Revisionism In Germany: To 1922.
The Influence Of Rosa Luxemburg
on the CPG
The dominant theoretical influence
on the Communist Party of Germany in its early years was that of Polish-born
Rosa Luxemburg, who moved to Germany in 1897:
"Rosa Luxemburg has left behind deep traces in the
German and Polish Communist movement. One can say without exaggeration
that for a considerable number of years.. both parties grew up under the
influence of her ideas and guidance".
In her work "The Accumulation of
Capital", published in 1913, Rosa Luxemburg put forward the view that
a capitalist society could solve the problem of capital accumulation only
(D. Manuilsky: "The Bolshevisation of the Parties;"
in: "Communist International", No. 10; 1925; p. 59).
"All the -new leaders fully subscribed, (to) the guiding
lines of policy laid down by Rosa Luxemburg in the foundation document
of the, CPG and subsequent policy statements in 'Rote Fahe'. On nearly
all subjects her word was law . . . . And even after the personal element
of tribute had gradually died away,, her work was still the fount of all
orthodoxy in Germany". (J.P. Nettl: "Rosa Luxemburg", Volume 2; London;
1966; P. 787-8).
by expanding into pre-capitalist economies.. and that
when these areas had been absorbed, capitalism would break down":
"The day-to-day history of capital becomes a string
of political and social disasters and convulsions, and under these conditions,
punctuated by persistent economic catastrophes or crisis, accumulation
can go on no longer . . . .
Lenin's marginal notes to "The Accumlation
of Capital", are full of comments such as "False!" and "Nonsense!", and
he described her main thesis as a "fundamental error". (V.I. Lenin: Notes
on R. Luxemburg’s Book; "The Accumulation of Capital", in: "Leniniski Sbornik",
Volume 22; Moscow; 1933; p.343-6).
Capitalism . . . strives to become universal.. and,
indeed,, on account of this, it must break down".
(R. Luxemburg: "The Accumulation of Capital"; London;
1951; p. 467).
In accordance with this thesis,
Rosa Luxemburg saw no revolutionary potential in the peoples of the
colonial-type countries and denied the possibility of genuine wars of national
liberation under imperialism. In her pamphlet "The Crisis of German
Social Democracy, written in 1915 under the pseudonym of "Junius" and
published in 1916, she declares:
"In the present imperialistic milieu there can be
no wars of national self-defence".
Commenting on her opposition to the
Polish national-liberation movement, against the domination of tsarist
Russia, Lenin said:
(R. Luxemburg: "The Crisis of German Social-Democracy";
in: "Rosa Luxemburg Speaks"; New York; 1970; p. 305).
"In her anxiety not to 'assist’ the nationalistic
bourgeoisie of Poland, Rosa Luxemburg by her denial of the right of secession
in the programme of the Russian Marxists, is, in fact assisting the Great
Russian Black Hundreds (i.e., fascist-type organisations of the Russian
landed aristocracy – Ed)".
After the socialist revolution in Russia
in November 1917 Rosa Luxemburg condemned the national policy of the Bolsheviks
(V.I. Lenin: "On the Right of Nations to Self-Determination";
in: "Selected Works", Volume 4; London; 1943; p. 266).
"The Bolsheviks are in part responsible for the fact
that the military defeat was transformed into the collapse and a breakdown
of Russia. Moreover, the Bolsheviks themselves have to a great extent,
sharpened the objective difficulties of this situation by a slogan which
they placed in the foreground of their policies: the so-called right of
self-determination of peoples, or something which was really implicit in
this slogan - the disintegration of Russia.
Similarly, Rosa Luxemburg failed
to see, even in a country where the bourgeois-democratic revolution,
had not been carried through, the revolutionary potential of the
peasantry, regarding it as, in the long run, a reactionary force --
a view which became a cornerstone of the Trotskyite theory of "permanent
One after another, these 'nations'
used the freshly-granted freedom to ally themselves with German imperialism
against Revolution as its mortal enemy and, under German protection, to
carry the banner of counter-revolution into Russia itself. . .
The Bolsheviks.. by their hollow
nationalistic phraseology Concerning the 'right of self-determination to
the point of separation' . . . . . . . did nothing but confuse the masses
in all the border countries by their slogan and delivered them up to the
demagogy of the bourgeois classes. By this nationalistic demand they brought
on the disintegration of Russia itself, pressed into the enemy's hand the
knife which it was to thrust into the heart of the Russian Revolution.
The Bolsheviks provided the ideology
which masked this campaign of counter-revolution; they strengthened the
position of the bourgeoisie and weakened that of the proletariat".
(R. Luxemburg, "The Russian Revolution", in: Rosa
Luxemburg Speaks".; New York; 1970; p. 378, 380, 382).
"Rosa Luxemburg declared that Lenin . . . overlooked
the . . . fact that it (i.e., the peasantry Ed.) would certainly, and probably
very soon.. go over again, into the camp of reaction".
On the basis of this view, after the
socialist revolution in Russia in November 1917 she condemned the Bolshevik
policy of redistributing the land among the peasantry as "counter-revolutionary":
(P. Frohlich; "Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Work";
London; 1940; p. 113).
"The slogan launched by the Bolsheviks, immediate
seizure and distribution of the land by the peasants. .. piles up insurmountable
obstacles to the socialist transformation of agrarian relations . . . .
Rosa Luxemburg saw the mass strike
with economic aims as the decisive form of the revolutionary struggle of
the working class:
Now after the 'seizure’ . . . . . there is an enormous,
newly developed and powerful mass of owning peasants who will defend their
newly won property with tooth and nail against every socialist attack of
the future socialisation of agrarian economy. . . . has now become a question
of opposition and struggle between the urban proletariat and the mass of
the peasantry. . . .
Now that the Russian peasant has seized the land with
his own fist, he does not even dream of 'defending Russia and the revolution
to which he owes the land.
The Leninist agrarian reform has created a new and
powerful layer of popular enemies of socialism in the countryside, enemies
whose resistance will be much more dangerous and stubborn than that of
the noble large landowners".
(R.Luxemburg: "The Russian Revolution in: "Rosa Luxemburg
Speaks"; New York; 1970; p. 376, 377, 378).
"The mass strike is merely the form of the revolutionary
struggle. . . . Strike action is the living pulse-beat of the revolution
and at the same time its most powerful driving wheel. The mass strike.
. . is . . . the method of motion of the proletarian mass, the phenomenal
form of the proletarian struggle, in the revolution. . . . In this general
picture the purely political demonstration strike plays quite a subordinate
role. . . The demonstration strikes which, in contradistinction to the
fighting strikes, exhibit the greatest mass of party discipline, conscious
direction and political thought, and therefore must appear as the highest
and most mature form of the mass strike, play in reality the greatest part..
in. the beginnings of the movement. . . .
But the economic strike, which to Rosa
Luxemburg, was the decisive form of the revolutionary struggle of the working
class, is predominantly spontaneous in character:
The pedantic representation in which the pure political
mass strike is logically derived from the strike as the ripest and highest
stage. . . is shown to be absolutely false . . . .
The movement on the whole does not proceed from the
. . .. economic to the political struggle. . . Every great political mass
action, after it has attained its political highest point, breaks up into
a mass of economic strikes. And that applies not only to each of the great
mass strikes, but also to the revolution as a whole".
(R.Luxemburg: "The Mass Strike and the Trade Unions",
in: "Rosa Luxemburg Speaks"; New York; 1970; p. 182, 183, 184, 185).
"The mass strike cannot be called at will, even when
the decision to do so may come from the highest committee of the strongest
social-democratic party. . . . .
On the basis of the view of the predominantly
spontaneous character of "the decisive form of the revolutionary struggle
of the working class, Rosa Luxemburg opposed as "dangerous" and "Blanquist"
Lenin's concept of the necessity for a disciplined vanguard party based
on firm democratic centralism. In her article "Organisational Questions
of Social Democracy", first published in 1904 as a review of Lenin's
"What Is to be Done?" she writes:
The element of spontaneity plays a great part in all
Russian mass strikes without exception. .
The element of spontaneity plays such a predominant
part because revolutions do not allow anyone to play the schoolmaster with
(R. Luxemburg: ibid, p. 187, 188).
"Lenin's centralism . . . is a mechanical transposition
of the organisational principles of Blanquism into the mass movement of
the socialist working class . . . His conception of socialist organisation
is quite mechanistic.. . . The tendency is for the directing organs of
the socialist party to play a conservative role.. . . Granting, as.. Lenin
wants, such, absolute powers of a negative character to the top organ of
the party, we strengthen, to a dangerous extent, the conservatism inherent
in such an organ. . . The ultra-centralism asked by Lenin is
full of the sterile spirit of the overseer. It is not a positive and creative
spirit. Lenin's concern is not so much to make the activity of the party
more fruitful as to control the party -- to narrow the movement rather
than to develop it, to bind rather than to unify it. In the present
situation such an experiment would be doubly dangerous to Russian social
democracy. . . We can conceive of no greater danger to the Russian party
than, Lenin's plan of organisation. Nothing will more surely enslave
a young labour movement to an intellectual elite hungry for power than
this bureaucratic straitjacket, which will immobilise the movement and
turn it into an automaton manipulated by a Central Committee".
Rosa Luxemburg shared with Leon
Trotsky anti-Leninist views not only on the question of the role of
the peasantry and on the question of the organisation of the party of the
working class, but also on the question of the possibility of building
socialism in a single country:
(R. Luxemburg: "Organisational Questions of Social
Democracy'', in: Rosa Luxemburg Speaks-"; New York; 1970; p. 118, 119,
121, 122., 126-7).
"Of course, even with the. greatest heroism the proletariat
of one single country cannot loosen this noose".
And like Trotsky, she strived during
the years before the First World War to bring about a reunification
of the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks i.e., to obliterate the dividing
line between Marxism-Leninism and' revisionism:
(R. Luxemburg: "The Old Mole", in: 'Selected Political
Writings"; London; 1972; p. 227).
"The awkward position that the Bolsheviks are in today,
however, is together with most of their mistakes, a consequence of the
basic insolubility of the problem posed to them by the international, above
all the German, proletariat. To carry out the dictatorship of the proletariat
and the socialist revolution in a single country surrounded by reactionary
imperialist rule and in the fury of the bloodiest world war in human history
-- that is squaring the circle. Any socialisst , party would have to fail
in this task and perish."
(R. Luxemburg: "The Russian. Tragedy", in': Ibid.;
"The other plan was proposed by Rosa Luxemburg. .
. . according to that plan. . a 'unity conference' (Einingungskenferenz)
was proposed "in order to restore a united party". . . . This last plan
. . . . was only an attempt on the part of Rosa Luxemburg to smuggle in
the 'restoration' of the sadly notorious ‘Tyszko circle’ (‘Tyszko’ was
the pseudonym of Leo Jogiches -- Ed.)
Holding these views, Rosa Luxemburg
could not but be hostile to the Soviet regime established in Russia
under the leadership of the Bolsheviks in November 1917.
(V.I. Lenin: "A Good Resolution And a Bad Speech",
in: "Selected Works", Volume 4; London'; 1943; p. 209).
"Freedom of the press, the rights of association and
assembly ... have been outlawed for all opponents of the Soviet regime.
. . . Without a free and untrammeled press, without the unlimited right
of association and assemblages the rule of the broad mass of the people
is entirely unthinkable.... Freedom only for the supporters of the government
. . . .is no freedom at all. . . .
Following Stalin's statement
that many of the serious political mistakes committed by the Communist
Party of Germany were the result of Social-Democratic survivals which must
be eliminated (September 1924), the "Theses on the Bolshevisation of
the Parties of the Comintern", adopted by the Fifth Plenum of the ECCI
March/April 1925, drew special attention to the harmfulness of Luxemburgism:
Lenin is completely mistaken in the means he employs.
Decree, dictatorial force of the factory overseer, draconic penalties,
rule by terror – all these things are but palliatives. It is rule by terror
which demoralises. . . .
With the repression of political life in the land
as a whole, life in the Soviets must also become more and more crippled.
Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly,
without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution,
becomes a mere semblance of life, in which the bureaucracy remains as the
active element. Public life gradually falls asleep, a few dozen party leaders
of inexhaustible energy and boundless experience direct and rule . . .
At bottom, then, a clique affair -- a dictatorship
to be sure; not the dictatorship of the proletariat, however, but only
the dictatorship of a handful of politicians. . . . Such conditions
must inevitably cause a brutalisation of public life."
(R.Luxemburg: "The Russian Revolution", in: "Rosa
Luxemburg Speaks"; New York; 1970; p. 389, 391).
"The genuine assimilation of Leninism and its practical
application in the construction of Communist parties throughout the world
is impossible without taking into consideration the errors of very prominent
Marxists who strove to apply Marxism to the conditions of a new epoch,
without being wholly, successful in so doing.
The theses described the most important
errors of Luxemburgism as follows:
Among these errors must be included those of Rose
Luxemburg. The nearer these political leaders are to Leninism, the more
dangerous are those of their views which, being erroneous, do not coincide
(Theses on the Bolshevisation of the Parties, of the
Comintern, 5th. Plenum ECCI, in: "International Press Correspondence";
Volume 5, No. 47; June 4th., 1925; p.616).
"a). The non-Bolshevik method of presenting the question
of 'spontaneity', 'consciousness', 'organisation', and the 'mass' . . which
frequently hampered the revolutionary development of the class struggle,
prevented proper understanding of the role of the Party in the revolution;
In November 1931, Stalin's letter
to the journal "Proletarian Revolution" was published, under the title
of "Some Questions concerning the History of Bolshevism''.
b) the under-estimation of the technical side of preparing
for revolt hampered, and in some cases even now hamper, the proper presentation
of the question of 'organising' revolution';
c) the error in the question of the attitude towards
d) equally serious were the errors committed by
Rosa Luxemburg in the national question. The repudiation of the slogan
of self-determination, (to support the formation of independent states)
on the ground that under imperialism it is 'impossible' to solve the national
question, led in fact to a sort of nihilism on the national question which
extremely hampered Communist work in a number of countries;
e) The propagation of the party-political character
of trade unions. . . was a great mistake which evidenced the failure to
understand the role of the trade unions as organs embracing all the workers.
This mistake seriously hampered, and still hampers, the proper approach
of the vanguard to the working class as a whole;
f) while paying just tribute to the greatness of Rosa
Luxemburg, one of the founders of the Communist International, the Comintern
believes that it will be acting in the spirit of Rosa Luxemburg
herself if it will now help the Parties of the Comintern to draw
the lessons from the errors made by this great revolutionary.
Without overcoming the errors of Luxemburgism, genuine
Bolshevisation is impossible". (Ibid.; p.616).
This reiterated in stronger
terms the criticism made of the theory and practice of Luxemburgism:
"Organisational and ideological weakness was a characteristic
feature of the Left Social-Democrats not only in the period prior to the
war. As is well known, the Lefts retained this negative feature in the
post-war period as well. Everyone knows the appraisal of the German Left
Social-Democrats given by Lenin in his famous article 'On Junius's (i.e.,
Rosa Luxemburg's --Ed.) Pamphlet', written in October 1916, in which Lenin,
criticising a number of very serious political mistakes committed by the
Left Social-Democrats in Germany, speaks of ‘the weakness of ALL German
Lefts, who are entangled on all sides in the vile net of Kautskyan hypocrisy,
pedantry, ‘friendship’ for the opportunists; in which he says that 'Junius
has not yet yet freed herself completely from the 'environment' of the
German, even Left Social-Democrats, who are afraid of a split, are afraid
to express revolutionary slogans to the full'. . . The Lefts in Germany.
. . time and again wavered between Bolshevism and Menshevism. . . .
The letter was attacked immediately
by the open revisionists, such as Leon Trotsky:
In 1903 . . . . the Left Social-Democrats in Germany,
Parvus and Rosa Luxemburg, came out against the Bolsheviks. They accused
the Bolsheviks of ultra-centralist and Blanquist tendencies. Subsequently,
these vulgar and philistine epithets were caught up by the Mensheviks and
spread far and wide. In 1905. . . . Parvus and Rosa Luxemburg . .
. invented the utopian and semi-Menshevik scheme of permanent revolution
(a distorted representation of the Marxian scheme of revolution) which
was permeated through and through with the Menshevik repudiation of the
policy of alliance between the working class and the peasantry, and opposed
this scheme to the Bolshevik scheme of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship
of the proletariat and the peasantry. Subsequently, this semi-Menshevik
scheme of permanent revolution was caught up by Trotsky and transformed
into a weapon of struggle against Leninism. The Left Social-Democrats in
the West developed the semi-Menshevik theory of imperialism, rejected the
principle of self-determination of nations in its Marxian sense (including
secession and formation of independent states), rejected the theses that
the liberation movement in the colonies and oppressed was of great revolutionary
importance, rejected the theses that a united front between the proletarian
revolution and the movement for national emancipation was possible, and
opposed this semi-Menshevik hodge-podge, which was nothing but an underestimation
of the national and colonial question, to the Marxian scheme of the Bolsheviks.
It is well known that this semi-Menshevik hodge-podge was subsequently
caught up by Trotsky who used it as a weapon in the struggle against Leninism.
Such were the universally known mistakes committed by the Left Social-Democrats
I need not speak . . . . of the mistakes they committed
in appraising the policy of the Bolsheviks in the period of the October
Revolution. . . .
Of course. . . they also have great and important
revolutionary deeds to their credit. . . .
But this does not cannot remove the fact that the
Left Social-Democrats in Germany did commit a number of very serious political
and theoretical mistakes; that they had not yet rid themselves of their
(J.V. Stalin: ''Some Questions concerning the History
of Bolshevism", in: "Leninism"; London; 1924; p. 390, 391-2, 393-4).
"There is included in it a vile and bare-faced calumny
about Rosa Luxemburg. This great revolutionist is 'enrolled by Stalin into
the camp of centrism! . . . Stalin should proceed with caution before expending
his vicious mediocrity when the matter touches figures of such stature
as Rosa Luxemburg".
When the concealed revisionists threw
off their mask in 1956, they too strongly denounced Stalin's Letter:
(L. Trotsky: "Hands off Rosa Luxemburg", in: R. Luxemburg:
"Rosa Luxemburg. Speaks", New York; 1970; p. 441, 446).
"Through it, sectarian views., especially on Social-Democracy
and its left wing, were fostered in the CPG".
Trotsky, in the article mentioned above,
was also indignant that in his letter Stalin had "credited" Rosa Luxemburg
and Parvus (i.e., Alexander Helphand) with having invented the theory of
"permanent revolution", and pointed out that in "On the Problems of Leninism",
published in 1926, Stalin had "credited" Parvus and Trotsky with having
first put the theory forward. Stalin clarified his position in January
("'Geschichte der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung: Chronik",
Volume 2; Berlin; 1966; p. 278)
"It was not Trotsky but Rosa Luxemburg and Parvus
who invented the theory of 'permanent' revolution. It was not Rosa
Luxemburg but Parvus and Trotsky who in 1905 advanced the theory
of 'permanent' revolution and actively fought for it against
Lenin. Subsequently Rosa Luxemburg, too, began to fight actively against
the Leninist plan of revolution. But that was after 1905".
On January 8th., 1932, the organ of
the. Communist Party of Germany "Rote Fahne" carried an article endorsing
Stalin's letter and declaring that the influence of Luxemburgism
had been "the greatest obstacle" to the development of a Marxist-Leninist
Party in Germany:
(J.V. Stalin: Reply to Olekhnovich and Aristov, in:
"Works",, Volume 13; Moscow; 1955; p.133, 134)
"The Communist Party of Germany welcomes Comrade Stalin's
letter as a document which calls upon the German Communists to wage a fierce
struggle against all social-democratic influences within the revolutionary
movement, against the remnants of Centrism and Luxemburgism
within the Party. . . . The failure on the part of the German Left Radicals
in regard to the question of a complete break with opportunism and Centrism
had an adverse effect upon the whole course of the Spartacus League during
the war. Its after-effects were to be seen in the vacillations and the
actions of the various liquidatory and oppositionist tendencies in the
CP of Germany and rendered difficult a clear fulfilment of the role of
the Party. Thus this failure of the German Lefts became the greatest obstacle
to the development and victory of the revolutionary movement of the German
An article written by Fritz Heckert
and published later in January 1932 to commemorate the anniversary of Rosa
Luxemburg's murder, followed the same lines:
("Comrade Stalin's Letter and the CP of Germany",
in: "International Press Correspondence", Volume 12, No, 4; January 28th.,
1932; p. 73).
"Under the ideological leadership of Rosa Luxemburg
there arose the fundamentally false idea regarding the nature of imperialism,
which led to the theory of the mechanical collapse of capitalism. From
this again there followed the theory of the spontaneity of the masses,
who would wrest themselves from the errors and crimes of the social-democratic
leaders in order to rally round the revolutionary leadership. This also
was the reason why no steps were taken to found an independent revolutionary
party. It was not recognised that the party can be only the advance-guard
of the proletariat, its most progressive, energetic and clearest part.
These false ideas are connected with other errors of equally great importance..
such as the failure to recognise the role of revolutionary violence and
the errors regarding the national and the peasant questions.
It is thanks to the after-effects of the social-democratic
trends in the Communist Party of Germany that such big mistakes were committed
in 1921 in the March action and in 1923 in the October movement,, and that
the Party was long prevented from developing into a real Bolshevist Party
owing to the actions of a large number of renegades in its ranks. The eradication
of all false ideas is indispensably necessary necessary for every Bolshevik
Party. Only recently.. Comrade Stalin again urgently called attention
to this . . . .
It would be a profanation of the two great Dead if
we sought to vie with the renegades in conserving their errors".
(F. Heckert: "January 15, 1919", in: "International
Press Correspondence", Volume 12, No. 2; January 14th., 1932; p. 29).
For Main article on the CPG: Revisionism
in CPG to 1922
For CPG in the Anti-Fascist Struggle of the 1930's
Bland Correspondences: Debate
Within the MLOB
GO TO ALLIANCE:
GO TO ALLIANCE:
GO TO ALLIANCE:
NEW PAGE"; GO TO