This is an archive of the former website of the Maoist Internationalist Movement, which was run by the now defunct Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika. The MIM now consists of many independent cells, many of which have their own indendendent organs both online and off. MIM(Prisons) serves these documents as a service to and reference for the anti-imperialist movement worldwide.
German Resistance to Hitler
by Peter Hoffman
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988)
169 pp. pb

reviewed by MC5

In the 1930s, it seemed that no one could stop Hitler. He marched into political power and through Eastern Europe. But Hitler did face some resistance from within the German people. To believe otherwise is undialectical while believing such resistance to be the majority of Germans is non-materialist. Peter Hoffman provides historical details of some of the bourgeois resistance.

Like an Amerikan politician today named Patrick Buchanan, Hitler campaigned to power initially by opposing empire. First he sought to unify the German people. Then he bumped up against England and France, which were trying to hold onto their colonies. Since Germany had no colonies, Germany had some possibility of going the communist route of sympathizing with the colonial peoples under English and French domination. Instead, the majority of German people chose to go the Nazi route, seeking to supplant France and England in international domination. This is not surprising; Lenin had already observed that a majority of Germany was petty-bourgeois and we know from history that a majority had rejected Communism before Hitler ever came on the scene. Germany had reached the decadent phase of capitalism.

Even if we count people who wanted a smaller empire than Hitler did, the German resistance was small. What Lenin called the "labor aristocracy" limited Germany's possibilities for anti-imperialism. Although Hoffman must not have liked admitting it, "declaring the revolution completed, Hitler held a plebiscite in November 1933, in which 96.3 percent of all eligible voters cast ballots, and 95 percent of those who voted approved of the government's internal and external policies."(p. 25) This was a feat by Hitler far exceeding any claim by the so-called democratic parties in Germany before or since. Hoffman says the result was fraud, but he cites no resistance to the voter fraud. Nor does he deny that the German parliament passed Hitler's "enabling" act -- which set up concentration camps and other repressions -- by a wide margin of 444 to 175 (counting 81 Communists not allowed to vote.)(p. 24) Hoffman also does not deny that in January 1935, the people of the Saar region contested by France voted overwhelming to join Germany, concentration camps, executions of communists and pogroms against Jews not notwithstanding. The people there could have kept a semi-autonomous status with democracy in name but opted for joining Hitler instead.(p. 33)

Normal elections have not produced such a turn-out or support. The plebiscite proves that the people were sick and tired of the opportunism of professional politicians lying and jockeying for power. In plebiscites, there are not two persynalities waging a battle for persynal gain. There is one persynality asking people thumbs up or down on an issue of substance.

More importantly the overwhelming success of Hitler destroys a number of stupid pseudo-theories of politics. One platitude is that Nazism is only an extremist philosophy and in fact joins up with communism in the extreme of "totalitarianism." However, if Nazism is "extremism," instead of the normal functioning of decadent imperialism in a desperate situation, how did the plebiscite gain such support? It must also be pointed out that communism had been crushed to insignificance at that point. By simple mathematics we must either acknowledge that the non-Nazis in Hitler's Germany were the extremists, or else the word "extremist" loses its meaning.

We Maoists can see that the support of the German people for the plebiscite cannot be written off as mass psychosis or extremism. Rather it is the latent possibility of any imperialist country in crisis. There is a mass base for reaction -- the labor aristocracy. When that mass base faces destruction, it does not opt for proletarian revolution as its first option. That is why Lenin was correct to speak of entire countries as parasites. It is also why the Nazis scapegoated the Jews for parasitism. The Nazis sought to divert the proletarian internationalist attack by blaming only a section of imperialist country whites for parasitism. Understanding Hitler's tactical focus on Jews, Roma, gays and other minorities helps us to understand the tactics of social-chauvinists today as well. Those who claim Socialism or Communism while attempting to isolate a section of the labor aristocracy as the sole imperialist-nation parasites are only prolonging the life of imperialism by muddying the definition of the proletariat.

Hoffman himself admits that "on the whole, at all times from 1933 to 1945 the majority of German voters, indeed of the entire population, supported the government, albeit with varying degrees of willingness."(p. 51) MIM will not marginalize such a fact. We hold the opinions of the German majority to be principal in discussing the internal politics of Germany. However distasteful these opinions may be, we must deal with the will of this alarming majority as the motive force of German history at that time.

Still, despite the situation of the majority of Germans, it would be undialectical to ignore minority resistance. There is always some and MIM-North Amerika seeks to organize that resistance, no matter how small or how much the labor aristocracy and labor bureaucracy sneer. We seek to avoid being co-opted the way Hitler co-opted the Social Democrats and Center Party of Germany. We can do so only by holding to the truth about the labor aristocracy.

In passing, Hoffman says the Marxist interpretation of the rise of fascism in Germany is wrong: 1) Hitler did not gain big business support on his way to power. 2) The resistance was real ethical resistance and not just upper class people trying to save their skins during a losing war effort.

Hoffman admits that the very meeting to arrange appointment of Hitler to the cabinet occurred in a banker's house,(p. 12) but he does not deal with the works of Marxist historians in any detailed way. The whole book seems rather thin to be even mentioning such subjects.

Hoffman is interested in the question of what counts as real resistance to Hitler and not just some officers and other elites trying to save their skins for the time when the Germans would lose World War II and see the Allies occupy Germany. Unfortunately, most of the resistance he uncovered was of the sort that sought a superior strategy for a German empire's interests. Most of the resistance was not an outright rejection of imperialist country nationalism, but a disagreement over strategy.

One of the lessons of the book concerning the exciting but failed military conspiracies to overthrow Hitler is that capitalist realpolitik is inherently militarist. Even most bourgeois historians have admitted that World War I was a product of secret treaties and strategic blocs and rivalry over colonies.

Yet according to Hoffman, throughout World War II, there were German officers making contact with the English and French seeking aid to overthrow Hitler and the Nazis. Before the invasion of Poland, England apparently blew a chance to stoke up German resistance when Chamberlain came up with the 1938 policy of appeasement which boosted Hitler's popularity internally in Germany.(p. 88) In particular, the German resistance wanted assurances of a hard stance against Hitler by England and France and of good peace terms after the coup, especially because their conspiracy would have more support if they could obtain favorable peace terms that guaranteed Germany its 1939 or 1938 borders.

Although he quotes Churchill on why it was dangerous for one of the Allies to appear to be selling out by negotiating with the German resistance,(p. 98) Hoffman does little to explain political realities of why those outside Germany did not trust the German resistance. The main organizers of resistance were enemies of the Allies equivalent to Hitler, albeit with their own agendas; and it was not always easy to distinguish a resistance conspirator from a Nazi.

A number of bourgeois authors have said that Stalin bungled by not taking every German conspirator's warnings at face-value regarding time and place of attack. Yet, Stalin ignored many such warnings before the attack came -- not just the one warning that this or that ignorant or lying scholar mentions in his/her critique of Stalin. Stalin proved to be right over 95% of the time. Hoffman leaves readers naive about the ability of intelligence officers to tell whether or not a German is really a conspirator or a loyal Nazi misleading the enemy. He also downplays the larger historical forces at work that made it impossible for England and France to accept less than domination of Germany, given their desire to retain their colonies.

We learn that there were numerous bungled assassination attempts against Hitler. The British rejected one chance in 1939 as too risky to diplomacy.(p. 108) However, the most determined and successful attempt which blew off a bomb and injured Hitler only occurred in 1944, after the victory of Stalingrad and when it seemed Germany's loss was inevitable. Hoffman acknowledges the value of the Soviet victory at Stalingrad in spurring resistance in Germany.(p. 109)

In understanding theory and the existing literature of the subject, Hoffman does not seem more than a lightweight in this book. Nonetheless, we thank him for some historical details on this subject.

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