Continuing the series of reports on the development of revisionism in the international communist movements, the report which follows deals with Germany in the period up to the end of 1922. Among the more important points covered in this report are:
2) The opposition of the CPG, under the influence of the anti-Soviet views of Luxemburg, to the formation of the Communist International (p. 18);
3) The strong "leftist trends in the leadership of the CPG in its early years -- manifested in its opposition to work in the mass trade unions (p. 13), its boycott of the elections to the Constituent Assembly, in 1919 (p. 17); its' initial refusal to oppose the counter-revolutionary Kapp Putsch in 1920 (p. 29), its' adoption of "the theory of the general revolutionary offensive" and the manifestation of this theory in the premature "March Action!" of 1921 (p. 43);
4) the adoption by the Communist International, under the influence of the anti-Soviet views of Leon Trotsky, in 1921 of the right revisionist concepts that a "workers' government" -- a coalition government of Communists and Social-democratic Parties -- representing the "interests of the working class" could be formed by parliamentary means and could proceed to take control of production and transform the capitalist state into a workers' state"(p. 61).
1871 to 1917
The unified German state officially came into-existence in January 1871, by means of the armed force of the aristocratic landowners of Prussia (the Junkers), under the leadership of Count Otto von Bismarck. The bourgeoisie supported, but did not lead, this movement,
Formally, the Second German Reich (i.e., Realm) -- the first Reich was the- mediaeval Holy Roman Empire -- was a federal state embracing 4 kingdoms (Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony and Wurttemberg), 6 grand duchies, 5 duchies, 7 principalities, 3 "free cities" and the "Reichsland" of Alsace-Lorraine.
Because of the manner of its formation, however, the new state was an autocracy retaining many of the characteristics of a feudal state dominated by the Junkers of Prussia (where the franchise was limited to the well-to-do), and this ruling class was closely linked with the officer 'corps of the German army (which was essentially the Prussian army) and with the imperial house (the King of Prussia was constitutionally the Emperor of Germany). The Emperor was supreme commander of the army and navy. The Parliament (Reichstag) was elected by universal male suffrage,-but its role was essentially "advisory".
There was at this time no German cabinet. The one Minister was the Imperial Chancellor, who was appointed by the Emperor and was also Prime Minister of Prussia. The Chancellor -- Bismarck until March 1890 -- appointed the heads of the departments of state and presided over the Federal Council.
The first party to be formed in
Germany claiming to represent the interests of the working class was the
General German: Workers' Association (Allgemeine Deutsche Arbeiterverein)
(ADAV), founded in May 1863 under the leadership of Ferdinand Lassalle.
As Marx and Engels correctly concluded, Lassalle had signed a secret agreement with Bismarck, by which he undertook to strive to direct the working class into alliance with the Prussian aristocratic landowners, into:
In May 1875 the two parties merged at a Unification Congress held In Gotha into the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (Sozialistische Arbeiterpartel-Deutschlands (SAPD). The desire of the leaders of the SDAP for unification with the ADAV was such that they agreed to the opportunist programme adopted at the congress (known as "the Gotha Programme"); this was a mixture of Lassallean and distorted Marxist ideas with the former predominating, and was strongly criticised by Marx, who described it as:
However, the long years of repression had exposed many illusions about the character of the state and pressed the rank-and-file in the direction of revolutionary thinking. As a result, the programme adopted by the Second Congress of the party, held at Erfurt in October 1891, was ostensibly Marxist in its formulations. At this congress the name of the party was changed to the Social_Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutchlands) (SPD).
With the development of German monopoly capitalism, in the last decade of the 19th century SPG leader Eduard Bernstein began a Movement to revise Marxism by removing its revolutionary content. Although revisionism was rejected in theory at the Congress of the party held in Dresden in September, 1903, the party became increasingly revisionist in practice. This was seen most obviously in the attitude of the SPG leaders who held important posts in the trade union movement; under their influence., the trade unions became less and less organs of working class struggle and more and more instruments of the monopoly capitalists to foster peaceful "industrial relations".
It was under these circumstances that the membership of the SPG grow from 348,000 in 1906 to 1.1 million in 1914. By this time it was the largest single party in the Reichstag (with 110 deputies) and operated 110 daily newspapers, headed by "Vorwarts" .(Forward) published in Berlin.
As the clouds of the First Imperialist War began to gather the Seventh Congress of the Second International held in Stuttgart in August 1907 adopted a resolution sponsored by Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg (the latter then representing the Polish Social-democrats) which called upon socialists:
On the same evening Rosa Luxemburg organised a few left-wing friends into the nucleus of what shortly became the International Group (Gruppe Internationale) to carry forward—the line of opposition to the war which had been agreed upon internationally, in Stuttgart and Basle.
The group was then joined by SPG deputy Karl Liebknecht who speedily regretted his vote for war credits. When the second War Credits Bill came before the Reichstag in December 1924, Liebneckt voted against it. In January 1915 the International Group began to issue a series of "Newsletters" exposing the character of the war and the treachery of the leadership of the SPG in supporting it. In-April 1915 they published the first and only issue of the journal "The International" (Die Internationale), under the editorship of Franz Mehring; it was immediately suppressed and Mehring imprisoned.
In an effort to check the increasing support which the International Group was now winning among the more politically conscious workers, in June 1915, a group of leading members of the SPG, headed by Karl Kautsky, Hugo Haase and Eduard Bernstein, took up a centrist position in relation to the war and issued a manifesto entitled: "The Demand of the Hour" - which suggested that the war might have changed its character from a "war of national defence", to one of conquest, so that social-democrats might have to review their support of it.
In September 1915 an international conference of socialist parties and groups opposed to the war was held in Zimmerwald (Switzerland) on the initiative of the Italian and Swiss social-democratic parties. The Bolshevik delegation included Lenin, then living in Switzerland, and the German contingent included Georg Ledebour (associated with the Centrist group being developed under the leadership of Kautsky), two adherents of the International Group and two members of a small group called the International Socialists of Germany (Internationale Sozialisten Deutschlands), led by Karl Radek. The conference failed to reach agreement on the policy that should be pursued in relation to the war, Lenin's call for the war to be transformed into a civil war against "one's own" imperialists being rejected by the majority of the delegates. With centrist groups in the majority the conference approved a compromise manifesto which called on socialists:
In January 1916, the International Group changed its name to the Spartacus Group (Spartakusgruppe), after the leader of a Roman slave revolt.
When the sixth War Credits Bill came before the Reichstag in March 1916, 18 deputies belonging to the centre and left of the SPG voted against, and a further 14 abstained. The rightist leadership of the SPG then expelled from the parliamentary party the 18 deputies who had voted contrary to the official policy of the party. These then formed themselves into a new parliamentary grouping, the Social-Democratic Labour Group (Sozialdemokratische Arbeitsgemeinschaft) . The Spartacus Group formed a left- wing group within this Labour Group.
In April 1916 a second international conference of socialist parties and groups opposed to the war was held at Kienthal (Switzerland). The German contingent consisted of four centrists and two Spartacists, together with one member of a small group called the Bremen Left (Bremen Links). Again the centrists were in a majority and the resolutions adopted were of a compromise character.
Nevertheless, the Kienthal resolutions were somewhat more definite than those of Zimmerwald, and the conference sharply criticised the leadership of the Second International -- without, however calling for a break with the right.
Following their successful military operations on the eastern front, in August 1916 Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg had been appointed Chief of Staff and General Erich von Ludendorff Quartermaster-General. Although officially subordinate to Hindenburg, Ludendorff became the dominant figure not only in the military but also in the civilian field, and for the last two years of the war was essentially military dictator of Germany.
In January 1917 the Executive of
the SPG, dominated by the right-wing social-chauvinists, resolved that
opposition to the war was incompatible with membership of the party. This
was followed in April by a conference of centrist and left opposition members
of the SPG at Gotha, at which -- against the opposition of Kautsky and
other centrist leaders - a majority voted to form themselves into a new
party, the Independent Social-democratic Party of Germany (ISPG),
(Unabhangige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands) (USPD). The founding
conference of the
ISPG approved the manifestos adopted at Zimmerwald and 'Kienthal, but the leadership maintained its call for eventual reunification with the SPG:
By 1917, therefore, three organised political trends were to be seen in the German working class movement as characterised by Lenin:
The January 1918 Strike
During the winter of 1917-18, anti-war feeling among the more politically conscious workers was greatly stimulated by the socialist revolution of November 1917 in Russia, and by the appeal of the new Soviet government for a peace without annexations or indemnities.
In January 1918 a group of militant shop stewards, associated with the Independent Social-Democratic Party and headed by Richard Muller issued a manifesto calling for
A political strike of all German workers for peace, more food, the abolition of martial law and the establishment of "parliamentary democracy''. The strike began on January 28th, and more than a million workers responded. After a week, however, it was called off by the leaders (against the opposition of the Spartacists) when the government merely agreed to met a delegation from the strike committee. Muller was then called up for military service, and the leadership of the "Revolutionary Shop Stewards" (as they called themselves) passed to another leading member of the ISPG, Emil Barth.
The formation of Prince Max’s Government
During the spring and summer of 1918, the suffering, hunger and casualties resulting from the war caused anti-war feeling to spread to wide sections of the German armed forces, the working class and the petty-bourgeoisie.
By the end of September a majority of the High Command were convinced that a German victory was not possible. They demanded the formation of a "broader" government that would proceed immediately to enter into negotiations with the Allies for an armistice. On October 3rd, Prince Max of Baden, a cousin of the Emperor, was appointed Chancellor and at once initiated negotiations for an armistice.
The Kiel Revolt
On October 27th, 1918, while the armistice negotiations were in progress, the Admiralty ordered the fleet to put to sea to engage the British navy. The sailors at Kiel and Wilhelmshaven refused. The arrest of some of these sailors in Kiel was followed on November 3rd, by a mass demonstration, which was fired on by troops, who later however, went over to the side, of the mutinying sailors. The latter released their arrested comrades, hoisted the red flag and proceeded to elect "Sailors Councils", modeled on the Russian Soviets.
The Bourgeois-Democratic Revolution
The movement of revolt spread from Kiel throughout Germany. In all the major towns and cities, mass strikes and huge demonstrations demanded the abdication of the Emperor and the democratisation of the country. Everywhere informally elected Workers' and Soldiers' Councils ; (Arbeiter- Soldaten-Rate) took over the functions of local government. Troops and police either faded away or joined the revolution revolutionary crowd. In Hamburg, Spartacists took over the SPG newspaper and renamed-it "The Red Flag" (Die Rote Fahne).
The capitalists now saw the necessity of using this spontaneous movement of revolution to complete the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Germany, hoping that by the sacrifice of the Emperor and the adoption of minor constitutional reforms they could contain the revolutionary process within the framework of "parliamentary democracy". They also hoped that these steps might mitigate the peace terms, to be expected from the victorious Allied powers.
On November 7th, Prince Max had a secret meeting with the leader of the Social-Democratic Party, Friedrich Ebert, and was assured by the latter that the SPG would do all in its power to help stave off "the threat of Bolshevism". (Prince Max of Baden: "Memoirs", Volume 2;- London; 1928; P. 312).
As the chancellor was to express it later:
The time factor made it impracticable
to go through the motions of appointing a Regent, who would in turn appoint
Ebert as Chancellor, and the transfer of the Chancellorship from Prince
Max to Ebert was the only un-constitutional act of the 1918 revolution.
Ebert immediately issued a vaguely worded communique, signing it as "Reich Chancellor", which declared:
On November 10th, a secret meeting took place between Ebert and General Wilhelm Groener, representing the High Command.. at which Ebert obtained a pledge of the army's full support "to prevent the spread of terroristic Bolshevism". (D. Groener-Geyer: "General Groener: Soldat und Staatsmann"; Frankfurt; 195,5; p. 190-201) .
The Meeting of the Berlin Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils
That evening (November 10th), some 3,000 members of Workers' and Soldiers, Councils in Berlin met at a large hall in the city, the Zirkus Busch. They carried a resolution declaring Germany to be a "socialist republic" with power in the hands of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils, calling for speedy socialisation of the means of production, expressing pride in following the example of the Russian Revolution, and calling for resumption of diplomatic relations with Soviet Russia.
They elected an "Executive Council" (Vollzugsrat) modeled superficially on that of Soviet Russia and composed of 24 workers and 24 soldiers, half from the SPG and half from the ISPG. They also elected a new cabinet, called, in imitation of that in Soviet Russia, the "Council of People’s Commissars" (Rat der Volksbeauftragten), composed of 3 members of the SPG and 3 members of the ISPG, headed by Ebert of the SPG.
The Foundation of the Spartacus League
At a conference in the Exzelsior in Berlin on November 11th, 1918, the Spartacus Group transformed itself into the Spartacus League (Spartakusbund).
The conference elected a Central Bureau (Zentrale) as follows - Willi Budich, Hermann Duncker, Kate Duncker, Hugo Eberlein, Leo Jogiches, Paul Lange, Paul Levi, Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Franz Mehring, Ernst Meyer, Wilhelm Pieck and August Thalheimer.
The First Decrees of the "Council of People’s Commissars"
On November 12th, the "Council of People's commissars" abolished martial law and censorship, together with wartime direction of labour, amnestied all political prisoners and provided for unemployment relief. On the other hand, it informed the High Command that it confirmed the officer corps, in its command of the armed forces and declared that the primary function of Soldiers’ Councils was the maintenance of military discipline.
On November 18th, the government set up a commission, headed by Kautsky, to examine which industries, were "ripe for nationalisation".
The First National Congress of Workers’ and Soldiers’
On December, 16th 1918, the First National Congress of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils assembled in Berlin.
It met for five days and was attended by 489 delegates, of which 291 (60%) were members of the SPG, 90 (20 %) members of the ISPG, and only 10 (2%) Spartacists. Neither Karl Liebknecht nor Rosa Luxemburg was elected as a delegate.
The Organising Committee of the
Congress had invited a Soviet delegation to attend, but this was turned-back
at the frontier on the instructions of the "Council of People’s Commissars"
Max Cohen-Reuss, on behalf of the SPG, warned the Congress not to attempt to replace "parliamentary democracy" by government through workers' and soldiers’ councils, since this would "make civil war inevitable". His resolution that the future of workers' Councils lay purely in the economic not the political field, and that the councils should transfer their "power" to the "Council of People’s Commissars", was carried by 400 votes to 50. The Congress went on to fix elections to the Constituent Assembly for, January 19th, 1919.
On the third day of the Congress,
the chairman of the Hamburg Soldiers' Council, an SPG member named Lamp'l,
presented demands from the soldiers which came to be known as the
Lamp’l or Hamburg Points. They included demands that the highest authority in the armed forces should be the Council of People's Commissars and not the High Command, that all badges of rank should be abolished, that soldiers’ councils should be responsible for military discipline, and that officers should be elected by the men.
A new Central Council of Workers
and Soldiers’ Councils was set up succeed the Executive Council (which
had been predominantly representative of Berlin). When it was decided
that the functions of this Central Council should be merely advisory, the ISPG contingent boycotted it, so that only the SPG was represented on it.
On December 20th, a High Command deputation to the "Council of People's Commissars", consisting of General Wilhelm Groener and Major Kurt von Schleicher, strongly objected to the Hamburg Points and was given assurances that they would not be put into effect.
By the end of the congress, it was clear that the aim of the of the German capitalists - to save capitalist society through the instrument of the Social-Democratic party of Germany -- had been, at least for the time being succcessful.
The Shelling Of the Royal Palace
On the night of December 23rd./24th., 1918, sailors belonging to the People's Naval Division, whose pay was in arrears, took prisoner Otto Wels (SPG), the commandant of Berlin, holding him as a hostage in the royal palace where they were quartered.
Ebert authorised the army to rescue Wels, and troops commanded by Lieutenant-General Arnold Lequis began to shell the palace. Later, however, the attacking troops mutinied and a truce was arranged; the sailors were given a safe conduct from the palace, together with their arrears of pay.
On the following day, Christmas Day, a crowd of 30,000 workers and soldiers, led by Spartacists, took part in a protest demonstration against the attack on the sailors, occupying the building of the principal SPG newspaper, "Vorwarts" ["Forwards], and forcing the staff to print a front-page article condemning the Ebert government.
Resignation of the ISPG Ministers
On December 29th., 1916, under the pressure of the :rank-and-file of their party, the three ISPG Ministers resigned from the government in protest at the attack on the sailors, and were replaced by members of the SPG.
The Foundation of the Communist Party
On December 29th., 1918, a closed conference of the Spartacus League in Berlin resolved to secede from the Independent Social-Democratic Party and to found a new party.
From December 30th.; 1918 to January 1st., 1919, a joint conference of some 100 delegates from the Spartacus League, and the International Communists of Germany (Internationale Kommunisten Deutschlands) -- a small socialist group in Bremen, known until November 1918 under the name Bremen Left Radicals [Linksradikalen Bremens] -- was held in the hall of the Prussian Chammber of Deputies in Berlin. The conference resolved to transform itself into the First Congress of the Communist Party of Germany (Spartacus League) (CCG) [Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (Spartakusbund)] (KPD).
Karl Radek delivered an oration as a fraternal delegate from the Russian Communist Party, and the congress sent greetings to the Soviet Republic.
The Congress denounced the Ebert --government as "The mortal enemy of the prooletariat", and condemned the policy of the Second International, and called for the setting up of a new International.
Rosa Luxemburg introduced the Party programme, largely drafted by herself and previously published in "Red Flag" on December 14th, 1918, declaring:
As Lenin commented in April 1920:
The January Rising in Berlin
On January 3rd., 1919, the ISPG Ministers in the Prussian state government followed the example of their colleagues in the central government and resigned. This left only one member of the ISPG holding a key position Emil Eichhorn, chief of police in Berlin. Later on the same day, the Prussian Prussian Ministry of the Interior dismissed Eichhorn from his post,
On Sunday, January 5th., a huge protest demonstration against the dismissal of Eichhorn, organised jointly by the "Revolutionary Shop Stewards" and the Berlin leaderships of the ISPG and CPG, filled the streets of central Berlin. In the afternoon a section of the demonstrators occupied once more the offices of "Forward" which became until January 11 th, the organ of the revolutionary workers of Berlin.
That evening representatives of the newly-formed Communist Party, of the ISPG and of the "Revolutionary Shop Stewards" met and set up a Revolutionary Council (Revolutionsausschuss) of 33 members, which declared the Ebert government deposed and called for armed struggle to establish the political power of the working class:
The Soviet Republic in Bremen
On January 10th., 1919, a great demonstration in Bremen, organised by the Communist Party demanded the transfer of political power to the Workers' and Soldiers’ Councils, which proceeded to set up a Council of People’s Commissars composed of 3 representatives each from the CPG, the ISPG and the Soldiers’ Council and declared this to be the government of the Soviet Republic of Bremen.
On February 4th, on the orders of Noske, a large force of troops made an assault upon Bremen and had, by the evening overthrown the Soviet Republic.
The Murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg
On January 15th, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, who had refused to leave Berlin, were captured and brutally murdered by members of the Free Corps. Captured with the two leaders was another leading member of the CPG, Wilhelm Pieck, who later "escaped" under mysterious circumstances. One of the officers involved, Captain Pabst, stated later that he (i.e., Pieck Ed.):
The Soviet Republic of Bavaria
In one state, Bavaria -- revolutionary
resistance to the Scheidemann government continued until May 3rd, 1919.
In November 1918 the Workers’, Peasants', and Soldiers’ Councils in Munich, under the leadership of the ISPG, had proclaimed a "Social and Democratic Republic of Bavaria", and set up a government of ISPG and SPG Ministers, with Kurt Eisner (ISPG) as Prime Minister.
When elections were held to the State Parliament in January/February 1919, however, the ISPG received only 2.5% of the vote. On his way to the State Parliament to hand in his cabinet's resignation on the February 21st, Eisner was murdered by a right-wing officer, Anton Graf von Arco auf VaIley. A new state government was then set up, headed by Johannes Hoffmann (SPG)
The CPG, ISPG, SPG and the Executive Council Of the Workers', Peasants’ and Soldiers' Councils set up - following the murder of Eisner - an Acttion Council (Aktionsausschuss), which in turn set up a new Central Council of the Workers’, Peasants’ and Soldiers' Councils and called a three-day general strike throughout Bavaria. The Central Council, however, refused demands for the effective arming of the working class.
In these circumstances, on the evening of April 6th, 1919, on the initiative of the ISPG and against the opposition of the SPG, a "Council of People’s Commissars" (Rat der Volksbeauftragten) was established in Munich, headed by playwright Ernst Toller and phillosopher Gustav Landauer, (both ISPG).
On April 7th, the "Council of People’s Commissar’s" proclaimed a "Soviet Republic of Bavaria". The Hoffmann government fled to Bamberg, in northern Bavaria, from where it prepared, with the support of the capitalist class and part of the peasantry the military overthrow of the "Soviet Republic".
The CPG demanded that the "Council of People’s Commissars" should take urgent measures to meet the threat of armed intervention, but the "Soviet Government" refused to arm the workers or to make my serious inroads into the capitalist state machine.
On the night of April 12/13th, Free Corps forces, on the instructions of the Hoffmann government, invaded Bavaria, but were beaten back by the workers’ and soldiers of Munich.
The area and barracks Workers’, Peasants’ and Soldiers’ Councils now declared the Central Council of their councils and the ''Council of People’s Commissars" deposed, and set up as legislative and executive organ of the Soviet Republic of Bavaria an Action Council of 15 members drawn from the CPG, the ISPG and the SPG. It elected an Executive Council of 4 members, which functioned as the Soviet Government, headed by Communists Eugen Levine and Max Levien.
On April 14th, the Soviet Government of Bavaria called a ten-day general strike and ordered the arming of the workers and their organisation into a Red Army. The Soviet Government also proceeded to disarm the reactionary forces, to replace the representatives of the capitalist class in the administrative by workers, to hand over control of production to the factory councils, and to nationalise the banks.
On April 27th, 1919, Lenin sent a massage of greetings to the Soviet Republic of Bavaria.
On April 30th., 1919, some 60 thousand Free Corps troops, commanded by Colonel Ritter von Epp, launched a second attack on Munich. The Red Army fought heroically for several days until, on the night of April 3rd/4th , the last units were destroyed in bitter fighting.
Martial law was proclaimed in Munich, and in the white terror, which followed, hundreds of revolutionary workers, soldiers and intellectuals were brutally murdered, and more than 12,000 thrown into prison.
The Foundation of the Nazi Party
On January 5th, 1919, the fascist "German Workers' Party" (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) was founded in Munich on the initiative of Anton Drexler. It was joined in September 1919 by Adolf Hitler.
In March 1920 the party changed its name to the "National Socialist German Workers' Party" (NSGWP) (Nationalsoczialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) (NSDAP) and came to be known as the "Nazi Party".
The Elections to the National Assembly
The elections to the National Assembly took place on January l9th, 1919, under adult suffrage for both sexes and with proportional representation.
Most of the older political parties had changed their names in November 1918 to "people's parties" in an effort to suggest that they had a progressive character. The German Conservative Party, the Free Conservative Party and the Christian-Social Party had merged to form the German National People’s Party (GNPP) (Deutschnationale Volkspartei) (DNVP), while the National Liberal Party had become the German People's Party (GPP) (Deutsche Volkspartei) (DVP) - both of these parties at this time still representing the interests of the landed aristocracy. The Centre (a party representing the interests of the capitalists, but with its appeal directed principally towards Catholic electors) had become (temporarily) the Christian People's Party (CPP) (Christliche Volkspartei) (CVP). The Social-Democratic Party of Germany and the Independent Social-Democratic Party of Germany (both representing the interests of the capitalists, but with their appeal directed toward principally toward class conscious working people) continued under their old names. In addition, a new party representing the interests of the capitalists but with its appeal directed principally towards "liberal" workers' and petty bourgeois had been set up in November 1918 – the German Democratic Party (GDP) (Deutsche Demokratische Partei) (DDP). The only party representing the interests of the working class, the Communist Party of Germany, (CPG) boycotted the elections, as has been said.
The results of the elections to
the National Assembly were as follows:
Party Votes (million) PerCent Number of Deputies
Social-Democratic Party of Germany:
Christian People's Party: 6.0 20% 91
German Democratic Party: 5.6 19% 75
German National People's Party: 3.1 10% 44
Party of Germany: 2.3 8% 22
German People's Party: 1.3 4% 19
Other parties: 0.5 1% 7
The Election of Ebert as President
The new National Assembly met for the first time on February 6th, 1919, in Weimar. Weimar was selected for its cultural associations rather than Berlin which, as the centre of the Prussian state, symbolised Prussian aristocratic and military hegemony over Germany. Even more important, the Assembly was there able to obtain safer military protection from the militant workers and soldiers.
On February 11th, 1919, the National Assembly elected Friedrich Ebert (SPG) as first President of the Realm.
The Formation of the Scheidemann Government
The ISPG having refused to take part in a coalition government with the SPG, on February 13th, 1919, a new coalition government comprising Ministers drawn from the Social-Democratic Party of Germany, the Centre (formerly the Christian People's Party) and the German Democratic Party - a coalition which formed the Parliamentary core of the Weimar Republic during its early years and became known as the "Weimar Coalition" -- was formed with Philipp Scheidemann (SPG) as Chancellor.
The Formation of the Arm of the Realm
On February 27h, 1919, the National Assembly approved the law for the establishment of a "provisional army" the "Arm of the Realm" (Reichswehr). Its officers and non-commissioned officers were drawn mainly from the old imperial army, the rank-and-file principally from the reactionary Free Corps.
No provision was made in the law for Soldiers’ Councils, thus annulling the Hamburg Points.
The March General Strike in Berlin
On March 1st, 1919, the CPG issued a call for a political general strike to begin on March 3rd, directed against the counter-revolutionary policies of the Scheidemann government. The political demands put forward included the recognition of Workers’ and Soldiers' Councils and the Hamburg Points; the abolition of courts martial; the freeing of political prisoners; the dissolution of the Free Corps, the formation of a workers’ defence force; and the establishment of trade and diplomatic relations with Soviet Russia. Most of these demands, and the strike call itself, were endorsed by the Executive Council of Workers’ and Soldiers' Councils of Greater Berlin, and even the SPG leaders who had voted against the strike were compelled to join it.
The strike paralysed Berlin for five days. Then, on the pretext that the extension of the strike to gas, water and electricity might be harmful to public health, the SPG leaders resigned from the strike committee on March 8th.
Minister of the Arm of the Realm Gustav Noske immediately declared martial law, and ordered Free Corps troops to march into Berlin to smash the strike. Some thousands of workers and soldiers engaged in armed resistance to the Free Corps.
On March 10th, Leo Jogiches, a member of the Central Bureau of the CPG, was murdered by Free Corps officers, and on March 11th, 29 sailors belonging to the People’s Naval Division were shot.
After several days of severe fighting, in which more than 1,200 workers lost their lives, Berlin was occupied by Free Corps troops on March 12th.
The Foundation of the Communist International (Comintern) (C.I.)
The Communist (or Third) International (Comintern) (C.I.) was established at a conference in Moscow from March 2nd to 19th, 1919, attended by 35 voting delegates from 21 countries.
Of the two delegates elected by the communist Party of Germany to attend the conference, only one, Hugo Eberlein, succeeded in reaching Moscow. He was mandated to oppose the setting up of the International 'for the time being". The leadership of the CPG felt that, with the weakness of the Communist movement as yet outside Soviet Russia a new International would in these circumstances be dominated by the Bolsheviks.
The mandate was originally due to Rosa Luxemburg, but was confirmed after her death by Leo Jogiches, Paul Levi, and Wilhelm Pieck. ("Kommunisticheskii internatsional", No. 187-88; 1929; p.194).
According to Ernst Meyer at the Fifth Congress of the CPG in 1921, Eberlein had been instructed to walk out of the conference if the decision were taken to proceed with the founding of the new International. (Bericht uber den 5. Parteitag der Kommunistischen Partei Deutschlands (Spartakusbund); n.p; 1921; p. 27).
Eberlein found himself, however, isolated at the conference, and on March 4th,. the conference voted without opposition (Eberlein had been persuaded to abstain from voting) to transform itself into the First Congress of the Communist International.
Among the more important documents approved by the Congress were "Theses on Bourgeois Democracy and Proletarian Dictatorship",(drafted by Lenin), the "Platform of the Communist International"; an "Appeal to the Workers of all Countries"; "Theses on the International Situation and the Policy of the Entente", and a "Manifesto to the Proletariat of the Entire world".
The congress set up an Executive Committee to lead the work of the International, composed of members nominated by the Communist Parties of Soviet-Russia, Germany, German Austria, Hungary, the Balkan Federation, Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries. The ECCI was to have its seat in Moscow and was to elect a Bureau of five persons to carry on the day-to-day work of the International. In this connection, Grigori Zinoviev (Soviet Russia) was, after the congress, elected Chairman.
The ECCI reported to the Second Congress of the Communist International in July/August 1920 that only the Soviet Russian and Hungarian Parties had been able to send permanent delegates. (Der I Kongress der Kommunistischen Internationale: Protokoll der Verhandlungen in Moskau vom 2 bis zum 19 Marz 1919; Hamburg; 1921)
In May 1919 the Executive Committee began publication of the organ of the C.I., "The Communist International" ; in several languages.
The ISPG Declares for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat
From March 2nd, to 6th, 1919, an Extraordinary Congress of the Independent Social-Democratic Party of Germany was held in Berlin, attended by delegates representing 300 thousand workers.
A draft programme by Ernst Daumig was presented at the Congress and, although modified to some extent as a result of right-wing opposition led by Karl Kautsky, the programme finally adopted by the congress represented a considerable victory for the left-wing, since it came down firmly in favour of the dictatorship of the proletariat:
The second National Congress of Workers' and Soldiers’ Councils was held in Berlin from April 8th to 14th, 1919, attended by 142 delegates belonging to the SPG and 57 belonging to the ISPG. There were no delegates belonging to the Communist Party.
Dominated by the SPG, the congress resolved to turn over its "power" to the National Assembly.
The Treaty of Versailles
On May 7th, 1919, the terms of the Versailles Peace Treaty were conveyed by representatives of the Allied Powers to the German Foreign Minister, Ulrich Graf von Brockdorff-Rantzau.
The principal aims of the victorious imperialists in imposing the Treaty of Versailles upon defeated Germany were to make Germany militarily impotent, to annex parts of her territory and all her colonies, and to drain a large proportion of her economic wealth for many years to come for their benefit.
Part 1 of the treaty set up the League of Nations, an "international body" to be controlled by the European Allies and Japan (The United States government refused to join).
Parts 2 and 3 defined the
portions of Germany proper to be detached from her territory. Moresnet,
Eupen and Malmedy were to be ceded to Belgium; Alsace-Lorraine with its
iron-fields to France; northern Schleswig-Holstein to Denmark; West Prussia
and most of the province of Posnan to Poland (thus establishing a "Polish
corridor" to the sea separating East Prussia from the rest of Germany).
The Saar basin was placed under the control of the League of Nations, but
with its coal mines under French control; a plebiscite was to be held among
the population of the Saar after 15 years to determine its future. The
left bank of the Rhine and part of the right were to be demilitarised.
Danzig was to be a "free city" under the sovereignty of the League of Nations.
Memel and southern Silesia were also detached from Germany; the former was ceded to Lithuania in 1924, the latter to Poland in 1921.
Part 4 deprived Germany of all her overseas colonies, which were placed under the nominal sovereignty of the League of Nations, which in turn transferred them to various of the Allied powers as "mandates". In Africa, the Cameroons and Togoland were divided between France and Britain, while South-West Africa passed to the Union of South Africa. In the Pacific, the Marshall Islands went to Japan, New Guinea to Australia, West Samoa to New Zealand, Shantung to Japan (which ceded it to China in 1923), and Nauru was divided between Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
Part 5 laid down limits on the size of the German armed forces. The army was to be restricted to 100,000 men, and the formation of a General Staff was prohibited. The navy was restricted to 6 battleships, 16 light cruisers, 12 destroyers and 12 torpedo boats, with submarines prohibited; the remaining ships were taken by the Allies. No replacement ship was to exceed 10,000 tons, and naval personnel were limited to 15,000 men and 1,500 officers and warrant officers. Conscription for the armed forces was prohibited, together with any military or naval air force. Inter-Allied commissions of control were set up for each arm of the service to operate until 1925, after, which this was to be taken over by the League of Nations.
Part 7 charged some 100 Germans (including ex-Emperor Wilhelm II and Field Marshal von Hindenburg) with war crimes, but no significant action was taken under this section.
Part 8 laid down that Germany must pay reparations for "all damage done to the civilian population of the Allies by the aggression of Germany". A Reparations Commission was set up to determine not later than May 1st, 1921, the sum to be paid. Meanwhile, Germany was to pay preliminary reparations of Pounds Sterling 1,000 million. The Allied countries were to receive "most favoured nation" treatment from Germany for five years without reciprocity, and France was to be exempted from customs duties for five years on the products of Alsace-Lorraine.
Part 12 established
control of the rivers Rhine, Elbe and Oder by "international commissions".
The Kiel Canal was left under German control, but made to permit free access
to all vessels of countries at peace with Germany.
Part 14 established Allied control of the Rhineland for 15 years. If Germany "faithfully carried out" the terms of the treaty, the Cologne zone was to be evacuated after 5 years, the Coblenz zone after 10 years, and the Mainz zone after 15 years. If, at any time the Reparations Commission decided that Germany was not fulfilling its obligations with regard to reparations, however, the whole or part of these areas could be reoccupied.
Foundation of the Association Of Communist Land Workers and Small Peasants
On May 17th, 1919, the Association Of Communist Land Workers and Small Peasants of Germany (Verband Kommunistischer Landarbeiter and Kleinbauern Deutschlands) was founded on the initiative of the CPG, and began to publish a weekly newspaper "The Plough" (Der Pflug).
The Retirement of Hindenburg and Groener
In 1919 Field-Marshal Paul von Hindenburg and General Wilhelm Groener retired from active military service.
The Formation of the Bauer Government
There was at first disagreement among the German imperialists as to whether the Versailles Treaty terms should be accepted. In the cabinet 6 Ministers were for acceptance, 8 (in particular the representatives of the German Democratic Party) were for rejection.
On June 20th, as a result of these differences within the cabinet, the Scheidemann government resigned.
On June 21st, a new coalition government was formed, composed of representatives of the. Social-Democratic Party and the Centre (without the participation of the German Democratic Party) with Gustav Bauer (Centre) as Chancellor.
Acceptance of the Versailles Treaty
On June 28th., 1919, the German delegation to the Peace Conference signed the Versailles Treaty on the instructions of the new government.
On July 31st, the National Assembly approved approved acceptance of the treaty by 237 votes to 138 – against the opposition of the German national People's Party, the German People's Party and the Independent Social-Democratic Party of Germany.
The treaty came into effect on August 14th, 1919.
The Weimar Constitution
On July 31st, 1919, the National Assembly approved -- against the opposition of the German National People's Social Party, the German People's Party and the Independent Democratic Party of Germany -- the new Constitution, drafted in the main by Hugo Preusse, a lawyer member of the German Democratic Party.
This constitution, known as the "Weimar Constitution" reflected the changes brought about by the completion of the bourgeois-democratic revolution in November 1918. The remnants of formal political power remaining in the hands of the Prussian landed aristocracy were now abolished, and the capitalists became the sole ruling class of Germany under the façade of the "parliamentary democracy" of the Weimar Republic.
To emphasise the historical continuity with the former Empire, the new constitution continued the old name of "Realm" (Reich) rather than "Republic", although the Realm was described in Article 1 as a republic in which political authority derived from "the people".
Germany remained a federal state, but the powers of the central government were greatly increased, and the special rights of Prussia (in fact, of the Prussian landed aristocracy) were abolished.
The head of state was a President (Prasident), to be in future directly elected for a period of seven years. Special Emergency powers were granted to the President under Article 4b, by which he could "suspend the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution" and rule by decree when he considered that "public security and order" were endangered.
A bicameral legislature was established. The principal chamber in the parliamentary facade was the "'Parliament of the Realm" (Reichstag), elected by direct ballot, but there was also a federal "Council of the Realm" (Reichsrat) ostensibly to give representation to the states but, in fact without effective powers.
The constitution incorporated factory councils into the state apparatus for the regulation of "industrial relations" .
The constitution came into force on August 14th, 1919.
The "Leftist" Opposition to ''Work in the Trade Unions
At a National Conference of the
Communist Party of Germany, held in Frankfurt on August16/17 th, 1919,
an attack was launched upon the policy of the Communist International,
that Communists should work in mass trade unions under reformist leadership,
by a "leftist" opposition headed by Heinrich Laufenberg and Fritz Wolffheim.
They proposed that all Party members should withdraw from the trade unions
and form a single comprehensive "left" trade union. (O.K.Flechtheim:
"Die Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands in der Weimarer Republik";
Offenbach; 1948; p. 59).
The ECCI Circular Letter On Parliament And the Soviets
On September 1st, 1919, the Executive Committee Of the Communist International issued a circular letter on parliament and the Soviets.
This stressed that the form of the proletarian dictatorship is Soviets, not parliament; nevertheless:
On October 10th, 1919, Lenin sent a message of greetings to Italian, French and German Communists in which he declared that the differences among the German Communists related to the questions of participating in parliamentary activities and of working in mass trade unions under reformist leadership.
In October 1919 the Dutch Communist S. Ruttgers was charged by the Communist International with the formation of a West European Bureau of the International in Amsterdam. This came into being in the first weeks of 1920, with D. Wijnkoop as President, and Ruttgers and Henriette Roland-Holst as Secretaries. It issued a bulletin in three languages.
About the same time (the autumn of 1919) a "West European Secretariat" was set up unofficially by the leadership of the Communist Party of Germany with headquarters in Berlin, as a counter-move to the formation of the Amsterdam Bureau.
Its heads were the Bavarian Communist Thomas, and M. Bronsky. At the Second Congress of the C.I. in July 1920, it was described as:
The Second Congress of the Communist Party of Germany was held illegally in the Heidelberg district from October 20th to 23rd, 1919, attended by 46 delegates representing 16,000 members.
The ebb of the revolutionary tide had led to a more realistic appraisal of the process of the socialist revolution in Western Europe as a protracted process embracing several stages, and made up of advances and setbacks. This view was reflected in the "Theses on Communist Principles and 'Tactics" adopted by the Congress:
After a bitter debate, the theses were carried by 31 votes to 18, and the minority were then excluded from the congress, (Ibid.; p. 42).
The expelled minority immediately began preparations for the formation of a new party (which came into being in April 1920) and succeeded in drawing away from the CPG nearly half its total membership, including the majority of its members in Berlin and North Germany.
Lenin disagreed strongly with the expulsion of the minority. On October 28th, 1919, he wrote to the Central Bureau of the CPG:
The Foundation of the Communist Youth International
The Foundation Congress of the Communist Youth International (CYL) was held illegally in Berlin from November r 20th, to 26th, 1919, attended by 25 delegates from 14 youth organisations with a total membership of 200 thousand.
The Congress declared the organisation a section of the Communist International and adopted a "Manifesto to Working Youth" and "Statutes of the Communist Youth International". It elected an Executive Committee of five members including Leopold Flieg and Wilhelm Munzenberg from the CPG.
The December Congress of the ISPG
From November 30th, to December 6th, 1919, an Extraordinary Congress of the Independent Social-Democratic Party of Germany was held In Leipzig.
A resolution that the Party should withdraw from the Second International was carried by 170 votes to 111, and a resolution to enter into negotiations with parties inside and outside the Communist International with a view to forming "an effective International" was carried by 227 votes to 54. ("Kommunisticheskii Internatsional", No. 7-8; November-December, 1919; Col. 1113).
Following the congress, the Central Council of the ISPG wrote to the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party along these lines, but received no reply.
The Separation of the Bavarian People's Party
The Bavarian People's Party (BPP) (Bayrische Volkspartei) (BVP) had been formed on November 12, 1918, as a working group within the Centre. It represented the interests of the landed aristocracy in Bavaria, and its appeal was directed particularly towards Catholic voters in that state.
On January 9th., 1920, the Bavarian People's Party broke away from the Centre to form an independent political party.
The Demonstration against the Factory Councils Bill
In January 1920 the government introduced into the National Assembly the Factory Councils Bill, designed to transform factory councils into mere negotiating bodies.
The CPG and the ISPG called on workers to stage a mass protest demonstration against the Bill on January 13, in front of the Parliament Building. During the demonstration, troops guarding the building fired machine-guns into the demonstrators killing 42 and wounding 10.
The government immediately declared martial law (abolished only in December 1920) and under cover of this the Free Corps bloodily suppressed protest all over the country and
occupied the offices of the CPG and ISPG newspapers, while several hundred leading members of the two parties were arrested.
The ECCI Letters of February
On February 5th, 1920, the Executive Committee of the Communist International issued a general appeal:
The Third Congress of the CPG
The Third Congress of the Communist Party of Germany was held illegally in Karlsruhe on February 25/26th, 1920, attended by 43 voting delegates.
Clara Zetkin delivered a report on the international situations and on the work of the "West European Secretariat". She claimed. that it had now developed "beyond its functions of information", and had become "a central point of communication and union for Communists in Western Europe" (Ibid; p. 77).
Following her reports, strong criticism was expressed concerning the dealings of the ECCI with the "leftist" Communist Workers' Party of Germany, and a resolution was passed calling for the retention of the "West European Secretariat" and for a World Congress of the CI in the near future to discuss the issues, between the ECCI and the CPG. (Ibid, p.84-85).
The congress expelled from the Party five entire districts: Greater Berlin, North, North-West, Lower Saxony and Dresden -- for supporting the stand of their delegates on the trade union issue at the Second Party Congress in October 1919.
A Central Bureau was elected as follows: Heinrich Brander, Hugo Eberlein, Paul Frobhlich, Ernst Meyer, Wilhelm Pieck, August Thalheimer and Clara Zetkin. After the congress Paul Levi was coopted to the Central-Bureau.
The Kapp Putsch
At the beginning of March, 1920, the government, in pursuance of demands issued by the Inter-Allied Military Control Commission, ordered the disbandment of two brigades of marines stationed near Berlin under the Command of Captain Hermann Ehrhardt.
General Walter Freiherr von Luttwitz refused to comply with the order, and the government formally removed the brigades from his command.
On the night of March 12/13th, 5,000 members of the two brigades, led by Ehrhardt, marched into the centre of Berlin.
The government immediately sought the use of troops to crush the putsch, but General Hans von Seeckt, Chief of the Office of Troops at the Ministry of the Arm of the Realm,, replied:
The leadership of the Communist Party at first adopted a "leftist" line towards the putsch, advising workers not to participate in the strike. On March 14th. "The Red Flag" declared:
In the Ruhr, under the leadership of the CPG, a Red Army of 100,000 men came into being and fought the counter-revolutionary troops.
In Berlin the strike was almost 100% effective and, after a few days in which Berlin was completely paralysed, on March 17th, the leaders of the putsch fled. The putsch had been defeated.
The right wing of the ISPG leadership now demanded a new government headed by Legien as Chancellor and including a majority of ISPG Ministers.
On March 21st, 1920, the Central Bureau of the CPG declared that, in the event of such a "workers' government" being formed., they would adopt an attitude of "loyal opposition'' towards it, i.e, they would refrain from attempting to overthrow it by force. ("Die Rote Fahne", March 26th, 1920).
Lenin declared that these tactics were correct in principle:
He suggested that a more correct formulation of these reasons would have been:
Lenin described the period of the Kapp putsch as:
In Bavaria a parallel putsch on behalf of the landed aristocracy was more successful. The SPG government headed by Johanes Hoffmann was ousted, and a new government representing the big landowners, headed by Gustav von Kahr was placed in office. From this time Bavaria became a stamping ground for any right-wing forces opposed to the "parliamentary democracy" at the centre.
Of the 705 persons charged with involvement in the Kapp putsch, only one received a prison sentence. Luttwitz found refuge in Hungary, Ehrhardt in Bavaria, and. a general amnesty was granted to the great majority of Kapp accomplices.
The Formation of the Muller Government
As a result of public indignation at their conduct during the Kapp Putsch, Gustav Bauer (Centre), and Gustav Noske (SPG) resigned as Chancellor and Minister of Defence respectively.
On March 27th, 1920, a new government was formed,, composed of Ministers from the SPG. the Centre and the German Democratic Party, with Hermann Muller (SPG) as Chancellor.
General Hans von Seeckt was promoted head of the Army Leadership (Heeresleitung), the successor to the forbidden High Command.
The Foundation Congress of the "Communist-Workers' Party Of Germany"
On April 3rd,/4th, 1920, the foundation congress of the Communist Workers' Party of Germany (CWPG) (Kommunistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands) (KAPD) -- formed on the initiative of "leftist" elements who had broken with the Communist Party of Germany over the issue of working in the reformist mass trade unions -- was held in Berlin, attended by 35 delegates representing 38 thousand members.
A resolution that the CWPG should apply for membership of the Communist International was carried unanimously, while another resolution adopted directed all members to join the "leftist" General Workers Union (GWU) (Allgemeine Arbeiter-Union) (AAU).
On November 28th., 1920, the CWPG was admitted by the ECCI to the Communist International as a "sympathising party".
The Dissolution of the West European Bureau of the C.I.
In April 1920 the ECCI dissolved the West European Bureau of the C.I. in Amsterdam., on the grounds that its leaders, had adopted the "leftist" line of opposition to work in the reformist mass trade unions and to parliamentary activity. Its functions were transferred to the West European Secretariat set up by the CPG in Berlin, which now assumed an official status. ("Kommunisticheskii Internatsional", No. 1; May 11th., 1920; Cols. 1659-60).
"'Left Wing' Communism"
In April 1920 Lenin's last major work "'Left-wing’ Communism: An Infantile Disorder" appeared -- directed against "leftist" deviations from Marxist strategy and tactics in the European communist movement, particularly in Germany.
In speaking of these "leftist" trends., Lenin pointed out that they were international in character:
The Fourth Congress of the Communist Party of Germany was held illegally in Berlin on April 14/15th; 1920, attended by 49 voting delegates.
The Congress endorsed by 37 votes, to 6, a resolution criticising the Central Bureau's "loyal opposition" statement following the Kapp putsch. (Bericht uber den 4 Parteitags der Kommunistischen Partei Deutschlands (Spartakusbund) n.p.; n.d.; p. 39, 53).
A new Central Bureau was elected as follows: Heinrich Brandler, Hugo Eberlein, Paul Levi, Ernst Meyer, Wilhelm Pieck, August Thalheimer and Clara Zetkin.
The ECCI Open Letter to Members of the CWPG
On June 2nd, 1920; the ECCI issued an open letter addressed to members of the "leftist" "Workers' Party of Germany", expressing strong disapproval of the party's attitude of opposition to membership of the mass trade unions. It added that the CWPG could not be considered a serious revolutionary party while it retained people as Heinrich Laufenberg and Fritz Wolffheim (who, under the slogan of ‘National Bolshevism', were advocating that the working class should ally itself with the German imperialists on an anti-Versailles Treaty programme). (Manifest, Richtlinien, Beschlusse des ersten Kongresses; Aufrufe und offene Schreiben des Exekutiv-komitees bis zum zweiten Kongress; Hamburg; 1920; P. 292f.)
At a congress at the beginning of August 1920, the party expelled the Laufenberg/Wolffheim group.
The 1920 Parliamentary Elections
On June 6th., 1920, elections were held for the German Parliament. The results were as follows:
Social-Democratic Party of Germany:
Independent Social-Democratic Party
of Germany: 5.0 18% 84
German National Peoples Party: 4.2 15% 71
German Peoples Party: 3.9 14% 65
Centre: 3.9 14% 64
German Democratic Party: 2.4 8% 39
Bavarian People's Party: 1.2 4% 21
Communist Party of Germany: 0.6 2% 2
Other parties: 0.9 3% 9
The main changes in the election results from those of the election for the National Assembly in January 1919 were: a fall in the SPG vote from 38% to 22% and in the number of its deputies from 165 to 102: a rise in the ISPG vote from 8% to 18% and. in the number of its deputies from 22 to 84; and the entry into the parliamentary arena for the first time of the Communist Party.
The Formation of the Fehrenbach Government
Following the elections the Muller cabinet resigned, and was replaced on June 25th.; by a new coalition government of the German People's Party, the German Democratic Party and the Centre (i.e., without the Social-Democratic Party), headed by Konstantin Fehrenbach (Centre), It was a minority government kept in office by the supporting vote of the SPG.
The entry of the German People's Party, led by Gustav Stressmann, into the government reflected the decline of the power of the landed aristocracy as a separate class, its growing merger with monopoly capital, and the transformation of this party from representing the political interests of the landed aristocracy to one representing the interests of monopoly capital linked with the landed aristocracy.
This process was completed in 1925 with the entry into, the government of the German National People's Party.
The Second Congress of the Communist International
The Second Congress of the Communist International was held in Petrograd and Moscow from July 19th to August 7th, 1920, attended by 217 delegates from 37 countries. The delegation of the CPG was led by Paul Levi and included Willi Budich, Ernst Meyer, Jacob Walcher and Rosi Wolfstein. Non- voting delegates attended from the ISPG and the CWPG.
The "Manifesto" adopted by the congress had a brief but penetrating reference to Germany:
The congress formed an Executive
Committee of 26 members drawn from 20 national Parties. After the congress,
this elected a "Narrow Bureau" to administer the day-to-day tasks
of the Communist Internationals composed as follows:
Grigori Zinoviev (Soviet Russia) (Chairman);
Nikolai Bukharin (Soviet Russia) (deputy Chairman);
Mikhail Kobetsky (Soviet Russia) (Secretary);
Ernst Meyer (Germany), and
A. Rudnianski (Hungary).
In the period between the Second Congress and the Third Congress (June/July 1921), the Narrow Bureau was enlarged_to include:
Wilhelm Koenen (Germany),
Bela Kun (Hungary),
Karl Radek (Soviet Russia) and
Alfred Rosmer (France)
Lenin's Letter to the German and French Workers
On September 24th, 1920, Lenin wrote a "Letter to the German and French Workers" concerning the discussion proceeding in the centrist parties about the question of affiliating to the Communist International. He declared that the right-wing leaders of the ISPG were:
From October 12th, to 17th, 1920, an Extraordinary Congress of the Independent Social-democratic Party of Germany took place in Halle, attended by 395 delegates representing 893 thousand members.
After a speech by Grigori Zinoviev on behalf of the Communist International, the congress voted by 237 votes to 156 that the party should apply for affiliation to the Communist International under the 21 conditions. The right wing then walked out of the congress, which proceeded to adopt a resolution to negotiate for fusion of the ISPG with the Communist Party of Germany (USPD: Protokoll uber die Verhandlungen des Ausserordentlichen Parteitags zu Halle; n.p.; n.d.).
The Fifth Congress of the CPG
The Fifth Congress of the Communist Party of Germany was held in Berlin from November lst to 3rd, 1920 attended by 101 voting delegates representing 79 thousand members. The congress endorsed a resolution to the effect that the CPG should unite with the left-wing of the ISPG. It left the elections of a new Central Bureau to the forthcoming Unification Congress. (Bericht uber den 5. Parteitag der Kommunistischen Partei Deutschlands (Spartakusbund); n.p.; 1921).
The Sixth (Unification) Congress of the CPG
The Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Germany the Unification Congress at which the CPG merged with the left-wing of the Independent Social-Democratic Party of Germany -_ was held in Berlin from December 4th to 7th, 1920, attended by 136 delegates from the CPG and 349 from the ISPG, representing, between them 300,000 members.
The party adopted for a time the new name of the United Communist Party of Germany (UCPG) (Vereinigte Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands) (VKPD), The word: "United' was dropped in 1922.
A new Central Bureau was elected with Ernst Daumig (ISPG) and Paul Levi (CPG) as Chairmen Heinrich Brandler (CPG), Otto Brass (ISPG), Wilhelm Koenen (ISPG), Wilhelm Pieck (CPG), Hermann Remmele (ISPG), Walter Stoecker (ISPG) and Clara Zetkin (CPG) as Secretaries; and the following as members: Otto Gabel (ISPG), Curt Geyer (ISPG), Fritz Heckert (CPG), Adolph Hoffmann (ISPG) and August Thalheimer (CPG). (Bericht Uber die Verhandlungen des Vereinigungsparteitags der USPD (Linke) and der KPD (Spartakusbund); n.p.; 1921).
The '"Open Letter" of the CPG
On January 7th., 1921, a conference of the Central Bureau with district secretaries of the Communist Party of Germany approved an "Open Letter" addressed to the General German Trade Union League (Allgemeiner Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund) (ADGB); the General Free Employee's League (Allgemeiner freier Angestelltenbund) (AFA-Bund), the General Workers' Union (Allgemeiner Arbeiter Union) (AAU), the Free-Workers' Union (Freie Arbeiterunion) (FAU), the Social-Democratic Party of Germany (SPD); the rump of the Independent Social-Democratic Party of Germany (USPD); the Communist Workers’ Party of Germany (KAPD).
The "Open Letter", drafted by Karl Radek and Paul Levi, proposed a joint campaign for the raising of wages, unemployment assistance and pensions; for a reduction in the cost of living; for the dissolution of anti-republican para-military organisations; for the creation of "organs of proletarian self-defence"; and for the establishment of trade and diplomatic relations with Soviet Russia.
The "Open Lettar" met with no response from the organisations to which it was addressed, and was criticised as "opportunist" by a "leftist" group developing within the Party under the leadership of Ruth Fischer and Arkadi Maslow.
At the Third World Congress of the International in July 1921, Lenin defended the tactics of the "Open Letter" against the attacks of the "leftists":
In January 1921 the Congress of the Italian Socialist Party was held at Leghorn, with Matyas Rakosi and Christo Kabakchiev representing the Communist International.
The party had declared its adherence to the Communist International shortly after the latter’s foundation, but this congress had to decide whether to continue adherence under the 21 conditions adopted by the Second World Congress of the C.I. in July 1920. While the right wing of the Congress was opposed to continued affiliation on any terms, a large centrist wing headed by Giacinto Serrati opposed, in the name of "tolerance", acceptance of the last condition (which called for expulsion of the right wing of the party). In this opposition Serrati received the open support of Paul Levi, who attended the congress as a fraternal delegate from the Communist Party of Germany.
At a meeting of the Central Council of the CPG on February 22nd/24th, 1927, a resolution moved by Paul Levi denouncing the attitude of the Communist International in relation to the Italian Socialist Party was lost by 28 votes to 23, and a resolution moved by August Thailheimer, approving it was carried by the same vote.
Following this, Otto Brass, Ernst Daumig,s Adolph Hoffman, Paul Levi and Clara Zetkin resigned from the Central Bureau and were replaced by Paul Bottcher, Paul Frohlich, Ernst Meyer, Max Sievers and Paul Wegmann. Heinrich Brandler and Walter Stoecker were elected Chairmen of the Party.
From this time until October 1922 the leading role in the CPG was played by Ernst Meyer.
In March the Executive Committee of the Communist International issued a statement on the incident:
From February 22nd, to 27th, 1921, representatives of the centrist social-democratic parties which had broken with the Second International but which rejected the 21 conditions of affiliation to the Third International, met in Vienna and set up the short-lived International Union of Socialist Parties,, (known as the "Vienna International" or, less respectfully, as the "Two-and-a-Half International").
The Third World Congress of the Communist-International in June/July 1921 characterised the "Two-and-a-Half" International as follows:
On February 3rd, 1921, a strike
of copper workers began in the district of Mansfeld in central Germany.
On March 16th, the Governor of Saxony, Otto Horsing (SPG) ordered security-police (Schutzpolizei) (Schupo), and troops of the Arm of the Realm to prepare an action "to restore the authority of the state" in the Mansfeld district.
Taking advantage of the resignation of the rightists from the Central Bureau of the Communist Party of Germany, "leftist" elements led by Arkadi Maslow had succeeded in getting the Central Bureau to accept the "theory of the general revolutionary offensive -- the theory that the time had now come for the Party to undertake revolutionary offensive actions which would arouse the working class to active support. On the basis of this "leftist" theory, the Central Bureau put forward a resolution to the meeting of the Central Council of the CPG on March 17th.; that the Party should organise an armed insurrection to overthrow the government, the action to commence in Mansfeld. The action was supported by the "leftist" representative of the Communist International in Germany at this time, Bela Kun. As Clara Zetkin said at the Third World Congress of the C.I. in June/July 1921:
The mass of the workers, however, failed to respond to the call to armed insurrection issued by the CPG, and on March 24th, the Central Bureau of the Party changed its Policy to call for a general strike in protest against the events in Mansfeld. This was 100% effective in the Mansfeld district, but not on a nation-wide scale.
On April lst, after the armed uprising had been brutally crushed with many casualties, the Central Bureau cancelled the call for a general strike. A white terror followed in Saxony, in which more than 6,000 workers were thrown into prison.
The "March action", as it came to be called, was followed by a serious decline in the support for and membership of the CPG: membership declined within three months from some 350,000 to 180,000. (Bericht uber den III (8) Parteitag der VKPD; Berlin; 1923; p. 63).
The first C.I. statement on the March action, issued by the Little Bureau of the ECCI on April 6th, defended the action and attributed its defeat solely to the treachery of the social-democratic leaders:
At a full meeting of the ECCI on April 29th, however, Lenin strongly criticised the conduct of the March Action, and its assessment was referred to the Third World Congress of the Cl scheduled for June/July:
The Expulsion of Paul Levi
On April 12th., 1921, Paul Levi published a pamphlet entitled "Our Course' Against Putschism", which denounced the policy of the Communist Party of Germany in the March action as "putschism" and described the action itself as:
At its meeting from May 3rd to 5th, 1921, the Central Council of the CPG adopted a motion of censure on Otto Brass, Ernst Daumig, Paul Eckert, Curt Geyer, Adolph Hoffmann, Heinrich Malzahn, Paul Neumann and Clara Zetkin for continuing to express solidarity with Paul Levi after his expulsion. Curt Geyer, Max Sievers and Paul Wegmann were removed from the Central Bureau and replaced by Hugo Eberlein, Emil Hollein and Jacob Walcher.
At the Third World Congress of the
Communist International in June/July 1921, Lenin made an error in defending
Paul Levi to a certain extent. He explained later that this error was due
to the fact of Levi's early association with the Communist movement, to
the fact that Levi's criticism of the policy of the CPG in relation to
the March action as "leftist" was basically correct, and to the fact that
it was then necessary to be "on the rlght" to the extent of resisting the
based themselves on the "theory of the general revolutionary offensive":
"I must explain to the German comrades why I defended
Paul Levi for so long at the Third Congress. Firstly, in 1915 or 1916 .
. . Levi was already a Bolshevik. Incomparably more important was the second
reason viz, in essence much of Levi's criticism of the March Germany
action in 1921 was right (not of course, when he said that the uprising
was a 'putsch'; that assertion was absurd). . .
I defended and had to defend Levi, in so far as I saw before me opponents of his who merely shouted about 'Menshevism' and 'Centrism' and who refused to see the mistakes committed during the March uprising and the necessity of explaining and rectifying them". (V.I. Lenin: "A Letter to the Gorman Communists", in: ibid; pp. 293, 294).
TO BE CONTINUED.........