Leftward Shift in German Vote

Parliamentary Gains Turn Heads of the Stalinist Leadership

(November 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 46, 12 November 1932, pp. 1 & 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

While exact details as to the composition of the vote cast in last Sunday’s German elections are not yet at hand, the total figures afford us the opportunity to compile the results and draw conclusions adequate for the moment.

As compared with the elections of last July 31, the social democracy lost approximately three-quarters of a million votes; an almost identical number of votes was gained by the Communist party. The Hitlerites, for the first time, lost the substantial number of more than two million votes, although they remain by far the largest party in the country; the Nationalist party, in turn, picked up close to a million additional vote. The other bourgeois parties revealed no decisive change in strength; the Centrists and their Bavarian co-religionists lost a few hundred thousand votes; the old People’s party gained a few hundred thousand; the rest of the vote, slightly less in total than three months ago, was scattered.

From these bare figures, the following situation may be deduced:

The Nazi Setback

For the first time in their recent years of uninterrupted and sensational growth, the Nazis have suffered a distinct setback. As we have pointed out previously in these columns, the Hitlerites cannot hope to arrive in power by the smooth parliamentary train. The preceding election already indicated that, so far as elections are concerned, the Nazi social reservoir of voting strength was well-nigh exhausted. Not a parliamentary movement in the ordinary bourgeois sense, the Fascists must strive to fulfill their aims by the violent seizure of power and the more violent extirpation of all proletarian movements and institutions. Or, if the necessity for such a step is obviated by the collapse of the proletarian movement – as happened in October 1923 – the bourgeois saves itself the expense of the inevitably ensuing sanguinary conflict, a period of “stabilization” sets in, and the Fascist movement begins to decompose. And with it, the revolutionary proletarian party.

From this it does not follow that the Fascist danger to the German proletariat is now eliminated, or even definitively on the decline. Such a conclusion can be drawn only by those for whom the class struggle begins at the ballot box and ends with a parliamentary mandate.

The heavy decline in the social democratic vote is another repayment made by the socialist workers for the base treachery of their leaders which could not be committed with impunity. That some 700,000 socialist workers deserted their traditional party, surmounted the barriers artificially erected against them by the Stalinists, and voted the Communist slate – is at one and the same time an arraignment of the reactionary role of the social democratic leadership and of that obdurate stupidity of the Stalinists whose course, in the first place, prevented masses of others from rallying to the banner of revolution, and in the second place, still deters the vast numbers of discontented socialist workers from moving any closer to the organized Communist movement than is necessary for the casting of a red ballot.

The dissatisfaction of the socialist ranks is deep and widespread. It is fightng against that organized inertia and conservatism induced by decades of steady growth of the party and its institutions, and their integration with the apparatus of the ruling class – a deadweight force which has proved to be sponger than many of us ever conceived it could be. The Stalinist theory of “social-Fascism”, the adornment of the party’s platform and policies with nationalist finery borrowed from Hitlerism, have served to strengthen the hand of the social democratic leadership – from the Left. The hundreds of thousands of socialist leaders who are deeply discontented with their own leaders, are still dubious, to put it mildly, about the Stalinist leadership of the Communist party.

This explains, essentially, why they protest against their leaders and express their sympathy for the revolution by casting such a large vote for the Communists; while, at the same time, they express their doubts or distrust concern ing the Communist party’s policy by refraining from joining the party or even from following its calls for extra-parliamentary action under the C.P. banner alone, that is, from following it on the only decisive field.

The Communist Vote

The increase in the Communist vote is a source of great jubilation for every class conscious militant, and above all for the Left Opposition position, whose cause is advanced by every advance of the movement. But between jubilation and the maudlin intoxication of the self-satisfied official, reveling in a trough of ballots, lies a gap that cannot be bridged. The parliamentary victory of the party in Germany is being trumpeted about by the Stalinists as a vindication of the “line” which nothing can vindicate. This “line” which failed to bring to the streets of struggle a single important group of workers in response to the general strike call issued three months ago by the party to protest against the coup d’état of von Papen, the “line” which has resulted in the virtually complete isolation of the Communists in the trade union movement in Germany; the “line” which has failed to produce a national, organized mass movement of resistance to Fascism or to the von Papen regime, a movement of workers’ councils or shop committees or labor cartels or any similar movement that might constitute the nucleus for a workers’ power; the “line” which has left the social democratic hierarchy with millions of workers still in its ranks and following – however sullenly – its leadership, despite the presence (for how many years now, according to the Stalinist analyses?) of the “stormy revolutionary upsurge” – this “line” is now supposed to have received its incontestable confirmation by a gain of 700,000 votes in an election! If this is not parliamentary cretinism, what significance has the term ?

The two-for-a-cent scribes of the Daily Worker and the Freiheit roar with vicarious pride over the party’s gains in Germany as if the loss of two million Fascist votes and almost a million socialist votes, has settled the whole problem. And what about the Bonapartist regime of the von Papen-von Hindenburg camarilla? This little “trifle” emerges from the whole ineffectual balloting farce – still master of the situation More definitely than three months ago this election has eliminated the possibility of a Reichstag government. Only a Hitler-Centrist-Nationalist combination could produce a working majority – and that combination is too fantastic for any practical political possibility. The autocratic regime of presidential decree is to continue in power, with a Reichstag suspended helplessly in mid-air, and a proletariat still too crippled by disunity to offer any effective resistance.

For this state of affairs – so much more real and concrete than a shifting of the parliamentary figures – the Communist party, that is, its Stalinist leadership, is essentially responsible. Not the social democratic leaders, for to expect anything from them except treachery would be equivalent to expecting from Hitler anything except fire and sword. But from the Communist party, the proletariat has a right to expect a course different from the one now bureaucratically foisted upon it.

The Bonapartist regime of the Junkers weighs clown murderously upon the German proletariat, which is still faced with the even more bestial menace of the Fascist power for which von Papen may yet make room. The situation can be met decisively only if the German Communists seize the initiative still at their disposal to forge an invincible weapon in the form of a real united front of the revolutionary and reformist workers, which will not only smash the Fascist and Bonapartist dangers but also open the road to the proletarian march to power.

The intoxication with the momentary electoral victory of the Communists will fade tomorrow in the cold light of the party’s inability to mobilize the million-masses on the extra-parliamentary battlefield, that is, with its present policy With it, as we have indicated above, may also fade the matchless chance which German Bolshevism still has to develop a general revolutionary situation until it is possible to conduct a successful struggle for power. More than once in the past has the forelock of opportunity been allowed to escape unnoticed in Ger many. It is yet too early to say with certainty, but it should be borne in mind that what we are witnessing today in that country may prove to have been just that sort of situation which, unless grasped boldly and in time, sets back the proletarian party for another epoch.

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