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Mary Bell

Who Are the Real War Criminals?

(April 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 18, 30 April 1945, pp. 1 & 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The lower depths of the Nazi hell are being daily revealed. We have been filled to surfeit with the horrors of the concentration camps like those of Belsen and Buchenwald – the planned starvation on potato-peeling soup; refined, mechanized torture; ghoulish surgical experiments; human vivisection, etc. Our indignation and outrage against these crimes is almost inexpressible.

Millions of these victims were Jews; hundreds of thousands, Poles. Many were the enslaved workers of countries over-run by the Nazis in the blitzkrieg days. They were imprisoned and wantonly killed by the degenerate agents of capital. They included prisoners of war from all countries.

But to look upon these thousands of imprisoned, tortured and slain merely as victims of Nazi bestiality is to see but half the picture. To conclude from these horrors what the propagandists want you to conclude, that “All Germans are guilty and all must be punished,” is to fall into a deadly trap.

Other thousands of these victims of Nazi terror were German anti-Nazis, German resisters of fascism, German left-wingers, German radicals, German political prisoners, German protesting workers. Despite eleven years of rule by club and bayonet, as late as last July there was a roundup of left-wing working class leaders by the Nazis – so unconquerable is the desire for freedom from exploitation! Every working man and woman should stamp this upon his conscience. The stinking death camps are witness not only of unspeakable cruelty but of incredible heroism. This was the price of revolt against Nazism.

There is nothing new in the crimes of fascism. Its rule of terror and murder against the workers and their militant spokesmen has gone on from its very inception. It is not peculiarly German. It existed in Italy, until the masses overthrew it. It exists in Spain; where thousands of its opponents are in jails and concentration camps like the German. It is not confined to the Axis camp. There are fascistic regimes in Brazil, Argentina and other South American “republics.” It is combined with a feudal type of regime in Japan, where more than 60,000 workers are presently in jail.

Fascism is not specifically German. It is not European. It is not confined to the Axis. It is not limited to any hemisphere. Fascism is the rule of naked force by decaying capitalism in order to prevent the workers from socializing the private property of the financiers and industrialists and organizing production for the benefit of society as a whole, German capitalism was on the verge of this workers’ revolution in 1933. That was why the big “free enterprisers”’ poured their money into Hitler’s treasury, helped him build a mass movement of the middle classes against the threatening revolutionr

We are for, and every thinking worker must be for, a punishment of the war criminals, those responsible for the atrocities. But we have no confidence in the intention of the Allied War Crimes Commission nor the Russians to bring all of the guilty to trial and judgment and punishment. There are a host of facts to warrant our lack of confidence.

Not an Anti-Fascist War

First, the war did not break out because of the Nazi acts against its own working class or against the enslavement of the peoples of other nations.

Nazism was appeased by the rulers of every Allied country until the life-blood of their profits was threatened.

Churchill, for instance, openly blessed Italian fascism as against the impending Italian workers’ revolution. Britain has starved and killed many more Indian slaves than Nazism could ever aspire to. She has had three centuries of practice in impoverishing and browbeating the colonial masses of India.

Stalin was able to conclude a pact of mutual assistance with Hitler, and his spokesman at San Francisco was able to say without batting an eye: “Fascism is a matter of taste”! For the Russian workers and oppositionists in Stalin’s concentration camps, which outnumber Hitler’s, and for the additional slaves the Russians are taking out of Germany, fascism may indeed be a matter of taste when it’s a choice between the two totalitarian states.

During the Spanish civil war, when both Italian and German fascism were sending arms to their brother Franco to use against the masses, neither Britain nor the United States would lift the arms embargo to permit assistance against this Spanish butcher.

Therefore the Big Three leaders have no right to be indignant about the Nazi atrocities. The indignation they are arousing has one purpose: to saddle all the German workers with the war guilt, to allow harsh punishments to be inflicted upon the German masses, to permit Russia to enlarge its slave-hold with German labor.

Aside from their past record, the current role of the Allied Military Government in the “liberated” areas is additional proof of their hypocrisy. They placed a friend of Mussolini in power in Italy. Only the fierce resentment of the Italian people forced his removal. The AMG cooperates with former fascists all over Italy – persons the Italian masses want removed. A notorious fascist, Roatta, was allowed to escape from prison with the purported assistance of the British. In both Italy and France, it is the members of the popular resistance movements who are demanding a real purge of the fascist elements.

Banishment of Criminals

Further, we have the policies of our own State Department. Roosevelt’s appointees, James Dunn and Julius Holmes, have both stated that punishment will be meted out for “specific criminal acts.” This would eliminate the real sponsors of Nazism, like, the representative of the Krupp munitions industry, Alfred Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, recently captured in his 800-room palace; like Von Papen, former Vice-Chancellor under Hitler, and many similar evil geniuses and brain-trusters for Nazism. They were not the ones who wielded the truncheons or cremated the Jews. They did not commit “specific criminal acts.” They merely financed, planned and ordered them!

In Germany, representatives of the trusts are used as advisers to the Allied Military Government. No worker, social democrat, communist, trade union official or even left Christian is permitted in office in the German civil government.

The Russians have promised to shoot first any revolutionaries who want to overthrow the existing social system in Germany.

Labor Action believes that every war criminal should be brought to justice.

The war criminals are all those in both camps, Axis and Allied;, who temporized with, aided or abetted fascism in any way.

The war criminals are those on both sides who carried out a war of imperialist plunder and enslavement under false slogans of “liberation” or “freedom.”

The war criminals include the authors of specific criminal acts, the thinkers and organizers of those acts and the profiteers for whose freedom of exploitation the acts were carried out.

Labor Action believes only the workers can punish the real war criminals. In Germany, only the slaves are interested in getting rid of their slavemasters. The same is true of every oppressed nationality. The task of American labor is to solidarize itself with its exploited European brothers.

We have no doubt that however many youth fascism was able to captivate, such a regime of terror could only throw most of the population in opposition to it. Those very atrocities are heartrending proof of the unquenchable will to resist all exploitation. We have no doubt that the German masses will one day rise to deliver themselves from their oppressors. If the policy of Nazism-in-reverse is carried through in Germany and a new enslavement is brought about, they will deliver themselves from the new oppressors.

The surest way to guarantee the punishment of the Nazi beasts and their sponsors, the German industrialists and financiers, is to give the enslaved German, masses, the imprisoned, tortured, starved workers, complete freedom of action. But this the Allied governments have refused to do. They fear that the victims of the people’s revenge will be the true authors of the Nazi atrocities, the business partners of Standard Oil, General Electric, Alcoa, Imperial Chemicals and Vickers!

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