Fascism in Germany. Robin Blick 1975

Author’s Postscript

After the completion of the foregoing Appendix, the author came into the possession of the Draft Political Perspectives of the WRP’s Special Conference, 13-14 July 1974. The general line and method of this document encapsulates the enclosed world of the sectarian. First there is intoned the ritualistic chant of perspectives being ‘proved a thousand times correct’ (p 4). But far more important is the total lack of a policy and demands to draw the mass of the workers into struggles that pose a challenge to the reformists. Despite the document’s speaking of the ‘maturing of a situation where Bonapartist forms of rule appeal to growing sections of the bourgeoisie’ (p 4), the bourgeoisie discarding ‘traditional democratic institutions’ as it ‘turns to the state machine itself to impose order’, and ‘devoting more and more resources to the mobilisation of the fascist bands’ (p 4), there is nowhere a single call for a united workers’ front to fight these sinister developments. Every other tendency in the workers’ movement is denounced for its complicity in the drive to reaction, but not confronted with a principled challenge to unite their forces on the basic issue of the defence of workers’ democratic rights, which the document so rightly says are threatened by the bourgeoisie and its various agencies. True, the document does have a plan to defeat reaction, but it leaves out those millions of workers still organised in the reformist-led organisations: ‘The real preparation to defeat reaction in all its forms including the emergence of fascist movements, is the turn more and more deeply into the working class by the revolutionary party.’ (p 5) What is this if not the ‘united front from below'? The ‘turn’ is to the working class in the abstract, as individuals susceptible to the propaganda of the WRP, and not to the class as it is, organised in the Labour Party and the trade unions, and ready to move into action against ‘reaction’ only in and through their traditional organisations. To fight fascism, the WRP must address itself to the organisations to which these workers belong, as Trotsky insisted in his many polemics against the Third Period Stalinists. Perhaps a clue as to why the WRP feels unable to apply this Leninist tactic is to be found in the same document, where we read that the ‘Social Democrats and the trade union bureaucrats, supported by the Stalinists, play their classical role of corporatist class collaboration’ (p 6, emphasis added). So Social Democracy (and Stalinism) = corporatism! Like the Third Period Stalinists, the WRP now attempts, with its reference to the ‘classical role’ of the ‘corporatist’ reformists, to project back far into the past the allegedly corporatist (fascist) nature of Social Democracy. But most disturbing of all, and again in the treacherous traditions of Third Period Stalinism, is the blatant attempt made in the document to minimise, if not to deny, the danger of fascism becoming a mass movement in Britain. The role allotted to the National Front (and, presumably, to similar movements in Ulster) is that of providing the ideological ‘basis for a supplementary force through which the police carries out its operations’ (p 5, emphasis added). Thus the fascists will not function as a plebeian battering ram against the organised working class (which, in order to carry through its counter-revolutionary task, acts to a large degree independently of the traditional state agencies), but as an ‘ideological base for a provocation squad’ (p 5, emphasis added).

What we have expressed here is the British version of national exceptionalism. The German Social Democrats – and Stalinists – argued that fascism was a strictly Italian phenomenon, attributable to the retarded socio-economic development of that nation. It could never become a mass movement in so advanced and civilised a country as Germany. This essentially chauvinist argument in the case of the Stalinists fed the theory that it would be the Social Democrats, and not the Nazis (as late as 1928, capable of winning a mere 800 000 votes), who would carry through the ‘fascisation’ of Germany. As this book has attempted to show, this theory was still advanced at a time when the Nazis were already well on the way to becoming the mass movement of counter-revolution, not merely supplanting, but threatening with destruction, the mass reformist organisations. The crisis in the middle class, the ‘Liberal revival’, Powell’s challenge to the Tory leadership and his flirtation with the Ulster ultra-right, and, last but not least, the emergence of the National Front as a movement openly bidding for mass support amongst backward workers, youth and disoriented petit-bourgeois, all point towards the danger of the sudden rise of a truly mass fascist movement in the not too distant future. Certainly, the gathering economic crisis, together with the continuing retreats of the reformist leaders before the capitalist offensive, is creating the preconditions for such a development. Yet the WRP conference resolution, far from highlighting these dangers, and evolving a strategy, tactics and policies to combat them, declares: ‘The National Front... does not have any mass basis.’ (p 5, emphasis added) Any? Instead of summoning the workers’ movement to beat down incipient fascism before it gains a secure footing in the backward masses, the WRP deems the ‘fight against fascism’ to be a ‘diversion’ away ‘from the role of the bourgeois state itself’ (p 5). This sophistry is reminiscent of the KPD leaders, who opposed calls for a united front against fascism by demagogically insisting that the ‘real fight’ was against ‘capitalist dictatorship in general’. Anti-fascism, argued Thälmann and company, was really a cover for support of the reformists and the status quo. Of course, it can be – it is the task of the revolutionary party to see that it does not perform this reactionary role. This the party does, not by abstaining from the struggle against fascism behind a screen of radical phrases, or refusing to enter into united front agreements with other sections of the workers’ movement, but by being at the very forefront of the struggle to mobilise the class against the fascists and their allies now. This means, for example, launching a campaign inside the trade unions, Labour clubs and other workers’ organisations for an official policy of immediate expulsion of all known members of the National Front and other such organisations. Even the ADGB bureaucracy, for all its cringing to the bourgeoisie, adopted this policy towards the Nazis right up to the end of 1932. Surely the WRP feels it both necessary and possible to present a similar demand to the leaders of the British trade unions? If it is accepted and implemented, the workers’ movement will be immeasurably strengthened. If not, then the advanced workers will have had a classic lesson in the cowardly nature and role of reformism. But as yet, the WRP has not raised this elementary slogan – Drive the racists and fascists out of the trade unions. It prefers instead to brand their leaders as ‘devoted disciples’ of fascist ideology. Once again, we must put this question to the WRP: Has it learned nothing from the tragedy of Germany?

Robert Black
3 July 1974