Critical Essay and Analysis Part 1.

The purpose of this section is to allow the reader to see how critical analysis and reasoning can be applied to construct a seasoned response to some of the following questions.

 

 

 

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Mason argues that the various forms of working class protest that erupted in Germany, especially in the late 1930’s were not a form of resistance against the Nazi regime, but should be called workers opposition instead. Explain the difference between resistance and workers opposition according to Mason. Why does he think this is a better description of the situation on the Germany shop floor during the Nazi regime?

The purpose of this essay is to highlight and draw attention to the distinction between workers’ opposition and resistance in Nazi Germany according to Mason. In the second half of the essay, after the distinction clearly laid out, Mason’s argument as to why workers’ opposition is better depiction of the situation on the German shop floor is summarized.

Mason argues that the most striking difference between workers’ opposition and resistance is that the later had to be secret, clandestine and underground in their operation. The resistance involved groups and individuals who sought to weaken or overthrow the Nazi dictatorship in favor of Social Democracy or Communism. Their political conduct was distinguished by a rejection and denial to National Socialist rule.Mason on the other hand presents that the workers’ opposition through absenteeism, decrease of productivity, defiance against work place rules and later non co operation during the start of war were methods of asserting immediate class interests within the dictatorship.Members of the resistance did not take part with workers’ opposition in industry because they would have lost their cover and thus have set their political work at risk.Workers’ opposition and class conflicts at industry in all forms were public and not secretive. Slow down of work or demands for better working conditions were immediately recorded by employers and government agencies.

The objective of the workers’ opposition differed very much to that of the secretive resistance.Workers demanded better pay, economic security, change of jobs and social justice. Workers felt strongly about these freedoms, because it was a guarantee of financial or professional advancement. Due to the rearmament process, workers had job security; their behavior at work was determined by personal convenience and private needs being met. Workers could air their grievances and have them made public during the start of the war if their demands were not met. The resistance which conspired to over throw the Nazi government was illegal banned and outlawed. The resistance had been deprived of the possibility of organizing itself and of educating itself politically.The resistance was consistently met with Nazi hostility and resulted in imprisonment and potential loss of life.

The description of Germany shop floor in 1936-1938 as workers’ opposition is supported by Mason through a series of examples. Mass absenteeism, refusal to do overtime, and continuing wage demands in firms came about with a mutual understanding among the workers and realistic threats of a collective giving of notice to quit. Bad work and indiscipline were among the main methods used in order to force through a desired change of employment. Higher wages and welfare benefits at work did not make workers more contented or less keen of further material gain. It seems as if the workers have become more dissatisfied and exploiting the market to their advantage and benefit. Full employment resulted for the development of workers’ opposition. Strike attempts by skilled workers in order to gain wage increases were no longer a rarity. The strikes were confined to single workplace or a single department in a large firm. Police terrorism had robbed the working class of its ability to achieve unity on all but the smallest scale. The strikes were also short lived.. Mason acknowledges that there is no evidence at all of conscious political consideration among the working class.

In June 1939, the state forced wage reduction by use of administrative and criminal law. This led to further bitterness in the working class. The War Measures of September 1939 ordered further wage cuts and more civil conscriptions hours of work were lengthened and overtime bonuses abolished, paid holidays were suspended. Wage earners lost all their remaining rights. The consequence was a massive rage of resentment. Workers demanded free speech, an honest press and radio, higher real wages, a free labor market with the right to change jobs. The government was forced to withdraw most of its war measures, so that the home front does not collapse. Mason argues that the fall in productivity, terrible work discipline and bad morale at work were in no way resistance or having motives to change of government. There were all directed to protect their pre 1939 rights before the state intervened.

In conclusion, Mason describes that the workers’ opposition was spontaneous and had the quality of a broad denial of co-operation, a defiance marked by the economic class consciousness. The refusal to co-operate was appropriate method of asserting immediate class interests within the dictatorship. This quality also distinguished the working class from the resistance.

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