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Sam Gordon

The German Dilemma: Communism or Fascism?

The C.P.G. in the Campaign

(October 1930)

From The Militant, Vol. III No. 31, 1 October 1930, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The outcome of the German elections has been a violent – though not unexpected – political shake-up, an indication of the rapid shifting of class forces that has been taking place for some time – to be precise since the adoption of the Young Plan. The enormous Fascist victory and the quite substantial gains of the Communist Party are only the beginning of a radical trend which German politics will follow in the days to come. We may yet witness many vacillations in the degree of influence of the Fascists and the C.P.G. during the course of developments, but with the increasing enslavement of the German proletariat through unemployment, taxation and wage cuts; with the progressive impoverishment and deceasing of the small bourgeoisie due to the ruthless attempt of the capitalist class to force the burden of the reparations on the lower classes, the dilemma: Fascism or Communism, is definitely on the order of the day in Germany. With such a perspective before us, it would be well to review the progress of the German Communist Party, to inspect its forces and fighting ability. The elections brought the Party a gain of over 1,000,000 votes, not be overestimated in importance when we consider the almost octupled increase of the Fascists (over 5,000,000!), but nevertheless a great advance, especially taking into account the gains in such a strategic center as Berlin, where the Communists surpassed the social democrats and became the strongest party. However, we must ask ourselves: How did the Party face the elections? How did it appeal to the workers on this occasion? These questions are indispensable for a real accounting.

The C.P.G.’s Programmatic Declaration

And here we receive as an answer the amazingly shameless document known as the Programmatic Declaration of the C.P.G. on the National and Social Emancipation of the German People: It is a document whose very title betrays it to be a petty bourgeois electioneering device, an unscrupulous means of competing with the demagogic “national” slogans of the Fascists, the Hitlerites. It points out the social democracy to the masses not so much as the agent of the German bourgeoisie, but as “the voluntary agents of French and Polish imperialism”; it speaks of their “high treason” in almost the same tones as Hitler does; finally, it sees the “point of departure of the enslavement of all German workers” in the “Versailles robber treaty”! Not the class rule of the German bourgeoisie, but the Versailles treaty, which is the summary of the struggle between the German and the Allied imperialists has become the “point of departure of the enslavement of all German workers”! As a consequence, the necessity of the struggle for immediate demands against the capitalist offensive at home is shelved or reduced to insignificance, the entire election campaign is centered around the irresponsible and all too general slogan: “In the event of our seizing power we shall declare null and void all obligations arising out of the Versailles Peace”. A very strong echo of the “national-Bolshevik” deviations of the German infantile “Lefts” of 1919 (Laufenberg-Wolfheim) and of the Brandlerites in 1923.

Lenin gave the “national-Bolsheviks” and the infantile “Lefts” of 1919 the proper Marxist reproof. It still holds good today for the Thaelmanns and Neumanns, and all those who carry out the Centrist, nationally limited line of Stalin in Germany.

Lenin’s View

“We Communists,” wrote Lenin, “are not at all bound to repudiate the Versailles treaty – or what is more, to repudiate it immediately. The possibility of successfully repudiating the treaty depends not only upon the German, but also upon the international success of the Soviet movement.” (Left Wing Communism)

The election campaign, with the crassly nationalist note that accompanied it, was the purest expression of ultra-Left opportunism. At a time when the oppression of the masses is heading for a crisis, when it is necessary, in a campaign of broad struggle to break the ground for the decisive blows against the class enemy by a sharply outlined, patient and sober campaign to win authority and leadership among the workers, the German Party leadership offered nothing more than the as yet vague slogan of a Soviet Germany.

That this slogan of necessity expressed the immediate reaction of over four and a half million German workers is gratifying, to be sure. But what guarantee is there that these workers, who thus voiced their dissatisfaction with the existing regime and their desire for a workers’ Germany, will follow the Party in the struggle beyond the ballot box? Do the recent economic struggles, perhaps, offer such a guarantee? No, indeed! The defeats of Mansfeld and the Northwest in July of this year, the latest in a whole string of strike failures since the Ruhr fight of 1928, bespeak the contrary.

In a moment of splendid opportunity for mass work in the factories and in the broad working class organizations the Party leadership present an ultra-Left sounding parliamentary spectacle to the German working class, hiding its real impotence to cope with the situation as a Bolshevik Party should. The nationalistic mimicry of the Fascists, heaped upon the general confusionist theories of “social-fascism” and the “immediate revolutionary situation” with all their subsequent isolationist tactics, keep the Party corralled, bound, unable to carry out its historic task.

The Capitalist Offensive

Immediately after the papier-mache “victory” of the elections, the fierce, all-round offensive of the bourgeoisie is only coming into its real swing, is gaining its full amplitude. A Times dispatch, dated Berlin, September 26, reports:

“The conscription of labor probably will replace the system of unemployment doles in the government’s new program of financial reforms, and it will be only one of several innovations to which recourse will be taken in a final attempt to prevent the collapse of Germany’s financial structure.

“The government’s plane include also an increase in the number of indirect taxes in the move to reduce direct imposts ... In keeping with its scheme for cuts in production costs and retail prices, the government intends to reach an agreement with the trade unions providing for a reduction of 10 percent in wages.”

The drive of the capitalist class against the standard of living of the working class, for the abolition of even the meager “dole” is coming to a head. The social democracy, in the Mueller coalition government, in the yellow trade unions, has supported this drive by the most revolting acts of treachery and deception. But as yet not even the most elementary steps have been taken to organize the proletarian defensive which, would reveal the true countenance of fascism and social democracy before the workers.

The Role of the Thaelmanns

Confined in its stifling atmosphere of self-deception and illusion, the Party leadership has failed to do its duty. It is not yet too late to regain lost time, to repair the Party and prepare it for the historic battles to come. Our German Opposition comrades are leading in the fight to unmask the incapable epigonic Thaelmann-Neumann leadership before the Party, to instigate the membership to throw off the shackling theory of “social fascism” and all its tactical deductions, as well as the whole dangerous playing with “national-Bolshevik” phrases, to rehabilitate and reconstitute it as the weapon of the working class, now more indispensable than ever.

The struggle to follow, the fight against unemployment, for the seven hour day, for credits to the Soviet Union, for a broad defensive against wage cuts, will in Germany, as here and everywhere, prove the justice of the policy of the Left Opposition. We, the Leninists of the entire world, know the import of the coming class struggles in Germany. It is for this reason that we look ahead with such anxiety towards the progress of the German Party, fighting for its renovation and the Comintern’s, in order to help that “international success of the Soviet movement” which alone can forever tear up the Versailles Treaties, the Young Plans and every other remnant of capitalist class rule.

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