How Hitler took power
There seems to be room for thought after reading this article.
In 2008 it may not reflect any particular country, entirely, but there do appear to be points here and there that amount to "unfriendly" political and social policy in different countries that are flagged from the article.
As, the example provided, in reference to the current rising force of fascism of the British National Party.
SocialistWorkeronline dated 2 February
2008 | issue 2086
Posted: 7.22pm Tuesday 29 January 2008
How Hitler took power
The Nazis came to power in Germany 75 years ago this month. Chris Bambery
looks at the crucial lessons for fighting fascism today.
Seventy five years ago the working class suffered its greatest ever defeat
when Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany on 30 January
Within a month all basic civil rights were removed. Within two months laws
were passed barring Jews from employment in the public sector and the legal
system, while the government ordered a boycott of Jewish businesses.
Trade unions were abolished. Books deemed subversive, including works by
Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Franz Kafka and Karl Marx, were piled on
bonfires and burnt in public ceremonies.
Thousands of German Communist Party members were rounded up, beaten and
thrown in concentration camps. The biggest Communist Party outside Russia was
banned and its 81 MPs barred from parliament.
Within six months Germany was a one party state. All organisations, whether
cultural or social, were sub- ordinate to the state.
By 1935 the Nuremberg Laws had ordered the complete separation of Jews and
other “non-Aryans” from German society. It was a crucial stepping stone to mass
Hitler’s triumph was the prelude to the greatest catastrophe in human history
– the Holocaust, where 11 million Jews, Communists, trade unionists and others
were slaughtered in Nazi concentration camps.
The coming to power of Adolf Hitler represented the defeat of the most
powerful working class and left in the world. The fact that this defeat took
place without any real resistance made it even more terrible.
Hitler – an ex-corporal and house painter – was appointed chancellor by
Germany’s president, Marshal Hindenburg. This aged aristocrat did so
Like the rest of the ruling class he was not enthusiastic about giving power
to such a “lower class adventurer”. But they were forced to do so by the scale
of the economic and social crisis sweeping Germany and their fear of working
Fresh in their minds was the November 1918 revolution, which had forced
Germany to end the First World War, had sent the Kaiser into exile and led to a
series of revolutionary explosions over the following five years.
For most of the 1920s Hitler was regarded as a fringe figure. In 1923 he had
tried to seize power in the southern city of Munich but his supporters were
dispersed by security forces. Eventually Hitler served a short prison sentence
in remarkably liberal conditions.
The argument from the liberals and political pundits was the same as so often
offered today regarding the British National Party (BNP) – “ignore him and he’ll
But Hitler did not go away. He spent the 1920s building a tight party under
his control linked to a paramilitary wing, the stormtroopers.
Then in 1929-30 Germany was swept up into a gigantic crisis which transformed
the fortunes of Hitler’s Nazi Party. That provides a warning that we ignore
fascist organisations at our own peril.
In May 1928 Hitler’s Nazi Party secured just 2.6 percent of the vote in
national elections. Two years later, after the recession hit, its vote soared to
18.3 percent. By the end of 1931 membership stood at 800,000 and its
paramilitary wing deployed 225,000 stormtroopers. In July 1932 the Nazis’ vote
had reached 37.4 percent before falling to 33.1 percent four months later.
Between 1929 and 1932 industrial production collapsed by 42 percent.
Unemployment rose to 5.5 million – 30 percent of the total workforce, affecting
45 percent of trade union members. The ruling class feared workers might once
more look to a revolutionary solution to the crisis.
Germany had stabilised its economy on the basis of huge US loans. The
financial chaos meant Wall Street wanted instant repayment and German banks,
unable to repay, crashed.
The centre left-centre right coalition government, presided over by a Social
Democrat chancellor, was forced from office in 1929. Big business was determined
to restore profits by destroying the welfare system and trade union rights it
had been forced to concede in 1918.
The ruling class’s preferred option was to install a series of “strong”
governments, presided over by trusty lieutenants, which ruled by presidential
decree rather than by parliamentary votes.
Yet no such government had sufficient popular support. The scale of the
economic crisis meant that middle class voters, who traditionally backed liberal
and conservative parties, were flocking rightwards in search of more radical
Hitler offered disaffected middle class voters convenient scapegoats. He did
not attack capitalism but targeted “alien” capitalists – code for Jews.
He promised to restore Germany as a world power and to destroy the
“Bolshevik” threat. By that he meant the destruction of not just the powerful
Communist Party but also the even mightier Social Democratic Party, the trade
unions and all independent working class organisation.
He could deploy tens of thousands of stormtroopers to battle the left on the
streets. The paramilitary street marches and rallies provided a sense of pride
to impoverished middle class people and even some unemployed workers.
The exiled Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky, argued, “Fascism unites and
arms the scattered masses. Out of human dust it organises combat detachments.
“It thus gives the petty bourgeoisie the illusion of being an independent
force. It begins to imagine that it will really command the state. It is not
surprising that these illusions and hopes turn the head of the petty
In the wake of the 1918 revolution, realising that the police and army were
insufficient to cope with the scale of upheaval, the German ruling class had
recruited paramilitary bands from ex-soldiers and students to terrorise working
class areas and to murder revolutionary leaders.
In 1932 and 1933 it looked back to such methods and saw that Hitler’s
stormtroopers could play the same role.
In late 1932 big business and the military began to explore the possibility
of bringing Hitler into government. Despite having occasionally employed
anti-capitalist rhetoric, he reassured them he favoured the free market and
would leave their economic power intact and honour the army.
He not only wanted to break the left and the unions – a major ambition of the
ruling class – he wanted to carve out a German empire in Central and Eastern
Europe. On this too, big business and the military agreed.
Germany’s rivals – Britain, France and the US – dominated large parts of the
globe and set up competing trade blocks. Germany was excluded from these. Hitler
promised re-armament and German expansion.
He was sworn in as chancellor heading a coalition government in which the
Nazis were a minority. In this way the ruling class hoped to house-train Hitler.
There was no response from a working class that hated the Nazis. The Social
Democrats and the Communists refused to work and fight together against fascism.
Trade union leaders hoped they could make a deal with the new chancellor.
By the year’s end, 130,000 Communists had been thrown into concentration
camps and 2,500 murdered. Hitler aimed to reduce German society to the level of
an army barracks.
Here lies the second great lesson from 75 years ago. Whatever our
differences, all those on the left need to unite to resist fascism. Fascism will
destroy all working class organisations, reformist or revolutionary, given half
When army commanders demanded that the stormtroopers be brought to heel,
after they had made much bravado about replacing the existing army with its
aristocratic officer corps, Hitler murdered their leaders and a number of
He secured in return an agreement that every German soldier had to swear an
individual oath of loyalty to him as “the Fuhrer”.
After the first four years it became apparent that reduced wages, extra hours
and state financed rearmament were not sufficient to restore Germany’s economy.
Hitler began using threats, coercion and finally military force to secure
desperately needed markets and raw materials.
Initially Hitler’s victory was cheered by the global ruling class. It saw
Nazi Germany as a “bulwark against Bolshevism”. None of them were bothered about
the plight of German left activists or about the growing persecution of its
Only slowly did it become clear that Hitler aimed at the domination of Europe
and the globe at the expense of the other powers.
The British ruling class was the most craven in trying to appease Hitler by
offering him territory in Central and Eastern Europe.
It tried to broker a deal until the day the Second World War began, and a
powerful lobby wanted a compromise peace when German tanks reached the English
Antisemitism had not been central to the Nazis’ electoral campaigns. But it
was essential in uniting the Nazi Party against a common enemy.
Jews were portrayed as controlling, on the one hand, Wall Street and the City
of London, and on the other the Soviet Union and the Communist Parties. Hitler
promised to rid Germany of its Jewish citizens and all “non-Aryans”, just as
today’s BNP promises to remove all “non-whites” from Britain.
He did not say he was going to kill them. But having banned them from work
and education and sanctioned attacks on their property it was not such a big
step towards genocide.
As the Second World War turned towards defeat for Germany, Hitler could
promise his followers one “victory” – the destruction of European Jewry.
The German ruling class had acquiesced in Hitler taking power and backed his
imperialist war drive.
Now they not only acquiesced to mass murder but participated in running the
death camps, profited from slave labour and sold the gas used to slaughter six
million innocent Jews. The generals too participated fully in persecuting what
quickly became a racial, genocidal war.
The world paid a dreadful price for the failure of the German working class
to stop Hitler taking power 75 years ago. We must learn that lesson and ensure
humanity never has to pay such a price again.
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