Fascism in Germany. Robin Blick 1975

Appendix III: History Falsified

The twentieth-century class struggle has been shaped and dominated by two cataclysmic events – the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the German fascist counter-revolution of 1933. Every worker and intellectual fighting for socialism today will, if his or her efforts are to prove fruitful, have to take their bearings not only from the contours of their national workers’ movement and its history, though this is of course essential. Above all, they must be guided by the theoretical understanding extracted by the Communist vanguard from the historical polar opposites, the greatest conquest and the most shattering defeat in the life of the international proletariat.

But certain forces stand in the way of advanced workers, youth, students and intellectuals seizing hold of this priceless theoretical capital, accumulated with such devotion, sacrifice and torment. Some we have already briefly discussed – the various non-Marxist historians of German fascism, ranging from Bullock to Sedgwick, and the Social Democrats and centrists, who of course have a special interest in concealing from class-conscious workers the crimes of reformism in Germany. The most systematic distortions of all, however, are undertaken by the Stalinist bureaucracy.

For what must at all costs be kept from advanced workers, youth and intellectuals moving towards Marxism is the brutal truth concerning the counter-revolutionary role of Stalinism in facilitating the most catastrophic defeat inflicted on the working class in all its history. For would anyone devoted to the struggle for socialism give credence to a tendency they knew to have been responsible for permitting Hitler to come to power and crush the strongest labour movement in the world? Stalinism sustains itself in the working class in part through its ability to present itself – quite falsely – as the legitimate continuation of Lenin’s party and the Russian revolution of 1917. Hence the frantic and slanderous attempts of Stalinism over the years to depict Trotskyism as anti-Leninist, as the spearhead of counter-revolution. Not for one instant therefore can the Trotskyist movement neglect the struggle to expose the Stalinist falsifiers of working-class history.

After Hitler – Us

The work of falsification began from the moment Hitler took power. The mighty resources of the Comintern were harnessed not to mobilise the world proletariat in defence of its tormented German comrades, but to spread a vast smokescreen of lies to conceal its own responsibility for the Nazi victory. The first task of the Stalinist scribes was to prove that there had been no serious defeat, let alone a disaster of historic proportions. Right throughout 1933, the same line was sustained – the revolution was in the ascendant, the fascist repression was speeding up the radicalisation of the workers, the reformists were still ‘social fascists’, the ‘chief social support of the bourgeoisie’, and that, last but not least, Trotsky’s demand for a united front between the two workers’ parties remained counter-revolutionary.

On 14 March 1933, the Comintern organ set the political line that was to be pursued relentlessly for the next nine months, sending untold numbers of heroic but utterly confused Communist workers to their deaths: ‘... the increased provocation of the fascist bourgeoisie is proof of the fact that the historic time has come for the end of capitalist rule.’ [1] Two weeks later, on 1 April, the ECCI Presidium met in Moscow. The number one item on the agenda had to be Germany, however much Stalin and his tame Comintern functionaries would have preferred to spend their time applauding faked Soviet pig iron production statistics. Fritz Heckert of the KPD Central Committee delivered the report on the situation in Germany, from which are selected some of the more important sections:

If before 30 January and on 30 January the ADGB and the SPD had accepted the proposal of the KPD to form a united front against fascism [sic!] and had jointly carried out a mass political strike, the processes of internal crisis of fascism would have taken place at an accelerated speed... In view of the correlation of forces which had arisen, the KPD could not raise the question of the seizure of power by the proletariat... [The aim was for the German working class] not to be drawn to decisive battle under circumstances favourable to the enemy. [Instead, simply wait until he has destroyed all your organisations and murdered your militants – RB]... The present situation in the German bourgeoisie is unstable... the proletarian revolution is bound to conquer... Who will dare to assert that the economic situation is on the upgrade in Germany? German fascism cannot be compared to Italian fascism... Italian fascism crept in on the ebb of a revolutionary wave, whereas German fascism has come to power at a time when the wave of the revolution is on the upsurge... The events in Germany represent not ‘the stabilisation’ of capitalism but its dying convulsions...

Heckert then quotes Stalin’s notorious 1924 dictum that fascism and Social Democracy were not antipodes, but twins:

Everything which has happened in Germany has fully confirmed the correctness of comrade Stalin’s prognosis. Hitler does not reject the support of Social Democracy. Social Democracy is already proving its readiness to participate in all the bloody crimes of fascism against the working class... German Social Democracy has found one ally – Trotsky. As a political nonentity in the workers’ movement, he has nothing to lose. He sticks like dirt to the fascist jackboot in the hope that he can get himself talked about at any price and emerge from political oblivion... Like a pilfering marauder, he haunts every place where workers’ blood has been shed, so as to snatch up some trifle with a view to making profit. The German working class is making sacrifices... but the ally of the Welses and the Leiparts, Trotsky, is absolving the Social Democrats of the responsibility for the advent of the fascists coming to power in Germany and laying it at the door of the KPD... the social fascist Trotsky declared that the reason why Hitler had come to power was that the KPD had not formed a united front with the Social Democrats on the only programme acceptable to Social Democracy – ‘the defence of parliamentary government and of the mass trade union’. In trying to rig up this rickety platform... Trotsky teaches the revolutionary workers of Germany... that ‘it is impossible to imagine Social Democracy without parliamentary government and mass trade union organisations’ and that it is precisely these two factors that distinguish Social Democracy from fascism. But the actual meaning of the ‘united front’ which was devised in order to justify German Social Democracy [in reality, to exploit to the maximum the contradictions that existed between it and fascism – RB] is shown by the very facts and events which were taking place at the very moment when Trotsky was writing his article.

Heckert then refers a little prematurely, in view of the events of 2 May, to the negotiations taking place between the ADGB leaders and the NSBO over the future of the trade unions:

Thus, facts have rudely revealed the real counter-revolutionary idea of the ‘platform’ of Trotsky, the social Hitlerite, who tried to prove that Social Democracy and fascism are not twins, but antipodes. [A month after Heckert delivered this report, Hitler had his trade union ‘twins’ safely under lock and key – RB] But what would such a platform of the united front mean, even if Social Democracy were prepared to fight for it in practice? It would mean nothing more nor less than the defence of the government – Brüning, Papen, Schleicher, the defence of the trade union bureaucracy of Leipart. For the KPD it would mean a desertion to the position of the Welses and Leiparts, a renunciation of Marx and Lenin. [It would take little more than a year before the entire Comintern would be aligning itself with not only right-wing trade union bureaucrats, but imperialist politicians not one whit less reactionary than those listed by Heckert – RB] It would mean going over to the position of the united counter-revolutionary front with the bourgeoisie, going over, in the last analysis, to the side of Hitler. [2] Trotsky, the confederate of Hitler, is trying under the guise of a platform of the united front, to foist upon the German working class that social fascist tactic of the ‘lesser evil’, that reactionary united front which brought Hitler to power... It was he, Trotsky, who carrying out the social orders [sic!] of Hitler, tried to sling mud at the only party which is struggling against fascism in the most difficult conditions.

Heckert concluded his report with a demagogic flourish that he soon had cause to regret:

The Social Democrats are being beaten up at this moment... But it is the Social Democratic workers and not the Welses, Leiparts and Lobes who are being beaten up. No one has touched them or will touch them, because these people form the reserve of the fascist ‘national revolution'... Fascism needs the trade unions, and it takes the Social Democratic bureaucrats into its service. [3]

Abysmal in its theoretical poverty, banal in its pseudo-revolutionary rhetoric, pernicious in its false, bureaucratic optimism and depraved in its slanders though Heckert’s report was, the ECCI Presidium found no fault with it whatsoever. The Presidium voted unanimously for a resolution which concealed from the workers of Germany and the entire world the stark fact that the Comintern and the German working class had suffered the most horrific defeat, the contours of which were fully discernible after two months of Nazi rule. In defiance of this reality, the Presidium voted for the resolution which began with these historic words; historic, because they convinced Trotsky that the Comintern was dead as a revolutionary force, and that being beyond all hope of reform, had to be supplanted by a new, genuinely Communist International:

Having heard Comrade Heckert’s report on the situation in Germany, the presidium of the ECCI states that the political line and the organisational policy followed by the CC of the KPD with Comrade Thälmann at its head, up to the Hitlerite coup, and at the moment when it occurred, was completely correct. [4]

A ‘completely correct’ policy had led the largest section of the Comintern outside the USSR to capitulation, defeat and destruction! But that could not be admitted. At stake was something far more important than the fate of the German proletariat – the prestige of Stalin and the bureaucratic clique that guided the affairs of the Communist International and the German party. Engaged in a furious, half-hidden factional struggle inside the CPSU against tendencies ranging from the Trotskyist left through the Zinovievist left-centre to the Bukharin – Riutin right, and plunged into the deepest economic crisis as a result of his adventurist agricultural and industrial policies over the previous four years, Stalin battened down the hatches still more firmly in the Comintern, and clung onto his fragile alliance with a Germany now ruled by Hitler. When translated into the language of official Comintern jargon, Stalin’s basically conservative, nationalist policy proclaimed that Hitler was, despite his subjective intentions, performing an invaluable service for the revolution by breaking up the Weimar republic and smashing the Social Democrats, the last barrier standing between the KPD and its ‘capturing’ the majority of the workers. Hitler would quickly be ‘exposed’ before his plebeian supporters as a reactionary, and then...

A selection from the Comintern press of the period will demonstrate these points far more effectively than any lengthy analysis:

There exists no fascist dictatorship, no terror of fascist bands, that can stop the development of Germany towards proletarian revolution... Reaction which is triumphing today and enraged fascism is only a short-lived phenomenon. The fascists are only the temporary masters. Their victory is a short-lived one, and upon its heels will come the proletarian revolution. The struggle for the proletarian dictatorship is on the order of the day... The road of the German proletariat to victory has been shown by the ECCI Presidium. [5]

The very factors which make for the advance of the counter-revolution, at the same time intensify all the inner contradictions of imperialism, and strengthen the revolution and unification of the working class, destroying the pacifist democratic illusions and the influence of Social Democracy... The influence of the Second International in the working class begins to break up... The fascist coup enormously accelerates this process. [6]

Since the KPD had failed to forge the unity of the working class, Dutt handed this task over to Hitler, who achieved it by hurling militants of both workers’ parties into the same camps, torture chambers, death cells and mass graves.

The calm that has succeeded the triumph of fascism is only a transitory phenomenon. Despite fascist terror, the revolutionary surge in Germany will rise; the revolutionary resistance of the masses to fascism is bound to grow. The establishment of the open fascist dictatorship, which is destroying all democratic illusions among the masses and liberating them from Social Democratic influence, is accelerating the rate of Germany’s advance towards the proletarian revolution. [7]

This crisis overwhelming Social Democracy reflects the extreme acuteness of the entire international situation. It shows that fascism’s victory in Germany is a relative thing, a victory calculated to endure for a very brief space. It accelerates the setting up of one of the most important prerequisites for the victory of the proletariat – the unity of the working class. [8]

Only defeatists and open opportunists can talk about the working class being beaten in the struggle against fascism, or its having ‘lost a battle’ and ‘suffered a defeat'... Right opportunism constitutes the chief danger in the carrying out of the general line of the party... [The KPD leads]... the national struggle for freedom against the Versailles system, and while rejecting all petit-bourgeois national and National Bolshevik ideology [sic]... fights for national emancipation as well as social emancipation... Proletarian dictatorship is the only power which can drive every foreign imperialist power out of Germany... The fascist dictatorship is not only incapable of solving the social and national conflicts, but is also incapable of really consolidating its political rule. [9]

The KPD is not only undestroyed, but its influence on the masses is greater than ever. [If this was so, then it should have achieved its goal of ‘capturing the majority’, since Thälmann had claimed, on the eve of the Nazi take-over, that this task had nearly been accomplished – RB]... The defeat of the German working class in its entirety has not been attained and will never be attained... The three months that have elapsed since Hitler’s accession to office have entailed a further pronounced decline in the position of German capitalism... [It is therefore just a matter]... as to how speedily these petit-bourgeois will desert Hitler’s cause and as to when and in what degree they may be expected to support the proletarian revolution. [10]

Béla Kun developed the reactionary theme in his pamphlet (written in the early summer of 1933) that the working class was (together of course with the ‘social fascists’) to blame for the German defeat (even though there had been no defeat):

That the German working class was not yet far enough advanced in its development to prevent the temporary victory of fascism is a fact, which permits no concealment. That it let itself be ‘split’ when unity was more imperative than ever permits of denial just as little... this backwardness in development... was conditioned precisely by the fact that the majority of the proletariat in Germany followed the slogans of the SPD. Herr Wels and the leaders of the Second International have no occasion to reproach the German working class. They may rather take some pride in them. [11]

Such outright cynicism could have only been the product of the mind of a profoundly demoralised petit-bourgeois, who rather than face up to his own responsibilities for the problems and defeats of the movement, places the blame upon the working class. But to continue:

... the past few months the Hitler government has already proved in practice that it is incapable of shaking off the Versailles yoke, just as it is incapable of effecting the ‘union with Austria'... All the forces of the fascist dictatorship are already trembling in the face of the uninterrupted growth of the forces of Communism... The proletarian revolution against the fascist dictatorship in Germany is on the order of the day. [12]

The pressure of the whole German terror machine... not only did not succeed in smashing or breaking the revolutionary German proletariat, but has led to so colossally increased a hatred on the part of the proletariat, to such an enormous accumulation of energy, that revolutionary demonstrations and strikes are growing in Germany at the present moment... A new revolutionary upsurge has already begun and is growing in Germany. [13]

In December 1933, the ECCI held its Thirteenth – and last – Plenum. Still the same line persisted, and still the lie was peddled, that the great revolutionary opportunity in Germany lay in the immediate future, hurried on by the Nazi repression of the working class:

In spite of the incredible terror, it is easier to work among the German proletariat now, because the Social Democratic workers, and also members of the reformist unions, are in large numbers becoming disillusioned with the policy of Social Democracy... Thanks to the changed situation in Germany [and therefore thanks to Hitler – RB] and to the heroic work of the KPD, the Communists no longer meet with the resistance in the working class that was formerly put up by the trade union bureaucrats and the SPD. [14]

The Stalintern could scarcely sink lower. Here was an alleged Communist actually ‘thanking’ Hitler for smashing up the reformist organisations of the German working class and jailing their leaders. Once the social fascists were safely in concentration camps, the KPD could proceed unhindered in its work of ‘capturing the majority’ of the working class. The ‘main enemy’ remained the reformists, and not the Nazis, even under the Third Reich:

The present situation in Germany is characterised by the growth of the revolutionary mass movement under the leadership of the KPD... Its influence on the toiling masses is growing rapidly. It is organising mass struggles against Hitler’s dictatorship. [All this was pure fantasy. The German proletariat was prostrate before Hitler – RB] A new revolutionary upsurge is growing... The prerequisites for the revolutionary crisis are increasing. Germany is marching towards the proletarian revolution. [15]

The present stage in Germany is no longer simply a period of struggle to win over the majority of the working class, but a period of the formation of a revolutionary army for decisive class battles for power. [16]

The Seventeenth Congress of the CPSU – dubbed with unconscious irony the ‘congress of victors’ – convened exactly one year after Hitler’s victory in Germany. To Manuilsky, the CPSU delegate to the ECCI Presidium, fell the thankless task of sustaining the official optimism concerning the prospects for proletarian revolution in the Third Reich. After the obligatory reference to the Second International ‘going full steam ahead on the way to further fascisation’, Manuilsky explained to delegates (the bulk of whom were fated to fall foul of Stalin’s great purge) that Hitler was still fulfilling his doubly progressive role of smashing Social Democracy (thereby liberating the workers from its grip) and freeing the proletariat from its last illusions in capitalist democracy:

... there has been a growth of the revolutionary crisis – the war in the Far East and the setting up of fascist dictatorship... the setting up of fascist dictatorship represents an intermediate stage in the further maturing of the revolutionary crisis... The two most reactionary governments in the world – Japan and Germany – are at present acting as objective factors in the destruction of the capitalist system, accelerating by their adventurist counter-revolutionary policy the maturing of the revolutionary crisis... fascist Germany is undermining capitalism at the centre of Europe... is mining the soil for revolutionary explosions... [17]

It would not have been so terrible if the ECCI leaders in Moscow had kept their deliriums to themselves. However, the Stalinist course, and the blind discipline which the bureaucracy imposed on party members, demanded that it be implemented in Germany. Heckert presented the few remaining KPD members at liberty or loyal to the party with a programme of activity that was tailor-made for a movement functioning under the conditions of the broadest bourgeois democracy. Who could guess that the following perspective was prescribed for fascist Germany one year after the Nazi take-over of January 1933?

One of the most important tasks of the RGO and the red trade unions is – as formerly – the independent organisation and leadership of economic battles, connecting them up with political demands, the organisation of political strikes, and the broadening of these strikes to the dimensions of big mass battles... [18]

Such directives, which in practice invited KPD militants to court immediate detection, arrest, jailing and even death for a cause that was hopeless, led to bitter reactions from German Communist workers. One told a party official, throwing a party pamphlet at his feet:

We've been distributing that for months... We've put up with a lot from you people, but this is too much. Who’s that supposed to be for?... None of us is going to risk the chopper for that tripe. [19]

And as heroic party workers risked their necks on Stalin’s suicidal policy, the Kremlin continued as before to court their executioners.

On 5 May 1933, the Nazi regime ratified the renewal of the Berlin Treaty of 1926, which had been permitted to lapse since 1931 (when it first came up for renewal) by the Brüning, von Papen and Schleicher governments. Moscow’s response was immediate. Izvestia intimated on 6 May that the formal renewal of the treaty represented a setback for anti-Soviet forces in Nazi Germany:

Unfortunately in recent years tendencies have increased in Germany itself for a deal with France or England against the Soviet Union. These tendencies, which found expression not only in broad propagandistic activities of a number of groups, among the German bourgeoisie, but also in the actions of certain government figures [that is, von Papen], did not prove successful... Germany is at present more isolated in foreign affairs than she has been at any time since the war. The German policy directed against friendly relations between Germany and the Soviet Union has led merely to the weakening of Germany. An external symptom of this policy was the non-extension of the Berlin Treaty... Public opinion in the Soviet Union will undoubtedly take a positive attitude towards the renewal of the validity of the Berlin Treaty. In spite of their attitude towards Fascism, the popular masses of the USSR wish to live in peace with Germany, and consider that the development of Soviet-German economic relations is in the best interest of both countries... [20]

The German Ambassador in Moscow, Dirksen, noted that the Soviet attitude towards the Nazi regime remained friendly even to the point of suppressing open displays of hostility towards it. In a report to Berlin, he said that:

... a strong attack on Communism in Germany itself is entirely compatible with preserving friendly German-Russian relations... Yesterday [May Day] passed off without incident. Voroshilov’s speech offered no occasion for special objections; the throngs of demonstrators refrained from calumniations of National Socialism or of leading Germans. The ceremony at the Embassy was extraordinarily well-attended (550 persons): after my speech three or four German [exile] Communists apparently sent to start a row, tried to ‘heckle’ me, but they were gently ousted. [21]

On 16 May, Dirksen was able to report that in an interview with Litvinov, the Soviet Foreign Commissar had declared that ‘the basic attitude of the Soviet government toward Germany had remained entirely the same: the Soviet government was convinced that it could have just as friendly relations with a Nazi Germany as with a fascist Italy’. [22] On 4 August, Molotov reiterated this policy: ‘The Soviet government [is] striving for friendly relation not only with other countries, but also with Germany, regardless of their internal political structure...’ [23] Which elicited the comment by Dirksen that ‘Molotov’s statements, as one of the really authoritative men and closest co-workers of Stalin, undoubtedly deserves serious consideration’. [24] Molotov went even further the next month, making these sentiments public at the September 1933 session of the All-Union Central Executive Committee:

We of course sympathise with the sufferings of our German comrades, but we Marxists are the last who can be reproached with allowing our feelings to dictate our policy. The whole world knows that we can and do maintain good relations with the capitalist states of any brand, including the fascist.

The haste with which the Kremlin embraced the butchers of the German proletariat exposed the Stalinists to criticism from the reformists. The Dutch Social Democrat Albarda declared that ‘the Russian government, according to its own statements, maintains perfectly amicable relations with the German government, a government throwing Communist workers into prison’. Rather lamely, a German Stalinist replied:

The whole working class of the world is indebted beyond repayment to the calm, resolute policy of peace of our Russian comrades. They have refused to fall into the trap of a single provocation, thick and numerous as they have been. [25]

Under pressure from the European working class, the reformist trade union and Social Democratic leaders organised a trade boycott of Nazi Germany. This did not accord at all with either the political or economic policies of the Kremlin bureaucracy, which desired above all else to preserve its links with the German bourgeoisie. So the Comintern press unleashed a ferocious slander campaign against the solidarity boycott:

Our attitude to the social fascist boycott campaign... [is that] the revolutionary workers will take part in every mass action which constitutes a blow against German fascism, but they will not allow themselves to be used as tools in the hands of one imperialist country against another... The merchandise boycott proclaimed by the Social Democrats is a swindle.

Instead of the ‘swindle’ of proletarian internationalism, the Comintern offered a ‘real struggle’ against Hitler. [26]

Stalin was evidently satisfied with the activities of his diplomats, for he had Molotov declare to the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union in December 1933:

This has been a year of further consolidation of the international position of the Soviet Union. The facts speak for themselves... It must be said that this year Soviet diplomacy has had some outstanding successes. [27]

Right through to the summer of 1934, the Comintern leadership sustained its line of an imminent proletarian revolution in Germany, and that the ‘social fascists’, and not the Nazis, were the main enemy. The purge of the SA on 30 June 1934, which marked the final consolidation of the regime in Germany, was hailed by the ECCI as fresh evidence of the approaching downfall of Hitler. On 1 July, Pravda said: ‘The fascist dictatorship now enters a new stage of its existence with its prospects for the future greatly impaired.’ On 2 July, the same paper wrote with even more emphasis: ‘The fascist regime is approaching its inevitable collapse...’ On 3 July, Radek drew a picture of a Nazi regime denuded of mass support as a result of the purge, and ready to fall at a signal from the KPD. The Nazi regime had ‘not only failed to get the better of the cadres of the working class, it has also failed to get hold of the backward strata of the workers... Under the blows of the fascist lash they are maturing the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat.’ [28]

For a brief period, there was revived the ‘National Bolshevik’ line of the 1931 Prussian referendum, in which the KPD addressed appeals to ‘revolutionaries’ in the ranks of the demoted SA to come over to the side of Communism. Knorin told a meeting of the ECCI Presidium on 9 July:

We must say [to the SA men]: ‘You can make amends for the severe crimes which you have committed against the toiling masses by carrying on jointly with all anti-fascists the struggle for the overthrow of the fascist dictatorship. There is still much which separates you from genuine revolutionary fighters. We can join together, however, on the basic thing, in the struggle against Hitler.’ The KPD has now adopted this line, and it seems to us that on the basis of this line considerable masses of storm troops will actually come over into the ranks of the revolutionary fighters...

But there could still be no united front with the Social Democrats, even though this had become official policy for the French Communist Party: ‘... even now it is correct to call Wels a social fascist, it is correct that fascism and Social Democracy, led by Wels, were twins.’ [29]

Scapegoats and Alibis

The Seventh – and as it turned out, last – Congress of the Communist International had been scheduled for 1934, but was then suddenly postponed without explanation. The real reason was of course that a new political line was in the process of crystallisation – the ‘People’s Front’ – and that, at all costs, the question of Germany had to be put on ice for as long as possible. The history of the counter-revolutionary People’s Front necessarily lies outside the scope of this book. Therefore we focus on only one theme that loomed large at the Seventh Congress held in the summer of 1935 – the question of the defeat in Germany. The promised revolution, speeded up by Hitler’s ‘temporary’ victory, had not come. Who then was to blame? Not the ECCI, with the infallible Stalin at its head, clearly. There could only be one answer. The sections, and within them, certain leaders who were secretly opposed to the ‘general line’, failed either through lack of Communist understanding or consciously (as with the Neumann – Remmele group) to apply it correctly.

A harbinger of this new line on Germany appeared in the form of a book by Piatnitsky – The Fascist Dictatorship in Germany – which although published in 1935 was written over the previous year, when some of the concepts of the Third Period were still in force (nowhere more so than in the KPD, which finally approached the SPD for a united front against the Nazi regime only at the beginning of 1935 – two full years after Hitler seized power!). References were made by Piatnitsky to the ‘weak spots’ in the work of the KPD. These included neglect of the ADGB trade unions (even though this tactic flowed directly from the line laid down by the Comintern leadership and the RILU), and failing to ‘take sufficient account of the necessity of convincing the Social Democratic workers’. Nevertheless, the overall line of the KPD was upheld as correct, especially in the period prior to and during the fascist seizure of power, when on Moscow’s orders the Stalinist leadership held the party back from any conflict with the Nazis. Piatnitsky used the scholastic argument that since there had been no revolutionary situation in Germany in January 1933, ‘the KPD could not prevent Hitler from coming to power’. [30] The second proposition does not at all necessarily flow from the first. A united front of the KPD and SPD against Hitler was most certainly a practical possibility had the KPD applied the correct Leninist tactic. And by so doing, the working class would have rapidly passed over from active defence to the revolutionary offensive. Did Lenin argue that since there was no immediate revolutionary situation when Kornilov launched his offensive against Petrograd in September 1917, the counter-revolutionary General was therefore destined to seize power? On the contrary, by proposing and securing a united front with the other Soviet parties – including the party of Kerensky! – the Bolsheviks were able to rout Kornilov, and resume successfully the struggle for the overturn.

Naturally, Piatnitsky heaped the blame for Hitler’s victory on the reformist leaders. But he also reserved some harsh words for the eight million or so workers who followed them right to the end:

... they were bound hand and foot by their leaders, because they blindly believed in these leaders... can we say that the bulk of the SPD workers bear no political responsibility for the actual refusal to participate in the united front of the struggle against fascism? No, we cannot. [31]

But the purpose of the united front tactic is precisely to draw the reformist workers into the struggle against fascism. Why, in conditions of incredible self-exposure for Social Democracy, could not the KPD achieve this goal? Because all ‘unity’ proposals – with no more than two exceptions – were made ‘from below’ and specifically excluded the reformist leaders, to whom the reformist workers were ‘bound hand and foot’. By the very use of such a phrase, Piatnitsky was admitting that in its first stages at least, the participation of the reformist workers in the united front against fascism demanded the participation of the reformist leaders. But naturally, Piatnitsky feared to tread on such dangerous territory, for had not the arch-counter-revolutionary Trotsky been agitating for just this policy ever since the German crisis exploded in 1930?

At the Seventh Congress itself, criticism of the KPD was taken much further. But again, the ‘general line’ was upheld. Thus, the speaker, Wilhelm Pieck, continued, the ‘class against class’ slogan issued early in 1928, which heralded the Third Period, was correctly posed, but wrongly interpreted by the sections:

... as meaning that our comrades must not make such [united front] proposals to the local organisations of the Social Democrats and of the reformist trade unions. Owing to this defective application of our tactics of ‘class against class’, and frequently even to the distorted idea that these tactics supposedly precluded the united front, our sections in this stage of the struggle failed to achieve the success they might have achieved.

The formation of ‘Red Unions’ in Germany, which had the full approval of the ECCI, and had been resisted by the more sober elements of the KPD leadership, was now presented as a serious error: ‘The RGO was transformed into new trade unions, and, as a result, found itself isolated from the greater mass of members of the reformist trade unions.’ But not all the blame could be heaped on the mistakes of the KPD. The working class itself came in for severe reprimand. The steady decline in the living standards of the German workers after 1930 ‘was due to the fact that the workers did not heed the call of the Communists to resist wage cuts and dismissals... and thus made it possible for the capitalists to render the conditions of the toilers still more unfavourable...’. Pieck displayed all the frustrations of a bureaucrat, used to having his instructions obeyed, confronted with a mass movement that refused to do his bidding. The working class could have prevented the victory of Hitler:

... but this would have required that the working class should have established the united front and destroyed the counter-revolutionary united front of the SPD and ADGB leaders with the bourgeoisie; it should not have allowed itself to be beguiled by the Social Democratic theory that the class struggle is impossible in times of crisis. [The very theory that Popular Front Stalinism was to proclaim – and enforce at gun-point – in the Spanish Civil War – RB] ... The working class should not have looked on calmly when the fascists under Hitler’s leadership armed themselves... should not have permitted the fascists to develop their demagogy in connection with the yoke of the Versailles Treaty, but should have forced the Weimar Republic to tear up the Versailles Treaty. But this the German working class did not do. Its majority followed the SPD blindly, and paid no heed to the warning voice of the Communists. And so it must endure the horrors of the fascist hell.

With a cynicism that would have unnerved all but the most depraved bureaucrats, Pieck charged the KPD with having neglected the employment of the united front tactic during the period of Hitler’s rise to power, a period throughout which the ECCI had consistently charged the party with the task of combating the ‘right deviation’ – the tendency that favoured forming a bloc of the workers’ parties against fascism:

It was only in the autumn of 1932 that the KPD issued to the Communists the slogan of defending the labour organisations and their property... It was with still greater delay – in Germany only even after the advent of Hitler to power – that the Communists issued the clear slogan of defending the free [formerly ‘social fascist’ – RB] trade unions...

Also jettisoned – in accordance with the requirements of the new line – was the judgement of the KPD and the ECCI that ‘the Social Democratic Hermann Müller government was working for fascisation, that the Brüning government was already a government of fascist dictatorship’. Likewise, the KPD was scolded five years after the event for its having ‘underrated the Hitler movement, by the assumption that in a country like Germany, where the working class was so highly organised, the Hitlerites could not possibly seize power...’. But having chided the KPD for its ‘sectarianism’, for its refusal to propose a united front to the reformist leaders and come to the defence of the mass reformist organisations, Pieck was at the same time prepared to denounce these same reformists for having turned down offers of a united front against fascism that, on his own admission, were not made: ‘... the SPD was opposed to such a united front, and rendered it impossible...’ [32] So all was now clear. KPD, SPD, proletariat – all were to blame for the Nazi victory (and this despite the ECCI Presidium resolution of 1 April 1933 which upheld the party’s policy to be ‘correct’ both before and during the Hitler coup!). Only the ‘general line’ and the all-seeing, infallible General Secretary emerged unscathed. For the uncrowned king of the bureaucratic caste of usurpers that dominated the USSR could do no wrong. That was why even at the congress that ushered in officially the ultra-opportunist line of the Popular Front, Stalin’s dictum that Social Democracy and fascism were twins could not be discarded, as Manuilsky explained to a meeting of ‘Active Party Members of the Moscow Organisation of the CPSU’ on 14 September 1935:

Some think that in raising the question of the united front between Communists and Social Democrats for the struggle against fascism... we are abandoning Stalin’s thesis that the fascists and Social Democrats are not opposites, but twins. Is that the case? If Social Democracy in Germany and in Austria were not principal bulwarks of the bourgeoisie but the opposites of fascism, fascism would not have come into power either in Germany or in Austria. But ceasing to be the social bulwark of the bourgeoisie, becoming the opposite of fascism, would have meant fighting it... By its whole policy of class collaboration, which paved the road to fascism, Social Democracy demonstrated the truth of the thesis that it is not the opposite but the twin of fascism. [33]

Within the arid, idealist schemas of Manuilsky’s Stalinism there existed only polar opposites – either Communism or fascism. Those forces not ranged completely and openly on the side of Communism were therefore grouped under the rubric of fascism. Yet by the same method, one could equally well argue that all forces which were not completely and openly with fascism must be included in the camp of Communism! This simpleton’s Marxism, which reduces all nuances and mediations, all gradations and transitions, to a subjectively satisfying ‘it’s either us or the fascists’ sounds very radical but has nothing to do with Leninist tactics and strategy. Echoes of this thinking can still be found in the workers’ movement, regrettably even amongst tendencies that claim to be Trotskyist. What Manuilsky was unable to explain was how the Comintern now found itself involved in a Popular Front with the ‘twin’ of fascism. But such exalted bureaucrats did not have to justify and explain, convince or reason; simply dictate.

Stalin had every reason to feel satisfied with the work of his ECCI stooges. They had apportioned the blame for the German débâcle on all save those who merited it most. But he was not satisfied. He desired the heads of the many KPD leaders who remained inwardly critical of the architect of Hitler’s victory. Those whom the Nazis were not able to murder were butchered by Stalin’s GPU gangsters in the cellars of the Lubyanka. Stalin and Hitler between them could, by 1937, claim to have massacred the majority of the KPD Central Committee, and untold thousands more of its middle and lower cadres. Indeed, Stalin exceeded Hitler’s tally of top party leaders, as the following murder toll demonstrates.

Politbureau: Killed by Stalin: Hermann Remmele, Heinz Neumann, Fritz Schulte, Hermann Schubert – four.

Politbureau: Killed by Hitler: Ernst Thälmann, John Schehr – two.

Central Committee: Killed by Stalin: Hugo Eberlein (founder of the Comintern), Hans Kippenberger (head of the KPD military apparatus), Leo Flieg (KPD Organisations Secretary), Willy Leow (head of the Red Front Fighters’ League), Willi Koska (head of Red Aid), Heinrich Susskind and Werner Hirsch (chief editors of Rote Fahne, the KPD daily), Erich Birkenhauer, Alfred Rebe, Theodor Beutling, Heinrich Kurella (all on the staff of Rote Fahne), Kurt Sauerland, August Creutzburg. Total – 11.

Central Committee: Killed by Hitler – nine.

Even excelling Hitler as a butcher of Communists did not sate the blood-lust of the counter-revolutionary Stalinist bureaucracy. Following the conclusion of the Stalin-Hitler pact in August 1939, Stalin dealt one last treacherous blow to those whom he had betrayed in 1933 and persecuted after they fled to the USSR from the Nazi terror in the succeeding years. Former KPD militants still languishing in Stalin’s camps all over the USSR were collected together at one point and handed over to the SS on the newly-established Soviet-German frontier in what Molotov termed ‘the former state of Poland’. The widow of the murdered Heinz Neumann was one of them, and she later described this scene of unbelievable perfidy and degradation in her autobiographical Under Two Dictators:

There were 28 men... in our group. Betty [Olberg] and I, an old professor and a prisoner with a wounded leg were taken on in a lorry. The men had to walk. We got out on the Russian side of the Brest-Litovsk bridge, and waited for them to come up, looking across the bridge into occupied Poland. The men arrived and then a group of GPU men crossed the bridge. We saw them returning after a while, and the group was larger. There were SS officers with them. The SS commandant and the GPU chief saluted each other. The Russian... took out some papers from a bright leather case and began to read out a list of names. The only one I heard was ‘Margarete Genrichovna Buber-Neumann’. Some of our group began to protest and to argue with the GPU. One of them was a Jew... another was a young worker from Dresden, who had been mixed up in a clash with the Nazis in 1933 as a result of which a Nazi had been killed... His fate was certain. We went over the bridge. The three who had protested were hustled along with the rest... The GPU officials still stood there in a group watching us go. Behind them was Soviet Russia. Bitterly I recalled the Communist litany: ‘Fatherland of the Toilers, Bulwark of Socialism, Haven of the Persecuted.’

Miraculously, Mrs Neumann survived her four-year term in Ravensbrück concentration camp, though not before she had been persecuted once more, not merely by her Nazi jailers, but by her camp inmates still loyal to the Stalinist line that had led them into captivity. Because her husband had been purged in Moscow, women KPD prisoners at Ravensbrück were instructed by their leaders to treat her as a ‘counter-revolutionary’ and ‘enemy of the people’. [34]

Those were of course also the charges hurled against the defendants at the three Moscow Show Trials of 1936, 1937 and 1938. Here too, the question of Germany loomed large.

Even amongst some of the most loyal of Stalin’s supporters it was being admitted that their patron had permitted Hitler to come to power in Germany. Stalin’s answer was to exploit the Moscow Trials to ‘prove’ not only to the CPSU leaders and the Soviet working class, but to the entire international workers’ movement, that it was not he who had served as an ally of German fascism, but Trotsky and all those Communists in the USSR who had, at various times in the past associated themselves with an oppositional tendency.

Stalin’s intentions were revealed at the first trial – that of Zinoviev and Kamenev – when a crude attempt was made to construct an amalgam linking not only the Soviet opposition with Hitler, but also the Trotskyist movement in Germany. One of the accused was Fritz David, a lesser KPD functionary who fled to the USSR after the Nazi seizure of power. He was made to say the following under examination:

When proposing that I go to the USSR to kill Stalin, Trotsky advised me, for the sake of secrecy, not to maintain open connections with the Trotskyists, but outwardly to adhere to the policy of the Central Committee of the KPD. This conversation took place with Trotsky in November 1932 [when Trotsky was in Copenhagen to address a meeting of Social Democratic students on the Russian Revolution – RB].

Oldberg, another defendant, was made to confess that he was the main liaison agent who worked with Trotsky’s son Sedov, who until the Nazis came to power ran the Secretariat of the International Left Opposition from Berlin. Ruth Fischer and Arkadi Maslow, who were at that time (1932) in sympathy, though not total agreement, with the Opposition, were also slanderously linked to this mythical conspiracy. Oldberg, like David, was a former member of the KPD. And he too was presented as a close follower of Trotsky:

He was a member of the German Trotskyist organisation since 1927-28. His contact with Trotsky and Sedov... began in 1930. This contact was arranged by an active member of the German Trotskyist organisation, Anton Grylewicz, the publisher of Trotsky’s pamphlets in Germany.

Then the following exchange took place between Oldberg and the Prosecutor, Vyshinsky:

Vyshinsky: What do you know about Freidemann?

Oldberg: Freidemann was a member of the Berlin Trotskyist organisation, who was sent to the Soviet Union.

Vyshinsky: Are you aware of the fact that Freidemann was connected with the German police?

Oldberg: I heard about that [sic].

Vyshinsky: Connection between the German Trotskyites and the German police – was that systematic?

Oldberg: Yes, it was systematic, and it was done with Trotsky’s consent... In 1933 there began organised systematic connection between the German Trotskyists and the German fascist police... Trotsky had sanctioned the agreement between the Berlin Trotskyites and the Gestapo, and the Trotskyites were in fact left free... [35]

Which was a vile lie, since like all other tendencies in the workers’ movement, the German Trotskyists suffered terribly at the hands of the Nazis, yielding up their full share of martyrs. Much of the impact of these slanders was undermined, however, by the fact that Zinoviev and Kamenev, the main defendants at the first trial, could not be induced to confess to being agents of Hitler. This Stalin achieved with the second trial, held in January 1937. The scripted words put into the mouth of the star defendant, Radek, made Stalin’s purpose very clear:

I received three letters from Trotsky: in April 1934, in December 1935 and in January 1936. In the letter of 1934 Trotsky put the question in this way. The accession of fascism to power in Germany had fundamentally changed the whole situation... In this letter Trotsky stated that he had established contacts with a certain far-eastern state [Japan] and a certain central European state [Germany], and that he had openly told semi-official circles of these states that the bloc stood for a bargain with them...

Stalin’s pro-German orientation, which endured until well into 1934, and which in fact was never totally abandoned, as the pact of 1939 confirmed, was foisted by Radek onto Trotsky, who had in his writings condemned the Kremlin for its appeasement of the Nazi regime:

In the autumn of 1934, at a diplomatic reception, a diplomatic representative of a central European country sat down beside me and started a conversation... ‘I feel I want to spew... Every day I get German newspapers and they go for you tooth and nail: and I get Soviet newspapers and you throw mud at Germany. What can you do under these circumstances? ... Our leaders know that Mr Trotsky is striving for a rapprochement with Germany...’ I told him that realist politicians in the USSR understood the significance of a German-Soviet rapprochement and are prepared to make the necessary concessions to achieve this... This representative understood that since I was speaking about realist politicians and unrealist politicians in the USSR the unrealist politicians were the Soviet government, while the realist politicians were the Trotsky and Zinoviev bloc... [36]

The final trial, that of the former right oppositionists Bukharin, Rykov and others (Tomsky committed suicide to avoid his arrest), placed the date of origin of this mythical conspiracy between Trotsky and German imperialism back to 1921. Trotsky’s negotiations on behalf of the Red Army and the Soviet government with the German chief of staff, von Seeckt, were construed in the trial to be treason!

Carefully, though not without some precarious moments, the image was built up in the three trials of Trotsky as an ally of German fascism, both before and after it came to power, and of Stalin as its most determined enemy. This version has been only marginally amended in the postwar period, as we shall now demonstrate.

Walter Ulbricht – Historian

From 1928 until the summer of 1934, the KPD leadership had consistently denounced the SPD as a social fascist party. In 1946, the East German rumps of the two parties were fused in a shotgun wedding staged by Stalin, the author of the theory that fascism and Social Democracy were twins. In order to facilitate the merger, former criticisms of the SPD were toned down, and the main responsibility for the Nazi victory and the invasion of the USSR placed on the German working class. Walter Ulbricht, charged by Stalin with liquidating the independent working-class organisations that sprang up in Germany as the Red Army advanced westwards, made several speeches on this theme in the early postwar period:

It is the tragedy of the German people that it obeyed a gang of criminals. This is the most terrible thing. The perception of this guilt is the prerequisite for our people finally breaking with their reactionary past and entering resolutely upon a new road. The joint responsibility consists in the fact that they permitted those forces which were the most rapacious and greedy for conquest in Germany, the Nazi bureaucracy and the big armament industrialists, to take over the full state power... in the fact that they permitted the hate propaganda against French, Polish, Russian and English [but not Jewish? – RB] peoples and allowed the Hitler clique to break all treaties and even tear up the Soviet-German non-aggression treaty... in the fact that they credulously allowed themselves to be deceived, that the old Prussian spirit of submissiveness and blind obedience [which Ulbricht displayed to the full in his relations with Stalin! – RB] dominated great masses in that these masses obeyed a gang of war criminals. The joint responsibility consists in the fact that the majority of our people applauded the Hitler government during Hitler’s temporary victories [as did Stalin, who sent a message congratulating Hitler on his conquest of Poland, a victory ‘sealed in the blood of our two peoples’ – RB] and imagined themselves to be superior to other peoples. [37]

By talking throughout of the ‘German people’, Ulbricht lumped together the socialist proletariat, who fought Hitler before he came to power, and continued to resist him afterwards, with the big bourgeoisie who financed the Nazis, placed them in power and grew fat on their plunder. The responsibility of the leadership to the class is dissolved into a ‘collective guilt’ of the entire ‘German people’, a guilt from which Ulbricht clearly considered himself absolved:

In 1932 a united struggle of the workers and the entire working people could still have prevented the seizure of power by Hitlerism. It would be harmful to our own nation if we did not have the courage to recognise that the German working class and the working people failed historically, and this failure is the more terrible because it enabled German fascism after 1933 to organise the systematic destruction of the progressive forces in Germany and allowed Nazism to carry through the systematic extermination of the opponents of the German fascist imperialists in gas cars and cremation ovens [still no direct reference to the Jews! – RB]... Only when our people feel deeply ashamed of the crimes of Hitlerism... of having allowed these barbarous crimes, only then will they have the inner courage to enter upon a stage of new democracy... It will be self-deception to believe that Hitler would have been able to carry through his barbaric war policy only by means of the most cruel terror against his own people. He who recalls with what enthusiasm the majority of the German people cheered Hitler when the German armies stood before Moscow will not be able to deny that the imperialist and militarist ideology has deep roots in our people and that even those who were filled with anxiety about the future of Germany did not have the strength to swim against the stream. [38]

When the East German Stalinists got down to the formidable task of concocting a history of the German workers’ movement and its Communist Party, they found themselves confronted by the delicate question of social fascism. The ‘Socialist Unity Party’ (SED) was after all the product of a merger between the Stalinists and elements of the Social Democratic bureaucracies in East Germany. Ulbricht now shared the leadership of the new party with those whom 15 years previously he had been denouncing as social fascists (Max Seydewitz, the SAP ‘left social fascist’ was a case in point). Stalin’s theory therefore had to be sustained (since the entire Stalinist leadership had subscribed to it for six full years), but also qualified. In 1953, the SED published the first volume of Ulbricht’s speeches and articles, in which the following note was appended by Ulbricht to explain how the theory of social fascism arose within the KPD:

The banning of the May Day demonstration in 1929, the shooting down of workers by order of Zörgiebel... the toleration policy of the SPD towards the Brüning government, the permissiveness toward fascist murder gangs by Severing’s police and by Social Democratic police chiefs in various cities and the simultaneous ban on the Red Front by Severing showed that the Social Democratic leadership supported the reactionary and fascist forces. That is why the policy of the Social Democratic leadership amounted to fascism. This assessment of the attitude of the leadership the Social Democrats and ultimately of the SPD was so justified that the Social Democratic workers came to realise it. [!!] In 1932, when the Hitler party was conducting its struggle for power, the KPD’s main target was not only the Nazi Party and those preparing for the Hitler dictatorship – Brüning, Papen and Schleicher – but also the Social Democrats as a party, but without sufficiently differentiating between the leadership and the members. [39]

By sleight of hand, Ulbricht backdates the period of toleration of the Brüning government by more than a year, from October 1930 to May 1929 when Müller was still in power! But even this does not save him, for the theory of social fascism was rife in the party, and being used in its press, throughout the latter half of 1928. In fact the Berlin May Day fighting of 1929 served as a pretext to justify the wild leftward lurch of the KPD carried through at the Wedding Congress later that month, just as Ulbricht used it in 1953 to conceal the real historical and political origins of the theory of social fascism – a theory which in substance, if not always its application, he found to be still correct 20 years after Hitler’s victory.

In this same volume appears a speech made by Ulbricht on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the illegal meeting of the KPD Central Committee on 7 February 1933. He quoted an excerpt from notes which Thälmann made in prison following his arrest by the Gestapo on 3 March 1933. Ulbricht’s purpose in citing these prison notes is all too obvious – the German Stalinists need their scapegoats, and therefore what could be better than to invoke Thälmann’s memory to blacken their reputation still further? ‘... the Trotskyite Neumann – Remmele group are trying to utilise the deficiencies of the fight against Hitler fascism to attack the CC of the KPD.’ Ulbricht interpolated at this point that ‘Thälmann called this Trotskyite group a dirty pack of liars and traitors’, and then continued to cite from the notes:

They bear a share of the blame and main responsibility for our party not being active and vital enough in certain fields of political life. If we had uncovered their sectarian and opportunist line two years earlier, we should have been more advanced. It is hard to doubt that another course would have been followed, as the line and the policy of the party was not wrong... [40]

Ulbricht himself was no sluggard in slandering Trotskyists (though of course he knew as well as Thälmann that this term applied to neither Remmele nor Neumann). In 1939, he alleged that:

The Trotskyite traitors betrayed Ernst Thälmann to the Gestapo. This must serve as a permanent warning to all honourable freedom fighters in Germany ruthlessly to purge their Trotskyite spies from the ranks of the working-class and anti-fascist movement. [41]

The line that ‘social fascism’ was a correct designation of the SPD and ADGB leaders in the pre-Hitler period remained in vogue until 1963, when a certain shift could be detected in the statements and writings of leading GDR Stalinists. Obviously an important factor in this manoeuvre was the crisis of the Soviet bureaucracy and its refraction through the demagogic ‘anti-Stalinism’ of Khrushchev and the ferment amongst writers and historians. This movement even penetrated into Ulbricht’s domain, forcing the SED chief to undertake a formal (and unacknowledged) revision of certain historical questions, among them being that of social fascism and the causes of Hitler’s victory. A hint of what was to come appeared in Ulbricht’s ‘Report to the Sixth Congress of the SED’, held in East Berlin from 15 to 21 January 1963, in the presence of Khrushchev. Ulbricht seized on Khrushchev’s idealist theory of the ‘cult of Stalin’s personality’ to exonerate himself and his fellow Stalinist bureaucrats of the KPD from any blame for the defeat of 1933:

Under the most complicated conditions... we worked out the strategy and tactics for the struggle against Hitlerism and gave guidance to operative work in Germany. We were the only German party with a correct strategic and tactical conception... Although the Stalinist cult of the personality caused losses in our party [to be precise, four Politbureau and 11 Central Committee members!]... our party leadership remained united, firm... Of course, Stalin’s narrow conceptions already had a certain effect on the policy of the KPD from 1930 to 1932, but it was often corrected by the collective representatives of the CPSU and the fraternal parties in the ECCI... We too... suffered under the Stalinist personality cult and his terrorist methods... our Political Bureau opposed the Stalinist methods. We were understood and supported in this by Soviet comrades and by the General Secretary of the Communist International, Comrade Georgi Dimitrov... [42]

It is interesting to note here that Ulbricht confines the period of the negative effect of ‘Stalin’s narrow conceptions’ to the years between 1930 and 1932; that is, he excludes both the ultra-left turn accomplished at the Sixth Comintern Congress in 1928, and the emergence of the theory of social fascism, and the years 1933 and 1934, when the KPD leadership continued to uphold this theory and reject the united front with the Social Democrats.

Treading warily on ground strewn with hidden land-mines, Ulbricht took his belated criticism of Stalin a step further when he told a session of the SED Central Committee held in 1963 to approve the draft of the official Outline History of the German Working-Class Movement, that the decision of the KPD to support the Nazi referendum in Prussia in 1931 ‘was not a reflection of the judgement of the KPD, but was “guided by Stalin’s dogmatic and schematic ideas on the role of Social Democracy... The expression ‘social fascism’ was not invented in the Karl Liebknecht House either."’ [43] Yet 10 years earlier, the same Ulbricht had written that the theory of social fascism was not only correct, but had been developed as a result of the specific experiences of the KPD in its struggle against Social Democracy!

Also contributing towards this revision of the theory of social fascism was, of course, the general world-wide drift of Stalinism towards the right, the Kremlin’s policy of peaceful coexistence with imperialism requiring as smooth a relationship as possible with international Social Democracy. The theory of social fascism was clearly an impediment to such relations, and Ulbricht undertook the necessary adjustments. The history of the KPD was now presented as having been, throughout the Third Period, one of an honest quest for unity not only with the reformist workers, but their leaders. Frustrating this aim was the ubiquitous Neumann – Remmele group, who, if they had not existed, would have had to have been invented by the East German Stalinist historians. In 1965, the SED Institute of Marxism-Leninism published its history of the KPD in the last year of the Weimar Republic, under the title of Die Anti-Faschistische Aktion, this being the name of the allegedly ‘non-party’ anti-fascist body set up by the KPD and RGO in April 1932. Much of the book consists of carefully selected and expurgated documents from the period, but the introduction gives a clear indication of the new style of history writing that had been ushered in by Ulbricht in 1963:

The decisions of the February [1932] plenary session were an ideological defeat for the sectarian Neumann group. This group had opposed the general line with a left opportunist platform. Neumann underestimated the Nazi danger and believed that the establishment of an open fascist dictatorship would only hasten the proletarian revolution. His views hindered the ideological and political mass struggle against Hitler’s fascism and inclined towards individual terror... He criticised the attitude adopted of making limited demands for the immediate needs of the masses and he discounted their importance as mere skirmishes. Neumann disparaged the work of the factory cells and sought to sabotage the activity of Communists in the free trade unions... he opposed the united front policy of the CC with the narrow ‘Red Workers’ Front’. [44]

In other words, Neumann was to be blamed for all the policy mistakes that had been committed by the entire KPD leadership (and endorsed by the ECCI) not only in the period when Neumann was in the leadership, but even after February 1932, when he was effectively ousted from the party high command. Red Unionism, refusal of the united front with the reformists, ultimatism and the sectarian rejection of struggle around minimal and partial demands – all were laid at the door of the murdered Neumann and his supporters. He was even held responsible for the theory that remained operative until a full year after the Nazi victory, and which was proclaimed in Stalin’s presence by Manuilsky at the Seventeenth CPSU Congress in January 1934 – ‘After Hitler, us.’ Thälmann was now depicted as the apostle of proletarian unity against fascism, and even as an antagonist of Stalin’s theory of social fascism:

He criticised the view that frequently branded Hitler fascism and Social Democracy as twin brothers... and thus showed how to overcome the sectarian concept of ‘social fascism'... This false concept caused a diversion from the decisive problems and tasks in the struggle for the united front. It impeded the establishment of contacts with members, officials and leaders of the SPD and the trade unions. [45]

The reader will not be surprised to learn that no texts are cited by the authors of this work to validate their claim that Thälmann opposed the theory and practice of ‘social fascism’. Quite the contrary. Perhaps through an oversight, they permit the publication of a document written by Thälmann with not only uses the term but, what is more, in its most sectarian fashion, namely ‘left social fascism’. In a letter (dated 28 May 1932) to all Central Committee members, he asks:

What proposals have been made to draw in the Social Democratic workers? ... What defensive methods against ‘leftist’ manoeuvres likely to be made by the ‘left’ social fascists? [In other words, how can we avoid accepting possible united front offers from the reformists – RB] How can we work positively and concretely against the social fascist-methods of the Hammerschaft?

This was the hard-core reformist defence formation set up to protect SPD meetings from Nazi – and Stalinist – thuggery. And for good measure: ‘How can we most effectively combat the manoeuvres of the Trotskyists?’ [46] So much for the Thälmann legend.

A year later, in 1966, came the publication of the long-awaited fourth volume of the SED Institute for Marxism-Leninism’s History of the German Workers’ Movement, the volume which spanned the years between 1924 and January 1933. It is important to record here that the team of authors responsible for the volume’s production worked under the chairmanship of Walter Ulbricht, who more than any other political figure in the GDR had a special interest in ensuring that the historian’s zeal for objectivity did not outstrip his respect for the prestige of the Stalinist leadership. All the old themes reoccur in this work – the nefarious activities of the Neumann group, the honest endeavours of the Thälmann – Ulbricht leadership to construct a genuine united front against fascism, the negative effects of Stalin that were strenuously resisted by this same leadership, etc, etc. What was new was the backdating to the Sixth Comintern congress of the emergence of the tactics of the Third Period, though, even here, the fact that Stalin used the KPD clique around Thälmann to force through his new line on the Social Democrats and the united front is discreetly avoided. There is simply a reference to the fact that:

... under the influence of JV Stalin’s dogmatic views, the Sixth World Congress emphasised many mechanistic pronouncements which had a negative influence on the policy of the CI since the congress... It was false to draw the definite conclusion that Social Democracy was on the way to becoming fascist... this restricted Leninist united front policy considerably and facilitated subsequent sectarianism in the Communist movement. [47]

The May Day events of 1929 were now presented as not having precipitated and justified the theory of social fascism, but as having ‘reinforced the conclusion... that Social Democracy had developed into social fascism and was actively preparing the way for fascist dictatorship’. The Eleventh ECCI Plenum of March-April 1931 undoubtedly played an enormously important part in the defeat of 1933, since it forced on the KPD the policy of regarding Hitler’s victory as the ‘lesser evil’, of regarding fascism as an element in the disintegration of the bourgeoisie. Yet a different picture of the Plenum emerges from the History. Thälmann allegedly (though once again without any documentary proof) ‘re-emphasised the principle that in all discussions with the Social Democratic leaders, the principal task of the KPD must be the struggle against the forces of fascism’. Yet throughout 1931, and in fact from 1929 to 1934, both the ECCI and the KPD leadership denounced as right-opportunism any move on the part of Communist Party members towards forming a united front with the Social Democrats. The reader will find ample evidence of this in the numerous citations from Stalinist publications presented in earlier chapters of this book. The only error of the Plenum (one, however, which flowed from the very essence of the theory of social fascism) was its failure ‘to differentiate between the parliamentary and fascist methods of rule by the bourgeoisie’. [48] If that were the case, then how come Thälmann’s alleged call for an approach to the reformist leaders for a joint fight against fascism, when the ECCI Plenum had enunciated, with Thälmann’s approval, that Social Democracy and fascism were undifferentiated forms of bourgeois rule? Why support one fascism against another? The whole of the volume follows this pattern – a formal ‘correction’ of some of the more blatant consequences of the Third Period, but nowhere a serious explanation of their origins, of their material and theoretical origins in the Soviet bureaucracy and the Stalinist theory of ‘socialism in one country’. Nor would we expect to find such an analysis in a volume compiled by a team of GDR historians under the watchful gaze of Ulbricht, one of the minor architects of the 1933 defeat. For example, the Red Referendum episode is laid at the door of Neumann and Stalin, whereas in reality Neumann had opposed the plan to back the Nazi referendum, and was publicly denounced for so doing nearly two years later in the Comintern press. The book is in fact a typical product of that notorious pedagogic institution for political mis-education, the Stalinist school of falsification.

However, there are those who would object to this categorisation, among them being Ernest Mandel, the leading theoretician of the revisionist ‘United Secretariat of the Fourth International’. We have demonstrated textually that each seeming ‘correction’ of the crudely Stalinist version that prevailed up to 1953 (and even later) contained within it a political justification for the policies that led to the victory of German fascism in 1933, and that these ‘corrections’ served as a means of preserving the somewhat tarnished political credentials of the Ulbricht leadership in the SED. Ulbricht was even prepared to sacrifice Stalin’s reputation on the altar of his own bureaucratic infallibility. Mandel, in accordance with the Pabloite theory of the self-reform of the Stalinist bureaucracy, depicts this process of opportunist adaptation to historical reality, motivated by the desire of the bureaucracy to conceal its past betrayals and its present parasitism, as being a tacit admission that Trotsky had been correct on the German question. Mandel writes in his ‘Introduction’ to The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, a collection of writings by Trotsky:

It took 25 years of guilty conscience before the ‘official’ Communist [note, not ‘Stalinist’, a term which the Pabloites no longer find appropriate – RB] movement could seriously undertake a critical discussion of Stalin’s theory of fascism. The practical break with this theory happened, of course, very soon – after it was too late. The turn to the People’s Front in 1935 implied a complete revision of the theory of ‘social fascism’ and a leap into a parallel rightist error... But because Stalin’s writings were sacrosanct until 1956, a cautious revision of the social fascism theory began only after the beginning of so-called de-Stalinisation... the official History of the German Labour Movement, published in East Germany, subjected the theory and practice of the KPD in the years 1930 to 1933 to a cautious but thorough criticism without, however, avoiding new errors in the determination of the essence and function of fascism.

Mandel adds in a footnote the comment that the above work, specifically its fourth volume from which we have quoted, ‘admits in practically every point that Trotsky was right – without even once mentioning his name’. [49] Mandel knows full well that Trotsky’s critique of Third Period tactics and strategy proceeded from, and was a continuation of, his opposition to the Stalinist theory of ‘socialism in one country’, the theory that guided the working class to tragic defeats in both Britain (the General Strike) and China (the massacre of the Shanghai proletariat in April 1927). Mandel, however, separates out Trotsky’s critique of the theory of social fascism from his overall analysis of the material and political foundations of Stalinist policy. Mandel’s approach is one of the academic, who on detecting a formal similarity between one set of ideas and another (in this case, the revised GDR version of the history of the KPD, and Trotsky’s critique of its policies), pronounces them to be in some sort of agreement. In so doing, Mandel liquidates the entire theoretical foundation of the Fourth International, which is that the class struggle is international, and that by virtue of the world nature of economy and the international division of labour, there can be no national roads to socialism. ‘Social fascism’ as applied to Germany rested on the assumption that Germany could carry through the proletarian revolution and build socialism independently of and even against the rest of imperialist Europe – hence the strident nationalist slogans against the Versailles Treaty, the programme of ‘national and social liberation’, and the opportunist alliance with the Nazis against the Western-oriented Social Democrats. In this crucial sense, the transition to the Popular Front, while it marked a sharp revision of Stalinist tactics, proceeded entirely in accordance with the general theoretical, strategic and programmatic conceptions of ‘socialism in one country’. A liquidator of the party in his practice, Mandel proves himself here a liquidator also – and fundamentally – in the realm of theory and programme.

Let there be no doubts concerning the purpose of this Stalinist history. It is replete with the old slanders that Trotskyism is an agency of counter-revolution and fascism. Thus volume five (which Mandel discreetly passes over in silence, even though it deals in great detail with the vital transition from the Third Period to the Popular Front) contains the following vile accusation:

The fascists used all means at their disposal to ensure that no effective People’s Front Committee was formed outside Germany. Their secret service helped much to magnify existing differences in the committee, much aided by Trotskyist elements.

This same volume also discusses the Stalinist purges in the USSR, and their effect on the KPD leadership, many of whom died at the hands of the GPU:

The imperialist powers organised provocative reports that caused the Soviet state apparatus to take a wrong course. This situation enabled such criminals as Beria and Yezhov and others to carry out mass repression and lawlessness. These hit not only opposition groups of Trotskyists, adherents of Zinoviev, right-wingers and nationalists, but also honourable and devoted officials, party and non-party alike... Among them were members and responsible officials of the KPD. [50]

The implication is that Beria’s and Yezhov’s murderous activities (of which Stalin was fully cognisant) only became reprehensible when they struck down loyal supporters of the Stalin line. Thus Stalin’s massacre of the KPD exiles merits precisely one line. Let the militants of Mandel’s ‘United Secretariat’, which in France is liquidating itself into a revamped Stalinist-style Popular Front, draw their own conclusions. As so often has been the case with would-be Marxist corrections of Third Period leftism, unless they hold firm to the Leninist principle of the independence of the proletariat and its revolutionary vanguard, and proceed from Marxist internationalism, they will pass over eventually to right-opportunism, even, as in the case of the French Pabloite Ligue Communiste, to the Popular Front.

Georg Lukács: GPU Philosopher

It is not such a far cry as one might imagine from Mandel to Georg Lukács, the Hungarian Stalinist literary critic. For both men hold (in case of the latter, held, since Lukács died in 1971) that the Stalinist movement and bureaucracy is capable of regeneration, though obviously they would have differed as to the extent to which this process could or indeed should go. When we come to the question of Germany, we find that Lukács has evolved what is, in comparison with the efforts of Ulbricht, Dutt and company, a highly sophisticated apologia for the counter-revolutionary role of Stalinism in the struggle against Hitler. Lukács, for all his claims to being a long-standing opponent of Stalinism, was no stranger to the theory of social fascism. In his Blum Theses of 1928-29 (ironically, in view of their ultra-leftist appraisal of Social Democracy, condemned by the ECCI as right-opportunist) Lukács writes of the ‘fascisation of the trade unions, and the integration of Social Democracy and the trade union bureaucracy into the fascist state apparatus’; and of a special Hungarian variant of fascism whose main distinguishing feature was ‘the cooperation of the big bourgeoisie and the working-class bureaucracy’. [51]

In his ‘Preface’ to the 1967 edition of History and Class Consciousness, Lukács tries to present the ‘Blum Theses’ as a document written in opposition to the then prevailing leftism of the Communist International and its Hungarian section. More interesting, however, is his distortion of the history of the period between Lenin’s death and the onset of the ‘Third Period’. Lukács (like the British Stalinist Monty Johnstone) lumps together the Leninist united front and the Stalinist Popular Front and, moreover, updates from 1924 to 1928 Stalin’s pronouncement that fascism and Social Democracy were not antipodes but twins. His motives for making this ‘error’ are readily apparent. He puts the blame for the 1924 Comintern leftism exclusively on Zinoviev, nowhere mentioning Stalin’s active support for the adventurist and sectarian line of that year. Stalin’s leftism he has beginning in 1928, when Stalin ‘described the Social Democrats as the “twin brothers” of the fascists. This put an end to all prospects of the united front.’ In the KPD, Lukács singles out as the main culprits for the 1924 leftism Ruth Fischer and Arkadi Maslow, who, although supporters of Zinoviev, were strong-willed enough to clash with their patrons when the ECCI swung the helm over to the right in 1925. As for Thälmann and his clique, who were guilty of truly criminal adventurism and servility towards the Kremlin bureaucracy for nearly a full decade up to the victory of Hitler – not a word of condemnation. So what did Lukács’ opposition to the Third Period amount to?

Although I was on Stalin’s side on the central issue of Russia [socialism in one country], I was deeply repelled by his attitude here [that is, on ‘social fascism']. However, it did nothing to retard my gradual disenchantment with the ultra-left tendencies of my early revolutionary years as most of the left-wing groupings in the European parties were Trotskyite [here Lukács quite falsely equates the 1924 Zinoviev – Stalin leftism with Trotsky’s later Leninist critique of the Comintern’s opportunist application of the united front tactic – RB] – a position which I always rejected. Of course, if I was against Ruth Fischer and Maslow in their attitude to German problems – and it was these with which I was always most concerned – this did not mean that I was in sympathy with Brandler and Thalheimer [leaders of the KPD right opposition]. To clear my own mind and to achieve a political and theoretical self-understanding I was engaged at the time on a search for a ‘genuine’ left-wing programme that would provide a third alternative to the opposing factions in Germany. But the idea of such a theoretical and political solution to the contradictions in the period of transition was doomed to remain a dream. I never succeeded in solving it to my own satisfaction and so I did not publish any theoretical or political contribution on the international level during this period. [52]

It should be added that this search for an alternative line in Germany took Lukács to Prinkipo in 1931 where he met and discussed political questions with Leon Trotsky. His capitulation to counter-revolutionary Stalinism is therefore all the more despicable, despite his near-adulation by those who, on other issues, would claim to be doubly opponents of the Soviet bureaucracy.

After the condemnation of the Blum Theses Lukács devoted his writings to mainly literary matters, steering well clear of the awkward political questions involved in the study of the policy of the KPD and Communist International between 1930 and 1933, and instead taking his reader on an erudite excursion through four centuries of German literature. The result of his findings is that the year of 1525, the year of the defeated Peasants Revolt, ‘is the turning point where the development of Germany went astray’. [53] This is the theory of ‘cultural determinism’ now in vogue amongst certain sociologists in the USA. While it is true that the defeat of 1525 imparted certain unique characteristics to the nascent German bourgeoisie and the petit-bourgeoisie (servility towards authority, a repressed nationalism, backward-looking romanticism, etc) these can in no way be said to have predetermined the outcome of the struggle between the Nazis and the working class four centuries later. They imparted some of their residual forms to the fascist reaction as expressed through the NSDAP, but the content of German National Socialism was strictly of the twentieth century, of imperialism in crisis and decay; and its victory the direct outcome of the unresolved crisis of proletarian leadership. But this is of course precisely the question that Lukács, the ‘inner anti-Stalinist’, does not wish to discuss. He develops his argument at greater length in his Essays on Thomas Mann (written between 1933 and 1963).

Critical of Stalinism though he later claimed to have always been, Lukács proves in his In Search of Bourgeois Man (1945) that he was also always highly sensitive to the requirements of the Stalinist line. This essay, written on the seventieth birthday of Thomas Mann, is little else but a plea to the entire German bourgeoisie to follow the great writer (and Walter Ulbricht) in helping to build a Germany – a bourgeois Germany – worthy of the great tradition of German letters. For in 1945, and with Stalin still a venerated member of the ‘Big Three’ of the USSR, the USA and Britain, the perspective in East Germany was nothing so ‘sectarian’ as the dictatorship of the proletariat and the building of socialism, but a ‘new democracy’ with the power shared between all the classes. Lukács warmed to this line, which first required that the German bourgeoisie be cleared of the charge of either having desired or actively assisted in the victory of Hitler. He does this by citing an episode from Mann’s Mario, which, according to Lukács:

... presents a subtle spectrum of all the different kinds of helplessness with which the German bourgeois faces the hypnotic power of fascism... The defencelessness of those German bourgeoisie who did not want Hitler but who obeyed him for over a decade without demur has never been better described.

The German bourgeois must do better next time, says Lukács, and take Mann, and not Schopenhauer, as his model:

The further development, the future, the rebirth of Germany depends to a great extent on how far German workers and bourgeois will succeed in mobilising the reserves of freedom and progress in their history for their future national life. [54]

We repeat: such pseudo-Marxist theorising, seemingly very profound and grounded in a deep understanding of German and European culture, enabled Lukács to blur over the central question, one that every sincere Marxist critic of Stalinism has to confront: the political responsibility for the greatest blow administered to all human culture – the victory and rule of German fascism, with its book-burnings, its hounding and murder of liberal, socialist and Jewish intellectuals, and the devastation and plunder of the architectural and artistic treasures of Europe. Lukács declares quite frankly that he is not concerned with such a mundane political question: ‘It is not our task here to show why between 1914 and 1945 popular opposition to reaction in Germany suffered so many defeats.’ [55] No, that task can be left to the Ulbrichts and the Dutts. Each to his own last. However, it should be pointed out – to Lukács’ further discredit – that on one occasion he did venture an opinion on the great controversy between the Stalinist and Trotskyist factions in the USSR:

Trotsky... was the principal theoretical exponent of the thesis that the construction of socialism in a single country is impossible. History has long ago refuted his theory... Here history cannot agree at all to the rehabilitation of Trotsky; on the decisive strategic problems of the time Stalin was absolutely right. [56]

Soviet Historians: The Genre of Silence

More than almost any other working class, the Soviet proletariat has good cause to desire the whole truth about the history of German fascism, of how Hitler was not only permitted to come to power, but less than nine years later to launch his barbarous imperialist crusade against the USSR. Successive Soviet political leaders have ensured that they have remained largely in ignorance of these vital political questions. This state of affairs is all the more scandalous when we recall the inventory of Nazi plunder and devastation itemised by General Rudenko, chief Soviet prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trial of Major War Criminals: six million dwellings destroyed; 25 million people made homeless; 1710 towns and cities destroyed; 70 000 hamlets and villages destroyed; 31 850 plants destroyed employing four million workers; 239 000 electric motors stolen; 175 000 metal-cutting machines stolen; 6500 kilometres of railway track; 4100 stations; 36 000 post offices and communication centres; 84 000 schools, colleges, etc; 98 000 collective farms; 1896 state farms; 2890 machine and tractor stations; seven million horses killed or stolen; 17 million horned cattle; 20 million pigs; 27 million sheep and goats; 110 million poultry. Total damage (1941 prices): 679 000 million roubles. But most important of all, and an item curiously omitted by Rudenko, between 20 and 25 million human beings were slaughtered.

One might think that the sheer monumental scale of the disaster that overtook half of European Russia in 1941-42 would have stimulated research into its causes. But no. According to Walter Laqueur, up until 1962, no book had appeared in the USSR on the history of either German fascism or the Third Reich! Neither had there been written a single biography of Hitler or any other prominent Nazi leader. Moreover, in such references as were to be found to German fascism in historical works on related themes, Nazi racialism was invariably depicted as being directed against the Slavic peoples, and not the Jews. [57]

Only on rare occasions can references be found to the pre-history of the Third Reich in Soviet writings translated into English. Thus Deborin cannot himself be said to be very forthcoming about the circumstances surrounding Hitler’s victory:

The German monopolies sensed that resistance of the patriotic [sic!] democratic section of the nation could spike their expansionist plans [which were presumably anti-patriotic – RB] that gravely menaced the Germans themselves... The fascist coup [then] took place early in 1933... [58]

Ivan Maisky, the white-guard who went over to Stalin to become one of his leading diplomats, ventures a little further in his own work on a similar theme. Naturally, we do not find Stalin’s name among those listed. Instead, the reader is presented with the following historical make-believe:

... at the end of 1932 the Weimar Republic was visibly in a state of collapse. The Nazis were rapidly gaining [not so, they were in decline – RB], conquering one position after another. The split in the ranks of the proletariat was profound, and the Social Democrats were stubbornly refusing any cooperation with the Communists against fascism. [59]

The truth was, of course, exactly the opposite, as well Maisky knows.

Only amongst some of the oppositional tendencies in the USSR has there been any serious examination of the German disaster and the political role played by the KPD and the Stalinist Comintern leadership. One of the most serious studies has been undertaken by Roy Medvedev, whose Let History Judge was published in London in 1972. Though differing with Trotsky on many basic questions – most important of all that of socialism in one country – Medvedev defends Trotsky against the slanders of Stalinism: ‘Trotsky alone tried to continue the struggle [against Stalinism]... Trotsky remained a supporter of the proletarian revolution and not a fascist counter-revolutionary, as Stalin soon labelled him.’ What Medvedev says about the ‘Third Period’ also shows that he has genuinely attempted to seek a Marxist solution to the problem of the united front and the struggle against fascism, even though he too idealises the role of Dimitrov and the Popular Front line associated with his name:

Stalin... criticised Bukharin’s leadership of the Comintern from an ‘ultra-left’, sectarian, dogmatic standpoint. He insisted that the Comintern mount a sharp attack on leftist tendencies in Social Democracy... In the 1930s Communist parties struggled vigorously against fascism. But Stalin, as the recognised leader of the Comintern, held them rigidly to a point of view that derived from the Russian revolution. [Here Medvedev is quite wrong – RB] Years of conflict with the Mensheviks, culminating in the choice between the Provisional Government and the Soviet regime, had inculcated into Bolshevism a special antagonism against Menshevism. An analogous situation took shape in parts of Western Europe between 1918 and 1923, when the Mensheviks, Social Democratic parties helped to sustain bourgeois regimes and to suppress the revolutionary movement. [The Communist International, from 1921 to 1923, also attempted to detach the Social Democratic parties from the bourgeoisie through the tactic of the united front – RB] Thus it was natural for the young Communist parties to oppose Social Democrats, but it was wrong to call them ‘social fascists’, the ‘moderate wing of fascism’, the ‘the main social support for fascism’. Stalin was not alone in this mistake. Bukharin, Kamenev and Zinoviev made the same charges and they were included in the 1928 programme of the Comintern... Whatever may be said for Comintern policy towards the Social Democratic parties in the early and middle 1920s, it is impossible to approve the policy of 1929-34... This sectarian policy was especially pronounced in Germany, where the fascist threat was greatest. The KPD stuck to its policy of a united front only ‘from below'... Likewise their trade union policy; instead of struggling against reformism within the existing unions, the Communists decided to withdraw and organise independent unions. This isolated the KPD from a large section of workers... In August 1935, the Seventh CI Congress corrected many of these mistakes largely on the initiative of Georg Dimitrov. [60]

The dangers implicit in seeing Stalinism only as series of leftist, sectarian errors (a tendency displayed by Medvedev) are demonstrated by the case of the ‘liberal’ oppositionist, the atomic scientist Andrei Sakharov. In 1968, he wrote an article for the Soviet ‘underground’ press in which he touched on the question of Germany. What he says is, within its limits, perfectly sound:

Analysing the reasons for Hitler’s rise to power, we have not forgotten the role of German and international monopoly capital; neither have we forgotten the criminally sectarian, dogmatically narrow policies of Stalin and his comrades-in-arms, setting socialists and Communists against one another. [61]

But seeing the sectarian, ‘dogmatic’ facets and phases of Stalin’s policy did not later prevent Sakharov from going over to an openly anti-Communist position, arguing for imperialist pressure to be applied to the Soviet government until it ‘liberalises’ its policies toward the intellectuals and the Jews. Sakharov has also voiced his support for Zionism in its war of repression against the Palestinian and Arab peoples: and when asked by Western newsmen to give his views on the Chilean Junta, declined to do so on the entirely specious ground that he lacked sufficient information to pass judgement on a regime that was boasting of its anti-Communist repressions. Sakharov is now treading the same anti-Soviet, anti-Communist path already travelled by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, even though his starting point differed from the Christian mystic and Slavophile – namely a completely one-sided, and therefore false criticism of the policies of Third Period Stalinism.

The only official work published in the USSR (and available in the English language) which deals in any depth with the question of the policy of the KPD and the Communist International in the period of Hitler’s rise to power is the Outline History of the Communist International from 1971. Prepared by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the Central Committee of the CPSU, the following Stalinist veteran leaders are listed as having assisted in its production: Walter Ulbricht (GDR), Dolores Ibarruri (Spanish Communist Party), Jacques Duclos (France), Tim Buck (Canada), Khaled Bagdache (Syria), Vittorio Codovilla (Argentine), Georges Cogniot, Inkeri Lehtinen, Boris Ponomarev (CPSU), R Palme Dutt (CPGB), Dezso Nemes, Friedl Furnberg, Emilio Sereni, Ruben Avramov, Andrew Rothstein (CPGB). It is possible to list only briefly the main distortions to be found in this lengthy work, and, at that, only as they pertain to the question of Germany. The radical nature of the turn begun at the Sixth Comintern congress is minimised, and only marginal criticisms made of certain of its conclusions. Thus the changed emphasis to a united front only ‘from below’ is counter-balanced by the fatuous remark that ‘the Communists were in duty bound to make a distinction between the Social Democratic workers and the Social Democratic leadership’, [62] the whole point being that for the majority of Social Democratic workers, there was no such distinction. Therefore, they would never enter a ‘united front from below’ with the Communist Party against the wishes of their own leaders. One of the main objects of the Leninist united front – from above as well as from below – is to make the reformist workers aware of that distinction through the class struggle.

Soviet historians have found the Sixth Comintern Congress rather strong meat in view of its harsh treatment of Social Democracy, especially its left flank. In the 1960 edition of the official CPSU history (the volume that supplanted the notorious Short Course), we find the main line being praised unequivocally, while its decisions (which formalised the ultra-leftist turn begun earlier the same year) were said to have ‘greatly helped to consolidate the Leninist unity of the Communist Parties, to rally the masses for the fight against capitalism’. [63] By 1965, the line of the Sixth Congress is being criticised by German historians for its sectarianism. Finally, in 1970, with yet another history of the CPSU, the problem has been ‘solved’ in typical Stalinist style by the Sixth Congress being erased altogether from the history of the Bolshevik Party and its parent organisation, the Communist International. [64] The Kremlin’s tame historians were living up to Pokrovsky’s cynical dictum that history was ‘politics projected into the past’.

The Eleventh ECCI Plenum proved an even more tricky problem than it had done nearly a decade earlier when the GDR Stalinists first came to grips with its rampant leftism, its total disdain for the defence of democratic rights and the need to struggle for a united workers’ front against the Nazis. Intervening between the production of the two histories was a protracted and further rightwards swing of the Kremlin bureaucracy towards imperialism, notably its gradual relaxation of opposition towards the EEC and its search for closer working relations with the Social Democratic government of Brandt in West Germany. ‘Social fascism’ was more of an embarrassment than ever, and had to be demonstratively rejected as anti-Leninist. But the way in which this was done left its origins as deeply shrouded in mystery as before. All the sins of the Communist International and the KPD in this period are blamed on ‘the Communists’ or, alternatively ‘many Communists’. Nowhere is the reader told just who these leftists were, and how they came to enforce their views on the entire Comintern. And we must also qualify our earlier statement that this book finally ditches the theory of social fascism. It does not, as this extract shows: ‘... the shooting down of the May Day demonstration in Berlin in 1929... [was] qualified by the Communists as social fascism. It would be wrong, however, to apply this appellation to Social Democracy and the reformist trade unions as a whole...[65]

Once the book gets over the hurdle of the 1931 Plenum, it rewrites the history of the KPD and the Communist International with gay abandon. By 1932, we learn that the Comintern had so pulled itself together (having purged its ranks of Neumann and company) that it was able to ‘rivet the attention of the working people to the fact that fascism appeared upon the world scene as the antipode of socialism, as a force that was most hostile to socialism...’. [66] A truly momentous theoretical and organisational feat!

As in the SED history, the Thälmann – Pieck – Ulbricht leadership is built up as the determined opponent of the ‘Neumann – Remmele sectarian opportunist group’, whereas, in reality, Neumann had come out for a new, though by no means Leninist, policy for fighting the Nazis which involved winding up the Stalin-imposed line of collaborating with the fascists against the reformists. The Twelfth ECCI Plenum of September 1932, at which the KPD dispute came out into the open for the first time, and where the German delegation stuck firm to its suicidal course of rejecting the united front with the SPD, is completely falsified: ‘The decisions of the Twelfth Plenum oriented the Communist parties towards a sharp improvement of their work among the masses with a view to winning them over to their side.’ But not even this work, replete with falsifications, could mask entirely the criminally sectarian policies of the Third Period, for having depicted the pre-Hitler period as being one of unremitting struggle by the KPD against fascism, the work then makes the following comment; one which reduces the preceding 100 or so pages to the level of sheer historical make-believe:

The Political Secretariat of the ECCI, as early as the beginning of 1934, emphasised that the Communists needed a skilful policy and a timely response to the workers’ pressing demands in order to win over the broad masses and direct them against fascism as their chief enemy. [67]

Further comment on this worthless book is superfluous.

Strange though it may seem, these criticisms of the theory of social fascism are couched to a certain extent within the framework of Third Period Stalinism. It was only wrong to call the SPD workers ‘social fascists’, thus lumping them together with their leaders, who therefore, by implication, were social fascists, just as Stalin said. Dimitrov, Ulbricht and Dutt at various times resorted to this subterfuge in an attempt to preserve intact the myth of Stalin’s political infallibility. Ernst Henri, the veteran Soviet writer on German problems follows them in his short work Can Socialists and Communists Cooperate?, where he writes, apropos the ‘left-sectarian error’ of the KPD in ‘nicknaming the Social Democrats “social fascists"’, that ‘no difference was made between the right-wing reformist leaders, who were mainly not anti-fascist, but anti-Communist, and the honest Social Democratic workers, who hated fascism no less than did the Communists’. Henri is really here justifying the theory of social fascism, saying that it was wrongly applied, embracing not only the leaders but the reformist workers. Thus his critique, such as it is, is in no sense an attack on the Stalinist ‘united front from below’. There should have been unity with the reformist workers, but not with their ‘right-wing reformist leaders’, who were not anti-fascists, but anti-Communists. And who was to blame for the theory of social fascism? Not Stalin, certainly: ‘This position was subsequently condemned by the Seventh Congress of the Comintern.’ No, the real culprits were the Social Democrats themselves: ‘... the very origin and spread of this theory was in no small measure due to the behaviour of Social Democratic leaders, especially in Germany.’ [68] This is, of course, a revamped and more ‘reasonable’ version of the old legend that social fascism only emerged as a theory in the Comintern after the May Day repressions of 1929 by the Berlin Social Democrats. In fact, as we know, the theory was evolved as early as 1924, first by Zinoviev, and then elaborated by Stalin, and after being discarded during the right turn of 1925-27, was revived again in the early months of 1928, a full year before the events of May 1929. Henri, like all the other Stalinist historians and publicists, consciously sows confusion on this question, one that is vital to the understanding of the origins, nature and role of Stalinism. While it is correct to say that Stalinism underwent a qualitative transformation between 1933 and 1936, when it finally crystallised out of a bureaucratic centrism, moving unevenly towards the right, into a hardened counter-revolutionary force upholding the world status quo, both the Third Period (1928-34) and subsequent phases of Stalinism also contain common elements. Thus in the Third Period while united fronts with reformists were ruled out on a national scale, especially in Germany, where they were most needed, it was permissible to seek out and build the most opportunist of ‘united fronts’ on an international scale with not only ‘social fascists’, but bourgeois pacifists, radicals and even German generals! And why? Because just as Stalinist diplomacy on the plane of German domestic politics demanded a rejection of a united front between the KPD and the ‘Western-oriented’ SPD against the anti-Western forces of German nationalism; so on an international scale it called for an ‘anti-war’ movement directed towards pressurising the dominant imperialist powers to seek an accord with the Kremlin bureaucracy. Thus there ran concurrently the Stalinist-inspired pacifist Amsterdam ‘anti-war’ conference in the summer of 1932, to which were invited open as well as masked agents of the ruling class; and in Germany, a ferocious campaign by the KPD against the reformist workers’ movement. And to underline the point on the two-sided nature of Third Period Stalinism – its sectarianism and its opportunism – both campaigns were to a large degree organised by the same man – Willi Münzenberg, the KPD press baron.

One need only examine British Stalinist policy today to see that even under its banner of the parliamentary road to socialism, the CPGB exhibits certain important sectarian features, which while they derive in part from deep-seated historical weaknesses in the British Marxist movement, also betray the influence of Third Period Stalinism. The consistent CPGB policy of running a large slate of candidates against Labour in local and parliamentary elections combines reformist illusions with sectarianism. In the trade unions, Stalinists are perfectly capable of initiating or adapting to adventurist strikes doomed to failure. ‘Rank-and-file’ movements dominated by the CPGB often betray their Third Period ‘red union’ imprint, couched in the crude language of syndicalism: ‘The leaders will never do anything. It’s up to us on the shop floor...’, or ‘What’s the point in asking for official action? The leaders will never support us...’, etc, etc. Thus ‘rank-and-fileism’ serves as a left – in fact ultra-left – cover for the bureaucracy, which is only too glad not to be put on the spot in front of its members, and told to get on with the job it is paid for.

It is because this dualism within Stalinism – sectarianism and opportunism, parliamentary cretinism (which revealed itself within the KPD Prussian Landtag delegation in the summer of 1932) and adventurism (that is, Indonesia, October 1965; Sudan, July 1971; France, 1952, with the anti-NATO demonstration against General Ridgway, etc) – is so often concealed when one side predominates over the other, that a wrong estimation of Stalinism can easily be made. Those who go over from the Stalinist movement to Trotskyism can therefore carry with them just these sectarian conceptions which are masked by and encased within the overall opportunist line of Stalinism, which is of course readily identifiable. The leftist conceptions can therefore become subsumed under a distorted version of Trotskyism, which sees all revisions of Marxism as being right-opportunist in nature; whereas history teaches us that some of the most pernicious attacks on Marxism have come from the ultra-left: Bakunin, Lassalle, Most, Otzovism, the CPGB and KPD lefts, the ‘theory of the revolutionary offensive’ (the March Action), Zinovievism, which gave birth to ‘social fascism’, Third Period Stalinism; and within the Trotskyist movement, ‘State Capitalism’ (Urbahns), ‘bureaucratic collectivism’ (Shachtman), rejection of ‘entry’ (Vereecken), early Pabloism, etc, etc. This is why the question of the Third Period, which unified and raised to their apogee all the negative sectarian, adventurist and leftist traits in the workers’ movement, and used them as a club to beat down the German proletariat, is of such crucial importance for the future of world Trotskyism. It is the author’s contention that the crisis in the British Trotskyist movement is located to a large degree in a failure by its leadership both to break cleanly from Stalinist Third Period conceptions in the first instance, and by a refusal to begin a thorough assessment of its own sectarian deviations in the light of this history.

As proof of this, we cite an article written by Cliff Slaughter in Workers Press of 1 October 1974, where he takes to task Portuguese Maoists for reviving the theory of social fascism. Maoists had taken to the streets after the fall of General Spinola with the slogan: ‘We've done the fascists, now we'll do the social fascists!’ (The ‘social fascists’ on this occasion being the pro-Moscow Stalinist leaders.) Slaughter deals with this recrudescence of Third Period Stalinism in the following highly revealing way:

There could be no better condemnation of Maoism than this crude and criminal revival of Stalin’s disastrous policy towards the rise of Hitler, when he told the Communist Party militants to regard the Social Democrat workers as the worst enemy. [69]

Like the latter-day Stalinist apologists of the Third Period, Slaughter distorts the theory of social fascism, giving it an extra sectarian twist which is then contrasted to the ‘milder version’ of the united front from below. At no time was it official KPD or Comintern policy ‘to regard the Social Democrat workers as the worst enemy’. It was the reformist, social fascist, or in the parlance of Slaughter’s party, corporatist leaders, who were given this false designation. Towards the rank-and-file reformist workers, the KPD offered its fatuous ‘united front from below’. Why does Slaughter make this error, if error it is? Could it be because his own party has turned its back on the tactic of the united front, which includes not only calls for unity at the base, but, on specific actions and issues, right to the very top? Could it be because Slaughter himself, only two months before he wrote these lines, had boldly asserted in Workers Press of 30 July 1974, that it was precisely reformism, and not fascism, which was the ‘greatest weapon’ of the German ruling class in the period prior to the victory of Hitler? Which of course raises yet another question – why did the German ruling class destroy their ‘greatest weapon'? Nor is this the only occasion on which Slaughter betrayed a false appreciation of the essence of the Stalinist ‘united front from below’. Just under a year earlier, on 18 August 1973, he wrote in Workers Press that the Third Period involved ‘denunciation of all Social Democratic workers, particularly left Social Democrats, as “social fascists,” [and] rejection of any united front...’. Now Slaughter’s definition of the theory of social fascism (that it denounced Social Democratic workers as social fascists) is perfectly compatible both with the revamped editions of it offered up by Ulbricht and other Stalinists, and indeed, the official version as it was promulgated between 1928 and 1934. Nowhere can Slaughter cite a text that was not at the time condemned by the Comintern leadership of the day that declared all reformist workers to be social fascists and the main enemy of the working class. (In Britain, this would have involved the CPGB in the absurdity of declaring that practically the entire working class, with the exception of the handful that followed the Stalinists, was the main enemy of the working class!) Of course, the theory of social fascism led to the sectarian repulsion of the reformist workers, through its refusal of the Leninist united front with the reformist organisations to which they belonged, but that is not the same thing, and Slaughter should know this full well. He needs a false definition of social fascism in order to smuggle through his party’s new version of it – the theory of ‘corporatism’ and the turn away from serious work in the traditional organisations of the working class.

No wonder the WRP leadership less and less cares to write or say anything about this most crucial period in the history of the international workers’ movement. And this they share with the Stalinists.

Stalinist reticence on the subject of the Third Period comes out in many ways. Thus in a series of slanderous attacks on Trotskyism published over recent years by the Kremlin, not once is Trotsky’s opposition to the criminal adventurism of the Third Period in Germany mentioned. Much space is given to Trotsky’s clashes with Lenin in the pre-1917 period, and the fight against the Left Opposition between 1923 and 1927. Then there is silence, only broken when the narrative is resumed in 1935, the year of the Seventh Comintern Congress and the official inauguration of the Popular Front. Thus Trotsky is always depicted as an ultra-left, adventurist, sectarian opponent of the official party line, and never (as he was both in 1924 and between 1928 and 1934) as a critic standing, in a formal sense, to the ‘right’ of the Stalinist leadership. It would have been impossible to discuss even in a distorted fashion the criticisms advanced by Trotsky of the Comintern line in the Third Period, without raising the issues involved – united front, social fascism, ultimatism, etc. For these are the very issues that the Kremlin finds so embarrassing today, with its never-ending quest for allies on the reformist flank of the workers’ movement, and, of course, even further to the right in the camp of the bourgeoisie itself. Publications where this approach is in evidence include The Bolshevik Party’s Struggle Against Trotskyism, Where Are The Trotskyites Leading The Youth? and Anarchism, Trotskyism, Maoism. [70]

Sometimes the Stalinists prefer to black out the German tragedy, and their role in it, entirely. Thus in the bulky work Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism, edited by Kuusinen, one of Stalin’s Comintern executives during the Third Period, not a single reference to the ultra-leftism of the KPD is to be found in the section devoted to the ‘Unity of Action of the Working Class’. Instead the reader is offered the following fairy-tale:

Despite the profound differences dividing the revolutionary and reformist trends, the Communist Parties of the capitalist countries from the very beginning sought to establish unity of action with the Social Democratic organisations. [In fact the united front only emerged as a practical issue in the Comintern in the latter part of 1921, with the temporary decline of the postwar revolutionary wave – RB] ... There are quite a few outstanding examples of such unity in the history of the international working-class movement. Whenever serious danger threatened the interests of the working people, the urge for unity grew strong, and the working-class organisations, as a rule [sic!], acted jointly.

The exception to this ‘rule’ was of course Germany, as the passage that follows tacitly admits:

That was the case in the 1930s, when fascism was trying to obtain power in many European countries. A strong movement for working-class unity arose in France, Spain and Austria at the time and influenced the leaders of the Socialist Parties who formerly did their best to oppose cooperation with the Communist Parties. [71]

So if there was no working-class unity against fascism in Germany, that was the fault of the reformist leaders, and not the KPD.

The tragedy is that these falsifications of the history of Trotskyism and Stalinism are now lent credence by the ultra-leftism in Britain of the WRP, whose leaders also seem determined to draw a veil over the experiences and lessons of the period the Stalinists are so anxious to obscure; and to reproduce, although in a vastly different historical and political setting, some of the tactics that led the German working class to disaster.

With Stalin to the End: The CPGB

There remains the task of establishing the political responsibility of the Stalinist leaders of the British Communist Party for both the course pursued up to the Nazi victory in Germany by the KPD and the ECCI, and the subsequent historical falsifications carried out in order to cover up the greatest betrayal in working-class memory.

Before commencing this survey the reader is invited to contrast the following judgement, made by Palme Dutt in his The International of 1964 with the statements and conduct of he and his fellow Stalinist CPGB leaders during the period of Hitler’s rise to power:

... the use of this term [’social fascism'] was a political error. It gave an easy handle for the enemies of Communism to spread wilful misunderstandings of the serious analysis intended [sic!] and to imply that it was meant to designate the millions of rank-and-file members of the Social Democratic parties... [72]

And they are also requested to ask themselves the question – especially if they are either members or supporters of Dutt’s party – how is it possible for a self-proclaimed Marxist to decry in 1964 what he proclaimed daily and almost hourly to be correct Communist policy between 1928 and 1934, without making either an acknowledgment of this error, or explaining how this error came to be made?

As Lenin said on more than one occasion, the correction of errors is one of the prime duties of a Communist. Dutt – and with him the entire present leadership of the CPGB – stand condemned in the light of this principle.

Dutt’s journal Labour Monthly served as the vehicle for the introduction of the ‘new line’ into the CPGB. In February 1928, he was writing that ‘the Labour Party, though it has still got its grip on the reformist trade union machine, is losing its hold on the industrial working class’. [73] A year later, we find Dutt crossing swords with Varga for daring to advocate the policy of voting Labour where the CPGB had no candidates standing. ‘Such an outlook’, declared the outraged Dutt, ‘is wholly unacceptable, in view of the real role of the Labour Party in relation to the working class.’ [74] And what was that ‘real role'? Dutt told his expectant readers next month: ‘The trinity of employers, state and reformists is now far more closely knit together into a single machine as never before.’ [75] By the end of the year, with the ‘new line’ triumphant in the CPGB, Dutt had arrived at a fully-developed conception of social fascism. The deepening economic crisis ‘completes the whole character of the role of the Labour government in relation to the situation and the working class, and makes out for it the role, no longer of the old type of reformist but the new type whose essential developing character is described as social fascism.’ Britain was therefore now ruled by a government which, although elected by the votes of the working class and in opposition to the bourgeoisie, was fast turning fascist: ‘The Labour government has a different path which it must follow... there can be seen the inevitable transition from social reformism to social fascism.’ [76] This of course proved no obstacle to the development of the class struggle: ‘On every side the workers are awakening to the reality of the struggle. All the machinery of Labour governments and Social Democratic governments, of fascism and social fascism can no longer hold them in.’ [77]

Dutt had therefore tested out Stalin’s theory of social fascism on the British political scene, and had clearly found the results satisfying. Surprisingly, however, in view of his close links with the ECCI, he found little space in his ‘Notes of the Month’ to comment on the rapidly developing crisis in Germany. One comment by a contributor to Dutt’s journal – JR Campbell – is however worthy of reproduction. In July 1932 he wrote, with an air of someone who was ‘in the know’: ‘The Papen government is... driving ahead to the open fascist dictatorship which need not, however, be a Hitler regime such as is often envisaged in the British press.’ [78] Dutt returned to the social fascist vomit in May 1933, at a time when the Nazis were hounding the reformists into exile and hiding: ‘Once again, as with every question... so with social fascism, the mercilessly accurate diagnosis of the CI is steadily day by day more and more completely confirmed by events...’ [79]

The Communist Review: The official theoretical organ of the CPGB during the Third Period was The Communist Review, like Dutt’s private journal, a monthly publication. It too waxed enthusiastic about social fascism, and devoted more space than did Dutt to its activities in Germany. JT Murphy wrote in January 1930, after the December 1929 CPGB Congress that ousted a section of the leadership that was lukewarm towards the new line, that ‘one of the most important “right” mistakes of the majority of the old CC of our party was their complete failure to understand the evolution of the Labour Party into a social fascist party, and the growth of social fascism in the trade unions’. [80] The results of the September 1930 Reichstag elections in Germany were seen as proof that the SPD had undergone the same evolution from reformism to social fascism. More than this, such a transformation was depicted as a tremendous asset to the working class and the KPD, for it now simplified the task of winning the proletariat for Communism:

The German Labour Party is in a dilemma. Shall it go with Hindenburg and the fascists or with the KPD? ... The labour leaders will no doubt go with forces trying to consolidate capitalism, and that means to fascism. But the greater masses of the Social Democratic workers will divide and millions swell the ranks of the revolutionary working class. The disintegration of the SPD has begun, and the masses are moving away from it. The hour of the shattering of the LSI has struck. [81]

Here too we find a more faithful reflection of the Eleventh ECCI Plenum than in the bowdlerised versions of it served up over the last 10 years by Stalinist historians. William Rust, the YCL leader who rallied the youthful forces that helped to oust the ‘old guard’ at the December 1929 Congress, wrote of the Plenum that it clarified comrades on the role of Social Democracy, especially those still naive enough to believe that it was ‘a barrier against fascism’. The KPD had learned that there could be no question of a united front with the ‘social fascists’, only a policy of ‘mobilising the masses on the basis of the united front from below’. [82] Pollitt was no less infected by the wild leftist atmosphere engendered at the Plenum. He told a Central Committee session of the CPGB in May 1931 that ‘fascism and social fascism... cannot be set against each other’. He warned against a ‘tendency to regard fascism as the chief enemy’ which in the British party had led to ‘the position of lending support to the social fascists, and regarding bourgeois democracy as the lesser evil as compared with the open fascist dictatorship’. [83] The German crisis returned to the columns of the Communist Review in December 1932, when Ralph Fox presented an article on the November Reichstag elections. It reflected the euphoric state of mind prevalent in the KPD leadership in the wake of the party’s increased vote, and Hitler’s reduced one. Fox also bitterly assailed the ‘Trotskyist renegades’ who ‘wanted the party of the proletariat to make a united front with social fascism against fascism’. [84] The assumption of power by Hitler produced predictable effects in the pages of the journal. In May, it poured scorn on the ‘parties of the Second International, which saw in the coming to power of Hitler the continuation of the offensive against the working class’. [85] The choicest epithets, vilest slander and distortions were, however, reserved by Andrew Rothstein for an attack on Trotsky, who had written a short article for the Manchester Guardian (at that time, taking a strong, liberal, anti-Nazi line) on the situation in Germany. What enraged Rothstein (here writing under his pen-name of Andrews) was Trotsky’s sober re-statement of the case for the united front that he had put before the KPD membership and leaders so often in the past:

The policy of the KPD has been thoroughly wrong. Its leaders started from the absurd axiom that the Social Democrats and the Nazis represented ‘two varieties of fascism'... The Social Democracy is unthinkable without parliamentary government and mass organisations of the workers in trade unions. The mission of fascism, however is to destroy both. A defensive union of Communists and the Social Democrats should have been based on this antagonism. But blind leaders refused to take this approach. This position demoralised the proletariat and strengthened the self-confidence of fascism. [86]

Rothstein’s reply was predictable: ‘The KPD could not offer a “defensive union” to such leaders. It would have been mockery of the workers and suicide for a revolutionary party.’ [87] Further and equally vitriolic attacks on Trotsky’s critique of Comintern policy in Germany followed in subsequent issues. ‘Trotsky, carrying on the work of Kautsky in justifying the murder of Karl and Rosa, today justifies the butchery of the best sons of the German workers’, proclaimed the issue of December 1933, though it was not made clear precisely how. [88] The same number also carried an article by JR Campbell, ‘Mr Trotsky and the ILP’ – which consisted largely of a tortuous defence of the theory of social fascism:

Now let it be clear that when one says that Social Democrats and fascists are twins one is not saying that they are identical. If I say that Tom Smith and Jack Smith are twins, I am not saying that they are the same person. [89]

This conveys the theoretical plane of Campbell’s polemic. In conclusion, we should note that, contrary to vulgar versions of the Third Period, the CPGB did not finally abandon the social fascist formula until the later summer of 1934. In September, there appeared an article ‘The Labour Protectors of Fascism’ whose author, seemingly oblivious to the great change that had already been implemented across the channel in France, intoned didactically: ‘There is still confusion in many quarters on the role of social fascism...’ [90]

The Daily Worker: Finally there is the CPGB’s daily organ, which began publication on 1 January 1930, with the legend, emblazoned across its front page: ‘Daily Worker Your Paper – Will Fight Social Fascist Labour Government...’ [91] A promising beginning. In the run-up to the Reichstag elections of September 1930, it was reported that the SPD was ‘steadily working hand in hand with the other capitalist parties for the establishment of a fascist dictatorship in Germany’. [92] Eight days later came the news that ‘the fascists and social fascists are plotting a bloody dictatorship and fomenting war against the Soviet Union’. [93] By the end of the year, following the lead of the KPD, the paper discovered that Germany had been transformed overnight by a single parliamentary vote into a fascist dictatorship. ‘Dictatorship rules in Germany’ ... ‘Socialists back fascism’ was the reaction to the SPD vote in the Reichstag for Brüning’s emergency decrees cutting wages and welfare payments. ‘Thus fascist dictatorship is secured by parliamentary means.’ [94] This lunatic line (muffled echoes of which one can hear in the radical rantings of Workers Press, with its repeated claims throughout 1973 that corporatism had been established by act of parliament) was sustained right through to the fall of Brüning in May 1932, when he was replaced by the even more ‘fascist’ von Papen. ‘Under the cover of this fascist regime’, said the Worker on 2 April 1931, ‘and with the support of the Social Democrats, new attacks are being made on wages.’ [95] This, for the editors of the paper constituted the essence of fascism. On 25 July came the announcement of the KPD’s volte face on the Prussian referendum. ‘Brilliant piece of Communist tactics’, was the comment of William Rust, who knew all about such things. Rust went on to assert quite boldly what Gollan was, in 1959, to deny most vehemently, namely that the KPD had joined forces with the Nazis to overthrow the Prussian Social Democratic government:

The overthrow of the Prussian Social Democratic coalition which is the backbone in the pure Brüning government... will be a great blow to German capitalism. Originally the referendum was raked up by the fascists as a demagogic manoeuvre to sidetrack the mass indignation into fascist channels. The action of the KPD, however, will turn this swindle into a mass challenge to the Brüning and Prussian governments and fascism. [96]

Here it will be most illuminating to quote what Gollan had to say about this same question in Marxism Today of March 1959: ‘The Communists... began their own campaign for dissolution and a new election... At no stage was there cooperation with the Nazis... the Nazis soon dropped their campaign altogether.’ [97] ‘Soon'...? The KPD only adopted its new line on 23 July, leaving the party only two weeks to campaign for the referendum, and even less time for the Nazis to pull out – which they most certainly did not, for they and their capitalist supporters desired the downfall of the Prussian ‘social fascists’ no less than Stalin.

To return to the sorry record of the Daily Worker. On 19 September, an ILP member, deeply concerned by the rise of fascism in Germany and the collapse of the Labour government in Britain, asked:

Surely at least both working-class parties can be united in their demands that there will be: Not a penny from the unemployed, not a man off the register, not an economy at the expense of the working class, and unity in opposition to the National Government?

Back came the reply, one that dashed the reader’s naive hope that the CPGB might entertain a united front at least with the ‘left social fascists’: ‘It is essential to understand that united front action can only come from “below,” from the rank and file... But it would be fatal to have any illusions about the relationship of the parties.’ [98] This theme was revisited on 3 October, when another reader declared: ‘I believe that a united fighting front of the workers is the only thing that matters. In the two parties efforts must be made to get joint action.’ Once again, the reply was negative and bureaucratically ultimatistic:

If there are any individual ILP leaders, who sincerely desire to take part in the class struggle, let them openly repudiate the past policy of the ILP and build up workers’ united front committees in every area. Therefore, comrades, stick to the policy of the united front from below... [99]

Attacks on Trotsky figured prominently in the paper in the new year, with one contribution from Hal Wilde overshadowing all others in its myopic smugness:

Trotsky and his supporters have published a number of pamphlets in which Hitler fascism is depicted as the chief danger which, if it triumphs, will put fascism in the saddle for 20 years in Germany and smash the Communist International. Therefore, says Trotsky, the KPD and the SPD should form a united front against Hitler fascism. The KPD puts forward the Red United Front from below against this betrayal manoeuvre, showing how the SPD, instead of being a wing of the working-class front against fascism, is in reality the chief supporter of capitalist policy inside the working class. [100]

On 3 March, the Worker reported that at a recent Central Committee meeting of the party, a resolution had been passed which criticised ‘particularly dangerous deviations made by the party in the struggle against the ILP, which is an inseparable part of British social fascism’. The ECCI had in fact taken the party leaders to task for sharing a platform with the ILP at a meeting held to protest against rising unemployment. This and other errors showed that the ILP ‘was often portrayed by the CP not as the masked agent of the bourgeoisie in the camp of the proletariat, but as a possible ally’. [101] Different criteria applied to dealings with the newly-formed Mosley fascists. On 13 June 1931, a CPGB speaker shared the platform with a New Party fascist in a debate at the Birmingham Bull Ring. [102] Just as in Germany, there were evidently fascists and fascists. An even more blatant concession to fascism was made by the Daily Worker on 9 August 1932, when it carried a report of a racialist attack by the Völkischer Beobachter on the veteran KPD leader, Clara Zetkin. The Nazi paper had called Zetkin ‘a Jewish hag’, to which the Worker replied: ‘A photograph has been deliberately retouched in order to forge Jewish facial characteristics into Clara Zetkin’s thoroughly German and non-Jewish features.’ As if embarrassed by its anti-Semitic undertones, the article continued:

Naturally it does not matter a snap of the fingers whether Clara Zetkin is a Jewess or not, one of the greatest women of our century was really a Jewess. But in fact Clara Zetkin is the daughter of a Saxon school teacher, and has no Jewish admixture of any sort in her veins. [103]

Could this conceivably be a Communist journal, allegedly waging a ceaseless war against fascism, that permitted this filth to be published? It was on a par with the claim of the KPD that no Jews sat on its Central Committee. And still the CPGB held firm against voices in the working-class daily demanding more loudly a united front against fascism in Germany. On 13 August (the day of Hitler’s interview with Hindenburg) the Worker attempted to ward off criticism from workers that it was splitting the unity of the working class against reaction. To the question: ‘Can’t all workers’ organisations (the KPD, the SPD, the trade unions and the co-ops) come together to resist this drive to fascism?’, the reply was:

It is undoubtedly necessary to create working-class unity against fascism, but that must be unity between the workers in the factories and the streets, and not ‘unity’ between the KPD and the SPD, which is not a working-class party. For the KPD to unite with such a party would be to become an accomplice in the drive to fascism. [104]

Dutt was thriving in this sectarian atmosphere. In his comment on the Leicester Labour Party Conference, he recorded with a note of jubilation that ‘the social fascism of the Labour government of 1929-31 is still the social fascism of today, only at a still further stage of development’. [105] And so the paper tamely submitted to the line that, in Germany, was bringing the working class ever more close to disaster. Never an independent thought, never a critical idea or even instinctive reaction of stark horror, such as would have been felt by many a class-conscious worker, at the prospect of a Nazi victory in the main imperialist power of continental Europe. The record of the Daily Worker, forerunner of today’s Morning Star, is a shameful one.

Further Confusion

Despite the official optimism that prevailed in the Comintern following the victory of the Nazis, nearly all the parties experienced moods of gloom and even open criticism of the line that had led to the German defeat. Naturally Trotsky was blamed for such irrational attitudes being adopted towards an event that, far from marking an historic setback for the German working class, would only serve to accelerate the triumph of Communism. The British Stalinists were especially sensitive to such criticism, even though the Trotskyist movement had barely managed to establish a bridgehead in the country. In 1934 the CPGB published two pamphlets attacking Trotsky on the German question. The first was William Gallacher’s Pensioners of Capitalism. Its main intellectual achievement was to foist on Trotsky the distinction of pioneering the theory and practice of fascism. Gallacher declared in all seriousness that Trotsky’s 1920 plan for the ‘militarisation’ of the Soviet trade unions under War Communism was proof of his fascist mentality:

The trade unions were to be destroyed, were to become an adjunct of the military state. Here long before Mussolini and Hitler ever thought of it, the basic idea of fascism, the destruction of the working-class movement, was advanced.

Turning to Trotsky’s criticism of KPD policy, and his policy of the united front, Gallacher says:

Trotsky puts forward the apparently simple, but totally un-Marxian solution of a united front with Social Democracy on a basis agreeable to Social Democracy, with the main aim of keeping out the fascists. Some readers may say [as well they might]: ‘Well, what’s wrong with that?’ ... Trotsky’s proposal is for the voluntary surrender of the revolutionary struggle in order to maintain bourgeois democracy and actually represents the greatest betrayal of the revolutionary movement. [106]

What the sectarian and ultra-left always fails to grasp is that there can be no question of a united front unless it is on issues and demands that can be imposed on the reformist leaders. Fighting for minimum demands – such as the joint defence of workers’ meetings and premises against fascist attacks – by no means necessarily involves the betrayal of the revolutionary movement, as was demagogically implied by Gallacher. Rather they form an essential part of a genuine revolutionary movement’s tactical armoury, since they enable the vanguard to maintain its links with the mass movement, and help to create the conditions whereby the vanguard can increase its influence and prestige amongst the majority of workers who still follow their reformist leaders. The vanguard will only be taken seriously by the mass of workers when it casts aside all prattle about leading ‘independent struggles’ and sets about the task of sinking its roots into the class through the tactic of the united front. This was the lesson of Germany, and Gallacher was deaf to it.

The second anti-Trotskyist offering came from the pen of Andrew Rothstein ('RF Andrews’). His was in the form of a defence of Comintern policy in Germany. In complete defiance of the facts, Rothstein declared:

It is not true that the KPD split the ranks of the proletariat in struggle against the capitalists. On the contrary, while organising the united front from below... they repeatedly offered to come to an agreement with the Social Democratic leaders as well...

Yet Gallacher had written a pamphlet which explained at some length why the KPD could not, on principle, make such offers to the reformists, as indeed had Rothstein himself a year earlier in his Communist Review attack on Trotsky. Neither was it true, asserted the forgetful Rothstein, that the German working class had suffered an historic defeat, as was claimed by Trotsky: ‘The temper of the German working class more and more resembles that of a gigantic powder magazine which a mere spark may explode...’ [107]

The year of 1934 also found Ralph Fox intoning the same theme of Germany being among those countries ‘where this struggle for power is nearest’, and on the correctness of Stalin’s dictum that ‘social fascism... is the moderate wing of fascism’. [108] When this book finally appeared, the CPGB had already made its initial approaches to the Labour Party ‘social fascists’ for a united front against fascism and war!

The most important work of 1934, however, was undoubtedly R Palme Dutt’s Fascism and Social Revolution, the first edition of which appeared in the June of that year. Here was a work unique amongst British Stalinist tracts in that it set out to give a coherent shape and basis to the theory of social fascism. Even though Dutt wrote this book in the twilight of the Third Period, and in fact republished it in revised form in 1935, when the Popular Front was in full flood, it deviates not one iota from the full-blooded Stalinist line that led the German workers to defeat. An entire chapter is devoted to an exposition and defence of the theory of social fascism which, says Dutt, ‘has often aroused indignant resentment and much misunderstanding’.

Here intact two years after Hitler’s destruction of the German labour movement are the classic propositions of Third Period Stalinism, and of the Eleventh ECCI Plenum:

Fascism never becomes the main basis of the bourgeoisie... because fascism never wins the main body of industrial workers... Hence the role of Social Democracy remains of decisive importance, even after the establishment of the fascist dictatorship... it is... true in those countries of fully completed fascist dictatorship – Germany, Italy – where Social Democracy as an organisation is formally suppressed and the trade unions absorbed into the fascist front... [109]

Dutt, by a clever conjuring trick, manages to maintain the illusion that Social Democracy, and not fascism, serves as the main social support for the bourgeoisie even under fascist rule, by the phrase ‘formally suppressed and the trade unions absorbed into the fascist front’. For of course nothing of the kind happened, either in Italy or Germany. The trade unions were destroyed, closed down, their buildings occupied, their funds seized, their leaders jailed, many of their officials, in the case of Nazi Germany, killed or brutally manhandled by SA thugs. This Dutt demagogically called ‘formal suppression’ and ‘absorption’. Really you see, behind the scenes, the Leiparts and the ADGB unions continued business as before – only from behind barbed wire. The reader would be justified in assuming that this version of the events of May 1933 died a natural death along with the theory of social fascism that spawned it. Such assumptions would be mistaken, however, as the ghost of Fascism and Social Revolution, of the ‘absorption’ of the trade unions by the fascist state, still haunts the workers’ movement, albeit in the pernicious disguise of a vulgar ‘Trotskyism’. We refer of course to the theory of ‘corporatism’ as expounded – in 1973 especially – by the WRP and its daily organ, Workers Press. This subject – a vital one for Trotskyists – will be explored in more detail in the appendix that ends this book. Here let us return to the work of the Stalinist who can, in a certain sense, be said to have pioneered this theory in the British workers’ movement.

Proof that the Social Democratic trade unions were quite voluntarily (on the part of their ‘social fascist’ leaders) transforming themselves into organs of the capitalist state, or being peacefully incorporated into the state, Dutt found in the General Council Report to the 1928 TUC Congress:

The third course is for the trade union movement to say boldly that not only is it concerned with the prosperity of industry, but that it is going to have a voice as to the way industry is carried on, so that it can ultimately influence the new developments that are taking place... the unions can use their power to promote and guide the scientific reorganisation of industry as well as to obtain material advantages from the reorganisation. [110]

Dutt concludes from this statement of classic trade union reformist class collaboration (a collaboration which presupposed the existence of bona fide class trade unions) that ‘Social Democracy and the trade unions under its leadership thus become, in Social Democratic theory, constituent parts of modern capitalist organisation and of the capitalist state’. [111] If this were indeed so, then the bourgeoisie would have no need to destroy the trade unions or persecute their leaders, for they would, in so doing, be undermining one of ‘the constituent parts of modern capitalist organisation and of the capitalist state’. The destruction (or in Dutt’s perverted parlance, ‘absorption’) of the German trade unions therefore is rendered inexplicable, for here were unions that were, under the law of the land, constituted as one of the pillars of the Weimar bourgeois democracy. In fact, as the present author has attempted to demonstrate, the march towards fascism in Germany was accompanied by the progressive repulsion of the SPD and ADGB bureaucracy from its former positions within the central and regional political, social and economic institutions of the republic. Precisely the reverse of the process portrayed by Dutt, and today by Bull and Johns of Workers Press.

Yet more light is thrown on the antecedents of today’s super-radicals of the WRP (who, it should be remembered, are in a minority within the movement, and by no means can be taken as representative of the party as a whole) when Dutt turns directly to the question of corporatism. This term, as the reader is probably by now aware, is the one used by Workers Press to denote a whole spectrum of political phenomena extending from full-blooded fascism, as in the Third Reich, to talks between trade union leaders and the government over wages and prices policy. It even, on one occasion, extended to union cooperation in a recruiting drive for the GPO (see appendix to Chapter 25). This is what Dutt says about Social Democratic corporatism:

Every development of organisation and strengthening of monopoly capitalism and its dictatorship is... hailed as the advance of ‘socialism’. Characteristic of this is the Labour Party’s advocacy of the ‘public corporation'... as the form of modern socialism – exemplified by the London Passenger Transport Act, which was introduced by a Labour Government and carried through by a Conservative Government, and hailed by the Labour Party as a triumph of ‘Socialism'... It is obvious that the ‘public corporation’ of the Labour Party and Social Democracy bears close analogies in principle to the fascist ‘corporation’ as the system of organisation for industry. [112]

Again Dutt performs a conjuring trick. Since the form of ownership and control proposed by Labour and enacted – with some amendments – by the Conservatives – did not constitute full-blooded socialist nationalisation (that is, without compensation, and under workers’ management as part of a national planned and state-owned economy), it must therefore be its direct opposite – fascism, or corporatism. What Dutt leaves out is the not unimportant question of the position of the trade unions. In the fascist corporation of Mussolini’s Italy, the organisation of industry into corporations (never fully implemented) presupposed the destruction of the old, class trade unions, and their replacement by fascist-dominated bogus ‘labour’ organisations, syndicates, which then very effectively tied the working class to the employers and the capitalist state. The LCC ownership and control of public transport was carried out in a country where the trade unions were both in law and in fact independent of the capitalist state and the employers. This simple fact demolishes Dutt’s specious arguments about Labour Party schemes for public ownership being a variety of fascist corporatism. But once again, we have to record that this anti-Marxist, and in fact defeatist, theory has resurfaced in the workers’ movement, in the editorial offices of the Workers Press to be precise. The paper, as will be shown in the final appendix, denounced a proposal by the Labour Party National Executive to take 25 un-named companies into a form of ‘public ownership’ as an acceptance of ‘corporatism’. Had Dutt seen the article in question, he could not have been begrudged a wry smile. For in his Fascism and Social Revolution he had written, nearly four decades before Healy disinterred and refurbished this Stalinist theory, that

... the whole trend of postwar Liberalism, Labourism and Social Democracy, in particular, is closely parallel to the Fascist line and propaganda of Corporate state – that is, the general line of combination of state control and private enterprise..., class collaboration and so-called workers’ representation...

Dutt also made explicit what Workers Press leaves implicit – that there are allegedly two types of ‘corporatism’, the Social Democratic and the fascist:

Nevertheless there is a ‘new’ and distinct feature in the Fascist Corporate State. All the Liberal-Labour proposals are based on the incorporation of the existing workers’ organisations into the capitalist state [this is what we might call today the Bull – Johns variant – RB]... The Fascist policy of the Corporate State is based on the violent destruction of the workers’ independent organisations and the complete abolition of the right to strike. This is the sole [sic!] new feature of the Fascist Corporate State... [113]

The convolutions of the ‘general line’ between 1925 and 1935 present any official historian of the CPGB with a seemingly intractable task if he is at the same time faithfully to record the party’s wild oscillations between right-opportunism and ultra-leftism on the question of the united front, and depict the Comintern line as having been consistently correct. An early pioneer of the CPGB, Tom Bell, was allotted this thankless job, the result being his The British Communist Party: A Short History. The following excerpt from his book (mercilessly panned by Hutt in Labour Monthly) indicates how Bell tried to square the Stalinist circle:

In the zealous endeavour to realise the sharp change of tactics [demanded by the Eleventh ECCI Plenum in February 1928 under the slogan ‘class against class’ – RB] no differentiation was made between the labour bureaucracy and the Tories. In some cases the fight against the Labour aristocracy was carried to quite absurd degrees. Local branch officials exercising quite minor functions in the trade union organisations were characterised as social fascists, because they defended the line of the labour bureaucracy in words, though their action was often dictated by sounder class sense... In the directives for the operation of our municipal electoral activity the ECCI in 1934 corrected this mistake... If we read the resolution of the Ninth Plenum and draw comparisons from our experiences after the Eleventh [CPGB] Congress up to the present time, we are better able to understand the tactical line being brought forward after the Seventh World Congress... It shows that in substance a new turn has not been made, but simply a more correct interpretation of the line. [114]

So according to the Bell school of political mathematics, social fascism = Popular Front! Bureaucratic continuity, if not historical accuracy, had been preserved.

In passing, it should be noted that Bell had proved himself no sluggard as an exponent of ‘social fascism’ during the hey-day of the Third Period. In his pamphlet Heading For War he listed the following organisations as representing fascism in Germany: ‘... the unofficial armies, the Stahlhelm, the Wehrwolf, the German Officers League, the Jungdo and the Social Democratic Reichsbanner, represent military forms of fascism.’ [115] Not one of these organisations can correctly be described as fascist, least of all the Reichsbanner, which the fascists attacked and closed down after the Nazi seizure of power. And the real fascist organisations – the SA and the SS – Bell did not consider worthy of mention.

In a more general sense, the Stalinist labour historian Allen Hutt shared Bell’s dilemma of having to present the Third Period as good Communist coin at the high tide of the Popular Front when he wrote his The Postwar History of the British Working Class. Thus, like Bell, the ‘general line’ that finally prevailed at the December 1929 Congress of the CPGB had to be upheld, while criticising ‘sectarian’ interpretations of it by certain party leaders and cadres:

It [the ‘new line']... not unnaturally [sic!], opened the door wide to ‘ultra-left’ tendencies which turned independence into isolation. The main thing was that it represented a necessary break with the past.

Such sectarianism that did arise in the party during the Third Period lay in the ‘application of the “new line"’ and resulted in ‘Communists finding themselves in a weaker position in the trade unions than they had been before’. [116] But of course, the ‘general line’ was correct, just as it had been in 1925-27 (the period of the bloc with the TUC lefts) and again after 1934, the period of the Popular Front, when work in the trade unions was more than ever before subordinated to the requirements of Soviet diplomacy.

Harry Pollitt’s essay in autobiography, the infelicitously titled Serving My Time is even less informative than Hutt’s work about the Third Period, the narrative breaking off just at the point when the CPGB, under Pollitt’s leadership, fully embraced the theory of social fascism. He tantalises his readers by writing in his ‘Conclusion’ that ‘the 10 years from 1929 to 1939 constitute a period which requires fuller, more detailed and more fundamental treatment than is necessary [sic!] in a book of the present character’. [117]

Running ahead a little, we find in the case of the CPGB miners’ leader, Arthur Horner, incomprehension instead of, as in the instances of Hutt and Pollitt, duplicity. For Horner, the ‘Third Period’ never existed as a phase of world Stalinist policy with historical and tragic implications for the international working class, rather as something that interfered with his own style of opportunist trade union work in the NUM. It was only on this level that he both confronted and opposed it. In his quite detailed account of his clash with the CPGB, Comintern and RILU leaderships over his opposition to ‘red unionism’, no reference is made to the then prevailing leftist line of all three organisations, even though this line was threatening to dislodge the party from its last remaining footholds in the official trade union movement. [118]

Another work attempting to force the theory of ‘social fascism’ into a Popular Front mould is TA Jackson’s Dialectics. This viciously anti-Trotskyist Stalinist primer, quite apart from its vulgarising nearly every aspect of Marxist theory, devotes lengthy passages to the vain task of proving that, in all essentials, fascism and Social Democracy perform the same historical role. Correctly insisting that the betrayals of Social Democracy after the end of the war prepared the ground for the rise of fascist movements, Jackson then makes the leap – false both in theory and in history – of claiming that ‘fascism thereupon emerged with a doctrine which unified itself with the implications of the deeds of Social Democracy and carried these implications to their logical counter-revolutionary conclusions’. The only difference conceded by Jackson was that in the realm of ideology the reformists paid lip-service to various revisionist brands of ‘Marxism’, while fascism openly espoused anti-Marxism as its main political platform. [119] And it should be borne in mind that Jackson’s work was published, and almost certainly written, after the Seventh Comintern Congress.

Because he was never a card-holding member of the CPGB, John Strachey enjoyed a little more latitude in coping with such problems (even though his books were closely scrutinised by Palme Dutt, for whom Strachey had a great respect). Nevertheless, we find the classic Third Period formulation in his The Coming Struggle For Power that ‘the machinery of the trade unions and Labour Parties has become an apparatus used, not by the workers to oppose the capitalists, but by the capitalists to control the workers...’, and a little further on, the even more emphatic assertion that ‘while passing its furious resolutions against “the menace of fascism"... [Social Democracy] is all the while itself laying down the working-class organisation necessary to a fascist system’. Then the future Labour Minister of War, the butcher of the Malayan freedom fighters, the ally of the Dayak head-hunters, concluded: ‘Social democracy becomes in fact “Social Fascism.”’ [120] Strachey’s next important book, The Nature of Capitalist Crisis, was written, like Dutt’s Fascism and Social Revolution, in the twilight of the Third Period, and was first published in March 1935, when the Popular Front line was fast gathering momentum. Although we find Strachey edging away from the cruder manifestations of ‘social fascism’, we at the same time discover him embroidering Dutt’s own special variant on this theory, namely that the British Social Democrats, left as well as right, were seeking to introduce the corporate state by peaceful, parliamentary means:

He [GDH Cole] and the other leaders of the left wing of British Labour, such as Sir Stafford Cripps, Mr Pritt [soon to become a Stalinist ‘fellow-traveller’ and in this capacity, an apologist for the Moscow Trials! – RB], Mr Mellor and other leaders of the Socialist League, are able to prevent a large number of British socialists from taking the revolutionary path. Mr Cole has now defined the objective of this whole school of thought. It is, to put it shortly, a corporate state, controlled, not by the fascists but by Parliamentary socialists... [121]

Wherein does this theory differ from that of the WRP, with its claim, made in Workers Press of 5 March 1973, that ‘secretly they [the reformists] welcome the corporate state in order to deal with any revolutionary mass movement that the crisis engenders'? As a final comment on the absurdity of this theory, it should be pointed out that at the precise moment when Strachey was charging Cripps’ Socialist League with desiring the corporate state, the Socialist League was accusing the Labour Party leaders of the very same crime! (This radical infatuation with ‘corporatism’ is discussed at further length in Appendix IV.)

Four years after his The Coming Struggle for Power, with the People’s Front now in full swing, and still writing under the inspiration of his mentor Dutt, Strachey waxed enthusiastic about the prospects of a fusion of the CPGB and the ‘social fascist’ Labour Party:

This swirling stream of world events is now beginning to have its effect in Great Britain. In less than a year it has set up a remarkably strong current of opinion in favour of the accomplishment of the unity of the British working-class movement by the acceptance of the British Communist Party’s application for affiliation to the Labour Party. [122]

Strachey’s extraordinary evolution, from student Tory, then Labour MP, through a brief flirtation with Mosley’s proto-fascist New Party, then over directly to Third Period Stalinism, to finally ending up as an arch-right-wing Labour Minister, might well tell us as much about the appeal of ultra-leftism for adventurers of the Strachey type, and their attitude to the workers’ movement, as about Strachey’s own highly contradictory and unstable personal make-up. There are times when leftism and sectarianism attract the bourgeois or petit-bourgeois radical adventurer as iron filings gravitate towards a magnet. And it must be said that the Trotskyist movement has proved no exception to this rule.

Some Postwar Versions

In 1934, Gallacher had devoted an entire pamphlet to an explanation of why Trotsky had been wrong to call for a united front of the workers’ parties against the Nazis. Thirteen years later he wrote a book in which he took an opposite line:

Had these two forces [the KPD and SPD workers] united, the history of Germany would have been entirely different. But it was impossible to achieve such unity. Blame for this is often laid at the door of the KPD... What party doesn’t make mistakes... In Germany, the party advocated the united front from below, they were earnest in their desire to achieve it. But, it is said... they made its realisation hopeless by the nature of their attacks on the SPD leaders. That may be so. But take note. They were pursuing a correct policy [sic!], in the course of which they made a mistake that could easily have been corrected. The SPD leaders could have assisted this correction had they come out openly for the working class... [123]

If only the ‘social fascists’ had helped us Communists to do our job, wails Gallacher. One should also note the by now familiar theme that the line was correct, only its application mistaken.

The next excursion into ‘Third Period’ territory – an uncharted land for most CPGB members in the postwar era – came in 1957, when the History Group of the party published its Labour-Communist Relations 1920-1939. That this pamphlet saw the light of day at all can only be explained by the profound crisis in British and world Stalinism precipitated by the Khrushchev Secret Speech of March 1956, and the Hungarian Revolution and the ‘Polish October’ the following autumn. However, the treatment of the ‘new line’ is very cautious:

How far did the ‘new line’ correctly apply to conditions in Britain; how far was it formulated by delegates to the Communist International with insufficient knowledge of British conditions? The reader of this pamphlet is advised not to come to hasty conclusions without referring to the contemporary evidence indicated by the references in this section.

Significantly, none of these references related to the internal policy of the Stalin leadership in the USSR – that is, its economic policy of forced collectivisation and industrialisation dating from 1928, the year of the inauguration of the ‘new line’ in the Communist International. The question of social fascism is treated even more discreetly. Stalin’s ‘twins’ are nowhere to be seen or heard, and the following note is appended to explain that by fascism was meant something different from Nazism. Thus ‘social fascism’ was rendered a less objectionable term:

It is important to note that the word ‘fascism’ at this date [1929] implied the corporate state of Mussolini’s Italy, plus the violent repression of working-class movements as in Italy and the Balkans. Before 1933 it had not yet come to mean universal terrorisation, concentration camps and the drive to world war. In 1929 it was necessary to warn the working class against the policy of class-collaboration which was eating away the independence of the Labour movement. [124]

And this was done by equating fascism – or corporatism – with Social Democracy and class-collaboration! A fine warning! Needless to say, this worthless substitute for a genuine, critical history of the CPGB’s orientation to the mass workers’ movement ends up in a paean of praise for the Popular Front, just as it had passed over in silence the opportunist errors of the 1925-27 period of the alliance with the TUC General Council lefts.

Gollan’s wretched apologia for the ‘Third Period’ we have already discussed. The next item of importance appeared in 1966, when the CPGB historians returned to the fray with their Problems of the German Anti-Fascist Resistance 1933-1945. An important and even inspiring theme, one would have to agree. But even more pressing, in view of the paucity of material on the subject, was a Marxist treatment of the reasons how and why Hitler came to power in the first place. Once again, the CPGB’s tame historians shied away from a serious discussion of the Third Period and the Stalinist theory of social fascism. It was dynamite, and they knew it:

The situation in these years [that is, from 1933 to 1945, wrote the pamphlet’s authors in a footnote – RB] cannot be properly understood without an analysis, in class terms, of the process of transition to fascism, from 1930 to 1933 and, especially, of the reasons why the German working class did not more effectively resist the establishment of the Nazi dictatorship. This analysis has unfortunately had to be omitted here for lack of space.

Unfortunately? Lack of space? One wonders. Had such an analysis been undertaken, we have a sample of what it might have produced in the following comment on the failure of the KPD leadership to respond in February 1934 to a call from the exiled SPD leadership for a revolutionary overthrow of the Nazi regime in Germany: ‘The way seemed open for formal, central collaboration between Communists and Socialists. But the chance was missed, for reasons not yet fully clear.’ [125] And they never will be, if their investigation is left to the CPGB historians’ group.

Early next year there came a much bolder and, in view of its method and purpose, far more pernicious critique of the Third Period. It was undertaken by Monty Johnstone, who, as has already been stated, was a former member of the British Trotskyist movement (the Revolutionary Communist Party) in the early postwar period, having joined it from the Stalinist Young Communist League. Johnstone is a ‘liberal’ Stalinist (not a contradiction in terms, for a Stalinist is one who subscribes to Stalin’s anti-Leninist theory of ‘socialism in one country’), and favours a policy in Britain of intimate collaboration with the left flank of Social Democracy on the programme of the peaceful, constitutional, parliamentary road to socialism. Anything that can be used to bolster up this counter-revolutionary line, and sweeten relations with the reformists, is pressed into service – even carefully selected and distorted facets of the Trotskyism that Johnstone learnt whilst a member (on what basis has still not been clarified by him) of the RCP.

The article in question is Johnstone’s review of LJ Macfarlane’s The British Communist Party: Its Origin and Development until 1929 (London, 1966) which he wrote for New Left Review. Johnstone’s method is to pick out and denigrate all the leftist errors of the Comintern and the CPGB, even using Trotsky’s criticisms of the ‘Third Period’ to emphasise his rejection of leftism, and to defend the rightist errors of the Communist International and the CPGB against the criticisms of Trotsky. Thus of the party’s opportunist line before and during the general strike summed up in the slogan ‘All Power To the General Council’, Johnstone comments: ‘The attitude of the British party to the forthcoming general strike was much more realistic than that of Trotsky, who considered that it heralded the coming revolution...’ When it came to the Third Period and social fascism, and the winding up of the tactic of opportunist blocs with the leaders of the reformist bureaucracy, it was a different question. Now Trotsky could be praised for his ‘several years of cogent argument against the concept of “social fascism” and for a united front policy by the Communist parties...’. Johnstone’s purpose becomes even more patent when we note his equal praise for JR Campbell’s ‘solid common sense’ – hardly a Marxist attribute. And Johnstone’s choice of words is not accidental, for like Trotsky, Campbell opposed the Third Period when the ECCI, together with party leaders such as Dutt and Rust (YCL), first imposed the theory of ‘social fascism’ and the ‘united front from below’ on the CPGB. But he did so on the non-Leninist basis of continuing the opportunist line that prevailed from 1925 to 1927, one that had facilitated the betrayal of the General Strike by the TUC General Council – including the lefts. Trotsky’s opposition to the Third Period flowed from a general understanding and critique of Stalinism in both its ‘left’ and right phases, as the tendency he denoted – until 1934 – as bureaucratic centrism. Johnstone’s real political sympathies are revealed when he moves on to discuss the post-1933 line of the Comintern:

... after Hitler’s seizure of power in Germany the Comintern went over to a realistic united front policy that led the British party to revise its ultra-left attitude to the Labour Party, and to find itself in the 1935 General Election returning to the old line of working for a Labour victory. In the following years the CPGB was to play an important and valuable role in uniting hundreds of thousands against fascism and unemployment. [126]

United front! But by 1935, this had been replaced by the Popular Front, as Johnstone is well aware. Sleight of hand masquerades as history, and counter-revolutionary Stalinist policy as Leninism. Johnstone looks at the history of Stalinism with one eye closed – his right – and sees only its leftist phases and errors. And we have to say in all seriousness that these distortions – and therefore justifications – of the past betrayals of Stalinism will be both complemented, and therefore facilitated, by a like one-sidedness that tends to see only the rightist episodes of Stalinism. Two one-eyed men cannot lead a revolution any more than can one, for perspective comes from the use of both eyes.

Nor is Betty Reid, veteran British Stalinist, any exception to this rule. In her Ultra-Leftism in Britain she, like Johnstone, is prepared only to acknowledge leftist errors on the part of the Comintern, and never right-opportunist ones:

Most Communists would agree that there were far-reaching sectarian errors in Communist Party policy during that [that is, the ‘Third'] period, in the context of the first sustained right-wing rejection of the united front and the long record of betrayal of the right-wing leadership... The characterisation of Social Democracy as ‘social fascism'... fostered deeply sectarian attitudes within individual Communist Parties.

But of the Popular Front, of the period when Stalinists aligned themselves not only with these same right-wing leaders, but with liberals, bourgeois chauvinists and clergymen: Reid declares that this was a time when ‘earlier sectarian errors were corrected’. [127]

Another Stalinist ‘liberal’ – Eric Hobsbawm – touches gingerly on the Third Period in his review of Hermann Weber’s Die Wandlung des deutschen Kommunismus (Frankfurt, 1970). His explanation for the KPD’s ultra-left line is quite sophisticated: domestic traditions of leftism in the proletariat nourished and sustained the Comintern’s own tactical errors. There are of course elements of truth in this argument, but in Hobsbawm’s case it results in the special, and principal, role of the Soviet leadership in the formation of the policies of the Third Period being obscured from view. The KPD, wrote Hobsbawm, ‘had no policy for any situation other than one of revolution’. [128] But the chief responsibility for the party’s having no tactical answer to the menace of fascist counter-revolution resided with the Stalinist leadership of the ECCI, which insisted – against internal resistance from the KPD – that the party renounce the Leninist united front. Leftist currents there undoubtedly were in the KPD, but they were not the authors of the theory of social fascism. Hobsbawm knows who was, but does not consider it worth mentioning.

We should record in passing that even historians honestly attempting to come to grips with the past betrayals of Stalinism slip into the error of concentrating on the leftist ‘excesses’ of the Third Period and to present what both preceded and followed as good Leninist coin. Thus the former CPGB labour historian John Saville remarked in his introduction to The Communist Party and the Labour Left 1925-1929 by Joseph Redman (1957) that:

... following the victory of Hitler in 1933 there were gropings towards a more realistic policy but it was only the sharp turn towards political common sense that the Communist International initiated in 1935 that allowed the British Communist Party to begin to exert any real influence within the broad Labour movement. [129]

This ‘common sense’ led just as certainly to defeat in Spain and France as had the ultra-leftist line in Germany. Redman too is guilty of idealising the Popular Front, for he says that ‘a fairly clean break with the outlook of 1929 had to wait... until the Seventh World Congress, in 1935, with Dimitrov’s speech on the United Front against Fascism’. Dimitrov’s appearance as the new leader of the Communist International of course gave the official stamp of approval, not to the workers’ united front, but the counter-revolutionary ‘People’s Front’. [130]

Stalin’s Fig Leaf

Stalinists throughout the world have, for more than 40 years now, been labouring under the handicap of not being able to cite any speech or article by their hero and mentor directed against German fascism. Only with the Nazi invasion of the USSR in June 1941 did Stalin break his silence on the Hitler regime, and then it was to condemn it in purely nationalist terms. And so today we find the cult of Dimitrov being substituted for – or rather interwoven with – the cult of Stalin. Even the foundations of this cult are open to question. Krebs contends that whilst working as an agent for the underground KPD in the Gestapo, he came across a secret report with details of a deal fixed between the Soviet and German governments for Dimitrov’s release after the Leipzig trial, in exchange for Nazi agents arrested in the Soviet Union. When Dimitrov defied Goering in open court, says Krebs, winning the applause of anti-fascists all over the world and greatly enhancing the tarnished prestige of the Comintern, he already knew that his acquittal and release were certain.

The validity of Dimitrov’s anti-fascist credentials is, however, a secondary question. More important is the use to which they were – and are still being – put. Dimitrov’s name is quite correctly linked to the Stalinist Popular Front, the policy of tying the workers’ movement to a class-collaborationist alliance with one or more parties of the bourgeoisie. Dimitrov presided over the Seventh Comintern Congress in the summer of 1935 at which this counter-revolutionary strategy, which led the Spanish workers to defeat in the civil war against Franco, and broke the back of the equally powerful proletarian upsurge in France of May-June 1936, was made mandatory for every section of the Communist International. Even more so today than in 1935, the Stalinist Popular Front, the alliance of all ‘men of good will’ against fascism and war, is an essential ingredient of the Soviet bureaucracy’s strategic orientation towards collaboration with the main imperialist powers and groupings – the USA, Japan, the EEC. Peaceful coexistence with American imperialism necessarily means for the Kremlin the sabotage of revolutions in Nixon’s Latin American preserve, even if, as in Chile, this strangling of the proletariat by the Popular Front opens the door for the military and the fascists to stage a bloody counter-revolution (the same considerations determined Stalinist policy in Bolivia prior to the Banzer coup of August 1971, and more recently Uruguay, where the military have also established their rule).

As part of this concerted build-up for the Popular Front (not only in Latin America, but the advanced imperialist states where the prospect of proletarian revolution is even more daunting for the Kremlin), world Stalinism seized on the ninetieth anniversary of Dimitrov’s birth, which fell in June 1972. A flood of books on his life, political work and ideas, not to speak of his selected and collected works and biographies, poured out from Sofia and Moscow. Nor were the British Stalinists remiss in lauding this architect of counter-revolution to the skies. James Klugmann took time off from grappling with the horrendous task of writing his third volume of the history of the CPGB (the volume that will, if it ever sees the light of day, deal with the ‘Third Period’) to wallow in the happy memories of a time when the Stalinists had emerged from their ice age of self-imposed isolation and were rubbing shoulders with clergymen, ‘social fascist’ labour bureaucrats, liberals, patriotic Tories, boy scouts and Duchesses. But it is important to note that the Third Period was not simply ignored by Klugmann in his offering to the Dimitrov festival, but used to contrast its sectarianism and adventurism with the ‘realism’ and the allegedly militant anti-fascism of the Popular Front:

At the end of the 1920s and in the first years of the 1930s there were within the International, despite all its many achievements [the most noteworthy being the victory of German fascism – RB], some deep sectarian mistakes, particularly in regard to the estimation of Social Democracy and the Social Democratic parties, approaches to the reformist-led trade unions, and on questions of the united front. It would be wrong to present Dimitrov as some miraculous Communist totally free of the mistakes of his time... But throughout these years he was one of the leading Communists within the International who most strongly resisted sectarianism, who most continuously strove for the unity of the working class.

But this then raised the problem of Dimitrov’s own role during the period when ‘social fascism’ was in vogue, for he was head of the West European Bureau of the ECCI, based in Berlin, and, according to the article cited, had ‘the closest contact, perhaps, ... with the KPD’. Did he preside over the criminal betrayal carried through on Stalin’s orders by the KPD leadership? To concede this would at once demolish Dimitrov’s anti-fascist image, so carefully built up over four decades. So we are informed that:

... already, at the end of the 1920s and in the first years of the 1930s when there were many sectarian approaches to the question of the united front, Dimitrov was one of the foremost of those in the leadership of the Communist International who were searching for ways to overcome this sectarianism and develop the real unity of the working class to bar the road to fascism.

The only evidence presented of Dimitrov’s attitude is an ‘important letter’ which he sent to the ECCI in which Dimitrov is said to have ‘criticised aspects [sic!] of the united front policy of the KPD, and emphasised that in his opinion, which was shared by Thälmann [of course], the situation of the fascist offensive demanded from the German working class the unity of its forces’. But this was also the official line of the ECCI and the KPD – the unity of all proletarian forces on the basis of the ‘united front from below’. Did Dimitrov challenge this false tactic, which rendered impossible the achievement of proletarian unity against fascism? That is the real question, not this or that nuance within the framework of the prevailing Stalinist line. The meagre evidence cited suggests that Dimitrov did not:

He criticised the practice of the putting forward by Communists of the leading role of the KPD as a precondition ‘of the general struggle of Communists, Social Democrats and other working people, instead of in fact and in practice developing and winning leadership in practical joint general struggle and action’. [131]

In other words, a variant on the ‘united front from below’, and not a Leninist united front in which the two workers’ parties form a temporary bloc to fight the common fascist enemy.

This same number of Marxism Today contains two other important texts on Dimitrov, namely an article by Klugmann on the Seventh Comintern Congress, and a selection of documents written by Dimitrov in the course of the preparations for the Congress. Once again, we see the hand of the falsifiers of history at work. The already cited article claimed that Dimitrov had opposed Third Period sectarianism from the very beginning, and had sought to change KPD tactics some months before Hitler came to power. But in the documents for the Seventh Congress, drafted on 1 July 1934, we read the following: ‘Is the indiscriminate qualification of Social Democracy as social fascism correct? With this position we often blocked the road to Social Democratic workers.’ [132] So we have Dimitrov, 18 months after Hitler’s victory, still hesitating as to whether to jettison – and then not entirely (for he used the word ‘indiscriminate’) – the theory of social fascism. Moreover, the issue is seen as one of expediency – it ‘blocked the road to the workers’. Sometimes – as in the early months and years of the First World War – theoretically correct principles lead to the temporary or even protracted isolation of the Marxist movement from the broad mass of the workers. Junking principles may seem the quickest road to the mass movement, but it is also the surest road to the betrayal and defeat of the workers.

In Klugmann’s own article on the Seventh Congress, he paraphrases this note by Dimitrov in such a way as to present it as a direct challenge to the entire theory of social fascism, which it was not: ‘Is it correct to define Social Democracy as social fascism?’ [133] Nor was Dimitrov so bold and resolute in pioneering the ‘new line’ as Klugmann and other Dimitrov cultists would have us believe. The groundwork for the Popular Front had already been laid some months before 1 July 1934 by the PCF leaders, who, with Stalin’s approval (and in line with his diplomacy, which now sought insurances against a resurgent German imperialism by an alliance with the once-condemned Versailles powers), opened up talks with the Socialist Party for a united front against the rising fascist movement in France. These negotiations began after Thorez had been summoned to Moscow in April, and the new line approved by the party conference at Ivry on 23 June. On 1 July, there appeared in the PCF theoretical organ Cahiers du Bolshevisme an article by Thorez in which he tore up not only the policy of his party over the previous six years, but also the Leninist united front: ‘We, the Communist Party, we are ready to renounce all criticism of the Socialist Party during our joint action... We want action at any price.’ Four months before this article was written, the PCF had joined with fascist gangs in the famous demonstration of 6 February outside the French National Assembly against the government of the Radical Daladier. In another four months, he would be embraced by Thorez as a comrade-in-arms of the People’s Front.

The pact between the PCF and the SFIO was finally concluded on 27 July. But the line had been established more than a month previously. So even here, Dimitrov’s role was not all that Klugmann claims it to be. Both in the Leipzig dock, and in the Comintern offices in Moscow, Dimitrov acted out a part that others far more powerful than he had prepared for him. The Dimitrov cult is phoney to the core, and must be rejected, along with the policies which are linked to his name. Nor must it be permitted to obscure the fact that the greatest betrayal in the history of the working-class movement was carried through by a Stalinist leadership of which he was a part. Neither, finally, should the belated critics of the Third Period be allowed to exploit the crimes of 1933 to prepare new defeats under the banner of the no less counter-revolutionary Popular Front, which from Britain and France to Italy and Chile, is the official strategy of the world Stalinist movement. One of the main purposes in writing this book is to help ensure that this does not happen.

Social Fascism Revived – An Afterword

Although never returning in toto to the line or policies of the Third Period, Stalinism has employed some of the concepts evolved in the period between 1928 and 1934 at later dates. Following the conclusion of the Stalin-Hitler Pact in August 1939, the Comintern commanded a sharp left turn in all the sections operating in the sphere of the Western Allies; whilst in Nazi Germany, a heavily masked defencist line was forced on the shattered remnants of the KPD. This new turn involved a repudiation of the former Popular Front policy, and a reversion to some of the tactics of the Third Period. Referring to the Second International leaders who supported the Allied powers against Stalin’s pact partners, an ECCI Manifesto declared in November 1939 that there could be ‘neither a united workers’ front, nor a people’s front with them... Now working-class unity, and the united people’s front, must be established from below...’ This new line found an echo in the CPGB, which, in the case of Michael MacAlpin’s Mr Churchill’s Socialists, even stimulated the revival of the theory of ‘social fascism’:

The Labour leaders, who have converted the Labour Party into the second capitalist party of the state, and are changing the trade unions into an Arbeitsfront [Labour Front], give us war and the hope of an empty ‘victory’. Socialism is forgotten for National Socialism... [134]

When Hitler turned his guns eastwards on the USSR, the British Stalinists not only made their peace with ‘Mr Churchill’s Socialists’, but outstripped them in patriotic zeal – and strike-breaking.


1. W Knorin, Communist International, Volume 11, nos 3-4, 14 March 1933.

2. This the exiled KPD leadership under Walter Ulbricht accomplished in the summer of 1939, when in the aftermath of the Stalin-Hitler pact, the requirements of Kremlin diplomacy demanded that the KPD adopt a defencist position in the imperialist war against Poland and the Western Allies. For details of this ‘united counter-revolutionary front’ between Stalin and Hitler, see the author’s Stalinism in Britain (London, 1970).

3. F Heckert, ‘Why Hitler in Germany?’ (report to ECCI Presidium, 1 April 1933), Communist International, Volume 11, no 10, 1 June 1933, pp 329-35, emphasis added.

4. Communist International, Volume 11, no 8, 1 May 1933, emphasis added.

5. ‘German Fascism and the German Proletariat’, Communist International, Volume 11, no 9, 15 May 1933, pp 283-88, emphasis added.

6. R Palme Dutt, ‘The World Situation and Working-Class Unity’, International Press Correspondence, Volume 13, no 20, 5 May 1933, p 439, emphasis added.

7. Resolution of the ECCI Presidium on the Situation in Germany, 1 April 1933, emphasis added.

8. International Press Correspondence, Volume 13, no 19, 19 May 1933, p 488, emphasis added.

9. ‘Resolution of the CC of the KPD on the Situation and the Immediate Tasks’, International Press Correspondence, Volume 13, no 24, 2 June 1933, pp 525-29, emphasis added.

10. E Varga, ‘Results and Prospects of the German Fascism Now in Power’, International Press Correspondence, Volume 13, no 27, 21 June 1933, p 585.

11. B Kun, The Second International in Dissolution (London, 1933), p 75.

12. ‘Resolution of the KPD Politburo’, 10 October 1933, Communist International, Volume 11, no 22, 15 November 1933, pp 775-78.

13. Communist International, Volume 11, no 24, 15 December 1933, p 880.

14. O Piatnitsky, ‘The Communist Parties in the Fight for the Masses’, Thirteenth Plenum Reports (London, 1934), p 78, emphasis added.

15. W Pieck, ‘We Are Fighting for a Soviet Germany’, Thirteenth Plenum Reports, pp 9-10.

16. V Knorin, ‘Fascism, Social Democracy and the Communists’, Thirteenth Plenum Reports, p 36.

17. D Manuilsky, ‘The Revolutionary Crisis is Maturing’, Socialism Victorious (Moscow, 1934), pp 298-324.

18. F Heckert, ‘Contemporary Situation in Germany’, Communist International, Volume 12, no 1, 1 January 1934, p 15.

19. G Regler, Das Ohr des Malchus (Cologne, 1958), p 231.

20. Izvestia, 6 May 1933.

21. Documents on German Foreign Policy, Series C, Volume 1, p 373.

22. Documents on German Foreign Policy, Series C, Volume 1, p 450.

23. Documents on German Foreign Policy, Series C, Volume 1, p 717.

24. Documents on German Foreign Policy, Series C, Volume 1, p 717.

25. F Brand, ‘Combat the Campaign of Lies Against the Soviet Union’, International Press Correspondence, Volume 13, no 28, 23 June 1933, p 610.

26. Communist International, Volume 11, no 20, 15 October 1933, p 698.

27. International Press Correspondence, Volume 14, no 2, 12 January 1934, p 35.

28. Pravda, 3 July 1934.

29. Communist International, Volume 12, no 16, pp 537-39.

30. O Piatnitsky, The Fascist Dictatorship in Germany (1935), pp 21-25, 42.

31. Piatnitsky, The Fascist Dictatorship in Germany, p 46.

32. W Pieck, Report on the Activities of ECCI (26 July 1935) (London, 1935), pp 10, 13, 23-24, 27, 32.

33. D Manuilsky, The Work of the Seventh CI Congress (London, 1935), pp 11-12.

34. M Buber-Neumann, Under Two Dictators (London, 1949), pp 166, 195.

35. Report of Court Proceedings (Moscow, 1936), pp 86-90.

36. Report of Court Proceedings in the Case of the Anti-Soviet Trotskyite Centre (Moscow, 1937), pp 106, 109.

37. W Ulbricht, ‘Speech at the First Conference of Officials of the KPD of Greater Berlin’ (25 June 1945), On Questions of Socialist Construction in the GDR (Dresden, 1968), pp 13-14, emphasis added.

38. Ulbricht, ‘Speech at the First Conference of Officials of the KPD of Greater Berlin’ (25 June 1945), On Questions of Socialist Construction in the GDR, pp 14-16.

39. W Ulbricht, On the History of the German Labour Movement (Berlin, 1953), p 455.

40. Ulbricht, On the History of the German Labour Movement, p 653, emphasis added.

41. W Ulbricht, ‘Ernst Thälmann and the Freedom Fight of the German People’, Communist International, no 3, 1939.

42. W Ulbricht, ‘Report to the Sixth Congress of the SED’, The Age of Socialism Has Begun (Berlin, 1963), p 104, emphasis added.

43. Cited in R Palme Dutt, The International (London, 1964), p 212.

44. Anti-Faschistische Aktion (Berlin, 1965), pp 10-11.

45. Anti-Faschistische Aktion, pp 15-16.

46. Anti-Faschistische Aktion, pp 48-49.

47. Geschichte Der Deutschen Arbeiter Bewegung, Volume 4 (Berlin, 1966), p 170.

48. Geschichte Der Deutschen Arbeiter Bewegung, Volume 4, pp 206, 288, 289, emphasis added.

49. E Mandel, ‘Introduction’, LD Trotsky, The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany (New York, 1971), pp 24-25, 43, emphasis added.

50. Geschichte Der Deutschen Arbeiter Bewegung, Volume 5 (Berlin, 1966), p 203, emphasis added.

51. G Lukács, ‘Theses Concerning the Political and Economic Situation in Hungary and the Tasks of the Hungarian Communist Party’, Political Writings, 1919-1929 (London, 1972), pp 245-46.

52. G Lukács, History and Class Consciousness (London, 1971), pp xxvii-xxix, emphasis added.

53. G Lukács, ‘Preface’ (1947), Goethe and His Age (London, 1968), p 8.

54. G Lukács, In Search of Bourgeois Man (London, 1964), pp 37, 44, emphasis added.

55. Lukács, In Search of Bourgeois Man, pp 93-94.

56. G Lukács, from a letter to the PCI journal Nuovi Argomenti in 1962, translated in Survey, no 47, April 1963, p 106.

57. Walter Laqueur, Russia and Germany (London, 1965).

58. G Deborin, Secrets of the Second World War (Moscow, 1971), p 13.

59. I Maisky, Who Helped Hitler? (London, 1964), p 15.

60. R Medvedev, Let History Judge (London, 1972), pp 67, 429-30.

61. A Sakharov, Progress, Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom (London, 1968), pp 51-52.

62. Outline History of the Communist International (Moscow, 1971), pp 272-75.

63. History of the CPSU (Moscow, 1960), p 429.

64. A Short History of the CPSU (Moscow, 1970).

65. Outline History of the Communist International, p 312, emphasis added.

66. Outline History of the Communist International, p 319.

67. Outline History of the Communist International, pp 323, 326-27, 351.

68. E Henri, Can Socialists and Communists Cooperate? (Moscow, 1972), pp 18-19.

69. Workers Press, 1 October 1974, p 12, emphasis added.

70. The Bolshevik Party’s Struggle Against Trotskyism (Moscow, 1969); Where Are The Trotskyites Leading The Youth? (Moscow, 1973); Anarchism, Trotskyism, Maoism (Moscow, nd).

71. O Kuusinen (ed), Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism (London, 1961), pp 441-42.

72. Dutt, The International, p 212.

73. Labour Monthly, Volume 10, no 2, February 1928, p 70.

74. Labour Monthly, Volume 11, no 2, February 1929, p 79.

75. Labour Monthly, Volume 11, no 3, March 1929, pp 134-35.

76. Labour Monthly, Volume 11, no 12, December 1929, p 707.

77. Labour Monthly, Volume 11, no 3, March 1929, p 132.

78. Labour Monthly, Volume 14, no 7, July 1932, p 434.

79. Labour Monthly, Volume 15, no 5, May 1933, p 287.

80. Communist Review, Volume 2, no 1, January 1930, p 19.

81. Communist Review, Volume 2, no 10, October 1930, pp 409-10.

82. Communist Review, Volume 3, no 6, June 1931, p 219.

83. Communist Review, Volume 3, no 7, July 1931, pp 268-69.

84. Communist Review, Volume 4, no 12, December 1932, p 608.

85. Communist Review, Volume 5, no 5, May 1933, p 217.

86. LD Trotsky, ‘Hitler’s Victory’, Manchester Guardian, 10 March 1933, republished in Writings of Leon Trotsky 1932-33 (New York, 1972), p 134.

87. Communist Review, Volume 5, no 5, May 1933, p 227.

88. Communist Review, Volume 5, no 12, December 1933, p 414.

89. Communist Review, Volume 5, no 12, December 1933, p 435.

90. Communist Review, Volume 6, no 9, September 1934, p 154.

91. Daily Worker, 1 January 1930.

92. Daily Worker, 2 September 1930.

93. Daily Worker, 10 September 1930.

94. Daily Worker, 8 December 1930.

95. Daily Worker, 2 April 1931.

96. Daily Worker, 25 July 1931, emphasis added.

97. Marxism Today, March 1959, p 68.

98. Daily Worker, 19 September 1931.

99. Daily Worker, 3 October 1931.

100. Daily Worker, 2 March 1932.

101. Daily Worker, 3 March 1932.

102. Daily Worker, 15 June 1931.

103. Daily Worker, 9 August 1932, emphasis added.

104. Daily Worker, 13 August 1932.

105. Daily Worker, 1 October 1932.

106. W Gallacher, Pensioners of Capitalism (London, 1934), pp 5, 15.

107. RF Andrews, The Truth About Trotsky (London, 1934), pp 58, 63.

108. R Fox, Communism (London, 1935), pp 123, 139.

109. R Palme Dutt, Fascism and Social Revolution (London, 1935), pp 150, 155, emphasis added.

110. Cited in Palme Dutt, Fascism and Social Revolution, p 159.

111. Palme Dutt, Fascism and Social Revolution, p 159.

112. Palme Dutt, Fascism and Social Revolution, pp 159-60.

113. Palme Dutt, Fascism and Social Revolution, p 203.

114. T Bell, The British Communist Party: A Short History (London, 1937), p 127.

115. T Bell, Heading For War (March 1929), p 42.

116. A Hutt, The Postwar History of the British Working Class (London, 1937), pp 193, 242.

117. H Pollitt, Serving My Time (London, 1940), p 284.

118. A Horner, Incorrigible Rebel (London, 1960), pp 109-12.

119. TA Jackson, Dialectics (London, 1936), p 464.

120. J Strachey, The Coming Struggle For Power (London, 1932), pp 293, 338.

121. J Strachey, The Nature of Capitalist Crisis (London, 1935), p 341.

122. J Strachey, The Theory and Practice of Socialism (London, 1939), p 448.

123. W Gallacher, The Rolling of the Thunder (London, 1947), p 138, emphasis added.

124. CPGB History Group, Labour – Communist Relations 1920-1939 (London, 1957), pp 21, 28.

125. CPGB History Group, Problems of the German Anti-Fascist Resistance 1933-1945 (London, 1966), pp 9, 11.

126. New Left Review, no 41, January-February 1967, pp 54-55, 60-61, emphasis added.

127. B Reid, Ultra-Leftism in Britain (London, 1969), p 9.

128. EJ Hobsbawm, ‘Confronting Defeat: the KPD’, Revolutionaries (London, 1973), p 51.

129. J Saville, ‘Introduction’, J Redman, The Communist Party and the Labour Left 1925-1929 (London, 1957), p 6, emphasis added.

130. J Redman, The Communist Party and the Labour Left 1925-1929, p 21, emphasis added. [Redman was one of Brian Pearce’s pen-names – MIA]

131. Marxism Today, July 1972, p 196.

132. Marxism Today, July 1972, p 209, emphasis added.

133. Marxism Today, July 1972, p 215.

134. M MacAlpin, Mr Churchill’s Socialists (London, 1941), p xi.