From the September 1955 issue of the Socialist Standard
German Social Democracy Today
We are in receipt of the “Action Programme” of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, adopted at the Party Conference at Dortmund in 1952, and revised by the Party Conference at Berlin in July, 1954.
If the date had not been appended to the title page nobody outside would have known.
The Social Democratic Party of Germany has not changed.
It remains what it was, a nationalistic capitalist outfit, peddling a typically Labourite programme of reforms, while professing to be Socialist.
Indeed, without the vague introductory references to Socialism in the foreword to the programme, it would hardly differ from its opponents at all.
Those with knowledge of the facts will read with amusement that
“The Social-Democratic Party of Germany commits itself more definitely than ever to file great ideas of Socialism and Democracy."—(p. 7).
“It remains for ever committed to . . . its great leaders from Karl Marx Frederick Engels, Ferdinand Lassalle and August Bebel down to Kurt Schumacher, Hans Boeckler and Ernst Reuter."—(p. 8).
Nobody would be more amazed at the cool effrontery of this than Marx and Engels themselves, who were so angry with their friends in Germany for having anything to do with Lassalle’s “Union of German Workers” (which they amalgamated with in 1875 at Gotha) that they warned them that they would publicly break with official German Social-Democracy, and denounce it
Marx’s language was so strong that when publishing his “Criticism of the Gotha Programme,” 15 years later, Engels had to insert dots for some of the more unparliamentary expressions.
Why was it that a man of Marx's calibre should be so incensed at what the Social-Democrats in Germany were doing?
After all, he had endured outrageous slander and calumny for years without complaint.
Examination of the facts shows that they started then, what they are still doing now, supporting capitalism by advocating reforms.
Marx wrote a detailed criticism (which he said was more than the doctor had allowed) to W. Bracke, saying that the reason he was so annoyed was because the tale was spread about Europe (especially by Bakunin) that he and Engels secretly ran the Eisenach (or Social Democratic) Party from London, and were therefore personally responsible for a collection of daft rubbish which was actually quite meaningless.
This rubbish was the stock-in-trade of Ferdinand Lassalle, a romantic figure of the day who became an agitator, before being killed in a duel, at an early age.
He was a Malthusian and advocated State regulation of Labour to operate the “Iron Law of Wages.”
F. Engels, in his letter of protest, wrote to Bebel
“Our people have allowed the Lassallean iron law of wages to be foisted on them, a law based on a quite antiquated economic view, namely, that the worker receives, on the average, only the minimum of the labour wage, because, according to Malthus theory of population there are always too many workers. Now, Marx has proved in ‘Capital' that the laws regulating wages are very complicated, that sometimes one predominates and sometimes another, according to circumstances, that therefore they are in no sense iron, but very elastic.” “Karl Marx” Selected Works Vol. II p. 589. Adoratsky, Moscow.
In Marx’s own view,
“since Lassalle’s death the scientific understanding has made progress in our party, that wages are not what they appear to be, namely, the value, or price of labour, but only a masked form for the value, or price of labour power. Thereby the whole bourgeois conception of wages hitherto, as well as all the criticism hitherto directed against this conception was thrown overboard once for all, and it was made dear that the wage-worker has permission to work for his own life, i.e. to live, only in so far as he works a certain time gratis for the Capitalist, that the whole capitalist system of production turns on the prolongation of this gratis labour by extending the working day, or by developing the productivity, or the greater intensity of labour power, etc., that consequently the system of wage-labour is a system of slavery, and indeed a slavery that becomes more severe as the social forces of labour develop, whether the worker receives better or worse payment.
And after this understanding has made more and. more progress in our party, one returns to Lassaile's dogmas although one must have known that Lassalle did not know what wages are, but following in the wake of the bourgeois economists, took the appearance for the essence of the matter.” (“Karl Marx,” page 574, Moscow, 1933.)
Apart from the dangerous ideas he advocated everything in Lassalle’s character and actions made Marx detest him.
Both Marx and Engels smelt a rat when Lassalle wrote offering them editorial posts on his Berlin paper. If Marx would return to Germany, hinting that he might negotiate an amnesty for Marx.
It was not until 1928 that the truth was finally revealed that Lassalle, in fact, was a paid secret agent of Bismarck. (See “Bismarck and Lassalle” by Mayer, Berlin 1928, page 60.)
We have recalled a few facts to show how preposterous is the claim of the modem German Social-Democrats that Marx was one of “their leaders,” alongside Lassalle.
Those interested or sceptical are referred to the “Critique of the Gotha Programme” (Volume II, “Karl Marx Selected Works.” Adoratsky, Moscow, 1933), to verify the facts for themselves.
Everything in the “Unity” programme made Marx furious. Even the first clause—which ran—
“(1) Labour is the source of all wealth and all culture, and since useful labour is only possible in society and through society, the proceeds of labour belong undiminished with equal right to all members of society,” nearly drove him up the wall.
This is what he had to say about this mish-mash.
“In proportion as labour develops socially and becomes thereby a source of wealth and culture, poverty and neglect develop among the workers, and wealth and culture among .the non-workers.
“This is the law of all history, hitherto. What had to be done was to prove that capitalist society had created the material conditions enabling the workers to lift this social curse.” (Gotha Programme).
Is there any sign that modern German Social-Democracy has any intention of trying to lift this social curse of growing poverty with increasing wealth? Not the slightest.
This latest programme contains 50 pages of resolutions on nearly every conceivable subject except abolition of capitalism. On the contrary, they all concern its maintenance and improvement, including Tax and Penal Reform.
In this “Action Programme” we have the classic vote-catching Bill-of-Fare. Something for Everybody. Just like the I.L.P. Hitler, Mussolini, etc., etc., nobody has been forgotten.
The German Social Democrats are going to help the individual workers, civil servants, small business men, women, scientists, young people, the middle-classes, farmers, small farmers, “those in receipt of public relief” and refugees. (See Action Programme 1954.)
They want a Free Republic, increased production, increased public assistance “for the millions who suffer poverty,” wages to be assured of a reasonable relation to profit (page 25), more credits to the middle-class (page 28) and “the Social-Democrats will sustain small and medium scale Private-Property” (page 26). Healthy Housing for Everybody, Tax Reforms, more equitable distribution of Wealth, a social Security scheme on Beveridge lines for Unemployed or Sickness, Public Ownership of Coal, Iron, Transport and Power, Prison Reform, more Schools, Youth Hostels, and Judicial Reform, are a few more of the plums which the German Jack Homer is promised, if only he will stick in his thumb into the electoral pie for the Social Democratic Party.
What has all this to do with Socialism? Nothing.
Study the actual record of the Social-Democrats in power in Prussia and it becomes obvious that the election phrases are but the cloak for the Capitalist policies.
Zorgiebel, Social-Democrat Chief of Police in Berlin, mowed down unruly workers with the ferocity of a Cavaignac.
Like Labour Governments everywhere the Social Democrats in Germany were just as active in running capitalism whatever the consequences to the worker, because that was their mandate.
After years in power, they spawned—Hitler.
If the German workers had any idea of the real meaning of Marx’s writings, they would reject the Social-Democrats.
When they learn more about the matter they will organise a Socialist Party.
Messrs, Ollenhauer, Schumacher, Boeckler, Reuter, crooks in the true tradition of Ferdinand Lassalle.
The German Philosopher, Nietsche (an anti-Socialist), called them “clambering apes.”