A. Thalheimer

The “Last Reserve” of the Bourgeoisie at Work

(6 September 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 59 [37], 6 September 1923, pp. 643–644.
Transcribed & marked up by
Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The “Great Coalition” in the form of the Stresemann-Hilferding Cabinet has now been on the job for more than two weeks. It styles itself the “last reserve” of the bourgeoisie, the last constitutional government which Germany can have.

This expression must not be taken too literally. According to the historical experiences of other countries and also according to the present organization of political forces in Germany, the possibility, indeed the probability, must be reckoned with, that while the bourgeois-socialist coalition is the last reserve of bourgeois rule, still other bourgeois-socialist or even “pure socialist” combinations can follow the Stresemann-Hilferding Cabinet.

A comparison with the Russian Kerensky period is very instructive in this respect. The signs of the period of the death struggle of the Kerensky Republic were precisely these quick changes in the composition of the Cabinet, the hasty alteration of the personal and the party composition, it would certainly lie rash to assume that the German bourgeoisie could not overcome some of the next revolutionary uprisings by setting up new cabinets or changing the personnel of the existing one. Stresemann and Hilfcrding may consider themselves the last cards in the hand of the German bourgeoisie, but it will still make half a dozen new governmental combinations, will throw overboard its “undesirables” as cumbersome cargo and will also take ou board its leaky vessel the present leaders of the social democratic opposition, Messrs Paul Levi, Dissmann, Crispien, etc., if it believes that it can thereby keep afloat.

What is still possible in the way of bourgeois-socialist governmental combinations, depends entirely upon the tempo in which the the now moving popular masses go through the political development which will lead them to a radical break with the bourgeoisie and with bourgeois “democracy”.

The fact that the Cuno administration could be followed by that of Stresemann-Hilferding, the “Great Coalition”, proves, above all, that only a minority of the working class was ready to fight for the workers’ and Peasants’ Government, although, apparently, the majority of the working class hat already had its fill of the “Great Coalition”.

The hour for the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government for the first step to the proletarian dictatorship, has come when the overwhelming majority of the working class not only desired a break with the bourgeois coalition, but is also ready to fight for the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government with the most extreme means.

Secondly, it is necessary that at least a strong section of the petty bourgeoisie be sympathetically neutral. Thirdly, that there be a deep cleft in the great bourgeoisie itself.

Organizationally, the class organs of the proletariat, the factory councils, control committees and the defence units must be already comprehensively developed and must have acquired for themselves a commanding authority among the masses.

The organizational positions of reformism must be in an advanced stage of disintegration.

Therefore, politically and organizationally, there is still a good stretch of ground to be covered before the conditions will be ripe enough to secure victory for the working class.

How much time is necessary for this only history will decide. That the conditions for the victory of the working class in Germany are rapidly ripening is shown by thousands of facts.


The Stresemami-Hilferding Cabinet embodies the attempt of the middle bourgeoisie, with the help of the reformist party and the trade union bureaucracy, to effect the liquidation of the Ruhr struggle and an internal consolidation by imposing some sacrifices upon the great bourgeoisie.

It is self-evident that no government can transform the deep-rooted chaos of Germany into order in two weeks.

But two weeks suffice to judge whether the government has its eyes fixed on the right goal, and whether it has the strength to reach it.

In this respect a decisive judgment concerning the Stresemann-Hilferding government can already be delivered.

The first step to be taken is the attempt to extract from the industrialists and bankers a definite fund of foreign bills in order to support the exchange of the Mark and, further, to put the standard of currency on a new basis, it is clear that only complete national confiscation of foreign bills can accomplish this purpose. The government did not dare to take thia step, it has limited itself to calling for voluntary donations of securities. The Exchange already cold-bloodedly anticipates, not in words, but in dry hard figures, the absolute futility of this proceeding.

A confiscation of foreign bills would certainly run foul of the bureaucratic apparatus of finance and taxation administration which has for a long time now been objecting to any such action.

The class organs of the workers, the factory councils and control committees could create a new apparatus, but – to appeal to them, that would be tantamount to declaring tbe middle class state ripe for abolition.

Thia would be unacceptable to the bourgeoisie and therefore could not be considered by any bourgeois-socialist coalition government. The same hold good for foreign trade and price control.

The tax reforms which the government announced with a greet fanfare of trumpets are already as good as dead.

The employers replied to the new taxation laws, which are by no means drastic (they are only gold taxes), in two ways: –

The bourgeoisie as a class thus distinguishes itself from the bourgeoisie as a government.

This signifies practically the preparation for a coup, for the dictatorship of the right wing bourgeoisie, under cover, and with the timely co-operation, of the present government. That is the significance of Gessler’s remaining in the government.

Gessler is the official connecting link with the Right dictatorship towards which the great bourgeoisie is steering.

The liquidation of the Ruhr conflict is naturally dependent upon the success of the attempt, be it by the bourgeoisie, or by the working class, to get the sums necessary to pay Poincaré.

The government will never get these sums from the bourgeoisie, and in order to obtain them exclusively from the working class – the victorious dictatorship of the right is necessary.

Tbe prospects of the Stresemann-Hilferding government liquidating the Ruhr struggle are therefore not great, although its urgency to have done with the business is certainly very great and the essence of its foreign policy is: The will to liquidate the Ruhr struggle.

But it is well known that good or bad will alone accomplish nothing in this wicked world.

Meanwhile real wages have fallen further, inflation has increased, and the currency has further deteriorated.

The next wave of the mass movement is already beginning to rise. The “last reserve” of the German bourgeoisie has in these two weeks already crumbled to a marked degree.

Last updated on 2 May 2023