Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Gagging Free Trade Unions and "Gleichschaltung" in 1930's Germany

For the German trade unions of the Weimar Republic the union journal was the primary means of communication; the leadership of the trade unions used them as a platform for organising and political messages.                  

This was particularly the case with the "free" trade unions of the workers.  Gathered under the umbrella of the largest trade union federation the General German Trade Union Federation (Allgemeiner Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund) or ADGB, they subscribed to the slogan: "Knowledge is power - power is knowledge".   Therefore they invested a great deal of money in their press and educational work.   

In the year 1929, for example, the member combined trade unions of the ADGB federation spent 13.2 million Reichsmarks on press and education campaigns, while the cost of all their industrial action that year was only 1000,000 Reichsmark higher.   

The ADGB published 33 union journals, 12 union branch journals and other union magazines, 16 union youth papers and 16 technical journals with a total circulation of 6.1 million copies.

This obviously gave the trade unions an impressive power base and therefore represented a danger for the Nazi'- National Socialists.  Immediately after taking power on 30 January 1933  the Nazi regime began harassing the editors of the trade union journals and ordered a temporary "ban" on publication.

However, the smashing of the free labour trade unions began with the occupation of the union headquarters on 02 May 1933 by Nazi SA and SS raiding squads.   Trade union assets were seized, union leaders arrested, tortured and jailed, later some of the union leaders were brutally murdered.

The Nazis crushed the free trade unions, but retained their press organs for themselves.   The aim of the Nazis was "Gleichschaltung"; to bring the union members as much into line as practical with the ruling Nazis Party as had already been achieved with union journals.

This is why we need unions that educate, unions that are free and unions that fight fascism

Trade Unionist must never forget 2nd May 1933