Hitler and the NAZIs came to power in Germany because of Stalin's insistance that the Communist Party play a disruptive role and reject any attempt at joining the moderate political parties (1933). The rising power of NAZI Germany finally convinced Stalin that the Communuists needed to join with moderate forces to make common cause against Fascism. Thus the Soviet-controlled Comitern announced a change in policy. The Seventh World Congress of the Comintern agreed to a major change in policy (1935). The new approach was to form a “popular front” with all progressive forces. This was to be a great politiocal coalition against Fascism. Communist parties around the world dutifully followed the Comitern (Stalin's) directives. The Common Front policies continued until the signing of the NAZI-Soviet Non-Agression Pact (August 1939). This was essentially an alliance between Stalin and Hitler and Communists who had been denouncing Fasism had to overnight completly change thir positions. World War II followed the signing of the Pact n a mattr of days. Communists were ordered to cease criticism of the NAZIs and labeled the War as an “imperialist” launched by Britain and France. The Communist resumed opposition to defense spending, especially in America, referring to it as “war-mongering”. Communist-dominated unions staged strikes in defense plants. Of course when the NAZIs invaded the Soviet Union (June 1941), the Communists again immeditely changed their positions.
Hitler and the NAZIs came to power in Germany because of Stalin's insistance that the Communist Party play a disruptive role and reject any attempt at joining the moderate political parties (1933). The NAZI's after the July 1932 election were the largest German political party, but did not have a majority in the Reichstag. President Hindinburg refused to appoint Hitler Chancellor and instead turned to Papen. The political situatation remain unstable. The newly elected Reichstag in eptember voted no confidence in the Papen government. The November 1932 Reichstag election results were: NAZI Party 196 seats, Social Democrats 121 seats, The Communist Party 100 seats, and the Centre Party 70 seats. The NAZIs lost a few seats, but continued to be the biggest party in the Reichstag. Hitler continued to demand to be appointed Chancellor, Hindenberg refused saying that he said he did not trust Hitler to rule democratically. Hindenberg preferred Papen, but the Army objected. Hindenberg turned to General Kurt von Schleicher who lasted 57 days. Finally Hidenberg, running out of options, turned to Hitler whom he appointed January 30, 1933. Hidenberg attempted to control Hitler by placing Papen as vice-chancellor and surrounding Hitler with moderate ministers who supported Papen. Hitler bycarefully selecting his cabinent posts was within days gaining control. To be sure of success, however, he needed a mahority in the Reichstag. He insisted on a new election. In the middle of the elections the Reichstag went up in flames on Februarry 27, 1933. A Dutch Communist was blamed. Historins still debate who was responsible. Many blamed the NAZIs, but it appears that neither they or the Communist Party was responsible. [Davidson, pp. 17-22.] Hitler took full advantage of the situation and claimed that the fire was a Communist plot, and persuaded Hindenberg to sign an emergency Law for the Protection of the People and State. The law suspended people's rights and allowed the Nazis to arrest many Communists and others. Fear of Communism gained the NAZIs additional support at the polls. The March 1933 election results were: NAZI Party 288 seats, Social Democrats 120 seats, Communist Party 81 seats, Centre Party 73 seats, and Others 85 seats. The NAZIs still did not have a majority. Over half of the voters chose other parties. The Nationalist Party, however, decided to support the NAZIs. Their 53 deputies added to the 288 NAZI deputies provided the slim majority Hitler needed. Hitler immediately put an Enabling Act before the Reichstag and asked the members to vote for it. The Enabling Law (the NAZIs called it the Law for the Removal of Distress frommPeople and Reich) gave Hitler as Chancellor the power to make laws by decree for the next 4 years without Reichstag approval. NAZI SA storm troopers lined the entrance to the Reichstag to intimidate the opposition delegated. Only 94 members Social Democrat deputies (the Communists had been arrested) voted against the Enabling Law. Hitler now had the legal authority to reshape Germany.
League of Nations (1933)
Hitler upon seizing power launched a major rearmament program. As it was a complete violation of the Versailles Agreement, it was a first done in secret. Reports on what was happening soon reacged Stalin. Given Hitler's vitriolic tirades against Bolshevism and repeated references to Lebensraum living space), it was obvious thatva rearmed Germany posed a mortal threat to the Soviet Union. The rising power of NAZI Germany finally convinced Stalin that the Communuists needed to join with moderate forces to make common cause against Fascism. Reports werecalso reaching the Allies. Hitler in large measure confirmed his intentions when he reinstituted conscription, a clear violation of the Versailles Treaty.
At the time that Hitler and the NAZIs seized power in Germany, they were vulnerable. They had many domestic political opponents, a free press, and an independent judiciary. In addition, the German military was militarily weak. Thus the Allies could have intervened in Germany and reestanlished democratic rule. Hitler needed to play a careful political and diplomatic game. His tactics were to dividecand conquer. First he disposed of the Communits and then went after the Socisalists while for a while tolerating the Catholics. Use of the police and opening of concentratioin camps soon silenced press opposition and brought the courts under NAZI control. All thre while he courted the military with a secret rearmament program. To allow him time to gain mastery of Germany, he projected a new moderate kmage, signing treaties with Poland and Britain and assuring France that he had no designs on French territory.
The Comintern was the Communist Third Internationl which was formed in Moscow (1919). It purpose was to lead and coordinate the world socialist movement. At the time it was formed, national Socialist parties were largely independent. The Bloshevicks sought to gain control of the world Socialis movement. This effort gained momentus as Stalin gained cointrol in the Soviet Union. It also lead to the splintering of the Socilist movement into Communist Parties largely under the control of the Soviet Union and Socialist Parties (under various names) more independent and wuilling to work within a democratic political structure. Comminist parties by the 1930s were largely under Soviet control. Formal German and Japanese cooperation began with the Anti-Comintern Pact (1936). The Soviets disolved the Comintern during Woirld War II to reassure its Western Allies (1943). This of course was only a cometic measure.
Thus the Soviet-controlled Comitern announced a change in policy. The Seventh World Congress of the Comintern agreed to a major change in policy (1935). The new approach was to form a “popular front” with all progressive forces. This was to be a great politiocal coalition against Fascism. Communist parties around the world dutifully followed the Comitern (Stalin's) directives.
The iniitial sentiment in the Allied Nation after the War was one of elation. But this soon changed as ar elization of the cost set in with the public, especially the huge casualties. Anti-war sentiment grew. The "Never again" sentiment became prounounced. One aspect of the growing anti-war sentiment was a declining appreciation of the military. In the wake of the World War I disaster, anti-militarism grew in both Europe and in America. This sentiment was one of the major reasons that Britain and France did not effectively contront the NAZIs. Men like Baldwin and Chamberlain were unwilling to either prepare for War or even fight the war agressively. Even Churchill was very cautious about casualties. Hitler understood better perhaps than anyone in Europe that democratic governments would avoid war so as to avoid casualties. This was a calculation that did not burden him or for that matter Stalin. American attitudes were in part pacifism , but and even stroinger sentiment was a desire to disassociate from Europe which was seen as the source of endless political strife. Pacifism was an elemement in isolationist sentiment in America. The Congress launched a major investigation designed to prove that American arms manufacturers had help involve the United States in the War. It is ironic that the industry that would save Western civilization was during the inter-wars year was being being investigated for disloyalty by Congress. The Committee became known as the Dyes Committee led by Congressman Martin Dyes. After a huge investigation, no evidence was found to justify the charges. Public opinion in America remained staunchly against involvement in World war II until Pearl Harbor. While Socialist inspired pacifism had weakened the Allied response to Hitler, socialist leaders in Germany and occupied countries were targeted by the NAZIs. Some how Hitler and the nationalists managed to shift the war blame from German militarists to the Socialist politicans who signed the peace. Anti-war feeling was string in Germany after the War, but so was resentment toward the Versailles treaty. The future of Germany would be decided on which of these two sentiments would prevail. The anti-war book and film All Quiet on the Western Front was hugely popular in Germany. At the same time ultra-nationlist poltical parties developed a considerable following, especially after the onset of the Depression. The Socialists warned that Hitler and the NAZIs would bring war. And they were right. Even so, after 6 years of NAZI propaganda, were not enthusiastic as Hitler moved Germany toward war.
National Communist paties persued the new Popular Fromt policies in many countries.
The mid-1930s in France were a time of great political unrest. There
were many strikes, and totalitarian regimes were coming to the fore in
Europe. The most important Popular Front goverment was fomed in France. The Popular Front (Front Populaire) was an alliance of left-wing political parties that came into power in France following the 1936 elections. Its leader was Léon Blum. Blum was France's first socialist premier. A wave of strikes swept France (1936). Blum tried to improve the living conditions of the working class, nationalized the trains and the Bank of France, and controlled the price of grain, but prices shot up anyway and runaway inflation resulted affecting his popularity. The Popular Front's efforts to deal with the Depression generally failed. Despite the opposition to Fascism, the Popular Front Government refused to intervene in the Spanish Civil War which also began in 1936. Blum and the Popular Front Government failed in addressing the challenge of Hitler and the NAZIs or in preparing France for war. After the NAZI victory and the fall of France (1940), Blum was arrested by Vichy officials and tried for treason. He was confined in a NAZI concentration camp until liberated by the Allies (1945). One historian suggests viewing the Popular Front on three levels - as a mass movement, political coalition and government. The Political Front is often seen as an essentially political development, but a more accuratecview is a a political, social, and cultural phenomenon which sought to break down social barriers in still highly stratified French society. [Jackson] Despites its economic failures and ultimate defeat by the NAZIs, the Popular Front has an enormous cultural cache in modern France. The photograph here was taken on Mardi Gras or "Fat Tuesday"--the day before Ash
Wednesday and the beginning of Lent (figure 1). The photograph was taken in Paris
March 6, 1935 a yer before the formation of the Popular Front. Mardi Gras is also known in many countries as "Carnival"--a time
of revelry before the Lenten fast begins. It is often chaacterized by people
disguising themselves in outrageous costumes and wearing comic masks. Here we
see a group of Parisian school boys dressed in typical schoolboy short pant
suits, dark knee socks, and hightop shoes. One of the boys wears a pullover
sweater instead of a jacket and the boys at the bottom of the stair railing
seem to be wearing more informal jackets rather than formal suits. Note that
one of these more informally dressed boys has his knee socks fallen down to
his ankles whereas his mate is the only boy in the group to wear long
trousers. The masks that the boys are wearing as a kind of Mardi Gras joke
represent authoritarian politicians of the day. Highest up on the staircase
we have the mask of Adolph Hitler (who was already much disliked in Paris).
Next to the boy mocking Hitler is a boy with a mask of Leon Blum, the leader
of the Socilist Part who formed the Popular Front in 1936.
Another important Popular Front government was organized in Spain. The Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) in 1931 and again participated in a coalition government with moderate progressuive parties.
The Americn Communist Party (CPA) has been vociferously criticizing Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. The CPA immediately terminated its opposition to Roosevelt's New Deal. They reentered the the trade union movement. Communists helped organizing new unions for Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The CIO was a mass union movement of mostly fctory workers rather than American Federation of Labor which was lrgely composed of skilled workers in various trades. The new approach helped the CPA gain considerable policy in imprtant Amerucan unions. The change of policy also attracted the support of many individuals increasingly concerned with Fascism. The Common Front policies in America continued until the signing of the NAZI-Soviet Non-Agression Pact (August 1939). This was essentially an alliance between Stalin and Hitler and Communists who had been denouncing Fasism had to overnight completly change thir positions. World War II followed the signing of the Pact n a mattr of days. Communists were ordered to cease criticism of the NAZIs and labeled the War as an “imperialist” launched by Britain and France. The Communist resumed opposition to defense spending, especially in America, referring to it as “war-mongering”. Communist-dominated unions staged strikes in defense plants. Of course when the NAZIs invaded the Soviet Union (June 1941), the Communists again immeditely changed their positions. <>br>
Jackson, Julin. The Popular Front in France: Defending Democracy, 1934–38 ( 1990), 369p.
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