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E. Bauer

Rumblings in the German Social Democracy

(January 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 5 (Whole No. 101), 30 January 1932, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

LEIPZIG, GERMANY – The “counter-revolutionary” situation, that is, the situation immediately preceding the Fascist overthrow, also has its peculiar laws and phenomenon.

Apart from the objective factors, a certain weakening of the social democracy (without strengthening Communism and accompanied by a general demoralization of the working class) is required to make the social democracy incapable of securing the further existence of bourgeois society outside of its Fascist form. Furthermore, this requires the going over of the decisive, hitherto “democratic” sections of the big bourgeoisie to Fascism. In the last two weeks these two processes have developed rather rapidly in Germany. A fast tempo was conditioned – not in the last place – by the abrupt aggravation of the crisis, which proceeded in the trail of the events in England, especially those concerning the British tariffs which are ruinous for German trade.

Insofar as the turn of opinion in the bourgeoisie is concerned I should like to stop for a moment, first of all, on the field of the political super-structure, on the press. It is of the greatest significance that a sheet of such world importance and democratic traditions, as the Frankfurter Zeitung, demands in all earnestness and with the greatest determination – a Bruening-Hitler coalition. It can easily be understood from this turn of opinion that the bourgeoisie is persecuting with the greatest brutality all its outsiders who have remained true to the old liberal traditions, who have remained anti-Fascists. In number 37 of the Militant, the case of the editor Ossietsky has already been mentioned. The case of editor Hoellering is likewise important. On the demand of the Minister of the Reichswehr, Groener (who has breakfasted more than once with Hitler) he was discharged by the Jewish democratic publishing house of Ullstein, without notice because he had revealed the air armaments of Hitler’s private army! It is also typical that the hitherto “republican” police officers of Severing have openly declared their solidarity with a major who has been brought up on charges because of anti-republican activity (that is, by the way, a contribution to the reformist practice of the “peaceful acquisition of the state apparatus”). We are intentionally quoting only such examples as have to do with the camp of the formerly democratic bourgeoisie. As to the direct and stormy growth of the National “Socialists”, enough has already been said to make things clear to everybody. The social democrats are supporting with suicidal steadfastness the emergency decree policy of Bruening which clears the road economically and politically for Fascism. On the other hand, the dissatisfaction in the ranks of their proletarian following, whose wages or unemployment dole are constantly being cut and who watch the continual growth of Fascism with great misgivings, is also very great. An expression of this dissatisfaction can be found in the enormous election losses of the S.P.G. and all the lesser elections of recent months (about 25 per cent). Unfortunately, we must however admit that the C.P.G. instead of gaining more and more of these S.P.G. votes gets less and less of them and that a continually growing section is becoming altogether indifferent. An expression of dissatisfaction was also the expulsion of the opposition and the creation of the centrist S.A.P.D. (Socialist Labor Party), through which the leadership of the Socialist Party hoped to attain peace. They succeeded, to be sure, in repelling the organized opposition but the spontaneous dissatisfaction in the S.P.G. and the trade unions has not ceased to continue to grow. The S.P.G. is still seized with disintegration.

An expression of the pressure of the membership for struggle, for action, was the united front proposal of Breitscheid, which the C.P.G. answered with the “genial” slogan “the S.P.G. is the main enemy”. (This wisdom coincides with another, to wit, “there is no difference between democracy and Fascism” and forms the main thesis of the “turn article” of Thaelmann which the Militant (No. 37) has dealt with before. It is clear that we must declare a sharp struggle against this fundamental tendency as expressed by the Thaelmann article and that we must explain to the party membership which is being deceived by the modest and incomplete criticism which Thaelmann practices on the question of the “peoples’ revolution”, on capitulation and individual terror – that it is not a matter of an actual turn, in order to drive them forward. The “self-criticism” of the bureaucrats must be utilized, but we must not permit them to exploit it, we must stigmatize their half measures and their doublefacedness.) This tactic, naturally, aided the Breitscheids who have created a combine of all republican organizations after “convincing” their followers that a united front with the Communists is impossible. This combine, which they boastfully dub “the iron front” will, to be sure, accomplish very little insofar as the Fascists are concerned, but it will contribute a great deal to the paralyzation of the proletarian forces!

Since it is impossible for the S.P.G. to change its policy of betrayal, it has to attempt, by means of personal changes in the leadership, to create among its membership the illusion of a change in direction. These personal changes are also signs of the internal crisis. And the fact that the leader of the Reichs Banner, the infamous and notorious Hoersing has been deposed, is only a sign of how deep-going the crisis is.

While the membership turns to the Left, the leaders (Severing, Heilmann) are travelling ever more openly toward the Right and it is due to the idiotic policy of the C.P.G. alone that these contradictions do not come more rapidly and more openly to a head. The Stalinist leadership, far from changing its course, has begun, on the contrary, to carry on in Germany too, an insidious, noisy and filthy struggle against “Trotskyism”, especially since it is beginning to feel more and more the strong reaction, the deep echo to the latest pamphlets by comrade Trotsky in Germany, on which the entire press was forced to comment, and which are being quoted everywhere.

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