* Lew’s review of a biography of German socialist Rudolf Hilferding

Posted by Lew Weinstein on November 22, 2014

Hilferding & Anna's Challenge


In the course of an excellent biography of an obscure German socialist, Smaldone offers a clear analysis of the failure of the Social Democrats to counteract Hitler’s rise to power. Fighting with each other over Marxist theory, unable to find practical means to implement their principles, without anything approaching a charismatic leader, and afraid to provoke a civil war, the SPD essentially rolled over and gave in. To be fair, the combination of forces against them was, at least from Hilferding’s perspective, overwhelming.

One of the fictional characters in my new novel becomes an SPD delegate to the Reichstag who tries to provoke the SPD into more aggressive action to save German democracy in late 1932.

I may also be able to make use of Hilferding’s exile years in Prague when he wrote many articles trying to alert the world to what Hitler was doing in the years 1934-38 to prepare for war.

The story of Hilferding’s life and eventual suicide in a German cell adds to the sad picture of many basically decent Germans who saw what was happening but were unable to counteract through parliamentary democracy the brutality by which Hitler advanced to power.

This is a story often repeated, and one which perhaps offers a cautionary tale to us in America today as we face the nihilistic behavior of right wing politicians who seem more intent on destroying government than in governing, precisely replicating the objective of Hitler and the Nazis.



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