Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History, Vol. 9 No. 1


German Communism: Some Clarifications

Dear Comrades

A few corrections to the notes and other additions to some of the texts were lost in the production process of Revolutionary History, Volume 8, no. 4, so it is worth setting them out for the benefit of readers and for the avoidance of confusion in the future.

Page 23, note 9: Georg Ledebour did not rejoin the SPD when the section of the USPD that had rejected adherence to the Communist International, and thus fusing with the KPD, decided in late 1922 to fuse with the SPD again. Out of just under 300,000 members of the USPD, approximately 85,000 rejected going back to the SPD, and the rump USPD that maintained a separate existence had, at the start, between 30,000 and 40,000 members. The key leaders were Theodor Liebknecht, Georg Ledebour and Paul Wegmann, the latter two were Reichstag deputies. With the Franco-Belgian occupation of the Ruhr in January 1923, differences emerged within the party that led to a split. Theodor Liebknecht opposed any concessions to nationalism, while Ledebour and Wegmann inclined towards a line akin to that of the KPD. The result was the Socialist League. However, in October 1931 when the left wing of the SPD broke away and set up the SAP, the Socialist League joined it soon after, and in November the USPD did too.

Page 23, note 10: Heinrich Malzahn did not rejoin the SPD either. He sided with Paul Levi, but stayed in the KPD until expelled in January 1922. Readmitted towards the end of that year, he never had a key post thereafter. He was active in the anti-Nazi resistance around Wilhelm Leuschner, but was politically inactive post-1945.

Page 117, note 26: Paul Böttcher (1891–1975) did not join the SAP with the KPD (Opposition) minority. In exile in Switzerland after 1933, working as a journalist, he was also active for Soviet military intelligence. He was arrested in 1946 in East Germany, and spent until 1955 in the Gulag system. Upon return to the GDR, he was admitted to the SED and became deputy editor-in-chief of the Leipziger Volkszeitung until his retirement in 1968.

Page 125: Thalheimer’s critical analysis of the Fifth Congress of the Communist International was submitted to various KPD and Comintern organs for publication, but never was, and instead was part of the evidence used against him, Brandler, Radek, Felix Wolf and others, for factionalism, before the Control Commission of the RCP(B). Das erste Tribunal is an account of the trial and a record of the proceedings. I reviewed it in the Journal of Trotsky Studies, no. 3, 1995, pp. 148–54, so readers can consult that for more details.

Page 135: Thalheimer’s reference to the ‘expert advice’ is the report prepared by the inter-allied committee chaired by Charles Dawes and Owen D. Young which investigated the question of German reparations. Out of it came the Dawes Plan which was successful in stabilising the German economy and removing revolution from the agenda for the time being.

In his brochure The German October Legend of 1923, Thalheimer refers to an article by Bukharin on the matter in a Pravda feuilleton. Originally feuilleton meant a literary article or serialised novel printed on the lower part of a newspaper page. Today one would call it a supplement printed separately. Not being familiar with Pravda in 1925, I left it as feuilleton.

Thalheimer refers to Varga as being ‘officious’. Following publication of the Marken Press edition in 1993, Brian Pearce suggested ‘semi-official’ instead, as the German use of the word was surely like the French use, different to the English usage. That proved to be the case and makes more sense. See pages 105 and 115 respectively.

Not long after my reply to the Spartacist’s criticism of both Revolutionary History and myself regarding the 1923 October Legend, I became aware of more recent studies being published in Germany: Otto Wenzel, 1923. Die gescheiterte deutsche Oktoberrevolution, Lit Verlag, Munster, 2003, 374 pages, and Bernhard H. Bayerlein, Leonid G. Babichenko, Frederik I. Firsov, Alexander Y. Vatlin (eds.), Deutscher Oktober 1923. Ein Revolutionsplan und sein Scheitern, Aufbau Verlag, Berlin 2003, 479 pages. The latter contains documents from the Moscow archives that cover the various stages and aspects of the 1923 events, introduced by Hermann Weber, and with commentaries by Firsov, Pierre Broué and Karsten Rudolph on the SPD in Central Germany, Erich Zeigner (prime minister of the short-lived Left-Socialist–Communist coalition government in Saxony), and in relation to the abortive revolution.

Mike Jones

Updated by ETOL: 30.10.2011