No Retreat!
Struggle or Annihilation!

(March 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 15, 3 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.

Every day brings the report of a new blow dealt the German working class movement by the Hitler regime. No half-sane person above the age of six has put the slightest credence in the Fascist charge that the Communists set fire to the Reichstag building. The American bourgeois press has, almost unanimously openly expressed its skepticism. "France" the Paris correspondent of the New York Times (3-2-1933) informs his paper, judging by today's press, even seems distinctly inclined to blame the Nazis themselves for the fire that wrecked the Reichstag building, and sees in it simply a crude excuse on Herr Hitler's part to crush the Opposition just before the elections." From the conservative London Times to the Laborite Herald, the British press is similarly unambiguous about the despicable fraud of the Austrian adventurer.

But while nobody takes the charge seriously, it has sufficed the Nazis to launch their reign of terror and to extend it more widely with the passage of every day. The Times reports that “Communist arrests included the entire executive committee of the party in Berlin and Reichstag deputies and party executives elsewhere”. In Berlin alone there are more than 300 Communists held. Raids for the apprehension of Communist militants and officials are now the order of the day. The Communist and socialist press – more than one hundred papers in all – remains suppressed and the Fascist swastika still waves from the Karl Liebknecht House. New decrees signed by “comrade” von Hindenburg, erstwhile presidential candidate of the Social Democracy, provide for the most rigorous penalties against revolutionary or militant working class activity.

In addition, the Hitler regime has struck the first overt blow at the Soviet Union. The man who aims to be the “super-Wrangel” of world imperialism ordered an insolent raid upon the suburban Berlin school for the children of Soviet citizens, where literature was seized; a raid upon a Soviet citizens’ boarding house, from which two employees of the Soviet trade delegation were arrested and later released; and a raid upon the quarters of the Berlin correspondent of the central Soviet organ, Izvestia, which was carried out not by the police but by armed Nazi storm troopers.

But the protest immediately deposited with the foreign minister by the official Soviet representatives far from exhausts the question of the relationships between the Soviet Union and the Fascist regime in Germany. There is an unilluminated side to this question upon which considerable light needs to be shed.

The silence of the Communist International on the German situation, its criminal failure to speak out plainly, has become a notorious international scandal of dreadful significance. The world movement of the proletariat is at stake in Germany; the fate of the Soviet Union is involved. Between Fascism in Germany and the workers’ state there can exist only an irreconcilable antagonism which, in the long run, will be settled only by force of arms. This antagonism must not only not be concealed – it must be openly proclaimed to the workers of the world so that they may know how the situation stands and what the attitude of the Soviet Union really is. Instead of such a clear proclamation, we see disquieting signs of the contrary. Walter Duranty, the Moscow correspondent of the New York Times now in Berlin, cables his paper as follows (3-2-1933):

“While it doubtless would be an exaggeration to say as some of Chancellor Hitler’s close associates do, that ‘the Soviet Union wants a Hitlerite Germany because the Soviet Union knows that would be a strong Germany, which the Soviet Union wants,’ it is beyond question that Moscow would welcome even a 100 per cent Hitler regime on the grounds that it would conjure away the nightmare that has harassed the sleep of Soviet statesmen for the past five years – namely, an anti-Bolshevist European coalition or a ‘holy war against the Red peril’. Moscow already has reason to be gratified over the effect of Herr Hitler’s rise to power on France and Poland. But that is only one aspect of the case. Of greater practical interest is the recent agreement concluded by the Deutsche Bank and Disconto-Gesellschaft and the Dresdner Bank to provide $50,000,000 in new credits to the Soviet Union ...”

The continuation of “normal business relations” with Germany under Hitler, right at the moment when the decisive battle is imminent – a battle on whose outcome depends the next decade or more of the world’s development – as if nothing unusual was happening, as if the Soviet Union were not concerned with what government was established in Germany – means little short of leaving the German proletariat to fend for itself, leaving it in the lurch, without the moral – and when necessary – the material assistance of the workers’ state. When Duranty points out further that “only recently the official Soviet Government organ, the Izvestia, took occasion in connection with a speech by Foreign Commissar Litvinov to assure Germany that the Soviet Union would not intervene in the affairs of other countries, even in the event of a Communist revolution” – it smacks not merely of “national-Bolshevik” degeneration in general, but of the preparation for treacherous nationalist indifference to the fate of the German and world proletariat in the concrete! The sharpness of our terms is justified by the criminal deadly silence of the C.I. and by the broad hints of Duranty who, experience has taught us is an authoritative backstairs spokesmen of the upper stratum of the apparatus.

While this unbelievable indifference is being manifested by the upper layers of the Stalinist bureaucracy, matters do not improve in the German Communist Party. The Daily Worker (3-2-1933) prints the Inprecorr cable from Berlin reporting that the German party “has again approached the Socialist Party, the A.D.G.B. (reformist trade unions), the Reichsbanner, etc., with a proposal for joint action against the murderous Fascist terror”. The headline given to this story by the Freiheit is even “plainer”. “Central Committee of the Communist Party Turns Once More to the Social Democratic and Trade Union Leaders.” If the headline is correct, it would undoubtedly mark a turn in the right direction by the Stalinists. But our bitter experiences in the past cause us to voice our reservations in advance.

Up to yesterday, the Molotovs, Manuilskys, Kuusinens, Thaelmanns, Bedachts and Olgins inveighed abusively against the Left Opposition precisely because we proposed that the united front be set into motion by an open proposal to the social democracy and its trade unions – from top to bottom, leaders and masses. “Counter-revolutionary”; “assistance to the social democracy” and similar bright if not original terms were applied to us on this score. How is it that what was counter-revolutionary on Tuesday is good Bolshevism on Wednesday? Unfortunately, the situation is not as clear as it should be. The “Once More” in the Freiheit headline gives away the Stalinist stratagem. The appeal for a united front “with the social democratic party and the trade unions” in the past has meant an appeal by the Stalinists to the “party” and the “trade unions” to join with the Communists in a common struggle ... against their leaders! In other words, it has been the old ultimatism dressed up to make it sound, better. At bottom, there has been no change.

Nevertheless, the change is imperative now. Unless the workers up to now still demoralized passive and divided, unite their forces, Fascism will bathe the country in the biood of the proletariat.

To this moment, the world remains unaware of the program of the Communist party. We put the question, again: Does the Communist party and its leadership really intend to organize the resistance of the proletariat to Fascism, or does it intend to capitulate without a struggle, on the half-formed or fully conscious theory that it is hopeless to fight, or that Fascism will soon collapse and give way to Bolshevism? Are the party leaders preparing for the final struggle or giving up the situation as hopeless? The Left Opposition does not consider the situation hopeless. It knows very well – and the newspaper reports, to the humiliation of the Communist movement, confirm it – that the Austrian and Scandinavian borders are being passed by an increasing number of Communist officials and leaders from Germany. For such capitulators, who are saving their hides, a revolutionist can have nothing but contempt and hatred. Of them, Trotsky wrote more than a year ago:

“‘Without a victory over the social democracy, we cannot battle against Fascism’ say such terrible revolutionists, and for this reason ... they get their passports ready. Worker-Communists, you are hundreds of thousands, millions; you cannot leave for any place; there are not enough passports for you. Should Fascism come to power, it will ride over your skulls and spines like a terrific tank. Your salvation lies in merciless struggle. And only a fighting unity with the social democratic workers can bring victory. Make haste, worker-Communists, you have very little time left!”

Very little time left! Every hour counts! The socialist leaders, the traitors to the proletariat, will not act of their own accord. The Communist leaders must be forced out of their criminal passivity. They must be forced to put an end to this lightminded juggling with the fate of the German proletariat. There is no retreat: All that is left is mortal combat – or annihilation!

Thursday, March 2, 1933

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