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50 Years Ago - The Rise of Hitler

In the late nineteen-thirties German Capitalism was labouring under an intense expansionist pressure. Its industry, ever virile, had largely recovered from the reverses of the 1914-18 war, and was casting about itself for colonial sources of raw materials, and markets upon which it could sell the products pouring from the factories. The eyes of the German capitalists were upon the industrial strength of the Saar, upon the oil of the Balkans and the Middle East, and upon the African Colonies of which they had been deprived in 1919. At every turn Germany stood thwarted by Great Britain, France and Russia. And all the time the pressure from the great industries, gathering their strength day by day. The situation was explosive and it threw up an explosive character. Adolf Hitler, with his brainstorms, his Gestapo and his concentration camps, was a peculiarly approximate expression of German capitalism and so was supremely suited to play the role of the Bad Man of Europe: the pens of Fleet Street ran warm in the depicting of this newest bedtime threat. But Hitler was only the expression of the desperate ambitions of the German capitalists; and Chamberlain and Daladier – his opposite numbers in Great Britain and France – were representative of the fears and determinations of the ruling classes in their countries. The 1939 war arose from Germany's struggle for a place in the European economic sun, opposed by the need of her opponents to keep her in the shade.

It is worthwhile noting the appeal which Hitler made to the German working class in order to arouse them to the acceptance of an inevitable war. He spoke of oppressed minorities of German nationals in the Sudetenland. He demanded the return of Germany's lost territories in Eastern Europe. He sketched the plight of the inhabitants of East Prussia, cut off by the Polish Corridor from overland communication with the rest of Germany. The phrase “the right of self-determination” flew thick in the air. It was effective matter and the German workers accepted it. They went willingly to a war in which Hitler himself lost his life. But did the ambitions which Hitler voiced die with him? We shall see.

(From article entitled “The Truth About Bogey Men” by “IVAN”, Socialist Standard, December 1953)