Front Page Titles (by Subject) 6.: Nazism and German Labor - Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War
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6.: Nazism and German Labor - Ludwig von Mises, Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War 
Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and Total War, edited with a Foreword by Bettina Bien Greaves (Indianapolis: Indiana, 2011).
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Nazism and German Labor
A riddle that has puzzled nearly all writers dealing with the problems of Nazism is this: There were in Germany many millions organized in the parties of the Social Democrats, of the communists, and of the Catholic Center; they were members of the trade unions affiliated with these parties. How could the Nazis succeed in overthrowing these masses of resolute adversaries and in establishing their totalitarian system? Did these millions change their minds overnight? Or were they cowards, yielding to the terror of the Storm Troopers and waiting for the day of redemption? Are the German workers still Marxians? Or are they sincere supporters of the Nazi system?
There is a fundamental error in posing the problem in this way. People take it for granted that the members of the various party clubs and trade-unions were convinced Social Democrats, communists, or Catholics, and that they fully endorsed the creeds and programs of their leaders. It is not generally realized that party allegiance and trade-union membership were virtually obligatory. Although the closed shop system was not carried to the extreme in Weimar Germany that it is today in Nazi Germany and in some branches of foreign industry, it had gone far enough. In the greater part of Germany and in most of the branches of German production it was practically impossible for a worker to stay outside of all the big trade-union groups. If he wanted a job or did not want to be dismissed, or if he wanted the unemployment dole, he had to join one of these unions. They exercised an economic and political pressure to which every individual had to yield. To join the union became practically a matter of routine for the worker. He did so because everybody did and because it was risky not to. It was not for him to inquire into the Weltanschauung of his union. Nor did the union bureaucrats trouble themselves about the tenets or feelings of the members. Their first aim was to herd as many workers as possible into the ranks of their unions.
These millions of organized workers were forced to pay lip service to the creeds of their parties, to vote for their candidates at the elections for Parliament and for union offices, to subscribe to the party newspapers, and to avoid open criticism of the party’s policy. But daily experience nonetheless brought them the evidence that something was wrong with their parties. Every day they learned about new trade barriers established by foreign nations against German manufactures—that is, against the products of their own toil and trouble. As the trade unions, with few exceptions, were not prepared to agree to wage cuts, every new trade barrier immediately resulted in increased unemployment. The workers lost confidence in the Marxians and in the Center. They became aware that these men did not know how to deal with their problems and that all they did was to indict capitalism. German labor was radically hostile to capitalism, but it found denunciation of capitalism unsatisfactory in this instance. The workers could not expect production to keep up if export sales dropped. They therefore became interested in the Nazi arguments. Such happenings, said the Nazis, are the drawbacks of our unfortunate dependence on foreign markets and the whims of foreign governments. Germany is doomed if it does not succeed in conquering more space and in attaining self-sufficiency. All endeavors to improve the conditions of labor are vain as long as we are compelled to serve as wage slaves for foreign capitalists. Such words impressed the workers. They did not abandon either the trade unions or the party clubs since this would have had very serious consequences for them. They still voted the Social Democrat, the communist, or the Catholic ticket out of fear and inertia. But they became indifferent both to Marxian and to Catholic socialism and began to sympathize with national socialism. Years before 1933 the ranks of German trade-unions were already full of people secretly sympathizing with Nazism. Thus German labor was not greatly disturbed when the Nazis finally forcibly incorporated all trade-union members into their Labor Front. They turned toward Nazism because the Nazis had a program dealing with their most urgent problem—foreign trade barriers. The other parties lacked such a program.
The removal of the unpopular trade-union bureaucrats pleased the workers no less than the humiliations inflicted by the Nazis on the entrepreneurs and executives. The bosses were reduced to the rank of shop managers. They had to bow to the almighty party chiefs. The workers exulted over the misfortunes of their employers. It was their triumph when their boss, foaming with rage, was forced to march in their ranks on state holiday parades. It was balm for their hearts.
Then came the rearmament boom. There were no more unemployed. Very soon there was a shortage of labor. The Nazis succeeded in solving a problem that the Social Democrats had been unable to master. Labor became enthusiastic.
It is highly probable that the workers are now fully aware of the dark side of the picture. They are disillusioned.* The Nazis have not led them into the land of milk and honey. In the desert of the ration cards the seeds of communism are thriving. On the day of the defeat the Labor Front will collapse as the Marxian and the Catholic trade unions did in 1933.
[* ]However, the London Times as late as October 6, 1942, reported from Moscow that interrogation of German prisoners of war by the Russian authorities showed that a majority of the skilled workers were still strong supporters of the Nazis; particularly men in the age groups between 25 and 35, and those from the Ruhr and other older industrial centers.