Arne Swabeck Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

Arne Swabeck

What Is Happening in Fascist Germany?

(June 1934)

From The Militant, Vol. VII No. 26, 30 June 1934, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The speech delivered by Vice Chancellor von Papen before the German University Union at Marburg, on June 17, has aroused comment and speculations overshadowing by far all other recent political events. Its importance derives not so much from what was said, but from the situation which it reveals.

Mere speculation in political conjunctures and turns has nothing in common with a basic analysis of the objective historical processes. The speculation which leaves these factors out of account are worthless. Thus, for instance, headlines of the New York tabloid sheets had the German Reichswehr ready to overthrow Hitler and to set up a military dictatorship. But the Stalinists were no more fundamental in their approach to the question. From that source we are informed that we “stand on the threshold of the German proletarian revolution.”

Worthless Speculation

The one speculation is as deceptive and as worthless as the other. While the Stalinists, speculating with such criminal frivolity, proclaim, purely out of their own wishes, the arrival at this moment of the crucial hour in Germany, they are utterly oblivious to the imminent approach of the crucial hour in France. Or, it is because of their false conception that fascism “speeds up” the proletarian revolution that the same policy, applied with such disastrous consequences in Germany when Hitler came into power, is to be repeated in France? So it seems, because it is precisely that same treacherous policy of capitulation which we now witness in face of the growing French fascist movement. If, on the other hand, a correct and revolutionary strategy would be pursued in France that would undoubtedly improve the prospects all over Europe of beating back the fascist hordes. It would help to set the German workers into motion again. But this cannot be expected from the Stalinist organizers of defeat.

In Germany the objective historical processes follow at the present moment a course contrary to the Stalinist prognosis and not at all influenced by it. The von Papen address brings testimony to that fact. He speaks for a special class interest. He speaks for the masters of finance and industry and the large landholdings. In the “famous” address of June 17, prefaced by the remark that “the ultimate truth lies only with God”, he proceeded to offer what is now called courageous criticism of the fascist regime. He insists that claims to “revolutionary” or national monopoly must not be held by any one single group and that no one single class must seize governmental power and raise totalitarian claims. There must be no annihilation of popular freedom, for a people cannot be united by terrorism, he said.

But that was intended for popular consumption. The real essence of von Papen’s warnings lie elsewhere. “Leadership will have to watch out”, he admonishes, “lest a new class struggle revive under different colors.”

Von Papen’s Program

“I have outlined”, says von Papen, “the problems of the German revolution and my attitude to it so sharply because there is no end of talk of a second wave, which is to complete the revolution ... Nor is it clear where such a second wave should lead. There is much talk of the coming socialization. Have we gone through an anti-Marxist revolution in order to carry out a Marxist program? For every attempt to solve the social problem by collectivization of property is Marxism.

“Would the German people do better by it, would anybody do better, except perhaps those who scent booty in such a pillaging raid, Social problems certainly exist, but they can be mastered only when property is again put under responsibility – not through making collective irresponsibility the ruling principle.”

This is clear and precise. The danger conjured up by Von Papen is not the danger of the proletarian revolution in Germany, for even he knows that this would not be possible without a revolutionary proletarian leadership and least of all without a revolutionary international party. He is speaking directly for the benefit of the fascist guardians of the capitalist system. His task is to remind Hitler and his lieutenants that their first essential service has been performed. With their petty-bourgeois and plebian fascist hordes they destroyed the German labor and revolutionary movement. They liberated their masters from the fear of strikes, revolts or proletarian insurrections and put the working class in chains. The many fists in the petty-bourgeois and plebian army was the dagger was their only value lo the exploiters.

Too Many Fists

But von Papen is now calling attention also to the danger lurking in the many upraised petty-bourgeois and plebian fists. Too many of them have taken seriously the demogogic pledges that were embodied in the fascist program in order to rally the mob and to create a mass movement against the proletariat. Too many of them still remain under the illusion that they can cash in on these pledges. At he same time even the Fascist eaders cannot fail to take into account the present enormous strain on the German national economy, the reduction of the whole standard of living of the German masses, including the middle class and, as a result of this, the enormous dangers of a seething discontent.

Certain points in the Nazi’s demagogic program, declared to be unalterable for all time, still remain imprinted in the minds of the plebian brown hordes. Point 13 of the official program reads: “We demand the nationalization of all businesses which have been up to the present formed into companies (trusts).” And, further on, point 7 reads: “We demand land reform suitable to our national requirements, confiscation without compensation of land for communal purposes and the abolition of interest on land loans.”

These points were inserted to attract the masses, particularly the urban and rural middle class. It stands to reason that they were never intended to be carried out. The Fascist army was not created for any such purpose. It came into being at the time when German capitalism could no longer function on the old basis, when the masses could no longer be held in subjection even by a regime of social reformism and when the continued existence of capitalism required the ruthless extermination of all working class organization as a prerequisite for increasing the intensity of exploitation.

What the New Program Means

That function was performed by the fascist army, tempering its artificially instilled hatred to Marxism in a ruthless campaign of terror. But the demagogic pledges advanced in order to create this army also served to instill into its mind the subsequent demand for the completion of the fascist revolution Because of that the fascist leaders are compelled to give heed to the peremptory ultimatum of German capitalism, as now advanced by von Papen, that the regime base itself more exclusively on the reactionary state bureaucracy and put a brake on the petty-bourgeois and plebian demands for completion of the fascist revolution. In accordance with this steps are being taken to reduce the numbers of the brown army, and thereby disarm many of its unreliable elements. This is the real meaning of the present movement. Hitler, however, hurries his assurance that what is developing now is not a change in the fascist regime.

In his special interview given to the New York Times reporter of June 24, thumping his fist on the sable, he said: “At the risk of appearing to talk nonsense I will tell you that this movement will go on for a thousand years. The people are more behind me today than they were a year ago. They follow me wherever I go and will continue to do so.”

This is his boast and it is easy to affirm that it has as little to do with the objective historical processes as has the Stalinist prognosis of standing at this moment on the threshold of the proletarian revolution in Germany. Hitler’s greatest difficulties are still ahead, of him. But that subject win have to be left for another article.

Arne Swabeck Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 6 May 2016