Appendix II - Bibliography of topics addressed by the German left during the 1930s

Submitted by Spassmaschine on October 23, 2009

The Russian Question
During the 1920s, the dominant conception was that the peasants were the ruling class in Russia. Later, approximately in the mid-1930s, the thesis of “State Capitalism”, originally conceived by Rühle in 1920 (cf. Chapter 16), prevailed within the GIKH. The Theses on Bolshevism (1934) analyzed the entire process which resulted in Stalinist Russia: it was, more or less, similar to the idea expressed in our introduction to Trotsky’s Report of the Siberian Delegation. Pannekoek was the first to bring this conception to Northwest Europe, with his article “De Arbeiders het Parlament en het Communisme” (Rätekorrespondenz). He applied it in his Lenin and Philosophy.

Another group, which was close to Mattick, and which published De Arbeidersraad, did not want to hear anything of “State Capitalism” and “State Socialism”, and still considered the Bolshevik Party to be a “peasant party”, even after collectivization: cf. Volume II, No. 2, February 1936.

A text written by a French worker who had worked in Russia had a great deal of influence on the Dutch Left in relation to this particular issue: Ce qu’est devenue la Révolution russe, by Yvon, published in Paris in 1937.

Nazism and Fascism
Like the Italian Left, the German Left of that time had the merit of having denounced democratic anti-fascism and anti-Nazism as the “worst products of fascism” (Bordiga), as well as of never having resorted to using the political arguments of Nazism as the KPD had in the early 1930s, and of never having offered its collaboration to Mussolini as the Italian Communist Party had at the end of the 1930s.

Under Nazism, the position of the German Left was to contribute to the formation of communist workers groups on the same basis as in the early 1920s, but under conditions of clandestinity: “No ‘special’ communist program for Germany” (cf. Masses, No. 1). Its ideological position would evolve. Until 1933 it did not believe that Nazism would be successful. When Hitler took power, the small publications which were still being published predicted his rapid downfall: the policy of setting the unemployed to work on various “unproductive” projects would not prevent a new round of inflation and the aggravation of the deteriorating living conditions of the working class, which would go on the offensive. They also criticized the false democratic alternatives. When, after the passage of a few years, Nazism was well-established, and the situation of the workers had improved, making Hitler as popular among them as among the other social classes, the leftists were the first to admit this fact and to try to explain it. They interpreted the behavior of the German proletarians as the result of what they had been taught in the old workers movement (Lassalle and social democracy) which had always said that the State is the providence of all of society: one must expect everything from State measures and nothing from spontaneous actions (cf. Spartacus, published by a working group of revolutionary workers in Amsterdam, No. 3, 1936 or 1937). Pannekoek would add his critique of the Bolshevik cult of the party and its leaders: cf. The Workers Councils, quoted by F. Kool, p. 570.

At this stage, the result was an attitude of non-participation, of choosing neither side; in the Second World War, Rühle declared in 1939, fascism-nazism-stalinism would be victorious because they corresponded to the general tendency of capitalism towards State Capitalism. It was useless to defend the democracies; the only real alternative to fascism was the proletarian revolution. “The struggle against fascism begins with the struggle against Bolshevism”: this thesis was also shared by Mattick and, in general, by all the leftists (cf. our commentary, Chapter 17).

On the origins of Nazism:
“Fascismus, Parlamentarismus und Proletariat”, Kampfruf, Vol. II, No. 9, 1923.

“Der Weg ins Nichts”, “Radauantisemitismus”, Kampfruf, Vol. IV, Nos. 29 and 32, 1923.1

“Die Triebkräfte des Antisemitismus”, Proletarier, Berlin, Vol. V, No. 6, 1924.2

“Der Hitlerprozess—der Prozess Republik”, KAZ Essen, Vol. III, 1924.3

A. Lehmann, “The Economic, Political and Social Causes of Fascism”, Masses, November 25, 1933.

On Italian fascism:
“Violence reigns in Italy”, “The road to fascism passes through democracy”, KAZ Berlin, Vol. VI, No. 92, and Vol. VIII, No. 35, 1937.

On the eve of Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933:
“Hitler’s victory opens the door to civil war”, “Heinrich Laufenberg”, “Proletarians: Listen for the Signal!”, “Mass mobilization”, “The roots of national-socialism”, Kampfruf—organ of the KAU after 1931—Vol. XI, No. 38, 1930; Vol. XIII, Nos. 1, 5 and 6, 1932.

“Das tote Rennen”, special edition of KAZ, Vol. II, No. 2, 1932.4

“The rolling stone”, “Domestic political struggles”, KAZ Berlin, Vol. XIII, No. 10, 1932.

Massenaktion, Berlin, 1933 (KAU pamphlet).

Kritik an den Waffen!, AAU pamphlet, Leipzig-Chemnitz district, 1931.5 After Hitler’s seizure of power:
“Diktaturkabinett Hitler”, “You must still vote!” “Der Bankrott des National-Sozialismus”, Kampfruf, Vol. XIV, Nos. 3 and 3-4, February 1933.

“Die proletarische Front”, “The ‘redemption of the nation’ begins”, special edition of KAZ, Year 3, No. 2, February 1933.

After the stabilization of the regime (in addition to the Spartacus article cited above):
“To the groups of the GIKH”, Rätekorrespondenz, No. 16-17, May 1936.

“Is Nazi-Duitsland Kapitalistische?”, Radencommunisme, Year 1, No. 8, 1939.6

There is little material concerning World War Two (in comparison with the Italian Left), and nothing we are aware of, except the articles by Korsch reproduced in Marxism and Counterrevolution, Chapter XII.

The “Death Crisis”
It would be impossible to summarize the theses and debates on this issue. For the supporters of the death crisis thesis, we cite: “Wereldcrisis, wereldrevolutie”, 7 De Arbeidersraad, Year 1, No. 8, August 1935, and an article by Mattick in Rätekorrespondenz, No. 4, 1934, a response to a previous article by Pannekoek. This tendency, after having returned to Luxemburg’s conceptions in the 1920s, saw its concept of the death crisis confirmed by the social democratic economist H. Grossmann, who published Das Akkumulations und zusammenbruchs gesetz des Kapitalistischen systems in 1929 (reprinted by Verlag Neue Kritik, Frankfort, 1967). Pannekoek criticized Grossmann in the article we reproduce below (cf. Chapter XII of C. Brendel’s book on Pannekoek).

Fundamentals and Content of Communism
The supplement to the first issue of ICO published the translation of a text from 1935 (Rätekorrespondenz, Nos. 10-11): “Average social labor time, basis for communist production and distribution”, which summarizes the Grundprinzipien des Kommunistischen Produktion und Verteilung, reprinted by Rüdiger-Blankertz Verlag, West Berlin. All subsequent texts on this subject (Mattick, Pannekoek’s Workers Councils) would accept this idea as their basis.

Various texts show that the left (after the 1930s) did not theorize its break with democracy, “freedom”, etc., and that its rejection of the dictatorship of the proletariat was not just a matter of words: “Communism and Intellectual Freedom”, Radencommunisme, Year 1, No. 12, August 1939, and “Arbeiders-demokratie in de bedrijven8 ” by C. Meijer, in the same journal, in 1944 or 1945. This culminated in The Workers Councils.

Most of the texts mentioned in this bibliography cannot be found “for sale”, but can be consulted or photocopied at the International Institute for Social History, 262-266 Herengracht, Amsterdam.

  • 1“The Road to Nothingness”, “The Anti-Semitism of the Sewers”.
  • 2“The Motives of Anti-Semitism”.
  • 3“The Hitler-Trial—The Trial of the German Republic”.
  • 4“The Death Race”.
  • 5“The Critique of Arms”.
  • 6“Nazi Germany: Is It Capitalist?”
  • 7“World Crisis, World Revolution”.
  • 8“Workers Democracy as a Political Position”.