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Albert Goldman

Capitalist System Is Responsible
for Atrocities

Declares Albert Goldman in Address on May Day

(1 May 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 19, 12 May 1945, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The following is part of the speech delivered by Comrade Albert Goldman at the May Day Rally of the New York local of the Socialist Workers Party held at Webster Hall on Tuesday evening, May 1, 1945.

* * *

Not only are the German masses compelled to witness the almost complete destruction of the industries of their country; not only must they view the foreign conqueror take possession of what is left of their native land; not only must they think of the possibility of slavery to Stalin and the imperialists; they must also be compelled to listen to one of the greatest slanders of the modern age against a whole people. They are compelled to listen to the dastardly charge that the German masses are equally responsible with the Nazis for the terrible atrocities committed by the beasts who followed the orders of Hitler.

The workers of Germany who once voted solidly against Hitler, who were willing bo fight him to the death if only their parties had led them to the barricades, must gnash their teeth in silent rage when they are held responsible for the terrible Nazi cruelties.

Who is responsible for this dastardly accusation against the German people? Stalin and the leaders of American and British imperialism, who knew all about the atrocities committed in the concentration camps before the war but who remained silent “for reasons of state.” Before the war there were only Jews and political prisoners in the concentration camps and they thought Jews and political prisoners were not worth bothering about. So the rulers of these powerful countries kept silence and by their silence aided and abetted the crimes of the Nazis.

Stalin and the leaders of American and British imperialism refused to give asylum to the Jews and political prisoners subjected to inhuman torture. And now the hypocrites weep crocodile tears at the sight of human wrecks who could have been saved had there been a will to do so.

And why is the fact that a great number of the prisoners of Buchenwald, of Flossenburg, of Belsen and other concentration camps are GERMAN political prisoners practically concealed from the readers of the Press? The average reader gets the impression that only Allied war prisoners have been tortured and poisoned and burned by the Nazi beasts.

There Are Two Different Germanies

Before there were prisoners of war there were German political prisoners, tens of thousands of them. Stalin and the imperialists gloss over this fact. Why? Because they are not interested in showing that there are two Germanies – the Germany of the Nazis and their capitalist supporters and the Germany of those who fought against the Nazis, the men and women who suffered agonies in that fight.

Stalin and the imperialists are not interested in giving the truth because they want to win the support of the masses of their countries for their infamous schemes of enslaving the German masses and suppressing any possible workers’ revolution. That is why they spread the lie that the German masses are responsible for the atrocities committed by the Nazis.

* * *

Who is responsible for the crimes of the Nazis – the German workers who fought against them or the French and British and American capitalists who supported Hitler?

Can any one show where the German people were asked to vote whether the atrocities should be committed? Can any one show that the German people had an opportunity freely to decide that the Jews, German political prisoners, and prisoners of war should be tortured? Can any one show that the German workers had the right to organize protests against the atrocities and failed to do so?

In what way then are the German workers responsible? By their failure to revolt against Hitler? Will the slanderers of the German people show us how it is possible for workers whose parties betrayed them, whose leaders were executed or exiled, who were subjected to the inhuman terror of the Gestapo, – how it is possible for workers under such conditions to revolt?

* * *

Who Is Responsible for the Atrocities?

We Trotskyists hold responsible for the atrocities the Nazis who planned them and who trained human beings so that they would be transformed into beasts capable of perpetrating such crimes. We hold the capitalist rulers of Germany who placed the Nazis in power responsible for the atrocities. And above all we hold a decaying capitalist system that can bring only hatred and starvation and death to mankind responsible for the atrocities. The hatreds engendered in the fierce struggle to eke out a livelihood, in the terrible fight of each against all, assume inhuman proportions in this period of the death agony of the capitalist order. A maddened group of de-classed individuals is utilized by finance capitalism to retain power. A Hitler stands forth as the symbol of decay and hatred and death. Civilized man witnesses the beginning of the transformation of civilized society into totalitarian barbarism.

Let no one believe that only Nazified Germans are capable of fiendish cruelty. Right here in this country, even before the class struggle has reached a point where the big capitalists must have recourse to fascism, there have been a sufficient number of incidents that show that there are enough sadists and degenerates who can easily be trained to duplicate the deeds of the Nazis.

I have seen fifty and more militant workers placed in a cell built to hold five and kept there for more than seventy-two hours. I have seen workers who were beaten to a pulp while under arrest. If the masses permit fascism to conquer here it will find all the recruits it wants to cause excruciating suffering to men and women who struggle for a new world.

Can any one seriously believe that there will be difficulty in finding candidates to torture and kill from among those who take delight in lynching Negroes? Did Mussolini find it difficult to get men who were willing to hurl poison gas at peaceful Ethiopians? Did Franco find it difficult to get Spaniards to bury Spanish workers alive? Fiendish cruelty is no monopoly of any people or of any race. It has always been and will always be a characteristic of the human being so long as he lives in a class society and is raised amidst exploitation, hatred, cruelty and war.

* * *

The German Masses Will Uphold Internationalism

And who, pray, will be the ones who will suffer punishment under the doctrine of the responsibility of the German people for the crimes of the Nazis? Will the German capitalists who placed Hitler in power, will Thyssen and his ilk be compelled to slave under Stalin and the imperialists? No, the German workers who fought Hitler, will be dragged off to Siberia and compelled to work under the whip of the G.P.U. It will be the German workers who will be starved and humiliated in Germany.

For our part we shall never forget the atrocities of the Nazis, We shall point to them frequently and say to the American workers: look what can happen to you if you permit native fascism to conquer. We shall say to the Jews: look what will happen to you if you depend upon capitalist democracy in the United States as the German Jews placed their faith in the Weimar republic.

Remember that the German masses who once marched proudly on May Day did so under the banner of internationalism. They wanted freedom for themselves and for all mankind. We feel certain that soon they will once more march under the same banner. They will show the whole world that in the organized working class of Germany there is nothing of the feeling of racial superiority. They will show that they, together with all other workers, are struggling for a world free from capitalist brutality, for a world of socialist brotherhood and freedom for all peoples and all races.

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