File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 79

Date: Mon, 06 Oct 1997 10:24:27 -0400
Subject: M-I: The Socialist and Communist United Front in Germany

Sid Chatterjee:

>About Louis P's comment about the "red" referendum in Germany about
>the CP branding the SD as social fascist, is it true that in the
>early part of this century in Germany, the SD collaborated with ultra
>rightwing reactionaries? And that this cooperation was responsible to
>some extent for the murders of Karl Leibenicht and Rosa Luxemburg?

Of course this is true. Moreover, the Socialist Party parliamentarians
voted for war credits in 1914. The animosity toward the 2nd International
led to the formation of a 3rd International. In the initial revolutionary
upsurge of the post-WW1 years, the Comintern was confident that it could
sweep the discredited 2nd International parties aside and take power in its
own name.

This was an overprojection, however. In 1921 an isolated Communist Party
was easily blocked in a bid for power in Germany. The Comintern analyzed
the defeat and came to the conclusion that the Communists had to build
alliances with the Social Democrats in Germany and elsewhere. The United
Front tactic was resisted bitterly by the ultraleft wing of the party led
by Ruth Fischer, which was especially strong in Berlin.

In 1923, Germany entered a prerevolutionary situation. The Comintern
instructed the German Communist Party to make a bid for power using Saxony
as base. Saxony was a heavily industrialized state of Saxony where a Social
Democrat named Erich Zeigner headed the government. The specific form that
the United Front took in 1923 was an armed insurrection that combined the
forces of the Socialists and Communists in Saxony that the Comintern hoped
would spread in concentric circles to other states and eventually lead to a
"workers government." A workers government was conceived as coalition
between the Socialists and Communists. Lenin advocated this, just as he
advocated the United Front.

Zeigner, who belonged to the same party that voted war credits in 1914 and
collaborated in the murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemberg, called
for expropriation of the capitalist class, arming of the workers and a
proletarian dictatorship. The Social Democracy was being radicalized by
economic crisis and millions of workers in the rank-and-file were shifting
to the left and welcoming the prospects of a socialist revolution. Zeigner
felt these pressures and welcomed partnership with the Communist Party.

The United Front policy made perfect sense, but the revolution of 1923
failed because the policy was not carried through in a consistent manner.
There was lingering sectarianism in the German Communist Party from the
Fischer wing that aroused suspicion in the SP and other parties of the left.

Adolfo Olaechea represents the ultraleft wing of the German Communist Party
in an undiluted form. This is no surprise because Maoism hearkens back to
the most ultraleft tendencies in the early Communist movement. This is a
trend that is styled in the "third period" madness of the late 1920s, when
the German Communist Party succumbed to Ruth Fischer's ultraleftism. 

This was also a period when the Comintern itself had lurched in an
ultraleft direction. The United Front policy had been abandoned in favor of
super-sectarianism. The German Communists, like Adolfo, could not
distinguish between a left party that was based on the trade union movement
and an ultraright movement that was financed by big business. The "third
period" sectarianism of the German Communist Party was partially
responsible for the victory of Hitler. Instead of having to deal with a
united left, Hitler was able to come to power while the left was torn apart
by sectarianism. It is the same sort of sectarianism that Adolfo Olaechea
is peddling today.

Marxism is about class analysis. Fascism is not simply equal to violence,
intolerance or irrationalism. It is a mass movement that is rooted in a
specific class: the petty-bourgeoisie. The petty-bourgeoisie is radicalized
during a period of economic crisis, but is torn in two directions
politically. It resents big business because it sees big business as
responsible for its collapse. The shopkeeper resents the big retail chains.
One of the main Nazi demands was to nationalize the big retail chains, many
of which were owned by Jews. By the same token, the middle class hates the
working class because it is inconvenienced by strikes and demonstrations.
It is out of this swamp that fascism arises.

Meanwhile there is no such class analysis that has ever been advanced on
behalf of "social fascism". It is simply undigested, raw ultraleftism.
Lenin polemicized against this tendency in "Left-wing Communism: An
infantile disorder". It is a permanent part of the workers movement and
reappears in many forms. When Lenin wrote this article, the problem he was
facing was Communist hostility toward the official trade union movement in
Western Europe. One of the main ultraleftists, by the way, was George
Lukacs of Hungary.

Ultraleftism can be explained by an inability to think dialectically. The
German Social Democracy is ONLY the party that voted for war credits in
1914. The Cuban Communist Party is ONLY the party that welcomes the Pope.
(Although I must say, there is more to this than meets the eye. I may have
more to say on this.) The AFL-CIO is ONLY an institution that serves the
interests of corrupt, class-collaborationist bureaucrats.

Real revolutionary politics always involves nuanced tactical alliances with
less-than-revolutionary forces. The reason for this is elementary. Class
consciousness does not develop in a synchronized manner, like military
assaults. The entire working-class does not wake up one morning and say to
itself, "The capitalist system must be overthrown." The reason vanguard
parties are needed is that they can bridge the gap in consciousness between
more and less politically developed sectors of the working-class.

The ultraleftist is almost always somebody who has forgotten how they
themselves became a revolutionary. They forget that at one time they went
to church or synagogue faithfully, voted for capitalist politicians and
believed whatever the bourgeois press said. When they are won over to
socialism, they are often very impatient. "If I can see how rotten the
capitalist system is, why can't the rest of society see it? They must be a
bunch of fascists." In the 1960s, this attitude was summed up by the
slogan, "If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the
problem." It was attitudes like this which destroyed the radical movement
of the 1960s, just as it did the radical movement of the 1920s.

Louis Proyect

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