This work was translated by David Broder. Reprinted here with the permission from the Alliance for Workers Liberty website.
DOWN WITH THE WAR
FOR IMMEDIATE PEACE!
The attack on Hitler is the last warning of civil war
The Nazi press’s propaganda sees the hand of Providence everywhere. Each day they expect the miracle without which victory is now impossible. Even the attack Hitler survived, an attack made by circles of high-up officers and a section of the big bourgeoisie who have realised that Germany’s situation is desperate and want to replace the Hitlerite state with another bourgeois state. But the bureaucrats do not want to give up power so quickly; on the contrary, they want to hang on to the butter dish as long as possible. They are defending themselves with the most brutal of terror, Himmler having received carte blanche to exercise it freely; in the big cities of Germany and even in the occupied territories in the West there have been incidents and bloody clashes between the Gestapo and the Wehrmacht. The Hitlerite state is falling apart, which is why they are calling on German soldiers to hold out until the last.
Hitler’s fall means revolution in Germany. Only the inhuman terror of the Gestapo, SS and other gendarmes is keeping the German soldiers on the front. All German soldiers and workers have had more than enough of the war and want to go home, above all now that they know that victory is unthinkable. They only have one slogan in their heads:
DOWN WITH THE WAR, FOR IMMEDIATE PEACE!
Hitler can rely on the German army less and less. He has to send Waffen SS, parachutists and other shock troops all over the place to stave off collapse.
Signs of discontent in the German army are becoming more numerous and more visible. Everywhere we find fraternisation between German soldiers and French and Belgian workers. Many soldiers have joined the maquis. The courts-martial are in full flow.
Bloody fighting and retreats on all fronts
German troops are being forced back by the formidable strength of the Americans. But the British and American “liberators” do not want to race ahead, since this would cause the decomposition of the front in Normandy and even the end of the German occupation of France, that is to say, the German revolution, which the American capitalists do not want. These formidable battles are not only happening in France; in Italy too each day more and more significant areas have become battlefields. The Red Army is still progressing: it is in the heart of the Baltic States, it is marching on Warsaw and it has arrived on the borders of East Prussia.
Germany is in an absolutely desperate situation
Hitler, Goering, Goebbels and their lying propaganda put their only hopes of winning the war in some God-given miracle, Providence and secret new weapons. We have already heard such talk once before in the war, from Reynaud, President of the French Council, who said such things a few weeks before the French disaster of June 1940. Like Hitler and German capital today, he was relying on a miracle. But this is hopeless. No miracle is now able to save Hitler and his capitalist backers. Hitler has been pushed back onto his last lines of defence. The domestic situation worsens daily. The more critical Germany’s situation becomes, the more the capitalists and the bourgeoisie are divided and turn away from Hitler.
But who will come after Hitler?
After five years of endless, pointless killing, the soldiers on the front as well as German workers constantly threatened with being sent to the front, unable to voice their discontent and forced to work under constant bombardment, have had more than enough of this war which has taken from them everything they worked so hard to achieve. They can see that they have nothing to gain from this war. German soldiers, workers and peasants want to send the Hitlerite régime to hell, along with the inhuman Gestapo terror which forces them to shoot at the workers and peasants on the other side. Each man is wondering how he can save himself from this hellish war. The Nazi bureaucrats, Goebbels and his henchmen, know that German soldiers no longer want to go and fight abroad. So to get them to hold out for longer the lying propaganda warns of a new, even worse Versailles Treaty in the aftermath of the war in the event that Germany loses.
All the British and American propaganda comes to Goebbels’ aid with its unrelenting attacks on the German soldiers, with its plans for a military occupation of Germany of indeterminate length, under American military dictatorship (Eisenhower shall rule over occupied Europe) and even talking of a carve-up of Germany. None of this surprises us. It only proves that the British and American governments are no better than the Nazi clique, that they are doing as they please and that we must rid ourselves of the whole system of capitalist rule, whether that be in Germany or Britain, France or America. That can only be achieved by a victorious workers’ revolution in Germany, Europe and the world.
The nationalist policies of the ex-Communist Party aid the reactionary plans of the Americans
But the worst thing is that the British and American capitalists’ plans have found solid backing from the nationalist politics of the so-called Communist Party. In Moscow Stalin has created a “Committee for a Free Germany” composed of barons, counts and captured Hitlerite generals. These gentlemen’s goal is to replace Hitler’s vacillating régime with a national bourgeois government and so save German capitalism from proletarian revolution. The ex-Communist Party and Stalinist degeneration have cast the Leninist programme of international class struggle and international revolution into the dust. Stalin has dissolved the Comintern, the international leadership of the world revolution, and in every country has introduced a nationalist and chauvinist policy attacking German soldiers. The ex-Communist Parties have replaced the policy of revolutionary fraternisation with fraternisation with their own exploiters, and have united with the reactionary de Gaulle. They would have the workers believe that Churchill and Roosevelt will liberate them. By not calling on the international proletariat to defend the workers’ state, instead allying with the capitalist Great Powers and not calling for international fraternisation between workers, Stalin strengthens Hitler’s hand, since German soldiers who everywhere meet with hatred and unable to find any solution are ultimately thrown into the arms of Hitler, who tells them that Germany must conquer Europe in order to survive.
Only the transformation of the imperialist war into proletarian revolution can bring peace
Neither Roosevelt-Churchill nor Hitler can bring peace or bring an end to the war. Their peace can only be directed against the international working class.
We must end this war: for immediate peace! Only the will of the exploited working masses can end it, again taking up the struggle against the capitalist rule which caused the war, which is responsible for it, which dragged it out and which will bring more wars if we let it.
Hitler and German capitalism can only be overthrown by the working class. The latter must take its destiny in its own hands and turn the imperialist war into a civil war.
The bourgeois parties have already proven their inability to save Germany from crisis, and all of them have oppressed the working class and thrown it into ever greater poverty. We must not allow the Hitlerite régime to be replaced by another bourgeois government, however “democratic” it might be, whose main tasks would be to save German capitalism and oppressing the workers and peasants to an even greater extent. For this struggle, hang on to your weapons.
You should hang on to the weapons they have given you to fight for the interests of the Hitlerite clique in order to turn the imperialist war into a war against capitalism, a civil war. The uprising of the German working class, which will create workers’ and soldiers’ soviets and organise fraternisation with the workers and peasants of Europe, will cast aside any fresh Versailles Treaty and all the rapacious plans of capitalism. The proletarian revolution will overthrow capitalism across Europe and establish in its place the Soviet Socialist United States of Europe. Fraternise with the Russian, American and British soldiers.
Fraternise with the workers of the occupied countries. Do not break their strikes, which signify the struggle against capitalism. On the contrary, show them that you are also exploited workers and peasants, that you are for peace and against Hitler and the war.
Fraternise with the French and Russian prisoners and with the millions of foreign workers in Germany, who are forced to work far from home, far from their wives and children. Invite them back to yours, and try and forge mutual understanding. Together, take home to Germany the struggle for better living standards, against the war and for peace.
Create secret cells of three or four people! In these cells, discuss the situation in Germany. With secretly advertised slogans fight in your units for better living standards and for more leave, and in regard to all issues raised by soldiers. Discuss the illegal papers and circulate them clandestinely among the other soldiers. Explain the situation in Germany and Europe to your comrades.
Comrades, you who believe in your unity, organise yourselves in committees for revolutionary struggle. Wherever you can, help the local workers. Try to build links with them.
Do not think that you are isolated. The proletarian revolution is mounting in every country in Europe, and everywhere the working class is fighting hard, even on the underground, against its own exploiters and against police and fascist terror.
Remain in contact! Do not go into struggle without joint agreement! When struggle breaks out, have the courage to build it as much as possible! Spread news of the struggle by all means to all countries!
LONG LIVE THE SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF GERMANY! LONG LIVE THE SOVIET UNITED STATES OF EUROPE! LONG LIVE THE SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF THE WORLD!
FOLLOW KARL LIEBKNECHT’S EXAMPLE, AGAINST THE IMPERIALIST WAR!
On 1st May 1916 Karl Liebknecht came to Berlin and gave a speech in Potsdamer Platz. He was arrested and put before a military tribunal. To explain his opposition to the imperialist war he wrote a series of texts, one of the most important of which we reproduce here:
“The German government is in its social composition and historical character an instrument for the oppression and exploitation of the working class; at home and abroad it serves the interests of junkerism, of capitalism, and of imperialism.
“The slogan “Down with the government!” is designed to brand this entire policy of the government as fatal for the mass of the population…
“This slogan also indicates that it is the duty of every representative of the interests of the proletariat to wage a most bitter struggle—the class struggle—against the government...
“The present war is neither a war to defend the nation’s territorial integrity nor a war to liberate oppressed peoples or assure the well-being of the masses.
“From the standpoint of the proletariat this war only signifies the most extreme concentration and extension of political suppression, of economic exploitation, and a blood bath of the workers in the interests of capitalism and absolutism.
“To all this the workers of all countries can give but one answer: to engage in a bitter struggle, the international class struggle, against the capitalist governments and the ruling classes of all countries for the abolition of all oppression and exploitation by establishing a socialist peace. In this class struggle the socialists, whose only fatherland is the International, fight for all that socialists fight for. The slogan “Down with the war” signifies that I wholeheartedly condemn the present war and declare myself an enemy of the current war because of its historic nature, because of its general social causes as well as the specific way in which it originated, because of the way it is being carried out and the goals for which it is being waged. That slogan signifies that it is the duty of every socialist and every representative of proletarian interests to participate in the international class struggle in order to end the war.”
CLASS-CONSCIOUS WORKERS AND THE USSR
Soldiers who fought in Russian remain confused about the contradictory character of Soviet life: on the one hand great, undeniable progress in the cities, including new houses, large roads and modern and rich factories, and on the other hand miserable shacks—particularly in the countryside—peasants living in poverty, ignorance and without any comfort. But above all it is the policies of the rulers of the Soviet Union which confuse the German soldiers and workers: their chauvinist policies and their collaboration with the worst representatives of world imperialism, Churchill and Roosevelt. How can we explain it? The Soviet Union is a workers’ state, born of the proletarian revolution of 1917 and in which private capitalist property has been expropriated and nationalised.
The USSR, which is a workers’ state and not a capitalist state, is defending itself against German imperialism and is fighting a just war.
It is every worker’s duty to defend it against imperialism.
But while the USSR is a workers’ state, it is at the same time a degenerated workers’ state ruled by a parasitic bureaucracy which grew out of the country’s backwardness and the postponement of socialist revolution in other countries.
Stalin is the representative of this bureaucracy of party and state functionaries, specialists and army men. Class-conscious workers are for the USSR, for the country which thanks to its economic system is closed off from imperialist exploitation and which because of the nationalisation of private property allows the development of productive forces.
But class-conscious workers are also opposed to Stalin’s political régime in the USSR, which hampers the country’s economic progress and which leads reactionary policies contrary to the interests of the Soviet people and the international proletariat. The capitalists, whether fascists or democrats, equate the USSR’s social system with Stalin’s current policies in government. But class-conscious workers, who defend the USSR’s economic system against imperialist aggression in this war, also fight against Stalin’s political régime. That is to say, class-conscious workers both fight to defend the USSR and criticise Stalin’s reactionary policies, encouraging the Soviet masses to overthrow the bureaucratic caste which rules over them.
They do not however allow any let-up in the class struggle in the countries allied to the USSR, declaring the necessity of overthrowing the capitalist régimes of Churchill, Roosevelt and the other “Allies”.
In Germany they are against Hitler and the German capitalist class who support him, and are for fraternisation with the Red Army, all the while calling on it to take part in a common struggle to overthrow Stalin.
SOLDIERS, HOLD ON TO YOUR WEAPONS (A letter from a soldier)
So comrade, what do you think of the new people who arrived yesterday? Yes, it’s the latest reserves: without receiving any training they have been mobilised, given uniforms, wage booklets and identity plaques and been sent to the front, albeit without any weapons. It is as if there were no weapons left in the country. But there are.
But listen for a moment. When I was mobilised four years ago in B., a big industrial town, we too had to wait for our guns, and no artillery arrived until 11 days later, which our instructors bitched about. Mine, a chief-brigadier, a salesman by trade and an SA member, said: “We have to wait around, but down there they always have the best and newest equipment first”. He was referring to the Waffen SS who had a brand new barracks not far from our own.
Yes, you know, now he would be able understand why the SS always get the new equipment first, and why the ordinary conscript is sent to the front without any weapons. It is clear that the Hitlerite régime is scraping the bottom of the barrel and that Hitler and his henchmen can only hope for a miracle to allow them to cling on to power. For this reason they must send the SS around the country: on one hand they can keep down the youth with the SS, since they’re tough chaps, eh?!, and on the other hand they are the most loyal bedfellows of Hitler, and in the case that the proletariat rose up he could send them in with the Gestapo to crush them. Perhaps you think that they can use their new recruits to do this and so you had better ask them what they think about it? Rubbish, when Hitler’s bastards are gone the war will be over! And they say we still have to risk our necks for Hitler and the Nazi bureaucrats, so that they and their backers, the big German capitalists, can continue to rule?!
Do you still believe that they can train up soldiers back home? With weapons? The capitalists and their Nazi lackeys are too afraid to do this. They would prefer to terrorise the masses: that is why the Red Army is already almost at the border, that is why they are already shitting their pants and that is why they are hurrying to dispatch the last workers and agricultural toilers to the abattoir. They think they can cut down the women and children with their Gestapo executioners. As for the soldiers, they will only give them weapons if they can be sure that there is no chance that they will come back, if they are where they have to fire at the enemy and there is no danger that a stray bullet will strike a Nazi bureaucrat, where they can only fire at their opposite numbers, the comrades on the other side. The officers and that reactionary crowd are still in place. Yes, we’re forced to do this, what else are you going to do? I know as well as you do that all of us, including the new people, have had more than enough of this senseless carnage, of the great massacre of the international proletariat, but here’s the signal that the last hour of the fascist gang has arrived, the moment when Hitler and his bandits will be overthrown by the coming social revolution, the moment when these dogs will pay for the crimes they committed against millions of workers. For that moment, comrade, take care of your weapons! If necessary mend them, and don’t let them out of your hands, since you will need them when the time comes for you and us to hunt down the capitalists and the fascist gang of Hitler, Goering, Himmler and their Gestapo executioners. This gang will not give up of its own free will, knowing that doors are closing all around it. It would rather kill the last living thing and destroy the last house before perishing itself! But we will stop this last act of folly by this unruly mob! Comrade! When the last hour sounds, we will all march forward to the socialist revolution with arms linked, carrying the banner of freedom which will bring us peace and bread. We all want to create the free state of all workers, a free socialist Germany of soviets, from which base the socialist revolution would then spread victoriously across the other countries of Europe, until the creation of a free Soviet Socialist European Union! Comrades! Keep your weapon by your side, until you hear the call: arise for the final struggle!
FOR A FREE SOVIET SOCIALIST GERMANY!
FOR A FREE SOVIET SOCIALIST EUROPEAN UNION!
LONG LIVE THE WORLD SOCIALIST REVOLUTION!
Last updated on 3 August 2008. This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Trotskism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.