Ted Grant

German Workers Vote Labour—Demonstrate Opposition to Nazism

Source: Socialist Appeal, no. 33 (November 1946)
Transcription: Francesco 2008
Markup: Manuel 2008

The elections in Germany are an indication of the mood of the German people. Despite the fact that the occupying authorities have the decisive say in the running of industry and government, 80 percent and over voted in all zones, a higher percentage than in the elections in France and Britain.

The election indicates that the German masses are recovering from the apathy and despair engendered by the ruin of Germany in the war and the oppressive rule of the conquerors. They are searching for a road into the future which will offer them hope.

Soviet Zone

In the Soviet Zone in the provincial elections the Socialist Unity Party received 4,019,000 votes, the Christian Democrats 2,271,000 and the Liberal Democrats 1,730,000. Many workers spoiled their votes, abstained or even voted for the capitalist parties as a protest against the suppression of the Social Democrats, but the majority voted for the Socialist Unity Party as the only workers’ party allowed to stand.

In the Soviet zone the Stalinist bureaucracy has carried out the nationalisation of all big industry that is left in the area. But the real control, and in a large number of cases, the ownership is in the hands of the Russian bureaucracy.

In order to facilitate the handling of the zone, the Stalinist bureaucracy forced through the fusion of the Social Democratic Party and the Stalinist Party. This was to conceal the weakness of the Communist Party among the German masses, as a result of the bureaucracy and the excesses of the backward elements of the Red Army, inflamed by the chauvinist incitement of Ehrenburg and his variety.

The systematic looting and carting off of the possessions of the German masses, together with the stripping of the factories as reparations, has aroused the indignation of the German people. The attitude of the masses was demonstrated in the Berlin and Western Zone.

Western Zone

In the British Zone, which included the highly industrialised Ruhr, the Social Democrats received 12,000,000 votes and the Communist Party only 2,400,000. The capitalist parties received 11,000,000 for the Christian Democrats and 4,000,000 for the other parties.

In the American and French zones the Christian Democrats received the majority of the votes, with the Social Democrats close behind, while the Communist Party received a small minority.

50 percent votes for workers’ parties

But the decisive election indicating the trend in Germany was the election for the Municipal Council in Berlin. The Social Democrats received 49% of the total votes (nearly 1,000,000), the Christian Democrats 454,000 and the Socialist Unity Party almost 406,000, with the Liberal Democrats receiving 192,500.

The elections are a striking testimony to the vitality of the German proletariat, the continuance of its Socialist traditions in spite of the terrible disillusionment of the past 15 years.

Despite the capitulation of the Social Democratic and the Communist parties to the Nazis, despite their craven and sycophantic attitude to the occupation authorities, despite the hostility of the Labour and Stalinist parties in other countries which abandoned all pretence of internationalism, the German working class still clings to the ideals of communism and socialism. It is a striking fact that the percentage of votes for the “Marxist” parties is higher today than pre-Hitler. Whereas it was 40 percent pre-Hitler, it is nearly 50 percent now throughout Germany, and 70 percent in the capital. In the British General Election the vote for the workers’ parties was also approximately 50 percent.

That the Social Democrats, who even voted for Hitler in the Reichstag after the Nazis came to power in a futile effort to retain a legal existence, should not only have retained their support, but gained at the expense of the Communist Party can only be explained as the revulsion of the masses from the totalitarian Stalinist regime.

In Berlin the process is striking. Here, pre-Hitler, the Stalinists were the strongest Party—far stronger than the Social Democrats. Today, despite the overwhelming superiority of the “Socialist Unity Party” in resources propaganda apparatus, paper, etc., they were overwhelmingly defeated. The Stalinists also suffered heavy defeats in their traditional strongholds—Hamburg, the Ruhr, Leipzig and Dresden.

The German workers want socialism: but they want a genuine workers’ democracy, not the caricature of Stalinism, which has no power of attraction for those who have witnessed it at close quarters.

Schumacher, leader of the Social Democrats proclaimed the victory as one denoting the desire of “peace, freedom, democracy and socialism.” In this the reformist party received the votes, not as an uncritical approval for the policy of reformism, but because there was no alternative.

The significance of the vote for the Christian Democrats is that it confirms a trend which has developed throughout Western Europe. The defeat of the Nazis has completed the disillusionment of the middle class. The capitalists have organised the despairing middle class round the banner of “Christian Democracy” as a counterweight to the workers’ parties and to socialism. The absence of a bold revolutionary policy by the workers’ parties which could rally the middle class, has resulted in their crystallisation round this axis.

Collapse of the Nazis

However, what is confirmed by the elections is the utter collapse of the Nazis. The assiduous cultivation of the myth by the Tories, Labour and Communist Party leaders that the fascists possess a mass basis in Germany has been shown to be utterly false by this election.

The isolated deeds of terror and violence have been met with hostility from the working class. In Stuttgart, the bomb planted by the Nazis as an act against the American military government was answered by a 15-minute protest strike by 125,000 Stuttgart workers. This was not for love of the American military government, but as a warning to the Nazis.

Allies modify policy

The antagonism between Anglo-American imperialism and the Stalinist bureaucracy which has openly manifested itself since the collapse of Nazi Germany has led the Allies to modify their attitude towards the German problem.

Germany still remains the heart of Europe and her destiny largely determines the relation of forces and the destinies of the European peoples. Under stress of economic facts and the game of power politics, the Allies are abandoning the policy of Vansittartism and the “pastoralisation” of Germany. But this does not mean a change of heart on the part of the great powers; it merely means that they desire to use Germany as a pawn in the struggle for mastery over Europe, and as points of vantage against each other.

Molotov’s recent speech in favour of a united Germany, and opposing the separation of the Rhineland, which was echoed by a fervent spate of propaganda by the Socialist Unity Party for a united and centralised Reich, is a reflection of the Stalinist plans to win the support of the German masses and dominate Germany.

Byrnes’ speech suggesting revision of the present Polish frontier with Germany (which has meant the annexation of an enormous stretch of former German territory in Silesia) was the American rebuttal.

Now Bevin too has criticised the extent of the Polish annexations as a thrust against the Kremlin.

While in the Anglo-American zones industry has remained on a stagnant level, in the Russian zone reconstruction has developed under the control and for the benefit of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Taking advantage of the refusal of the Stalinists to integrate the economy of their zone with Western occupied Germany, the Allies have used this as a pretext to renounce the terms of the Potsdam Agreement. The American imperialists are even toying with the idea of a loan to Germany.

Bevin has emphasised the new policy in his latest review of foreign policy in the House of Commons. The level of industry to be allowed in Germany is to be revised on a much higher level. In the British zone, coal, steel, heavy engineering, chemicals and other heavy industry [is] to be nationalised under military government control. The Social Democrats, leaning for support on British imperialism and a Western orientation, have eagerly jumped at the hint, and while hailing Bevin’s references to industry have commenced an agitation against the unjust frontiers in the East. Thus, while denouncing the Socialist Unity Party for reflecting the interests of Moscow, the Social Democrats anxiously reflect trends of British foreign policy.

For a Communist Germany

But the disagreements between the Allies, and the attempt to balance Germany against each other, will have unexpected results for the victors. In the Eastern Zone a continuation of the revival of Germany for the benefit of the occupiers is bound to give rise to a critical mood among the masses. In the Western zone the organisation of German industry will crash on the contradictions of restored capitalist economy. It can only lead Germany to a new economic slump and collapse, as did the revival after the last war.

The nationalisation of only heavy industry under bureaucratic military control, without planning, control and initiative in the hands of the German workers, can only prepare the way for a new reaction.

The long-term effects of a restoration of industry will not be to the liking of the Allied rulers of Germany. It will restore the self-confidence and energy of the working class. It will prepare the way for their revolutionisation, particularly among the youth of the Social Democrats and Stalinist Parties. This can prepare the way for the genuine Marxist party in Germany—a mass Revolutionary Communist Party which will fight for a communist solution.

The road out for Germany lies in the integration of dynamic German industry with European economy. This would lead to an undreamed of increase in the standard of living of the German and European peoples. But it is absolutely impossible under capitalism. Only a Socialist Germany united with a Socialist Europe can bring peace and plenty to Europe.

The workers of Britain must assist the rebirth of German socialism by demanding the withdrawal of all the armies of occupation. Let the German workers deal with the Nazis and their capitalist backers. The election results demonstrate that they have the will and the desire to do so. The German workers will give short shrift to any attempt at Nazi revival if they have the power to do so.