Karl Radek

The Foreign Policy of German
Revolution and Counter-Revolution

Communism and the Nationalist Movement in Germany

(27 September 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 62 [40], 27 September 1923, pp. 681–682.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2023). 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.

Germany is at the lowest point of impotence and degradation. but that which best characterizes her situation is not the fact that large tracts of German territory are occupied by French troops, or that a part of the realm is cut off from the rest by foreign might; the situation is best characterized by the fact that the classes which have hitherto ruled in Germany are not capable, and cannot be capable, of uniting Germany, and of saving Germany from becoming a colony for foreign capitalists, or the German people from becoming the helots of the bourgeoisie of foreign nations. It is not the situation itself which is catastrophic, but the direction of its development under the rule of the bourgeoisie. Every bourgeois government in Germany since her defeat in the war has been a government of capitulation. And they have all been so, not because they wanted to be, but because they were obliged to be. Not only Hermann Müller signed the dictates of Versailles, but the so-called Kapp government also began by kowtowing to Versailles; Kapp and Lüttwitz were perhaps of the opinion that this signified no more than a diplomatic flourish. But if they had been able to maintain their position, they would have had to become taskmasters for the Entente, for theirs was a government against the working class, a government of maintenance of capitalism. In view of this they could never have entertained the idea of secretly arming the German people, they were on the contrary compelled to feel alarm at the thought of weapons in the hands of the German workmen. It is impossible to carry on war against an outer foe when there are 15 millions of proletarians in opposition at home. The German nationalists conduct a campaign against Stresemann as being the preparer of capitulation. Messrs Ludendorff and Hitler proclaim a struggle for power as preparatory to the struggle against the Entente. But all this is only empty clatter of which nothing more would be heard once these elements succeeded in seizing the reins of government; for Ludendorff, the leader of the nationalist movement, and Hitler to an even greater extent, are mere marionettes pulled by the wires manipulated by the coal and iron kings, and of the German bread profiteers. Even if they succeeded in seizing power a thousand times over, they would be powerless. In war, it is the man who turns out the grenades in the munition factory, who stands behind the machine gun in the field that plays the decisive role, and this man’s actions are determined by that which he feels – if he is convinced that he is fighting for his own interests, or if he is serving the interests of others. The German army defeated the enemy so long as it believed that the war was holy. It was defeated when its morale was defeated. The profundity of Clausewitz’s works lies in the fact that he understood how moral the frightful occupation of war is. The German people will be in a position to gin its defence, on the day when the German proletariat and the broad masses of German petty bourgeoisie, in town and country, understand that they are fighting and suffering in their own interests. Only then can the reconstitution of Germany begin. The German people needs to overcome its inner disunity if it is to succeed in its struggle against dismemberment and division at the hands of the external enemy. Can this disunity be overcome under a capitalist system? It is nonsense to assume, even for an instant, that it can. With Germany impoverished as she is, capitalism implies the necessity of unheard of misery for the broadest masses, in order that a small group of capitalists can gain profits. Is this a basis upon which we can unite fifteen million proletarians and nine million pauperized, hungry petty bourgeoisie with the factory owners, bankers, big tradesmen, and junkers? The very putting of the question involves its denial. The majority of the German people can only unite on the basis of the struggle against want and misery, and even more on the basis of the struggle against the outrageous social injustice, against the parasites battening on the body of Germany. Nothing but the profoundest faith in the idea that it is fighting in order to organize life on new and better foundations will give the German people the power to bear all the unheard of sufferings which await it, whether revolution or counter-revolution is victorious. It will bear the sufferings of the revolution, because the revolution paves the way to a better future. And therefore it is absolutely childish when many German nationalists say: You gentlemen from the Communist International are not going to dictate to us what inner policy we pursue, the German people is going to decide on that for itself. This objection is ridiculous. The revolution cannot be imported from outside. If the German people do not decide for the revolution, nobody can command them to have a revolution. The command is given by a higher authority than the Executive of the Communist International. It is a command coming de profundis, out of the depths of the need of the German people. The German revolution is the command issued by German need to the sons of the German people. If they heed this command, there begins a new chanter in the history of Germany. If they do not heed it, then Germany is erased from the list of striving peoples for decades; she will be an object of foreign exploitation and alien commands.

But what can the German people accomplish by an uprising? They are surrounded by enemies; they are disarmed. A people of seventy millions cannot be exterminated if the great masses are inspired by the will to defence. France has armies enough to enable her to occupy Germany, but France has neither the means to feed Germany nor the means to maintain herself should she seek to solve the unsolvable: the suppression of seventy million human beings. This is the best chance of the German revolution; the hopeless prospects of French policy, the second chance is the Anglo-French antagonism. The so-called continental politicians in Germany are perfectly right when they laugh at the hope of salvation through England. But the German nationalists are equally right when they laugh at Bernhard and Stresemann for hoping that Germany may be saved by means of an understanding with France; for in the first place such an understanding can only be temporary unless France remains in the Saar district and on the Rhine, keeping the Ruhr industry within the range of French artillery; and in the second place England would reply by counter-mining such an understanding as would render France the preponderating continental power. Still, it would be incorrect to assume that the Anglo-French antagonism is not an important factor for the German war of emancipation. It can become this, but only on one condition – that the German people itself is a factor of power, an active and energetic mass, whether in the form of a mass organized as an army and ready to resort to arms, or in the form of a volcano beneath the feet of the enemy. The Anglo-French antagonism played a leading part in overcoming the rule of Napoleon, but only because Scharnhorst. Gneisenau, and Blücher were able to rely on an uprising nation.

The third factor of German revolt and emancipation is Soviet Russia. Reventlow sought to make a dispassionate analysis of the advantages which Russia expected to derive from the emancipation of Germany. It is foolish to object to lack of sentiment on the part of the German nationalists, or to their assuming that no sentimentality exists among the other factors at the world’s politics. Soviet Russia might be ruled by people who love the German people more than they do the Russian. But in spite ot that its government would not be in a position to put Russia’s powers at the disposal of the German struggle for emancipation, unless the interests of the German and Russian peoples were commonly served by the German revolution. Do such common interests exist? Certainly they exist. The Russian people is surrounded by powerful capitalist nations, seeking to convert Russia into a colony; the geographical position of Russia renders her well capable of self-defence against these hostile intentions, she is indeed able to isolate herself perfectly for years against the dangers of international capital; but in the end the capitalist world is stronger than the peasants and workers of Russia, if only for the reason that the financial blockade does not permit the rapid development of her industry, the basis of technical defence. The victory of the German proletariat, its economic co-operation with the Russian workers and peasants, would give the German workers raw materials and food, and to (be Russian proletariat a large amount of technical means and technical capability towards the reconstruction of the vast realm from Vladivostock to Beresina. Thio is the reason for Russia’s deep interest in ihe emancipation of the German people.

And the fraternal feelings of Russia towards the German people are solely the expression of these reciprocal interests. We must not take it amiss if the German nationalists ask how Russia is going to help Germany, and when they point out all the great difficulties lying in the way of cooperation between the two peoples. But the nationalists put the question in an incorrect form when they speak of guarantees, when they deal with the question statically and not dynamically. Two countries in need cannot reckon in such a way that they ask; what have we today, and what can we offer one another today? They must ask one another: shall we join forces, shall we defend a common cause? Once resolution is formed, everything else is a question of energy, a question of iron resolution, a question of will in face of life or death. Then the great masses decide the great possibilities to be transformed into realities. The Communist Party of Russia has declared in its public proclamation to the masses ol Germany and Russia that, however much it may have striven to keep peace, and however much it may strive in the future to keep it, it is none the less fully determined not to permit a German revolution to be throttled by the Entente, and that it will fight on the side of the German people should the latter freely resolve to take this great step. It is not necessary to explain the significance of this, and I am convinced that there is no politically serious person in the world who will regard this resolution lightly.

The fourth foreign political condition for the victory of the German revolution is its political effect in the world. The Entente will hate it, but will fear it more than it fears present-day Germany. It would be foolish to overestimate the powers of the Communist Parties at the present time. The French C.P. is weak, at this moment it cannot prevent war. But the communist movement has greatly increased in strength in Poland during recent years. One of the leading Polish political writers, the deputy Grabski, states this in a few blunt words in the book he published a few weeks ago. In Czecho-Slovakia the majority of the proletariat is already supporting the C.P., and the German revolution need not only calculate on the forces already existing, but with those which it itself will let loose in foreign countries. The German struggle for emancipation, which will be bound up with the cause of the emancipation of the German workers, small holders, intelligenzia, and petty bourgeoisie, and not with the cause of the restoration of the Hohenzollerns or with the despotic rule of Stinnes, will awaken mighty echoes all over the world. No people makes a revolution out of sympathy for another. Revolution is not a proclamation of sympathy, it is a life and death struggle. But in a number of countries events are ripening for revolution, and in others even the sympathy of the masses of the people for Germany will play an important part, for the governments are compelled to reckon with their difficulties today, and internal difficulties may develop into revolutions by tomorrow.

The German revolution is the first condition for the emancipation of the German people. How the German people will emancipate itself, by what means, through what stages, all this is a question which can only be dealt with hypothetically, but which should be dealt with none the less.

Last updated on 30 April 2023