Max Shachtman

In This Corner

(14 February 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 7, 14 February 1939, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Not as widely noticed as he should have been, a distinguished visitor has arrived in the United States, on an important mission. He is the once powerful editor of the Berlin Vorwarts, central daily paper of the German social democracy – Mr. Friedrich Stampfer, In exile with the rest of the party leadership, he has been from its inception editor of the emigré party weekly, Neue Vorwarts.

You would think that after the ignominious capitulation to which they brought the German working class in 1933, the best thing for the social-democratic leaders would be to retire from the labor movement and politics and hope that if they could not be forgiven they would at least be forgotten. But the old and now army-less bureaucracy lingers on. It is equipped with a generous supply of funds which it thoughtfully took along into exile. It is as vociferous and active as if nothing awfully serious had happened. And it is just as rotten as ever.

They Would Fight ... If They Were Not So Old

Rudely deprived of their old “fatherland” by Hitler, the social-democratic leaders have nonchalantly hired themselves out to other capitalist nations. They have changed national flags, but not their nature. They were good patriots under the Kaiser and behind the lines they fought like tigers in the great. War to Defend German Democracy from the Russian Cossack. Now they are ready to join in the new War to Defend Democracy from the German Nazi.

To be sure, most of them being elderly ladies and gentlemen, they would probably have to repeat what Henry Hyndman, the English social democrat, said during the last war: “If I were not 72 years old I would go out and fight myself.” But thank God they do have enough strength left with which to exhort the more able-bodied conscripts of imperialism to fight to the death in the coming war.

If the joints of some of them are properly lubricated by a little Democratic money – not much; they are modest folk – their strength is as the strength of ten, and their zeal even greater. There is the case of Max Braun, exiled leader of the Saarland social democracy, who was exposed last year by the German socialist Max Sievers. Together with two bourgeois emigrants, Braun approached the French government for financial aid to his paper and “movement” in return for a promise to impress upon the exiled German youth the desirability of joining the French army.

One, At Least, Found His Sympathies Profitable

Another great lover of the “new fatherlands” is Albert Grzesinski, former socialist police president of Berlin, now in the United States, where he has just published a book on Germany. According to the same Sievers, Grzesinski found while he was in Paris that the secret supplying of arms to the Loyalists in the Spanish War for Democracy was a highly profitable enterprise, at least until the scandal became widely enough known to make a sea voyage desirable.

Most of the German S.P. leaders, however, seek no personal gain in the business of promoting a new War for Democracy. They are moved only by the loftiest of motives. They want, you see, to free prostrate Germany from the heel of fascism.

When they had a magnificent opportunity, at the head of an army of millions of free, organized workers, to prevent Hitler from coming to power, they demonstrated their complete bankruptcy. They couldn’t and didn’t do the job of winning socialism. They couldn’t even do the job of preserving capitalist democracy, or their very own conservative labor movement.

To make up for all that, they have developed the ingenious idea or asking the capitalist class to do the job at which they failed! What Wels and Stampfer and Hilferding didn’t do, they are asking Chamberlain and Daladier and Roosevelt – that is, the General Staffs of the English, French and American armies – to do for them. They wouldn’t organize the German workers to smash fascism at the right time and bring liberty, peace and plenty to the land. Now these hopeless people hope to bring liberty to Germany on the point of foreign imperialist bayonets!

Stampfer Comes Here To Try His Luck

It is this kind of a holy crusade, another “War for Democracy,” that is preached every week in the New Leader by the emigrated social-democratic Reichstag member, Mme. Tony Sender. Another former member, Gerhard Segers, does his stint in the columns of his Neue Volkszeitung.

When France and England failed to launch a war against Germany a few months ago, during the Munich days, Mr. Stampfer’s Neue Vorwarts was, positively purple with rage and indignation at this outrageous betrayal of its fondest hopes.

Now Mr. Stampfer has come to the United States to try his luck here. Rabid war-monger and provider of socialist cannon-fodder to his Royal and Imperial Majesty Wilhelm II from 1914 to 1918, he is ready to act now in the same capacity for the Democratic Trinity. He wants, he indicates in his first interview, to see the United States “supporting Europe’s democratic nations.” He boasts of a considerable force behind him in Germany, ready to overthrow Hitlerism from within. No doubt he will generously offer to put this force at the disposal of the United Democracies to help them win the sacred war of Justice, Decency and Humanity.

Whatever may be the reception he gets from the American ruling class whose notorious love for democracy he seeks to enlist, we hope the working class salutes him with the contempt that an imperialist recruiting-sergeant deserves.

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