ON 24 October 1929 the US stock exchange crashed. The Great Depression spread around the world. Countless workers' lives were wrecked as firms went bankrupt. Unemployed workers, angry that they were paying the price of the failure of capitalism, marched and rioted in many cities.
The middle classes, with their businesses and dreams of advancement ruined, went crazy. Across Europe Nazi groups built out of this despair. In 1922 the Fascist leader Mussolini had come to power in Italy. In Germany the slump and mass unemployment fed the rise of Hitler's Nazi Party. The middle classes abandoned the established capitalist parties in favour of Hitler's 'solution'. The German ruling class, seeing that Hitler was prepared to smash the working class, began to back him.
In the face of this mortal danger the German Social Democrats (Labour-type party), instead of mobilising the working class, downplayed the Nazi threat. The Social Democrats relied on 'the constitution', a nicety Hitler was ready to abandon as soon as he got power. Tragically the Communist Party, under the direction of Stalin, refused to build united action with workers who looked to the Social Democrats. The working class remained opposed to the Nazis. Just before Hitler came to power, the German Social Democrats and the Communist parties' combined vote was bigger than the Nazis'.
On 27 February 1933 Hitler used a fire at the Reichstag (parliament) as an excuse to ban the German Communist Party. He then set about smashing working class organisation. The world was about to be plunged into darkness.