From New International, Vol.1 No.2, August 1934, pp.47-48.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
ALL who resisted have been shot, some have committed suicide. Without the ceremony even of a drumhead court martial, the souls of Roehm and his staff were dispatched to Valhalla amid farewell accusations of sodomy. Partisans of due process of law protest that there was no evidence of overt conspiracy, that Hitler’s Reichstag oration was “an accounting without vouchers” by one who was prosecuting attorney, witness, judge and executioner. But conspiracies, like convenient “assassinations”, can always be invented. What Hitler-Goering-Goebbels faced was the much more deadly fact of a condition. In the historic social crisis of a falling rate of profit and mounting class antagonisms, Capital had decided that the only alternative to socialization was the forcible degradation of wages to the barest level of subsistence. The end entailed the complete destruction of all the barriers of proletarian organization; its instrumentality was the “anti-Marxist” mobilization of the petty-bourgeoisie, a victim itself of monopolist expropriation. The working class, criminally divided and betrayed, virtually capitulated without a struggle; the trade unions, the social democracy, and the communists were crushed. Intoxicated by its easy triumph, the middle class mistakes the illusion of power for its substance; it attempts to function as an independent social force. At this point, the reality of Fascism clashes with its demagogic form. The Jacobin petty-bourgeoisie, which saved a great revolution from feudal reaction, had finally to cede command of the state to Big Business. The Brownshirt creatures of the capitalist twilight could not succeed where the Red Bonnets of the capitalist dawn had failed. The plebeian phase of German Fascism is liquidated.
The blood-purge of the Storm Troops was a preventive coup d’etat against the elements of the “second revolution”. Stripped of its nebulous flights into ethics and metaphysics, von Papen’s Marburg address was the unmistakeable handwriting on the wall. This hero of the Herrenklub, by the side of whom Judas Iscariot was positively a saint, knew first-hand as intermediary between embezzling Junkers and Ruhr industrialists, that Hitler was a product of capitalist subsidy no less than of middle class misery. Had Marxism been suppressed, he now asked, so that national Bolshevism would be instituted in its place? It was plainly necessary that the Fighting League of the Trading Middle Classes and its military counterpart, the SA be taught the limits of the totalitarian state. Hitler preferred to be the agent rather than the victim of this necessity.
When in 1926 he declared the Nazi program “unalterable”, Hitler intended by that no more than his Italian prototype who at a similar stage favored the abolition of the monarchy, the dissolution of joint stock corporations, and transfer of large estates to the peasants’ cooperatives. Once the March on Rome was accomplished (a single regiment of regulars could have dispersed it) and the Facta government had by secret agreement delivered over the power, Mussolini set about trampling down all in his own party who had taken his demagogy at its face value. Except for the brutal reality of the Fascist syndicates, the “corporate state” remains a petty-bourgeois fantasy on paper. So, too, Hitler came not to destroy German capitalism but to fulfill neo-German imperialism. The program of nationalization of the trusts, confiscation of the land, and abolition of “interest-servitude” was like the whole propaganda of anti-Semitism designed as bait for the lower middle class. The Aryan capital of the Krupps, Thyssen and Siemens was pronounced “creative” and sacrosanct. The autarchy which Hitler advocated is to be understood in the context of his published view that the “mere restoration of the German frontiers of 1914 is a political lunacy and a crime”. The Alfred Rosenbergs are no less aware than any Marxist that the productive forces have outgrown the boundaries of the national state, that Ruhr coal cannot be permanently divorced from Lorraine iron-ore without dire consequences for German economy. A scientific anthropologist like Boas misses the point that the Nordic racial ideology is the Nazi pseudonym for the new imperialism.
In this light, those who have profited from the Hitler regime are easily distinguished. There are first the Junkers whose estates despite the “unalterable program” remain intact and who have been accorded higher tariffs. The industrialists who invested so heavily in Hitler have received about one billion dollars worth of returns in the form of tax reductions, subsidies and wage cuts. The upper middle class, the social base of the black-shirted Schutz Staffel, has profited from openings created by the ostracism of Jews and liberal office-holders of the Weimar regime. But the lower middle classes, dazzled with the heralded prosperity of the Third Reich; have been given a stone, the processes of rationalization and centralization continue their grind. The economic crisis grows acute. An increasingly unfavorable trade balance with shrinking reserves of gold and foreign exchange foster projects for the devaluation of the mark and a moratorium of foreign payments. Except for the heavily subsidized armament industries, unemployment has not decreased; it is merely concealed. Real wages have sunk to their lowest level in half a century. Expenditures on the social services have been cut by nearly half a billion marks. Such soil could not but nourish hopes of a “second revolution” to bring the Nazi masses into their own. Man does not live by bread alone but the most immaculately conceived Aryan and lineal descendant of Hermann the Cheruscan cannot live on glory alone.
Captain Roehm and his circle of military desperadoes had but small interest in the National-Bolshevist ideas of a Strasser, but they were prepared to utilize the disaffection of the petty bourgeois masses as their base of operations for the control of the Reichswehr. The command of the Reichswehr, on the other hand, was quite as resolved as had been the Royal Italian Army to allow no parvenu weakening of its monopoly or plebeian dilution of the ranks by fusion with the SA. The military question involved the whole complex of political and economic orientation. Hitler always viewed the Storm Troops with distrust as a menace to his exclusive control of the party. He had been dangerously embroiled with them at the time of the Berlin mutiny of Captain Stennes, which only the treacherous services of Goebbels helped him put down. The proposed reduction of the Storm Troop numbers aimed a direct and telling blow at the plans and ambitions of Roehm. In killing him, Hitler disposed of one of the most influential of Nazi originals and its ablest military organizer. The simultaneous killing of von Schleicher bears the familiar earmarks of the “amalgam”. Any contact the “social” General may have had with Roehm would have been quite casual; their respective points of support and perspectives were fundamentally dissimilar. But the murder of von Schleicher, removed as it were, a “Bonapartist” pretender, and cushioned the shock of annihilating so many Nazis. The death of von Hindenburg and Hitler’s assumption of the added presidential powers, completes the concentration of all sovereignty, of every organ of legislative and executive authority in the hands of finance capital. Having settled accounts with the turbulent petty bourgeoisie, its pawn against the proletariat, Fascism now assumes the form of a bureaucratic military and police dictatorship.
The working class did not intervene. Wedding, formerly the reddest district of Berlin, was deserted. That is the tragic measure of the catastrophe of 1933. Only that department of the Stalin press dedicated to sowing apocalyptic illusions represented Germany as on the verge of a proletarian revolution. A truer index of Stalin’s appraisal of the situation is Litvinov’s Realpolitik, his adoption of the French imperialist thesis of “security before disarmament” and endless regional pacts. A direct transition from Fascist dictatorship to Soviet power is theoretically not inconceivable. But the pre-requisite for that would have to be the lever of a powerful communist party. None such is available. The Stalinist party, which, planless and headless, capitulated without struggle when Hitler ascended to the Chancellery, is scarcely recognizable in the panegyrics and embellishments of the official and semi-official Comintern propagandists. A party which cannot distinguish victory from defeat, is of no greater actual service to the proletariat than a party which directly betrays it. But while in the circumstances there could be no revolutionary intervention of the working class, conditions have been created for its infusion with fresh confidence. The change in the relations of the petty bourgeoisie to monopoly capital as the lessons of the blood-purge seep in, must inevitably draw the middle classes closer to the proletariat. If only the latter displays the necessary revolutionary clearsightedness a change in the balance of forces will follow. It was the inability of the proletariat to solve the social crisis, and the failure of its parties to give decisive leadership that alienated the petty bourgeoisie, sending it into the camp of capital. The greatest step forward that the German proletariat could take today and the guarantee so far as that is possible of its victory tomorrow would be to digest the lessons of its own defeat of 1933 and from that to form the cadres of the party of the Fourth International.
Last updated: 21.6.2005