Ernst Meyer

In the International

The Fight for a Mass Party in Germany

(31 January 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. II No. 9, 31 January 1922, pp. 65–66.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
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The press hostile to Communism is in the habit of regarding all events in connection with the development of Communist parties from the perspective of “splits”. Even the fusion of a great part of the independent Socialist Party of Germany with the Spartakusbund (Communist Party of Germany) after the Halle Party Congress appeared to those superficial critics to be merely a split. In reality, as a result of the Halle Congress a big Communist Party was created that was able to pursue active propaganda quite differently from the small Spartakusbund. It would be as much a mistake in judging the Party debates within the United Communist Party of Germany to be influenced by the fact that in the course of these debates a few members and groups left or were expelled from the Party. A closer observer would surely ask the question, whether these discussions do not increase the strength of the Party from within and do not bring into stronger relief the character of the Party as a Party of the masses.

Anyone who has paid particular attention to the resolutions of the Party Congresses and the policy of the Communist Party since the Unity Congress in December 1920 will have observed that the Communist Party of Germany has besides the general propaganda for the dictatorship of the proletariat gradually developed a substantial political program. A comparison of the manifesto of the Unity Congress 1920 with the resolutions of the Party Congress in 1920 or with the resolutions of the last Central Executive Committee meeting shows this difference most distinctly. Besides pursuing the propaganda of the general principles of Communism the German Party deliberately devotes itself more and more to political and economic questions that concern the workers as and more to political and economic questions that concern the workers as a whole. Also the timidity at first sometimes shown in answering concrete political questions has gone, so that the Communist Party is fought by the sectarian-like “Communist Workers’ Party” – though unjustly – as being “opportunist”. This process of developing to a party of the masses naturally does not proceed without friction. Some good comrades are afraid of losing something of their revolutionary views, if the Party answers concrete political questions otherwise than by a general belief in the dictatorship of the proletariat. On the other hand, some comrades are tempted in advocating a party of the masses to throw overboard even indispensable Communist principles in order to rally around themselves as many workers as possible.

As the tempo of revolutionary development in Germany visibly slowed down, the nature of the Communist demands has experienced certain modifications. That way makes it appear as if the Party revises itself continually backward. The course the Party pursued even seemed at times not to run in a straight line, because the adaptation to the tasks of a mass party did not proceed without opposition in the Party by the so-called “left” and necessitated a repelling of non-communist exaggerations of the right. But in general the German Party has accomplished the task of becoming a mass party without too great vacillations and serious dangers. The debates and resolutions of the last meeting of the Central Executive Committee on the 22nd and 23rd of January are agreeable evidence for that assertion.

The opponents of the Party endeavour to call public attention solely to the expulsion of the Party members belonging to Paul Levi’s Communist Working Union. Much more important are, however, the resolutions concerning the present tasks of the Party. The Central Executive Committee confirms therein the resolutions already previously adopted on the subject of the taxation program of the Party, based on the demand for the seizure of the “real values”. The Central Executive Committee declared the willingness of the Party to draw the political consequences necessary for the execution of this demand, to further the formation of a purely Socialist government and also under certain conditions to assent to Communists joining a Labor Cabinet. This willingness is in the resolution expressly extended to the formation of Labor governments in the various component States of the German Republic.

How unjustifiable is the reproach that our Party shuts itself off like a sect is proved further by a resolution declaring the readiness of our Party for joint action with other working-class organizations for concrete political demands the realization of which are apt to improve the position of the workers. The efforts for the formation of a proletarian united front will be deliberately continued by the German Party and extended internationally. The Central Executive Committee demanded the calling of an international congress of all proletarian organizations before the meeting of Genoa. It rejects, however, any attempt at falsifying this idea by calling a conference only limited to the parties of the Western countries.

The Party as a whole has proved by these resolutions, adopted without opposition, that it is by no means disposed to shut itself off narrow-mindedly and to turn back into a clique of insurrection-brewing conspirators, as Paul Levi and his adherents allege. But the Central Executive Committee had so much more strongly to resist the attempt to deprive our Party of its Communist character and to destroy its organization. The aims of the Communist Working Union (K.A.G.) directed towards forcing upon the Communist Party a policy obliterating every line of demarcation between the Communist Party and the Independent Socialist Party.

The passage in the Communist Manifesto, stating that the Communists have no aims apart from the entire proletariat is misunderstood by the aforementioned K.A.G. in such a way as to mean that the Communist Party has no right of existence whatsoever in addition to the other workers’ organizations. And as the other Labor organizations do not amalgamate with the Communist Party the members of the K.A.G. endeavor to lead our Party at least on the way to a fusion with the Independent Socialist Party.

The Central Executive Committee has unanimously rejected this attempt. The decisive resolutions were adopted against only two votes. This proportion of votes corresponds completely with the opinion held by the bulk of the members. It may therefore be expected that apart from a number of Party functionaries the decision of the Central Executive Committee will cause no material splitting-off of members. The withdrawal of a few members of the Reichstag group of course again weakens it, but in that respect it must be borne in mind that the Reichstag group with its 24 members, apart from two, consisted of late members of the Independent Socialist Party, who after the Party Conference at Halle withdrew as single members from the group of the I.S.P. In the Prussian Diet, the Communist group, which was elected after the founding of the United Communist Party, only loses two members.

The course which economic events have recently taken in Soviet Russia and the slackening of the revolutionary tempo in Germany have disenchanted many workers who hitherto have enthusiastically supported the Revolution and Communism. They are more sceptically inclined towards our Party than before. The difficulties of the revolutionary fight, the inevitable failures and intervals in the fray are causing them to keep aloof.

A few leave altogether; others, however, believe they must recommend to the Party the surrender of Communist principles or even the Party’s dissolution in favor of a larger “social revolutionary” Party. The great majority of the Party members has, however, not forgotten its experiences with the old Social Democratic Party. It knows the significance of a dear Communist Party in revolutionary as well as quieter times. The decision of the Central Executive Committee shows this firmness which in the way of organization will also find expression in the retaining of the bulk of the membership. The burning question of taxation the wages disputes that are at hand and the threatening intensification of poverty and starvation among the masses of the proletariat will not find our Party, which is soberly and determinedly prepared for this situation, any weaker in spite of all these trials.

Last updated on 3 May 2019