‘Ernst Meyer’ by Paul Frölich from Revolutionary Age (Communist Party U.S.A. (Majority Group). Vol. 1 No. 9. March 1, 1930.

portrait by Isaak Brodsky.

Paul Frölich, in 1930 a leading member of the Communist Party of Germany (Opposition) associated with Heinrich Brandler and August Thalheimer, writes on the life of veteran German Communist Ernst Meyer on his death, claiming him for the Opposition.

‘Ernst Meyer’ by Paul Frölich from Revolutionary Age (Communist Party U.S.A. (Majority Group). Vol. 1 No. 9. March 1, 1930.

ONE of the old guard of the Spartakus League has died in Berlin, Comrade Ernst Meyer. For long years devastating tuberculosis had been eating away his life. On February 2, pneumonia set in and he died, at the age of 43.

In 1905.

Ernst Meyer came to the labor movement as a young student. He possessed a good Marxist education and therefore joined the left-radical wing of the Social-democracy. Because of his position he was made, in 1911, the economic editor of the Vorwarts, which at that time was controlled by the Kautskyites and the supporters of the extreme left. After the outbreak of war Ernst Meyer was one of the small group of comrades together with Rosa Luxemburg. Karl Liebknecht, Franz Mehring, Clara Zetkin, etc. who stood at the head of the Spartakus movement. In the revolutionary struggle against the war he rendered tremendous services. He especially participated in the issuance of the Spartakus letters and of the Spartakus leaflets, working very closely with Leo Jogiches. At the Zimmerwald and Kienthal conferences, he (along with Bertha Thalheimer) represented the Spartakus League. In the Vorwarts he used his influence to get the central organ of the Party to resist the social-imperialist policy of the Party leadership and of the Reichstag fraction; he was not however able to compel a really revolutionary policy on the part of this paper. As the only Spartakan on the editorial board he was made the first target of the Ebert people in their struggle to win the central organ. On April 15, 1915 he was thrown out of the editorial board against the will of the Berlin Press Committee. The military dictatorship took advantage of this removal. After the Liebknecht trial he went into hiding along with Luxemburg and Mehring. This of course hindered his revolutionary activity but naturally could not stop it.

In the time of revolution he belonged to the editorial board of Rote Fahne. At the congress which founded the Communist Party of Germany (December 31, 1918) he was elected to the Central Committee, a place which he retained with a short interruption until the so-called Wedding Congress (1929). In the January days he, along with George Ledebour, was arrested and for the second time he went to prison, this time for a longer period.

Since 1921 he was the leader of the Communist fraction in the Prussian Landtag. He was a representative of the Party at various Congresses and plenums of the Comintern, in formulating the decisions of which he had great influence.

Paul Frölich.

Ernst “Meyer was a very cool, sober and deliberate thinker. This always gave him a special position in the Party leadership, especially in the decisions on tactical questions. In view of his great political experience it was of course natural that he should come out against the adventurist course of Fischer-Maslov. After the Open Letter of 1925, which liquidated the Ruth Fischer-Maslov leadership, he again came into the leadership of the Party, and played a very decisive role as long as the attempt was made to carry out a real Leninist policy. But even during those days he was more or less a foreign body in the “leadership”; he never became a part of the Thalmann clique. When, in 1928, after the VI World Congress, the relapse into ultra-leftism took place, the Party leadership felt it necessary to get rid of his influence first of all. At the same time it is true that the split in the opposition and the crystallization of the group of the conciliators is to be traced primarily to his conduct. For this reason we had many very vehement discussions with him. We determinedly fought as very dangerous his conception that it was necessary to “retain one’s place in the Party” by means of “temporary” concessions and to “await the ret urn of sanity.” As he saw whither the cowardly passivity and the spineless retreat of the conciliators was leading, he drew further and further away from the leading circle of this group and finally broke all relations with them. He maintained relations only with those local groups of conciliators which, like the Konigsberg group, rejected the policy of capitulation before the ruling clique and took a stand for saving the Party.

The Communist movement has lost a great figure in Ernst Meyer. Deep disappointment embittered his last days. His services to the revolution will not be forgotten. Even tho his last months of illness did not permit him the necessary close contact with the movement which would have facilitated the final step of his reunion with the opposition -Ernst Meyer died dissatisfied with the Party burocracy. He died a sincere fighter, firm in his convictions!

He does not belong to the Party burocrats. Far more was he a leader of the opposition even tho not its most determined leader.

Revolutionary Age began in 1929 and was published in New York City by the Communist Party U.S.A. Majority Group, lead by Jay Lovestone and Ben Gitlow and aligned with Bukharin in the Soviet Union and the International Communist (Right) Opposition in the Communist International. Workers Age was a weekly published between 1932 and 1941. Writers and or editors for Workers Age included Lovestone, Gitlow, Will Herberg, Lyman Fraser, Geogre F. Miles, Bertram D. Wolfe, Charles S. Zimmerman, Lewis Corey (Louis Fraina), Albert Bell, William Kruse, Jack Rubenstein, Harry Winitsky, Jack MacDonald, Bert Miller, and Ben Davidson. During the run of Workers Age, the ‘Lovestonites’ name changed from Communist Party (Majority Group) (November 1929-September 1932) to the Communist Party of the USA (Opposition) (September 1932-May 1937) to the Independent Communist Labor League (May 1937-July 1938) to the Independent Labor League of America (July 1938-January 1941), and often referred to simply as ‘CPO’ (Communist Party Opposition). While those interested in the history of Lovestone and the ‘Right Opposition’ will find the paper essential, students of the labor movement of the 1930s will find a wealth of information in its pages as well. Though small in size, the CPO plaid a leading role in a number of important unions, particularly in industry dominated by Jewish and Yiddish-speaking labor, particularly with the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union Local 22, the International Fur & Leather Workers Union, the Doll and Toy Workers Union, and the United Shoe and Leather Workers Union, as well as having influence in the New York Teachers, United Autoworkers, and others.

PDF of the full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/revolutionary-age/v1n09-mar-01-1930.pdf

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