Leon Trotsky

Political Profiles

Haase, Ebert and David

(August 1915)

ON AUGUST 4, 1914 Haase delivered his declaration in defence of the first five-milliard war credit. At the December session of the Reichstag the same assignment fell to Ebert. At the current Friedrich Ebertsession the voting for the ten-milliard credit was substantiated on behalf of Social-Democracy by David. And even the names and the swapping of the assignment from one to another has a symbolic character. Haase acquired his influence in the party during the period when the Russian revolution had strengthened the left wing within it. Ebert, a worker and a competent and energetic party bureaucrat had always expressed the line of the official centre. David was a Southerner and a Baden “statesman”, an educated Philistine and a great man at little things. These three figures were closely linked with the pre-war struggle around the budget question. David was the inspiration of the Southerners in their demonstrative voting on the Grand Duke’s budget. At the Dortmund Congress where the question was taken up, Haase, in his capacity of leader of the left wing which had its own special sessions, presented the Central Committee with an ultimatum: to vote for the budget must be acknowledged as incompatible with adherence to Social-Democracy. The official point of view of the Central Committee, which was close to the position of the left wing was stated at the congress by, in place of the sick Bebel, none other than Ebert. But then the war; Haase, who considered it impermissible for a Social-Democrat to vote Eduard Davidcredits for the state expenditure of the Baden backwater comes out with a justification for that state ‘task’ wherein all the horrors and disgraces of the capitalist system find their most horrifying and disgraceful expression. Haase could go no further and crossed over to the ranks of the wavering and characterless semi-opposition of the left-centre. Ebert, the official defender of the party resolution forbidding the crediting of the capitalist state, takes over from him. But Ebert too was evidently not at home under the weight of this assignment. He was pushed aside and on to the tribune of the Reichstag ascended a small skinny fellow with the manners of a provincial diplomat, Eduard David. This one at last is in his place. He does not simply carry out his errand, he is not just the submissive slave of circumstances; he feels himself summoned at last to the fulfilment of his historic mission: this is his climax, he fetes his supreme victory over the ideas of Marxism and revolution, he solemnizes the rite ...

Hugo HaaseA certain equilibrium is established between people and ideas. The one who speaks on behalf of the present-day German party is the one whom it most fits. But it is sufficient just to imagine for one minute with a primitive freshness of perception the fact that the reformist David hands over to Hohenzollern and Bethmann, on behalf of the German proletariat, milliards and its support for their bloody international task, to gauge the terrifying depth of the collapse of German Social-Democracy.

Yes, Eduard David is at last in his place: he heads a politically and morally decapitated party. But in vain! The antagonists of David have not yet found their places, Liebknecht, alone as before, raised his voice of protest-he was answered by guffaws stemming from the depths of the patriotic and perhaps too, the social-patriotic riff-raff. A score and a half opposition deputies did not dare to break ‘discipline’ in relation to today’s great leader of the German proletariat Eduard David: their heads thrust down into their coats they hide away in the Reichstag lobbies where the banner of Social-Democracy is draped in shame.

But in reality for us revolutionary internationalists there are no grounds for hanging our heads. The political triumph of David is our ideological victory, for the symbolic sequence of the leaders of German Social-Democracy on to the platform of the Reichstag gives a personalized, physical expression to the idea that the principles of an independent class policy of the proletariat is incompatible with the principles of social-nationalism. In the silence of the left wing there lies not only a lack of character but also shame on the party.

The logic of events perhaps works out slower than we would wish but it takes its course. At present Liebknecht’s voice is drowned by the triumphant hoots of ‘national unity’ but in this hooting an attentive ear cannot help discernng an alarm-signal for tomorrow when history will start to settle its accounts. The one whose turn will come last will in the final analysis laugh the loudest.

Nashe Slovo
No.175, August 27, 1915

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Last updated on: 10.4.2007