The crimes of the SPD

76 posts / 0 new
Last post
working class
Offline
Joined: 1-05-11
Oct 16 2011 17:13
The crimes of the SPD

Before Luxemburg broke with and was later murdered by them, the SPD had the orthodox centrist current led by Kautsky, the left current of Luxemburg and the revisionist current of Bernstein. I understand that anarchists considered the SPD and the Second International to be bourgeois from the beginning. In reading about the history of the SPD, one is stuck by the foreshadowing of Leninism/Stalinism in the actions of the SPD in the repression of communists and the working class.

Crimes of the SPD:
1. Supported World War I
2. Took part in the repression of German communists and the murder of Luxemburg and Liebknecht
3. Supported von Hindenburg who democratically handed over power to Hitler

Any others?

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Oct 16 2011 18:47

The blame for the majority of the SPD voting for the civilpeace can go to the nationalism of the trade unions.

Ebert was personally shocked on hearing of the murder of Luxemburg, which of course means nothing, but perhaps the states' machine repression wasn't fully in the SPD's hands. I mean, even Kautsky was at one point arrested.

I don't know about the SPD's support for Hindenburg and if that paved the path to nazism.

Anarchist were participants at the SI congresses until 1893 when they got expelled, so I doubt "the anarchists" considered the SI bourgeois from the start, and even after that probably nationalist, reformist, etc. at worst, but so did the marxist current within the SPD.

Luxemburg, Liebknecht, etc. didn't actually leave the SPD until the USDP formed in 1917 (a split which according to wikipedia the Spartakusbund rather didn't want: Daraufhin gründeten die Kriegsgegner in der SPD im April eine eigene Partei: die USPD. Dieser schloss sich nun auch der Spartakusbund an, obwohl er die Parteispaltung nicht gewollt hatte.)

working class
Offline
Joined: 1-05-11
Oct 16 2011 19:59
Noa Rodman wrote:
Ebert was personally shocked on hearing of the murder of Luxemburg, which of course means nothing, but perhaps the states' machine repression wasn't fully in the SPD's hands. I mean, even Kautsky was at one point arrested.

I can't agree with the statement that the SPD was not in control of the machine of repression. Gustave Noske was a prominent trade unionist, who rose through the ranks of the SPD and became the Defence minister under Ebert. According to wiki: "Best known for putting down the Communist and left wing risings throughout Germany in early 1919, Noske was and remains a controversial figure. To crush the incipient revolution, he permitted and even encouraged the organization and employment of right-wing, nationalist Freikorps. Between January 10 and January 17, 1919 they, together with Reichswehr troops under the command of General von Lüttwitz, crushed the Spartacist revolt by military force, the leaders - Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht - were shot by members of the 1st Horse Guards Division as they were being arrested after the fighting had ended on January 17. On the other hand, he defused the Kiel Mutiny of 1918 without a shot being fired."

Quote:
I don't know about the SPD's support for Hindenburg and if that paved the path to nazism.

I don't think it paved the way to Nazism, but for SPD's support for Hindenburg, see this. Hindenburg was the democratically elected President (elected with the support of the SPD) who simply handed over the reigns of power to Hitler by appointing him as Chancellor.

devoration1's picture
devoration1
Offline
Joined: 18-07-10
Oct 17 2011 13:20

Neutering the Councils into bodies to turn the revolution into a popular referendum for a National Assembly.

Entdinglichung's picture
Entdinglichung
Offline
Joined: 2-07-08
Oct 18 2011 13:31

the pre-1914-SPD had only fewer possibilities to commit crimes, only strong pressure by the parts of the party e.g. prevented the parliamentary group of the Social Democrats in 1884 from voting for subsidies for steamship companies involved in the evolving German colonialism ... see e.g. the writings of Kurt Mandelbaum and Kurt Brandis (both close collaborators of Karl Korsch) on the topic

Gerostock's picture
Gerostock
Offline
Joined: 29-03-11
Oct 22 2011 10:05

Ebert sent the Freikorps to put down the Spartacist revolution. He must have known that they had a policy of executing every leftist they captured.

Pengwern's picture
Pengwern
Offline
Joined: 18-10-11
Oct 25 2011 18:05

One additional crime not yet mentioned - Noske was sent by the von Baden government to put down the Kiel revolt and readily agreed to do so.

As for Ebert, on 9 November, with tens of thousands of workers in key public squares in central Berlin and many more still marching on the city, von Baden approached Ebert and asked: 'If I should succeed in persuading the Kaiser, do I have you on my side in the battle against the social revolution?' Ebert replied: 'If the Kaiser does not abdicate the social revolution is inevitable. I do not want it - in fact I hate it like sin.'

He was true to his beliefs.

I am more interested in the SPD more general impact. To social democrats of that era, Socialism would begin as soon as the Social Democratic representatives of the working class had captured the state. Democracy was thus primarily a means to an end. Political democracy was the means to achieve social equality. Rudolf Hilferding's theory of 'organised capitalism' perceived democracy as the specific state form of the working class. Like his mentor Kautsky, Hilferding upheld the notion that democracy was the basic precondition for the socialist transformation of society. They insisted on the centrality of the rule of law in protecting all citizens from the encroachment of the state onto the territory of their individual rights. This was naive, given who ran the state.

The SPD's biggest crime was to prepare the way for Fascism, which it did a) precisely because of its ideological limitations, which conflated the state with formal political power, and b) its failure to face up to the incompatibility of its reformism with the economic crisis after the Wall Street Crash.

Whilst the SPD was usually the largest and ruling party, the judiciary, education, policing, the army, the land and industry remained throughout firmly in the hands of forces which saw democracy as a temporary expedient, to see off revolution and economic crisis, and who yearned to get back to direct, oligarchical rule.

In 1927 the SPD got unemployment Insurance through the Reichstag, when unemployment levels were a lot less than the 6 million officially unemployed and a further two million who were also unable to find work after the Wall Street crash.

After Wall Street, the German unemployment insurance fund quickly went bankrupt and the SPD demanded that business taxes be raised to replenish it but the majority parties in the government wanted cuts in state expenditure. The SPD then gently stepped down from political leadership, because it did not want to be identified with reneging on the jewel in its reformist crown. Hindenburg then appointed a conservative member of the Centre Party – Heinrich Brüning – as Chancellor. Hindenburg invoked article 48 of the Constitution, which permitted the Chancellor to govern by decree.

Germany then had three years of presidential dictatorship, which gradually became less a series of stopgap measures and more an elaborate effort to overthrow the Republic from within. The Weimar Republic existed in name only after the SPD walked away from formal political power; Hitler never overthrew it.

In short, the SPD was the plaything of the army, the big capitalists and the right generally. It did not know what to do when the economic space for reformism disappeared right in front of its nose, so it abdicated, allowing an oligarchy to return.

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Nov 13 2011 22:04

I should correct myself, the anarchists were not expelled until after the 1896 London congress. The anarchist Joseph Tortelier was there for the French independent socialists, while Malatesta had three mandates. So anarchists were in the International for at least 7 years.

ultraviolet's picture
ultraviolet
Offline
Joined: 14-04-11
Dec 4 2011 00:15

If someone can tell me a good article on the crimes of the SPD during the period when Germany was near revolution (I think 1918-1923?), please do.

If possible, not anything too long.

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Dec 4 2011 19:20

That would be uninteresting. The German proletariat is guilty of having learned nothing from the war and economic collapse, that is clear to everyone here.

Also, blaming SPD for paving the road to fascism, repeats the reformist argument against revolution. The reason that the counter-revolution (which Lüttwitz attempted after Ebert fired him - thus showing that the state-machinery was not so firmly in SPD hands) failed is, according to the 'reformist' reasoning, because the German workers were strong enough to resist it, because they were not lead into a totally desperate attempt of insurrection (as in Italy, Hungary, Russia,.. where the proletariat was completely crushed).

devoration1's picture
devoration1
Offline
Joined: 18-07-10
Dec 5 2011 22:57
Quote:
Also, blaming SPD for paving the road to fascism, repeats the reformist argument against revolution. The reason that the counter-revolution (which Lüttwitz attempted after Ebert fired him - thus showing that the state-machinery was not so firmly in SPD hands) failed is, according to the 'reformist' reasoning, because the German workers were strong enough to resist it, because they were not lead into a totally desperate attempt of insurrection (as in Italy, Hungary, Russia,.. where the proletariat was completely crushed).

Didn't the SPD and KPD both pave the way for fascism given their actions and inactions? I think it's a pretty linear pattern (and I don't mean just because they both acted against the proletarian socialist revolution- albeit in different ways and degrees between the two groups- but also through their parliamentary and statist responsibilities, tactics, decisions, etc allowing and fostering the seeds and sprouts of fascism against the Weimar parliamentary democracy). The Schlageter Line, joint NSDAP-KPD strike committees, 'First Hitler's Revolution Then Ours', nationalist rhetoric during the French occupation of the Ruhr, etc are all unsavory KPD/VKPD actions helping along fascism.

And the German workers most certainly were lead, twice, into 'desperate insurrections': in Berlin during the early days of the November Revolution and later in the failed March Action- both similar to the July Days of the Bolsheviks, and kinda like the impotent Red Terror of Bela Kun's "Lenin Boys".

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Dec 5 2011 23:45

For Kautsky during the war the SPD were defenders of 'Nationalsozialismus' (that's the term he uses), who sang about the German people's spirit, war socialism and the courageous emperor's struggle for democracy. And he considered counter-revolution had taken place, the question was how long would it last (I doubt that he thought that the proletariat had ever recovered during the Weimar republic). Was the economic situation not already worse than it had been during Nazi-Germany?

baboon
Offline
Joined: 29-07-05
Dec 8 2011 21:22

Klaus Gietinger, the author and film director, has devoted a large part of his life to researching the murders of Luxemburg and Liebknecht. I don't read German, but his latest book "Waldemar Pabst: Der Konterrevolutionar", which uses the latest documentation from Russia and East Berlin, apparantly proves the implication of the SDP in the murder and the cover up.

In his earlier book "The murder of Rosa Luxemburg", Gietinger quotes the Commander-in Chief of the counter-revolutionary Garde-Kavallerie-Schutzen-Division (GKSD), Waldemar Pabst, from a letter written by him in 1969, stating: "Noske and I were in complete agreement. Naturally he couldn't give the order himself". In another letter quoted, Pabst wrote: "... these German idiots should drop to their knees and thank Noske and me, streets, squares should be named after us! Noske at the time was exemplarly, and the Party - except for its half-Communist left wing - was without fail. The fact that I could never had taken this action without the consent of Noske - with Ebert in the background - and that I had to protect my officers, is clear". This is from the chapter "74 years on". On the 90th anniversary of the murders, Angela Merkel described the actions of Noske, as a "plucky defence of the republic" (Tagesspiegel, January 11, 2009).

Before her murder Pabst had attempted to interrogate Luxemburg after her abduction by bourgeois vigilantes in the luxurious counter-revolutionary nest of the Hotel Eden where Luxemburg, Leibknecht and another were brought. In his memoirs - quoted by Gietinger - Pabst recalled how one of his officers, a Catholic aristocrat, had heard one of Luxemburg's speeches and described her as a 'Saint', requesting that should speak to his soldiers. Pabst said: "At this moment, I recognised the extent of the danger represented by Mrs Luxemburg. She was more dangerous than all the rest, including those with arms".

I have no doubt that the SPD paved the way for Hitler and the Nazi regime. An ascent that was nobly assisted by the anti-fascist democracies of Great Britain, France and the USA.

baboon
Offline
Joined: 29-07-05
Dec 11 2011 14:21

If I may return to this question: I'm quite surprised that Noa above should, in answer to UV's interest in the situation of Germany, 1918-23, say that the role of the SPD would be "uninteresting". I think that generally one cannot understand the defeat of the Russian revolution without some understanding of what happened in Germany in the period above and I also think that the lesson of the betrayal of the left wing of capitalism is an abiding lesson for the working class.

UV, there is a five or six page text on the ICC's website, internationalism.org, type in "From Noske to Hitler" on the search box. It's one of five articles.

What is important about this particular piece is that it shows how "industrial, state murder" was a feature of the German bourgeoisie, which the SPD was fully complicit in, from 1918/19. There is a clear link here to the Nazi death camps.

General Ludendorff had invented the myth about Germany's World War I defeat being down to the "Dolchstosslegende", the "knife in the back". This was a similar coded reference to Thatcher's "enemy within" but much more ominous. It was used to facilitate the activities of the German military's death squads and the actions of dozens of counter-revolutionary organisations that ware built up after 1918. Some twenty thousand German workers were murdered. The "Dolchstosslegende" was made official doctrine by the SDP government of Ebert on the same day as the latter, along with the military High Command, was saluting newly arrived troops marching through Berlin (10.12.18). It was hoped that these troops would put down the workers - in this case they didn't, they fraternised.

The SDP, for obvious reasons, didn't directly blame the working class for "the stab in the back", but used it to target "intellectuals" and Jews. Ludendorff had directly implicated "the Jews" since the end of the war, but the SDP replaced the word with "foreigner", "elements without national roots" and so on. Vorwarts, the SPD newspaper, had published a pogrom call (under the guise of a poem) in its edition two days before the murders of Rosa and Liebnecht.

The SPD protected capitalist interests from the start and helped to create the unofficial mercenary armies of the Friecorps. From 1919, it protected the military death squads and assisted in creating the conditions that were to bring about the Nazi regime.

The failure of the 1917 revolutionary wave, the roots of the counter-revolution and the bases of the second world war are all to be found in the situation of Germany in the early 1920s.

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Dec 12 2011 12:32

It's uninteresting because a list of the crimes committed under the SPD's watch is so familiar. The killed during those 6 months easily exceed the number of killed in Hitlerite Germany's first 6 years ... by ten times. Who cares if the SPD paved the way for Hitler then.

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Dec 13 2011 20:14

Who cares if the SPD paved the way for Hitler then.

I don't understand this. If the SPD acted in this way, it's rather strong evidence that its contemporary heirs in the Labour party et al would act in the same way faced with a revolutionary working class, and yet the idea that the left is somehow less murderous than the right remains a kind of 'common sense' part of bourgeois ideology (above all on the left of course)

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Dec 13 2011 21:20

Obviously, but if I may also speak for what the majority of people think, they would see us as no different from those holding OBAMA=FASCIST signs, i.e. unconvincing. Furthermore, listing crimes of our opponents is not enlightening for 'our own side'. Workers' disgust at the SPD's repression did lose it many votes at the next election to the USDP (though rightwing parties also increased against the center parties), but this was a temporary win which couldn't be consolidated. So to the people involved at the time the list of SPD crimes was either quickly forgotten, or was not even registered as a crime to begin with.

On other threads by ultraviolet questions like on freedom of the press were raised. If we consider freedom of the press important, then was the occupation of the press district and in particular the SPD Vorwarts printing house not an alarming development that pointed what the communists' idea of dictatorship would mean? The building of the main organ of the SPD held also materials, registers, etc. which where vital for the party's function, especially considering the elections were approaching while the extreme right parties freely carried on propaganda (and whatever Ebert's use of the Dolchstosslegende, he himself was also accused of it). This explains the gravity of the matter in Bernstein's account (something which Kautsky overlooked).

baboon
Offline
Joined: 29-07-05
Dec 14 2011 21:03

The lessons of the German revolution, the fact that there was a revolution in Germany which was pivotal to the world revolution, is, I would argue, "enlightening" for the working class. It is one of the great strides of proletarian struggle that was essentially drowned in the blood of the working class with the full complicity of the left wing of capitalism. They were no "lesser evil" here.

Obama=fascism is clearly ridiculous. Fascism was a particular expression of capitalism, not an aberration, at a particular time of counter-revolution.

What's relevant today is that the left wing of capitalism, because it uses some of the "language" of working class struggle, can, in times of high levels of that struggle, be more dangerous to the working class than the right. It can put down the workers directly as with Stalinism, or it can lay the ground for the coup de grace of the right, as it did with the Nazis.

Ebert was accused of betraying German imperialism by the right. Since then we've seen a nearly a century of these different elements of the ruling class - right and left - falling out, settling scores, killing one another. This is no suprise not least from the lessons of the German revolution. And what remains evident from that is that Ebert and the SPD acted to maintain and defend the interests of German imperialism against those of the working class.

Pengwern's picture
Pengwern
Offline
Joined: 18-10-11
Dec 14 2011 23:24

Ebert and the SPD were set up for some time in advance by the right to be the only ones who signed the Versailles Treaty, so that the 'Stab in the Back' could later be used against them, but at the same time, the General Groener-Ebert deal to smash the Revolution was put in place. The SPD leadership had been moving right for years, not only during the war, when they did become a nationalist force, and were salivating over the carrot of prospective power held out to entice them to such an extent that they were easy to manipulate in both these cases.

The Revolution didn't just lose because of that the Freikorps managed in one city - Berlin - but because the SPD were able to outmanoevre the Spartacists before and on 16 December, when the All-German Congress of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils was held. The Spartacist League was not organised in a way that could influence arguments in all the workers and soldiers’ councils, and so 75% of the delegates from all over Germany were SPD members. On this basis the SPD was able to secure the Congress's rejection by 344 to 98 the demand for a government based on Workers and Soldiers Councils and agree on elections to a National Assembly. By getting their men voted in by this Congress to act as Peoples' Commissars, the SPD claimed a mandate on the exact same basis that Lenin had from the Russian Soviets.

This took from the Spartacists any realistic possibility of raising the demand 'All Power to the Workers and Soldiers Councils', because these very Councils could not be said to want this.

The difference between Petrograd and Germany was the politics of the mass party of the working class.

It is also relevant today that revolutionary crises which occur so quickly may involve spontaneous self-organisation on a mass scale but the only people able to bring that together and derive a mandate from it will be those with a proper base.

The most decisive crime of the SPD was that it had this base in the working class, despite its degeneration, despite its nationalism and opportunism and despite its class collaboration.

ajjohnstone
Offline
Joined: 20-04-08
Dec 16 2011 07:01

For a contemporary view in 1912 the SPGB were describing the SPD in these terms, and already forcasting betrayal:

Quote:
Quote:
"The German Socialist Party includes men like Bernstein, Von Vollmar, and David, who have opposed every principle that Socialism includes – men who openly cry out for standing alliances with the Radicals and other enemies of the Red Flag.

Amid all the piffle and lies appearing in the Liberal Press, the statement that the Social-Democratic Party in Germany occupies a somewhat similar position to that of the Liberal party here is largely true. For the Social Reform rubbish and anti-working class politics preached by the leaders of the Social Democrats there is very similar to the “Advanced Legislation” put forth by Lloyd George, Churchill, Ramsay Macdonald, Philip Snowdon, and the hosts of other Liberal Labour hacks here.

Knowing this only too well, we must discount very heavily the so-called Socialist victories in the recent elections in Germany. A body of supporters got together upon all manner of pretexts can only hang together so long as no important action is taken, and must fall to pieces directly a move is made in the revolutionary direction. In that day of dire disaster, woe betide those who have counted heads in the ballot and put their faith in numbers. Only those who understand the principles of Socialism can give strength to the revolutionary army. Let ignorance march against us since our foes can turn it against us when they will."
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/1910s/1912/no-90-february-1912/german-elections

Later in 1919 the Socialist Standard commented on the German elections:

Quote:
"For years we have pointed out that the Social Democratic Party of Germany, now called the “Majority Socialists”, was not a Socialist party. Its persistent support of the capitalist parties at elections, coupled with its advocacy of capitalist reforms, marked it off as merely a reform party similar to the Labour Party in this country, though it carried a Socialist name...Mr. Small Capitalist had to look for another organisation that was really prepared for the Liberal reforms, and it was at hand in the shape of the Social Democratic Party. Since the days of its famous “Gotha Programme”, so trenchantly trounced by Marx, it had even challenged Bismarck’s rulings. So the small capitalists joined this organisation in large numbers till the total votes ran into millions...

...Karl Liebknecht’s attempt to rouse the workers to seize power for themselves as a class met with considerable opposition even in his own stronghold, Berlin. This showed how small was the number of the German working class who were ready to assist in establishing Socialism. The number who understand it must, of course, be smaller still. The German Election has shown, with the cold, relentless logic of figures, how much Socialist propaganda still must be done in Germany, as elsewhere, before the working class will be in a fit state, and ready, to establish Socialism....

...Due to their action in opposing the later war-credits the “Independent Socialist” vote is a much more reliable index to the number of Socialists in Germany. Even here, however, the breaking away of the Spartacus group adds to the difficulty of forming a sound judgement till more detailed information is available. Until then even the most optimistic who have any acquaintance with German conditions, cannot claim more than the 24 “Independent Socialist” members as an expression of the desire for Socialism on the part of the working class in Germany. There, as in all capitalist countries, the fight for the Social Revolution has yet to take place.

http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/1910s/1919/no-174-february-1919/german-elections

In regards to Kautsky, and the SPGB is often described as being very influenced by him, his 1939 obituary explains:

Quote:
"But it was in the transition from the theoretician to the practical politician that the value of much of Kautsky’s great work was undone. In his work as a practical politician in the Social Democratic Party of Germany, Marxist principle was forsaken for political expediency. When the Social Democratic Party arose in Germany in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, little criticism could be made of Kautsky for his support of it. But when, with the passing of time, it evolved a purely reformist purpose, showed, in fact, that it was fulfilling the need of German capitalism for a reformist party, then Kautsky’s position as a Marxist and as a member of the Social Democratic Party were in flat contradiction.

In 1900 he was responsible for the “Kautsky resolution” at the 1900 International Socialist Congress. That resolution stated that a Socialist could accept a gift of a seat in a capitalist cabinet in a national emergency. This was only a short step from supporting the German capitalist class in 1914, which he did, though certainly without the enthusiasm of the jingo. He apologised for this attitude on the grounds that Socialism is a power for peace, not against war. An apology which prompted the scathing comment from Rosa Luxemburg that the famous appeal of the Communist manifesto should now read, according to Kautsky’s revision: “Workers of all lands, unite in peace and cut one another’s throats in war!”

http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/1930s/1939/no-413-january-1939/kautsky%E2%80%99s-work-socialism

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Dec 16 2011 14:48

Why don't we have T-shirts with Karl Kautsky asked someone recently:

some conservative wrote:
Remember the war against Franco,
That’s the kind where each of us belongs
He may have won all the battles
But we had all the good songs!
– Tom Lehrer

The radical is always the more glamorous. People wear Che Guevara T-shirts. They don’t wear Samuel Gompers, A. Philip Randolph, Eduard Bernstein, Karl Kautsky, or Jean Jaures T-shirts, yet those largely forgotten social democratic and labor heroes achieved far more benefit for reform and workers without murdering a lot of people.

Rosa Luxemburg, the nastiest rich spoiled brat in Zamosc, is fondly remembered though her career was a disaster and her career helped create the conditions that eventually brought about Nazism. Who knows about Frances Perkins, who did far more to help workers and was the first woman ever to be in the cabinet of an American president?

Thus, two things are certain. The extremist has better public relations and the extremist fails. Either he’s defeated, perhaps killed (dying the secular equivalent of the martyr’s death), or gains power, becomes horribly repressive, and messes up society big-time.

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Dec 21 2011 22:32

I think why I am busy with the history of Social Democracy is that there is this sense that we need a good critique of it. Most of the criticisms don't satisfy, so people ask for a list of crimes to ease their mind. The need is really desperate when e.g. yodaswalkingstick wrote some months ago (before the poor fellow got himself arrested), that he feared when the decisive moment comes he would be on the wrong side, and be shooting down revolutionaries! I also want to read a good critique of Social-Democracy or write it myself.
The general perception of people now is the one articulated in the quote above; back in the day (19th century, early 20th) when capitalism was really brutal, the socialists did useful work by leading the struggle for rights and such. Then after world war 2, when everyone was a happy consumer (so the story goes), socialists became reformists because workers had no more reason to struggle, etc.etc.

baboon wrote:
The lessons of the German revolution, the fact that there was a revolution in Germany which was pivotal to the world revolution, is, I would argue, "enlightening" for the working class.

So the lesson learned from the German revolution is ... that it happened?

Pengwern wrote:
The most decisive crime of the SPD was that it had this base in the working class

I don't see how that it is crime. It's a shame, but probably stands more as a condemnation of the proletariat itself. Unless we agree with the lesson that Trotsky drew, that the battle for leadership is key because putting faith in the masses to change the opportunist course of the SPD was illusory. I'm not hostile to this 'lesson'.

ajjonstone/SPGB wrote:
1912 the SPGB were describing the SPD in these terms, and already forcasting betrayal
...
In 1900 he was responsible for the “Kautsky resolution” at the 1900 International Socialist Congress. That resolution stated that a Socialist could accept a gift of a seat in a capitalist cabinet in a national emergency.

Well that is to the SPGB's credit, though it's hardly original today when every Trot/stalinist/maoist says the same thing.

We have like an overproduction of critiques of Social Democracy I think.

ajjohnstone
Offline
Joined: 20-04-08
Dec 22 2011 03:30

As the SPGB is prone to remind people, we didn't need to leave the 2nd International in 1914, since we had declined to join it.

A 1904 observers report here which resulted in the SPGB declining membership.

In 1907 the Socialist Standard wrote:

Quote:
"...when the second International was inaugurated in 1889 the opportunist Parliamentarism of the German, Austrian and French parties and the reform tendency of the English, American, Belgian, Dutch, Italian, Swiss and other national parties, that had not yet entered upon a Parliamentary career, naturally found their reflection in the first and following assemblies of the present International. At each of these re-unions the opportunists and reformers were to the fore and easily overpowered the few valiant revolutionaries to whom the policy and tactics of negotiating with the capitalist class for “dirty patches on the wage-slavery garden” were treachery and abomination. And just in the proportion in which in the different countries the Socialist parties attached ever more importance to catching votes for Parliamentary and Municipal candidates running on reform programmes, the revolutionary propaganda was more and more relegated to the rear, till to-day we have a so-called International Socialist movement embracing organisations and individuals that are beyond a doubt purely bourgeois-radical in composition and action. As long as such conditions prevail the working-class movement will make no headway..."
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/1900s/1907/no-40-december-1907/international

As you say, very easy in retrospect to analyse but if principled positions are the basis of the analysis there is no reason why, as the SPGB demonstrated, of drawing correct contemprary conclusions.

Pengwern's picture
Pengwern
Offline
Joined: 18-10-11
Dec 22 2011 12:25

Noa, you seem to have misunderstood my point, which was that the SPD's leadership's crime was to have betrayed that base, which remained loyal to the party at the same time as going beyond its politics, which was the tragedy of the failed revolution.

The lesson for me is that when there is a party with a mass base but its leadership opts for the counter-revolution, it takes too long for the base to lose its loyalty to the party, despite this. We saw, more recently, how it took years for some good people to leave the CP after the suppression of the Hungarian workers by the USSR.

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Dec 23 2011 12:25
Pengwern wrote:
the SPD's leadership's crime was to have betrayed that base, which remained loyal to the party at the same time as going beyond its politics,

I agree with that SPGB article saying that socialists ideas were not so wide-spread taking into account that the base of the SPD did not consist solely of workers, and was at least as conservative as the party leadership (if not more). More importantly, as you correctly pointed out, the SPD won its mandate from the councils.

ajjohnstone wrote:
we didn't need to leave the 2nd International in 1914, since we had declined to join it.

You 'decided' (actually more like automatic consequence) to leave the 2nd International with the foundation of your party. Are you saying that the International offered membership to your split group? I doubt it (because that would encourage further splits in the movement), but if that was the case, your rejection of membership was not an obvious "correct contemporary conclusion". Not even the anarchists declined membership; they were kicked out.
How, if at all, did the SPGB then organize with socialists outside Britain (De Leon, Dutch SPD, RSDLP(b), Guesdists, etc. being in the International)?

Quote:
very easy in retrospect to analyse

As you know people like to claim that Bernstein's analysis was far 'less ideological' than the orthodox center of Kautsky.

Bernstein wrote:
No other party is so keen to make over more and more legislative authority to the Empire, and to widen its competence, as the Social-Democracy. Compared with it, even that once most energetic representative of the Imperial idea, the National-Liberal party, is particularistic. And if the Social-Democracy, as opposition party, now as ever refuses to vote for the complete budget, still it goes much further in the way of voting certain portions of it than in those days.

How has this happened? Well, this development gives an interesting example of Ignaz Auer’s phrase, “Such a thing one does not say, such a thing one does not decide, such a thing one does.” It has not been decided, it has not been proclaimed, but under the pressure of facts, in consequence of universal suffrage, it has moved step by step of itself. And because the Social-Democracy puts ever more forcible demands to the empire, because it helps to build legislation, to heighten its attainments, to increase the number of its officials, it is only logical if our representatives also declare their readiness to defend in case of need its independence and integrity against foreign force.

The dispute is not settled with reference to principled positions per se (reformists would also, and maybe especially they, claim to uphold principles, the question is then which ones), or to an objective analysis of the situation, which I'm guessing reformists also thought to have given.

radicalgraffiti
Offline
Joined: 4-11-07
Dec 23 2011 15:49
Noa Rodman wrote:
ajjohnstone wrote:
we didn't need to leave the 2nd International in 1914, since we had declined to join it.

You 'decided' (actually more like automatic consequence) to leave the 2nd International with the foundation of your party. Are you saying that the International offered membership to your split group? I doubt it (because that would encourage further splits in the movement), but if that was the case, your rejection of membership was not an obvious "correct contemporary conclusion". Not even the anarchists declined membership; they were kicked out.

The anarchists where not kicked out of the second international.

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Dec 25 2011 16:27

edit; radicalgraffiti, yes they were, see footnote 1, page 234 of Emma Goldman, Vol. 2: A Documentary History of the American Years

Anyway, the point for me is that this at least puts into doubt ajjohnstone's claim (which I furthermore don't accept on his word) that the SPGB's "decision" to decline membership of the International was a correct one.

Jacob Richter
Offline
Joined: 13-07-08
Dec 25 2011 17:34
Noa Rodman wrote:
Obviously, but if I may also speak for what the majority of people think, they would see us as no different from those holding OBAMA=FASCIST signs, i.e. unconvincing. Furthermore, listing crimes of our opponents is not enlightening for 'our own side'. Workers' disgust at the SPD's repression did lose it many votes at the next election to the USDP (though rightwing parties also increased against the center parties), but this was a temporary win which couldn't be consolidated. So to the people involved at the time the list of SPD crimes was either quickly forgotten, or was not even registered as a crime to begin with.

Well, the SPD never regained the membership it once commanded. Right after supporting WWI it lost members, and in 1917 lost more to the USPD.

Realistically, the only German Revolution that could have succeeded was a USPD seizure of power: "All Power to Independent Social Democracy!"

radicalgraffiti
Offline
Joined: 4-11-07
Dec 25 2011 20:57
Noa Rodman wrote:
edit; radicalgraffiti, yes they were, see footnote 1, page 234 of Emma Goldman, Vol. 2: A Documentary History of the American Years

which anarchist organisations where in the second international?

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
Dec 25 2011 22:15

Woodstock mentions that the anarchist leaders of the revolutionary wing of the CNT were allowed membership, because of an inconsistent ruling that exempted trade-union delegates from admitting the need for political action.

Quote:
The last battle over admission to the Second International was fought at London in 1896; it was also the bitterest. This time the anarchists were strongly entrenched in the French and Dutch delegations, and many of their leaders had come to London with the intention of holding a parallel congress in the event of their expected expulsion from that of the Second International. They included Kropotkin, Malatesta, Nieuwenhuis, Landauer, Pietro Gori, Louise Michel, Elisee Reclus, and Jean Grave, as well as a strong syndicalist group from France headed by the anarchist leaders of the revolutionary wing of the Confederation General du Travail, such as Pelloutier, Tortelier, Pouget and Delesalle. ...The German chairman, Paul Singer, tried to close the question of admission without allowing the anarchists to speak. Keir Hardie, leader of the Independent Labour Party, who was the deputy chairman that day, protested that both sides should be given a full hearing before the vote was taken. Gustav Landauer, Malatesta, and Nieuwenhuis all spoke at length, and the last effectively summarized their contentions when he said: “;This Congress has been called as a general Socialist Congress. The invitations said nothing about anarchists and social democrats. They spoke only of socialists and trade unions. Nobody can deny that people like Kropotkin and Reclus and the whole anarchist communist movement stand on the socialist basis. If they are excluded, the purpose of the Congress has been misrepresented.” ...The anarchists were finally expelled on the second day....However many anarchists were left as trade union delegates to carry on the dispute during the verification of mandates, so that in the end little time was left for debating the issues that the Congress had met to discuss. Despite the exclusion of the anarchists, anarchism had in fact dominated the London Congress of the Second International....the real triumph of the anarchists remained their success in turning the Congress of the Second International into a battleground over the issue of libertarian versus authoritarian socialism.

From Anarchism by George Woodcock pp. 246-248

This is a really nice report of the 1896 congress:

http://www.archive.org/details/Proceedings_Of_The_International_Workers_Congress_London_July_and_August_1896

(interestingly, that footnote I mentioned earlier, says that the anarchists counted the 1893 and 1896 International congresses as their first and second Anarchist International Congresses.)

ajjohnstone
Offline
Joined: 20-04-08
Dec 26 2011 11:36

It seems indeed that the SPGB were initially refused admittance but appealed through H. M. Hyndman and H. Quelch, as representatives of that body in this country, requesting them to use their influence to secure recognition of the Party by the International Congress. Eventually credentials were received and the SPGB sent delegates to the 1904 Amsterdam Congress their report at this article:

http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/1900s/1904/no-1-september-1904/international-socialist-congress-1904

According to the 50th Anniversary Socialist Standard issue, the delegates reported back negatively. The basis of the complaints was (1) That representation at the Congress was chaotic and (2) That delegates from organisations with no socialist basis were admitted to Congress.

After an exchange of correspondence it then in 1905 withdrew from from the International and increasingly dis-associated themselves with it.

However the International did again feature during a discussion at the 1907 SPGB Conference on whether to be represented at the Stuttgart Congress of the Second International that year and one delegate mentioned Michels, Enrico Ferri, Paul Lafargue and Jules Guesde as possibly being "in our position" as part of what the Conference Report described as "that uncompromising policy of which the SPGB are the exponents in Great Britain"

As for the second question, did the SPGB organise with socialists outside the UK. There was the Socialist Party of Canada, which at the time had a much more separate identity, and who deigned from even applying to the International. But i think little co-operation took place elsewhere.