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World Politics

Stalinists Lose in Germany

(4 November 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 44, 4 November 1946, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The first opportunity for the people of Berlin to express their political views since the assumption of power by Hitler, has resulted in a decisive victory for the Social Democratic Party and a resounding defeat for the Stalinist and conservative Catholic parties. The Social Democrats received 948,851 votes or just under 49 per cent; the Stalinist dominated “Socialist Unity Party” received 383,249, or less than 20 per cent; the conservative Christian Democratic Union received 432,016 votes; and the extreme right-wing Liberal Democratic Party was fourth with 181,875.

Recall the conditions of this election – the favored position of the Stalinist “Socialist Unity Party” (SED); the fact that it had four to five times as much newsprint allotment as the other parties; that the Social Democrats were banned in the section of Germany occupied by the Russians; that no party had the financial and administrative aid such as the Russians gave to the SED – and you will realize that the mere 20 per cent vote which the SED received is the most devastating and conclusive repudiation of Stalinist Russia yet made in any of the occupied areas of eastern Europe. And when it is further recalled that this repudiation has been administered not by backward peasants of a Balkan country, but by the workers of Berlin who, before the advent of Hitler, were overwhelmingly enrolled in the ranks of either the Social Democratic or Communist Party – then it becomes clear that the workers of Berlin have given a sign that they still retain at least some of their old class consciousness.

The Meaning of the Vote

What does this vote mean in the present situation? First and foremost that the workers of Berlin – despite years of Hitlerite repression and propaganda – continue to think within the working class and socialist tradition. They have had a sad experience with the Stalinists. The Russian armies came into Berlin as conquerors; they lorded it over the people of' Berlin in the same despotic manner in which they dominated the Balkans; they raped, they stole, they brutalized; they suppressed and terrorized those parties which would not be their servile agents. But they made one serious mistake – they failed to realize that the workers of Berlin had a great tradition, a tradition of independence and pride.

And so the first time that the population of Berlin had the opportunity to express itself it repudiated by an overwhelming majority the Stalinist puppet party, the SED, which had been created by a fake merger of Stalinists and a few scattered Social Democrats. Just as the workers of Berlin never accepted the totalitarianism of Hitler, so they do not accept the totalitarianism of Stalin. And this fact can only cause rejoicing among revolutionary socialists.

The workers of Berlin did not fall into the trap of voting for the old conservative church parties as a result of their disillusionment with the Stalinists. Half of the vote went to the Social Democrats – and since about 30 per cent went to the conservative parties, it is reasonable to suppose that the bourgeois elements of Berlin did not vote for the Social Democrats, but rather that the Social Democratic vote was largely working class.

Some Hope for the Future

Of course the Social Democracy itself is a bankrupt, inept and hopeless movement. In a sense it is an indication of the political disintegration of Europe that today in 1946 revolutionary socialists find comfort in the fact that the workers of Berlin are voting for the Social Democrats, while 20 years ago we were bending every effort to break the workers away from the reformist Social Democracy. But facts are stubborn – and the fact is that in the present specific situation the vote of the German workers should be hailed.

This does not of course mean that we in the slightest abate our criticisms of the Social Democracy. Quite the contrary. Only the day after their victory, which came as a complete surprise to them, the German Social Democrats admitted that they were at a loss for what to do with their newly acquired power. Traditionally they have played the role of subservient agent of their native capitalist class. And that is the role they will continue to play in relation to Anglo-American imperialism.

The Social Democracy remains a working class movement, reformist and inept, unable to solve the basic problems of society because of its unwillingness to abolish capitalism – but still a working class movement in which there is a measure of internal democracy and a degree of sensitivity to working class pressure. That the electorate of Berlin, therefore, chose to support this party, with all its shortcomings, as against the Stalinist and capitalist parties is an encouraging political symptom. Encouraging that is, for the opportunities it offers to whatever revolutionary regroupings may today be taking place in Germany.

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