In tragic accents, the leaders of the Second International implored German Social-Democracy to preserve, at least, the appearance of adopting an oppositional attitude to Hitler and begged it not to disavow “internationalism so openly.” At the beginning of May appeared in the international social-democratic press an elaborate speech of Otto Wels at the party conference of the S.D.G., in which the backslider (we quote from the International Information of the Secretariat of the Second International of May 6, 1933) adhered once more to the policy of his party in the following words:
“Social-Democracy has done great things since 1918; it has nothing to disavow or to palliate.”
Therefore, all that has happened was right, particularly the brutal persecution of the Communists in view of the onward march of the National-Socialists to power, under cover of the machine guns of the social-democratic police, and, above all, the rejection of the Communist Party’s offers on July 20 and January 30 of a united front in common defence against fascism.
Wels leaves us in no doubt that social-democracy, as long as it lives, will oppose a hostile front to the Communists, to proletarian dictatorship. In this even the fascist dictatorship can make no change. The proletariat has itself to blame for Hitler’s accession to power: Wels, indeed, has observed in his speech:
“It was the working class itself that had not yet grown up to the tremendous problems of the times, and that split when unity was more imperative than ever.”
That the German working class was not yet far enough advanced in its development to prevent the temporary victory of fascism, is a fact, which permits of no concealment. That it let itself be “split when unity was more imperative than ever,” permits of denial just as little. But it is no less firmly established that this backwardness in development of the German working class was conditioned precisely by the fact that the majority of the proletariat in Germany followed the slogans of German social-democracy.
Herr Wels and the leaders of the Second International have no occasion to reproach the German working class. They may rather take some pride in them. For was it not German social-democracy that issued the slogans: “No separate actions, Follow constitutional paths, Do not follow the Communists into the revolutionary struggle.”
But how, then, has it defended this Constitution? How has it exploited the constitutional path in Potsdam? How did it exploit the constitutional path, the legal posibilities, under Hitler’s dictatorship? (The National Conference of the S.P.D. in the Reichstag Building was, to be sure, an exploitation of legal possibilities, when Göring, after the model of the delousing stations of the Imperial Prussian army, instituted a de-semitizing station for Social-Democracy, in order to make the Party’s Executive Committee Aryan. That Göring then had the Party’s Executive Committee, even after it had become Aryan, arrested, merely indicates that the fascists are not scrupulously loyal partners).
By no means do we put this question to those who have gone over individually to the National Socialists. Nor do we put it to those who, in relation to the workers, cynically acknowledge that fascism is to be preferred to proletarian revolution, as the “lesser evil.” Rather, we wish to put this question to those Don Quixotes of the “liberal legislation,” to those adorers of the “splendours of the constitutional system,” to those eulogists of the “blessings of its liberal institutions,” to such people within the working class itself, people who let themselves be persuaded that bourgeois democracy represented the way to socialism.
We wish to put this question to those believers in the unique power of the ballot-paper, to those “forceless ones,” who have spurned the force of the proletarian revolution, of the proletarian dictatorship, when the force of the bourgeoisie stormed and raged against the proletariat. We wish to put this question to those who let themselves be convinced that a weapon is — a weapon, whether it be turned against the proletariat or against the bourgeoisie. We wish to put this question to those who let themselves be humbugged by the clique of social-democratic leaders into the belief that democracy is — simply democracy, that democracy is bound up with no class, that there is no bourgeois and no proletarian democracy, and that dictatorship in every form, whether dictatorship of the bourgeoisie or dictatorship of the proletariat, is to be rejected.
Why unity? Perchance for the “struggle along constitutional paths,” as social-democracy proposed and proposes? But has not the working class in Germany been “split” precisely in the name of this “struggle” along constitutional paths, when it attempted to throw into the scale the power given to it by its position in the production process, at least in the farm of a political mass strike, as the Communists several times proposed. What is the meaning of “constitutional path” in Germany to-day, when Hitler — in the opinion of Otto Wels and Léon Blum (see Arbeiterzeitung, April 7, 1933) — has gained power by a “democratic ascent”? What else does this flower of speech signify save enrolment of the Storm Troops in the state apparatus, subjection of the trade unions to “assimilation,” robbery of the workers funds by fascist commissars, ejection of class-conscious workers from the factories, depriving them of a living in favour of yellow strike-breakers, annihilation of the workers’ press, prohibition of strikes, hunger and starvation for the proletarians, and again and again hunger? To remain in constitutional paths would mean that all the German workers would range themselves behind Wels and Leipart, and, prostrated on the ground, with self-manacled hands, would wait until Hitler succeeded in consolidating his power; that they would avoid the struggle, which the revolutionary workers, under the leadership of the Communist Party, are waging with self-sacrificing heroism. The struggle against fascism, for the liberty of the working class, for the “rights of democratic freedom,” when it is conducted on the ground of bourgeois democracy, of the democratic Constitution, and remains confined to this, means renunciation of any struggle at all.
The best defenders of capitalist power in moments of danger are not the capitalists themselves, who regard the legal institutions of the capitalist state with cynical dubiety, and, from their safe positions behind ramparts bristling with bayonets, survey the juristic mantle of the bourgeois-democratic state, just as that of the bourgeois-corporative state, with supercilious smiles and disdain. The best defenders of the bourgeoisie and the capitalist system are those who have illusions, and who sow these illusions among the workers.
Let the German bourgeoisie, let the master classes in other lands of fascism treat the Social-Democratic leaders to kicks, let them feed them caster-oil, sneer and spit at them; social-democracy, as the source of the illusions concerning the constitutional way, concerning the parliamentary methods of “class struggle round the table,” of “forcelessness,” social-democracy, as the chief agent in the demobilization of the revolutionary forces of the working class, remains the principal social support of the bourgeoisie under all methods and forms of bourgeois power.
About what should the Second International still have to negotiate with the Communist International, after it has forbidden its sections to conduct negotiations concerning the offers of the Communist Parties to organize the struggle against fascism jointly? Perchance about the constitutional way to proceed against fascism? Perhaps about a “unity” upon that basis, from which German Social-Democracy proceeded to fling wide the door to Hitler? Maybe about a “nonaggression pact,” that shall serve the purpose of putting one party to the agreement — Social-Democracy — in a position to secure against the revolutionary workers its reactionary united front with its own capitalists in the preparations of imperialist war?
What prospects would the working class have to-day, if it ranged itself unitedly behind Wels, if to-day it had unitedly let itself be fed with promises in the “constitutional way,” and if considerable and increasing sections of the working class, under the leadership of the C.P.G., were not carrying on the struggle for the overthrow of fascist dictatorship unflinchingly?
There would now remain only the prospects which Wels has conceded at the party conference, where he remarked:
“Never yet has a system of government lasted forever.”
The proletarians were fed by social-democracy with the Christian doctrine of forbearance; they have experienced what it means to apply the evangelical counsel of social-democracy: “if he smite you on the right cheek, turn unto him the left cheek” to the Storm Troops and Defence Formations.
The lesson for the working class, however, that is to be drawn from this, reads: Do not let yourselves be divided.
Social-Democracy would fain have it: We were united; meaning, the Communists have split the workers’ movement.
In what did the unity of the movement of the working class consist? In its class character; in the fact that the workers’ parties regarded themselves as parties of the working class, waged the class struggle against the bourgeoisie, but were not willing to administer the affairs of the bourgeoisie.
Who has split the unity of the workers’ movement?
Those “leaders“ of the workers, who placed the working masses in the service of the bourgeoisie, instead of conducting the struggle for the everyday interests and for the emancipation of the working class; those who have turned the Socialist Parties into capitalist Labour Parties.
During the war, Lenin was wont to cite the words written by a German Social-Democrat in the reactionary periodical “Preussische Jahrbücher,” words which give a conclusive answer to the question, who has split the workers’ movement. There it is written:
“Its (Social-Democracy’s) character of a workers’ party with socialist ideals must be preserved by it; for, on the day it should lose this character, there would arise a new party that would make the renounced program its own in more radical formulation.” (Preussische Jahrbücher, 1915, No. 4, p. 51.).
Here the question as to who split the workers’ movement is not only clearly answered, but the reason is also adduced as to why Social-Democracy, or, at least; its Executive Committee, its parliamentary fraction, was in Germany “tolerated” by Hitler for a time, and in a number of lands, is directly encouraged by the bourgeoisie. Fear of the Communists, of proletarian revolution, forced Social-Democracy “to continue with socialism,” in order to be able to secure to the capitalists the leadership of the proletariat.
This was the purpose of all the Second International’s united front manuvres, which were, however, disavowed by a number of its parties. The opposition of German Social-Democracy, of the Czech, the Polish and other Social-Democrats to negotiations with the Communist International furnishes proof that, as the international organization of the Social-Democratic Parties in the countries preparing for war, the Second International is already incapable of further negotiations.
But so much the more urgent becomes the question of restoring the united front of the working class against fascism, the offensive of capital and imperialist war, this question is coming more and more to the front. We recall that Lenin, after the negotiations of the three then existing Internationals in 1922 wrote:
“The representatives of the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals need the united front, since they hope to weaken us through excessive concessions on our part; they hope to be able to push their way into our Communist house without any obligation; they hope to convince the workers through the united front tactic of the rightness of the reformist and the falseness of the revolutionary tactic. We need the united front, because we hope to convince the workers of the contrary . . . .
“In order to help these masses, to help them against capital, to help them to grasp the “artful mechanics” of the two fronts in the whole of international economics as well as in the whole of international politics, on this account we have adopted the united front tactic, and will carry it through to the end.”
The two fronts in “international economics and politics” are to-day more clearly defined than ever before. Therefore, any united front has become insupportable to the Second International. We, however, will have to unmask the “artful mechanics” of the two fronts so much the more completely, and will have to form the united front of the working class in the struggle so much the more resolutely.
This united front will deal the death blow to the International of the social-chauvinists, of the social-fascists, which now already poisons the air with its corpse-like stench, and will continue to poison it long after its death.