50 Years Ago: German Social Democratic Party is not Socialist

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. And there was another important fact concerned with its growth.

The capitalist class in Germany has always been somewhat nervous of the working class there, having, as Engels points out, something to learn from the English capitalist class in this respect. This nervousness was shown in various repressive measures culminating in Bismark’s Anti-socialist laws. Repressive measures for the working-class, however, also hit the small capitalists and traders in their operations. These latter, who usually form an active part of the Liberal Party, found the main body of their organisation too timid to fight over these measures, and saw them slink behind the more determined Junker section when there were any signs of trouble ahead. 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 denounced by Marx, it had always fought for those reforms, and had even challenged Bismark’s rulings. So the small capitalists joined this organisation in large numbers till the total votes ran into millions.

It is as clear as noon-day that those votes were neither Socialist nor intended to help forward the cause of Socialism. The “acid test” came with the war. Then, as with the Labour Party and the Hyndman section here, the German Social Democratic Party supported this capitalist war on their side.

(From an article by Jack Fitzgerald on the German Elections, Socialist Standard February 1919).