Ernst Meyer


The Situation in Germany

(2 August 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 54 [32], 2 August 1923, pp. 570–571.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2022). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

A short time before Ehrhardt marched on Berlin in the spring of 1920, for the purpose of lifting Kapp into the saddle of government, the Minister for National Defence of the day, Noske, prohibited the communist press and communist meetings, justifying this action by the assertion that the communists were striving for the immediate and violent establishment of their dictatorship. Today everyone knows, including Herr Noske, that martial law and prohibitions against the generals of the national defence army and counter-revolutionary associations would probably have prevented the chasing of Ebert’s government out of Berlin. But just as Ebert hastened to conclude peace with Kapp’s followers in order to be better able to turn against the workers to whom his return to Berlin was solely due, so the government of today, in Prussia and throughout the country, only has eyes for the alleged danger from the left. Yet not a day passes on which the counter-revolutionary organizations not only attack workers and destroy their common property, but also continue, both openly and secretly, to develop their preparations for the overthrow of the "unreliable” government. The government may be of the opinion that it can keep its head above water with the aid of the workers, as in the spring of 1920. But the working class has learnt something from the experiences of the Kapp putch. It will not fetch the chestnuts out of the fire for the government a second time, to be rewarded by being roasted at the same fire. The working class is aware that all the antagonisms existing between the government and the Fascist organizations are but slight in comparison with the unbridgeable chasm between the proletariat on the one side and the government and the counter-revolutionists on the other. And thus there is a growing determination, among the working strata of Germany’s population, to defend themselves and to take drastic steps against the Fascist provocations and preparations. Even good social democratic workers who, after the murder of Rathenau, still believed that the government would drive the counter-revolutionists out of the administration, and would really dissolve the Fascist bans – even these have lost all confidence in the government, and are as convinced as the communists of the necessity of forming proletarian defence units. Never was the idea of proletarian self-defence, and of armed workers’ defence organizations, so popular among the whole proletariat, even among the social democratic and non-party workers, as it is today. The tolerations and patronage of counter-revolutionary traitors and butchers of workmen by certain governmental organs has been so brilliantly illuminated by the flight of Ehrhardt and the trial of princess Hohenlohe, that there is not a single workman blind enough to believe a word of all the talk in the official and semi-official press about the measures being taken by the government against monarchist counter-revolution.

To this we must add that the absolute incapacity of the government even to alleviate the social effects of the Ruhr war and the catastrophic fall of the mark has completely undermined its position. The German government is so weak and shaky both as regards foreign and home politics, that the prospects of its downfall naturally appear extraordinarily favorable to the counter-revolutionary monarchists. With every ten thousand mark rise in the value of the dollar the number of National Socialist adherents grows proportionately, and gathers round the standard upon which are emblazoned, sham slogans of struggle against usurious capital. Every step taken towards the abandonment of passive resistance in the Ruhr area, and every retreat before England’s insolent assumptions, which treat Germany benevolently as a colony dependent on England, drive thousands of unenlightened petty and middle bourgeois into the nationalist unions, in the hope of salvation by means of a war of vengeance against France.

In this situation there is only one party, the Communist Party, really capable of finding a way out. The Communist Party of Germany demands first, the complete disarmament of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie, in order to stamp out every germ of an attempt to overthrow the republican form of state and re-establish the monarchist. The Communist Party therefore calls upon all working people to form proletarian hundreds. It is only political cowards like the social democratic leaders who can try and persuade themselves and others that to omit this necessary measure of self-defence on the part of the working class would serve to weaken the Fascisti. The Communist Party of Germany demands at the same time, that energetic measures be taken against the imperialist plans of the Entente, for it is only the most imbecile of pacifisms who can hope that Germany is going to be saved by English imperialism, or by its offshoot, the predatory League of Nations, the Communist Party of Germany finally demands a thorough reformation of the system of taxation, finance, and production; for all the jugglery in support of the mark, and for the reduction of prices, has only served to increase the opportunities for the usurious exploitation of the broad masses.

This same social democracy, which designates all energetic defence against Fascism as a deliberate unchaining of civil war, simultaneously plays the part of a “radical" labor party, and makes the social agitation of the communists among the petty bourgeoisie and the misled followers of Fascism a pretext to reproach them with striving for an alliance with Hitler and Ludendorff. The social democrats will neither combat the armed enemies of the workers, nor will they endeavor to convert these enemies into friends or sympathizers by means of an energetic policy in the interest of all sections of workers, including those of the petty bourgeoisie.

Hence the lack of comprehension of the Anti-Fascist Day among the social democrats. Their press is stupid or mendacious enough to welcome the prohibition of the demonstration on July 29, alleging that it puts an end to the communist call of “Up with the Dictatorship”. And yet this press is perfectly aware that at the present moment the communists are not expecting the immediate realization of the dictatorship, least of all from July 29, but that the Communist Party of Germany demands the formation of a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government in cooperation with the social democrats. The Fascisti and the government are naturally anxious to prevent the communists from showing their strength in the streets, from thus alarming the Fascisti and at the same time drawing the attention of the broad masses of the working people to the dangers of Fascism. The Communist Party is no set of conspirators intent on overthrowing the government by a coup on the lines of the Kapp putch. The Communist Party of Germany limits itself consciously to the execution of demands put forward or understood by the whole working class. The Anti-Fascist Day on July 29 was intended from the beginning to be a day upon which the forces of the proletariat were to be gathered together, as a day for the enlistment of proletarian forces in the united front against Fascism. These intentions, proclaimed and adhered to from the day of the first appeal, resulted naturally in the attitude adopted by the Communist Party to the prohibition of the street demonstrations on July 29. Nothing could agitate better for the German Party than this prohibition on the part of the government. This same government which has hitherto tolerated, almost without exception, the armed demonstrations of the Fascist associations, now forbids the peaceful and unarmed street demonstrations of the workers. Nothing can throw a better light on the partisanship of the government, concerning which the communists have always maintained that it acts in collusion with the Fascisti, though it may repudiate them publicly. The government maintains that it must act impartially towards left and right. But as a matter of fact, this general prohibition of street demonstrations was issued just at the moment when the workers were going to demonstrate, whilst the Fascisti have been permitted to demonstrate for mon.Its without hindrance. And this partiality on the part of the government is in favor of a well-armed, but small body of conspirators, who threaten the government itself, a government which aids them against the working class, that is, against the great masses. Nor can there be any other explanation of the fact that social democratic ministers in Prussia have anticipated the Bavarian Cabinet with their prohibition, and by reason of this, have placed the social democratic workers of Frankfort on the same level as “Steel Helm” provocateurs.

The street demonstrations on July 29 were only to have been held in a certain number of cities in Germany. The general prohibition now prevents the entire working class throughout the country from taking part in any demonstrations of an economic or political character whatever. It is not only the communists who suffer, but all workers, including the social democrats. It is impossible for a government to demonstrate more clearly, that a blow dealt at the communists strikes the whole working class.

If the communists had really had the intention, as asserted by the government and the social democrats, of beginning armed civil war on July 29, then nothing would have prevented them from carrying out this intention. But the communists, only desirous of testing and strengthening their powers, have no idea of venturing into battle at a moment chosen by their enemies. Even the open attempt of the government and the Fascisti to provoke an armed struggle on July 29 will not have the desired effect. The communist workers learnt a lesson from the events of March 1921 which they have not yet forgotten. At that time it was the Security Police of Severing and Horsing which marched to defeat the workers in the factories; and yet there is today full agreement in the Communist Party that the form and manner of the defence were defective. This time it was the Communist Party itself which, from the very beginning, thought only of peaceful demonstrations. It would no doubt delight the Fascisti, in uniform and in plain clothes, if the Communist Party would let itself be drawn into street fighting by the prohibition. No, the Communist Party states openly that it declines to be thus provoked, and that, after it has enlightened the working people upon the support lent to the Fascisti by the government and upon the dangers of Fascism itself, it will proceed to extend this work of enlightenment by means of demonstration meetings and street agitation. The Communist Party will examine the situation in each separate locality, and, according to the respective strengths of its own and the enemy forces in each case, will organize these demonstrations, up to the prohibited street demonstration, as efficiently as possible, but without exposing itself to the reproach of carelessly risking the lives of its own followers and of sympathizing workers.

It may be that revolutionary impatience will here and there deem this decision to be an unnecessary retreat, and it is certain that Fascist provocateurs within and without the governmental authorities will deliberately attempt to suggest such arguments, in order to weaken the Communist Party. But the Communist Party knows that it will gain the confidence of the whole working class if it openly declares what it intended and what it is doing. The Communist Party is a mass party whose tactics are fundamentally different from the plot and putch strategy pursued by small counter-revolutionary secret associations. It needs no military tricks and manoeuvres. It leads the movement of the masses, and the real interests of the masses decide its action on every occasion. The social democrats have also reason to be discontented that all their talk of communist conspiracies is once more exposed as a base calumny. The result of the attitude taken by the Communist Party will in reality be increased confidence in the clear and responsible leadership of our Party. The strengthening of communist influence among the whole working population, as shown by the last municipal council and metal, workers’ elections, will make fresh progress as a result of July 29. The Party will work more keenly than before for the formation of proletarian hundreds. It will counter the Fascist provocation oftener and more energetically than hitherto, and will prepare for the last inevitable conflict even more carefully than before by intensive propaganda among the adherents of Fascism.

Last updated on 29 April 2023