Oskar Seipold was a member of the Prussian Diet, elected on the official Communist Party ticket, who later defected to the Left Opposition. He delivered this speech in March 1932. It has been abridged slightly.
The nations of the entire world and especially we in Germany are living under such conditions that every serious conversation turns directly to the questions of high politics — to that of the revolution.
Thirteen years ago, after the overthrow of the Hohenzollerns, the working class was factually master in the German household. The state based itself on the workers’ and soldiers’ councils. The bourgeoisie was forced to recognize the workers’ and soldiers’ councils, for better or worse, as the fundament of the state. But the working class was lulled to sleep by the leaders of the Socialist Party of Germany and the key to the house was stolen away from underneath its rest cushion. In this manner the proletariat was again sold out to the bourgeois and betrayed. The social democracy promised to bring about prosperity and socialism democratically, to open the road to the golden mean, Germany and the world were to flourish under the protection of the League of Nations.
Today, in the Far East, we already hear the thunder of cannon, despite this “protection”, despite this “League of Nations”. How many other illusions this party has spread, this party which believes in Wilson and Briand, which can have confidence in Bruening and hope in a Wilson but cannot trust to the power of the proletariat and remains hostile to the only revolutionary workers’ state in the world, the Soviet Union!
In 1918, the social democrats renounced the path of revolutionary force in the name of “pure democracy”. And after that! They have in the name of all this prepared and abetted the path of Fascist reaction, of counterrevolutionary force. They rejected Lenin and sowed the soil for that hireling of capital, for Hitler.
While the Fascist bandit is sharpening his knife to cut off the head of the German working class, the social democratic leaders insist emphatically that everything will be in order. For they have raised all in the spirit of democracy, including Hitler. The Heidelberg Program expresses itself in a similar vein: that democracy is humanizing the enemies of the working class. Now, you can rest assured: when Hitler lets your head roll, then you can assume with certainty, your political integrity will have very little left to lose by this operation. Hitler’s announcements are calculated for blockheads and have the interests of scoundrels and fakers at heart. The growth of the Hitler party unfortunately proves that stupidity in the German nation is not yet rare. But Hitler is miscalculating when he believes that he will be able to deceive the German working class as Wels, Hilferding and company have.
In 1918 Herr Hilferding attempted to coordinate the Weimar constitution with the workers’ councils. In 1932 he is no doubt racking his brain over how it is possible to conciliate the tailend of the Weimar constitution with the Fascist armories. But Herr Hilferding may have to conclude this theme in emigration, if the outcome of events is to depend upon the leadership of the social democracy. His fate would be that of the Italian social democrats, who also fought against the methods of Bolshevism so long until they played the Italian proletariat and the Italian people into the hands of the hangman Mussolini.
A Communist deputy said in the Reichstag: “We do not fear the Nazis. For when they come to power, they will very soon exhaust themselves”. Comrades, Communists, that is a fundamentally wrong point of view. For we must not wait. We must not consider the seizure of power by the Nazis as a simple test for Hitler. That may be the point of view of the bourgeois democrats. But it is in no case a Communist point of view. Power in the hands of the Nazis would mean jail for the working class, the gallows for its vanguard, Golgotha for the producing people, (Rep. Kasper — C.P.G.: But who said that?) — Remmele did, on October 15, I believe, but we can look that up — We must gather the working class for struggle before Hitler’s dream of a Third Empire has become a reality. We must unite the working class in a single united front.
(Intervention from the Communist benches: And that is why you swiped the mandate from us!)
I am utilizing my mandate in the interests of the proletarian revolution — But this united front cannot be decreed in advance, by saying to the non-Communist workers: Come to us, recognize us as your leaders, then we will create the united front with you! You can only get the leadership by gaining the confidence of the German proletariat in the dynamics of the struggle. Lenin said: Without confidence, there can be no hegemony and the Communist party should and must become the hegemon (leader) of the working class. But whoever says: We do not fear the Nazis, let them come to power — is already today frightened to death by them, is scared to the marrow of his bones; his heart is in his boots; he draws the conclusion that it is no longer possible to prevent the Nazis from seizing power and is consequently ready for a capitulation before Hitler without a struggle.
(Shouts from the Communist benches)
We shall discuss elsewhere as to how far you have got with your policy of the Red Trade Union Opposition, the “Red” United Front, the “national and social liberation”. Just to what extent you have already Á proved sufficiently and will prove even more clearly in the future.
But this capitulation, this belief that the victory of Fascism can no longer be avoided, is concealed under false optimism, on the grounds of an inevitable and self-understood bankruptcy of the Nazis. Naturally, everything on earth ends at some time. Even the domination of the hangman Mussolini will have to come to an end and the end of the Czarist power could be foreseen many years ahead of the time. But that does not change the fact that two revolutions were necessary to defeat Czarism and that in the meantime Czarism succeeded in plunging the entire Russian people into an imperialist war. We say to the false optimists who console us with the coming bankruptcy of the “Third Reich”: Do not dare lull the German proletariat to sleep! Do not chloroform it with sweet prophecies, do not dare undermine its will to power — now, when the will to struggle is the first and foremost condition of victory!
(Laughter among the Communists)
We are not for “national and social liberation” as you are. We revolutionary Marxists know that as long as the people are divided into classes, every conception has a class content. When social democratic workers often say: Yes, we are for democracy, but for pure democracy, then they also forget that in a class society, democracy can only be a class ‘concept’. We Bolshevik-Leninists have no illusions and will not allow anyone to put any illusions over on us. What a horrible historical catastrophe it would be for the world proletariat if the Nazis were to come into power in Germany! Once come into power, Hitler could only become the executioner of the German proletariat and the agent of French, British and American capitalism. And the war for “social and national liberation” which Hitler would conduct could only be turned against the East and not against the West. That does not mean at all, against Poland. For Hitler and Pilsudski can very easily find common ground against the Soviet Union. To allow Hitler to get into power would mean betrayal against the first workers’ state in the world, against the Soviet Union. And that means to betray ourselves doubly.
No, the working class of Germany does not want Hitler to study his state surgery on its neck, nor on its body. We must not wait until Hitler’s power falls into bankruptcy. We must throw Hitler overboard before his dream has become a reality.
(Very true! from the benches of the Social Democratic Party — Intervention from among the Communists: “who is “we”?”) — We, the Left Opposition of the C.P.G., even though we are not for the “national and social liberation of the German people” as you are, but for the proletarian revolution.
(Hear, Hear! — from the Communists) Because we know in the capitalist world the “people” is divided into classes. Friedrich Engels said: After the working class has conquered power, it will dictate the laws itself and in such a manner, that the capitalist class will disappear and become alike to the others. To that extent to which the capitalist class will disappear, the proletariat also will dissolve itself because it will have no more classes against itself and the intervention of the proletarian state will become ever more superfluous, first in one sphere and then in another, until the state will wither away of itself.
Now, the Vorwaerts of March 15 writes in an editorial that hails from Paul Loche:
“The first blow: “Onward, Iron Front! The Iron Front has stood its first political test splendidly. It has done its share to spoil the “day of certain victory” for the knights of the swastika”.
It is ridiculous to believe that the fate of the German people can be decided by parliamentary elections, or that the decision will be arrived at according to the parliamentary calendar. The fate of the German people will be decided by steel and lead. Only blind men or people who purposely close their eyes can believe that the problem of the fate of the German people can be decided by some sort of parliamentary elections — be they Presidential, Reichstag or Landtag elections. Hitler’s assurances of legality are nothing more than a thin veil of cunning with which he means to cover his plans.
Bruening’s speeches against Fascism are not worth a Pfennig more than Hitler’s oath of legality. All are gliding along the ether of neutrality. But statesmen have never lied so much as they have since the time that the radio was put at their disposal. The fate of the German people will not be decided by speeches, but as I have already said, by the open struggle of the classes with steel and lead. For it is toward this road that the Fascists are advancing and the working class must know this. The working class must fight mercilessly against all lies that attempt to soothe, against all illusions that attempt to lull them to sleep, no matter from what source. In order to be able to fight against Fascism effectively, it is necessary to unite the factories, the shops, the working class quarters, the millions of unemployed within a single front, with the aim of throwing back the watch-dog of capitalism, the Fascists. For when the watch-dogs are beaten down, the master is in danger. The workers have no time to lose, they must organize themselves for defence, for struggle, for attack and for victory. Hitler intends to militarize Germany in the interests of capital. The German proletariat will show him that it is only willing to be militarized in the interests of the proletarian revolution. Against Fascism, which we consider the last stake of capitalism, we revolutionary workers, we Leninist-Bolsheviks will fight in the foremost front with our brother workers as the vanguard of the revolution. The Fascist wave will and must smash up on the granite of the proletarian forces. When the capitalist class of Germany, which has become involved in its own contradictions and crimes, will push Hitler on the road to the overthrow, we shall take up the challenge in full preparedness. We shall say: Capitalism has wanted this: very well, we will raise our hand to its throat, our knee to its breast!
(Intervention by Rep. Paul Hoffman)
Yes, you are good “theoreticians”, we have seen that repeatedly from your tactics, from your “United Front” only “under our leadership”. You demand leadership a priori, because you are not sure whether you can win it. This is what Piatnitsky also said at the XI Plenum of the E.C.C.I.: “The German Communists have committed a mistake by issuing the slogan ‘No Social Fascists in the Strike Leadership’ during the metal workers’ strike. That was not quite correct.”
(Rep. Paul Hoffman: Quite correct!)
That was not quite correct, says Piatnitsky.
(Rep. Paul Hoffman: That was quite correct!)
In our opinion it was altogether wrong, in yours it was quite correct. In Piantnitsky’s opinion it was “not quite” correct. And why was it wrong in our opinion? If there are 50 Communists and 150 or 250 social democrats in a factory, then you can of course, manage to build some sort of “strike leadership” in which the Communists will have a “majority”. But this strike leadership has no real basis, it is a fictitious structure and can never reflect the actual desire for struggle in the factory. In this manner, you remain up in the air with your centrist tactics… in this manner you have isolated the party of the proletariat.
(Laughter among the Communists)
And all this at a time in which all the objective premises are favorable for the Communist party.
Who can offer resistance to Fascism?
(Shouts from the Communists: You!)
These are worth as much as the shouters. Neither the police nor the Reich’s army, but only and solely — the working class. Therefore we must aid in this aim, to organize and to arm it. Only in this manner can the question of a serious struggle against National Socialism be posed. Among the workers there are many who have served as soldiers, but the youth which has not yet learned to handle weapons is the most numerous section. The opportunity must be created to train the young workers in handling weapons. It must be decreed: In the factories, one hour a day is to be devoted to military training. One day in the week street training and field maneuvers are to be held.
(Rep. Kasper — C.P.G.: Who is to decree this?)
Patience, I will also speak about that.
The unemployed are to train with the workers in the factories, in which they have formerly been employed; special supplementary training can also be provided for the unemployed. For this purpose a sufficient amount of weapons must be put at the disposal of the workers. The costs of the weapons and the training must be borne by the state. The government of the Social Democrat Braun will not by far attempt to do anything of the sort for it would be a misdemeanour from the point of view of the high art of the state or that of proper parliamentary etiquette, and against the obedient devotion to the bourgeoisie. No, that cannot be demanded from the great men of the S.P.G. whose aim in life is to ape the bourgeois statesmen and to betray the interest of the proletariat.
(Disorder in the House)
But only in this way can it be proved by documents that the speeches of the ministers are a hollow sham.