Bela Kun

The Second International In Dissolution


Since this pamphlet was written, certain events have occurred in the Second International that are worth recording in an epilogue. These further events show that the Second International remains, for the term of its life, the International of preparation for imperialist war, the path-finder for fascism, and that what still holds it together is solely the common endeavour to save capitalism at the expense of the working class, in the first place at the expense of the Soviet Union.

In the meantime, the Social-Democratic Party of Germany has continued further on its way of capitulation to Hitler, and since its prohibition by the Hitler government, which ensued despite its capitulation, it has devised a new manœuvre for its salvation. The Reichstag fraction of the Social-Democratic Party voted for Hitler on May 17 with the song Deutschland über Alles on their lips. But even that could in no respect change its fate.

Hitler has — for all his “anti-Marxist” phrases directed against Social-Democracy — estimated the Social-Democratic Party of Germany, in accordance with the nature of its politics and in accordance with its class composition, as one among many parties that represent the interests of the German bourgeoisie, but whose peculiarity it is to have its social foundation and its mass basis first and foremost in the working class. He has also meted out corresponding treatment to Social-Democracy. He did not let himself be diverted from the fascist idea of the “totalen staates[1] by the wheedling of the Social-Democratic Party and trade union leaders, any more than he did by the national protestations of the Centre Party or of his own allies, the German Nationals. The special treatment of Social-Democracy by the fascist government (the clearing of the Social-Democratic functionaries out of the state apparatus, and also the subsequent dissolution of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany prior to all other parties, the mass arrests of its leading cadres, etc.) is proper to the party of the left wing of the capitalist class, whose class composition is predominantly proletarian and which therefore conceals within itself special dangers for the fascist dictatorship and its clique of leaders.

The tactics of the Social-Democratic leadership, which aspired to a compromise with Hitler just as fruitlessly as the leaders of the Centre Party, the Bavarian People’s Party or other bourgeois parties, have, however, conjured up the danger that Social-Democracy, regarded from the standpoint of the non-fascist sections of the bourgeoisie, would become superfluous. With the organizational self-dissolution and splitting of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany, broad masses of the Social-Democratic workers threaten to come to Communism.

At the national conference of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany, which was held on April 26 in Göring’s Reichstag, the aspiration to the “new orientation” found its expression for the first time. Whole district-organizations (as in Wurtemburg) declared their self-dissolution, in conection with which they called upon their members to support the national revolution; the leadership of the General Federation of German Trade Unions declared in unmistakeable terms its breach with Social-Democracy and its readiness voluntarily to subject itself to assimilation; “Gleichschaltung”: Co-ordination. i.e., The exclusion of Communists from all elected institutions and appointment of National-Socialist Commissars to direct Trade Unions, employers organizations, separate State Governments, etc., Government Departments. Social-Democratic trade union and co-operative functionaries and health insurance officials went over en masse to the National-Socialist Party; they instituted a grovelling job-hunt after provisional commissions in the same organizations, whose affairs they had previously administered as “elected” functionaries. The meaning of all this was nothing other than the carrying of the tactics of the Executive Committee of the Social-Democratic Party in regard to fascism to their logical conclusion.

These tactics and their continuation to their logical conclusion by important representatives and organizations of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany conjured up the danger of Social-Democracy being unable to represent the left wing any longer even in the bourgeois camp; on the other hand; they also led to parts of its lower organizations making themselves independent and allying themselves with Communist organizations, and to many worker members going over to the Communists.

At the national conference in Berlin the Executive Committee of the Party, under the leadership of Wels, carried through a double manœuvre. In order to placate Hitler and Göring, the national conference removed from the Executive Committee of the Party all Jewish members as well as all former “Independents,” who had mostly emigrated; to the general membership the national conference made the concession of filling these offices with such leaders from the younger generation of party bosses, as gave the appearance of being on the Left. After long debates, the conference adopted a resolution on the report of Wels, in which it is stated:

“Unprincipled coat-turning rightly meets with universal contempt. By steadfast adherence to its principles and utilization of the given legal possibilities for its activity, the Social-Democratic Party of Germany serves the nation and socialism.”

Hitler’s answer was the sequestration of the entire property of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany on May 9; the answer of a great part of the mass membership was flight from the Party, from the trade unions and, in many cases, the beginning of illegal organizational activity.

Supported by the head of the Second International, the new orientation then went full steam ahead for the salvation of Social-Democracy. Abroad, fugitive Social-Democratic leaders began to write on the subject that

“fascism itself has liberated it (i.e., Social-Democracy) from legality . . . now the only possibility still left to it is to defy the fascist rule of force, without concern for its legality to hold together in revolutionary forms the nucleus of the most devoted and most valiant, and to educate it, the revolutionary rising generation.” (Vienna Arbeiterzeitung, May 11, 1933).

The new tactical orientation — of at least a part of the Social-Democratic leadership — was supposed to be expressed in the slogan that the constitutional path has been abandoned. It is not long since they wished to persuade the workers that legality would kill the Hitler regime, that abandonment of the constitutional path was a Communist provocation. Behind this new orientation, however, there was always the tactical consideration that Hugenburg, “Hindenburg’s man,” would overthrow Hitler, or at least force him back within legal limits.

The difference of opinion between the Executive Committee of the Party and the majority of the Reichstag fraction, which came to light on the occasion of the latter’s assent to Hitler’s Reichstag speech of May 17, are, in the very first place, to be traced to the fact that the Executive Committee of the Party and a minoriy of the Reichstag fraction considered it impossible to continue the policy of the constitutional path further and wished to set up an opposition, from Hugenburg to Wels, against Hitler. The majority of the parliamentary fraction, however, with Löbe at its head, wished the Party to adhere further to the constitutional path, a fact that came to expression, after a compromise with the constitutional majority and its leader, in Hitler being approached once more. It is stated that twenty-seven members of the Reichstag fraction declared in the session that in the event of the fraction, under “orders from emigrés,” not giving its assent to Hitler’s Reichstag speech, they would leave the Social-Democratic Party of Germany and go over to the Nazis.

On the vote of the Reichstag fraction of May 17 followed the official declaration of Wels concerning the removal of the headquarters of the Executive Committee of the Party to Prague (actually, the removal had already taken place earlier), a declaration that was also intended to proclaim officially the abandonment of the constitutional path. At the same time an official communication was issued to the effect that Vorwärts would reappear as a weekly in Czechoslovakia and a new daily of the Social-Democratic emigration; Deutsche Freiheit, would be founded in Saarbrücken. To crown the “new orientation,” the withdrawal of Wels’ resignation from the Bureau of the Second International was announced.

The ship of the Executive Committee of the German Social-Democratic Party, with at least a part of her crew, has therefore come safely to port in Prague. This led, however, to a falling apart of the leadership of German Social-Democracy into two camps. One section of the Social-Democratic leaders did not wish to recognize the new landing place of Prague; under Löbe’s leadership, it wished and wishes to adhere to Potsdam, where the Social-Democratic Party of Germany, unbroken, under the leadership of the whole executive committee, with Wels at its head, would range the ship of Social-Democracy with Hitler’s fleet, The fraction in the Prussian diet has declared that it rejects most uncompromisingly the removal of the headquarters of the executive committee of the Party and that the headquarters of the leadership remain in Germany until further notice; the Reichstag fraction, likewise has not recognized the executive committee of the Party in Prague.

The disintegration, however, has not yet reached finality with this public disputation between two sections of the Social-Democratic leadership, any more than with the official prohibition of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany by the Hitler government, the annulment of the mandates of all Social-Democratic parliamentary and municipal fractions and the subjects of the reformist trade unions to complete assimilations.

The “struggle for the new orientation,” that called forth the cleavage in the leadership, is still in its initial stage. The membership in Germany and among the emigrés has not yet by any means had its word. The last word in these disputations will, in any case, be spoken by those worker-members of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany and the reformist trade unions to whose destinies it makes no difference whatever whether they are betrayed from Potsdam, or from Prague, by a clique of leaders whose baseness is only surpassed by its political stupidity. What this “revolutionariness” of German Social-Democracy and the Second International in regard to Hitler has unleashed, is disclosed by the article, already cited above, of the dummy old “Left” Social-Democrat:

“Every thing hinges on who takes over the leadership and what this leadership is like. One senses that the struggle has begun.”

To contest the Communist Party of Germany’s leadership of the anti-fascist struggle that it is organizing, to contest its leadership in order “to turn into democratic paths” the revolutionary struggle against bourgeois dictatorship in all forms, i.e., to sabotage it in the interest of capitalism’s salvation — such is the purpose of the “new orientation” of Social-Democracy in Germany. In this sense, Wels and the leaders of the Second International have come together.

* * *

This return of Wels to the leaders of the Second International does not hold up the Second International’s process of dissolution in the least degree. Likewise it in no way alters the fact that, on the occasion of the prolongation of the Berlin Agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union, all the Social-Democratic Parties got together for the common purpose of incitement against the fatherland of all toilers, in order to affirm with the same unanimity the anti-Soviet Four Power Pact, in the conclusion of which, besides the ex-labour leader, MacDonald, and the near-socialist, Daladier, Hitler and Mussolini also participated.

The international conference of the Second International called for August 21 in Paris will find it hard to hush up the antagonisms of the different national Social-Democratic Parties. Each fresh step to imperialist war signifies a fresh step to its further dissolution, signifies an open avowal of its own bourgeoisie’s war aims, of its own imperialism.

The time has already come when the putrefaction in the Second International has advanced so far that it can only maintain its existence by playing the role of pathfinder to the unity of the imperialist powers in the struggle against the Soviet Union. It is not yet, indeed, at the end of this role; but it is already at the beginning of the end.


1.  Integral state: what is termed the “corporate state” by Italian Fascism