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S. Gordon

Conditions of the German Workers
and the Communists

(March 1930)

Throughout the World of Labor, The Militant, Vol. III No. 13, 29 March 1930, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


The past few weeks have evidenced new surges in the unemployment wave. Each month adds at least 40,000 new recruits to the army of the jobless. But the work is still in the stage of ascent and has not at all reached its high point as yet. No one has any illusions about this. Quite the contrary:

The statistical publication of the Institut für Konjunkturforschung reckons with an enormous growth of unemployment in the spring, due to the matriculation and introduction into industry of about half a million young workers, apprentices. This is aside from the regular conjunctural increases (seasonal, etc.). It adds: that in order to keep unemployment from becoming menacingly critical, Germany would have to increase its exports at the present rate of 100 million Reichsmarks per month. Which looks quite impossible at present.

Another issue of the same periodical reports a semi-monthly decrease of 0.1% in the consumption of nourishing foods among the working class population. When we keep in mind the recent fall of prices in eggs, milk, butter, meat, “colonial wares” (cocoa, etc.) and in food products in general, we can realize the importance of even such a “harmless” figure to its full extent.

Unemployment, and the reduction of maintenance for the unemployed (Hilferding only prepared the ground for a steady procedure towards the liquidation of the maintenance) in direct proportion to each other and – inversely with food consumption. Three million unemployed – with their families this means: nine million beings on starvation rations. This means the most gruesome misery for one-seventh of the population, a fate that awaits millions more in the period to come.

Bourgeoisie on the Offensive

So intrenched has the ruling class become with the aid of their reformist lackeys, that it has resolved to discard them completely from their employ in politics and to subjugate them completely in their service as trade union agents. The bourgeoisie are out for the whole booty. In a recent number of its official organ, the Arbeitgeber, it demands of the A.D.G.B. leaders, half in threat, half in entreaty, full subordination. It demands that the reformist bureaucracy surrender the “American” ‘theory that high wages bring prosperity’; it demands of them (who have shown such concern for the “recuperation” of “German” industry, for the promotion of the “national” export trade, etc.) a promise not to ask for a wage increase when most of the wage-agreements in the metal and textile industries terminate (in the spring and fall of this year). Because, they entreat: all the benefits that you and we, in our concentrated efforts to “unburden industry” by recoiling from all mention of industrial increases, by stuffing the Young plan obligations upon the “broad” shoulders of the proletariat – because, all this noble work which we have accomplished for the “national weal” – will be spoiled by such a demand.

Social Democrats Continue to Sell Out Workers

And they hold up the shining example of sacrifice that Bill Green and the other darlings of the American bourgeoisie made lor the “common good”, when these A.F. of L. fakers, in the now famous conference with Hoover and the bosses, promised not to “annoy” the latter with similar demands in “the period of national crisis”.

The reformists will capitulate here too – according to precedent. For the ultimate good of their economic philosophy is the accumulation of capital for the promotion of the export trade and the capitalist import. No sacrifice, no working class sacrifice, is too great for these reptiles who still have the audacity to call themselves representatives of the workers. (In their zeal for betrayal they are far to the Right of even some bourgeois liberals, like the well-known economist, Prof. Bernhard, who sees a solution to the capitalists’ troubles in price sinking in the domestic market, in place of what he calls wasteful dumping on the foreign market.) The main things for them are the government posts and their salaries. For the sake of these, everything else will be surrendered. Amsterdam and the A.D.G.B. have moved so far in the direction of Mathew Woll, that it becomes really difficult to find the least distinction between them. Each delivers the goods to the national bosses. Each according to the local needs.

The Attacks on the Workers’ Organizations

Naturally, the economic offensive of the bosses is only the axis of an offensive all along the line. While the unemployed are being robbed of their last support, the bourgeoisie are feverishly arming the soldiers of civil war, the police. The state budget “cannot” meet its slightest obligations to the starving, but it can and does proportion enormous sums for the equipment of churches and for every other means of strangling the working class. But the hungry masses can’t and won’t let themselves be intimidated by the blackjacks of the police, by lead balls, or by horses’ hoofs. There is a limit to silent suffering.

The bosses and their social-democratic police sergeants think that by slandering the Soviet Union, that by jailing the editors of the militant labor press, that by dissolving the proletarian defense organizations and by driving the leader of the working class, the Communist Party, underground, they will stifle the angry protest of the hungry nine millions. They will be sadly disappointed.

The party, overpowered and made impotent by its hazardous course of empty phrases, is struggling to disentangle itself from the self-imposed shackles. It is having a very hard time. It has lost many positions in the trade unions; a rebellion has spread among its own functionaries.

The Opportunism of the Brandlerites

Now that the militant spirit of solidarity has really impregnated a broad layer of workers and unemployed, with and without the aid of the Party, the Brandlerists are very reticent with “positive proposals” for action, of which they usually have their mouths full. The 6th of March they don’t consider worth noticing. Instead of making any move for a united front (desired or not) with the Party, to exploit the favorable situation for immediate action, the programists, the apostles of “mass work”, are concentrating all their attention to win the trade union rebels of the Party for their factional platform. Their “emergency program” is an opportunist piece of work. It appeals for a broad proletarian defensive struggle, for immediate demands for relief and unburdening of the masses. Very good. But it does not point out a single guiding principle, by which the social democratic, Catholic workers can find their way after the experiences of the impending struggles, into the red front of the proletarian revolution, into the ranks of the Communists.

The Need For a Clear Left Communist Opposition

The Communist Party is in agony. The leaders are helpless. They have shown themselves as pitifully incompetent as theoreticians and, consequently, as organizers. A strong left opposition, clear in principles, homogeneous in its own ranks, equipped with a real bolshevik platform and an unequivocal attitude toward the role of the Party, could fill a burning need in Germany at present. The masses are ready to begin the struggle, which is to mold them into a solid phalanx against the tottering capitalist order.

March 2nd


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