Workers Vanguard No. 928
16 January 2009
Germany: SPD in Deep Crisis
Left Party: No Alternative!
For a Multiethnic Revolutionary Workers Party!
The following article is translated from Spartakist No. 174 (November 2008), newspaper of the Spartakist Workers Party of Germany, section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist).
The SPD [Social Democratic Party] is in crisis. With its working-class base deserting to Die Linke [The Left party], the new leadership is desperately trying to reconsolidate its links to the trade unions in order to keep them compliant to the anti-working-class measures of the Grand Coalition [coalition government of the SPD and Christian Democrats (CDU) since 2005]. This was highlighted by a secret meeting of SPD leaders with chairmen of the IG Metall (IGM) [metal workers union], about which the Rheinische Post (24 September 2008) reported: “SPD representatives expressed their ‘dismay’ that Left Party members in the trade unions were able to organize their ‘crusade against the SPD’ out of union offices.” According to the same article, the IGM tops agreed to be more aggressive in publicly attacking Die Linke, while the SPD promised to refrain from passing further anti-union laws. The anger at the base of the unions was reflected in the reaction to this report by an IGM shop steward from a large auto factory: “It would be a disgrace if the union got into horse-trading with the SPD here.... It better watch out not to fall on its face—a lot of union members are followers of Die Linke and have turned their back on the SPD by now.”
The SPD is riven between serving the bourgeoisie in the government, on the one hand, and the objective interests of its base in the working class and the unions on the other. As the Communist Manifesto (1848) explains, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” The present, capitalist society is fundamentally divided into two classes whose interests are irreconcilably counterposed: The proletariat produces the wealth of society in industry, transportation, etc., while the capitalists, who own the means of production, appropriate this wealth and extract their profits through the exploitation of labor. Due to its position in the production process, the proletariat is the only class with both the material interest in liberating the socialized process of production from the fetters of private ownership and developing it on the basis of a collectivized economy for the benefit of all, as well as the social power to carry out this revolution. The social democracy—the SPD, Die Linke and the trade-union bureaucracy—seeks to reconcile the workers with capitalism and chains them to their “own” exploiters. The more the social contradictions between the workers and capitalists are sharpened, the more untenable the situation of the social democracy will become.
The attempts by the now-deposed SPD chairman, Kurt Beck, to reconcile the SPD’s working-class base with “Agenda 2010,” “Hartz IV” and similar attacks [on social welfare programs and workers’ living standards] only increased the discontent in both wings of the party. This came to a head in spring  after elections in the state of Hesse, where the SPD’s lead candidate, Andrea Ypsilanti, got an unexpectedly high result by campaigning more or less in opposition to the unpopular policies of the CDU-SPD national government. She announced she would form a minority government there with the support of Die Linke.
At the end of July 2008, the SPD’s party court of North Rhine-Westphalia decided in favor of the expulsion of SPD right-winger Wolfgang Clement after Clement had publicly spoken out against Ypsilanti in the elections and indirectly supported the arch-reactionary CDU president of Hesse, Roland Koch. In the sequel, the party tops lined up behind Clement, while the trial was referred to the highest party court. As the former “super-minister” under [Gerhard] Schröder [SPD chancellor from 1998 to 2005], he is rightfully hated in the working class as architect and outspoken advocate of “Agenda 2010.” When the workers at the Opel [auto plant] in Bochum struck against threatened layoffs in 2004, Clement scornfully rejected appeals from the party base for support and denounced the strike as senseless. The treasurer of the SPD local in Bochum-Hamme complained angrily: “We worked our asses off for years in election campaigns, and when he went to Berlin we hoped that he could do something for us” (“He Never Was a Social Democrat,” stern.de, 31 July 2008).
Now, following Beck’s removal, Schröder’s old guard is back at the head of the SPD. This is meant to signal to the bourgeoisie that the party is well suited to continue to administer German imperialism. From sending the Bundeswehr [German army] to take part in the imperialist U.S.-led NATO war against Serbia in 1999, to the massive attacks on the unions and social benefits, to plans for the deployment of the Bundeswehr domestically and a universal strengthening of the state repressive machinery, the SPD-Green government and now the CDU-SPD government have done a lot to advance capitalist class interests on the backs of the working class, ethnic minorities and all the oppressed.
The SPD’s new candidate for chancellor, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is not just any Schröder crony. As head of the chancellor’s office during the “Red-Green” government, he personally managed German imperialism’s participation in the racist “war on terror.” He was responsible for deciding (and then trying to cover up) the fates of Murat Kurnaz, Khaled El-Masri and who knows how many others of Muslim descent—whom the U.S. and German governments branded as “terror suspects” and then tried to “disappear.” Steinmeier made sure that Kurnaz suffered for years in the hell of the Guantánamo torture camp, even blocking his return to Germany in the face of repeated U.S. offers between 2002 and 2005 to release him. Even in 2007, after this atrocity had been made public and came before an investigative body, Steinmeier told Spiegel (27 January 2007): “I wouldn’t decide differently today.”
That large sections of the working class, particularly the lower and middle levels of the trade unions, are turning away from the SPD, which they have historically viewed as their party, represents a major shift in Germany’s political landscape. Up to now this has been mainly expressed in the electoral successes of Die Linke, which was formed by a fusion of the West German SPD-split WASG [Electoral Alternative for Work and Social Justice] with the East German ex-Stalinist PDS [Party of Democratic Socialism]. On the one hand a product of the massive disillusionment and anger at the base of the SPD, on the other Die Linke is the means by which a section of the trade-union bureaucracy seeks to contain that anger within the framework of social-democratic reformism. This was very clearly expressed in the call for the founding of one of the WASG’s precursors, the ASG, in March 2004: “Many citizens are turning their backs on politics and feel disappointed with the SPD, but don’t see themselves represented by any other party. We see in this a danger for the stability of our democracy.”
For communists, the crisis of the SPD is an important and positive development. Since 1914 the SPD has been the most important agent of the German bourgeoisie within the workers movement and the main obstacle to proletarian revolution in this country. The problem is that the consciousness of the workers who are turning away from the SPD is marked by the bourgeois lie that there is no alternative to capitalism. This prevailing consciousness is above all the result of the counterrevolutionary destruction of the DDR [East Germany] and the Soviet Union, which is presented by the bourgeoisie and its social-democratic lackeys as inevitable and celebrated as proof of the supposed superiority of capitalism. As we explained in the ICL’s “Declaration of Principles and Some Elements of Program”:
“Trotsky’s assertion in the 1938 Transitional Program that ‘The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat’ predates the present deep regression of proletarian consciousness. The reality of this post-Soviet period adds a new dimension to Trotsky’s observation.... Marxism must once again win the allegiance of the proletariat.”
Die Linke is infused with bourgeois “death of communism” ideology and is just as loyal to this capitalist system of exploitation as the SPD, but would prefer to have more crumbs from the capitalists’ profits to toss to the workers. Both the SPD and Die Linke are what Lenin called bourgeois workers parties, i.e., parties with a working-class base but a pro-capitalist leadership and program. For a revolution in this country to succeed, these parties must be split along the class line that runs through them, and the working-class base must be won to a Leninist party.
The consciousness of the workers will be changed in the course of class struggle, which is inevitably generated by capitalism and its crises. Through class struggle the working class can win confidence in its own social power, overcome the divisions created by racism, chauvinism and other bourgeois prejudices, and grasp the need to stand at the forefront of all the oppressed in an all-sided struggle against this whole exploitative system. Decisive is the conscious intervention of communists to bring Marxist consciousness into the working class and forge a multiethnic revolutionary workers party in order to deepen and connect these struggles, pointing to the necessary overthrow of capitalism. Today the task consists of gathering and steeling the core of such a party, based on the program of Trotskyism—authentic Marxism. For this purpose we carry out an uncompromising political struggle against reformist illusions propagated by supposed Marxist organizations—from Stalinists like Junge Welt and the DKP [German Communist Party], to the pseudo-Trotskyists of marx21, Gruppe Arbeitermacht (GAM) and Sozialistische Alternative (SAV). These groups work overtime to strengthen illusions in Die Linke among workers and youth, and with their left cover for parliamentary reformism and rotten class collaboration they are an obstacle to raising and developing class consciousness.
European Left Preaches “Death of Communism”
The crisis of the SPD has developed parallel to dramatic changes in mass reformist parties throughout West Europe. The majority wing of the old Italian Communist Party, which split in the early ’90s, has passed through social democracy and, with its fusion [in 2008] with Prodi’s Christian Democrats, now appears to have become an outright bourgeois party. Meanwhile, the social-democratic Rifondazione Comunista (RC), formed by the minority wing, is now in a severe crisis following its participation in two different Prodi-led popular-front governments. The French Communist Party (PCF) has likewise collapsed dramatically. In Britain, starting in the mid ’90s Tony Blair’s Christian “New Labour” leadership has proceeded to break from its proletarian base, a process that, while unfinished, has gone some way down the road toward transforming Labour from a bourgeois workers party into something analogous to the capitalist Democratic Party in the U.S.
In different ways, these developments reflect the effects of the capitalist counterrevolutions that between 1990 and 1992 destroyed the deformed workers states of East Europe and ultimately the degenerated workers state of the USSR. Feeling the wind in their sails, the capitalist rulers proclaimed the “death of communism” as the ideological accompaniment to their onslaught against the trade unions, increased racist state repression and murderous plundering of the neocolonial countries. In West Europe, a central aim of the capitalists has been the dismantling of social benefits of the so-called welfare state—concessions granted in the context of the Cold War to contain the powerful workers movements and keep them from “becoming red”—in order to better compete with their imperialist rivals (especially the U.S. and Japan). The massive attacks have been carried out in large part by capitalist governments in which reformist parties participated, which has led to massive anger at the base of these parties. At the same time, the bourgeoisie has reduced the share of the super-profits that it expends on maintaining a privileged layer of the working class, the aristocracy of labor, which forms the main support of the social democracy.
In this situation, the fake socialists seek to fill the vacuum with various right-wing “regroupment” schemes. Having long since reconciled itself with the bourgeois order, the Pabloist Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) in France is now formally junking the terms “revolutionary” and “communist” from its name to form a “New Anti-capitalist Party” in order to capitalize on the PCF’s collapse. In Britain, the Cliffite Socialist Workers Party (SWP, cothinkers of the German group marx21) openly opposed any pretense of “socialism” or even secularism in the founding of Respect, a thoroughly bourgeois electoral combination. Now, a couple of years later, Respect has undergone a split, and the SWP’s section bombed in the subsequent elections. Since then, the Respect parliamentarians who had allied with the SWP have decamped to Labour, the Liberals, and even to the conservative Tories!
The German pseudo-Trotskyists who are liquidating into Die Linke are pursuing the same kind of opportunist maneuvers that in other countries have often simply blown up in the faces of their sister organizations. Reformism is inherently nationally parochial, since at bottom it amounts to chasing after a wing of one’s own bourgeoisie.
These organizations see openings in the post-Soviet “death of communism” climate, which indeed they themselves helped to bring about by supporting capitalist counterrevolution down the line. When Die Linke formed a couple of years ago, Christine Buchholz of Linksruck (now marx21) expressed this view of the current period as follows: “The regroupment processes are taking place, in fact worldwide. Since the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the old dividing lines—catchphrase: where do you stand on the Soviet Union?—are no longer decisive” (“Between Trotsky and Lafontaine,” Junge Welt, 16 May 2006). So, the October Revolution is “no longer decisive.” Sound familiar? This regurgitation of the “death of communism” ideology is not surprising coming from Linksruck: Its forebears were expelled from the Fourth International because they publicly refused to defend North Korea and the Soviet Union against the imperialists in the Korean War. In 1991, it cheered the victory of Yeltsin’s counterrevolutionary forces in the Soviet Union with the words: “‘Communism has failed,’ declare our newspapers and TVs. It is a fact which ought to delight every socialist” (Klassenkampf, September 1991).
Last year, Linksruck formally dissolved itself in order to better submerge in Die Linke in the form of “marx21.” Janine Wissler, one of their supporters, was voted into Die Linke’s six-person parliamentary fraction in Hesse, and Christine Buchholz is a member of the national party’s executive leadership. Wissler’s enthusiasm in rallying Die Linke for support to a minority government led by Ypsilanti so favorably impressed Spiegel that the magazine happily noted of Die Linke’s parliamentary fraction in Hesse: “Not long ago, some of them dreamed Lenin’s dream of the world revolution. But in the meantime, they seem to have internalized the legendary slogan of Franz Müntefering: ‘Opposition is crap’” (“Münte statt Lenin” [Münte Instead of Lenin], Spiegel, 22 September 2008). What this bourgeois magazine cynically calls the “dream of world revolution” is for marx21 nothing but the stuff of occasional Sunday speeches. Their talk of “building extra-parliamentary resistance” is also empty phrasemongering, since in fact they just offer more of the same reformist parliamentary cretinism. The result is to further demoralize those who are dissatisfied with capitalism and fed up with social-democratic treachery.
This wretched “Realpolitik” is integrally linked with marx21’s and the other Cliffites’ virulent hostility to the Soviet Union and other states where capitalism had been overthrown. This hostility also unites them with the various pseudo-Trotskyists, whatever their different formal ideological shadings are. In reunified capitalist Germany, a key index of loyalty to the system of capitalist exploitation is the attitude to the ever-present anti-DDR witchhunt. The anti-Communist campaign by the SPD, along with CDU and FDP [Free Democratic Party], in response to Die Linke’s offer to support Ypsilanti, served not only as an electoral club against Die Linke, but more importantly as a test of Die Linke’s “reliability” for the capitalist rulers. Thus the Hesse SPD demanded of Die Linke, as precondition for accepting its offer to tolerate its government, both the “clear recognition of our constitutional order and our parliamentary democracy” as well as a distancing “from every form of bondage and human rights abuses as were practiced, e.g., in the DDR, including the shoot-to-kill orders, Stasi surveillance and restrictions on the freedoms of opinion, elections and travel.”
Die Linke predictably obliged. The Cliffite Wissler gave the following explanation in an interview with Junge Welt (10 September 2008), in which she described the negotiations with the SPD and Greens as “friendly and pleasant”:
“We’ve already made it clear, repeatedly, where we stand on the DDR and the constitution. We don’t need to repeatedly come to terms with these things. By the same token we could also demand of the SPD that it comes to terms with its own mistakes. For example, that today millions of people have to live on 350 euros per month. Or that the SPD is responsible for the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht.”
What glorification of capitalist “democracy”: Not only is the murder of the revolutionary heroes and founders of the KPD, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, prettified here as a “mistake.” But this SPD crime in the service of saving the German bourgeoisie from workers revolution is also equated with the founding and the very existence of the DDR, a bureaucratically deformed workers state which arose in half of Germany following the Red Army’s heroic liberation of Europe from Hitlerite fascism. In opposition to the Cliffites and other pseudo-Trotskyists, we defend the basic Trotskyist understanding of such states: The expropriation of the bourgeoisie and the collectivization of the economy embodied in the deformed and degenerated workers states represent, despite the political rule of a Stalinist bureaucratic caste, enormous historic progress over capitalism.
We of the International Communist League fought with all our forces to mobilize the working masses throughout the Soviet bloc to fight against capitalist counterrevolution. This would have meant the working class reckoning with the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracies, which after years of undermining the workers states and trampling on proletarian internationalism administered the treacherous sellout to imperialism. From fighting to give revolutionary leadership to the incipient political revolution in the DDR in 1989-90 to our call issued in August 1991 in the Soviet Union: “Soviet Workers: Defeat Yeltsin-Bush Counterrevolution!”, we heeded Trotsky’s warning of the “tragic possibility” that the Soviet degenerated workers state “will fall under the joint blows of its internal and external enemies”:
“But in the event of this worst possible variant, a tremendous significance for the subsequent course of the revolutionary struggle will be borne by the question: where are those guilty for the catastrophe? Not the slightest taint of guilt must fall upon the revolutionary internationalists. In the hour of mortal danger, they must remain on the last barricade.”
—“The Class Nature of the Soviet State,” 1933
We stand for the unconditional military defense of the remaining deformed workers states of China, Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam against imperialism and internal capitalist restoration, and on this basis we fight for proletarian political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracies. This program and the lessons of the struggle against counterrevolution in the Soviet bloc are key to breaking the multiethnic working class in Germany from the class collaboration and chauvinist protectionism pushed by the sellout trade-union tops in league with both social-democratic parties, the SPD and Die Linke.
Down With Class Collaborationism!
As doctors at the sickbed of capitalism, the Die Linke tops seek to enter capitalist coalition governments and carry out the bourgeoisie’s dirty work, which they promise will make capitalist exploitation “social.” This can be seen in their eagerness to support an SPD-Green government in Hesse, which [Die Linke co-chairman Oskar] Lafontaine & Co. see as a springboard for getting into other capitalist governments, including the federal government, over the course of the year. From Thuringia, where Die Linke has a good chance to come out as the strongest party, to the Saarland, where Lafontaine was SPD president from 1985 to 1998, they hope to position themselves to be able to administer capitalism at the national level in coalition with the SPD and possibly the Greens after the 2009 elections. Especially against the backdrop of the financial crash and developing economic crisis, they seek to present themselves as suited for managing the crises of capitalism. They aim to advance the bourgeoisie’s interests through an alternative strategy for German imperialism, to act more independently of the U.S.
“State, intervene!” is the slogan of the “good old” social democracy mourned by Lafontaine and the pseudo-socialists, who complain that Schröder & Co. have betrayed this tradition in favor of “neo-liberalism.” They promise to prevent the crises of capitalism and subordinate the economy to “democratic” control through the intervention of the bourgeois state. In reality, this serves all the better to subordinate the working class and its organizations to the state of the class enemy. Now the capitalist governments all over the world are intervening...tossing trillions of dollars and euros in tax money to the banks and credit institutions in order to nationalize the losses of the filthy rich finance speculators, while “Hartz IV” [social welfare] recipients here suffer and hundreds of thousands of blacks and poor people in the U.S. are driven out of their homes!
Although its Bundestag [German parliament] fraction voted against it, Die Linke fundamentally supports a bailout and demands protectionist measures. In the name of “protecting German industry,” the working class is being lined up behind its own imperialist bourgeoisie. This is poison for the consciousness of the working class, splitting it along national lines, and it is counterposed to the international class solidarity that is urgently necessary in order to lead hard class struggle against the capitalists and beat back the advancing attacks.
While Die Linke’s fraction in the Bundestag voted against the bailout—where its votes had no impact on the outcome anyhow—Harald Wolf, a Die Linke minister in Berlin, voted for it in the Bundesrat [upper house of parliament]. The Die Linke tops in Berlin have experience in bank bailouts. In 2002, right after its ministers had taken office in Berlin, the then-PDS fulfilled its election promises by passing the “Law for Shielding Risks” for the Bankgesellschaft Berlin, providing a guarantee of more than 21 billion euros for the losses of real estate speculators who had bet on a real estate boom in Berlin following the capitalist reunification. Just as is planned with the current mega-bailouts, this “socialism for the rich” was carried out on the backs of the working people, financed through massive cuts in public services, the shredding of union contracts, wage cuts, etc.
SAV, marx21, Junge Welt and various other “left critics” in Die Linke gripe about the leadership of the Berlin branch and its “neo-liberal” government policies in order to cover their left flank. In the end, this is just empty phrasemongering without consequences, since in practice their support is certain whenever it counts—whether voting the PDS into office in 2001 in Berlin or voting for Die Linke in the Bundestag elections in 2005. At bottom, what they call for is just a more comprehensive intervention by the capitalist state in the name of “democratic” control of the banks. Typical of this is the following appeal to the Berlin government issued by the district chairman of Die Linke in Berlin-Neukölln, where pseudo-Trotskyists such as SAV and marx21 cavort: “Only a transfer of the financial institutions to public property offers the possibility for control by society over the tax money spent.” And just who is to provide the “possibility for control” on behalf of “society,” Lafontaine as finance minister?
They all support joining capitalist governments in principle, but want the conditions for this to be set higher than those of the Berlin coalition with the SPD (which is quite unpopular by now). The “maximum program” of organizations like the SAV is classic social-democratic reformism: a “socialist” majority in the bourgeois parliament and a “really democratic” capitalist government that can be pressured to make the rich pay. In this way, they strengthen reformist illusions among workers and youth and give left cover for the atrocities which are inevitably carried out by the social-democratic ministers in capitalist governments. As can be seen in Berlin, the result is the demobilization of class struggle in the face of capitalist attacks and a tremendous demoralization of trade unionists, the oppressed and the working class as a whole.
Against the reformists’ deception, Friedrich Engels explained long ago in his 1878 polemic Anti-Dühring that the class character of the state renders the elimination of capitalist crises impossible:
“But the transformation, either into jointstock companies and trusts, or into state ownership, does not do away with the capitalistic nature of the productive forces.... The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine, the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage-workers—proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with. It is rather brought to a head.”
In the course of the present crisis, this fundamental insight has been confirmed by capitalist governments all over the world. The only way to end the crises, oppression and exploitation of capitalism is through proletarian revolution to smash the repressive capitalist state machinery and replace it with organs of working-class rule, ripping the ownership of the means of production out of the hands of the tiny, obscenely rich, capitalist exploiting class in order to reorganize society on a socialist basis. This is the dictatorship of the proletariat, the first, necessary step toward overcoming all class differences and the corresponding withering away of the state.
The attitude toward the bourgeois state is the fundamental line between reform and revolution: The reformist view that one can take hold of the existing state apparatus and administer it in the interests of the workers versus the Marxist understanding—as laid out by Lenin in The State and Revolution (1917) and The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky (1918)—that the capitalist state apparatus must be smashed through proletarian revolution. Mobilizing the working class for this historic task requires a class-struggle program to fight independently of the capitalist state for the burning needs of the working class and all the oppressed. We are opposed on principle to running for or occupying the executive offices of the capitalist state, whether at the local, state or national level—mayor, state president, chancellor, federal president, etc.
As Rosa Luxemburg wrote: “The entry of a socialist into a bourgeois government is not, as it is thought, a partial conquest of the bourgeois state by the socialists, but a partial conquest of the socialist party by the bourgeois state” (“The Dreyfus Affair and the Millerand Case,” 1899). We differentiate sharply between the acceptance of executive offices and the revolutionary utilization of parliament. The former necessarily means administering capitalism—e.g., deploying the cops for strikebreaking or ordering racist deportations—and is therefore class betrayal. Bourgeois parliaments, on the other hand, can be used as a platform for propagating the communist program and exposing bourgeois democracy as a veil for capitalist rule.
The Fight for a Leninist Vanguard
In September, the SAV announced that it would now also join Die Linke in Berlin and the East, a move which elicited resistance from Die Linke’s national leadership. In fact, this newest maneuver underlines what we earlier said in 2006 about their candidacy, which at the time was in opposition to the PDS in Berlin: They don’t represent any fundamental class opposition to the pro-capitalist Linke/PDS/WASG tops. Thus, [SAV spokesman Lucy] Redler and other SAV supporters defended themselves as follows: “The independent candidacy was not harmful to the party, as was even attested by a bourgeois court, which reversed the removal of the WASG state leadership by the WASG national leadership” (sozialismus.info, 22 October 2008). These reformists are proud of having gotten a certificate of approval by the courts of the class enemy! We denounced this wretched crossing of the class line at the time: “The legal complaint by the Berlin SAV/WASG against the WASG national leadership provided the capitalist state with legitimation for this incredible interference into a left organization and therefore did much worse damage to the left and workers movement than it would have had the Berlin WASG not been able to take part in the elections.”
The “entrism” maneuvers of SAV, marx21 and the others in Die Linke are grossly opportunist. Leninists seek to deepen the contradictions between the aspirations and objective interests of the working-class base on the one hand and the policies and actions of the social democratic leadership on the other. We want to win the working-class base to our program and to the building of a revolutionary party, in counterposition to the SPD and Die Linke, in the course of mobilizing for class struggle and the exposure by the communist vanguard of social-democratic treachery. In the framework of this strategic perspective, various tactical options are open to an intelligent revolutionary organization, to be employed according to the objective circumstances. These tactics and their implementation flow from the strategic necessity of splitting these parties along class lines: At all times we maintain strict programmatic independence from all wings of the social-democratic bureaucracy.
This has absolutely nothing to do with the activities of the pseudo-Trotskyists in and around Die Linke, for the simple reason that they all oppose the perspective of forging a Leninist vanguard party to lead the multiethnic proletariat at the head of all the oppressed in the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. Instead, they help subordinate workers and youth to one or another wing of the pro-capitalist leadership (right now, this is primarily Lafontaine, who employs somewhat more leftist phrases), in order to “pressure” Die Linke and its capitalist coalition governments “to the left.” Redler, for example, explained that it is the SAV’s aim, “as Marxists” within Die Linke, to help “build a strong socialist wing in Die Linke that will reject government participation as in Berlin” (Junge Welt, 12 September 2008).
Then there are those like Gruppe Arbeitermacht (GAM), which weighed in with an article in its Infomail (21 September 2008) on the SAV’s entrism in Die Linke, in which they make some rather orthodox-sounding criticisms. For example, accusing the SAV of “veiling the true character of this party,” the GAM calls Die Linke a “bourgeois workers party.... The noncommittal socialist phrases which are occasionally uttered don’t change this at all.” In reality, the GAM is disgruntled that the SAV didn’t go along with its Network Left Opposition (NLO) at the time of the WASG’s fusion with the PDS: “This policy exposes not only the SAV’s typical centrist wavering; this policy also boycotted the opportunity, with the NLO, of building up a nationwide structure that could become a pole of attraction for leftist, militant anti-capitalist forces.”
The NLO was a lash-up of a number of fake-socialist grouplets which, like the GAM, preferred to build a pressure group on Die Linke from without. As for their reformist faith in the capitalist state, it was hardly any different from Die Linke or the SAV. For example, the NLO’s founding “Felsberg Statement,” for which the GAM is full of praise, supported entering “nice” capitalist governments: “The new party does not enter governments that carry out cuts in social services, lower contract standards or wages in public services, or lengthen the working hours of the employees.” When the “Network” burst apart after less than a year because half of them wanted to join Die Linke, the GAM itself admitted that the NLO was politically bankrupt and had no reason to exist. Fundamentally, the GAM’s framework is no different than the SAV’s: pressuring the social democracy to the left. It just exhorts the SAV that this course is not realistic toward Die Linke, complaining that “the SAV doesn’t [draw] the conclusion that Die Linke is a consolidated reformist party (and not one that is open or can be moved to the left).”
For the GAM and its international cothinkers, Workers Power (WP) [in Britain], the search for a wing of the social democracy (or even formations that aren’t part of the workers movement at all) that “can be moved to the left” is their reason for existence. This was as clear as daylight when WP split in 2006, with two factions that differed over whether to tail the popular-frontist Social Forums (i.e., a bourgeois formation) or the Labour Party “lefts” in Britain [see Workers Hammer No. 196, Autumn 2006]. And notwithstanding the “radical” rhetoric with which it berates the SAV about the character of Die Linke as a “bourgeois workers party,” for the GAM this simply means always voting for them. Right up until the formation of the WASG, the GAM perennially voted for the SPD, including in the 2002 national election after four years of the racist, anti-working-class SPD-Green government of the Balkan butchers Schröder and Fischer. When it counts, the GAM always ends up on the same side as the SAV, the side of social democracy and “democratic” imperialism. While the international allies of the SAV bragged about their efforts [in the Soviet Union] following Yeltsin’s coup in August 1991 to convince workers who wanted to mobilize against the counterrevolutionary rabble to go home, supporters of Workers Power literally stood on Yeltsin’s priest- and capitalist-ridden counterrevolutionary barricades.
The Lessons of October
The 1917 October Revolution could not have succeeded without Lenin’s leadership and the existence of a steeled Bolshevik Party, which was the product of a split from the reformists (Mensheviks) and years of struggle against their influence in the working class. We have also drawn the lessons of the defeat of the post-World War I revolutionary wave in Germany, particularly the aborted German Revolution of 1923. Drawing a critical balance sheet of the 1923 German Revolution has been critical for us in clarifying the Leninist attitude to executive offices (see “Down With Executive Offices!”, Spartacist [English-language edition] No. 60, Autumn 2007, as well as “A Trotskyist Critique of Germany 1923 and the Comintern,” Spartacist [English-language edition] No. 56, Spring 2001). One of the clearest indications of the huge revolutionary potential in Germany in 1923 was that the SPD lost control over the mass of the German working class. Amid the severe economic dislocation and hyperinflation, the reformist party and union bureaucracies were unable to function; they became paralyzed. The workers deserted them in droves, and, attracted by the beacon of working-class emancipation of the October Revolution, they decided it was time to give the communists a chance. But the KPD leadership failed the test of revolution. Having reined in the revolutionary strivings of the working masses earlier in 1923, it climbed down without a fight on the eve of a planned insurrection in October.
Instead of organizing the struggle for proletarian power, at bottom the KPD leadership under Heinrich Brandler banked on the illusion that the left wing of the Social Democracy could be induced to become a “revolutionary” ally. This strategy was codified in the misuse of the “workers government” slogan, which for the KPD had come to mean something other than the dictatorship of the proletariat—increasingly, it meant a coalition government with the SPD on the basis of the bourgeois parliament. This was an opportunist and self-defeating revision of the understanding of Lenin’s and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks in 1917 that a workers government would be achieved by the overthrow of the bourgeois state apparatus and the forging of a new state power founded on workers councils (soviets). This revision found its culmination in October 1923, in the entry of the KPD into coalition governments with the SPD in the states of Saxony and Thuringia and in their subsequent calling off of the insurrection, a craven adaptation to the coalition partners of the SPD “left.”
Afterward, Trotsky began to evaluate the reasons for the 1923 defeat and to draw the lessons. This included a sharp criticism of the then-leadership of the Comintern for its wavering in the face of the development of this excellent revolutionary opportunity, and it also led to an implicit self-criticism of his own earlier, administrative approach. Trotsky stressed in Lessons of October (1924): “Without a party, apart from a party, over the head of a party, or with a substitute for a party, the proletarian revolution cannot conquer.” There are no “impossible” situations for the bourgeoisie; if a revolutionary party does not act, the bourgeoisie will regain control. Such was the outcome in 1923 in Germany. A multiethnic revolutionary workers party is indispensable to successfully end, once and for all, the rule of the German bourgeoisie that has brought so much bloody misery to the world’s working masses and oppressed. We fight to cohere the nucleus of that party, based on the program of the SpAD, as part of reforging the Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution. Join us!