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Anthony Massini

How a German Worker Might Answer
Manifesto of German-Soviet Committee

(21 February 1942)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 8, 21 February 1942, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Anglo-Soviet Trade Union Committee is reported in the Daily Worker, Feb. 10, to have made public a manifesto to the “workers of all the countries enslaved by Hitler Germany to aid the struggle against the Nazi war machine by all means at their disposal to bring nearer the day of their liberation.” The manifesto was signed by N.M. Shvernik, secretary of the All-Union Central Council of the USSR, and Sir Walter Citrine, general secretary of the British Trades Union Congress.


The following is a letter which an advanced worker in Germany might write in reply to the manifesto of the Anglo-Soviet Trade Union Committee:

Dear Sirs:

It is not necessary for you to remind the German masses cf “all the crimes, animal cruelty and conscious destruction and devastation committed by Hitlerism”. The German people, and particularly the German working class, know better than anyone else what it means to here to live under the Nazi regime.

They have known what it means for more than nine years now, ever since Hitler was able to take power with the permission and connivance of the German capitalists and the aid of British capitalism.

Nor is any real purpose served by your calling on the German masses to “struggle against Hitlerism”. In the first place, the revolutionary workers of Germany have all along fought against Hitlerism as best as they could, and they are trying to take advantage of the war to intensify this struggle and bring wide sections of the masses into it.

They did this before Hitler took power, when he was preparing to take power and when the German Shverniks were disorienting them with their treacherous theory that the reformist Socialist Party and the trade union leaders were the immediate enemy, and when the German Citrines were telling them that the only way to fight Hitler was by supporting the same Hindenburg who later appointed Hitler as Chancellor.

They did this after Hitler came to power, when many of their leaders ran away to other countries and left them to live under the Nazi terror and they did this during the period of the Stalin- Hitler Pact too when the Stalinists ceased all opposition to Hitler and placed the sole responsibility for the war on British and French capitalism.

What Do You Want Them to Fight For?

In the second place, your appeals to the German workers to fight against Hitlerism are ineffective not only because they remember where your advice led them in the past but also because of what you want them to fight for now.

They still remember what happened after the last war when the Treaty of Versailles was imposed on them by the victorious Allies. They remember the starving children and unemployment and bankruptcy and inflation that resulted from it. And there are many who understand that it was this Versailles Treaty and its results which laid the ground for the rise of fascism and made possible the victory of the Nazis.

Do you really believe that you can get broad masses of the German people to struggle against Hitlerism only so that another Versailles and the rise of another Hitler will follow?

The German people are seeking a way of overthrowing Hitler, but they will listen only to people and parties who tell them how to do it so that they will not again have to go through the experiences of 1918-1942. What do you tell them, you gentlemen who have proclaimed your adherence to the Atlantic Charter, the shrivelled caricature of Wilson’s 14-Points?

“The hour is approaching,” you write in this manifesto, “when the armed forces of all the Allies will come to your aid to overthrow the yoke of Hitlerism.” But what will you substitute for this yoke? The trade union bureaucrats have not answered this question anywhere – but the spokesmen of the “senior partners of the United Nations” have already made abundantly clear what they intend, and none of you have voiced any objections.

Perspectives of the “United Nations”

Germany is to be disarmed after the war and “kept disarmed” this time. The United States and Britain intend to “police” the world for the next hundred years. Do you think that you are going to get the German workers to fight Hitlerism so that this will be the outcome? Perhaps you do, but the German workers do not feel that they are criminals who have to be policed.

And what perspectives do the masters of the United Nations hold out for Germany itself? Your Anthony Eden told the world on Jan. 4 – and he was repeating an idea put forth by Stalin in his speech of Nov. 7 – that “the trouble with Hitler was not that he was a Nazi at home. The trouble with him was that he would not stay at home.” Again you did not object. But the German workers do not believe that Hitler was all right as long as he stayed “at home” and oppressed them.

What can they expect will happen inside of Germany if it is left up to Eden and Stalin whose chief complaint is that “you can’t do business with Hitler abroad.” What reason have they for expecting that Hitler will not be replaced by a Quisling who may for some time be content to remain at home and oppress the masses?

We revolutionary opponents of German capitalist reaction and war are doing everything we can to successfully conclude the “struggle against Hitlerism” of which you speak. But our task is made all the more difficult by you and your kind.

For when the German masses see the perspectives you hold out to them in the name of a struggle against Hitlerism, it becomes easier for Hitler and Goebbels to convince or frighten them with their propaganda that a defeat for Germany inevitably means another Versailles.

You Make the Job Harder

When we tell the German workers to organize for the workers revolution against their oppressors, they want to know what about the British workers, will they help them or will they join with the British capitalists to put down the German revolution ?

We tell them that the British masses will support such a revolution, and that it would inspire them to renew the struggle against their own oppressors – but how hard it is to convince them when the official spokesmen of the British working class endorse the perspectives of the Atlantic Charter!

You tell the German masses in your manifesto that “the liberation of all freedom-loving peoples will come with the utter defeat of Hitlerite Germany.”

But how can they believe it when they see with their own eyes and ears that the British government refuses to grant freedom to the “freedom-loving peoples of India and Africa, and that the British preferred to lose vast sections of their empire in the Far East to even granting the colonial peoples in those countries the right to arm and defend themselves?

Whatever your intentions are, gentlemen, your manifesto is of no help whatever to the struggle of the German masses against their capitalist oppressors. If it will help anyone, it will help Hitler who is desperately trying to convince the people that the only outcome of the war can be either his victory or the victory of another Versailles.

Distinction Between Britain and USSR

But let me make one thing clear about my criticism of Stalinist policies. We German revolutionists who bitteily oppose Hitlerism see a great difference between the war of Great Britain and the war of the Soviet Union.

Britain is fighting a war to maintain its empire and the right of the British capitalists to exploit that empire. It is a reactionary war, just as the war of the German capitalists to seize parts of that empire and exploit it themselves is a reactionary war.

But the war of the Soviet Union is a just war, a progressive war, a war worthy of the support of the workers of the world. The USSR is still a workers state, cruelly degenerated under the Stalinist bureaucracy, but still a state where the means of production have been and remain nationalized, and where no capitalists are able to exploit the masses or conduct a war for their own profit. Despite Stalin and against Stalin, we defend the So viet Union and the conquests of the October Revolution, and we try to get the German masses to understand that they too must come to the defense of the work ers state.

This task is difficult enough as it is because of the rule of Stalinism, which repels the masses. But it becomes ten times as difficult when Stalin and his Shverniks themselves try to identify the war of the Soviet Union with the war of Great Britain, when Stalin too endorses the Atlantic Charter and the war aims of Churchill and Eden.

And when in your manifesto you say that the war of Great Britain as well as the Soviet Union is “a just war”, you help to confuse the German worker.’ still further. Instead of awakening and organizing sympathy for the Soviet Union, you succeed in repelling the sympathies of those German workers who would gladly fight for a workers state but would never support a war of British capitalism.

The Kind Of Manifesto That Is Needed

Your manifesto declares; “On behalf of the 30,000,000 workers organized in Soviet and British trade unions our Anglo-Soviet Trade Union Committee calls upon you to intensify the struggle and exert your efforts to hasten the overthrow of Hitlerism.”

I have told you why it is useless and ineffective and how it is harmful. The only kind of manifesto that will arouse and inspire the German masses will be one that does not play with talk about “the overthrow of Hitlerism” but shows the German masses that the workers outside of Germany are ready to help them replace Hitlerism with socialism. Such a manifesto would say:

“German workers and soldiers! We extend our solidarity to the first victims of German fascism.

“We repudiate the Atlantic Charter and all treaties and agreements aimed at penalising the German people for the crimes of the German ruling class.

“We are fighting for the establishment of Workers’ and Farmers’ Governments throughout the world.

“We intend to forever abolish war by the creation of a World Socialist Federation of free nations collaborating with each other economically and politically against poverty and for the security of all peoples.

“We call upon the German workers to join us in this struggle and promise all our aid to the German people in their revolution against capitalist war and reaction.

“We will not permit anyone to aid the German capitalists against such a revolution or to deprive the German masses of the benefits of such a revolution.”

We German revolutionists are waiting for a manifesto of this kind to come from the spokesmen of the workers outside of Germany. Meanwhile we are continuing our efforts to arouse the German masses against Hitlerism. But we have no illusions that the manifesto we want will be forthcoming from the Citrines and Shverniks or that the revolution against Hitlerism will be achieved with their assistance.

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