Workers Vanguard No. 1135
1 June 2018
The 1953 East German Proletarian Uprising
(Quote of the Week)
This June marks the 65th anniversary of the East German proletarian uprising, which, for the first time, posed the potential for working-class political revolution to sweep away Stalinist bureaucratic rule and establish a government based on workers democracy and revolutionary internationalism. Contrary to claims by bourgeois ideologues and the Stalinists, who portrayed the uprising as a pro-capitalist rebellion, the workers defended the collectivized foundations of the East German deformed workers state. They raised the call to their class brothers in West Germany: “Sweep out your crap in Bonn—In Pankow [East Berlin] we’re cleaning house.” In the excerpt below, published shortly after the suppression of the uprising, the then-revolutionary Socialist Workers Party emphasized the need to forge a Leninist-Trotskyist party. (For more on the subject, see “The East German Workers Uprising of 17 June 1953” in Workers Vanguard No. 332, 17 June 1983.)
The general strike was deeply rooted in the masses of East Germany. It was splendidly organized. Who were the leaders? Who were the workers that formed the strike committees, which numbered thousands of members, coordinated the actions of numerous cities, organized the storming of the prisons to free political prisoners, and displayed such heroism and organizing capacity in the face of the repressions? This workers vanguard is composed of trade unionists, communist and socialist workers, who acted with splendid revolutionary initiative despite the Stalinist and the Social Democratic leadership of the workers organizations.
The regroupment of this workers vanguard into a revolutionary Leninist party, that will organize the struggle and guide it to victory is the burning task of the hour. The perspective opened up by the beginning of the political revolution is thus the perspective of the reconstitution of the revolutionary socialist party of Lenin and Trotsky. The leaders of the East German workers are forging the basis for such a party in the heat of struggle. Brutal repressions by the Stalinists, however ferocious, will not prevent this indispensable and unpostponable task from being realized. There is only one banner under which such a revolutionary party can march, the banner of Trotskyism, the movement that today constitutes the organizing nucleus for the Leninist rearmament of the working class.
—“German Revolt—Beginning of End for Stalinism,” Militant (13 July 1953)