ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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KPD and Fascism

In the article by Prabhat Patnaik“Social Counter-Revolution” published in Frontline (13 June 2014), we have an excellent analysis of the factors which have contributed to the victory of the extreme religious-political right in the recently held general elections in India. Patnaik has acutely underlined the caste-class interplay cleverly manipulated by the Bharatiya Janata Party aided by the corporate sector and the media. All this is admirable. However, there are, regrettably, two important omissions which deserve attention. First, there is no mention of the role of the Indian communist parties in the victory of the far right, absolutely none on their own catastrophic defeat in the elections.Secondly, the writer has completelyleft aside the role of the Communist Party of Germany (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands, KPD) in the rise and victory of the Nazi Party when he writes that “the entire Berlin region where the German working class is concentrated had still overwhelmingly elected the communists and social democrats. Such was the strength and resilience of class-based organisations”. This deserves a critical comment.

The victory of the Nazis occurred in a period which was qualified by the Russian and the Comintern leaderships as the “third period of the general crisis of capitalism”, a new epoch of class struggles and civil wars favourable to proletarian revolution. The Sixth Congress of the Comintern (1928) laid down the tasks corresponding to the new situation, epitomised by the “Class against Class” formula. In this “maturing revolutionary situation”, it was emphasised, the social democrats were the “principal enemy” of the working class. Bukharin opposed this, warning against what he considered a “sectarian” line. In the same Congress, Palmiro Togliatti, opposing Ernst Thaelmann, general secretary of the KPD, held that social democracy was a movement based on workers and petty bourgeoisie and drew its main force from the labouring masses. In 1929, Togliatti had to follow the party line and abandoned his earlier critical position. In the July 1928 Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the majority, including Stalin, thought that the advanced capitalist countries were on the eve of proletarian revolution, refusing all collaboration with the social democrats. Opposing this, Bukharin held that the European social democratic parties and their trade unions had with them the immense majority of workers, and that it would be a grave error to dismiss them as “social fascists” and denouncing them as the main enemy. (In 1930, Trotsky, already exiled, to his great credit, spoke of the “absurd idea” according to which fascism could not be defeated without first defeating social democracy. Addressing the social democratic workers, he urged them to tell their party to engage in a real struggle for a social democratic state. “We will be by your side. We will pledge not to undertake revolutionary actions which go beyond the limits of democracy.”)

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