Recently, Democrat Ohio Senator, Sherrod Brown, made a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate concerning collective bargaining rights for government worker unions, defending the “middle class” and providing a world history lesson on “some of the worst governments” the world has ever seen.
These governments were Hitler’s Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union and the recently deposed Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak. While there would be little disagreement that the former two are categorized correctly, the Mubarak regime is out of place because Mubarak contributed to international stability in the tumultuous Middle East with his support of peaceful relations with the Israeli government, a stability which is presently uncertain as to its future direction under a new Egyptian government; in addition to the fact that Hitler and Stalin, despite the Soviet alliance with the U.S. and Britain during WWII, were enemies of the United States, a status which Mubarak never held for 30 years as President of Egypt. Another aspect to consider is the economic status of those nations within their contemporary world. Egypt’s status is certainly minor in comparison to Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union.
Brown stated that “one of the first things they did (Hitler, Stalin and Mubarak) was to go after the trade unions.” The historical knowledge displayed by Senator Brown demonstrates either ignorance on his part or selective revisionism in order to advance his own agenda.
For the sake of brevity this article will concentrate upon the words of Adolf Hitler in his Mein Kampf, the foundational handbook of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party, i.e. the Nazis. However, one can find similar ideologies within Stalin’s Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, i.e. the Communist Party, as the latter government followed Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto and preceded the Nazi government by sixteen years, and provided a model upon which Hitler would form his own regime and policies, including the mass extermination of the Jewish Holocaust, despite his repeated rants against Marxism because he saw it as a Jewish ideology.
Hitler concentrates on the issue of trade unions in two different sections of Mein Kampf. In Volume I, Chapter 2 entitled “Years of Study and Suffering in Vienna” Hitler describes himself, at the age of seventeen, being against trade unions because he saw them as extensions of the Social Democratic Party, whose policies Hitler seen as “its hostile attitude toward the struggle for the preservation of Germanism,” including its “courting” of the “Slavic ‘comrade.'” As one can see, Hitler is defining himself and the National Socialist movement as a different and independent organization from the Communists already established in the Soviet Union, raising the question why such a distinction must be made unless, of course, it is not obvious.
Hitler states that by his “twentieth year” of life he has had a “reversal of my first judgment” concerning the purposes of trade unions. He had “learned to distinguish between a union as a means of defending the general social rights of the wage-earner, and obtaining better living conditions for him…and the trade union as an instrument of the party in the political class struggle.”
Interestingly, this theme of the “political class struggle” through unions is also found in the Communist Manifesto which states “the real fruit of (the workers’) battles lies not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers… (where) every class struggle is a political struggle.”
The “necessity” for trade unions, according to the future Führer of Germany, would be present “as long as there are employers with little social understanding or a deficient sense of justice and propriety, it is not only the right but the duty of their employees…to protect the interests of the general public against the greed and unreason of the individual; for the preservation of loyalty and faith in a social group is just as much to the interest of a nation as the preservation of the people’s health.”
Volume Two of Hitler’s Mein Kampf is titled “The National Socialist Movement,” in Chapter 12 “The Trade-Union Question,” here Hitler, as the leader of The National Socialist German Workers’ Party asks four questions concerning his party’s relationship with trade unions:
1. “Are trade unions necessary?”
The answer to this question Hitler states he has already answered in his comments in Volume 1.
2. “Should the NSDAP itself engage in trade-union activity or direct its members to such activity in any form?”
Hitler’s answer: “National Socialism must take a position on it…. The National Socialist movement, which envisions the National Socialist folkish state as the aim of its activity, cannot doubt that all future institutions of this state…must grow out of the movement itself.”
3. “What must be the nature of a National Socialist trade union? What are our tasks and aims?
The theme to Hitler’s answer to this question is based on what is best for the “national economy” which supersedes the individual economic interests of the worker or any one union group. Worker strikes are only necessary for “so long as a National Socialist folkish state does not exist.” Also, “the National Socialist worker must know that the prosperity of the national economy means his own material happiness.” As this statement indicates, work stoppages are only tolerated and allowed as a means to weaken and dismantle Nazi opponents. Once all opponents are eliminated, strikes will be no longer tolerated under Nazi rule. Again, a similar thought and practice was instituted during the Bolshevik Revolution under Vladimir Lenin, under whom Stalin followed until Lenin’s death in 1924, whereupon Stalin assumed control of the monolithic Communist Party and the Soviet Union.
4. “How shall we arrive at such unions?”
Hitler answers this question with this premise: “A National Socialist union side by side with other unions is senseless.” In order to destroy the opposition of other unions the Nazi’s would have to decide to adopt one of two strategies. Either found their own trade unions and then “gradually take up the struggle against the international Marxist unions; or we could…penetrate the Marxist unions and try to fill them with the new spirit; in other words, transform them into instruments of the new ideology.”
When one compares the answers of these questions with an outline of Marx’s “proletariat” movement in the Communist Manifesto it becomes apparent that both Hitler’s National Socialism and the practical application of Marx’s Communism by Stalin, focuses on the elimination of personal liberty and dissenting thought in order to empower the state as the ultimate union.
How do these words of the founder of the Nazi regime and the founder of the Communist movement, which were later implemented in the Soviet Union by Joseph Stalin, compare to the language and actions of the unions protesting at the state capitols?
Hitler, Adolf. tr, Ralph Manheim. Mein Kampf. Boston: Mariner Books, 1999.
Marx, Karl and Frederick Engels. tr, Martin Milligan. Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 Karl Marx and the Communist Manifesto. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1988 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcsihznfNtU