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 →]

Die Revolution war für mich ein grosses Abenteuer – Paul Mattick im Gespräch mit Michael Buckmiller (Book Review)

Die Revolution war für mich ein grosses
Abenteuer
Paul Mattick im
Gespräch mit Michael Buckmiller
Edited, introduced and annotated by Christoph Plutte und Marc Geoffroy,
With literary texts by Paul Mattick and an afterword by Michael Buckmiller,
Dissidenten der Arbeiterbewegung IV
Unrast Verlag, Münster, 2013.
ISBN 978-3-89771-520-2

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Towards the end of last year, the fourth volume in the series Dissidents of the Workers Movement from Unrast publishing appeared. The series was started with a certain enthusiasm in 2008/9. Anthologies of the writings of Cajo Brendel, Raya Dunayevskaya, and Christian Riechers were published. All three are well recommended (note that the Dunayevskaya book in this series is a translation from the English), as they feature hard to find and important texts of different currents of anti-Leninist Marxism. Unfortunately, after the first three volumes came out, there was a pause in publication for several years before this fourth edition was finally released.

The new volume differs from the previous ones insofar that it isn’t an anthology of texts, but the transcript of an interview, which Michael Buckmiller conducted with the council communist and crisis theoretician Paul Mattick (1904-81) in 1976, titled The Revolution Was a Big Adventure for Me.
Buckmiller published his dissertation about Karl Korsch in the same year and had been the editor of Korsch’s collected works since 1980. He met Mattick in the context of his research. The extensive interview focuses on Mattick’s biography, which is an anomaly insofar that Mattick mostly put his personality in the background. [Read more →]

Press Reviews

Reviews of some anarchist, communist and ultra-left magazines and papers from Datacide 12 (2012): Black Flag, The Commune, Communist Left, Internationalist Papers, and Proletarian. [Read more →]

Communisation theory and the question of fascism

It is now more than five years since the start of the financial crisis with no sign of respite from austerity and increasing insecurity.  Neither the old left of unions and parties or the newer social movements of protest and direct action seem to be up to the task of offering a way forward. In the search for new road maps to navigate crisis and the possibilities of life beyond capitalism, the concept of ‘communisation’ has become an increasing focus of discussion.

The word itself has been around since the early days of the communist movement. The English utopian Goodwyn Barmby, credited with the being the first person to use the term communist in the English language, wrote a text as early as 1841 entitled ‘The Outlines of Communism, Associality and Communisation’.  He conceived of the four ages of humanity as being ‘ ‘Paradisation, Barbarization, Civilization and Communisation’, while his wife and collaborator Catherine Barmby anticipated current debates about gender with early feminist interventions arguing for communisation as a solution to women’s subordination (Goodwyn Barmby is discussed in Peter Linebaugh, ‘Meandering on the semantical-historical paths of communism and commons’, The Commoner, December 2010).

The Barmbys’ use of the term to describe the process of the creation of a communist society is not a million miles away from its current usage, but it has acquired a more specific set of meanings since the early 1970s when elements of the French ‘ultra-left’ began deploying it as a way of critiquing traditional conceptions of revolution. Communism has often been conceived of by both Marxists and anarchists as a future state of society to be achieved in the distant future long after the messy business of revolution has been sorted out.  For advocates of communisation on the other hand, capitalism can only be abolished by the immediate creation of different relations between people, such as the free distribution of goods and the creation of ‘communal, moneyless, profitless, Stateless, forms of life. The process will take time to be completed, but it will start at the beginning of the revolution, which will not create the preconditions of communism: it will create communism’ (Gilles Dauvé & Karl Nesic, ‘Communisation’, 2011).

Today this broad notion of communisation is used in various different ways, but arguably there are two main poles in current debates – albeit with many shades in between. [Read more →]