August Thalheimer

The Situation in Germany and
the Communist Party of Germany

(22 December 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 73 [49], 22 December 1923, pp. 835–836.
Transcribed & marked up by
Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Dictatorship of Seeckt is, step by step, capturing new positions with the same bloodless methods with which it succeeded in obtaining power. It still considers it worth while to retain parliament and the remaining democratic lumber as a sort of screen, but only on condition that parliament, as well as the other so-called democratic institutions, shall be submissively subservient to the military Dictatorship. The cabinet of Marx which has succeeded to that of Stresemann, marks a great step in the degradation of parliament and of parliamentary government. It is not only that Marx before forming his cabinet, sought permission of the white General. – The composition of the cabinet itself is in accordance with the considered wishes of the white General. Social Democracy was thrown overboard. Nevertheless, the strivings of the Junkers to obtain possession of the Prussian administration, in consequence of the dissolution of the great coalition in Prussia were prevented by the General. The reason for this is obvious. It was not advisable having regard to the government of Poincaré and also the English cabinet to display, as it were, the coat of arms of the feudal Junkers on the Reichstag buildings. At the same time the General did not deem it meet to present the bread-profiteering Junkers openly to the workers. In return for this piece of indulgence the General obtained the appropriate recompense: the Centre, Democrats and Social Democrats, who in Prussia have such and such a number of administrative posts and offices to defend against the Junkers and the old Wilhelm bureaucrats, now prove themselves to be so much the more accommodating flunkeys of the military Dictator. Severing and Brauns fall over one another in their eagerness to slander and persecute the Communist Party. In the Centre and with the Democrats, the right wings (large capitalist and large agrarian) have won the upper hand.

The effects of this were to be clearly seen in the discussion of the Special Powers Act. Not only the governing parties, but the Social Democratic so-called opposition hastened to secure the Special Powers Act for the cabinet of Marx. The mere threat of the dissolution of the Reichstag which, according to their own reckoning would cost the Social Democrats about two thirds of their seats, and which would sweep away the old parliamentary leaders in favour of the so-called “left” leaders – this threat sufficed to bring the Social Democrats to heel and cause them obediently to pass the Special Powers Act, in spite of all the thousand oaths sworn against the state of siege. This means complete submission on the part of Social Democracy to the military Dictatorship. It is submission to victorious Fascism It is characteristic that the so-called Social Democratic Lefts were, by the threat of expulsion from the party, induced on their part to submit to the right wing fraction majority, and thereby also to the military Dictatorship.

Petty bourgeois Fascism is also being rendered incapable of doing any harm by the triumphant great capitalist Fascism of General Seeckt. A portion of this wing has, after the settlement of the Hitler-Ludendorf-Putch, completely capitulated to the dictatorship of General Seeckt. Another section is being rendered docile by the repressions which are bound up with the prohibition of the German People’s Party. Seeckt has attached to himself the organisations grouped around the Bavarian dictator Kahr, by admitting representatives of the Bavarian reaction into the cabinet of Marx.

Meanwhile, General Seeckt is eagerly engaged in extending and completing his own political apparatus he has brought together the old officers who served in the areas occupied by Germany in Belgium, France, Rumania etc. in the war, and is using them to control the civil administration and to form the elements of an independent military Dictatorship. The prohibition of the Communist Party is also being taken advantage of by the military Dictatorship in order to still further complete its own political apparatus.

The military Dictatorship, which need no longer expect any resistance on the part of the former bourgeois democracy, is now making it its task to carry out the Fascist programme of large capital.

What is this programme? Its general features can be inferred from the situation of the German bourgeoisie. It is necessary to set up, if only for a transitory period, an economic equilibrium. In order to attain this end a dictatorship of great capital has to work in two directions: In the first place there has to be a retrenchment in expenditure by the cutting down of all the educational services of the state and of the social and political services; secondly, there must be a raising of the capitalist profits and of me income of the state by means of increased exploitation of the working class and of the middle classes, by increasing exports – and by increasing the taxation of property owners. So far as the first is concerned, the discharge of officials and the prolongation of the working time is in full swing. These measures are at the same time being made use of in order to weed out the democratic and socialistically inclined younger sections of the officials, and to create places for the old reactionary bureaucracy as well as for the new adherents to Fascism. With regard to the second, the employers have, by means of ruthless lockouts and closing down of factories, practically made an end of the eight hour day and introduced the nine and ten hour day. The Trade Unions have neither the will, nor were they in a position to offer serious resistance. The unemployed maintenance is being cut down, the same is happening to the other social-political services But all these measures are in vain if the bourgeoisie does not succeed in bringing in a sufficient amount of taxes in order to balance, if only for the time being, the national and state finances These necessary sums are not to be extracted either from the working class or the middle class sections of the population. The state expenditure is still only covered to the extent of less than one per cent by state income. It is, however, improbable that the bourgeoisie will constitute itself as a Fascist Dictatorship in order merely, to compel itself to yield taxes. There still remain foreign credits. But from whence shall these come? The United States is perhaps inclined to giant credits for the purpose of obtaining corn, for which it will take a definite portion of the state property (Mines) as security. But these credits can in no wise be granted on such a scale, as will enable an economic equilibrium to be again set up in Germany. England too, who also might be considered, does not appear to show any inclination to grant large credits, in a negative manner the attitude of the industrialists in the Rhine and Ruhr districts is a proof of how poor the prospects are considered of balancing German economics and finances. The agreement between the heavy industrialists of the Rhine and Ruhr areas and the Micum (the Belgium and French heavy industry), and the veiled constituting of a Rhineland state dependent upon France – all this proves that heavy industry is submitting to French imperialism and regards the rest of Germany merely as a hinterland.

The Communist Party is forbidden by General Seeckt, its press is suppressed, its printing establishments are confiscated etc. But it still continues to live. The Party of the Proletariat is showing itself to be the only power which is capable and willing to offer resistance to the white Dictatorship. In Berlin and a number of other towns it has succeeded in holding more or less large demonstrations in. the streets. It is beginning to set up a resistance to the armed power of the military dictatorship and to school the proletarian advance guard for the deciding struggle.

The central task of the Communist Party in the present situation follows from the teachings of the October defeat. The October defeat of the German proletariat was not the result of “mistakes” on the part of the Communist Party. It arose from the relations of power in the working class existing at the given moment. It can finally be traced back to the fact that a great portion of the working class, under the paralyzing influence of the Right and Left Social Democracy, was no longer prepared to defend the November democracy against Fascism, that it is not yet prepared to fight for the proletarian dictatorship. Social Democracy, long since dead as an active force in the cause of the working class has shown itself to be still an enormous hindering force, or, in other words, Communism has not yet succeeded in drawing the majority of the working class away from the influence of Social Democracy. If any fault was committed by the Communist Party it was in underestimating Social Democracy as a hindering force.

The central task of the Communist Party is therefore the complete political and organizatory liquidation of Social Democracy, and the seizure of the Trade Unions out of the hands of the Social Democratic leaders. Upon these tasks the Communist Party will concentrate its entire force. And only when this task has been solved will the conditions be ripe for enforcing a decision. In this connection it is quite clear that the chief attack must be directed against the so-called “Left” Social Democrats. With their radical phraseology, with their opposition to Fascism in words, and submission to it in deeds, with their strenuous clinging to the illusions of bourgeois democracy and Parliamentarism they are the helpers of the Fascist Dictatorship.

The struggle against Social Democracy and against Fascism will be conducted by the propaganda of the proletarian dictatorship and of Socialism as opposed to the Fascist Dictatorship.

The Party will continue to propagate with the greatest tenacity the idea of the armed uprising among the masses and to prepare for it by organization and technics. The Party now, after the victory of Fascism over the November Republic has eliminated from its programme the propaganda of those demands which are connected with democratic institutions and which should lead to the proletarian dictatorship, such as the slogan of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government, the seizure of values and the control of production. These demands have become irrelevant, for the democratic institutions no longer exist with which they were associated. The actions of the Party must of course be connected with the daily needs of the working class. With the present wholesale unemployment and short-time, strikes come little into consideration; so much the greater role therefore will mass demonstrations, partly peaceful and partly armed, play.

Under the existing strict illegality it is necessary for the Party to base its chief organization work in the workshops. In addition to this it must set up the closest connection between the workers still employed and the unemployed. Under the blows of the white counter-revolution the Party will become the iron cohort of the revolution, which it could not become during the time when it was legal.

The proletarian revolution in Germany has not taken the rapid course which many had expected. Instead of rising out of the ruins of the bourgeois democracy, like the Russian October Revolution, it finds itself in a position when it must organize its victory under the fetters of Fascist dictatorship. Its victory, if it comes more slowly will therefore be all the more complete. The great capitalist dictatorship is, so to speak, the last attempt to maintain the capitalist power. In Russia the October victory was, so to speak, the result of a surprise attack. The Russian bourgeoisie only mobilized its reserves after its October defeat. The German bourgeoisie, which is far better organized, is mobilizing its reserves before the defeat. What is now taking place in Germany, is the last round of that struggle between the bourgeoisie and the Communist Party for the reserves, for the indifferent and Social Democratic workers and for the middle clashes. This struggle for the reserves is the essential content of the political preparation for the proletarian revolution.

The foreign Communist Parties must not allow themselves to be discouraged by the October retreat, which was unavoidable and was grounded in the total situation. The Communist Party of Germany has, after a short pause, undertaken the reordering of its ranks and is preparing for a fresh struggle. The proletarian Revolution in Germany is on the march. None of the fundamental problems of the country can be solved by the military dictatorship. Our foreign brother parties must dearly understand, that if the Russian Revolution in the year 1917 took a quite unexpected course, which differed from all previous bourgeois revolutions, the proletarian revolution in Germany has its own course, its own tempo and its own methods.

Last updated on 2 May 2023