“Questions of the United Front in Germany“ by Walter Ulbricht (Aug 26. 1939)

Stand of the unity front in the country

 

In the reports of instructors it is said, that the comradely coherence of the antifascist workers became stronger. With the intensification of the political situation in September 1938 and by occasion of questions of work time and wages 1939 the comradely relations to the social-democrats has improved in many enterprises. The solidarity of the workers in the enterprise departments became more firm. That is proven by the resistance movements at the West Wall¹, in the mines and also on many places of the metal industry. In general it did not succeed yet to develop the comradely relations to a political relationship. The connections are large and good, but that all relies on friendship and randomness. The mutual trust is restricted on the hate against fascism.

 

In September 1938 the social resistance movements stepped backed behind the general discussion of the war questions. That seems to be come from, that the main orientation of the antifascists was concentrated on this question. In the report from Rhineland-Westphalia it is being said, that from meetings to prepare the resistance movement could not be spoken about yet. The instructor from Kiel says, that the comradeship became better, but it did not come to organized movements yet. They at least dare to discuss about all possible questions in groups again. Still the collaboration is mostly, to give tips to each other how to prevent piecework pressure.

 

An instructor from the Wasserkante says, that there is unclarity about the how of the struggle to the fall of Hitler and the necessary unity. In diverse reports the comradely relations of communists and social-democrats are already labelled as united front, although in some reports it is said, that over united actions are not spoken about yet.

 

Which character does the united-front-like collaboration between social-democrats and communist groups has?

 

I will bring up some examples, which characterize the most typical things. United-front-like collaboration is existing with such left groups, which are already ideologically close to us. The Mahnruf-Group² in Hamburg is standing in contact with us for some years, although the connection was temporarily lost. They have drafted flyers together with us or accepted the publishing of them. They are against the party directorate, but are not clear about what should come after Hitler yet. They declare, that their agitation has the goal to use very possibility to stir dissatisfaction.

 

At Siemens in Berlin a social-democratic group, which was connected with the leadership of the 10-Points-Group, works united-front-like together with us and also handed out flyers with us.

 

In a city in Ruhr Area a left social-democratic group works with us together for years. They have handed out flyers with us and also wrote to the party directorate and demanded the creation of the united front. Collaboration also exists with at Blohm & Voß in Hamburg with a social-democratic group. The communication over planned executive tasks intern and outside the enterprise does not exist yet. In the other apprehended enterprises in hamburg relations to social-democrats are existing. The relation is that of worker to worker.

 

A group of social-democrats and communists in Berlin has handed out a common flyer against Hitler´s war politics. For sure there are even more social-democratic groups which are collaborating with us.

 

The most characteristic of that collaboration, as far it is in the country itself, is the general propaganda against Hitler´s war politics. Insufficiently is being answered on the main arguments of the Nazis and insufficiently reasoned are these economic, social and directed against fascist enforced actions directed demands, which are useful for bringen the masses into motion.

 

Self-critical it is being said in the Hamburg report: “The thinking and acting of the biggest part of the social-democrats is unknown for us.“ In another report it is being said: “In all areas our friends are still hesitating to create connections with the social-democrats.“ In different reports it is being indicated, that the unclarity over the united and people´s front politics in Spain and France works debilitating.

 

The crisis among the social-democracy

 

The SPD is political and organizationally splintered. They exist in the country as friendship circles, who meet because of diverse, mostly legal reasons. Occasionally social-democratic functionaries use their occupation as small merchants, to meet their social-democratic comrades as customers. Specially the right-wing of the social-democrats are trying to spread the directives of the party directorate on this way. In general a left-development of many social-democrats, specially under the influence of the politics of the Soviet Union, can be detected.

 

1. A minority of active left social-democrats is for the unity of the working class, is ready for single steps of common antifascist propaganda, but has multiple doubts towards our demand of a democratic republic.

 

2. The biggest part of the social-democrats is acting in the representation of daily workers interests, is connected with the masses, is member of mass organizations and is for the democratic republic. Mostly these social-democrats have learned from the past, have a comradely relationship to the communists, but have some political distrust against the KPD.

 

3. The right-wing social-democratic functionaries in the country preach waiting, speculating on the automatically fall of fascism and speak often from a coming military dictatorship.

 

A famous former trade union leader said, that the war would be unpreventable and lead to the defeat of Germany. He says:

 

“It is not task of the German socialists to bring unnecessary victims for work in the country, but we must do anything to get contact to the military forces, which will dictate peace after the lost war by Germany.“

 

Another former social-democratic trade union leader said in discussion with a comrade:

 

“The reform of Marxism is a step forwards… The fascism will collapse by economic difficulties by itself. It is the people´s own fault that the fascism came. Weimar gave the possibility to vote correctly.“

 

The right-wing social-democratic leaders abroad are now going over to develop a reactionary platform as basis of the unification of the social-democrats.

 

Since 1933 the following development phases can be detected:

 

In spring 1933 the party directorate looked for a compromise with the fascism. The Reichstag faction voted for Hitler´s foreign policy and Wels left the executive of II. Internationale. When also the social-democratic leaders had to emigrate, they tried to keep the social-democracy together by concessions towards the left social-democrats. It came the manifesto of January 1934, which created the possibility of united-front-like collaboration of social-democrats and communists.

 

After that the Revolutionary Socialists published their revolutionary platform and inside the social-democratic apparatus the united-front-friendly forces gained influence. The right-wingers in the party directorate did everything they could to smash and prevent the unification of revolutionary social-democrats and removed their representatives step by step from the apparatus.

 

When bigger difficulties in struggle of the people´s front in Spain and France came up, the party directorate demanded the cancelling of unity-front-like collaboration between communists and social-democrats in the country and in Paris.

 

After the party directorate was successful to prevent the common action of revolutionary socialdemocrats in the country, it went over in the second half of the years 1938 to the reasoning of its political positions. Till then it saw itself just as the trustee of the socialdemocracy in Germany, it delcared now in the call of 14. September 1938:

“The directorate of the Social-democratic Party of Germany is the last organ, which was elected by the social-democratic mass organizations in Germany.“³

 

By that it announced again the exclusive leadership-claim. Wels became active again, was elected into the executive of II. Internationale again and united openly with the right-wing elements. A situation has developed in which the right-winged social-democratic leaders do a systematically offensive while the left social-democrats in the country are splintered and a part of the emigrated social-democrats, who are against the party directorate, are standing under influence of diverse Trotskyite groups.

 

The content of the right-wing-social-democratic platform

 

There is no worked out program, but a series of articles by Stampfer, Geyer and others, which were introduces by the declaration of Stampfer, that the working out of a social-democratic program would be necessary, already are being a social-democratic platform. That this so called party directorate is against the united and people´s front, comes from Stampfer´s exposition, that the SPD would have a decisive task due to the position between right-wing groups and communists. Geyer openly propagates an “undogmatic socialism“. Sollmann wrote: “For me class-socialism and class-politics of the workers have failed.“⁴ He delcared, that the Communist Mnaifesto could not be the basis of social-democratic concentration, like it seems some want. Stampfer is in these questions more skillful. He falsifies Marxism, uses for that some Marx quotes to be able to influence a bigger circle of socialdemocratic supporters. From these articles comes the following statement to political foundational questions: In the statement to imperialism in diverse articles he defends the line of SPD during the First World War. Wels says, that the social-democratic policy was right back then. Stampfer says: “Germany could have been united till the end of war, when it had focused on defense targets.“⁵ He defends the so called Peace Resolution⁷ of the Reichstag majority in July 1917. Factly these social-democrats are denying the existence of German imperialism. The aggressive imperialist forces do they see in the top of fascist bureaucracy. They reject to stand for the slogan of defeat of Hitler-Germany in case of war.

 

Towards the character of fascism Stampfer questions: “Was it really the bourgeoisie which brought Hitler into power… ?“⁶ He writes:

 

“He self, Hitler is – it ahs to be said, even when it is awkward – through and through a product of the modern revolutionary development and not thinkable without it.“⁸

 

The rejection of the Hitler regime would be in parts of the bourgeoisie stronger than among the industrial workers.⁹ The “proud Rhinish entrepreneurs“ would not let Hitler dictate them anything.¹⁰ By the way the social-democrats have the position of equating fascism and bolshevism. Geyer writes for example:

 

“The totalitarist idea itself – not just its racist form – is the real enemy of freedom. It lies on the ground of racism like nationalism or the orthodox class struggle teaching.“¹¹

 

In the question of the democratic republic they stand for a “authoritarian democracy“, like Sollmann is calling it. Stampfer is for a “temporary dictatorship of the republicans“¹², by what he means the suppression of the revolutionary forces, like he further explains it in an article, in which he writes: When the communists support the social-democratic politics, then a second Noske-politics is impossible.¹³ Stampfer claims, formerly the working class would have been educated to an overstated power consciousness. He puts today the future constitutional question into the foreground and to disguise the question, which class forces will be active in the future republic, by general speeches about “the people“. To the people´s front they have the opinion, that it would be a kind of coalition politics too and would not contrast from what the social-democracy did in Weimar Republic. To the question, why the SPD rejects the collaboration with the communists, Geyer answers: “The antidemocratic totalitarian ulterior motives are what takes the arguments of the communists all convincing power.“¹⁴ Sollmann writes in a letter to Stampfer:

 

“What is for you and me holy, ´Weimar´, is for others, also social-democrats, in best cases a bunch of errors, of weakness, of illusions, of personal deficiency. This deep border line inside the social-democracy has already in Weimar era hindered some of our actions…“¹⁵

 

What they imagine as a democratic republic, also comes out of the fact, that Sollmann stands for an “estatist structured socialism“¹⁶ and Stampfer speaks about “planned economic, progressive tendencies“ of fascism and demands, that these “progresses“ must be kept in the future republic.

 

Source: Walter Ulbricht “Zur Geschichte der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung – Band II – Zweiter Zusatzband“, Dietz Verlag, Berlin, 1968

 

¹ also known as Siegfried Line

 

² Socialdemocratic group which acted together with communists

 

³ Neuer Vorwärts (Paris), Nr. 274, 18. September 1938, German

 

⁴ Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 284, 27. November 1938, German

 

⁵ Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 321, 13. August 1939, German

 

⁶ A resolution by socialdemocrats around Friedrich Ebert and Philipp Scheidemann in July 1917, being adopted by SPD, Zentrum and FVP (in Weimar later DDP) [so by the later “Weimar Coalition“]. In it is being denied that World War I is an aggressive war by Germany and it is claimed that just the other nations would want to crush Germany. So it was a denial of the existence of German imperialism.

 

⁷ Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 310, 28. Mai 1939, German

 

⁸ Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 275, 25. September 1938, German

 

⁹ cf. Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 312, 11. Juni 1939, German

 

¹⁰ cf. Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 310, 28. Mai 1939, German

 

¹¹ Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 321, 13. August 1939, German

 

¹² Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 274, 16. September 1938, German

 

¹³ cf. Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 311, 4. June 1939, German

 

¹⁴ Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 321, 13. August 1939, German

 

¹⁵ Neuer Vorwärts, Nr. 284, 27. November 1938, German

¹⁶ “Ständesozialismus“ (“Estate-Socialism“) like used as a phrase in fascist Austria 1933-1938; it is an euphemistic term to disguise the character of fascism, just like “National-Socialism“ in Nazi-Germany

Thanks to The Red Path!

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