Why Is the Comintern
Silent on Germany?

Hitlerites Move Forward; Communists Mark Time

(February 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 6, 11 February 1933, pp. 1 & 4.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Nine days have passed since the Austrian adventurer, Hitter, was appointed Chancellor of the German Republic by the social democratic “Bulwark against Fascism” President Paul von Hindenburg. To sum up this brief period into which so much has been condensed, we must say:

The forces of reaction, and primarily the forces of Fascism have been enormously strengthened and consolidated, become more insolent and audacious.

The forces of proletarian resistance to the triumph of Fascism have not yet rallied into serried ranks. The social democracy still plays its treacherous role of “watchful waiting”, which is synonymous with a passivity that plays into the hands of a relentlessly advancing Fascisti. The Communists have not yet been able to stir out of that impotence with which the pernicious policy of sectarianism paralyzes it.

In a word, right in the midst of a situation where days are substituted for mouths and years, where hours count in place of days, the Fascists are gaining in strength and strategic position, while the Communists, who alone can lead a genuine struggle to smash the brown-shirted monster, are marking time, demoralized and not knowing in which direction to move.

The Comintern Is Silent!

And above everything else, with nine precious, crucial, fateful days already gone by, the general staff of the world revolution, the leadership of the revolutionary movement, the Executive Committee of the Communist International – IS SILENT! Instead of guidance to the Communists and the militant working class of Germany in this zero hour – the Communist International preserves an ominous silence. Instead of a ringing call to arms, which the Communist International is duty-bound to issue at such a moment – Moscow is as silent as the grave. Instead of a flaming appeal to the workers of the whole world for solidarity action with the hard-pressed German proletariat, the international Stalinist staff maintains – what milder term can be applied? – a criminal and treacherous silence!

What is happening? What should have happened?

The minute Hitler was appointed Chancellor, and took the first real steps to establish the genuine Fascist dictatorship of blood and iron, the working class should have replied, with the same unanimity it displayed during the days of the Kapp putsch, by a general strike. But the German working class could not declare this general strike without a leadership to organize and direct it. The social democracy wants no militant struggle which may lead to the triumph of Bolshevism ; true to its role, it continues to hold the restless masses in check. The Communist party could not call the strike, or more exactly, its call met with no response from the bulk of the working class. And for cause: the ultimatist policy of the party in the past, the demand it made that the workers of all tendencies first recognize its leadership, has not increased its hold over the organized, socialist, workers. The general strike could not be on the order of the day because the party had not energetically pursued the policy of the united front which would have made possible the mobilization of the masses around a concrete program of struggle. Result: the first call for a general strike issued by the Communist party ended in a fiasco, for the masses did not respond. In this way the Communist party, and by the same token, the German proletariat, is paying heavily for the blunders and crimes of Stalinism.

The Hitler regime has been quick to press its advantage. Its aim is: weaken the proletariat further, bleed it slowly by the dirk and the bludgeon, exhaust it and distract its attention with parliamentary maneuvers, press hardei on the institutions of the proletariat, and then deliver the final blows with drawn saber, torch and machine gun. How has it proceeded?

Fascist Advances

One: the Reichstag has been dissolved and elections set for March 5. Will the elections decide the question of Fascism, of power? Preposterous! The beginnings of that decision are being made right now on the streets of Germany. Hitler has no illusions about the possibilities of ruling by a constitutional 51 percent majority in the Reichstag. But he loses nothing by distracting attention from the decisive extra-parliamentary field and centering it upon the illusionary parliamentary elections. On the contrary, by this procedure he gains valuable time in which to consolidate hie positions.

Two: The Prussian Diet has been dissolved, and the elections also set for March 5. The arbitrariness of the dissolution is only a foretaste of bloody tomorrows. Significant fact: in 1931, the Communist party criminally supported the Fascist popular referendum to dissolve the Prussian Diet, with its socialist-Centrist government, thus alienating the socialist workers from Communism and raising the prestige and strength of Fascism. Our violent condemnation of the policy of the so-called Red Referendum was met with the customary Stalinist abuse: the Trotskyists are agents of Braun and Bruening. In 1933, the same Prussian Diet is finally dissolved by the Fascists, not by referendum but by dictatorial decree. What position do the Stalinists take? If their policy in 1931 was good Bolshevism, and not a criminal adventure, it would be logical that this policy be crowned in 1933 by a vote in the Diet to dissolve it. But they acted in exactly the opposite way: the Communist fraction voted together with the social democrats and the Catholic Center against the dissolution of the Diet!

Three: The most drastic decree yet issued has been put into effect by von Hindenburg on the control of the press and public meetings. Any public meetings, for which 48 hours advance notice must be given in any case, may be forbidden “when danger to the public security is to be apprehended”. Are the Nazis a danger to the public security? Of course not! But the Communists and the socialists manifestly are, above all and primarily the former, against whom the decree is particularly aimed. Meetings and demonstrations may be dissolved for any one of a dozen reasons, which means they may be dissolved (i.e., violently dispersed) without any reason at nil being given. Any paper may be confiscated or suppressed for “inviting disobedience of the government or its instruments, for inviting or glorifying violence, for proposing a general strike or a strike in some vitally necessary industry, for defending or holding up to contempt the organs or institutions or loading officials of the government,” etc., etc. For second offenses, papers may be suspended for from six to twelve months! Even public collections for party purposes “may be restricted or forbidden”. In a word, the activities by word or deed of any militant working class organization, of the Communist party in particular, are carefully circumscribed to the point where it is forced into a straitjacket.

As is known, the Rote Fahne, organ of the Communist party, together with several other party organs, has already been hit hard by suppression and confiscation. The central organ of the social democrats, Vorwaerts, as well as other socialist papers, have met with a similar fate. The central headquarters of the Communist party in Berlin have already been raided. Meetings of workers are being forbidden or dispersed by force. The same measures employed by Mussolini on the road to establishing the black shirts in power, are being started with a vengeance by the Hitler bandits in Germany today.

The civil war has started in all earnest. We take some excerpts from a single issue of the New York Times (February 6, 1933):

“At midnight tonight reports from all over the country give this additional record – undoubtedly incomplete for the day – of the evil results of the violence attending these demonstrations. In Chemnitz, in a clash between socialists and Nazis, one socialist was killed and twelve wounded, five perhaps fatally. At Wetzlar twenty were wounded in a similar disturbance. At Bochum, in a conflict between Nazis and Communists, a Nazi leader was killed and there were thirty-one arrests. In Munich, in a Nazi-Communist clash, three Nazis, a Communist, two policemen and a Reichsbanner man were wounded. In Stettin, in a row between Nazi storm troopers and socialist Reichsbanner men, a Nazi was badly wounded ... Joachin Matthes, 17 years old, was held tonight in Stassfurt on a charge of murdering Mayor Hermann Kasten. The Mayor, who was also a Socialist Deputy in the Prussian Diet and the father of a family, was shot from behind while opening his garden gate. He died in a hospital ... In Dusseldorf eight men were injured during clashes in various parts of the city, after four busloads of Nazis had been shot at from windows. Munich, Leipzig and Danzig also reported bloodshed ...”

The civil war has started, but only started. The first bloody skirmishes already show what form it will take when it extends to the far vaster scale it must take on before the question: Fascism or Bolshevism, is definitely decided. The realities of the class struggle explode the theories and practises of the Stalinists every day. If the theory of “social Fascism” was regarded with contempt and outraged feelings by the Italian socialist worker who remembered his Matteottis, it is now being cut to pieces by the Hitlerite knives sunk into the bodies of socialist workers in Germany. The murder of Mayor Kasten, the killing of dozens of other socialist proletarians and militants, these give also a deathblow in concrete to the theoretically untenable slogan of “social-Fascism”. What socialist worker, and what intelligent Communist worker will still believe that Kasten and other martyrs to Fascism in Germany were murdered because they represented the “moderate wing of Fascism”?

More than that: the consoling theory is being sedulously spread in whispers in the ranks of the Communist party that, after all, it makes no difference to the proletariat whether it be Bruening or von Papen or von Schleicher or Hitler who is in power. For, you see, they all represent one and the same class, the bourgeoisie! This is a theory of cowards, criminals or confirmed idiots. How many party members have been taken in by this, by your leave, theory, cannot be estimated. Scores of them, however, have voiced it. We cannot conceive of a more signal service rendered to reaction than this theory. It is calculated to excuse the impotence of the Stalinists during the past period of the struggle, and also to justify the wretched passivity and bewilderedness of the party chieftains in face of the crisis.

Is Fascism Different?

Is Fascism “different” from the “democratic” forms of bourgeois government?

Is it possible that a serious worker can even entertain such a question in the year 1933? Yes, both are the rule of the bourgeoisie. One by “democratic” means, by deception, by illusions, by “peaceful persuasion”. The other, however, throws off all pretense and tolerates none of the bourgeois or proletarian democratic forms or institutions. Is the suppression of the socialist press only a little accidental joke of Hitler? Is the murdering of several socialist workers merely a regrettable mistake of the Fascists, or perhaps a Machiavellian plot to disprove the Stalinist theory of “social Fascism”? Has the history of Italian Fascism been forgotten already? Have we already forgotten these gruesome photographs, printed in their time in every labor paper, of workers massacred in Italian streets, of newspaper offices wrecked, of labor temples demolished, of every single institution and organization of the working class – reformist or revolutionary – destroyed with bestial ferocity? Of the trade unions smashed and the political parties driven underground and their leaders imprisoned and exiled and banished?

Whoever even hints to the working class that there is no real difference between the “democratic” rule of the bourgeoisie and the Fascist rule by torch and sword, that it is a matter of indifference to the proletariat, is playing the game to the best interests of Fascism! Whoever does not shout out loud to the workers of all groups and organizations that they must immediately form a powerful united front to crush Fascism before it is in a position to crush, the working class completely, is not a leader of the working class but an imposter who should be kicked into the obscurity where he belongs.

Can Fascism still be smashed? Yes. It should and could have been smashed months ago, before Hitler became Chancellor. Invaluable, irreplaceable time has already been lost, but it is not yet too late. Once organized into a powerful, united army, the million-headed German proletariat can sweep the Fascist scum out of power and into oblivion. But this demands struggle, and united struggle, and whoever stands in the way is giving aid to Hitlerism.

The Socialist Leaders

Do the social democratic leaders want to fight? Yes, if they could be guaranteed that the masses, once set into real motion, will stop where the leaders want them to – i.e., at another socialist or coalition ministry, let us say – and not go further along the road to proletarian power – the logical goal of such a mass movement. But there is no such guarantee, and the socialist leaders, well aware of it, prefer to restrain, hold back, check, soothe and give false consolation to the masses who follow them. When the Diet is dissolved in Prussia, the social democracy does not call upon the workers to rise in protest, to act as a class. No, these contemptible Prussian democrats run to the Supreme Court at Leipzig to complain about Hindenburg’s unconstitutional action!

But the Communists? You read the Daily Worker in vain for an elucidation of the strategy and tactics of the German Communist Party in the present situation. There are whole days when the Daily Worker simply doesn’t mention the German situation, for what does it amount to when compared with a meeting of the Independent Barbers’ Union of Greater New York? And when it does refer to Germany, it contains badly rewritten accounts from the capitalist press, or else cables from the International Press Correspondence which are a disgrace to the Communist movement? What is the line of policy of the German Communist? What are they doing? What do they plan to do? What has happened with the call issued on the morrow of Hitler’s appointment for a national general strike? About all of these vital questions, not one single word in the columns of the Daily Worker.

Here you have the German situation poised on the tip of a needle. The way it falls will decide for the next period the fate of all Europe, and consequently of the world revolution. The central organ of the American Communist Party deals with the whole situation as though it were reporting a local strike of third-rate significance!

But let not the Daily Worker be made the scapegoat for the Comintern. For it is the Comintern, we repeat, that is responsible for the unprecedented silence concerning the German events. Why? Why is no explanation given to the Communist workers about this silence? What is the position of the responsible leadership of the Communist International on the decisive events which are unfolding in Germany? What horrible calamity is Stalinism preparing for the international proletariat?

Plain words! That is what we demand.

Speak up now! Not after the event, not as a sermon for the dead, but as a battle cry and a line of march for the living.

For the real, Leninist united front! For a bloc between the Communist party, the Social Democracy, the Trade Unions, the Red Front Fighters, and the Reichsbanner, to march separately but to strike unitedly, to bring the iron fist of the German proletariat down upon the skull of the Fascist beast!

Proletarian Communists, militants, workers! The decisive word lies with you now. Speak up so that the whole movement may hear and act – before the whole movement has been drowned in its own blood.

Wed., Feb. 8

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