Communist Party of Germany

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Communist Party of Germany

German: Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands
Founder Karl Liebknecht
Rosa Luxemburg
Founded30 December 1918 –
1 January 1919
Dissolved1946 (replaced in East Germany)
1956 (banned in West Germany)
Preceded by Spartacus League
Succeeded by Socialist Unity Party of Germany (East Germany),
German Communist Party (West Germany), [1] [2] [3] [4]
Socialist Unity Party of West Berlin (West Berlin) [5] [6]
Newspaper Die Rote Fahne
Youth wing Young Communist League
Paramilitary wing Rotfrontkämpferbund (RFB)
Membership (1932)360,000 [7]
Ideology Communism
Marxism-Leninism
Political position Far-left
International affiliation Comintern
ColorsRed
Party flag
Flag of the Communist Party of Germany.svg

The Communist Party of Germany (German : Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands, KPD) was a major political party in Germany between 1918 and 1933, and a minor party in West Germany in the postwar period until it was banned in 1956.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

West Germany Federal Republic of Germany in the years 1949–1990

West Germany is the common English name for the Federal Republic of Germany in the period between its creation on 23 May 1949 and German reunification on 3 October 1990. During this Cold War era, NATO-aligned West Germany and Warsaw Pact-aligned East Germany were divided by the Inner German border. After 1961 West Berlin was physically separated from East Berlin as well as from East Germany by the Berlin Wall. This situation ended when East Germany was dissolved and split into five states, which then joined the ten states of the Federal Republic of Germany along with the reunified city-state of Berlin. With the reunification of West and East Germany, the Federal Republic of Germany, enlarged now to sixteen states, became known simply as "Germany". This period is referred to as the Bonn Republic by historians, alluding to the interwar Weimar Republic and the post-reunification Berlin Republic.

Contents

Founded in the aftermath of the First World War by socialists opposed to the war, led by Rosa Luxemburg, after her death the party became gradually ever more committed to Leninism and later Stalinism. During the Weimar Republic period, the KPD usually polled between 10 and 15 percent of the vote and was represented in the Reichstag and in state parliaments. The party directed most of its attacks on the Social Democratic Party of Germany, which it considered its main opponent. Banned in Nazi Germany one day after Adolf Hitler emerged triumphant in the German elections in 1933, the KPD maintained an underground organization but suffered heavy losses. The party was revived in divided postwar West and East Germany and won seats in the first Bundestag (West German Parliament) elections in 1949, but its support collapsed following the establishment of a communist state in the Soviet occupation zone of Germany.

Rosa Luxemburg Polish Marxist theorist, socialist philosopher, and revolutionary

Rosa Luxemburg was a Polish Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist, anti-war activist, and revolutionary socialist who became a naturalized German citizen at the age of 28. She was, successively, a member of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL), the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD), and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD).

Leninism political, social, and economic theory espoused by Vladimir Lenin

Leninism is the political theory for the organisation of a revolutionary vanguard party and the achievement of a dictatorship of the proletariat as political prelude to the establishment of socialism. Developed by and named for the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, Leninism comprises socialist political and economic theories, developed from Marxism and Lenin's interpretations of Marxist theories, for practical application to the socio-political conditions of the Russian Empire of the early 20th century.

Stalinism theory and practice for developing a communist society

Stalinism is the means of governing and related policies implemented from around 1927 to 1953 by Joseph Stalin (1878–1953). Stalinist policies and ideas as developed in the Soviet Union included rapid industrialization, the theory of socialism in one country, a totalitarian state, collectivization of agriculture, a cult of personality and subordination of the interests of foreign communist parties to those of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, deemed by Stalinism to be the leading vanguard party of communist revolution at the time.

In East Germany, the party was merged, by Soviet decree, with the Social Democratic Party to form the Socialist Unity Party (SED) which ruled East Germany until 1989–1990. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, reformists took over the SED and renamed it the Party of Democratic Socialism; in 2007 the PDS subsequently merged with the SPD splinter faction WASG to form Die Linke . The KPD was banned in West Germany in 1956 by the Constitutional Court. Some of its former members founded an even smaller fringe party, the German Communist Party (DKP), in 1969, which remains legal, and multiple tiny splinter groups claiming to be the successor to the KPD have also subsequently been formed.

Social Democratic Party of Germany political party in Germany

The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany.

Socialist Unity Party of Germany Marxist-Leninist political party and ruling state party of the GDR

The Socialist Unity Party of Germany, established in April 1946, was the governing Marxist–Leninist political party of the German Democratic Republic from the country's foundation in October 1949 until its dissolution after the Peaceful Revolution in 1989.

Party of Democratic Socialism (Germany) political party

The Party of Democratic Socialism was a democratic socialist political party in Germany active between 1989 and 2007. It was the legal successor to the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), which ruled the German Democratic Republic as a one-party state until 1990. From 1990 through to 2005, the PDS had been seen as the left-wing "party of the East". While it achieved minimal support in western Germany, it regularly won 15% to 25% of the vote in the eastern new states of Germany, entering coalition governments in the federal states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Berlin.

Early history

Before the First World War the Social Democratic Party (SPD) was the largest party in Germany and the world's most successful socialist party. Although still officially claiming to be a Marxist party, by 1914 it had become in practice a reformist party. In 1914 the SPD members of the Reichstag voted in favour of the war. Left-wing members of the party, led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, strongly opposed the war, and the SPD soon suffered a split, with the leftists forming the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD) and the more radical Spartacist League. In November 1918, revolution broke out across Germany. The leftists, led by Rosa Luxemburg and the Spartacist League, formed the KPD at a founding congress held in Berlin in 30 December 1918 – 1 January 1919 in the reception hall of the City Council [8] Apart from the Spartacists, another dissent group of Socialists called the International Communists of Germany, also dissenting members of the Social Democratic party, but mainly located in Hamburg, Bremen and Northern Germany, joined the young party. [9] The Revolutionary Shop Stewards, a network of dissenting socialist trade unionists centered in Berlin were also invited to the Congress, but eventually did not join the party because they deemed the founding congress leaning into a syndicalist direction.

Karl Liebknecht German socialist and a co-founder of the Spartacist League and the Communist Party of Germany

Karl Paul August Friedrich Liebknecht was a German socialist, originally in the Social Democrat (SPD) and later a co-founder with Rosa Luxemburg of the Spartacist League and the Communist Party of Germany which split way from the SPD. He is best known for his opposition to World War I in the Reichstag and his role in the Spartacist uprising of 1919. The uprising was crushed by the Social Democrat government and the Freikorps. Liebknecht and Luxemburg were executed.

Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany political party

The Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany was a short-lived political party in Germany during the German Empire and the Weimar Republic. The organization was established in 1917 as the result of a split of left wing members of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). The organization attempted to chart a centrist course between electorally oriented revisionism on the one hand and bolshevism on the other. The organization was terminated in 1931 through merger with the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (SAPD).

There were seven main reports given at the founding congress:

Karl Radek Marxist leader

Karl Berngardovich Radek was a Marxist active in the Polish and German social democratic movements before World War I and an international Communist leader in the Soviet Union after the Russian Revolution.

Hugo Eberlein German politician

Hugo Eberlein was a German Communist politician. He took part of the founding congress of the Communist Party of Germany, and then in the First Congress of the Comintern, where he held important posts until 1928, the result of his involvement with the Conciliator faction. When the Nazis took power in Germany in 1933, Eberlein fled to the Soviet Union, where he found refuge at the Hotel Lux. In July 1937, he fell under the Stalinist terror. In January 1938, was interrogated and tortured for ten days and nights. In April 1938, he was brought to Lefortovo Prison, where he was tortured for weeks at a time, and then in 1939, he was sentenced to 15 years in the Vorkuta Gulag. He was returned to Moscow in 1941, when he was tried and sentenced again and was shot on October 16, 1941. Hugo Eberlein was later rehabilitated and became a national hero in East Germany; his name was even borne by a guard regiment of the National People's Army.

Paul Levi German politician

Paul Levi was a German Communist and Social Democratic political leader. He was the head of the Communist Party of Germany following the assassination of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in 1919. After being expelled for publicly criticising Communist Party tactics during the March Action, he formed the Communist Working Organisation which in 1922 merged with the Independent Social Democratic Party. This party, in turn, merged with the Social Democratic Party a few months later and Levi became one of the leaders of its left wing.

These reports were given by leading figures of the Spartakus League, however members of the Internationale Kommunisten Deutschlands also took part in the discussions

Under the leadership of Liebknecht and Luxemburg, the KPD was committed to a revolution in Germany, and during 1919 and 1920 attempts to seize control of the government continued. Germany's Social Democratic government, which had come to power after the fall of the Monarchy, was vehemently opposed to the KPD's idea of socialism. With the new regime terrified of a Bolshevik Revolution in Germany, Defense Minister Gustav Noske formed a series of anti-communist paramilitary groups, dubbed "Freikorps", out of demobilized World War I veterans. During the failed Spartacist uprising in Berlin of January 1919, Liebknecht and Luxemburg, who had not initiated the uprising but joined once it had begun, were captured by the Freikorps and murdered. The Party split a few months later into two factions, the KPD and the Communist Workers Party of Germany (KAPD).

Following the assassination of Leo Jogiches, Paul Levi became the KPD leader. Other prominent members included Clara Zetkin, Paul Frölich, Hugo Eberlein, Franz Mehring, August Thalheimer, and Ernst Meyer. Levi led the party away from the policy of immediate revolution, in an effort to win over SPD and USPD voters and trade union officials. These efforts were rewarded when a substantial section of the USPD joined the KPD, making it a mass party for the first time.

Through the 1920s the KPD was racked by internal conflict between more and less radical factions, partly reflecting the power struggles between Zinoviev and Stalin in Moscow. Germany was seen as being of central importance to the struggle for socialism, and the failure of the German revolution was a major setback. Eventually Levi was expelled in 1921 by the Comintern for "indiscipline." Further leadership changes took place in the 1920s. Supporters of the Left or Right Opposition to the Stalin-controlled Comintern leadership were expelled; of these, Heinrich Brandler, August Thalheimer and Paul Frölich set up a splinter Communist Party Opposition.

Weimar Republic years

Karl-Liebknecht-Haus, the KPD's headquarters from 1926 to 1933. The Antifaschistische Aktion (a.k.a. "Antifa") logo can be seen prominently displayed on the front of the building. The KPD leaders were arrested by the Gestapo in this building in January 1933, when Hitler became Chancellor. The plaques on either side of the door recall the building's history. Today it is the Berlin headquarters of the Left Party. Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-P046279, Berlin, Liebknecht-Haus am Bülowplatz.jpg
Karl-Liebknecht-Haus, the KPD's headquarters from 1926 to 1933. The Antifaschistische Aktion (a.k.a. "Antifa") logo can be seen prominently displayed on the front of the building. The KPD leaders were arrested by the Gestapo in this building in January 1933, when Hitler became Chancellor. The plaques on either side of the door recall the building's history. Today it is the Berlin headquarters of the Left Party.
KPD in Essen, 1925 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-14686-0026, Essen, Reichspräsidentenwahl, KPD-Wahlwerbung.jpg
KPD in Essen, 1925
KPD election poster, 1932. The caption at the bottom reads 'An end to this system!'. 1932-kpd.jpg
KPD election poster, 1932. The caption at the bottom reads 'An end to this system!'.

A new KPD leadership more favorable to the Soviet Union was elected in 1923. This leadership, headed by Ernst Thälmann, abandoned the goal of immediate revolution, and from 1924 onwards contested Reichstag elections, with some success.

During the years of the Weimar Republic the KPD was the largest communist party in Europe and was seen as the "leading party" of the communist movement outside the Soviet Union. [10] It maintained a solid electoral performance, usually polling more than 10% of the vote and gaining 100 deputies in the November 1932 elections. In the presidential election of the same year, Thälmann took 13.2% of the vote, compared to Hitler's 30.1%.

Critics of the KPD accused it of having pursued a sectarian policy, e.g. the Social Democratic Party criticized the KPD's thesis of "social fascism" (which addressed the SPD as the Communist's main enemy). This scuttled any possibility of a united front with the SPD against the rising power of the National Socialists. These allegations were repudiated by supporters of the KPD as it was said[ by whom? ] the right-wing leadership of the SPD rejected the proposals of the KPD to unite for the defeat of fascism. The SPD leaders were accused of having countered KPD efforts to form a united front of the working class. For instance, after Papen's government carried out a coup d'état in Prussia the KPD called for a general strike and turned to the SPD leadership for joint struggle, but the SPD leaders again refused to cooperate with the KPD.

Nazi era

Soon after the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor, the Reichstag was set on fire and Dutch council communist Marinus van der Lubbe was found near the building. The Nazis publicly blamed the fire on communist agitators in general, although in a German court in 1933, it was decided that Van Der Lubbe had acted alone, as he claimed to have done. After the fire, the Reichstag Fire Decree was passed.

Repression beginning within hours after the fire, when police arrested dozens of Communists. Although Hitler could have formally banned the KPD, he did not do so right away. Not only was he reluctant to chance a violent uprising, but he believed the KPD could siphon off SPD votes and split the left. However, most judges held the KPD responsible for the fire, and took the line that KPD membership was in and of itself a treasonous act. At the March 1933 election, the KPD elected 81 deputies. However, it was an open secret that they would never be allowed to take office; they were all arrested in short order. For all intents and purposes, the KPD was banned as of 6 March, the day after the election. [11]

The KPD was efficiently suppressed by the Nazis. The most senior KPD leaders were Wilhelm Pieck and Walter Ulbricht, who went into exile in the Soviet Union. The KPD maintained an underground organisation in Germany throughout the Nazi period, but the loss of many core members severely weakened the Party's infrastructure.

Purge of 1937

A number of senior KPD leaders in exile were caught up in Joseph Stalin's Great Purge of 1937–38 and executed, among them Eberlein, Heinz Neumann, Hermann Remmele, Fritz Schulte and Hermann Schubert, or sent to the gulag, like Margarete Buber-Neumann. Still others, like Gustav von Wangenheim and Erich Mielke, denounced their fellow exiles to the NKVD. [12] Willi Münzenberg, the KPD's propaganda chief, was murdered in mysterious circumstances in France in 1940. The NKVD is believed to have been responsible.

Postwar history

In East Germany, the Soviet occupation authorities forced the eastern branch of the SPD to merge with the KPD (led by Pieck and Ulbricht) to form the Socialist Unity Party (SED) in April 1946. [13] Although nominally a union of equals, the SED quickly fell under Communist domination, and most of the more recalcitrant members from the SPD side of the merger were pushed out in short order. By the time of the formal formation of the East German state in 1949, the SED was a full-fledged Communist party, and developed along lines similar to other Soviet-bloc Communist parties. [14] It was the ruling party in East Germany from its formation in 1949 until 1989. The SPD managed to preserve its independence in Berlin, forcing the SED to form a small branch in West Berlin, the Socialist Unity Party of West Berlin.

The KPD reorganised in the western part of Germany, and received 5.7% of the vote in the first Bundestag election in 1949. But the onset of the Cold War and imposition of an undisguised Communist dictatorship in East Germany soon caused a collapse in the party's support. At the 1953 election the KPD only won 2.2 percent of the total votes and lost all of its seats, never to return. The party was banned in August 1956 by the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany. [15] The ban was due to the aggressive and combative methods that the party used as a "Marxist-Leninist party struggle" to achieve their goals. After the party was declared illegal, many of its members continued to function clandestinely despite increased government surveillance. Part of its membership refounded the party in 1968 as the German Communist Party (DKP). Following German reunification many DKP members joined the new Party of Democratic Socialism, formed out of the remains of the SED.

In 1968, a self-named "true successor" to the (banned) West German KPD was formed, the KPD/ML (Marxist–Leninist), which followed Maoist ideas. It went through multiple splits and united with a Trotskyist group in 1986 to form the Unified Socialist Party (VSP), which failed to gain any influence and dissolved in the early 1990s. [16] However, multiple tiny splinter groups originating in the KPD/ML still exist, several of which claim the name of KPD. Another party with this name was formed in 1990 in East Berlin by several hardline Communists who had been expelled from the PDS, including Erich Honecker. The "KPD (Bolshevik)" split off from the East German KPD in 2005, bringing the total number of (more or less) active KPDs to at least 5. The Left, formed out of a merger between the PDS and Labour and Social Justice – The Electoral Alternative in 2007, claims to be the historical successor of the KPD (by way of the PDS).

Organization

In the early 1920s, the party operated under the principle of democratic centralism, whereby the leading body of the party was the Congress, meeting at least once a year. [17] Between Congresses, leadership of the party resided in the Central Committee, which was elected at Congress, of one group of people who had to live where the leadership was resident and formed the Zentrale and others nominated from the districts they represented (but also elected at the Congress) who represented the wider party. [18] Elected figures were subject to recall by the bodies that elected them. [19]

The KPD employed around about 200 full-timers during its early years of existence, and as Broue notes "They received the pay of an average skilled worker, and had no privileges, apart from being the first to be arrested, prosecuted and sentenced, and when shooting started, to be the first to fall". [20]

Election results

Federal elections

KPD federal election results (1920–1933)
ElectionVotesSeatsNotes
No.%+/–No.+/–
1920 589.4542.1 (No. 8)
4 / 459
May 1924 3.693.28012.6 (No. 4)Increase2.svg 10.5
62 / 472
Increase2.svg 58
December 1924 2.709.0868,9 (No. 5)Decrease2.svg 3.7
45 / 493
Decrease2.svg 17
1928 3.264.79310.6 (No. 4)Increase2.svg 1.7
54 / 491
Increase2.svg 9
1930 4.590.16013.1 (No. 3)Increase2.svg 2.5
77 / 577
Increase2.svg 23After the financial crisis
July 1932 5.282.63614.3 (No. 3)Increase2.svg 1.2
89 / 608
Increase2.svg 12
November 1932 5.980.23916.9 (No. 3)Increase2.svg 2.6
100 / 584
Increase2.svg 11 
March 1933 4.848.05812.3 (No. 3)Decrease2.svg 4.6
81 / 647
Decrease2.svg 19During Hitler's term as Chancellor of Germany

Presidential elections

KPD federal election results (1925–1932)
ElectionVotesCandidate
No.%+/–
1925 1,931,1516.4 (No. 3) Ernst Thälmann
1932 3,706,75910.2 (No. 3)Increase2.svg 3.8Ernst Thälmann

See also

Footnotes

  1. Steffen Kailitz: Politischer Extremismus in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Eine Einführung. S. 68.
  2. Olav Teichert: Die Sozialistische Einheitspartei Westberlins. Untersuchung der Steuerung der SEW durch die SED. kassel university press, 2011, ISBN   978-3-89958-995-5, S. 93. ( , p. 93, at Google Books)
  3. Eckhard Jesse: Deutsche Geschichte. Compact Verlag, 2008, ISBN   978-3-8174-6606-1, S. 264. ( , p. 264, at Google Books)
  4. Bernhard Diestelkamp: Zwischen Kontinuität und Fremdbestimmung. Mohr Siebeck, 1996, ISBN   3-16-146603-9, S. 308. ( , p. 308, at Google Books)
  5. Beschluss vom 31. Mai 1946 der Alliierten Stadtkommandantur: In allen vier Sektoren der ehemaligen Reichshauptstadt werden die Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands und die neugegründete Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands zugelassen.
  6. Vgl. Siegfried Heimann: Ostberliner Sozialdemokraten in den frühen fünfziger Jahren
  7. Catherine Epstein. The last revolutionaries: German communists and their century. Harvard University Press, 2003. Pp. 39.
  8. Nettl, J.P. (1969) Rosa Luxemburg: Abridged Edition Oxford: Oxford University Press pg.472
  9. Gerhard Engel, The International Communists of Germany, 191z-1919, in: Ralf Hoffrogge / Norman LaPorte (eds.): Weimar Communism as Mass Movement 1918–1933, London: Lawrence & Wishart, pp. 25-45.
  10. Ralf Hoffrogge / Norman LaPorte (eds.): Weimar Communism as Mass Movement 1918–1933, London: Lawrence & Wishart, p. 2
  11. Evans, Richard J. (2003). The Coming of the Third Reich . New York City: Penguin Press. ISBN   978-0141009759.
  12. Robert Conquest, The Great Terror, 576-77.
  13. Eric D. Weitz, Creating German Communism, 1890–1990: From Popular Protests to Socialist State. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997
  14. David Priestand, Red Flag: A History of Communism," New York: Grove Press, 2009
  15. Eric D. Weitz, Creating German Communism, 1890–1990: From Popular Protests to Socialist State. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997
  16. Eric D. Weitz, Creating German Communism, 1890–1990: From Popular Protests to Socialist State. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997
  17. Broue, P. (2006) The German Revolution: 1917–1923, Chicago: Haymarket Books, pg.635
  18. Broue, P. (2006) The German Revolution: 1917–1923, Chicago: Haymarket Books, pg.635-636
  19. Broue, P. (2006) The German Revolution: 1917–1923, Chicago: Haymarket Books, pg.864 — Broue cites the cases of Freisland and Ernst Meyer as being recalled when their electors were not satisfied with their actions
  20. Broue, P. (2006) The German Revolution: 1917–1923, Chicago: Haymarket Books, pg.863-864

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