Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 7 No. 1


Georg Scheuer (1914–1996)

GEORG SCHEUER died in Vienna, Austria, on 15 September 1996. Born in the first year of the First World War into a Social Democratic family, he joined the Socialist Workers Youth as a child. In the early 1930s, watching the ascendancy of Fascism in Europe, he moved towards the Communist movement, and joined the Union of Communist Youth, and became a co-founder of the Revolutionary College Youth Federation.

Hitler’s victory in Germany and the failure of the workers’ parties to stop the rise of National Socialism drove Georg further to the left. Together with a reliable circle of comrades, he started to study the works of Trotsky, and established links with the International Left Opposition. He journeyed to Paris to obtain first-hand information on the struggle of the Trotskyist movement. In 1935, his group formed the Revolutionären Kommunisten Österreichs (Revolutionary Communists of Austria). In countless illegal papers and leaflets, for after the Civil War of 1934, the Austrian Fascists had outlawed all workers’ organisations, they not only called for the overthrow of the Fascist dictatorship in Austria, but exposed the lies of the Moscow Trials.

Arrested by the political police in 1936, Georg and the other leaders of the RKÖ were tried and condemned to severe sentences. A general amnesty immediately before the German occupation of Austria in 1938 set Georg and his comrades free. They used the few days of freedom for intense revolutionary agitation against both the Austrian and the German brands of Fascism. The same day the Wehrmacht crossed the Austrian borders, Georg escaped to Czechoslovakia.

Georg immediately established contacts with Jan Frankel and other comrades of the Movement for the Fourth International. But Prague was an unsafe city for revolutionary refugees, as both the Gestapo and the NKVD were active in eliminating the Marxist émigrés. Georg moved to Belgium, and then to France.

It is not well known that Georg and his close comrade and friend, Karl Fischer, attended the founding conference of the Fourth International in Périgny. As delegates of the RKÖ, they voted against its foundation, not merely because of their criticism of the theses on war as a shift away from revolutionary defeatism, but because they questioned the credentials of the organisations present. Nevertheless, the RKÖ continued to collaborate with sections of the Fourth International.

After the ‘drôle de guerre’, the exiled RKÖ members in France started energetic illegal work in French, German and Yiddish, calling for proletarian fraternisation and a Socialist revolution to overthrow imperialism and to end the war. Georg and his comrades lived in permanent danger, using forged documents, and changing their locations frequently. A good example of their illegal skills was when they managed to free an arrested comrade, Melanie Berger, from German hands in Marseilles by producing forged Gestapo papers, and entering and leaving the jail without being detected.

Georg witnessed the end of the war in the Renault plant in Paris, which was occupied by revolutionary workers. A short trip to Vienna showed that the partition of the country made a return to Austria very dangerous. In fact, in 1947, Karl Fischer was kidnapped by the NKVD in Linz (Upper Austria), deported to Russia, and served more than a decade of forced labour in a Siberian camp.

Georg lived legally in France, and worked as journalist for various left-wing and Social Democratic papers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. As a special correspondent, he was one of the first journalists to visit liberated Algiers together with FLN troops in the early 1960s. During the May Days of 1968, he wrote vivid and sympathetic articles, bringing the issues to millions of readers in the German-speaking world. In 1974–75, Georg covered the Portuguese Revolution, as well as the strikes in Italy, and the political changes in France.

In spite of his age, Georg always kept in touch with the revolutionary youth. Without belonging to any organisation, he took part in anti-imperialist demonstrations, and had discussions with youth from various tendencies, mainly centring around the issues which were of great interest to him: the rise of Stalinism and the fight against it, the evolution of Soviet Russia, the rise of classical Italian Fascism and the lessons for today, and workers’ democracy.

Beside his journalistic works, Georg wrote some important books, including an autobiographical work, Nur Narren fürchten nichts (Vienna 1991), and Vorwärts und schnell vergessen (Vienna 1992), a critical assessment of the Russian Revolution after the collapse of Stalinist rule. His last book, Mussolinis langer Schatten (Mussolini’s Long Shadow, Cologne 1996) is not only an historical analysis of the development of Mussolini from a Socialist leader to the founder of the first Fascist movement, it is also a scrupulous evaluation of postwar Fascism in Italy. Together with his beloved wife, Krista, he spent the last years of his life working on two books, the second volume of his memoirs, and a scientific history of the Revolutionary Communists of Austria.

The international revolutionary and workers’ movement has lost an honest and courageous fighter.

Fritz Keller & Kurt Lhotzky

Updated by ETOL: 30.9.2011