Arkadi Maslow, a leader of the Berlin-based lefts in the German Communist Party recognize the defeat of the ‘German October’ the previous Fall and react by doubling down on the prospects for power and the rejection of the united front. The Party faction associated with Maslow, his partner Ruth Fischer, and Ernst Thälmann assumed leadership in April, 1924. Though Maslow and Fischer, supporters of Zinoviev, were demoted by him and the Comintern Executive in August, 1925.
‘The Tasks of the German Communist Party: Prospects, Partial Aims, Revolutionary Unity from Below’ by Arkadi Maslow from International Press Correspondence. Vol. 4 No. 26. April 24, 1924.
The German proletariat suffered severe defeat in October and November 1923. This defeat was greater than the defeats of the years 1919, 1920, 1921. It was greater for the simple reason that in the years from 1919 till 1921 the German proletariat did not possess a communist mass party to point out the way, and it was greater because there has never been a situation in which the German proletariat has been so near victory for the proletarian revolution as in the autumn of 1923. The struggles in January and March of 1919 were carried on by a small vanguard of a proletariat still for the most part under the spell of democratic illusions (we need only remember the election to the national assembly). The fighting in March 1920 was the struggle of a proletariat still trusting too much to the reformist organizations and possessing a revolutionary party (the Spartacus union of that time) which had not clearly grasped that its work was to lead the masses, not solely to accompany the reformist and centrist organizations with weak criticism and slogans which only promoted illusions (for instance the Bielefeld agreement, and the promise of “loyal” opposition” made by the Spartacus union to an imaginary “purely socialist government”). The fights of March 1921 were the struggle of a vanguard inspired by revolutionary feeling, a vanguard which failed to make a correct estimate of the situation and the comparative strength of forces, and thus suffered shipwreck.
In October and November 1923, on the other hand, we had an economic crisis of unheard of acuteness, the divisions in the camp of the enemy were greater than they had ever been, the proletariat was comparatively free from democratic illusions, the influence of the reformist organizations on the broad masses of the proletariat was almost destroyed, the influence of the communists upon the proletariat and upon the petty bourgeoisie was greater than ever before, and the international situation was never so favourable. History demanded the struggle in October and November 1923. The proletariat was beaten, suffered such a defeat as it had never experienced before The CP of Germany is confronted by the next task of organizing the fight which the proletariat did not fight in October-November 1923, the fight for political power.
Has the German proletariat been decisively defeated? To reply to this question in the affirmative means, to maintain that the German bourgeoisie can reconstruct and consolidate German Capitalism.
This question must be replied to flatly and decidedly in the negative. The situation is still as objectively revolutionary as it was before. That is, the international contradictions of German Capitalism have not been removed, the frightful social crisis in Germany has neither been solved nor is it on the road to solution, and the international uncertainty of the so-called equilibrium is as uncertain as ever.
The situation is objectively revolutionary, now as before, and this fact points out the task of the Communist Party: the Communist Party will organize the revolution. This is the task of the Party. Not one of the tasks, but the task.
But still the situation today is different to that in October-November 1923, and the Party must therefore go about its task in a different manner, remembering that we are no longer at the boiling point of a crisis which was absolutely perceived physically by everyone in Germany during those months. In how far has the situation changed? The crisis is no longer acute, the revolutionary wave has ebbed. The situation is objectively revolutionary, but it would seem as if the revolutionary factors have become weaker. The stabilization of the mark has effected a subjective pacification. The defeat of the proletariat has brought about disorganization and demoralisation among its ranks. The bourgeoisie has utilized both circumstances for the purpose of showing to the proletariat, politically, that is, has suffered defeat: the robbery of the eight hour day is much less an economic measure than a political one, a gesture made by the victorious bourgeoisie. On the one side millions of unemployed, and on the other workers drudging for 10 hours – the bourgeoisie demonstrates its political victory to the proletariat and seeks at the same time to split up the proletariat into two camps, into that of the 10 hour drudges and that of the unemployed.
It dooms one group to perish of physical exhaustion and overwork, and the other group to perish by starvation, and to sink to the depths of demoralisation attendant on lack of occupation. But the bourgeoisie seeks to sow schism among the working class along other lines as well, and here too, the reformist flunkeys lend willing aid here: they oppose the qualified and relatively well paid workers against those slaving for starvation wages. The phenomena offered by the beginnings of organizations bearing a guild-like character (Turners’ Union) with their “program” of “non-partisan neutrality”; the ideas propagated by the Fascist trade unionists, with their program of “class neutrality” – these are the characteristic symptoms of the disintegration and schism of this period.
But in the midst of these signs of disintegration, inevitable after a defeat, we may observe the beginnings of a mustering among the defeated proletariat. The strikes in the Rhineland and on the coast and the strike of the chemical workers are the first attempts at self defence. These defensive struggles, these beginnings of a rally among the proletariat. define the character and nature of the period for which the CP of Germany has to set itself the concrete tasks of the immediate future.
But how does our task as stated above (the organization of the revolution), agree with this definition of the period which we are now passing through?
A limit must be set to the period. It will end as soon as the German CP has, succeeded in arresting the retreat of the proletariat, in gathering the masses around the Party, in bringing the masses under the sole leadership of the German CP, and in developing the movement into an attack.
The Party was faced by the same task in 1921, after the March fights. The Party did not accomplish this task in the 21/2 years which elapsed between then and October-November 1923. It did not even comprehend the task.
The task is: the organization of the revolution. In the years between 1921 and 1923 the CP of Germany only perceived one part of this task, an important one, but not far-reaching enough. It sought to win over the majority of the decisive sections of the proletariat. This task still exists today. as much as it did in 1921. But the German CP did not grasp that it had to win over the majority of the decisive strata of the proletariat by means of organizing the revolution. The German CP carried on partial struggles for partial aims. The German CP has to do the same today. But in 1921-1923 the German CP carried on the partial struggles as if the partial ends were self-sufficing. The German CP must not repeat this disastrous error. The German CP must carry on the partial struggles with the object of thereby organizing the revolution. The German CP must carry on the partial struggles by organizing the revolution. The German CP must organize the revolution by carrying on the partial struggles.
Definite tasks are thus set to the German CP. The propagandist and agitative tasks are in every struggle, whether organized by the German CP, or entered into by the CP after the struggle has begun spontaneously (as in the Rhineland, and in the cases of the chemical workers, and dockers’ strikes), the Party has to enlighten the proletariat as to communist aims, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the Soviet government. In every such struggle, which the Communist Party must seek to organize, to enlarge, and to politicize, it is of the utmost importance to show the struggling proletariat that even a “successful” conclusion of the fight cannot signify any permanent success so long as the bourgeoisie rules. The Party must prove this concretely, on the evidence afforded by the struggle and by daily events.
But the task remains: the organization of the revolution. This cannot be accomplished by propaganda and agitation alone. This is to be accomplished by the formation of class organs, by the formation of a revolutionary fighting front within the proletariat from below, by arming of the proletariat, by scattering or the enemy, by winning over allies from the camps of the petty bourgeoisie and the small-holders, by the neutralization of those middle classes which cannot be won over as allies.
The period for which the German CP now sets its tasks for the immediate future is thus a period in which the proletariat is to be gathered together in defensive struggles, a period of partial struggles for partial aims, opening out the path for the transition to the struggle for political power, a period of organization of the revolutionary unify of the proletariat from below, a period of ideological and organizatory preparation of the Soviets as organs of armed insurrection. The main slogans of this period will be: the eight hours day; real wages, ensuring an existence worthy of human beings; enlistment of the unemployed in the army of the workers; control of production; release of political prisoners; arming of the proletariat; conquest of revolutionary rights for the factory councils, and beginning of control of production; gathering together of the working population in organs of a Soviet character, and beginning of the control of production; formation of Soviets – the beginning of the exercise of political power.
We have classified these slogans in groups of three. The first three slogans are economic watchwords for the first struggles, the watchwords by which the proletariat is first to be called together. The next three slogans, will be the propagandist slogans for the whole period, and will become slogans of action as soon as the mustering of the proletariat has reached a certain degree. The last three slogans are the organizatory and political slogans of the united front from below, and characterize the close of the period and the commencement of the transition to the struggle for full power.
When will the period thus characterised by us come to a close? At the present juncture nobody can reply to this question. It would be charlatanism to maintain that it must be short. It would be defeatism to swear that it must be long. The point politically important to the German CP is to be always fully conscious that it is the sole party leading the proletariat and organizing, the revolution; that at the close of the period indicated it must be the sole party which has to form the government of the dictatorship of the proletariat; that the close of the period may come any day, may be here tomorrow; that the Party must organize the revolution, whether the period closes tomorrow or not for years, that is, preparation has to be made for that struggle which ends with the annihilation of the bourgeoisie as a class and with the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The brevity or length of this period does not depend on the objective development alone. The German CP influences the speed of the development when it organizes the revolution. The organization of the revolution is the exact contrary to putschism. The German CP gathers the masses together; the German CP forms the organs of revolutionary unity from below; the German CP is aware that some of the proletariat will be on the other side of the barricades; the German CP does not look upon the majority of the decisive strata of the proletariat merely with a mechanical and statistical eye. The German CP must be ready to stake everything upon a single card if needs be. But the German CP organizes the revolution: this is the contrary of putschism. Putschism is an attempt to force revolution by a sudden coup, without class organs, without the majority of the decisive strata of the proletariat, without scattering the enemy, without an exact survey and estimation of the situation and of comparative forces.
But to organize the revolution signifies to lay the foundation stone for the insurrection, for the destruction of the bourgeois state apparatus, for the new organs of the new class state, of the proletarian dictatorship, of the Soviet state. To organize the revolution means to organize the decisive strata of the proletariat for these aims.
The whole of the concrete and immediate tasks of the Party will become clear, and will be accomplished; as soon as the Party has grasped the task for this period, and understands how to carry it out.
International Press Correspondence, widely known as”Inprecor” was published by the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI) regularly in German and English, occasionally in many other languages, beginning in 1921 and lasting in English until 1938. Inprecor’s role was to supply translated articles to the English-speaking press of the International from the Comintern’s different sections, as well as news and statements from the ECCI. Many ‘Daily Worker’ and ‘Communist’ articles originated in Inprecor, and it also published articles by American comrades for use in other countries. It was published at least weekly, and often thrice weekly. The ECCI also published the magazine ‘Communist International’ edited by Zinoviev and Karl Radek from 1919 until 1926 monthly in German, French, Russian, and English. Unlike, Inprecor, CI contained long-form articles by the leading figures of the International as well as proceedings, statements, and notices of the Comintern. No complete run of Communist International is available in English. Both were largely published outside of Soviet territory, with Communist International printed in London, to facilitate distribution and both were major contributors to the Communist press in the U.S. Communist International and Inprecor are an invaluable English-language source on the history of the Communist International and its sections.
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/international/comintern/inprecor/1924/v04n26-apr-24-1924-inprecor.pdf