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Buried history: How the spread of the Russian Revolution to Germany could have stopped Hitler

The Russian revolution of 7 November 1917, one hundred years ago today, was a profound political upheaval which put in power political leaders resolved to remove poverty, exploitation, unemployment, economic chaos, and war from Russia and the rest of the world. The Russian revolution and sympathetic revolts in Germany in 1918 helped finally bring to an end the First World War, in which 18,000,000 died.

Had the revolution spread to Germany, Hitler's Nazi Party could not have seized power in 1933 and the Second World War, in which an estimated 60 million died, would have most likely been prevented.

Title previously was: How the Second World War almost didn't happen

The Russian revolution of 7 November 1917, one hundred years ago today, was a profound political upheaval which put in power political leaders resolved to remove poverty, exploitation, unemployment, economic chaos, and war from Russia and the rest of the world. The Russian revolution and sympathetic revolts in Germany in 1918 helped finally bring to an end the First World War, in which 18,000,000 died.

Had the revolution spread to Germany, Hitler's Nazi Party could not have seized power in 1933 and the Second World War, in which an estimated 60 million died, would have most likely been prevented.

In fact, the Russian Revolution almost did spread to Germany. In 1918, 1919, 1920 and 1923 there were political upheavals which could have led to the German Communist Party (KPD) becoming the governing party in Germany. [1]

In the political upheaval of 1923, the Reichswehr [2] invaded[3] the state of Saxony on 21 October to overthrow the elected government of Premier Erich Zeigner, a left Social Democrat and to disarm workers' defence militias that the KPD was helping to organise. All over Germany, trade union councils, consisting of Social Democrats, Communists and others, had called for nationwide general strikes in solidarity with the government of Saxony against this invasion. Many trade unionists had armed themselves in order to fight the Reichswehr, the police, and Nazi militias.[4]

A conference of various local worker organisations had been called by the Government of Saxony to be held in the city of Chemnitz on the very day the invasion began. At that conference, as the invasion was proceeding, Graupe, a Social Democrat Minister of the state of Saxony, threatened that all the Social Democrat delegates would walk out if a motion to call for a nationwide general strike to defend his government was put.

Then KPD leader Heinrich Brandler lost his nerve and did not put that motion. The Federal Germany Army invasion of Saxony proceeded and Premier Erich Zeigner was arrested and imprisoned and a right-wing Social Democrat was installed as premier.

In his previous visit to Moscow on 8 October 1923 Heinrich Brandler had appealed to the Communist Party politbureau to allow Leon Trotsky to come to Germany to give him guidance.

Leon Trotsky had led the Bolshevik insurrection of 7 November 1917, had founded the Red Army and led it in the Russian Civil War against the White Russians and foreign invaders, and was a fluent German speaker. Almost certainly his presence in Saxony on 21 October would have made the decisive difference. As Isaac Deutscer wrote in "The Prophet Unarmed - Trotsky: 1921-1929" (1959) the second volume in his three volume biography of Trotsky

:

[Trotsky] asked to be sent abroad "as a soldier of the revolution" to help the German Communists to prepare revolution. The idea had not come out of the blue. The leader of the German party, Heinrich Brandler, had just arrived in Moscow; and doubting his own and his comrades' capacity to lead an insurrection, had inquired in all earnestness from Trotsky and Zinoviev whether Trotsky could not come incongnito to Berlin or Saxony to take charge of revolutionary operations. The idea stired Trotsky; and the danger of the mission excited his courage. ... he asked for the assignment.

The triumvirs (Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamanev) could not let him go. ... If he went, succeeded, and returned in triumph, he would have dwarfed them as he acknowledged leader of both the Russian and German revolutions.

So, driven by petty personal envy, Stalin, Kamanev and Zinoviev refused to let Trotsky go. Then, on 21 October 1923, as Heinrich Brandler had warned in Moscow on 8 October, the German revolution, without guidance from a leader of Trotsky's calibre, was defeated.

18 years later on 22 June 1941, the Soviet Union was invaded by the Nazi Germany made possible by the 1923 debacle and 25 million Soviet citizens were lose their lives defeating that invasion.

Footnotes

[1] See "The Lost Revolution - Germany 1918 to 1983" (1983) by Chris Harman

[2] The Federal German Army

[3] The Federal German Government had not been given permission by the elected government of Saxony to send its army into Saxony.

[4] op cit p288

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Comments

The man who stopped the general strike that could have saved the world was Georg Graupe and Pierre Broué mentions that he was the Minister for Labor in Saxony. What as Graupe's motive? Who influenced him? Do we know? What became of him during the war?

(Ref: Pierre Broué, The German Revolution, p.808-809.

Georg Braupe was the supposedly 'left' Social Democrat Minister in the State government of Saxony who managed to dissuade the assembled grass-root committee delegates assembled in Chemnitz, from taking effective action against the invasion of Saxony by the Federal German Army.

I can only assume that Braupe proclaimed himself to be left-wing in order to maintain his credibility as Social Democrat workers, who had previously stayed loyal to the Social Democrat leaders against the Communists in the crises of 1918, 1919 and 1920 and, prior to that, during the First World War that was supported by the Social Democrat Parliamentary deputies, became radicalised as they lost their jobs or saw their real wages drop during the economic crisis of 1923.