The German situation
The problem that concerns capitalists in general is freedom to accumulate profits without economic or political hindrance either from economic conditions or from dissatisfied workers and impecunious sections of their own class. In each country each section of the capitalist class seeks to gain the lion’s share of the wealth plundered from the workers. The International interests of groups (large trusts for instance) again cut across these other interests and produce further complications.
On the main issue there is unity, but on sectional issues there is conflict. Hence the divergent policies which at one time and another throw up alleged representative men and which provide professional politicians with a fruitful field to build up ephemeral reputations and fortunes.
Germany is at present torn with internal strife produced by the class conflict of wage-worker and capitalist, complicated by the minor clashing of capitalist national and international sectional interests. The general dissatisfaction has been increased by the ineptitude and wavering policy of the Social Democratic Party which has tried to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Since the end of the war this party and its supporters have sought to hold power by means of compromises and alliances; at one time crushing the workers at another fighting mock battles with the capitalists. In the end it has reaped the contempt of the capitalists and the distrust of the workers.
The war and post-war conditions gave an added impetus to the complete industrialisation of Germany and converted the old landowners (Junkers) into modern agricultural capitalists. These together with the industrial capitalists who serve agriculture, and the Bankers and Traders are the interests behind Von Papen. Prussia is the centre of these interests and contains roughly two-thirds of the total population of. Germany. Heavy industry (coal, iron and steel) centres in South Germany and has strong international connections and interests which demand stable government, the curbing of workers aspirations, and an “enlightened” policy abroad.
The bureaucracy in Germany is very highly developed and positions in it are the object of and the bait for the small investors and shop-keeping sections together with the families of the old army officers. Hitler appeals particularly to these groups and also to disillusioned workers.
There is much in the Hitler movement that directly serves the interests of the German capitalists but there is an element of disorder and incapacity in it that inspires them with doubt. Hence from the beginning they have distrusted it and alternately given it support and withdrawn their support from it according to their immediate interests and ideas. In other words it has and will be used only Where it serves the interests of those who control the means of wealth production, etc., in Germany.
Underneath all the above mentioned groups is a large and dissatisfied working class, with low wages, hard conditions and an unemployed section numbering over six millions.
For some time, prominence in the news has been given to the growth of the Hitler movement and to the clash between it and the Catholics, Social Democrats and Communists. On July 20th the situation took a dramatic turn when President Hindenburg appointed the German Chancellor, Von Papen, to be Commissioner of Prussia, and dismissed the Prussian Government which was a coalition of the Social-Democrats with the Catholic Centre Party. A very important result of this move was that it gave the Federal Government direct control of the Prussian Police—a body almost as formidable as the army.
The Social Democrats at once raised the cry that this was an attack on representative government, but they cannot dispute the fact that dissatisfaction with their own activities has robbed them of much of their support among the workers, and has made Hitler’s party the largest in Germany. At the Prussian elections in April, 1932, the votes cast for Hitler’s party totalled 8,000,000 as compared with 4,670,000 for the Social-Democrats and 3,370,000 for the next largest party, the Centre Party. Similarly, the fact that Hindenburg was able to use the Presidential powers specified in Article 48 of the German Constitution and dismiss the Prussian Government was due to his having been elected by the German voters in April. He was elected with the unqualified support of the Social-Democrats and the Centre Party.
The Presidential elections clearly illustrate the uselessness of the Social-Democrats’ policy of compromise and bargaining. In 1925 they withdrew their own presidential candidate and officially supported the Centre Party’s candidate, Dr. Marx, an avowed anti-socialist, because they declared that it was imperative that the republic and democracy should be saved from the rival candidate, Hindenburg. They failed, and Hindenburg was elected.
At the next presidential election, in 1932, the Social Democrats and the Centre Party officially supported Hindenburg because they said that it was imperative that the republic and democracy should be saved from Hitler. This time the manoeuvre appeared to be successful in that the Social Democrats gave their votes to the man who topped the poll—Hindenburg. Now three months later they are indignantly protesting that the republic is being betrayed by Hindenburg.
The decline of the Social Democrats and the rise of Hitler is an evidence of the disrepute into which their crooked policy has brought them.
(Editorial, Socialist Standard, August 1932)