Does capitalism unite people or does it divide people?

Labor movement

Max Reinhardt

To person

Dr. phil., born 1975; Political scientist, employed at the Kaiserslautern University of Applied Sciences, Emil-Caesar-Straße 26, 67657 Kaiserslautern. [email protected]

The political scientist Ulrich Sarcinelli divides the traditional lines of state politics of the (social democratic) labor movement into "Marxists" and "Lassalleans" or "state deniers" and "state supporters". [1] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, however, were not just "state negatives". In the Communist Manifesto of 1848 they rather stated that "the first step in the workers' revolution was the elevation of the proletariat to the ruling class, the fight for democracy" through the centralization of "all instruments of production in the hands of the state", as an "intermediate step" on the way to a classless society with free association. [2] In this sense, Engels rejected an "abolition of the state (...) without prior social upheaval" called for by the anarchists. [3] For Ferdinand Lassalle, on the other hand, the state was a moral institution that had to be reformed in order to safeguard the rights of workers, but did not have to be overcome. [4] In 1863 Lassalle was a co-founder of the General German Workers' Association (ADAV) in Leipzig, which stood in the continuity of the workers' movement of 1848 and advocated workers' associations and "a democratic right to vote as a social principle". [5] Lassalle had a major impact on him until his death in 1864. Wilhelm Liebknecht and August Bebel founded "in Eisenach with some leading Lassalleans (...) the Social Democratic Workers' Party" (SDAP), which "promoted the democratization of the state and society with the means of bourgeois democracy, through educational work among the people and the conquest of the majority in the Parliament "[6]. In this respect, the unification of the ADAV and the SDAP to form the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (SAP) in Gotha in 1875 "under the pressure of persecution and oppression by the new German state" [7] (the unified German Reich since 1871) was logical, since both parties represented the emancipation of workers.

Until the end of the 1870s, workers were reform-oriented because they hoped that this would improve their living and social situation. It was only with the Bismarck Socialist Laws passed in 1878 and the associated repression that their attitude became revolutionary. In particular, the Communist Manifesto and the "1. Volume of Capital" by Marx and Engels became popular during this period. [8] The period of the socialist laws up to 1890 radicalized the young generation of social democrats. [9] This radicalization was also evident in the Erfurt Program in 1891, which was far more Marxist than the Gotha Program of 1875 formulated in the spirit of Lassalle. [10] However, the Erfurt program combined "the almost passive expectation of the revolution, which would come naturally as a consequence of the inevitable collapse of the capitalist system", with emancipatory and participatory reform goals such as the "right to vote in all representative bodies (Reichstag, state parliaments, municipal councils) for all men and women over 20 ", more direct democracy, secularization, the" election of judges by the people, (the) abolition of the death penalty, (the) free medical treatment, (the) progressive direct taxes and (the) abolition of direct taxes "[ 11] as well as improvements in labor law. Even after the Socialist Laws expired in 1890, the labor movement remained "negatively integrated" into the state. [12] The number of its members, functionaries, editors, voters and apron organizations increased significantly from 1890 to the First World War, so that the SPD, together with the consumer cooperatives and the "members of the trade unions of the General Commission" [13] achieved an enormous integration achievement of the workers, which the The majority, however, remained critical to hostile towards the state. [14]

With the increasing organization of the movement and the improvement of the living conditions of the workers at the end of the 19th century, the number of voices in the SPD increased and began to revise some of the theses of Marx and Engels. Above all, it was Eduard Bernstein for whom democracy was a "college of compromise" [15] between the classes, while the revolutionary class struggle was an "overestimation of the creative power of violence" [16]. He also criticized the hope of the collapse of capitalism. For, according to Bernstein, in alliance with the "left" bourgeoisie "[17], the everyday political work of the Social Democrats was the improvement of the living conditions of the workers and their adjustment to those of the bourgeoisie. However, he overestimated "- like Lassalle - the chances of success of the social democracy of being able to implement a social and political structural change with the limited means of pseudo-parliamentarism in the empire". [19]

The young radical generation of social democrats included a small group of SPD leftists around Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. [20] For Luxembourg, the solution was not to "gradually" expand "social control"; she rejected an "idealistic interpretation" of socialist politics; rather, it derived the development towards socialism on the basis of economic developments and thus the crisis-prone nature of capitalism, which will collapse due to its contradictions and daring speculations with "foreign capital" [21]. Luxemburg was not a reformer, but saw in the spontaneity of the masses the potential that the revolution would bring about. [22]

Split in the labor movement

The first break in the unified party-political representation of the labor movement came about when the SPD approved the war loans in 1914, which were granted by both moderate SPD leftists such as Karl Kautsky, Hugo Haase, Rudolf Hilferding and Kurt Eisner, as well as more radical SPD leftists such as Luxemburg, Liebknecht , Clara Zetkin and Franz Mehring were rejected. They were therefore excluded from the SPD and founded the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD). [23] The split intensified during the Soviet revolution from 1917 and led to a further break between the SPD leadership and "Spartacists, revolutionary company officials and USPD leaders". [24] The founding of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) was a result of this break. Luxemburg and others hoped the revolution would bring about a social upheaval on the way to socialism. [25]

The Weimar SPD had changed as a result of the splits and had become a reform party. [26] Outstanding representative was Friedrich Ebert, Reich Chancellor, Chairman of the Council of People's Representatives and Reich President. He symbolized a new type of social democratic politician: a power politician who above all valued "the positive everyday work" [27] and was unable to gain anything from theoretical debates. [28] Ebert was impressed that the Chancellor and the bourgeois parties rose up after the SPD approved the war credits in 1914 and applauded the Social Democratic parliamentary group. [29] He made an agreement with the then Chancellor Prince Max von Baden to become his successor, advocated extensive rights of the presidential office and, for tactical reasons, did not disempower the old officer structure of the army. [30] For him it was important to preserve the "'compromise structure" of the Weimar Republic through the participation of the SPD in the coalition governments "[31]. However, Ebert's attitude also led to disappointment, as he was unable to meet the expectations of many followers after overcoming the classes, although it had finally been possible for one of their representatives to hold the highest office in the state. [32] Social democratic lawyers like Hermann Heller also stand for the SPD's new attitude towards the state. He criticized the, in his opinion, exaggerated notion of a society as a "self-creating, explanatory and justifying deity", which would lack the idea of ​​individuality. On the other hand, he accused liberalism of failure because it defended the privileges of the "'better part of the people" "[33] and prevented an extension of rights to workers.

Despite the achievements of the Weimar Constitution of 1919, including women's suffrage and the strengthening of workers' rights, the new, reform-oriented attitude towards the state was controversial. [34] The SPD-Left gained influence in 1922 with the unification of the SPD and the rest of the USPD; [35] Former USPD members had a decisive influence on the Heidelberg Program in 1925, which was again formulated in a far more Marxist way. [36] The internal party dispute escalated in 1931 with the exclusion from the SPD of nine members of the Reichstag as well as numerous members and functionaries who opposed government policy; they criticized the construction of the armored cruiser in 1928 and the tolerance of the Brüning cabinets. With the founding of the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (SAPD) by left-wing SPD parties such as Otto Brenner, who became chairman of IG Metall after 1945, and Willy Brandt, party political representation was further fragmented. [37]