On “labour policy”. Part 1

scale_1200-768x535Today’s fascists borrow tricks from the old, German, fascists. Even some of their actions are the same, if not in minor details, but in general. Is it a mechanical parallel, a repetition of history?

Every historical event is concrete and has its own unique features which are not repeated. But the laws of the development of imperialism apply throughout the entire historical epoch, which is reserved for this last stage of capitalism. Hence, the actions and methods of the fascists of today cannot be fundamentally different from those of the old fascists. The minor aspects are different, but the class capitalist essence is the same. The same essense allows for the similarity of some specific forms of terror. So it should not come as a surprise that today’s fascists of various scales use the tried and tested techniques of the old fascist dictatorships. Nazi experience of the struggle against the proletariat is highly valuable to the bourgeoisie.

The new fascists have their own “labour policy”. Well, if so, in order to better understand their intentions, let us look again at what was the “labour policy” of the old fascists.


German fascism began its political life in May of 1919. At that time, after the fall of the Bavarian Soviet Republic, Hitler formed a small group under the banner of the “German Workers’ Party”. After Germany’s defeat in World War I, anti-capitalist sentiment grew rapidly in the working masses of the country. The example of the October Revolution, the example of Soviet Russia were before the eyes of the German workers, farmhands and poor peasants. Because of this, in an attempt to win over the working masses, the word “national” was added to the name of the small “workers’ party”, which would appeal to the revanchist sentiments of the petty bourgeoisie, and “socialist” – to attract the workers and the poor. Under these labels, the future most reactionary party of German financial capital began to create an entire system of social demagogy, with the help of which it sought support in the masses.

In 1920 the main provisions of the party’s political programme were formulated and announced, and in February, 1921, Hitler gave a “reasoning” for these provisions at the first mass meeting. The Hitlerites became known in the country. But the Party of German Fascism owes all its further development and growth to the economic crisis and its direct consequence – the sharp aggravation of the class struggle in Germany.

German fascism was a product of the general crisis of capitalism, which, in case of Germany, was intensified by the weight of the predatory Versailles Treaty. Approximately 4/10 of every working German’s income went into state taxes, out of which the German bourgeoisie paid reparations to the victors. Exploitation grew steadily. The bourgeoisie managed to turn the enormous discontent of the workers, peasants and petty bourgeoisie into hatred against the Entente, to shift the anger of the masses from the German capitalists onto the foreign ones.

Such manoeuvres of the heavy industry owners and their social-democratic lackeys triggered chauvinistic sentiments in the masses, which was also to the advantage of the fascist party. Vast petty-bourgeois masses began to join Hitler’s movement. The movement was particularly popularized by the worsening of the world crisis, which was taking on a severe and desperate form in the devastated Germany.

In 1933, Hitler became Chancellor of the Reich with the huge help of German social democracts. The Nazis officially came to power. The first thing the Nazis did was begin to crush workers’ organizations, especially the KPD (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands, Communist Party of Germany). A “crusade” against Marxism was declared. At the same time, the “labour” demagogy of the Nazis increased.

But the working class and other workers, who believed the Hitlerites, demanded the material and cultural benefits and freedoms that had been promised by the Nazis before they came to power, payment of bills of exchange, so to speak. In response, the fascist authorities launched several loud-mouthed campaigns in honour of “national labour”. Official calls were made to honour the “German worker”, May 1st became a bank holiday, a fake “workers’ congress” was convened. A fascist “Workers’ Front” was created to replace the defeated trade unions. This was the alluring wrapping of Hitler’s “labour policy”.

But what was inside, what was the essence of it? In essence, German fascism was fulfilling its main political task of destroying the revolutionary workers’ movement, saving the power and capital of the bourgeoisie and increasing its profits during a severe crisis. And it did this while pretending to be “friend of the people” and bearer of “German socialism”. In turn, by 1933, German finance capital, under the pressure of the crisis, was forced to cast aside its social democracy, which proved incapable of keeping the workers away from their class revolutionary struggle. Fascism emerges as the direct organiser and executor of the defeat of the working class and as a new form of general deception of the working masses in order to suppress them.

After 1933, Hitler’s “labour demagogy” intensified. The Fascists were well aware that the danger of a proletarian revolution in Germany cannot be eliminated by terror and sheer violence alone. The “worker” theme becomes central in the fascist press. It starts to reverberate in all the speeches of the Nazi leaders. The working class, even temporarily weakened, even having lost their organizations, frightened the fascists and their masters – the Krupps, Bloms, Thyssen and other financial and industrial tycoons. This constant fear forced the fascists to develop not only the SS and secret police system, but also state system of social demagogy. With phrases and slogans about “respecting the worker” and “reverencing national work”, the Nazis covered up the fact that they did not intend and could not fulfill their promises to the workers and the demands of the working people, who trusted them.

What were the limitations of the “labour program” of the old Hitlerites? What did fascism bring to the workers? Can fascism keep the working class from the revolutionary struggle?

In order to answer these questions, it is necessary to trace historically how the relationship between Hitler’s fascism and the German proletariat developed at different stages. In order to better understand what is happening today, we must look at what theoretical and tactical principles underpinned fascists’ “labour policy”.

The first stage. At the end of World War I, the general crisis of capitalism did not come to an end, but intensified, which led to the rise of the workers’ movement in Europe. This circumstance didn’t encourage the development of fascist parties. In Germany, the working masses were under the influence of the October Revolution. At that time, the German workers were led by the Spartacists and the left-wing Independents, who then became part of the Communist Party. The workers created their own bodies of power, councils and organised committees at factories. The November revolution of 1918 awakened millions of working people to political life. The “free” social democratic trade unions began to grow at an accelerated pace. Even politically backward segments of workers, such as agricultural workers and clerks, began to form their own organisations. By 1921, about 50% of all workers in Germany were organised in unions with various political agendas. The overall growth of “free” unions in the years of revolutionary boom was staggering: in 1918 the number of members was 1 866,000, in 1919 – 5 000 800, and in 1920 – 8 000 026.

One might think that it was time to celebrate. But this entire powerful apparatus of workers’ organization was in the clutches of the reformists, the leaders of German social democracy, enemies of the proletarian revolution. These leaders advocated the improvement of capitalism by minor reforms, preaching a gradual “transformation of capitalism into socialism”. They told workers that socialism could be won peacefully through victories in parliamentary elections. Kautsky, Adler, Noske and other leaders and theorists of the Second International fooled the German workers, telling them that if a majority of workers’ deputies were won in parliament and local councils, the German bourgeoisie would be forced to “submit to the majority” and would itself give up power and all privileges. This, they said, is how real democracy works: “The minority is obliged to submit to the majority”.

The ridiculousness of these statements was shown by Lenin in his pamphlet “The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky”. Notwithstanding, the ground shook under the German bourgeoisie. And social democrats immediately came to its aid. In March 1919, there were powerful protest actions for the socialization of all large industry in the country. After the uprisings, the leader of social democrats, Noske, gathered units of reactionary officers, kulaks and petty bourgeoisie all over Germany, and these units, perfectly armed and supported by the government, smashed workers’ squads and workers’ councils. The soviets (councils) of workers’ deputies were dispersed. In January 1920, the social-democratic government issued a law on factory committees, according to which these revolutionary organs were forcibly transformed into the branches of reformist trade unions. With the full assistance of the Social-Democratic Party and the upper management of the “free” trade unions, the workers were completely disarmed and their revolutionary militant organs suppressed.

And at the same time, with the assistance of Social Democracy, the first seeds of Fascism were planted in Germany. At the head of the anti-Bolshevik struggle and counter-revolutionary propaganda stood Social-Democrats, led by the former Marxist Karl Kautsky. Hundreds of thousands of his pamphlets against the dictatorship of the proletariat (“The Dictatorship of the Proletariat” and others) were financed by the largest bourgeoisie and distributed for free among workers, soldiers and peasants. The main slogan put forward by the bourgeoisie in order to fool the masses was “Bolshevism is coming, it will destroy your houses and take away everything you have”. With this slogan the capitalists and social democracy frightened the petty-bourgeois masses day after day.

Open terror wasn’t put aside either. Squads made up of army officers and old reactionary monarchist soldiers and led by the social democratic executioner Noske didn’t stop attacking factories and working-class quarters. A real civil war was declared on the proletariat, and clashes broke out in a number of industrial centres in Germany. The police, understandably, did not intervene in the murders of workers and their families.

Together with the “socialist” Noske units, the first fascist gangs took to the streets. These were the Pfeffer, Vatter and Levenfeld units. Bourgeois “defence organisations” emerge. All of them were created to suppress the revolutionary proletariat, to defeat its organs of power. Both fascists and “defence organisations” emerged under the banner of defending the social democratic government and the bourgeois order, against which the urban and rural workers revolted. This first phase of the struggle ends with the Kapp Putsch, which was defeated by the resistance of the German workers.

From the suppressed Kapp Putsch young fascism learns the lesson that in the struggle against the revolution one cannot rely only on bayonets and shootings. In order to succeed in the counter-revolution, it is necessary to win over the petty bourgeois masses, i.e., to fool them. This cause was willingly and unwillingly promoted by the social democrats in power who meticulously fulfilled the humiliating conditions of the Versailles Treaty and readily agreed to all reparations. This way they created the ground for the discontent of the masses, the growth of chauvinism, the shift of popular hatred onto the foreign imperialists, in short, they created the basis for the political success of fascism among the petty bourgeoisie and parts of the working class.

Further events also played into the hands of the fascists. During the period of the Wilhelm Cuno’s government (November 1922 to September 1923) the hardships of the economic crisis, inflation and unemployment became unbearable for the working masses. In addition, the French imperialists occupied the Ruhr, the most important industrial area of Germany. Taking advantage of these circumstances, the Hitlerites unleash the widest possible propaganda “against slobbering democracy” and become a mass movement. Petty bourgeois city dwellers, small peasants and tenants, in total some 12 million people, oppose Cuno’s “democratic system”. A good portion of these millions joined the fascists, another part began to group around the Communist Party and progressive workers.

The communists, while exposing the social democrats who were paving the way for fascism, were at the same time making it clear to the workers and small landlords that it was not bourgeois democracy they must fight, but fascism in its wake, which was demagogically attributing the woes of the people to democracy. In the summer of 1923, the struggle of the Communist Party against fascism intensified. At the end of June, the Communists organised the first anti-fascist day, which was outlawed beforehand. Despite the ban, not only the working masses, but also the urban petty bourgeoisie and part of the middle peasantry were mobilised against the Fascists. Things were turning in favour of the workers.

However, in the autumn of 1923, the revolutionary proletariat of Germany suffered another defeat. The main causes were the crimes of the “workers’ leaders” – social democrats and trade union leaders – which came in succession, and the weakness of the Communist Party. The latter was reflected in the fact that the revolutionary movement of the working class was led by Brandler and the Brandlerites, i.e. petty bourgeois traitors and not Bolsheviks. A new phase of the armed attack of the fascists on the working class of Germany was opened by Hitler’s putsch on November 9, 1923.

However, for a number of reasons, the fascist putsch was suppressed. Hitler and his closest aides were imprisoned or fled. Having recovered from defeat, the fascist party changes tactics again. Social demagogy intensifies, the forms of organisational work, aimed at introducing fascist ideas to the petty bourgeoisie and social democratic workers, change. Hitler and the Hitlerites realise that they cannot go to the masses with an open imperialist programme. Somehow responding to the most acute demands and aspirations of the masses is necessary. For this purpose the “working program” was developed, which was the most vague and indefinite program of all the bourgeois parties.

This programme, which called itself working-class and socialist, contained almost nothing about the working class and socialism. The programme denied classes in principle, but proclaimed the priority of the nation. The fascists declared a vague formula to be the basis of “German socialism”: “The common good is greater than the good of the individual”. Out of the 25 points in Hitler’s “working programme”, 4 or 5 could be falsely attributed to “socialism”. For example:

– point 11, “We demand the abolition of unearned income and the abolition of interest slavery.”

– point 13, “We demand the nationalisation of all already socialised enterprises (trusts)”;

– point 14, “We demand the distribution of profits from large enterprises”;

– point 15, “We demand provision for old age”.

But gradually these “socialist” points of the programme were rewritten through notes and comments, so that nothing remained of them. The national socialists stressed that their programme did not require the abolition of private property, that the “socialisation of the means of production” and the “nationalisation of the trusts” must not be understood from the point of view of Marxism. The Nazi programme explicitly stated that

“…national socialism resolutely recognises private property and places it under the protection of the state, especially honestly acquired, earned property. No thorough explanation can be given here, but whoever understands ‘work’ correctly, does not doubt for a moment that instruments of labour must belong to those who work”[1]

Whom did the fascists consider to be “those who work” and what property did they consider “honestly acquired”? Both the worker and the entrepreneur were considered to be workers, but the entrepreneur was a “special worker” because they created and managed production “for the common good”. Whereas the worker, although working honestly, worked only on the scale of his shop or factory. All industrial property was declared to be “honestly acquired”, in contrast to bank capital, which “was acquired by usurious means”. But “German national capital in the banks becomes clean and becomes a servant of the nation”. In other words, the fascists were openly defending Germany’s large trust and financial capital, but at the same time small peasant or artisanal property was not subject to any protection, as its economic role in the country was not great.

In 1920-1923, the fascist “working class program” was propagated not so much through social demagogy, but rather through nationalism and chauvinism. This was a time of rampant post-war speculators and usurers, who made enormous profits from inflation and the poverty of the masses. The German workers had to pay hundreds of millions of marks in interest alone for war debts and reparations. The fight against “interest slavery” was proclaimed as the main demand of “German socialism”. Hitler writes in his book “My Struggle” that the main slogan and the first task of the national socialists during this period was “nationalisation of the masses”, i.e. the strengthening of nationalism in the masses with the aim of “fighting Versailles and the Western plutocracy”. With this “struggle”, the fascists covered up the fact that they were defending German monopolists.

This was, in fact, the basis of all further fascist tactics to win over the masses and increase their influence on the working class. Summing up this period, Hitler gives a description of this tactic in his book. He also substantiates the plan on strengthening social demagogy, acute necessity for which was not understood yet and was not shared by some large German capitalists, who did not want to make any concessions to workers “due to their short-sighted narrow-mindedness”. Hitler writes:

“In order to win over the masses for a national revival, no social sacrifice must seem too heavy… If the movement intends to return the worker to the German people, it must be clear that economic sacrifices don’t matter if they do not threaten the maintenance and independence of the national economy.”[2]

It is very characteristic that at that time fascism imagined the process of winning back the German working class to be an extremely long and difficult affair.

“This process of approaching and transforming the workers into national socialists,” Hitler wrote, “will not end in ten or even twenty years, but must take several generations”.

At the same time Hitler considered the main obstacle to the “nationalisation” of the German worker to be the latter’s long-standing education in the spirit of “Marxism, internationalism and the class struggle”.

“The greatest obstacle in the way of bringing today’s worker closer to the national people’s society (nationale Volkgemeinschaft) is not the class interests of the worker, but his internationalist attitude and behaviour which are hostile to the fatherland. The same trade unions, if led in a fanatically nationalist way in the political and production field, would make millions of workers the most valuable members of their people, in spite of the individual struggles that would take place in the purely economic field.”[3]

One could not be clearer about one’s wishes. According to the fascists, the working class should not have an independent place and importance in society and history. If workers want to “be part of the people,” they have no right to class interests. They are obliged to obey their “industrial führers”, i.e. the entrepreneurs, and to lend themselves without complaint as cannon fodder for the defence of the bourgeois state and the plunderous war of “their”, national capital. “There are no classes, there are the people and the fatherland, which is above all. Nor do workers have the right to their own party and other organisations, as this is contrary to the “interests of the people”. Isn’t this exactly the same thing the current Hitlerites are telling people?

Proceeding from the “theory” that the working class cannot have its own interests and an independent value in society, that its interests must be dissolved in the “nation”, in the “fatherland”, fascism also formalised its attitude towards the trade unions. Rejecting the class struggle in general, German fascism also rejected trade unions as an instrument of this struggle. The Nazis tried to prove to the working people that trade unions could exist only as “organs of national class cooperation”. And only themselves could be at the head of such organs of cooperation.

On the other hand, Hitler and his closest Partegenossen were well aware that their party had to penetrate the working masses and disorganize and split the trade union movement from within. By 1923, the national socialists had succeeded in infiltrating factories, but it was mainly small factories and workshops. Hitler’s emissaries were simply thrown out of large factories by social democrat workers. But still, in the 1923 factory committees’ elections, the fascists managed to enter the lists of candidates for the first time and get the first Fascist deputies into about 20% of the factory committees in Berlin and Upper Silesia.

Generally speaking, with regard to both the party programme and the trade unions, German fascism clearly followed the path of its Italian counterparts. In 1922, the national socialists were already confronted with the question of trade union tactics. Here is what Hitler wrote on the subject:

“The national socialists were faced with two paths:

1) either create their own trade unions, which could gradually unfold the struggle against the internationalist, Marxist trade unions;

2) Or infiltrate the Marxist trade unions and try to fill them with a new spirit, i.e., to transform them into an instrument of the new worldview”.

Hitler and the Hitlerites were in favour of the second way. They understood that their own trade unions still had to be created, moreover, they would consist of working masses and therefore the “bacillus of Bolshevism” would penetrate there anyway, and a class struggle of workers against their führers/businessmen and later against the state would ensue. It was only a matter of time. It made a lot more sense to decompose the existing “free” trade unions from within, especially since the ground was constantly being prepared in this respect by the German social democrats and the corrupt trade union bosses on the payroll of the businessmen.

Nevertheless, at the end of 1922, “purely” fascist trade unions began to form in Berlin, which were called “people’s military unions”. Politically, these unions stood closer to the nationalists than to the Hitlerites. But the ideological basis was common, and these unions were joined by workers who belonged to both parties. The leader of the “People’s Fighting Unions” was Fahrenhorst, who developed a “union programme”. It contained the following main points:

  1. Struggle against the international Jewish capital
  2. The people’s unions must ensure the protection of private capital everywhere.
  3. Struggle against Marxist trade unions.
  4. Refusal to work together with international organisations or with foreign trade unions.
  5. Rejection of all kinds of strikes, boycotts and factory committees in factories.

At the same time Fahrenhorst drew up a secret report in which he suggested that the experience of the Italian Fascists should be widely used. When the “national trade-union movement” had gained strength, the report said, then all “Marxist trade-unions” must be completely abolished.

But unlike Italy, the Fascist trade unions in Germany did not gather large masses of workers. Hitler’s first infiltration of the working masses failed. It was after this failure that Hitler stated that instead of attacking “free” trade unions directly, the trade union movement must be conquered in a roundabout way. A new slogan was put forward: “First, we must win over the worldview of workers!” Under this slogan the Fascists begin the next phase of the struggle against the German proletariat. In his book Hitler remarked:

“The real benefit for the movement, as well as for our people in general, will grow out of the national socialist trade union movement only when it is so strongly imbued with our ideas that there is no danger of the trade unions falling back into the Marxist path. For to have national socialist trade unions which would see their mission in competing with the Marxist ones would be worse than not having any.”[4]

It is clear that fascism feared competition with “Marxist trade unions”. But it did not refuse to organise its own unions for that reason alone. Firstly, it needed money to organize the fascist unions, and the bourgeoisie did not want to give it. Secondly, the German working class proved immune to the ideas of fascism, and the process of gathering workers into fascist unions was not very successful. Thirdly, capitalism in Germany was entering a period of relative stabilization. As a result, in the mid-20s the bourgeoisie had to give up for a time the intensification of the fascist struggle against the proletariat. Fascism was carefully preserved as the main fighting reserve of German imperialism. Yet after the failed coup the national socialists withdrew from extensive work with the masses for a few years.

During the period of the stabilisation of capitalism, the role of chief defender and protector of the capitalist dictatorship continued to be played by social democracy, which was gradually shedding the last vestiges of its outwardly revolutionary character. Even the phraseology of its leaders had changed to “moderate”. Social democracy had first acted as fascism’s midwife and then as its nurse from 1919 onwards, finally forging a united front with fascism. Already in the early period of the birth and development of national socialism it was well established that social democracy and fascism were not opposites, but twins, brothers-in-law. Using different methods, together they fulfilled the same task – fighting the revolution of the proletariat, guarding the domination of the bourgeoisie with all their might, keeping the working class from political struggle, blinding and deafening it.

Precisely for this purpose German social democracy, which was in power almost continuously from 1919 to 1932, disarmed the German proletariat in three ways. It disarmed it, above all, physically, by banning self-defence organisations, confiscating weapons from combat squads and punishing workers for carrying weapons to guard assemblies and demonstrations. The social democrats prohibited such meetings and demonstrations, destroyed workers’ press and unleashed terror against the most conscious workers, people’s reporters, newspaper and leaflet editors. This way the proletariat was weakened in terms of the organisation and tools of agitation and propaganda.

Finally, no one had distorted and trivialised Marxism more than the German social democrats. Nobody had poisoned the minds of the working class with reformism and opportunism as widely, comprehensively and deeply as social democracy.

This meant that the leading “horsemen” of German social democracy – Ebert, Seevering, Gersing and others – guarded financial capital better than the police and army. These “chiefs” personally led police units and Reichswehr to disperse anti-fascist workers’ demonstrations and to guard fascist demonstrations and rallies. Social fascism became the main support of the bourgeoisie, it disorganized and demoralized the least persistent and the least conscious strata of the German proletariat through an entire system of ideological and organizational measures, from continuous lies and provocations to shooting at workers. It was thanks to social democracy that the bourgeoisie was able to prepare and carry out a new offensive against the working class and obtain a temporary stabilisation of its position. This stabilisation was achieved at the expense of the brutal capitalist rationalisation of production (“optimisation”) and the drastic worsening of workers’ living conditions. At that time, in the mid to late 20s, the reformist trade unions were finally transformed into an auxiliary apparatus of capitalism’s economic system. The apexes of these unions even received official thanks from the government “for activities which strengthened the state order”, i.e. for yet another rescue of capitalism and betrayal of the workers.

In the years of this relative stabilisation, social democracy becomes especially toxic to the workers’ movement. It begins to deploy an entire arsenal of ideological disarmament of the proletariat. Never before had its “theorists” multiplied and worked so hard as during this period. And for good reason, because the bourgeoisie understood that a feeble stabilisation would be followed by another failure of the crisis, when the stool under capitalism would again wobble. That is why the workers’ movement had to be undermined and undermined in advance, pushed into a false direction. And so, one after the other there begin to appear “based theories of state capitalism”, economic democracy, all kinds of “doctrines” about class peace in industry, etc. etc. All these “theories” directly paved the way for fascism.

But the transformation of German social democracy into social fascism intensifies the most in the years of worsening general crisis of capitalism, which creates particularly favourable conditions for the development and growth of German fascism.

As for the Communist Party in that period. Extensive material is available on the causes of the defeat of the German working class in 1923-1932. Work Way has already cited some of them. One of these reasons was the weakness of the German Communist Party. The Party was young, had no Bolshevik experience in its center and locally. The best members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party had been murdered by the bourgeoisie and its social democratic agents. It so happened that for 10 whole years the German bourgeoisie and its agents on the left and right, wave after wave, had knocked out the best, Bolshevik part of the German Communist Party, which was difficult, often impossible to restore. Moreover, the material base of the Party was weak. But it was the Communist Party that remained the only anti-fascist force in the country. It was able to organize the struggle for the masses and especially for the majority in the industrial proletariat.

The fact that many social democrat workers became disillusioned with their reformist trade unions and the policies of the social democratic leaders played a part in this struggle. This disillusionment manifested itself in the mass withdrawal of workers from the social democratic unions. The communists did not support this flight, but it is a fact. In 1920, the German unions numbered 8 million, but from mid-1923, when it became clear to whom the social democracy and the trade union bosses were serving, the number of union members began to fall precipitously. By mid-1928 they were half that number – 4,291,000.

Nevertheless, the majority of the workers who had left the unions were still trailing behind social democracy. Those workers were aware of the betrayal and weakness of their leaders, but reasoned that membership in social democratic organisations offered some protection, and it was better than nothing. The task of the Communist Party was to win back the masses, re-organize them and even bring them back into the reformist unions, but already as a communist majority. It was a very difficult task. The Communist Party had to solve it while overcoming mistakes and deviations in its own ranks. It turned out that many local organs of the Party were more conscious and revolutionary than the Central Committee. There was a strong right-wing bias in the Central Committee and in some local organs, led by Brandler and the Brandlerites. They pushed towards the merge with social democracy, extolled the economic struggle, advocated the subordination of the workers’ movement to social democracy, ultimately pushing the Communist Party towards total disarmament before the bourgeoisie, towards degeneration into a petty bourgeois party. On the left wing, the Trotskyists Ruth Fischer and Maslov were wielding their leftist agenda of immediate revolution, split with the peasantry, etc. Both the right and the left were doing the same thing, they were pushing the masses away from the revolution to petty reforms, to the subordination of the workers’ movement to the bourgeoisie, preventing the masses from understanding the counter-revolutionary character of social democracy and its kinship with fascism. A healthy section of the Communist Party exposed the right-wingers and leftists in its ranks, but this took up almost all the modest strength of the party and took time.


The general crisis of capitalism, which began in 1929, confronted the German bourgeoisie with the task of accelerating the accumulation and renewal of capital by any means. Otherwise French and especially British imperialism could seize those markets and sources of raw materials where the German trusts had hitherto been operating. At that moment the common path of these trusts was one – a frenzied attack on the German working class. For this purpose new taxes were being introduced and old ones were being increased, duties were being raised. The social democratic government carries out one sitting after another, cutting wages and destroying social legislation at the demand of Krupp, Stinnes, Blom and all the other industrial big shots and bankers. A whole programme of this attack on the working masses of Germany has been devised. Its essence was summed up in the “famous” government declaration of Minister-President Papen:

“The cabinets of the post-war period believed that with their increasing state socialism they could largely relieve the material concerns of the workers and employers. They tried to turn the state into a charitable institution and in so doing weakened the moral strength of the nation. This must come to an end.”

The cabinets which directly prepared the victory of fascism, the cabinets of Bruning, Papen, then Schleicher, saw their task of increasing the “moral strength of the nation” in what was beneficial to the German monopolies – in lowering wages, eliminating or drastically reducing state social aid. At the expense of tens of millions of workers, peasants, small employees, and labour intelligentsia, a regime of “state austerity” was proclaimed. The money taken from the working people, which should in part have been returned to them in the form of pensions, benefits, sick pay, holidays, student grants, etc., was used to strengthen the police apparatus and the pockets of the German monopolists (through public contracts, quotas, concessions, interest-free loans to banks and trusts, etc.).

The principle of this “state economy” was fully derived from the objectives of the imperialist bourgeoisie in the years of crisis between 1929 and 1933. All cabinets of this period were hidden forms of a fascist dictatorship, preparing the way for the open fascism of Hitler. From 1929 onwards, the offensive of capital against the working class in Germany, prepared and shaped by social Ddmocracy, unfolded in every aspect.

The general offensive of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat and all working people, aimed at overcoming the crisis by lowering the standard of living of the majority, began with the so-called “emergency decrees”, officially decreasing wages and virtually eliminating social security. These decrees of the Bruning government from December 9, 1931, cut the income of the working class by 1.5 billion DM.

The decrees of the next cabinet, headed by Papen, “saved” another 188 million marks for the German bourgeoisie through cuts in unemployment benefits and 184 million through cuts in the so-called “crisis” allowance for workers and employees.

The attack of finance capital on the German proletariat was not gradual, but came in leaps. In the summer of 1930, the average weekly wage of an industrial worker was 44 marks. In March 1931, it fell to 39 marks. In May 1932, this was reduced to 22 Marks per week (the ‘Bruening decrees’), and Papen’s cabinet reduced them even further to 20 Marks as soon as it came to power. The wage rates for the main professions in heavy industry were officially reduced by 28% from December 1930 to June 1932 (only within a year and a half!).

The absolute and relative impoverishment of the working class in Germany increased in breadth and depth. All strata of the proletariat were affected, including the most materially stable strata of the working class, the working class aristocracy. Because of this, the wear and tear of the labour force increases sharply as a result of the constant increase of the intensity of work. Workers over the age of 45 were often dismissed, regardless of whether they were “working aristocracy” or “unreliable elements”. The intensity of work was so high that these workers could not cope with the daily norm. Once they were kicked out, they couldn’t find work, because landlords everywhere wanted ‘Angehender, Widerstandsfähiger Fleisch’ (young hardy meat). Unemployment rose sharply to levels never seen before in German history. At the same time, state support for the unemployed continued to fall, both in terms of the number of benefits and their amount. In 1932, out of the 7 million unemployed 40% received no help at all, not even from “welfare” organisations.

The bourgeoisie cleverly exploited the impoverishment of the working class, unemployment and especially the unequal character of this impoverishment among the different strata of the proletariat. Competition for jobs, for tolerable working conditions, for penny wages, grew. On this basis, the masses of the German proletariat began to split; different layers of society were cleverly pinned against one another, the workers against the unemployed and vice versa. This split of the proletariat was and still remains a necessary condition for the continued domination of the bourgeoisie.

The theoretical organ of the German monopolists, the magazine Deutsche Führerbriefe, a close friend of the NSDAP, in September 1932 wrote with complete frankness about the importance of the split of the working class:

“A necessary condition for any social reconsolidation of bourgeois domination in Germany after the war is the split of the workers’ movement. Any workers’ movement which is united and comes from the bottom will be revolutionary, and against such a workers’ movement the domination of the bourgeoisie could not be permanently maintained, even by resorting to the means of military violence.”

Thus, the bourgeoisie in this case expressed itself clearly and precisely. The task of ideologically and organisationally dividing the workers’ movement was entrusted to the German social democracy, and through it to the right and ultra-left deviations in the Communist Party. The leadership of social democracy and the apex of the reformist trade unions supported the monopoly policy with all their might. These servants of capital hoped that the high monopoly profits would provide a few crumbs for the leaders of social democracy and trade unions and bribe individual segments of the working class. During the crisis, however, this material basis for the division of the proletariat narrowed. German monopolistic capital realised that it was necessary to spend money on social democracy and bribe the upper classes of the working class, but the harsh realities of the crisis and competition overshadowed that necessity. In fact, for some time the chiefs of social democracy and trade unions served the monopolists for free, on credit, like trusting simpletons. In the end, capitalists cut their payments to social democratic chiefs and proceeded to massive layoffs and across-the-board wage cuts. And this reduction ended up affecting the qualified working aristocracy more than the general, less qualified masses. The very value of qualification fell. Impoverishment equated different groups of workers, they became dissatisfied with their situation, and the working aristocracy was particularly dissatisfied, and part of it went over to the communists.

But the bourgeoisie still found loopholes for dissent. Not only did they pit the workers against the unemployed, the aristocracy against the unskilled. Taking advantage of the fact that the workers were fragmented and only weakly opposed the impoverishment and intensification of exploitation, the entrepreneurs declared the so-called “Kampf vor Drehmaschine”, literally “the struggle for a place at the machine”. In this struggle, the “old” workers, who had been employed for a long time, and the “young”, i.e. those who had recently joined the company, were pitted against each other. This struggle became fierce, in some places turning into knife fights between workers.

Immediately, the state officially expanded the rights of the bosses to fire workers by passing a series of laws. The most conscious workers, especially communists, got laid off.

In many enterprises, dismissal becomes the only disciplinary measure for workers (reprimands, warnings, etc. get cancelled). Getting fired hangs like the sword of Damocles over the head of a worker, is used as a means of pressure and to create a docile workforce. Even fines temporarily recede into the background.

A further line of division in the working class ran through the trade union. Entrepreneurs, through social democratic leaders and trade unions, created a divide between workers who were organized in trade unions and workers who were not. For a while, it becomes easier for union members to find work, they are sacked less often and receive benefits more often. But the crisis intensifies, and union membership is no longer the answer. The irony is that the worst affected unions were those in which the management preached industrial peace, persuading the workers that for the duration of the crisis they should accept wage cuts and give up strikes and all forms of class struggle. Workers, members of the most tame unions, began to be thrown out and robbed on an equal footing with all other workers. The non-conscious part of the German proletariat becomes convinced by its own experience that the communists were right, that unity and organisation are needed to fight the bourgeoisie and its state. The influence of the Communist Party grows sharply during this period. The influence of the social democracy and the trade union bureaucracy falls rapidly. Social democracy is no longer capable of keeping the proletariat out of the class struggle.

The process of strengthening revolutionary sentiment in the working class does not escape the attention of the monopolists and the state elite. The agenda of the bourgeoisie demands a transition to the path of open terrorist dictatorship against the working class. The fight against revolutionary Marxism becomes the dominant slogan. German financial capital entrusts fascism with the task of the “final defeat” of the working class. Open terror, social demagogy and the entire apparatus of the state, the NSDAP and trade unions, which are still led by social fascists, are put to use for this purpose.

The Nazis had openly formulated their intention to completely crush the working class a few years before they came to power. As early as March 1930, “the imperial supreme führer of the National Socialist Factory Organization” R. Muhov wrote in the “Arbeiterum”, the print organ of the NSFO (NSFO – National Socialist Factory Organization):

“Realizing that the gates of German freedom will open only when Marxism is defeated, we clearly set as our task a sober study and evaluation of the enemy’s fighting means and a firm, brutal, sentimental, cold-blooded struggle devoid of illusions.”

Hitler characterised the role and tasks of fascism in the struggle against the revolutionary proletariat in a similar, but more detailed way. In his “famous” speech in the industrialists’ club in Düsseldorf on January 27, 1932, he said:

“Without us, there would no longer be a bourgeoisie in Germany. The question “Bolshevism or no Bolshevism” would have been settled long ago”.

Here Hitler didn’t try to scare the largest capitalists, but just stated a fact: either the German capital puts all its energy into preserving itself, or the proletariat overthrows the bourgeoisie. Either it’s a fascist dictatorship with Hitler’s government, the servant of the German monopolies, or a socialist revolution.

Hitler’s speech in Dusseldorf is also interesting because of how clearly (more than any other speech of the national socialists) it shows the anti-proletarian, imperialist essence of Hitler’s party and of fascism as a whole.

End of Part 1.

Prepared by M. Ivanov.

[1]F. Feder. Programm der NSDAP, S. 18.

[2]Hitler. Mein Kampf. S. 369-370 (People’s Edition, 1932).

[3] Ibid. 373.

[4] Hitler. Mein Kampf. S. 681.

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