Issue 247 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published December 2000 Copyright © Socialist Review



Hitler's backbone was German big business

  • I think that Ian Kershaw's biography of Hitler is the best so far to appear, but I am far from being as enthusiastic about it as Alex Callinicos (November SR). Kershaw fails to make a consistent class analysis of fascism, and therefore fails to understand its dynamics.

    I consider that Trotsky's extensive writings on fascism have withstood the rigours of time. Yet Kershaw does not appear to be acquainted with them, let alone make an evaluation of them. The same goes for Daniel Guerin's classic work, Fascism and Big Business, not to mention Alfred Sohn-Rethel's Economy and the Class Structure of German Fascism. A German Marxist, Sohn-Rethel was working in the private inner precincts of the leading organisation of German capital when it reached its amicable understanding with the Führer. His first hand experiences are of great value.

    That big business provided the backbone for Nazism is, according to Alex Callinicos, the orthodox view of the Third International under Stalin. However, I would argue that it was the revolutionary left, those opposed to Stalinism, who advanced this view consistently. By contrast, the rulers in the Kremlin had an ambivalent attitude, a love-hate relationship with Hitler. At times Soviet national interests would dictate cooperation with Germany. The German Communist Party simply followed the line dictated in Moscow.

    This is thoroughly explained in an excellent work by Peter Petrov. He, of course, had been a hero of the 1905 Russian Revolution, after which he fled to Scotland where he became the comrade in arms of John Maclean in the revolt on the Clyde. After the October Revolution he returned to Moscow and joined the Russian government. However, the rise of Stalin and the policies Stalin pursued in the 1920s sent him on his travels again. He witnessed the demise of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazis.

    Forced to flee once more, Petrov came to England. The Hogarth Press, run by Leonard and Virginia Woolf, published his The Secrets of Hitler's Victory. Towards the end of this book he explains why it was so disastrous for the German CP to meekly obey their Moscow masters' pro-Nazi line. They were not following socialist principles but those of a particularly ruthless ruling class:

      'As a basis of despotism, state capitalism becomes unbearable. Because an established state capitalism--as we see today in Russia--makes the citizen in all spheres of his life a dependent on the state: the state is his employer, his landlord, his tradesman, and by no change of employment or lodging can he escape from it. The state decides the admission of his children to higher schools, of members of his family to hospitals. A conflict with the state as employer might easily lead to reprisals by the state as tradesman, landlord or schoolmaster. A corrupt, petty administration, which is a feature of every dictatorship, could not but drive citizens to despair.'

    The Secrets of Hitler's Victory remained shunned, a work neglected by Ian Kershaw as by other historians. Published in 1934, it predates Tony Cliff's Stalinist Russia by 14 years.

    I have just been reading the excellent book published by Redwords, Victor Serge's Witness to the German Revolution. The editor, Ian Birchall, writes, 'The claim that Ford was financing Hitler first appeared in the New York Times (20 December 1922), which contained an account of a visit to Hitler's headquarters: "The wall beside his desk in Hitler's private office is decorated with a large picture of Henry Ford. In the antechamber there is a large table covered with books...published by Henry Ford. If you ask one of Hitler's underlings for the reason of Ford's popularity in these circles he will smile knowingly and say nothing." At Hitler's trial in 1924 evidence was given that "the Hitler movement was partly financed by an American anti-Semitic chief, who is Henry Ford". In August 1938 Henry Ford received the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, a Nazi decoration.

    Would Ian Kershaw--or for that matter Alex Callinicos--like to suggest that there were no German industrialists, the equivalent of Henry Ford, who did not have the same enthusiasm for the Führer?
    Raymond Challinor
    Whitley Bay

  • We welcome letters and contributions on all issues raised in Socialist Review. Please keep your contributions as short as possible, typed, double spaced if you can, and on one side of paper only.
    Send to: Socialist Review, PO Box 82, London E3 3LH
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    The main difference, in my eyes, between anarchy and Marxism is that Marxism is a stagnant authoritarian ideology of the 19th century, and is simply boring. Anarchy on the other hand has the potential at least to facilitate spontaneous human joy and perhaps even a society of equals. Don't fail to take into consideration the consequences of adhering to a boring workerist dogma.
    Call me a petty bourgeois revisionist, but the problem in North America today has nothing to do with the proletariat...the proletariat is effectively dead. I'm not saying anarchism has anything to say about this, or future directions for revolutionary movements, but one thing is for sure--the 'masses' will never fall for another Old World Boss Revolution.
    Josh Noiseux


    I always enjoy getting Socialist Review and was particularly impressed with your coverage of Palestine and the Serbian Revolution in the November issue. However, I have a petty correction to make over the list of anti-capitalist protests that have shaken the world in the last year which featured on page two. The caption, 'Melbourne, Australia, September: 5,000 demonstrate against the IMF/World Bank', is inaccurate. Over 10,000 people protested against the meeting of the World Economic Forum in Melbourne for three days (11-13 September).
    The World Economic Forum is the conference held by the top 1,000 multinational and transnational corporations, with assorted invited government delegates and mainly right wing academics. This bosses' talking shop, organised by the Davos group, boasts about its role in the establishment of the World Trade Organisation.
    Given the two excellent photos of the Melbourne protests that appeared in the October issue of Socialist Review, I was disappointed with the minor error in the November issue. Other than that I found page two very useful in terms of making the point that the anti-capitalist movement is international, and has seen huge mobilisations of ordinary people in South America and Africa.
    Ben Halliday

    Editorial note: the figures given are not ours, but are from a report by the World Development Movement


    The government now wants to encourage virgins (advertising to 'teach your kid it's not a dirty word'). After stop smoking and stop giving to homeless people, now it's stop fucking (****ing).
    How about stop polluting, stop giving encouragement to racists, stop privatising...even stop shopping.
    And stop promoting that dreadful Mr Branson and his string of failures at our expense.
    John Nicholson


    I would like to emphasise that, now more than ever, we have reached a crucial point in the struggle to free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal.
    There was clearly a government conspiracy to frame Leonard Peltier as well as Mumia. Their freedom is very important, and will be a turning point in the struggle against racism and oppression. All efforts should now be focused and concentrated on freeing these individuals, as Leonard represents the struggle for indigenous peoples and land rights worldwide. Mumia shows the irregularities and inconsistencies of the US justice system, how juries are easily persuaded on the basis of race, colour and creed as well as political beliefs.
    It is important that trade unionists in Britain ask their respective rank and files to pass a resolution to free them both. The time is ticking and Leonard's health is deteriorating--it is time for him to be granted clemency. The FBI is holding 6,000 documents that could lead to his freedom.
    In Canada the Canadian Labour Congress passed a resolution demanding his freedom. Please write to the White House or call 1 202 456 1111. Or write to Janet Reno (US attorney general), 950 Pennsylvania Ave, Rm 4545, 20530 Washington, DC, USA. We are aiming for his freedom before Xmas. It is also important to notice that the minister of justice in Canada, Ann MacLellan, caved in to the US Department of Justice dirty tactics--that is, Leonard was illegally extradited from Canada.
    Andre Bueno


    One of the nastiest elements in the US presidential election was the series of attacks by the Democrats and their supporters on the left wing candidate Ralph Nader. In Britain they found their clearest expression in the Democrats' London house journal, the Goredian.
    Nader was, according to these so called 'left wing Democrats', splitting the 'progressive' vote and paving George W Bush's way to the White House. One Guardian columnist, Jacob Weisberg, even went so far as to compare Nader's campaign against Gore and Bush to the German Communist Party's disastrous and sectarian policy in the early 1930s which helped the Nazis to power.
    To read these articles one could have been forgiven for thinking that Gore was a great man of the left, offering Americans a future of unbridled equality, and that Nader was an unprincipled 'wrecking ball' candidate, a stalking horse for the right wing. In reality Gore is pro death penalty, pro-nuclear, in favour of the extension of 'neoliberal' economic policies and opposed to universal healthcare, just like his Republican opponent. In contrast, Nader has stood against the consensus of the two main parties on these key issues, and on much else besides.
    Nader's 3 percent of the vote, although respectable given that he received only 1 percent of the media coverage and was carved out of the television debates, was undoubtedly squeezed by the electoral blackmail of the Democrats' slogan 'A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush'. The left should not be downhearted at the vote, however. It is only the tip of a growing iceberg of anti-capitalism in the States, and could yet prove the beginning of the end for the two-party system.
    The election was so close not because Nader 'stole' votes from Gore, but because Gore was virtually indistinguishable from Bush. Socialists must defend Nader's candidacy against the arguments of liberals who will try to hold him responsible should Bush finally take office.
    Mark Brown

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