A German Lenin?
Book Review of "In the Steps of Rosa Luxemburg: Selected Writings of Paul Levi" edited by David Fernbach

Post, Charlie

Publisher:  Against the Current
Date Written:  01/01/2014
Year Published:  2014  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20354

A review of the compiled writings of Paul Levi, a leading figure in the German Communist movement.



Levi is one of the most controversial figures in the history of western Communism. He has alternatively been praised as a potential "German Lenin" and condemned as a "scab" and a "left social democrat… resistant to Leninism and democratic centralism."

David Fernbach provides English speaking audiences for the first time with some of Levi's key political writings from 1918 through his death in 1930. Together with Fernbach's excellent biographical introduction, these writings provide the beginnings of a basis for assessing Levi's politics, his role in the formation of the German revolutionary left and his enduring political legacy.

In the essays and letter in the first part,"Leading the KPD," we can trace Levi’s role in transforming the KPD into a mass party -- the largest Communist party outside of Soviet Russia.

Allying with Lenin and the ostensible majority of the Communist International (Comintern) in late 1919 and early 1920, Levi elaborated on the arguments in Lenin's Left Wing-Communism: An Infantile Disorder, pushing the KPD to seek unity with the working-class left-wing of the USPD, and to build a revolutionary alternative to the SPD in the electoral arena and in the reformist dominated unions and factory committees.

In April 1920 the Left Communists were expelled from the KPD and formed the splinter Communist Workers Party (KAPD). Levi was able to lead the KPD into a successful unification with the left-wing of the USPD in December 1920, transforming the KPD into a mass party of over 400,000 members (sometimes called the VKPD, Unified Communist Party of Germany).

The newly united KPD pioneered the strategy of the "united front" in the west. Through common actions against capital and the state over immediate economic and political issues, unified working class struggles would become more widespread, powerful and radical; and the limits of the reformist party and union leaders to even effectively defend the workers' past gains could be demonstrated in practice.

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