"First They Came for the Communists"

Revolution #020, October 30, 2005, posted at revcom.us

It's worth a close look at the first line of Martin Niemöller's famous poem --"first they came for the communists." At the time of the rise of the Hitler, the German communists were the most implacable opposition to the Nazis. Beyond that, though--and related to that--they represented the only force that posed a real path for the German people out of the horror that was looming; they stood for nothing less than a revolution to overthrow German imperialism.

The German communists were identified in the people's minds with the new-born, struggling but very inspiring Soviet Union, which itself had burst out of the imperialist world-system with a revolution after World War 1. There, millions of people were being mobilized to build a whole new world, working to free society of the stamp of class division and exploitation, and the relations, institutions and ideas that went along with it. The Soviet Union was also intent on eradicating the oppression of nations and nationalities and eliminating discrimination; indeed, Hitler intentionally conflated the Soviet Union and the Jews, pointing to the lack of discrimination there as evidence of Soviet degeneracy and danger! Leaving aside whatever shortcomings the German communists may have had in vision and strategy, they stood for something completely different than the Nazis and they also had something of a mass following, receiving nearly 20% of the vote in the last election before Hitler was installed. For all these reasons, they were the first on Hitler's list, and he went after them with a vengeance.

A lesson to be pondered--and applied. During the height of the huge antiwar antiwar upsurge of 2002-03, prominent right-wing commentators called for the prosecution of communist opponents to the war on grounds of treason, and the most vitriolic attacks prominently targeted Revolutionary Communist Party Chairman Bob Avakian. At the same time, a number of left-liberal commentators also attacked the participation of communists, including the RCP, in the antiwar movement, slandering the Party and pressuring prominent individuals to distance themselves from it. And we are now seeing attacks in the mainstream media, and elsewhere, on the role of communists in the battle to drive out the Bush regime.

Niemöller, anyone?

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