Fascism in Germany. Robin Blick 1975

Chapter XV: Hitler Rebuilds

Only one thing could have broken our movement – if the adversary had understood its principle and from the first day had smashed with extreme brutality the nucleus of our new movement. (A Hitler at the 1933 Nuremberg Nazi Party rally)

If our opponents had been clever, considering that political weapons were so unevenly distributed, they could have undoubtedly found ways and opportunities to make our success impossible. (J Goebbels, 1934)

If the enemy had known how weak we were, it would probably have reduced us to jelly. It would have crushed in blood the very beginning of our work. (J Goebbels, 1934)

Released in December 1924 from his luxurious confinement in Landsberg prison – having served less than a quarter of his original sentence – Hitler was confronted by a Nazi movement in headlong decline, rent by countless political and personal feuds. The latter need not concern us except in so far as they either coincided with or affected genuine political differences. For the most important dispute Hitler found himself called upon to resolve was that concerning strategy. How was the movement to win power – through yet another putsch, in direct conflict with the existing state authorities and the majority of the ruling class; or ‘legally’, through an alliance with decisive sections of the bourgeoisie, army and agrarians? It was to this question that Hitler primarily addressed himself when he spoke for two hours to a rally of the Nazi faithful in Munich on 27 February 1925.

The movement’s great error had been, he explained, to fight on two or even more fronts when it should have been concentrating all its propaganda and energies against the main foe – Marxism. By allowing itself to be drawn into conflicts with secondary opponents, as did the hard-line Protestants and pagans, with their polemics against the Catholic church and the Christian religion in general, the Nazi Party unnecessarily alienated sections of the population and the ruling class who would otherwise sympathise with its struggle against Marxism; likewise with the police, the army and even the bourgeois parties. In each case, the movement had to learn to subordinate its secondary and tactical differences with these institutions to the long-term, strategical goal of destroying Marxism, which in Hitler’s vocabulary always meant the organised workers’ movement:

To make a struggle intelligible to the broad masses, it must always be carried on against two things: against a person and a cause... Against whom do the Jews fight with their Marxist power? Against the bourgeoisie as a person, and against capitalism as its cause. Against whom, therefore, must our movement fight? Against the Jew as a person, and against Marxism as its cause... The success of our movement shall not be measured in votes obtained in the Reichstag or Landtag, but in the degree of annihilation of Marxism and the exposure of its creatures, the Jews. [Emphasis added] [1]

Lüdecke, who had been well informed of Hitler’s change of tactics, endorsed his Führer’s speech in an article for the February 1925 number of Rosenberg’s journal Weltkampf:

... we must cease fighting against all fronts at the same time. Our main enemy... is Marxism. A one-sided fight against Marxism in Bavaria would be a wasted effort, because there is no longer a serious danger. Hence the field of attack aims to be transferred as early as possible to the Protestant north, where the religious question will not divide our strength, where the Centre Party is almost identical with Marxism [presumably a reference to the Centre’s support of the SPD in the Prussian State Parliament, where the two parties formed the ruling coalition – RB], and the concentration against Marxism will become a logical step.

Hitler had indeed learned the bitter lesson of the Munich fiasco. After a year’s reflection in Landsberg, where he had been engaged for the most part in writing his autobiographical treatise on fascism, Mein Kampf, Hitler had come to realise that for all its pretensions to being a socialist movement of the exploited and oppressed, the Nazi Party could only become a serious contender for power through an alliance with the bourgeoisie (or at least, an important section of it), and that it could only hold this power as its protector.

By declaring that henceforth National Socialism would fight only Marxism, and that this same ‘Jewish’ Marxism was engaged in an equally bitter war against the bourgeoisie and capitalism, Hitler was in effect saying to the bourgeoisie: the enemies of our enemies are our friends. It remained Hitler’s task to convince the leaders of this class that they stood to gain by such a friendship. Here he frankly admitted that a long struggle faced the movement:

I most solemnly confess: I regret that German industry does not support us... these men, who were so big, support the Marxists [that is, the Social Democrats – RB] out of cowardice while they don’t even know their German national comrades... I would take every penny and every million without strings too if from a German...

But no such largesse was forthcoming from Hitler’s future ‘national comrades’ in heavy industry, save for Thyssen, who loyally soldiered on in the Ruhr as the lonely standard-bearer of the Nazi cause. And the reasons for this isolation are not hard to find. Only a matter of days before Hitler delivered this speech, the DNVP entered a Reich cabinet for the first time in the republic’s history, raising hopes in industry, army and agrarian circles alike that a new era of reaction and right-wing political consolidation had set in. And these expectations were at once further aroused and apparently given justification by the election of Hindenburg to the Presidency only three months later. Neither could the ruling-class be expected to respond enthusiastically to Hitler’s clarion call for a war to the death against Social Democracy, in view of the latter’s tacit and on occasions even explicit collaboration in the bourgeois consolidation of the republic and the rationalisation of industry. Such ruling class elements that were in this period (1925) seeking to eliminate the influence of Social Democracy in political and economic affairs still vainly looked towards action from the armed forces, as the events surrounding the princes’ referendum and leading to the abortive coup of May 1926 would seem to suggest. Besides which scepticism there were also the confusion and anxieties rife in business and landed circles concerning the social and economic objectives of the NSDAP. We can readily understand why they approached with reservations and caution a movement calling itself ‘socialist’ and addressing itself in wildly demagogic style to the ‘workers’. How could they be sure that once in power Hitler would not implement those parts of the 1920 programme calling for the expropriation of profiteers and trusts? And should they take Hitler’s word that he meant something altogether different from the Marxists when he spoke of ‘socialism’ and ‘workers'? Outside of rebuilding and reorienting his shattered movement, Hitler’s biggest single task was to convince his chosen future allies in the capitalist class that Nazi propaganda for the masses was one thing, and the real aims of the movement’s leaders another – close to the heart’s desire of all trade-union-hating employers and war-mongering Junkers.

But before embarking on this task, Hitler and those closest to him in the party leadership had first to put their own ramshackle and divided house in order. This was the first prerequisite for any future bargaining with the mighty Ruhr industrialists (Kirdorf), influential bankers (Schacht), political ‘fixers’ (Papen) and political generals (Schleicher). And achieving unity in the ranks of the NSDAP on the strategic and tactical guidelines laid down by Hitler in his speech of 27 February was no small order. It occupied him more than a year, and was completed only with the quelling of the revolt of the self-styled north German ‘radicals’ around the Strasser brothers and Joseph Goebbels.

Whilst in prison, Hitler had refrained from lending his name or support to any of the factions struggling for dominance in the NSDAP or the broader volkisch movement of which it was then still a part. Quite apart from the fact that he was in the throes of recasting, in the light of the Munich defeat, many important aspects of Nazi tactics and strategy, Hitler in all probability felt that his position of supremacy in the party was best preserved by ensuring that no single group or leader emerged victorious over its rivals. The factional conflict first erupted shortly after the Munich Putsch and the trial of Hitler, when differences arose both within the NSDAP and among its volkisch allies in the north and west of Germany over what attitude to adopt to the Reichstag elections scheduled for May 1924. Rosenberg, nominated by Hitler as his representative for the duration of his prison term, favoured participation, even though all the party’s previous agitation had been directed against parliament. Hitler seems to have fallen out with his deputy, for he lent support to Esser and Streicher in their opposition to such participation. It was indicative of Hitler’s transitional state of mind at this time that he rejected a tactical turn that he was to employ to such devastating effect between 1930 and 1933. A short while later, he had in fact changed sides in the dispute, commenting to Kurt Lüdecke [2] during the latter’s visit to Hitler in Landsberg prison that:

When I resume active work it will be necessary to pursue a new policy. Instead of working to achieve power by armed coup, we shall have to hold our noses and enter the Reichstag against the Catholic and Marxist deputies. If outvoting them takes longer than outshooting them, at least the result will be guaranteed by their own constitution. Any lawful process is slow... Sooner or later we will have a majority – and after that, Germany. [3]

Those Nazis favouring the exploitation of the parliamentary tactic found allies in the north German volkisch movement of Count Ernst zu Reventlow, whom we earlier encountered debating with the KPD in the columns of its press. The German Racial Freedom Party (DVFP) had broken from the DNVP in 1922 after disagreements over the latter’s too-restrained anti-Semitism. While sharing the Nazis’ understanding for the need to conquer mass support with a pseudo-radical social policy (something the DNVP, whether under the leadership of Count Westarp, or after, 1928, Hugenberg, never fully appreciated), the north German volkisch groups remained, like the DNVP from which they had split, oriented towards parliamentary elections and activity. Another weakness (which became more evident in later years when the Nazis began to attract mass support) proved to be the mainly aristocratic background of the movement’s leaders. For all their ‘National Bolshevik’ pretensions, they failed to make inroads into the working class, and won precious little support even from the nationalist petit-bourgeoisie. Nevertheless, since the DVFP represented the most consistently volkisch elements within the ruling class, they were useful election allies for the more plebeian-based and led Nazis, and after negotiations, the two parties agreed to run on a single ‘Racial-Social Bloc’ ticket, polling 1.9 million votes.

Yet scarcely had the 32 Racial-Social deputies ensconced themselves in the unaccustomed comfort of their Reichstag seats than a series of fresh disputes flared up amongst those who had elected them. Nazi ‘radicals’ schooled in the demagogic propaganda methods and combat techniques of Hitler and Röhm accused their DFVP election allies of ignoring or playing down the social aspects of the volkisch doctrine, while in the north, at Hamburg, a group of Nazis not only demonstratively separated themselves from Reventlow’s ‘parlour Bolsheviks’, but committed the unforgivable heresy of proclaiming their independence from the Nazi Vatican in Munich (and by implication, cast doubt on the infallibility of its Pope). North Germany remained an independent preserve of Nazi ‘radicals’ until Hitler brought them to heel in the spring of 1926.

A third centre of opposition crystallised around Ernst Röhm, whom Hitler had appointed leader of the Storm Troops for the duration of his stay in prison. Like the ‘radicals’ with whom he was in sympathy, Röhm exploited his new-found freedom to put his own ideas into practice, founding the Frontbann, a bloc of the many paramilitary and Free Corps formations which had, over the previous four years, aligned themselves with the counter-revolutionary right. In opting for a military organisation independent of the party’s political leadership, Röhm was challenging one of the central principles of National Socialism as repeatedly enunciated by Hitler, and finally codified in the second volume of Mein Kampf (written during 1925, and therefore after the first break with Röhm). Hitler insisted that since the SA’s purpose was political, ‘its training must not proceed from military criteria, but from criteria of expediency for the party’. Nor should it engage in individual terror, such as the assassination of leading politicians or militants of the workers’ movement. It should aim at being a movement of the masses:

... fighting for the erection of a new National Socialist folkish state... The NSDAP... must neither suffer the SA to degenerate into a kind of combat league nor into a secret organisation; it must, on the contrary, endeavour to train it as a guard, numbering hundreds of thousands of men for the National Socialist and hence profoundly folkish idea. [4]

These ideas were anathema to the swashbuckling Captain Röhm. He had attracted to his side men of a similar nihilistic state of mind, trained and hired killers who knew no other profession than murder, and no other ideology than blind activism and destruction. How could they be expected to submit themselves to the discipline of a political movement, which for all its fanatical hatred of Marxism and democracy, allowed itself to be sucked into the bourgeois game of parliamentary seat-hunting? Röhm took the dispute to the highest authority in the volkisch movement – its universally acknowledged patron, Ludendorff. In a letter to the general, Röhm vehemently defended the independence of the counter-revolutionary soldier:

The political and military movements are entirely independent of each other. Both the political and the military movement are represented in the parliamentary group. As the present leader of the military movement, I demand that the defence leagues be granted appropriate representation in parliament and that they be not hindered in their own particular work... Germany’s liberty – at home and abroad – will never be won by mere chatter and bargaining; it must be fought for.

Detectable in these last lines are the seeds of Röhm’s final clash with Hitler, when his insatiable urge to dominate not only the party but the Reichswehr with his massed columns of SA men – by 1934 no longer a motley collection of Free Corps and First World War veterans, but a brown army some four million strong – drove Hitler to unleash the purge of the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ on 30 June. But in the early weeks of 1925, the feud was resolved, not with a mass blood-letting, but by Röhm’s resignation as SA leader, and his eventual emigration to Bolivia, where until recalled by Hitler in 1930 to head the SA once more, he served as a military instructor to the army.

The most serious and protracted threat to Hitler’s position as supreme party leader and arbiter on questions of National Socialist doctrine, tactics and strategy came from the industrial north and west. There, where the NSDAP confronted an immensely powerful and radical workers’ movement, party activists were compelled to adopt a ‘leftist’ stance on most social and economic questions, far more so than was necessary in the predominantly rural and petit-bourgeois Bavaria. It must be stressed at once that their employment of radical phraseology and slogans, in many cases stolen from the KPD and eclectically combined with anti-Semitic chauvinism, flowed not from any misguided but genuine socialist convictions, but from a real fear that in its quest for working-class support, the party would otherwise be hopelessly outflanked on the left by the KPD and militant elements in the SPD and ADGB.

The emergence of a distinctive north German faction dates from August 1925, when Nazi ‘radicals’ of various tendencies came together to form the National Socialist Working Association, with its own organ, the NS Briefe, edited by a relatively recent convert to Nazism, Joseph Goebbels. The base of the group, significantly, was the Ruhr town of Elberfeld, where radical traditions in the workers’ movement were strong, and its leaders were the Strasser brothers Otto and Gregor, Goebbels, Bernard Rust (Hitler’s future Minister of Education), Robert Ley (in 1933, appointed head of the Labour Front) and Karl Kaufmann, who afterwards became gauleiter of Hamburg. Of lesser importance in the group’s clash with Munich, but destined to hold high office in the Third Reich, were Friedrich Hildebrandt, gauleiter of Mecklenburg, and Erich Koch, East Prussian gauleiter under the Third Reich and after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, butcher and slave driver of the Ukraine.

Reading the speeches, diary entries and articles of the north German Nazis, one gains a new insight into the utter political impotency of the petit-bourgeois enragé, the noisy radical who, denied what he thinks is his rightful place in the bourgeois sun, vents his anger on those above and below him. He admires (and fears) the discipline, heroism and dynamism of the revolutionary workers’ movement, just as he despises its internationalism and ‘class exclusiveness’. He borrows from Communism that which he finds useful to intimidate the big bourgeoisie in order to compel it to bestow on him the privileges and power he deserves; while from this same bourgeoisie he takes the poisonous ideology of chauvinism and anti-Semitism, using it to divert the proletariat from its revolutionary path, thereby rendering it a passive object under the tutelage of its social and intellectual betters.

The thoroughly petit-bourgeois, eclectic nature of the Working Association’s ‘socialism’ is clear from the account of one of its main practitioners and theoreticians, Otto Strasser:

Our second step [after founding the group’s organ] was to work out an economic, political and cultural programme. In the economic field it was opposed alike to Marxism and capitalism. We foresaw a new equilibrium on the basis of state feudalism. The state was to be the sole owner of the land, which it would lease to private citizens. All were to be free to do as they liked with their own land, but no one could sell or sublet state property. In this way we hoped to combat proletarianisation and to restore a state of liberty to our fellow citizens. No man is free who is not economically independent. We proposed nationalisation only of such wealth as could not be multiplied at will; that is, the country’s landed and industrial inheritance. In the political field we rejected the totalitarian idea in favour of federalism. Parliament, instead of consisting of party representatives, would consist of representatives of corporations. These we divided into five groups: workers, peasants, clerks and officials, industrialists, and the liberal professions... The prosperity of the country would be assured by the nationalisation of heavy industry and the distribution of the great estates as state fiefs... Reconstruction, to our minds, could only be brought about on the basis of a new order which could re-establish harmony between labour and capital and between the individual and the community... There would be no dictatorship, either of class or race. [5]

No dictatorship of class or race... yet for all his talk of nationalisation (which he clearly learned during his brief career as a student member of the SPD), there remained exploited labour and exploiting capital, and under a regime which denied the worker’s right to organise himself in trade unions and political parties. As for Strasser’s claim that his ‘left’ version of National Socialism rejected racialism, there is the clear call in his brother Gregor’s draft programme (drafted towards the end of 1925 and submitted for discussion to his fellow north German Nazis) for the deportation of all Jews who had entered Germany since 1 August 1914, and for the withdrawal of German citizenship from all those who remained, a demand which was the stock-in-trade of every German anti-Semite throughout the life of the Weimar Republic. Otto Strasser, who broke with Hitler in 1930 on the grounds that the Nazi leader had sold out to big business, for obvious reasons later chose to play down the ‘national’ aspects of his ‘socialism’, and to exaggerate the latter. His brother’s draft was in fact little more radical than the original Nazi programme of 1920. Apart from its anti-Semitic clause, it proposed the nationalisation of the land and the breaking up of all estates larger than 1000 acres into small peasant holdings, a distinctly less radical measure than Otto Strasser said was demanded by the north Germans. Neither did Gregor’s draft demand outright nationalisation. Instead, a form of ‘mixed economy’ was advocated, with the state owning 51 per cent of the shares in vital industries and 49 per cent in the remainder. Ten per cent of the private stock would then be set aside for distribution among the workers. Finally, and again in contradiction to the account given by Otto Strasser, the draft envisaged, not a European Federation, but a greatly enlarged Germany with its lost colonies restored, and one that would consequently dominate the entire continent:

The organisation and powerful concentration on a racial basis of the German nation in a Greater German Reich: this German Reich to be the centre of gravity for a mid-European customs union and the basis for the United States of Europe. [Emphasis added]

This quotation also raises the other cardinal facet of north German National Socialism. Until their capitulation to Hitler early in 1926 (and on occasions, even afterwards), Goebbels and the two Strassers flirted with a volkisch version of National Bolshevism. They argued that in order to enable Germany to break out of the isolation imposed on it by the defeat of 1918, it was necessary, despite the unbridgeable ideological chasm that separated Communism from National Socialism, to solicit Soviet diplomatic and military aid in imperialist Germany’s preparation for the war of revenge against the ‘plutocratic and ‘decadent’ Entente powers. At least, that is how the theory stood until 1925. But with Stalin’s rise to power, and his revision of Marxist internationalism with his nationalist theory of socialism in one country, ‘left’ Nazis began to write more sympathetically on internal developments in the USSR. Stalin’s approaching victory over the Trotskyist Left Opposition was quite correctly seen as the triumph of conservative, nationalistic forces over proletarian internationalism. (Nazi National Bolsheviks were also quick to draw attention to Stalin’s well-known anti-Semitism, and the fact that many of the opposition leaders – Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Radek, to name but four – were of Jewish origin. The pogrom of Communists had started, and the Nazi ‘lefts’ were delighted.) Goebbels developed this theme in an article addressed to KPD members in October 1925, pointing out that Soviet and Comintern policy under the leadership of Stalin had begun to veer towards a national conception of socialism, and thus it was now necessary for KPD workers to take this development to its logical conclusion: ‘never has a suppressed class liberated itself through international protest, but only through nationalistic will for the future...’ [6] Goebbels at this time was also conducting a debate with White Russian émigrés, explaining why for tactical reasons it was necessary to align Germany diplomatically with the USSR. In one letter to an émigré he wrote:

We look to Russia because it is the country most likely to take with us the road to socialism, because Russia is an ally which nature has given us against the devilish temptation and corruption of the West. We watch in bitter pain while so-called German statesmen destroy all bridges that lead towards Russia [an obvious reference to Foreign Minister Stresemann’s ‘western orientation’ – RB]. Our pain is so strongly felt not because we love Bolshevism, but because an alliance with a really national and socialist Russia will strengthen our own national and socialist position and dignity. [Emphasis added] [7]

We encounter essentially the same pseudo-radicalism in the early writings of Goebbels. For all his noisy rantings against capitalism and its exploitation of the proletariat, this future Nazi Minister of Propaganda’s conception of what he terms ‘socialism’ is that of a petit-bourgeois chauvinist, a typical German middle-class enragé who wants to solve the ‘social problem’ not through the abolition of private property, but its wider and more even distribution, thereby abolishing both monopoly capitalism and the proletariat without disturbing the small-propertied foundations of his own existence:

Socialism can be realised only in the national state... in materialistic terms, socialism is not a question of wages, but a question of indigenousness and therefore of property. The working classes can be made free materially and spiritually by increasing the number of property owners up to the last possible point... [8]

The Working Association, largely because of its close study of the workers’ movement, was able to develop a tactic that paid handsome dividends after 1930, when the NSDAP at last began to make serious inroads into the more backward strata of the proletariat. They cunningly exploited all the past betrayals of the Social Democrats (just as after 1930, they did those of the Stalinists) to confuse workers and to prove to them that, in contrast to the ‘Marxists’, the Nazis were the real socialists. One typically ‘left’ Nazi poster of the period, playing upon nationalist opposition to the SPD’s acceptance of the Dawes Plan, read:

The socialist railways are now, in the seventh year of the republic, a capitalist undertaking of the American bank and stock exchange Jews. Workers of the hand and brain, you like us are socialists. When are you going to understand? Today your leaders no longer speak of the socialist republic... You don’t want alms. You want nothing more and nothing less than your rights, than to live in the republic a life fit for human beings.

Gregor Strasser, ever anxious to prove himself more left than the reformists (a task that was made all too easy by their supine collaboration with the class enemies of the proletariat and the non-exploiting layers of the petit-bourgeoisie), wrote in a special ‘May Day’ number of his organ, Der Nationale Sozialist, that the SPD had only functionaries, not a single leader, and that the reformist bureaucracy had lost all contact with the workers, being ‘narrow minded, petit-bourgeois, ambitious intriguers, dull after-dinner speakers’. In a word, the Social Democrats had become bourgeoisified. Thus did the Nazi ‘lefts’ borrow from and then pervert for counter-revolutionary purposes the revolutionary Marxist analysis and critique of the reformist bureaucracy. [9]

And very much in the same vein, the article complained that because of the SPD’s retreat from its pledge to expropriate the giant trusts, ‘marching socialisation has become stuck in the mud, in the mire of corruption of parliamentary democracy... This is the way the Marxist Social Democracy leads us, this is its great sin.’ And this from a party that, once in power, was fanatical in its defence of the monopolies!

But such ‘leftism’ also had its dangers for the Nazi leadership in Munich. With one eye on a future alliance with big business and the agrarians, and the other on the nationalist petit-bourgeoisie who were to provide the bulk of the Nazis’ mass support, Hitler utterly rejected the north Germans’ wild talk about founding volkisch ‘trade unions’ and their attempts to outbid the SPD and KPD in radicalism. While he was not opposed to winning workers to the NSDAP, this had to be done only on the basis of his own firmly-held convictions on the defence of private property. Hitler was in the process of finalising his views on the trade union question during 1925, when the north Germans first raised the demand that the NSDAP should either found itself, or lend its support to, volkisch organisations of workers. His conclusions are set down in the second volume of Mein Kampf, and they show that by the end of 1925 he had opted for a policy that would later win the party the enthusiastic support of the big employers who looked forward to a Germany without independent trade unions. Hitler begins by addressing four questions to his readers (and, we suspect, especially to those who were pushing for a more ‘left’ trade union line in the NSDAP):

1. Are trade unions necessary?

2. Should the NSDAP itself engage in trade union activity, or direct its members to such activity in any form?

3. What must be the nature of a National Socialist trade union? What are our tasks and aims?

4. How shall we arrive at such unions? [10]

He answers these question in the following way. Since the Nazi Party claimed, for purely demagogic purposes, to be a party of the ‘workers’ – though the Nazi definition of this term was, as we have already seen, highly elastic, and could even, when the occasion demanded, embrace big industrialists! – and since it was seeking to detach at least a portion of the proletariat from its allegiance to its traditional organisations, then Hitler could not avoid making a verbal commitment to the need for trade unions. To proclaim publicly in advance his intention of destroying them would have been tantamount to committing political suicide. This is where the Nazis scored so heavily and frequently over their rivals in the bourgeois nationalist parties and the monarchist leagues. He is, however, at pains to give his affirmative answer a nationalistic twist; and conditional on the continued existence of the Weimar system:

As things stand today, the trade unions... cannot be dispensed with. On the contrary, they are among the most important institutions of the nation’s economic life. Their significance lies not only in the social and political field, but even more in the general field of national politics. A people whose broad masses, through a sound trade union movement, obtain the satisfaction of their living requirements and at the same time an education, will be tremendously strengthened in its power of resistance in the struggle for existence. [11]

What Hitler means by a ‘sound trade union movement’ becomes clear in the passage which follows. We learn that ‘trade unions are necessary as foundation stones of the future economic parliament or chamber of estates’. [12] Can it be that Hitler was proposing to allot a place in his corporate state (for this is what he means by ‘economic parliament’ and ‘chamber of estates’) to the existing class trade unions of the ADGB? A superficial reading might indeed suggest this, lending credence to the utterly false theory which sometimes masquerades as Trotskyism that the fascist corporate state is created by the merging of employers’ and workers’ organisations, and by the incorporation of the latter into the capitalist state. We have already established that Fascism in Italy did not take this form, and that its corporative state structure not only in practice but in theory specifically excluded the class-based trade unions from any participation in the new regime. And we find that it was also the case with the NSDAP. When Hitler refers to ‘trade unions’, he has something entirely different in mind from the Marxist, Social Democrat, Stalinist, centrist, or any other tendency in the workers’ movement:

The trade union in the National Socialist sense does not have the function of grouping certain people within a national body and thus gradually transforming them into class, to take up the fight against other similarly organised [employers'] formations. We can absolutely not impute this function to the trade union as such; it became so only in the moment when the trade union became the instrument of Marxist struggle. Not that the trade union is characterised by class struggle; Marxism has made it an instrument for the Marxist class struggle. Marxism created the economic weapon which the international world Jew uses for shattering the economic base of the free, independent national states, for the destruction [that is, nationalisation – RB] of their national industry and their national commerce, the enslavement of free peoples in the service of supra-state world finance Jewry. In the face of this, the National Socialist trade union must, by organisationally embracing certain groups of participants in the national economic process, increase the security of the national economy itself... Hence for the National Socialist union the strike is not a means for shattering and shaking national production, but for enhancing it and making it run smoothly by combating all those abuses which, due to their unsocial character, interfere with the efficiency of the economy and hence the existence of the totality. [13]

There are visible here elements of the ‘national syndicalism’ which emerged on the ‘radical’ wing of fascist movements in France, Spain and Italy. The proposed ‘unions’ were to embrace not only workers, but their employers, a conception which the Strasser group at first found difficult to accept, since they were in direct competition with trade unions based firmly on the class principle. Hitler saw the dangers implicit in such rivalry:

Real benefit for the movement as well as for our people can only arise from a trade union movement, if philosophically this movement is already so strongly filled with our National Socialist ideas that it no longer runs the risk of falling into Marxist tracks. For a trade union movement which sees its mission only in competition with the Marxist [that is, ADGB – Social Democratic] unions would be worse than none at all. It must declare war on the Marxist union, not only as an organisation, but above all as an idea. In the Marxist union it must strike down the herald of the class struggle and the class idea and in its stead must become the protector of the occupational interests of German citizens. [14]

This answered question number three – what must be the nature of Nazi ‘trade unions’ – but it did not resolve question number four – how would the NSDAP arrive at such unions. Here Hitler posed two alternative lines of attack:

(1) We could found a trade union and then gradually take up the struggle against the international [that is, class] Marxist unions; or we could (2) penetrate the Marxist unions and try to fill them with the new spirit; in other words, transform them into instruments of the new ideology. [15]

Hitler ruled out the first line of action. The party simply lacked the resources to launch a Nazi ‘union’ which could defeat the reformist unions in open combat. Hitler also undoubtedly realised that his ‘national trade unionism’ stood very little chance of winning large numbers of workers away from the class unions, at least until a really historic defeat had been inflicted on the proletariat. And by the same token, the second alternative offered little better prospects of success while the fighting capacities of the working class remained unimpaired. A turning towards the forms of organisation and ideology advocated by the Nazis could only gather pace in conditions of profound demoralisation – or at the point of a gun. And this is in fact the solution which Hitler finally hints at:

Today the National Socialist movement must combat a colossal gigantic organisation which has long been in existence, and which is developed down to the slightest detail. The conqueror must always be more astute than the defender if he wants to subdue him... Here [therefore] we must apply the maxim that in life it is sometimes better to let a thing lie for the present than to begin it badly or by halves for want of suitable forces... The more we muster the entire strength of our movement for the political struggle, the sooner we may count on success all along the line; but the more we prematurely burden ourselves with trade union... and similar problems, the smaller will be the benefit for our cause as a whole. For important as these matters may be, their fulfilment will only occur on a large scale when we are in a position to put the state power into the service of these ideas. [16]

In other words, only when the Nazis actually wielded state power, and with it the entire machinery of class repression augmented by their own fanatical hordes, could the ‘trade union’ question be tackled with any hopes of success. And this is precisely the course that events followed, with the destruction of the class trade unions on 2 May 1933, and their replacement by the Labour Front of Dr Ley which embraced not only the members of the former free trade unions, but also the employers. The ADGB was not ‘tied to the state’, its leaders did not, despite all their pleadings, become ‘policemen’ of the employers and the capitalist state, nor instruments of exploitation and repression. They ended up in jail.

Shrewd tactician that he was, Hitler sought neither an immediate nor head-on clash with the north Germans. Instead, he devoted most of his energies to consolidating his Munich base, where he continued, despite the events of November 1923, to enjoy the indulgence of leading Bavarian government and state officials. The issue which finally brought the dispute between the two factions into the open towards a final resolution on Hitler’s terms was the same as had precipitated a full-scale crisis in the ruling class – namely the referendum on the compensation of the princes. The Working Association, in keeping with their more ‘left’ interpretation of the Nazi programme (and also, no doubt, because of the widespread and enthusiastic support the demand for expropriation without compensation had aroused among the workers of north and west Germany), came out against the princes.

Hitler, who had opted more than a year previously for a thoroughly conservative economic policy, would not hear of the NSDAP becoming involved in a campaign, initiated by the KPD, against the sacred rights of private property. But before the issue was finally resolved at the well-known meeting in Bamberg on 14 February 1926, the north Germans, although divided between themselves on certain issues, had made a bid to supplant the ‘old guard’ in Munich as Hitler’s political confidants (for never was there any question of their seeking to depose the Führer himself). The intention seems to have been to persuade Hitler that he was surrounded in Munich by ‘reactionaries’ such as Streicher and Feder, and that he should instead bring to the forefront of the party the leaders of the Working Association. But a series of meetings held by the north Germans and their allies failed to achieve the political unity they had been counting on in their challenge to Munich. Gregor Strasser’s draft programme was attacked from all sides, some deeming it too radical, others lacking in sufficient anti-Semitic venom. There were also disagreements in the group on the questions of Pan-Europeanism and policy towards the USSR. In the last conference held by the ‘radicals’, in Hanover on 25 January 1926, the main item on the agenda was the princes referendum. Pfeffer von Salomon, whom in November 1926 Hitler appointed as commander of the SA, later frankly admitted that the question ‘was extremely embarrassing for everybody and they would much rather have avoided taking up a position on it’. But they could not, since it was the number one issue of German politics, and every political leader and party was being compelled to take sides for or against the princes. The Nazi ‘lefts’ could not retreat from their previous position of support for the campaign against compensation for the princes, but neither could they unequivocally endorse it. In order to differentiate the NSDAP from the KPD and SPD, they proposed, in the event of the referendum succeeding, to move an amendment in the Reichstag calling for the confiscation of all the property of Jews who had entered Germany since 1914, together with the confiscation of all bank and stock exchange profits (that is, the gains of ‘speculative capital’) made since the beginning of the war. The meeting – held in the presence of Feder, who had been sent by Hitler to report on the proceedings – also discussed critically the party’s 1920 programme, which had been drawn up by none other than Hitler and Feder. Finally, the gathering drew up a slate of ‘lefts’ whom they hoped Hitler would agree to promote onto his central staff at Munich. Taken together, these three acts of insubordination confirmed Hitler’s fears that the Strasser – Goebbels group were seeking to supplant him as the supreme authority on questions of programme, policy, doctrine and organisation – in fact the entire gamut of Nazi theory and practice, tactics and strategy. On hearing Feder’s report of the Hanover meeting of rebels, he convened the confrontation at Bamberg. Hitler went to the meeting knowing just what he wanted, and aware of the utterly opportunist nature of the opposition, who were, as subsequent developments proved, craving for high office and power. In contrast, the north Germans went to Bamberg divided amongst themselves and full of envy for Hitler’s entourage, who were already beginning to live the lives of rising politicians and party bureaucrats. Otto Strasser summed up Hitler’s reasons for opposing the referendum campaign when he wrote, many years after the Bamberg meeting, that:

... to have understood Hitler’s fury [against the north Germans] it was necessary to have followed his recent change of front. Hitler had become [sic!] conservative. He needed money for his party, and this could only come from the capitalists. The expropriation of the princes would obviously alarm the big industrialists, the financiers, and the landowners, who would naturally regard the breaking up of the property of the former reigning houses as the first step towards similar measures directed against themselves... [At the Bamberg meeting] Adolf made a brilliant plea for the princes and the claims of the aristocratic families. [17]

Even if Hitler had wished to make a demagogic switch of line, as the north Germans were suggesting, he could not have done so, since he was already receiving subsidies from at least one of the former royal houses now threatened with expropriation without compensation. For at this time (early 1926) he had not succeeded in convincing the big capitalists that his party could further their interests. Such links that the NSDAP had established with the ruling class, Hitler clung on to tenaciously. They were his lifeline to wealth, political influence and eventually power, and therefore could not be endangered on any account, least of all to indulge the pseudo-radical whims of the Strassers and Goebbels. The referendum campaign, he told the meeting, was nothing but a ‘Jewish swindle’ and the Nazis must therefore back the princes’ fight to defend their property to the hilt. [18]

But while rejecting their demands for a more radical orientation for the party, Hitler was quick to see that the north German faction contained leaders who could serve him ably in Munich. He skilfully disintegrated their group by offering its spokesmen plum posts in the party apparatus. The stages and political convolutions through which Goebbels passed en route from his blustering National Bolshevism to complete agreement with Hitler are well traced in his private diary entries of the period, as indeed is the utterly eclectic nature of his radicalism. For example on 31 January 1926, we find him regretting the fact that Nazis and Communists have to ‘bash each other’s heads in’, and asking ‘where can we meet leading Communists’, while only three days later, he delightedly records that ‘at last’ he has had the good fortune to meet ‘a prominent businessman’; and then that same evening, a ‘discussion... [with] a follower of the Communist Workers’ Party. [19]

11 September: National and Socialist! What comes first and what second? For us in the West [that is, the Ruhr] there can be no doubt. First the socialist redemption, then, like a hurricane, national liberation. Prof Vahlen disagrees. First, make the workers national minded. But how? Please talk to our people. Hitler stands half-way in between. But he is about to come over to our side. [Neither statement was true; Hitler, as he makes clear in Mein Kampf, aimed at the ‘nationalisation of the masses’, a perspective from which he had no intention of shifting – as Goebbels was soon to discover – RB]

30 September: Strasser is a dear fellow. He still has a lot to learn. But he will accept anything that adds radical content to the idea. He is to be our battering ram against the Munich bosses. Perhaps the battle will flare up very soon.

2 October: Long drawn-out negotiations with Strasser. We have reached complete agreement... Munich seems really to be a big pigsty... we shall launch a big offensive. National Socialism is at stake.

12 October: Letter from Strasser. Hitler does not trust me. He has abused me. How that hurts... In Munich, cads are at work.

14 October: I am finishing Hitler’s book [Mein Kampf]. Thrilled to bits! Who is this man? Half plebeian, half god!

16 October: Locarno: the same old fraud. Germany gives in and sells out to the capitalist West. A horrible prospect! Germany’s sons will be bled to death on the battlefields of Europe as the mercenaries of capitalism. Perhaps, probably, in a ‘holy war against Moscow'! [An accurate prediction – and Goebbels was to be one of its high priests – RB] Can there be anything politically more infamous?

19 October: Hitler will be in Hamm and Dortmund on Saturday and Sunday, and Streicher will be there to protect him. That damned idiot Hermann Esser. I shall not be a party to this Byzantianism for long. We must get close to Hitler. The programme, the spiritual and economic fundamentals, all of that is vague... That is not the way to start a revolution.

23 October: We shall be the mercenaries against Russia on the battlefields of capitalism. We have been sold... in the last analysis better go down with Bolshevism than live in eternal capitalist servitude.

24 October: In Essen with Kaufmann last night. Julius Stretcher was there, the ‘hero’ of Nuremberg. A typical Bavarian bum-brusher... Poor Hitler! Woe betide National Socialism! ... Strasser reports from Munich. We have cleared up matters with Hitler. Hitler also wants to employ me more.

14 November: Osnabruck... Speech in the evening. To bourgeois. About 2000. Raging applause.

28 November: To the Bechstein family [one of Hitler’s first capitalist benefactors – RB]. Hitler’s saloon. I am received like an old friend.

23 December: Every day at work on a comprehensive programme for National Socialism. I am beginning to see how difficult it all is. [Sic!]

25 January: Arrival, Hanover [for meeting of north Germans]... Gottfried Feder turns up, the servant of capital and interest [a sarcastic reference to Feder’s phoney anti-capitalism – RB]. [The meeting]... begins at eight o'clock... Feder speaks. Intelligently but obstinately dogmatic. And then a confused debate without end... What is a social distress? asks Ley... Then Russia. I am attacked without restraint... Then I go for it. Russia, Germany, Western capital, Bolshevism... Everyone listens in hushed silence. Then stormy agreement! We have won. [Another delusion: this speech proved to be Goebbels’ swan-song as a radical oppositionist – RB] Strasser shakes my hand. Feder very small and self-effacing.

31 January: I think it is horrible that we and the Communists bash each other’s heads in... Where can we meet leading Communists?

3 February: Monday afternoon with Herr von Bruck, a leading Rhenish industrialist. A prominent businessman at last. He gave us a political-economic lecture of astounding breadth. That is a man with whom we can collaborate. Knew Chicherin [a leading Soviet diplomat, succeeded Trotsky in the spring of 1918 as Commissar for Foreign Affairs – RB]. Confirmed the last tittle of our views about Bolshevism. We are following the right trail. In the evening a discussion in Elberfeld. A follower of the Communist Workers Party. Interesting debate.

6 February: Hitler is in a rage about the programme [in all probability, Gregor Strasser’s draft – RB]. The Bechsteins. Old lady. Property must be preserved [the Bechsteins were obviously becoming agitated about the forthcoming referendum – RB]. Next Sunday, Bamberg. Invitation from Hitler. Stand up and fight! That will decide.

15 February: Hitler speaks for two hours. I am almost beaten. What kind of Hitler? A reactionary? Amazingly clumsy and uncertain. Italy and Britain the natural allies. Horrible! ... It is our job to smash Bolshevism. Bolshevism is a Jewish creation! ... Compensation for princes! Question of not weakening private property. Horrible! Programme will do! Happy with it. Feder nods. Ley nods. Streicher nods. Esser nods. It hurts me in my soul to see you in that company. Short discussion. Strasser speaks. Hesitant, trembling, clumsy... Lord, what a poor match we are for those pigs down there... I can no longer believe in Hitler absolutely.

22 February: Fobke told me more hair-raising stories from Bamberg. Streicher waffled. Called me literally dangerous. That swine... Let the men of Munich enjoy their Pyrrhic victory. Work, get strong, then the fight for socialism.

26 February: Letter from Rudolf Hess. They are trying to whitewash Julius Streicher. I shall not let go until this matter is settled.

12 March: To Hitler: ‘It hurts my soul to see you in this company.’

13 March: Reading: Adolf Hitler, The South Tyrol Question and the Problem of German Alliances. An amazingly lucid pamphlet with a grand perspective. What a man he is... the chief! Once again he has removed many a doubt from my mind.

And indeed, the turning point appears to have been reached. The entry for 21 March reads: ‘Via Wurzburg... to Nuremberg... Julius Streicher [the ‘Bavarian bum brusher’ and ‘swine’ – RB] expects me. Long talk. Reconciliation. At least Julius [sic!] is honest.’

And reconciliation it was. On 29 March, Goebbels records with evident relish that he had ‘lunched with the Thyssens’ and that he had that morning received a letter from Hitler: ‘I am to speak in Munich on 8 April.’ There follows a glowing account of Hitler’s speech to a gathering of party leaders in Munich on 13 April, to which, significantly, Goebbels had been invited:

Matters of principle: Eastern affairs... The social question. The Bamberg evidence. He speaks for three hours. Brilliant... Italy and Britain our allies. Russia wants to devour us... We are moving closer. We ask. He gives brilliant replies. I love him. Social question. Quite new perspectives. He has thought it all out. His idea: Blend of collectivism and individualism. The land: all that is on it and below it for the people. Production, individualistic [that is, capitalistic – RB] for those who create. Combines, trusts, production of finished articles, transport, etc, to be socialised... He has thought it all out. I am reassured all round... with this sparkling mind he can be my leader.

10 June: Still don’t know where I am. Now Hitler is to decide next week. He [Strasser] suspects that I am compromising.

12 June: I would like Hitler to draft me to Munich. There I would be away from the muck. [Eight months previously, Goebbels had declared that Munich was a pig sty! – RB]

19 June: Yesterday Hitler addressed industrialists in Essen. Fabulous!

25 August: The latest story, in the eyes of the movement I have met my Damascus. [20] Bowed to Hitler and Munich. The hawker of this story: the two Strassers.

Goebbels had indeed seen the light. The one-time terror of the landed aristocracy, we find him entering in his diary on 2 October 1926, shortly before assuming his post as Gauleiter of Berlin: ‘Brunswick. I stay with Herr von Wedel-Parlow. Genuine old nobility.’ [21]

Hitler’s rout of the radicals began to pay immediate dividends in more ways than one. Set against themselves by their defeat at the Bamberg conference, Hitler felt free to offer them the jobs they wanted on his terms. In August 1926, Goebbels announced his final defection from the Strassers in the Völkischer Beobachter, disparaging them as ‘revolutionaries in speech but not in deed’. Three months later Goebbels was heading for Berlin as the city’s newly appointed Gauleiter. Other posts were also doled out as the ‘lefts’ came to heel, von Pfeffer [22] taking over the leadership of the refounded SA, and Otto Strasser, after a spell as propaganda chief, assuming the responsibilities of party organiser. Hitler was now in a position to begin the realisation of the plans and strategy he had devised during his stay in Landsberg prison and in the first year of his renewed party activity:

From this failure of the putsch we knew a great lesson for the future: we recognised that the new state must previously have been built up and practically ready to one’s hand... In 1933 I had behind me by far the greatest organisation which Germany ever possessed, a movement which was built up from the smallest cells until it had become an organisation embracing the whole Reich. This mighty reconstruction of the party contributed to create the most important condition for taking over power in the state and maintained it securely. [23]

The formation of these ‘cells’ of the Third Reich dated from the period between 1926 and 1928, by which time the party had been divided into three main compartments. The first, under Gregor Strasser’s energetic and highly-talented supervision, had as its sole task the destruction of the existing political order, especially the party’s main opponents, the SPD, KPD and the trade unions. The second section comprised the skeleton of the Nazi regime of the future, with leaders responsible for security, economics, agriculture, ‘race and culture’, law and the projected ‘labour service’ ministry. As the movement grew in size and influence, attracting into its ranks increasing numbers of military, police, civil service, business and other leaders with technical expertise, so the skeleton took on flesh, in 1933 enabling the party to achieve a relatively smooth takeover when it began to usurp and displace the less pliable personnel of the old system. Finally there was the propaganda department, which functioned under the watchful gaze of Hitler himself. Goebbels became chief of this section towards the end of 1928, a post for which his brief career as a pseudo-revolutionary Nazi eminently suited him.

The ‘trade union question’ was also tackled in a way that had not been previously possible. Now that the ‘radicals’ had been bought over and tamed, Hitler felt more free to encourage the development of this side of party work, since it ran far less risk of developing in directions that would antagonise his freshly-won supporters in the business world. Hitler’s recommended policy towards the trade unions, it will be recalled, was to enter and seek to weaken them as much as possible. To this end, a Berlin Nazi, Johannes Engel, founded a small cell of anti-Marxist workers at the city’s Pneumatic Brake Co, a move that was endorsed by Berlin Gauleiter Goebbels, who subsequently appointed Engel NSDAP ‘Head of Secretariat for Labour Affairs’. Though it met with little success except amongst workers who were either non-political or had previously adhered to one or other of the bourgeois parties, another step towards a national trade union faction was taken in July 1928, when the party launched its National Socialist Shop Organisation, the NSBO. The director was Reinhold Muchow, who had defected to the Nazis from the nationalist white-collar ‘trade union’, the DHV (Engel served under him as assistant director). However, this organisation did not achieve full party status until as late as January 1931, the main reason presumably being that it had signally failed to win anything approaching mass support in the factories, mines and other workplaces. At the end of 1931, the NSBO claimed a mere 43 000 members, though this figure was to rise sharply over the next two years as unemployed and near-pauperised workers, despairing of any positive and united action by the two workers’ parties and the reformist trade unions, turned to the Nazis as their last hope of salvation. All this, however, lay in the future as Hitler, emerging victorious from his fight with the north Germans, set out to re-establish the links with the business world that had been shattered by the Munich fiasco and his year of enforced political retirement. He now had something to offer the big employers, and he wasted little time in letting them know.

A year and a day after Hitler had instructed his followers to concentrate all the movement’s forces against one enemy – a foe that had as its sole aim the destruction of capitalism – the Nazi leader launched himself on a series of speeches to industrialists and bankers that in the course of the next seven years was to raise the Nazi Party from the depths of its post-putsch division and depression to the summit of state power. At Bamberg on 14 February 1926, Hitler had laid down the Nazi law on private property to his ‘leftist’ critics, and routed them. On 28 February, he travelled north to the radicals’ own territory in Hamburg to address, not a meeting of backward workers in the style of Goebbels or the Strassers, but an exclusive gathering of big employers, bankers and right-wing political and military figures at the Hamburg 1919 National Club. Founded shortly after the November Revolution to represent and defend the interests of the port city’s beleaguered bourgeoisie (the Hamburg proletariat was among the most militant in all Germany), the club regularly invited well-known personalities from the business and political worlds to address them on themes of their own choosing. Among its guests had been Field Marshall von Mackensen, Admiral von Tirpitz, Schacht, Stresemann, Luther, von Seeckt, Gessler and Cuno. This formidable list would seem to suggest that the National Club had assumed more than a parochial role. In fact it had become a forum for the discussion and formulation of bourgeois-Junker political policies and philosophy, and as such, the club’s decision to invite Hitler could not have been taken lightly nor, indeed, without some of its members having already displayed some interest in the ideas and activity of their guest’s party. And as Hitler’s speech progressed, it became evident that others who were not so well acquainted with his views found Hitler’s ‘socialism’ far more acceptable than the brands they had grown to hate and fear in their native Hamburg. For what Hitler outlined in his address was nothing else than a blueprint for the destruction of the German labour movement; the detailed strategy and tactics of fascist counter-revolution. Hitler at once went to the root of the problems confronting German imperialism. They did not, as so many on the bourgeois right asserted, date from the November Revolution. This disaster was itself only a symptom of a far more deep-seated disease, whose origins Hitler traced back to the formation of the German workers’ movement:

On that day when a Marxist movement was allowed to exist alongside the other political parties the death sentence was passed on the Reich. All else flowed logically and was the political consequence of the activity of a movement which from the first had as its goal the destruction of the Reich... [24]

Hitler then scourged the old bourgeois ‘national’ parties and leaders for failing to grasp the root of the problem and take the necessary measures as Bismarck had vainly attempted to do with his anti-socialist legislation:

The parties of the right were powerless. It has always been our tenet that the people can be educated, that politics is a matter which can be fought about with intellectual weapons. That is wrong, as the final objective of politics, now and for the future, is war. We cannot talk about the laws of democracy prevailing, the determination of things to come by a free people, by the majority of the people. This only makes sense if people recognise it and abide by it. In a so-called democratic society, on that day when a minority, however small, says this law does not apply to us, we will build up our own force and we are prepared to achieve whatever we want by the most brutal means regardless of the cost, when we feel strong enough, on that day, the whole democratic lunacy is doomed. [25]

Hitler had struck just the right note, for these were the sentiments of many of those gathered in the audience. They loathed the political system created by the ‘November crime’, and the consequent prominent role allotted within it to the reformist representatives of the workers’ movement. Before November 1918, the worker knew his place. He would not have dreamt of prying into the business affairs of his employer. Now the same worker had the right – on paper at least – to elect representatives from his shop organisation to check on the operations of the company, just as he had secured the right to free collective bargaining. His employer was now compelled by law to negotiate with his trade union’s officials. All this to the reactionary employer, bred in the palmy days of Bismarck and Wilhelm II, was nothing short of ‘Marxist dictatorship’. Hitler knew how they felt, since this had long been his own opinion. What he had new to tell them, and what they wanted to hear, was how to end this ‘red tyranny’. [26] But first they listened approvingly to Hitler’s explanation of why the bourgeoisie had failed to establish its authority in the early years of the Weimar Republic:

The bourgeoisie had not the power on their own [they shared it with the Social Democrats – RB], but in practice they governed the state and the power was still embodied in the state. The whole military establishment and the administration still represented power. But our bourgeoisie so little recognised the necessity of possessing power or of the need for a political philosophy, that it did us the most serious harm. The soldier was persuaded: ‘politics are not your affair’. The politicians had been brought up in the conviction to use no brutality, only intellectual weapons. The two had been so far separated that they could not now get together. [27]

Thus the bourgeoisie held in its hands the main levers of state power – the army, police, bureaucracy, courts, etc – but due to its entire tradition of political indecisiveness and lack of schooling in the harsh business of ruling, could not or would not use them to crush its mortal Marxist enemy. Indeed, they sat in the cabinet with its Social Democratic representatives, the leaders of a movement which Hitler claimed was characterised by the very qualities the bourgeoisie lacked: ‘spirit and brute strength’. Hitler understood far more clearly than any theoretician of ‘Third Period’ Stalinism that for all its ‘bourgeoisification’ the Social Democratic movement had to be utterly destroyed if Germany was to be politically, economically and militarily equipped for its imperialist role in Europe and the Soviet east. After 1928, the Comintern leadership repeatedly declared that the SPD was taking on the twin tasks of the fascisation of Germany and the preparation of a new war of intervention against the USSR. [28] Here we have Hitler, two years earlier, insisting the precise opposite; that the agency for enslaving the German proletariat was National Socialism, and that to achieve this aim, it had to annihilate Social Democracy:

Thus the revolution succeeded and became stabilised in these past seven years. I emphasise ‘the revolution’ but not ‘the republic’ because it is not a question of republic or monarchy but of the structure the revolution has fashioned, which still endures even if it appears to have slowed down. [29]

Hitler here refers to the greatly enhanced role the reformist labour movement enjoyed under the Weimar regime – a supposition which becomes obvious in the next passage:

The reasons for the perpetuation of this revolution lie in two human weaknesses: one is the cowardice of [the bourgeois] part of the nation and the other in extreme selfishness. For the revolution has understood something. Not only has it torn down the old building but replaced it by their own apparatus. There are now 60 to 70 000 of their supporters in government employment posts and they know their existence depends on the continuance of the present situation. Should this edifice collapse, so would their own existence. Just think gentlemen how incompetent and incapable are those at the top who are bound up in such a situation. How can such low-grade people be members of state government, how can such worthless people qualify for the suffice of Reichs President. Also, when things collapse, their own existence shatters into a thousand fragments. When this scum is so incapable that he can hardly make a living as a guttersnipe, but is now elevated to the governing class, surely he will fight fanatically to preserve this situation. You see today the consequences of this tragedy, and each one feels it personally. [30]

Thus did Hitler speak of the working class when snugly closeted behind the locked doors of his future big business paymasters. ‘Low grade’ proletarian ‘guttersnipes’ and ‘scum’ had no right to hold office in the German state or any of its subsidiary organs. The bourgeoisie would only be able to concentrate on its main task – making profits – when this alien growth had been expelled from the German body politic. That was the meaning of Hitler’s repeated assertion that the question of political power had to be resolved before there could be any question of an economic flowering:

Economically Germany is gradually facing the danger of a takeover by foreign capital... The object is no longer to give Germany some assistance but to get the German economy under its control. That is what the Dawes Plan is all about. It was originally believed in many quarters that the Dawes Plan would bring about an unending flow of gold into Germany. The experience has been the opposite and Locarno has been the political receipt for it... I would [therefore] like to touch on an important manifestation of the postwar period... the quite incomprehensible belief that the German economy would one day recover and be built up again... It is madness to spread the idea that Germany will one day rise again by economic means [that is, by means of the Dawes Plan – RB]... because experience shows that a blooming economy cannot safeguard the state, unless accompanied by a vigilant political will to survive, economics can even be the lure to the destruction of a state. Each one is capable of growth, but woe to those who do not back it up with power... If we ask ourselves the question what have we really been doing all these years for the salvation of Germany, the honest answer is, we have tried to revive the economy... You know, perhaps better than others, how treacherous this conclusion has proved... What is depicted as a revival of Germany is in reality only the organisation of Germany as a colony for its colonialist masters. [Shouts of ‘Quite so'] [31]

Hitler has now reached the nub of his case. He poses to his bourgeois audience the question he asks in Mein Kampf: how can the political deadlock in Weimar Germany be broken? He describes the polarisation of forces between left and right, worker and capitalist with a rare degree of class consciousness:

What has brought about this downfall? Not recognising the Marxist danger. And what is the position today? There are 30 or 34 million people who decide Germany’s fate – by their votes. They consist of three sections. One couldn’t care less about what happens. Then there is another section who are internationally, or at least only vaguely nationally minded... it consists not only of the Social Democrats but also the Communists, the pacifist Social Democrats and reaches into the centre or to the so-called right parties who will not commit themselves to the national interests, but hope for international pacifist support. This gives opposing groups of 14 to 15 millions and 10,12 or 13 millions of nationally minded with temperament, energy and strength... Why then cannot Germany rise again? Numbers do not count. What does count is the will to power. The international groups combine the most active, powerful and disciplined... The Communists could win by some form of violent attack. Believe me, if they do, in three years, you wouldn’t know Germany. Perhaps millions would go to the scaffold. Every theatre, every cinema, everything down to the railway trains would carry Communist propaganda... On the other hand, suppose the DVP won. You would see no change from now. The hoardings would still have Communist propaganda, bookshops their manifestos, etc, etc... these Left groups, at most 12-14 million strong, are more determined and ruthless than the millions on the other side. The broad masses are blind and stupid and don’t know what they are doing. The parties of the right are without the will to grasp power. It is quite obvious they have become timid inside the walls of their own camp. Be clear on this – since time began, the freedom of nations has only been won and safeguarded in battle... Germany will be no exception. Germany is disarmed and encircled, any national policy is thwarted by the presence of these 14 or 15 million negative elements. Germany cannot today conduct a policy nor can she fight a battle. If Germany had to fight today, the warriors could only be taken from the universities and from a few patriotic associations... At the next election the KPD will get five to six million votes. Many do not see the danger. The grave diggers of Germany are at work. If the Communists were to march today, the Social Democrats would follow them... Read the Social Democratic press and you will find a continuous leftward trend... It almost exceeds the Communist in agitation. It has to, otherwise their flock would desert them. Today the Social Democrats are demanding a people’s referendum... the wind has changed direction... they can sense coming events and do not want to be left behind. [32]

So whichever way the German bourgeoisie turned, whether towards the restoration of its lost colonies and territory, or in the search for political stability and economic prosperity at home, it came up hard against the same obstacle – the 14 to 15 million ‘negative elements’ of the German proletariat. At this point, when no avenue of escape appears to be either visible or possible, the most determined among the ruling class will turn to the fascists for a solution. And Hitler gives it:

Whether the DVP or the DNVP gets an electoral victory today, takes 15 or 20 seats from the rest, has no significance... That is what people will not face up to, and that is why Germany will not rise again but decline further year by year. I want to state a plain fact. The matter of Germany’s revival is the matter of the destruction of Marxism... The recognition of this was the moving cause of my political activity and of the foundation of the movement I represent today. There are 15 million willing and convinced anti-nationals. Until they are led back into the fold of a collective national feeling, all talk of a German revival is meaningless. [Shouts of ‘Hear, hear!']... It was so in Italy. It has been resolved there, not thanks to the genius of one man, but to the intelligence of a part of the nation [obviously Hitler means here the bourgeois ‘part’ since it backed fascism to the hilt against the Italian labour movement – RB], who realised that all the flowering of trade is ridiculous as long as this poison is in the body. [Shouts of ‘Bravo!'] It is on the recognition of this that my movement was founded. Its task is single minded: the destruction and elimination of the Marxist philosophy. The bourgeois parties have no such aim. All they want is electoral activity. The fundamental thing is – either Marxism exterminates us or we exterminate it, root and branch. This formula will eventually create a force which alone can govern as in Italy today, where the political doctrine makes no secret of the fact that it will break the necks of its opponents, just as Russia has done on its side. This idea is unacceptable to conventional parliaments. When the moment of danger arises, it is much easier to appoint a commission, which in the end does nothing. [33]

And what does Hitler then propose; since parliamentary methods are powerless to combat and defeat the Marxist enemy, a movement embracing millions? He proposes the ‘plebeian solution’, or, in the apt words of Rauschning, to pit ‘mass against mass’. By its very nature, it is a counter-revolutionary task that is beyond the capabilities of even the most gifted bourgeois career politician, steeped as he inevitably must be in the traditions and methods of parliamentary manoeuvrings, and tricky combinations with the leaders of reformist labour. Such men might serve as invaluable fixers and wire-pullers for the fascists, but they cannot substitute for them, as Hitler makes clear and as his capitalist audience ecstatically acknowledges:

If we have grasped the fact that our fate is to be decided by the destruction of Marxism, then any means are justified to bring it about... a movement which turns to the broad masses, to those among whom the Marxists themselves work [is essential]. One can only get rid of poison with an antidote. We must be hard-headed, ruthless, sternly resolved and idealistic. [Thunderous applause from audience.] So such a movement must turn to the masses wherein lies the source of all power. [34]

This was heady stuff. The Hamburg bourgeois had never heard anything like it before in their lives. For the first time, here was a movement that not only sought the destruction of Marxism, but actually had a plan to carry it into practice. But Hitler also cautioned them. In order to break into the masses the Social Democrats and Communists regarded as their own private preserve, it would be necessary to indulge in frequent bouts of social demagogy, in which the Nazis would have to pledge themselves to a struggle against capitalism on behalf of the exploited workers and petit-bourgeois. This was the price the bourgeoisie had to pay for their salvation. And besides, as Hitler made clear, the eventual winners would be the employers, since the Nazi ‘unions’ would not press for material gains as the ADGB unions had done, but drive the worker to produce more:

These broad masses who are deluded into fighting for Marxism are the only weapon the [Nazi] movement can use to destroy it. But they must be convinced of the rightness of our objective and that all means are justified... the German trade union movement... was implanted from abroad and had Marxist tendencies... The Marxists are behind all these demands [for higher pay, shorter hours, etc]... They say ‘Behold the bourgeoisie, they feast and revel and you get nothing.’ But if a new movement arises which genuinely looks after the broad masses, don’t you think it could conduct the struggle differently, that the masses could be won over? They must be convinced of our intention to create an independent German national state that will satisfy all their reasonable [sic!] demands. They must believe they will share the benefits of increased production. The objective must no longer be higher wages; but increased production which will benefit all. [35]

Hitler had evidently caught the spirit of the rationalisation movement then gathering momentum in German industry, a fact which his audience probably noted with approval. A regime which set as its goal the keeping down of wages and the maximisation of production must have been an exciting prospect after seven years of the Republic’s ‘political wages’, and enforced collective bargaining and the eight-hour day.

Hitler quickly reassured his audience that there was no question of the Nazi movement yielding to the working class simply because National Socialism had espoused a radical-sounding programme and a mass-oriented and aggressive propaganda style:

It is no use saying to them [the masses]: ‘I invite you to a discussion.’ What you must say is: ‘Fellow Germans, I hereby open the mass assembly. I must point out that we are in charge and anyone daring to interrupt will be flung out and land up with a broken head.’ [Tumultuous applause from audience.] Individual workers can often make so-called reasonable and sensible utterances. But when he undergoes the effect of 200 000 in the Lustgarten, he is only a worm among them, and these 200 000 are not only a symbol of strength, but also the truth of the movement... The [Nazi] movement must be intolerant! This is especially important in view of the bourgeois attitude that everyone has the right to express an opinion... Our movement will not tolerate that kind of thing... If a movement wants to carry out a struggle against Marxism it must be as intolerant as Marxism itself... If I succeed reclaiming the 15 million folk who today cry ‘down with Germany, long live the international, down with the bourgeoisie, long live the proletariat’ who is going to question my means of doing it? [36]

Who indeed. Certainly, very few of those gathered in the Hotel Atlantic on the night of 28 February 1926. And to prove his point, he cited the example of his mentor, Mussolini:

Remember how we said about Mussolini; he suppresses eleven newspapers, sets fire to four trade union headquarters, and that tomorrow he will do this and that and the other [terrible thing]. But this man has freed Italy from its greatest enemy, and restored it as a great power. [37]

And Hitler knew full well that this was the argument which carried most weight with the German bourgeoisie. The close of his speech was greeted, as it had so often been punctuated, with ‘tumultuous ovations and cheers’.

There then followed in quick succession further meetings with business leaders, mainly industrialists, as Hitler followed up his great triumph in Hamburg. (There was also the added advantage for Hitler of the rightward swing in the bourgeoisie during and after the princes referendum campaign.) On 18 June, he addressed industrialists in Essen (Goebbels was present, and described the meeting as ‘fabulous’), where he returned again in the December of the same year, this time addressing about 200 industrialists on the evils of Marxism, democracy, etc. A new note appears to have been struck by his call for living space in Eastern Europe, a topic which he left alone in his Hamburg speech.

Hitler attached a great deal of importance to these meetings with capitalists, as can be seen from a letter by his deputy, Hermann Hess, to a Nazi supporter in London, Walter Hewel:

You will probably be most interested to learn that last year [1926] he spoke three times before invited industrialists from Rhineland-Westphalia, etc, twice in Essen, and once in Königswinter. Each time it was as successful as that time in the Atlantic Hotel in Hamburg.

Hess also makes the revealing admission that the privacy and composition of the meeting meant that:

Hitler could speak quite openly about his political and economic aims; because he could attune his speech to a fairly uniform audience, he was able to stick to a consistent line. As in Hamburg, so in this instance the attitude was at first rather cool and negative... It was a great pleasure for me to be able to observe how the men slowly changed their outlook not without visible signs of their inner resistance. At the end they clapped in a way these men probably rarely clapped. The result was that at the second meeting of industrialists in Essen about 500 gentlemen accepted invitations. Hitler will probably speak to industrialists for the third time on 27 April [1927].

Hitler, after two years in the political wilderness, was on the way back. And the men of the Ruhr were beginning to take interest.


1. Hitler also applied this principle to international questions. Seeing Fascist Italy as a natural ally of a future National Socialist Germany, he was prepared to forego nationalist claims to the German-speaking Tyrol in order to cement such an alliance: ‘Whatever you do, do it completely. By beefing against five or ten states, we neglect the concentration of all our willpower and physical force, for the thrust to the heart of our infamous [Marxist and Soviet] enemy, and sacrifice the possibility of strengthening ourselves by an alliance for this conflict... the National Socialist movement... must teach our people to look beyond trifles and see the biggest things, not to split up over irrelevant things, and never to forget that the aim for which we must fight today is bare existence of our people, and the sole enemy which we must strike is and remains the power which is robbing us of this existence... The struggle that Fascist Italy is waging... against the three main weapons of the Jews is the best indication that... the poison fangs of this supra-state hydra are being torn out. The prohibition of Masonic secret societies, the persecution of the supranational press, as well as the continuous demolition of international Marxism, and conversely, the steady reinforcement of the Fascist state conception, will in the course of the years cause the Italian government to serve the interests of the Italian people more and more, without regard for the hissing of the Jewish world hydra.’ (A Hitler, Mein Kampf (London, 1943), pp 635-37) Which rendered it an excellent ally of a Fascist Germany.

2. Lüdecke had been entrusted by Hitler with a mission to the United States in search of funds for the party’s empty coffers. He visited the Jew-baiting and anti-union car king Henry Ford at his Detroit headquarters, but failed to extract anything more substantial than his platonic support, even though Lüdecke promised Ford that ‘whoever helped us now would not fare badly from a business standpoint... a binding agreement could be arranged whereby large concessions would be guaranteed there [Germany]... from the moment of Hitler’s rise to power’. Ford, who could hardly be blamed for his scepticism about the prospects of a movement whose leader was currently in jail for treason, was not tempted even by the offer of a stake in the Russian market, which Lüdecke declared the Nazis would soon open up once they came to power in Germany: ‘Pointing to the probability that a Nazi regime in Germany might lead to a change also in the Russian situation, with the reopening of that vast market, I emphasised the tremendous rewards his initiative would bring, not only in advancing his business interests, but also by furthering his grandiose social policies throughout the world.’ (K Lüdecke, I Knew Hitler (New York, 1937), p 199) Lüdecke appears to have had no more success with Hiram Evans, Imperial Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan. In complete contrast with the Nazis, this movement did not lack cash but a strategy for power: ‘With such a flood of money pouring in, any man of genius might have been able to anticipate, in America, the work Hitler eventually did in Germany.’ (p 205) Though the KKK may well have been deficient in leadership, its failure to become a serious contender for power was due to objective historical, economic and political factors, and not subjective ones.

3. Lüdecke, I Knew Hitler, p 217.

4. Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp 546-53. And here Hitler was undoubtedly right. Nothing could have been more intimidating for the waverers within the workers’ movement, and inspiring for those who were its enemies, than to see seemingly endless columns of uniformed SA men and youths marching through the working-class quarters of Berlin, Hamburg and Germany’s other industrial centres, chanting in unison their songs of hate against Marxism, the republic, the Jews – and, in a cunningly demagogic twist, the ‘reaction’. Hitler had learned his Vienna lesson well.

5. O Strasser, Hitler and I (London, 1940), p 83. While Otto Strasser gave a medievalist slant to his fascism (in common with so many others), he was ahead of his time in advocating a European economic and trading union some of whose proposed features have been incorporated into the Common Market: ‘A European Federation based on the same principles... would lead to a disarmed Europe, forming a solid bloc in which each country retained its own administration, customs and religion. The abolition of tariff walls would create a kind of European Autarchy, with free trade prevailing throughout the continent.’ (Strasser, Hitler and I, p 83) And autarchy, of course, was Hitler’s central economic airy, though he saw it being realised not through a Pan-European federation in which all member nations enjoyed (theoretically at least) equal rights, but under the total domination of German arms and industry. In this sense too, Hitler assumed the mantle of Bismarck.

6. Völkischer Beobachter, 24-25 May 1925.

7. The Nazi ‘left’ followed with close interest and not a little sympathy Stalin’s campaign against the Left Opposition, with articles appearing on this theme in the NS Briefe for 15 October, 15 November and 15 December 1927. All were concerned with the expulsion of the Trotskyists from the Bolshevik Party just prior to its Fifteenth Congress, a development which the journal heralded as further confirmation that Stalin was embracing a national and anti-Semitic version of socialism. Goebbels, now writing in his own Berlin daily, Der Angriff, commented (on 16 January and 6 February 1928) that Stalin’s victory over the Left Opposition represented the ascendency of agrarian, nationalist and non-proletarian forces in the USSR over ‘Jewish’ internationalism as represented by Trotsky. Earlier, on 21 November, Goebbels had denounced the Trotskyist opposition and warned German workers against adhering to a ‘Fourth International’ (which Soviet and other Stalinists were also slanderously asserting Trotsky was about to found). On 12 March 1928, Goebbels waxed sarcastic on the prospects of building a genuine Communist leadership in opposition to the Stalinist faction in the USSR and the Comintern, as well as the reformists of the Second International: ‘Four “Internationals” and still no solidarity: on the contrary, only new fissures and establishments! This ought to make clear, finally, to the thinking German worker that all internationalism is a swindle and that he can achieve a betterment of his situation only through a national organisation of labour.’ Even Rosenberg’s Weltkampf, normally a mouthpiece for the most vitriolic attacks on the USSR, began to revise its opinion on the post-Lenin regime, with approving articles on Stalin’s anti-Semitism and nationalism appearing in its issues for February and April 1929. The Hitler – Stalin pact of August 1939 flowed directly from the Nazi leadership’s appreciation of how far the Kremlin leadership had departed from proletarian internationalism. All of which renders even more piquant the charge trumped up at the second and third Moscow Show Trials against Trotsky and other leading Soviet oppositionists that they were agents of German fascism.

8. NS Briefe, 15 October 1925.

9. ‘Third Period’ Stalinism, instead of taking a principled stand against such cunning demagogy, and defending the Social Democrats, leaders as well as rank and file, from all Nazi attacks, whether verbal, written or physical (while at all times demarcating itself from reformism, and pointing out that these Nazi manoeuvres were only possible because of Social Democratic treachery), actually lent credence to such demagogy by aligning itself, as on the occasion of the Prussian Referendum of 1931, with the Nazis against the SPD.

10. Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp 597-98.

11. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 598, emphasis added.

12. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 598.

13. Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp 600-01.

14. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 605. How anxious Hitler was to prevent the development of a ‘proletarian’ wing to the party paying lip service to class trade unionism is clear from the following passage: ‘... the germ cells for the economic chambers will have to reside in bodies representing the most varied occupations, hence above all in the [Nazi] trade unions. And if this future body representing the estates and the central economic parliament are to constitute a National Socialist institution, these important germ cells must also embody a National Socialist attitude and conception... Upon the economic chambers themselves it will be incumbent to keep the national economy functioning and eliminate the deficiencies and errors which damage it. The things for which millions fight and struggle today must in time be settled in the chamber of estates and the central economic parliament. Then employers and workers will not rage against one another in a struggle over pay and wage scales, damaging the economic existence of both, but solve these problems together, in a higher instance, which must above all constantly envision the welfare of the people as a whole and of the state...’ And consequently, the right to strike, which Hitler demagogically upheld under the Weimar Republic, has no place in a regime which has ‘abolished’ the class struggle: ‘For the National Socialist union... the strike is an instrument which may and actually must be applied only so long as a National Socialist folkish state does not exist.’ (Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp 599-602)

15. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p 603.

16. Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp 604-05, emphasis added.

17. Strasser, Hitler and I, pp 87-88.

18. Hitler was currently receiving a monthly subsidy of 1500 marks from one of the royal houses threatened with expropriation – that of von Sachsen-Anhalt, via the divorced Duchess Eduard. The Rhineland Prince Eulenburg had also shown an interest in Hitler’s movement, though it is not known whether this went to the extent of giving its leader money. At any rate, he and his fellow aristocratic parasites must have been flattered by Hitler’s description of the referendum. Apart from being a ‘Jewish swindle’, it represented the revolt of the ‘subhuman’ against the ‘élite’. Alfred Rosenberg, who entirely shared Hitler’s orthodox bourgeois views on private property, recalled Hitler ‘declared that as long as private property was recognised as one of the foundations of national life, he would not yield, irrespective of how bad the rulers of the various states had been. The NSDAP adopted this point of view.’ (A Rosenberg, Memoirs (Chicago and New York, 1949), p 204)

19. The Communist Workers Party (KAPD) was a syndicalist offshoot from the KPD, breaking away after the Kapp Putsch.

20. Of Goebbels’ defection to Hitler, Otto Strasser writes that in the course of his visit to Munich in April: ‘Goebbels had time to make contact with the officials of the Bavarian party [who were, for the first time, receiving a steady salary – RB]. The number of cars at the disposal of Hitler’s associates did not fail to impress him, and he compared his own modest way of living with the luxury already enjoyed by the Streichers, the Essers, the Webers. His choice was made even before the meeting [at which Hitler won Goebbels over – RB] started.’ (Strasser, Hitler and I, p 89) Shortly prior to this sudden ‘conversion’ – in February 1926 – Goebbels had written to Hitler suggesting that he take on the leaders of the north German ‘lefts’ as a new general staff, hinting that their opposition would melt away if he did so: ‘The men are available. Just call them. Or rather, summon them one after another just as in your eyes they seem to deserve it.’

21. J Goebbels, Diaries, 1925-1926 (London, 1962), passim.

22. In a letter to Pfeffer, Hitler made it plain his new SA chief was to make a clean sweep of the Röhm old guard and its methods: ‘The training of the SA must be carried out, not according to military principles, but according to the needs of the party... In order also to divert the SA from any temptation to activism by petty conspiracies, they must from the very beginning be completely initiated into the great idea of the movement and so fully trained in the task of representing this idea that the individual does not see his mission as the eliminating of some petty rogue, but as committing himself to the establishment of a new National Socialist people’s state. Thereby the struggle against the present state will be raised out of the atmosphere of petty acts of revenge and conspiracy to the grandeur of a philosophical war of annihilation against Marxism. We shall not work in secret conventicles but in huge mass marches; the way for the movement cannot be opened up by dagger or poison or pistol, but by conquest of the street.’

23. A Hitler, Speech to NSDAP rally, Nuremberg, 1933.

24. A Hitler, Speech to the Hamburg 1919 National Club, 28 February 1926, translated from W Jochman, Im Kampf um die Macht (Frankfurt, 1960).

25. Hitler, Speech to the Hamburg 1919 National Club, 28 February 1926.

26. ‘On the one side [against the bourgeois parties] were the Social Democrats, not as a weapon of reason but as a weapon of terrorism, as brutal force. They did not appeal to the mind nor to democracy. They called the masses into the streets and with these street masses... this affair [the November Revolution] was carried out by a handful of people. But this handful had a creed to which they were brutally dedicated.’ (Hitler, Speech to the Hamburg 1919 National Club, 28 February 1926)

27. Hitler, Speech to the Hamburg 1919 National Club, 28 February 1926.

28. ‘One of the features of the approach of a new revolutionary rise is the fact that in the leading capitalist countries (Germany and Britain) the bourgeoisie had been compelled to bring into action its last reserve – Social Democracy. The Müller and Macdonald governments have accepted the task entrusted to them by the bourgeoisie – to break the rising movements of the workers, establish a fascist dictatorship, and prepare for war, war first and foremost on the USSR.’ (S Gusiev, ‘On the Road to a New Revolutionary Rise’, Communist International, Volume 6, no 19, 15 August 1929, p 717) Less than a year later, Hermann Müller and his fellow Social Democrats had been ejected from the government by the big bourgeoisie, the first step taken towards the assumption of power by the real fascists and German imperialism’s war on the USSR. As Hitler so rightly insisted, the precondition for the fascisation of Germany and the securing of ‘living space’ in the Soviet east was the total destruction of what the Stalinists termed ‘social fascism’. Since Third Period Stalinism denied the existence of any contradiction between the reformist bureaucracy and the Nazis, it was unable to exploit the antagonisms which arose between the bourgeoisie and the SPD when the former began to hound the reformist leaders and their lower functionaries out of the government and state administrations (as in the case of von Papen’s removal of the Prussian Social Democratic government on 20 July 1932, when even the SPD police chief ended up in one of his own prison cells!). Trotsky, on the other hand, repeatedly insisted that the KPD should discard its adventurist, ultra-leftist policy of rejecting a united front with the Social Democratic organisations and instead employ the tactic of the united front, exploiting even the smallest and most transitory conflicts which the bourgeois offensive generated between the Nazis and the reformist leaders. Their struggle to cling on to their long-accustomed posts and privileges, which, whether they liked it or not, was directed against the fascists who were seeking to displace them, helped to create the conditions for the formation of an anti-Nazi united front between the SPD, the ADGB and the KPD, the three principal organisations of the German working class: ‘The thousands upon thousands of Noskes, Welses and Hilferdings prefer, in the last analysis, fascism to Communism. But for that they must once and for all tear themselves loose from the workers. Today this is not yet the case. Today the Social Democracy as a whole, with all its internal antagonisms, is forced into sharp conflict with the fascists [just as in March 1920, it was forced into sharp conflict with Kapp – RB]. It is our task to take advantage of this conflict and not to unite the antagonists against us... It is necessary to show by deeds a complete readiness to make a bloc with the Social Democrats against the fascists in all cases in which they will accept a bloc.’ (LD Trotsky, ‘For a Workers’ United Front Against Fascism’ (8 December 1931), The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany (New York, 1971), p 137) Less than two months later, with the bourgeoisie hourly mounting its pressure on the besieged Social Democrats, Trotsky again insists that the depth of the German crisis is forcing the ruling class towards a total rupture with the reformists that had served it so well in the past: ‘Just now their [Hitler’s and the Social Democratic leaders'] interests diverge. At the given moment the question that is posed before the Social Democracy is not so much one of defending the foundations of capitalist society against proletarian revolution as of defending the semi-parliamentary bourgeois system against fascism. The refusal to make use of this antagonism would be an act of gross stupidity.’ (LD Trotsky, ‘What Next?’ (27 January 1932), The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, p 173). The Stalinist movement only broke from ‘social fascism’ and turned towards a bloc with the Social Democrats when the reformist leaders found themselves threatened principally not by fascist counter-revolution, but proletarian revolution. This was the genesis of the Stalinist – reformist – bourgeois-liberal Popular Front in France and Spain before the war, and it remains so to this day, as witnessed by Chile.

29. Hitler, Speech to the Hamburg 1919 National Club, 28 February 1926.

30. Hitler, Speech to the Hamburg 1919 National Club, 28 February 1926, emphasis added.

31. Hitler, Speech to the Hamburg 1919 National Club, 28 February 1926.

32. Hitler, Speech to the Hamburg 1919 National Club, 28 February 1926, emphasis added.

33. Hitler, Speech to the Hamburg 1919 National Club, 28 February 1926, emphasis added.

34. Hitler, Speech to the Hamburg 1919 National Club, 28 February 1926, emphasis added.

35. Hitler, Speech to the Hamburg 1919 National Club, 28 February 1926, emphasis added.

36. Hitler, Speech to the Hamburg 1919 National Club, 28 February 1926, emphasis added.

37. Hitler, Speech to the Hamburg 1919 National Club, 28 February 1926.