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Crimes of Stalin

Lydia Beidel

The Crimes of Stalin

I. How Stalin Throttled the German
Proletarian Revolution – 1923

(1 November 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 44, 1 November 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Background of 1923 Events

In Germany: The full and horrible implications of the Versailles peace had become apparent. Mass starvation ravaged and haunted the proletariat; the petty-bourgeoisie was being rapidly ruined; a catastrophic inflation menaced all of society. The French ruling class, taking its pound of German flesh, occupied the rich coal and industrial area of the Ruhr.

In January 1923, the Social-Democracy was driven out of power by the open capitalist regime of Cuno, which began an offensive against the working class in order to satisfy the demands of the Allies and to stabilize German capitalism. By the second week of August, Cuno’s government was driven out of power by a general strike.

Mass unrest and definite mood for revolution (recognized and admitted even by Stalin’s closest henchmen after it was too late) characterized the German proletariat.

In the Communist International: Lenin was ill; Trotsky had been isolated by the Troika (an anti-Trotsky alliance of Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev).

Problem Facing the German Communists

The Social-Democracy had disclosed itself in all its nakedness as a willing tool of capitalism against the socialist objectives of the working class. The remaining sterile shell of the Independent Social- Democratic Party spent itself in loud talk but did nothing.

Every shop election, every governmental election, indicated a steady growth of the influence of the Communist Party. The rival parties of the working class showed rapid disintegration and the masses gravitated toward the C.P., looking there for leadership and decisive action.

The obvious political necessity of the German Communists was to cut loose from any parliamentary flirtations with the Social-Democrats and prepare to strike for power – against the Versailles peace and for socialism.

Stalin’s Policy

In a letter to Zinoviev and Bukharin in August 1923, Stalin thus clearly formulated his attitude toward the situation in Germany:

“Should the Communists strive (at the given stage) to seize power without the Social Democrats? Have they sufficiently matured for that? – that’s the question as I see it ... Should the power in Germany, so to speak, drop now, and should the Communists catch it up, they’ll fall through with a crash. That’s ‘at best’. But if it comes to the worst – they will be smashed to pieces and beaten back ... The Fascists, of course, are not napping, but it is to our advantage to let the Fascists attack first: this will fuse the entire working class around the Communists (Germany is not Bulgaria). Moreover, the Fascists, according to all reports, are weak in Germany. In my opinion, the Germans should be restrained and not encouraged.”

Here we have the fatal germs of the false policy which today has allowed Fascism to reach the very gates of Moscow: Don’t launch an offensive against fascism! Let it kill itself by feasting upon the body of the working class! Give it state power – or give it Soviet territory, – only don’t organize the masses for revolutionary assault!

Actions of Stalin

Brandler, the leading figure of the German Communist party, journeyed to Moscow in September, seeking the advice and aid of the Comintern in this critical situation. He was instructed by Stalin-Zinoviev-Kamenev to use the influence of the German party against any attempt to seize power and instead to enter with the Social-Democrats into the government of Saxony. Brandler vacillated. Stalin’s line was acceptable to him because he himself was a Centrist.

From then on, the Communist Party of Germany deliberately discouraged all mass demonstrations and barred all the avenues to the struggle for power. Abortive uprisings in Saxony and Bavaria, products of the spontaneous but unguided revolutionary spirit of the masses, were drowned in blood by the German bourgeoisie. Stalin-Brandler, working toward an amorphous “workers’ government” and away from the dictatorship of the proletariat, betrayed the German revolution of 1923 and cleared the way for the future ascendancy of Fascism.

Effect upon the World Revolutionary Movement

Upon realization that the Communist Party of Germany was unwilling to conduct a revolutionary struggle under the most auspicious conditions, the workers turned away from the C.P. The party was declared illegal; more than 9,000 workers were put on trial. There was an epidemic of “prison suicides” and of workers being “shot while attempting to escape.”

When Trotsky finally succeeded in bringing to the attention of the Comintern the strangling of the German revolution, Stalin vehemently defended Brandler (and thus himself) and renewed his attack upon Marxism and Leninism, under the guise of a struggle against Trotskyism.

The German revolution – and the world revolution – had received its first stab in the back at the hands of Stalin. By that time the General Secretary was well along in his career as the great “organizer of proletarian defeats.”

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