Election and Revolution
Publisher: Against the Current
Date Written: 01/07/2014
Year Published: 2014
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20791
A review of two volumes by August H. Nimtz: "Lenin's Electoral Strategy from Marx and Engels Through the Revolution of 1905" and "Lenin's Electoral Strategy from 1907 to the October Revolution of 1917".
In the development of the German workers' movement, Nimtz writes, "A successful breakthrough came in 1869 with the formation of an alternative that they [Marx and Engels] helped to nurture: the Social Democratic Workers Party. It was able to win two seats -- held by August Bebel and Karl Liebknecht -- in the Reichstag [German Parliament], the best example of independent working class political action."
In a debate within the First International on the efficacy of electoral action after the 1871 Franco-Prussian war, Engels wrote a letter to some Spanish supporters: "'When during the [Franco-Prussian War] Bebel and Liebknecht embarked on the struggle against it, and to disclaim responsibility on behalf of the working class with regard to what was happening -- the whole of Germany was shaken, and even Munich
was the scene of great demonstrations demanding an end to the war."'
Engels describes an excellent example of the fusion of the parliamentary and street arenas. After 1890, however, the separation and compartmentalization of these arenas was a sign of the political weakening of the German party, coupled with attraction of its parliamentary group to compromises with the representatives of big commercial and industrial capital.
The outcome was the political collapse of the party at the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. Rather than organize antiwar actions in both arenas, the leaders of the German Social Democrats led the workers into the slaughterhouse of the Kaiser's war. Nimtz's sketch of this rise and fall is appropriate reading for anti-austerity activists today.