Richard Scheringer (1904-1986)

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Richard Scheringer (1904-1986)

Postby admin » Mon Oct 22, 2018 3:20 am

Richard Scheringer (1904-1986)
by Historical Dictionary of Weimar Republik
Accessed: 10/21/18



Richard Scheringer, soldier; attempted to convert the army's junior officer corps to a national revolution. Born to a military family in Aachen, he experienced the occupation of the Rhineland* while living in Koblenz. In the autumn of 1922 he was erroneously sentenced by an Allied court to two months' imprisonment for mistreating a Belgian woman. Although he was soon released, the episode transformed him into a militant nationalist. Agitating in 1923 against the Ruhr occupation,* he was tried in absentia by a French military court and sentenced to ten years' hard labor. Beyond the grasp of French authorities, he joined the Black Reichswehr.* In 1924 he enlisted in the army and was promoted to lieutenant in 1928.

In 1929 Scheringer and two fellow lieutenants from the Ulm garrison tra-versed Germany in hopes of persuading other junior officers to join the NSDAP and oppose the "leftist" policies of the army command.

They aimed to render the army impotent in the event of a "National Revolution." Their scheme was uncovered after they contacted the NSDAP's Munich headquarters. Arrested in March 1930 on a charge of high treason, Scheringer was at the center of the so-called Reichswehr-Prozess (Ulm Trial) of September-October 1930. The trial gained widespread attention—especially when Hitler* testified on behalf of the accused—and helped estrange the officer corps' younger members from their superiors. Found guilty of a "treasonable enterprise," Scheringer was sentenced to eighteen months' "honorable" imprisonment. Ironically, while serving his sentence, he was converted to the KPD by a fellow inmate; the Supreme Court thereupon extended his prison term. Released in September 1933, he moved to Ingolstadt and then served in World War II as an artillery officer. After the war he was active in communist cover organizations.



Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Carsten, Reichswehr and Pol-itics; Eyck, History ofthe Weimar Republic, vol. 2.
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Re: Richard Scheringer (1904-1986)

Postby admin » Mon Oct 22, 2018 3:39 am

The Hitler Book [EXCERPT]
edited by Helga Zepp-LaRouche

... The bitter opposition between KPD and NSDAP in the Weimar Republic is well known; meeting-hall battles and terrorist attacks were a daily occurrence. But from the very beginning there existed within each camp a National Bolshevist tendency, whose influence fluctuated from year to year. Here we must also distinguish between the surges within the general population and the "theoreticians" of the Conservative Revolution, who considered themselves an intellectual elite. In spite of a certain following of their own, this elite remained aloof from events, disdainfully voicing the opinion that the National Socialists had watered down the pure theory of the Conservative Revolution, as had all the other 500 groupings and tendencies within the Weimar Republic....

The victorious powers' financial and economic strangulation of Germany first made possible the "success" of the KPD and NSDAP, both of whom benefited from the ferment against the Versailles Treaty. From the outset, both parties sought to destroy the "system," the young Weimar Republic. The de facto collaboration between Nazis and Communists in this endeavor, repeatedly took on a very practical form, and was the ultimate cause of the Weimar Republic's collapse.

National Bolshevist Dreams

Whenever the National Bolshevist tendency was on the rise within the Nazi movement, discussion quickly moved to the necessity for an alliance between Germany and Russia as the key to defeating the "West," perhaps even leading to eventual world domination by both states. Many German military people, still laboring under the shock of the outcome of the war, cherished hopes that with the aid of the Russians, their humiliating defeat might be reversed. This hope was nourished by the Russian Army's advances in connection with the 1920 Russo-Polish war. Even though the advance was soon halted at Warsaw, an even greater resurgence of National Bolshevist ideas came with the hammer-blows of the Great Inflation of 1923 and the occupation of the Ruhr, both of which seemed to threaten the very existence of the Weimar Republic. This provided such National Bolshevist tendencies as Karl Radek, the most powerful functionary on the executive committee of the Communist International and a close confidante of Stalin, with the opportunity to push through the Nazi-Communist tactical alliance known as the so-called "Schlageter course" and the tactic of National Bolshevism itself.

Ruth Fischer, who since May 1923 had been a "leftist" on the Central Committee, told a meeting of volkisch students:

The German Reich .. , can only be saved if you, gentlemen of the German-volkisch side, realize that you must fight together with the Russians who are organized with the KPD. Whoever raises the cry against Jewish capital ... is already a fighter in the class struggle, whether he knows it or not. ... Stamp out the Jew capitalists, hang them from the lamp posts, trample them to death!

The broadest-based upsurge of National Bolshevism, however, took place in 1930. The world economic crisis was reaching a climax, the soup lines were growing in length, and, in the form of the Young and Dawes plans, the victorious powers were again attempting to unload a large part of the burden onto Germany. The National Bolshevist Strasser wing of the NSDAP, hoping to make the ideas of Moeller van den Bruck, Friedrich Naumann, and Mazaryk into reality, competed with Hitler for leadership of the party. Gregor Strasser coined the catchphrase, "anti-capitalist yearning" (antikapitalistische Sehnsucht), which captured the fancy of the entire German people.

In the tradition of Radek, the KPD attempted to assume leadership of this anti-Western current, and decreed such initiatives as the "Programmatic Declaration of the KPD for the National and Social Liberation of the German People" on Aug. 24, 1930, and the "Farmers Aid Program" in the spring of 1931. Within the KPD itself, the group around Heinz Naumann sought out active contact with National Bolshevist forces on the right. This tendency was later called the "Scheringer Course," referring to the infamous Lieutenant [Richard] Scheringer, who in 1930 had been arrested for his National Bolshevist activities within the Reichswehr and who had gone over to the KPD while still in prison. The German information service DID reported in a special Jan. 30, 1983 issue that:

after his arrest, Scheringer joined up with the KPD and attempted to bring right- and leftwing radical opponents of the Weimar Republic together into a "rebels' circle." Following the outbreak of war in 1939, through the mediation of the later Field Marshal von Reichenau, Scheringer formally requested that Hitler recall him into military service as a volunteer with his old rank. As the "division's most courageous officer," Artillery Captain Scheringer now successfully turned his guns against his Communist comrades. After World War II, Scheringer's silence about his Nazi past enabled him to become a state secretary, and he dedicated himself to the task of gathering together former functionaries from the "Imperial Food Trades" in the Communist-influenced "Association for Forestry and Agriculture." Scheringer was also influential in the "Leadership Ring of Former Soldiers," whose primary task was to follow Moscow's plan to mobilize ex-Nazis and former German officers against the so-called "remilitarization of the Federal Republic." Since the "reconstitution" of the Communist Party of Germany (DKP) in September 1968, Scheringer has been an "agricultural expert" on the DKP's executive committee. The activities of this Nazi-Communist not only undermined the Weimar Republic, as they do now the Federal Republic, but the personnel of this network has remained intact down to the present day.

On Aug. 9, 1931, under Moscow's strict instructions, the KPD supported the Stahlhelm's plebiscite against the Prussian administration, and on election day, in accordance with this order, in front of every voting place there was posted a red flag with hammer and sickle, side by side with a red swastika flag. (They lost the plebiscite just the same.) One year later the NSDAP and KPD jointly supported the strike of the Berlin Transportation Union. Under the leadership of Walter Ulbricht they followed the motto that anything which weakened the West would help them, putting faith in Stalin's slogan: "Through Hitler we will take power!"

This time the National Bolshevist tendency acquired more influence over the population than before. Strasser's wing in the NSDAP, however, still could not win out over Hitler's Munich clique, and formally subordinated itself on June 30, 1930, with Gregor Strasser knuckling under and his brother Otto leaving the NSDAP entirely. In 1932, it finally came to an open break between Gregor Strasser and Hitler, and on June 30, 1934, the "Night of the Long Knives," Hitler used his own methods to end the faction fighting within the NSDAP, shooting down Gregor Strasser along with all his followers in the SA.

Once again, as in the period before World War I, the so-called theoreticians of the Conservative Revolution had a much greater long-range influence than the pragmatic Gregor Strasser, or those who thought they could accomplish something by forming a new "popular conservative" party. In the wake of the power struggle, the so-called authors of the Conservative Revolution -- the National Revolutionaries and National Bolsheviks of the Weimar Republic -- had been partially wiped out by the Nazis, partially put into concentration camps, and partially driven abroad, where they were able to surround themselves with an absurd aura of resistance. Nevertheless, today they once again represent a serious threat.
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Re: Richard Scheringer (1904-1986)

Postby admin » Mon Oct 22, 2018 3:44 am

Part 1 of 2

Chapter 13: Tango with the Devil
The Red Millionaire: A Political Biography of Willy Munzenberg, Moscow's Secret Propaganda Tsar in the West
by Sean McMeekin
© 2003 by Sean McMeekin



Chapter 13: Tango with the Devil

On 29 October 1929, a date that would soon live in infamy as “Black Tuesday,” a careening stock sell off that had begun the week before on the New York Stock Exchange turned into a rout, and panic descended on most of the world’s financial markets. An economic downturn had begun in Europe as early as 1928, drying up demand for U.S. exports and leaving few outlets for American goods when the Wall Street crash undermined domestic confidence the following autumn. The production crisis was exacerbated further by the doctrinal commitment of Western governments to the gold standard, which left central bank officials with little room to maneuver and kept credit tight. By winter 1929-30, a great deflationary spiral had ensued, in which contradictory fiscal policies pursued on both sides of the Atlantic reinforced one another, dampening demand still further. [1]

The political fallout from the Great Depression in central Europe was felt immediately. The German economy had slipped into recession even before the Wall Street crash, and the news from New York devastated the business climate even further. The Muller government, composed of an unwieldy coalition of Socialist, Catholic Center, and People’s Party ministers, was already drowning under the political burden of a burgeoning employment crisis, which threatened to bankrupt the national unemployment insurance fund. Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann of the People’s Party, who had negotiated the far-reaching Young Plan of 1929 refinancing the German reparation payments over the long term and including a pledge from the Allies to evacuate their troops from the Rhineland, died just weeks before the Wall Street crash, depriving the Cabinet of its most talented statesman. Stresemann’s death laid bare the impotence of the Muller Cabinet, which few expected to survive the difficult winter months.

If the Depression weakened the hand of political moderates in Germany, it inevitably did just the opposite for the extremists. The first beneficiaries were Hitler’s Nazis, who, along with the Communists, were the most vociferous supporters of the campaign against ratification of the Young Plan. [2] Nominally, the campaign was led by Alfred Hugenberg, the wealthy media magnate who headed a national committee promoting an anti-Young Plan plebiscite. Yet by bringing the Nazis into his coalition, Hugenberg famously made Hitler salonfahig, or socially respectable, for the first time, thereby helping ensure his own political eclipse. The opportunistic Hugenberg plebiscite, which demanded the abrogation of the Versailles treaty and made any minister who acquiesced in reparations payments guilty of treason, was resoundingly defeated in December 1929, but this did not slow the extremist momentum Hugenberg had foolishly ignited. Buoyed by the entrée Hugenberg’s embrace gave him into business circles, Hitler kicked Nazi fundraising into high gear and succeeded in winning regional elections for the first time, including the mayorship of Coburg. This success with the voters also led to a ministerial position in the Thuringian state government, into which the Nazis ominously entered in January 1930.

As in the Ruhr crisis of 1923, the Communists fed on the economic chaos no less shamelessly than did Hitler. Yet once again, the Communists fell far behind the Nazis in their recruitment efforts. In much the same way that the KPD’s confusing flirtation with fascism had alienated potential converts in 1923, Communist assaults on SPD and union leaders as “social fascists” now seriously damaged the party’s capacity to win over workers in the early days of the Depression. “To be a Communist,” Rote Fahne declared with typically savage bluster, one must be “a mortal enemy of social fascism.” [3] Such shrill attacks on an avowedly worker friendly, SPD led Muller government, struggling for its life against the forces of political reaction, were simply too much for most German workers. Astonishingly, as the Depression cast a pall over Germany and unemployment rolls soared into the millions over the winter of 1929-30, the Communists actually lost fifteen thousand members, just as the Nazi membership rolls were exploding. [4]

Declining KPD membership rolls were hardly reassuring, however, to members of the Muller government, who saw the Nazis’ inexorable expansion and the increasing stridency of Communist rhetoric as two sides of the same coin. Both parties, after all, drew on paramilitary forces for support, which at a moment’s notice could be mobilized in support of an antirepublican coup. (The SPD had its own paramilitary arm, the Reichsbanner, but this group was pledged to defend the Republic.) In truth, the Communists’ notorious M and N groups had declined significantly in strength since their heyday in the early 1920s; but if they were mobilized at the same time as Hitler’s storm troopers, the Germany army would have been stretched to the limit merely to reestablish public order, leaving the Polish border, among others, vulnerable to attack. Such was the reasoning behind the Defense of the Republic law that SPD Interior Minister Carl Severing introduced into the Reichstag on 13 March 1930 in one of the Muller government’s last desperate efforts to keep the forces of political extremism at bay. [5] Since the last Defense of the Republic Act had expired on 22 July 1929, Severing noted, assassination attempts on government officials had dangerously accelerated. Paramilitary attacks on the Socialist government of Prussia alone in 1929 had yielded fourteen police deaths and more than three hundred injuries. Though Severing clearly considered Hitler’s storm troopers public enemy number one, he took the Communists’ paramilitary Roter Frontkampferbund seriously as well, seeing in both forces a mortal threat not only to Germany’s republican form of government, but to “our entire public life.” [6]

In his (eminently plausible) depiction of both Communists and Nazis as mortal enemies of republican government, Severing provided rhetorical ammunition to the KPD’s “social fascism” argument. So often in the 1920s, laws aimed at curtailing political extremism had been applied unevenly, with the courts applying a double standard that punished the Left more severely than the Right. Whereas convicted Communist agitators often languished for years in prison, renegade right-wing generals such as Ludendorff were sometimes acquitted completely. Hitler himself got away with only a short prison sentence after gleefully confessing to attempting to overthrow the Weimar government at his February 1924 trial. And charges of politically motivated murders by Nazi storm troopers were sometimes dismissed by judges who, understandably, feared reprisals.

Thus when Severing introduced this law designed to defend the Weimar Republic against its extremist foes, it merely “proved” to Communists that the SPD was their greatest enemy. “Social fascists” like Severing, armed with parliamentary resolutions and the backing of the government, seemed more dangerous to the workers’ movement than the real fascists, even if the latter often murdered Communists in cold blood. After all, KPD foot soldiers could retaliate against such provocations by murdering Nazis – as they began to do when Nazi attacks grew more virulent later in 1930 – whereas Communist violence against Weimar government officials would now be crushed by the regular army.

In this way the debate over the law allowed Communists to flesh out the “social fascism” argument, introducing a real and present danger into a doctrine that had previously relied on hysterical claims about phantom SPD war plans against Soviet Russia. It is significant that the most vociferous parliamentary opposition to Severing’s draft law came not from the Nazis – who still had only the insignificant twelve seats they had won in 1928, as their swelling membership rolls had not yet translated into parliamentary strength – but from the much larger Communist delegation, whose raucous members smelled blood.

No one exploited this rhetorical moment more effectively than Munzenberg. Although he had never really warmed up to parliamentary life, seldom appearing in the Reichstag in his first five years as a deputy, Munzenberg was known to comrades and political rivals alike as a talented orator who could hold audiences spellbound. Several surviving pictures of Munzenberg delivering speeches in this era, taken by Nazi photographers assigned to cover Communist rallies, give a sense of the man’s demagogic firepower: Munzenberg all but glows with demonic energy, with the scorching intensity of his eyes giving sharp edge to his movie star good looks. Far more handsome than Hitler, Munzenberg nevertheless shared his contemporary’s bottomless capacity to feed off the energy of a crowd, to seem to lose himself in the passion of the moment, even while maintaining ruthless control over his ideological message (figures 4 and 5).

FIGURE 4. Münzenberg in the full flow of oratory addressing a Communist rally, circa winter 1931–32, photographed by a Nazi surveillance team. Source: Files of the Gesamtverband deutscher antikommunistischer Vereinigungen, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford, California.

FIGURE 5. Another Nazi surveillance photo taken at a rally, showing Münzenberg in calmly authoritative mode. Source: Files of the Gesamtverband deutscher antikommunistischer Vereinigungen, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford, California.

With an impeccable sense of timing, Munzenberg seized on Severing’s appearance in the Reichstag to give one of his greatest speeches. After reminding his fellow deputies that the first Defense of the Republic Act had been applied mostly against Communists, Munzenberg dismissed Severing’s claim that this law was aimed against the Nazis as “monstrous” cynicism. From Ebert and Noske to Muller and Severing, Munzenberg saw in Socialist ministers not representatives of the working class, but rather their “hangmen and prison wardens.” You “speak against the fascists,” he berated Severing, “and then [you] descend on the workers with tanks and machine guns and shoot them.”

Munzenberg, like most Communists, simply did not believe that the SPD-led “bourgeois” government really feared the Nazis. The Hitler Hugenberg accord during the anti-Young Plan plebiscitary campaign seemed proof that the Nazis, though claiming to be anticapitalist radicals, had in fact “long ago made their peace with the German bourgeoisie.” How could the Republic possibly fear a capitalist magnate like Hugenberg? And – since Munzenberg (again, like most Communists) mistakenly believed that Hugenberg now controlled Hitler behind the scenes like a marionette – it stood to reason that no Defense of the Republic Act would ever be applied against the Nazis, as “no one in the ruling classes of the Republic” could possibly gain from such repression. “For whom,” Münzenberg demanded, would the law work, and “against whom” was it intended? The answer could only be that Severing’s law defended the interests of “the Republic’s financial backers” against “the workers” and “the Communist Party.”

Having dismissed the Nazi threat as a red herring, Münzenberg proceeded to attack his true enemies—the “social fascists” who had designed the nefarious new law. Bringing back to life the ever-simmering old resentments of wartime, when Socialist leaders had transformed a party of Social Democrats into “Social Patriots” by supporting the war effort, Münzenberg traced the party’s further evolution during the Weimar years into a complacent organ of prosperous “pensioners and rentiers of the bourgeois Republic.” In its prewar glory days a militant workers’ movement, the SPD by the late 1920s represented only “well-installed bureaucrats and police chiefs,” whom the new law was obviously meant to protect against the true revolutionaries, the Communists.

Just as he had during his trial for treason after the Spartacist uprising in Stuttgart in 1919—and as Hitler had in his own treason trial in 1924— Münzenberg openly pled guilty to Severing’s charges of antirepublican agitation, and dared him to do something about it—safe in the knowledge, of course, that he enjoyed parliamentary immunity. “Jawohl,” he proclaimed, “we are a revolutionary party,” the first in German history that “had paid for its program with the blood of its martyrs.” “Jawohl,” he continued, “we are proud that the German worker is finally awakening” to fight back against oppression. We will resist any effort to suppress the KPD, he promised Severing, “with tooth and claw.” Citing a famous phrase uttered by one of the SPD’s founding fathers, Wilhelm Liebknecht, in his trial for lèse-majesté in Leipzig, Münzenberg vowed that the Communist rank and file would “oppose violence with violence.” When your laws defend a “capitalist dictatorship,” Münzenberg taunted Severing, again turning Liebknecht’s words against his own party, then “we consider it a positive duty ... to break [them].”

Spurred on by the SPD’s countertaunts that he was merely acting as Moscow’s tool (“Kronstadt 1921!” was the one most frequently heard), Münzenberg built up to an apocalyptic climax that left no doubt as to who would bear the wrath of his vengeance when the KPD took power. “You laughed at us then,” Münzenberg admonished the SPD’s almost elderly Reichstag delegation, reminding them of the ridicule that once greeted Lenin and his tiny Zimmerwald Left fraction during the war. But your “moment ... will come,” he promised his SPD enemies, just as “it came for tsardom and for German kaiserdom.” “Your ‘Defense of the Republic’ law,” Münzenberg assured Severing, “is a sign of weakness,” while for us, by contrast, it is “a spur to double our forces, to increase them tenfold.” There was no doubt in Münzenberg’s mind that the SPD was losing the war for the hearts of the working masses, who would soon all join the KPD’s ranks in struggling toward “the destruction of bourgeois class society and the realization of communism.” [7]

About one thing, at least, Münzenberg was right: the SPD-led government of Hermann Müller was too weak to defend the Weimar Republic. Over the Communists’ increasingly shrill objections, Severing’s Defense of the Republic Act did pass by a vote of 265 to 150 in the Reichstag the following week, but this symbolic triumph was not enough to save the government. Müller was, to be sure, handicapped by the stubbornness of his own party’s Reichstag delegation, which on 27 March 1930 rejected compromise legislation devised by Heinrich Brüning of the Center Party on the crucial issue of bailing out the unemployment insurance fund from bankruptcy. But Müller could have weathered even this crisis had President Hindenburg had faith in his capacity, as a Social Democrat, to uphold social order in the face of extremist threats like those issued by Münzenberg.

Knowing that Hindenburg had no intention of issuing a presidential decree on his behalf (which would have allowed him to circumvent Reichstag opposition on the unemployment insurance plan), Müller resigned. Brüning, the pragmatic Center Party moderate who had authored the compromise legislation, was now drafted by Hindenburg to replace him. Although Brüning himself had wanted to preserve the Müller coalition government, and now wished to establish his own parliamentary majority, in truth his claim to the chancellorship rested from the start with Hindenburg’s advisers, most of them (like Hindenburg) military men, who were more interested in stamping out Socialist influence on German politics than in securing parliamentary support for economic initiatives. For better and for worse, with the advent of “presidential” Cabinets such as Brüning’s, the army would now call the shots in Weimar politics.[8]

Under pressure from Hindenburg’s cadre of reactionary advisers, Brüning reluctantly ousted from the government every one of the seven Socialists who had served under Müller. For reasons still debated to this day, he also pursued a deflationary policy which, by rejecting economic stimulus or work creation measures in favor of strict adherence to international financial obligations, exacerbated the unemployment crisis further and put his government on a collision course with the SPD and the unions. [9] All of this put the Communists in an odd position, rhetorically speaking. With the SPD stripped of its power (outside of the state government of Prussia), were Socialists still “social fascists”? And of course, Munzenberg and other Communists had been cruelly taunting Muller, Severing et al. for months. Should the attacks now cease and the gloating begin? Or did the advent of a Cabinet openly hostile to Socialism herald a time for contrition and reconciliation with the SPD? Where, in short, was the enemy?

A flicker of recognition of what the Communists’ brutal assaults on Muller may have wrought can be found in the subtle shift in doctrine endorsed by the KPD Politburo the week following Muller’s fall. In the opaque phraseology of party speak, the new line, passed on 5 April 1930, was labeled “United Front from Below.” This basically meant that SPD rank and file members would no longer be overtly attacked as “social fascists,” and that their leaders, after being ousted from government, were now seen as mere “lackeys” of Germany’s bourgeois ruling classes. “Fascism” was now understood as a king of all embracing phenomenon in the German governing bureaucracy, in which “SPD lackeys” were not necessarily worse than Bruning’s coalition or the Nazis – who were no longer merely an opposition party, as they now held office in Thuringia. On the other hand, in the new doctrine Socialists were not seen as any better than the Nazis, either. [10]

One happy corollary of the new line was that Communist journalists were now free to criticize real fascists as well as imaginary ones. The threat posed by Hitler’s Nazis was formally addressed for the first time in a Politburo resolution dated 4 June 1930, which expressed concern over storm trooper terror tactics and authorized attacks in the party press labeling the NSDAP as “fascist.” [11] In his usual style, Munzenberg had already jumped out in front on this issue, launching his own press assaults on the Nazis as early as mid-May. Repeatedly during spring and summer 1930, Munzenberg ran inflammatory stories exposing Nazi brutality, leaving no epithet unused (one memorably alliterative headline compared SA storm troopers to the Ku Klux Klan). [12] The KPD’s discovery of real fascism clearly helped the party’s cause, reversing the membership declines of the preceding winter, although only about half of the losses were made up by August. [13]

The Communists’ flirtation with moral principle, however, was short-lived. With new Reichstag elections called by Bruning for September, the Nazis’ surging popularity alarmed Moscow enough that a new, more aggressive (and more cynical) doctrine was proclaimed for the KPD. On the positive side, the new line was less opaque than the last, summed up in the cardinal theme of “national liberation.” The idea was to claim Nazi issues for the Communist camp, stepping up attacks on the Young Plan and on the Versailles settlement more generally, which was now officially labeled a “thieves’ peace.” [14] Through a perverse logic of backhanded flattery, the Communists hoped to beat Hitler at his own game, must as they had aped his anti-Semitic arguments in their attacks on Jewish industrialists in the Ruhr controversy of 1923. And the early returns were promising: after railing opportunistically against reparations in the campaign’s final weeks, the KPD won 1.3 million more votes in the September 1930 elections than it had in 1928, increasing its Reichstag delegation to its greatest number yet, seventy seven deputies.

And yet, just as in 1923, Nazi gains were must greater. Hitler’s party increased its vote count by a factor of eight over the 1928 results, from 809,000 to 6.4 million, and its Reichstag delegation by a factor of ten, from twelve to 107. Nazis now outnumbered Communists in parliament for the first time, and by a substantial margin of thirty seats. The KPD “national liberation” campaign, pressed most enthusiastically in the Zentrale by Munzenberg’s friend Neumann, may even have helped the Nazis. By encroaching on the Nazis’ rhetorical turf, the Communists seemed to have played right into Hitler’s hands.

Oddly, though, the Communists didn’t see it that way. The Nazis, in spite of their electoral triumph, remained purely opposed to Bruning’s government – unlike the SPD, which saw Bruning as a lesser evil than the Nazis and agreed not to support a no confidence motion against him in the Reichstag. Thus the official Communist line labeled the Bruning cabinet a “fascist dictatorship” propped up by “social fascist henchmen.” [15] In this sense, Hitler’s gains in September were less important than the six hundred thousand votes lost by the moderate SPD to the uncompromising KPD. Such losses, in the blinkered “social fascist” worldview, left the putatively centrist but actually “fascist” Bruning regime weak and ripe for the plucking. The September elections, in this way, represented “Communism Advancing in Germany.” Munzenberg’s AIZ even put out a special issue celebrating “the electoral triumph of Red Berlin” in words and pictures. [16]

Munzenberg himself responded in much the same way in a postelection interview conducted by Hans Wesemann of the prestigious left wing cultural review Die Weltbuhne. On reading the transcript of this interview today, one is struck less by the predictable bombast about Communist gains in September than by the ideological confusion caused by the unexpected Nazi triumph. On the one hand, Munzenberg dismissed Hitler as a nonentity, calling him “little Adolf,” and spent most of the interview gloating about the erosion of the Socialist voter base. When he was asked to defend the “class against class” strategy, which had clearly weakened the SPD and possibly strengthened the Nazis, Munzenberg was unapologetic, blaming the socialists alone for disuniting the Left by opportunistically grasping at power. If the SPD were true to its “democratic and socialist” principles, Münzenberg unbelievably insisted, then it would form a government with Hitler (!) and make him “answerable” for his phony promises to the German workers. But the stodgy SPD bureaucrats would not do this, preferring instead to prop up the unpopular cabinet of Brüning, merely in order to protect the party’s precious ruling posts in the Prussian state government. Holding ministerial office was, in Münzenberg’s view, the Socialists’ true pride and joy. The SPD, he declared, would “hold onto Prussia, its sole power base, at any price.” Thus the SPD would continue to shy away from any decisive social struggle, leaving it to Communists alone to fight the true class war.

Somehow, though, Münzenberg seemed to recognize that the Nazis represented a serious threat on the political horizon, even if he was not sure quite how to meet it. In full obedience to the “class against class” line, he ruled out unequivocally any “tactical collaboration with the SPD bureaucracy” to counter the fascist threat. In part, this was because Münzenberg viewed the SPD as an enemy that the Nazis and Communists had in common. Both parties, after all, were trying to make inroads in independent German labor unions, which for the most part remained loyal to the SPD and hostile to both Red and “Brown” recruiters. Münzenberg was hardly going to “begrudge every lumpen proletarian who defected to [the Nazis] for Hitler’s free beer.” Then again, if Hitler’s Brownshirts ever took power, Münzenberg was certain they would drop their quasi-socialist rhetoric in an instant and launch their “national liberation struggle” by “thrashing the weakest segment of the [German] working classes with their truncheons.” Thus the Communists must carry out a “dual strategy,” seeking to “avert the fascist danger” even while “winning over the working masses of the SPD” to the KPD strategy of escalating the class war. [17]

At root, the contempt Münzenberg and other Communists felt for the SPD’s mostly elderly, comfortably well-paid leaders reflected a lack of respect for the Socialists’ will to fight for their beliefs—a will the Nazis obviously possessed in abundance. For this reason, there was a grudging mutual respect between the two extremist parties, neither of which hesitated to copy and learn from the other. Hitler himself admitted that, although he despised the Communists’ “boring social theory and materialist conception of history,” he had learned a great deal from their “methods,” from Lenin’s ruthless militarization of politics and demonization of political enemies to the disciplined organizational techniques and elaborate propaganda apparat of the Comintern. [18] Then there were the garishly red Nazi swastika banners and posters, which so shamelessly usurped the traditional color of the Left.

The Communists returned the compliment, both in 1923, when Radek and Rush Fischer experimented with fascist themes and Hermann Remmele tried recruiting Communists at Nazi rallies, and in 1929-30, when the KPD jumped on the anti-Young Plan, anti-Versailles bandwagon to try to rope in nationalist malcontents. It is significant that the strongest Nazi and Communist gains in the early Depression years were registered among the unemployed, who proved especially susceptible to the no holds barred scapegoating practiced by demagogues like Hitler and Munzenberg. At the time of the September 1930 Reichstag elections, as many as 40 percent of registered KPD members were on the dole. The Nazis, too, drew much of their electoral support from voters who had lost their jobs (although the extent of Hitler’s exploitation of the unemployment crisis has sometimes been exaggerated), and the unemployed made up a particularly large percentage of storm troopers, who were happy to join an organization that offered them work (of a sort – professional brawling, basically), and not infrequently, free food. Neither party, by contrast, made any kind of serious dent in the more numerous (though ever dwindling) ranks of organized and skilled labor, where electoral loyalty to the SPD was still fierce. [19]

It should not be surprising, then, that the Communists’ new covert “anti-fascist combat alliance” created in December 1930 to replace their now illegal paramilitary arm, not only mirrored the Nazi SA’s tactics but even recruited from its ranks. Among the Communist cadets Munzenberg addressed in a rousing speech at the combat alliance’s founding congress was a former Freikorps lieutenant, Richard Scheringer, who had done time at Gollnow prison for illegal political solicitation in the army. At Gollnow, Scheringer was converted to communism along with a number of his fellow inmates. Following Munzenberg’s speech, Scheringer rose up to declare his allegiance to the KPD and his readiness to take up arms against the Nazis. With Munzenberg’s help, Scheringer began publishing a Nazi opposition rag styled “The Mouth Piece of the Upright Soldiers of the German Revolution in the NSDAP.” It was not long before Scheringer began receiving letters from SA men disillusioned by Hitler’s apparent lack of revolutionary “sincerity.” Many of these disgruntled storm troopers followed Scheringer in joining the KPD. Not all would stay, however – in fact “side switching” between the two extremist parties’ paramilitary wings occurred with great frequency in the early 1930s, with some turncoats moving back and forth between the Communists’ combat alliance and the SA repeatedly. [20]

As such ideological defections by hardened street warriors suggest, the KPD’s hostility to Nazism in no way reflected a pacifist aversion to Hitler’s violent methods. The gulf between the two parties was not so much ethical in nature as eschatological. Certainly the two extremist parties reveled in publicizing atrocities committed by the other in the tactical struggle of the here and now, but for most of their leaders, it was the ends to which power would ultimately be put, not the means by which it was acquired, which really mattered. Munzenberg certainly believed this, which helps explain why, even as many of his Communist followers were being bludgeoned by Nazi thugs in the streets of Berlin, he agreed to tarry with the notorious Nazi renegade Otto Strasser in January 1931 at a friendly public debate on the theme of “National Unity or International Socialism?” [21]

Strasser’s famous break with Hitler the previous spring had been occasioned by his contempt for the Nazi fuhrer’s indifference to the “socialist” and “worker” parts of his party’s name. Unlike Hitler, Strasser actually believed in the ideal of a national socialism, in which the means of production – just as in Marxist socialism – would be turned over to the workers. In Strasser’s scenario these would, of course, all be patriotic German workers, who would still look out for the national interest. Strasser’s last illusions about the ultimate goals of Nazism were dispelled at an emotional meeting of the NSDAP leadership held in Berlin on 21 May 1930, when he learned that Hitler did not, in fact, intend to expropriate Germany’s industrialists, whose support Hitler would need to carry out his goals for military expansionism. Unwilling to abandon his socialist ideals, Strasser was expelled from the Nazi party, whereupon he tried to recruit followers into a splinter party of “revolutionary national socialists.” [22]

When Strasser and Munzenberg took the stage in Berlin’s Pharussalen on 6 January 1930 for what was advertised as a “Frank Discussion between Communists and National Socialists,” then, there was clearly common political ground to be exploited. The two men shared a passion for “socialist” ideology and for large-scale geopolitical theorizing, to the exclusion of the mundane tactical give and take of the everyday. Astonishingly, at a time when Nazi Brownshirts and Communist Redshirts were brawling in the streets and generally sowing terror wherever they went, neither man saw fit to bring up the issue of this political violence in the entire course of their exchange. Although both criticized Hitler severely, it was not out of distaste for his brutal anti-Semitism or for his goals – already published openly in Mein Kampf – of violent territorial conquest and extermination of his race enemies. Rather, their disagreements with Hitler – and with each other -- boiled down to the dialectical interpretation of current events. It was all a matter of historical eschatology, of the urgent need to predict the nature of the coming apocalypse and plan accordingly.

Significantly, Münzenberg opened his remarks by faulting Hitler for the cardinal sin of indifference to socialist doctrine. Citing Strasser’s own recollection of the words spoken at his fateful meeting with the NSDAP leadership the previous spring, Münzenberg provoked loud indignation among the Communists present in the auditorium by declaring that for Hitler, “socialism [was] only a word, which we [the Nazis] use to mislead and defraud the masses.” Since Hitler was not a serious socialist, he was not to be taken seriously. Münzenberg cruelly mocked the would-be Nazi dictator, to hearty laughs from the audience, as a clownish pretender to the Hohenzollern throne, who thought himself an “instrument of heaven,” even though all he really spoke for was the vulgar “gramophone.” “Hitler,” Münzenberg assured his rough-and-ready followers, “we can ignore. He has no worldview, has never had one, and he never will have one.”

Strasser, by contrast, actually did take socialism seriously—so Münzenberg saved his real rhetorical energy for him. By seeking to fuse nationalism with socialism, Strasser was in Münzenberg’s view “unconsciously and unwittingly” acting as the stooge of the industrial profiteers who had sent millions of German workers to death in the war, and who were now preparing “an international war against ... Soviet Russia to annihilate Bolshevism.” Hitler, on the other hand—according to Münzenberg—acted “willingly” as a capitalist tool and was for that reason less dangerous to working-class unity. “Herr Otto Strasser,” Münzenberg now counseled his adversary, to “stormy applause” from the Communist contingent in the hall, “your great political error” lies in the endorsement of “this nationalist heresy of the criminal capitalist classes” which “deceives” and “infatuates the German working masses.”

Against this assault, Strasser mustered a surprisingly game defense. English and German workers, Strasser pointed out, even when employed in similar industries, neither thought nor behaved alike. Besides, millions of workers remained completely untouched by the economic world system. There was, then, no global “proletariat,” whereas at least in Germany, one could point to a healthy population of workers with a similar cultural and political sensibility. Strasser further observed that in the world’s preeminent capitalist country, the United States, there was not a single “Marxist deputy” in either House of Congress. If “there be any among you,” Strasser challenged the Communists, “that dares [predict] that America will experience a socialist revolution at any time in the next thirty years, then I will bow down.” Tell me then, he taunted Münzenberg, how many of “America’s 120 million inhabitants belong to the Communist Party?”

In his reply to Strasser’s challenge, Münzenberg showed his hand as seldom before, openly confessing that he never expected the German workers to rise spontaneously en masse, à la Rosa Luxemburg. Rather, he was a Leninist to the core, who, though faithful to the Marxist worldview, had no illusions that the great masses of humanity would ever fully share it. Yes, he agreed, there were 120 million Americans, and only about 80,000 of them, he estimated, were Communists. But then there had been only about 100,000 Bolsheviks in Russia at the time of Red October of 1917—and that was in “a country of 150 million.” “Na ja, also!” Münzenberg’s Communist supporters now shouted at Strasser: now that’s an answer. You can’t argue with success.

Or can you? In his retort to Münzenberg’s apparent knockdown argument, Strasser offered a provocative interpretation of Bolshevism, in which Marxist ideology and political demographics were less important than personality and will. Lenin was in Strasser’s view the first “national socialist,” who, instead of “waiting until the international revolution had broken out,” had simply decided “to make the revolution himself”—in Russia. If Lenin had not thus given birth to “national socialism,” then “the tsar would still be sitting in the Kremlin.” From an ideological standpoint, Strasser argued, Trotsky was the true “Marxist,” with his focus on world revolution. But then Trotsky was a failure, whereas Lenin had achieved historical “greatness.” Lenin had decided, in Strasser’s formulation, that he “did not give a damn whether Marxist theory allows the model of socialism in one land or doesn’t allow it.” Strasser topped off this unorthodox tribute to the late Bolshevik leader with the crowd-pleasing send-off, “Long Live the Socialist Revolution!” [23]

Ultimately, no lasting cooperation grew out of Münzenberg’s flirtation with Strasser, but the episode set a disturbing precedent whose echoes would not soon dissipate. It was not merely that Münzenberg echoed the Nazis in his merciless attacks on the SPD, but that the entire world of politics seemed upside down as viewed by the Münzenberg trust, with words denuded of any logical meaning. Thus in a typical installment of Welt am Abend in March 1931, readers learned of an IAH meeting held to promote “the struggle against fascism”—a meeting at which the only “fascists” criticized were Socialist and union leaders. And one of the critics invited to give a speech attacking the “social fascist leaders of the SPD and the unions” was—“a Nazi party spokesman”! [24]

While dismissing the Nazis as cynical monarchist tools, Münzenberg spewed the bulk of his bile in the direction of the SPD. Münzenberg’s flagship FSR club, the All-German Society of Friends of Soviet Russia, even held a benefit concert in Berlin in March 1931 to raise money for—noble cause!—yet more publicity smearing Socialists for their supposed complicity in “Menshevik” sabotage in Moscow. [25]

As if this were not enough, Münzenberg next set out to discredit the last remaining “revolutionary” tradition to which the SPD adhered—May Day—by calling his own revolutionary counterdemonstration, an IAH-administered “Solidarity Day” march slated for 14 June 1931, at which no “open, brutal social fascist traitors” would be welcome. [26] The previous year, a similar IAH “Solidarity Day” march had attracted at least some interest among the non-Communist workers of Berlin, taking place as it did at the height of the short-lived spring 1930 thaw in KPD-SPD relations that had followed Müller’s fall. [27] But no such brotherly love would be extended to SPD “class traitors” this year. Among the twenty-four political parties, union cells, paramilitary groups, cultural committees, and the like Münzenberg invited to participate on 14 June, not a single SPD affiliate was to be found. [28]

As Münzenberg explained to his lieutenants at an IAH Executive meeting in Berlin on 19 May 1931, Germany’s independent unions, just like the SPD, were no longer merely “reformist” but had transformed themselves into openly “social fascist organizations.” [29] Or as he put the matter somewhat more colorfully in his formal Solidarity Day invitation to the workers of the world in Inprecorr, it was none other than Lenin himself who had taught the world during the war that “the international solidarity of the revolutionary proletariat is a fact in spite of the dirty scum of opportunism and social chauvinism.” [30]

Happily, none of the “dirty scum” from the Socialist parties dared show their faces at Münzenberg’s Solidarity Day—but then neither did anybody else. So incendiary were the attacks on “social fascism” in Münzenberg’s newspapers all through spring that the Prussian police—controlled as it was by the SPD—unsurprisingly laid down a comprehensive ban on street agitation of any kind on the planned Solidarity Day. Not even open-air concerts would be allowed in Berlin’s working-class districts on either 13 or 14 June, lest they be used as a pretext for IAH demonstrations. Humbled by his SPD enemies yet again, Münzenberg backed down, vowing to fight another day. [31]

He did not have to wait long for another chance to smite the hated Socialist class traitors. Since Hitler’s triumph at the polls in September 1930, the Nazis had been gearing up for a swipe at one of the last remaining props of Weimar democracy, the SPD-led government of Prussia. As in the anti–Young Plan campaign that had brought Hitler to national prominence, the political vehicle chosen for the assault was a cynically demagogic no-confidence plebiscite. Once more, Hitler’s key tactical ally was Hugenberg, and yet again his most vociferous rhetorical fellow travelers were Communists.

This was by no means an inevitable development. As late as 10 April, Rote Fahne was warning workers against joining forces with the “murderous strike-breaking bands of the Nazi [SA].” [32] But as the Communist assaults on the SPD grew fiercer over spring and early summer, the unthinkable became thinkable, and—after a nudge from Stalin—the KPD Zentrale chose on 22 July to throw in their lot with the Nazi plebiscite in order to weaken the Social Democrats. The SPD ministers of Prussia, Party Secretary Ernst Thälmann now declared, were to a man “deadly enemies of the working class,” and it was now the duty of all truly revolutionary workers to strip them of their power, even if they would have to team up with Hitler and Hugenberg to do it. [33]

The KPD Zentrale’s fateful decision came fairly late in the game, barely two weeks before the vote was scheduled for early August, but nevertheless the party press went all out to sell the “Red plebiscite,” as it was now styled. No one embraced the campaign more vigorously than Münzenberg, who used the plebiscite as a springboard to publish one of his most scathing assaults ever on his “social fascist” enemies in a special supplement to the 6 August 1931 Berlin am Morgen. Astonishingly, Münzenberg saved his most passionate scorn for his own fellow-traveling clients, many of whom had come out against the plebiscite. The none too subtle sub-headline of his article was “an answer to all manner of critics and know-it-alls,” whom he then dismissed in a boldface special section as “scribblers and intellectuals who fancy themselves radicals [but who] would support the social fascists Braun, Severing, Grzesinski and Co.” [34]

Most readers of Berlin am Morgen understood these words to be directed most vehemently at one former “Münzenberg man” in particular, the self-described revolutionary pacifist writer Kurt Hiller, who had just published an open letter in several Berlin newspapers accusing Münzenberg of behaving as if he “had Nazi agents in [his] central committee.” “If you personally, Willi Münzenberg,” Hiller had written his former hero, soon after the Münzenberg trust began promoting the “Red plebiscite” in late July, “swallow this decision without damage to your health, then . . . I admire your stomach.” [35]

Certainly Münzenberg’s stomach was stronger than Hiller’s. In the voluminous records of Münzenberg’s political correspondence in Moscow, I have found no expressions of soul-searching or undue concern for the precedent set by this stunning collaboration with Hitler. It may conceivably have helped Münzenberg’s conscience, however, that the “Red plebiscite” was resoundingly defeated, due in part to a poor Communist turnout, as many of the party’s rank and file refused, on principle, to vote for a Nazi-authored plebiscite. [36] Even Münzenberg’s wife and collaborator Babette Gross, who in her memoir elsewhere takes great pains to protect her husband’s reputation from any embarrassing stain of insufficiently antifascist tendencies (she avoids mentioning the Strasser meeting entirely, for example), is unable to muster up a shred of evidence to suggest that Münzenberg had second thoughts about pushing Hitler’s plebiscite. [37]

At the time, there seemed no reason to mourn the defeat of the plebiscite, which, after all, had been a setback for the Nazis as well. Besides, Münzenberg had weightier matters on his mind that summer, such as the imminent release of his anniversary tome glorifying the IAH’s first ten years, Solidarität. Münzenberg completed his introduction to this vanity volume in August, just days after the “Red plebiscite” was held. The book itself was ghosted by an NDV staffer who had been on the job since 1929, but Münzenberg was heavily involved in the editing of the proofs during spring and summer 1931. With his militant spirit unfazed by the plebiscite debacle, Münzenberg managed to slip in yet more attacks in Solidarität on the “social fascists of the Second International” who were, he claimed, struggling everywhere to exterminate revolutionary socialism and its most powerful exponent, the International Worker Relief. [38]

In addition to providing yet another venue for Münzenberg’s inexhaustible vitriol against SPD traitors and saboteurs, Solidarität was also meant to set the stage for the tenth anniversary conference of the IAH, slated for October 1931. By downplaying his controversial media “trust” and other business interests in favor of a wildly overblown emphasis on his earlier, mostly imaginary charity campaigns, Münzenberg aimed yet again to cleanse the IAH’s reputation. Not until page 493 of Solidarität was the once-ballyhooed Wirtschaftshilfe campaign of 1922–23 mentioned, and not until pages 509–21—the very last section of the book—did readers learn about Münzenberg’s one true passion, the M-Russ film studio. [39]

Rounding out the book’s dishonesty was its heavy emphasis on the recent, post-1929 militant “strike aid” initiative—which in fact as yet had barely gotten off the ground. [40] The “strike aid” label was also opportunistically backdated to apply to earlier IAH failures, such as the English miners strike fiasco of 1926. [41] Taken as a whole, Münzenberg’s Solidarität added up to an astonishingly dense farrago of lies.
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Re: Richard Scheringer (1904-1986)

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Part 2 of 2

It is unlikely, in any case, that Münzenberg expected his staffers and sympathizers to actually peruse this unreadable volume, beyond flipping through the pictures and the brief summary at the start of the book. Rather, Solidarität, like all of Münzenberg’s productions, was above all aimed at one category of consumer: the ever-revolving cadre of Kremlin funding commissars. Certainly they were expected to notice Münzenberg’s dramatic declaration that the IAH had independently “procured” the equivalent of 120 million gold marks during the organization’s first decade. [42] How this money was “procured,” of course, was not mentioned, beyond a vague flow chart, suspiciously buried on page 522, which mysteriously broke income down into “collections,” “donations,” and book and film “sales” without supporting documentation. [43]

We may surmise that the book was especially intended for the eyes of Münzenberg’s latest ECCI victim, Serafima Goptner, a Jewish Ukrainian apparatchik who had taken over Bukharin’s role as senior Bolshevik-in-ignorance in charge of approving runaway Münzenberg trust expenses. Goptner, one of the last remaining party comrades of Lenin and Stalin from the days of tsarist exile, was the lucky recipient of all manner of IAH literary ephemera from Berlin after she ascended into the Comintern Secretariat in June 1931. [44] Read by an IAH neophyte like Goptner, Solidarität might plausibly have made Münzenberg’s media trust appear to be a lucrative financial asset of the Comintern, instead of its most corrupt spendthrift.

Perpetuating this lie was more crucial than ever now, as requests for special expenses in 1931 —from elaborate preparations for the botched Solidarity Day in June (forty-one thousand dollars), to Münzenberg’s book contract for Solidarität (forty thousand dollars), to the anniversary congress (another five thousand dollars, plus per diems)—were reaching unheard-of levels, just as the forced industrialization and agricultural collectivization of Stalin’s Five Year Plan were beginning to bankrupt the Soviet economy. [45] And these elaborate expenses were on top of the nearly twenty thousand dollars a month the IAH’s Berlin Secretariat was already receiving just for ordinary operating expenses. [46] Then there was Münzenberg’s audacious request for fifty thousand dollars to conjure up an imaginary fund-raising windfall for a new “disaster” campaign taken from the headlines—an August 1931 flood in China—which he cynically hoped to showcase at the IAH’s anniversary Congress. [47]

With his expensive vanity congress serenaded by the lies of his handsomely compensated vanity book, the “Red Millionaire” was in full stride when his admirers descended upon Berlin in early October 1931. Using Kremlin cash, as always, proactively, Münzenberg leased the Sportpalast, a cavernous indoor arena in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz large enough to seat several thousand “friends of the IAH” who came from as far away as Australia. There were even two IAH reps from Iceland. Among those attending were famous fellow-traveling intellectuals like Henri Barbusse, along with hundreds of lowly Münzenberg staffers and hangers-on. No expense was spared to cover all the necessaries for the delegates, many of whom—reflecting the IAH’s demographic base—were unemployed. And although nearly half of the attendees did not formally belong to any political party, there was little doubt where they stood. [48] The hall was bedecked with enormous banners with properly militant slogans—“Red Berlin Reads Rote Fahne,” “Everyone for Red Unity,” “Against Imperialist War”—along with poster ads for Berlin am Morgen and Welt am Abend. With a powerful megaphone mounted on the rostrum, the stage was set for a great demagogic harangue.

The crowd would not be disappointed. Münzenberg soared to great rhetorical heights in his keynote speech, infecting the delegates with his peculiarly demonic brand of apocalyptic optimism. “This capitalist system,” he declared, “is on its last legs.” “Our task,” he instructed the IAH’s international cadre of functionaries, “is to speed up its collapse and force it through completely everywhere in the world.” Due to intensifying imperial rivalries, another world war was on the horizon, only this time—unlike in 1914— the workers did have a “fatherland”: the Soviet Union. Whereas for most of the 1920s, the great strategic question in London and Paris had been, “When are we going to march to Moscow?” the economic collapse of capitalism in the early 1930s meant it was now, “When will Red Moscow be strong enough for the Red Army to march on the West?”

Bombarding his delegates with a rash of imposing armaments production statistics from Stalin’s Five Year Plan, Münzenberg all but guaranteed victory over the capitalist West. “There is no longer any doubt,” he promised the IAH rank and file, “who will be the victor”—the only question remaining was “when we will triumph.” Thus whenever “fascism comes pounding on the door,” whenever capitalism’s most shameless tool, Adolf Hitler, chooses to “flaunt his power,” whenever “Hitler threatens that heads will roll”— that will be the time, Münzenberg thundered, for us to say: “Jawohl, perhaps some heads will roll, but this only raises the question, which heads will do the rolling.”

The great class war was coming. To prepare for it, Münzenberg instructed his legions, we must somehow “shake up the millions who are not yet aware.” “We must awaken their hearts and their minds,” Münzenberg explained, with “new, more cunning methods of agitation.” “Our words,” he counseled, “will grow cooler and more revolutionary, because the situation is sharper.”

In short, amateur night was over. It was time for the IAH’s employees to start acting like true Bolsheviks. “All of us,” Münzenberg promised his IAH employees and committee members, “should no longer think of ourselves as functionaries in the workers’ movement, but as the leaders of the coming German [or] French Soviet Union.” We will, he assured them without betraying a whisker of doubt, take over the armies, the police, the newspapers, and the government. We will, he declared, “fulfill the legacy” of Marx, Engels, Bebel, and Lenin by “turning resolutions into active struggle towards the destruction of the bourgeoisie in all countries.” When we have “convinced the last worker of the rightness of our cause,” he promised the IAH commissars-in-waiting, whether this takes “two years or three,” rest assured that “proletarian dictatorship [will] come.” [49]

Intoxicated by Münzenberg’s promises that they would soon share the fruits of an imminent global communist dictatorship, the IAH’s national secretaries and functionaries returned home recharged and refreshed, ready to fight the class struggle all the harder. But most of them learned rapidly that revolutionary enthusiasm alone was not enough to ignite a class war, even in the midst of a Depression. Even the most rudimentary resolution for collective action passed at the World Congress in October 1931, which established plans for an internationally coordinated Solidarity Day on 12 June 1932, proved too much for many undersized, underfinanced national branch offices to handle. [50] In Canada, for example, despite the belated distribution of thousands of Solidarity posters in early June, not a single march took place anywhere on the twelfth, not even in front of the national IAH headquarters in Toronto, where staffers cowered together inside, in fear of the police. [51]

The Solidarity Day directive failed just as miserably south of the Canadian border, where the once-mighty American Münzenberg apparat was still reeling six years after the bitter MOPR takeover. Despite some inspired cultural agitprop—Upton Sinclair’s musical The Singing Jailbirds, later performed in Vienna, was a particular highlight—the American office was now little more than an embarrassment. [52] Despite devoting months of redundant paperwork to the Solidarity Day initiative, the downsized American IAH office was unable even to advertise the 12 June 1932 festivities when the date drew near, because it had already squandered all of Berlin’s subsidies on peripheral agitprop. Solidarity Day 1932, American IAH secretary Seyman Burns found himself obliged at last to report to Münzenberg, “was everywhere in the country a total fiasco.” [53]

The IAH was not faring much better in the countries of western Europe, which Münzenberg had somewhat over-optimistically singled out at the October 1931 congress as ripe for the plucking. The puny clout of the pennyante English IAH section can best be assessed by the size of its currency transfer requests from Berlin, which were often for as little as ten or twenty pounds. [54]

The IAH was not much stronger in Belgium, where the national secretary, honest to a fault, confessed to Münzenberg that nothing much was going to happen on Solidarity Day, as he had neither the funds nor the personnel to publicize it. [55]

Nor was there much going on in Austria, where some one thousand IAH supporters marched in Vienna on 11 June 1932 to excite attention for Solidarity Day—attracting just enough notice to alert the police, who promptly forbade further demonstrations. [56]

In France, the IAH was hamstrung as always in the early 1930s, opposed not only by more the numerous “social fascists” of the French Socialist Party and the independent unions but also facing, as it always had, outright hostility from fellow Communists. L’Humanité still wouldn’t promote any campaign with Münzenberg’s name on it, and Communist union leaders would not even agree to meet with his representatives. [57]

Nevertheless, there was a flicker of life during the Solidarity Day demonstrations in June 1932, when the French IAH office managed to lure nearly twelve thousand marchers onto the streets of Paris, although they did not stay there long, quickly fleeing the police cordons emplaced in the city center. This was no great feat in the heroic annals of Parisian revolutionary demonstrations, but in the history of the IAH in France, it was almost a miracle. [58]

Back in Berlin, the revolutionary situation was more promising. Münzenberg had reminded his German IAH lieutenants at the 1931 World Congress of the glory days of Spartacus—“we once nearly had power in our hands.” In 1919, there had been no IAH and thus “there was no one to organize the power [of the workers].” Now things were different, and so Münzenberg offered a new slogan for the acceleration of the IAH strike aid campaign: “light in the mind, marrow in the bones, and fire in the belly!” [59]

Unlike the program force-fed to his Reichsabteilung during the sectarian “class against class” purges of spring 1929, Münzenberg’s bold ideas for strike aid now had force—and hard cash—behind them. Enjoying the most generous Kremlin subsidies to date, Münzenberg was able to lubricate the IAH’s domestic operations as never before. From the great metalworkers’ strike at Hanau in November 1931, to a rash of walkouts staged in Berlin that winter, which touched industries as diverse as textiles and motorcar chauffeuring, to a twenty-four-day strike at the BMW motor works in Bavaria in October 1932, the IAH flexed its newfound muscle as German class warriors. [60]

At Münzenberg’s urging, the Reichsabteilung also threw new money at the old “Red soup kitchen” initiative, with special instructions to outspend and even infiltrate Nazi-supported kitchens so as to siphon followers away from Hitler. The main goal here was to invade “Brown Berlin,” the districts where Communists had, as yet, made little headway among the unemployed. The IAH was already strong in the working-class and garment districts of the east, in Neukölln, Friedrichshain, Prenzlauer Berg, and Wedding, where it faced little opposition. The bulk of the new kitchens were organized in sections of the city that had proved most receptive to Nazism, such as Wilmersdorf, Mariendorf, Mitte (near Friedrichstrasse), Steglitz, and Friedenau. This was a bold undertaking and not without serious risk. As one of Münzenberg’s Berlin staffers noted, Nazi attacks on IAH soup kitchens and their employees were all but inevitable, and they would almost certainly never be prosecuted in the “Brown” districts of Berlin. [61]

With its beefed-up strike support system and its bold new soup kitchen offensive, the Münzenberg’s Reichsabteilung began to come into its own in 1932, scoring a number of political successes that would have been all but unthinkable in the past. Solidarity Day, for example, was for the most part a triumph, with significant marches taking place in many of Germany’s major cities. Few of the demonstrations, to be sure, could have put much of a scare into Hitler’s storm troopers. In most towns less than a thousand unarmed citizens took to the streets for Solidarity Day, many of them children. And in some cities either friendly to the Nazis (Munich) or where SPD and union strength translated into IAH weakness (Mannheim, Hanover), the turnout was negligible. Still, the results in Germany were not bad, especially in Berlin, where nearly fifty thousand marched, including some unionized workers and even a few members of the SPD’s paramilitary Reichsbanner. [62]

Münzenberg’s heightened impact on the German political scene can be measured by the fact that Hitler’s spies now began taking serious notice of his apparat for the first time. Nazi agents snapped a number of pictures of Münzenberg giving speeches at IAH rallies, and began marshaling data on the Münzenberg trust. The Nazis’ leading researchers of the Bolshevik “underworld,” Adolf Ehrt and Dr. Julius Schweickert, took special note of the new “revolutionary strike support” line laid down in October 1931, citing in particular Münzenberg’s exhortation that the IAH transform its “supply columns” into “assault battalions.” [63] Hitler’s propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels, responded tit for tat to Münzenberg’s creation of a new film club in Berlin in May 1932 by expanding his rival network of “Nazi cinemas” right into the IAH strongholds of East Berlin, paying kickbacks to “Red” theater owners who agreed to show films approved by the NSDAP. [64]

Another measure of the Communists’ increasing belligerence came during the Reichstag election campaign of summer 1932, which took place amidst unprecedented bloodshed in the streets. Fatefully, Chancellor Brüning lifted the long-standing ban on Hitler’s SA on 16 June, and the KPD’s combat alliance came out of hiding as well. By July conditions in Prussia were approaching civil war, with hundreds of Redshirt-Brownshirt clashes and assaults by both extremist groups on the police taking a toll of nearly a hundred killed and over a thousand wounded. In July, Nazi casualties even outnumbered Communist ones, for the first time ever. [65]

The violence built to a climax in Berlin during election weekend itself, 30–31 July, when in a span of barely more than a day twenty-two were killed and more than 150 wounded. [66] One might have expected in such circumstances that the Communist combat alliance would have teamed up with the Socialist Reichsbanner in order to outgun Hitler’s storm troopers. But party doctrine still squarely ruled out any collaboration with the “social fascists.” If anything, the KPD’s ideological flexibility was even more constrained in 1932 than in 1931, for Trotsky, in exile, had come out publicly against Stalin’s “class against class” tactics over the winter, and Communists were now expected to denounce him. Münzenberg, for example, publicly attacked “Trotsky’s fascist proposal to build a united SPD-KPD front.” [67] In the presidential runoff vote held on 10 April 1932, the Münzenberg trust instructed Germans to spurn the Socialists’ compromise strategy by refusing to vote for the musty old monarchist incumbent Hindenburg over Hitler as a “lesser evil.” “A vote for Hindenburg,” Münzenberg’s circulars declared in an impressive feat of logical legerdemain, is “a vote for Hitler.” [68]

For a few tantalizing moments in spring 1932 German Communist leaders, speaking as individuals, did flirt with the possibility of uniting the Left against fascism. Thälmann, possibly on his own initiative, issued a broad appeal to Socialist and Christian unions in a speech in Darmstadt on 12 June 1932 for strikes coordinated to weaken the unpopular new presidential cabinet of Franz von Papen. The same day, Münzenberg’s Solidarity Day demonstrations saw a limited number of SPD supporters, including several members of the Reichsbanner, join a Communist march in southeastern Berlin, near Neukölln. [69] On 22 June, Thälmann’s Politburo ally, Wilhelm Pieck, even hinted he might be willing to support the SPD and Catholic Center Party candidates in order to prevent the Nazis from taking over the presidency of the Prussian state parliament. [70]

But such moments were short-lived. The overtures by Thälmann and Pieck were dismissed as disingenuous by the Socialist editors of Vorwärts, and rightly so, as these “united front” gestures were later disowned by the KPD Zentrale after a reprimand for ideological heresy was issued by Moscow in late June. [71] When Chancellor Papen deposed the Prussian SPD government on 20 July 1932 on the grounds that it was incapable of maintaining public order, Communists did not raise a peep in protest. According to Babette Gross, Münzenberg did meet with the SPD’s Reichsbanner chairman, Karl Höltermann, late in the morning of this fateful July day, to discuss the possibility of staging joint SPD-KPD paramilitary maneuvers to protest Papen’s move. If this story is true, then it is not surprising that Höltermann sharply rebuffed Münzenberg, fearing betrayal by a man who, after all, had enthusiastically endorsed the Nazi plebiscite against the Prussian government the previous summer. [72]

In the Reichstag poll of 31 July 1932, the Communists reaped what they had sown. The KPD did win over eight hundred thousand new voters at the expense of the SPD, but just as in 1930, the Communists’ refusal to unite the Left allowed Hitler to gain the most. KPD thugs may have killed more Nazi thugs than vice versa in July, but in a civil war–like atmosphere Hitler’s messianic message that he would restore “order” to Germany won over millions of frightened Germans who blamed the Communists for the violence. The NSDAP more than doubled its vote count over the September 1930 results, surpassing the SPD for the first time as the strongest party in Germany, with nearly 14 million votes and 230 Reichstag seats, as against 8 million votes and 133 seats for the SPD and 5.4 million votes and 89 seats for Münzenberg’s party. More ominously, the Nazi delegation had now outpolled and could outvote the SPD and KPD put together, even though the two “worker” parties were, of course, quite far from being united. [73]

Hitler’s summer surge was alarming no matter how one looked at it, and it is hardly surprising that Stalin now moved to purge the KPD leadership. Stalin himself was, of course, ultimately responsible for the “class against class” line that was playing into Hitler’s hands, but he was hardly going to blame this line, much less himself, for the electoral results of July. Instead, Münzenberg’s friend Neumann was picked to shoulder the guilt, less for any particular policy innovation of his own than for the fact that he now had more enemies than anyone else in the KPD Zentrale. The “Neumann affair,” much like the Wittorf affair of 1928, came down in the final analysis to personalities. Inevitably, the “Thälmann-Neumann” Politburo had split into rival factions since 1928, with the brilliant young theorist Neumann teaming up with the great orator Hermann Remmele, while the duller but more streetwise Thälmann gravitated toward thuggish enforcer types like union cell organizer Walter Ulbricht and Wilhelm Pieck, a militant onetime associate of Karl Liebknecht. Although Stalin had once been quite fond of Neumann, whom he had chosen to launch the bloody Canton uprising in 1927, it was perhaps inevitable that he would ultimately side with Thälmann, a loyal organization man who (apart from the brief “united front” mistake in June 1932, for which he properly repented) had never shown much of a capacity for political independence. Neumann was ejected from the Politburo in August for the old Comintern heresy of “antiparty group activity,” and Remmele was stripped of his posts soon thereafter. [74]

In this way Stalin skinned his scapegoats for the distressing Reichstag election results, and yet again the true reasons for the KPD’s failures were swept under the rug. As if to emphasize communism’s dangerous aloofness from political reality, Münzenberg now moved to shore up his political flank by ignoring the depressing German situation almost completely. With a wary eye on Stalin’s moves against his friend Neumann, Münzenberg mobilized his entire media trust behind a questionable campaign to free the “Rueggs,” a Swiss “trade union” leader and his wife, arrested the previous year in Shanghai. In reality the Rueggs were Soviet spies from the Ukraine, traveling on borrowed passports, who had been caught red-handed ushering over fifty thousand dollars worth of Kremlin gold into China by way of eight different safety deposit boxes in Nanking. They also kept four separate apartments there and had been using no less than four different cable addresses at the Chinese Central Telegraph Office in Shanghai. [75]

The overwhelming evidence pointing to the Rueggs’ guilt did not prevent Münzenberg from trying to enlist the support of fellow travelers for their cause, including such American notables as Theodore Dreiser and John Dos Passos, who both, to their great credit, refused to bite. Among European writers, André Malraux, Bertolt Brecht, and the inevitable Henri Barbusse, unlike Dreiser and dos Passos, gullibly signed their names to Ruegg petitions and committees. [76]

The Ruegg case brilliantly illustrates Münzenberg’s capacity for ideological dissembling, which would help him survive yet another round of purges in 1932. Almost certainly, Münzenberg knew the defendants were guilty. As financial guru of the defense he paid the lawyers’ fees and received regular reports from the trial, which left no doubt how weak the Rueggs’ case was. [77]

By cranking up every single one of his newspapers on their behalf, then, Münzenberg knowingly did violence to the truth, but in doing so he left an enormous paper trail of loyal service to the Soviet espionage apparat that he could point to if Stalin were ever to claim he had been disloyal. [78]

Nowhere did Münzenberg cover his tracks more audaciously than in Inprecorr. The Comintern’s turgid official news bulletin, because read by few people outside the party bureaucracy, served Münzenberg as a kind of unambiguous public face that allowed him to camouflage any private doubts he might have had about the current political line. His ridiculously overblown article on the Rueggs was typical in this regard. [79] So was his official “Solidarity Day” invitation for 1932 attacking “social fascist war criminals” such as the Japanese Social Democrats, who were absurdly blamed for the recent “robber invasion” of Manchuria. [80] In this way Münzenberg watched his back, hewing to Comintern doctrine so cravenly in Inprecorr that no one in Moscow would be suspicious when in practice he allowed, and even encouraged, his followers to fraternize with Socialists in Berlin on Solidarity Day.

A similar tactic of dissembling was probably at work in the otherworldly Amsterdam “peace congress” of August 1932, where, despite the astonishing political advances made by Hitler in the last two years—a man who had already openly published many of his war aims, not least those involving a massive invasion of the Soviet Union—neither the civil war situation in Germany nor the Nazi threat were on the agenda. It is quite possible that Münzenberg, Barbusse, Heinrich Mann, and other notables who gathered in Amsterdam to discuss the “war danger” mentioned Hitler at some point, in informal conversation, if only in passing—but there is no evidence of this in the public record. Instead, Münzenberg, Barbusse et al. harangued legions of Communist fellow travelers about the imminent “imperialist war” to be fought against the Soviet Union, led by—of all countries— France. Because there were several hundred Socialist delegates present, Münzenberg toned down his usual nastiness about “social fascism” at Amsterdam. But in his rhetorical attacks on cowardly French imperialists, Münzenberg sounded like nothing so much as a Nazi party spokesman. Just as his commentaries on the Ruhr crisis of 1923 had eerily echoed Hitler’s, so too could the venom he and others spewed at his “peace” congress against the Versailles Treaty—that “one-sided arrangement dictated by vengeance”— easily have issued directly from the pages of the Völkische Beobachter. [81]

Just what was Münzenberg thinking? Was he really more worried about the dangers to peace posed by “French imperialism” than about Hitler’s unambiguous threats to annihilate Bolshevism? [82] Bizarre though it may seem to us today, the answer given by the historical record is an unequivocal yes.
In the months following the Amsterdam Congress, Münzenberg stormed around Europe, rousing his fellow-traveling troops to enlist in yet another round of FSR and antiwar clubs. The catch phrases of the hour in the upsidedown Münzenberg trust in fall 1932 were “Against French Imperialism,” “Down with Warmongers and Saboteurs,” and “Long Live the Soviet Union,” slogans Münzenberg expounded no less proudly in Paris than in Leningrad. [83] And why not? After all, if there were another war—and Münzenberg was hardly alone in believing that this was imminent in the heated political atmosphere of the Depression, when one-upping tariffs and trade wars threatened to split the Western world apart at the seams—then it seemed best to throw in one’s lot with Europe’s largest military colossus, the Soviet Red Army.

Certainly the danger of a Russian invasion of Germany was taken seriously by security-minded officials in the German government, who throughout the political crisis of the early 1930s were keeping very close watch on Communist propagandists like Münzenberg. He was, after all, in the pay of the Soviet government—about this few serious observers had any doubt— and the more Münzenberg’s propaganda directly serviced the needs of Soviet foreign policy, the more dangerous he seemed. Thus although the Nazis, by contrast, paid little attention to Münzenberg’s pacifist congresses—possessed as they were of a truly bottomless contempt for pacifism—the Reich Interior Ministry stepped up its surveillance of Münzenberg to its highest levels after Amsterdam, seeing in every new district IAH cell a potential Trojan Horse for the Red Army. [84]

On 1 September 1932, before Münzenberg had even returned from Holland, a phalanx of over sixty Prussian police officers raided the main Münzenberg trust offices in Berlin, confiscating papers related to the “pacifist” congresses and obtaining a list of eighty-nine key employees, who, though not arrested, were put under surveillance. [85] By the end of the year German intelligence had also marshaled evidence against Münzenberg’s new round of FSR committees, producing another list of activists, including Heinrich Mann, believed to be Soviet agents. [86] In December 1932, IAH “women’s” groups were placed under especially heavy surveillance, being seen as prime breeding grounds for dangerously pro-Soviet propaganda. [87]

The Reich Interior Ministry was, of course, keeping close tabs on the Nazi apparat as well. [88] Still, there is something disconcerting about the thought that idealistic pacifist girls had come to be seen as a prime security threat. Still more disconcerting is the thought that the Reich Interior Ministry may not have been far off the mark. For Münzenberg’s hundreds of front organizations had, by late 1932, turned into unabashed servants of Stalin’s foreign policy needs, whether or not all of the donors and committee joiners realized this. In a sense Neumann’s recent ouster had brought Münzenberg back to where he had been during the era of Bukharin’s fall from grace in 1927, when to preserve favor in the Kremlin he had first hit on the Stalin-pleasing formula of shamelessly prophesying the phantom war against the Soviet Union. The phony pacifist love-ins of Amsterdam and its aftermath were, in this sense, merely a blast from the past. The difference in 1932, though, was that the IAH’s growth in the preceding half-decade had given Münzenberg real power inside Germany, and yet, because he was forced to walk on eggshells to skirt the Moscow purges, he was wasting it.

In late October, for example, on the eve of another round of historic Reichstag elections, the Münzenberg trust preoccupied itself with, of all things, the victims of a recent flood in Manchuria. [89] Münzenberg himself was too busy tending to his flock of Moscow loyalists—many of whom had recently been evicted from their luxurious apartments on TverskaiaIamskaia or were otherwise being harassed by Stalin’s security services— to worry much about the Reichstag elections. [90] After all, his seat, as always, was secure. The beefed-up IAH “strike aid” apparatus did kick into gear in time to help Goebbels shut down the Berlin subways during the famous joint Communist-Nazi lockdown in November, but there is little evidence Münzenberg took much interest in this strike, much less expressed concern about yet another blatant display of collusion with fascism. [91] If Münzenberg did have any pangs of conscience about the Communists’ complicity in the descent of German politics into the gutter of brutal street violence, any second thoughts about toeing the Kremlin line even when it forced him to collaborate with Hitler—if he ever did wrestle with such demons, the only conclusion the historical record allows us to draw is that the demons won.

The last great propaganda monuments Münzenberg left to the world in the final days of Weimar in January 1933, his last personal testaments to that contemptible façade of “bourgeois” democracy—freedom of speech—which would soon be snuffed out entirely in Germany, were several thoroughly mendacious attacks on the recently concluded Polish-French defense treaty, and a verbatim account of a speech by Stalin celebrating the work of the Soviet secret police in exterminating counterrevolutionary wreckers, saboteurs, conspirators, “truth-smearers,” and other Menshevik enemies of Socialism. [92] Of course Münzenberg could not have known that a series of maneuvers that were opaque to nearly all Germans at the time, involving former Chancellor Papen, President Hindenburg, and Papen’s successor Kurt von Schleicher (who had himself put Papen into office) would bring Adolf Hitler to power, with all of the potential emergency power of the Reich Presidency behind him. [93] Hitler had actually lost two million votes in the November elections, whereas the Communists had continued their steady, if unexceptional, advance, gaining another seven hundred thousand or so votes from the Social Democrats and picking up eleven seats to reach triple digits for the first time, with one hundred seats altogether. More importantly for the Communists’ ability to hold onto their illusions about winning over the masses of Germany, once again the combined vote totals of the SPD and KPD outnumbered that of the Nazis, unlike in July. [94]

Right up to the fateful events of 30 January 1933, most diehard Communists believed that the workers would rise up in the end, ushering in the great proletarian dictatorship that would consign that clownish capitalist tool, Hitler, to the dustbin of history. Münzenberg was no different. Had he not prophesied such a rising at the IAH’s great “Red October” of 1931, when he had promised his foot soldiers that the great Marxist cataclysm would come to Europe, whether it took “two years or three”? The headlines from the IAH press in late January 1933 exude vigor and confidence, promising that proletarians will meet Nazi “provocations” with all the might of “Red Berlin.” [95] Even rumors of Hitler’s imminent accession to the Cabinet, which began to circulate openly around Berlin on the weekend of 28–29 January, prompted a militant vow from Münzenberg to fight the coming dictatorship of—Franz von Papen. [96]

But the workers did not rise to oppose Hitler, not on 30 January 1933 when he took office, nor on 4 February, when Münzenberg first began warning about “terror against the opposition press,” nor on 8 February—a full week after the Nazis had taken over the government—when Münzenberg finally broached the idea of a “united front” to oppose Hitler’s burgeoning dictatorship (but only if the Socialists first admitted past errors, of course). [97] Nor did the Red Army come riding into town to save the day. In the end, all Münzenberg and the Communists were left with were their Kremlin-financed newspapers, which had been crying wolf so often about phantom dangers to the German working-class that when a real wolf arrived on the scene, there was no one listening anymore. Heads would indeed be “rolling” in Germany, but it was not Münzenberg, but the man he had so cavalierly dismissed as “little Adolf,” who would be choosing the heads to roll.



1. For a provocative recent argument that attributes the Great Depression to the blind faith of Western leaders in an antiquated gold standard, see Barry Eichengreen, Golden Fetters: The Gold Standard and the Great Depression, 1919–1939 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).

2. Although the KPD was not directly involved in Hugenberg’s plebiscite campaign, the party Zentrale put through a strong resolution condemning the Young Plan, with rhetoric every bit as extremist as that coming from the Nazis, on 24–25 October 1929. Weber, Hauptfeind, 122.

3. “Kommunist sein heisst Todfeind des Sozialfaschismus sein.” Rote Fahne, 9 February 1930.

4. At the end of 1929, the party counted 135,000 dues-paying members. This number had dropped to 120,000 by April 1930. Weber, Hauptfeind, 26.

5. The original law, enacted for a duration of five years under Chancellor Josef Wirth of the Catholic Center Party in 1922, had been extended for another two years in 1927. See Heinrich August Winkler, Der Schein der Normalität: Arbeiter und Arbeiterbewegung in der Weimarer Republik 1924 bis 1930 (Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1985), 308, 678, 796–97.

6. From Severing’s speech in the 141st session of the Reichstag elected in 1928, held on 13 March 1930, as transcribed in the Verhandlungen des Reichstags. IV. Wahlperiode 1928 (Berlin: Druck und Verlag der Reichsdruckerei, 1930), 4420.

7. From Münzenberg’s speech, ibid., 4431–40.

8. For a sympathetic portrayal of Brüning’s futile efforts to form a true parliamentary coalition, see William Patch, Jr., Heinrich Brüning and the Dissolution of the Weimar Republic (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 72–117. On the army’s role behind the scenes in Brüning’s accession to the chancellorship, see Gordon Craig, The Politics of the Prussian Army, 1640–1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1955), 433–37.

9. The issue of whether Brüning’s essentially deflationary economic policies can be blamed for the depth to which the German Depression sank between 1930 and 1932— with all the attendant political consequences—has sparked passionate historiographical debate. For a summary of the controversy, see Jürgen Baron von Kruedener, ed., Economic Crisis and Political Collapse: The Weimar Republic 1924–1933 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990).

10. On the “Einheitsfront von unten” line, see Weber, Hauptfeind, 26–30.

11. Resolution cited by Weber, Hauptfeind, 27.

12. “Ku-Klux-Klan stürmt Kinderlager. 2000 Faschisten brennen IAH-Lager nieder,” Welt am Abend, 16 August 1930. See also, for example, “Drei Arbeiter heute Nacht von Nationalsozialisten ermordet,” ibid., 17 May 1930; and “Blütige Wahlschlacht. Nazitrupps überfallen kommunistische Versammlung. 70 Verletzte,” ibid., 18 July 1930.

13. The KPD membership rolls, which dropped from 135,000 to 120,000 between December 1929 and March 1930, were back up to 127,000 by August. Weber, Hauptfeind, 26–31.

14. Cited by ibid., 31. See also Thälmann’s “Programmatic Declaration of the C.P. of Germany on the National and Social Emancipation of the German People,” Inprecorr, 28 August 1930: 825–27.

15. Th. Neubaner, “Fascist Dictatorship with the Help of the Social Democratic Party of Germany,” ibid., 9 December 1930: 1178.

16. Werner Hirsch, “Communism Advancing in Germany. The Result of the German Reichstag Elections,” ibid., 18 September 1930: 901–2; and “Der Wahlsieg des roten Berlin,” AIZ 9 (39) (September 1930): 762.

17. As transcribed in Hans Wesemann, “Interview mit Willi Münzenberg,” Die Weltbühne 26 (37) (9 September 1930): 474–76.

18. Cited by Fest, Hitler, 126.

19. On KPD demographics in the Depression years, see Heinrich Winkler, Der Weg in die Katastrophe: Arbeiter und Arbeiterbewegung in der Weimarer Republik 1930 bis 1933 (Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1987), 595–600. The most thorough study of the demographics of Nazi voters, by Jürgen Falter, shows at once that the Nazis did very well among the unemployed, but that their substantial overall electoral gains between 1928 and 1932 in fact lagged behind the norm in districts in which unemployment was rising the fastest. Jürgen W. Falter, Hitlers Wähler (Munich: Beck, 1991), 296–303. See also Kershaw, Hitler, 404–5.

20. On the radical milieu in which such “side-switching” flourished, see Tim Brown’s recent University of California, Berkeley, dissertation “Constructing the Revolution: Nazis, Communists and the Struggle for the ‘Hearts and Minds’ of the SA, 1930–1935” (2000), 80–81, 175–86. On Scheringer personally, see ibid., 80–101. See also Gross, Willi Münzenberg, 311.

21. “Nationale Einheit oder internationaler Sozialismus?” This was Strasser’s formulation. Münzenberg himself re-phrased it before the debate as “Nationale Einheitsfront mit der Bourgeoisie oder internationale proletarische Solidarität und Klassenkampf ?” For Münzenberg’s own public gloss on the theme of the debate, see “Münzenberg gegen Otto Strasser,” Berlin am Morgen, 7 January 1931: 2.

22. On the genesis of Strasser’s splinter party, see Brown, “Constructing the Revolution,” viii.

23. From the transcript labeled “Aussprache zwischen Kommunisten und Nationalsozialisten in den Pharussälen zu Berlin. Dienstag, den 6. Januar 1931, abends 8 Uhr,” RGASPI.538-2-65, 1–2, 8, 10–13, 42–44, 45, 54.

24. “Der Kampfkongress gegen den Faschismus,” Welt am Abend, 9 March 1931: 2.

25. See the ad for “Grosse internationale Kundgebung,” ibid.

26. Münzenberg, “International Solidarity—Workers International Relief,” Inprecorr, 13 May 1931: 467.

27. According to a Berlin police report, “Verbot der oeffentlichen Demonstrationen und Aufmaersche zum Solidaritaetstage der IAH durch das Berliner Polizeipraesidium,” circa June 1931, RGASPI.538-2-66, 169.

28. See the groups listed in an IAH press release dated 15 May 1931 (RGASPI.5382-71, 51–52).

29. From Münzenberg’s speech as transcribed in the “Protokollauszüge der Exekutivsitzung der I.A.H. vom 19. und 20. Mai 1931 in Berlin,” RGASPI.538-2-65, 60.

30. Münzenberg, “International Solidarity—Workers International Relief.” Emphasis added.

31. Münzenberg forwarded the draconian terms of the SPD police ban to Moscow, presumably to justify having backed down from holding the Solidarity Day demonstrations. RGASPI.538-2-66, 169.

32. Citations in Weber, Hauptfeind, 40.

33. According to Weber, who has seen the transcripts of the relevant Zentrale meetings, the decision was made on 22 July after significant pressure in favor of joining the plebiscite campaign from Stalin, who was backed strongly by Molotov. Weber, Hauptfeind, 40–42.

34. Münzenberg, “Warum für den roten Volksentscheid? Eine Antwort an allerhand Kritiker und Besserwisser,” Berlin am Morgen, 6 August 1931, suppl.: 5.

35. The letter is reproduced in Hiller’s memoirs, Köpfe und Tröpfe: Profile aus einem Vierteljahrhundert (Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1950), 39–40.

36. The plebiscite received only about 37 percent support in all, and did especially poorly in Communist districts, where most voters simply stayed home. Weber, Hauptfeind, 41.

37. Gross, Willi Münzenberg, 215–16. Her account of the plebiscite campaign is more accurate than her treatment of most questionable episodes in Münzenberg’s career, but as always she tries to absolve him of responsibility with all means at her disposal. She does it in this instance by blaming the “plebiscite” idea exclusively on “the Russians.”

38. The ghostwriter, hand-picked by Münzenberg, was a certain Comrade Parwig, according to the protocol of an Executive IAH meeting held in Berlin on 2 September 1929, RGASPI.538-2-52, 4–5. Münzenberg’s drafts of his introduction, along with assorted editorial comments and suggestions, take up an entire file folder in the Comintern archives in Moscow, RGASPI.538-2-69. The final attacks on “social fascists” wound up in Münzenberg, Solidarität, 12–13.

39. “Die erste Phase der wirtschaftlichen Tätigkeit,” Solidarität, 493–509; “Die Tätigkeit der Meschrabpom-Film-A.G., Moskau,” ibid., 509–21.

40. See Düninghaus’s self-criticism delivered at the IAH German Congress that accompanied the October 1931 World Congress, RGASPI.538-2-67, 27–29.

41. See, for example, the introductory section, “Die Internationale Arbeiterhilfe und die Unterstützung von Massenstreiks und Wirtschaftskämpfen,” ibid., 25–30; and extensive sections in the body of the book, such as “Von der Katastrophenhilfe zur Streikhilfe,” ibid., 256–302.

42. Ibid., 8.

43. “Gesamtleistungen der IAH in zehnjähriger Tätigkeit 118,5 Millionen Mk.,” ibid., 522.

44. Goptner had joined the Russian Social Democratic Party in 1903, and the Bolshevik faction while exiled in Paris in 1910. After the Revolution in 1917, she assumed high office in her native Ukraine, where she served as education commissar for most of the 1920s. In 1928, after Bukharin and his followers were removed from their functions in the Comintern leadership, she was called in to Moscow to serve in ECCI. By spring 1931 she was the senior Bolshevik inside the ECCI Secretariat. It was in June of that year that Münzenberg began sending his prized advertorial items—special issues of AIZ, Solidarität, and the like—to Goptner. See, for example, Münzenberg letters to Goptner, 2 June 1931, RGASPI.538-2-66, 19; 22 June 1931, RGASPI.538-2-66, 30; 29 June 1931, RGASPI.538-266, 37, etc.

45. Misiano originally requested forty-one thousand dollars (eighty-two thousand gold rubles) for Solidarity Day in March 1931, although it is likely that much of this never made it to Berlin, once the police ban was announced. See Misiano’s letter to the Currency Department of Narkomfin, 16 March 1931, RGASPI.538-3-145, 14. On the anniversary congress, see the Russian translation of Münzenberg’s note to Rudsutak, 9 September 1931, RGASPI.538-2-66, 62 (in which the formal request for the ten thousand gold rubles [five thousand dollars] was made); and Münzenberg’s complaint that only half the money was received, lodged in a letter to Kaganovitch on 23 October 1931, RGASPI.538-2-66, 65. Ultimately this money was nowhere near enough, and Münzenberg had to dip deeply into IAH reserves, accruing debts that were, of course, ultimately paid back by Moscow.

46. See Misiano’s 12 December 1930 budget for 1931 addressed Zamestitelu Predsedatelya Soveta Narodnikh Komissarov SSSR, RGASPI.538-2-144, 88, which requests 450,000 gold rubles for the year ($225,000); and his 27 November 1931 budget for 1932, addressed to the Special Currency Commission of Narkomfin, which demands $220,000, all of it devoted to ordinary operating expenses. RGASPI.538-2-145, 23–24 (and back). Most of the $18,000 or so in monthly subsidies was to be spent in Berlin, with $3,000 going to Münzenberg’s o‹ce overhead and another $11,000 for NDV publications.

47. See Münzenberg’s note on the “Ueberschwemmungskatastrophe in China,” dispatched to Moscow from Berlin on 27 August 1931, and Misiano’s follow-up Russian language note, dated 30 August 1931 and marked “top secret,” forwarded to the All-Russian Central Council of Professional Unions, RGASPI.538-2-66, 52, 54 (and back). To all appearances this money never came through, as little attention was paid to the recent Chinese flood at the October Congress.

48. Münzenberg paid the travel expenses of most of the delegates with the first $2,500 installment from ECCI, waiting to buy their return tickets until he had received the second, according to an executive IAH memo headed “‘I. Auswertung des Kongresses,’ Vertretung in M.,” dispatched to Moscow sometime between 9 and 16 October 1931, RGASPI.538-2-66, 130–31. The $2,500 was clearly not enough to cover delegates’ total travel expenses, which ultimately totaled RM 24,494 (about $6,000). Individual IAH delegates did come up with nearly RM 21,000 (about $5,000) out of pocket for travel and other costs, but this would have o¤set less than a third of Münzenberg’s expenses for the week, which included hotel bills, paper and printing costs, the hiring of stenographers, translators, and so on. The room and board expenses for the delegates, listed in the “Gesamt-Budget” as “sonstige Ausgaben—Aufenthalts-Spesen etc.,” came to RM 34,924, or nearly $9,000. In all the conference cost over RM 66,000 (about $18,000). “Gesamt-Budget” for the October 1931 World IAH Congress, 538-1-10, 172–81. For details on attendees and their origins, see the “Bericht vom 8. Weltkongress der IAH. Berlin 1931,” RGASPI.538-2-66, 94– 97, and the attendance list at the top of the October 1931 conference protocol, RGASPI.5381-8, 5.

49. From the protocol of the October 1931 IAH Congress, RGASPI.538-1-8, 40, 49– 52, 54, 64–67.

50. A copy of this resolution is preserved in RGASPI.538-1-10, 25.

51. Letter from William Clarke to IAH headquarters in Berlin, 15 June 1932, RGASPI.538-2-81, 70.

52. See the program for the IAH’s “revolutionäre Kulturwoche” of October 1930, RGASPI.538-2-59, 130–31; and undated Austrian IAH report, circa summer 1931, RGASPI.5382-68, 56.

53. Burns letter to Münzenberg, 30 June 1932, RGASPI.538-2-81, 92–94.

54. See Isabel Brown’s telegram to IAH headquarters in Berlin, 14 June 1932, RGASPI.538-2-81, 57; and her letter to Münzenberg, 23 June 1932, RGASPI.538-2-81, 84–86.

55. Karel Van Dooren letter to IAH headquarters in Berlin, 13 May 1932, RGASPI.5382-81, 21.

56. Unsigned report from IAH Vienna, sent to Berlin on 13 June 1932, RGASPI.5382-81, 47–48.

57. See Misiano’s lengthy letter of complaints sent to PCF secretary Maurice Thorez from Berlin on 31 March 1932, RGASPI.538-2-80, 16–18.

58. See Onof letter to Münzenberg, 13 June 1932, RGASPI.538-2-81, 50–51.

59. From the transcript of Münzenberg’s speech to the IAH Reichsabteilung, 8 October 1931? RGASPI.538-2-67, 134–35.

60. “Bericht über die Hilfsaktionen der Internationalen Arbeiterhilfe bei Streiks und wirtschaftlichen Massenkämpfen seit dem 8. Weltkongress der IAH (Oktober 1931),” circa November 1932, RGASPI.538-2-66, 181–202.

61. See Berlin IAH report on “Die Solidaritätskuchen des ‘proletarischen Selbsthilfekomitees’ gegen Erwerbslosennot. Bericht vom Oktober 1931 bis April 1932,” circa May 1932, RGASPI.538-2-78, 10, 12.

62. “Bericht vom internationalen Solidaritätstag 1932,” circa June 1932, RGASPI.5382-81, 140–43.

63. Ehrt and Schweickert, Entfesselung der Unterwelt: Ein Querschnitt durch die Bolschewisierung Deutschlands (Berlin: Eckart-Verlag, 1932), 239–42. They cited Münzenberg’s words from the IAH World Congress as they were published openly in the 11 October 1931 Berlin am Morgen.

64. See Reich Interior Ministry report dated 1 July 1932, DBB, R 1501/alt St 10/57, Bd. 1, 316; and the Welt am Abend articles of July 1932, “Die Nazikinos von Berlin” and “Um die Berliner Nazikinos” (both clipped and stored in the Reich Interior Ministry files, DBB, R 1501/alt St 10/57, Bd. 1, 152 and 154).

65. Fest, Hitler, 338–39; Winkler, Der Weg in die Katastrophe, 650–51.

66. Winkler, Der Weg in die Katastrophe, 683–84.

67. Münzenberg, “Trotskis faschistischer Vorschlag einer Blockbildung der KPD mit der SPD,” Rote Aufbau 5 (4) (15 February 1932). On Thälmann’s attacks on Trotsky in 1932, see Weber, Hauptfeind, 50–51.

68. See IAH Reichsabteilung circulars Nr. 8/32 (19 March 1932) and Nr. 18/32 (4 June 1932) RGASPI.538-2-79, 27, 61.

69. “Bericht vom internationalen Solidaritätstag 1932,” RGASPI.538-2-81, 140. 70. Weber, Hauptfeind, 54.

71. Winkler, Der Weg in die Katastrophe, 623; Weber, Hauptfeind, 54.

72. Gross, Willi Münzenberg, 229.

73. Electoral results from Winkler, Der Weg in die Katastrophe, 684.

74. For a thorough, although rather biased explanation of the reasons for Neumann’s ouster in August 1932, the best source is his wife Greta’s memoir, Von Potsdam nach Moskau, 258–60.

75. From an English-language translation of the prosecution dossier prepared in Shanghai against the Rueggs, RGASPI.538-2-83, 49–55.

76. According to IAH Ruegg committee lists preserved in RGASPI.538-2-82, 35–63.

77. IAH records relating to the dubious “save the Rueggs” campaign fill no less than three entire folders, nos. 82 to 84 in RGASPI.538.2.

78. Aside from the correspondence, the three folders in the Comintern archives also contain literally hundreds of news clippings from Welt am Abend, AIZ, Berlin am Morgen, etc., relating to the Ruegg case.

79. Münzenberg, “The World Protest against the Intended Murder of the Trade Union Secretary in Shanghai,” Inprecorr, 27 August 1931: 852.

80. Münzenberg, “Proletarian Solidarity against Imperialist War Criminals,” ibid., 19 May 1932: 432.

81. “Manifesto of the Amsterdam World Congress Against Imperialist War,” ibid., 15 September 1932: 866. For accounts of the congress, including speech excerpts by Münzenberg, Barbusse, Cachin et al, see also “Einheitsfront gegen den Krieg,” Welt am Abend, 29 August 1932; “Gorki, Schwernik und Münzenberg,” ibid., 31 August 1932; “Kampfbündnis der Massen gegen imperialistischen Krieg,” ibid., 1 September 1932. For the most informative (although hardly unbiased) short secondary account of the Amsterdam Congress, see Gross, “The Parade of the Freedom Fighters,” in Willi Münzenberg, 221–27.

82. For some of Hitler’s more colorful saber-rattling threats against his Communist enemies, see, for example, Kershaw, Hitler, 339.

83. See “Willi Münzenbergs Rede vor den Pariser Arbeitern. Kampfruf gegen den kommenden Weltkrieg,” and “Willi Münzenberg vor Leningrader Arbeitern,” Welt am Abend, 21 and 27 September 1932.

84. Ehrt and Schweickert, Entfesselung der Unterwelt, for example, doesn’t even mention the Amsterdam congress.

85. Wessel, Münzenbergs Ende, 15.

86. See Reich Interior Ministry report dated 8 October 1932, “Betrifft: KPD.— Antigkriegsarbeit—Deutsches Kampfkomitee gegen den Krieg,” DBB, R 1501/alt St 10/57, Bd. 1, 253–54.

87. See, for example, Interior Ministry circular “Betrifft: Weltkongress gegen den imperialistischen Krieg (Frauenkonferenz),” dispatched from Berlin “an die Nachrichtenstellen der Länder” on 14 December 1932, DBB, R 1501/alt St 10/57, Bd. 1, 313–14.

88. Reich Interior Ministry surveillance on the Nazi movement, for example, has been used to excellent effect by Henry Ashby Turner in Hitler’s Thirty Days to Power: January 1933 (1996; London: Bloomsbury, 1997).

89. See IAH circular from headquarters to all member sections, 27 October 1932, RGASPI.538-2-80, 21–29.

90. See Münzenberg’s letter of complaint, sent to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 27 October 1932, RGASPI.538-2-80, 20 (and back).

91. On the IAH’s involvement in the Nazi-Communist transport strike, see the section labeled “BVG Berlin” for November 1932 in the “Bericht über die Hilfsaktionen der Internationalen Arbeiterhilfe bei Streiks und wirtschaftlichen Massenkämpfen seit dem 8. Weltkongress der IAH (Oktober 1931),” RGASPI.538-2-66, 200–202.

92. Münzenberg, “Keine Illusionen! Die Nichtangri¤spakte und die Kriegsgefahr,” published in both Unsere Zeit (the renamed Rote Aufbau), 5 January 1933: 6–8, and Berlin am Morgen, 8 January 1933: 4; Münzenberg, “Einige Fragen unseres Kampfes gegen den imperialistischen Krieg,” Unsere Zeit, 20 January 1933: 67; “Stalin/Ueber die GPU,” ibid., 5 January 1933: 4–5.

93. See Turner, Hitler’s Thirty Days to Power.

94. Election results from Winkler, Der Weg in die Katastrophe, 774.

95. “Mittwoch: Bülowplatz! Nach der Sonntags-Provokation der Nazis die grosse Kampfkundgebung des roten Berlin,” Berlin am Morgen, 24 January 1933.

96. “Hindenburg will Hitler zum Reichskanzler ernennen. Soll es zu einem neuen 20. Juli kommen?” ibid., 29 January 1933. 97. “Terror gegen die oppositionelle Presse,” ibid., 4 February 1933; “Einheitsfront! Der Massenwille auf der Lustgarten-Demonstration. Abg. Torgler will eine Erklärung der KPD. verlesen,” ibid., 8 February 1933.
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