From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 36 (Whole No. 95), 19 December 1931, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
The external difficulties for Communism in Germany are growing. Every day brings new advances of the fascists. Let us enumerate them briefly: the gathering of the forces of the reactionary coalition at Harzburg, which did not, it is true, lead to the immediate collapse of the Bruening government, but whose economic program is becoming more and more the common property of the whole bourgeoisie. The elections in Hamburg, in Anhalt and in Hesse (the latter two are small federated states) which led to really phantastic successes for the Nazis. They almost doubled their votes over last year. Four parties are left altogether: the Nazis, the clerical Center, with Bruening, the greatly reduced Social Democratic party and the Communist Party. It must be observed that the C.P.G. did actually harness the greatest part of the votes (not the membership) that have been swept away from the Social Democracy and that only the petty bourgeois camp followers have gone over to the Fascists.
It is most noteworthy that the Fascists have succeeded in crushing the petty bourgeois parties, but have not penetrated into the bulk of the proletariat. Nevertheless, their parliamentary successes are extremely menacing, all the more so, since they are accompanied by an ever growing extra-parliamentary activity. The bloody terror, tolerated and even encouraged by the police and the courts of the republic, built up and protected by the Social Democracy, is constantly on the rise (Eleven workers murdered by Fascists in the month between October 18 to November 18 alone). One of its classical examples is Brunswick. There we already have Nazi ministers. One hundred thousand armed Nazis marched into the state, and undisturbed by the police of their party comrades, they undertook a veritable punitive expedition into the proletarian quarters, after the style of the Italian model, announcing thereby their future tactic. Finally, the underhand dealings of the semi-fascist Bruening government, which enjoys the support of the S.P.D., with Hitler, show with what speed we are going over to Fascism.
What must be done now? Instinctively, the working class entered on the correct path when it closed its ranks and disregarded party affiliations in its active defense against the Fascists by powerful strikes on the day the victims of the Fascists were buried. Here there was formed the united front, positive sentiment for which has been very strong in the factories, despite all illusions. On this basis of common struggle against Fascism, the C.P.G. ought to have approached the reformist workers, and – in order to destroy their illusions – the reformist organizations as well, as was already suggested by comrade Trotsky a year ago. Likewise, it ought to exploit the strong sentiment against wage reductions in factories in order to build up the united front, which is the prerequisite for all further development of the class struggle in Germany. But for this, it was necessary to carry on systematic work toward the formation of a Left wing in the reformist trade unions. The extraordinary danger inherent in the situation demands just such a tactic. In an open letter to the German Central Committee, the German Opposition has made concrete proposals leading to the establishment of the united front.
Despite all its talk about the united front, the party leadership has proved itself incapable of actually bringing it about. It is too inextricably tied down by its ultra-Left phrases, to be able to build up a movement on a broad basis. It can only conceive of that sort of a united front with the social democratic workers, which requires of the latter adherence to its own organizations. Its entire trade union work involves unsuccessful and impotent attempts at the erection of trade unions of its own.
The sectarianism of the party leadership goes to such great bounds, that the leadership of the S.P.G. can afford to offer a united front to the party through its spokesman, Breitscheid, although the social democrats fear the united front more than the devil himself. But they know only too well that the party will not at all try to force them to keep their word. So they can afford this maneuver as a concession to the sentiment within their ranks and to bring pressure on the bourgeoisie.
The real misfortune lies in the false strategy that is behind the whole tactic of the Communist Party, a strategy which, by disrupting the labor movement from within, is much more dangerous than the external enemy, the Fascists. The German Opposition has opened up a determined struggle against this strategy in its open letter. It bears on no less a question than that of evaluating the victory of the Fascists. After confusing the question for years, designating first the reformist, then the clerical government as Fascist, the Party today declares, in view of the threat of a Fascist victory: “The Fascist gentlemen do not frighten us ... They are going to go smash much faster than every other government.” (Remmele in the Reichstag, Oct. 14)
What does this mean? The Fascist upheaval is inevitable, we are not in a position to prevent it, but that is no cause to be worried, not a very great misfortune; the Fascists will very rapidly disintegrate; under their blows the united front will really have to be forged together, the victory of Fascism is a necessary step toward the victory of the proletariat. This ideology is not confined to the mouthpieces of the leadership alone, but has, unfortunately, infested the minds of many sincere members as well. All this sounds terribly radical. And yet behind the radical phraseology (not for the first time, as the Bulgarian June days have proved, among other things) there is concealed what is most despicable for revolutionaries, namely: capitulation. Their partial ideological capitulation before Fascism, arising with the “national program” and the “people’s revolution”, of necessity leads to what very nearly amounts to betrayal in practice.
The roots of this sentiment are quite obvious. They lie in the complete political impotence of the party in the face of its task to withstand the rise of Fascism by organizing the united front. As always, the Centrist bureaucracy is transforming its own incapability into a law of nature, and they still enjoy the confidence of the membership, which, with its equipment of ultra-Left phrases, likewise has no faith in the possibility of establishing the united front and gladly leave this task to Hitler. This sentiment is an expression of despair, signifying that the party has landed in a morass.
After the Prussian plebiscite, Trotsky very correctly wrote of the “school of bureaucratic centrism, as the school of capitulation” (witness China, Germany in 1923, England, Poland, Bulgaria, Finland, etc.). It is well known that Stalin counselled the German Communists even in 1923 not to seize power themselves, but to allow the Fascists to try their hand first. In the latest Centrist strategy of capitulation, the teaching of socialism in one country also plays a not unimportant part. They do not want to endanger Russian construction, which is to complete socialism in a few years, by risking a German revolution, but much prefer to do the one after the other, according to the bureaucratic calendar, forgetting all the while how greatly intervention is facilitated by this very tactic.
The one and only Marxist fashion of posing the question is to take into account the entire experiences of the international working class (Italy, etc.). “The victory of Fascism means the suppression of the German revolution for a period of years and almost certain death for the U.S.S.R. It is the revolutionary task of the German proletariat to prevent Fascism from seizing power. The fate of the proletariat is completely and entirely bound up with this problem.” (Open Letter of the German Opposition)
Their policy of despair is also expressed in the fact that, at a time when extra-parliamentary actions against Fascism and wage slashing constitute the only proper weapons, the party relies on parliamentary actions. Thus, it proposes the dissolution of the diet in Saxony, although the diet has become completely meaningless in the eyes of the masses, and although that can only result in a “united front” with the Fascists, as in Prussia, and thereby only serves to obstruct the genuine united front; and despite the fact that in contradistinction to the Prussian episode, it is quite clear in advance that the Fascists and not the party would be the beneficiaries of such an action. But such a policy of self-deception is quite in line with and completely justified by the latest strategy.
We are approaching the end of a certain phase of development. The ultra-Left phraseology ends in rotten opportunism, with a capitulationist ideology, which, transcribed into practise, is bound to bring much worse results than in 1923. It cannot be determined in advance whether Centrism will follow this path through to the end. It is precisely the nature of Centrism that makes more turns possible – and more adventurism. But the dangers of surrendering without a struggle are very great. For this reason, and precisely because Centrism is in a certain degree susceptible to persuasion, all forces must be set in motion against the disastrous strategy of despair. It is a matter of life and death for German, even for international Communism.
Last updated: 24.2.2013