Action, Vol. 8 No. 44, 30 October 1944, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In adopting the report of the Anglo-Soviet Trade Union Committee, the Trade Union Congress of Great Britain revealed that it had fallen for one of the eldest lies maintained by the ruling class in every country. The report, carried by a vote of five to one, linked the German people with their fascist oppressors in the atrocities committed by the latter, and stated that the German people could not be absolved from responsibility for these crimes.

There are several things which are wrong in such an attitude, which is extremely dangerous to the working class, especially in the “democratic” countries.

Who Was Responsible for Hitler?

In the first place, every worker must remember that the German workers and people in general were the first victims of Nazism. Before the Nazis were able to extend their barbaric practices beyond the borders of Germany, they had to break by force and violence the working class organizations in their own country. The first Nazi concentration camps were filled and still are filled with German workers who fought. Nazism long before the capitalist statesmen of the democratic countries discovered that they could not “do business with Hitler.”

Such workers cannot be held responsible for the crimes of Hitler, who was aided in his climb to power by labor’s mortal enemies, both inside and outside Germany.

But why didn’t the German workers do something to stop Hitler? Doesn’t the fact that they didn’t stop him make them at least partly responsible for his crimes?

The German workers were prevented from stopping Hitler and his hordes by the very people who today shout the loudest about a “hard” peace for Germany and not “absolving” the German people. The German working class was organized into two gigantic working class parties, both of them led by men who did next to nothing to organize the fight against fascism. The leaders of one of these, parties, the Social-Democratic, relied upon Hindenburg to stop Hitler. The leaders of the other party, the Communist Party, on orders from Moscow, preferred the fight against the social-democrats to the fight against the fascists. The division inside the ranks of German labor at such a crucial moment, and the lack of a bold, aggressive fighting program against fascism, for which the leaders of both these parties are equally responsible, permitted the fascists to get to power. Now these leaders, and their prototypes in other countries, shout about the need to punish all the German people for the crimes of fascism. At the very least, says Sir Walter Citrine, general secretary of the Trade Union Council, the German people were quiescent while Hitler’s armies ravaged the European continent, and they must therefore be considered accessories to the crime.

Labor Leaders Helping Capitalism

Leaving aside for the moment the fact that Sir Walter at the time of Hitler’s rise to power was busy selling the virtues of capitalism to the British workers, this kind of argumentation is very dangerous to the British working class.

By this kind of reasoning, all the crimes of British imperialism in Asia and Africa can be placed on the heads of the British working class. What if the Indian people should some day decide that EVERY Englishman is responsible for their enslavement, and that the British labor movement was “at least an accessory” to that crime? How would Sir Walter defend the honor of the British trade unions, of which he is general secretary?

By the same token the American labor movement could be held responsible for every lynching in the South, for every injustice and crime perpetrated by or inspired by the American capitalist class.

When Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt (and they, are speaking respectively for the capitalists of England and the United States) say such things, it makes a great deal of sense. (President Roosevelt declared that he does not hold the German people responsible, but they will have to make their way toward a democratic way of life “without the burden of carrying a gun.” What he is actually saying is that the German people will have no weapons with which to wipe out the Nazis.) For neither of them can tell the truth about German fascism, namely, that it is the product of German capitalist society, and that the fascists are the agents who do the dirty work for the capitalists. They can’t tell the truth lest the workers in their own coutries draw some conclusions about who and what is actually responsible for oppression, fascism and war, and decide to do something effective about ridding the world once and for all of these scourges.

Let the German Workers Act

Given not even half a chance, the Italian people have already shown how little they had in common with Italian fascism. Every Italian worker wishes for nothing better than the opportunity to wipe out the Italian fascists and establish a new and better order. It is not the responsibility for fascism which has been pinned on the Italian people which prevents them from doing a more thorough job on the fascists, but rather the presence of Allied troops and the same kind of labor leaders who in England now pass resolutions condemning the whole German nation.

In Germany too, the workers will yet show how little they cared for Hitler and how great was their suffering at his hands. But they will not be aided in their fight against Hitlerism if the workers in England and the United States and their ruling class insist in placing the responsibility for the crimes of fascism upon them.

Instead, the labor movements in these countries must insist that the German and Italian workers not be hampered in any way in their dealings with their native fascists. Every bit of aid and encouragement must be sent to the German and Italian workers, even over the opposition of the ruling classes and governments of America and England. The workers of Germany and Italy are the only ones really capable of destroying fascism in their own countries.

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