Discussion of the German Tasks

A Reply to the N.C. of the German Opposition

(April 1933)

Written: 21 April 1933.
Source: The Militant, Vol. VI No. 33, 1 July 1933, p. 3.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2015. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

The draft resolution (unfortunately undated) clears up some differences (real and imaginary, that is, based on misunderstandings), but at the same time left others untouched. The task of the present criticism consists in defining as exactly as possible the real character of the differences today.

1. The resolution ascertains right at the beginning that “the collapse of the C.P.G. has deprived the slogan of its reform of all content”, in other words, that the C.P.G. cannot be regenerated. Needless to say this declaration, which signifies the renunciation of the position that we all held up to March 5, bears a tremendous significance for all of our activity.

Paragraph 3 of the resolution says: “The development is in the direction of a new party”. This thesis completes the preceding one and thus restricts extremely the sphere of differences. The leading comrades of the German section recognizes that the Stalinist party in Germany is politically liquidated and that the German Communist Party will reconstitute itself as a new party, outside of the Stalinist organization.

2. But let us quote more extensively from paragraph 3: “Although the development is in the direction of a now party, the slogan of the creation of the latter would be premature and false.” The whole sense of this sentence lies in the content that one gives the term “slogan”: it may be interpreted as both an open proclamation of our new position with regard to the official party as well as an appeal for the immediate creation of a new party with the existing elements. Insofar as the second interpretation is concerned, it would be the most ridiculous sort of adventurism. Among ourselves, no one has made such a proposal. If at the opening of the discussion, such misunderstandings could arise, the exchange of opinion during the last few weeks has created absolute clarity on this score. It is not a matter for us of decreeing bureaucratically the creation of a new party, but of proclaiming openly our position towards the old party as well as our new perspective for work. It would be impermissible to diminish or to mask the significance of this turn. Our course is one of propaganda for a new party and preparation for it. It is necessary to speak out clearly and openly about this change. Are we agreed on this? The draft resolution does not offer the necessary clarity.

3. After a correct point of departure the resolution then falls into a number of contradictions, masks its fundamental declarations and does not give any practical directives. The slogan of the “new party”, says the resolution, will repel all critical or semi-critical Communists. Why? Obviously because they still believe in the reform of the old party. The devoted but shortsighted revolutionists, who at the cost of great sacrifices’ will attempt to reestablish the Stalinist party in illegality will naturally show themselves to be hostile to our affirmation that the “perspective of the reform of the C.P.G. no longer bears any content” and that “the development is in the direction of a new party”. But it is precisely on these two. theses that we find agreement with the German leadership. What shall we do about it? Shall we keep these ideas to ourselves without expressing them out loud in order not to repel from us the partisans of reform? Such a position would be altogether unworthy of Marxists and I do not doubt that the German comrades do not have this in mind. Under the blows of experience the utopians of reform will become convinced that we are correct. The more firmly and the more swiftly we shall establish our position, the greater will be our political authority.

4. The draft resolution poses the question of the creation of cadres. In itself this slogan is absolutely irreproachable. It is only necessary to reply: for what purpose, the cadres? For the reform of the old party or for the construction of the new one? If under such conditions, we take the road of diplomatic silence, the Stalinists will demand an answer just the same of us and we shall appear before the rank and file Communists like those augurs who have two doctrines, one for themselves and one for the uninitiated. It is clear that the authors of the resolution cannot want and do not such a duplicity.

5. In the draft resolution as well as in other documents the idea is often repeated that the perspective of a new party is correct, but that the advanced workers are not prepared “psychologically”. If it’s a matter of creating a new party immediately, then the workers are not prepared not only “psychologically”, but also politically and theoretically. The necessary cadres are lacking and the existing cadres have no masses. It is impossible to understand the reference to “psychology” otherwise than as follows: our own partisans and even our sympathizers and semi-sympathizers are not prepared “psychologically” for the sharp change of perspectives. The authors of the resolution confuse, quite obviously, two questions: the preparation of the proletarian vanguard for the creation of a new Communist party and the preparation of our own organization for a courageous and decisive change of our own orientation in the question of the old and the new party.

Here we are not concerned with anything but this second task. It results not from any “psychology”, that is to say, from the state of mind of various layers of the proletarian vanguard, but from the whole of the objective conditions: from the victory of Fascism and the collapse of the policy as well as the organization of the Stalinists. The state of mind of the workers can yet change – especially in the sense of an ever clearer understanding of this historic fact. But the political attitude (perspective) of the Left Opposition should not have as its point of departure the fluctuating sentiments of the heart, but the objective changes in the situation.

6. To interpret the slogan of the new party as a mechanical unification with the elements of decomposition of the old party (Brandlerites, S.A.P., Leninbund) would not only be an absurdity but a simple mockery of our entire past. With regard to one group or another, we can only speak of taking some steps together, steps dictated by the situation. So, for instance, at the anti-Fascist congress we should seek an understanding with the Sneevliet group, the S.A.P. (German Socialist Labor Party), etc. against the bloc of Muenzenberg with Barbusse and the Hindu bourgeoisie. There is not the slightest reason for confusing tactical understandings of this order with the question of the new party. Only one thing can be said: skillful tactical agreements, on the basis of a correct strategic line, can accelerate the process of the formation of cadres for the Communist party.

7. In the German documents, the slogan of the “new party” is counterposed with the slogan of a “new Zimmerwald”. It is absolutely impossible to understand this counter-posing of things. Zimmerwald represented a temporary bloc of Marxists and Centrists. The former marched under the slogan of the Third International; the latter under the slogan of the reform of the Second International. There were, to be sure, some participants who avoided answering the question: for the II. or the III. International by hiding their hesitation under the banner of Zimmerwald “in general”.

The accord proved to be an episode, while the slogan of the Third International has determined the revolutionary policy of the whole new epoch. At the present, the questions are the same. The accord, let us say, with the S.A.P., can become an episode (much less important than that of Zimmerwald) on the road to a new party; but these are two different questions.

8. By the way, how is the question of the S.A.P. posed? In the struggle for their own preservation, the leaders of the S.A.P. without giving an answer to any of the programmatic questions, disassociated themselves from the Left Opposition, alleging that we still nurtured illusions about the C.P.G. This fundamental argumentation has been eliminated since, by the march of events. Addressing ourselves to the S.A.P. we say: “After March 5, we are also concerned with the creation of a new party. But a party is created on the basis of a program. What is your program?” It is necessary for us to be able to utilize the advantage of our new position. If the leaders of the S.A.P. is not, obviously, the only now in the process of elaborating their program, [sic] we can offer them quite openly our participation in the program discussion and propose even the creation of common theoretical discussion organ, naturally preserving our entire independence of organization as well as our political journal. The question of the S.A.P. is not, obviously the decisive question. Neither do we want to substitute it for other questions, but only to place it side by side with them, as a serious partial question.

I will sum up: the discussion has already brought this result: it has cleared up a number of obvious misunderstandings and has thus restricted the sphere of the difference. Nevertheless, before getting a clear and distinct reply from the leading German comrades to the questions posed above it would be premature to say that the differences have been overcome. We must recognize, not only formally, the perspective of a new party, but we must draw from this perspectives the necessary practical conclusions and fight in common agreement for them.

April 21, 1933


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Note: The Resolution of the German leadership (Reichsleitung) referred to above was published in The Militant several weeks ago.

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Last updated on: 22 October 2015