The first question, then, that has to be answered, reads as follows: Did the Social-Democratic Party of Germany pursue a different policy from that of yore, did it change its policy, its principles when it capitulated to fascism, publicly flung itself at Hitler’s feet and, at his command, sufficiently dissociated itself from the Second International? Did it change them, or not?
From the mild reproaches which are levelled in the direction of German Social-Democracy by some of the leaders of the Second International, especially in the countries allied with France, one may sense that they answer this question in the affirmative. Léon Blum has left the final decision of the question “whether German Social-Democracy has looked after the interests of the workers well or otherwise” to the “judgment of history;” nevertheless he considers that the party of Otto Wels has made such concessions to the National-Socialist Party of Hitler, and taken such a cautious, moderate and, so to speak, objective attitude in face of Hitler fascism “as conceal within themselves the recognition of the accomplished facts.”
The alleged turning in the tactics of German Social-Democracy, with which Blum and his friends cannot, as they say, express solidarity, would therefore seem to consist in a transition to a “cautious, moderate and, so to speak, objective attitude” to Hitler fascism. What, however, was the attitude from which the German Social-Democracy made a transition to that attitude which has given occasion to Léon Blum’s taking up a “critical” position — as to this he affords not the faintest indication.
Hitler, also, is of entirely the same opinion about the tactics of German Social-Democracy as those leaders of the Second International who — at least since Hitler’s triumph — essay to humbug their proletarian public concerning a change in these tactics. Hitler’s answer to Wels in the Reichstag: You come late; still you come — is nothing else but a declaration of the kind that Léon Blum has made concerning the change of attitude of German Social-Democracy to National-Socialism and its policy. Only, he is of opinion that Social-Democracy has taken this turn in the direction of the “National Revolution” too late.
The leader of the Second International and the leader of fascism in Germany — Léon Blum and Adolf Hitler — do the Party of German social-fascism a like injustice.
The Executive Committee of the German Social-Democracy has not yet answered this charge made by Hitler and the Second International. The press prohibition of the fascist government comes as a timely aid to German Social-Democracy, just as the censorship during the World War did, when the Social-Democratic leaders were given the possibility of shrouding themselves in silence until such times as “certain difficulties could be overcome,” and they could write openly what was commanded by Hindenburg and Ludendorff.
Truth, however, will not be buried. It will out, if not by way of the Social-Democratic Party press, then through the organs of the trade unions, which have now been fascized by Hitler. It was spoken in the official organ of the General Federation of German Trade Unions (since subjected to assimilation by fascism), the Gewerkschaftszeitung, in an article entitled “Working Class and National Revolution” (April 15, 1933). This truth is intended for the leader of the “National Revolution,” Hitler; at the same time, however, it can be considered an answer to the mild reproaches of the Second International:
“The German Revolution, which began neither on March 5 nor on July 20, 1932, but in November, 1918, has entered a new stage.” (Emphasis mine — B.K.).
In this sentence is stated nothing short of the truth that the “National Revolution” of Hitler is a new stage of the “German Revolution” begun in November, 1918. It is indubitably established that the November Revolution — not of the German proletariat, but — of Scheidemann, Ebert, Noske and Haase, and the “National Revolution” of Hitler-Goering-Goebbels-Rosenberg, are two extremes of one and the same process of German historical development, which have a common content. The unbroken connection in the further development of German history from November 1918 (and in the sense of the Ninth of November of Ebert, Scheidemann, Noske and Haase) until January 30 and March 5 was not maintained by National-Socialism, but by Social-Democracy. In other words: Ebert sowed, Hermann Müller, Otto Wels and Rudolf Hilferding nursed the growth, and Hitler reaped.
Upon the Hitler government’s declaration of February 1, did not the Vorwärts of February 2 (morning edition) give expression to the same thought, when it commented as follows:
“Herr Adolf Hitler! . . .You spoke of the ‘November crime.’ But without this ‘November crime’ a man from the German working class; like you, would never have become chancellor of the German nation.”
The semi-official article of the Social-Democratic trade union leadership, likewise, does not lack proofs of this when it establishes the unity of content of Social-Democracy’s November policy and Hitler’s “National Revolution.” This Social-Democratic trade union leadership proves that the Weimar Republic, with its bourgeois democracy, represents only a halting place on the road to Hitler’s “third empire,” to fascism (The Social-Democratic theorists use the words: “From the relativist democracy of the Weimar Republic to the authoritarian democracy of the Presidential Republic”): Concerning the task set the Weimar Republic and performed by Social-Democracy, the article contains the following:
“The first halting place, the Weimar Republic, was determined by three tasks: that of liquidating the lost war, that of warding off Bolshevism and that of saving out of the destroyed order what was still to be saved.”
This sentence contains the pure, unadulterated truth. Only the sequence should be changed; the warding off of Bolshevism should be set out as the first task: The article in no way represents an unprincipled adaptation to the circumstances of the press under the Hitler dictatorship. It contains nothing that had not under the circumstances of the most complete “freedom of opinion and the press in the Weimar democracy,” as well as under Papen and Schleicher, been repeatedly and officially stated before by the most prominent Social-Democratic leaders; and by all authorities of the Social-Democratic Party and trade unions.
Even before the coup d’état of von Papen, did not the General Federation of German Trade Unions most officially declare in its resolution of June 14, 1932:
“All national phraseology aside, the working class was the strongest support of the German state in all the perils of the post-war period.”
What the article of the trade union paper stresses is precisely the continuity of the national policy of Social-Democracy, and if it has concealed anything with an eye to the ministry of Goebbels in propaganda matters, then it is only, perhaps, the following thought: You National-Socialists, Hitler, Goering, Goebbels and the rest, could not yet reach the table with your nose when we, the Social-Democratic Party and the leading trade union officials, were already fighting for the national cause of Germany.
We have to set ourselves no all too broadly conceived task in order to prove, that German Social-Democracy and the leadership of the reformist trade unions are right when they assert that the “first halting place, the Weimar Republic,” has fulfilled all those tasks which under changed circumstances, the “National Revolution” of Hitler promises to perform. To prove this, it will not be necessary to relate in detail the whole post-war history of Germany and German Social-Democracy; it will be sufficient to adduce some tests of the proposition in order to show that the Weimar Republic, with its bourgeois democracy, really forms only the first halting place and the preparation for the second stage of the German counter-revolution, the “National Revolution.”
We will not have recourse to the kind of proofs that emanate from “doubtful sources.” We will rather let the Social-Democrats themselves speak!
The first task of the November Revolution and of the Weimar Republic was, according to the Social Democratic conception, “to liquidate the lost war.”
How did Social-Democracy execute this task in November, 1918? It certainly did not do this in the proletarian way, by way of transforming the imperialist war into a civil war against the bourgeoisie. No one, not even Hitler, brings such an accusation against German Social-Democracy. It liquidated the war in the same way as all the other parties of the Second International: by defending to the last, as best it could, in the given circumstances of the end of the war, the interests of its own bourgeoisie, and the interests of its own imperialism.
In view of the threatened defeat of Wilhelm and Hindenburg at the front, it gave out the slogan of the “national uprising” fifteen years before the “National Revolution” of Hitler.
On October 7, 1918, there appeared in the Social-Democratic Party papers a semi-official article of the Executive Committee of the Party, a desperate appeal to carry on, that even Goebbels could not have couched in different terms:
“. . . then the whole popular representation, the whole people, the whole army will rally round the Empire’s storm-flag, and draw out of themselves the utmost strength, anger and love of the fatherland. Then a Ministry of National Defence will stand in solidarity at the Empire’s disposal.”
On the point of why the Empire’s storm-flag was not unfurled, the hermit of Doom, Wilhelm II, or that still closer associate of Hitler’s in the Wilhelmstrasse, Field-Marshal von Hindenburg, can give particulars.
As to what, after the failure of a “Ministry of National Defence,” Social-Democracy did to save from the German proletariat for the German bourgeoisie all that the victorious Entente Powers left, concerning this, Scheidemann , in his well known book on the Zusammenbuch (p. 210), has given the following frank account without distorting the facts
“Social-Democracy was above all successful in avoiding the bloodbath that the Ninth of November threatened to become. In the early morning, before the outcome of the movement was in sight, its representatives, above all, my friend Wels, went into the barracks, addressed the soldiers and guided the fearful excitement into bloodless paths. A single, resolute officer carps and the brave admonishers were settled, aye, the whole movement might have been once more suppressed. Such an officer corps was as hard to find as a commander loyal to the Monarchy.”
The road to the socialist revolution was open, the collapse of the Germany of Wilhelm was complete. Wherein did Social-Democracy perceive its historical mission under the circumstances? Wherein has it even later, up to the present day, seen the historical service it believes it has rendered in connection with the liquidation of the lost war? The deceased Chancellor of the Reich and Chairman of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany, Hermann Müller, was surely competent to give the answer to this question. At a time when the Weimar Republic was still in its heyday — therefore when he was not living under the oppression of Hitler’s dictatorship — he wrote about his friend Ebert, Hindenburg’s predecessor in the presidential chair of the German republic, as follows (Gesellschaft, 1925, p.304)
“Occupying the highest office in the Reich, Frederick Ebert had to shoulder one heavy responsibility after another. The first months of the President’s activity were filled with the struggle for peace. The champion of a peace by agreement at the right time saw himself in the position of having to make a decision upon the dictated peace of Versailles. He was a convinced opponent of this dictate of the arrogant victors . . . . When the first National Ministry, that of Scheidemann-Count Brockdorf, resigned because of the Versailles Treaty, Frederick Ebert would have dearly loved to have gone with them . . . . If success was achieved in saving the blood-and-iron creation of Bismarck from complete dissolution, this was possible largely for the reason that. Frederick Ebert forced himself to stay.” (Emphasis in the original — B.K).
On what, however, does Hitler found his “third empire,” if not on this blood-and-iron creation of Bismarck’s, whose salvation from the proletarian revolution Social-Democracy, with full right, regards as its very own work?
Where has a change in the policy of German Social-Democracy occurred, in face of the national aims of the German bourgeoisie?
The second task which, according both to the earlier and also to the present conception of Social-Democracy, had to be performed at the “Weimar halting-place of the single German revolution,” was that of “warding off Bolshevism.”
Did not German Social-Democracy begin its governmental activity by driving out the Embassy of the Russian Soviet Republic?
This was the period when German Social-Democracy called for the forination of the “Ministry of National Defence” and for the unfurling of the imperial storm-flag of Wilhelm’s Germany, and when Lenin, foreseeing the revolution in Germany, wrote in an instruction of October 1 as follows:
“Let us all give our lives to helping the German workers in the cause of pushing on the revolution beginning in Germany. Conclusion: Ten times more efforts to raise bread (to collect all supplies both for us and also for the German workers).” Emphasis in the original — B.K.).
The words of the Bolshevik were followed by deeds. Trains were got ready and loaded with grain. A semi-official report of the Social-Democratic government announced in this connection on November 11, 1918:
“The Soviet government has offered the new German people’s Republic consignments of grain, and has also despatched two trainloads of flour already . . . . The German Government . . . has declined the offer of the Soviet government, more particularly as the Entente has held out the prospect of foodstuffs for Germany, and, on the other hand, the shortage of foodstuffs in the large towns of Russia is so severe that the population can scarcely survive the winter.” (Cited from Eberhardt Bücher, Revolutionsdokumente Revolutionary Documents).
The first two flour trains were rejected by the Social-Democratic government. The warding of Bolshevism was thus begun by Social-Democracy tearing the bread from the mouths of the starving German workers, in order to be able to conclude the Versailles Peace.
The historical work of German Social-Democracy in warding off Bolshevism consisted, further, in its paralysing with its poison the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils, and in finally strangling them.
With full right, then, Hermann Müller shed bitter tears at the Görlitz Congress of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany, as he declaimed:
“We wish to establish that up to the present we socialists have received no thanks for holding down Bolshevism. I would also like to remind the German Nationals of how their leaders haunted the lobbies of the Weimar Theatre after the putsch of March, 1919, and asked: Will Noske really manage it? That was their only care!”
We pass by an endless series of all too well-known facts, which prove that from 1918-32 the leaders of German Social-Democracy not only smoothed the way for the Hitler dictatorship, but positively provided the model which shoaled the fascists how terror is to be ruthlessly and bestially employed against the working class. The names of Ebert, Noske, Wels, Hörsing, Severing, Zörgiebel, Grezinski and the rest will not be eclipsed in the history of the murder of the workers even after such giants as Hitler, Goring, Count Helldorf, Röhm (and others of the kidney of the hangmen and hangman’s asistants in the Brown houses and barracks of the National-Socialists) have acquired their heritage in the employment of murderous terror against the working class. Even in the struggle against the murderous terror of Hitler fascism, which butchers hundreds of the best proletarians, tortures thousands and casts into jails and concentration camps tens of thousands and more, the deeds of the Weimar democracy may not slip into oblivion. The murders of Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Jogiches and ten thousand German proletarians, which were perpetrated at the Weimar halting-place of the republic; the protective arrest, the minor and major states of siege, the gagging of the workers’ press, the garrotting of the revolutionary workers’ organizations, of the League of Red Front Fighters, and the other terrorist measures employed by Social-Democracy — these will stick in the memory of every decent worker, even if such methods of terror are no longer employed in the name of Weimar democracy, but in the name of National-Socialism.
In the warding off of Bolshevism, Social-Democracy did not confine itself to preserving for the future what could be saved of the Germany of Wilhelm and the force-apparatus of the bourgeoisie: the officer corps, the Prussian district councillors from the ranks of the reactionary Junkers and the high police officials. Every germ of the future fascism was carefully nursed by Social-Democracy, and protected from the rebellion of the proletariat. When Hitler did not yet play his role of leader even within the limits of a larger Munich pot-house, Noske already protected and screened by all the methods of the state of siege that organization which at this time formed the reservoir for the future National Socialist mass movement — the Citizens’ Guard. His edict (cited from A Settling of Accounts with the Right Socialists, a pamphlet by Crispien, now member of the Executive Committee of the Social-Democratic Party) ran as follows:
“By reason of p. 9 on the state of siege, I therefore prohibit all economic intimidation and injury (boycott) of members of the Citizens’ Guards and their families; as well as summoning and inciting to boycott. I further prohibit public and written insult and intimidation of the Citizens’ Guards in the press and pamphlets.”
No one, not even the braggart Hitler, could deny that, prior to 1929, it would have been an easy thing for the German working class to have devoured the entire National-Socialist Party, skin, hair and all, had not Social-Democracy, through its ideological influence on the majority of the working class, through the police power of the state machine, prevented this in the interest of the common struggle against the proletarian revolution, against Communism. We admit that the Social-Democratic leaders did not foresee that fascism, which at this time stood in the position of a reserve behind the counter-revolutionary front of Social-Democracy — drawn up against the proletarian revolution — would move up into the very front line for the defence of German capitalism. This, however, is by no means to say that the tactics of German Social-Democracy in the face of fascism would have been determined by anything else but the interests of the bourgeoisie, of the struggle against the proletarian revolution. That the Social-Democratic leaders have miscalculated in their reckoning of the prospects of fascist development, merely shows that political wisdom, political foresight, is lacking in the arsenal of their weapons. But even if they had come to see earlier whither the path led, they would still not have been able to do otherwise than they have done, and do even now, when fascism is in power. To be able to ward off Bolshevism, they disarmed the proletariat before fascism at the Weimar halting-place. They were bound to do this! . . . .
Let us now consider the third task that Social-Democracy, on its own confession, set itself at the “Weimar halting-place” of the transition to July 20 and January 30 the task “of saving out of the destroyed order, what was to be saved.”
Do we need to say first, that this order was the capitalist order? German capitalism lay there destroyed, having collapsed under the blows of four years’ imperialist war. Taken all in all it was only a heap of ruins. What still remained of an “element preserving order” was — the Social-Democracy, the heads of the reformist trade unions. Despite the fact that the Social-Democratic Parties (the Majority Party and the Independents), as well as the heads of the reformist trade unions, hung with all their weight on the neck of the German working class, nevertheless the latter, even if not in its entirety, did take the broad highway of proletarian revolution. In spite of all, the German working class, in its immense majority, trod the path of struggle, of violent combat, for the improvement of its desperate economic position. It slid not wait until the bourgeois power, composed of Social-Democrats, had brought the laws on the eight hours’ day, social maintenance, and the improvement of labour conditions in the factories, into the safekeeping of the National Assembly. On their responsibility and without regard to the law, the workers in every factory, in every district, in every province of Germany, themselves realized the eight hours’ day, made the arrangements for social provision, and changed the conditions of labour. Arms were still in the hands of the workers — the dismay of the bourgeoisie had not yet abated. What the working class — without the aid of Social-Democracy and against its will — wrung from the capitalists by revolutionary means, the Social-Democratic legislators by degrees took back again, so soon as this was possible, and, of course, hand in hand with the disarming of the workers.
The Social-Democratic leaders and the leading functionaries of the trade unions not only plume themselves quite openly on being the sole saviours of the capitalist order in Germany; they carry on the work of restoring the economic power of German capitalism, in order to re-conquer the old position of German capitalism on the world market. They have, indeed, taken the lead in the struggle for Germany’s future dace in the sun, for the goal which Wilhelm II failed to win in the World War and for which Hitler now fights.
The first thing that “was to be saved out of the destroyed order” was co-operation between organizations of employers and employees and its development through Legien and Stinnes. Out of this co-operation grew the system of compulsory arbitration of disputes, which brought about a further limitation of the right to strike, aimed at realizing the notorious slogan of “class struggle round the table,” and finally served as a basis for the trade union leaders’ strike-breaking policy, a policy that, in the guise of economic democracy, was elevated to a theory by Hilferding, Naphtali and Tarnow.
The second thing that was to be saved out of the destroyed “order” was the capacity of German industry to compete in foreign markets, the creation of the new prerequisites for realizing the new “urge towards the East.”
The demand made by the German trust magnates for the “lightening of the social burdens interfering with German industry’s capacity to compete” was the argument with which the Social-Democratic Minister for Labour, Wissel, abolished unemployed maintenance and introduced unemployed insurance; with this argument Social-Democracy heaped upon the shoulders of the working class the burdens of the miserable unemployed dole. The Social-Democratic Party took the initiative in reducing social insurance; in order to be able to provide the economis basis for the German bourgeoisie’s new imperialist policy of expansion, by pillaging the unemployed dole, the sick funds, and the old age and invalid pensions.
The carrying out of this task also necessitated the cuts in wages and the capitalist rationalization of industry at the expense of the working class. Wage-cutting began in Germany under the government of the Social-Democratic chancellor, Hermann Müller. In the emergency decrees of the Bruning government, Social-Democracy not only “tolerated” what it had begun under the government of Hermann Müller. Since the Herman Müller government, from July, 1929, to August, 1932, the wage-robbery of the German industrial workers attained a magnitude of 19 billion marks. For the whole of the workers and employees, the wage-cuts during this period are estimated to amount to 38 billion marks. These wage-cuts were perpetrated, in part, directly by Social-Democracy and, in part, they were “tolerated” by it. If two crooks go burgling and one breaks in while the other watches out, it will not be appropriate to say that the latter has “tolerated” the burglary.
At the same time, not to be unmindful of the interests of agrarian-capital, the Prussian Junkers were also presented with a charitable gift by a Social-Democratic food commissioner, Baade, the member of the Reichstag. The Baade duties raised the price of bread, the bread of the factory and office workers, of the petty bourgeoisie and the small peasants. This was likewise part of the task of saving from destruction what was to be saved.
If to-day German industry, under Hitler’s leadership, publicly makes the “Push East” policy again the guiding principle of its foreign politics, it should not be forgotten that the foundations of this policy were furnished from the wage cuts and the plundered unemployed, sick and invalid relief funds, while a twofold and tenfold sweating of the German worker by capitalist rationalization served as mortar for the same policy. It would be one of the worst cases of ingratitude in history, if the bourgeoisie in Germany should forget that it has effectively carried out all this, in part through Social-Democracy directly, and in part with its active co-operation.
The bourgeoisie changed its methods in Germany when it went over from bourgeois democracy to fascism, in order to be able to hold down the proletarian revolution. Social-Democracy, however, has not changed its tactics in a single essential. Its principles are the same, even if it previously made use of different phraseology from that which it employs to-day.
While the German bourgeoisie held the time was not yet ripe for letting Hitler and his ideological henchman, Alfred Rosenberg, publicly inscribe on its banners the slogan of “Push East,” it permitted its interests for the time being to be served by the other slogan of “No More War.”
At the bottom of this pacifist slogan of German Social-Democracy, however, was the same thought that moved it to confess at Potsdam that it “assents to the demand of the chancellor in the sphere of foreign politics” — a demand which embraced the national policy of the Hitler government. It is superfluous to set forth Hitler’s foreign policy in any detail, since it may be tersely designated by a single word — war. What, in the last analysis, the motive for the pacifism of German Social Democracy was, the dead Social-Democratic minister of the Reich and unforgettable die-hard politician during the World War, Edward David, has disclosed in his pamphlet; The Pacification of Europe (Berlin, 1925, p.7):
“A new world war leads inevitably to proletarian revolution. Every thoughtful politician should be conscious of this casual connection. If in 1918 and 1920, success in setting bounds to the Bolshevik revolution and in setting up in Germany a Social-Democratic buffer was achieved only with great difficulty — then a second world war will at once let loose social earthquakes and explosions in which the present state systems of Central and Western Europe will collapse like a house of cards.” (Emphasis in the original — B.K).
At the same time, he has stressed no less than Papen, Schleicher or Hitler, Germany’s demands for equal rights in an imperialist world preparing for war, when he argued:
“That it would be impossible permanently to keep Germany defenceless, in a wholly one-sided manner, in the midst of a Europe everywhere engaged in the most feverish preparations for war, is obvious.”
In the post-war period, German Social-Democracy has been temporarily opposed to war, because, on the one hand, the German bourgeoisie was not yet prepared for war, and because, on the other hand, in its fear of proletarian revolution, it still considered the arming of the working masses dangerous.
Meanwhile the German bourgeoisie, with the help of Social-Democracy, has proceeded to arm itself in secret. It now speaks more openly. The fascist press in Germany openly incites to war, and therefore, at this second halting-place of the “German revolution,” Social-Democracy also expresses its old attitude to German imperialism in clearer language. Thus we read the above-cited article from the Gewerkschaftszeitung, the following:
“The workers form the broad basis of the nation, without which neither greater expansion nor mobilization of the nation for war — as the great war has taught — is possible . . . . We recall that the attitude of the German workers on the outbreak of the great war in 1914 was at first uncertain, stand-offish, differentiated. Only the position taken by the leading organizations, by the then General Commission of the Trade Unions (naturally, by the Executive Committee of the Social-Democratic Party also — B.K.) gave to the vaccillating disposition of the mass a uniform purpose. Thus the ‘German Wonder’ was consummated, the overwhelming unanimity of a people, which contributed no little to the strategic results and prevented Germany from being simply overrun . . . . The days of August, 1914, which are now so often extolled as the days of national unity, force themselves on us once more for comparison, and we recall that then the order of relations between state and workers followed the principle quid pro quo. . . . On the day after the German declaration of war against Russia, on August 2, 1914, all wage struggles were suspended by resolution of the union executive committees. ‘Civil peace’ thereby came into force. There followed directly upon this the declaration of the government, by which the existence and the work of the trade unions were secured; ‘for we are happy,’ the declaration stated literally, ‘to have a great organization of the working class upon which the government can rely.’”
The meaning of these expositions is this; You nationalist leaders have come to power on our backs; our backs are further at your disposal. Instead of using our backs as spittoons, you ought to avail yourselves of them as one of the foundations of the national policy, as Wilhelm II, Ludendorff and Hindenburg did.
The tactics of German Social-Democracy have not changed. Since August 4, 1914, at least, it has pursued these tactics logically and without vacillation in relation to the German bourgeoisie, to German imperialism. Even if at one or another halting place of the Weimar Republic, or, in its own words, at one or another “national halting place” of the German revolution its own phrases sound different, yet behind the phrases was an unshaken purpose: To save, in co-operation with the bourgeoisie and under all circumstances and conditions, capitalism and the rule of the bourgeoisie from the proletarian revolution, and to represent the interests of German imperialism abroad. Social-Democracy would naturally have preferred to effect this salvation alone, or together with the more moderate sections of the bourgeoisie. It would certainly have preferred “democratic” methods, the more so since it has been demonstrated that, in some circumstance, proletarian insurrections can be repressed with ruthless terror under the slogans of bourgeois democracy.
To save capitalism in Germany, to save bourgeois rule, Social-Democracy has split and disarmed the working class, and has armed the bourgeoisie and its fascist bands. There were many Social-Democratic functionaries and theoreticians who saw clearly that by its policy and tactics Social-Democracy drives numbers of workers and great masses of petty-bourgeois and peasants directly into the camp of fascism, and weakens the forces of the proletariat by splitting them. There were a few of its theoretical spokesmen who brought themselves to the point of a barely audible mumble about the necessity for a change in tactics. Such a change in tactics was, however, impossible; a change in tactics has become impossible for Social-Democracy, even should it have been seriously intended, precisely because its basic orientation, its main principle was and remains: to combat — by every means — proletarian dictatorship; the struggle of the working class’ under the leadership of the Communist Party for the overthrow of bourgeois rule, and the setting up of the dictatorship of the working class.
Its tactics during the war; the revolution in November, 1918 and 1919, and the years 1920, 1923 and 1928, were the same as those on July 20, 1932 and January 30, 1933. The enemy-in-chief was always on the left! The ideological poison gas attacks, like the Krupp bayonets, the trench-mortars, the machine guns, and the armoured cars were always directed against the left. All the fascist parades took place under the protection of police, subordinate to Social-Democratic ministers and police chiefs. A turning point in the history of fascism in Germany was the “German Conference” in Halle on May 11, 1924, a demonstration to which adherents of the Swastika flocked from all parts of the German Republic to demonstratively mock this Republic in the presence of the Crown Prince, Ludendorff and twenty-seven other generals of Wilhelm. Ten thousand German proletarians demonstrated in a united fighting front under the leadership of the C.P.G. against the beaten generals of Wilhelm and the future chiefs of the bands of the “third empire.” The police provoked, batoned and maltreated the proletarians; they fired on the masses several times, and wounded and killed dozens of workers in order to defend the fascists. The Halle chief-of-police was a member of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany; the local governor was a member of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany; and the Minister for Home Affairs was — Severing. All National-Socialist publicists agree that the rise of Swastika fascism dates from the “German Conference” at Halle.
German Social-Democracy’s tactics of July 20 and January 30 are in their whole concreteness a repetition of the same tactics it has already employed several times before. On July 20 and January 30 the wheel of history in Germany could still have been turned otherwise if German Social-Democracy had not declined the repeated proposals of the Communist Party of Germany to organize in a united fighting front the general strike against Hitler. Moreover, it was not satisfied to pass over in silence the united front proposals of the Communist Party. After all its papers had manuvred for weeks and months on the question of the necessity for a united front, on July 20 and January 30 it called upon its members, its wider political following and the working class to give no support to the general strike slogan of the Communist Party of Germany. It denounced the Communist Party of Germany to the fascist rulers and fed the workers with empty promises in the constitutional way.
What Social-Democracy did after July 20 was the logical consequence of what it had done when in office, or had publicly supported, “tolerated,” when out of power, in the matter of disarming the working class.
After July 20 was not Noske still in office as provincial governor of Hanover? After July 20 was not Zörgiebel still chief-of-police in Dortmund? Were they not at the same time esteemed members of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany? An incomplete list shows that after July 20 the office of chief-of-police was held by registered members of the Social-Democratic Party in the following towns: Frankfurt-on-the-Main, Hanover, Weisenfels; Stettin, Bielefeld, Waldenburg, Hamburg; Wilhelmsburg, etc.
What did the Social-Democratic police chiefs do when Hitler made a direct bid for the chancellorship, and when his bands behaved as masters of the situation? They acted in accordance with the old tactics they had the revolutionary proletarians who wished to block Hitler’s path batoned, incarcerated and shot by their police. Was it not the Social-Democratic police chief of Lübeck who had a Social-Democratic member of parliament, who was present by accident at a workers’ anti-fascist demonstration, arrested?
Did it happen for the first time that Social-Democracy in Germany stood with the bourgeoisie against the revolutionary proletariat in a solid, reactionary united front? And was, perhaps, the procedure of the Party Executive Committee and the Reichstag fraction in rejecting therefore, after Hitler’s assumption of office on January 31, the united front demand of the Communist Party of Germany for the organization of a general strike against fascism, without parallel? In the following appeal (Vorwärts, special edition of January 31) it is stated:
“We wage our struggle on the basis of the constitution. . . . Undisciplined action of individual organizations and groups on their own — responsibility (meaning co-operation with the Communists against Hitler — B.K.) would most seriously injure the whole labour movement.”
Remember, the matter was one of the restoration by revolutionary proletarians of the united front against the National-Socialists, against Hitler’s regime of terror and murder.
Was there a change in the tactics of the German Social-Democratic Party, when, by obstructing the united front, it made possible the victory of fascist reaction? Was there a change?
By no means!
At the Party Conference of the German Peoples’ Party, which was formerly the Party of heavy industry, in Hanover (April, 1924), the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Stresemann, thanked the Social-Democrats on behalf of the German bourgeoisie for having shattered the united front of the working class in 1923. He observed:
“If we marched into Saxony and Thuringia without bloodshed (Stresemann covers the bloody tracks of the march of Reichswehr and police with the graces of the Christian’s love of his neighbour — B.K.), this, perhaps, was only possible because Social-Democracy stood for the march, and because we had therefore to face only the Communists and not some sort of proletarian united front, which at that time might have taxed our strength very severely.”
The obstruction of the united front of the working class by Social-Democracy is precisely the tactic that follows from Social-Democracy’s nature, from the basic orientation of its principles. Its action on January 30, when it issued the slogan: “No co-operation with the Communists against Hitler,” was merely logical and true to principle. If, by way of exception and under pressure from the masses, the Social-Democratic Party let itself be forced into united action with the revolutionary workers against the bourgeoisie, or particular groups of the bourgeoisie, even then the leaders always shattered the united front. This was the case on the occasion of the campaign against the grant to the princes, when, after the plebiscite, the Social-Democratic Party, at Hindenburg’s command, proposed through its parliamentary fraction to allow the expenditure of billions on a gift to the exiled ruling houses of Germany.
The Social-Democrats maintain that the Communists manuvre by means of the united front.
Who it is manuvres by means of the united front, the vice-president of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany; Herr Crispien, can relate, on the strength of his own experiences.
On June 11, 1920, the chancellor, Hermann Müller, wrote a letter to the president of the then Independent Social-Democratic Party, Crispien, which contained an offer that the two Social-Democratic Parties, the Majority and the Independents, should form a Government together. In reality the government of Otto Wels and Hermann Müller wanted absolutely nothing of the kind. Two days before, on June 9, the Social-Democratic Party had issued a circular to its leading functionaries, which stated:
“We are reckoning on a government of the Right parties coming into office. At the moment a government of the kind can only be desired by us. We have staked everything on the representatives of the Right parties conducting the negotiations in Spa.”
The Social-Democratic chancellor, therefore, wrote the letter to Crispien, in which he proposed a united front for the formation of a common government, subsequent to the issue of this circular. The whole manuvre in connection with the united front accordingly merely served the blackmailing purposes of the Social-Democratic clique of leaders in regard to their capitalist masters.
It was not the will of the Social-Democrat leaders, who wanted to hand over the German nation to the parties of the Right, which, in 1920, frustrated the entry into office of a government of the character of the subsequent government of von Papen. At that time Social-Democracy was already inclined to lift the blackest reaction publicly into the saddle: the bourgeoisie merely held that, in view of the existing international situation and the given relation of forces between the classes, the time was not yet ripe for this. It is, however, historically established that, on July 20, 1932 and January 30, 1933, German Social-Democracy did not pursue the policy of consciously and deliberately delivering governmental power into the hands of open counter-revolution for the first time.
What was not yet ripe for the German capitalists in 192o became so in 1932-33. German Social-Democracy has taken care, always in harmony with economic development in Germany and the international political situation, to let the political pre-requisites for Papen, Schleicher and finally Hitler, ripen. The method employed was the tactic of the “lesser evil,” by which the Social-Democratic Party and the reformist trade union leaders prepared, at the Weimar halting-place of the German counter-revolution, the halting-place of the “national revolution” of Hitler.
Whoever wants to interpret German Social-Democracy s tactics in face of political reaction, of fascism; as having changed, must falsify the entire tactics of German Social-Democracy from August 4, 1914 to November 9, 1918, to Weimar, to the “pure” Social-Democratic governments, to the governments of the small and great coalitions, to the purely capitalist governments tolerated by Social-Democracy, from Brüning to Schleicher. Otherwise, no change of tactics, either on or after January 30, can be made out. German Social-Democracy has pursued, and still pursues to-day, a policy based on principle. And, even if the wheel of history could, perhaps, be turned back by “divine ordinance,” German Social Democracy could still not do other than it has done. Else it would cease to be Social-Democracy.
Next: VI. All Going the Same Way, Arm in Arm