Editorial Notes

The Downfall of the Volkszeitung

(December 1931)

Written: December 1931.
Source: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 37 (Whole No. 96), 26 December 1931, p. 4.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
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The retirement of Ludwig Lore from the editorship of the New York Volkszeitung signallizes the passing of the paper from the Right fringe of the Communist movement to the camp of social democracy. Dr. Lipshitz, the new editor, comes from the German Social Democratic Party and owes his election to the triumph of the Right wing socialist elements in the cooperative association which owns the paper. The new policy of the Volkszeitung reflects the decisive change. Half-and-half Communism which in this case – as always – prepared the way for outright socialist reformism is finally replaced by it.

This reactionary victory is a tragedy for the paper that spoke for the workers over many decades, not without effectiveness at times and not without honor on some crucial occasions when other organs faltered and betrayed their trust. It is likewise a tragedy for the man who stood at the helm and reflected in his own person the qualities of the Volkszeitung throughout those turbulent years. Ludwig Lore was the Volkszeitung. Its strong sides and its weak sides, its inconsistencies, its good intentions and its frequently dubious performances were of one piece with the personality of the man. The shift of control puts an end to the contradiction in the position of the paper. In the long run the change will help to clarify issues that have been muddled and confused in the German-American labor movement. The immediate effect will be to strengthen the reformist and reactionary elements.

The downfall of the Volkszeitung demonstrates once again, by an example close at hand, the instability and the transitory nature of in-between positions in our time. Since the world war the issue and the choice between social democracy and Communism has stood categorically. Nobody has been able to stand between them or to reconcile them. And nobody will. Lore’s Volkszeitung aspired toward Communism. But it was never able to make the clean and final break with the routine, the traditions and the material interests that weighted it toward the past. The paper was bound up – through the shareholding cooperative and in a hundred other ways – with those sections of the German movement for whom socialism had long ceased to be a doctrine of action. Their deadly conservatizing influence was upon the paper all the time, paralyzing it at every turn with contradiction and confusion. The result was a mish-mash policy – to the right of official Communism and to the Left of social democracy. Such a position, by its nature and by the nature of our epoch, can have only a transitory influence.

The exceptional personality of Lore endowed this policy with an abnormal endurance. But the life of the paper was fraught with continual crisis and a final show-down was inevitable. The speed with which this show-down came after the retirement of Lore from the editorship shows how shaky was the political foundation of the paper. In these events the similar doom of other political movements of the same kind is foreshadowed. The “left” socialists (such as the Musteites) and the Right Communists (such as the Lovestone faction) which – in different degrees and under somewhat different circumstances – repeat the experience of the Volkszeitung are marching towards the same fate. The middle ground between Communism and social democracy is quicksand.

The personal defeat of Ludwig Lore in the ruin of the paper which was his life is sad to contemplate. Among Communists, for whom political considerations are the decisive criterion, personal relations play a part that is necessarily subordinate. In that sense and for that reason wo do not speak here as a friend. We went part of the way together, but our paths were not the same. In recent years they diverged more and more. But for all that we never lost a regard for the admirable personal qualities of the man. Among the people who have acquired prominence in the revolutionary labor movement of our day he has been distinguished by an integrity and dignity that is all too uncommon. He was not one of the office boys who take orders, not one of the scamps who slander for hire and advance themselves by intrigue. In his rebellion against the regime which elevates this canaille Lore showed the character of a man and a fighter. In that fight we had common ground with him. It was his failure to bring the right political weapons to the fight that marked off his course from ours. And from this also arises his present political defeat.

Last updated on: 22.2.2013