Philips Price

The Latest Phase of the German Revolution

Source: The Call, April 22, 1920, p. 2
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

It is an axiom of military strategy in Imperialist wars to seek out the weakest spot in the enemy lines and to strike hardest at this. The same principle is true in the conflict of classes. The Kapp-Luettwitz coup on March 13th was a perfect example of a junker-capitalist offensive against the proletariat, with insufficient material resources behind it. The front of the reaction was thereby opened to attacks from the forces of the organised German workers. Did the workers make use of this strategical blunder of the counter-revolution, and if not, why not? That question needs answering, in order to understand the new phase, in which the German Revolution has entered.

To all appearances the Kapp-Luettwitz coup brought about the status quo ante. The coalition was maintained, shielding, as all coalitions do, a dictatorship of the propertied classes and of the industrial kings. The coup showed, however, that for the first time in Germany the lower middle classes, the lower grades of the bureaucracy and the Trade Union officials, could be mobilised against a reactionary dictatorship, as soon as the latter left its “democratic” cover and appeared in the open. For the first time one could see conservative Trade Union leaders on the same platform with Left Socialist groups. For the first time the former signed proclamations which, if carried out, could mean nothing less than the social revolution. But as always happens, as soon as the reaction went back under cover again, the revolutionary speeches were forgotten and the programme shelved. The Majority Socialists and the Labour aristocracy are not, however, saved from danger of a second coup. The Prussian reaction does not like to work behind screens. Moreover, the ever increasing economic anarchy and the fall in production must cause the reaction to increase terrorist methods and thus come out more and more into the open, if it still pretends to power.

The question may well be asked, why did not the parties of the Left make more use of the strategical blunder of the counter revolution For instead of profiting by the Kapp-Luettwitz coup and by the temporary paralysis of the bourgeois state apparatus to establish some form of control over the government through workers councils, as in the Ruhr, the left wing Socialists in Berlin allowed several days to pass without doing anything at all. The initiative was thus left wholly in the hands of the Trade Union bureaucracy and of the Majority Socialists. The Independent Socialists showed themselves in the crisis to be what they really are—a large amorphous and unwieldy mass, retaining within them every shade of revolutionary opinion. The Kautsky element of the party, which has much influence over the Central Committee, made use of its opportunity to co operate with the Majority Socialists and to work for its cherished idea the reunion of the German Social Democratic Party. Thus a new Socialist Middle Block has come into existence, stretching from the “Beamtenbund” (the union of the lower grade bureaucracy) to the Kautsky independents and the Majority Socialists. The watchword of this Block is a “Labour government.” But it is clear that it does not abandon the basic principle of parliamentary democracy and only approves of a very mild form of control through workmen’s organisations. Its attitude is somewhat similar to that of the Kerensky elements in the Soviets during the March revolution in Russia.

On the other hand the rank and file Independents from the industrial centres, who in Berlin follow the leadership of Daeumig and in Middle Germany the leadership of Kurt Geyer, are now for all practical purposes in alliance with the official Communist Party, as founded at its first conference in January of last year. This new alliance of the revolutionary Left came into existence when it was clear that the Socialist Middle Block was unable to carry through its programme of a Labour Government and a peaceful disarming of the Prussian military reaction. For the latter has succeeded once more in getting behind the middle class parties in the Reichstag and in finding more Noskes to camouflage their activities. Another important factor which favours the prospects of the new alliance of the revolutionary Left is the factory councils which are appearing in most industrial centres. Ever since August of last year these councils and shop committees in Berlin and Middle Germany have been compelled to lead an illegal existence under the persecution of the Noske regime. The events of the 13th March have enabled them to look up again and to hold meetings freely. They have thus become once more the factory organisations, formed for political purposes among the most class-conscious section of the proletariat. As such they are the chief support of the Daeumig Independents and of the official Communists—in other words, of the revolutionary Left.

The weakness in the revolutionary Left is now due mainly to the split within the ranks of the Communist parties. The old or official Communist party has expelled its Left wing opposition, which included the local organisations of Berlin, Hamburg, and Bremen. The latter have now founded a new party, called “Die Kommunistische Arbeiterpartei.” It declines to recognise parliamentary or trade union action as an integral part of the class struggle, and relies on shop committees, factory councils, and on a new industrial union, founded in Hamburg and called “Die Allgemeine Arbeiter Union,” for purposes of mobilising the proletariat. These tactics are opposed by the old Communist Party, which holds that it is fully to ignore the extremely powerful apparatus of the old Trade Unions, to which the working classes are still continuing to flock. Moreover, it regards the formation of the “Allgemeine Arbeiter Union” as unnecessary, and opposes the creation of artificial industrial organisations from above. The revolution, they say, will come by the break up of the capitalist system and the revolutionary situation thus created will automatically form its own weapons—the factory council and the Red Guard unit. This split in the Communist party must not be taken too seriously. It signifies a difference not of principles, but of tactics. It may be presumed that, when the Prussian military counter revolution strikes again, the three revolutionary groups, Daeumig’s Independents, old and new Communists, will be able to form a common fighting front. The Kapp-Luettwitz coup has shown the, strength of the German proletariat and also its weakness. The absence of a clear line of tactics within the ranks of the revolutionary Left has caused a good opportunity to be lost. There is reason, however, to believe that mistakes of the past are being rectified.