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M. Morrison

What Is Holding Back
the German Revolution?

(14 April 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 15, 14 April 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

What is the explanation for the failure, up to the present, of the German workers to rise and overthrow the Nazi power? The demoralization of the Nazi army, as a result of the military defeats, has reached a point where one would expect the suffering masses to rise and destroy every vestige of Hitler’s power. When a dictatorship suffers such military reverses as the Nazis have suffered, when the masses have been subjected to such grueling punishment as has been the lot of the German people, a revolt and the wiping out of the slave drivers is to be expected.

There have undoubtedly been anti-government and pro-peace demonstrations in various parts of Germany. Even if we discount some of the reports about demonstrations that emanate from Moscow, Stockholm and Berne, it is highly improbable that all of the reports are baseless rumors. But whatever demonstrations have occurred have been suppressed and many participants executed. They have not been on a large enough scale to topple over the regime.

In 1918 the defeats suffered by the German army were not nearly so serious. German soil was not invaded. And yet the German masses rose and destroyed the power of the Kaiser. What prevents the masses from repeating the revolt of 1918?

* * *

Means of Repression

One of the factors explaining the failure of the German masses to overthrow the Nazi power up to now (April 6) is the very powerful repressive instruments which Hitler has at his disposal. The Kaiser had his police but he did not have a group of hundreds of thousands of young fanatics well organized, superbly armed and excellently trained. The S.S. corps of militant Nazis has been trained for the very purpose of quelling any revolt. It is a mobile unit ready to be thrown against any sector of the internal front. It is absolutely ruthless, and trained to perfection in the uses of barbaric violence. The very fact that the masses revolted in 1918 taught the Nazis a lesson in the necessity for preparing for such an eventuality.

But by itself the existence of a powerful instrument of repression would hardly suffice to explain the failure of the masses to revolt. A half-million armed thugs can not be ignored but they could not stand up against tens of millions of determined and militant workers, especially those workers who are in the armed forces.

German fascism has been in power for twelve years. During those years it has, by hounding, torture and murder eliminated the flower of the working-class militants. There are undoubtedly many revolutionary workers still left but so many have been killed, incapacitated and exiled that the German masses have been left leaderless to an extent where a successful uprising becomes extremely difficult if not impossible.

Situation in 1918

In the First World War many revolutionists were jailed but there was nothing remotely comparable to the suppression practised by Hitler. There were countless militants who kept silent during the war but lifted their heads as soon as the Kaiser’s war machine began to crack. Left-wing Socialists following the revolutionary Spartacus group and the centrist Independent Socialist Party were in the factories and in the army and were agitating the masses to come out on the streets. The leadership furnished these revolutionary workers was not conscious enough and strong enough to give the masses victory against the opposition of the Social-Democrats but it was strong enough to overthrow the Kaiser. Hitler’s terror has successfully eliminated from the scene a vast number of conscious militant workers and the masses, without leadership, are unable to act.

* * *

One must add to the above-mentioned factors the fear of the German workers that they will receive no help from the workers of England, France and the Soviet Union. When Hitler was victorious we did not expect a revolution because he had too much support from the middle class and sections of the working class. Now that the Allies arc dealing Hitler’s armies terrible blows, the German masses see before them the dark future of the military rule of Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt. There is no incentive for them to run the risk of slaughter at the hands of Hitler’s storm-troopers.

What a difference between the present and 1918! Then the German masses had the inspiring example of the Russian Revolution. They felt confident that the Soviets under Lenin and Trotsky would do all in their power to help them. Now they hear only words of hate and vengeance coming from the Stalinist bureaucrats. They hear threats of enslavement – millions of them are afraid of being dragged from their native soil, from their homes and families, to be compelled to work under the whip of Stalin’s G.P.U. They hear no voice coming from east or west to give them encouragement and assurance of help.

Key to German Revolution

But the German masses may yet make a desperate effort to overthrow the yoke of Hitler and prevent further slaughter. What then? Can they stop the imperialist forces and Stalin’s Red Army from occupying all of Germany? Not without the help of the English, French, American and Russian workers.

And what if the Allies seize all of Germany? History has shown how difficult it is for workers to take power when a foreign army whose soldiers have not been infected by the revolutionary virus is stationed in their country. The workers of Northern Italy have been compelled to bow beneath the yoke of the Nazi army. Unarmed or poorly armed masses do not have much of a chance against a disciplined modern army with all its deadly equipment.

The German Revolution will assure the success of the European Revolution but the key to the German Revolution is in the hands of the French, the English, the Russian and the American workers. One thing is certain. The problems of the German working masses can not be solved by the Allies just as they could not be and were not solved by Hitler. From this it follows that the workers of Germany are bound to attempt a revolutionary solution of their own, which means taking power into their own hands and calling upon the European masses to aid them in establishing a Socialist United States of Europe.

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