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The Case of Grynszpan

(November 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 51, 26 November 1938, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A pistol shot has torn open the abscess of Fascism. Herschel Grynszpan, homeless 17-year-old Polish Jew, in a gesture of defiance and despair, shot a secretary of the Nazi embassy in Paris. This act has served as the pretext for abominable reprisals against 600,000 defenseless individuals, the whole of German Jewry. Thus, the inner poison of Fascism bursts forth to disgust the world.

What Is Grynszpan’s Fate?

Today Herschel Grynszpan lies a pathetic and broken figure in a French prison waiting for the law to move its course to the guillotine. Starting as the central figure of a tragedy still in its opening act, Grynszpan has already become submerged under developing events of such tremendous and shocking character as to divert the world attention from his own fate.

But Herschel Grynszpan must not be forgotten. He is both a portent and a lesson. As a portent, he reflects the growing feeling amongst the masses that fascism can never be curbed by simply bowing to its deadly advance, by servility and meekness, by reliance on sentiment and indignation alone. Fascism can be destroyed only by the most unyielding and courageous resistance on the part of victims and potential victims.

No Individual Terror!

As an object lesson, however, this pitiable boy demonstrates, as never before in history, the falseness and futility of acts of individual terror as a means of fighting the oppression of a whole social system. Individual terrorist acts, striking at single representatives of an entire class, are a reflection only of weakness, disorganization, and lack of understanding of the real forces that keep political systems like Fascism in power. Indeed, individual terrorism only re-enforces those ideas which fascism itself employs to gain and hold power. Whoever thinks that by wiping out certain individuals he can cripple an entire regime thereby lends weight to the Fascist ideology, the “Leader” principle, which builds up the need for a Dictator.

Fascism Is Capitalism

But fascism is not the product of the Hitlers and Mussolinis. They themselves are rather the products of fascism, the off-spring of a decaying capitalist order. It is decaying capitalism that breeds Fascism.

The “democratic” capitalists, and their agents – who are themselves prepared, when they feel the need, to push forward their own particular brands of “Fuehrers” in America, Great Britain and France – do not want the true nature of fascism exposed, because in the exposure its very roots will be traced directly into the soil of the capitalist system itself. This is the fundamental fact which Grynszpan did not understand. That is why he made a futile gesture against one individual instead of fighting politically against the system which breeds such individuals.

Grynszpan Is Victim

The real responsibility for Grynszpan’s act does not lie with this half-crazed immature boy himself. In reality, it lies with the “democratic” capitalists and their agents, who raise their hands in horror at this hapless victim and are preparing to offer him as a sop to Nazi blood-lust. For Grynszpan’s individualistic action was merely the reflection of the ideas pumped into him by these very gentlemen, the very basis of whose system is in the crowning of the individual over the masses.

These scoundrels “denounce” in the same breath, and to the same degree, both Hitler and [word missing]. Fascism is the crime of an entire ruling class which degrades millions upon millions of Grynszpans into servile existence.

Must Not Be Victimized

We must not permit the spokesmen of capitalist “democracy” to portray the act of a Grynszpan in the same light as they do the acts of a Hitler. We dare not permit these gentlemen, whose own hands drip with the blood of millions of exploited workers and colonial slaves, to sanctimoniously offer the body of Grynszpan as tribute to Hitler.

Herschel Grynszpan has already paid for his folly a thousand times over – with the terrible realization of the consequences of his false method of fighting fascism. Far from aiding his people and weakening Hitlerism, which was his honest desire, his act served as the pretext for more bloody repressions. For fascism can be destroyed only by the mass revolutionary action of the workers stamping out the entire system of capitalism which breeds anti-Semitism and fascism.

His own words after his arrest attest to this realization, as well as to his just despair of any hope from the representatives of democratic capitalism. He said, “Being a Jew is no crime – I hoped President Roosevelt would take pity on us refugees – I am not a dog – I did not mean to kill – I lost my head.” But Roosevelt did not take pity on the refugees. Nor did any other “democratic” leaders. So Grynszpan was driven to resist by the only means which his limited understanding could grasp.

Above all, we must realize that Hitler’s actions against the Jews did not arise from Grynszpan’s act. Hitler’s terror campaign was already planned. It flowed from his desire to use this campaign as an outlet for the resentment of the German masses against their terrible living conditions. Grynszpan’s revolver shot was merely a pretext. Inevitably, even if he had never existed, some other pretext would have served.

The tragic fate of this boy must serve as a living lesson to the Jewish people. They must no longer beg for the grace and condescending “good-wishes” of the “democratic” nations, who have not and will not willingly lift a finger for their practical aid. They must stiffen their spines! Stop crawling and cringing! Join hands with all the oppressed workers and masses of the earth to offer open resistance to fascist terrorism!

If Grynszpan dies, it will be only as another victim of the yielding to the fascist demands. The liberals and the “democrats” plan to offer his life as another appeasal to insatiable fascism. But the workers must cry “Halt!” to this submission to Nazi blackmail. This is the same sort of blackmail that Hitler has been using on the Jew of the world! But the more you yield to a blackmailer, the more he demands!

Workers of all races, religions and colors! Unite against the taking of Grynszpan’s life as payment for the Nazi blackmailing threats!

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