* Lew’s review of “The Rise and Fall of Communism” by Archie Brown … the relevance of this communist history to Lew’s new novel

Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 9, 2014

rise of communism - my novel



I only read the first few chapters, dealing with the origins of communism (surprise: read Acts of the Apostles 4:32) and its history in the 1920s and early 1930s.

I am trying to understand the oft-stated argument that the Catholic Church’s support and tolerance of Hitler and his agenda was primarily driven by a fear of international communism and the positioning of Hitler as an ally of the Church in the fight against it.

Here are Brown’s points relevant to my question …

*** the post-war period from 1917 to 1920 was indeed fraught with the threat and reality of communist-led insurrection throughout large swaths of Europe and Russia

*** in Germany, the radical communists (led by Karl Liebknecht & Roza Luxemburg) split from the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) … revolutionary uprisings took place in different parts of Germany in November 1918 … these were brutally suppressed by the socialist-led government, supported by paramilitary groups … Liebknecht & Luxemburg were murdered on Jan 15, 1919 … unrest continued through April 1919, when a Soviet republic was established in Bavaria

*** the Bavarian Soviet Republic was soon suppressed and by 1923 it was evident that Communists were not about to come to power in any European country apart from the Soviet Union.


So why was the threat of Communism so overwhelming that it drove the Vatican into Hitler’s hands? The facts about the actual Communist threat don’t seem to support it.

It could be argued that the Church’s perception of the communist threat in 1932-33 was related to Pacelli’s experience in Munich in 1917-1920, when as the newly appointed Papal Nuncio he saw first-hand the terror in the streets and had no idea where it might stop. But … Pacelli stayed in Germany through 1929 and he knew full well that the German Communist Party had no chance of ever coming to power. This reason has no resonance with me.

So what was the real reason? Consider the following POSSIBLE SCENARIO …

1. Hitler of course knew that the Communist party in Germany was a paper tiger, but he exaggerated its strength so he would have targets for his SA thugs to attack and for Goebbels to direct propaganda against. In other words, Hitler was using the over-stated threat of the Communists to frighten people into seeing the Nazis as the lesser of two evils. This tactic succeeded very well.

2. One of the Church’s main goals in the 1920s and early 1930s was the execution of a Reich Concordat, but Pacelli had come to understand that this could never happen so long as Germany remained a democracy. An agreement between Germany and the Vatican just did not have the votes in the Reichstag.

3. To get the Concordat, the Church needed Hitler to be Chancellor with dictatorial powers, thus eliminating the representative Reichstag as a factor.

4. The Church’s series of actions in 1932-33 helped Hitler become Chancellor and then, by means of the Enabling Act, become an absolute dictator. For this to happen, the Vatican pressured the Center Party, over the objections of the German bishops who understood the implications of a Hitler regime and who communicated their fears to the Vatican.

5. Under this pressure from the Vatican, the Catholic Center Party (a) refused to make a collaborative relationship with the Socialist Party and others that could have denied Hitler the Chancellorship, and then (b) cast its votes in favor of the Enabling Act which made him a dictator, an act which could not have passed without those votes.

The Church thus accomplished both of the prerequisites to a Reich Concordat … while paying no attention whatever to the consequences of Nazi violence and terror which it had been fully advised would ensue. The dissolution of the Center Party and the establishment of one-party rule in Germany soon followed.

Where do the Communists fit in all this?

The Church repeatedly articulated a fear of Communism and positioned Hitler as the Vatican’s ally in the struggle to keep communism from taking over in Germany (something that probably had no chance to happen with or without Hitler). By exaggerating the threat of Communism, the Church thus justified an alliance with Hitler which it traded to achieve the elusive Reich Concordat. In other words, the Church, like Hitler, was using the threat of the Communists to frighten people into seeing the Nazis as the lesser of two evils. (Why did the Vatican so desperately want the Reich Concordat? A topic for another review.)

Did this scenario actually happen? Is there sufficient evidence to support it?

There is some, but the complete answer, to prove the scenario or refute it, to unequivocally explain why the Church helped bring Hitler to power, may never be known. It’s a good bet, however, that some of the relevant materials are still locked in Vatican vaults.



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