ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

International Socialism, Spring 1962


Georg Lux

The Decline of German Socialism


From International Socialism (1st series), No.8, Spring 1962, pp.4-9.
Translated by Mary Philips.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Georg Lux is the pseudonym of a German comrade, long active in the Social Democrat Party and West German Labour Movement generally. He is a frequent contributor to the German left-wing press.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the present crisis of socialism is the accelerating speed with which German social democracy returns to the social-liberal position from which it was freed one hundred years ago. Until now the United States had been the only highly developed capitalist country where there was no mass socialist movement and where the ‘Labour Movement’ was merely a rotting appendage of the bourgeois parties. Socialists comforted themselves with the thought that their predictions were not disproved by this, since the formation of a strong socialist party was hindered by the peculiar social conditions in America.

This argument has now been shaken. Those who defend capitalism describe the course of events in Germany as typical for a highly developed capitalist country.

Socialists must, therefore, ask themselves if the theory of the exceptional character of American development is not refuted by the decline of German socialism. Might it not be that capitalism in the US is a picture of our own future, that an historical period when a majority of the working-class was ready for social revolution has passed irrevocably without being utilised by socialists? Our hopes that socialism would develop from tendencies existing in the ‘Western’ world would then, in our time at least, be an illusion.

This article will attempt to show, by a sketchy description of German socialism since 1945, that its curious deviations were the result of a particular historical situation without parallel in any other country.

In Germany, the reorientation of the Labour movement (necessary in other countries, as well) had to take place under exceptionally unfavourable conditions:

  1. The working-class, not yet recovered from its defeat in 1933, was discouraged when the 1945 attempt to create a new social order misfired.
  2. An unprecedented economic recovery, contrary to the predictions of what was left of socialist theory, made a successful reformist policy possible, and destroyed the immediate relevance of socialist demands.
  3. The structural changes within the Social Democratic Party (SPD) led inevitably to a final break with socialism.
  4. Numerically the socialist cadres are weakened and the idea of socialism is discredited.

Given such conditions, it is possible for the conception of the Labour movement to be lost for the same reasons which prevented its appearance in the USA.

The reasons for the weakness of German socialism lie to a great extent in the enormous loss of people through the fascist terror and emigration as well as in the interruption of theoretical and practical work during the thirteen years of Hitler’s rule. Added to this, can be the destructive effect of Stalinist policy, in particular on the German left; it discredited not only the German Communist Party (KPD), but the whole of socialism. The political dependence of the Communist Parties on Moscow was bound to have worse effects in Germany than elsewhere. There, as a result of Nazi propaganda, the War and Russian occupation, a stronger ‘anti-Bolshevik’ feeling has arisen than in other countries. After 1945 the KPD rapidly dwindled into a political sect. Its adherents were regarded as agents of an enemy power. Thus, after 1945, even the worthwhile anti-stalinist elements could not make the tradition of the German Labour Movement, as personified by the KPD, an effective force. Ulbricht’s policy in Eastern Germany (GDR) is also a persistent source of discredit to socialism. If there were a ‘Polish’ or ‘Titoist’ development there, then communist influence could soon rise again.

Under these conditions the leadership of the German Labour movement after 1945 lay exclusively in the hands of the SPD. Therefore we must explain first of all why this party, which still presented a programme of socialist reform in 1945, broke completely with the socialist tradition only a few years later. In this, the ‘socio-psychological image’ of itself which the party has formed in the course of its history has to be taken into account as much as its recent history.

Before 1914 the SPD was seen as the model Marxist party of the International. However, as with all petit-bourgeois ‘democratic’ parties, its energies were directed more towards equal political suffrage than towards the socialist transformation of society. It was as much a social-liberal party as it was a socialist one. Its only reason for opposition to the existing system, of government was its own exclusion from any influence on public affairs. Of this SPD Kautsky said: it is ‘a revolutionary party, but not one planning a revolution’. He did not know that with this phrase, which was not intended as criticism, he had put into words the reasons for its continual failure. The SPD was not a party of action. Its theory, which reduced Marxism to an economically determined system of historical analysis, was of no practical value. It merely justified waiting for a parliamentary majority. Its abstract radicalism would be bound to collapse as soon as the door was opened to collaboration in the running of the State.

The position of the SPD, which for decades was that of an outsider, was closely linked to its experience of being outlawed, and produced in the party a neurotic desire to prove that it could fulfil public functions as well as the bourgeois parties. The achievement of the 1918 revolution lay, for many social-democrats, in the ending of this exclusion, and with the way clear to offices of state, their socialism rapidly evaporated. Especially after the radical wing had left the party, the quasi-liberals came into the foreground more and more: for them entry to offices of state was the essence of politics and the party only a means to that end.

When, in the course of events, power fell to the SPD it soon settled its problems in canvassing for general elections. Only in times of crisis did it act to the full extent to which it stood in opposition, a little to the left, following the voice of the masses.

In 1945, the party behaved as its past suggested. At that time most Germans believed it would be impossible to reconstruct the country without a socialist reorganisation. Nevertheless, the leading role of Big Business in the Third Reich was still unquestioned, and the anti-nazism of the Allies led many people to suppose that economic power would not be returned to leading capital. The SPD talked ‘left-wing’. Among its ranks countless plans for socialism were developed (plans that should, to a certain extent, be treated seriously).

But even then, in the final analysis, socialisation was only an electoral promise which the SPD used to win a majority. They did nothing to create socialist relations of production and lay the foundations for future development. Even in their most radical moments they never thought of socialisation as anything other, than an official act of the state in relation to the economy. True to their past they quickly built up a strong party organisation and contented themselves with occupying the positions left open to the Germans by the military government.

In 1945, Leon Blum had drawn conclusions from the practical experience of his party which should have been of concern to all socialists. He said that there were two roads to socialism: either it must return to the tactics of Bakunin or it must remain the loyal and respected manager of capitalism. The SPD chose the latter although the other road, which Blum called Bakunin’s, was open to them.

In 1945, there was a broad and spontaneous mass movement directed towards socialism. Using the existing possibilities, trade unions were formed everywhere by the workers on a local basis, with shop committees being responsible. The working-class was organising itself on an enormous scale, ending in many factories with the de facto taking of power by the shop committees, who overcame the destruction of the war and started production again. In many places the process resembled an idyllic parallel to the Spanish revolution of 1936. As a part of the Nazi system of authority, the power of the employers had collapsed. The shop committees took over the space they left. But, unlike the Spanish, they had no programme for industrial democracy. There was no co-ordination of the shop committees on a regional basis, which could have been the foundation of a new social system.

The masses looked towards the SPD and the headquarters of the trade unions which had appeared in the meantime. But these were ‘waiting’ – for a legal settlement by the military regime or by a government resulting from a general election. Nevertheless, out of this workers’ offensive which broke down at the start and out of the resignation of the bourgeoisie who in the first post-war confusion did not count on saving their skins without concessions, there developed a new ideology to cripple the German Labour movement for a long time to come: the idea of the partnership of capital and labour in the running of the economy. In the consciousness of the masses, where it was thought of under the slogan ‘participation of the workers in the economy’, it had an offensive ring. Its basically illusory nature was not recognised. In the future the new economy was to be a planned one, with socialisation of the key industries, controlled by trade unions and employers together. It was assumed that on this basis agreement could be reached with the employers. Only a small minority understood that this participation must mean ‘encroaching control’.

As ‘encroaching control’, the movement for participation could have led to an effective and new conception of socialist policy. But the systematic combination of the political activity of the SPD with the direct action of the trade unions would have been necessary. Both should have fought really hard and established each advance they achieved by creating new institutions. However, the military regime easily succeeded in buying the ‘birthright’ – i.e. the right to form a German government – from the SPD for a ‘mess of potage’. None of the influential leaders of the German left was ready to end co-operation with the occupying powers until these agreed to allow the formation of a government with sovereignty in domestic affairs. They were content to have the lower levels of administration, the towns and the provinces, left to them. When the officials took up these positions their revolutionary desires soon cooled. In the land and local councils they played at party politics in the manner of the 19th century.

One negative result of ‘participation’ ideology, not to be taken lightly, is that it became, even for the left-wing of the German Labour movement, instead of a transitional demand, the ultimate aim rather than socialism, and intellectually active sections of the working class were crippled by this co-operation with the management.

In 1948 the re-education of the German employers to Western ‘normal capitalism’ had progressed to such an extent that the military regime transferred control of the central organs of state which were being constructed to the bourgeoisie. When Professor Erhardt took over the Economics Ministry, the decision for capitalism had already been taken. It became final with the announcement of the Basic Law, a liberal constitution which was already outdated on the day it was announced, and the nomination of Adenauer for Chancellor by the first Federal Bundestag elected in 1949.

In a certain respect this new bourgeois state was contrasted with the republic of 1919, for, for the first time in German history, it was a bourgeois state without the vestiges of feudal power. In Germany the rule of the feudal nobility – whose material basis was landed property east of the Elbe – had never been in question. Now it was brought to an end by the division of Germany, which separated the feudal-aristocrat eastern region from the Federal Republic. This left the way clear for the political rule of the monopoly-capitalist bourgeoisie alone. The Left did not realise at once that the decision of 1949 was final. The SPD hoped to be able to win the 1953 election through consistent opposition in the new parliament. Ensnared by the illusion of partnership, however, they did not seek a socialist government, but coalition with the CDU.

The trade unions had set out their demands in the so-called ‘Munich programme of basic principles’. This programme, which demanded the socialisation of the key industries, the planning of the economy and workers’ participation, is still valid today. Completely misunderstanding the balance of power, the unions sought at least to force participation by using their ‘social weight’, either by striking or by negotiation with the government and employers. They were successful in mining and the iron and steel industries. The attempt to fix the same terms for the whole of industry in a law about workers’ participation in management, however, was a complete failure.

Furthermore developments were determined by a particularly steep and lasting rise in business activity which followed this ineffectual struggle. The workers, disheartened by defeat, were offered the possibility of fighting for the improvement of their position within the capitalist system. The market economy again became popular with public opinion, while socialisation was frequently put into the same category as the hated government control of the war-time economy. The readiness to fight on questions of basic principle vanished. Movements concerned with wages came to the forefront.

In the SPD this unexpected proof of the vitality of capitalism dealt a deadly blow to socialist theories. The programme of activity for 1952 already accepted the basis of a ‘socially progressive’ market economy, in which only the basic industries would be socialised. The fight against ‘remilitarisation’, which had broad anti-militarist support, now came to the fore. But the fact must not be overlooked that the SPD led this fight with nationalistic arguments. Its opposition to rearmament and to the West European treaties was based on the fact that these hindered the reunification of Germany. The SPD’s further shift to the right was hastened by the electoral defeats of 1953 and 1957, which caused a panicky fear of a new retreat into isolation. In 1953 a strong opposing movement arose on the right wing of the party against the party machine, the so-called ‘The New Men’ (Erneurer). They demanded a radical break with the past, especially with Marxism. If the party wanted to pass the 30% support limit it would have to ‘extend to the right’ and make the journey from class party to party of the people. It would also have to adapt itself positively to defence policy and the Western alliance. Apart from liberal land and intellectuals, this opposition was led in particular by Land and local government Councillors and officials as well as a section of the parliamentary party. Its centre of gravity was in Berlin. The party machine warded off the attack of the ‘Erneuer’ by accepting their demands extensively. Without much help the new economic Pope of the party, Dr Deist, was able to orientate the SPD completely towards the basis of a private capitalist economy, get it to renounce socialisation and only ask for legislation to deal with cartels in the manner of the Liberals.

The new flowering of capitalism would not have been enough on its own to bring about this change of direction. A second factor was added: the change in the sociological structure of the party, which is connected with the development of the ‘tertiary’ layers in society and the influence of the parties in the appointment of officials. As a result of the increasing bureaucratisation of society a large section of this new middle class lives on the State. In the SPD they have gained predominance over the original working class element. Its change of aims only indicates once again that the party has become the representative of the class interests of this new stratum of society.

The SPD remains only indirectly tied to the working class in that the ‘tertiary’ bureaucrats need the workers’ votes in order to gain access to the state machine and to the surplus value appropriated by the State. At the same time their attitude towards the working class becomes paternalistic. As an example Professor Carlo Schmidt, the leading ideologist of this new species of social democrat, may be quoted. He believes that ‘even in the best conditions our factories will only be able to be made democratic in the same sort of manner as the constitutional monarchy of the last century’. It may be the trade unions’ job, through participation in the factory, to obtain a position for the man who cannot control his own working conditions, thus allowing him to obey an outside will without loss of self-respect.

Even where the worker-membership still predominates, the people control the organisation, since they are better trained for the new practice of the party. Many radically inclined workers, who are not ambitious to become councillors, are withdrawing from politics to pure trade union work.

Thanks to their different sociological structure the development in the trade unions was not as straightforward. At the Frankfurt Congress of the German Trades Union Congress (DGB) in 1954 Victor Agartz, the theoretician of the left, analysed the new rise of German capitalism from the socialist standpoint. He condemned the idea of participation as a partnership between capital and labour and defined it as the control of the economy through the organs of the workers: he demanded a new organisation of the basic industries through socialised autonomous units, but not through statification, but a system of local economic councils with a federal economic council at the top to make worker’s control effective. Share ownership and profit-sharing were put on one side, but in their place an ‘offensive’ wages policy and a 40-hour week were demanded. His report was loudly applauded.

The SPD could no longer countenance such demands. Agartz was immediately attacked by the leadership of the party. His speech was said to have made it seem impossible for the SPD to support a market economy. He was summoned before the economic committee of the party – to which he then belonged. They dismissed the extension of participation as a violation of the supremacy of parliament. On the other hand, Agartz pointed out that the bureaucratic overgrowth of the state machine and pressure groups threatened to reduce the value of parliament, if it did not have the support of other democratic social institutions.

But Agartz was swimming against the stream. When he was charged by the Christian trade union theoretician, Professor Nell-Greuning SJ, with ‘class-war radicalism’, the right-wing trade union bureaucracy abandoned him. The left-wingers, who at that time were really interested only in activity round a wages policy, dropped him a little later. Since Agartz fought not politically, but by means of doubtful personal intrigues, and did not draw a clear enough line between himself and the communists after his withdrawal from office in the DGB, he lost his former considerable influence.

With a small group of supporters he issued a newssheet which was supported for a time by East Berlin but has now disappeared.

In the election of 1957, the SPD only gained a small number of votes, and the CDU an absolute majority; the Party leadership decided to clarify its political attitude to the Bonn social set-up in a new ‘basic programme’. Meanwhile, the ex-Communist Wehner had emerged as vice-chairman of the Party. Left sympathisers expected he would attempt to expand the working-class basis of the Party and fight the right wing tendency – possibly by means of an extension of the DSP factory groups. This struggle, it was hoped, would be strengthened by the talks on foreign policy taking place at that time between DSP leaders and Khruschev, and the publication of the DSP Plan for Germany which envisaged the ‘Confederation of the two German States’ as a first step towards re-unification. Wehner who from his Communist past fully knew the limiting power of the party machinery, however, quickly realised that he would be isolated by such an attempt. So he joined the Right wing of the Party and was the chief supporter of the new programme which was adopted at the Party Conference at Godesberg in 1959.

It is not true to say that the Godesberg programme was decided contrary to the will of the membership. Even a referendum of the entire Party membership would have produced a huge majority for the programme. The programme contains no more than a systematisation of the techniques of the SPD to achieve electoral power.

The main points in the program are: anti-communism, support for the Western Alliance, preservation of private property in industry, the protection of private enterprise as a key element in Social Democratic economic policy, public control of monopolies, co-operation with the Church (Wehner describes himself as ‘an active Christian’).

A section of the bourgeois press welcomed this program. By this program, it was hoped, the socialist tradition in Germany would slowly be forgotten. On the other hand, the CDU described it as ‘a tactical election manoeuvre’. Thus a unique situation has developed in the history of German parliamentarianism: the opposition party, the SPD, are taking pains to prove that they differ in no important respect from the ruling CDU. The CDU on the other hand, emphasize that there is an unbridgeable gulf between their own position and that of the SPD. For this to be achieved, the last remaining difference with the CDU had to be eliminated: the foreign policy of the SPD.

Wehner took over this job as well in a declaration in the Federal Bundestag – the bourgeois press contrary to the known facts still tend to portray him as a Communist in disguise. Alluding to the ‘state of emergency’ in Germany and the breakdown of all former ideas of a foreign policy, he proposed to the CDU that they and the SPD work out a joint foreign policy. From that time, dates the particular conception of the SPD which has governed their attempts to achieve political power in election campaigns and in the Bundestag: the common interest of all Germans as the only basis for a policy to lead out of the national crisis.

Further preparations for the election were made at two Party Conferences in Hanover and Bonn at which the SPD presented itself as a new-style Party – the word ‘new’ was only relevant to the extent that they had disentangled themselves from all ideological ties. A combination of Gallup polls and advertising techniques were intended to discover what people wanted as a basis for the Party programme – the pollsters were also instructed to survey what promises constituted the basis of the CDU’s electoral success. In this way, they also selected their candidate for the Chancellorship – it was the Mayor of Berlin, Brandt, whose position gave him great publicity and whose candidacy had been mooted by the Right-wing as an insult to the Party Chairman, Ollenhauer. The Party organisation participated in this new sort of election campaign without protest, indeed, even with a certain enthusiasm. Brandt called on the Left of the Party to keep quiet and not endanger the victory of the SPD. This was hardly necessary. The small Left-wing knew that a further victory for the CDU would even further limit the prospects for democracy in Germany, and that an SPD triumph might perhaps give them a breathing space. A group of twenty-one writers produced a pamphlet on the subject: The Alternative: do we need a new German Government? They said the SPD should be chosen as the lesser evil.

The new programme encountered opposition in the trade unions. The DGB leaders, Richter and Rosenberg, favoured a revision of the Trade Union Programme on the lines of the SPD Programme. But the Chairman of the Metal Workers Union, Brenner, made sharp criticism of the social structure of West Germany at the Berlin Congress of his Union in 1960, and made repeated demands for the socialisation of the key industries, a planned economy, and workers participation in decision-making. This could only be construed as a challenge to the SPD’s Godesberg Programme. Wehner reacted sharply, declaring that some sections of the trade union movement were still backward, and the Metal Workers’ Union being a case in point – they still held onto the out-dated demands for socialisation. Sometime later the SPD tried to stimulate a revolt of the union officials against Brenner; this soon collapsed. This finally made the Metal Workers’ Union the Left-wing of the German labour movement. The Left-wing of the German Labour Movement became represented by the trade unions, officially ‘politically neutral’. Psephologists felt that the SPD should base its election campaign on home policy. But in Summer 1961 there was no indication of a change in the voters’ preferences. The development in foreign policy saved the SPD. Without the events in Berlin, the CDU would scarcely have suffered a setback. But after August 13 the Government offered such a picture of helplessness that sympathies turned to Brandt who made an effective protest, and drove the Americans to action.

Thus the impression arose among politically sensitive Germans that Brandt in contrast to the ailing and old Federal Chancellor might know a way out. Brandt’s election meetings had a larger attendance than any since 1933. For a few days the SPD seemed to be in sight of their aims. Then the CDU won more ground: Khruschev’s demand that the German people overthrow Adenauer helped considerably. The SPD did indeed increase their share of votes from 32% to 36%. Meanwhile the CDU with 45% remained the strongest party. This was not the expected victory. There was no question of the SPD sharing in the Government, although they were ready to co-operate in an all-Party Government under Adenauer. The German Peace Union founded by pacifists and ex-Communists won no seats.

Inside the Party the election results confirmed the position of the Party leadership, for it could be seen as an endorsement of the new program. Those who opposed the new program and had expected the Party to be defeated, leading to a renewal of the inner-party conflict and a change in the leadership, were disheartened since they could no longer count on the support of the membership. The few realistic left-wingers had realised from the beginning that these hopes were groundless.

The opposition in the trade unions (especially that of the Metal Workers Union) retreated even further, although maintaining their opposition. Opinions occasionally seen in the foreign press, that a new German Left would quickly develop from this opposition, are pure wishful thinking, or are based on insufficient information. However, cautious left-wingers will find a certain amount of support in some Trade Unions even yet.

A further revision of the Programme is neither possible nor desirable after the last election. It only remains now for the Party to purge itself of the remains of its socialist past. The first step in this direction was successful. In 1959, the leadership of the SPD broke off relations with the Socialist Student Association (SDS) because of its opposition to the new Programme. Members of the SDS could, however, continue to be members of the SPD but when, after the Federal Government elections, socialist intellectuals (in particular, University teachers) founded a ‘Circle for the Advancement of the SDS’, the Party leadership declared that the membership of the SDS and the Circle were incompatible with membership of the SPD. A group of noted intellectuals and professors along with many students were thus expelled from the Party. Furthermore, proposals for settling the dispute made by the Metal Workers Trade Union which had supported the students proved unsuccessful.

The SPD Press Department describes the reasons for the proscription of the SDS as follows: this decision emphasized the fact that the Party was serious about the Godesberg Program and its political consequences. There should no longer be any viewpoint outside this program in the internal Party discussions. It would thus be impossible for the CDU to accuse the SPD of tolerating any radical opinion in its ranks.

The removal of every possible opposition was to turn the Party into a reliable tool in the hands of its leadership. With this the SPD became a politically uniform electoral machine, a party that passes ‘resolutions’ unanimously. It is in fact, as opposed to the classical Social Democratic Parties, a new style party.

Outside of the Left of the Trade Union Movement (which has no political arm) there is no more influential Left-wing group in the German Labour Movement. Yugoslavia (and also Poland) has a few sympathisers. However, these have not led to a Titoist tendency. There is hardly any Socialist literature in Germany. Periodicals – as long as they don’t collapse – have a very small readership. The only resistance appealing to a wider public consists of the culturally critical intellectuals – a sort of restrained ‘Angry Young Man’. A phrase of Franz Schonauer’s in the above-mentioned pamphlet sums up their critical pessimism: ‘the shabby fate allowed to the consumer by the new (and often the old) capitalist dynasts has finally crushed the meagre political consciousness of the Germans’.

After this stock-taking, the future of socialism in Germany seems hardly more hopeful than in the USA. Nevertheless, such a sombre prognosis would only be necessary if the future path of German capitalism should not fall short of the harmonious expectations of the SPD. This is not the case. The new Federal Government has clearly announced that Germany is facing a new period of austerity. Arms expenditure, the neo-colonialist export of capital, the rate of accumulation dictated by international competition is straining the now more slowly growing German National Product to such art extent that real wages can no longer rise at their former rate. The Government and the employers have in the meantime threatened the Trade Unions with a Trade Union Act which will end the autonomous growth in wage rates, unless they moderate their demands.

Therefore conflict between capital and labour seems inevitable. Since this conflict with the notion of the common interest of all Germans, the ideology of the SPD, it must lead to a widening of the gulf between the SPD and the Left Trade Unions. This struggle will begin as an internal Trade Union battle.

The leaders of the DGB, Richter and Rosenberg, have quietly prepared a programme for the Federal Congress of the DGB which takes place at the end of 1962, to unite the Trade Unions politically with the Godesberg Program. They are supported in this by the Chairman of the Building Workers, Leber, who favours collaboration with the employers. The progressive Trade Unions, such as the Metal Workers and the Chemical Workers, on the contrary support the Munich Program as well as a strong wages offensive. Both tendencies will fight for the leadership of the DGB at the Congress. This turn of events will at least strengthen the economic class-consciousness. But this is not yet the rebirth of Socialism, but an important precondition.

Another hopeful sign in the pre-Socialist period is youth who dismiss the existing system as morally worthless. Up to now, this opposition to the system has expressed itself ideologically in criticism of culture and, in practice, in the withdrawal to the freedom of the jazz-cellar and theatrical experiment. The socialist theory which will take root in the trade unions and youth will be dealt with in another article. The previous discussion in International Socialism has already said much that is pertinent to this problem.

But there is a further question for Germany: will the German bourgeoisie allow socialism the time it needs for rebirth? Of course, there is no acute danger of fascism in the present situation. However, we must set against this the gradual constitutional transformation of the Federal Republic into an authoritarian regime in which Parliamentary forms are becoming more and more mere facade, a process already well advanced. Legislation and the Judiciary have a crucial role here. Although basic rights are embodied in the Constitution, clauses such as ‘The State of Emergency’ and ‘The Conscription Law’ are constantly limiting these and extending the powers of the Executive. The Superior Constitutional Courts aid this process increasingly by interpreting the Constitution as if it were there to guarantee the capitalist system. So the President of the Federal Labour Court said that the market economy is derived legally from the Constitution as the only legitimate form of economic activity in the Federal Republic. The persecution of the Trade Unions in the Court is consistently successful. The end result of this trend would be a system in which the citizens could still choose between several conformist parties such as the CDU and SPD but in which a socialist point of view would be ‘inimicable to the Constitution’.

The main strength of this reactionary trend derives from a psychosis in which fear and nationalism blend, affecting great sections of the population, conditioned by the War and the position of Germany in the East-West conflict. Since it is basically directed against the Soviet Union it could easily be twisted into an embittered anti-Socialism. It is constantly strengthened by the ultra-Stalinist policies of the SED (East German Communist Party). But it must not be overlooked that the intransigence of the German bourgeoisie towards East Germany (GDF) derives in the first instance from the ‘anti-capitalist’ position of the East German Government. Accordingly since August 13th, this intransigence has greatly stimulated aggressive nationalism. The SPD tries to ignore this trend by refusing to recognise the present de facto boundaries in a peace treaty, but it is prepared, although loyal to NATO, to make compromises over the question of disarmament and the creation of neutral zones.

Against this the CDU rejects negotiations, and demands participation in the common nuclear weapons pool of NATO, since the German bourgeoisie considers that Germany’s future role in the Western world depends on this. The German bourgeoisie, faced with international tension, under the pretext of mobilising its forces against the ‘external enemy’, can use them against the internal enemy, not because it is threatened by an internal enemy, but because it wants to wipe out the danger of socialism once and for all. Since the SPD has finally given up the struggle, however, no other power that could really defend democracy exists.

Top of page

ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 2 March 2010