Questions of Pelo Anti-Imperialismo Blog (PAI) and answers of Kommunistische Organisation (KO).
1 – The formation of the Communist Organization (Kommunistische Organisation, KO) took place quite recently, in June 2018. Why did you deem it necessary to form a new communist organization? And why did you choose not to form a communist party?
Many of our members have been members of the German Communist Party (DKP) and its youth organization SDAJ until a minority fraction of both organizations decided to split in 2017. Together with other communists they decided to form the Communist Organization in June 2018. Prior to this, we have tried to develop a discussion within the DKP and SDAJ about several crucial issues concerning the rebuilding of the communist movement and the labor movement in Germany. We have advanced our critique of the strategy of “anti-monopoly democracy”, which has been the strategy of the DKP since its foundation in 1968 and poses the necessity of an intermediate stage in the struggle for socialism. We have stressed the importance of this debate, because we think that it is hugely relevant for our everyday struggle. We think that socialism has to be posed as the immediate goal of the communist party and we think that historical experience has amply demonstrated that all the concepts about participation of communist parties in governments, while the bourgeoisie is still in power, are based on illusions and lead the working class to defeat. Experience also shows that slogans such as the “unity of the left” and particularly the collaboration of communists with social democracy in all its forms do not lead to a strengthening of the movement, but quite to the contrary they contribute to the disorientation of the struggle and to workers being entrapped in illusions.
But there were other issues as well: We believe that the communist party has to be organized according to the high requirements of class struggle. The complexity of the tasks that we face in our struggle for the reorganization of the working class movement in the workplaces and neighborhoods can be confronted successfully only by a disciplined and efficiently working organization of revolutionary cadres, with a high level of political consciousness, in direct contact with the working class and popular masses. Therefore, the communist party has to be directed towards the goal of winning, organizing and educating the most advanced sections of the working class and other popular strata. This is incompatible with the idea that due to the weakness of the movement, we have to accept everyone into the lines of the party and with the generally little attention that is given to the ideological-political formation of communist cadres by most Marxist groups in Germany.
So, we tried to advance these and other issues within the DKP and SDAJ for years. We assessed, however, that most members and the leadership of both organizations were not truly interested in this debate. Therefore, the chances to achieve a correlation of forces that would allow the communist movement to recover from its political, ideological and organizational crisis within the existing organizations were practically zero. This is why forming a new organization was without alternatives.
Our new organization, KO, is working both to start a clarification process for the scientific discussion about all the controversial issues that the communist movement faces, and to start the reorganization of communist work in the working class on a systematic, scientific base. To put it in other words: We strive to reunite scientific socialism with the labor movement.
At this moment we believe that the conditions for the formation of a communist party in Germany are still not there. Of course, we could have decided to call ourselves a communist party from the beginning, but then we would have used the label “communist party” without the meaning that we attach to it. In order to write the program of a communist party, a substantial degree of ideological unity, based on the application of Marxism-Leninism to the current situation is needed. Many questions have to be addressed and carefully studied first. And you cannot call yourself a communist party if you do not at least have established the foundation of your mass work, of your political intervention within the working class. At the same time, of course, we state very clearly that the foundation of KO serves the preparation of the conditions for the future foundation of a party. This is not the task of today, but we hope and we think that it will be possible in a few years from now.
2 – You talk about the need for a clarification process. Could you explain what you mean by that?
According to our analysis, the crisis of the international communist movement (ICM) persists for some decades now and it does so, because some fundamental political and ideological questions are not properly addressed. Illusionary slogans and strategic orientations, such as the participation of communists in bourgeois governments, the idea of “broad alliances” with bourgeois and opportunist political forces, the notion that Russia is an anti-imperialist state or that China is developing socialism. Those ideas undermine the credibility of communist parties, their ability to intervene in the working class and to propose solutions for workers’ problems. This is why for us, the question of ideological clarification is of the utmost importance. Even though our organization is partly the outcome of a split, we do seek unity among communists. But unity has to be based on common views about crucial issues, otherwise it stays a purely formal unity, the addition of separate forces in a common organizational framework, but not the formation of a truly coherent political force capable of focusing its resources on the reorganization of the labor movement.
Our clarification process is an open discussion process, where everyone is invited. We are not afraid to openly discuss our proposals and theses. We do not think that open discussion with other political forces will lead to the adoption of mistaken positions, but it will rather force us to sharpen our own arguments and promote unity with those who are truly looking for answers.
So, when we say that it is an open discussion process, this is not to say that we don’t have our own positions. Of course, it is not possible to build a strong organization without a common programmatic foundation. In our foundational congress, we have decided upon our Programmatic Theses (https://kommunistische.org/programmatische-thesen/programmatic-theses-of-the-communist-organization/), where both our positions and some important open questions for the clarification process are presented. So, for us, the clarification process is taking place under these premises and if someone wants to join the KO, obviously they have to agree to our Programmatic Theses first. But this does not mean that if you don’t agree, you cannot participate in the clarification process.
The organizational underpinning of this process are seven working groups on big overarching themes: Scientific foundations; Political Economy of imperialism; revolutionary labor movement and the communist party; the state, fascism and social democracy; socialist society; class analysis; German imperialism. During the last months, those working groups have collected the many dozens of discussions and issues of dissent that exist within the communist, revolutionary and labor movement. We present those debates in a general form, we have collected literature and formulated questions that we will have to answer. The result is a huge collection of knowledge, which is both the foundation of the clarification process and the scientific apparatus that we have to develop. We have published this result on an online platform (https://wiki.kommunistische.org), where all the content is easily accessible and systematic discussion about it will be greatly facilitated. So, since our foundation in June 2018, we have already made big steps. We will continue to work in that direction.
3- Can you describe the situation of the working class in Germany?
First of all, the living standard of the working class and the popular masses is still higher than in many other countries of the EU and most countries in the whole world. This is due to several factors: On the one hand, the German bourgeoisie and its state were forced to raise living standard, salaries and workers’ rights in the period of the existence of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), since the existence of a proletarian state posed an alternative to the capitalist barbarity that workers in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) were living in.
On the other hand, the German capitalist state has a huge experience with the policy of “divide and rule”: The use of extra-profits made it possible to pacify huge parts of the core industrial working class and to thereby weaken the labor movement. So there still exists a considerable working class aristocracy. Additionally, there is a part of the working class, mainly consisting of migrant workers and since the annexation of the GDR also of eastern German working class, who have had considerably worse living standards ever since.
After the annexation of the GDR and the predatory appropriation of its socialized property, the German bourgeoisie gained exclusive access to a whole new market and workforce. Also, there was no more need for to raise living standards of the working class, since the threat of the GDR was gone. The bourgeoisie started therefore a huge attack on working class rights and living standards. The reformation of the social security system in the beginning of the 21st century, known as the “Agenda 2010” and especially the “Hartz reforms”, was a huge step forward in the pauperization of the working class and since then, every year there are more and more brutal attacks on the working class.
It would be too much to try to describe every single one of these attacks and it will be an important part of our clarification process to analyze and understand the exact situation of the working class in Germany today. To get a notion, let us exemplify the main splits within the working class in Germany:
The split between men and women: Germany has one of the highest gender inequalities compared with the other EU member states: The payment gap between men and women is around 21%.
The split between workers from the FRG and those from the former territories of the GDR: Wages are still considerably lower in the former territories of the GDR, so are living standards.
The split between migrant workers and German workers: The amount of children of migrant workers, who are unable to reach the highest graduation in school or even university is considerably higher than children from German working class families.
The split between fulltime workers with stable work contracts and all kinds of flexible work, especially temporary work. With the undeniable support of the social democratic forces within the unions, the amount of so-called “atypical” workplaces increased tremendously. Right now, around 40% of the active workers are either in temporary work, part-time jobs or so-called “small-scale employment”. This counts for all parts of the economy and even a huge amount of employees by the state.
Education, health care, wages, housing, food prices – everything is sometimes gradually, sometimes rapidly deteriorating. And the labor movement is way too weak, too fragmented and politically disoriented to defend the working class against the steady attacks of the bourgeoisie.
4 – Given this situation of the working class, how strong is the labor movement in Germany? What is the correlation of forces inside the labor movement and what is the role of the DGB (German Trade Union Confederation)?
As we describe in our programmatic theses, the labor movement in Germany has been on the defensive for several decades. The counter-revolution in the GDR destroyed not only the lives and hopes of millions, it also shattered the labor movement in the FRG. Hundreds of thousands left the unions, thousands left the DKP. But it would be wrong to simply attribute the weakness of the labor movement to the occurrence of the counter-revolution. We would rather say that the counter-revolution was a qualitative leap, but it was a result of a gradual weakening of the labor movement in the previous decades. The German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB) considers its member unions to be so-called “unitary unions”. They do not mean simply the fact that communists, social democrats and others are part of these unions and act within them. They are also convinced that the DGB was formed on a common agreement between communists and social-democracy based on the lesson the communists learned from their defeat by fascism. This is certainly not true. The DGB was right from its beginning a project of social democracy to counter the unification attempts of the labor movement made by the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) – the foundation of the FDGB in the Soviet occupation zone. Thus, the first executive board of the DGB was comprised solely of social democrats and even one fascist cadre.
Communists were never able to substantially challenge the correlation of forces within the unions after WWII. It will be a core task in the clarification process and a precondition for the successful reorganization of the labor movement in Germany to analyze and understand the reasons for this negative correlation of forces. As the labor movement in Germany is not separated from the rest of the world and we could observe similar developments in other countries, we suggest that the wrong directions in terms of strategy of the international communist movement is one main factor. Another crucial factor is the history of German unions and their long relationship with the capitalist state. Without understanding the exact structure and function of the unions in Germany, we won’t be able to expose the role of social democracy and change the correlation of forces within the labor movement. And then, of course, the communist movement in Germany suffered a heavy blow by the brutal persecutions under fascism. After World War II, it was severely weakened and could not restore its previous influence in the unions.
On the other hand, the dominance of social democracy within the labor movement and its corrupt behavior of class collaboration led to the alienation of many workers from trade unionism as such. Nowadays only around 1/6 of the workers in Germany are organized in unions. It is obvious, that especially migrant workers, “flexible” workers and unemployed workers are not part of the unions and do not feel themselves represented by them.
Altogether we can state that the working class in Germany, especially in Western Germany has lost the memory of its heroic tradition. No independent working class organizations currently exist, be it in culture, sports or the neighborhood. That means, a lot of workers are either part of petit-bourgeois or state run sports clubs, cultural organizations and so on or they have no social surroundings at all except for their families.
5 – What is your practical approach to organizing the working class?
We are trying to develop a mass work through our local base organizations, the focus of which is the working class. We think that the task of communists is to organize the working class in the workplaces, but not only there. Workers do not have only economic needs, but also social and cultural ones, for instance. They do not just work somewhere, but they also live somewhere. Their problems are concentrated not only in workplaces, but also in working class neighborhoods. Departing from the experience that it is very hard to build cells in the factories “from the outside”, without already having one or several comrades that work there, we do not focus all our time and energy on work in workplaces and trade unions. Those comrades that have the possibility to do political work in their workplaces should do this, of course. We are collectively gathering and evaluating their experience and will in the future develop a coherent approach towards the problem of workplace organization, as well as trade unions and the German system of workers’ representation. Undoubtedly the organization of the working class at the workplaces is strategically the most important task in the class struggle.
At the same time, we are developing mass work in working class neighborhoods, where access for us is often easier than in workplaces. This mass work can take many forms, according to the needs of the people that we are trying to organize: It can take the form of workers’ sports clubs, cultural activities, mutual help and counseling on the problems of the working class, protests against high rents, initiatives in solidarity with Palestine or against racism and so on.
The most important principles for this kind of work are that it has to follow a consistent line of defending working class interests against capital and it has to be completely independent and democratic. This point is very crucial: We want the working class to organize itself and to become active on its own behalf. The organizations that are formed in this struggle should be independent from the state, both politically and financially, and from the bourgeois parties and institutions. But they should also be independent from us! We do not want pseudo-mass organizations that are only camouflaged transmission belts of the communist party or in our case the KO. Of course, since there are not many such independent mass organizations, it is often our task to initiate them. But since the goal is to organize and activate as many working class people as possible, they have to be truly democratic. We are taking part there as communists and we generally do not hide our political views and goals, although of course there can be cases where we have to proceed with caution, such as in the trade unions. But we do not try to impose our goals with administrative means. We accept the possibility that a democratic decision can be taken in those mass organizations that we think is wrong. This also reflects our view that in the proletarian revolution, it will be the working class that’s taking power, not the communist party. Of course, without the leading role of the party in all class struggles, revolution will not be possible. But this is a different matter.
According to the Leninist understanding of the vanguard role of communists, we try to achieve an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist line of struggle in all mass organizations and fronts of struggle, but we want to achieve this through our collective experience, our scientific approach to all problems of the working class and the leading role of our cadres in practice.
This also means that our approach to political alliances is quite different to the approach of virtually all other political groups in Germany. We are normally not trying to build alliances with other organizations. In fact, we view this understanding of political alliance as problematic. The notion that the communist movement will gain strength by simply numerically adding the forces of different groups is quite wrong. As noted above, we are not opposed to unity, quite the contrary. But strength is built from ideological clarity and a correct approach to mass work. We also oppose the notion that alliances between different political forces should be built based on the least common denominator. We cannot, for example, form an alliance with the “Left party” in Germany, simply based on the fact that they claim to be against war. Because, if we look at their role just a little more closely, we will see that their rejection of war is shallow and unprincipled, while they support the imperialist European Union and even refuse to take a clear position on NATO. Doing so would prevent us from exposing their role, because it would endanger our alliance with them. This is why this policy of alliances is in practice opposed to the communists’ essential task of telling the truth to the people
So, to sum up, we do have a policy of alliances, but they are alliances that are build by the working people from below, not by the leaderships of political parties and groups from above. We could only briefly outline our approach here, but these issues will be the main focus of our next nationwide congress in July.
6 – How important is proletarian internationalism for KO?
The communist movement has always been an international movement. It cannot exist in any other way. We reject the idea that due to national peculiarities the communists of every country have to find their own way. Of course, it is wrong to just copy the positions of other parties, without taking into account the situation in your own country. But we think that imperialism is a global system and the working class has the same enemy everywhere. This makes the situations in different countries comparable. Therefore, the communist parties should not only strive to coordinate their actions, but also discuss their respective views and analyses with the goal of achieving greater political-ideological unity. We think that the foundation of the Communist International in 1919 was a great achievement, whereas its dissolution in 1943, as well as the dissolution of the Cominform in 1956 were grave setbacks for the international communist movement, depriving it of the structure that was needed to develop a common strategical approach in the struggle with imperialism, thereby leaving the movement more vulnerable to the influence of opportunism. The reconstruction of a new communist international should be the long-term objective of the communists, no matter how far away this possibility seems now. In order to approach this goal, we believe that an open and honest debate between communist parties, based, of course, in international solidarity, is necessary today.
So, of course we stand in firm solidarity with working people and communists all around the globe. We try to analyze important developments in other countries and take position on them. In the last months, we have published our positions on issues like the war in Yemen, the Sino-American trade conflict, or current political development in Brazil, Israel/Palestine, France, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Our political line in all those issues is that we take into account the general interests of the working class and the necessities of the international confrontation with imperialism. We are using our texts to get in contact with people and provide a base for political discussion in different ways. We are not able yet to comment on all relevant developments on the national and international level, but this is our goal.
And obviously, when we will have formed a party, we will seek to build relations with the international communist movement.
But even now, we welcome the efforts that are taking place to reconstitute the international communist movement, for example through the International Meetings of Communist and Workers’ Parties (IMCWP) or the Meetings of European Communist Youth Organizations (MECYO).
7 – The German SPD party is the heart of the world social-democracy, the Friedrich Ebert foundation carries the name of the butcher of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht and the destroyer of the German soviets, it was in the headquarters of that Ebert foundation that the Portuguese Socialist Party was founded and “funded” to destroy the revolutionary upsurge in Portugal in the 1970s. Yet the Trotskyists slander the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) by saying that the communists would have prevented the rise of the Nazis if they had allied with the SPD. What are your views on this question, both in historical terms as well as for the current situation?
The anti-fascist struggle of the KPD is an important point of reference for us. Since the 7th International Congress of the Comintern in 1935 and especially since the end of the war in 1945, the communist movement in Germany (KPD and from 1968 on DKP as well) has adopted the narrative that the communists’ “failure” to ally with social democracy during the Weimar Republic was a serious sectarian mistake that made it possible for fascism to take power. So, it is not only the Trotskyists who share this point of view. Social democracy itself, of course, is promoting a similar, but much more extreme narrative, claiming that the communists are the main culprits for the victory of Nazism, since they preferred to attack bourgeois democracy instead of fascism. Of course, this is a brazen lie, since the communists were the only political force of the Weimar Republic to fight fascism in a consistent way, whereas the SPD contributed in many ways to its rise.
We think that this issue is a complex one that deserves a lot more study – something we intend to do in the years to come. But it is quite clear even now that this historical account is flawed. The Weimar Republic was formed through the collaboration of the counter-revolutionary and pro-Monarchist SPD leadership with the most aggressive forces of reaction, the so-called Freikorps. Throughout the existence of the Weimar Republic, the SPD has done everything in its power, to prevent the working class from gaining consciousness and to create the illusion that socialism would eventually be introduced through parliamentary decisions. Social democracy supported savage repression against the labor movement, for example in May 1929, when the social democratic president of the police Karl Zörgiebel ordered the massacre of 33 workers in Berlin. The Red Front-Fighters Alliance (Roter Frontkämpferbund), an organization of revolutionary mass self-defense, was banned by the social democratic minister of interior Carl Severing, whereas the fascist paramilitary Sturmabteilung (SA) was left untouched. And on the 1st of May 1933, already under the fascist dictatorship, when communists were already being sent to concentration camps, the social democratic trade union leadership participated in a common march with the Nazis. Even though the contribution of the SPD to the rise of fascism was more than obvious, the KPD advanced several proposals to create a common front of struggle against the Nazis. They were completely ignored by the SPD leadership. So, the rise of fascism was not caused by communist “sectarianism”, but by the collusion of bourgeois and social democratic parties with fascism, by their consistent defense of capitalist exploitation. This is not to say that the communists have not committed tactical mistakes. If and to what extent they did, for example in their approach towards social democratic workers, has to be studied. But we cannot agree with the anti-communist propaganda version of history.
The relationship between fascism and social democracy has to be studied with respect to the current situation as well. We think that the rise of racist, nationalist and even openly fascist forces all over Europe, of which the rise of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in Germany forms part, has to be understood against the background of the development of capitalism and bourgeois politics. Social democrats have been in the forefront of the strategies of imperialism. It was the SPD together with the Green Party that introduced the Agenda 2010 reforms, which pushed large parts of the working class deep into permanent poverty. It is the social democratic union leaderships that allowed capital to spread precarious working conditions and create a huge low-wage sector with millions of workers. It is Die Linke (Left Party), Germany’s second social democratic party, which has participated in those attacks against the working class in several regional governments. All those actions have contributed to sections of the people turning towards the far-right, if only to protest against the established parties. Social democracy spreading illusions and then betraying them, and fascism exploiting the disillusionment and fears of the politically more backward sections of the petty bourgeoisie and working class are two sides of the same coin.
8 – What are your views concerning the German Democratic Republic (GDR)? Does the DDR have any relevance for your political work?
We say that the GDR was the greatest achievement of the German labor movement. It was a state, where the exploitation of man by man was abolished. The landlords, big industrialists and banks, the social pillars of the Nazi regime, had been expropriated and the main means of production were property of the people. The Nazi criminals were removed from all responsible positions, whereas in Western Germany most of them stayed in their positions and helped to rebuild the army, police force, courts and secret services of Western German imperialism. Unemployment, homelessness and misery were unknown to the people of the GDR. And the government pursued an internationalist foreign policy, supporting the liberation struggles in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Angola and many other countries, while never sending its troops to fight a war in another country. Of course there were mistakes and shortcomings, the reasons of which have to be analyzed. Especially the role of revisionist influences in the Socialist Unity Party has to be studied. But this does not change the fact that the GDR was our state, a state of workers and peasants, of the German communists and antifascist resistance fighters that suffered in fascist concentration camps, fought in Spain 1936-1939 or joined the Red Army in the war to liberate their homeland from fascism.
And it does have direct relevance for our political work. When you do political work with people and talk to them about our goal of socialism, the GDR or the Soviet Union always come up as a topic. People want to know what communists have to say about this. The bourgeois media and education system are making enormous efforts to create a negative picture of the GDR, which is portrayed as a brutal dictatorship that made the whole country a giant prison, relentlessly spying on its own citizens. The GDR is typically called the “second German dictatorship”, equating it with the horrors of Nazi fascism that caused dozens of millions of deaths. This shows that the ruling class in Germany is still afraid of socialism, which is why they resort to poisoning the people’s minds with their despicable anticommunist lies. But this distorted anticommunist propaganda picture of the GDR affects people in Western Germany more strongly than in the East, since the latter have their own or their parents’ memories of socialism, which they can compare to the propaganda that is taught in school or transmitted in the mass media. In the Eastern German working class, reference to the GDR is generally positive and this fact is helping our local branches there to talk to the people about capitalism and socialism.
2019 will also be the anniversary of both the foundation of the GDR in 1949, as well as the counterrevolution in 1989. In October 5 and 6, we will participate with several contributions in a congress by the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) which is dedicated to this topic. We have a lot to say about this, so in the course of this year there will be a series of activities and publications concerning our view on socialism in the GDR.