< Ernst Meyer: Germany on a Smouldering Volcano (17 July 1922)


Ernst Meyer


Germany on a Smouldering Volcano

(17 July 1922)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 57, 17 July 1922, pp. 419–420.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2020). 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.

It was more than an empty phrase intended to force the bourgeois parties to accept the draft of the law for the protection of the Republic, when Braun, the Prussian Prime Minister and Right Socialist, declared the other day before the Constitutional Committee of the Prussian Diet, “The boiler is about to burst. The present situation is similar to the three days that preceded the 9th of November, 1918.” And he is right. The masses in Germany have been aroused to such an extent that more extensive outbreaks may be expected at any moment; such outbreaks have already occurred in many places. It may well be that the General German Trade Union Federation and the Social Democratic Party looked upon the great demonstration on the 4th of July as upon a funeral of the mass-movement in conjunction with the Rathenau murder, and that they only wanted to put pressure to bear upon the bourgeois parties with a view of forcing the latter to accept the Independent Social Democrats into the Government. The joint call issued by the Social Democratic Parties and the trade unions together with the Communist Party, calling upon the masses to demonstrate against the monarchist counter-revolution, has had more far-reaching effects than those organizations imagined. The masses appeared in hundreds of thousands and marched through the bourgeois districts of the cities; and in spite of their miserable economic situation, they sacrificed another half-day’s wages in order to demonstrate their strength to the German Nationalists, their class-enemies. The crying insufficiency of the measures taken by the Government until now against the monarchist murder gangs and provocators and the altogether too anaemic bill introduced for the protection of the republic enraged the working masses to such a degree that in many places the demonstrators took the law into their own hands. At first the seething masses vented their rage upon the monarchist monuments and street signs. But their real hatred was directed against the entire monarchist officialdom, particularly against the monarchist leaders of the Schutzpolizei and of the Reichswehr. In Zwickau (Saxony) the collisions between the workers and the police resulted in the complete disarming of all counter-revolutionary elements by the workers. Workers’ patrols are guarding the city; a Committee of Action has temporarily displaced the old officials, and is now dealing with urgent matters. In many other places the workers refrained from answering the provocations of the police only because their central labor bodies promised them a general and systematic elimination of monarchist elements from the governing authority. In Thuringia and in Saxony Committees of Control, consisting of representatives from the various trade unions and workers’ political parties, were created for the purpose of cleansing the Government of monarchist elements and of suppressing monarchist organizations. In Thuringia the labor organizations plan to create a Central Committee of Control. Even Social Democratic organizations declared themselves in favor of a general strike for the purpose of carrying out energetic measures against the counter-revolution. In many districts all the labor organizations, including the Social Democratic ones, demand the immediate dissolution of the Reichstag, new elections and the formation of a Workers Government. The entire working-class unanimously demands that the well-known Berlin Agreement of the 27th of June be carried out at once. The indignation of the masses and their determination to put an end to all monarchist propaganda is expressed in the threatening language used by some Social Democratic newspapers.

The attitude of the Communist Party in this situation is both difficult and clear. Up to the day of Erzberger’s assassination the Communist Party was constantly threatened by the attempts of the other labor organizations to isolate it from the masses. For this reason it had to be on its guard when the upward movement began; contact with the masses had to be established at once. The Communist Party abstained from putting up the most far-reaching demands at once. Instead of acting independently and running the danger of isolation, it agreed to sign the minimum demands put up by the other labor organizations, and carried on propaganda for its own more extensive and effective aims. The Communist Party is doing everything in its power to effect the execution of the minimum demands by the entire working class. A few demands more or less do not test the strength of a movement. What is more important is that even the most modest demands be carried out by the action of the working class itself. From the very beginning the Communist Party demanded more than demonstrations. It participated in them, however, in order to be more justified to put bigger demands later on. From the very beginning it considered the general strike as the best weapon. But as long as the other labor organizations refuse to proclaim it, the Communist Party will only propagate it.

It is self-evident that the Communist Party does not only aim at the fulfilling of the Berlin Agreement, for without the objectives closely associated with this agreement, nothing can be accomplished. The Social Democratic Party seems to believe that by extending the Federal Government towards the Left, that is, to include the Independent Social Democratic Party, it will be better protected against the reaction. The Independent Social Democratic Party, which not so very long ago declined (“on principle”) to participate in the bourgeois coalition government, has now switched about because of “extraordinary circumstances”. But it is very doubtful whether the capitalist parties will permit such an extension of the Government. The opposition of the Democrats and of the Center to a coalition that would include the Independents once more forces the Social Democratic Party to threaten the dissolution of Parliament. But these are days when the masses take every threat, and with it the party that makes it, at its face value. The situation seems at first sight confusing; but in reality the conflicting forces are coming to a head. The members of the Social Democratic and Independent Social Democratic Parties see clearly in the attitude of the capitalist parties that a coalition government would be bound hand and foot in the struggle against the counter-revolution. For this reason the Communist Party finds unanimous approval among the masses when it puts up a fight against every Bourgeois-Socialist Coalition Coalition with the bourgeoisie means compromise. Even the demands put up by the Trade Union Congress at Leipzig and those of the Berlin Agreement cannot be carried out under a bourgeois coalition. This is shown by the spineless stand taken by the Social Democratic fraction in the Prussian Diet on the amnesty question. The removal of monarchist elements from the administration, the reorganization of the Reichswehr and the Schutzpolizei into republican forces, and the subjugation of that counter-revolutionary den, Bavaria, can only be accomplished against the capitalist parties with the aid of the active participation of the working class. The minimum demands of the Berlin Agreement can be made good only by a Workers Government that is supported by the entire working class and that consists of the representatives of the organized proletariat. On this ground the Communist Party demands the immediate dissolution of the Reichstag and new elections under the slogan: “Formation of a Workers’ Government to carry out the Berlin Agreement.”

The Social Democratic and Independent Social Democratic Parties are not very enthusiastic about such a plan. The former is tied hand and foot to the bourgeois Coalition Government, and the Independents are also laboring under the illusion that the struggle against the monarchists can be carried on with the cooperation of the bourgeois parties.

But the final decision lies not with these organizations, but with the proletariat. The masses do not as yet see clearly before them. They are still subject to those illusions which the Social Democratic Party has spread among them. But the discontent with things as they are is breaking out instinctively, and the will to further energetic action is manifesting itself.

The Communist Party is doing everything within its power to point the right way to the workers and to mobilize their forces for united action.

Last updated on 5 May 2020