Stalinist Zig-zags on the
Question of the “United Front”

(January 1932)

Written: 27 January 1932.
Source: The Militant, Vol. V No. 19 (Whole No. 115), 7 May 1932, p. 4.
Extract from What Next – Vital Questions for the German Proletariat.
Transcription/HTML Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive ( 2012. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

The former female social democrat Torhorst (from Duesseldorf), who has come over to the Communist party, spoke in the name of the party, in mid-January, in Frankfort. In her official report, she said, “The leaders of the social democracy are sufficiently exposed, and it would be only a waste of energy to continue our efforts in this direction, with cooperation from above.” We quote from a Frankfort Communist newspaper which lauds the report highly. “The leaders of the social democracy are sufficiently exposed.” Sufficiently – so far as the spokeslady herself is concerned, who came over from the social democracy to the Communists (which, of course, does her honor); but insufficiently – so far as those millions of workers are concerned who vote for the social democrats and who put up with the reformist bureaucracy of the trade unions.

It is hardly necessary, however, to cite an isolated report. In the latest proclamation to reach me, Die Rote Fahne (January 28, 1932) argues once again that the United Front can be established only against the social democratic leaders, and without them. Proof: “None will believe them who has lived through and has experienced the handiwork of these ‘leaders’ for the last 18 years.” And what, may we ask, is to be done about those who have participated in politics less than 18 years, and even less than 18 months?

Since the outbreak of the war, several political generations have matured who must recapitulate the experience of older generations, even though within a greatly diminished scope. “The whole point of the matter is”, Lenin coached the ultra-Leftists, “that we must not assume whatever is obsolete for us to be obsolete for the class, for the masses.”

Moreover, even the older generation that did pass through the experience of 18 years hasn’t at all broken with the leaders. On the contrary, it is just the social democracy that still retains many “old-timers”, who are bound to the party by long standing traditions. It’s sad, sure enough, that the masses learn so slowly. But in a goodly measure to blame for this are the Communist “pedagogues” who have been unable to disclose palpably the criminal nature of reformism. The least that can be done now is to utilize the situation; and at the same time when the attention of the masses is strained to its highest pitch by mortal danger, to subject the reformists to a new and perhaps, for the nonce, a really decisive test.

Without so much as hiding or mitigating our opinion, of the social democratic leaders, we may and we must say to the social democratic workers, “Since, on the one hand, you are willing to fight together with us; and since, on the other, you are still unwilling to break with your leaders, here is what we suggest:

“Force your leaders to join us in a common struggle for such and such practical aims, in such and such a manner; as for us, we, Communists, are ready.”

Can anything be more plain, more palpable, more convincing?

In precisely this sense I wrote – with the conscious intention of arousing the sincere horror of blockheads and the fake indignation of charlatans – that in the war against Fascism we were ready to conclude practical military alliances with the devil and his granddam, even with Noske and Zoergiebel. [1]

The official party, itself, violates its stillborn policy at every step. In its appeals for the “Red United Front” (with its own self), it invariably puts forward the demand for “the unconditional freedom of the proletarian press and the right to demonstrate, meet, and organize.” This slogan is clear cut through and through. But whereby the Communist party speaks of proletarian and not only of Communist papers, meetings, etc., it thereby, in fact, puts forward the slogan of the United Front with that very social democracy that publishes workers’ papers, calls meetings, etc. To put forward political slogans, which in themselves include the idea of the United Front with the social democracy, and to reject the making of practical agreements to fight for these slogans – that is the height of absurdity.

Muenzenburg, whose practical horse sense occasionally falls foul of “the general line”, wrote in November (Der Rote Aufbau), “It’s true that National Socialism is the most reactionary, the most chauvinistic and the most bestial wing of the Fascist movement in Germany; and that all true left circles (!) are most vitally concerned in interfering with the growth in influence and power of this wing of German Fascism.” If Hitler’s party is “the most reactionary and most bestial” wing, then Bruening’s regime is, at least, less bestial and less reactionary. Muenzenberg, here, is stealthily flirting with the theory of the “lesser evil”. To preserve a semblance of piety, he goes on to differentiate between different kinds of Fascism: mild, medium, and strong, as if it was a question of Turkish tobacco. However, if all “the left circles” (and have they no names?) are interested in the victory over Fascism, then isn’t it imperative to put these “left circles” to a practical test?

Isn’t it self-evident that Breitscheid’s diplomatic and equivocal offer should have been grabbed with both hands; and that from one’s own side, one should have submitted a concrete, carefully detailed and practical program for a joint struggle against Fascism; and have demanded joint sessions of the executives of both parties, with the participation of the executives of independent trade unions? Simultaneously, one should have carried energetically this same program down through all the layers of both parties and of the masses. The negotiations should have been carried on openly in the eyes of the entire nation: daily accounts should have appeared in the press without distortions and absurd fabrications. Such an agitation by its directness and incisiveness would tell with far greater effect on the worker than the incessant din on the subject of “social Fascism”. Under such conditions, the social democracy could not hide for a single day behind the pasteboard pageant of “the Iron Front”.


(To be Continued)


1. The French periodical Cahiers da Bolchevisme, the most preposterous and illiterate of all Stalinist publications, pounced greedily upon this reference to the devil’s granddam, never suspecting of course, that she has a long standing history in the Marxist press. The hour is not distant, we hope, when the revolutionary workers will send their ignorant and unscrupulous teachers to serve their apprenticeship with the above-mentioned granddam.

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Last updated on: 17.6.2013