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Albert Goldman

Where We Stand

(6 September 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 36, 6 September 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Stalinist “Revolutionary” Propaganda

We can expect to receive a demand from some naive Stalinist sympathizer that we apologize to the Kremlin because of our charge that the bureaucrats: who rule within that magnificent edifice have failed to appeal to the masses in Germany to rise and overthrow the Nazi regime. For the Daily Worker of August 21 presents evidence which will surely be accepted by many gullible Stalinist followers as a real attempt to undermine the morale of the Nazi soldiers by appeals to them to overthrow Hitler.

On the front page of that issue of the Daily Worker there is prominently displayed a dispatch from Moscow, which gives the text of an open letter written by four German army officers captured in the fighting. This letter is designated as a “moving appeal to the German army” to bring an end to “the suicidal war against the Soviet Union.”

It is quite possible that the letter was forged by the GPU for the purpose of anti-Hitler propaganda. The GPU is certainly capable of doing such a thing. The nature of the contents of the letter shows that it could have been written by any four reactionary German officers captured by the English and that the democratic imperialists could easily use such a letter. It is peculiar that only officers captured by the Soviet army should have thought of writing an open letter of this nature. But whether it is a forgery or an authentic letter is really immaterial. The contents of the letter, authentic or forged, reveal the attitude of those who published it.

As a piece of reactionary propaganda, although aimed at Hitler, it is difficult to imagine anything that could surpass this open letter and far from having the effect of arousing the common people of Germany against the Nazi regime, it would probably tend to encourage them in supporting that regime.

Noble Officers Look Down on Rabble

“Tramps without kin or race” – thus are the Nazis referred to in this open letter. The four officers, authors of the letter, are evidently men of noble blood and gnash their teeth at the thought of being compelled to take orders from men who cannot trace their ancestry to some nobleman of old. “It was the sons of noble families who entered the army when the old German spirit still reigned,” say these four officers, and we can imagine their chagrin when Hitler permitted some Nazi coming from the lower classes to defile the army of the nobility.

Can anyone imagine the common people of Germany being filled with hatred for Hitler because of the terrible crime attributed to him in the letter? It is possible that all noble officers would be moved by such an appeal but hardly probable that the masses would rise against Hitler to protect the nobility in their privileged position in the army.

And the officers are fierce in their condemnation of Hitler for murdering Generals von Schleicher and von Bredow and for keeping the cleric Niemoeller who was a submarine commander during the first World War under arrest. Rise, German proletarians, to avenge these noble Generals!

Not a word about the tens of thousands of workers slaughtered or put into concentration camps. Hitler’s torture and murder of defenseless people are mentioned but only because Germany’s reputation thereby suffers.

“Our German Fatherland is endangered,” lament the officers, by Hitler’s adventurist policies. It follows that if Hitler should win the war, these officers will humbly beg his pardon for then the “German Fatherland” would be greatly strengthened. And the war against the Soviet Union is severely criticized on the ground that “it is sheer madness to fight on two fronts.” It can be presumed that these officers would have been perfectly satisfied had Hitler first conquered England and then proceeded to attack the Soviet Union.

Officer Caste Will Not Overthrow Hitler

But why, naive Stalinist sympathizers will ask us, should the Soviet Union not utilize the appeal of reactionary officers to overthrow Hitler? No matter who appeals for Hitler’s overthrow, they say, we should support such an appeal because if he is overthrown it will constitute a victory for the Soviet Union.

At best the open letter can have an effect only upon the officer caste. Is it possible that this caste, even if it wanted to, could remove Hitler from power by a palace revolution ? The same hope was entertained by many reactionaries and many guillible people in England and elsewhere. How many times have wishful thinkers hoped to solve the problem of Hitlerism through a conspiratorial uprising of the army officers! But no such conspiracy developed for the simple reason that the Nazi bureaucracy is too powerful to be overthrown by a clique of reactionary officers. Only a people’s uprising can hope to destroy the Hitler regime.

And even if the officer caste did succeed in getting rid of Hitler and his chief lieutenants, the Soviet Union would not be the beneficiary. The officers would then decide to fight a war on one front. They would make peace with England and the United States and confine their efforts to annihilating the Soviet Union.

It has been the invariable theme of Churchill that peace cannot be made with the Nazis, implying thereby that if the Nazis were overthrown by the old-time reactionaries, peace could be achieved in short order. It can of course be taken as absolutely for granted that Churchill and Roosevelt would not make peace with a workers’ government that came to power in Germany as a result of a workers’ revolution.

The letter of the four officers is a piece of propaganda that the democratic imperialists can scatter over Germany. That the Stalinists are utilizing such a letter shows how far removed they are from the revolutionary Marxist idea of appealing to the German masses to overthrow Hitler and unite with the Soviet Union to create a Socialist United States of Europe.

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