Karl Radek


Fascism, Ourselves and the
German Social-Democrats

(19 July 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 51 [30], 19 July 1923, pp. 527–528.
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.

The speech delivered by Comrade Radek at the recent session of the Enlarged Executive of the Comintern on Schlageter, the Wanderer into the Void, (printed in No. 47 [27] of the Inprekorr), has made a considerable impression in political circles in Germany and has evoked criticism in both the bourgeois and social democratic press. We publish the following article in, which Comrade Radek deals with his critics in both the fascist and social democratic camps, and points out the necessity of combatting Fascism politically. (Ed.)

My speech on Schlageter naturally caused the most unpleasant sensation in the Zeit, the organ of the German People’s Party, and in the Vossische Zeitung. The Zeit warns the Fascisti against falling into my trap. I can sympathize with them. If the gentlemen of the People s Party are not in a position to exploit the national feelings of the petty bourgeois masses for political purposes, German capital will not be in a position to ezploit the German proletariat and German petty bourgeoisie for economic purposes. Any attempt, however diffident, at enlightening the petty bourgeois nationalist masses on the fact that they are merely political cannon fodder for big capital, which plunders them daily, is naturally a blow dealt at the financial backers of the Zeit. The Jewish Russian councillor of commerce, Litvin, whose money keeps the Zeit going, is naturally – together with his money box – a national noli me tangere. And when a Russian Communist informs the petty bourgeois masses as to how they are being taken advantage of, it is obvious that M. Litvin must defend himself against such an interference on the part of Russian Communists in the affairs of his truly German cash box. The Vossische Zeitung is also somewhat put out. It is anxious about the Rapollo treaty, which suffers as the result of such interference on my part. We shall be prepared to discuss with the Ullstein publishers (Publishers of the Vossische ZeitungEd.) as to the best method of carrying out the Rapallo treaty on the day the Ullstein publishers cease to publish the Rut, the organ of the Russian counter-revolutionists, which, under the protection afforded by the Rapallo treaty, openly confers its blessing even upon terrorist bands of the description of Vorowsky’s murderers. Today we shall confine ourselves to a talk with the estimable Vorwärts, which was induced by my speech to bring out a fulminating article entitled: The new National Hero. Radek extols Schlageter. But first let us deal with a few jokes played by the worthy organ representing German Social-Democracy, the emancipator of the peoples. On whose stupidity is the Vorwärts calculating when it writes that I extol Schlageter as a Geman national hero? I designated Schlageter as “the wanderer into the void". I called him our class enemy. The Vorwärts suppresses these expressions of mine. But the Vorwärts itself quotes the sentence in which I spoke of Schlageter as a “soldier of counterrevolution". And since when do the Communists extol the counter-revolutionists? If the Vorwärts wants to spread lies abroad, it should do so a little more skilfully; even the Prussian police prohibit such a degree of stupidity. And what about the “compliments” which I have paid Schlageter, in that I named him a “brave soldier of counter-revolution”? This is a very simple matter. I am always ready to accord human respect to anyone who stakes his life for his idea, even though he be my class adversary, and I am fighting him ruthlessly. On the other hand, I have anything but respect for people who do not venture to stake their existence, either tor revolution or counter-revolution, and can only wail like old women. But let us leave the jokes of the Vorwärts and proceed to politics.

Fascism is a great danger, perhaps a greater danger than the gentlemen of the Vorwärts have any idea of; they have already shown on various occasions that they are liable to miscalculation. Did they not let themselves be taken by surprise by Kapp? Did they not destroy all possibility of a serious struggle against the Fascist danger, once after the murder of Erzberger and again after the murder of Rathenau? When the Vorwärts – and with it the Leipziger Volkszeitung, which has equally gone to the dogs – tell us that we should not “finesse with an idea”, and “try to transform the Fascist wolves into gentle lambs by trying the powers of persuasion on the political opponents of the proletariat,” then we laugh heartily at the Vorwärts and the good Leipziger. Who was it who believed that the wolves of Fascism, when permitted to graze in the meadows of German democracy, would transform themselves into lambs? Was it not the German Social Democrats who even appointed their strong man, Noske, to act as shepherd, that he might lead the Lüttwitzers to the meadows and convert them into lambs by the notes of his flute? It turned out differently. They bit him in the calves, and rent those who fell into their clutches. Did the Social Democrats learn anything from this experience? Nothing whatever! The best proof of this is that even today they still protest against the formation of joint defence units among the proletariat, the sole effectual means of resistance against the Fascist bands. And when the party, whose authorized representative – the Prussian minister for internal affairs Severing – prohibits the proletarian defence units, yet presumes to instruct us on the necessity of combatting Fascism, then Messrs. Stampfer, Stein, and Reuter only make themselves ridiculous.


The Communist Party is the sole power which organizes, and will organize in the future, the self-defensive struggle of the proletariat against the armed bands of the Fascisti. it is naturally ridiculous to assume that Fascism can be defeated by weapons only. The movements of small minorities can be suppressed by governmental terror, though even this is impossible in Germany against the Fascisti, for the simple reason that the whole German government apparatus is permeated with Fascisti or sympathizers with them. But even if Severing and Weissmann were Prussian Marats, their terror would not put an end to the Fascist movement.

Fascism is a political movement embracing wide masses of the proletarianized petty bourgeoisie. And if we are to combat it, we must combat it politically. It is only possible to combat Fascism politically, by first opening the eyes of the broad suffering masses of the petty bourgeoisie to the fact, that their justifiable feelings are being taken advantage of by capital, which is to blame, not only for their economic misery, but also for the national misery of Germany. In the second place, Fascism can be combatted by showing these petty bourgeois masses how they can best fight in their own interests. Against what are they fighting? They are fighting against the unbearable misery into which they are plunged, and they are fighting against the enslavement of Germany through the Versailles treaty. Must the working class aid them in this struggle? It is the duty of the workers to aid them in the struggle against impoverishment. Socialism was never merely a fight for a piece of bread for the industrial workers. It has always tried to be a burning torch showing the way for all sufferers. Is Social Democracy helping the suffering brain workers, the great suffering masses of the petty bourgeoisie, in their material struggle; does it point out to them a path out of their miserable situation? It does not; it rages at the demagogues who utilize the need of the petty bourgeoisie for the purpose of forcing it into the arms of big capital. But it is not capable of showing the petty bourgeois masses any means of escape, for it knows of none. They cannot be helped on the basis of capitalism, and this basis is sacred to social democracy. The Communist Party must be capable of awakening in the petty bourgeois masses the great and holy faith in the possibility of overcoming misery, of awakening the conviction that petty bourgeoisie and working class in co-operation are able to overcome misery, and to create the foundations for a new life in Germany. If the working class in Germany is not capable of imparting this faith to the petty bourgeois masses, then it will be defeated, or will at least nave to wait for a long time for its victory.

And is it not our duty to carry on a struggle against the enslavement of Germany through the Versailles treaty? The Vorwärts cannot deny that it is. But as to how we are to conduct this struggle the Vorwärts vouchsafes no reply, because it does not know of any. Anyone who attempted today to persuade the masses that Wilson or England will do away with the Versailles treaty would be laughed at, and the Vorwärts knows of no other way. And the German bourgeoisie which speaks of a policy of fulfilment knows of no other way either. Neither can we Communists ignore facts, any more than anyone else. And we do not promise the masses that if a workers' government is established in Germany today, it will be in a position to remove the burden of Versailles from Germany in a twinkling. But one thing we do know, and that is that we should try and remove this burden from the shoulders of the poor and the toiling, and to place it on the shoulders of those capable of bearing it. And another thing we know, that we should and could fight against the Versailles peace, as the Russian people has fought and is still fighting, against all attempts to enslave it. Not only would the mere existence of the workers’ government set free latent powers in other countries, which would aid in combatting the Versailles treaty, but the workers’ Government would courageously prepare to carry on an armed conflict against the Versailles Treaty! We declare this openly to the broad masses of the petty bourgeoisie and thereby show them the lines along which they have to fight. Social democracy has merely shown them how to endure every form of oppression and slavery which it cannot conceal under pacifist phrases. Pacifist phrases in the mouth of representatives of an oppressed and dismembered people are cowardice or lies, and must arouse every healthy instinct in the people against them. If we cannot succeed in awakening confidence among the petty bourgeois masses in the capability of the working class to shake off the national fetters, then these masses will become an instrument in the hands of the jackals of the battle field, who misuse the justifiable national feelings of the people for establishing the rule of reaction in Germany, and thus leading Germany still further into the abyss.

One of the most criminal acts committed by German Social Democracy is that it destroys all faith in socialism, all faith in the power of the masses of the people. German Social Democracy is one of the main factors in the victorious progress of Fascist demagogy. At the moment when these Socialists deserted socialism, they converted themselves into apostles of national failure. They, who in the war became “patriots” out of fear of the strength of the German bourgeoisie, and who represented the imperialist robbery as defence of the Fatherland, now call into question any real fight for the national rights of the German people, describing this as nationalism. This time they are actuated ouf of fear of the Entente. The funk-patriots of yesterday have changed into the funk-anti-patriots of today, and on each occasion they nave been false to the immediate duty of a socialist labor party, the duty of rightly leading the broad masses of the people in the fight for their interests.

It is the duty of the German Communists to fight if needs be with weapons in their hands, against the Fascist coup d’etat, for this coup d’etat would be a catastrophe for the working class, a catastrophe for Germany. But at the same time it is their duty to do their utmost to convince the petty bourgeois elements of Fascism, struggling against impoverishment and the enslavement of Germany, that Communism is not their enemy but their star, showing their path to victory. Should the Social Democratic press denounce this work of ours as an attempt at a rapprochement to Fascism, as coquetting with nationalism, as a trap for the unwary, they are at liberty to do so; the Communist will continue to pursue their path, to the advantage not only of the German people, but of the international proletariat!

Last updated on 3 September 2022