Leon Trotsky

The Only Road

(Part 1)


The decline of capitalism promises to be still more stormy, dramatic, and bloody than its rise. German capitalism will surely prove no exception. If its agony is being stretched out too long, the fault lies – we must speak the truth – with the parties of the proletariat.

German capitalism appeared late on the scene, and was deprived of the privileges of the firstborn. Russia’s development placed it somewhere between England and India; Germany, in such a scheme, would have to occupy the place between England and Russia, but without the enormous overseas colonies of Great Britain and without the “internal colonies” of Czarist Russia. Germany, squeezed into the heart of Europe, was faced – at a time when the whole world had already been divided up – with the necessity of conquering foreign markets and redividing colonies which had already been divided.

German capitalism was not destined to swim with the stream, to give itself up to the free play of forces. Only Great Britain could afford this luxury, and then only for a limited historical period, which has recently ended before our eyes. German capitalism, could not even afford the “sense of moderation” of French capitalism, which is entrenched within its limitations and in addition, is equipped with rich colonial possessions as a reserve.

The German bourgeoisie, opportunist through and through in the domain of internal politics, had to rise to heights of audacity and rapidity in that of economy and of world politics; it had to expand its production immeasurably, to catch up with the older nations, to rattle the sword and hurl itself into the war. The extreme rationalization of German industry after the war likewise resulted from the necessity of overcoming the unfavorable conditions of historical delay, the geographical situation, and military defeat.

If the economic evils of our epoch, in the last analysis, result from the fact that the productive forces of humanity are incompatible with private ownership of the means of production as well as the national boundaries, German capitalism is going through the severest convulsions just because it is the most modern, most advanced, and most dynamic capitalism on the continent of Europe.

The physicians of German capitalism are divided into three schools: liberalism, planned economy, and autarky.

Liberalism would like to restore the “natural” laws of the market. But the wretched political fate of liberalism only reflects the fact that German capitalism could never base itself on Manchesterism, but went through protectionism to trust and monopolies. German economy cannot be brought back to a “healthy” past which never existed.

“National Socialism” promises to revise the work of Versailles in its own manner, i.e., to carry further the offensive of Hohenzollern imperialism. At the same time it wants to bring Germany to autarky, i.e., onto the road of provincialism and voluntary restriction. The lion’s roar in this case hides the psychology of the whipped dog. To adapt German capitalism to its national boundaries is about the same as to cure a sick man by cutting off his right hand, his left foot, and part of his skull.

To cure capitalism by means of planned economy would mean to eliminate competition. In such a case we must begin with the abolition of private ownership of the means of production. The bureaucratic – professorial reformers do not even dare to think of it. German economy is, least of all, purely German: it is an integral constituent of world economy. A German plan is conceivable only in the perspective of an international economic plan. A planned system within closed national boundaries would mean the abnegation of world economy, i.e., the attempt to retreat to the system of autarky.

These three systems, with their mutual feuds, in reality resemble each other in the respect that they are all shut in within the magic circle of reactionary utopianism. What must be saved is not German capitalism, but Germany – from its capitalism.

In the years of the crisis, the German bourgeoisie, or its theoreticians at least, have uttered speeches of repentance – yes, they had carried out much too risky policies, they had too lightly resorted to the help of foreign credits, had pushed forward too fast the modernization of factory equipment etc. In the future one must be more careful! In reality, however, as the Papen program and the attitude of finance capital toward it have shown, the leaders of the German bourgeoisie incline today more than ever to economic adventurism.

At the first signs of an industrial revival, German capitalism will show itself to be what its historical past has made it, and not what the liberal moralists would like to make it. The entrepreneurs, hungry for profits, will again raise the steam pressure without looking at the pressure gauge. The chase after foreign credits will again take on a feverish character. Are the possibilities of expansion slight? All the more necessary to monopolize them for oneself. The terrified world will again see the picture of the preceding period, but in the form of still more violent convulsions. At the same time, the restoration of German militarism will proceed as if the years 1914-1918 had never existed. The German bourgeoisie is again placing East Elbe barons at the head of the nation. Under Bonapartist auspices they are even more inclined to risk the head of the nation than under those of the legitimate monarchy.

In their lucid moments the leaders of German Social Democracy must ask themselves by what miracle their party, after all the damage that it has done, still leads millions of workers. Certainly, great importance must be given to the conservatism innate in every mass organization. Several generations of the proletariat have gone through Social Democracy as a political school; this has created a great tradition. Yet that is not the main reason for the vitality of reformism. The workers cannot simply leave the Social Democracy, in spite of all the crimes of that party; they must be able to replace it by another party. Meanwhile the German Communist Party, in the person of its leaders, has for the past nine years done everything in its power to repel the masses or at least prevent them from rallying around the Communist Party.

The policy of capitulation of Stalin-Brandler in the year 1923; the ultra-left zigzag of Maslow-Ruth Fischer-Thälmann in 1924-1925; the opportunistic crawling before the Social Democracy in 1926-1928; the adventurism of the “third period” in 1928-1930; the theory and practice of “social fascism” and of “national liberation” in 1930-1932 – those are the items of the bill. The total reads: Hindenburg-Papen-Schleicher & Co.

On the capitalist road, there is no issue for the German people. Therein lies the most important source of strength for the Communist Party. The example of the Soviet Union shows through experience that there is a way out on the socialist road. Therein lies the second source of strength for the Communist Party.

But, thanks to the conditions of development of the isolated proletarian state, there has come to leadership of the Soviet Union a national opportunistic bureaucracy, which does not believe in the world revolution, which defends its independence of the world revolution and at the same time maintains an unlimited domination over the Communist International. And that is at the present time the greatest misfortune for the German and the international proletariat.

The situation in Germany is as if purposely created to make it possible for the Communist Party to win the majority of the workers in a short time. Only, the Communist Party must understand that as yet, today, it represents the minority of the proletariat, and must firmly tread the road of united front tactics. Instead of this, the Communist Party has made its own a tactic which can be expressed in the following words: not to give the German workers the possibility of carrying on economic struggles, or offering resistance to fascism, or seizing the weapon of the general strike, or creating soviets – before the entire proletariat recognizes in advance the leadership of the Communist Party. The political task is converted into an ultimatum.

From where could this destructive method have come? The answer to this is the policy of the Stalinist faction in the Soviet Union. There the apparatus has converted political leadership into administrative command. In refusing to permit the workers to discuss, or criticize, or vote, the Stalinist bureaucracy speaks to them in no other language than that of the ultimatum. The policy of Thälmann is an attempt to translate Stalinism into bad German. But the difference consists in the fact that the bureaucracy of the USSR has at the disposal of its policy of command the state power, which it received at the hands of the October Revolution. Thälmann, on the other hand, has, for the reinforcement of his ultimatum, only the formal authority of the Soviet Union. This is a great source of moral assistance, but under the given conditions it only suffices to close the mouths of the Communist workers, but not to win over the Social Democratic workers. But the problem of the German revolution is now reduced to this latter task.

Continuing the previous works of the author devoted to the policy of the German proletariat, the present pamphlet attempts to investigate the questions of German revolutionary policy in a new stage.

1. Bonapartism and Fascism

Let us endeavor to analyze briefly what has occurred and where we stand.

Thanks to the Social Democracy, the Brüning government had at its disposal the support of parliament for ruling with the aid of emergency decrees. The Social Democratic leaders said: “In this manner we shall block the road of fascism to power.” The Stalinist bureaucracy said: “No, fascism has already triumphed; it is the Brüning regime which is fascism.” Both were false. The Social Democrats palmed off a passive retreat before fascism as the struggle against fascism. The Stalinists presented the matter as if the victory of fascism was already behind them. The fighting power of the proletariat was sapped by both sides and the triumph of the enemy facilitated and brought closer.

In its time, we designated the Brüning government as Bonapartism (“a caricature of Bonapartism”), that is, as a regime of military police dictatorship. As soon as the struggle of two social strata – the haves and the havenots, the exploiters and the exploited – reaches its highest tension, the conditions are established for the domination of bureaucracy, police, soldiery. The government becomes “independent” of society. Let us once more recall: if two forks are stuck symmetrically into a cork, the latter can stand even on the head of a pin. That is precisely the schema of Bonapartism. To be sure, such a government does not cease being the clerk of the property owners. Yet the clerk sits on the back of the boss, rubs his neck raw and does not hesitate at times to dig his boots into his face.

It might have been assumed that Brüning would hold on until the final solution. Yet, in the course of events, another link inserted itself: the Papen government. Were we to be exact we should have to make a rectification of our old designation: the Brüning government was a pre-Bonapartist government. Brüning was only a precursor. In a perfected form, Bonapartism came upon the scene in the Papen-Schleicher government.

Wherein lies the difference? Brüning asserted that he knew no greater happiness than to “serve” Hindenburg and Paragraph 48. Hitler “supported” Brüning’s right flank with his fist. But with the left elbow Brüning rested on Wels’s shoulder. In the Reichstag, Brüning found a majority which relieved him of the necessity of reckoning with the Reichstag.

The more Brüning’s independence from the parliament grew, the more independent did the summits of the bureaucracy feel themselves from Brüning and the political groupings standing behind him. There only remained finally to break the bonds with the Reichstag. The Papen government emerged from an immaculate bureaucratic conception. With the right elbow it rests upon Hitler’s shoulder. With the police fist it wards off the proletariat on the left. Therein lies the secret of its “stability,” that is of the fact that it did not collapse at the moment of its birth.

The Brüning government bore a clerical-bureaucratic-police character. The Reichswehr still remained in reserve. The “Iron Front” served as a direct prop of order. The essence of the Hindenburg-Papen coup d’état lay precisely in eliminating dependence on the Iron Front. The generals moved up automatically to first place.

The Social Democratic leaders turned out to be completely duped. And this is no more than is proper for them in periods of social crisis. These petty-bourgeois intriguers appear to be clever only under those conditions where cleverness is not necessary. Now they pull the covers over their heads at night, sweat, and hope for a miracle: perhaps in the end we may yet be able to save not only our necks, but also the overstuffed furniture and the little, innocent savings. But there will be no more miracles ...

Unfortunately, however, the Communist Party has also been completely taken by surprise by the events. The Stalinist bureaucracy was unable to foresee a thing. Today Thälmann, Remmele, and others speak on every occasion of “the coup d’état of July 20.” How is that? At first they contended that fascism had already arrived and that only “counter-revolutionary Trotskyists” could speak of it as something in the future. Now it turns out that to pass over from Brüning to Papen – for the present not to Hitler but only to Papen – a whole “coup d’état” was necessary. Yet the class content of Severing, Brüning, and Hitler, these sages taught us, is “one and the same thing.” Then whence and wherefore the coup d’état?

But the confusion doesn’t come to an end with this. Even though the difference between Bonapartism and fascism has now been revealed plainly enough, Thälmann, Remmele, and others speak of the fascist coup d’état of July 20. At the same time, they warn the workers against the approaching danger of the Hitlerite, that is, the equally fascist, overturn. Finally, the Social Democracy is designated just as before as social fascist. The unfolding events are in this way reduced to this, that species of fascism take the power from each other with the aid of “fascist” coups d’état. Isn’t it clear that the whole Stalinist theory was created only for the purpose of gumming up the human brain?

The less prepared the workers were, the more the advent of the Papen government was bound to produce the impression of strength: complete ignoring of the parties, new emergency decrees, dissolution of the Reichstag, reprisals, state of siege in the capital, abolition of the Prussian “democracy.” And with what ease! A lion you kill with a shot; the flea you squash between the fingernails; Social Democratic ministers are finished off with a fillip.

However, in spite of the visibility of concentrated forces, the Papen government as such is weaker yet than its predecessor. The Bonapartist regime can attain a comparatively stable and durable character only in the event that it brings a revolutionary epoch to a close; when the relationship of forces has already been tested in battles; when the revolutionary classes are already spent, but the possessing classes have not yet freed themselves from the fear: will not tomorrow bring new convulsions? Without this basic condition that is, without a preceding exhaustion of the mass energies in battles, the Bonapartist regime is in no position to develop.

Through the Papen government, the barons, the magnates of capital, and the bankers have made an attempt to safeguard their interests by means of the police and the regular army. The idea of giving up all power to Hitler, who supports himself upon the greedy and unbridled bands of the petty bourgeoisie, is a far from pleasant one to them. They do not, of course, doubt that in the long run Hitler will be a submissive instrument of their domination. Yet this is bound up with convulsions, with the risk of a long and weary civil war and great expense. To be sure, fascism, as the Italian example shows, leads in the end to a military bureaucratic dictatorship of the Bonapartist type. But for that it requires a number of years even in the event of a complete victory: a longer span of years in Germany than in Italy. It is clear that the possessing classes would prefer a more economical path, that is, the path of Schleicher and not of Hitler, not to speak of the fact that Schleicher himself prefers it that way.

The fact that the basis for the existence of the Papen government is rooted in the neutralization of the irreconcilable camps in no way signifies, of course, that the forces of the revolutionary proletariat and of the reactionary petty bourgeoisie weigh equally on the scales of history. The whole question shifts here onto the field of politics. Through the mechanism Of the Iron Front the Social Democracy paralyzes the proletariat. By the policy of brainless ultimatism the Stalinist bureaucracy blocks the revolutionary way out for the workers. With correct leadership of the proletariat, fascism would be exterminated without difficulty and not a chink could remain open for Bonapartism. Unfortunately that is not the situation. The paralyzed strength of the proletariat has assumed the deceptive form of the “strength” of the Bonapartist clique. Therein lies the political formula of the present day.

The Papen government is the featureless point of intersection of great historical forces. Its independent weight is next to nil. Therefore it can do nothing but take fright at its own gesticulations and grow dizzy at the vacuum unfolding on all sides of it. Thus and only thus can it be explained that in the deeds of the government up to now there have been two parts of cowardice to one part of audacity. In Prussia, that is, with the Social Democracy, the government played a sure game: it knew that these gentlemen would offer no resistance. But after it had dissolved the Reichstag, it announced new elections and did not dare to postpone them. After proclaiming the state of martial law, it hastened to explain: this is only in order to facilitate the capitulation without a struggle of the Social Democratic leaders.

However, isn’t there a Reichswehr? We are not inclined to forget it. Engels defined the state as armed bodies of men with material accessories in the form of prisons, etc. With respect to the present governmental power, it can even be said that only the Reichswehr really exists. But the Reichswehr seems by no means a submissive and reliable instrument in the hands of that group of people at whose head stands Papen. As a matter of fact, the government is rather a sort of political commission of the Reichswehr.

But for all its preponderance over the government, the Reichswehr nevertheless cannot lay claim to any independent political role. A hundred thousand soldiers, no matter how cohesive and steeled they may be (which is still to be tested), are incapable of commanding a nation of sixty-five million torn by the most profound social antagonisms. The Reichswehr represents only one element in the interplay of forces, and not the decisive one.

In its fashion, the new Reichswehr reflects rather well the political situation in the country that has led to the Bonapartist experiment. The parliament without a majority, with irreconcilable wings, offers an obvious and irrefutable argument in favor of dictatorship. Once more the limits of democracy emerge in all their obviousness. Where it is a question of the foundations of society itself, it is not parliamentary arithmetic that decides. What decides is the struggle.

We shall not undertake to counsel from afar what road the attempts at forming a government will take in the next days. Our hypotheses would come tardily in any case, and besides, it is not the possible transitional forms and combinations which decide the question. A bloc of the right wing with the Center would signify the “legalization” of a seizure of power by the National Socialists, that is, the most suitable cloak for the fascist coup d’etat. What relationships would develop in the early days between Hitler, Schleicher and the Center leaders is more important for them than it is for the German people. Politically, all the conceivable combinations with Hitler signify the dissolution of bureaucracy, courts, police, and army into fascism.

If it is assumed that the Center will not agree to a coalition in which it would have to pay by a rupture with its own workers for the role of a brake on Hitler’s locomotive – then in this case only the open extraparliamentary road remains. A combination without the Center would more easily and speedily insure the predominance of the National Socialists. If the latter do not immediately unite with Papen and at the same time do not pass over to an immediate assault, then the Bonapartist character of the government will have to emerge more sharply: Schleicher would have his “hundred days” ... without the preceding Napoleonic years.

Hundred days – no, we are figuring far too generously. The Reichswehr does not decide. Schleicher does not suffice. The extraparliamentary dictatorship of the Junkers and the magnates of financial capital can only be assured by the method of a wearisome and relentless civil war. Will Hitler be able to fulfill this task? That depends not only upon the evil will of fascism, but also upon the revolutionary will of the proletariat.

2. Bourgeoisie, Petty Bourgeoisie, and Proletariat

Any serious analysis of the political situation must take as its point of departure the mutual relations among the three classes: the bourgeoisie, the petty bourgeoisie (including the peasantry) and the proletariat.

The economically powerful big bourgeoisie, in itself, constitutes an infinitesimal minority of the nation. To enforce its domination, it must ensure a definite mutual relationship with the petty bourgeoisie and, through its mediation, with the proletariat.

To understand the dialectics of these interrelations, we must distinguish three historical stages: the dawn of capitalist development when the bourgeoisie required revolutionary methods to solve its tasks; the period of bloom and maturity of the capitalist regime, when the bourgeoisie endowed its domination with orderly, pacific, conservative, democratic forms; finally the decline of capitalism, when the bourgeoisie is forced to resort to methods of civil war against the proletariat to protect its right of exploitation.

The political programs characteristic of these three stages Jacobinism, reformist democracy (Social Democracy included), and fascism, are basically programs of petty-bourgeois currents. This fact alone, more than anything else, shows of what tremendous – rather, of what decisive – importance the self-determination of the petty-bourgeois masses of the people is for the whole fate of bourgeois society.

Nevertheless, the relationship between the bourgeoisie and its basic social support, the petty bourgeoisie, does not at all rest upon reciprocal confidence and pacific collaboration. In its mass, the petty bourgeoisie is an exploited and oppressed class. It regards the bourgeoisie with envy and often with hatred. The bourgeoisie, on the other hand, while utilizing the support of the petty bourgeoisie, distrusts the latter, for it very correctly fears its tendency to break down the barriers set up for it from above.

While they were laying out and clearing the road for bourgeois development the Jacobins engaged, at every step, in sharp clashes with the bourgeoisie. They served it in intransigent struggle against it. After they had fulfilled their limited historical role, the Jacobins fell, for the rule of capital was predetermined.

For a whole series of stages, the bourgeoisie asserted its power under the form of parliamentary democracy. But again, not peacefully and not voluntarily. The bourgeoisie was mortally afraid of universal suffrage. But in the long run it succeeded, with the aid of a combination of repressions and concessions, with the threat of starvation coupled with measures of reform, in subordinating within the framework of formal democracy not only the old petty bourgeoisie, but in considerable measure also the proletariat by means of the new petty bourgeoisie – the labor bureaucracy. In August 1914 the imperialist bourgeoisie was able, by means of parliamentary democracy, to lead millions of workers and peasants to the slaughter.

But precisely with the war there begins the distinct decline of capitalism and above all of its democratic form of domination. It is now no longer a matter of new reforms and alms, but of cutting down and abolishing the old ones. Therewith the bourgeoisie comes into conflict not only with the institutions of proletarian democracy (trade unions and political parties) but also with parliamentary democracy, within the framework of which the workers’ organizations arose. Hence the campaign against “Marxism” on the one hand and against democratic parliamentarism on the other.

But just as the summits of the liberal bourgeoisie in their time were unable, by their own force alone, to get rid of feudalism, monarchy and the church, so the magnates of finance capital are unable, by their force alone, to cope with the proletariat They need the support of the petty bourgeoisie. For this purpose, it must be whipped up, put on its feet mobilized, armed. But this method has its dangers. While it makes use of fascism, the bourgeoisie nevertheless fears it. Pilsudski was forced in May 1926 to save bourgeois society by a coup d’état directed against the traditional parties of the Polish bourgeoisie. The matter went so far that the official leader of the Polish Communist Party, Warski, who came over from Rosa Luxemburg not to Lenin, but to Stalin, took the coup d’état of Pilsudski to be the road of the “revolutionary democratic dictatorship” and called upon the workers to support Pilsudski.

At the session of the Polish Commission of the Executive Committee of the Comintern on July 2, 1926, the author of these lines said on the subject of the events in Poland:

“ ... the movement he [Pilsudski] headed was petty bourgeois, a ‘plebeian’ means of solving the pressing problems of capitalist society in process of decline and destruction. Here there is a direct parallel with Italian fascism ...

“These two currents undoubtedly have common features: their shock troops are recruited ... among the petty bourgeoisie; both Pilsudski and Mussolini operated by extraparliamentary, nakedly violent means, by the methods of civil war; both of them aimed not at overthrowing bourgeois society, but at saving it. Having raised the petty-bourgeois masses to their feet they both clashed openly with the big bourgeoisie after coming to power. Here a historical generalization involuntarily comes to mind: one is forced to recall Marx’s definition of Jacobinism as a plebeian means of dealing with the feudal enemies of the bourgeoisie. That was in the epoch of the rise of the bourgeoisie. It must be said that now, in the epoch of the decline of bourgeois society, the bourgeoisie once again has need of a ‘plebeian’ means of solving its problems – which are no longer progressive but rather, thoroughly reactionary. In this sense, then, fascism contains a reactionary caricature of Jacobinism ...

“The bourgeoisie in decline is incapable of maintaining itself in power with the methods and means of its own creation – the parliamentary state. It needs fascism as a weapon of self-defense, at least at the most critical moments. The bourgeoisie does not like the ‘plebeian’ means of solving its problems. It had an extremely hostile attitude toward Jacobinism which cleared a path in blood for the development of bourgeois society. The fascists are immeasurably closer to the bourgeois in decline than the Jacobins were to the bourgeoisie on the rise. But the established bourgeoisie does not like the fascist means of solving its problems either, for the shocks and disturbances, although in the interests of bourgeois society, involve dangers for it as well. This is the source of the antagonism between fascism and the traditional parties of the bourgeoisie ...

“The big bourgeoisie dislikes this method, much as a man with a swollen jaw dislikes having his teeth pulled. The respectable circles of bourgeois society viewed with hatred the services of the dentist Pilsudski, but in the end they gave in to the inevitable, to be sure, with threats of resistance and much haggling and wrangling over the price. And lo, the petty bourgeoisie’s idol of yesterday has been transformed into the gendarme of capital!”

To this attempt at defining the historical place of fascism as the political replacement for the Social Democracy, there was counterposed the theory of social fascism. At first it could appear as a pretentious, blustering, but harmless stupidity. Subsequent events have shown what a pernicious influence the Stalinist theory actually exercised on the entire development of the Communist International.

Does it follow from the historical role of Jacobinism, of democracy, and of fascism that the petty bourgeoisie is condemned to remain a tool in the hands of capital to the end of its days? If things were so, then the dictatorship of the proletariat would be impossible in a number of countries in which the petty bourgeoisie constitutes the majority of the nation; and more than that, it would be rendered extremely difficult in other countries in which the petty bourgeoisie represents an important minority. Fortunately, things are not so. The experience of the Paris Commune first showed, at least within the limits of one city, just as the experience of the October Revolution has shown after it on a much larger scale and over an incomparably longer period, that the alliance of the petty bourgeoisie and the big bourgeoisie is not indissoluble. Since the petty bourgeoisie is incapable of an independent policy (that is also why the petty-bourgeois “democratic dictatorship” is unrealizable) no choice is left for it other than that between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

In the epoch of the rise, the sprouting and blooming of capitalism, the petty bourgeoisie, despite acute outbreaks of discontent, generally marched obediently in the capitalist harness. Nor could it do anything else. But under the conditions of capitalist disintegration and the impasse in the economic situation, the petty bourgeoisie strives, seeks, and attempts to tear itself loose from the fetters of the old masters and rulers of society. It is quite capable of linking its fate with that of the proletariat. For that, only one thing is needed: the petty bourgeoisie must acquire faith in the ability of the proletariat to lead society onto a new road. The proletariat can inspire this faith only by its strength, by the firmness of its actions, by a skillful offensive against the enemy, by the success of its revolutionary policy.

But woe if the revolutionary party does not measure up to the situation! The daily struggle of the proletariat sharpens the instability of bourgeois society. The strikes and the political disturbances aggravate the economic situation of the country. The petty bourgeoisie could reconcile itself temporarily to the growing privations, if it came through experience to the conviction that the proletariat is in a position to lead it onto a new road. But if the revolutionary party, in spite of a class struggle becoming incessantly more accentuated, proves time and again to be incapable of uniting the working class behind it if it vacillates, becomes confused, contradicts itself, then the petty bourgeoisie loses patience and begins to look upon the revolutionary workers as those responsible for its own misery. All the bourgeois parties, including the Social Democracy, turn its thoughts in this very direction. When the social crisis takes on an intolerable acuteness, a particular party appears on the scene with the direct aim of agitating the petty bourgeoisie to a white heat and of directing its hatred and its despair against the proletariat. In Germany, this historic function is fulfilled by National Socialism, a broad current whose ideology is composed of all the putrid vapors of decomposing bourgeois society.

The principal political responsibility for the growth of fascism rests, of course, on the shoulders of the Social Democracy. Ever since the imperialist war, the labors of this party have been reduced to uprooting from the consciousness of the proletariat the idea of an independent policy, to implanting within it the belief in the eternity of capitalism, and to forcing it to its knees time and again before the decadent bourgeoisie. The petty bourgeoisie can follow the worker only when it sees in him the new chief. The Social Democracy teaches the worker to be a lackey. The petty bourgeoisie will not follow a lackey. The policy of reformism deprives the proletariat of the possibility of leading the plebeian masses of the petty bourgeoisie and thereby converts the latter into cannon fodder for fascism.

The political question, however, is not settled for us with the responsibility of the Social Democracy. Ever since the beginning of the war we have denounced this party as the agency of the imperialist bourgeoisie within the ranks of the proletariat. Out of this new orientation of the revolutionary Marxists arose the Third International. Its task consisted in uniting the proletariat under the banner of the revolution and thereby securing for it the directing influence over the oppressed masses of the petty bourgeoisie in the towns and the countryside.

The postwar period, in Germany more than anywhere else, was an epoch of economic hopelessness and civil war. The international conditions as well as the domestic ones pushed the country peremptorily on the road to socialism. Every step of the Social Democracy revealed its decadence and its impotence, the reactionary import of its politics, the venality of its leaders. What other conditions are needed for the development of the Communist Party? And yet, after the first few years of significant successes, German Communism entered into an era of vacillations, zigzags, alternate turns to opportunism and adventurism. The centrist bureaucracy has systematically weakened the proletarian vanguard and prevented it from bringing the class under its leadership. Thus it has robbed the proletariat as a whole of the possibility of leading behind it the oppressed masses of the petty bourgeoisie. The Stalinist bureaucracy bears the direct and immediate responsibility for the growth of fascism before the proletarian vanguard.

3. An Alliance of Social Democracy with Fascism or a Struggle Between Them?

To understand the interrelationship of the classes in the form of a schema, fixed once and for all, is comparatively simple. The evaluation of the concrete relations between the classes in every given situation is immeasurably more difficult.

The German big bourgeoisie is at present vacillating – a condition which the big bourgeoisie, in general, very rarely experiences. One part has definitely come to be convinced of the inevitability of the fascist path and would like to accelerate the operation. The other part hopes to become master of the situation with the aid of a Bonapartist military police dictatorship. No one in this camp desires a return to the Weimar “democracy.”

The petty bourgeoisie is split up. National Socialism, which has united the overwhelming majority of the intermediate classes under its banner, wants to take the whole power into its own hands. The democratic wing of the petty bourgeoisie, which still has millions of workers behind it wants a return to democracy according to the Ebertian model. In the meantime, it is prepared to support the Bonapartist dictatorship at least passively. The Social Democracy figures as follows: under the pressure of the Nazis, the Papen-Schleicher government will be forced to establish a balance by strengthening its left wing; meanwhile, the crisis will perhaps subside; the petty bourgeoisie will perhaps sober up; capitalism will perhaps decrease its frantic pressure upon the working class – and with the aid of God everything will once again be in order.

The Bonapartist clique actually does not want the complete victory of fascism. It would not by any means be opposed to exploiting the support of the Social Democracy within certain bounds. But for this purpose it would have to “tolerate” the workers’ organizations, which is conceivable only if, at least to a certain extent, the legal existence of the Communist Party is to be allowed. Moreover, support of the military dictatorship by the Social Democracy would push the workers irresistibly into the ranks of Communism. By seeking a means of support against the brown devil, the government would very soon become subject to the blows of the red Beelzebub.

The official Communist press declares that the toleration of Brüning by the Social Democracy paved the road for Papen and that the semi-toleration of Papen will accelerate the arrival of Hitler. That is entirely correct. Within these limits, there are no differences of opinion between ourselves and the Stalinists. But this precisely signifies that in times of social crisis the politics of reformism no longer turns against the masses alone but against itself. In this process the critical moment has just now arrived.

Hitler tolerates Schleicher. The Social Democracy does not oppose Papen. If this situation could really be assured for a long period of time, then the Social Democracy would become transformed into the left wing of Bonapartism and leave to fascism the role of the right wing. Theoretically, it is not, of course, excluded that the present unprecedented crisis of German capitalism will lead to no conclusive solution, i.e., will end with neither the victory of the proletariat nor the triumph of the fascist counterrevolution. If the Communist Party continues its policy of stupid ultimatism and thereby saves the Social Democracy from inevitable collapse; if Hitler does not in the near future decide upon a coup d’état and thereby initiate the inevitable disintegration within his own ranks; if the economic conjuncture takes an upward turn before Schleicher falls – then the Bonapartist combination of Paragraph 48 of the Weimar Constitution, of the Reichswehr, the semi-oppositional Social Democracy, and semi-oppositional fascism could perhaps maintain itself (until a new social outburst which is to be expected in any case).

But offhand, we are still far from such a happy fulfillment of the conditions that form the subject of Social Democratic daydreams. Such a thing is by no means assured. Even the Stalinists hardly believe in the power of resistance or the durability of the Papen-Schleicher regime. All signs point to the breakup of the Wels-Schleicher-Hitler triangle even before it has begun to take shape.

But perhaps it will be replaced by a Hitler-Wels combination? According to Stalin they are “twins, not antipodes.” Let us assume that the Social Democracy would, without fearing its own workers, want to sell its toleration to Hitler. But Hitler does not need this commodity: he needs not the toleration but the abolition of the Social Democracy. The Hitler government can only accomplish its task by breaking the resistance of the proletariat and by removing all the possible organs of its resistance. Therein lies the historical role of fascism.

The Stalinists confine themselves to a purely psychological, or more exactly, to a purely moral evaluation of those cowardly and avaricious petty bourgeois who lead the Social Democracy. Can we actually assume that these inveterate traitors would separate themselves from the bourgeoisie and oppose it? Such an idealist method has very little in common with Marxism, which proceeds not from what people think about themselves or what they desire but from the conditions in which they are placed and from the changes which these conditions will undergo.

The Social Democracy supports the bourgeois regime, not for the profits of the coal, steel, and other magnates, but for the sake of those gains which it itself can obtain as a party, in the shape of its numerically great and powerful apparatus. To be sure, fascism in no way threatens the bourgeois regime, for the defense of which the Social Democracy exists. But fascism endangers that role which the Social Democracy fulfills in the bourgeois regime and the income which the Social Democracy derives from playing its role. Even though the Stalinists forget this side of the matter, the Social Democracy itself does not for one moment lose sight of the mortal danger with which a victory of fascism threatens it – not the bourgeoisie, but it – the Social Democracy.

About three years ago, when we pointed out that the point of departure in the coming political crisis in Austria and in Germany would in all probability be fixed by the incompatibility of Social Democracy and fascism; when, on this basis, we rejected the theory of social fascism, which was not disclosing but concealing the approaching conflict; when we called attention to the possibility that the Social Democracy, and a significant part of its apparatus along with it, would be forced by the march of events into a struggle against fascism and that this would be a favorable point of departure for the Communist Party for a further attack, a great many Communists – not only hired functionaries, but even quite honest revolutionists – accused us of ... “idealizing” the Social Democracy. Nothing remained but to shrug our shoulders. It is hard to dispute with people whose thought stops there where the question first begins for a Marxist.

In conversations, I often cited the following example: the Jewish bourgeoisie in Czarist Russia represented an extremely frightened and demoralized part of the entire Russian bourgeoisie. And yet, insofar as the pogroms of the Black Hundreds, which were in the main directed against the Jewish poor, also hit the bourgeoisie, the latter was forced to defend itself. To be sure, it did not show any remarkable bravery on this field either. But due to the danger hanging over their heads, the liberal Jewish bourgeoisie, for example, collected considerable sums for the arming of revolutionary workers and students. In this manner, a temporary practical agreement was arrived at between the most revolutionary workers, who were prepared to fight with guns in hand, and the most frightened group of the bourgeoisie, which had got into a scrape.

Last year I wrote that in the struggle against fascism the Communists were duty-bound to come to a practical agreement not only with the devil and his grandmother, but even with Grzesinsky. This sentence made its way through the entire Stalinist world press. Was better proof needed of the “social fascism” of the Left Opposition? Many comrades had warned me in advance: “The are going to seize on this phrase.” I answered them, “It has been written so they will seize on it. Just let them seize upon this hot iron and burn their fingers. The blockheads must get their lesson.”

The course of the struggle has led to Papen acquainting Grzesinsky with the inside of a jail. Did this episode follow from the theory of social fascism and from the prognoses of the Stalinist bureaucracy? No, it occurred in complete contradiction of the latter. Our evaluation of the situation, however, had such an eventuality in view and had assigned a definite place for it.

But the Social Democracy this time, too, avoided the struggle, some Stalinist will object. Yes, it did avoid it. Whoever expected the Social Democracy to go beyond the urging of its leaders and take up the struggle independently, and at that under conditions in which even the Communist Party showed itself incapable of struggle, naturally had to experience disappointment. We did not expect such miracles. Therefore we could not lay ourselves open to any “disappointments” about the Social Democracy.

Grzesinsky has not become transformed into a revolutionary tiger; that we will readily grant. But nevertheless, there is quite a difference between a situation in which Grzesinsky, sitting in his fortress, sends out police detachments for the safeguarding of “democracy” against revolutionary workers, and a situation in which the Bonapartist savior of capitalism puts Grzesinsky himself in jail, is there not? And are we not to take this difference into account politically; are we not to take advantage of it?

Let us turn back to the example cited above: it is not hard to grasp the difference between a Jewish manufacturer who tips the Czarist policeman to beat down the strikers and the same manufacturer who turns over money to the strikers of yesterday to obtain arms against the pogromists. The bourgeois remains the same. But from the change in the situation there results a change in relations. The Bolsheviks conducted the strike against the manufacturer. Later on, they took money from the same manufacturer for the struggle against the pogroms. That did not, naturally, prevent the workers, when their hour had come, from turning their arms against the bourgeoisie.

Does all that has been said mean that the Social Democracy as a whole will fight against fascism? To this we reply: part of the Social Democratic functionaries will undoubtedly go over to the fascists; a considerable section will creep under their beds in the hour of danger. The working masses also will not fight in their entirety. To guess in advance what part of the Social Democratic workers will be drawn into the struggle and when, and what part of the apparatus they will take along with them, is altogether impossible. That depends upon many circumstances, among them the position of the Communist Party. The policy of the united front has as its task to separate those who want to fight from those who do not; to push forward those who vacillate; and finally to compromise the capitulationist leaders in the eyes of the workers, to consolidate the workers’ fighting capacity.

How much time has been lost – aimlessly, senselessly, shamefully! How much could have been achieved, even in the last two years alone! Was it not clear in advance that monopoly capital and its fascist army would drive the Social Democracy with fists and blackjacks onto the road of opposition and self-defense? This prognosis should have been displayed before the entire working class, the initiative should have been taken for the united front, and this initiative should have been kept firmly in our hands at every new stage. It was not necessary to shout or scream; it was possible to play quietly with a sure hand. It would have sufficed to formulate, in a clear-cut manner, the inevitability of every next step of the enemy and to set up a practical program for a united front, without exaggerations and without haggling, but also without weakness and without concessions. How high the Communist Party would stand today if it had assimilated the ABC of Leninist policy and applied it with the necessary perseverance!

4. Thälmann’s Twenty-One Mistakes

In the middle of July appeared a pamphlet with Thälmann’s answers to twenty-one questions by Social Democratic workers on how the “red united front” is to be created. The pamphlet begins with the words: “Mightily the anti-fascist united front rushes ahead!” On July 20 the Communist Party called upon the workers to come out in a political strike. The appeal met with no response. Thus within five days was the tragic abyss revealed between bureaucratic rhetoric and political reality.

The party received 5.3 million votes in the elections of July 31. By trumpeting forth this result as a tremendous victory, the party showed how greatly the defeats have diminished its claims and hopes. In the first balloting for the presidential election, on March 13, the party received almost 5 million votes. In the course of four and a half months – and what months! – it therefore gained barely 300,000 votes. The Communist press repeated hundreds of times in March that the number of votes would have been incomparably larger had it been a Reichstag election: in a presidential election, hundreds of thousands of sympathizers deemed it superfluous to lose any time over a “platonic” demonstration. If this March commentary is taken into consideration – and it deserves to be taken into consideration – it follows that the party has practically not grown at all in the last four and a half months.

In April, the Social Democracy elected Hindenburg, who thereupon carried out a coup d’état aimed directly against it. One would think that this fact alone ought to have sufficed to convulse the structure of reformism to its very foundations. Add to this the further aggravation of the crisis with all its frightful consequences. Finally, on July 20, eleven days before the elections, the Social Democracy drew its tail miserably between its legs at the coup d’état of the federal president it elected. In such periods, revolutionary parties grow feverishly. Whatever the Social Democracy, forced into a steel vise, may vet undertake to do, it must drive the workers away from it to the left. But instead of striding forward with seven-league boots, Communism marks time, vacillates, is on the retreat, and after each step forward it takes half a step backward. To exult over a victory only because the Communist Party suffered no loss of votes on July 31, is to lose the sense of reality entirely.

In order to understand why and how the revolutionary party condemns itself to a debasing impotence under exceptionally favorable political conditions, one must read Thälmann’s answers to the Social Democratic workers. A wearisome and unpleasant job, but it may enlighten one on what is taking place in the minds of the Stalinist leaders.

To the question “How do the Communists evaluate the character of the Papen government?” Thälmann gives several mutually contradictory replies. He begins with a reference to “the danger of the immediate establishment of the fascist dictatorship.” Then it follows that it does not yet exist? He speaks with complete accuracy of the government members as “representatives of trust capital, of the generals and of Junkerdom.” A minute later he says about the same government: “this fascist cabinet” and concludes his reply with the assertion that “the Papen government ... has set itself the aim of the immediate establishment of the fascist dictatorship.”

By disregarding the social and political distinctions between Bonapartism, that is, the regime of “civil peace” resting upon military-police dictatorship, and fascism, that is, the regime of open civil war against the proletariat, Thälmann deprives himself in advance of the possibility of understanding what is taking place before his very eyes. If Papen’s cabinet is a fascist cabinet, then what fascist “danger” is he talking about? If the workers will believe Thälmann that Papen sets himself the aim (!) of establishing the fascist dictatorship, then the probable conflict between Hitler and Papen-Schleicher will catch the party napping just as the conflict between Papen and Otto Braun did in its time.

To the question “Is the Communist Party of Germany sincere about the united front?” Thälmann naturally answers affirmatively, and for proof he refers to the fact that the Communists do not go hat in hand to Hindenburg and Papen. “No, we put the question of the struggle, of the struggle against the whole system, against capitalism. And here lies the kernel of the sincerity of our united front.”

Thälmann manifestly does not understand what it is all about. The Social Democratic workers remain Social Democrats precisely because they still believe in the gradual, reformist road to the transformation of capitalism into socialism. Since they know that the Communists stand for the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, the Social Democratic workers ask: “Do you sincerely propose the united front to us?” To this Thälmann replies: “Naturally, sincerely, for with us it is a question of overthrowing the whole capitalist system.”

Of course we don’t dream of concealing anything from the Social Democratic workers. Nevertheless, one must know the measure of things and preserve the political proportions. A skilled propagandist should have answered in the following manner: “You put your stakes on democracy; we believe that the only way out lies in the revolution. Yet we cannot and we do not want to make the revolution without you. Hitler is now the common foe. After the victory over him we shall draw the balance together with you and see where the road ahead actually leads.”

The audience in the Thälmann pamphlet peculiar as this may seem at first sight not only listens forbearingly to the speaker but even agrees with him many times. The secret of their forbearance, however, rests upon the fact that Thälmann’s partners in the conversation not only belong to the “Anti-fascist Action” but also call for the casting of votes for the Communist Party. They are former Social Democrats who have gone over to the side of Communism. Such recruits can only be welcomed. But what is deceptive in the whole affair is that a conversation with workers who have broken with the Social Democracy is palmed off as a conversation with the Social Democratic mass. This cheap masquerade is highly characteristic of the whole present-day policy of Thälmann & Co.!

At any rate, the former Social Democrats put questions which actually agitate the Social Democratic mass. “Is the Anti-fascist Action a front organization of the Communist Party?” they ask. Thälmann replies: “No!” The proof? The Anti-fascist Action “is no organization but a mass movement.” As if it were not just the task of the Communist Party to organize the mass movement. Still better is the second argument: the Anti-fascist Action is non-partisan, for (!) it directs itself against the capitalist state: “Karl Marx, in dealing with the lessons of the Paris Commune, already placed in the foreground in all sharpness, as the task of the working class, the question of smashing the bourgeois state apparatus.” O hapless quotation! For what the Social Democrats want, regardless of Marx, is to perfect the bourgeois state, but not to smash it. They are not Communists, but reformists. Despite his intentions, Thälmann proves just the thing he would like to refute – the party character of the Anti-fascist Action.

The official leader of the Communist Party obviously understands neither the situation nor the political thought of the Social Democratic workers. He does not understand what purpose the united front serves. With every one of his sentences, he delivers weapons to the reformist leaders and drives the Social Democratic workers to them.

The impossibility of any kind of joint step with the Social Democracy is demonstrated by Thälmann in the following manner: “In this connection we [?] must clearly recognize that the Social Democracy, even when it today mimics a sham opposition, will at no moment give up its actual thoughts of coalition and its compacts with the fascist bourgeoisie.” Even if this were right, there would nevertheless remain the task of proving it to the Social Democratic workers through experience. However, it is also false in essence. If the Social Democratic leaders do not want to abandon compacts with the bourgeoisie, the fascist bourgeoisie does, however, abandon compacts with the Social Democracy. And this fact may become decisive for the fate of the Social Democracy. In the passage of power from Papen to Hitler, the bourgeoisie will in no way be able to spare the Social Democracy. The civil war has its laws. The reign of the fascist terror will and can only mean the abolition of the Social Democracy. Mussolini began with precisely that, so as to be able all the more unrestrainedly to crush the revolutionary workers. In any event, the “social fascist” cherishes his skin. The Communist united-front policy at the present time must proceed from the concern of the Social Democracy for its own hide. That will be the most realistic policy and at the same time the most revolutionary in its consequences.

But if the Social Democracy will “at no moment” separate itself from the fascist bourgeoisie (although Matteoti “separated” himself from Mussolini), do not the Social Democratic workers who want to take part in the Antifascist Action have to leave their party? So runs one question. To this Thälmann replies: “For us Communists it is a matter of course that Social Democratic or Reichsbanner workers may take part in the Antifascist Action without having to leave their party.” To show himself free from sectarianism, Thälmann adds: “If you were to stream into it by the millions, in a serried front, we would greet it with joy, even if a lack of clarity still exists in your minds, in our opinion, about certain questions of estimating the Social Democratic Party of Germany.” Golden words! We consider your party to be fascist, you consider it to be democratic, but let’s not dispute over petty matters. It suffices for you to come to us “by the millions,” without leaving your fascist party. “Lack of clarity about certain questions” cannot constitute an obstacle. But alas, the lack of clarity in the heads of the all-powerful bureaucrats is an obstacle at every step.

To give depth to the question, Thälmann proceeds to say: “We do not put the question as between parties, but on a class basis.” Like Seydewitz, Thälmann is prepared to renounce party interests in the interests of the class. The misfortune lies in this, that for a Marxist there cannot be such a contrast. Were not its program the scientific formulation of the interests of the working class, the party would not be worth a penny.

Only, along with the crude mistake in principle, Thälmann’s words contain also a practical absurdity. How is it possible not to put the question of relations between parties when that is just where the very essence of the question lies? Millions of workers follow the Social Democracy. Other millions – the Communist Party. To the Social Democratic workers who ask how we shall today achieve joint actions between your party and ours against fascism, Thälmann answers: “On a class and not a party basis” stream toward us by the millions. Isn’t this the most wretched bombast?

“We Communists,” continues Thälmann, “do not want unity at any price.” We cannot, in the interest of unity with the Social Democracy, “disavow the class content of our policy ... and renounce strikes, struggles of the unemployed, actions of the tenants and revolutionary mass defense.” The agreement on definite practical actions is misconstrued into an absurd unity with the Social Democracy. Out of the indispensability of the final revolutionary assault of tomorrow, is deduced the impermissibility of joint strike or self-defense actions for today. Whoever can see rhyme or reason in Thälmann’s thoughts deserves a prize.

Thälmann’s listeners insist: “Is an alliance of the KPD and the SPD possible in the struggle against the Papen government and against fascism?” Thälmann mentions two or three facts as evidence that the Social Democracy does not fight against fascism and concludes: “Every SPD comrade will say we are right when we say that an alliance between the KPD and the SPD is impossible on the basis of these facts and also for reasons of principle [!].” The bureaucrat again assumes the thing that should be proved. Ultimatism acquires a particularly ludicrous character as soon as Thälmann replies to the question of the united front with organizations which embrace millions of workers. The Social Democrats must acknowledge that an agreement with their party is impossible because it is fascist. Can Wels and Leipart be rendered a better service?

“We Communists, who reject any accord with the SPD leaders ... repeatedly declare that we are at all times ready for the antifascist struggle with the militant Social Democratic and Reichsbanner comrades and with the lower [?] militant organizations.” Where do the lower organizations stop? And what is to be done if the lower organizations submit to the discipline of the upper, and propose that the negotiations shall be begun with the latter? Finally, between the lower and the upper there are intermediate stories. And can one prophesy where the dividing line will be between those who want to fight and those who dodge the struggle? This can be determined only in action and not by anticipatory appraisals. What sense is there in binding oneself hand and foot?

In Die Rote Fahne of July 29, in a report of a Reichsbanner meeting, the noteworthy words of a Social Democratic company commander are mentioned: “The will to an antifascist united front exists in the masses. If the leaders fail to take it into account, then I will go to the united front over their heads.” The Communist paper reproduces These words without comment. Yet they contain the key to the whole tactic of the united front. The Social Democrat wants to fight against the fascists in common with the Communists. He is already in doubt about the goodwill of his leaders. If the leaders refuse, says he, then I shall go over their heads. Social Democrats similarly disposed can be counted by the dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions. It is the task of the Communist Party to really show them whether or not the Social Democratic leaders want to fight. This can be demonstrated only through experience, through a new, fresh experience, in a new situation. This experience will not be gained at one blow. The Social Democratic leaders must be subjected to a test: in the factory and workshop, in town and country, in the whole nation, today and tomorrow. We must repeat our proposal, put it in a new form, from a new angle, adapted to the new situation.

But Thälmann will have none of it. On the basis of the “differences in principle shown to exist between the KPD and the SPD we reject negotiations from the top with the SPD.” This shattering argument is repeated by Thälmann several times. But if there were no “antagonisms in principle” then there would be no two parties. And if there were no two parties, there would be no question of the united front. Thälmann wants to prove far too much. Less – would be better.

Did not the founding of the RGO, ask the workers, signify “a splitting of the organized working class?” No, replies Thälmann, and as proof he cites Engels’s letter of 1895 against the aesthetic-sentimental philanthropists. Who is treacherously handing Thälmann such quotations? The RGO is created in the spirit of unity and not of schism. Also, the worker is in no case to leave his trade-union organization in order to join the RGO. On the contrary, it were better if the RGO members remained in the trade unions in order to carry on oppositional work therein. Thälmann’s words may sound convincing to Communists who have set themselves the task of fighting against the Social Democratic leadership. But as an answer to Social Democratic workers, who are concerned With trade-union unity, Thälmann’s words sound like a mockery.

“Why have you left our trade unions and organized yourselves separately?” ask the Social Democratic workers.

“If you want to enter our separate organization in order to fight against the Social Democratic leadership, we do not demand that you leave the trade unions,” Thälmann replies. An appropriate reply, right on the head of the nail!

“Is there democracy within the KPD?” ask the workers, passing over to another theme. Thälmann replies in the affirmative. Absolutely! But he immediately adds unexpectedly: “In legality as well as in illegality, most particularly in the latter, the party must be on guard against spies, provocateurs, and police agents.” This interpolation is not made accidentally. The latest doctrine, proclaimed throughout the world in the brochure of a mysterious Büchner, justifies the strangulation of democracy in the interest of the struggle against spies. Whoever protests against the autocracy of the Stalinist bureaucracy must be declared a suspicious character at the very least. The police agents and provocateurs of every country revel with enthusiasm over this theory. They will hound Oppositionists louder than anyone else: this may divert attention from themselves and enable them to fish in troubled waters.

The flourishing of democracy is also demonstrated, according to Thälmann, by the fact that “the problems are dealt with at World Congresses and Conferences of the ECCI.” The speaker fails to report when the last World Congress took place. We will call it to mind: in July 1928, more than four years ago! Apparently no noteworthy questions have arisen since then. Why, let it be asked in passing, doesn’t Thälmann himself convoke an extraordinary German party convention to resolve the questions upon which the fate of the German proletariat depends? Certainly not because of an excess of party democracy.

So runs page after page. Thälmann replies to twenty-one questions. Every reply a mistake. In sum, twenty-one mistakes, not counting the small and secondary ones. And they are numerous.

Thälmann relates that the Bolsheviks broke with the Mensheviks in 1903. In reality, the split first took place in 1912. But even that did not prevent the February Revolution in 1917 from finding united Bolshevik and Menshevik organizations over a large part of the country. As late as the beginning of April, Stalin came out for the unification of the Bolsheviks with Tseretelli’s party – not the united front but the fusion of the parties! This was prevented only by Lenin’s arrival.

Thälmann says that the Bolsheviks dispersed the Constituent Assembly in 1917. In reality this occurred at the beginning of 1918. Thälmann is not at all familiar with the history of the Russian Revolution and the Bolshevik Party.

Far worse, however, is the fact that he does not grasp the foundations of the Bolshevik tactic. In his “theoretical” articles, he even dares to dispute the fact that the Bolsheviks concluded an agreement with the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries against Kornilov. As proof, he adduces quotations shoved under his door by somebody or other, which have nothing to do with the matter. But he forgets to answer the questions: were there Committees for the Defense of the People throughout the land during the Kornilov putsch? Did they direct the struggle against Kornilov? Did representatives of the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, and Social Revolutionaries belong to these committees? Yes, yes, yes. Were the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries in power at that time? Did they persecute the Bolsheviks as agents of the German general staff? Were thousands of Bolsheviks confined to prisons? Did Lenin hide in illegality? Yes, yes, yes. What quotations can refute these historical facts?

Let Thälmann appeal to his heart’s content to Manuilsky, Lozovsky, and Stalin himself (if the latter ever opens his mouth). But let him leave in peace Leninism and the history of the Russian Revolution: for him they are books sealed with seven seals.

In conclusion one must throw into relief still another question, which stands by itself: it concerns Versailles. The Social Democratic workers ask if the Communist Party isn’t making political concessions to National Socialism. In his reply, Thälmann continues to defend the slogan of “national emancipation” and to place it on the same plane with the slogan of social emancipation. The reparations – what is left of them now – are just as important to Thälmann as private ownership of the means of production. One could say this policy was contrived uniquely to divert the attention of the workers from the basic problem, to weaken the blow against capitalism, and to compel one to seek the principal foe and author of poverty on the other side of the frontier. However, now more than ever before, “the main enemy is at home!” Schleicher expressed this idea even more coarsely: before anything else, he declared on the radio on July 26, we must “put an end to the dirty swine at home!” This soldier’s formula is very good. We pick it up willingly. Every Communist must firmly adopt it as his own. While the Nazis divert attention to Versailles, the Communist workers must retort to them with Schleicher’s words: no, before anything else we must put an end to the dirty swine at home!


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Last updated on: 25.4.2007