From Fourth International, vol.5 No.8, August 1944, pp.227-229.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.
WHAT EVENTS OF JULY 20 SIGNIFY After the July 20 attempt on Hitler’s life, the rift between the Nazi politicians and the Junker generals cannot be questioned any longer. The crisis in the German ruling class has begun.
If the defeat at Stalingrad was decisive in turning the tide against German militarism in the East; if the defeat in North Africa foreshadowed the demise of Nazi imperialist power in the West; the split between Hitler and the Junkers is no less decisive for the fortunes of the capitalists at home in Germany itself.
In that sense it constitutes the prelude to the inevitable outbreak of the proletarian revolution within the Third Reich.
Both the Nazi politicians and the Junker generals are no doubt motivated by considerations flowing from the example of Mussolini’s collapse in Italy a year ago. The generals want to emulate Badoglio. Hitler wants to prevent the rise of the latter’s German counterpart and thus stave off the fate that befell Mussolini.
As in the case of Italy, it is fear of the approaching upheaval of the masses that hastens the decomposition of the ruling class. The Junkers hope to deflect the wrath of the toilers, wearied and decimated by the war, upon the heads of the Nazis. They hope thus to save themselves and somehow to retain leadership after Hitler’s fall.
Hitler and the Nazis, on the other hand, try to learn from the Italian example too and to prevent its repetition in Germany. In the regimented meetings at the factories, with which they are supplementing the blood-purge of the generals, they appeal to the class instincts of the masses. They ask support from them for their struggle against the “blue-blooded swine”, upon whom they seek to place the blame for the growing military disasters which are debilitating the country.
But neither of the ruling factions can escape their inevitable doom. For the time being, the Nazis appear to have gained the upper hand over the old-line militarists. They have, according to reports, executed more than 3,000 high officers. They have introduced the Nazi salute in the army and “assured” themselves control by a system of political commissars attached to the staffs of the various armies. They have placed the Gestapo’s chief hangman, Himmler at the head of the “home forces.” For the nth time they have proclaimed “complete totalitarization” of the war effort. To the masses who have suffered untold anguish in the eleven years under his “providential” leadership, Hitler holds out the prospect only ... of the most “total” misery.
SIGNS OF THE COMING DEBACLE But the military defeats on all fronts continue unabated. The Nazi lines are crumbling in Poland on the East and in France on the West. The number of prisoners in every sector of their battle-fronts is growing to tremendous proportions.
Hundreds of thousands of deserters, according to reports, are roaming the countryside in the Reich itself. Rumors persist of mutinous actions in the navy, of strikes in the factories, even of the formation of soldiers’ councils in the reserves. Under the clouds of the double censorship of the Nazis and the Allies, little light on the actual state of affairs among the German masses is reaching us.
Yet there cannot be any doubt that the conflict at the top is only a reflection of the deep-going unrest at the bottom. That it will further stimulate the tendencies toward civil war all the way down the rungs of the social ladder. Already there are signs that point unmistakably in this direction. William Philip Simms, Scripps-Howard foreign expert, reports on August 2:
“United Nations officials in London are convinced that the revolt against Hitler was not only genuine, but far from being crushed, has only been driven underground temporarily and will soon erupt again with greater violence than ever ... There seems good reason to believe that there is now a definite peace movement among the German masses, and that the so-called generals’ plot was symptomatic, if not the spearhead, of that movement ... While the Nazis may have quelled the abortive revolt, it can hardly be for long if, as it appears, it was the outgrowth of something much bigger, much more serious and definitely more progressive than just a generals’ plot.”
Inside Germany, N.Y. Times correspondent George Axelsson writes from Stockholm on Aug. 6, the developments since July 20 have pushed the “lukewarms and the politically indifferent, the masses of in-betweens to make up their political minds and join the opposition.” He quotes underground reports “that entire regiments throw down their rifles and walk over to the Russian lines, the men sometimes being led by their officers and at other times acting on their own initiative.”
ECONOMIC BACKGROUND In the same dispatch he reports that foreign slave laborers “have deserted in droves from factories and farms” and are being sheltered and fed by German farmers and workers! Finally, he sketches the economic background behind the unrest.
“Add, to this the fact that most Germans outside the army and party have not eaten a really square, substantial meal for four years, that practically all of them are worrying shout themselves or about the fate of some relative, that millions are homeless and propertyless and that the Reichsmark has sunk so low that only landlords, restaurants and the rare amusement places still in business accept them and that they do so only because they have to by law, and one begins to have an idea of what things are like in today’s Germany.”
The masses of German workers, who are known long ago to have conducted slowdowns in the plants together with their brothers from the occupied lands impressed into Nazi slave labor, can only be emboldened by the quarrel among their rulers. The example of the insurgent Italian workers cannot have been lost to them. The recent general strike of the Danish workers bringing the Hitlerite oppressor to terms, cannot fail to have impressed them with both the growing weakness of their masters and the new power of working class solidarity. It was too close to home. How advanced the state of unrest and incipient revolt actually is, we cannot know for certain. But that the masses are already on the move can be gleaned from small items in the Nazi press itself. On August 12, for instance, the New York Post carried the following A.P. dispatch:
“Escaped prisoners of war and foreign laborers have begun guerrilla warfare inside Germany, the German press revealed today in a dispatch from Nazi correspondent Werner Gilles ... Hitler’s newspaper, Voelkisch Beobachter, reported that guerrillas had killed four Nazis in one village, and commented: ‘Even in the smallest village everything must be prepared for defense against air raids, marauding foreign workers and armed prisoners of war who have escaped’.”
The revolutionary crisis unfolding all over the agonized continent is reaching into the heart of Europe.
PLANS OF ALLIES AND THE KREMLIN The Allied Imperialists and their confederate in the Kremlin are regarding the outbreak of the social crisis in Germany with mixed feelings. Their delight with the Nazi-Junker rift is more than tempered by their patent fear of the German masses. They have already indicated, through Churchill, that they have plans prepared to deal with a revolutionary Germany.
They have no intention of repeating the pattern of the precarious native bonapartist regime tried with Darlan in North Africa and Badoglio in Italy. The rule of the mailed fist is to be used more openly than elsewhere against the workers in Germany. Allied bayonets, their own forces of occupation, are to be entrusted with the major role in the governing of a partitioned Reich.
Already the Allied statesmen are warning that a Communist Germany cannot expect to be spared expiation for the crimes of the Nazis. Already they are spreading the slander that the “German nation of criminals” is about to change from Hitlerism to Communism in order to escape punishment. Already the Kremlin, aiding in this counter-revolutionary plot, is inspiring stories of a “Trotskyist” conspiracy to save German militarism.
But the calculations of the imperialists and of their Moscow allies are one thing; the power of the social forces with which they have to cope, another. Precisely because it has been suppressed as in no other country, precisely because it has accumulated under the Nazi lid a vast store of dammed-up mass hatred, the class struggle of the German proletariat will explode with tremendous force. The stormy course of the German revolution will arouse an irresistible enthusiasm among die toilers of the entire world. The great traditions of struggle of the German workers, once they break through the barriers set up by the crumbling Nazi dictatorship, will rise to new heights. The revolutionary German workers will win for their cause the sympathies of the oppressed in every part of the world. Against this force neither the Stalinist bureaucracy, nor the Anglo-American imperialism will remain immune.
DISPUTE BETWEEN LONDON AND MOSCOW With the Red Army surging across the western Bug River, the frontier established as the “Curzon Line,” the Kremlin has proclaimed the formation of a “Polish Committee of National Liberation.” This committee is to serve as the civil authority in the territory being occupied by Soviet troops from this line onward.
The proclamation of the new quasi-government has aroused a flurry of diplomatic activity in Allied circles. The premier of the Polish “government-in-exile” at London flew to Moscow to attempt a conciliation of the two “governments.” After a week of conferences, the negotiations broke down without any results.
The dispute between London and Moscow is in the main a dispute over the international alignment of the projected Polish government. London wants to assure its allegiance to the foreign policy of British imperialism. Moscow wants to assure for the Stalinist bureaucracy a friendly capitalist ally on the pattern of the emigre Czechoslovak government of Eduard Beneš.
Moscow’s declaration explicity states: “The Soviet government declares that it does not pursue aims ... of a change of social structure in Poland.” This is the identical language used by Molotov after the entry of the Red Army into Rumania. There this statement of policy has been followed by practical measures upholding the domination of the capitalist-landlord oligarchy and suppressing the most elementary rights of the masses, The Polish declaration forebodes the same kind of counter-revolutionary action by the Stalinist agents in Poland.
The manifesto reportedly issued by Stalin’s puppet Polish civil administration further bears this out: “All property confiscated by the Germans will be restored.” Restored, that is, to the capitalist.
The machinations of Stalin and his puppets are a clear warning of the dangers facing the people of Poland.
Under the leadership of the great Warsaw proletariat the Polish masses have fought for five years with unexcelled heroism against Nazi tyranny. They have not taken up arms to exchange one set of oppressors for another. They have not fought for the predatory interests of British imperialism and its Polish henchmen of the London “government-in-exile.” Nor have they battled in order to submit to the reactionary role of Stalin’s bureaucracy and his Polish puppets. They have shown in the course of their tenacious resistance to Hitlerism that they mean to be masters of their own destiny. They intend to strike down root and branch the whole landlord-capitalist system which has heaped interminable misery, starvation and death upon them.
STALIN’S TREACHERYAT THE GATES OF WARSAW As the Red Army approached the gates of Warsaw, the embattled workers gave renewed evidence of this irrepressible determination. Despite five years of bloody Nazi repression, they have arisen again with arms in hand to challenge the oppressor. In an unequal battle, with bare hands so to speak, they seized one section of the city after another. The German forces of occupation were struck with panic and began to evacuate, in the expectation that the assault of the Red Army would be coordinated with the revolt from within. But instead of increasing in intensity, the attack of the Red Army was brought to a standstill. The Nazi military took renewed heart The heroic workers of Warsaw are being left to battle alone.
By this latest treachery,the Kremlin oligarchy is underlining and emphasizing the counter-revolutionary role it means to play in Poland. Taking a page out of the tactics of Anglo-American imperialism in Italy, the Stalinist bureaucracy leaves the insurgent proletariat to be crushed by the retreating Nazis. It attempted to cover up this latest betrayal by throwing sand in the eyes of the masses of the world who are eagerly following the struggle. After first denying the very existence of the revolt in the city, and then pooh-poohing it as a mere machination of Polish reactionaries to embarrass the Red Army, it is now issuing statements through the press agency Tass to the effect that the London “government-in-exile” is alone responsible for the isolation of the embattled workers of Warsaw.
That the bourgeois “government” in London, the tool of the Allies, does not really worry over the fate of the Warsaw working class is, to be sure, only too true. That government merely seeks to re-establish the rule of the capitalists, landlords and militarists who previously oppressed the masses and ruined the country. Naturally, they seek to make use of the insurgent movement for their own reactionary end. Like Stalin, they too fear the independent action of the masses, which in the end can only turn against the predatory aims of the London “government-in-exile.” Only treachery could be expected from that quarter.
REACTIONARY ROLE EXPOSED IN ACTION But the heroic fighters of Warsaw expected a different attitude from the approaching army of the Soviet state. The counter-revolutionary bureaucracy is now revealing in action what advanced workers already knew, namely, that its attitude toward the insurgent workers is no different from that of the imperialists.
At the gates of Warsaw, Stalin is being forced to appear in his whole reactionary nakedness before the entire world. As yet he is attempting to cover himself up with deception. The aforementioned Tass communique states:
“Tass is in possession of information that the London Polish circles responsible for the Warsaw uprising made no attempt to coordinate the revolt with the Soviet high command. The responsibility for the Warsaw happening thus lies entirely with the Polish emigre circles in London.”
He hopes to ward off self-exposure by shouting “Stop, thief” at the Anglo-American imperialists with whom he is allied, and their Polish hirelings. Stalin unquestionably fears the fraternization between the revolutionary insurgents in Warsaw and the soldiers of the Red Army besieging it. The nightmare of a revolutionary reawakening of the Soviet masses stares in his face across the gates of the embattled city.
By his own actions, Stalin has taught the masses of Poland that they can expect only a stab in the back from the counter-revolutionary gang in the Kremlin. They must now draw the lesson of this betrayal. They must organize their forces to counteract it. They must beware of the scoundrelly Stalinist agents in their midst and drive these vermin from their ranks.
With their own armed forces they must continue their independent revolutionary struggle. They must organize and strengthen their workers and peasants councils. They must fight to establish a workers and peasants republic on socialist foundations.
ROAD AHEAD FOR POLISH WORKERS They must confiscate the factories and operate them under workers control. They cannot place any confidence in the promises of land reforms issued from London or Moscow but must proceed to divide the estates of the robber landlords among the peasants. They will have to take measures to prevent the restoration of the landlord-capitalist regime and its military oligarchy. They must establish full equality for all minorities.
The Polish masses can realize this program only in relentless opposition and vigilant struggle against all the agents of the Anglo-American imperialists and of the counter-revolutionary Stalinist bureaucracy. They will find their most powerful allies in the workers of Germany who are preparing to rise against the shaken Nazi-Junker regime, and in the insurgent workers and peasants of Central Europe. They must seek to enlist in their common cause the rank and file soldiers of the Red Army, and forge bonds of solidarity with the millions of Soviet workers who remain true to the internationalist ideas and revolutionary traditions of 1917. Through their independent struggle the Polish workers will inspire the Soviet masses to settle accounts with the hated Stalinist bureaucracy.
Arm in arm with these allies the Polish workers must fight to overthrow capitalism and rid Europe of imperialist domination. Their united struggle will assure the revival and extension of the October Revolution and lead to the firm establishment of the Socialist United States of Europe.
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