Wednesday, November 20, 2019

50 Years Ago: Collapse of the Opposition to Hitler (1984)

The 50 Years Ago column from the February 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

A special correspondent of the Manchester Guardian contributed two articles recently (Jan. 12th and 13th) on the collapse of the opposition to the Nazis and on the prospects of a new opposition. His estimate, based on a detailed knowledge of the facts, fully bears out our criticisms of the Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party.

"Nothing is now left." he says, "of the apparently big and powerful Social Democratic and Communist parties, and the Hitlerite government is more solidly established than ever. It has gained many voluntary supporters among the urban working class, particularly among the younger generation."

Of the Social Democrats he says:
  Although they professed Marxist principles. they were not Marxist. . . They were essentially conservative.
He thinks that the old party is discredited beyond recovery, but this, even if true, does not mean that the old illusions cannot be taken up by new organisations.

The views he holds about the Communists in Germany are particularly deserving of notice:
  The German Communist Party has always been over-rated, chiefly because of its great numerical strength, which was always out of proportion to its real strength. Indeed, so great was this disproportion that the German Communist movement came perilously near to being a colossal piece of bluff. There is not. and there never was. a “Communist danger” in Germany. . .
  The German Communists never fought a single successful action, they never even began an action that could conceivably be successful . They were never able to call a general strike, or even any partial strike beyond ineffectual, desultory, local stoppages. .
  Although full of revolutionary dogma, they were not revolutionaries, and never had the slightest conception of what a revolution is. . . Each of the so-called “revolutionary risings” (such as the central German insurrection of 1921 and the Hamburg insurrection of 1923) was a cruel farce from beginning to end.
The correspondent rightly points out that the German Communists, like the German Social Democrats, talked about "Marxist logic." but were "neither Marxist nor logical". They were "for illegality above everything, and preferred illegal defeat to legal victory”.

Although their membership at the time of the collapse was probably about 100,000, and they had had five or six million votes cast for them not long before, "they collapsed without resistance” and "just as ingloriously" as the Social Democrats.

The correspondent is right when he says: "it is probable that Marx would have repudiated Social Democrats and Communists with equal indignation”. 
(From an editorial "The German Situation", Socialist Standard, February 1934)

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