1920s >> 1923 >> no-228-august-1923

A Belated Awakening

An article in the New Statesman (23/6/23), entitled “The Temper of Germany,” written by Robert Dell, is interesting from many points of view.


For years we endeavoured to convince our readers, by facts and logical deductions from facts, that the so-called German Socialist Party was built upon foundations of sand and was socialist in name only.


We were chided for our criticisms and referred to as “Simon Pures.” The four million or so membership of the German Social Democratic Party was held up as an illustration of the value of compromise, and a reform rather than a revolutionary programme.


The outbreak of the big European War brought down this German house of cards. The large German party that was supposed to be sweeping rapidly on to victory turned jingo. The lack of socialist knowledge on the part of its membership, and the trickery of its leaders, was shown by the part it took on the side of the German capitalists against the commercial competitors of the latter. Instead of seeing his enemy in the capitalists of all nations the German worker took up the national attitude and abandoned the field of the class struggle. This attitude, of course, was not reserved for the German worker alone. A similar position was taken up by the workers in all the belligerent countries.


The attitude of the German Social Democratic Party is an object lesson to the workers of the futility of large numbers where sound principles are lacking; and the foolishness, from the point of view of the working-class movement, of submerging principles and entering, into compromises with the enemy in order to obtain a large following.


This lesson has not yet been taken to heart, as witness the formation of Communist Parties and the repeated manifestoes and conferences on “The United Front.”


Robert Dell gave belated support to our years-old attitude towards the German S.D.P. when he wrote the following :—

   “This diagnosis of the temper of the German masses may seem strange in view of the fact that the German Socialist Party has not shown itself conspicuously internationalist. But it has to be remembered that the Socialist Party was the only effective Opposition before the war, and as such attracted to itself large numbers of people who in England would have been Liberals or even Moderate Conservatives. In 1918 the Majority Socialist leaders were not even in favour of a revolution. They accepted it because they were obliged to. Not much more than a fortnight before the revolution took place Scheidemann refused to agree even to the dethronement of William II. in favour of another member of his own family, although Erzberger was among the supporters of the proposal. Scheidemann would not abandon his Kaiser. After the defeat of the Kapp putsch the Socialists could have done anything they liked—they compromised with the defeated reactionaries. No party is more responsible for the present state of Germany than the Majority Socialists, and no individuals have as great a responsibility for it as Noske and Scheidcmann.”

When, in the past, we said as much of the German party as is contained in the above quotation, we were sneered at as visionaries. How the earth do move !


It is rather amusing to read the extract and then reflect on the fact that it appeared in a journal that supports the Labour Party —as the criticism fits the Labour Party so well. The same paper has also, in the main, supported the German Majority Socialists condemned by Dell !

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