Bela Kun

The Second International In Dissolution

Save What Can Be Saved

Individual parties of the disintegrating Second International are still trying to save all that can be saved, to a certain extent in order to satisfy the “honour,” the “internationalism” of the Socialist Labour International. The unevenness in the development of the domestic and foreign policy of the various imperialist powers makes it necessary for the various Social-Democratic Parties, also, to adopt correspondingly different attitudes to the questions of the International. Whereas German Social-Democracy after the taking of office by Hitler is no longer able to maintain even the pale semblance of its “internationalism,” French Social-Democracy is still able to continue its support of the war policy of the “left” bloc government under the mask of pacifism. That is why Otto Wels and German Social-Democracy had to take the initiative in destroying the Second International and that is why Léon Blum and French Social-Democracy are able to play the role of the saviours of the international.

Otto Wels, Chairman of the German Social-Democratic Party, was the first to resign from the Bureau of the Second International. The significance of his action is in no way altered by the fact that a few weeks later Wels declared this resignation a manöuvre, and resumed his mandate. His withdrawal was approved by the Social-Democratic Party with the following justification:

“The Executive Committee considers the conduct of Wels justified, because the decisions of the Bureau of the Socialist Labour International, besides political measures, also deal with organizational measures which have been adopted without the collaboration of German Social-Democracy. The German Social-Democratic Party must decline the responsibility for the decisions thus adopted.”

Up to now neither the Executive of the International nor any of the Parties affiliated to it has in any way reacted to this very important event in the Second International. (We write these lines on April 30. — B.K.). A number of Social-Democratic Party Conferences have taken place since the withdrawal of the German Social-Democratic Party from the Second International (in France, Switzerland and Austria) but not one of them has uttered a single word concerning such a great event as the virtual withdrawal of the most powerful section.

Even the resolutions of the Bureau of the Second International, which for Wels and his Party were the official pretext for their retirement from the Socialist Labour International, do not contain any seriously critical remarks on the policy of German Social-Democracy towards the Hitler government, much less a definite condemnation of its open support of fascism.

The first of these resolutions — which were the occasion for the withdrawal of Wels — gave a lukewarm reply to the speech of the Reichstag incendiary, the present premier of Prussia, Göring, which the latter delivered before the foreign journalists on the subject of the “atrocities propaganda” against the Hitler government, and in which he spared no threats against international Social-Democracy on account of this “atrocities propaganda.” The second resolution referred to the appeal of the Communist International, proposing to its sections to submit united front proposals to the Social-Democratic Parties for a common waging of the struggle against fascism and the offensive of capital. The resolution of the Bureau of the Second International prohibits the Social-Democratic Parties from organizing common actions against fascism, as well as from conducting negotiations on the establishment of an anti-fascist united front, under the rather obvious pretence that such negotiations on a national scale should be preceded by negotiations between the Communist International and the Second International.

If these resolutions involved an “interference in the internal affairs” of the German Social-Democratic Party, this “interference” could only be construed in the sense that the German Social-Democratic Party was not to conduct negotiations with the German Communist Party in regard to a common struggle against the dictatorship of Hitler. The Social-Democratic Party of Germany left no one in doubt concerning its ever having had the intention of fighting fascism. It has provided clear proofs that Social-Democracy must inevitably collaborate with every party of the bourgeoisie in order to be able to save capitalism. The National Socialist Party is as little an exception to this rule as any other bourgeois party, with which German Social-Democracy formed an open coalition. The decisive days of July 20, 1932, and January 30, 1933 when German Social-Democracy flatly rejected the offers of the Communist Party to organize a general strike against the advance of fascism, leave no doubt that the Executive Committee of the Social-Democratic Party did not dream of even entering into negotiations regarding the united front proposal of the C.P.G. to organize the anti-fascist struggle.

In connection with the resolutions of the Second International the question was one of interference in the internal affairs of Hitler Germany, in the common cause of Hitler and German Social-Democracy. German Social-Democracy feels it has coalesced with the Germany of Hitler — notwithstanding everything. The form of collaboration with the bourgeoisie has changed in so far as the Social-Democratic leaders, the small and the big party bosses, have been ousted from their well-paid jobs in the state apparatus, in the municipalities, in the health insurance, etc., and have even been removed from the trade unions. The self-disbandment of the “Reichsbanner” organizations of the “Hammerschaften” [1] and for that matter even of Social-Democratic Party organizations is a proof that Social-Democracy is no longer capable of severing its connections with the bourgeoisie, in view of the danger of the social revolution. To the Social-Democratic Parties in the service of French imperialism it seemed proper to propagate their “international” displeasure against German imperialism arming for a war of revenge.

The internationalism of Social-Democracy represents merely a temporary, external connection, regulated according to the diplomatic objects of the moment, between the Social-Democratic parties of various countries, whereas the nationalism of Social-Democracy, its dependence upon its own bourgeoisie, is part of the inmost nature of social-fascism. This is why the Social-Democracy of Germany has offered no resistance to the pressure put upon it by its own bourgeoisie — represented for the time being by Hitler — to deal the first blow to the swaying structure of the Second International and to bring about its collapse.

“The Socialist Labour International is a living reality only to the extent that its resolutions in all international questions are binding on all its parts,” the Statutes of the Second International tell us: “Every resolution of the International organization means, therefore, a self-willed restriction of the autonomy of the Parties of the individual countries.”

There is not a single case in the whole history of the Second International in which this “self-willed restriction of the autonomy of the parties of the individual countries” has become a fact. No Social-Democratic Party has allowed itself to be restricted in its national interests, save in those cases in which the bourgeoisie itself prescribe this.

Even in time of peace, German Social-Democracy will not allow itself to be restricted in its autonomy with regard to support of Hitler and the coming national war of Germany, will not allow itself to be restricted by any forces external to the German nation, by any International. Even the most outrageous fascist terror on the part of Hitler will not be able to deter it from this. This is a matter between itself and Hitler, who, after all — and this is recognized even by Léon Blum — came to power by democratic means.

The disintegration of the Second International, started by German Social-Democracy, must nevertheless be “explained” to the working masses. The Second International must still be defended, must be saved.

Léon Blum contends that even after the withdrawal of German Social-Democracy, the Second International can still be useful. Peace still exists Painlevé, who has been French War Minister on several occasions, declared only a short time ago that this summer it will not yet come to a war. Until the fall, perhaps even later, a “rump” International may still be used as an “instrument of peace.” Even in war time it may serve for winning over to the side of French imperialism and its allies certain “neutral” Social-Democratic Parties. By defending the “international idea” French Social-Democracy has been able to keep up before the workers the appearance that it votes for the military budget of French imperialism only occasionally, in order to save precisely the pacifism of France, this “entrenchment of democracy” in Europe.

Therefore a fairy tale must be spun in regard to the dissolution of the Second International. There are forces at work which try to explain this dissolution by tactical differences of opinion between German Social-Democracy and the Social-Democracies of other countries. Thus Léon Blum writes in the Arbeiterzeitung:

This virtual breaking off of relations (i.e., between the German party and the Second International — B.K.) corresponds in fact to a difference of opinion existing between the two, to a difference in tactics.”

This is as much as to say that German Social-Democracy goes too far in supporting its own bourgeoisie; the other parties, on the other hand — at least those whose countries group themselves round democratic France — are not willing or do not like to go as far as their German comrades. They do not support fascism and will not support it, even if their bourgeoisie should resort to the methods of fascism.

The question is therefore framed like this: Fascism or Democracy. Things are put as if there had arisen differences of opinion on this question between the Second International and German Social-Democracy. From the putting of this question and the political and tactical conclusions derived from it, it is then intended to draw the tactical line of demarcation between Léon Blum and Otto Wels, Jouhaux and Leipart, Vandervelde and Stampfer.

The fairy tale that is being woven round the dissolution of the Second International, namely, that this dissolution is a result of tactical differences of opinion between its national sections, is the saving means by which the dissolving Second International is to be kept alive at least for a short time until the outbreak of a new imperialist war. Nothing, however, is further from the truth than this fairy tale.

The reason for the disintegration of the Second International is not that its national parties apply different kinds of tactics and that, owing to this, differences of opinion have arisen between them. On the contrary, the reason for the renewed disintegration of the Second International is at present, just as during the war, that all its parties apply the same tactics, that their attitude towards their own bourgeoisie, towards their own proletariat, towards the war preparations of their own and the foreign bourgeoisie, towards fascism and towards proletarian revolution is one and the same. This attitude, these tactics are expressed in a more or less developed form corresponding to the different degrees of ripeness of the revolution, in the different countries and to the different foreign political relations of the individual imperialist countries. The basis of this policy, however, is the same: solidarity with their own bourgeoisie and hostility to the proletarian revolution.

Thus as time proceeds it is not the differences in tactics which become unbearable for the Second International, but the similarity of attitude on the part of the Social-Democratic Parties in each country towards their own bourgeoisie. It is this which was expressed in the renewed disintegration of the Second International, in a new stage of history, at a time when the post-war crisis of capitalism has reached a stage at which the old connections and relations between the individual imperialist powers are being severed. At this stage the bases of the capitalist system’s world political order of the Versailles peace treaties are already undermined, and a regrouping of the imperialist world for the unchaining of imperialist world war is on the order of the day. The existence of capitalism is threatened anew by revolutions and wars. This is what we mean by the expression: the end of capitalist stabilization.

Those leaders of the Second International who believe that their political business interests still require them to stock the commodity Social-Democratic Internationalism, are now endeavouring to explain the withdrawal of German Social-Democracy from the Socialist Labour International, its open expressions of solidarity with Hitler’s policy, as demonstrated in Potsdam, and its defence of Hitler’s dictatorship before international public opinion as the original sin of German Social-Democracy. The lost virginity of German Social-Democracy is lamented by many leaders of the Second International.

All the arts of parliamentary lawyers are employed in order to remove the common responsibility for the Social-Democracy of Germany – or at least for its present actions – from the Second International as a whole and from its sections. The whole Social-Democratic press has been mobilized in order to make the workers in France, Belgium, Czecho-Slovakia, England and other countries believe that the road of German Social-Democracy from Weimar to Potsdam, from Ebert to Hitler, is the road of one that walks alone, of a solitary wanderer. This fairy tale of the “poor sinner Social-Democratic Party of Germany” is intended to save the honour of the Second International as a whole.

Every Communist must say: Be on your guard, Social-Democratic workers! The road of German Social-Democracy is the road of the whole Second International, however differently the various Social-Democratic Parties may be utilized by the bourgeoisie to push forward fascization!


1.  “Reichsbanner” and “Hammerschaften” were Social-Democratic defence organizations. — Ed.

Next: IV. The International Federation of Trade Unions