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The Militant, 21 February 1942

M. Stein

Two Candidates for One Job

Strasser and Grzesinski – Torchbearers
of German “Democracy”

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 8, 21 February 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


When the “United Nations” declaration was signed at the beginning of the year, the State Department invited “appropriate authorities which are not governments” to support the principles embodied in the Washington document.

The object of the invitation is more or less obvious. The twenty-six governments and governments-in-exile who signed this declaration cannot possibly represent a complete picture of the world to come. What is to become of the Axis countries? Who are to be the torchbearers of democracy within them?

Suppose the war ended in victory tomorrow. The countries that have been occupied by the Axis powers would immediately make a long distance telephone call to Washington and ask: “Who are our democratic rulers?”

Thereupon they would get busy and arrange for the triumphal return of their conquering heroes: Poland would get back its Sikorsky, Holland its Queen, Norway its King, etc., and, as the story goes, democracy would reign forever after.

But what would happen in Germany without a Hitler; in Italy without a Mussolini; in Japan without the Mikado?

One must anticipate the worst: It is even possible that the workers, soldiers and farmers might take the situation into their own hands and do what the Russian masses under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky did in the last world war. All the gains on the battlefields might thus be lost on account of a couple of obscure agitators.

This is why the State Department, which has been noted for its foresight, issued this invitation. Now, they feel, is the time to seek out the torchbearers of democracy for the Axis countries and prepare them for the huge tasks and heavy responsibilities that lie ahead.

Two Candidates for the Job

One of the first to respond was Dr. Otto Strasser. From his refuge in Montreal he issued a statement reported in the New York Times, Jan. 6, declaring that “he had advised United States Secretary of State Cordell Hull that the Free German movement, of which Dr. Strasser is chairman, ‘adheres to the Declaration of Washington to defeat Hitlerism’.”

Before we even had a chance to properly examine his record and references for the candidacy of torchbearer of democracy, another candidate for the same job made his appearance. The New York Times for Jan. 9, tells us:

“An association of Free Germans, consisting of leading representatives of the Weimar coalition that governed the German Republic, has been organized here and has declared its intention to adhere to the allied joint agreement signed by the twenty-six United Nations on Jan. 1 in Washington.

“This declaration and the formation of the organization, whose certificate of incorporation was filed with the Department of Justice ... was announced yesterday ... and issued by its president, Albert C. Grzesinski, former Prussian Minister of the Interior.”

The fact that we have two candidates for one position makes it incumbent upon us to scrutinize their qualifications more carefully than we might otherwise be disposed to do.

Strasser’s “Credentials”

Otto Strasser is a man of action. While a soldier in the Imperial German army in the last war, he was decorated several times for acts of bravery and advanced himself to the position of Lieutenant. He had no use for reds. When the last war ended in the German revolution and the Communists together with the left Socialists formed the government in Bavaria, he fought in the army which the monarchist Colonel von Epp together with the notorious Röhm organized for the purpose of overthrowing the revolutionary regime.

Later, the same Röhm plus Otto Strasser’s brother, Gregor, plus Hitler, banded together to form the Nazi party. Otto came into the Nazi party later, – about 1925. For five years thereafter the Strasser brothers were the leaders of the Nazi party of North Germany, with headquarters in Berlin. Hitler operated from Munich and reigned supreme in the party in South Germany.

In 1930 Hitler came to Berlin to eliminate the condition of dual leadership. Otto Strasser balked and quit the Nazi Party to organize his own Black Front, the “true” representative of Nazi ideology. His brother Gregor remained with Hitler but was shot together with Rohm and countless others in the purge of June 1934. Otto Strasser fled Germany shortly after Hitler came to power and has been carrying on oppositional activities. His program is based on the argument that Hitler has betrayed the principles upon which the Nazi party was founded.

Without ‘Chaos’

It is clear from this that there is much to be said in favor of Otto Strasser as the leader of the “Free German” movement. A man like him might be able to take HitleFs place without creating any chaos in the country. His background and ideology make it possible for him to assume the leadership of the Nazi Party and institutions without drastic or revolutionary changes and merely carry out the tasks which the. British rulers had hoped Hitler would carry out, i.e., leave the “civilized” countries and their colonies alone and expand Germany at the expense of the Soviet Union.

As a matter of fact, Strasser has been displeased with the war because Germany did not follow this course from the beginning.

He proposed long ago an alliance of Germany with Poland for an attack on the Soviet Union. A certain Britisher by the name of Douglas Reed was so impressed with the idea that he wrote a book about Otto Strasser which was published here in 1940.

This Reed is also very much impressed with Strasser’s brand of anti-Semitism. It is far more refined than Hitler’s and much more acceptable to the western world. Reed thinks it was a mistake for the British rulers to be taken in by Hitler. If they had helped to bring Strasser into power instead, the shape of things would have been different.

Grzesinski’s Qualifications

But if we consider Albert C. Grzesinski, on the other hand, as a candidate for the one best suited to lead the “Free Germans”, we will find very much in his favor. He is a man who has had variegated experience in government administration. From the post of union official he was quickly catapulted to the post of Undersecretary of State in the Prussian Ministry of War in 1919, Minister of the Interior of Prussia, and numerous other high posts including that of Police President of Berlin which he held on two occasions.

He was the Police President during the turbulent years from Nov. 1930 to July 1932, when the Nazi hordes were roaming the streets of Berlin breaking up working-class meetings and institutions. Grzesinski is a Social-Democrat of the Scheidemann-Noske school. He was intimately tied up with the Weimar Republic which pursued a policy of merciless struggle against proletarian revolutionists on the one hand, and toleration for the Nazis, on the other. This was the gang that drowned the Spartacus uprising in blood and murdered Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg.

In a word, Grzesinski stands or falls on the record of the Weimar Republic which paved the way for Hitler; Strasser stands for a Fourth Reich founded on the original Nazi program, but without Hitler.

To keep the record straight and to emphasize our objectivity, we will mention the fact that William Green heads a committee of sponsors for Grzensinsky. Also, while Otto Strasser has a certain claim to priority because he was the first to claim the leadership of the “Free Germans”, Grzesinski had the foresight to file a certificate of incorporation with the Department of Justice, thus giving his claim an added touch of legality.

These are the facts about the two applicants for the leadership of the “Free Germans”. Since nobody as yet asked us to state our preference, we will leave the choice entirely in the hands of the State Department and the President: You pays your money – you takes your choice.

By way of footnote, however, we should remark that the German masses may be presumptuous enough to have their own say in the choice of their leaders. When they do have their choice – they will choose the scrap-heap for both Strasser and Grzesinski.

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