Fascists Frame-up
the Communist Party

The Life and Death Question: Leninist United Front in Germany or Disaster!

(February 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 14, 1 March 1933, p. 1.
Abridged version copied with thanks from the 4 Articles on the Rise of Fascism in Germany, The Fate of the Russian Revolution: Lost Texts of Critical Marxism, vol. 1.
Additional transcription by Einde O’Callaghan.
Marked up by A. Forse & Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

“White terror and Red panic began in Germany today.”

This is the way the astute capitalist correspondent of the New York Evening Post, H.R. Knickerbocker, begins his Berlin dispatch of February 28. Berlin is an armed camp, with armored cars and 18,000 rifle-armed police concentrated heavily in the working class quarters. A new decree has been issued providing for heavy penalties against those “who give false information for foreign publications”, as well as against those who print such “false” information in the German press. The Rote Fahne, central organ of the German Communist Party, which appeared for one day after its previous suspension, has had its printing plant confiscated and, in addition, has been suspended by the government until April 15. An edition of the paper printed in Leipzig was confiscated, together with the truck that carried the copies to Berlin. All the socialist papers in East Prussia have been suppressed. Even liberal journals have been ordered suspended. A mass meeting of the social democratic party to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Karl Marx was dispersed by the police.

All these measures are part of a monstrous frame-up concocted by the Fascist butchers in control of the government. A fire of incendiary origin in the Reichstag building is being used as the pretext for delivering a mortal blow to the Communist party. Anybody who is even superficially acquainted with the theories and practises of the Communist party is sufficiently aware that arson is not in its program. That is a method of fighting practised almost exclusively by the Fascists. In the present instance, the frame-up is so flagrant that even the American correspondents in Berlin have not failed to comment adversely upon Hitler’s crude attempt to crush the Communist party as a result of it.

“Why Communists should desire to burn down the empty Reichstag building on the eve of an election that their opponents declare to be unimportant in that it will not affect their retention of power,” cables Birchall of the New York Times, “is one of the mysteries of the present situation.” The press, reports Knickerbocker, “will not be able even to point out ironically that the Nazis planned weeks ago to lay before President von Hindenburg evidence that the Reds were planning an uprising and that the burning of the Reichstag came on railroad-schedule time for their purposes ... An eye-witness of the arrival of Chancellor Hitler at the burning Reichstag building last night reports his first exclamation to have been, ‘God grant this is the work of Communists’.“

An Agent Provocateur

The alleged incendiary, a certain Marinus van der Lubbe or Van der Ling, is supposed to be a member of the Dutch Communist Party. The police “found” a membership card in his pocket when he was arrested! If there were nothing else to prove how crude is the frame-up, this fact would suffice. But in addition, the Communist Party of Holland has issued a statement showing that Van der Lubbe was expelled from the party two years ago as “a spy and an agent provocateur and that since then he has been a notorious anti-Communist agent”.

However that may be, his “confession”, which “implicated not only Communists but Socialists” (!) has become the pretext of the Nazis – who never needed much of a pretext – to order the arrest of every single Communist deputy of the Reichstag, one hundred of them. In this manner, they hope to deprive the party of every one of its leaders. At the same time, all Communist publications, placards and election material have been suppressed for four weeks, and all socialist publications and propaganda for two weeks – that is, until the wretched farce of the March 5 elections have long been passed.

The additional announcement that “the entire police force of Prussia has been mobilized. All furloughs have been recalled and for the first time Captain Goering has brought into action his recently created Nazi ‘assistant police𔆍, recruited from the storm troops” – is of tremendous significance. Hitler is leaving nothing to chance.

He has already proclaimed his intention of maintaining the rule of Fascism regardless of the outcome of the March 5 elections. The Communist party, and to almost the same extent the social democracy, have had the maximum restrictions decreed against them so as to render their participation in the elections equivalent to no participation at all. On March 5, according to all indications, Hitler will not only openly declare arbitrary Fascist dictatorship without foundation in the Reichstag, but will have his police, augmented by the storm troops and armed to the teeth, concentrated in Berlin for armed defense of the coup d’état and for smashing any resistance that may be offered by the Communists. In this connection, it should be remembered that right on the eve of Hitler’s appointment, the Nazis mobilized in front of the Communist party headquarters – offering a sort of test of strength with the Reds. The party proved impotent to accept the challenge. The virtual suppression of the Communist party now is a second offer of a test of strength, preliminary to the next step to be taken by Hitler to consolidate the position of Fascism and to proceed with the extermination of the proletarian movement.

Will the Communist party take up the challenge? It would be criminal to conceal the fact that with its present policy, the party has proved impotent in the face of Hitler’s murderous advance. The working class has not been mobilized either directly under its banner or under the banner of a united front movement initiated by the Communists. It is a fact, which we repeat here:

In his march to power in Italy, Mussolini encountered a far more energetic, militant, sanguinary resistance on the part of the proletariat—than Hitler has thus far encountered in Germany, where the working class movement is far stronger than it ever was in Italy, where the working class does not play its role on the background of a defeat, as in Italy, and where the Communist party is ten times as strong as it was in Italy in 1922.

The twilight hour has been reached. The next stroke of the clock can still be controlled by the masses: Either it will strike the doom of the working class for a decade or more to come or it will strike the beginning of the end of Fascism!

The whole world situation hinges around the outcome of the terrible drama now being enacted before our eyes. The fate of the German proletariat hangs in the balance. With it is involved the fate of the whole Communist International. With it is also involved the fate of the workers’ fatherland, the Soviet Union.

And in face of this, the “leader of the world’s proletariat”, the Communist International, is as silent as a tombstone! In face of the situation, the “best disciple of Lenin”, Joseph Stalin, is as silent as a tombstone! In face of the dreadful catastrophe which threatens, the party leaders continue to babble philosophically about the “progress of the united front from below” as if they had months and years at their disposal in which to mobilize the German proletariat for the decisive battle which is impending.

Fascism has put the noose around the neck of the Communist party. It has aimed its knife at the heart of the German working class. Whoever is silent at a time like this, whoever relegates the decisive German situation to the background of second and third rate consequence, is drugging the proletariat and helping to prepare it for the slaughter! Whoever stands in the way of the genuine united front, from organization to organization—Communist party, social democracy, trade unions, Reichsbanner, Red Front—is betraying the working class!

Communist workers, militants everywhere! It is not yet too late. The masses await only the signal for action. The Communist party must give this signal. It must be aroused out of its awful lethargy and impotence. It must put a stop to the self-deceptive jabbering about the “united front from below” which “unites” only the Communists and their supporters, and set in motion the Leninist united front of all the workers to decimate the Fascist hydra.

Tomorrow? Tomorrow may see the materialization of Hitler’s demand that “heads roll in the dirt”. Then the miserable “self-criticism” practised by Stalinism after each defeat, will be of little avail. It is today, today, today that the party must change its disastrous course. It is now that it must strike for the united front which, in turn, will strike the dagger from the hands of Fascism and Fascism from the seats of power.

Tuesday, Feb 28, 1933

Shachtman button
Max Shachtman
Marx button
Marxist Writers’

Last updated on 1 April 2015