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S. Gordon

The Sanction of Betrayal at Leipzig

(July 1931)

In the International of Labor, The Militant, Vol. IV No. 13, 4 July 1931, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

At the beginning of June, the Social Democratic Party of Germany held its convention at Leipzig. Like the convention of the French socialists meeting simultaneously at Tours, it was a manifestation of the crassest sort of parliamentary cretinism. The actual problems confronting the German proletariat were painfully avoided. All the sessions were occupied in the main with inner party machinations.

The organizational report presents us with a picture of a big reform party, strengthened and consolidated in the years of revolutionary ebb, on the back of the disastrous defeat of the proletarian upsurge in 1923 – and at the cost of the vacillating, adventurist policies of Stalinist centrism. A party one million string, and what is for us even of greater import, proletarian to the extent of 50 percent of its composition. This great, organized proletarian mass is a decisive factor in the German class struggle and one with which the Communists must reckon. During the period of reaction, the defeated, scattered proletariat has been able to slowly collect its forces again, to rebuild its political and trade union organizations. Fatigued by the heavy defeat the working class was open largely to a reformist ideology, to contentment with wresting away mere crumbs from the table of the resuscitated and rehabilitated bourgeoisie. The social democracy took advantage of the situation.

Today the bourgeoisie is once again gripped by a crisis. The “generous” American imperialists who gave it a helping hand in 1924, are themselves in the midst of an economic debacle, the Hoover “moratorium” does not enjoy the support of France, herself facing a growing economic slump, as did the Dawes plan. The German bourgeoisie is on the offensive against the workers. It is trying to hold itself erect by taking it out on the bodies of the proletarians. Social legislation, the puny gains of the workers in long years of patient, tenacious struggle is slashed out of existence under the knife of the ruthless capitalist class. For the workers it is no longer a question of “snatching crumbs”, but of retaining them. And this desperate defensive light is inseparably bound up with the struggle for existence itself. The social democrats by their entire “policy of tolerance” toward the reactionary, anti-working class Bruening government are playing their customary role of ignominious treachery against the workers who follow it. What is this policy based on? Every concession must be made to Bruening so as to avoid the onslaught of fascism! In order to avoid the institution of a formally fascist government, every act that directly prepares and paves the road for a victorious, unresisted fascist overturn is sanctioned. The class consciousness of the workers is lulled to sleep, the rising spirit of class revolt dampened. The Leipzig convention indirectly, but with an overwhelming majority approved this policy of stabbing the working class in the back.

The social democracy itself is slipping down more and more from its shamefully gotten government posts. Bruening is extending the government base to the extreme Right. But the socialists are still cowardly exerting every effort to keep their workers back from open resistance. Bruening cuts and slashes the last vestiges of working class legislation. The socialists are behind him. Bruening instead, uses the budget for the construction of armored cruisers. The socialists give their acquiescence. Now, an entire party convention is devoted to chastising the nine “Left” social democratic deputies who refused to vote for the armored cruiser “B”, because they see the influence of the “party” damaged by this act in the eyes of the workers. And here even “the nine” capitulate.

“The unity of the party must be preserved at all costs”! Unity for what? Unity in the attempt to uphold the crumbling capitalist regime, to act as “physicians to the sick bourgeoisie”, as Tar-[?] now declared in the main report before the convention. “Is the working class prepared for struggle?”, asked one of the delegates. He was answered with a thunderous roar of yes. Then why all this cautiousness? Why all this fear of struggle? Because the proletariat in struggle spells the bankruptcy of the social democracy and the conciliation of the proletarian mass with the Communist vanguard.

The social democratic mass is fermenting with revolt. The working masses are no longer inclined to suffer the abuses of the hostile government. The latest “Emergency Decree” of the Bruening government was met with volleys of stormy protest from every section of the country. The more enlightened bourgeoisie realize its danger. Thus, the Berliner Tageblatt pathetically appeals to the great “stable party of the German citizenry” to cease its policy of tolerating the Bruening government to head off the tempestuous revolt of the masses. But the social democratic lackeys are even more reactionary than these layers of the bourgeoisie, they are determined to go to the last ditch – for their capital[ist masters.]

Already the rebellion within the very ranks of the social democracy itself is deepening. While the convention was in session at Leipzig, the former Reichstag deputy Jacobshagen and numerous local groups of social democrats and social democratic youth declared their adherence to the Communist party. In the galleries of the convention hall at Leipzig, the voice of the social democratic rank and file made itself heard more than once, in the almost unanimous applause for the isolated delegates of the extreme Left, in the cheers at the mention of the Soviet Union, etc. The social democratic workers will not tolerate the treacherous, kowtowing passivity of their leaders much longer. Their last conquests are being wiped out by the government of fascist preparation. Unemployment insurance cut in half. The burden of taxes heaped higher on the workers’ backs. The Schiele Wheat Laws make the cost of living unbearable. Democratic rights are summarily suspended with the full collaboration of the social democratic police commissioners. At Leipzig, the S.P. fell victim to a decree against demonstrations promulgated by their “own” police commissioner, Fleissner. Against all this, the social democratic workers are prepared to fight with the rest of their class, despite and, in due time, even against their ignoble leaders.

The way to unite all workers in common struggle lies in the united front under the leadership of the Communist party. The social democratic workers cannot be won over for united struggle by Thaelmann’s denunciation of their leaders as social fascists, nor by empty appeals to break with Breitscheid, Wels and Co., to join the C.P.G. They can and will be convinced of the correctness of the Communist positions, and lined up for the red front of proletarian victory, by united action against the outrageous decrees of the Bruening government, by united struggle against wage reductions and for economic collaboration with the U.S.S.R. Up to the present the Communist party, hampered by its centrist baggage, has been unable to take full advantage of this promising situation. The sooner the German Communists rid themselves of their confused and vacillating Stalinist leadership, with their slogans of “national liberation” and the “people’s revolution”, with their theories of “social fascism” and their splitting tactics in the trade unions the quicker will the mass of workers still under the influence of the social democracy be liberated from it, the quicker will they become attached to the Communist vanguard, the quicker will the road be cleared of all reformist obstacles for the victorious upsurge of the proletarian revolution.

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