Marcel Bois: Kommunisten gegen Hitler und Stalin – Die linke Opposition der KPD in der Weimarer Republik – Eine Gesamtdarstellung (Book Review)

Marcel Bois
Kommunisten gegen Hitler und Stalin
Die linke Opposition der KPD in der Weimarer Republik – Eine Gesamtdarstellung
Klartext Verlag, Essen 2014
ISBN 978-3-8375-1282-3

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With this 600 page strong book Marcel Bois offers the first comprehensive overall presentation of the history and sociology of the left opposition of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in the 1920s and early 1930s. The emphasis is on a very detailed and scientifically documented depiction of those groups who left the KPD from the mid-20s onwards in the course of its Stalinisation. These were on the one hand the groups around the former leaders of the party such as Ruth Fischer, Arkadij Maslow and Werner Scholem, who with Hugo Urbahns and others, founded the Leninbund (Lenin-League). On the other hand there were the Entschiedene Linke (Decisive Left) and the Gruppe Kommunistische Politik around Ernst Schwarz and Karl Korsch respectively, as well as The Wedding Opposition and smaller groups like Bolschewistische Einheit (Bolshevik Unity). A bit later, the organisational roots of Trotskyism in Germany also emerged. The Spartakusbund linkskommunistischer Organisationen around Franz Pfemfert had a special position in the milieu of the left oppposition.

The founding conference of the KPD took place at the turn of the year 1918/1919 within two months of the end of World War I. Less than two weeks later, two of its most important leaders, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, were murdered. There were several attempts from this time through 1923 to make the revolution in Germany happen, which all failed. Already in 1919 a back-and-forth started between more ‘left’ or ‘right’ leaning leaderships, and as early as October 1919 a large section of the party’s left were expelled. The issues at stake were the rejection of elections to parliament and the Leninist party concept by the left. In April 1920 this left constituted the Communist Workers Party (Kommunistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands, KAPD), and took with them a large part of the membership of the KPD. This marked a decisive historical break in the international communist movement that was echoed in similar processes of regroupment in other countries. Lenin famously targeted the left with his nasty pamphlet “Left-Wing” Communism, An Infantile Disorder, denouncing its ‘opinion, declamations and angry ejaculations’ as ‘childish’, ‘particularly stupid’, ‘fundamentally wrong’ and amounting ‘to no more than empty phrase-mongering’. In the process he defended participation in parliamentary elections and reactionary unions, and effectively the dictatorship of the party over the dictatorship of the proletariat. The KPD in the meantime ditched the ‘right’ leadership under Paul Levi, who was appalled by the fact that the party had been dragged into the ‘putschist’ adventure of the ‘March Action’ in 1921. Levi then printed the previously unavailable – now famous – text by Rosa Luxemburg in which she severely criticised the Bolsheviks. [Read more →]

When Will We Leave the 20th Century?

Ape_work6forWEB

When Will We Leave the 20th Century? An Interview with Kafka’s Ape.

Written into life by Franz Kafka, nowadays the legendary primate has had enough with impersonating humans. Oscar Mole caught up with the hairy recluse.

OM: So what about that famous report you gave to an Academy? Captured on the Gold Coast and imprisoned in a cage, you had been taken to Europe where your only route of escape was to become a walking, talking, spitting, hard-drinking member of the human race.

APE: Recall that when my report was given in 1917, the first world war was raging. Millions of human beings had been coerced into an orgy of killing and proving Homo sapiens to be vastly superior to gorillas and chimps when it comes to mass murder. Even then I felt ambivalent about becoming human.

At the time, I had no other way out, yet I had to come up with one, because I could not go on living without it. That was the point of the report. I was worried that the Academy would not fully understand what I meant by a ‘way out’. I used the phrase in its most ordinary and fullest sense. I deliberately did not say freedom. As I said in the report: ‘freedom is something that men all too often dupe themselves with’.

What I had discovered was that my jailors needed to see me as non-human in order to justify locking me up. They had to believe I was inferior, so my way out was to become their equal. I mimicked my guards, studied their mannerisms and behaviour. How could they keep something locked up that looked and acted just like they did?

I mastered their language. After I was out I was able to move between different roles I encountered in human society with ease. I knew I could go anywhere, do anything, just by impersonating the right person. Even the Academy wanted to let me in.
[Read more →]

Crisis in the SWP, or: Weiningerism in the UK

“There isn’t enough bile to conjure up the shame and disgrace of all of this, nor the palpable physical revulsion, nor the visceral contempt building, nor the sense of betrayal and rage, nor the literal physical and emotional shattering of people exposed to the growing madness day in and day out.”
Lenin’s Tomb blog, “Crisis in the SWP,” Jan 11, 2013

The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) is – or was until recently – widely considered to be Britain’s “largest revolutionary organization”. The party has been rocked by internal dissent and has lost many members. This development was triggered by allegations of sexual abuse against a leading cadre by a young female comrade. The person in question was the national organiser, Martin Smith, who was nicknamed “Comrade Delta” in the communications of the SWP. The party tried to brush the scandal under the carpet. They set up a commission consisting essentially of friends of the accused, who then proceeded to “exonerate” him. After asking the victim questions about her sexual past and her drinking habits, they predictably decided that the rape allegations were unproven. The pretext to handle this mockery of justice by a kangaroo court was that the “bourgeois court system” could not be trusted “to deliver justice.”

Perhaps in a previous age this sham could have worked. But when details of the case were “leaked” online it forced many to take a stand. Numerous blogs were set up and a number of members started to breach party discipline.
[Read more →]

“Fight for Freedom” – The legend of the “other”Germany (book review)

Curt Geyer, Walter Loeb u.a.
Fight for Freedom
Die Legende vom anderen Deutschland
2009, 255 Seiten, 18.-€, ISBN: 978-3-924627-19-5,
herausgegeben von Jan Gerber und Anja Worm im Auftrag der “Materialien für Aufklärung und Kritik” (Halle).
Aus dem Englischen von Ursula Folta, Ulrike Folta, Philipp Graf, Peter Siemionek, Anja Worm, Robert Zwarg, Sebastian Voigt, Martin Schmitt, Christian Thein und Paul Mentz

“But, at the same stage of the war which led many people into emotional outbursts to the detriment of their reason, I never renounced what I regarded as my duty towards the other Germany, the real Germany. (…) Nazism represented the enemy within. Hitler had to be defeated so that Germany might live.”
Willy Brandt: In Exile, p. 100f.

Willy Brandt, who served as Mayor of West Berlin and then German Chancellor, voiced here an idea that was widespread both among German exiles, and prominent in both West and East Germany: The Nazis didn’t represent the “real” Germany, but were oppressors of the German people. This view was particularly widespread in different sections of the Left.

On another end of the left spectrum, the Stalinists’ definition was “Fascism in power is the open, terroristic dictatorship of the most reactionary, the most chauvinistic, the most imperialistic elements of finance capitalism” (Dimitroff, 1935). This obviously implied that the German people were the first victims of a conspiracy of evil forces.
This “definition”, athough it is actualy more of a propaganda slogan, denies the rather obvious fact that National Socialism in Germany was a genuine mass movement. The “socialist” element in its ideology is deemed pure demagogy.

Both views, the social democratic and the Stalinist, are merely examples of a broad front of similar opinions which permeated the German exile community, and became a prevalent force in the post war years, when they helped re-integrate Nazis into different post war societies. [Read more →]

Continuous Crisis – Historical action and passion in Antonio Negri’s Insurgencies

Judicial hermeneutics
The truism that history is written by (or rather, on behalf of) conquerors is more respectable now than ever before among Sunday supplement intellectuals.  The reason  (where it goes beyond a simple, resentful wish to damn historical analysis per se as ‘irrelevant’) seems to be that victors’ history is easily opposed to that of victims, that ill-defined class in whose name a towering moral authority can always be claimed.  If it does nothing else, Antonio Negri’s book on constituent power, recently published in English as Insurgencies, wrecks this convenient opposition.  Its Italian title translates as “constituent power: essay on the alternatives within modernity”: in the shadow of this concept, Negri outlines a modern social and political  counter-tradition which, though defeated again and again, never attains the saintly glow of victimhood, for it has never acknowledged its project to be finished with.  From Machiavelli’s citizen millitia to the LA rioters of 1992 [1.], these historical agents refuse to become patients represented by the politics of empathy. [Read more →]

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