From International Socialism (1st series), No.38/39, August/September 1969, pp.65-66.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The elections of July 1932 had put the Nazis in a very strong position, but had not put them into power. The army and big business were prepared to use the Nazis, but not as yet to hand the state over to them. Their prospects seemed to be dimming in the last months of 1932. Stormtroopers who had mobilised to take power began to become disillusioned as it continued to elude them. The hesitancy of big business was drying up the flow of money needed by the fascist machine. In the elections of November the Nazi vote fell to a figure below the combined total of the working-class parties, while the KPD continued to gain votes at the expense of the Social Democrats. When von Papen fell from office in December, Schleicher, not Hitler replaced him.
At this point two factors enabled the Nazis to reassert their control over the situation. The first was the continued ineffectiveness of the left: the Social Democrats refusing to fight back, the Communist leaders refusing to follow a United Front policy that would force the Social Democrats to fight, even if against the desires of their leaders. The second was the decision of the leaders of big business in January of 1933 to throw their weight behind Hitler.
On January 30th, Hitler was made Chancellor. This
‘... brought out what were in fact the most impressive demonstrations of the German workers’ will to resist. On the afternoon and evening of 30 January spontaneous and violent mass demonstrations of workers took place in German cities. Delegations from factories ... from all parts of the country arrived on the same day in Berlin in expectation of battle orders ...’ 
Yet the Social Democratic leaders decided that as Hitler had come to power ‘legally’ they would not strike yet. Vorwärts boasted:
‘In the face of the government and its threats of a coup d’état the Social Democrats and the whole Iron Front stands foursquare on the ground of the constitution and of legality.’
The Party devoted its energies to preventing premature resistance to the new regime.
Within a few days the paramilitary forces of the Nazis were being integrated into the state machine. SA, SS, Reichswehr and police were working together to harness the working-class parties. After the Reichstag fire of February 27th this gave way to a policy of wholesale arrests, suppression of the Social Democratic press, banning of the CP. All forms of personal freedom were suppressed by presidential decree.
Yet in the ‘terror elections’ of a week later, the working class en masse once again revealed its hostility to the government. The Social Democrats received more than seven million votes (dropping only 70,000), the Communists, four and three quarter millions (a drop of 1,200,000).
Still the SPD leadership did nothing. Despite continual threats, their leaders made brave speeches in the Reichstag – and then vowed that their opposition to the Nazi government would be ‘constitutional’. The trade-union leaders appealed to their members to celebrate May 1st in common with the Nazis as a ‘National Day of Labour’. This did not prevent the Nazis taking over trade-union offices and putting these same leaders into concentration camps on May 2nd.
Faced with Hitler’s accession to power the CP did attempt to mount resistance. Once again it issued a call for a general strike. Workers who had been told for three years that Hitler was not the major danger, and that anyway the previous governments were also fascist, did not respond. The CP and Comintern leaders were themselves still blinded by their own theories. After Hitler’s election victory the Comintern Praesidium said the ‘current calm after the victory of fascism is temporary. Inevitably, despite the fascist terror, the revolutionary tide in Germany will grow ...’  Pravda spoke of the ‘rousing success of the German Communist Party’ while Radek wrote in Izvestia (7th March, 1933) of a ‘defeat like the defeat on the Marne’ for the Nazis.  Meanwhile thousands of Communists were being thrown into concentration camps and the last elements of working-class organisation being destroyed./P>
This last piece by Trotsky was written on the first anniversary of Hitler’s victory. It first appeared in English in the Fourth International, in 1943.
12. Braunthal, op. cit., p.380.
13. Ibid., p.394.
14. Ibid., p.383.
Last updated on 13.2.2008