Ernst Meyer

In the Camp of Our Enemies

The Frankfort Conference

(14 March 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 20, 14 March 1922, p. 152.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2019). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

The five-country-conference of the Social Democratic Parties at Frankfort on the Main did not dare to sit in public because it was greatly feared, as the Berlin Vorwärts says, that an open session might lead to futile disputes and conflicts, that is, the Second International feared that the International 2½ might come in with suggestions and plans that differed from its own in principle. But the Vorwärts and the Second International are now relieved, for the International 2½ very nicely permitted itself to be taken in tow by the Second International, and even Serrati and Levi approved the resolutions of this Congress, which were passed in the spirit of the latter.

The resolutions of the Frankfort Conference bear the indelible stamp of “statesmanlike” motions made by Social Democratic ministers. This fact was perceived even by the French Socialists, who insisted that a flourish be lent to the resolution dealing with the reparations question, by appending the little statement that only Socialism could cure the world. The chairman of the conference. Vandervelde, responded to this notion, which was nothing more than a transparent mask, in a satirical manner by dropping the remark that the motion might as well be passed, since it lends to the resolution the necessary “red cap”. This witticism was received with mirth by the conference.

But this red cap in no way hides the bald-pate of the half-baked Frankfort resolution, which only spells compromise. From the report of the debates on the reparations question, which the Vorwärts is now publishing, it becomes only too clear that the resolutions passed are barren formulas which are not backed by a sincere will to carry them out, and which are above all, ill-adapted for concentrating proletarian forces for the purpose of shifting their heavy burden upon the bourgeoisie.

When Serrati, commenting upon the resolution, writes in Avanti: “This altogether barren document is of no other significance to us than that of a promise and a wish”, he already goes too far. Nevertheless, the report published by the Vorwärts gives us an insight into the ideology of the greatest Socialist parties represented it Frankfort, which are still dazed by the spirit of the war. The complete accord of the parties was effected by a sort of mutual amnesty which conceded to every party the right to don its national costume.

The western parties were granted the concession that Germany (what part of the German people remained undiscussed) must pay reparations to the victorious countries, while the parties of the western countries made the counter-concession that Germany should be granted a moratorium on interest payments. It is interesting to note that Dittmann moved that Germany is ‘to nuke reparations only within the limit of its paying capacity. Thus, the refusal of the German bourgeoisie to pay is a barrier for the German Independent Socialists which is simply to be accepted, instead of concentrating all of the proletarian forces in an effort to break through this barrier.

It is true that Paul Levi did make an attempt to authenticate the principle of responsibility of all the capitalist countries for the last war and for all its consequences. But such a matter of course, expressed as a principle, could only have hurt the ostensible unity and Levi lost no time in “explaining” that his fundamental viewpoint was a misunderstanding. He expressed his deep regret that the Conference could possibly have been led to believe that his fundamental viewpoint could have any practical consequences whatever. Levi completely Separated his fundamental principles dealing with the “very general theoretical question of the war guilt of international capitalism” from the practical suggestions and plans for the clearing away of the war-ruins. He expressly voted for the resolution whose plans and suggestions rest on the principle of the recognition of national differences But even this was not enough for the nationalists of the French party, and after a short recess, the Independents, who at first nodded assent to Levi, made another general retreat by declaring that they are in complete accord with the resolution of the conference in principle as well as in practice, and that this resolution would be adapted by the U.S.P., in its future actions. As a matter of fact this ratification by the Independents is nothing more than the formal recognition of their own policy, as manifested in their support of the Wirth cabinet. The nationalist streak in the blood of the German Majority Socialists came to light in their attitude on the question of alliances. While the British Labor Party rejected all alliances between capitalist governments, the German S.P.D. supported the Belgian Party, which declared that such treaties were permissible. Here again, the German Social Democrats showed that they were even more reactionary than the English labor representatives, and as a result the resolution adopted by the conference on the disarmament question, pale as it was, was rendered still more anaemic by the votes of the S.P.D delegates. This resolution is altogether naked; it even forgot to put on its “red cap”.

Although Vandervelde writes in his Brussels party-organ that the Frankfort Conference effected the united Socialist front in the Western countries, even a blind man can see that the Social Democratic parties are only concerned with the unity of paper resolutions of individual leaders, and not with the united fighting front of the broad proletarian masses.

It is therefore no accident at all that the Russian Communist Party was not invited to the Frankfort Conference. In their intentional limitation of the conference to the five countries, the Social Democrats gave themselves away as being even more narrow-minded and near-sighted than the English government which invited all the countries of Europe to participate in the Conference of Genoa. The capitalists know that even the problem of capitalist reconstruction alone cannot possibly be solved without the cooperation of Soviet Russia. The Internationals 2 and 2½, on the contrary, have neglected to call the Socialist parties of all countries, including Soviet Russia, together at once. To think of Europe’s reconstruction without the participation of Soviet Russia is not to think at all. Even the Frankfort Conference finally recognized this fact. A memorandum presented by the English delegation compelled it to deal with the question of Soviet Russia. The discussion of this question had to be postponed however, because the majority of the conference were of the opinion that this question could not possibly be settled in the absence of the Russian comrades. The course and the resolutions of the Frankfort Conference proved that no unity of the proletariat on the question of Europe’s reconstruction is possible without the participation of the parties of all countries, and without the formulation of a concrete program, which is to beyond mere good wishes and empty formulas and must prepare measures that are to have the force and power to consolidate the proletariat in its struggle against the bourgeoisie.

Last updated on 1 September 2019