(Trotsky 1931) Against national communism

Trotsky, Leon. Against national communism! (Lessons of the “red referendum”). 1931 Aug 25. Available from: http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1931/310825.htm.

Trotsky warns against the potentially dire consequences of equating bourgeois establishment politicians, however exploitive or repressive, with full-on fascists — a warning fulfilled in the most lurid way possible by the ascent of Hitler to power two years later. Trotsky condemns the actions of German Communist Party leader Thälmann in effectively making an alliance with the Nazis for the purpose of bringing down the bourgeois government of Weimar chancellor Brüning, at a time when public support for the Nazis was so much stronger than for the Communists that Brüning’s downfall could only lead to a Nazi takeover. Trotsky recounts how the Bolsheviks had taken the opposite approach, and made a temporary alliance with the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries against the counterrevolutionary coup attempt of Kornilov: “for the good of the cause the proletariat will always support not only the vacillating petty bourgeoisie but also the big bourgeoisie”. In a remark that offers an interesting perspective on the current 99% movement, Trotsky warns against eliding class distinctions among the masses:

The fascist Strasser says 95 percent of the people are interested in the revolution, consequently it is not a class revolution but a people’s revolution. Thälmann sings in chorus. In reality, the worker-Communist should say to the fascist worker: of course, 95 percent of the population, if not 98 percent is exploited by finance capital. But this exploitation is organized hierarchically: there are exploiters, there are subexploiters, sub-subexploiters, etc. Only thanks to this hierarchy do the superexploiters keep in subjection the majority of the nation. In order that the nation should indeed be able to reconstruct itself around a new class core, it must be reconstructed ideologically and this can be achieved only if the proletariat does not dissolve itself into the “people,” into the “nation,” but on the contrary develops a program of its proletarian revolution and compels the petty bourgeoisie to choose between two regimes.


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Last revision: December 20, 2014