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The following document, submitted for discussion on 14 June 2022, is translated from Spartacist (German-language edition) No. 33 (May 2023), journal of the International Executive Committee.

In the 30 years since the counterrevolutionary destruction of East Germany (DDR), German imperialism has been on the offensive. By grinding down the working and living conditions of its working class, it has extended its economic stranglehold over all of Europe. Now, the relative political stability of the post-Soviet period is over. The pandemic and the war in Ukraine have caused dramatic shifts in the world situation. Every indignity of capitalism has been magnified dramatically, the world is increasingly unstable, and the ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD) promises only more hardship. These changes have provoked a crisis in the Left Party (Linkspartei) and the pseudo-Marxist left. After having spent decades in lockstep with the bourgeoisie—their utter subservience to the government during the pandemic being the high-water mark—they now find themselves frantically trying to square the circle of being pacifist and pro-Ukraine. As the “peace” and “stability” of the liberal order breaks apart, the left longingly looks back, set on the reactionary and futile perspective of returning to the supposed glory days of the postwar and post-Soviet eras.

This can only lead the working class to catastrophe. All the seeds for the current convulsions of German capitalism were sown in the previous period of stability. The Spartakist Workers Party of Germany (SpAD), like the rest of the social-democratic left, has spent the last three decades capitulating to liberalism, the dominant ideology of German imperialism. To move forward, it is critical that the ICL’s German section understands the material basis for the policies and ideology of the German ruling class, how the workers movement has capitulated to them and how the current status quo is breaking down. Only by assimilating these lessons can we truly expose the bankruptcy of liberalism and motivate why the road ahead for the workers movement lies not in the experience of the Social Democracy of the 1960s, ’70s or ’90s, but in the 1919 split between the revolutionary and reformist wings of the German Social Democracy following the first interimperialist war.

West Germany: From Anti-Soviet Front Line to “End of History” Poster Child

The West German state was set up with the explicit purpose of being a bulwark for the Americans against the Soviet Union. The counterrevolutionary and revanchist nature of West Germany was reflected in both the capital and constitution being explicitly temporary. Bonn was to be the capital until Berlin could be fully reclaimed, and the constitution would be made permanent once Germany reunified. To destroy the DDR and reunify Germany on a capitalist basis was the main strategic aim of German imperialism. This was always the case, whether the government was following a policy of “confrontation” or “appeasement.” The anti-Soviet Cold War was the defining political question between 1945 and 1989 and lay behind all major policies, whether it was the establishment of the European Economic Community, the rehabilitation of Nazi officials, the persecution of communists or the indefatigable support to the U.S.

The destruction of the DDR, followed shortly by counterrevolutions in the Soviet Union and throughout East Europe, meant that German imperialism had fulfilled its immediate objective, leading to a dramatic change in its role and ambitions. With West Germany already economically dominant on the continent, it was clear that reunification would consolidate Germany’s role as the leading power in Europe. Contrary to the projections made by the ICL, reunification did not lead to increased interimperialist confrontation. It was, in fact, approved and overseen by the U.S. The premise for reunification was that Germany would remain in NATO and that there would be further European “integration,” leading to the establishment of the EU and euro. The fact is that U.S. hegemony in Europe remained unchallenged; it continued to guarantee stability through its military while the European imperialists played the central role in “integrating” East Europe economically and politically into the West.

This does not mean that German imperialism has been a simple pawn of the U.S. without its own agency in world affairs—a nationalist argument raised by many social democrats. Germany is a major power that has already made two attempts at world domination. While it doesn’t currently have the economic and military might to challenge the U.S. directly, it has room to maneuver in the transatlantic alliance and has options outside of it. However, for the time being, the German ruling class has been overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining its partnership with the U.S., accepting that this means playing second fiddle. This orientation must be seen in the broader context of the post-Soviet order, which was aptly described by comrade Jim Robertson in 1999:

“We and many others note that the ‘post-Soviet world’ has become like the pre-1914 period. Yes, economically—with the exception of no gold standard for the world markets. No, politically—because there are no counterposed developing alliances of the several great powers. Rather we continue to see, for now, a disgruntled hierarchy with the U.S. very much on top.

“These observations have a considerable bearing on the timing of renewed major interimperialist conflict (it did before 1914, too).”

—“Note on ‘Post-Soviet World’,” SL/U.S. Internal Discussion Bulletin No. 65

A central reason for the stability of post-Soviet Europe is that its configuration has been extremely beneficial for Germany. With the U.S. paying the military bill, German capitalism could focus its resources on industry and foreign investment. The EU gave easy access to new markets and cheap labor. The euro artificially depreciated the deutschmark, boosting exports. After pillaging the DDR and turning the screw on its working class, German imperialism has had an open field to strangle the rest of Europe economically. In this context, the entire political, economic and military strategy of Germany has been to avoid confrontation and take full advantage of Pax Americana, which enables it to export goods and capital across the world with relative ease and in a proportion that far outweighs its military might.

As the strategic interests of German imperialism changed, so did the dominant ideology. Marx explained in The German Ideology that “The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relations, the dominant material relations grasped as ideas; hence of the relations which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance.” Having accomplished its strategic aim of “defeating Communism,” the ruling class adapted the ideology it used to justify its economic dominance to the requirements of its new policy of “peaceful” economic plunder. Instead of burying its past crimes, the German bourgeoisie claimed it had “learned the lessons of history” and that it is precisely the experiences of two world wars, the Holocaust and two dictatorships (Nazism and Communism) that made Germany the most modern and progressive democracy in the world today. This placed on Germany’s shoulders the duty to guide the world toward the light of liberal democracy. Its newfound mission: to preach the Good News of democracy, pacifism, open borders, free trade, ecology and Christian charity.

Bourgeois ideologues have written reams of self-congratulatory essays explaining that it is because of a profound moral regeneration rooted in the experience and study of history that the German ruling class traded its Prussian-spiked military helmets for the technocrat’s suit. But the source of this change lies in the pocketbook, not the history books and moral scriptures. Military and diplomatic entanglements are bad business if your strategy is centered on the export of industrial goods. More fundamentally, it is because the German capitalists have so far had a favorable economic and political position in post-Soviet Europe that they have “learned” to pursue their goals through economic rather than military means. Unfortunately, this success cannot last, and all the moral preaching in the world cannot solve the contradiction so aptly illustrated by Henry Kissinger: “Poor old Germany. Too big for Europe, too small for the world.” Those who would forget this “lesson of history” are in for a rude awakening.

The Subordination of the German Workers Movement to Liberalism

While the bourgeoisie of Auschwitz swears that it has morally regenerated and petty-bourgeois ideologues fully embrace this grotesque propaganda, the pill is harder to swallow for those who were and remain the victims of German imperialist exploitation. Crucially for the capitalists, German Social Democracy and pseudo-Marxists have been the staunchest converts to its new moral mission and have been more than happy to do the groundwork for its liberal crusade. Through propaganda, class collaboration and bribery, the German capitalists have rallied the labor movement to its objectives. This has been a crucial aspect of Germany’s economic success and political stability over the course of the last decades.

As the strategic interests of the German ruling class changed after 1989, so did the role and policies of the left. During the Cold War, the SPD loyally played its part in marshaling anti-Communism in the working class of West Germany and served as the Trojan horse for counterrevolution in the DDR. The rest of the workers movement followed in the SPD’s counterrevolutionary footsteps or capitulated to Stalinism (the Maoists succeed in doing both). The exception was, of course, the SpAD, which at the decisive moment fought against capitalist counterrevolution and for the reunification of Germany through socialist revolution in the West and political revolution in the East. The defeat of this perspective—for which the leaderships of the workers, East and West, hold central responsibility—led to capitalist reunification and the destruction of the Soviet Union.

This defeat had catastrophic consequences for the workers movement. In the East, the working class was demoralized and largely destroyed; in the West, it has faced a constant barrage of attacks on its living standards. A secondary consequence of the counterrevolution has been to change the center of gravity in the left, moving it away from the Russian question. During the Cold War, the splits within the workers movement in Germany (both between East and West and within the West) reflected the conflict of two antagonistic German states with rival modes of production. This is obviously no longer what explains divisions within the workers movement. Having a positive view of the DDR today—which much of the left has—is no longer a sharp dividing line because the DDR has been removed as a living threat to German capitalism. The Linkspartei is symptomatic of this change. It is a fusion of discontented left-wing SPD members and the remnants of the Stalinist bureaucracy. While many of their leaders stood on opposite sides of the Cold War, they are united today around a common program of left-liberal social-democratic reformism.

The destruction of the Soviet Union and the DDR meant the final rollback of the split between Communists and Social Democrats in Germany. In 1919, the founding of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) represented the division between the program of reform and the program of revolution. The split was maintained under the Stalinist Comintern, although it no longer embodied the program for revolution but the foreign policy of the Soviet Union’s bureaucratic caste. Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933 without any resistance from the KPD decisively showed that the party was dead as a revolutionary factor. When it was re-established following the victory of the Allies in World War II, the KPD was divided along the same lines as Germany. In East Germany, it became the main component of the ruling party. In West Germany and West Berlin, the KPD played a double role; it was on the one hand an agent of the DDR bureaucracy and on the other a minor component of the labor bureaucracy loyal to German imperialism. In West Germany, no matter how low the KPD (later renamed the DKP) stooped before German nationalism, it could not be reconciled with social democracy because of its connection to the October Revolution—a connection which lived only through the subsidies it received from the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracy. In the post-Soviet period, this cumbersome obstacle has been removed, enabling the entire German workers movement—extending all the way to leftovers of the Stalinist bureaucracy—to have a cozy spot along a right-left continuum of liberal reformism.

The leadership of the workers movement in Germany, whether it is the SPD, Linkspartei or trade-union bureaucracy, has been fully committed to the liberal orientation pursued by the German bourgeoisie for the last 30 years. This has been their new center of gravity. Underpinning the entire perspective of these organizations is that liberal bourgeois democracy and the post-World War II order are the essential guarantees against repeating the disasters of the 20th century. It is this deadly illusion that has served as the main propaganda tool to subordinate the proletariat to the interests of the bourgeoisie. The major policy changes made by German imperialism following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine have somewhat changed the contours of German liberalism but have not moved it away from its key pillars.

On the domestic level, the constitution is viewed by the organizations of the working class as the ultimate guarantee against “authoritarianism.” Unlike countries such as France or the U.S., where the left is often highly critical of the constitution, in Germany it is considered a sacred document. In fact, the SPD, Linkspartei and the pseudo-Marxists generally present themselves as the true defenders of the constitution. The false lesson pushed by these organizations is that the fight against fascism starts by stopping the incremental erosion of democracy in the state and society. Thus, fascism is understood not as a paramilitary mobilization of the petty bourgeoisie against the working class and minorities but as anything that is to the right of (former chancellor) Merkel-liberalism. The programmatic conclusion is generally to call on the state to crack down on the right wing and fascists within the state and in society.

The bourgeoisie and its agents have been very effective in mobilizing anti-fascist sentiment in the working class to rally support for “progressive” bourgeois forces in order to electorally defeat the “right.” These “fight the right” politics have been the political basis for multiple popular-front governments and a key prop for the stability of German imperialism. Unlike in France and Spain in the ’30s, or Chile in the ’70s, the recent German popular fronts have not constituted the last line of defense for the bourgeoisie before an insurgent proletariat but have been mere liberal coalition governments. Thus, it has been cheap for the left (and the SpAD) to oppose the formation of such governments. They have done so while at the same time capitulating to the “fight the right” program they are based on. For example, in 2017 the SPD youth group advocated that the SPD, by refurbishing its credentials in opposition to the government, could better stem the rise of the Alternative for Germany (AfD). The SpAD’s “No GroKo” (Grand Coalition) campaign accepted this premise, adding only leftist rhetoric. Such examples show how opposing the formation of a popular front in the current German context—while necessary—is not inherently revolutionary. The crucial task is to break the proletariat from the politics of the popular front and from its social-democratic leadership. To do this, it is necessary to concretely show how liberalism is itself one of the principal causes for the growth of reaction and how it paralyzes any working-class fight for its own independent interests.

In terms of foreign policy, the leaders of the workers movement present the European Union as the guarantor of peace in Europe. It is seen not as a tool for German imperialist exploitation but as proof that Germany has transformed into a benevolent power. If anything, the labor misleaders are among the most fanatic defenders of the EU. They raise the most strident cries against the right-wing governments of other EU countries—especially those oppressed by German imperialism—that do not bow down to liberalism and sometimes seek to assert national sovereignty against the EU. In Germany, defending the EU is a central pillar of “fighting the right.” For example, the SPD agreed to join yet another GroKo in 2018 with the explicit goal of ensuring political stability in the EU against right-wing populist forces. The criticisms of the EU from the left—generally from the Linkspartei and pseudo-Marxists—are always based on holding the bourgeoisie accountable to the liberal utopian myths the EU was founded on: open borders, no militarism, a social Europe, etc. These “criticisms” are thus nothing more than a thin liberal veneer for their social-chauvinist support to German imperialism’s main instrument of foreign domination.

The campaigns by the leadership of the workers movement and the left for “pacifism,” “democracy,” “never again war, never again fascism” have been totally in line with the orientation of German imperialism, currently geared not toward military domination but toward economic domination of the domestic and European proletariat. As the left looked over their shoulder and saw the German capitalists proclaiming the same noble values as themselves, they were convinced that it was due to their own efforts. Excited and convinced they were the riders and the bourgeoisie the horse of this bloc, they resolved to redouble their collaboration toward the great liberal project of German imperialism. Now that the German bourgeoisie isn’t so committed to disarmament after all, the left is stunned and disoriented.

Over the last decades, the SPD has played a central role at the national level in running German imperialism, directly enforcing massive attacks against the working class domestically and abroad. Generally, the Linkspartei is nothing but a slightly left version of the SPD. Its main function is to serve as a harmless exhaust pipe for working-class discontent. There are two differences with the SPD that are nonetheless noteworthy. The first is the Linkspartei’s origins coming in part from the East German Socialist Unity Party. This means that no matter how much the Linkspartei is ready to crawl before bourgeois liberalism, it will never be considered by the bourgeoisie as a truly respectable party. The other important difference is the Linkspartei’s tepid opposition to NATO. While its position is based on sound German liberalism, i.e., that one must oppose militarism—especially bad American militarism—it happens to clash with the very pillar of German liberalism: U.S. military domination of Europe. This pacifist anti-Americanism is totally acceptable in good liberal company, but it is not acceptable in government nor is it acceptable when there is an actual conflict—as the war in Ukraine graphically illustrates. These differences are, however, not of a qualitative programmatic nature, and the politics of the left wing of the SPD largely overlaps with the right wing of the Linkspartei.

The utter subordination of the workers movement to the liberal bourgeoisie is as much a factor contributing to the economic success of German imperialism as it is itself conditioned by this success. Put simply, the German bourgeoisie can afford to pay for complex class-collaborationist schemes, which have enabled it to drive down working conditions with a minimum of social conflict. Attacks against the workers are often agreed to by the plant councils and unions. Although there is much talk in the left about militant trade unionism, the left universally considers institutionalized class collaboration such as the co-management system and the dock worker dispatching agencies in the harbors as working-class gains.

The relative social stability enabled by class collaboration has been very profitable for German capitalists and is seen as a worthwhile investment for most of them. Unlike some of its imperialist rivals, Germany has maintained a large industrial working class, an important layer of which retains relatively high living standards. This upper layer receives a portion of German imperialist superprofits, while the exploitation of the lower layers of the working class has intensified through the use of tier systems and subcontracting. This increased fragmentation and differentiation in the working class has been directly enabled and overseen by the trade-union bureaucracy, which sacrifices the interests of the working class as a whole for the short-term sectoral interests of certain strata. This direct corruption serves as lubricant for the total ideological alignment of the leadership of the workers movement with the aims and interests of German imperialism. However, this system of class collaboration and bribery—just like the entire liberal edifice on which German imperialism is built—is being undermined by the very elements that were the source of its strength.

The Breakdown of Post-Soviet Stability and the Tasks of Communists

“In the present crisis, German capitalism reveals itself as the weakest link for the diametrically opposite reason [compared to Russia—ed.]: precisely because it is the most advanced capitalist system in the conditions of the European impasse. As the productive forces of Germany become more and more highly geared, the more dynamic power they gather, the more they are strangled within the state system of Europe—a system that is akin to the ‘system’ of cages within an impoverished provincial zoo. At every turn in the conjuncture of events German capitalism is thrown up against those problems which it had attempted to solve by means of war.”

—Trotsky, What Next? (1932)

Despite all the talk about European integration and unity, the truth is that none of the contradictions that led to the two world wars in Europe have been solved—nor can they be under capitalism. The Cold War division of Europe, as well as U.S. imperialist hegemony, made it possible for the conflicts between the capitalist states of Europe to be temporarily suppressed but did nothing to eliminate them. The constant struggle between the imperialists to redivide the world inexorably leads to war. Moreover, the fractured nature of Europe—divided into myriad capitalist states with conflicting economic, political and national interests—gives conflicts on the continent a particularly explosive character. As the relative power of the United States in the world declines, the tensions within Europe will increase. As before, Germany will find itself in the eye of the storm.

Pax Americana has been the foundation stone on which postwar—and, in particular, post-Cold War—German imperialism built up its domination of Europe. As explained earlier, it enabled relative political stability in Europe and the world, allowed for increasingly open markets for goods and capital and minimized the expenditure on the armed forces. In this context, the transatlantic alliance has been extremely beneficial to Germany. However, this positive dynamic has now begun to reverse, and Germany is being increasingly squeezed and constrained by the requirements of this alliance.

For one thing, the cost of the U.S. calling the shots has been increasing for Germany. The burden of American conflicts is being shouldered disproportionately by Germany. Trump’s cancelation of the Iran deal meant European firms lost a lot of money, while the Americans were basically unaffected. The conflict in Ukraine, in both its previous version and even more so now, comes at a much greater price to Germany than to the U.S. The increasing tensions with China will also come at a relatively greater cost to Germany, which is more reliant on the Chinese market than the U.S.

On top of this, the weakening of U.S. hegemony means the benefits it accorded to Germany will be reduced. Protectionism and supply-chain breakdowns are on the rise and will probably increase much more. This is obviously bad news for an economy centered on exports. Political instability in the world will also continue to increase dramatically in the coming years, meaning Germany can no longer get away with a minimal military budget. As the costs of the transatlantic alliance increase and the benefits decrease, German imperialism will once again start feeling the familiar squeeze that comes with not calling the shots on the world stage. Being the leading power in Europe, Germany will not accept being in such an uncomfortable position indefinitely. More and more, it will contemplate the option of making a renewed play for its place in the sun—knowing full well how high the costs of failure are.

A prevailing illusion in the social-democratic left is that Germany could somehow withdraw from the transatlantic alliance without major consequences. It could thus play a more peaceful role internationally and could get out of the geopolitical cross fire by becoming non-aligned. Longtime SPD politician Klaus Von Dohnanyi argues along these lines in his bestselling book National Interests: “Ultimately, Europe’s goal must be a position of neutrality towards alliances. For those who can no longer defend themselves effectively against a stronger party, it is always safer not to get involved in the conflicts of larger powers and also not to be bound by an alliance.” The DKP’s version of this is reflected in its call for “Peace with Russia! Out of NATO!” Although the war in Ukraine has temporarily poured cold water on such proposals, they show that there is already a certain sentiment toward breaking the link with U.S. imperialism. But it took two world wars and the Cold War for the U.S. to establish its dominance over Europe; to think it would simply let a German-dominated Europe slip out of its control is pure naivety. And to think all of “Europe” would want to follow the Germans down this route is pure imperial arrogance. The U.S.’s military supremacy in Europe has been the only thing stopping the continent from tearing itself apart once more. Any deep change in the nature of the transatlantic alliance is sure to have dramatic and violent consequences.

The liberal-nationalist myth underlying views such as those expressed above is that a German-led alliance, unlike the U.S.-led one, would be a force for peace. One would think that two attempts at conquering Europe militarily would lead most to be wary of this, but for German ideologues it is precisely this fact that is used as the main argument to rule out future military adventures! Germany has, after all, “learned from history.” Hergried Münkler tries to give a realist twist to this liberal drivel in his book Power in the Center:

“Independent from the fact that this policy failed the first time and led to catastrophe the second time, Germany no longer has an excess of military power, and as things stand, this will no longer be the case. In addition, as explained above, the value of military power has fallen significantly. In this respect, those who continue to warn against the militarization of German foreign policy are fighting against a constellation of the past. Today’s Germany, on the other hand, is a deeply post-heroic society.”

War has the ability of showing what is rotten, and the war in Ukraine has quickly swept three decades of such pacifist propaganda into the dustbin of history.

The left, which has indeed been warning about the threat of militarism, has not fared any better. The theory was that “never again war and fascism” would be achieved by making sure Germany upheld liberal values and pacifism. Suddenly with the war in Ukraine, the liberal position that EU-aligned Ukraine must be armed to the teeth against authoritarian Russia clashes with the pacifist utopian position that weapons are bad and cause conflict. Faced with the choice of giving up their hypocritical anti-imperialist stance or defending themselves against the openly pro-imperialist agents in the workers movement who are on the offensive, the left has so far opted for the time-tested strategy of putting their heads in the sand. Their answer is to cosmetically patch up the divide by repeating yesterday’s pacifist slogans, unable to understand why their calls suddenly clash with bourgeois respectability. With no strong dissenting voice, the general mood in the country has been largely in favor of the government position of rearmament and full military support to Ukraine. So far, the misleaders of the working class have faced little pushback in mobilizing behind German imperialism in the Ukraine war. However, as the conflict drags on, and the costs to the working class pile up, this unity is bound to crack.

Though significant, the war in Ukraine is only one of many factors leading German imperialism into its familiar corner. The pressure is slowly rising on multiple fronts. Tensions within the EU are bound to erupt anew once the initial political impact of the Ukraine war eases and the economic crisis hits again with a vengeance. Although largely ignored in the media, issues such as the military conflicts in the Sahel, the Near East and Libya, as well as the impending famine throughout the neocolonial world, will necessarily have deep political repercussions in Europe. It will also be impossible to stay clear of the economic and political fallout from the growing conflict between the U.S. and China.

On the economic front, the situation is gloomy. The European economy was already in a bad state before the pandemic, the rise of inflation and the war in Ukraine. Germany is far behind its competitors when it comes to digital technology. Its heavy industry sector, which has been at the heart of its success, is starting to lag as well. For example, German car manufacturers are scrambling to catch up with the Americans and Chinese in the production of electric vehicles. The latter have made good use of their economic ties with Germany to copy a number of its industrial techniques and technology. This increased competition is occurring in a context where Germany has committed more of its resources toward the military and where the best-case scenario is low growth. The Chinese market, which has been German industry’s main prospect for growth, is becoming more competitive, more restrictive and is not growing as quickly as before. Looming over all of this is the decade-long policy of major central banks of “solving the economic crisis” by pumping huge amounts of cash into the financial markets. During the pandemic, they did this on an even larger scale to compensate for the shutdown of the economy. Sooner or later (probably sooner), the resulting financial bubbles will burst. Already, inflation is raging, and it is only a matter of time until the crisis evolves into a full-blown economic crash. Confronting this economic situation, the German capitalists’ only available option will be to further tighten the screws on its working class and on the rest of Europe.

Domestically, this will put the normal workings of class collaboration under increased pressure. There will be fewer crumbs available to bribe the progressively shrinking upper layers of the working class, potentially leading to a major confrontation with the powerful and well-organized German proletariat. Additionally, by being complicit for decades in the fragmentation and intensified exploitation of large parts of the working class, social democracy and the unions have been undermining the source of their political influence. This has already led to a gradual decline in electoral successes of the SPD and Linkspartei. It also leaves large sectors of the working class unorganized and highly exploited. This could prove a volatile and explosive situation in the context of a renewed capitalist offensive. Another factor of political instability is the grinding down of the petty bourgeoisie and the lumpenization of whole swaths of the country. This process has been longstanding and has now been accelerated by the pandemic and inflation. This will bring oil to the fire of right-wing populism. The AfD is in the best position to benefit from this, given that it has been the only real opposition to the liberal status quo.

On the international level, Germany will have to squeeze the rest of Europe to compensate for its own hardships. As the euro crisis already showed, this will undoubtedly provoke resistance from the oppressed countries of Europe as well as from the other imperialist powers, centrally France. However, Germany can do this only so much before the EU starts to shatter. If economic blackmail does not work, Germany will be confronted with the choice of either suffering economic and political blows or using military means to ensure its interests.

Before the looming tidal wave of economic chaos, class conflict, war and famine, the reformist left is running toward the shore hoping to convince the wave to recede peacefully. Their hope is that with a bit of economic struggle and pacifist and anti-racist demonstrations they can convince the German bourgeoisie to remember its commitment to liberalism and class collaboration. With every blow to the liberal status quo, the left has responded by holding on ever more frantically to the coattails of the supposedly progressive bourgeoisie, proposing adjustments that could make capitalism a little better. The SpAD has been complicit in promoting such reformist illusions, responding to the growing political turbulence and reaction by advocating for a more militant, anti-EU social democracy and trade-union bureaucracy.

In direct opposition to this course, the task of revolutionaries is to use the increasingly obvious bankruptcy of liberalism to bring about the demise of the capitalist system. Contrary to what is pushed by the left, the fundamental lesson of the ’30s is not that all must unite against fascism. Rather, it is that German imperialism needed war and fascism to break through the pressures coming from its powerful proletariat on the one side and from its second-tier place in the imperialist hierarchy on the other. As the pressure on Germany increases once more, the alternative faced in the past will loom ever closer. Again, the question facing the proletariat is going to be: Will it seize power and put an end to German imperialism or will barbarism once more be the answer?

The objective situation will push the working class toward revolution. However, this movement alone will not suffice. What history shows is that to fulfill its role as gravedigger of capitalism, the working class needs to liberate itself from the ideological hold of liberalism and break politically with social democracy. Just as it was necessary in 1914, the working class must throw out its pro-imperialist leadership and forge a new revolutionary party. The workers vanguard must be consciously led toward this struggle, organized around a revolutionary program. Breaking with its past practices, the SpAD’s duty is to elaborate the key planks of this program. It must make use of the convulsions in society and in the left to organize a revolutionary pole in opposition to social democracy. The sooner such a pole can be established, and the deeper its political foundations, the bigger its impact will be on the outcome of the upcoming struggles in Germany and internationally.