It's about the Cause

Kommunistische Arbeiter-Zeitung

A short anti-critique by the Berlin Tendency of the KAPD directed towards the AAUE's critique of the "party" nature of KAPD. Originally published in the "Kommunistische Arbeiter-Zeitung", Organ of the KAPD, 7th year, 1926, No. 9 and 10, February. Translated by Indo of Council Communist Collective and reproduced from the "Antonie Pannekoek Archives"

I. Words and Practice – Form and Content

In the “Einheitsfront”[1] of the AAUE, the Communist Workers' Party, because it calls itself a “party”, is equated with any parliamentary party and accused of having a bourgeois party character. We have to deal with this superficial “argumentation” because it has become the common property of all “party deniers”, including the indifferent “intelligentsia”. It results in grave dangers for the proletarian class struggle, which must be conducted in an organized manner.

If one wants to take a stand on scientific, political, economic or tactical questions, then one must first and then always give an account of the value and the role of the question to be dealt with within the overall context of the problem in question and its relationship to the proletarian world outlook in general; if this is not done, the position taken will be devoid of any deeper context, illogical and contradictory.

As revolutionary Marxists, we consider the development and promotion of proletarian class consciousness to be the first necessary requirement of a proletarian revolution. Class consciousness means nothing less than the conscious will to revolutionarily overcome capitalism through the proletarian class dictatorship and the building of communism, as well as the ability of the class to meet the intellectual, political, economic and technical demands of a proletarian revolution. Only in second place, because only possible through existing class consciousness, do we strive for the organizational gathering of the revolutionary class fighters in a suitable organization.

The form of the organization, its structure, its administration, its working methods and finally the range of tasks it has to deal with will certainly not be without influence on the education and training of its members. A parliamentary party, structured from the top down, like a joint-stock company, with paying members, leading functionaries and professional leaders at the top, is not in a position to develop independent thinking and organizational skills within its membership. This requires an organizational form that offers every member as much stimulation and opportunity as possible for practical, political, organizational and propagandistic activity. This includes the permanent recallability of all functionaries, the smallest possible number of “salaried” or exempt staff that changes over time, mandates that are tied, free, timely debate within the organization, not “determining” but managing bodies.

However, even such an organization can only achieve its purpose of training each individual member if certain basic prerequisites for practical organizational life are in place. Belief in the cause, enthusiasm, knowledge, the will to work and interest must animate the membership as the living content of the organization. Without these things, even the best, most original and council-democratic organization remains a dead body.

For a person who looks at the workers' movement with a critical eye, who experiences it with a clear, thinking head, all this is a matter of course. A position on organizational work and forms of organization in the revolutionary workers' movement must in any case be reconciled with this fundamental insight! Only then is the respective stance the inevitable result of a fundamental, deeper way of thinking.

But the AAUE does not attach any importance to such things! It cramps its arguments against our movement where they are cheapest, strings them together and calls the whole thing a “factual, principled debate”.

In the face of the KPD's attempt to base itself on “factory organizations”, in the face of the works council game based on factories or in the face of the undoubtedly council-democratic structure of the Zwickau “Zeitgeist” Union, the AAUE, like us, will reply: “Name is smoke and mirrors, organizational forms and democratic self-administration alone mean nothing. Everything depends on the value or lack of value of the cause, on the general attitude of the organization, on its practical activity.” If we give this answer, then it springs from our principle of content and form outlined above; it “fits” into the “overall framework” of our view in this respect. overall framework” of our view. The same answer, however, given by the AAUE does not spring from principled, deeper thinking, but is a purely empirical, almost traditional way of speaking; born of agitational expediency!

The second is the following: The fact that the “parties” are criticized by the AAUE because of their name is not enough. They are by no means being fought because of their always different attitudes or their measures — but because of their organizational form, because of their (mostly residential district) structure! The Einheitsfront expresses this in a very obvious, drastic way:

Here, too, the AAUE ignores the phrase it uses on appropriate occasions: “Organizational forms and democratic self-administration alone say nothing; everything depends on the principles and methods, on the practical activity of the organizations.” The fact that it is applied there and simply the opposite of it is presented here as a “principle”, i.e. that the “arguments” cancel each other out, do not stand in any logical relationship to each other, do not resist any critical consideration, shows the completely untenable argumentation of the AAUE.

The fundamental argument of the “Einheitsfront” cited above requires a few more comments on the subject of “content or form”, starting with an example:

Even if one can draw some conclusions about a person's attitude from his clothing, it is absolute nonsense to fabricate logical or even experiential laws from this. The man in the frock coat with his stand-up collar does not have to think “bourgeois”, any more than the sweat-soaked coal carrier has to have been a member of the People's Naval Division and be a revolutionary Marxist. They would both have to be the latter, but whether they actually are, whether they will never become one or will even join us tomorrow in the struggle for communism is something that clothing cannot tell us. It is far too much an external form for that!

All this is brutally simple, self-evident. Now let us take a look at the organization which claims, through its structure, through its form, to influence its membership, their thoughts and deeds in an expedient, revolutionary Marxist way.

First of all, the undisputed statement must be made that the AAUE has not done more theoretically and practically than the similar General Workers' Union [AAU]; nor has it certainly done more in the service of the class struggle than the “K.A.P[arty]”, which was set up for purely practical reasons in residential districts. When our movement split into the Berlin and Essen tendencies, leading figures in the AAUE described this split as necessarily arising from the “party” character. The extent to which this argumentation is cramped, unstable, unprincipled and contradictory is revealed in purely practical terms by the division of the typical “union” character of the AAUE into Heidenau, Zwickau, Hamburg and Berlin tendencies, which began sometime later.

The struggle against the KAP, the demand for a unified organization based on a truly original unionen, united the ideologically most diverse parts of the General Workers' Union into the AAUE. This would never have been possible to the extent actually achieved if its founders had respect for their own views and had attached importance to ideological clarity and unified, principled reasoning. We do not deny that the views expressed at the last AAUE Reich Conference (November 1925) had already inspired at least a large part of the Berlin comrades of the AAUE in 1921. But precisely this shows how little value these comrades placed on the implementation of their own views. For as early as 1921, the Heidenau idealists, the Zwickau utopians and the Hamburg super-federalists represented the fundamental germs of those views that only gave the AAUE cause to form a committee a few years later, and through the blurring and postponement of essential opposites practiced in this way (in order to gather a large following as quickly as possible on the basis of unclear paroles), a gathering without unity of views was accomplished. This achievement of the AAUE can truly lay no claim to being judged as good, revolutionary or even Marxist. If, like the “Einheitsfront”, it is even attributed to the structure, to the union character of the organization, then its (alleged) results are more likely to lead to a rejection of such forms of organization. This is the internally necessary consequence for the “Einheitsfront”; for us, however, it is out of the question, because we have never ascribed such value to the organizational form, but have always placed the decisive value on the content, on its theoretical, political-economic and organizational activity.

The same conclusions can be drawn if one considers the intellectual content of the propaganda for the proletarian revolution actually carried out by the AAUE from the given points of view. We have already pointed out the blurring of the opposites existing in the workers' movement by the (absolutely false) question of “district or factory organization”, “party or unionen” practised by the AAUE. This is not a secondary issue! A debate speaker who stands up in a public meeting and says “Parties are the result of the bourgeois era; all parties must be broken up. Down with the party bigwigs, who only want to get posts and salaries, we will create a class organization without paid functions, without leaders", he is causing enormous mischief! As a revolutionary Marxist, he should first and foremost analyse the factual differences between the individual party and organizational groupings. In the case of the bourgeois parties he would have to point out the political interests of the circles interested in them, in the case of the KPD he would have to talk about the connection between Russian national interests and its practical politics, but also about the meaning of Leninism and its consequences that kill self-consciousness and class consciousness, and with regard to the KΑΡ he would have to subject its principles, its political views and its organizational activity to an objective critical examination. The comrades of the AAUE, however, do not do this, as they should as revolutionary Marxists; they limit themselves to the above-mentioned idiom and its paraphrase. In doing so, they do a disservice to the necessary recruitment of objective, clear and sober-minded class fighters. The majority of those who join them on the basis of such shallow propaganda are the personification of negation and ambiguity itself; they immediately fall away at one of the first stress tests and become indifferent or resigned, as they usually were before.

We see: Even the practical propaganda practiced by the AAUE is not good, un-Marxist, absolutely harmful to the revolutionary cause. If it — after the “Einheitsfront” — is to be the necessary expression of the original “union” character of the AAUE, then to hell with such a form of organization! But we do not believe that forms will ever determine the content. We see the absolutely false propaganda as an expression of ideological immaturity, as the result of a shallow, rigid, mechanical thinker and judge it accordingly.

II. Dualism and Unitary Organization, Purposeful
Concentration and development of Self-Consciousness

Our discussion with the AAUE takes on a different, fundamental tone if it is based from the outset on the mutual recognition of the principle that “name is smoke and mirrors; organizational form is important, but its theoretical and practical essence is everything.” Only then can other, deeper motives for “party unification” be brought into play. Of course, these must also be logically structured and mutually consistent.

The first requirement in this respect is that the AAUE should abandon its criticism of the existence and activity of the KAP alone; i.e., limit itself to a critical examination of the KAP insofar as it is not identified with bourgeois parliamentary or other party formations. The AAUE must evaluate the KAP from the side in which the latter reveals itself. It cannot put everything worth fighting against into the three letters KAP at its own discretion and then fight against this “KAP”, but it must fight against the type of character, the theory, the methods, the politics of the KAP, which is expressed by the latter, if the AAUE considers these to be wrong.

One of the arguments unjustly raised against us is the accusation of dualism. According to the AAUE we are striving for the division of the class struggle into politics and economics; the class struggle “politics” should supposedly be handled by the KAP and the class struggle “economics” by its” Unionen. Neither the KAP nor the AAU think of following such a “division of labour”. Their practical activity to date should have already revealed this fact to the comrades of the AAUE. And this is precisely because the previous activity of the party and the Unionen itself has not taken into account the certainly necessary differentiation between general and factory propaganda, between the tasks of the BO and the Unionen and the tasks of a “party” organization primarily concerned with revolutionary, enlightening propaganda!

We strive to unite those who are prepared to help overthrow the capitalist system through revolution and proletarian class dictatorship into the General Workers' Union. We believe that the AAU must work “economically” and “politically” in full independence as a class struggle organization, that it may select suitable allies for itself and that it cannot test new members for revolutionary, personal or even character qualities. Every worker is welcome in the AAU if he wants to work on the great work of the revolution according to his personal abilities. To develop his knowledge, which is usually purely primitive at first, to develop his abilities, to evaluate given abilities, are tasks that must be solved within the Unionen by the most suitable, clearest-thinking, most advanced comrades.

“Dualism or unified organization” is therefore not the right question for us. Whether the educational work described is “schoolmasterly, patronizing paternalism” is not decided by some malicious wish, but by our conscious will to work in solidarity. However, another question arises; it is related to the rumination and is as follows:

Do we understand by the development of self-consciousness and class consciousness a process in which the development of all (revolution-necessary) scientific, political, organizational, propagandistic or military abilities in each individual class fighter are set as a goal?


We know very well that mental or physical qualities are different among the proletarians. That is why we are not concerned with personality value, but with class consciousness. The required measure of the necessary class consciousness is given in the conditions of the proletarian revolution, which are very difficult for Germany; the size, the inner strength of the class struggle organizations is the yardstick. It is only through this, not through the individual, that we can judge the political, economic, administrative, military and other capabilities of the class, as well as its revolutionary will in general. This presentation was necessary in order to prevent a misinterpretation of the word “self-consciousness” and to prove the absolute necessity of factual educational work by the best and clearest comrades of the Unionen in relation to their “normal average” content.

It is not “imperiousness” or “paternalism”, but a question of appropriate concentration, whether comrades suitable for such work should be specially grouped together or not. Even some comrades of the Berlin AAUE cannot ignore the necessity of a planned implementation of the Unionen and recommend the gathering of suitable comrades in their bodies.

In our opinion, this is the wrong approach. It is precisely through activity in organizational bodies that the individual comrade first acquires a broader view of the issues of a class revolution. Skills are only developed through lively, practical work. No one should be deprived of such a school; everyone should be induced to attend it in some way. The “capable” and clearest comrades, however, should be active in a meaningful way not only in the central bodies, but mainly in the B.O., the local groups and the districts. Who wants to, who should and who can judge whether this or that person belongs to the clearest and most advanced or not, if a general stress test is not able to separate them from the “normal” average? It is given by a willingness to work and sacrifice beyond the general framework of the Unionen in the form of maintaining a special organization. The timid, the faint-hearted, the weak, the backward-thinking stay away from it from the outset. And that is a good thing in this case!

In this way we achieve an extremely useful separation of the best comrades from the general average content of the Unionen. We gather them together organizationally in order to be able to express the most uniform views possible in and towards the Unionen through constant self-understanding. And we call ourselves a party and publish our own newspaper so that, regardless of possible fluctuations in the Unionen, we, like the proletariat in general, have the necessary platform to disseminate and assert our views.

We have often been asked why we cling so “desperately” to the name “party”. Certainly, we could just as well call ourselves the “Communist Workers' League” or something else; but precisely in order to provide the necessary counterweight to the existing tendencies towards syndicalism, the tendency to reject the “political” struggle (which is also expressed in No. 52 of the “Einheitsfront”) and to offer the necessary counterweight to the so shallowly founded, harmful and purely emotional “party” opposition, that is why we call ourselves — for the sake of the cause — the Communist Workers' Party!

III. For the unification of the Unionens!

The harsh criticism of the AAUE was necessary in order to steer the debate in the right direction. For the sake of an actual clarification of the controversial issues, because without it an agreement between the unionens is not possible. In line with the resolution of the last general meeting of our Berlin comrades (KAZ. No. 1), we will continue to work ideologically and organizationally for a merger of the existing unionens into a single General Workers' Union! But we must not be blinded by form and size; everything must also be based on its content, path and goal!

1) Organ of the General Workers’ Union – Unitary Organization [AAUE] in Frankfurt.
2) Acronym for “Betriebsorganization”, a term indicating the informal autonomous organization of workers’ struggle at the place of work (companies) and their formal organization at ‘shop’-level after the revolution.