Clara Zetkin: Fascism must be defeated (1932)

NB: This is a moving and valuable historical document. It is published on a Leninist portal, with whose politics I disagree, so my posting this speech does not imply my endorsement of the doctrines of Socialist Worker; or the KPD or the CPSU. (A detailed analysis of Bolshevism may be read here). Nonetheless, the brunt of the speech is that Nazism / fascism are deadly dangers to humanity. The second world war should have proven that. More historical material is posted beneath this piece. DS

On August 30, 1932, in the shadow of the rising Nazi power, Clara Zetkin – German Marxist and member of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) – opened what would become the last session of the Reichstag (Germany’s parliament). As the oldest member of the assembly, Zetkin was its chairwoman and had the right to an opening speech. She used her speech to call for all working and oppressed people to unite to smash the fascist threat and move towards a socialist revolution to overthrow the bourgeois government, because of its complicity in the Nazis’ rise, violations of the German constitution and impotence in the face of the horrors of the Great Depression. Despite being nearly blind and unable to walk (she had to be carried to the podium), and in the face of Nazi threats that they would assassinate her, Zetkin gave an impassioned speech outlining the strategy of the “united front of all workers in order to turn back fascism.”

The workers’ movement didn’t succeed in turning back the Nazis. By the following January, the “Machtergreifung” (seizure of power) took place: President von Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany on January 30. The Reichstag was dissolved. The Communist Party was banned. Its members either went underground, into exile, or were tortured and murdered. The organizations of the working class were annihilated. Nearly 100 of the non-Nazi members of the Reichstag were hunted down and killed. Clara Zetkin fled to Moscow, were she died the following June. In a period of a little over a decade, Germany went from a country on the brink of working-class communist revolution to a Nazi dictatorship which would bring war and genocide to all of Europe.

Below is the text of Zetkin’s speech, as recorded in the Reichstag’s minutes and published in the International Publishers collection of Zetkin’s selected writings and speeches. This test is republished from the Diary of a Walking Butterfly blog. 

An audio recording of Zetkin’s speech is available at


LADIES AND gentlemen! The Reichstag is meeting in a situation in which the crisis of collapsing capitalism is showering the broad laboring masses of Germany with a hailstorm of the most terrible suffering. The millions of unemployed, who are starving either with or without the beggar’s allowance of social welfare, will be joined by additional millions during the autumn and winter. Increased hunger is also the fate of all the other people who happen to be on social welfare.

Given their low wages, those who are still working cannot replace the muscular and nervous energy which the ever-increasing rationalization of industry is extracting from them nor can they, of course, have their cultural needs met. The restrictions on collective bargaining and labor mediation boards will further depress the already depressed wages.

Growing numbers of artisans and small tradesmen as well as small and middling peasants are being ruined. The collapse of the economy and shrinking of the subsidies for cultural activities are destroying the economic basis of existence for all those who work with their minds….


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