How could Hitler win power?

Submitted by martin on 20 March, 2007 - 3:07

As the establishment commemorates the 50th anniversary of the end of “Hitler’s war” in Europe, we take the opportunity to examine the question: how did it happen that Hitler, the crazy war-lord of German imperialism, was allowed to come to power?
How did it happen that the German labour movement let Hitler smash it, without a fight? It was the most powerful labour movement in the world. Its majority party, the Socialist Party, was the mainstay of the Weimar Republic set up after Germany’s defeat in the 1914-18 war, commanding eight million votes and its own powerful organisations.
The CP, though smaller than the socialists, was also a mass party, sometimes getting over five million votes. Neither party acted to stop Hitler when he could still have been easily crushed. Why?
The Socialist Party, whose leaders had allied with the Right in 1919 to crush the Communist workers — and kill Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht — was a conservative party thereafter. The Communist Party was in the grip of Stalinism. In the crucial years when the Nazis moved towards power, the Communist Party pursued ultra-left sectarian politics at the same time as it tried to compete with the Nazis as German nationalists, calling for a “people’s revolution.” They refused on principle to collaborate with the Social-Democrats even for self-defence against fascism. Despite the Italian experience, where the fascists in power had crushed the labour movement, the German Stalinists talked deliriously about Hitler in power opening the door to a Communist revolution — “after Hitler, our turn next.”
Against the suicidal leaders of both mass workers’ parties stood Trotsky. From the elections of September 1930 to Hitler becoming Chancellor on 30th January 1933, Trotsky incessantly sounded the alarm, urging the German labour movement to create a united front to crush Hitler. In Germany, Trotsky’s supporters, organised as an expelled faction of the CP, the Left Opposition of the CPG, urged policies that would have allowed the German labour movement to destroy Hitler and prevent the resurgence of that German imperialism whose immensely costly defeat is now being celebrated by the heirs of the imperialist victors.
In the following pages we present a selection of documents of the German Trotskyists as they fought against crushing odds for the life of the German labour movement. The German labour movement was the first victim of Hitler as, an account below of the celebration of May Day at Buchenwald concentration camp a week after it was liberated in 1945, makes movingly clear.

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