Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History

German Trotskyism in the 1930s

The extracts which follow have been translated from Zur Politik and Geschichte der deutschen Trotzkisten ab 1930 (The Politics and History of the German Trotskyists from 1930), which was published by ISP Verlag of Frankfurt-am-Main in April 1987, at a price of DM37, and here appear by kind permission of the author and publisher, to whom, along with our translator, Bruce Robinson, our thanks are due. They are taken from chapters 2.5, The Organisational Upturn of the Left Opposition in 1931-32(pp.73-83), 3.5, On the Resistance Tactics of the IKD and the Trotskyist Assessment of Internal Developments in Germany in 1934 (pp.193-204), and 3.8, The New Course of the IKD (pp.219-232). We have only reproduced such notes as assist in the elucidation of the sense of the text, to which we have added a few explanatory notes of our own, clearly distinguished from those of the writer. All serious students will consult the original, and we hope that these short pieces will encourage them to tackle the work in full and utilise its apparatus properly.

Wolfgang Alles, a member of the GIM, the German section of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, did the research upon which this book is based for a thesis which he submitted to the University of Mannheim in 1978.

Material upon the history of the German Trotskyists is far from abundant in English. It is limited to some brief reminiscences in Margarita Dewar’s autobiography, The Quiet Revolutionary, London 1989, pp.152-86, an article by Tom Kemp, The Danzig Trotskyists, published in Workers Press on 19 April 1972, an interview granted to Trudi Jackson by the veteran Trotskyist Oskar Hippe which appeared in three instalments in the same journal between 23 May and 13 June 1987, and a few introductory remarks written by Chris Goodey to the English version of Franz Jakubowski’s Ideology and Superstructure, London 1976 (pp.7-9). However, as readers of Bob Archer’s Work in Progress section in the last number of Revolutionary History (pp.57-8) will have learned, the situation is shortly to improve out of all recognition by the publication of an English translation of Hippe's own memoirs, ... and unsere Fahne ist rot.

Those who feel at home in French, but are unable to tackle the original German, can satisfy their impatience by consulting the existing French version, Et notre drapeou est rouge, which is available from Editions La Breche at a cost of 98 francs. There also exist in French two Bulletins of the Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches sur les Mouvements Trotskyistes et Revolutionnaires internationaux, devoted to Trotskyism and Germany, no.29, of June 1983, Contributions a l’histoire du trotskysme en Allemagne, edited by Pierre Broué and Maurice Stobnicer (who submitted a thesis upon this subject to the University of Paris in 1980), and no.35 of December 1984, Allemagne – 1933: Documents sur la tragedie du proletariat allemand, which contains the pamphlet put out on Hitler’s coming to power by the French Trotskyists in October 1933 along with extracts from the classic account by the Argentine Hippolyte Etchebehere (Juan Rustico) otherwise published in full by Editions Spartacus in 1981.

Other literature in German has been summarised already by Bob Archer in our previous issue, apart from a short pamphlet published by Georg Jungclas in 1972, a number of short articles, and two other university theses that have never appeared in book form. None of these accounts is at all intelligible without a close acquaintance with Trotsky's own work (particularly the collection The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, New York 1971).


The upturn in 1931-32

The split with Landau and his followers ended the initial phase of the history of German Trotskyism. [1] The Left Opposition (LO) had largely been paralysed for over a year by internal quarrels. The modest gain in new forces had been lost again by the split. [2]

In the first months after the split, the Reichsleitung (RL – national leadership) concerned itself with stabilising the small organisation and getting the branches to undertake regular political activity. By means of a duplicated Information Bulletin [3] the RL tried to maintain contact with the members of the LO until the first number of their new magazine Permanente Revolution appeared in July 1931. [4]

The Trotskyists themselves still talked about “a period with a degree of stagnation” in October 1931, but in December they thought that they had left the “stage of growing weaker” and could detect a slow upward trend.

The LO concentrated all the forces at its disposal on the publication and distribution of low-priced pamphlets by Trotsky. [5] From the end of 1931 and the start of 1932, Trotsky’s analyses of developments in Germany, which appeared at short intervals, found an increasing resonance with KPD, SAP and SPD members, and even in ‘left bourgeois’ circles. In June 1932 Anton Grylewicz [6] calculated that the total number of pamphlets published since April 1931 was 67,000, of which 55,000 had already been distributed.

Apart from the publication and distribution of the pamphlets by Trotsky, the LO paid more attention to Permanente Revolution, which had only appeared monthly up to the end of 1931. From January 1932, Permanente Revolution appeared fortnightly and, finally, from the end of July 1932 onwards as a weekly in newspaper format. In all, the LO produced 47 issues from July 1931 to February 1933. The number printed, which had doubled since the first issue, was given in August 1932 as 5,000 per issue. Permanente Revolution was a considerable improvement in comparison with the first Trotskyist publication, The Communist, both in terms of its improved content and its more regular appearance. The LO’s paper and the Trotsky pamphlets were effectively the links that bound the LO together. [7]

The LO’s redoubled efforts at propaganda significantly increased the influence of Trotskyist ideas, given the size of the group. The organisational development of the LO lagged behind, even taking account of significant growth after the end of 1931. Above all the LO increased its membership in Hamburg and Bruchsal. In Oranienburg a considerable group of workers joined the LO. New LO groups with between four and 15 members were set up in Beuthe (Upper Silesia), Bretten, Dinslaken, Erfurt, Erkenschwiek, Friedrichsfeld, Gelsenkirchen, Cologne, Rinthen and Zeuthen. Footholds with between one and three members were set up in Bremerhaven, Breslau, Dresden, Dusseldorf, Essen, Frankfurt am Main, Freithal im Saar, Gera, Görlitz, Kaiserslautern, Karlsruhe, Lauenburg, Rheinhausen, Solingen, Stettin and Stuttgart.

In the second half of 1932 and at the start of 1933 groups from Barmen-Wuppertal, Birkenweder, Halberstadt, Mainz, Neustadt a H and Reimscheid joined the LO. In addition a left-oppositionist group in Danzig, consisting of 11 members in 1932, joined the German section of the LO. In August 1932 the Frankfurt branch of the Leninbund, which had good links with the SAP and the Socialist Youth League [8], came over to the LO. At the start of 1933, this group consisted of between 40 and 50 members.

The LO consisted both of tiny bases for propaganda and also of a few groups in smaller towns, which had a disproportionately large influence locally. [9] There was more homogeneity in the age and social composition of the groups. The overwhelmingly older core of the LO was joined after 1931 by mainly younger members between 18 and 35 years old, most of whom had been members (or in some cases, functionaries) of either the KPD or the Communist Youth League for several years. In its social composition the LO was an almost completely working class organisation. Only in university towns such as Berlin or Leipzig were students more strongly represented in the membership.

In total the LO consisted of about 600 members in 44 branches and small groups by the end of 1932. [10]

The internal organisational structure of the LO was based on the principles of democratic centralism. The leadership of a branch was elected by a meeting of the local membership. However it was only in larger groups such as Bruchsal, Leipzig and the groups that later joined the LO such as Frankfurt and Oranienburg that there was a strict division of leadership functions into a political leader, an organisational leader, a member of the leadership responsible for agitation and propaganda, and a treasurer.

Where a few functioning branches belonged to the LO in a particular region, they constituted themselves a district at a district conference and elected a district leadership. Apart from the Saxon district, created in 1930 [11], six further districts existed by the start of 1931, including Rhine-Ruhr [12], Berlin-Brandenburg, Wasserkante [13] and South-West.

The leading body of the LO, the 16 member Reichsleitung (RL), was elected by a national conference attended by branch delegates. After the LO split in 1931, the rump leadership of the LO was brought back to its old size largely by including representatives of the groups that had recently joined the LO. [14] Usually only the RL members based in Berlin took part in the meetings. [15] Production of Permanente Revolution was taken care of by a seven person editorial board. [16]

The strongest local group of the LO was in Bruchsal, where the Trotskyists were, much to the anger of the leading functionaries of the Baden KPD, the only Communist force. All the attempts of the KPD to ‘liquidate’ the Bruchsal LO around Paul Spech came to grief because of its strong implantation among the Bruchsal workers. The LO played a leading rôle in the local trade union and workers’ sport movements. In the Baden local elections at the end of 1930 the Bruchsal LO won 889 votes and nine seats on the council. On the local council the LO’s representatives focused on the interests of the unemployed. On the initiative of the Bruchsal LO, and against the initial resistance of the local SPD leadership, a parity action committee, consisting of the LO, SPD, unions and other proletarian organisations was set up. The action committee mobilised meetings against wage cuts and Fascism, which on some occasions consisted of well over 1,000 people. The LO’s strong growth in Bruchsal and its influence in the nearby areas of Forst, Bretten and the Heidelsheim were largely the result of these efforts. [17] The SPD left the Unity Committee in 1932, apparently on the instructions of a higher party body. The local SPD leadership’s ‘conscious policy of destruction’ had been made easier, in the view of the Bruchsal Trotskyists, by the fact that their United Front policy had not been put into practice outside Bruchsal.

Despite this failure, the Bruchsal LO was able to extend its influence. In the Reichstag elections of 31 July 1932, the LO was able to win 1,000 votes for the KPD, while the SPD won only 500.

Another relatively influential branch of the LO was in Oranienburg. On 8 January 1932 the KPD expelled Helmut Schneeweiss, the local leader of the Anti-Fascist League of Struggle, on the grounds of alleged membership of the LO. This was the culmination of differences on the question of the United Front, which had been gathering for some time. Fifty-six other members of the League were also expelled. Only after the expulsions had been made known in the Rote Fahne [18] did the group around Schneeweiss (which had been courted by several oppositional Communist organisations) join the LO. The power of attraction of Trotsky’s writings was what made them decide in favour of the LO.

The new LO group was essentially identical to the Proletarian Self-Defence of Oranienburg, which had come out of the League. Thanks to these 100 or so workers and unemployed, the Oranienburg LO had a considerable weight in the local political situation. [19]

The branch immediately started up activity to promote the LO’s attempts to create the United Front. The successful May Day demonstration, called by the Workers’ May Committee (made up of the LO, Proletarian Self-Defence and the SPD) demonstrated the isolating effects of the KPD’s ultra-left policy. The KPD was forced shortly afterwards to join the United Front Committee, which had been renamed the Workers’ Struggle Committee. [20]

The committee, consisting of five representatives each from the SPD, KPD and LO, started intensive activity. Apart from the calling of several anti-Fascist meetings and the creation of workers’ defence squads, it focused particularly on work in the factories and with the unemployed. [21]

In the same way as in Bruchsal, the Oranienburg United Front movement exercised a powerful influence on the surrounding localities. Workers’ United Front committees and self-defence organisations were created there too. In Birkenweder a group of oppositional Communists joined the LO.

The LO was also able to take the initiative in setting up United Front committees in other towns and localities such as Erkenschweik, Halberstadt, Kaiserslautern and Lauenburg. These attempts usually failed in the early stages because the Trotskyist groups were too weak to break the resistance of the SPD and KPD apparatuses. [22]


Resistance and reassessment in 1934

At the end of 1933, when hopes of a speedy fusion with the SAP [23] had just come to nothing, the Auslands Kommitee (AK – Committee Abroad) [24] opened a discussion in Unser Wort on tactics in the resistance. It was started by a series of articles by the Italian International Secretariat member Feroci. [25]

Feroci thought it was still possible to prevent the final consolidation of the Nazi dictatorship. He thus recommended tactics based on ‘mass work’. By fusing legal and illegal activity he hoped best to exploit the contradictions between the Nazi leadership and its petit-bourgeois mass base. He called on the IKD to combine participation in National Socialist mass organisations with the building of illegal trade unions and a revolutionary party. According to Feroci, the Trotskyists had to work together in the resistance with other anti-Fascist organisations without losing their political and organisational independence.

In his answer to Feroci, Jan Bur (that is, Walter Nettelbeck) [26] – at this time one of the leaders of the IKD resistance groups – stated that Feroci's proposed methods of mass work would generally be rejected within the IKD. As the Nazi dictatorship had already consolidated itself, “the first and immediate task” was to prevent a further retreat of the workers’ movement by “cadre work”, i.e. intensive political education of circles inclined towards revolutionary politics.

According to the Trotskyists, only the creation of a “conscious vanguard” offered the basis for winning broader masses to a revolutionary programme. An attempt to do justice to both these tasks at the same time would only lead to the “fragmentation of what were in any case already weak forces” (sic!).


The general rejection of mass work in the IKD, which was determined by the situation, did not, according to Jan Bur, rest on a conception of cadre work – influenced by the tradition of the LO – which was solely restricted to discussions in isolated circles. Rather, Bur’s idea was the cadre work should be designed so that it would be possible for the IKD to go over to mass work should the situation demand it. He therefore saw “the most important and immediate task” to be “creating cadres in the factories”. To maintain these cadres as the core of a new party the IKD had to maintain a “100 per cent conspiracy” and “military discipline” in their theoretical and practical work.

AK members Schmidt (Willy Schmuschkowitz) and E. Bauer [27] wanted to define cadre work more narrowly. Schmidt saw the main task of the new party – and thus clearly also of the IKD – in carrying out ideologically uncompromising “educational and training work”. Bauer similarly stated that systematic propaganda was necessary. Going further, he held that it was perhaps possible to make contact with individual shop stewards [28] in the factories.

Before the end of the discussion on the resistance tactics of the IKD in the columns of Unser Wort [29], about 20 delegates from four regions of the IKD met the AK for an Organisation Conference, which took place disguised as a wedding reception in Berlin one Sunday in March 1934. The meeting was dominated by the debate on the organisational and methodological problems of the IKD. Although “the liquidation of the factional standpoint” [30] was considered to have been accomplished, the long-term perspective of building a cadre organisation seemed to pose problems. The ‘Org Conference’ essentially confirmed the position taken by Jan Bur in the discussion with Feroci. “Disproportionate production of [illegal] material” was criticised as a major error. Technical resources should be spared for really urgent occasions.

Factory work would restore broken links to the masses of workers. For the IKD this was the basis for finding “the pick of the bunch”, i.e. for winning cadres. Alongside the ideological training of individual workers, the Trotskyists set themselves the task of carrying out concrete factory agitation. For tactical reasons, the IKD wanted to use as far as possible the legal institution of the Vertrauensrate, which the Nazis had created, in order to make undisturbed contacts inside a factory and also to obtain information more easily. The Trotskyists wanted to use their factory work to create a secret network of shop stewards, based on illegal, multi-party factory groups. In contrast to the KPD and KPD(O) they did not want to build illegal unions in the situation then existing. This task was, in their view, only practicable when a “general, mass dissatisfaction” was dominant.

Although the IKD made factory work of central importance, it was far from putting its conception into practice on a large scale. A few industrial beginnings could not disguise the fact that, given the difficult conditions in the Third Reich, the Trotskyists were above all organisationally too weak. As a result the cadre work of the IKD was largely restricted to discussions and educationals in small groups, to which only members or close sympathisers of the IKD belonged. There were also meetings with other resistance organisations such as the Internationaler Sozialistische Kampfbund (ISK [31] and social democratic or non-party groups. Despite the differences between the AL of the SAP and the AK of the IKD, there was particularly close cooperation between the resistance groups of the two organisations. Because of its cautious tactics, the IKD avoided appearing openly in public. Only exceptionally were leaflets distributed or resistance slogans painted on walls. Ruth Fischer and Arkadi Maslow [32] viewed with great suspicion the discussion on the IKD’s tactics, the AK’s cautious activity and its view that greater possibilities for the IKD existed in Social Democratic circles than in the KPD. As already mentioned, the AK had reluctantly given in to Trotsky’s pressure for cooperation with the two ex-leaders of the KPD. Parabellum (Arkadi Maslow) was permitted to publish articles – mainly on economic questions – in Unser Wort. Parabellum and Dubois (Ruth Fischer) also took part in meetings of the AK. They argued for an initiative to “produce a platform-like document for Germany, which would sum up the experiences of the last 20 years and show a general line of march for the present”. If one believes Parabellum’s and Dubois’s comments, the AK blocked the preparation of this document.

The differences between the AK, which stuck to its previous political and organisational positions, and Parabellum and Dubois, who wished to exert a decisive influence on the IKD, only slowly came into the open. In May 1934, the AK member Stahl (Arthur Goldstein) tried to answer in Unser Wort the question of the “reserves” of the new party, i.e. the reservoir of cadres that were relevant for the work of the IKD. He polemicised against a “Stalinist line of argument”, which, “without disputing the dogmatism and other inadequacies of the Stalinist cadre”, particularly emphasised their revolutionary Marxist qualities and identified the members of the KPD as the only immediately relevant group for the IKD’s politics. Stahl considered this “totally wrong” because it overlooked the development from “Social Democracy to Leninism’, even if this was only possible on a limited scale. Above all, this made the development of the new party dependent on the “decomposition process of bankrupt ideologies and organisations” instead of the reverse: deriving the question of “reserves” from the “principle of the new organisation”.

Two weeks later, Parabellum, who was the unnamed target of Stahl’s attack, countered with some “trivial observations”. He saw a “great political error” in the way Stahl even posed the question. Further he saw “a dangerous loss of direction” in the identification of the Social Democrats, “rotten to the core”, and almost all “subjectively counterrevolutionary”, and the “subjectively revolutionary” masses of the KPD.

The Unser Wort Editorial Board’s immediate reply did not merely show that Parabellum’s “commonplaces from the day before yesterday” failed to grasp the process of differentiation within the Social Democracy, but also stated that this “overall conception ... had nothing, absolutely nothing, in common with that of the Bolshevik Leninists or of Marxism”. Their opinion was underlined by the AK on 13 June 1934 in a letter to Parabellum and Dubois, in which it refused them admission to the IKD because of the outcome off their previous cooperation.


Yet Parabellum-Dubois wouldn’t give up. In an extensive answer, which they made available not just to the International Secretariat, but also to as many as possible of the IKD’s members in the form of an Information Letter, they accused the AK, and particularly Bauer, of being totally incompetent in theory and practical politics and of being irresponsible. They demanded the dissolution of the AK and their return to Germany.

Behind the mutual accusations of “Social Democratic deviations” and “Stalinist affinities”, lay more than just a struggle for the leadership of the IKD. Differences on the IKD’s tactics were obvious. That was shown not just by the question of the “reserves”, but also in Parabellum-Dubois’ demand that the IKD should take an offensive stance in Germany, which was undoubtedly reminiscent of the KP’'s tactics. However, Fischer-Maslow got little support in the IKD, and the AK maintained its position. The ex-leaders of the KPD took no further part in the internal discussions of the IKD.

If the dispute on the “reserves” had no concrete implications for the IKD’s resistance groups, the extremely polemical nature of the dispute led to a worsening of the atmosphere in the exiled groups.

Parabellum and Dubois’ pamphlet against the AK was not even published when they thought that the bloody events in Germany had confirmed their pushing for the IKD in Germany to adopt an offensive stance.

The petit-bourgeoisie was unhappy with the economic difficulties, which had been growing since the end of 1933; from the end of September onwards conflict was again growing between church and state; and above all the workers were highly alarmed by the promulgation of the Fascist labour law. The IKD saw this as evidence that the deathly silence which had covered Germany had been coming to an end since the end of February or beginning of March 1934.

The IKD paid great attention to the elections for the Vertrauensräte (Councils of Trust) – which took place in the factories in early 1934 – as a National Socialist replacement for the works councils. [33] They had no illusions about the function of the Vertrauensräte. Yet the IKD saw the relatively high proportion of ‘no votes’ – which occurred despite the forging of ballots and pressure on the workers – as an answer to the sharpened exploitation that had been made possible by the Fascist labour law. According to the IKD, the elections to the Vertrauensräte proved that Fascism had not yet succeeded in “winning the decisive strata of factory workers”. On the contrary, they had spoken out in a relatively open way against the Fascist terror regime. The decline of the German working class had, in the IKD’s view, not yet reached its lowest point, but was not as linear as before. Yet there was no way that, like the Stalinists, one could say that the elections were evidence of a “revolutionary upswing”. The defeat of the National Socialists in the factories did not even begin to threaten the existence of the Fascist dictatorship.

The IKD saw significant signs that the working class was dissatisfied. This was the immediate reason for the Nazi crusade against “grumblers” and “alarmists”. But above all it gave the National Socialists a pretext to create the People’s Court, which became known as “the bloody anti-people’s court” because of its terror judgements.

The IKD in exile noticed increasing news about divisions in the leadership of the Third Reich at the end of June 1934, which they saw as a result of the clear bankruptcy of the Nazis’ policies. They also observed that, as Papen’s Marburg speech [34] showed, the “conservative-reactionary” section of the bourgeoisie was coming to the fore. They saw these “feuds within the bourgeoisie” as significant in that they increased the resistance fighters’ “freedom of manoeuvre”, i.e. the possibility of winning cadres and intensifying propaganda among the most advanced workers. Yet the Trotskyists expected a settlement of these “differences at the top”, if they possibly became too painful for some hated exponents of the regime. Such a settlement would have a stabilising effect on Fascist power. Even the expected suppression of the SA would be balanced by a further growth of the SS.

Although the IKD had diagnosed growing dissatisfaction in Germany since early 1934, the murder on 30 June of the SA leadership around Röhm and some bourgeois politicians like Schleicher came as a surprise to them. As E. Bauer had to admit in a comment on the bloody massacre, no one could have foreseen this dramatic development.

In a statement the AK took the position that the events of 30 June resulted from the compromise that Hitler had made with the tops of finance capital and heavy industry, as he felt himself equally threatened by the SA and the “gentlemen’s club clique” around Papen and Schleicher. The “preventive blow” against the SA was supposed to have defeated the risk of a “second revolution”, for this Fascist troop had become a danger because it feared being deprived of its wages and its paramilitary function. The AK explained the passivity of the workers when faced by this conflict in the enemy camp by their defeat in early 1933. Yet 30 June was a turning point in developments in Germany. The Trotskyists’ prediction of the transformation of “Hitler Fascism into a Bonapartist dictatorship of the state apparatus” was now confirmed. The AK and E. Bauer warned about illusions in early struggles for power, subdued optimism was unmistakable, and the possibility of winning back lost positions no longer seemed to be excluded.

A week later, in his fundamental thoughts on 30 June, Brenner drew much more far-reaching conclusions. He saw it as the start of a new stage, with massive clashes and class struggles, which must “in their logical consequences fundamentally change the present German system of government”. In his conclusions he consistently went beyond the current tactical line of the IKD, in that he saw a relatively “wide margin for manoeuvre for every form of agitation and propaganda”.

Even if E. Bauer, who had previously argued for very cautious resistance tactic for the IKD, rejected this swinging between mass and cadre work as dangerous it was indisputable that the AK was ready to take a step beyond the previous cadre work and thus introduce a cautious corrective in their resistance work.

The Trotskyists had later to admit the they had overestimated the effects of 30 June on the situation in Germany. At the end of 1934 and the beginning of 1935 they believed that the “picture of the Fascist dictatorship” had begun to change Fascism was leaning more on the state apparatus than its “original mass base”; the Nazi dictatorship was entering “a second stage of development towards a purely Bonapartist form”. Nevertheless one should not overestimate “the opening up of the Fascist mass base”. The “second period” of Fascism first began, according to the IKD, at the start of December 1935. The mass mood had turned against the Hitler regime. Therefore the Fascist dictatorship was transforming itself into Bonapartist one. As “Fascism had no mass base”, it was dependent on permanently watching over the people.


The new course of the IKD

The rump AK [35] openly attacked the proposal of the International Secretariat, made in October 1934, to prepare a Reich conference for the end of 1934. There was no question of the five “dissidents” taking part. The AK hoped to overcome the “weakness caused by the major faction fight” through calling a Reich conference.

The conference took place under the most stringent security precautions on 24-26 December 1934 in the Swiss village of Dietikon, close to Zurich. [36] With great difficulty a number of delegates from IKD districts inside Germany managed to take part in the conference. [37]

German problems came at the top of the agenda. According to the official report, the previous political analyses of the exiles were approved as broadly corresponding to the “actual course of German developments”. However, criticism was made of the exiles’ “mistakes of exaggeration”. For example, in their judgement of 30 June 1934 they had overestimated the extent to which the mass base of Fascism was breaking up.

In his contribution on the political situation in Germany AK member Johre proposed theses on the Kirchenkampf. He stated that the IKD must support the struggle of the church against the National Socialists. These views only later became significant in the internal discussions of the IKD.

Summing up the discussions of early 1934 and of the Organisation Conference, the factories were described as “the most important starting points for the struggle against Fascism”. The Trotskyists counterposed “tough, revolutionary cadre work” to the voluntaristic “mass work” of the Stalinists, which they saw as useless an even damaging. They also gave notice of further efforts to set up a network of revolutionary shop stewards in the factories.

Under the pressure of the internal German delegates, it was decided to make turn in the relationship with the SAP. The participants in the conference declare their willingness to do everything to set up a serious and principled unity discussion with the SAP, as well as ensuring practical joint work and mutual support between the IKD and SAP. The Trotskyists thus hoped to take a step towards their aim of creating a new Communist Party. [38]

At this “fairly peaceful” conference, the entry of the French Trotskyists into the SFIO, which had led to massive debate in the IKD, was only tangentially discussed. The majority at the conference supported the policy of entry. Only the Danzig delegate spoke against, but agreed with the majority that it was not grounds for a split.


Last on the agenda was the election of a new leadership of the then some 200-strong IKD. Alongside the hitherto named provisional AK (Braun, O. Fischer, Johre), now renamed the Secretariat, the leadership consisted of at least three Trotskyists active in Germany (Jan Bur from Berlin, Max Laufer from Magdeburg and a Dresden comrade), who made up the inner-German RL.

The Secretariat evaluated the results of the conference as “extraordinarily favourable”. The IKD was more unified than ever and could return to its work with its forces “more united”.

The political basis for the Reich Conference decision to try again to cooperate more closely with the SAP soon no longer existed.

After it had signed the Declaration of the Four in August 1933 [39], the SAP had moved further and further from thoughts of a Fourth International. At a conference of the IAG in February 1935, at which neither the ‘left’ ICL, nor the ‘right’ NAP took part, the SAP refused to support a resolution from the Dutch delegates Schmidt (OSP) and Sneevliet (RSP), in which they put the demand for beginning concretely the building of “a new revolutionary international”.

In the view of the AK of the IKD, it was now beyond doubt that the IAG, and above all the SAP, were going down a different road from the ICL, in that they awaited the building of a new International as a result of the historical process and were not ready – as the SAP had itself emphasised in signing the Declaration of the Four – “to contribute with all our strength to creating this new International in the shortest possible time”.

At the start of May 1935 the IKD pointed to a renewed sharp drawing of lines between the IKD and the SAP. The Secretariat of the IKD took the recent developments as a pretext to attack the SAP sharply. The SAP was “one of the main forces that hold back the process of revolutionary regroupment of the proletariat”.

Doubtless the IKD Secretariat already knew about Trotsky’s statement on the question of the SAP, which had been written at the end of April, but which was only published at the end of May. Under the title Centrist Alchemy or Marxism [40], Trotsky drew up a detailed balance sheet of the IAG Conference. He also analysed the origins of the Walcher leadership of the SAP and its previous politics. He came to the conclusion that “the work of bringing together revolutionary forces under the banner of the Fourth International must be carried on outside and against the SAP”. The attempt to “draw closer to the SAP leaders” had totally collapsed and had only allowed us to judge the “total depths of centrist conservatism”.

The SAP leadership first took a position on the “hateful pamphlet of the International Trotskyist leadership” at the start of July 1935. Despite their own declarations that a detailed reply was pointless, the SAP leadership even published a pamphlet called Trotskyism or revolutionary Realpolitik. With glee the SAP published in this polemic internal material on the crises of the ICL, which they saw as a result of “idealist subjectivism”. At the same time they did their best to justify their own politics Part of the IKD were also moved to criticism by the break with the SAP. [41] Trotsky had to defend himself against accusations of undemocratic practices. He justified himself in that he had only demanded publication of his article after he was sure he had the agreement of the AK. The leadership must have the courage to “declare the policy” of the Reich Conference in relation to the SAP “finished”, especially as that decision could only be valid for a limited time. Although Trotsky was in no way against joint work with the SAP in the resistance, he still warned emphatically against overestimating the common ground between the IKD and the SAP and called on his supporters to use above the international politics of the SAP as a yardstick.

In fact the cooperation between the resistance groups of the SAP and IKD dial remain unaffected by the political break. Even a part of the Berlin IKD, which was pushing firmly for political and theoretical work with the SAP, were not moved by Trotsky’s verdict. This group gave three reasons for their attempt to create close links to the SAP:

  1. The collapse of the previous “top level negotiations” between the IKD and the SAP had met with incomprehension on the part of the rank and file as wide-ranging political agreement was felt to exist on strategic and tactical questions.
  2. The “lower level units” of the SAP were “further to the left than their exile leadership”.
  3. The demands of the resistance struggle did not permit any split in the revolutionary forces.

In early 1935 the Berlin Trotskyists succeeded in winning the local SAP leadership to a common political “cartel”, in which each group had equal representation. Their aim was to try “above all to carry out factory work on the basis of the trade union theses” of the SAP and IKD. Although at the end of May the local SAP withdrew from the work that had just begun under the pressure of their exile leadership, the Berlin IKD did not give up its aim of “a fusion on the basis of a completely thought through programme”. [42]

The Secretariat of the IKD had permitted “joint work on all tactical questions”, while rejecting any “concessions of principle”. Yet it was furious about the “fusion negotiations”, but tolerated that unilateral action of the Berlin Trotskyists, perhaps because it was in any case impossible to have any direct influence on the group. Soon the Secretariat saw with relief that the Berlin IKD had to admit the futility of their attempts. As the leading member of the inner-German RL observed, the question of the SAP had become beside the point.

The AK of the IKD thus gave more attention to the development of the conflict that had welled up between the Nazis and parts of the Lutheran, and later Catholic, church after September 1933 – the so-called Kirchenkampf. [43] The open appearance of a church opposition – the Confessional Church – against the attempts of the Nazi-oriented ’German Christians’ of carrying through a ‘gleichschaltung’ of the Lutheran Church, was seen by the IKD as a reaction to the fact that the church felt itself threatened as an independent institution. [44] At that time the Trotskyists expected a quick resolution of the conflict through a “rotten compromise”. They then posed purely abstractly and generally the task of “again bringing the working class to a position where it can exploit these internal factional struggles of the bourgeoisie and Fascism”.


In the following period the Trotskyists hardly paid any attention to this development, because they did not expect any change in the ideological functions of the churches away from the strong influence of the state. Yet they did not overlook the fact that the conflict had in no way been settled, and that it was an expression of a current that could not be reconciled with the totalitarian claims of Fascism.

After the consolidation of the church opposition had led in the autumn of 1934 to such a strong movement against the protagonists of ‘gleichschaltung’ (around Reich bishop Ludwig Müller) that the Nazi leaders had been forced to distance themselves from their Protestant followers, the Copenhagen IKD at last paid more attention to the Kirchenkampf. They proposed exploiting the Kirchenkampf to undermine the Fascist regime. The lack of freedom in Hitler’s Germany and the threatening danger of war should be pointed out to the petit-bourgeoisie. Thus the intermediate classes could be made “to feel their common interests with the proletariat”.

When AK member Johre underlined the importance of the Kirchenkampf for the IKD at the Reich Conference at the end of December 1934, the Kirchenkampf had just entered a new phase. The “previous course of a ‘gleichschaltung’ from within was rejected in favour of a rigorous external political control by the state”. This was made clear by the creation of a Reich Ministry for the Churches in July 1935.

The AK needed nearly six months after the Reich conference to work out a position on the church question. In June 1935 Unser Wort characterised the church question as “the first attempt of the masses to create a rallying point and gathering together of a wide popular democratic movement”. The proletariat had a duty to “support, strengthen and move forward every movement which can lead to a conflict with the Fascist state, or a breach within the bourgeoisie”. This duty sprang from the fact that “under Fascism the conquest of every position, even secondary ones, is a means – even through their very existence – to help gather our own forces, strengthen the movement, to recreate the links between the workers’ movement and political struggle and to make further struggle easier”. It would depend on the workers how the Kirchenkampf developed further.


The AK of the IKD saw nothing but new proof of the degeneration of the German labour movement in the inability of any organisation to give a positive answer to the church question. Despite the “colossal significance” of the church struggle, one had only seen the “idiotic boorishness” of the Comintern and the SPD, and, as a particularly high class curiosity, “the arrogant blockheadedness‧ of the SAP leaders, those “‘professional observers’ of the mass movement, who played down the church conflict as a ‘vicars’ fight’”, of no interest to the working class.

The AK’s conception went far beyond that of the Copenhagen IKD mentioned above, and still further beyond the published analyses of the IKD members in Germany, who either thought the explosive potential of the church conflict was insignificant or restricted themselves to an explanation of the élan of the movement.

The AK’s recommendation to support the oppositional church movement unconditionally was highly criticised, particularly by Ruth Fischer and Maslow, who saw a new chance to intervene.

In the meantime, on Trotsky’s initiative and against the vote of the German Trotskyists, Ruth Fischer had become firstly a member of the plenum of the International Communist League and a little later of the International Secretariat. Trotsky proposed that, in view of the passionate discussion that had broken out, a German Commission of the International Secretariat of the ICL should be set up, which should investigate the policy of the AK on the church question.

Even in the first meeting of the commission, a lack of willingness to compromise was clear, both on the part of the AK, which stuck to its position on the church question, and particularly of Parabellum-Dubois, who fought against this “liquidation of Marxism”.

In a detailed statement on the church question Parabellum particularly criticised the demand for unconditional support of every movement that potentially put into question Fascism’s claim to totalitarian control of society. This would mean the “total capitulation of the proletariat as a class, and of the Marxists as the organising centre of the proletariat”.

As a concrete example the Kirchenkampf should be used, in Parabellum’s view, to prove to as wide a section of the working class and petitbourgeoisie as possible that it was only a question of “bickering within the state apparatus about different techniques of oppressing the workers and petit bourgeoisie”, and to “use this opportunity to limit the power and influence of the church as one of the props of obscurantism”.

This could only be done by a proletarian leadership which never unconditionally supported another class, but always kept in mind the hegemony of the proletariat, in the knowledge that in the imperialist epoch only the working class could be the revolutionary subject, and thus the leading class.

After the collapse of all attempts at mediation by Lev Sedov, the discussion had become completely deadlocked. A letter of Trotsky’s was decisive. [45] He had studied the discussion from minutes as he had lived in Norway since 1935. Trotsky was clearly concerned to mediate between the opposing positions, but nevertheless decided to support the position of the AK, even if with reservations.

He saw the cause of the church conflict in the fact that “the Fascist state god”, could no longer tolerate any competition, but on the other hand, the petit-bourgeoisie, which is ever more pushed down by the “furiously rearming Fascist state” cannot forego “the mystical consolation of the church for the wounds inflicted by the state”. It was right to stir up this conflict and direct it first of all against the state and second against those sections of the ruling class who were trying to use this conflict for their own ends. In doing so, one must not overlook that it was only support for the “political struggle” of the Catholics and Protestants for their right to remain Christians and “act as such“. The IKD must, of course, emphasise its opposition to religion and the church as far as possible. Inasmuch as the IKD had to fulfill its duties towards this opposition movement without setting conditions, one could speak of “unconditional support̶. Possibly “the slumbering forces of the proletariat” will receive “a rousing shock from this petit-bourgeois opposition to the Fascist state”. Above all, he attributed to the Kirchenkampf “considerable educational value for our cadres, who have perhaps maintained a purely propagandist orientation for too long”. The Kirchenkampf could not only be the starting point for a turn in the IKD’s work, but also, at the same time, create more favourable conditions for its activity.

It appeared to Parabellum-Dubois that under these conditions “the fundamental of Marxism, upon which alone we wish to discuss” had been abandoned. The discussion ended abruptly; the commission was wound up. The AK had maintained its position on the church question, and at the same time created the basis for the IKD to reorient itself. Yet for the AK and its then protagonist Johre, the Kirchenkampf was only a component of a more complex problem: “the political relationship of the proletariat to other classes”.

The AK saw the social roots of the Kirchenkampf in a tendency to the political and economic assimilation of the proletariat and petit-bourgeoisie, which had been accelerated by Fascism. On the one hand the growing disillusionment of the petit bourgeois strata with Fascism was leading to them seeing bourgeois democracy which they had destroyed “yesterday” aa their saviour “tomorrow”. On the other hand, the proletariat had “no choice but to prepare for the revolution by the struggle for democracy”. For only an opposition movement which demanded “common: freedom and rights” would make it possible for the proletarian vanguard to overcome its political isolation in Fascist Germany.

Thus the AK believed that it was necessary to give support for the Kirchenkampf absolute priority over all other political tasks of the IKD, even above factory work, which had at least theoretically had a special significance up to then On this Trotsky was not willing to make any concessions to the AK. For him “factory work offered the best possibilities at times of deepest counter-revolution”.

The thoughts of the AK were not new. Already in the autumn of 1933 Johre had pointed to the significance of “democrat demands” for the resistance work of the German Trotskyists. This was merely repetition of Trotsky’s thoughts. At the same time, however, he had pointed with particular emphasis to an idea of his own. The IKD had to understand that, not only the Russian Revolution, but also the whole historic epoch had been politically defined by a “regressive movement”. This was the theoretical basis that had deflned. Johre’s attitude to the church question and left its mark on the further political development of the part of the IKD influenced by him. [46]

Wolfgang Alles



1. The Austrian Trotskyist Kurt Larry (1903-1937) had arrived in Germany August 1929 and, at Trotsky’s request tried to set up links between the different groups close to Trotsky in Germany (the minority in the Leninbund and the Wedding Opposition). When they fused to form the United Left Opposition in March 1930, Landau was elected to the leadership. Differences appeared between Landau and others in the leadership on an analysis of the situation in Germany and developments in the Soviet Union, to which were added personal tensions (some relating to Landau’s position in Austria) and accusations of arbitrary behaviour. Trotsky, in his letter The Crisis of the German Section of February 1931, attacked Landau as “one of the most extreme representatives of the conservatism of the circles”, supported with caution the provincial groups, but was above all concerned to maintain the unity of the German LO. When the Landau group refused to take part in a joint meeting with the other section of the leadership, they were expelled by the International Secretariat. He was killed by the GPU in Spain in 1937. (See Revolutionary History, vol.1, no.2, Summer 1988, pp.50-1).

Landau’s main opponent was Roman Well, who, with his brother Adolf Senin, was a GPU agent and took an increasingly pro-Stalinist line, until being expelled in January 1933. (On the Landau split, see Alles pp60-73 and Zimmerman Der Leninbund: Linke Kommunisten in der Weimarer Republik, pp.234-241. On Well, see Vereecken, The GPU in the Trotskyist Movement, London 1976, pp.16-31). (BR).

2. Landau kept the majority of the Berlin group (i.e. some 30 members), the Ludwigshafen group around Max Frenzel, and individual left-oppositionists in Leipzig and Hamburg-Harburg – in all about 80 people. The official Left Opposition had the support of groups in Bautzen (5), Berlin (10), Bruchsal (45), Forst (5), Goldap in East Prussia (5), Hamborn (4), Hamburg (5), Heidelsheim (10), Konigsberg (10), Leipzig (50) and Magdeburg (5) – in total some 150 members.

The Bruchsal group had decided for the part of the LO recognised by Trotsky under the influence of Oskar Seipold. (WA)

Oskar Seipold (1889-1966) joined the SPD in 1909, and went with the USPD left into the KPD in 1920. He was head of the ‘Rot Front Kampferbund’ in East Prussia from 1927-29, and became a member of the Prussian Landtag on the death of Ernst Meyer in 1930. He was expelled from the KPD in February 1930 and joined the Left Opposition, remaining in the Landtag and delivering a speech written by Trotsky in 1931. He emigrated in July 1934, having previously been arrested by the Nazis, and spent the war living illegally in Lodz. He returned to Germany in 1949. (BR)

3. Up to 1933 eight issues of the Information Bulletin appeared at irregular intervals. Originally it was to be available at least monthly for internal information and discussion.

4. The name of the paper was supposed to make clear the overall political aims of the LO. The LO wanted to counterpose to the “ideological confusion of the KPD leadership”, which had come about as a result of the theory of socialism in one country, a “clear Marxist programme”, which had at its core the theory of permanent revolution, i.e. a concept of international revolutionary Socialism, which unconditionally rejected all reformist and nationalist ideas. (Permanente Revolution no.1, July 1931).

5. Appeals such as this were not uncommon: “Every comrade must make it his duty to distribute at least 10 copies of the new pamphlet of Comrade Trotsky, The Only Road” (Information Bulletin of the LO, October 1932).

6. Anton Grylewicz (1885-1971) joined the SPD in 1912 and the USPD in 1917, going over to the KPD with the USPD left in 1920. In 1918 he had been a leading member of the Revolutionäre Obleute, who had played a major role in the November Revolution. He was expelled from the Central Committee of the KPD after the removal of Fischer and Maslow in 1925, became a leader of the Fischer-Maslow group and was expelled from the KPD after defending the position of the Left Opposition at the Eleventh Congress in 1927. Until 1930 he was responsible for the organisation of the Leninbund, but left with the Trotskyist minority. In the Left Opposition he was responsible for organisation and publications, particularly of Trotsky’s writings. He emigrated to Prague in 1933, where he was accused of espionage through a manoeuvre of the local Stalinists, and spent some time in jail. He moved to Cuba and returned to Germany after the war, joining the SPD. (BR)

7. The first issue of Der Kommunist appeared in April 1930. It became the paper of Landau’s group after the split.

8. On the Leninbund, see Pierre Broué’s article above. The SAP was founded in October 1931, following the expulsion of left-wingers who had criticised the policy of the SPD leadership. this disparate group was joined by various others, including exmembers of the Brandlerite KPD(O), led by Jacob Walcher and Paul Frölich. From the start fundamental differences within the SAP became clear, and the SAP moved to the left after Hitler took power. The Socialist Youth League was the youth wing of the SAP. (BR)

9. The LO in Dinslaken belonged to the latter category. In January 1933 it published a printed paper, The Battle Cry, and mobilised more than 500 people to a political meeting.

10. C.L.R. James (World Revolution 1917-1936, London, 1937 p.400) puts the size of the LO in 1933 at 750 members.

11. The Saxon district leadership produced the paper the Red Courier.

12. The Rhein-Ruhr district conference of the LO met on 10 July 1932. The following groups were represented: Gelsenkirchen, Hamborn, Rheinhausen, Dusseldorf, Essen, Mulheim, Recklinghausen, Erkenschweik, Solingen, Remscheid, Dinslaken and Cologne. A little later the LO in the Mittelrhein district of the KPD published a factional organ with the title Bolshevik.

13. The Wasserkante consists of Hamburg and the surrounding area. (BR)

14.Immediately after the break with Landau the Reichsleitung (National Leadership) consisted of: Erwin Ackerknecht, Fritz Buchner, A. Leon (?), Wilhelm Markstahler, Wegner, Adolf Senin, Oskar Seipold, Roman Well. Later Joko, Anton Grylewicz (responsible for organisation and publications), Krugersen (that is, Polzer), Paul Speck (as representative of the Bruchsal LO), Fritz Belleville (Frankfurt), Helmut Schneeweiss (Oranienburg), Oskar Hippe (Charlottenburg) and Alfred Scholer (Berlin) were co-opted. Leon Trotsky's son Lev Sedov took part in RL meetings as the representative of the International Secretariat, while avoiding participation in membership meetings of the LO, as his residence permit was conditional on his not taking part in political activity.

15. For example, apart from the Berlin RL representatives, only RL members from the Wasserkante and Sachsen districts took part in the Extended Reichsleitung meeting on 13 December 1931. The reason was the limited financial means of the LO.

16. The members of the editorial board were Roman Well, Adolf Senin, Joko, Horst Sprengel, Erwin Ackerknecht and three other unknown members.

17. Trotsky described Bruchsal and Klingenthal (where a similar local United Front had been set up under the influence of the SAP) as “despite their limited extent, an example to the entire country” (Trotsky, What Next?, The Struggle against Fascism in Germany, London 1975, p.224)

18. Die Rote Fahne (Red Flag) was the daily paper of the KPD.

19. Even the National Socialists had to be careful in Oranienburg and the surrounding areas, as the Proletarian Self-Defence had access to supplies of weapons, which had been planned for the ‘German October’ in 1923. (Communication of Helmut Schneeweiss with the author).

20. According to Helmut Schneeweiss, the RL of the LO had at the beginning refused a demonstration carried out independently of the KPD.

21. The KPD, which at this time started to give up the purely ultra-left line, reported positively on the activity and aims of the Workers’ Struggle Committee, without mentioning a single word on the leading rôle of the Left Opposition. (Die Rote Fahne, 15th Year, No.101, 11 May 1932).

The SED [East German CP] historian Karl Urban (The history of the unification of the KPD and the SPD in the province of Brandenburg) says of the LO: “In Oranienburg there was until 1932 a strong Trotskyist group within [!] the KPD, which was led by Schneeweiss. After its destruction by the district leadership he went to Trotsky in Mexico [!]. The sectarian [!] influences of this group even continued after 1945 for a time”. The group was neither Trotskyist before 1932, nor did Schneeweiss go to Mexico, and the accusation of sectarianism is not really very convincing. The ex-KPD and later SED functionary Willy Sagebrecht presents himself as a fighter against “sectarian conceptions” in Oranienburg, specifically as held by Helmut Schneeweiss.

22. Oskar Hippe, in his memoirs ... and unsere Fahne ist Rot (... and our flag is red), pp.126-131, gives a detailed description of the United Front in Oranienburg and the attempts to win support for a similar policy in Berlin. He also gives details about Helmut Schneeweiss: he joined the Communist Youth in 1920 and won a reputation for his work with the unemployed, leading demonstrations which won them an increase in benefits from the town council in Oranienburg. In 1927-28 he became dissatisfied with KPD policy, and made contact with the Leninbund. In 1932 Hippe was sent to speak to him and, explaining the Trotskyists’ differences with the Leninbund, recruited him to the LO. (BR)

23. After cooperation in an international conference in August 1933, Trotsky had high hopes of a merger with the SAP, but its leaders refused. (See Writings of Leon Trotsky 1933-34, New York 1975, pp.346-7, note 61). (BR)

24. Alles describes the organisation of the Trotskyists after 1933: “In all about 50 Trotskyists fled abroad ... Groups that were set up in a state bordering Germany were responsible from there for the nearest inland district. The groups abroad each elected an External Representative, who was usually also a member of the Reichsleitung. The physical dispersion of the leadership certainly prevented a really collective activity of the RL. Thus in the summer of 1933, Paris was decided on as the seat of a – for the time being – five person rump leadership, the Auslandskommitee (Committee Abroad), to which three further members were added a few months later. The AK was then the official political leadership of the Left Opposition” (pp.159-160).

The LO began to call themselves the Internationale Kommunisten Deutschlands (IKD) in October 1933, following their decision to work for the construction of a new party. (BR)

25. Feroci was Alfonso Leonetti (1885-1984), an ex-CC member of the PCI, who had come over to Trotskyism in August 1930 and was later elected to the International Secretariat. He rejoined the Italian Communist Party in 1962. (BR)

26. Walter Nettelbeck (1901-76), alias Jan Bur, had worked as a photographer on the KPD magazine, Arbeiter Illustrierte. From early 1933 he was an organiser of the clandestine work of the IKD, until he had to leave for Paris in September 1935. (See Margaret Dewar’s autobiography The Quiet Revolutionary, London 1989, Chapters 5 and 6). (BR)

27. Erwin Ackerknecht (1906-88), alias Bauer, was at this time International Secretary of the Trotskyists. He opposed entrism into the Socialist parties, and left the Trotskyists in 1935 (see note 35). He died in Switzerland. (BR)

28. After the smashing of the unions and the passing of the Nazi Act for the Regulation of National Labour on 20 January 1934, there were formally no shop stewards, in the sense of independent workers’ representatives, but Vertrauensleute (People of Trust). Each factory was run by Vertrauensräte (Councils of Trust), for which the employer, as plant leader, named the slate. Members of the council could be removed by the trustee of labour (i.e. the employer or manager). Despite this, “in many cases the councils were apparently dominated by old trade unionists, and did become spearheads of opposition”. (See Franz Neumann, Behemoth, London 1942, pp.344-5). (BR)

29. “From the end of 1933 Unser Wort (Our Word) was published in Paris, from the start of 1937 in Antwerp, and finally from the start of 1940 in New York. In all 104 issues and one special issue appeared, sometimes as a weekly, but, from the Autumn of 1934, irregularly. Attempts to produce Unser Wort in a South American country after the USA entered the war failed.” (Apes, p.159, n1)

30. In other words, the practices of a group which up until 1933 had seen itself as a faction of the KPD and the Comintern. (BR)

31. The Internationaler Sozialistische Kampfbund came from a youth group, the Internationaler Jugendbund, that was affiliated to the SPD until 1926. They were adherents of the Kantian philosopher Leonard Nelson, and described themselves as “ethical Socialists”. (BR)

32. Fischer and Maslow had both been involved in the founding of the Leninbund, but had left when Zinoviev capitulated to Stalin. Between 1929 and 1933 neither had been politically active. They fled to Paris in 1933 and lived there until 1940, when Fischer went to the USA and Maslow to Cuba, where he was shot, possibly by Stalinist agents. Both had been condemned in the Moscow Trials. (BR)

33. The Betriebsräte (Works Councils) had been set up in 1920 as an attempt to institutionalise at factory level the councils that had developed during the 1918 revolution. They gave secretly elected workers’ representatives certain limited legal and supervisory functions, which were removed by the Nazi Labour Law. (BR)

34. Ex-Chancellor Papen made a speech in Marburg on 17 June 1934 entitled The Aims of the German Revolution, in which he spoke of tactical differences with the Nazis, “misdeeds under the cloak of revolution” and the “need to silence doctrinaire fanatics”. It was aimed as a warning to Hitler from traditional conservative interests not to be too “radical”. (BR)

35. A majority of the AK, led by E. Bauer (Ackerknecht), had left the IKD in October 1934 after a dispute about the entry of the French Trotskyists into the Socialist Party, which they opposed. The ‘rump’ consisted of Braun (Erwin Wolf), O. Fischer (Otto Schüssler), and Johre (Joseph Weber), who carried about two-thirds of the group with them (including all but one of the members inside Germany). Bauer’s group partly joined the SAP in March 1935, and a year later sharply criticised the rapprochement of the SAP and the KPD, being expelled in February 1937. They started a group, Neuer Weg (New Way), together with sizeable chunks of the SAP in exile. (BR)

36. Siegfried Kissin, one of the participants, remembered, “we were never told exactly where the conference was. We met in Zurich, and then every morning we all caught a local train to Dietikon, and walked for about an hour through the woods to reach a sculptor’s studio where the conference took place”. In Unser Wort the location of the conference was said to be Luxemburg, and the date the end of January 1935, presumably to mislead the Gestapo.

37. There were representatives of the Berlin group (Jan Bur for the supporters of entrism and Walter Herz for the opponents), the West German group (the Gelsenkirchen Trotskyist Albertine Key), the Magdeburg group (Max Laufer), the Danzig group (Siegfried Kissin) and the Dresden IKD. From the emigrant organisations, Julik (Wenzel Kozlecki) was present for the groups in Czechoslovakia and Braun, O. Fischer and Johre for the provisional AK. Jan Frankel, a Viennese Trotskyist, and the Swiss Trotskyist Walter Nelz, who had organised the conference, also took part. Representatives of other groups were unable to attend, either on financial or security grounds.

38. The Copenhagen IKD demanded even before the Reich Conference the “strengthening of our possibilities of action through common work with those organisations that are generally and in principle for the creation of new Communist parties and a new Communist international”. However, the Copenhagen Trotskyists wished in no way to revise what was, in their view, a correct criticism of the SAP: “Our criticism of the SAP up to now, that it has remained only half way, yes, has even politically gone backwards, is still correct today”.

39. For The Declaration of the Four, see Documents of the Fourth International: The Formative Years 1933-40, New York 1973, pp.56-9. (BR)

40. Centrist Alchemy or Marxism was written on 24 April 1935. See Writings of Leon Trotsky 1934-35, pp.256-285. (BR)

41. The SAP reported that the Paris IKD had brought out a publication called Der Ausweg in protest against the publication of Trotsky’s article.

42. The SAP Auslandsleitung (Leadership Abroad) gave as a reaction to Trotsky’s criticism: “We are always ready at any time to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Trotskyists in struggle for individual concrete tasks, but we must reject, not only any fusion, but also any other kind of organisational link with them”. (Trotskyism or Revolutionary Realpolitik).

43. From September 1933 onwards there was resistance to the attempts of the Nazis to lay down rules for the churches (for example barring anyone of Jewish origin from holding posts). This became known as the Kirchenkampf (Church struggle). Gleichschaltung was the Nazi policy of either destroying any independent organisations or bringing them under Nazi control. In the Lutheran churches this was carried through by amalgamation into a nations Evangelical church under a Nazi supporter Ludwig Muller. (BR)

44. The ‘Confessional Church’ was created in March 1934 by those sections of the Lutheran Church not prepared to accept Nazi interference. (BR)

45. A Letter to the German Commission (August 1935) in Writings of Leon Trotsky 1935-36, pp.79-83.

46. On the later evolution of Johre and Fische authors of the Three Theses, see Sam Levy The Proletarian Military Policy revisited in Revolutionary History, Vol.1, No.3, Autumn 1988, p.12, Rodolphe Prager, The Fourth International During the Second World War, Ibid., pp.23-4. (BR)

Updated by ETOL: 6.8.2003