Gregory Zinoviev

The Social Roots of Opportunism II


Source: New International, Vol.8 No.3, April 1942, pp.84-90.
Written/First Published: 1916 (approximately) in The War and the Crisis in Socialism
Transcription: Daniel Gaido & Ted Crawford.
Mark-up: by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

[Continued from last issue]

The leaders of German imperialism know exactly how dependent the German social democracy is upon its petty bourgeois camp-followers. And they know very well how to play upon the chords of “patriotism.”

Above all else the imperialist gentlemen would like to be assured of the demoralization of the workers, main pillar of the German social democracy. In a book which appeared shortly before the outbreak of the war the well-known German imperialist. Rüdorffer (the active German diplomat, Ritzner), gives expression to the following sober views:

“If international socialism should succeed in severing the worker, in his innermost convictions, from the woof of the nation and in making him a mere link of his class, then its victory is assured. For the purely violent means by which the national state can attempt to keep the worker fettered to itself must, by themselves and in the long run, prove to be entirely untenable. Should international socialism fail in this however, and should those internal bonds which, even unconsciously, bind the worker to the organism known as the nation remain intact, then the victory of international socialism remains questionable as long as these bonds exist and turns into a defeat in case these bonds should, in the last analysis, prove to be the stronger.” (Grundzüge der Weltpolitik in der Gegenwart, p.173, 1914.)

That is how things stand with regard to the workers. So far as the petty-bourgeois camp-followers are concerned, Mr. Rüdorffer sees no cause for worry. “When the government of Prince Bülow dissolved the Reichstag in 1907 over a question of colonial policy and appealed to the people, election experts, clinging to the experiences of previous days, regarded the electoral slogan as unpopular and held that a defeat was inevitable. The contrary happened. The older generation of politicians stood there, amazed at the elemental force of the nation’s will to self-assertiveness in world politics,” Rüdorffer-Ritzner tells us. Indeed, the patriotic propaganda of Bülow and his friends led to the most favorable results. The demagogic outcry about “defense of the fatherland,” and “national interests,” etc., exerted great influence over wide layers of the population. “No bourgeois party,” writes Rüdorffer, “can permit itself a policy of negation in such questions; even the social democracy must, in its parliamentary conduct and in its agitation among the people, reckon with the national argument more and more each year.” And several pages later, the same author says: “Even the social democracy which, bound by its program, naturally remains in opposition, must exercise a certain amount of prudence and moderation in combatting such demands and will not deny the fact that when such a question leads to new elections, it is sure to suffer a painful defeat.” (L.c., pp.103, 110.)

Rüdorffer has observed the facts very correctly: out of the fear of losing its camp-followers, the official German social democracy has always made big concessions to petty bourgeois “patriotism.” “The election campaigns of the last few decades,” the same author continues, “have showed ever more distinctly that every emphasis upon the national questions by its opponents has reduced the attractive powers of the social-democratic movement and that socialist agitation itself has been forced to conceal or to adulterate the international side of its program when facing its voters ... The party has been forced, in practice, to restrict its internationalism and to submerge it by means of all kinds of conditioning clauses. It has not dared to develop sharp agitational campaigns against any of the great armament budgets proposed in the past decade and its opposition, to which it is theoretically obligated, has been conducted with a certain amount of prudence. It has indignantly denied the assertions of its opponents that in case of war, the social democracy will instigate the laboring masses following the party to turn their weapons against their leaders and thus seek to prevent the war together with the French socialists. Indeed, it even regards complaints of its lack of patriotism as insults.” (L.c., p.176. Note that all this was written before the war.

Socialism by Votes

The facts are here once again described correctly. The official German social democracy actually avoided an open struggle against bourgeois “patriotism.” It took up the struggle against the bourgeoisie on the latter’s own premises. The official opposition of the German social democracy in this question was exhausted by the thesis: “We are also patriots, we are even better patriots than you are.” Instead of a struggle between two principles-internationalism against nationalism-there appeared an unprincipled rivalry over the question as to who the greater “patriots” were. And there can remain no doubt: this position of the official German social democracy was determined in a very important measure by opportunist considerations as to how to hold the camp-followers to the party. It suffices to recall the fact that in 1911 Molkenbuhr (one of the pillars of the party leadership and officially a “Marxist” and not an opportunist) proposed that the International Socialist Bureau shall not be convoked and that no alarm should be sounded over the Morocco conflict. He based this position upon the grounds that Reichstag elections were approaching in Germany and that it would not be favorable for the social democracy to have international politics debated at every election meeting and in every village in place of the questions of internal policy.

Immediate successes in the elections, even if they had to be paid for at the price of concessions to national prejudice – that was always the aim of the opportunist wing of the German social democracy. The greatest possible number of seats in Parliament – that is the Alpha and Omega of the policy of opportunism.

The old leaders of the social democracy attempted to combat this tendency which was steadily gaining the upper hand, But not always with success. On the eve of the elections of 1912 Bebel made a speech in Hamburg in which he postulated the following thesis: Let us rather have 50 deputies and 4,000,000 votes than 100 deputies and 3,000 votes. In other words: what is important for us is not the number of seats in Parliament, but the number of sympathizers we have among the population. This was a feeble attempt to enter into a struggle against the policy of adaptation to the camp-followers. Only a feeble attempt; for, in order to speak out clearly it would have been necessary to say: let us rather have 2,000,000 votes of convinced socialists than 4,000,000 votes at the price of an adulteration of socialism; let us rather have twenty deputies who are really socialists than a hundred deputies of whom half are still deeply immersed in the petty bourgeoisie. But even for this feeble attempt Bebel was fiercely attacked by the opportunists. And to tell the truth, the elections of 1912 actually proceeded far more under the banner of Südekum than under that of old Bebel.

The opportunists began to demand ever more openly that the line of the social democracy be determined not by the party, not by the sum total of the party organization, but by all the voters. For while the party amounted altogether to about 1,000,000 members, the voters on the other hand, numbered fully 4,500,000. “Our responsibility is toward broader masses,” said the opportunists.

In 1912 the German social democracy consisted of 4,827 locals and over 1,000,000 members – 970,112 men and 130,371 women. For every hundred voters there were only 22.8 party members. “We,” said the opportunists, “want to be responsible not only to these 22 but also to the other 78.” In reality this meant that they wanted to free themselves of all responsibility, of any kind of discipline from the side of the organized socialist workers. In reality this meant that they considered themselves the political representatives not of a revolutionary class, not of a revolutionary party, but of an accidental mass of petty bourgeois camp-followers who are radical today but fall into the arm of nationalism and reaction tomorrow, who vote for the social democracy today and tomorrow serve as tools of a robber imperialism.

Naturally, we do not wish to contend that the opportunism inside of the German social democracy arose only and exclusively because of the camp-followers. No, opportunism is the product of a whole series of facts. The camp-followers, however, constitute one of the channels through which opportunism penetrates the workers’ party.

The opportunists won the victory over the Marxists in the German social democracy and not in the German alone. That signifies, among other things, that the policy of adaptation to the petty bourgeois camp-followers defeated the other policy. The official German social democracy has itself become a camp-follower, an agent, a tool of imperialism.

The Labor Bureaucracy

The term “labor bureaucracy” was long ago legitimized in scientific and political literature. When we spoke of labor bureaucracy before the war we understood by that almost exclusively the British trade unions. We had in mind the fundamental works of the Webbs. the caste spirit, the reactionary role of the bureaucracy in the old British trade unionism, and we said to ourselves: how fortunate that we have not been created in that image, how fortunate that this cup of grief has been spared our labor movement on the continent. 

But we have been drinking for a long time out of this very cup. In the labor movement of Germany – a movement which served as a model for socialists of all countries before the war – there has arisen just as numerous and just as reactionary a caste of labor bureaucrats. The present crisis has revealed this fact with unsparing clarity.

Up to now little has been known of the numerical composition of the labor bureaucracy, of its influence, of its income, of its corporative organizational strength. Just as a great many things are concealed from the public eye and wrought in secrecy within the circle of the leaders of the capitalist trusts, so it is in that closed caste of the labor bureaucracy which represents a unique job trust that directs the mass organization of the workers in all countries with an advanced labor movement. It is a characteristic attribute of every caste to be shut off from the entire world outside of it, to be accessible only to the initiated. That is why it is so extraordinarily difficult to obtain factual data about the role of the labor bureaucracy.

The Type of Functionary

Let us first of all turn our attention to the labor movement in Germany. How strong is the labor bureaucracy there? How big is the influence of the “leaders” of the mass movement? Let us dwell for a while on the quantitative side of the matter. Several exceptionally interesting descriptions of the rôle of the labor bureaucracy, i.e., the rôle of the functionaries in the social democratic party and in the free [1] trade unions may be found in the Handbuch des Vereins Arbeiterpresse. This manual has been appearing only for the past three years and is accessible only to functionaries of the labor movement. It cannot be obtained in book stores. With great effort we succeeded in getting a copy of it for the purposes of this work. [2]

At the very end of the booklet there is an alphabetical index of all the paid officials working for the party and the free trade unions, This register of names alone occupies 26 pages of three columns each in print of the very smallest petit type. According to our calculation, the entire number of paid officials working for the party and the trade unions in 1914 amounts to 4,010. In Greater Berlin alone it amounts to 751, in Hamburg to 390. (Handbuch des Vereins Arbeiterpresse, pp.252-299, 392-415, 534-589).

The great majority of this “upper” four to five thousand are workers in their origin. We have thoroughly investigated the data for a number of cities and received the following results:

Bureaucracy and Aristocracy

In general the picture is the same all over. The great, the overwhelming majority of the functionaries are workers. The purely bourgeois element (merchants, academicians, literary men, etc.) is strongest in the opportunist center, Munich, and in part also in Frankfort and Stuttgart. Generally, however, it may be said that workers constitute the absolutely preponderant element among the “upper” four thousand functionaries of the German labor movement. This fact cannot be disputed and in this respect our data here correspond with all the other data.

But the concept “worker,” in and by itself, must be applied with the greatest care in this case. It would be better perhaps in this case not to say “worker” but “worker in his origin”. For such party leaders as Scheidemann, Ebert, Legien, Pfannkuch, etc., also belong in the category of worker functionaries. Scheidemann is a compositor, Ebert a saddler Legien a turner, Pfannkuch a carpenter, Molkenbuhr a tobacco worker. In reality, however, these people are no longer workers and have not been for decades. They have incomes bigger than that of the average bourgeois and have long ago given up their trade. They are workers in the same sense as the well known “labor” ministers John Burns, Henderson, Fisher, etc. And that holds true not only for the people in the center who stand on the highest rung of the bureaucratic ladder and direct all the affairs, like Legien, Scheidemann, etc. It holds true also for the great majority of all the four thousand functionaries of the German labor movement. In the provinces the picture is the same, the functionaries have long ago given up their original trade. They are workers in name only. In reality they are bureaucrats with a standard of living quite distinct from that of the average worker.

The worker-functionaries very often hail from the circles of the labor aristocracy. The labor bureaucracy and the labor aristocracy are blood brothers. The group interests of the one and of the other very often coincide. Nevertheless, labor bureaucracy and labor aristocracy are two different categories.[3]

The four thousand constitute a particularly unique corporation that has a number of purely craft interests of its own. To protect their corporative interests they have founded their own special trade association of party and trade union functionaries. This association numbered 3,617 members in 1917 and had an income of 252,372 marks in membership dues. Interest on capital (and other incomes) netted the association 47,5521 marks in 1913. (Handbuch des Vereins Arbeiterpresse, p.50.) Apart from this, the functionaries in the individual branches of the labor movement have formed still other, separate mutual aid societies, etc. Thus, for example, an association of all functionaries employed in the coöperative movement. In 1912 this association had 7,194 members and its capital amounted to 2,919,191 marks. (L.c., p.73.)

The employees of the labor press, the editors, correspondents, reporters, etc., form a numerically large group in themselves; It suffices to point out that the free trades unions spent 2,604,411 marks for their union organs in 1912 alone. (L.c., p.1) If we add to that the 70 social-democratic daily papers and all the numerous social-democratic weeklies and monthlies, then the sum of the salaries. received by all the employees of these publications mounts high up into the million mark figures every year. It is easy to imagine what a large number of journalists, secretaries, etc., live on these millions. Those participating in the work of the labor press have their own professional society, the “Labor Press Association,” which has been in existence for more than a decade. This association has worked out an entire scale of salaries for editors and editorial employees. The salaries of an editor, for instance, must be at least 2,200 marks – and with a bi-annual increase of 300 – can mount up to 4,200 marks annually (L.c., p.51). In reality they are paid considerably more. There is a constant demand for editors. Often an “ad” appears in the party press: this or that paper is seeking the services of an editor, etc.

According to our calculation, 4,000 functionaries occupy at least 12,000 – if not more – important party and trade union functions. Every more or less efficient functionary takes care simultaneously of two to three and often even more offices. He is at the same time a Reichstag deputy and an editor, a member of the Landtag and a party secretary, the president of a trade union, an editor, a coöperative functionary, a city councilman, etc. Thus all power in the party and trade unions accumulates in the hands of this upper 4,000. (The salaries accumulate, too. Many of the officials of the labor movement receive 10,000 marks and over per year.) The whole business depends upon them. They hold in their hands the whole powerful apparatus of the press, of the organization of the mutual aid societies, the entire electoral apparatus, etc.

The Role of the Youth

At the moment in which we are setting down these figures, a report has come in of the death of the outstanding Hamburg social democrat, Adolph von Elm. In the obituaries are enumerated all the offices von Elm held in the last years of his life. We have counted a dozen and a half such offices in trade union and coöperative organizations. Reichstag deputy, chairman of the press commission, member of the social-democratic fraction of the city council, chairman of the district committee of the Wholesale Buying Association, etc., etc. – these are some of his offices. And von Elm is by no means an exception.

Regarding the number of persons vested with functions and of “representatives” in the individual provincial organizations of the social-democratic party, there is very little material in the press. There are some isolated examples, however, which are noteworthy. Thus, for instance, the social-democratic organization of the Baden district had 7,322 members all told in 1905; its representatives in the municipalities, however, reached a figure well above the thousand mark. (Minutes of the Jena Congress, 1905, p.16.) Consequently, every seventh party member in Baden was, in a certain sense, a party functionary.

But the real power in the party does not reside in the hands of this relatively broad layer of “representatives.” It rests in the hands of a much smaller stratum of party functionaries, the top bureaucracy. More than a thousand small employees, clerks, managers, etc., are directly dependent economically upon the party and trade union leadership. As early as 1904 there were already 1,476 men in the employ of the print shops belonging to the social democratic party (the number of editors had reached 329). In 1908, 298 men worked in the Vorwärts plant alone. All these people are just as dependent economically upon the higher bureaucrats as the workers are on any given private entrepreneur.

The business turnover of the Vorwärts alone reached the figure of 1,904,659 marks, i.e., about two million marks in 1914-1915 (from April 1, 1914, to March 31, 1915). The salaries for members of the editorial board of this paper amounted to 94,005 marks in the same year. In the course of the year 239,754 marks were paid out to editorial workers and other collaborators of the paper. In 1915-1916 (from April 1, 1915, to March 31, 1916) the turnover had dropped, in view of the war, to 1,406,726 marks. The expenditure for salaries remained about the same as before. (Verband der Sozialdemokratischen Wahlvereine Berlins und Umgebung, Annual Report, 1914-1916, p.104.) In the fiscal year 1915 expenditures for the printing of the Vorwärts amounted to 997,573 marks, almost a million. The administration of the paper’s circulation department required an expenditure of 33,914 marks that year. All the expenses of circulation totaled 419,773 marks. The Vorwärts alone is a great enterprise that feeds several hundred party functionaries and employees. It was upon these functionaries, above all, that the party leadership (Scheidemann and Co.) supported themselves when they seized possession of the Vorwärts with the aid of the government, at the end of 1916, violating the legal prerogatives of the oppositional Berlin organization. It was upon these functionaries that the party leadership supported itself also in Bremen, Stuttgart and a number of other cities when they wrested from the oppositional majority the local newspapers, the publishing houses and book, stores, the treasuries, etc., with methods of brutal force. The legal owner of the party property is in most cases some party functionary. If the majority of workers in any locality opposes the party leadership, the legal owner appeals, with Scheidemann’s blessings, to the “law.” The editors who permit an expression of the views of the opposition are discharged after being paid their salaries for six weeks in advance and – suddenly the paper becomes “patriotic.” ... The reactionary rôle of the labor bureaucracy is so openly revealed in such cases as to leave nothing more to be desired.

The Rôle of the Youth

The youth organizations brought a breath of fresh air into this set-up. Here there was no stultifying routine. These organizations enjoyed organizational autonomy on a genuinely democratic basis. A spirit of equality and brotherliness prevailed. Every tendency toward bureaucratism was eschewed. And what happened? Hardly ten years passed before the official party (the “adults”) succeeded in penetrating the youth committees as well with its bureaucrats.

Naturally the youth organizations never thought of refusing well-meant aid from the side of the adult “Marxists”; on the contrary, they valued it greatly. But the “party heads” did not restrict themselves to that. They wanted to get into their hands the entire apparatus of the youth organizations. For the youth are notoriously an “unreliable” band of enthusiasts. And by systematic efforts the “older” generation of opportunists succeeded completely in achieving their aim. Inside the responsive social democratic youth of Germany, in a state of continual ferment, an almost unanimous opposition against the official course has prevailed. But the official youth paper and the official youth committees stand entirely and completely behind Scheidemann and Co. The “adult” bureaucrats have done their “duty” to the “party.” Wherever the youth has attempted, in the course of the war, to defend the autonomy of its organization, it has been deprived of its means, of existence; the party subsidies have been withdrawn, they have been kicked out of the headquarters, the “People’s Houses,” in which they have been lodged. Finally, the recalcitrant organizations were dissolved altogether. That is what has recently happened in Hamburg, for instance, one of the great centers of the German labor movement.

The following table illustrates this process of the displacement of the democratic autonomous administration by bureaucratism from the top:



No. of

Equal No.
Youth and



than ½


as Youth
































Maintaining the Bureaucracy

The trade unions cite, in their literature, detailed data regarding the moneys required for the maintenance of the bureaucracy in the trade unions. In 1914 alone the administrative costs of the free trade unions of Germany reached the round sum of 12,877,090 marks.[5] These administrative costs are for the greatest part expenses for the maintenance of functionaries. For all the other categories of expenditures, such as those for agitation, educational purposes, etc., are entered separately. Thus it appears that expenses for the maintenance of the trade union bureaucracy and several other administrative expenditures together amount to 13,000,000 marks annually, consequently to over one million monthly. The lion’s share of these sums is spent directly on the salaries of the trade union functionaries; this is apparent from the figures of the expenditures incurred by the central administration of the free trade unions. Here the expenditures for salaries are quoted separately. Of the 2,009,834 marks constituting administrative costs, the salaries, the personal administrative costs, amount to 1,266,615 marks. (L.c., p.169.)

The total sum of all expenses paid out by the free trade unions in 1914 amounts to 79,547,272 marks. Of these 80 million, 12 million marks were spent in one year (1914) for agitation, maintenance of connections, etc., and 2,598,476 marks for educational purposes. (L.c., p.169.) Here we have again twelve and a half million marks, of which a good part was likewise spent for personal salaries due to speakers, journalists, etc. These twenty-five million, which are expended annually for administration, agitation, etc., are of course collected by more than one thousand trade union functionaries who form a closed corporation.

We cite below the latest data regarding the number of functionaries in the free trade unions of Germany. These data were made public in October, 1916. In forty-six trade unions – it is still only the free (social-democratic) trade unions that are in question – there were employed in 1914, before the outbreak of the war, the following number of functionaries (Korrespondenzblatt der Gewerkschaften Deutschlands, Statistical Supplement No.4, October 1, 1916, p.74).

In the Central Offices


In the District Offices


In the Local Unions


In the Editorial Offices of the Trade Union Papers




Toward the end of 1914 this figure dropped to 12,287, toward the end of 1915 to 1,477. The war had cut the number of functionaries down to half the previous figure. But the pre-war figure must naturally be taken as the normal figure. Thus almost 3,000 paid officials – chairmen, presidents, editors, etc. – are employed by the German free trade unions.

In 1915 – right in the middle of the war – the costs of the central administration of the German free trade unions amounted to 1,718,820 marks. The expenses are divided into two categories: for materials, and for personnel. The former amounted to 488,389 marks in 1915, the latter, i.e., the functionaries’ salaries in the first place, to 1,230,431 marks. And that only in the central administration! Together with the expenses of the local departments, the administrative costs in 1914, amounted to 9,721,190, marks, i.e., almost ten million. The publication of the trade union organs – a separate category – cost 2,0791,049 marks (circulation, 2,610,695) in 1914, and 1,225,165 marks (circulation, 1,328,218) in 1915. Obviously, a good part of these sums is expended on salaries received by trade union officials, editors, editorial secretaries, permanent staff workers, etc.

These sums are enormously high!

In the social-democratic party as well as in the free trade unions there has been a notably over-developed specialization of functions – an extremely favorable circumstance for the labor bureaucracy. Hundreds of labor bureaucrats specialize in communal policy, in insurance problems, in the consumers coöperative system, etc. In the social-democratic Reichstag fraction the division of labor among the speakers according to professional specialities has taken on extreme forms. In the trade union movement the situation is the same. A whole science of bureaucracy – if one may say so – has arisen. The statutes of the German Metal Workers Federation, for instance, fill 47 printed pages and 39 paragraphs, of which each is once again subdivided into ten to twelve sections. That is really a complete bureaucratic encyclopedia. The uninitiated inevitably go astray in the midst of it. Only a specialist, a functionary who has been engaged in such affairs for years, can find his way in it without any trouble.

“The Need for Trained People”

The good old German social reformists are very much concerned that the social democracy shall have “sufficiently trained” leaders, that the functionaries of the labor movement shall be up to the “necessarily high level” of their tasks. The bourgeois professor, Ferdinand Tönnies (today an open imperialist) proposes that the social-democratic party shall introduce regular examinations. Before a party member can become a candidate in the election, or for a secretarial post, he should be obliged to pass an examination. (Prof. Ferdinand Tönnies, Politik und Moral, p.46, Frankfort 1901.) The well known Prof. Heinrich Herkner goes even further. He poses the question as to whether the great trade union federations can content themselves altogether with leaders of working-class origin. He foresees a situation in which the trade unions will soon be compelled to do without exclusively proletarian elements and to prefer as directors, persons who possess economic, juridical and commercial school training. (Heinrich Herkner, Die Arbeiterfrage, pp.116-117. 5th ed.) That means nothing else than that the workers are being propositioned with the idea of choosing for themselves educated bourgeois as leaders, of selecting their functionaries from the ranks of the bourgeois intelligentsia “standing above the party”. And this proposition is not at all unexpected if we recall the usages in the labor movement of other advanced countries. In England, for instance, the socialist paper, Daily Citizen, founded by the trade unions, not so long ago selected its editors from among the staff of the bourgeois Daily Mail. The Daily Citizen could not, or did not want to, find sufficiently experienced journalists among the socialist writers. The paper was organized on the model of the “great” European newspapers. Inside of a very short time it ate up a million marks and went under. This is a very characteristic picture of the practices prevalent in these spheres ...

The reactionary rôle of the trade union bureaucracy is confirmed even by such moderate critics as the historians of the British trade union movement, the Webbs. But we cannot here go into the rôle of the labor bureaucracy in England more thoroughly (the number of top functionaries in the trade unions in 1905 was 1,000; more recent figures are, unfortunately, not available). That would be too much of a digression.

In the land of “unlimited possibilities,” in America, the leaders of the labor unions sell themselves quite openly to the bourgeoisie. There the material dependence of the leaders upon the bourgeoisie is not even concealed. There it is a common practice for the capitalists and labor leaders, and their respective wives, to exchange valuable “gifts” after the conclusion of a wage agreement with the trade unions. Naturally, this is quite ordinary bribery. The labor leaders there are often pure and simple handy-men of the bourgeoisie, “labor lieutenants of the capitalist class,” as they say in America. That is no longer a matter of petty bourgeois hangovers or of the group interests of the labor aristocracy, but plain and ordinary venality. There, the trade unions do a wholesale and retail trade with labor votes before the presidential elections. The leaders of the labor unions over there take a prominent part in various capitalist associations.

One example: the notorious Samuel Gompers. He is simultaneously the president of the American Federation of Labor, that is, the trade union federation of the workers, and first vice-president of the Civic Federation, that is, the most important capitalist organization for the combatting of socialism. When Gompers came to Europe in 1909, Karl Kautsky extended to him this mocking greeting: “Welcome, brother – president of the American labor unions; begone, Mr. Vice-President of the National Federation of American capitalists!” (Neue Zeit, 1908-09, Vol.27, Bk.II, pp.677f.)

From the “Down-Under” Land

However, the reactionary role of the “socialist bureaucracy” appears nowhere so ostentatiously as in Australia, that veritable Land of Promise of social reformism. The first “labor ministry” in Australia was formed in Queensland in December, 1899. And ever since then the Australian labor movement has been a constant prey of leaders on the make for careers. Upon the backs of the laboring masses there arise, one after another, little bands of aristocrats of labor, from the midst of which the future labor ministers spring forth, ready to do loyal service to the bourgeoisie. All these Hollmans, Cooks and Fishers were once workers. They act the parts of workers even now. But in reality they are only agents of the financial plutocracy in the camp of the workers, The caste of the “leaders” here appears quite openly as a unique type of job trust. The labor party as such comes to the surface only during the parliamentary elections. Once the elections are over, the party disappears again for three whole years. The party conventions are only conventions of party functionaries. They never include a trace of real representatives of the mass of labor. The party leader is elected in conference and functions as such until the next election at the succeeding conference. If he is elected to Parliament, he also becomes the leader of the parliamentary fraction. If the party gets a majority in Parliament, the leader becomes prime minister and forms a “labor ministry.” The powers of this leader are almost unlimited. It went so far that the “labor” minister of New South Wales, Hollman (a former carpenter), proposed at the party conference of 1915 that the leader be given the power to change the program of the party at his own discretion, if this should be necessary for its “salvation.” We have recently had quite a striking example of the means whereby Fisher, Hollman &: Co. “save” the labor party. These “leaders” have proved to be the worst sort of chauvinists. The majority of the workers pronounced themselves against the introduction of military service in Australia. But Fisher and his friends continue to represent the views of the bourgeoisie.

When the Danish socialist, Stauning, not so long ago became a minister, Huysmans congratulated him on his success and noted with joy the fact that Stauning is the tenth socialist to become a minister. It would be interesting to know whether Huysmans counts Fisher also among the ten ministers ...

There is one consolation for the opponents of Fisher, nevertheless. Namely, that even in distant Australia it has come to an open break between Fisher and the genuine labor organizations, “Every cloud has its silver lining.” The present crisis has accentuated the situation tremendously and it will lead to a good and healthy “cleansing” of the democratic ranks.


Hartenstein, Switzerland
August 4, 1916

[To Be Continued]


1. The German trade unions were designated as “free” in contradistinction to the “yellow” company unions and the Catholic unions. – Trans.

2. We received this rare material on the situation on the German social democracy through the gracious aid of Comrade Julian Borchardt to whom we express our thanks here.

3. The rôle of the latter has a special sub-chapter devoted to it.

4. We take these figures from the interesting article, Bureaucratie und Selbstverwaltung, published in the magazine Die Jugend Internationale, no.5, December 1916.

5. This sum was calculated on the basis of tables printed in the Jubilee book of the secretary of the General Commission of the Trade Unions, P. Umbreit, 25 Jahre deutscher Gewerkschaftsbewegung; 1890 bis 1915, 1915, pp.164-169.

Last updated: 17.6.2008