From the September 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard
The Socialist Party is not interested in travel articles or personal reminiscences, as Socialism is essentially an impersonal movement on philosophy. But perhaps in this case as I visited Germany for ten consecutive years before the war, and again for the first time since the war this summer, with a knowledge of Germany and plenty of good contacts, this should be useful in assessing the situation, and these reminiscences might not be so much out of place.
Firstly there are no Nazis now in Germany, nor anybody who ever subscribed to the Nazi philosophy. All the present population in British, French, or American zones were never supporters of Hitler, or at least so they say!
Those who knew Nazi Germany well will remember how almost every man, woman and child went out of his or her way to assure you that everybody was for Hitler, and the few communists or Jews that were anti-Hitler had fled abroad in shame. The towns in Nazi Germany were no place for a holiday because of the ceaseless propaganda night and day which made the atmosphere more like that of a boiler house. Munich station was always covered with a mass of flags and banners to remind visitors that Munich was “Die Hauptstadt der Bewegung” (chief town of the movement). To-day it is a ruin with no roof over the major portion. A photograph of the ruin of “ Haus Wachenfeld ” (Hitler’s mountain chalet) adorns the walls of the station at Berchtesgaden alongside a picture depicting its former beauty. Foreign visitors are interested in these things, but German’s aren’t.
Nobody talks about Hitler unless you first raise the matter. A change-over from the days when everybody had to greet everybody else or a business house or shop had to greet their customers with Heil Hitler. There was no good morning or good bye in Nazi Germany, it was all “Heil Hitler.” Everybody had to salute the banners carried by storm troopers every few minutes of the day. Photos of Hitler besmirched the walls of every cafe, restaurant, shop, business house, etc., just like those of Uncle Joe in Red Fascist Russia!
If the working class have forgotten Hitler and his night-mare, then what are they thinking about to-day? Like the working class in England, they are in a state of mind oscillating between confusion and apathy. Those who used to argue that Nazism was a special type of Socialism applicable to Germany and adapted to German needs, have now chucked over-board this argument, but they have got nothing in its place. Those many thousands one meets who have, fought on the Russian front and been prisoners of war, say they are thoroughly convinced that the Soviet system is not Socialism, and that the Russians have a much lower standard of living than the Germans were accustomed to. They were also much impressed by the high standard of living of the Commissars, and the tyranny over the masses, with the indescribable poverty of the peasants.
In Austria the present Christlische-Volks Partei, which is in power, have not been slow to capitalise anti-communist ideas by plastering the place with pictures of Austrian soldiers behind the barbed wire in Russia with the caption “Listen to us, we’ve tasted Socialism in the workers Fatherland.”
The harm that has been done to Socialism, as we of the Socialist Party understand it is incalculable both from the Nazis calling themselves Socialists and also from the Russians, who not only persist to-day, but are everywhere on the continent pretending to champion democracy. Indeed the official designation of the Russian zone of Germany is “Demokratic Deutsches Republik.”
One sees in Germany, and Austria, no Marxist literature and no indication that the workers are making up for time lost in getting an understanding of Marxism. There is nothing of the nature of a Socialist Party based on Socialist knowledge. The bookshops contain no literature which indicates that things are moving in an enlightened direction. After the first World War Germany produced a great crop of anti-war books, such as the famous “No More War” and “All Quiet on the Western Front” and hundreds of others. At present the best sellers are Churchill’s “War Time Memories,” and Rommel’s book. Anti-communist books, so common in Switzerland, are entirely absent in Germany and Austria. Nothing is rationed in either country and the black market and cigarette currency has disappeared. One sees and hears little about unemployment. Germany is busy making consumer goods perhaps one day destined to compete with England’s for the export market when trade gets really going. Austria is experiencing a wave of “prosperity” brought on by the many tourists plus Marshall Aid. In both countries American troops spend lavishly (by Austrian workers’ standards) and bring their relatives from home there.
Neither the War nor the Nazi experiences seem to have taught the workers anything useful, for many of them to-day would be only too pleased to fight against the Russians with the knowledge of America behind them, with all the financial aid and equipment that can mean.
Our case has always been that you can’t get Socialism out of war, nor does war lead to Socialism, as Lenin and others have claimed. The Germans have been through a lot of tragic experiences from which very few have learned anything, except that it is unpleasant. If the present position of Germany has any lesson for us, it is that it confirms our philosophy that Socialism comes and can come only from understanding.