Bill Hunter on the Nuremberg Trial
The following article was originally by Bill Hunter of the Revolutionary Communist Party. (The RCP in 1946 was the official British Fourth International section – not to be confused with any of the RCPs in operation today). It was published in Socialist Appeal in October 1946.
Thanks to Workers Press for the text file. It was reprinted in their 13 January 1996 issue.
Bill Hunter is still active as the UK leader of the LIT tendency. He published a short book last year about the history of the independent “blue union” in the UK docks, and is currently working on a volume of memoirs.
NUREMBERG: DEATH TO NAZI CRIMINALS
TRIAL SERVED TO COVER ALLIED WAR GUILT
THE NUREMBERG TRIAL, WHICH BEGAN ON 20 NOVEMBER 1945, HAS ENDED. GOERING, RIBBENTROP, STREICHER AND OTHERS – LEADERS OF FASCIST GERMANY, SUPPORTED AND ENCOURAGED BY ALLIED STATESMEN IN THEIR DAY – HAVE BEEN SENTENCED TO DEATH OR TO LONG TERMS OF IMPRISONMENT.
BUT SHACHT, VON PAPEN AND FRITSCHE HAVE BEEN RELEASED. THEIR GUILT, LIKE THAT OF THE BIG FINANCIERS OF GERMANY, IS NO LESS THAN THE GUILT OF THE OTHER NAZI GANGSTERS.
BUT LIKE THEIR COUNTERPARTS IN OTHER COUNTRIES, THE INDUSTRIALISTS AND BIG FINANCIERS WHO PROFITED FROM THE WAR, THEY ARE TO ESCAPE THEIR JUST DESERTS.
Battle against German workers
FASCISM systemises and accentuates all the repressive brutalities and horrors of capitalism in decay. A harassed and desperate ruling class, utilising the sweepings of human rubbish, reaches ghastly lengths of bestiality.
That much was known by every socialist worker, long before the Nuremberg trial, but the catalogue there of Nazi atrocities, of tortures, of the systematic working to death of slave labour, have served to underline it.
The working class of the world, and least of all, of Germany, have no cause for tears over the fate of the Nazi leaders. The statement of General Von Fritsch, quoted in evidence at Nuremberg, made it clear that one of the major Nazi aims was “to win the battle against the working class”.
The German workers experienced to the full that aim, experienced it in terms of tortures and executions, police repression and concentration camps.
They experienced it at a time when members of the British and American ruling class, now parading a new found love for democracy and a profound disgust of the Nazi atrocities, were to be found at Hitler’s banquets, hailing the bulwark against Bolshevism.
The real purpose of the trial
For over ten months the Nuremberg trial has run its course. It has focused the attention of a mixed array of international jurors, and the gradually waning interest of the working class.
The stated purpose of the display of legal talent, the accumulation of evidence, of accusation and counter-accusation, of film, radio and press publicity was the bringing to book of the criminals responsible for the last world slaughter.
However, it is clear, the real reason for the trial lies, not in its stated purpose. It is clear that the events in the Nuremberg courtroom during the 300 days, were a performance staged by those equally guilty with the Nazis, but at tempting to hide their guilt by hypocritical denunciations of their fellow bandits.
The balance sheet of the six years shows a tremendous expenditure. Millions of lost and shattered lives, of broken bodies and minds; and now amidst the devastation of economies, rage the followers of war: pestilence and famine.
Nuremberg was an effort, on the part of the Allies, to convince the world working class that once the Nazi leaders pay their reckoning, the account is closed.
It is an attempt to shift the blame they share completely on to the shoulders of the Nazis.
It is this real reason for Nuremberg that justifies us in calling the whole trial a farce, a hundred times more farcical than Al Capone indicting and trying Dillinger for gangsterism.
Hypocrisy of Allies
DURING this ten months, while the prosecutors of Britain, France, America and the Soviet Union, listed the sickening crimes of Nazism, world events showed the hypocrisy of the prosecuting Allies. Even while the aggressions of the Nazis were being recounted.
British imperialism was maintaining a regime of terror and oppression in Greece, suppressing the colonial peoples struggling for freedom, and strafing Indonesian villages.
The British prosecutor prated about justice. Meanwhile, Dr Kiesselbach, according to Tribune 6 September a declared opponent of de-Nazification was placed by British imperialism in charge of the German “Central Office of Justice”.
While the courtroom resounded with castigations of Nazi oppression and racial discrimination, American imperialist suppression was active in the Philippines, and lynch law was rampant in the Southern States.
The prosecutors denounced the occupation methods of the Nazis. Yet, even while the French prosecutor mouthed phrases of indignation, the agents of French imperialism were torturing the natives of Indo-China and burning their villages.
The miseries of slave labour under the Nazis were related to the court at the same time as 10 million Germans were uprooted and wandered homeless as a result of the wholesale expulsion policy of the Soviet bureaucracy. In the face of world events during the trial, who can deny that at Nuremberg, the pot called the kettle black, blackening itself still further even while doing so?
Our rulers assisted Nazis
AS THE trial dragged on, the crimes of the Nazis since 1933 were catalogued by the prosecution. That the British, French and American ruling class held up their hands in horror at the war preparations of the Nazis was a blatant hypocrisy which must have been evident to every politically conscious worker.
It is common knowledge in the labour movement – the facts have been repeated from a thousand platforms – that the British, American and French rulers gave political, financial and moral support to Hitler, regarding the Nazi barbarians as the saviours of civilisation from the menace of Bolshevism.
They assisted Hitler to strengthen himself by the seizure of Austria and Czechoslovakia for the purpose of making war on the Soviet Union. Goering taunted them for their role during this period when he declared that “all foreign governments had recognised the Hitler regime and the entire diplomatic corps came to the Nuremberg rallies”.
Before the war, the chemical, plastic, oil and rubber monopolists of America aided their German counterparts and divided the world up between them. That was shown in a recent government anti-trust inquiry in America. Gunter Reiman, in his Patents for Hitler, disclosing that Sir Henri Deterding of Royal Dutch Shell [oil company] was one of the earliest financial backers of the Nazis, gives his reasons that “he was interested in discovering those forces which would eliminate once and for all the dangers of social or colonial revolutions”.
This sums up the attitude of the British ruling class. Part of the profits of Royal Dutch Shell, together with a stream of political and financial aid, went to bolster Hitler as a barrier against revolution and for war on the Soviet Union.
It was only when it became evident to the rulers of Britain and America that German imperialism had decided to match its strength against them first, that this policy was ended. Hitler’s gravest crime in their eyes was that he double-crossed them.
Stalinists stand guilty too
THE Soviet bureaucracy also stands guilty of aiding the Nazis. Stalin's cynical disregard for the world working class, led him into the pact with Hitler.
In violation of the Leninist principle of self-determination for all nations, and open diplomacy, he made a secret agreement for the division of eastern Europe.
It was revealed at the trial that, in this pact, Hitler and Stalin defined their spheres of influence in Poland, Finland the Baltic countries and Bessarabia.
Stalin agreed not to permit an active hostile position to be taken up by Turkey, or to permit the passage of British or French warships through the Dardanelles.
We can comment, in passing, that recently Soviet propaganda against Turkey attacked her for remaining neutral during the war and taking up the very position which Stalin in 1939 guaranteed Hitler he would ensure.
During World War I, Lenin was a consistent and bitter opponent of secret diplomacy. When the Russian workers and peasants made their revolution, the Bolsheviks immediately opened the Tsarist archives and published the secret international agreements to the consternation of world imperialism.
That the Stalinist bureaucracy felt the same consternation when reminded of this pact with the Nazis was shown in Nuremberg when the Soviet prosecutor objected to it being taken as evidence as “the court was investigating the case of the major German war criminals and not the foreign policy of the Allies”.
The secret agreement divided out Eastern Europe and the Soviet bureaucracy thus covertly agreed to the invasion of Poland by Nazi imperialism. At Nuremberg, the Nazis ironically introduced evidence to justify this invasion by quoting the approving telegram which Stalin sent Ribbentrop when the pact was signed.
“The friendship of Germany and the Soviet Union is based on blood commonly shed and has all the prospects of being enduring and steadfast”. Later in 1939, Molotov could talk of the permanent friendship with Germany and sharply attack the British blockade for violating international law.
“I shall shake hands with Stalin” – Hitler
TODAY, it is the Nazis whom the Soviet bureaucracy accuse of violating international law. However, it was with these same Nazis that the counter revolutionaries of the Kremlin negotiated their secret agreement on 22 August 1939.
Hitler spoke to his commanders, stating: “Our economic position is such because of our restrictions that we cannot hold out more than a few years.” Then he declared in triumph: “Within a few weeks I shall shake hands with Stalin, and undertake with him a new distribution of the world.”
Embarrassing evidence hidden
HAD all the war criminals been on trial in Nuremberg, prosecuting and prosecuted alike would have been in the dock. In his concluding speech, General Rudenko, with almost lyrical hypocrisy, declared that on the battlefield the Allies “had determined the sublime and noble principle of international co-operation, morality of mankind and the human rules of social community”. The mud-slinging, the recriminations at the new thieves’ kitchen of the United Nations Organisation, which were a continuous background to the trial, were giving the lie to this statement even while it was being uttered.
The tribunal at Nuremberg steered a wary course, trying its utmost to prevent any echo from the squabbles at the UNO entering the courtroom. At the same time it kept a quick eye out for any revelations embarrassing to those in high places in Britain, America and the Soviet Union.
The contents of the German-Soviet pact were refused as evidence. At the same time a statement of Rosenberg's relations with the Hearst press [empire] and his communications with the ruling class of Britain was ruled out as irrelevant.
Purpose of Nuremberg: To whitewash Allies
It is evident that, during the ten months of Nuremberg, there was no real attempt to sift out those guilty of the monstrous crime against the working class, which the past six years of slaughter represent.
How could there be when those responsible for the indictment were as guilty as those indicted? The Nuremberg trials were not meant to create a basis for future peace, their purpose was to whitewash the Allied criminals.
Yet the workers can learn from Nuremberg. From the recital of the crimes and atrocities of fascism they can learn that there is no brutality or horror to which capitalism will not stoop in defending its decadent system.
And let no worker believe those brutalities could not happen here. The thin veneer of capitalist civilisation soon disappears in a capitalist state rendered desperate and endeavouring to find a way out by crushing the working class.
We must learn also that the genuine struggle against the war criminals is a struggle against imperialism the world over, and the counter-revolutionary Soviet bureaucracy.
As war criminals, responsible for the suffering of millions of the world’s workers, we must indict, not only the Nazis and the ruling class of Germany, but the landlords, financiers, monopolists and their politicians, ruling the Allied capitalist nations and with them the bureaucracy in control of the Soviet Union.
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Updated by ETOL: 22.10.2003