Fascism in Germany. Robin Blick 1975

Chapter XIX: ‘Toleration’

We must keep Brüning alive so long as he is determined to resist fascism. (Hermann Müller to the SPD Congress, May 1931)

When Chancellor Heinrich Brüning, leader of the Centre Party Reichstag fraction, took office on 29 March 1930, hopes were high in business, agrarian and military circles that with the ousting of the SPD ‘Marxists’, it would at last be possible to implement the programme each had been demanding since the onset of the economic crisis – namely drastic cuts in the wages and living conditions of the working population, and abroad, a more aggressive and imperialist foreign policy, epitomised by the High Command’s insistence on the building of cruiser ‘A’. Wilhelm Gröner, Müller’s Minister of Defence had, as early as January 1930, resolved that army policy could not be fully carried out while the SPD remained in the cabinet:

The SPD is afraid of losing the mass of its constituents to the Communists if it joins the bourgeois parties in swallowing the financial reforms [proposed by big business and Schacht – RB]... During my official absences from Berlin my ‘cardinal for political affairs’ has been doing excellent work behind the scenes. I have the best trumps, and the lead is on my left. And so we shall wait to see what 1930 will bring.

Gröner’s ‘political cardinal’ was that arch-intriguer General Kurt von Schleicher, who, as Gröner’s protégé from the earliest days of the Republic, had been promoted a little earlier to the highly influential post of Chief of the Defence Ministry Office. Tired with Müller’s inability to break free from the stranglehold of his own party’s links with the working class, Gröner and Schleicher were already looking for an alternative Chancellor who would be free from such inhibitions. As the fall of Müller drew near, their attentions turned towards Brüning, the leader of the third-largest party in the Reichstag, a man who while willing to work within the Weimar framework (unlike the Hugenberg Nationalists) was, as his approach to Hindenburg over the question of financial reforms indicated, ready to employ methods of rule that for Müller would have resulted in his political suicide. Indeed, Brüning had no choice but follow the path towards Bonapartism. Rule by decree was the only means left open to him to force through the programme being demanded by big business, since his cabinet did not, like its predecessor Müller’s, command a majority in the Reichstag. It included four representatives of the Centre, two from the DVP and one each from the BVP, DDP, Economic Party and an anti-Hugenberg DNVP, the agrarian leader Schiele. Even allowing for the score or so DNVP deputies who abstained on clause four of the Hugenberg – Hitler ‘freedom law’, Brüning could count on at the most 190 votes in any important Reichstag division, leaving the remaining 300 either intransigently opposed, like the KPD or the Nazis and their DNVP bed-fellows, or wavering between a policy of guarded support and hesitant opposition, as was the case with the SPD. The Centre Party, as a party which in doctrine and social composition, if not policy, transcended any one particular class interest, was peculiarly well suited to play the part of fulcrum in the opening stages of the republic’s swing towards Bonapartism and, finally, fascism. Its left face, represented by Labour Minister Adam Stegerwald (a former Catholic trade union leader) was turned beguilingly towards the Social Democrats and the ADGB bureaucracy, while to the right, die-hard reactionaries such as the party leader Kaas, [1] and the even more obscurantist von Papen, reassured the exploiting classes that the Centre was grounded firmly on the Christian virtues of respect for private property and the defence of the state against rebellion. Holding the balance in the middle would be Brüning himself, who in a period of cataclysmic economic and attendant political crises, attempted to placate everyone, and ended up by satisfying none. Yet as we have said, at the start of his two-year tenure of office, important sections of the ruling class were hoping that Brüning would carry and deliver the goods. Above all, the leaders of industry and finance desired an end to party government, the constant eruption of cabinet crises, the inner-party splits and defections. They were frustrated with the near-impossibility of securing the passage of legislation through a Reichstag that, for a host of reasons, could not give its assent to bills that would undermine the parties’ following amongst the mass of the population (only the two confessional parties in the new cabinet felt confident enough to put the loyalties of their supporters to such an exacting test – such was the power of the priest in German politics). Thus Funk’s Berliner Börsen Zeitung, commenting on the fall of Müller, declared:

It will of course be better if the government is able to pass laws for a few months without disturbance than if an election campaign and new elections were to hinder the practical utilisation of the theoretical legislative work [that is, Brüning’s proposed financial reforms – RB] and destroy it by inner political upheavals.

And very much in the same vein, the Vossiche Zeitung stated:

An election in a country where there are several million unemployed, and where great excitement prevails as a result of the Young Plan, would result in a considerable growth of the extreme parties of both the Right and Left.

Bismarck had no time for the rabble-rousing antics of the anti-Semites. He had fought the Marxists with the traditional weapons of the police, the courts and the bureaucracy – and with just a mild dose of ‘state socialism’. How different must the Nazis have seemed, with their shameless demagogy, their mimicking of Communist slogans, tactical support of strikes, mass demonstrations, clashes with the police, brash, plebeian-styled propaganda and carefully cultivated disdain for social airs and graces. And quite apart from the ‘Jacobin’ methods of the Nazis, there was the question of their 1920 programme, which declared its hostility to trust and finance capital. What were the less politically aware business leaders to make of such a party, which fought the Bolsheviks with what must have appeared to be simply a Bolshevism of a different hue? Far better to leave the task of ruling to the old and trusted parties, which, for all their faults, were led by men of their own class and outlook. Better the devil you know...

These qualms were aggravated considerably by the sensational victory of the Nazis in the May 1930 elections to the Saxon Landtag. Both Brüning and his supporters in the business world would therefore obviously have preferred to postpone a Reichstag election for as long as possible, in the hope that the crisis might abate and the parties of the extreme left and right in consequence begin to lose ground. But this was not to be. Right from his first days of office, Brüning had been faced with the possibility that his minority government could be brought down on a vote of no-confidence. Brüning’s answer to this threat was to make it clear from the beginning that such an adverse vote on his policies would compel him to dissolve the Reichstag and ask President Hindenburg to call new elections, from which, as all the parties knew, only the Nazis and KPD would gain. Thus Brüning hoped to blackmail at least the SPD into supporting his cabinet, even though the party was now excluded from it. Not to do so was to court serious reverses at the hands of the KPD in the Reichstag elections which would almost certainly follow the SPD’s defection in the Reichstag to the anti-Brüning camp. Therefore Brüning’s government declaration of 1 April 1930 made two things clear. Firstly, his was not a ‘party’ cabinet (a point inserted into the declaration on the request of President Hindenburg, who was growing increasingly restless with the comings and goings of party politicians), and secondly, that the cabinet ‘had been formed for the purpose of solving as quickly as possible those problems which are... vital to the nation’s existence’. For that reason, they would embody ‘the last attempt to arrive at a solution with this Reichstag’. Brüning – and Hindenburg – pointed a pistol at the heads of those party leaders who stood to lose most in a crisis election – namely everyone save the KPD on the left and the NSDAP on the right. Yet the SPD could hardly afford not to oppose Brüning, since openly to support his proposed cuts in wages and insurance would just as quickly, if not more so, drive its restless working-class supporters towards the KPD (needless to say, had the KPD been pursuing the correct tactic at this juncture, the haemorrhage would have been immeasurably more rapid).

The dilemma of the Social Democrats was further compounded by the quite blatant sop to the agrarians contained in Brüning’s programmatic declaration. Obviously at the instigation of President Hindenburg himself, Brüning proposed to pay a massive cash grant to distressed farmers in East Prussia – the so-called Osthilfe (nearly all of which ended up in the pockets of the richest Junker landlords, Hindenburg included). This, coming on top of the cuts in living standards demanded by Brüning, was too much even for the reformists to swallow, and so on the motion of Rudolf Breitscheid, the Brüning government was subjected to the indignity of a vote of no-confidence on the occasion of its first appearance before the Reichstag. Each of the participants in the series of dramatic clashes that ensued would have rather acted otherwise, but the sheer force of the crisis, the pressure of the contending classes as they were thrown into battle by the daily-deepening slump, left them no choice. Brüning on this occasion carried the house with him by a vote of 253 to 187, but only because Hugenberg’s faction voted with the dissident DNVP deputies against the SPD motion – obviously because with the Nazis breathing down their necks, they were anxious to be seen voting for the interests of the small and poverty-stricken peasants of East Prussia, whence the DNVP collected most of its votes. Brüning’s government had survived only by permission of one of its most bitter opponents, and its leader at once drew the appropriate conclusions. A few days after the Reichstag vote, he told a meeting of the Centre Party national committee: ‘As the parliament becomes increasingly sterile and the parties increasingly divisive, the position of the President grows automatically more powerful.’ This was the unadulterated language of Bonapartism. Its purpose was to frighten the reformists into dropping their oppositional tactics and thus once more make possible the ‘rule of the parties’ which the President was yearning to end. But still the SPD leaders feared to expose their vulnerable left flank to the KPD. On 12 April, when Brüning jointly presented his financial and agrarian aid bills in a composite form (hoping thereby to induce the DNVP to vote its approval for both), the SPD cast its mandates once more against the government, an attack which on this occasion (with Hugenberg leading 23 Nationalists to register a negative vote) Brüning survived by a desperately slim majority of 217 to 206. Two weeks later, Brüning suffered another body blow when the DNVP executive decided to extend no more help to his government. Parliamentary rule in Germany now had little more than three months to run. On 7 July, the annual budget came before the Reichstag. It contained several highly controversial proposals to expedite the cuts in government expenditure being demanded by both bankers and industrialists. Economics Minister Hermann Dietrich (of the DDP) had devised a special tax of 2.5 per cent on the salaries of government officials, balanced, for political as well as economic reasons, by a reduction in unemployment relief payments, which, it was hoped would realise an economy of 100 million marks. He also proposed an increase in contributions of 0.5 per cent. Other smaller ‘reforms’ included stricter controls over municipal spending and a tax on alcoholic drinks. When the debate began on 15 July 1930, the SPD found itself in an agonising quandary. Previously, they had been able to vote against Brüning, knowing that sufficient other votes would be forthcoming to prevent the defeat of the government, thus averting the Reichstag elections they so feared. But now, with the DNVP on a collision course with Brüning, their own negative votes would tip the balance against the government. In the first vote on the budget, the SPD attempted to steer a middle course between the twin dangers of voting for Brüning’s cuts, and running the gauntlet of an early election contest with the KPD, by abstaining. Only the DNVP, the Nazis and the KPD voted against. That same evening, with the vote due the next day on the proposed tax on government officials’ salaries, it was made known – obviously to intimidate would-be oppositionists – that President Hindenburg had already granted Brüning the necessary emergency powers to carry out his reforms under Article 48, should the Reichstag reject them. Now the aspiring Bonaparte was climbing onto his horse! On 16 July – a fateful day in the history of the Weimar Republic – Brüning’s budget was voted down in the house by a clear majority of 256 to 193, with the SPD no longer abstaining, but voting against. The budget became law nevertheless, under Article 48 of the constitution. Rule by decree, the classic technique of Bonapartist government, whereby the executive, embodied in the Presidency, dominated the legislature, had been set in motion. At first, shocked by the severity of Brüning’s action, the SPD deputies refused to accept the decrees. They moved a resolution in the Reichstag declaring the decrees null and void, and this too was carried by the more narrow majority of 236 to 221 (Westarp having succeeded in inveigling a group of DNVP rebels into the Brüning camp). This act of defiance, though conducted strictly in accordance with the constitution, availed the Social Democrats nothing. Brüning had already taken the precaution of securing a dissolution decree from the President, which he proceeded to read to the now electrified Reichstag. And so the battle shifted to the electoral terrain so feared by all save the two parties whose doctrines – incompatible in every other respect – were mortally hostile to parliamentary rule.

For the shrinking band of politicians and bourgeois who continued to cling to the utopia of a ‘middle way’ between Communist revolution and fascism, the results of 14 September 1930 were an unmitigated disaster. The sharp increase in the KPD vote, and the spectacular leap in that of the Nazis, now meant that even if all the DNVP deputies (reduced by 32 to 41) voted with the government, Brüning would have to continue ruling by decree, unless the SPD reversed its vacillating course towards opposition, and came down firmly on the side of the government. The combined strength of the KPD, SPD and NSDAP in the new Reichstag was 327 seats, out of a total of 577. The SPD stood at the crossroads. Should the party, as many of its more left activists (and even Reichstag deputies) were arguing, continue to take no responsibility for the Brüning government’s unpopular legislation? Or was the correct course that of ‘tolerating’ Brüning, remaining outside his cabinet yet defending it against attacks from extreme right and left alike? The advocates of this class-collaborationist line argued that if the SPD did not support Brüning from the left, then he would be compelled to seek allies on the far right, possibly even amongst the Nazis. And so, this fallacious but highly persuasive theory concluded, better to support Brüning as the ‘lesser evil’ than have Hitler as the ‘greater evil’.

Those who argued in favour of the policy of toleration – one that viewed the struggle against fascism purely on the plane of parliamentary combinations, and not as a battle between classes – found their room for manoeuvre greatly restricted by their own characterisation of the Brüning regime in the campaign for the September elections. The SPD’s main slogan had denounced Brüning as the ‘ally of big capital’ who ‘wished to destroy the rights of the working class’. One election leaflet issued by the SPD went so far as to describe Brüning’s government as ‘the most reactionary since the [November] revolution’.

The SPD leadership had been driven to adopt this left stance in the elections on two accounts. Firstly the party felt threatened by the steady drift to the right in the entire bourgeois party system, from Brüning and the DDP right through to Hugenberg’s Nationalists and their extra-parliamentary arm, the Stahlhelm. Their unceremonious eviction from the government in March – greeted jubilantly by the entire capitalist – Junker press as marking a return to economic sanity – together with Brüning’s brutal response to the party’s bid to block his reactionary legislation, left the SPD with two alternatives: either crawl back to lick the boot that was kicking it, or kick back. The party leadership opted – briefly – for the second line of action, since recent election results had showed a clear trend in the working class away from the SPD towards the KPD (though this shift was nowhere near so rapid as the defections from the bourgeois parties towards the Nazis). In all probability, the SPD’s left line prior to the Reichstag elections saved it from far larger losses to the KPD (the SPD vote fell by 576 000, while the KPD’s rose by 1 328 000), as did the latter’s incessant abuse of the Social Democrats as ‘social fascists’, a policy that repelled untold numbers of SPD workers moving towards Communism under the stress of the crisis.

The debate as to which of these two policies to pursue – opposition or ‘toleration’ – raged at every level of the party and trade unions in the months between the elections of 14 September and the re-opening of the Reichstag on 13 October. Even the highest echelons of the reformist bureaucracy were divided. Otto Braun, Prime Minister of the Prussian state government, a man hardly noted in the party for his radical views, was at first quite adamant that to support Brüning, at a time when he would be forced to introduce batch after batch of economic and financial measures that would drive down the living standards of the SPD’s own members and voters, would be to court disaster. A close colleague of Braun’s in the Prussian government, Albert Grzesinski, took part in these heated discussions, and commented later:

After the first great election victory of the Nazis... Braun urged the Social Democratic Reichstag members to force the resignation of Chancellor Heinrich Brüning and his government. He was convinced that it would be a fatal mistake to bar the Nazis from government responsibility. His idea was to have the Nazis participate in a new government in the hope that they would soon dig their own graves. In that event, however, the Nazis would have endeavoured to influence Prussia and that seemed to me and others who shared my views most inadvisable. Today we know that the overthrow of Brüning in October 1930, as advocated by Otto Braun, would have been the soundest policy for the Social Democrats to follow. It would have clarified the tense political atmosphere and opened the opportunity of crushing the Nazi movement at a time when it was comparatively weak and the republican forces strong and determined. [2]

Like the advocates of ‘toleration’ (whom Braun soon joined), the Prussian Prime Minister conceived of the struggle against fascism through the prism of parliamentary blocs and manoeuvres. Let the Nazis come to power, so the argument ran, and they will expose themselves in no time before their petit-bourgeois following as stooges of reaction, of the big banks, trusts and landlords. Then, with the collapse of the Nazis, would come the removal of the threat that Brüning was employing to blackmail the SPD to support a rightist bourgeois cabinet. The road would be clear for the restoration of the old parliamentary system, so beloved of the reformists and the dwindling ranks of bourgeois liberals, with its tacit agreements, compromises and orderly rotation of ministerial portfolios. And for all their ultra-radical phraseology, the KPD Stalinists shared Braun’s illusion that the German labour movement could both survive and gain from a short spell of rule under the Nazis. They too argued that the sooner the Nazis came to power, the better, as a Hitler government would ‘expose’ itself quicker than any other capitalist regime. Thus argued Hermann Remmele in a Reichstag debate on 14 October 1931:

We declare to the bourgeoisie: there will be still less a way out when you let the fascist hordes come into power. That is what Herr Brüning plainly said. When they come into power, the united front of the proletariat [from which were excluded the millions of workers who still followed their ‘social fascist’ leaders – RB] will be set up and sweep everything away. We are the victors of tomorrow and the question is no longer, who will be beaten? This question has already been decided. The only question now is: When shall we overthrow the bourgeoisie? ... We are not afraid of the fascists. They will shoot their bolt sooner than any other government. [3]

Remmele was also the victim of another illusion shared by the Social Democrats. He prefaced his remarks on the advantages of a Nazi government by quoting from a declaration of the SPD issued in 1881, which said of Bismarck’s anti-socialist act that ‘so long as the law recognises us, then we will recognise the law. But the moment the law places us outside the law, we snap our fingers at the law.’ Not only the SPD reformists but even the ultra-radicals of the KPD could conceive of a Hitler government in no other terms than a new edition of Bismarck’s anti-socialist laws.

If this were so, then why fear the Nazis? Did not the Marxist pioneers not only withstand, but even thrive under Bismarck’s repressions? This dangerous theory, all too common in left-wing and even allegedly Trotskyist circles, was epitomised in the slogan of SPD co-chairman Otto Wels, coined after the assumption of power by Hitler in January 1933: ‘Tyrants do not rule for long.’ And so reasoned Otto Braun in the days that followed Hitler’s election victory of September 1930. Then Müller soon convinced him that support for Brüning was the only possible policy for the party to follow, having already said this to a meeting of the SPD Reichstag fraction where demands had been made for a continuation of the oppositional line that dominated during the election campaign.

Here the small group of lefts found themselves heavily outnumbered, and on 3 October 1930 the fraction approved by a large majority the policy of ‘toleration’ advocated by Müller. A memorandum circulated by the Reichstag fraction to all party organisations justified the decision by playing on the very real and justified fears of party cadres and members that a government under the influence of or dominated by the Nazis would:

... take over all the instruments of power in the country and would bring the Reichswehr and the police under their control... It would be the aim of a Hitler government to wipe out the Reichstag completely and to destroy all the democratic rights of the people. It would aim to follow the Italian example; in other words, it would destroy all working-class organisations, it would put the Reich under a permanent military state of siege, it would suppress all political freedoms including press freedom and the right of assembly; in short, it would mean civil war at home and expansionist war abroad.

The very correctness of these warnings about the disaster that would ensue from the victory of National Socialism greatly helped to stampede the waverers and the reformist workers in the party into supporting Müller’s policy of defending the ‘lesser evil’, little realising that by so doing they would make possible the victory of the ultimate evil, fascism.

But this was not the sole factor militating against a leftwards movement in the party rank and file. Just as damaging, and even more pernicious, was the influence of the Stalinists. Ever since the SPD Congress of May 1929, when the lefts mustered nearly 40 per cent of the delegates for critical votes on the party’s conduct in the Müller cabinet, they had been heaping abuse of the vilest and most slanderous kind on those fighting (with all the limitations of centrism and left Social Democracy) against the right-wing, class-collaborationist policies of the Müller – Wels leadership. ‘Left social fascists’ was the sobriquet their efforts earned them from the champions of working-class unity and the ‘united front from below’.

Had the KPD offered to support – critically – the struggle of the SPD lefts against Müller’s toleration policy, then without the least doubt the Social Democratic right would have been immeasurably weakened, and the fight against fascism correspondingly strengthened. And by the same token, the political spotlight would then have fallen on the SPD lefts, whose every move would have been subjected to the closest scrutiny by the millions of workers who would now turn to them for leadership. The Stalinist course decreed otherwise. It was the right wing, and not the lefts, that made all the running. The theoretical groundwork for the policy of ‘toleration’ had already been performed by Karl Kautsky earlier that year, when he wrote, in an attack on Bolshevism, that:

... the political tasks of the proletarian parties have been radically transformed by the [1918] revolution and its consequences... Our function is now to maintain the Republic, that is, the existing state, and not to overthrow it; insofar Social Democracy ceases to be revolutionary and becomes conservative... Thus the idea of a political revolution after the political revolution becomes nonsensical. [4]

The KPD however was not calling for a second political revolution (one that would, as in 1918, simply transfer the political power from one section of the ruling class to another, leaving the property relations intact) but a social revolution in which the capitalist system of production, distribution and exchange would be supplanted by a socialist mode of production. Since the Social Democrats held that such an economic transformation could and would take place through the agencies created by the November Revolution, then everything had to be subordinated to their defence, even the living standards of the Social Democratic workers. Thus reasoned Kautsky’s co-thinker Rudolf Hilferding, who in a comment on the political dilemmas facing the SPD after the September elections, wrote:

The ground for negotiations (in view of the anti-parliamentary attitude of some of the parties with which one must negotiate for the purpose of forming a majority on a parliamentary basis) is very narrow. These negotiations must in the first place aim at securing parliament since this general political postulate stands above all special demands in the present phase of economic and political crisis. If this understanding is to be arrived at, the Centre must do everything to unite upon this basis the other former government parties in order to maintain parliament...

This became the principal goal of the SPD leadership – the maintenance of parliament just at the point when its economic, social and political foundations were crumbling under the irresistible pressure of the world slump. Hunt for them as he might, Hilferding could find not a single party or leader in the bourgeoisie prepared to take the Social Democrats back into the cabinet, for despite his magnanimous pledge to sacrifice the economic and social interests of the working class for the greater glory of parliamentary democracy, the bourgeois parties doubted his ability to honour it. They remembered the circumstances that brought about the fall of the last SPD – bourgeois coalition in March 1930, when the trade union leaders vetoed an already agreed plan to ‘reform’ the unemployment insurance system. How could the SPD bureaucracy, with the plight of industrial workers worsening almost daily, guarantee that such a thing would not happen again? Not that the ADGB leadership was unsympathetic to the Hilferding – Müller policy of ‘toleration’ even at the expense of living standards. ADGB Executive member Naphtalie had declared in the spring of 1930, when the Müller government was still in office, that ‘it is better during the present period not to raise any economic demands, it is better to get less pay than to create the danger of compelling the employers to close down shop altogether’, an utterly reactionary argument that could be, and indeed was, applied to the ‘defence of parliament’. Better to take a cut in wages, or dole payments, rather than provoke the bourgeoisie to end its support for Brüning and turn to even more right-wing political forces. And sure enough this did become the policy of the ADGB. Its official organ, Arbeit, of April 1931, declared that the ‘supreme law’ of the trade unions was ‘the avoidance of strikes wherever possible, as the organisation exists as a permanently [sic!] acting force and has other means for protecting the labour conditions threatened by the crisis’.

And what were these ‘other means'? To ‘tolerate’ a government that was imposing intolerable burdens on five million German trade unionists!

Since the KPD deemed the conflict in the SPD over ‘toleration’ to be of no consequence (the struggle, like all those not conducted under the exclusive leadership of the Stalinists, was a pure ‘sham’, being one between left and right ‘social fascists’), the main burden of the fight fell by default on the centrist group led by Max Seidewitz, Kurt Rosenfeld, Heinrich Strobel and Max Adler, all of whom a year later seceded from the SPD to form the Socialist Workers Party (SAP). Their main base was the radical stronghold of Saxony where, seven years before, left Social Democrats had joined with the KPD in forming a coalition government. The group launched their own organ, Klassenkampf, and in its first number Seidewitz attacked from a centrist position Hilferding’s theory that the working class had to sacrifice its living standards and jobs in order to preserve its democratic freedoms:

Those who play with the idea that Social Democracy shall tolerate the government, proceed from the standpoint that in no circumstances must a government come about with the cooperation of the National Socialists. Even if a government under the influence of the Nazis would be something terrible, we cannot avert it by the unconditional capitulation of the SPD to the Brüning government.

This did not yet mark a clean break from the class-collaborationist line of the SPD right wing, since Seidewitz spoke only of rejecting unconditional support for Brüning. And neither was he able to develop a seriously thought-out alternative to ‘toleration’. What the increasingly restless Social Democratic workers were demanding was a fighting plan to defeat the Nazis, and the Saxon lefts had no such perspective to offer them. Indeed, Seidewitz conceded that the Nazis might well come to power if the policy of toleration were abandoned, showing that he too saw the struggle against them in mainly parliamentary terms. At this stage, the opposition hoped to gain support by coming out as more consistent Social Democrats than the party right wing. Thus Seidewitz wrote on 7 October that a vote for Brüning in the Reichstag:

... contrary to the promises made during the election, will be so devastating for the party and the trade unions, and would, in view of the desperate economic situation, bring about a crisis in the Social Democracy which it will be scarcely able to overcome.

While the lefts remained bogged down in arguments about alternative combinations in the Reichstag, they could not hope to make any headway in the party. On this level of parliamentary cretinism, the right wing held all the trumps. They could with some justification point to the fact that there existed only two possible Reichstag government blocs: either Brüning ‘tolerated’ by the SPD, or Brüning (or some other, even more reactionary leader) tolerated by, or sharing power with, the Nazis. There was no room for any other Reichstag combination, and not only Brüning and Müller, but Seidewitz knew it. Therefore as long as the lefts counterposed parliamentary opposition to parliamentary support (or ‘toleration’), they would be exposed to the charge of unwittingly favouring the formation of a Nazi-dominated coalition.

Even where the lefts had a majority behind them, as at the Berlin district conference called in October 1930 to discuss the party crisis, they did not know what to do with it. Hilferding was hooted and heckled when he demanded support for Müller’s toleration policy, yet Siegfried Aufhaeuser, leader of the white-collar workers’ trade union federation AfA, failed like Seidewitz to pose the question of a clean break with coalition (in effect Popular Front) policies:

Brüning submits a programme, and says, swallow it or die. We intend neither to swallow it nor to die. To be capable of participating in the coalition does not mean to live by the grace of the Centre. A change of course must be introduced, otherwise a coalition will be fateful. [5]

What type of coalition did the SPD left have in mind? Obviously one where the Social Democrats, and not the bourgeois parties, called the tune. But the impossibility of such a combination had been demonstrated with the break-up of Hermann Müller’s ‘grand coalition’. Now that the crisis was even deeper, there existed no chance whatsoever of drumming up the necessary votes in the Reichstag to support a leftward-leaning government coalition on the lines proposed by Aufhaeuser and Seidewitz. They were asking for a coalition with fading political ghosts, those of German liberalism and radical republicanism.

And so the debate raged inside the party – confused at the best of times, and always within the framework of Social Democratic conceptions of parliamentary manoeuvres and combinations. It ended on 13 October, when Vorwärts carried a prominent article by Braun, now converted to the policy of toleration. Once again, he began by stating the truth – that the basis of parliamentary democracy had been eroded by the crisis and the rise of fascism. But unlike a Marxist, he argued that the working class was called upon to make ‘enormous sacrifices’ to preserve its superannuated institutions:

In these times when, unlike 1848, the number of those members of the German bourgeoisie who are ready for real democracy has been steadily shrinking, the SPD has an historical duty of tremendous magnitude, and one that will force us to bear the weight of enormous sacrifices: we must exert all our forces to keep the German republic from lapsing into a fascist dictatorship.

That same day, the new Reichstag met for the first time, with thousands of Nazis swarming outside the building as their heroes – 107 all told – swaggered in to take their seats in the institution they were dedicated to destroying. The first test of the Brüning government – still not assured of a majority – came on 16 October, when voting took place on its financial and economic proposals, which entailed still more cuts in social welfare. Each was carried by a margin of some 80 votes, with the SPD fraction casting its mandates, as dictated by the policy of ‘tolerating’ the ‘lesser evil’, for Brüning, now dubbed by millions of workers as the ‘starvation chancellor’. [6]

The SPD and ADGB bureaucracy must at this juncture have quite genuinely believed that their new tactic was working. The Nazis had been kept at bay, and a working majority provided for a government that still recognised – on paper at least – the niceties of parliamentary democracy. But things were not so simple. Brüning had come to power on the understanding that he would be able to build a new coalition that extended, not like its predecessor, from the bourgeois centre to the left, but from the centre to the extreme bourgeois – Junker right. Now, however, this strategy was in ruins. The antics of the Hugenberg Nationalists and the massive influx of Nazis into the Reichstag meant that he could only turn to the reformists for support – or become a prisoner of the ultra-right ‘National Opposition’. Brüning was not just a bourgeois, but a Catholic bourgeois, a politician who saw as his task not only the implementation of a policy for his entire class, but also the defence of the highly sectional and internally complex interests historically represented by the Centre Party. Confessional as well as tactical and strategic factors therefore prevented him from cutting adrift entirely from the parliamentary-republican camp, and going over to a policy of close collaboration with the Junker – heavy industry bloc personified, at this stage, by Hugenberg and the right-wing faction in the DVP. So there could be nothing stable about the alliance between Brüning and the SPD. Neither partner really wanted it, each desired to get closer to the class forces upon which they rested. They therefore found themselves meeting in the no-man’s land that lay between the big battalions of the industrial proletariat on the left, and, on the right, the monopolist bourgeoisie and agrarians. In both class camps, enormous pressures were being generated that would burst through this compromise. For as long as there existed in Germany a government dependent on the support, albeit grudging, of Social Democracy, the big bourgeoisie and Junkers would seek to overthrow it, [7] however loyal to capitalism its leader might be. While in the proletariat, for as long as the SPD continued its reactionary policy of ‘tolerating’ a regime which cut workers’ living standards and forced them out of their jobs, millions of proletarians would turn towards Communism as the only answer to the crisis and the only means of combating the growing fascist threat. It now became a race against time. The class that struck the first decisive blows against Brüning would gain an enormous tactical advantage in the life and death battle that was certain to follow. As had so often been the case in the brief history of the Weimar Republic, leadership, the subjective factor, was to prove itself all-important in deciding the outcome of this titanic world-shaping struggle.

Appendix I: The KPD and the 1930 Elections

The Reichstag election of September 1930 confirmed that Germany was plunging towards a political crisis of cataclysmic proportions. Ever since May, when the Nazis recorded their first substantial success in the Saxon Landtag election, the eyes of not only Germany but all Europe and even the United States had been riveted on the activities of this party, one that, for bourgeois commentators, defied all analysis, since it fitted into neither the category of a revolutionary, proletarian-based socialist party nor a conservative, nationalist party based on the propertied classes.

Only in the Kremlin could be found politicians who displayed not the slightest visible interest in the rise of the movement that 11 years later was to bring the Soviet Union to the verge of destruction. Stalin, so the legend has it, was always vigilant in his defence of the USSR and workers throughout the world, especially against the threat of fascism. Yet one will search in vain for a single reference to the rise of National Socialism in Germany in any of his writings or speeches published in the official Soviet edition of Stalin’s Works. The Sixteenth CPSU Congress, which convened in June 1930, presented this vigilant anti-fascist with a splendid opportunity to alert the Soviet party and working class to the growing menace of fascism in Germany, since the Congress opened less than a month after the declaration of the Saxon Landtag election results. Here was a movement that in the words of its leader, ‘took up where we broke off 600 years ago... If we speak of soil in Europe today, we can primarily have in mind only Russia and her vassal border states.’ [8] The attitude of the Nazis towards the Soviet Union was well known in the leading circles of the Soviet government and party, who were kept informed of the activities and policies of the German parties through their highly organised system of Comintern agencies and couriers. Yet in the section of Stalin’s opening report to the Sixteenth CPSU Congress (delivered on 27 June 1930) devoted to ‘The Growing Crisis of World Capitalism and the External Situation of the USSR’ (a section which in published form covered 25 pages) the Nazi movement did not, in Stalin’s estimation, warrant a single mention. The report did indeed dwell on fascism – but as might have been expected, it was of the ‘social’ and not ‘national’ variety:

Will many workers be found today capable of believing the false doctrines of the social fascists? ... the best members of the working class have already turned away from the social fascists... the bourgeoisie will seek a way out of the situation through further fascisation in the sphere of domestic policy, and will utilise all the reactionary forces, including Social Democracy, for this purpose. [9]

This section of the report was, needless to say, replete with the routine Third Period chatter about the crisis striking ‘crushing blows’ against Social Democratic illusions, the ‘desertion of the masses from the Social Democrats... towards Communism’, ‘the wave of strikes in which the Communists are taking a leading part’ – all of which was the purest fantasy, and existed only in the heads of Stalin and his clique. As the September elections in Germany showed, the hard core of the reformist-led workers remained loyal to their party, and had been dislodged from supporting it neither by the crisis nor accusations that, in so doing, they were defending ‘social fascism’. This speech naturally set the tone for Molotov, Bukharin’s replacement as leader of the Communist International, who delivered his own report on the activities of the CPSU delegation to the ECCI. Molotov’s entire speech consisted of nothing but a garrulous chewing-over of the few choice morsels on ‘social fascism’ and the ‘revolutionary upsurge’ tossed to him by his master’s voice:

A further sharpening of the contradictions is taking place within the capitalist countries. The expression of this is the growing fascisation of the bourgeois states. Similarly, Social Democracy is rapidly proceeding along the road of degeneration into social fascism... The growth of elements of a new wave of revolution is an unquestionable fact. From this follows the changes in the tactics of the Communist parties. [10]

This last refers to the new tactic of refusing a united front with the reformists, and declaring them to be the main, ‘social fascist’ enemy of the working class. But unlike Stalin, Molotov did make a reference – a vague one it is true – to the recent growth of Nazism in Germany. But he at once hurried on to emphasise that the reformists, as before, remained the main enemy:

The rise of the revolutionary wave in Germany... is reinforcing the yearning of the bourgeoisie for fascism, for the fascisation of the state. The growth of fascism at the expense of the bourgeois parties has been displayed most vividly in Germany. [But not vividly enough for Stalin to deem it worth a mention! – RB] Social Democracy in its turn, as the principle bulwark of the imperialist bourgeoisie in the working class, is also moving along the road to fascist degeneration. It has already developed the ideology appropriate to this end. [11]

Molotov also detected that trend so beloved of all ultra-leftists – that of Social Democracy and its trade unions ‘more and more rapidly moving towards fascism, following the path which leads to the growing together of the Social Democratic and reformist trade union apparatus with the more and more fascist bourgeois state’. He found examples of such a process of fascisation in ‘Yugoslavia, Austria, Romania and Finland’ where ‘fascist elements have openly come to power’. [12] If fascism had come to power in Austria by July 1930, and the reformist union fused with the capitalist state, this rendered totally inexplicable and superfluous the military offensive launched against the Vienna proletariat in February 1934, and the outlawing of the reformist organisations, together with the Communist Party, by the Dollfuss regime in the wake of the Vienna defeat.

Nowhere in either Molotov’s report or reply to the ‘discussion’ (the euphemism for the ceremonial endorsement of the current Comintern line) was there any reference by name to the menacing activities of the German Nazis, who as the Congress concluded, stood on the verge of the biggest sensation in the history of modern parliamentary elections. Small wonder that when the truth dawned on the KPD leadership (who had been faithfully applying Stalin’s line that the ‘social fascists’ were the main enemy) that the previously scorned Nazis, deemed to be ‘disintegrating’ and therefore hardly worth worrying about, had increased their support by a larger amount than the total Communist vote, panic set in.

Two lines of the elections existed side by side, reflecting an obvious split in the highest levels of the KPD leadership over how to cope with the Nazi threat. Sublime optimism predominated in the analysis of 14 September conducted by Werner Hirsch. The elections were a ‘magnificent victory for the German Communists and fully and strikingly confirmed the whole policy of the KPD and the Communist International’. The KPD had ‘forced a breach in the camp of reformism’. The enormous, eightfold increase in the Nazi vote (compared with a 30 per cent rise in the KPD’s) was blandly shrugged off as a ‘regrouping of the bourgeois forces in Germany’. Nevertheless, there was one – for Stalin – sour note struck in this article. Contrary to the ‘general line’ of the Comintern, Hirsch ventured the rash opinion that as a result of the sudden growth of the Nazis into the largest bourgeois party (save for the SPD, which the Stalinists also included under this category):

... the role hitherto played by the Social Democracy, is historically regarded, played out... The importance of the other body guard of capitalism, fascism, is increasing on the general front of the class struggle... Every coming government will stand under the knout of the Hitler party. [13]

Little guidance on this thorny issue was provided by the ECCI telegram of congratulations to the KPD on its ‘success’ in the elections. Dated 14 September 1930, it referred to the KPD as having ‘dealt a heavy blow to Social Democracy’ – a patent exaggeration, since the SPD vote, at a time when the bottom was dropping out of its reformist world of capitalist stability, fell by only 0.5 million – almost a victory. Of the Nazis, the ECCI merely stated that their ‘great success’ had been ‘attained by the help of radical phrases, for deception of the masses who are turning away from the parties of the big bourgeoisie’ – as if the Nazis were cheating. No warnings were issued about the immense dangers posed by the election victory of the NSDAP. Instead:

The role of the KPD is growing enormously as the decisive factor in the struggle. We are firmly convinced that the party will concentrate its revolutionary proletarian forces on developing on the broadest scale the economic struggle and will consolidate organisationally the successes it has won. Forward in the fight for Soviet Germany.

Yet this brash optimism, flourishing in the comparative safety of Moscow, was not shared by all the KPD leadership or lower cadres. Neubauer, in an article on the elections and the Brüning government, had to take issue with the ‘tendency to represent to the masses in too gloomy colours the success of the Nazis. Whoever does that fails to see the contradictory basis upon which the Nazis have achieved their temporary election success.’ In fact, Neubauer saw positive advantages in the Nazi victory, since ‘the fight against fascism gives us quite new possibilities of winning the workers for our Red Front’. ‘Contradictions’ were seen in the basis of the Nazi Party, but not in that of the SPD or its relationship to the fascists. On the contrary, ‘with the development of fascism in Germany the line of the SPD will approach considerably nearer to fascism’. [14]

So it still never occurred to the KPD leadership – not, at least, those who agreed with the Moscow line – that the SPD and the Nazis would be forced into opposition to one another by the incompatibility of their different social bases (proletarian and petit-bourgeois respectively), forms of domination over the working class, and relationship to bourgeois parliamentary democracy. As far as Neubauer was concerned, the Nazis and the SPD were drawing yet closer together. All was not well in the CPSU either. A former comrade of Trotsky in the Left Opposition until his defection to Stalin after the latter’s ultra-left turn in 1928 on economic policy, Radek (together with Smilga and Preobrazhensky) contended that Stalin was carrying out, albeit bureaucratically, the economic programme of the Left Opposition. Radek wrote an article on the German situation which came far closer to the realities of the crisis than anything that had thus far appeared on the subject. He chided the KPD for having ignored the Nazi menace right up to the elections, and made a shrewd analysis of the dilemmas facing the Brüning government – either with the SPD on the left, the ‘National Opposition’ on the far right, or a balancing, Bonapartist course in between: ‘Whichever way the bourgeois government decides, it risks losing one of its supports.’ [15] Radek’s article was in fact a discreet critique of Comintern policy, since it made no mention of ‘social fascism’ nor its fusion with the Nazis, pointing out that reliance on one or other of these two parties were two different and even opposed courses of action for Brüning. That Radek could veer so far away from the official line suggests that in the period immediately following the elections, neither the ECCI nor the KPD knew quite how to cope with the totally unexpected new situation created by the Nazi election victory.

The Comintern organ, in its first comment on the results, found no little comfort in the fact that:

... a considerable proportion of those who voted for the fascists were the millions of new electors who had awakened from their political apathy for the first time, and sought a way out of the crisis. Does not this, along with the tremendous success of the Communists, show more clearly than anything that Germany is on the verge of revolutionary events? ... the fascist success means that ever increasing masses are becoming disillusioned with capitalist Germany as it is at present, and that revolt has begun. The fascist success, taken together with the success of the Communists, is a clear sign of the decomposition of bourgeois society in Germany now taking place... A revolutionary crisis is maturing in Germany, this is the chief indication given by the elections. [16]

Not a glimmer of an awareness that Germany might also be on the verge of counter-revolutionary events! But how could it be, so this argument ran, if not only the KPD votes, but those for the Nazis, were cast against capitalism? It would be only a matter of time before these radicalised masses found their way to the KPD and so made possible the revolution. Meanwhile, without wishing to, the Nazis performed the valuable work of ‘politicising’ and ‘activating’ the previously inert and backward masses. This done, the KPD could then ‘capture’ them in manoeuvres such as that employed in the Nazi – DNVP-inspired referendum to depose the SPD government of Prussia. This the KPD supported, so its leaders claimed, to ‘expose’ the Nazis, who were said to be, in reality, in league with the Social Democrats (this was only the most infamous case where the KPD, rejecting as a matter of principle any tactical alliance with the reformists, formed a united front with the Nazis).

As was to be expected, Ernst Thälmann, Stalin’s representative on the KPD Central Committee, hailed the elections as ‘a severe blow not only at the SPD, but also at the whole Second International’. On the Nazi vote, which presumably was a blow struck against nobody in particular, Thälmann said:

As to the importance of the National Socialist vote, can this numerically extraordinary vote increase be put on a level with the success of the KPD? Not the least. Actually the success of the Nazis represents a sort of [sic!] regrouping within the bourgeois camp.

And even though they had become ‘the strongest bourgeois party’ – an ‘opportunist lapse’ on Thälmann’s part, since the SPD won a clear two million votes more – there was no need to worry, since the Nazis were already, at their moment of triumph, ‘decomposing’. [17] Trotsky appraised these same results from an entirely different standpoint, one that earned him the epithet ‘defeatist’, even though it was the only one from which a correct revolutionary line could proceed:

The official press of the Comintern is now depicting the results of the German elections as a prodigious victory of Communism, which places the slogan of a Soviet Germany on the order of the day. The bureaucratic optimists do not want to reflect upon the meaning of the relationship of forces which is disclosed by the election statistics. They examine the figure of Communist votes gained independently of the revolutionary tasks created by the situation and the obstacles it sets up. The KPD received around 4 600 000 votes as against 3 000 000 in 1928. From the viewpoint of ‘normal’ parliamentary mechanics, the gain of the party pales completely beside the leap of fascism from 800 000 to 6 400 000 votes. Of no less significance for evaluating the elections is the fact that the SPD, in spite of substantial losses, retained its basic cadres and still received a considerably greater number of workers’ votes than the KPD... if we should ask ourselves what combination of international and domestic circumstances could be capable of turning the working class towards Communism with greater velocity, we could not find an example of more favourable circumstances for such a turn than the situation in present-day Germany: Young’s noose, the economic crisis, the disintegration of the rulers, the crisis of parliamentarism, the terrific self-exposure of Social Democracy in power. From the viewpoint of these concrete historical circumstances, the specific gravity of the KPD in the social life of the country, in spite of the gain of 1 300 000 votes, remains proportionately small. [18]

Only when the SPD opted for ‘toleration’ did a clear – and even more leftist – line begin to emerge from the flounderings of the previous four weeks. Since the ‘social fascists’ had offered to protect Brüning’s regime, then the latter must also be fascist. This, taken together with Brüning’s cuts in wages and social welfare, and his method of ruling by decree rather than reliance on parliamentary majorities and votes, finally convinced the KPD leadership that the Brüning – SPD bloc, and not Hitler, was the main enemy. Ushering in this new line, Philipp Dengel fumbled his way through the article ‘The Capitulation of the SPD to Fascism’, writing of both an existing, Brüning ‘fascist dictatorship’ and an as yet not realised ‘fascist danger’. [19] The line was thereafter gradually consolidated, with Neubauer’s assertion that ‘social fascism supports Brüning’s fascist dictatorship’, [20] and finally the declaration by the official KPD daily Die Rote Fahne in December that:

... the semi-fascist Brüning government has taken the decisive step to the setting up of a fascist dictatorship. The fascist dictatorship no longer threatens: it is already here. The bourgeois-democratic state form of the German republic has ceased to exist. We have a fascist republic. [21]

The event that precipitated this completely false and defeatist characterisation of the Brüning regime was its promulgation on 1 December of a series of decrees (under article 48) protecting agrarian interests while making cuts in workers’ wages and welfare payments. The measures passed through the Reichstag by a vote of 293 to 253, with the SPD, true to its treacherous policy of ‘toleration’, voting with the government parties. Brüning’s measures were indeed a serious blow struck against the living standards of the working class (the reduction in wages amounted to eight per cent), and it was perfectly in order to castigate the SPD for endorsing them. But the KPD went much further. It said that rule by decree and cuts in wages on the order of a Presidential regime constituted the sum total of fascism (or as the Workers Press might say, ‘corporatism’). Yet if we look at Italy, where Mussolini had been in power for eight years, we can see what fascism really involved for the working class. Not simply state reductions of wages, not rule by decree, but the physical destruction of all workers’ organisations. This is the essence of the fascist corporate state. He who says corporatism has already been established where the working class retains its organisations, and is in a position to make them fight even the most defensive of battles, is conceding defeat in advance of the decisive struggles. That is just what the KPD did in the autumn and winter of 1930, with its claim that the Brüning regime had become a fully-blown fascist dictatorship – a statement which the Stalinists were permitted to repeat almost daily in their party press without the least hindrance from Brüning’s ‘fascist’ police and courts. Hitler was to teach them – too late – the difference between semi-Bonapartism and fascism. Once again, we must ask Workers Press, which also muddles the two – is this lesson lost on the WRP?

Appendix II: Stalin – ‘Anti-Fascist’

What of Stalin himself? Did he at last consider it time to pronounce on the growth of fascism in Germany? Examining his speeches and writings after 14 September, we record the following:

November 1930: ‘Letters to Comrade Ch’ – being two communications on the question of industrialisation and collectivisation.

12 December 1930: ‘To Comrade Demyan Bedny’ – being a lecture on poetry to a leading Soviet satirist.

12 January 1931: ‘Anti-Semitism’ – a denial of the existence of anti-Semitism in the USSR. Stalin had used this most reactionary of political weapons in his struggle against the Left Opposition, many of whose leaders were Jewish in origin.

4 February 1931: ‘The Tasks of Business Executives’ – a speech at the first all-union conference of leading personnel of socialist industry. [22]

And so we could go on throughout the remainder of the two and a half years between the first election success of the Nazis in September 1930 to their final triumph in March 1933. And nowhere would we be able to unearth a single reference to the German fascists! Trotsky’s writings on this subject would fill several sizeable volumes – Stalin’s would leave a postage stamp unmarked. Neither was it a question of sheer indifference to the Nazi menace in Germany. Stalin had at least a dim perception of the dangers posed to the German and international working class by the rise of the Hitler movement. He kept silent about it, as a future chapter will attempt to illustrate, because he hoped to exploit it.


1. Monsignor Ludwig Kaas replaced Wilhelm Marx as the Centre Party leader at its congress in December 1928. Earlier that year, in August, he told a party rally of his ‘longing for leaders to lead us along the thorny path ahead’ – hardly the words of a man dedicated to upholding parliamentary democracy. In fact he proved to be a keen advocate of Brüning’s system of rule by decree, declaring in November 1932 (when power was passing from fellow Catholic Papen to another Catholic, General Schleicher): ‘We do not want to relapse into parliamentarianism; we want to give the President moral and political support for an authoritarian government inspired by him.’ With Hitler safely in power, Kaas devoted his energies to rallying his flock in support of the Nazi regime. In a statement on his attitude to Hitler, Kaas declared: ‘Hitler knows well how to guide the ship. Even before he became chancellor I met him frequently and was greatly impressed by his clear thinking, by his way of facing realities while upholding his ideals, which are noble... it matters little who rules so long as order is maintained. The history of the last few years has well proven in Germany that the democratic party system was incapable.’ And this was the clerical obscurantist and pro-fascist whom the SPD leaders were to ‘tolerate’ for one and a half years – in the name of defending parliamentary democracy!

2. A Grzesinski, Inside Germany (New York, 1939), pp 114-15.

3. International Press Correspondence, Volume 11, no 54, 15 October 1931, p 977, emphasis added.

4. K Kautsky, Der Bolschewismus in der Sackgasse (1930).

5. The left SPD Saxon daily Leipziger Volkzeitung tried to combine toleration with opposition. In a comment on the Reichstag fraction’s decision to support Brüning in the Reichstag, it said: ‘The resolution is to be welcomed as it especially emphasises “while safeguarding the vital interests of the working masses, to secure the parliamentary basis, and to assist of the most urgent financial programme of the government...” It is an omission that nothing is said regarding the economic and financial programme of the government, which according to the previously mentioned statement of the fraction must be sharply combated.’

6. The toleration policy of the SPD was warmly welcomed in the shrinking bourgeois circles who still support Brüning. The Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung made the shrewd comment on the SPD Reichstag fraction’s decision to keep Brüning in office that their resolution ‘abandoned all Marxist phraseology, and raised no serious objection to the programme of the government’. Brüning’s own Centre Party organ Germania was even more fulsome in its praise: ‘The Social Democracy recognising the serious political situation, has adopted an attitude which deserves the fullest recognition.’ But unlike 4 August 1914, when the SPD leadership also ‘recognised the serious political situation’, it did not win any favours from the bourgeoisie, only kicks in the teeth and, finally, annihilation.

7. This dramatic reversal in Brüning’s strategy had not passed uncensured by the paper that had been loudest in its approval of the Chancellor when he first took office. Funk’s Berliner Börsen Zeitung commented acidly on 20 October (after the SPD had rescued Brüning on a vote of no-confidence) that Brüning ‘had not found the courage to decide, if necessary, to govern without the help of parliament at once, a decision which must be taken sooner or later, if his government does not intend becoming an executive organ of Social Democratic policy and control’. It had taken little more than six months for the financial interests represented by the organ to lose patience with Brüning’s stopgap solutions. The time was obviously drawing near when the big banks would join heavy industry in the search for a viable, more stable form of rule, one that did not depend on the support of the ‘Marxists’.

8. A Hitler, Mein Kampf (London, 1943), p 654.

9. JV Stalin, ‘Political Report of the CC to the Sixteenth Congress of the CPSU’, Works, Volume 12, pp 260-62.

10. V Molotov, The Developing Crisis of World Capitalism and the Revolutionary Tasks of the Comintern (Report to the Sixteenth Congress of the CPSU from the Delegation of the CPSU to the ECCI, delivered 5 July 1930) (London, 1930), p 5.

11. Molotov, The Developing Crisis of World Capitalism and the Revolutionary Tasks of the Comintern, p 24.

12. Molotov, The Developing Crisis of World Capitalism and the Revolutionary Tasks of the Comintern, p 24.

13. ‘Communism Advancing in Germany’, International Press Correspondence, Volume 10, no 43, 18 September 1930, p 902.

14. T Neubauer, ‘The New Bourgeois Dictatorship in Germany’, International Press Correspondence, Volume 10, no 45, 2 October 1930, p 946.

15. International Press Correspondence, Volume 10, no 45, 2 October 1930, p 949.

16. ‘The Historic Elections in Germany’, Communist International, Volume 7, no 12, 15 October 1930, p 247.

17. E Thälmann, ‘The KPD after the Elections’, Communist International, Volume 7, no 13, 15 November 1930, pp 290-92.

18. LD Trotsky, ‘The Turn in the Communist International’ (26 September 1930), The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany (New York, 1971), p 57.

19. P Dengel, ‘The Capitulation of the SPD to Fascism’, International Press Correspondence, Volume 10, no 48, 23 October 1930, p 961.

20. International Press Correspondence, Volume 10, no 48, 23 October 1930, p 999.

21. International Press Correspondence, Volume 10, no 55, 4 December 1930.

22. JV Stalin, Works, Volume 13, pp 21-23, 24-29, 30, 31-44.