First They Came For The Communists...

“Lenin left us a great legacy and we, his heirs, have fucked it up!” was Stalin’s comment in 1941 on being told of Hitler’s invasion of Russia. In a review of a new book, The Road to Terror - Stalin and the self destruction of the Bolsheviks, it is remarked in passing, that in contrast to the Nazis “the terror campaign [in Russia] was not very orderly. In Germany the victims were announced in advance: Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, Socialists and the mentally ill:’ (London Evening Standard 8.11.99) Now, unless they are listed under “mentally ill” Communists, you notice, don’t get a mention. The latest airbrushing follows swiftly on the heels of another new book, Fascism: Theory and Practice by SWP theoretician Dave Renton, who was taken to task in the pages of Red Action for a similar economy. Renton, had deliberately listed “liberals and feminists” first and second in order of merit in the ‘hierarchy of the oppressed’ in order, it was alleged to falsely convey the impres­sion that a) these groups were first to be targeted and b) were singled out precisely because they were front line anti-fascist fighters... Communists were, needless to say, not even placed. A common enough assumption perhaps, but the disquieting thing is the people, writing and reviewing, know different. When you consider that in the German Weimar Republic, Communist was synonymous with manual working class and we, their heirs, are being similarly ‘fucked up’, (See editorial on Searchlight) is it any wonder we’re a bit ‘chippy’!

Variously described as “essential reading”, “the highest rank of scholarship”, “the standard work superseding all others” and most tellingly for our purposes, acclaimed principally for it’s “intellectual honesty”, Hitler, by renowned historian Ian Kershaw, a scrupulously detailed 880 pages, came out only last year.

In it Kershaw explains that while for the Nazis the Jews were the ‘racial enemy’, it was the Communists, the ‘chief object of hostility’, who provided both the physical and ideological opposition. And there was plenty of it. During July 1932 alone, 86 mainly Communists and Nazis died in politically motivated street fighting. Hundreds were seriously injured. On one Sunday after­noon, seventeen Nazis were killed and sixty four (mostly Nazi) were seriously injured, when the ‘Brownshirts’ tried to march through the tough dock area of Hamburg Altona. Consequently when Hitler came to power it was as Kershaw emphases, “Communists” not Jews “who were the main targets”. It was the Communists, not liberals, who “were particularly savagely repressed. Individuals were brutally beaten, tortured, seriously wounded or killed with total impunity”.

“Around 10,000 Communists and Socialists were arrested in March and April alone. By June, the numbers in protective custody, most of them workers, (not many of them feminists presumably) had doubled?’ (our emphasis).

When “Dachau the first concentration camp was opened” it was purpose built, Himmler announced at a press conference “to hold” - wait for it - “Communists and if necessary Reichsbanner [SDP paramilitaries] and Social Democratic functionaries”. The Socialist SDP only “if necessary” note. Coincidentally, the Guardian recently reprinted a report from Dachau concentration camp from January 1, 1934, as part of their Century supplements. It makes for interesting reading, “the number of prisoners is 2,200 - 2,400. Of these about fifty are intellectuals, a few are members of the middle class, without any political affilia­tions, fifty or sixty are Nazis, about sixty are Jews, about five hundred are Socialists, two are army officers, there are several beggars and ordinary criminals, fifteen are non-German subjects and the remainder are Communists. The overwhelming majority belong to the working class”. (our emphasis)

There’s a lot more, but you get the picture. Working class communists were not just part of the fight against Adolf. To all intents and purposes they were the anti-fascist resistance.

Ah yes, you can here the liberal shriek, that’s all very well: ‘But the communists fought the Nazis with similarly violently methods, toward similar totalitarian ends, which for us disqualifies them as anti-fascists!’ From this logic Hitler can, and should, be morally held to account, for persecuting the innocent only, those who did not get involved, the mentally ill, homosexuals, Gypsies, trade unionists, Jews... not forget­ting the feminists and liberals.., those not tainted by violence.., the ones who stood idly by and did nothing! The revisionists in other words identify exclusively with those who did not fight fascism! In Russia in much the same period, priorities are reversed. Unless they are Communists, it is now dissi­dents, the more militant the better, who are applauded. Imagine any other minority being unlucky enough to find themselves the ‘chief object of hostility’, for the two bloodiest tyrants (Joe, like Adolph, began his purges within the Communist Party) in this the 20th, and bloodiest century, and this coincidence not rating a mention? A mere oversight or more to do with ‘the victors always being the ones who write history’. Instructive to observe, is it not, on what side of the wire, so to speak, liberalism stands? On the basis that those who ‘rewrite the past are condemned to repeat it’, is to my mind no reason why in the meantime, if the opportunity arises, they still shouldn’t get a slap.

Reproduced from RA Vol 4, Issue 4, Dec '99/Jan '00