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S. Gordon

An Oppositionist in Berlin

(December 1929)

Letters from the Militants, The Militant, Vol. II, No. 21, 21 December 1929, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Dear Comrades:

The Party is facing a pretty serious situation. Based on Thaelmann’s estimation of the revolutionary ripeness of conditions, the party press is developing ever more and more a “barrikadenphilosophie”. At the other end, the social democracy, Severing, Zoergiebel and Co., are more than meeting the fighting manifestoes of the Rote Fahne half way. After the general appeal of the party against the prohibition of the Red Front Fighters, the R.F. wrote that “all that the masses need is arms” and the police would be beaten to bits. At the Red October demonstration in Lustgarten the police answered with fighting cordons of Schupo (police) ready to attack. The nervousness of the police and the increasing boldness of the R.F. lead many outsiders to believe that the party has something up its sleeve, especially since it openly and daringly quotes Lenin’s letter of September 17.

But from all that is apparent, the organizational weakness of the party can be felt. The party lost the cable-layers’ strike, it failed to organize a militant resistance to the reduction of unemployment insurance and has not at all reacted on the Young Plan. I can’t put my finger on anything definite, but witnessing demonstrations and meetings gives me the impression that the German Communist Party is not prepared for the task it seems to have out out for itself. I hope I have a wrong impression.

To add to this, there are the scandals in which party leaders or former leaders have had a hand. This doesn’t increase – to say the least – the confidence of the masses in the party. Outside of that there is the struggle in the leadership itself. Neumann and Remmele vs. Thaelmann. A temporary truce seems to have been established but the whole affair breathes ill omens.

Brandler is developing along the lines indicated by comrade Trotsky in his various letters. He has established pretty firm connections with the Czecho-Slovakian, the French (Alsace-Lorraine) and the Austrian Rights, no doubt with Lovestone too. The strength of the Brandlerists here in Berlin is negligible. In the province there may be a different story. Thalheimer is making a great play for the shaky elements among the party members and the left social democrats with his “national program”, which is an opportunist reform platform slightly favored with Leninist phrases. in contrast to the Stalinists, who call it the party of Lenin, the Brandlerists speak of the party of Liebknecht and Luxemburg. This seems significant to me. There lies a grain of their opportunist aims. Further, they bring forth the point that they mean to follow Lenin “in spirit”, i.e., the “spirit” of Leninism, not its words (as – they saw – the Stalinists do, with their long quotations).

M.N. Roy is their Comintern expert. He writes long and demagogical articles, as equivocal as can be, about the leadership In the C.I. and the C.P.S.U., about democratic centralization, organizational problems, etc. On the first point, he is willing to give the C.P.S.U. a “place of honor” in the C.I. and nothing more. He begins by saying that the C.P.S.U. is quite correct in its line in Russia, only to end up with the old Bucharinist arguments about the collapse of the financial system etc.

On the second point, he speaks of each party “working out its own national problems and the collective elaboration of the international problems,” which means leaving a minimum of points for a program of international action, or a revival of the pre-war Second International. Number three: he thinks that since the parties, according to Piatnitsky’s last report, have not been able up to now to build their organizations on a factory nucleus system, they will never be able to do so and ought to give up the idea – which would make room for a broad opportunist policy in the trade unions.

Most generally, the writers in Gegen den Strom (Brandlerist central organ) draw the analogy between the crisis in the First International before its disruption and the present crisis in the Comintern. They seem to predict that just as the First International broke up because of anarchism, the Tihrd will break up because of the ultra-Leftism of the present line which, they say, is akin to anarchism. Then they go on to speak of decades of peaceful growth and the need of mass parties “for which the Second International was founded” and so on ... The birth of the Fourth International? By the dialectical fates it is thus willed! Already Hausen wants the slogan to be issued: We must become THE party and Thalheimer may shout ten times: “We are only a tendency (richtung) in Communism”, but the little speculation about “where the present line may end” breathes unmistakably with Hausen’s words and spirit.

There is much to write about the Leninbund, but at present I’ll confine myself to a few points.

From all appearance, the Leninbund itself and the International Left wing as well are passing through a severe critical period. In such a period it should be the duty of the various Left leaders to strive for clarification, for precision in theory and tactic. Unfortunately, we get no such picture from the doings in the Leninbund.

Aside from the internal weaknesses there is a lack of sharp demarcation from the Rights. In more than one case, articles in the Volkswille might easily have fitted into Gegen den Strom, especially those articles of a critical nature. But to get back to the internal troubles. The muddled theoretical articles of Urbahns in the Fahne des Kommunismus remind me a great deal of the party discussion in the U.S. before the last convention, where the ingenious “apex” and “exceptionalism” theories were ingeniously balled up. The same sort of hash is served us by Urbahns in his theory of the hybrid state (Zwitterstaat). After the attacks of Trotsky and the Leninbund minority, he has twisted and bent it until it looks like a pretzel. Born to defend the unclear and equivocal position he had taken in the Sino-Russian question, the theory is now the basis of the entire line of the Leninbund majority led by him.

He took Trotsky’s theory of the Kerensky up-side-down period as a base. Naturally, we would assume such a period to be one in which government (the representative in this reversed state of the proletariat, as then, the bourgeoisie) is defending “incompetently” the last positions of its class. But Urbahns does not seem to want to think naturally. He leaves Trotsky here and goes back to quote from Lenin against him. Without the slightest understanding and in the best eclectic manner, he draws in the self-evidence argument of Engels, which Lenin discussed in State and Revolution, viz., that even after the revolution, the classes do not immediately cease to exist, that for a long time the economically stronger class remains the bourgeoisie, because of its international connections, etc.

Combining this with the Marxist theory (in a most blind manner) that the state is the organ of the economically stronger class, he produces his Q.E.D.: Stalin represents the bourgeoisie in truth, but only sways between the classes at present for some mysterious reasons. But if the state is the organ of the economically stronger class, and the bourgeoisie, long after the revolution, necesarily remains the stronger class, we can ask the question: Did not Lenin then also represent the bourgeoisie (in reality!)? Which is what the ultra-Lefts actually claimed at the time of the Nep …


With revolutionary greetings,

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