Fascist Elections Show
Stalinist Bankruptcy

Policy of “United Front From Below”
Fails to Win Over Masses of Socialist Workers

(March 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 16, 6 March 1933, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

In an atmosphere of unprecedented terrorism, intimidation and the suppression of Communist, socialist and even Centrist publications and meetings, the German Nazis have gained a distinct election victory which, together with the vote rolled up by the Hugenburg Nationalists, gives them a parliamentary majority in a Reichstag which has now lost particularly all importance.

The election victory of the Hitler-Hugenburg regime is due almost exclusively to the rise in the Nazi vote, which not only exceeded the vote in November 1932, but even passed beyond the number they had at their apex, in July 1932. Forty-four percent of the voting population cast its ballot for Hitler. In Catholic Bavaria, the Nazis made a huge sweep, ousting the Centrist party from control – an accomplishment which they all but attained in the Catholic capital of Germany, Cologne.

The figures thus far available are not yet complete as we go to press, but they are more than adequate for a summary of the results. The usual stay-at-home vote was apparently brought out by the millions in the largest vote yet cast in Germany, and it is mainly from this source that the increase in the Hitlerite vote was obtained. The Catholic Center appears to have

held its own, but with the shifts in other parties, and with the increased vote cast, it is no longer in a position to affect the parliamentary situation as a balance of power – a position it has enjoyed for years. The Social Democratic Party did a little better than hold its own. The Communist vote, however, was drastically reduced by some twenty percent, to a total of less than 5,000,000, losing heavily in Berlin where the Nazis, and not the Communists, are now the largest party, with 1,000,000 votes as compared with 720,000 votes last November.

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The Hitler regime – based on the Nazi-Nationalist coalition – thus has an absolute parliamentary majority with which to operate “legally” in the carrying out of its murderous policy of exterminating the organizations and institutions of the working class. More than that: the Nazi threat that the Communist deputation in the Reichstag will not be seated is constantly kept in reserve. If the Communist party is outlawed, or if its representatives are excluded from the Reichstag, the Nazis would then have an absolute majority on the parliamentary plane even without the support of their present Nationalist colleagues in the cabinet! The uneasiness of the Hugenburg camarilla at the prospect of the Communists being unseated, is one of those paradoxes of politics which is quite comprehensible in the present circumstances.

But the parliamentary field is the least decisive of all in the present German situation. The just concluded election was purely and simply a plebiscite, the present Reichstag is a plebiscitary Reichstag, and the Hitler regime a plebiscitary regime. The principal opposition parties, from the Communists through the social democrats as far to the Right as the Catholic Center, were bound and gagged for weeks before the election took place. Not a single Communist publication appeared for days before the votes were cast. The two solitary social democratic papers allowed to appear before the elections in Thuringia, were compelled to reproduce Hitler’s attack on the “Marxists” in their columns. Several Catholic periodicals were confiscated or suspended. No meetings of the social democrats or the Communists were permitted.

The election posters of both these parties were ripped oft the billboards. The possibilities for election propaganda and agitation by these two parties were reduced to a tiny minimum.

In spite of the terrorism of the Fascists, the Communists managed to retain some eighty percent of their previous votes, and the social democrats even increased their balloting strength. But there is little consolation in this for the Communist party. As soon as the March 5, 1933, elections were announced, the Militant proclaimed them to be a Fascist trap, designed to concentrate the attention of the working class exclusively on the parliamentary field and to distract them from mobilizing their efforts for the extra-parliamentary struggle – the only kind of struggle which can effectively deal with the now overwhelming threat of Fascism. The outcome of the elections bear out this contention. The elections settled nothing fundamental, nor could they have settled anything. At most, the voting gave the Fascists a convenient “parliamentary basis” for destroying “democratic parliamentarism”.

But the elections nevertheless have a considerable symptomatic significance. The increase in the Fascist vote came predominantly from the petty bourgeois and conservative elements of the population. Their vote for Hitler was essentially an expression of their fear of a bloody civil war with its attendant convulsions. By giving Hitler a “parliamentary majority”, they hoped to avoid the costs of a civil war. Only, it cannot and will not be averted.

Of even greater significance is the vote cast for the Communist and social democratic parties. The Communist vote declined, and the importance of this fact, even though it is far from decisive, cannot be ignored. The social democratic masses continued to give their support to the social democratic party. By this act, they gave a decisive reply to the empty boastings of the Stalinists that their policy was succeeding in breaking the socialist masses away from their leadership. And precisely herein lies the most significant aspect of the March elections!

It was claimed that the “united front from below” was winning the socialist masses to the Communist party. The Left Opposition replied that the socialist masses will be won over to a militant united front when the Communist party makes an open and sincere offer to their organizations, when it sits down with the leadership of the social democratic party and the trade unions to discuss a concrete program of action against the menace of Fascism. The elections are one of the numerous proofs that the “united front from below” has not only not succeeded in breaking the allegiance of the socialist masses to their organizations and leaders, but that it has serve the Wels-Stampfer-Hilferding crew perfectly.

The results of the elections which are not, we repeat, of decisive importance, but are highly symptomatic, must give every Communist worker food for fought. It is essential, that the course of the party be steered now towards the Leninist united front. The Fascist triumph in the elections will only result in greater arrogance, more brutal measures against the proletariat and its movement, more violent suppressions and attacks. There is but one way to meet this attack – -the mobilization of the German working class in a united front. There is only one way in which to establish the united front at the present time – the appeal from organization to organization.

In its appeal, just published in the socialist New Leader, the Bureau of the Labor and Socialist International (Second International) has declared: “The Labor and Socialist International has always been ready to negotiate with the Communist International with a view to common action as soon as this body is also ready.” Our opinion of the desire for “action” of the Socialist bureaucracy, is quite well known; so is their own treacherous record which has paved the road to the triumph of Hitler. But it is precisely with such statements as the one quoted that the statesmen of the Second International retain their hold upon the socialist workers. The Communist International, which should have been the one to initiate such a movement, must pick up the challenge, must break its criminal silence, and declare:

The Communist International is prepared to negotiate with the Second International for the elaboration of a concrete program of action against Fascism. The German Communist Party is prepared to sit down for a joint discussion of the problem with the Executive Committee of the German social democracy and its party. We can under no circumstances agree to the social democratic party’s proposal for a “non-aggression pact” where we are supposed to refrain from criticism and an independent policy; such an agreement would be capitulation and treachery to the revolution. But we will enter into a united front on a minimum program of action, with each organization to retain its independence, its freedom of policy and criticism. We enter into it not out of love for the social democratic leaders, not with any illusions about them, but because of the burning need of the hour is the united working class front to smash Fascism.

The Communist International, together with the German Communist Party, must take this step. If they fail to act in this manner, they will bear their share of the direct responsibility for the murderous bloodbath and catastrophe which the Fascist bands are preparing for the German proletariat.

Monday, March 6, 1933

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