Th. Rothstein 1919

The Fate of the German Revolution

Pseudonym: W.A.M.M.
Source: The Call, 27 November 1919, p. 3 (1,014 words)
Transcribed: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). 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 the blackest spot in Europe to-day. A year ago a magnificent revolutionary movement swept away the score or so of crowns and crownlets which had been the shame and the curse of Germany for two generations. All the world was on the tiptoe of expectation. Had we not always been telling ourselves and others that in the modern world there was no longer any room for purely political revolutions, that in particular, Germany, when once she set out to do away with any survivals of feudalism, would make a clean sweep of capitalist society as well? Was not her capitalism of the ripest? Was not her working-class the best educated and the best organised of all? Most of us fully expected that revolutionary Germany would immediately join Socialist Russia, and thereby infect even the victorious and Imperialism-drunk West. Alas, our expectations have proved false. Scarcely a few weeks had passed after the fall of Kaiserdom, when we, of “The Call,” were already aware that the German revolution was a miscarriage. The German working-class, eaten by the moth of opportunism during the long years of comparative prosperity under an ever-expanding capitalism, proved incapable of realising that the war, against which it had, in the first instance, revolted, had been the work not only of the military caste, headed by the feudal monarchy, but also of the capitalist classes in whose interests, in fact, the war had been primarily waged, and that the parties guilty of the great crime were not merely the Kaiser, but also the bourgeois parties from the extreme right to the extreme left, including the Scheidemann Socialists themselves, who had been voting the war credits with enthusiasm, and had been carrying on a “patriotic” propaganda even in the trenches. The results of this failure to understand the situation—a failure deeply rooted in opportunism and fostered by the writings of such authoritative exponents of Socialism as Kautsky, who refused to see in the war an Imperialist contest between two rival capitalist trusts, and persistently interpreted it as a contest between autocracy and democracy, thereby eliminating in advance all social issues from the future reckoning—was that all efforts to invest the revolution with a social meaning, with class contents, were unsuccessful, the reins of power were appropriated by the renegade Socialists of the Scheidemann-Noske school, and the parties which stood for a deepening of the revolution were crushed mercilessly and with complete impunity.

It must be admitted that these other parties (with the exception of certain individuals whose glory will shine through ages), have historically deserved their fate. The “Independents,” even of the left wing, have proved a set of revolutionary phrase-mongers, With not a drop of revolutionary blood in their veins, delighted to play the “opposition,” always ready to sit on, but invariably destined to fall between, two chairs. At first opposed to the Soviet system, they afterwards, under pressure of facts, accepted it, but in the true style of procurers, coupled it with parliamentarism. In a similar way they at first rejected the idea of dictatorship of the proletariat as horribly undemocratic, but ultimately adopted it in their programme with the proviso that it did not mean terrorism! And so they are now also opposing the Second International, but equally repudiate the Third International as a movement of the Bolshevik “sect” (sic) and advocate a “truly revolutionary”—Fourth International (Ledebour). Could these gentry have advanced the revolution, as the Russian Bolsheviks had done before them? Of course, not rather was (and still is) their action calculated to discredit the idea of a Socialist revolution in the eyes of the masses, who, whatever else they may want, cannot certainly be won over by pompous phrases and impotent deeds.

Unfortunately, the other Left party, the Communists, have also failed to offer the masses a substantial alternative to the Socialism of Treachery, installed in power With a blindness which only shows how superficial Socialist education had been in Germany, the majority of them, acting against the advice and entreaties of their best leaders, and miscalculating the distance which separated their country from the situation in which the Russian Bolsheviks had found themselves twelve months earlier, rejected the weapon of parliamentary agitation and education, and thereby, ruled themselves off the political stage, and condemned themselves to an irresponsible and scattered existence in obscurity. Their repeated. attempts at insurrection found no echo among the still unenlightened masses, and so far from succeeding in becoming a political and social force, have now hopelessly split into several fractions.

Thus everything in Germany has combined in preventing the development of the revolution from a political into a social one but thereby the very soul has been crushed out of the revolution which like every revolution must go forward, or die. For the amputation of its social, of its proletarian, tendencies could only have been achieved with the help of the classes who had all along been socially opposed to them, and now that the operation had been performed, the classes whose help had been employed, who for that very object had been resuscitated, re-organised and even re-armed, stand out as the real masters of the situation, who alone possess the necessary necessary material force to impose their will upon the revolution. The so-called Noske Guards, who were originally called to life in order to crush the dangerous social tendencies, have now in reality become the White Guards of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie and Junkerdom, who aim at strangling even the political revolution. And as there is nothing, absolutely nothing to oppose them, except the hypocritical screams of a Scheidemann and the revolutionary verbal protests of the Independents, the fate of the German revolution is hanging by a mere thread which can be cut at any moment. It would seem that whereas in Russia the mere spectre of a counter-revolution, during the Korniloff rebellion was sufficient to arouse the masses for a Socialist revolution, in Germany nothing short of an actual restoration would effectively do it.