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Ervin Bauer


The Coming Winter

(September 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 26 (Whole No. 85), 10 October 1931, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

(Continued from Last Issue)

The special acuteness of the German crisis rests upon the position into which German capitalism landed through the end of the war. It lost substantial sources of raw material and its best markets. On the other hand, it established, with the aid of foreign credits, a huge productive apparatus which it could never utilize fully, which burdened it enormously, and part of which it cannot yet decide to liquidate. This is the actual reason for the special German crisis; not the Young Plan, as the Fascist demagogues say and the Centrists parrot after them. How little a change in the Young Plan could influence the crisis is shown by the absolute lack of success of the Hoover moratorium. The German bourgeoisie, which has become completely dependent upon the big powers, must fight for more in order to achieve its imperialist emancipation. The world economic crisis, which accentuated all the foreign political relations and strivings, and illuminated their direct connection with domestic policy, also evoked a turn in German foreign policy, which is represented by the Bruening of the emergency decrees, German imperialism, in possession of a powerful productive apparatus, and on the other hand pressed by the crisis, places its claims to equal rights against the French striving for hegemony. We recall the speeches of Minister Treviranus on the Polish corridor, the armored cruiser construction, Bernsdorff’s disarmament demand in the League of Nations, the Russian credits, and finally, as the crowning of the whole, the German-Austrian custom union.

The German bourgeoisie suffered for the time being a crushing defeat. Not only in Geneva, but by the withdrawal of credits, it was driven by France, in the bank crash, to the very edge of the abyss. French imperialism robbed it of its Hungarian support, checkmated the game of the Eastern orientation by the Russo-French pact – and yet the German bourgeoisie has not capitulated as yet. This is above all things the expression of its internal strength, which even made possible this whole foreign political maneuver. It endeavors, by squeezing down upon the toilers to the last ounce, to hold out by the so-called self-aid until it receives aid from America or England, which will have to oppose a too strong growth of French influence. That is its second “trump”. A capitulation to France would be the expression of its growing internal difficulties.

We see what enormous importance the development of the American crisis has for the fate of the German revolution.

The Policy of the German C.P.

We have already seen that the bourgeoisie could stand all the blows it received with the aid of the Social Democratic Party. We must, however, raise the question: how could the S.D.P. remain the leader of the starving millions of workers for so long a time? Formerly, it was able to keep the workers away from Communism by the preservation of small reforms. But today, it no longer preserves these small reforms, but rather participates in the most far-reaching elimination of them. A continued existence of the S.D.P. with such a scope in the present crisis can only be explained by the absolutely false and powerless policy of the Communist party. An examination of its policy, unfortunately, confirms this assumption to the highest degree. On the basis of the Centrist construction of the third period, the policy of the C.P. rested upon three pillars: the acute revolutionary situation (1929!), social-fascism, founding of new trade unions. There was no policy of united front. By the “turn” of 1930–1931, the estimation of the situation was indeed moderated and a policy of the united front schematically dictated; the pillars of social-Fascism and their own trade unions, however, remained.

With regard to social-Fascism, the Left Opposition repeatedly pointed out the absolutely theoretical falsity of this conception. In practise, it formed an insurmountable wall between Communist and social democratic workers.

Separate trade union organizations (R.G.O. – Red Trade Union Organizations) could not even embrace one-fifth of the party membership. They are about one one-hundredth as large as the reformist unions. As a result, it is also incapable of effectively influencing the daily struggles of the proletariat. In the trade unions themselves, the influence of the Communists, who are either expelled or else bound hand and foot by the ultra-Leftist policy, is reduced to nothing. The bourgeois press reports triumphantly that this year’s trade union congress was the first since the war at which there was not a single Communist party delegate.

Neither could the party succeed in the organization of the enormous unemployed masses, for, with the deceptive expectation of an automatic radicalization of the unemployed, it rejected the proposals of the Left Opposition for forming a united front with the slogans of Russian credits, etc. The struggle against Fascism offered the best possibility of putting the party at the head of the proletariat. Here too a luckless policy destroyed everything. After the party had pursued a big-mouthed ostrich policy towards the growth of Fascism, it was seized with panic before the September elections. Instead of vanquishing Fascism by a proletarian ideology, it endeavored to smash it by adapting itself to the Fascist ideology. There appeared the program for “national and social emancipation”, the slogan of the “people’s revolution” was proclaimed instead of the proletarian revolution, and finally, a direct united front was concluded with the Fascists at the referendum. This opportunistic policy, which is dictated solely by vote-catching endeavors and not by the actual relationships of the class struggle, which overlooks the fact that the united front is possible with the social democratic workers on the basis of a common principled basis of the class struggle, that there is no such basis with the blood-stained Fascist murderers, brought the C.P.G., outside of a few bankrupted lieutenants, nothing but confusion in its own ranks and a strengthened mistrust of many honest and class conscious workers.

One would, however, fall into error in assuming that the party is not growing, The elementary pressure of the crisis is so great that it grows in spite of its policy. At all events, the fluctuations are so enormous (forty percent in 1930 – fluctuation appears to be a concomitant of Stalinism) that it does not find it possible to constitute real cadres. Since the old, experienced members are mostly expelled or driven into passivity, the quality is a bad one. This is shown by the spread of anti-Semitism which is even rampant in the party press. That is how it is possible that in spite of all the election successes and in spite of the numerical strength, the party is incompetent in the decisive moments of extra-parliamentary action: in the economic struggles, in the struggle against the emergency decrees, in the bank crash. Of course, the party is completely bureaucratized; in actuality, there are no discussions and no elections. Corruption is inevitable as a concomitant of bureaucratism. It is an expression of the political bureaucratization of the party that one day it can make an unprincipled united front with the Fascists against the “social-Fascists” in the Prussian referendum; both overnight, upon command from above, without inquiring of the membership.

This disproportion between the strength and inner power of the party and the objectively revolutionary situation (however complicated it may be by Fascism) explains the otherwise obscure development of Germany.

The objective situation remains the primary measure of the perspective. The objective situation is: sharpening of the crisis; collapse of banks and factories; rise of unemployment; decline of unemployment support; decline of wages; increase of hunger. The objection situation is: further collapse of the petty bourgeoisie in town and country. Even the bourgeoisie, at the sharp curves of the breath-taking decline, lives through moments of completely hopelessness. Their old parties are disintegrating.

In the proletariat, dissatisfaction is constantly on the increase. Weak as the will to struggle still is, the will to unity is nevertheless great. All these phenomena permit the assumption that despair outside the factories and hunger inside the factories will lead to spontaneous outbreaks this Winter. All this, however, can only lead to the victory of reaction, which has up to now constantly and boldly attacked, unless the Communist party understands how to assemble and to lead the majority of the proletariat. The premises for this would be a re-arming of the party down to the ranks. That such a re-armament is possible in a very short time is demonstrated by the history of the Bolshevik party in April 1917. A re-establishment of the party upon a real united front tactic in the economic struggles, with democratic slogans, in the struggle against

Fascism and Bruening, would give the party good prospects for the seizure of power. The Left Opposition is fighting for the propagation of the slogan which alone can make the situation fruitful. It examines the magnificent experiences which unfold before its very eyes in order to learn from them, and it fights in the ranks of Communism for the revolution, come how it may.

Berlin, September 1931

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