The shipwreck of German Social-Democracy and of the German reformist trade unions, their open capitulation to Hitler and their actual secession from the international organizations signify a heavy blow to the Second International and all its national parties.
The Social-Democratic workers in all countries rightly raise the question: How has it come to this? How could it happen that the party, which has defended bourgeois democracy with such tenacity and ruthlessness against proletarian dictatorship, did not raise a finger against the setting up of the dictatorship of Hitler? The Second International and its leaders avoid any attempt at an analysis of the German events, at an investigation of the tactics of German Social-Democracy. They appeal to future historians, and are content to indicate that the German workers’ movement was split, and, in consequence, the Hitler dictatorship was bound to arise.
Warned by the Hitler terror and by the capitulation of Social-Democracy in Germany, but also by the conduct of their own leaders’ who continue to make compacts with onward storming fascism in Austria, some delegates to the Party Conference of Austrian Social-Democracy on April 16, 1933, gave voice to their desperation: Do not the tactics of Austro-Marxism (this fungus of a clique of the rottenest Social-Democratic leaders, who have constantly posed as a “Left” wing in the Second International) lead the very way as that marked out by German Social-Democracy?
In the face of the warning example of Germany, Otto Bauer could give to this despairing cry no other answer than that things in Austria were not yet so bad as in Germany, the relations were not yet so far developed. Only, no employment of the last resource, no employment of force on the part of the proletariat. It would be an exaggeration “if one were to say that already the path inevitably leads to fascism in Austria” — thus, hoarse and timid, came the answer of the shrivelled Otto Bauer, as if from the interior of an ice-chest, in which he, together with his theories and the Program of the Social-Democratic Party of Austria, had been placed by order of Dolfuss.
Otto Bauer raises, then, the question of the inevitability of the development to fascism. It follows from his speech that the triumph of Hitler in Germany was unavoidable. What else could his assertion that Austria’s path does not yet inevitably lead to fascism mean?
Otto Bauer cannot get out of it without deception. He puts the question as if in Germany, and also in Austria, the advance of fascism, the inevitability of its triumph, is dependent only on objective forces, forces independent of the working class. This deception serves to defend German, as well as Austrian, Social-Democracy.
How is it with the inevitability of the development to fascism in reality, that reality which has to be veiled by the Second International?
Doubtless it is not determined by the working class whether and when the bourgeoisie gives preference to fascist methods over bourgeois-democratic methods. Imperialism is an age of political reaction and the post-war crisis has still further developed this attribute of imperialism.
“The political superstructure of the new economy, of monopolist capitalism (imperialism is monopolist capitalism)” — wrote Lenin in his article A Caricature of Marxism — “is a turning from democracy to political reaction. To free competition democracy corresponds, to monopoly political reaction . . . .”
From this, of course; it by no means follows that the bourgeoisie, in its struggle for the existence of the capitalist system, cannot come to an arrangement with the democratic republic.
The history of the Weimar Republic is nothing other than a brilliant series of proofs of Engel’s famous words:
“. . . Officially the democratic republic knows nothing more of property differences. In it wealth exercises its power indirectly, but so much the more surely. . . .” — (Origin of the Family).
Fascism, the concentration of the power of the bourgeois state, the open and direct dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, is a product of the sharpening of the general crisis of capitalism, which also sharpens the class struggle extraordinarily and places the struggles for power between proletariat and bourgeoisie, the civil war, on the order of the day. It is thus the preventative organization of the counter-revolution. So far as the general crisis of capitalism is independent of the will of classes and parties, so far the working class also has no share in the question of whether and when the bourgeoisie decides to employ, for the repression of the working class, fascist forms and methods instead of those of bourgeois democracy. At a definite historical moment the bourgeoisie must wish to fascize their apparatus of force, in order to be able to postpone the overthrow of their power and of the capitalist system. The Communist Party of Germany, and also the Communist International, have opportunely drawn the attention of the German and the international working class to the tendencies of the German bourgeoisie, which were directed to putting an end to bourgeois-democratic methods and lifting Hitler into the saddle.
This was an inevitable process for the bourgeoisie and its parties. But it was by no means inevitable for the working class that these tendencies should be realized. It depended in a very high degree on the working class as to whether the bourgeoisie should be able to realize the tendencies directed to the fascization of the state apparatus or not.
Therefore, if one wishes to decide concerning the inevitability of the development to fascism, concerning the unavoidability of its triumph, there is not only the question of differences in degree of development of the fascization tendencies in different lands — as Otto Bauer would like to delude the workers into thinking. There is the question of the relation of Social-Democracy, of the entire Second International, of all its sections, and of the masses of workers led by them, to those objective factors that call forth these fascization tendencies in the bourgeoisie. There is the question of the relation of Social-Democracy to the bourgeoisie and its state, to capitalism, to its general crisis, to imperialist war, to proletarian revolution, to bourgeois democracy and to the dictatorship of the proletariat. From this relation of Social-Democracy to all the questions of economic and political development in the war and post-war period in Germany, the crippling of the forces of the working class and therewith the victory of fascism — in view of the relation of forces between the Social-Democratic Party and the Communist Party necessarily follow. Not for the working class, but for the bourgeoisie, was the path to fascism objectively determined. Since, however, the path of Social Democracy is the path of the bourgeoisie, Social-Democracy inevitably became a fellow-traveller of the bourgeoisie to fascism.
In other countries the inevitability of development to fascism is likewise by no means determined for the working class. The Germany of a higher fascist development does not necessarily present to the countries whose bourgeoisies still prefer bourgeois-democratic to fascist methods, a picture of their own future. The question of the inevitability of fascism was and will only be decided by the tactics of Social-Democracy. The working class in other lands can avert the “German fate,” if it rejects the Social-Democratic tactics, and will restore in time the united front for the struggle against fascism. But if Social-Democracy retains its influence over the majority of the working class, where this is the case and at the moment when the bourgeoisie decides to combat the crisis of capitalism and the proletarian revolution and prepare for imperialist war by repressing the class movement of the workers through fascist methods, there and then development to fascism can become inevitable.
The fate of the German working class, which has temporarily befallen it as a result of the victory of fascism, is not the “German fate,” as the leaders of the Second International maintain in full accord with the prophets of “German socialism,” Hitler, Goebbels and Rosenberg — it is the Social-Democratic fate of the proletariat. The national song that Otto Wels and the Social-Democratic fraction of the Reichstag struck up harmoniously with Hitler, the National-Socialists and the former coalition comrades, from the democrats to the German Nationals, is — translated into different tongues — the music of the by no means distant future of the entire Second International.
These prospects of Social-Democracy — but not of the working class — must not be allowed to be spirited away by any tricks of Léon Blum, Vandervelde and him who has become a star of the second magnitude, Otto Bauer. The “criticism” which the Second International has so far levelled at German Social-Democracy has served no other purpose than to make the workers believe, at least outside Germany, that the German Social-Democrats have not been real democrats, but the German Social-Democrats of other lands are better and more consistent defenders of democracy. In this connection no words are at present wasted on the “socialism” of Social-Democracy. “Of witches, that do not exist, no mention shall be made,” enlightened people already wrote in the dark Middle Ages.
But how can it be denied that the classic seat of Social-Democracy, not only before the war, but also in the post-war period, was precisely Germany?
If one is to consider Social-Democracy in its pure culture then it is just the sway, of German Social-Democracy to which one must pay regard. The Social-Democratic Party of Germany has been politically active in a country of highly developed capitalism, where all the material prerequisites of socialism are sufficiently to hand. It operated in a land where there is a working class powerful in numbers. It has developed its activity in a land where the class antagonisms are the most acute and the class struggle has taken the sharpest for where Social-Democracy and the reformist trade unions have, in comparison with all other countries, embraced the largest masses organizationally and had these behind them politically. Even in the Hitler elections of March 5, 1933, German Social-Democracy polled about eight million votes. In Germany the leaders; the staff of functionaries of Social-Democracy, have climbed the highest rungs that. are attainable in a bourgeois state by upholders of this state. The Social-Democratic Party of Germany had approximately 300,000 public functionaries in its ranks. It had built up the most powerful and influential labour bureaucracy. It had earned the greatest possible credit for saving the capitalist system and the bourgeois state; it created a complete constitution of a great realm, the Weimar Constitution, in its image. By it the entire Second International swore to show the democratic way to socialism. German Social-Democracy was the “civilized opposite pole,” to “Bolshevism of Tartar origin!”
On the basis of the German experiences, has not the priceless Kautsky reported as late as February of this year (Kampf, 1933, No. 2, p. 48)
“Democracy is not merely a way to the socialist goal, but is itself part of this goal, which desires for all not merely well-being but also liberty and equality of rights.” (Emphasis mine — B.K.).
German Social-Democracy has, even better than the English Labour Party, the Belgian, Polish, Swedish, Danish and other Social-Democrats, who, as ministers, administered the affairs of the bourgeoisie, succeeded in making the broad masses of workers believe that participation of Social-Democracy in the management of the bourgeois state apparatus is equivalent to participation of the working class in the power of the bourgeois state. No other Social-Democratic Party has been quite so successful ‘as’ the German Social-Democracy in persuading the workers that the democratic state “embodies, not the power of a class,” but the division of power among the classes, between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.
A president at the head of the Republic, whose candidature was endorsed by Social-Democracy; Social-Democratic ministers in the government of the greatest state of Germany, Prussia, and also in other states; many dozens of provincial governors, district councillors, the highest state officials and — what is most important — police chiefs in the biggest towns, police officers organized in free trade unions and friendly intercourse daily with Reichswehr generals — was all this not power according to the conception of the whole Second International? Did not this, in the view of the leaders of the Second International, signify the power of the workers, in contrast to Bolshevik Russia, where “a dictatorship over the working class holds sway?” Before July 20, 1932, which of the leaders of the Second International warned the German working class by telling it: that this power of Social-Democracy was so constituted that it might be overthrown in twenty-four hours?
And, in fact, Social-Democracy in Germany was not overthrown; it was dismissed.
Dismissed like a courtier, a valet, a portier, . . .
And then, in harmony with the propaganda requirements of “the fascist dictatorship treated to the kicks of the fascist boot!”
Even after its dismissal it demeaned itself entirely as such. It haggled with its master over the size of its pension; it appealed to the gratitude owed it by the bourgeoisie for long and faithful services rendered; it brought actions in the Supreme Court; it threatened and blackmailed the bourgeoisie; only one thing it would not do; it would not fight against its former master. The dismissed Social-Democratic Party of Germany did not go down in the fight against fascism; it collapsed under the ingratitude of the bourgeoisie. The bond of its fidelity to its master, to German capital, could not, however, be broken by its fascist successors. This Otto Wels, the Social-Democratic parliamentary fraction in the Reichstag, and the Executive Committee of the General Federation of German Trade Unions in its May Day appeal have brilliantly proved.
The Second International, the Social-Democratic parties in all other lands, must needs give some explanation to the workers, to make plausible to them how things could have gone so far with Social-Democracy.
The triumph of fascism in Germany they explain by the split in the workers’ movement and by the policy of the Communists (we will return to this base calumny). The attitude of German Social-Democracy, however, they sought to elucidate by saying that German Social-Democracy had radically changed its tactics in regard to fascism and democracy.
They thereby seek to make it appear as if the path of German Social-Democracy were not also the path of the Second International, as if German Social-Democracy were not “genuine and true Social-Democracy.”
Has the Social-Democratic Party of Germany changed its principles, its policy? Did it adopt different tactics from those of yore; when it capitulated to fascism, publicly flung itself at Hitler’s feet, and, at his command, sufficiently dissociated itself from the Second International? Has it changed them, or not?
Have the Second International as a whole and its national parties acted in the class struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat on different principles, have they pursued a different policy from German Social-Democracy?
These are the two preliminary questions that, after the shipwreck of German Social-Democracy, must be answered before we can bring to light the real causes of the split in the Second International — which are carefully concealed by the leaders. These questions must not be answered merely in Germany, where — thanks to the Social-Democratic Party and the reformist trade union leaders — instruction on them is given in a school whose principal pedagogic methods are drawn from those steel rods of the Storm Troops and Defence Formations piled up under Severing, Grezsinski, and Zoergiebel, as well as other Social-Democratic police chiefs. In all countries a correct Marxist answer must he given to these questions for the common good of the working class, in order that it may be able to shape its destiny otherwise and avoid what, with the active co-operation of Social-Democracy, fell to the lot of the working class in Germany.
There can be no doubt that considerable sections of the German working class, which, after January 30, after Potsdam, severed their connections with the Social-Democratic Party organizationally, still remain under the ideological influence of Social-Democracy, and are of opinion that a better Social-Democracy than theirs is possible. If, in consequence of the self-dissolution of the organs of the Social-Democratic organizations, the German workers now no longer imbibe the poison of the Social-Democratic press and agitation centres in such quantities as before, nevertheless the opium of Social-Democratic ideology still affects the minds of many, many German proletarians. All too strong is the tradition of the Social-Democratic spirit that has grown up in Germany. The politically and morally finished Social-Democracy constantly operates still, and will continue to operate further. Even the National-Socialists help it to do so, when they brand Social-Democracy as the representative of Marxism.
“We suffer not only from the living, we also suffer from the dead, ” wrote Karl Marx. Social-Democracy, even after it is quite dead, which is not yet the case, will still long poison the air.
Next: V. True to Itself to the Very End