Fascism in Germany. Robin Blick 1975

Chapter VIII: The Political Economy of National Socialism

Hitler frequently and vehemently denied the primacy of economics and the class struggle in human affairs and history. [1] Yet together they shaped not only the ideology and programme of National Socialism, but determined the rise and fall of its leader, Adolf Hitler. For as Marx and Engels pointed out in their youthful tour de force, The German Ideology:... the phantoms formed in the human brain are... necessarily sublimates of their material life-process, which is empirically verifiable and bound to material premises.’ [2] Returning to this problem – the determinates of human consciousness – some 20 years later, Marx insisted that:

... just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period [that of the transition from one social and political order to another – RB] by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production. [3]

Such is the task we have set ourselves in seeking to trace the origins of what subsequently became the ideology of National Socialism back to the transition in Germany from feudal to capitalist economy in the first instance, and from pre-monopoly to finance monopoly capitalism in the second. So before embarking on the central section of this book, which deals with the principle events leading up to the victory of the Nazis in 1933, we must draw these various strands together and attempt to delineate the main features of what might be termed the ‘political economy’ of National Socialism.

This requires a two-tier analysis along the lines indicated by Marx. We must not only present the conceptions of National Socialism as its own originators conceived them, but show how this ideology, with all its anti-capitalist pretensions and invective against bourgeois society and values, nevertheless came to function as a unique species of bourgeois consciousness. Firstly then the Nazi programme as presented in the party’s public propaganda. [4]

One of the most characteristic expositions of Nazi ‘anti-capitalism’ is the pamphlet Hitler’s Official Programme, written as a commentary on the original 1920 party programme by the one-time Nazi economic ‘expert’, Gottfried Feder. The following extracts illustrate not only how little Feder’s ‘socialism’ had in common with that of any tendency to be found in the workers’ movement, but the way in which Nazi anti-capitalism fastened onto one aspect of capitalist production – interest and credit (personified by the ubiquitous Jew) – thereby abstracting it from every other phase and aspect of the capitalist mode of production:

The farmer is forced to run into debt and to pay usurious interest for loans, he sinks deeper and deeper under this tyranny, and in the end forfeits house and farm to the moneylender, who is usually a Jew... The sham state of today, oppressing the working classes and protecting the pirated gains of bankers and stock exchange speculators, is therefore the most reckless private enrichment and the lowest political profiteering... the power of money, most brutal of all powers, holds absolute sway, and exercises a corrupting and destroying influence on state, nation, morals, drama and literature, and of all moral imponderables... [5]

And while industrialists are not held to be blameless for this state of affairs, Feder presents them as men led astray by their quest for profit, which results in their being ensnared by the anonymous forces of finance and the stock exchange:

The industrialists, great or small, have but one end in view – profits; only one desire – credits; only one protest – against taxations: they fear and respect only one thing – the banks: they have only a supercilious shrug of the shoulders for the National Socialist demand for the abolition of the thraldom of interest... The producers have surrendered to high finance, their greatest enemy. The employers in factories and offices, deeply in debt, have to go content with the barest pittance, for all the profits of labour go into the pockets of the impersonal money power in the form of interest and dividends. [6]

Feder is then able to make the leap, characteristic of all fascist propagandists, of depicting industrial capitalists as honest, if sometimes misled, ‘producers’, exploited and cheated out of the fruits of their toil by parasitic moneylenders and dividend-drawers. And he also at this stage introduces that other familiar weapon in the fascist arsenal: the notion of an industrious middle class, ‘crushed from above by taxation and interests, menaced from below by the subterranean grumblings of the workers’. The pursuing of ‘self-interest’ – the employers’ in the form of bigger profits, the workers’ in the shape of higher wages – is depicted as the source of all evil. The result is a divided nation and ‘race’, with only the Marxist-cum-stock-exchange Jew the victor:

Employer against employee, merchant against producer and consumer, landlord against tenant, labourer against farmer, officials against the public, worker against ‘bourgeoisie’, Church against state; each blindly hitting out at his particular adversary and thinking of his own selfish interests... No one thinks of his neighbours’ welfare, or of his higher duties to the community. A breathless chase after personal gain... That is the spirit of modern business. [7]

And because Feder equates a worker’s struggle for a living wage with his employer’s determination to exploit the worker’s labour power, he is then able to draw the utterly absurd conclusion that:

Marxists, capitalists and the leaders of public life all worship the same god – individualism. Personal interest is the sole incentive – the advantage of one’s own narrow class the sole aim in life.

Instead of fighting each other, employers and workers should be united in battle against their common enemy:

... the capitalistic finance which overshadows the world, and its representative, the Jew. All classes of people have felt the scourge of interest; the tax collector bears heavily on every section of the population – but who dares oppose the supreme power of the Bank and Stock Exchange? ... The devilish principle of falsehood has triumphed over the ordered principle of creative labour... What do we mean by the ‘Thraldom of Interests'? The condition of the nations under the money domination of Jewish high finance. The landowner is subject to his thraldom who has to raise loans to finance his farming operations – loans at such a high interest as almost to eat up the results of his labour... So is the wage-earning middle class, which today is working almost entirely to pay the interest of bank credits... So is the industrialist, who has laboriously built up his business and turned it in the course of time into a company. He is no longer a free agent, but has to satisfy the greedy board of directors, and the shareholders also, if he does not wish to be squeezed out... The thraldom of interest is the true expression of the antithesis: ‘Capital against Labour, Money against Blood, Exploitation against Creative Work.’ [8]

The struggle of ‘races’ is substituted for the struggle of classes, and the fundamental conflict between wage labour and capital dissolved into a purely mythical battle of both labour and industrial capital against ‘Jewish’ usury. The bogus nature of Feder’s anti-capitalism is well brought out in his other commentary on the Nazi Party programme, Der Deutsche Staat. Here the attempt to construct a catch-all programme pledged to defend the interests of not only the middle class, but workers and employers, is even more flagrant:

National Socialism recognises private property on principle and gives it the protection of the state. The national welfare, however, demands that a limit shall be set to the amassing of wealth in the hands of individuals... Within the limits of the obligation of every German to work, and the fundamental recognition of private property, every German is free to earn his living and to dispose of the results of his labour... All existing businesses which until now have been in the form of companies [9] shall be nationalised... Usury and profiteering and personal enrichment at the expense of and to the injury of the nation shall be punished with death. [10]

Even when indulging in such radical-sounding phraseology, the Nazi leaders almost without exception ensured that their ‘anti-capitalism’ remained highly selective. Their definition of capitalism and capitalists made it possible to exonerate some of Germany’s most rapacious and reactionary employers from the charge of profiteering:

The true employer, he who is conscious of his high task as an economic leader, is a very different person. He must be a man of moral worth – in the economic sense at least, his task to discover the real economic needs of the people... He must keep his costs as low as he can, and lay them out to the best advantage, must keep prices as low as possible in order to get his goods on to the market, must maintain both the quality and quantity of his output, must pay his employees well, so that they may be able to purchase goods freely, and he must always be thinking of improvements of his plant and his methods of trading. If he puts these things first in his business, he is ‘supplying the necessaries of life’ in the best and highest sense, and his profits will come of themselves without his making them his first object. The finest and most universally known example of this kind of manufacturer is Henry Ford, there are other names in our own heavy industries which stand equally high: Krupp, Kirdorf, Abbe, Mannesmann, Siemens, and many more. [11]

So after all the high-flown, moral-toned diatribes against grasping capitalism and greedy profiteers, the National ‘Socialist’ Feder ends up by singing the praises of the Ruhr industrial tycoons, the very men who stood at the head of the entire structure of German finance capitalism!

Astute propagandists and political tacticians, the Nazi leaders preferred, even in their wildest demagogic moments, to fire off verbal salvoes at less formidable targets, ones that also had the advantage of being far more unpopular among the mass of the petit-bourgeoisie, the Nazis’ main source of support and recruitment:

The large retail stores [are] all in the hands of Jews... the large stores spell ruin to the small shopkeeper... We regard them as a special form of the capitalistic idea in practical operation, which does not provide necessaries of life, but exists for the purpose of producing huge profits for the shareholders. [12]

Feder’s writings, which until his fall from favour after 1933 were taken as authoritative statements on Nazi economic policy, abound with such appeals to the middle class, constantly harping on its simultaneous dislike of large, especially banking, capital on the one hand and organised labour ('Marxism’) on the other. The end product is a crazy, topsy-turvy world in which millionaire bankers (almost never named) are linked with Jewish labour leaders in a conspiracy to subvert the German body politic and plunder the industrious of all classes. The following extract is a typical example of this propaganda, totally unsupported by any facts, and yet capable of gripping literally millions, when all other methods of solving their economic problems seem to have failed:

Class war as a political principle – this is to preach hatred as a guiding principle. ‘Expropriation of the expropriator’ makes envy a principle of economics, and ‘socialisation’ means striking down personality and leadership and setting up material, the mass, in the place of interest and efficiency... This pseudo-socialism, born of Marxism, is not founded on common sense... it is based on the crass individualism and the chaotic structure of society... Can we be surprised that the social question is not, and cannot be solved by this means, and that the sole response is hatred and the desire for loot? No living state could result from the Marxist Stock Exchange revolt, but only a heap of ruins. Marxism is an obvious capitalistic bogey, capitalistic, because when a society founded on individualism has fallen into chaos, it falls of necessity under the sway of the great financial magnates... Capitalism and Marxism are one! They grow on the same intellectual base. There is a whole world of difference between them and us, their bitterest opponents. Our whole conception of the construction of society differs from theirs, it is either a class struggle or class selfishness; our supreme law is the general welfare... They are not inspired by the wish to construct an organic, articulate order, to amalgamate... the various industrial classes under the high conception of national unity. [13]

The same notions, though with a less ‘radical’ and ‘anti-capitalistic’ tinge, run through Hitler’s speeches and writings on economic questions. [14] What they certainly do not lack is a virulent anti-Semitism, which for Hitler was the key to all economic wisdom. A speech made on 12 April 1922 employed Feder’s device of depicting the Jew in his twin guise of capitalist and revolutionary:

Christian capitalism is already as good as destroyed, the international Jewish stock exchange capitalist gains in proportion as the other loses ground... [The Jews also act]... as ‘leaders of the proletariat'... in this capacity you might see the millionaire, the typical representative of capitalist exploitation, in a culture of the utmost purity... The same Jew who, whether as majority socialist or Independent, led you then [in the November Revolution] leads you still, whether as Independent or as Communist, whatever he calls himself, is still the same. And just as then in the last resort it was not your interests which he championed, but the interests of capital which supported him, the interests of his race; so now will he never lead you in an attack on his race, an attack on capital. On the contrary, he will prevent you from waging war against those who are really exploiting you... It was only the Jews who succeeded, through falsifying the social idea and turning it into Marxism, not only in divorcing the social idea from the national, but in actually representing them as contradictory.

This theme was developed at even greater length and complexity in another speech on 28 July of the same year. Drawing heavily on the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which had recently been published for the first time in German, Hitler exposed to his credulous, mainly petit-bourgeois audience how the Jews went about their conspiratorial work, fomenting class strife where there had once been peace and harmony between worker and employer – or rather guild master and his journeyman and apprentices:

The immense industrialisation of the nations meant that great masses of workers streamed together in the cities... Parallel to this ran a tendency to turn all labour to money. There was a sprouting of stocks and bonds, and little by little the stock exchange began to run our whole national economy, and the owners of this institution, then as today, were without exception Jews... By press propaganda and educational work, they succeeded in forming the big classical parties. Even then, they cleverly formed two or three groups which apparently combated one another, but actually hung by the same gold thread... Then Jewry took a step which showed political genius. This capitalist people... found a way to lay hands on the leadership of the fourth estate [the proletariat]. The Jew founded the Social Democratic, the Communist movement... On the Right, he attempted to intensify all existing wrongs to such an extent that... [the worker]... would be provoked beyond measure... It was he [the Jew] who fostered the idea that the unscrupulous use of all methods in business dealings was a matter of course, and by his competition forced others to follow suit... On the Left, he was the common demagogue... Well he knew that, once he taught the workers the international viewpoint as a self-evident premise of their existence and their struggle, the national intelligentsia would shun the movement... and... as soon as the Jews declared that property was theft,... as they departed from the self-evident formula that only natural resources can and should be common property, but that what a man honourably creates and earns is his own; from that moment on, the nationally-minded economic intelligentsia was again unable to follow... he... succeeded... in influencing the masses to such an extent that the errors of the Left were viewed by people on the Right as the errors of the German workers. While to the German worker the errors of the Right seemed nothing other than the errors of the so-called bourgeoisie... Only now do we begin to understand the monstrous joke of world history, the irony that stock exchange Jews could become the leaders of a German workers’ movement... While Moses Kohn sits in the directors’ meeting, advocating a policy of firmness... his brother, Isaac Kohn, stands in the factory yard, stirring up the masses: take a good look at them; all they want is to oppress you.

Hitler’s anti-Semitism was clearly not a simple theory of ‘race’, but embraced an entire mystical view of history and economics, which, as we shall see, he did not invent himself but eclectically plagiarised from earlier protagonists of an ‘anti-capitalist’, corporative social structure. Hitler frankly admitted that until he became familiar with the ideas of Feder, whom he first met on joining the Munich-based German Workers Party in September 1919, he:

... had been unable to recognise with the desired clarity the difference between... pure capital as the end result of productive labour and a capital whose existence and essence rests exclusively on speculation... In my eyes Feder’s merit consisted in having established with ruthless brutality the speculative and economic character of stock exchange and loan capital; and having exposed its eternal and age-old presupposition, which is interest. [15]

This entirely arbitrary distinction had considerable political advantages for the Nazi’s strategy of extending their mass basis by anti-capitalist demagogy while preserving and strengthening their connections with leaders of the German business world, as the following comment makes clear:

As I listened to Gottfried Feder’s first lecture about the ‘breaking of interest slavery’, I knew at once that this was a theoretical truth which would inevitably be of immense importance for the future of the German people. The sharp separation of stock exchange capital from the national economy offered the possibility of opposing the internationalisation of the German economy without at the same time menacing the foundations of an independent national self-maintenance by a struggle against all capital! [16]

So there was capital and capital...

We also find in his random comments on economics the same moralist outbursts against money and a highly romanticised nostalgia for Germany’s pre-industrial past which were common to nearly all volkisch ideologists of this period. Again we can see that this revolt against urban, highly industrialised society dominated by the ‘cash nexus’ is not so much a fear of large-scale capitalism – even Feder accepted that it was necessary in certain branches of the economy [17] – but of the huge concentrations of industrial workers brought about by the decline of a guild system of production and the movement of impoverished and expropriated peasants into the towns:

Proportionally as the peasant class diminished, the mass of the big city proletariat increased more and more, until finally the balance was completely upset. Now the abrupt alternation between rich and poor became really apparent. Abundance and poverty lived so close together that the saddest consequences could and inevitably did arise. Poverty and frequent unemployment began to play havoc with people... the consequence of this seemed to be political class division... In proportion as economic life grew to be the dominant mistress of the state, money became the god whom all had to serve and to whom each man had to bow down... [18]

Even a nodding acquaintance with the economic facts of life would seem adequate intellectual equipment to punch holes through the theories of Feder and Hitler. Yet this is hardly the point, for they were shared by men of far higher academic standing, publicists, historians and even economists, who peddled in the guises of scholarship and profundity the Nazi credo that proletarian socialism and the stock exchange were linked in a conspiracy of global proportions, whose aim was to subvert the existence of the Germanic people. One example will suffice – that of the idealist historian Oswald Spengler. He was in the process of completing his epic The Decline of the West at about the time Hitler was becoming involved in the activities of Feder’s small group, the German Workers Party. Spengler spells out at some length the fundamental contradiction between his, so-called ‘Prussian socialism’, and the socialism of the workers’ movement:

Not Marx’s theory, but Frederick William’s Prussian practice which long preceded Marx and will yet displace him – the socialism, inwardly akin to the system of old Egypt, that comprehends and cares for permanent economic relations, trains the individual in his duty to the whole, and glorifies hard work as an affirmation of Time and Future. [19]

Spengler’s cyclical theory of historical development saw mankind as in the final stages of its approach to ‘the last conflict... in which Civilisation reaches its conclusive form – the conflict between money and blood’. [20] And so we are back to Feder, Hitler – and indeed Carlyle. The forces of ‘blood’ were to be spearheaded by what Spengler termed a new ‘Caesarism’ which would, he prophesied, triumph over and destroy the ‘dictature of money and its political weapon, democracy’. [21] He therefore shared with the Nazis and their immediate forerunners their total identification of political democracy with an economy dominated by production for profit; a conception which, as we saw in Chapter I, originated in the struggle of the guilds against the rise of large-scale capitalism and the individualist outlook inspired by the French Revolution of 1789. Spengler’s ‘socialism’ is a highly mystified version of a traditional distaste encountered among wide sections of the German intelligentsia for a society overtly based on monetary values and a class structure manifestly derived from relations of production and not on ‘status’ or alleged intellectual and moral worth:

After a long triumph of the world city, economy and interests over political creative force, the political side of life manifests itself after all as the stronger of the two. The sword is victorious over the money, the master will subdues the plunder will. If we call these money powers ‘capitalism’, then we may designate as socialism the will to call into life a mighty politico-economic order that transcends all class interests... Money is overthrown and abolished only by blood. [22]

Having made definitions of socialism and capitalism, Spengler is then able to arrive at the conclusion reached by Hitler, Feder and company: namely that the rubric ‘money powers’ incorporates the ‘interest politics of workers’ movements... in that their object is not to overcome the money values, but to possess them’. [23]

Unlike Feder and Hitler, who, despite their claims to the contrary, were profoundly ignorant of Marxist literature, Spengler did attempt to refute the economic theories of Marx. Value did not originate in human labour power, he argued, but in what Spengler considered to be the genius of industrial leaders:

... as every stream of being consists of a minority of leaders and a huge majority of led, so every sort of economy consists in leader work and executive work [Spengler’s term for manual labour – RB]... The inventor of the steam engine and not its stoker is the determinant. [24]

‘Prussian socialism’ turns out to be little different from Carlyle’s fawning hero-worship of aggressive industrial tycoons. All that is of lasting economic value derives from their activity alone. By a sheer act of will, they can create money – what Spengler calls ‘Faustian money’:

Thinking in money generates money – that is the secret of world economy. When an organising magnate writes down a million on paper, that million exists, for the personality as an economic centre vouches for a heightening of the economic energy of his field... But all the gold pieces in the world would not suffice to invest the actions of the manual labourer with a meaning, and therefore a value, if the famous ‘expropriation of the expropriators’ were to eliminate the superior capacities from their creations; were this to happen these would become soulless, will-less, empty shells. [25]

Spengler’s veneration for the leaders of industry naturally is no obstacle to his indulging in the cult (common to most German rightists) of the peasant, who was depicted in volkisch and Nazi writings as a bulwark against proletarian revolution and a repository of traditional ‘German’ values:

All higher life develops itself on and over a peasantry... It is, so to say, race-in-itself, plant-like and history-less, producing and using wholly for itself, with an outlook on the world that sweepingly regards every other economic existence as incidental and contemptible... [26]

The enemies of the peasant were to be found not amongst the class of rich landowners, but in the big city, for Spengler the source of all evil:

There is little to choose in this respect between Versailles and the Jacobin club, business bosses and trade union leaders, Russian governors and Bolshevists. And in the maturity of democracy the politics of those who have ‘got there’ is identical, not merely with business, but with speculative business of the dirtiest sort of great-city sort. [27]

And so the stage is set for the arrival of Spengler’s ‘Caesarism’, destined to lay low the world of money and greed, which he artfully links with rationalism and political democracy:

Everything in order of dynastic tradition and old nobility that has saved itself up for the future, everything that is intrinsically sound enough to be, in Frederick the Great’s words, the servant – the hard-working, self-sacrificing, caring servant – of the state... all this became suddenly the focus of immense life forces. Caesarism grows on the soil of Democracy, but its roots thread deeply into the underground of blood tradition... there now sets in the final battle between Democracy and Caesarism, between the leading forces of dictatorial money-economics and the purely political will-to-order of the Caesars. [28]

This massive, brooding, highly esoteric work, written for the most part in a period of profound social unrest and permanent political tension, ends with a strangely calm confidence that the redeemer is at last at hand, the ‘Caesar’ who ‘approaches with quiet, firm step... We have not the freedom to reach to this or to that, but the freedom to do the necessary or to do nothing.’ And he closes with these ominous words: ‘... a task that historic necessity has set will be accomplished with the individual or against him.’ [29] Spengler never became a member of the Nazi Party [30] – he distrusted their plebeian methods and style, and had the utmost contempt for their philosophical pretensions. Nevertheless, we can detect a clear affinity with their conceptions of ‘socialism’, with its emphasis on rigid rank and ‘service’. In his more popularly-written Prussianism and Socialism (1919) Spengler declared that Germany:

... needs hard men... a class of socialist natural lords... might, and ever-more might... Socialism as I understand it presupposes individual proprietorship with its old-German enjoyment of power and booty... Everybody is put in his place. There are commands and there is obedience. [31]

This differs little from the definition of Nazi ‘socialism’ given by that master of demagogy, Josef Goebbels:

Socialism is Prussianism. The conception ‘Prussianism’ is identical with what we mean by socialism... Or socialism is that which animated the kings of Prussia, and which reflected itself in the march-step of the Prussian Grenadier regiments; a socialism of duty.

And it is to Germany’s past – back in fact to the age of Luther – that we must now turn in our attempts to unravel the secrets of the Nazi ‘philosophy of history’, and its evolution into a highly individual branch of vulgar bourgeois political economy. Listing the main features of what passes for National Socialist political economy, we find the following: an identification of capitalism with ‘loan capital’, ‘usury’, ‘international finance capital’, ‘stock exchange speculation’ or joint stock companies; an attitude of moral disapproval towards economic activities conducted, whether by workers or employers, for the purpose of monetary reward rather than ‘service’ to the ‘community’; the notion of a strictly hierarchical society with its ranks based more on economic function that the simple ownership or non-ownership of productive property; and, flowing from this, an equally guild-derived or ‘corporative’ rejection of the class struggle; the counterposing in quasi-religious terms of the ‘creative’ forces of ‘blood and soil’ to the parasitic and life-sapping evils of ‘pure’ money, personified in the Jew; a romantic yearning for a long past ‘golden age’ when production was based on handicrafts and not mass mechanisation, and was designed to fulfil a need and not create a profit; and finally, an unequivocal defence of private property as the basis of a ‘healthy’ and ‘national’ economy. What emerges from this compilation is that none of these economic notions is unique to National Socialism. Certainly, the Nazi movement succeeded in exploiting and welding together these irrational prejudices and fantasies into a programme and ideology which exerted an enormous attractive power amongst the German petit-bourgeoisie and peasantry, especially in the two periods of economic crisis of 1922-23 and 1929-33. But the potency of these illusions, as we have already stressed more than once, cannot be explained purely in terms of these two crises, the first inflationary, and the second deflationary in nature. The prejudices and distortions which comprised the social outlook of the Nazified petit-bourgeoisie had undoubtedly been accumulated over many generations and propagated through an entire spectrum of political, cultural, religious, philosophic and economic agencies.

Marx and Engels on the Nazi Precursors

Since neither Marx nor Engels lived in the epoch of fascist counter-revolution nor even in the period of National Socialism’s formative years, we would on immediate reflection hardly expect their writings to illuminate many of the central problems concerned with the origin or role of fascism. Yet this is far from being so. Firstly there is their famous criticism in the Communist Manifesto of various schools of non-proletarian ‘socialism’ prevalent in pre-1848 Germany and Europe. Each of them displayed features which, to one degree or another, were later to be absorbed into National Socialism. ‘Feudal Socialism’ originated in the fear of the landed aristocracy of the emergence of a usurping industrial bourgeoisie, a fear which in order to conceal its own reactionary class interests, took the form of a spirited defence of the industrial working class against its bourgeois exploiters:

In this way arose Feudal Socialism: half lamentation, half lampoon, half echo of the past, half menace of the future; at times, by its bitter, witty and incisive criticism, striking the bourgeoisie to the very heart’s core; but always ludicrous in its effect, through total incapacity to comprehend the march of modern history... What they upbraid the bourgeoisie with is not so much that it creates a proletariat, as that it creates a revolutionary proletariat. In political practice, therefore, they join in all coercive measures against the working class; and in ordinary life, despite their high falutin phrases, they stop to pick up the golden apples dropped from the tree of industry, and to barter truth, love and honour for traffic in wool, beetroot and potato spirits. [32]

‘Feudal Socialism’ describes perfectly the ideology and political strategy of the Prussian Junkers, [33] even though these lines were written some years before Bismarck began to borrow heavily from its repertoire in his Bonapartist manoeuvrings between the German Junkers, bourgeoisie and proletariat. Indeed, it is even accurate down to the Junker’s support for Bismarck’s anti-socialist laws! Feudal socialism also anticipated the ‘social clericalism’ of the Junker-based Conservatives, with their programme’s emphasis on ‘positive Christianity’ and a corporative economy:

As the parson has ever gone hand in hand with the landlord, so has clerical socialism with Feudal Socialism. Nothing is easier than to give Christian asceticism a Socialist tinge... Christian Socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat. [34]

The next variant, ‘Petit-Bourgeois Socialism’, though originating in the same historical period – that of the transition from feudal to capitalist economy – appeals to a different social stratum; not the industrial working class, but the middle class of town and country:

In countries where modern civilisation has become fully developed, a new class of petit-bourgeois has been formed, fluctuating between proletariat and bourgeoisie and ever renewing itself as a supplementary part of the bourgeois society. The individual members of this class, however, are being constantly hurled down into the proletariat by the action of competition, and, as modern industry develops, they even see the moment approaching when they will completely disappear as an independent section of modern society... this form of Socialism aspires either to restoring the old means of production and of exchange, and with them the old property relations, and the old society, or to cramping the modern means of production and of exchange, within the framework of the old property relations that have been, and were bound to be, exploded by those means. In either case, it is both reactionary and Utopian. Its last words are: corporate guilds for manufacture, patriarchal relations in agriculture. [35]

These were of course the precise demands of the petit-bourgeois-oriented Nazi ‘guild socialists’ under the leadership of Adrian von Renteln’s ‘Fighting Organisation of the Industrial Middle Class’, which after serving to penetrate and Nazify Germany’s guild organisations in the period prior to the seizure of power, was wound up as part of Hitler’s big-business-inspired campaign against the so-called ‘second revolution’.

Just as reactionary was ‘German’ or ‘True’ Socialism, which arose in Germany in the pre-1848 period as ‘philosophers, would-be-philosophers and beaux esprits’ attempted to graft the teachings of French socialism, directed against an already well-established ruling bourgeoisie, onto a political movement which had barely begun to challenge the rule of the Prussian landowning aristocracy. This eclecticism – an ever-present feature of reactionary politics in Germany – entirely emasculated the revolutionary content of French socialism, which when subsumed under the categories of German idealist philosophy, served instead as a weapon of feudal reaction against those among the bourgeoisie struggling for political and constitutional reforms. The ‘True Socialists’, who recognised not classes but an abstract ‘Human Nature’, were political opponents of the liberal German bourgeoisie, railing against its demands for freedom of the press, representative government, and all the other bourgeois democratic rights established by the French Revolution. It warned the people ‘that they had nothing to gain, and everything to lose, by this bourgeois movement’. [36] Superficially radical in its opposition to the demands of the bourgeoisie, ‘True Socialism’ served ‘the absolute governments, with their following of parsons, professors, country squires and officials... as a welcome scarecrow against the threatening bourgeoisie’. [37] Marx and Engels located the main social basis of this particular variety of ‘socialism’ in the backwardness of the German petit-bourgeoisie:

a relic of the sixteenth century, and since then constantly cropping up again under various forms... To preserve this class is to preserve the existing state of things in Germany. The industrial and political supremacy of the bourgeoisie threatens it with certain destruction; on the one hand, from the concentration of capital; on the other, from the rise of a revolutionary proletariat... It proclaimed the German nation to be the model nation, and the German petty Philistine to be the typical man. To every villainous meanness of this model man it gave a hidden, higher character. It went to the extreme length of directly opposing the ‘brutally destructive’ tendency of Communism, and of proclaiming its supreme and impartial contempt of all class struggles. [38]

It is a sobering thought that these lines, depicting as they do the salient features of a petit-bourgeois predisposed towards fascism, were penned more than 70 years before the foundation of the Hitlerite movement. And elsewhere in the Manifesto, Marx and Engels had accurately depicted the potentially reactionary role of this class, even before they witnessed it at first hand in the German Revolution of 1848:

The lower middle classes, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie, to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class [that is, the bourgeoisie]. They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history. If by chance they are revolutionary, they are so only in view of their impending transfer into the proletariat, they thus defend not their present, but their future interests, they desert their own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat. The ‘dangerous class’, the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of old society, may, here and there, be swept into the movement by proletarian revolution, its conditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue. [39]

Of course, we must not fall into the trap of equating the German petit-bourgeoisie of 1848, or even of half a century later, with that of Britain today. The last remnants of pre-capitalist classes – peasants, artisans and similar independent producers – were eliminated more than a century ago by the early development of English capitalism. The British petit-bourgeoisie, a stratum tapering off at each extremity into the proletariat and the medium and big bourgeoisie, is an exclusive creation of capitalism. It has neither a ‘pre-capitalist’ past nor, therefore, any ideological residues associated with such a history. This is of enormous importance for the future of British politics, as it will greatly influence the forms assumed by a genuine, mass-based fascist movement. Once again therefore we have occasion to emphasise the methodological principle with which we began this study of German fascism: the importance of grasping the unique, concrete refraction of the general and universal by and through the particular and the relative.

Such was the accuracy of their analysis of the petit-bourgeoisie in the Manifesto that Marx and Engels did not find it necessary to revise it in their subsequent writings on Germany. In his 1870 Preface to The Peasant War in Germany, Engels continued to characterise the German petit-bourgeoisie as politically unstable, as hoping ‘to climb, to swindle their way into the big bourgeoisie’ and afraid of ‘being plunged down into the proletariat. Between fear and hope, they will, during the struggle, save their precious skin, and join the victor when the struggle is over. Such is their nature.’ [40] And such, as the history of Stalinist Popular Frontism has proved, it remains.

Engels’ comments on the role of the ‘lumpen-proletariat’ are equally far-sighted, not only in view of its subsequent role as one of the main sources of recruitment for the Nazi Storm Troops (SA), but the repeated attempts by the Stalinist KPD leadership to ‘capture’ this hopelessly disoriented layer by engaging in unprincipled manoeuvres with allegedly ‘radical’ elements in the SA and NSBO: [41]

... this scum of the depraved elements of the big cities, is the worst of all possible allies. This rabble is absolutely venal... If the French workers, in every revolution, inscribed on the houses: Mort aux voleurs! Death to thieves! and even shot some, they did it, not out of enthusiasm for property, but because they rightly considered it necessary above all to keep that gang at a distance. Every leader of the workers who uses these scoundrels as guards or relies on them for support proves himself by this action alone a traitor to the movement. [42]

But we must return to our main theme, which is the nature and origin of Nazi ‘political economy’. How and why did its specious anti-capitalism become intertwined with a very real anti-Semitism? To answer this question, we must retrace our steps to the very dawn of the modern era.

Early Christian doctrine forbade its followers to engage in money-lending for gain. [43] So by a process of elimination and natural selection, the indispensable role in medieval Europe of usurer fell to the only sizeable non-Christian minority culturally and economically capable of fulfilling it – the Jews of the Diaspora. Rejected culturally, socially and religiously by the host nation, the Jews existed and functioned ‘like pores’ [44] in the fabric of pre-capitalist Europe. Because of their social role as providers of credit, the Jews inevitably became everywhere identified with all the nefarious moral qualities traditionally associated with money: greed, avarice, sharp practice and so on. These prejudices were compounded by the Jews’ being treated as outcasts on account of both their alien origin and their religion. In every possible way, they were ready-made targets and receptacles for economic, social and political grievances, as is all too evident from much literature of the period, ranging from Chaucer to Marlowe and Shakespeare. But the money-lending Jew, despite his economic importance, was not functioning as a capitalist: ‘In pre-capitalist stages of society commerce ruled industry. In modern society the reverse is true.’ [45] There was nothing productive about usury. While providing a service – at a price – it simply battened onto already existing relations, forces and levels of production. The most penetrating analysis of ‘vulgar’ [46] theories about the relationship between interest-bearing capital and productive capital – the fulcrum of Feder’s doctrine – is to be found in Volume 3 of Marx’s Capital, and in his little-used Theories of Surplus Value, where in Volume 3 he examines in minute detail the historical and economic basis of the spurious socialism which hurls its bolts against ‘loan capital’ while leaving intact industrial or ‘productive’ capital. Marx begins with Luther’s writings on usury, from which he quotes extensively. Like Feder (though of course in a completely different historical and political context) Luther depicts the moneylender as an enemy of all classes of society, as much capable of ruining a ‘rich prince’ as a ‘peasant or a burgher... a squire or a rich gentleman,... a rich count’ or ‘the great merchant’. [47] Marx saw in Luther’s colourfully-imaged tirades against usury an intuitive grasp of its origin and role. Usurer’s capital arises:

... through the ruination of the citizens (small townspeople and peasants) the gentry the nobility and the princes. On the one hand, the usurer [who, we should remember, was more often than not in this period – circa 1500 – a Jew – RB] comes into possession of the surplus labour and, in addition, the conditions of labour, of plebeians, peasants, members of craft guilds, in short, of small commodity producers who need money in order to make, for example, payments before they convert their commodities into money, and who have to buy certain of their conditions of labour. On the other hand, the usurer appropriates rent from the owners of rent, that is, from the prodigal, pleasure-seeking rich. [48]

Thus it is easy to see how every propertied class of German society, where this state of affairs prevailed for far longer than in any other major European nation, evolved its own particular brand of ‘anti-capitalism’ intertwined in many cases with varying degrees of hatred for the Jews.

The earliest recorded attacks on usury were not only anti-Semitic in flavour, but couched in mainly religious terms, a tradition which the Nazis exploited to the full. [49] Economic motives were however clearly paramount with Peter Schwarz, a German burgher, who wrote in 1477 that the persecution of Jews was thoroughly justified:

They do not suffer innocently, they suffer because of their wickedness, because they cheat people and ruin whole countries by their usury... That is why they are so persecuted... There is no people more wicked, more cunning, more avaricious, more independent, more troublesome, more venomous, more wrathful, more deceptive and more ignominious...

More typical of Christian anti-Semitism were the opinions of the scholar Johann Reuchlin, for whom the Jews ‘every day outraged, blasphemed and sullied God in the person of His son... They regard us Christians as stupid pagans’; and the theologian Geiler von Kaiserberg, who asked ‘are the Jews then better than the Christians that they should be unwilling to work with their hands? ... To practice usury is not to work but to flay others, while wallowing in idleness.’ (This worthy man of God knew full well that Jews were barred from membership of the guilds and denied the right to own land – the two main spheres of productive labour.) Since these attacks on the Jews were launched ostensibly on behalf of the ‘productive class’ – chiefly artisans and peasants – it is easy to see why and how anti-Semitism acquired a pseudo-radical character and populist idiom. In doing so, it provided the richer elements of the propertied class – the Princes, big landowners, merchants, guild masters and the like – with a convenient means of diverting the anger of the oppressed artisans and peasants away from their real exploiters towards a readily identifiable and ‘alien’ scapegoat – the Jew. Here too, churchmen were well to the fore. ‘The learned and the naive, the princes and the peasants’, wrote the theologian Johannes Trithan, ‘are filled with animosity against the usurious Jews, and I approve all legal measures taken to protect the people against such exploitation... are these people to grow fat with impunity on the labour of peasants and artisans?’ Luther proved in his later years to be no exception to this tradition. In fact his political degeneration underlines the well-established truth that at all times and in all places, the prevailing popular attitude towards the Jews is a most reliable political barometer. Prior to the defeat of the 1525 peasants’ uprising, Luther had been most stubborn in his defence of the Jews, pointing out to their detractors that it was the Church itself which compelled them to follow the trade of money-lending:

I advise being considerate to them. So long as we use violence and lies... so long as we keep them from living and working among us... and force them to practice usury, how can they come to us... we must welcome them in friendship, let them live and work with us, and they will be of one heart with us.

This is clearly not the Luther whom Hitler numbered, with Wagner and Frederick the Great, among those ‘great warriors’ whose ‘life and work are followed with admiring gratitude and emotion, and especially in days of gloom... have the power to raise up broken hearts and despairing souls’. [50] Hitler revered Luther the anti-Semite; the Luther who recoiled in horror from the plebeian revolt called forth by his own passionate invective against the tyranny of Rome and its clerical agents in Germany. [51] We find him in the period of post-1525 reaction moving over rapidly to a position of compromise with state authority, be it Protestant or Roman Catholic, and employing the most scurrilous slanders against those he had previously defended, the Jews. ‘If I find a Jew to baptise [Luther wrote in 1532], I shall lead him to the Elbe bridge, hang a stone around his neck, and push him into the water. These dogs mock us and our religion.’

Nine years later he wrote his most extended anti-Semitic tract, Against the Jews and Their Lies, in which he declared that the Jews:

... being foreigners, should possess nothing and what they do possess should be ours... they do not work, nonetheless they keep our money and our goods, and have become our masters in our own country... O adored Christ... you have no enemy more venomous, more desperate, more bitter, than a true Jew who truly seeks to be a Jew.

Luther’s proposals for countering the ‘Jewish conspiracy’ included not only his already quoted demand for ‘aryanisation’ of Jewish property, but the burning of synagogues, the banning of Jewish prayers, the confiscation of Jewish books, and their deportation from German soil. All were carried out some four centuries later by the Nazis. But even in Luther’s day, the support for his anti-Semitic diatribes was such that in Saxony, Brandenburg and Silesia, the ‘Jewish question’ was ‘solved’ by the wholesale expulsion of Jews from these largely Protestant regions of Germany.

From this time on, anti-Semitism, with its strong anti-usurious undertones, became not a prejudice amongst others, but an entire system of religious, political, social, cultural and economic illusions which penetrated into the very marrow of the bones of the German artisan and peasant classes. And because of his role as usurer, as a catalyst in the process of ruin of these classes, the Jew became identified in the petit-bourgeois consciousness with social change and the various philosophical and political ideas and institutions which facilitated the break-up of the guild and patriarchal order – democracy, liberalism, republicanism, rationalism, materialism, free trade, capitalism, socialism and revolution. All were tarred indiscriminately with the same ‘Jewish’ brush, heralding the day when Nazi demagogues could equate ‘Jewish’ Marxism with ‘Jewish’ international finance capital.

Both in England and France, triumphant bourgeois-democratic revolutions had repealed legislation discriminating against the Jews. But in Germany, the long period of reaction, national disunity and economic stagnation which set in after 1525 stoked up enormous popular frustrations which often found their only outlet in either overt or covert persecution of the Jews. This fact has a special significance for our study, because precisely in this period were evolved the economic conceptions Marx analysed in Capital which he described as a ‘religion of the vulgar’. [52] The superficial similarity between the economic theories of Luther and Feder are too obvious to require repeating. But their protagonists are separated by nearly four centuries of German and world history. Therefore while the forms of anti-usury in 1530 and 1920 have much in common, their content differs qualitatively. Luther’s attacks on usury – ‘Jewish’ or otherwise – were intended for the ears of pious peasants and artisans, feudal princes and the incipient German bourgeois, the burgher. His polemics were penned in a world witnessing the very dawn of modern capitalism, the rise of an economy whose motive force was not the production of use values, but exchange values for private profit, based upon the exploitation of free labour power. True, like the Nazi propagandists, Luther appealed to contradictory social strata and classes, to guild masters and their journeymen, to princes and their peasants; and, also like the Nazis, was well-versed in the art of exploiting wounded national sentiments. But there the analogy ends. The Nazis peddled their anti-Semitic poison and economic nonsense about ‘loan capital’ and the ‘thraldom of interest’ in the epoch of imperialist crisis, world wars and revolutions. Their political camouflage served other interests and classes than those of Princes and guild masters, budding burghers and turncoat clergy. Disguised at the heart of Nazi ‘political economy’ by all its anti-capitalist bluster, was a theory perfectly capable of adjustment to the strategic needs of German monopoly capitalism, and, in particular, its dominant, heavy industrial sector. How far the pioneers of the theory appreciated this fact when they first propagated it is hardly the most important question – though one thing is certain. Neither Feder, Hitler nor any other Nazi leader can in any sense be described as subjectively ‘honest’ socialists who went astray. [53] What we have to remember is that the Nazi leaders did not devise their economic programme from scratch. We should not mistake their undoubted quackery and prejudice-ridden notions for the fumblings of those striving, with scant intellectual or academic equipment, to establish an entirely new school of economic theory and practice. That may well have been how Feder and his supporters in the party saw their role, but the reality was very different. The founders of the Nazi movement, thoroughgoing eclectics that they were, could not but help plagiarise the work of previous generations of ‘anti-capitalist’ and ‘national’ economists who voiced the aspirations of an industrial bourgeoisie struggling to free itself from the parasitic embrace of more primitive forms of economy where usury dominated production, and not production usury.

This conflict against the ‘money power’ produced its own unique form of bourgeois ‘false consciousness’. The struggle between the productive capitalist and the money lender for the surplus value extracted by the former from human labour power was refracted in a highly distorted fashion in the thinking of the productive or industrial capitalist:

The form of revenue and the sources of revenue are the most fetishistic of the relations of capitalist production. It is their form of existence as it appears on the surface, divorced from the hidden connections and the intermediate connecting links... The distorted form in which the real inversion is expressed is naturally reproduced in the views of the agents of this mode of production... the vulgar economists... translate the concepts, motives, etc, of the representatives of the capitalist mode of production who are held in thrall to this system of production and in whose consciousness only its superficial appearance is reflected. They translate them into a doctrinaire language, but they do so from the standpoint of the ruling section, that is, the capitalists, and their treatment is therefore not naive and objective, but apologetic. [54]

This is Marx’s starting point for his analysis of apologists for industrial capitalism masquerading as socialists waging war on ‘loan capital’. The origin of this mode of consciousness lies at the very heart of the process of capitalist production, a cycle which begins and ends with ‘capital in its finished form’ – interest-bearing capital, which Marx termed ‘the perfect fetish’. [55] The ‘loan capitalist’ or in Nazi parlance the ‘usurer’ loans capital at a rate of interest to the productive capitalist, who then employs it to extract surplus value from the labour power of his workforce. A proportion of this surplus value – determined by the rate of interest agreed between the loaner and the borrower – does not however remain in the pocket of the productive capitalist, but returns to the loan capitalist in the form of interest. Objectively viewed, what takes place is a division of the spoils between two groups of capitalists, but the participants see matters differently. The productive capitalist’s opinions are highly coloured by the fact that he sees himself – and even his workers – as the creative factor in the process, and the loan capitalist as a pure parasite. The loan capitalist’s money seems to him to possess the mysterious quality of expanding its own value without any effort on the part of its owner, while the productive capitalist earns his profit, and the workers their wages, by mental and physical effort:

In the form of interest-bearing capital only this function [that of yielding a definite profit in a definite period of time – RB] remains, without the mediation of either production process or circulation process, memories of the past still remain in capital and profit although because of the divergence of profit from surplus value and the uniform profit yielded by all capitals – that is, the general rate of profit – capital becomes very much obscured, something dark and mysterious. [56]

The more we delve into this remarkably perceptive section, the more insights it provides into the origins and content of Nazi economic theory. Because the industrially-based segment of the capitalist class confronts interest-bearing capital as an opponent, it employs weapons derived from the past to characterise and fight it. Battle is waged in the name of ‘creative’ labour by ‘hand and brain’ – a favourite Nazi expression for the unity in production of worker and employer – against unproductive loan capital, which is even designated as capital itself. Capital in its most fetishistic, mystified form as ‘pure’ capital seemingly able to increase its value at will, is singled out by industrial capitalists as the enemy all ‘productive’ classes must combine against to defeat:

It is thus clear why superficial criticism – in exactly the same way as it wants to maintain commodities and combat money – now turns its wisdom and reforming zeal against interest-bearing capital without touching upon real capitalist production, but merely attacking one of its consequences. This polemic against interest-bearing capital, undertaken from the standpoint of capitalist production, a polemic which today parades as ‘socialism’, occurs... as a phase in the development of capital itself, for example, in the seventeenth century, when the industrial capitalist had to assert himself against the old-fashioned usurer who, at that time, still confronted him as a superior power. [57]

And in Germany, as we have seen, this struggle unfolded within the context of a virulent anti-Semitic tradition lending the ‘polemic’ an anti-Jewish as well as a ‘socialist’ character. And though this specious ‘socialism’ shaded over into the petit-bourgeois variety described in the Communist Manifesto, a ‘socialism’ which opposed not only loan capital but industrial capital as a threat to the existence of the small independent producers, [58] it was in its developed form a creation and servant of large-scale, industrial capitalism:

It is clear that any other kind of division of profit between various kinds of capitalists, that is, increasing the industrial profit by reducing the rate of interest and vice versa, does not affect the essence of capitalist production in any way. The kind of socialism which attacks interest-bearing capital as the ‘basic form’ [59] of capital not only remains completely within the bounds of the bourgeois horizon. Insofar as its polemic is not a misconceived attack and criticism prompted by a vague notion and directed against capital itself, though identifying it with one of its derived forms [that is, petit-bourgeois socialism – RB] it is nothing but a drive, disguised as socialism, for the development of bourgeois credit and consequently only expresses the low level of development of the existing conditions in a country where such a polemic can masquerade as socialist and is itself only a theoretical symptom of capitalist development... [60]

Marx also discusses another aspect of this branch of ‘vulgar’ political economy which later became a feature of the Nazi and especially the Italian fascist programme – the tendency to stress the community of interest (in reality of course fictitious) between workers and employers vis-à-vis the ‘loan capitalist’, the former being grouped under the rubric ‘producers’. How this unreal alignment comes about is explained by Marx in the following way:

Whereas... interest and interest-bearing capital merely express the contradiction of materialised wealth as against labour, and thereby its existence as capital, this position is turned upside down in the consciousness of men because, prima facie, the moneyed capitalist does not appear to have any relations with the wage worker, but only with other capitalists, while these other (productive) capitalists, instead of appearing to be opposition to the wage workers, appear rather as workers, in opposition to themselves or to other capitalists considered as mere owners of capital, representing the mere existence of capital... Industrial profit, in contradistinction to interest, represents capital in the production process in contradistinction to capital outside the process, capital as a process in contradistinction to capital as property; it therefore represents the capitalist as functioning capitalist, as representative of working capital as opposed to the capitalist as mere personification of capital, as mere owner of capital. He thus appears as working capitalist in contrast to himself as capitalist, and further, as worker in contrast to himself as mere owner. Consequently, in so far as any relation between surplus value and the process is still preserved... this is done precisely in the form in which the very notion of surplus value is negated. Industrial profit is resolved into labour, not into unpaid labour of other people but into wage labour, into wages for the capitalist who in this case is placed into the same category as the wage worker and is merely a more highly paid worker, just as in general wages vary greatly. [61]

In Volume 3 of Capital (namely Part 5, ‘Division of Profit into Interest and Profit of Enterprise’) these observations are systematised into a lengthy analysis of the various misconceptions and false ideologies which arise under capitalism as a result of the inherently contradictory nature of its mode of production, especially the role played by money as the abstraction of value created by human labour-power; a role which in its turn further mystifies by obscuring the origin of profit. The productive capitalist:

... creates surplus value not because he works as capitalist but because he also works, regardless of his capacity of capitalist. This portion of surplus value [the portion falling to the productive capitalist after the loan capitalist has taken his cut – RB] is thus no longer surplus value, but its opposite, an equivalent for labour performed. Due to the alienated character of capital, its antithesis to labour, being relegated to a place outside the actual process of exploitation, namely to the interest-bearing capital, this process of exploitation itself appears as a simple labour process in which the functioning capitalist merely performs a different kind of labour than the labourer. [62]

The result in the realm of consciousness is a conception of production which German and Italian [63] fascism deliberately employed both in their propaganda and economic and social institutions (that is, Labour Front, Labour Service, ‘Works Community’, etc) to dupe the less politically aware sections of the working population that exploitation, profiteering and the class divisions that accompanied them had been overcome. Under the rule of National Socialism, all were ‘workers of hand and brain’, just as in the Italian ‘corporate state’, all were ‘producers’: ‘... the labour of exploiting and the exploited labour both appear as identical as labour. The labour of exploiting is just as much labour as exploited labour.’ [64]

If indeed all were workers – and Nazi propaganda vehemently and incessantly asserted that they were – then there was no need for class organisations, whether they be economic, political or even cultural and sporting. A theory evolved by apologists for capitalism in the period of its ascendency now served, in the period of its crisis, to justify the most ruthless repressions against the workers’ movement. But of course, since the Third Reich claimed to be socialist, and its ruling party a ‘workers’ party, the destruction of the trade unions and the workers’ parties had to be presented as a measure carried out in the interests of the workers, and accompanied by what was purportedly an equally firm treatment of the employers’ organisations: [65]

One of the first necessities with which the Hitler government found itself faced was that of dissolving the organisations that kept alive the antagonism between employers and employees. They were replaced by the German Labour Front – a body comprising employers as well as employees. At the same time, preparations were made for the creation of an entirely new system of social order based on the following principles: the solidarity of all persons working for their living; the idea of leadership; the recognition of the factory, etc, as a bond of union, and the ethical conceptions of honour and loyalty. All this preliminary work crystallised in the passing of the Act governing the regulation of national labour, 20 January 1934... [its object] is clearly set forth in Article 1 of the Act, according to which employers and employees are required ‘to collaborate with one another to promote the objects for which the undertaking has been founded and for the common benefit of the people and the state’. The same principle of solidarity is given expression in Article 2, where it says that the employer – described as the ‘leader’ of the undertaking, is required to uphold the welfare of employees, whilst the latter are asked [sic!] to show that spirit of loyalty towards the employer which is founded upon the basis of their joint interest in the undertaking. [66]

This was how Robert Ley characterised the ethos allegedly underlining the activities of his own ‘Labour Front’. A similar corporatist theme underlay the propaganda of the allied ‘State Labour Service’:

... all civilised countries since the coming of the machine age have greatly suffered from the erection of certain social barriers... populations have been divided into two great classes, bourgeoisie and proletariat. The bourgeoisie adopted, for the most part, a Liberal Capitalism which amounted to a recognition of the principle that ‘those who have may do as they please’ to which the proletariat replied by asserting that ‘possession is theft'... both these ideas will finally lead to anarchy and Bolshevism. [67] Germany, because of her historical development and, above all, because of her rapid transition from an agricultural to an industrial country, suffered from class quarrels in their extremist form... When the Führer attained power, he was faced with the fact that the German people were divided into two sections neither of whom... could understand the other. Indeed, they were even prepared to fight one another to the death. The Führer and his movement succeeded in achieving the impossible by putting an end to class hatred... he instructed the Labour Service to be an instrument by which the lack of vision of the bourgeoisie and the class hatred of the proletariat should be counteracted, and a true community of all Germans should be created. [68]

This is the essence of corporatist ideology. It maintains an utterly spurious community of interest between the worker and his employer. But in one sense there is no deception. The creation of such a ‘factory’, ‘works’, ‘people’s’ community is stated quite bluntly to follow the complete destruction of all working-class organisations. While their former members are ‘coordinated’, to use the Nazi term, within the new state and economic structure, the trade unions are by definition excluded from any role or place in the fascist corporate state. And this applies with just as much force to trade unions dominated by a reformist as by a centrist or even revolutionary leadership. The Social Democratic ADGB suffered exactly the same fate as the KPD-led trade union organisation, the RGO. There was no question of their being allowed to perform, in however humble or craven a posture, the role of bureaucratic policemen on behalf of the Nazis, even though a section of the ADGB leadership pleaded with Hitler in the first weeks of his rule to be permitted to carry out this task under the Third Reich. This gives the lie not only to the ultra-left claim, peddled by the Stalinists between 1928 and 1934, that Social Democracy is a variety of fascism, but that bona fide workers’ organisations, however craven and class collaborationist their leadership, can somehow survive the introduction of corporatism, and even become part of its repressive machinery. Involved in this false presentation of fascism is the notion, based on superficial impressions of corporative ideology and organisation, that the corporate or fascist system rests upon the ‘tying’ of trade unions to the capitalist state, and that rather than marking the end of all forms of class collaboration as practised by the leaders of Social Democracy and reformist trade unionism, is indeed a continuation of this collaboration in new guises. (Hence the tendency to equate ‘collaborationist’ with ‘corporatist’ rather than to point out the all-important difference between them, namely that the former presupposes independent workers’ organisations, the latter, their annihilation.) This confusion has even spread to organisations which claim to base themselves on Trotskyist principles. Thus the Workers Press,Daily Organ of the Central Committee of the Socialist Labour League’ [69] has repeatedly attempted to draw direct parallels between the Tory government’s incomes policy and what the Workers Press usually terms corporatism. One instance of this suggests how little the SLL leadership appears to have learned either from the history of fascism or Trotsky’s many writings on the subject, even though in 1970 they published a sizable selection of them! [70]

An article taking Transport Workers’ leader Jack Jones to task for solidarising himself with the struggle of Spanish workers against fascism while neglecting the fight against the danger of a similar regime in Britain makes the following false comparison between the two countries:

He [Jones] is now a leading trade union figure in the joint talks with the Tory government who want to make the corporate state legislation embodied in Phases One and Two of the pay laws a permanent feature of capitalist society. The cardinal feature of Franco’s fascism is corporatism – a structure of dictatorship which ties unions to the state and prevents them from making independent decisions. [71]

One can only be amazed that this article appears in a journal which should be serving to equip theoretically the working class for struggle against any future fascist danger. Firstly, state control of wages is only one of the features of corporatism. It also involves – as the examples of Italy (the home of corporatism), Germany and Spain have long since proved – the total destruction of trade unionism. Because the Tories now begin to employ some of the weapons in the armoury of fascism, this does not make their government ‘corporatist’. If we take state control of wages as the sole or decisive criterion of fascism, then many other capitalist countries can also be included under this heading; that is, the United States and West Germany. This false line of reasoning based upon a highly impressionistic, empirical method, recalls the KPD line between 1930 and 1932, which held that the semi-Bonapartist regime of Brüning, and the fully Bonapartist ones of von Papen and Schleicher, were varieties of fascism, as indeed was the preceding government headed by the Social Democrat Müller. Here too, government control – and cutting – of wages, on this occasion by Presidential decree, was presented as a fully-blown fascist measure. When they did come to power, the Nazis upheld the Brüning and Papen cuts, even extending them, but they did a lot more besides. For to make these cuts effective and safe from the threat of upwards pressure by the working class, the worker’s means of fighting – the trade union – had to be torn from his hands. This was the essential distinction between the Hitler regime and the series of Bonapartist governments which both preceded and helped clear the road for it. And it is a distinction which the Workers Press has repeatedly overlooked. Equally disturbing is the description of Franco fascism as a system which ‘ties the unions to the state and prevents them from making independent decisions’. Is it the position of the SLL that the fascist ‘syndicates’ in Spain are genuine trade unions, or even ‘unions’ that have become emasculated by Franco’s corporatist legislation? Surely not, for in that case, what precisely are the illegal ‘workers’ commissions’, which daily defy Franco’s police terror in their fight to organise and defend the Spanish working class?

While on the one hand, certain TUC leaders are depicted in the Workers Press as either conniving at, supporting or even operating an already-existing or emerging corporate system in Britain, the utterly bogus ‘unions’, the fascist-dominated vertical syndicates in Spain are not only confused with genuine workers’ organisations, but presented as ‘unions’ restrained from fulfilling the function of representing their members by the actions of a hostile government! For one only speaks of ‘tying to the state’ and ‘prevention from making independent decisions’ when and where there exists resistance to such government control. Again, is it the considered opinion of the SLL Central Committee that Franco’s fascist syndicates (the bodies the Workers Press insists on calling ‘unions’) are resisting state control of their functions, when these functions are precisely to chain the Spanish workers to their employers and the state? [72] How alien this idea is to Trotsky’s analysis of fascism is clear from his voluminous writings on the subject, from which we need quote only a few lines to prove the point:

According to Stalin they [Fascism and Social Democracy] are ‘twins’, not antipodes. Let us assume that the Social Democracy would, without fearing its own workers, want to sell its toleration to Hitler. But Hitler does not need this commodity: he needs not the toleration but the abolition of the Social Democracy. The Hitler government can only accomplish its task by breaking the resistance of the proletariat and by removing all the possible organs of resistance. Therein lies the historical role of fascism... fascism in no way threatens the bourgeois regime, for the defence of which the Social Democracy exists. But fascism endangers that role which the Social Democracy fulfils in the bourgeois regime and the income which the Social Democracy derives from playing this role. Even though the Stalinists forget this side of the matter, the Social Democracy does not for one moment lose sight of the mortal danger with which a victory of fascism threatens it – not the bourgeoisie, but it – the Social Democracy... If the Social Democratic leaders do not want to abandon compacts with the bourgeoisie, the fascist bourgeoisie does, however, abandon compacts with the Social Democracy... In the passage of power from Papen to Hitler [this article – The Only Road – was written on 14 September 1932 – RB] the bourgeoisie will in no way be able to spare the Social Democracy. [73]

Elsewhere in the same article, Trotsky refers quite unambiguously to the ‘incompatibility of Social Democracy and fascism’, [74] which of course in no way implies that its leaders were, are or ever will be capable of leading the working class in a successful fight against fascism. So it is self-evident that when the SLL seeks – as it has done – to present not only the trade union leadership but that of the Labour and Communist Parties as ‘supporters of corporatism’, [75] it is substituting radical phraseology for sober Marxist analysis and policies.

The extent and possible causes of the SLL’s departure from Trotskyism in this field are the subject of an appendix at the end of this work. It has been raised at some length here in order to stress the enormous importance of a Marxist-based methodological and historical approach to what we have termed the ‘political economy’ of fascism. Without the theoretical understanding that such an approach helps provide, there can be no successful fight against fascism, either in Britain or anywhere else.

Appendix: A Note on the ‘Jewish Question’ in Modern Germany

This chapter cannot be complete without at least a brief comment on the changed structure of Jewry in modern Germany. Continued social, economic and political discrimination against the Jews during the rise of capitalism in Germany led to their more well-to-do elements who had previously been engaged in usury being excluded from a prominent role in those sectors of the economy which were expanding most rapidly and were proving themselves the most lucrative. All the advantages which their role as suppliers of credit had secured richer Jews in the pre- capitalist and early capitalist epochs now turned into almost insurmountable obstacles. ‘Gentile'-owned industrial concerns and finance houses steadily displaced the old Jewish banking families as the ‘powers behind the throne’ not only in Germany, but throughout Europe. (Church teaching on the iniquities of money-lending and profiteering began to make the necessary adjustments.) The rise of large-scale, and then monopoly capitalism therefore revolutionised both the internal social structure of Jewry and its relations to society as a whole. According to the Belgian Trotskyist authority on the history of Jewry, Abram Leon, ‘at least 90 per cent of the Jews were agents and merchants at the beginning of the capitalist era’. [76] He showed that of an estimated 15 800 000 Jews throughout the world, 36.4 per cent were engaged in industry, as compared with 38.6 per cent in trade, which included transportation and amusements as well as banking. There was a similar shift in the class, as distinct from occupational, structure of Jewry. Before the rise of industrial capitalism, the Jews taken as a group were among the richest communities in Europe, due to their role as holders and lenders of the means of exchange. The breakup of pre-capitalist economic relations – itself accelerated by usury – and the rise of monopoly capitalism expropriated and impoverished millions of Jews, thrusting them like their ‘gentile’ counterparts into the ranks of the modern industrial proletariat. By the first decade of the twentieth century, 62 per cent of Jews in Germany were either workers or employees, while the proportions for England, the USA and France were 77, 75 and 48 per cent respectively. While it is clear from these figures that the tendency for the Jews to become proletarianised was directly related to the degree of industrialisation and urbanisation in the countries concerned, the past history of the Jews as a highly cultured and persecuted people greatly influenced both the extent and nature of this process. Inclined toward radicalism by centuries of official and unofficial repressions, even many wealthy Jews looked towards the workers’ movement (and before its emergence, radical liberalism and republicanism) as the only force which could cleanse society of racial and religious prejudice. The high proportion of leaders of Jewish origin in the German and international workers’ and revolutionary movement was a natural and inevitable consequence of the persecution of Jewry by feudal and capitalist society. Those sections of Jewry unable to keep a foothold in their traditional spheres of banking and commerce tended to gravitate towards the so-called ‘free professions’, though even here barriers were erected against their advancement and publishing, where Jews achieved prominence in the bourgeois-democratic German press. Nazi propaganda eagerly seized on these linked phenomena – the ‘over-representation’ of Jews in the labour movement and the publishing world – as proof of a Jewish takeover of German business and political life. In fact both were due precisely to the centuries-old German tradition of anti-Semitism, of which the Nazis were the most systematic and hideous exponents.

A Jewish rebuttal of these charges, published in 1932 by the ‘Association to Counter Anti-Semitism’, naturally did nothing to abate Nazi attacks on Jews, but at the same time it provided revealing information on who really owned the German economy, and therefore, by implication, who really stood to gain from inflaming hatred against the Jews as the personification of ‘Jewish world finance’:

Today, capital formation takes place in large industry. Its largest enterprises are almost entirely dominated by non-Jewish interests: Krupp, Vereinigte Stahlwerke, Kloeckner, Stinnes, Siemens, Stumm, Hugenberg, Hapag, Nordlloyd. International connections are concentrated most heavily in those industries in which Jews are without influence or altogether unrepresented: the German-French iron cartel, wooden matches trust, oil trust, potash industry, and shipping conventions are all ‘clean of Jews’ and so are the international chemical cartel, nylon production and all the other raw material and key industries in which Jews have no influence either as owners or directors... The 10 largest conglomerations of wealth are in the following hands: Ex-Emperor Wilhelm II, Count Albert von Thurn und Taxis, Mrs Bertha Krupp von bohlen und Halbach, Fritz Thyssen, Otto Wolff, Johann Count zu Hohenlohe-Oehringen, Count Maximilian Egon zu Fuestenberg, Count Guidetto Henckel von Donnersmarck, Count Heinrich Von Pless, Prince Frederick of Prussia...

Aryans all! There was just as little substance to the Nazi claim that Weimar was a ‘Jewish republic’:

... the 10 postwar cabinets consisted of 237 ministers of whom three – Preuss and twice Rathenau – were Jews and four – Landsberg, Gradnauer and twice Hilferding – of Jewish descent... In the German provinces the situation is not different: none of the provincial cabinets contains a Jew. The administration is not full of Jews either... in Prussia, among the 12 chief Presidents, 35 government presidents and 400 provincial counsellors, there is not a single Jew. [77]

Nazi anti-Semitism permitted millions of German petit-bourgeois to brandish their fists at ‘finance capitalism’ only in the form of a Jew. As Trotsky pointed out:

The Nazis abstract the usurious or banking capital from the modern economic system because it is the spirit of evil; and, as is well known, it is precisely in this sphere that the Jewish bourgeoisie occupies an important position. Bowing down before capitalism as a whole, the petit-bourgeoisie declares war against the evil spirit of gain in the guise of the Polish Jew in a long-skirted kaftan and usually without a cent in his pocket. The pogrom becomes the supreme evidence of racial superiority. [78]

And we might add, of the German petit-bourgeoisie’s economic impotence.


1. ‘... the state has nothing at all to do with any definite economic conception or development. It is not a collection of economic contracting parties in a definite delimited living space for the fulfilment of economic tasks, but the organisation of a community of physically and psychologically similar living beings for the better facilitation of the maintenance of the species and the achievement of the aim which has been allotted to this species by providence. This and nothing else is the aim and meaning of a state. Economics is only one of the many instruments required for the achievement of this aim... Belief in the state-forming and state-preserving power of economics seems especially incomprehensible when it obtains in a country which in all things clearly and penetratingly shows the historic reverse. Prussia... demonstrates with marvellous sharpness that not material qualities but ideal virtues alone make possible the formation of a state...’ (A Hitler, Mein Kampf (London, 1943), pp 150-52)

2. K Marx and F Engels, The German Ideology (1845-47) (Moscow, 1964), p 38.

3. K Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859) (London, 1971), p 21.

4. We shall deal elsewhere with the real Nazi programme as it was unfolded to the leaders of the German economy in a series of meetings between 1926 and 1933. Sufficient to say here that the public face and private dealings of the Nazi leaders were frequently in diametric opposition to each other!

5. G Feder, Hitler’s Official Programme (English Edition, 1934), pp 44-45.

6. Feder, Hitler’s Official Programme, pp 48-49.

7. Feder, Hitler’s Official Programme, p 52.

8. Feder, Hitler’s Official Programme, pp 58-59.

9. Presumably as distinct from family enterprises of the Krupp – Stumm – Thyssen type.

10. Feder, Hitler’s Official Programme, p 68.

11. Feder, Hitler’s Official Programme, pp 84-85.

12. Feder, Hitler’s Official Programme, pp 86-87.

13. Feder, Hitler’s Official Programme, pp 100-01.

14. Once again, we make the exception of his private addresses to industrialists, where anti-capitalist demagogy vanishes entirely.

15. Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp 209-10.

16. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 213.

17. ‘It is of course out of the question to run mines, blast furnaces, rolling mills, or shipyards on a small scale, but 100 000 free and independent master-shoemakers are better than five monster shoe factories.’ (Feder, Hitler’s Official Programme, p 90) Under Nazi rule, Feder’s beloved guilds were subjected to ruthless periodic ‘comb-outs’ to provide labour for the rapidly expanding armaments industry. By this time, Feder had been pensioned off.

18. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 234.

19. O Spengler, The Decline of the West (1918), Volume 1 (London, 1959), p 138.

20. O Spengler, The Decline of the West, Volume 2 (London, 1959), p 506.

21. Spengler, The Decline of the West, Volume 2, p 138.

22. Spengler, The Decline of the West, Volume 2, p 507.

23. Spengler, The Decline of the West, Volume 2, p 506.

24. Spengler, The Decline of the West, Volume 2, p 493.

25. Spengler, The Decline of the West, Volume 2, p 492.

26. Spengler, The Decline of the West, Volume 2, p 474.

27. Spengler, The Decline of the West, Volume 2, p 476.

28. Spengler, The Decline of the West, Volume 2, pp 464-65.

29. Spengler, The Decline of the West, Volume 2, p 507.

30. Though he did vote for Hitler in the Presidential elections of 1932.

31. See the writings of the ‘revolutionary conservative’ Möller van der Bruck, who, while attacking rentiers and money-lenders as parasites, lauded the industrialists as ‘creators of values’. He called for a ‘German socialism’, based on ‘the ideas which have issued from the oldest tradition allied to the most frequent conception of the aim to be attained’. It was a ‘socialism’ of ‘organic growth... hierarchy, membership. Marxism alone professes an international socialism.’ Also the anti-Semitic economist Werner Sombart, whose German Socialism (1934) called for the unification, not abolition, of classes. Germany had to be freed from the ‘disgusting faith in progress which dominates proletarian socialism’.

32. K Marx and F Engels, ‘Manifesto of the Communist Party’, Selected Works, Volume 1 (Moscow, 1962), pp 55-56.

33. The most sophisticated exponent of German ‘state socialism’ was the Pomeranian landowner, Johann-Karl Rodbertus. Engels likened him to the French utopian, petit-bourgeois socialist Proudhon in that he sought to ameliorate the evils engendered by large-scale capitalist production without abolishing their economic foundation – private ownership of the means of production. He devised a scheme whereby workers would be paid wages, not in money, but ‘labour certificates’, which would be presented to the worker by the employer on the former’s completion of a 12-hour working day. These certificates would then entitle him to purchase products equivalent to the value of only four hours’ labour. The surplus would then be divided between capitalists and landowners. This system differed from that of Proudhon, who in true petit-bourgeois fashion envisaged the free exchange of equal values between independent small producers. Thus he hoped to abolish the ‘bad’ sides of capitalism – degradation of the worker by the machine, exploitation, crises, etc, while retaining its ‘good’ aspects – private property, competition, etc. Which led Marx to comment on Proudhon and his ilk: ‘They all want competition without the lethal effects of competition. They all want the impossible, namely, the conditions of bourgeois existence without the necessary consequences of those conditions... From head to foot M Proudhon is the philosopher of the petit-bourgeoisie. In an advanced [capitalist] society the petit-bourgeois is necessarily from his very position a socialist on the one side and an economist on the other; that is to say, he is dazed by the magnificence of the big bourgeoisie and has sympathy for the sufferings of the people. He is at once both bourgeois and man of the people...’ (K Marx, Letter to PV Annenkov, Brussels, 28 December 1846, The Poverty of Philosophy (Moscow, nd), pp 190-93) Marx and Engels regarded these two branches of non-proletarian ‘socialism’ as especially dangerous for the future of the workers’ movement in France and Germany in that they appealed to bourgeois intellectuals inclined towards socialism but reluctant to accept the full implications of the Marxist theory of class struggle. In Germany, followers of Rodbertus (who was himself a monarchist) wrote occasional articles for the SPD press, and were even permitted to become active party members! This enraged Engels and Marx, since this group had joined the SPD with the expressed purpose of weaning the movement away from internationalism and proletarian-based socialism. Marx also devoted considerable sections of Capital to a rigorous critical analysis of Rodbertus’ theories on rent and surplus value, which, Marx considered, reflected the viewpoint of a capital-starved ‘Pomeranian landowner who gets money on tick in order to improve his property and who, for theoretical and practical reasons, only wants to pay the money-lender the “customary interest"’ (K Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Volume 2 (Moscow, 1968), p 158). Rodbertus attempted to counter Marx’s critique of capitalist production by claiming that it applied only to ‘the present form of capital’, but not to the ‘pure conception of capital’, which like Proudhon’s society of independent propertied producers, was free from the blemishes of capitalism as it had evolved in history. This quest for a ‘good’ or ‘pure’ capitalism lay at the back of the German petit-bourgeois predilection for quack remedies to economic problems, and certainly heightened its susceptibility to Nazi ‘anti-capitalist’ propaganda.

34. Marx and Engels, ‘Manifesto of the Communist Party’, Selected Works, Volume 1, p 56.

35. Marx and Engels, ‘Manifesto of the Communist Party’, Selected Works, Volume 1, pp 56-57.

36. Marx and Engels, ‘Manifesto of the Communist Party’, Selected Works, Volume 1, p 59.

37. Marx and Engels, ‘Manifesto of the Communist Party’, Selected Works, Volume 1, p 59.

38. Marx and Engels, ‘Manifesto of the Communist Party’, Selected Works, Volume 1, pp 59-60.

39. Marx and Engels, ‘Manifesto of the Communist Party’, Selected Works, Volume 1, p 44, emphasis added.

40. F Engels, ‘Preface’, The Peasant War in Germany (Moscow, 1956), p 22. See the remarks made by Engels in The Peasant Question in France and Germany on the rural counterparts of the artisan and small trader: ‘This small peasant, just like the small handicraftsman, is... a toiler who differs from the modern proletarian in that he possesses his instruments of labour; hence a survival of a past mode of production.’ And also like the artisan, the rise of large-scale capitalist production cuts the economic ground from under the small peasant’s feet: ‘Taxes, crop failures, divisions of inheritance, and litigations drive one peasant after another into the arms of the usurer... in brief, our small peasant, like every other survival of a past mode of production, is hopelessly doomed. He is a future proletarian. As such he ought to lend a ready ear to socialist propaganda. But he is prevented from doing so for the time being by his deep-rooted sense of property. The more difficult it is for him to defend his endangered patch of land the more desperately he clings to it, the more he regards the Social Democrats, who speak of transferring landed property to the whole of society, as just as dangerous a foe as the usurer and lawyer...’ (F Engels, ‘The Peasant Question in France and Germany’, Selected Works, Volume 2 (Moscow, 1962, pp 422-23) Engels was obviously no stranger to the canard that Marxism and ‘loan capital’ were united in their desire to strangle the independent producers of town and country. This article recommends a series of programmatic demands which could serve as a means of countering such propaganda by uniting the proletariat and small peasantry against the big urban and rural exploiters: ‘... we foresee the inevitable doom of the small peasant... it is not our mission to hasten it by any interference on our part, [and] it is just as evident that when we are in possession of state power we shall not even think of forcibly expropriating the small peasants... as we shall have to in the case of the big landowners [in vivid contrast with Stalin’s policy of enforced collectivisation between 1929 and 1933 – RB]. Our task relative to the small peasant consists, in the first place, in effecting a transition of his private enterprise and private possessions to cooperative ones, not forcibly but by dint of example and the proffer of social assistance for this purpose. And then of course we shall have ample means of showing to the small peasant prospective advantages that must be obvious to him even today.’ (p 433) Also of interest are Engels’ observations on the anti-Semitism rife among wide sections of the German peasantry: ‘... it is not in our interests to win the peasant overnight only to lose him again on the morrow. We have no more use for the peasant as a party member if he expects us to perpetuate his property in his small holding than for the small handicraftsman who would fain be perpetuated as a master. These people belong to the anti-Semites. Let them go to them and let them promise to salvage their small enterprises. Once they learn there what these glittering phrases really amount to and what melodies are fiddled down from the anti-Semitic heavens they will realise in ever increasing measure that we who promise less and look for salvation in entirely different quarters are after all more reliable people.’ (p 433)

41. The Nazi party’s ‘fifth column’ inside the trade unions and factories.

42. Engels, ‘Preface’, The Peasant War in Germany, p 23.

43. Nicholas Oresme, Bishop of Lisieux, wrote in 1377 that: ‘... there are three ways... in which one may make profit from money, apart from its natural use. The first of these is the art of exchange... the second is usury, and the third is the altering of money. The first is base, the second is bad, and the third is even worse.’

44. K Marx, Capital, Volume 3 (Moscow, 1962), p 325.

45. Marx, Capital, Volume 3, p 325.

46. Marx’s term for schools of political economy which begin from superficial impressions of the features of capitalist production, and treat them as fixed, permanent ahistorical categories.

47. Cited in K Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Volume 3 (London, 1972), p 529.

48. Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Volume 3, p 529.

49. ‘I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.’ (Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 65)

50. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 243.

51. Once the peasants advanced the struggle from a revolt against Roman rule to one against German princes and burghers, and under the leadership of the utopian communist Thomas Münzer, even to challenge the rights of private property, Luther’s fury knew no bounds. He called upon the princes and burghers to ‘stab, knock and strangle them... just as one must kill a mad dog... The peasants must have nothing but chaff. They do not harken to the Word, and are foolish, so they must harken to the rod and the gun, and that serves them right.’ (T Luther, Against the Murderous and Plundering Peasant Hordes, 1525)

52. Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Volume 3, p 453.

53. One advocate of this theory – Peter Sedgwick of the International Socialists – is answered in the appendices at the end of this work.

54. Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Volume 3, p 543.

55. Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Volume 3, p 543.

56. Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Volume 3, p 454.

57. Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Volume 3, pp 454-55.

58. As was the case with Proudhon.

59. See the definitions of capital made by Feder and Hitler quoted above.

60. Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Volume 3, pp 467-68, emphasis added.

61. Marx, Theories of Surplus Value, Volume 3, pp 477-90.

62. Marx, Capital, Volume 3, p 375.

63. Thus the attempt to present Italy as an exploited ‘proletarian’ nation waging a national ‘class’ war against the ‘plutocratic’ nations.

64. Marx, Capital, Volume 3, p 375.

65. This of course was far from being the case. While the Nazis outlawed the trade unions and either murdered or jailed their leaders, the disbanded employers’ organisations soon reappeared – often with the same leadership – under new names. For a fuller discussion of this feature of Nazi ‘anti-capitalism’, see the chapter ‘Capital and Labour in the Third Reich’.

66. R Ley, ‘Social Policy in the New Germany’, Germany Speaks (1938 edition), pp 159-61.

67. Once again, the claim that free trade, liberal capitalism and proletarian socialism are in collusion.

68. Senior Labour Leader Müller-Brandenburg, ‘The State Labour Service In Germany’, Germany Speaks, p 190.

69. At the time of writing, the SLL was in the process of transforming itself into a revolutionary party.

70. LD Trotsky, Germany 1931-32 (London, 1970).

71. ‘What About the Corporatist Threat Here Mr Jones?’, Workers Press, 14 August 1973, p 11, emphasis added.

72. As any militant Spanish worker or refugee from the civil war will tell the editor of Workers Press, Franco’s so-called ‘unions’ were founded on the corpse of independent trade unionism in Spain. In every region occupied by Franco’s fascist armies, the leaders of the workers’ organisations were almost without exception shot on the spot, and their members herded at gun-point into the ‘syndicates’, headed by leaders of the Falange, the Spanish fascist party. How little these syndicates had in common with genuine trade unionism, even of the ‘collaborationist’ or ‘corporatist’ variety practised by Jones, Feather and company, can easily be appreciated from the following statement on the aims of the ‘vertical syndicates’ made by the Falange General Secretary Raimundo Fernandez Cuesta, upon the occasion of their official formation in the spring of 1938. He is at pains to point out that the Spanish version of ‘national syndicalism’ had even less to do with recognising the claims of the proletariat than Italian ‘corporatism’: ‘In those countries which the governors have encountered, on coming to power, as in Italy, a class syndicalism that they could not dismantle [this is of course, false, Mussolini exploited only the forms of syndicalist organisation in building his corporate system – RB], they have seen themselves forced, as a lesser evil, to convert it into a state syndicalism and afterwards to create super-syndical organs of interconnection and self-discipline in defence of the totalitarian interest in production. Those organs are Corporations. The Corporation then, had a forced basis in class syndicalism. The Vertical Syndicate, on the other hand, is both the point of departure and of arrival. It does not suppose the previous existence of other syndicates. Broad horizontal [that is, class – RB] structures do not interfere with it. It is not an organ of the state, but an instrument at the service of its utilitarian economic policy.’ [Emphasis added] So not even the founders of Franco’s ‘unions’ (to use the term employed by the Workers Press) attempted to depict them, for demagogic reasons, as in any way being class organisations. In fact, as the above quotation proves, they strenuously – and quite justifiably – denied it. This notion is all the more disturbing in that the ultra-opportunist Spanish Stalinist movement under the leadership of Santiago Carrillo has for some time now engaged in the treacherous policy of encouraging workers to ‘reform’ the fascist vertical syndicates and thus abandon the fight to create their own illegal organs of struggle. If this line is to be applied consistently, then one might have, under the Nazis, worked for similar ‘reform’ of the Labour Front. Indeed, taking the argument of Workers Press to its logical conclusion, since the TUC is ‘corporatist’ – or at any rate several of its leading members – then Robert Ley could be cast in the role of a German Vic Feather or Jack Jones. Either this, or Workers Press corrects its false analysis of Spanish fascism.

73. LD Trotsky, ‘The Only Road’ (14 September 1932), The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany (New York, 1971), pp 278-93.

74. Trotsky, ‘The Only Road’, The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, p 288.

75. See ‘Corporatism Accepted’, Workers Press, 11 June 1973, p 2, and billed subject of a meeting of the Woolwich branch of the SLL-led ‘All Trade Unions Alliance’: ‘TUC and Stalinists – Supporters of Corporatism’, Workers Press, 12 June 1973, p 11.

76. A Leon, The Jewish Question (Mexico, DF, 1950), p 180. A leader of the Belgian resistance, Leon was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943 and, after repeated torturing, died in the Dora concentration camp.

77. Abwehr-Blatter, October 1932.

78. LD Trotsky, ‘What is National Socialism?’ (10 June 1933), The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, pp 404-05.