Freedom (USPD)

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USPD leaflet advertising the newspaper "Die Freiheit"

The freedom was a party newspaper the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD). It appeared from 1918 to 1922 and again from 1928 to 1931.


The USPD published a number of periodicals . During the war, the SPD party press was firmly in the hands of the SPD party executive. Editors who opposed the Burgfriedenskurs were fired. The situation of the opposition press was therefore critical. An exception was the Leipziger Volkszeitung , which was not accessible to the SPD through its legal form of a stock corporation. In the Berlin area, the USPD only had the small newsletter of the Association of Social Democratic Electoral Associations in Berlin and the Surrounding Area on its side , which has been published since 1906 . The Mitteilungsblatt is often given as the predecessor of Freedom , although the two papers existed in parallel until the end of 1918.


The newspaper first appeared on November 15, 1918 under the title Die Freiheit with the addition "Berlin Organ of the Independent Social Democracy of Germany". Freedom appeared daily in the morning and afternoon and once a day on the weekend. The newspaper was de facto the central organ of the USPD and also the daily newspaper in Berlin. The provisional editor-in-chief was Siegfried Nestriepke , a former editor of the “ Vorwärts ”, but who resigned at the end of 1918 after the press commission had criticized him. The press commission was occupied by the USPD, and corresponds to today's control bodies in newspaper publishers to enforce the publishing line. The successor as the responsible editor was Alfred Wielepp , who had been the responsible editor of "Vorwärts" for many years. Rudolf Hilferding became the chief editor . Paper rationing made the paper four pages thin, since the reference year for the paper allocation was from 1915, which was the year of the lowest circulation in the Social Democratic press. Other USPD newspapers that were taken away from the SPD during the split had to support freedom with paper quotas. The problem of the latent lack of paper also had the "Vorwärts" despite the government power of the SPD.

From January 1919, the newspaper traded as "Freiheit" , omitting the article. The newspaper had a loan of 30,000 marks as start-up capital. In January 1919 the publishing cooperative "Freiheit" eGmbH was founded in order to act as the carrier of the newspaper and a bookstore from March 1st. Any adult party member who held a share of 20 Marks could become a member, up to a maximum of 1000 Marks. Each member had only one vote regardless of their shares. There were other USPD newspapers in the Reich with the same name as the "Freiheit" in Königsberg. or in Braunschweig. There were KPD newspapers of the same name in Hanau and Düsseldorf.

During Hilferding's leadership, the paper rose to one of the most widely read in Berlin in 1919. The number of editions varies: At the beginning, the sheet had a print run of between 30,000 and 65,000 copies. For April 1919 170,600 copies were reported, others estimated 223,000 to 275,000 copies sold for June 1919. After 1920, the party lost some of its readers due to the split in the USPD.

However, Hilferding was already criticized at the party congress of the USPD in Leipzig in December 1919: " Hilferding lets them [ Kautsky and Ströbel ] write leading articles that supply weapons for the opponents .." and Curt Geyer complained that he had " confusion in the minds of the Workers carried ”.


In connection with the massacre before the Reichstag on January 13, 1920 , the “ Red Flag ” and “Freedom” were banned and could not appear again until February 9. At the same time, a party expulsion process against Kautsky and Hilferding was unsuccessful. During the Kapp Putsch , all Berlin newspapers were suspended from March 14th to 22nd.

In December 1920 the USPD split for the first time when its large left wing joined the Communist International and with it its German section, the KPD . For a period of about two years, the KPD also operated under the additional name United Communist Party of Germany (VKPD). During this time Die Internationale appeared first as the central organ of the USPD, and in the first month after the establishment of the VKPD until the end of December 1920 as an additional party newspaper of the VKPD - alongside its official party organ, Die Rote Fahne .

The cause of the split were the 21 conditions . These conditions set by the Soviet Union were the prerequisite for the entry of the USPD into the Comintern, which the USPD had been negotiating since the early summer of 1920. " All press organs that are in the hands of the party must be edited by reliable communists (...) The periodical and non-periodical press and all party publishers must be completely subordinated to the Central Committee of the party (...) It is inadmissible that the publishers abuse their autonomy and pursue a policy that does not quite correspond to the policy of the party (...) Every organization that wants to join the Communist International must be systematically removed from all positions of responsibility in the labor movement (in the party organizations, editorial offices, ( ...)) Remove the reformists and supporters of the 'center' and put in their place tried and tested communists, without considering the fact that at first one will sometimes have to replace 'experienced leaders' with simple workers. “In the debate about the 21 conditions of the Comintern with the aim of merging the USPD with the KPD , Hilferding spoke out early on in freedom against joining the Third International. The same attitude followed the entire sheet. About 80 contributions on the topic appeared during the debate. Two thirds of them were negative. Rudolf Breitscheid , Oskar Cohn , Arthur Crispien (“Suicide”), Robert Dißmann , Karl Kautsky and Georg Ledebour spoke out against accepting the conditions . Nevertheless, the Berlin district, which was jointly responsible for appointing the press commission, decided to accept the 21 conditions. On September 28, 1920, the editorial staff had to print a narrow majority decision of the press commission in the morning edition, which expressed their distrust. Vorwärts commented on the process with the words: “It looks like the editorial team is fighting for a lost position. According to the Moscow dictate, it will soon have to give way to convinced communists. ” On September 30th, the press commission decided to replace the editorial team with 12 votes to 8 and one abstention. The editors were fired except for the column head Erich Baron . The editors did not follow this decision and pointed out that the board of directors of the publishing cooperative could raise an objection and that a decision would have to be made in a joint meeting. The “Vorwärts”: “Within the independent [-social-democratic] press, in turn, 'freedom' is the most valuable booty. For weeks the directions have been tugging this sheet back and forth like two dogs on a bone. ” On October 9, 1920, the board of directors of the supervisory board and the works council rejected the dismissals and reprimanded the chairman of the press commission, Paul Schwenk , for his actions. After the split in the party, the typesetters struck the newspaper and could only be persuaded to give in by threatening to resign without notice.


From 1921 onwards, due to the worsening situation and the election defeats, the editorial staff of the “Freiheit” took the view that a separate party on the left of the SPD was superfluous. The break came when the editorial team suggested at the end of 1921 that the "bourgeois" coalition of Reich Chancellor Wirth be temporarily supported. For this they were criticized by Ledebour , Crispien and Dittmann , and defended by Kautsky . On other political issues such as the Berlin community workers' strike, the editors had no supporters in party leadership or grassroots for their views. They wrote articles in the first quarter of 1922 that few in the party approved. The authorities demanded that the editors recognize the resolutions of the Leipzig party congress of 1922. A party expulsion procedure was initiated against the editor Liebschütz because he wanted to switch to the Frankfurter SPD newspaper “Volksstimme”. At the same time, the newspaper's economic situation deteriorated as a result of inflation. The newspaper published the dollar-mark exchange rate daily in thick bars. The newspaper struggled with rising paper prices. The printing works had to be sold to the Litfaß Erben company and the property to the Reichsbank . From March 13th, the newspaper had to be printed in a printing company that had previously produced the Rote Fahne , after a private printing company had withdrawn in breach of contract and negotiations with the “Vorwärts” had failed. On March 24, 1922, the Hilferding editorial team was reprimanded by the central management, the party council and the press commission for not following the party's course. Dittmann called Hilferding a hopeless pessimist who ran the newspaper too much as a theorist and too little as a fighting organ. The newspaper then announced the resignation of the editors: "The editors of 'Freiheit' drew the consequences of the no-confidence vote of the central bodies and made their offices available to the Berlin party leadership and press commission." With this announcement, Hilferding resigned as editor-in-chief, as did the All but one of the editors followed this step.

Wilhelm Dittmann then became editor-in-chief . Ernst Reuter was among the newly hired editors . The former editors Paul Hertz and Eugen Prager confessed to the union of the USPD and SPD in Rudolf Breitscheid's magazine “Der Sozialist”. The new newspaper editors themselves swung into the course of reunification with the SPD after the republic was shaken in June by the Femeattentat on Philipp Scheidemann and Walther Rathenau. After the USPD had largely reunited with the SPD, the newspaper that was brought in was discontinued in favor of " Vorwärts ".

After 1922 to 1931

The USPD members who did not join the SPD continued the party organ “class struggle”. Under the name "Freedom", a USPD magazine appeared again in the period from December 2, 1928 to the end of September 1931. In 1931, the USPD dissolved. Most of its remaining members joined the newly founded Socialist Workers' Party of Germany, which emerged from a left-wing SPD split .

Contemporary criticism

Carl von Ossietzky attacked Hilferding's newspaper conception sharply in his analysis for Das Tage-Buch in 1924 :

[Rudolf Hilferding] was the leader of 'Freiheit' at a time when the 'Vorwärts', coupled with the Noske policy, was silting up. He did not see the unbelievably favorable, never recurring chance of creating a spiritually representative organ of German socialism here. He did not recognize the paragraphs on a completely new socialist journalism in his own paper, let alone cultivated them. The talents migrated; the press commission put everything back into the lines of that traditional populism which makes the bulk of the social-democratic press in Germany so intolerable for readers of taste claims and which gives bourgeois competition a distinct preponderance. One day Hilferding walked away in silence. And soon afterwards his creation, 'freedom', recommended itself even more quietly. "

- Carl von Ossietzky : Rudolf Hilferding - the man without a shadow . In: Das Tage-Buch, July 5, 1924, p. 924.

Kurt Tucholsky issued a sarcastic "certificate of service" for Hilferding as editor-in-chief of the paper in a gloss in the Weltbühne in 1925 :

" Dr. Rudolf Hilferding was sent to the editorial office of Freedom from the Reich Association to Combat Social Democracy. He managed to run down the dangerous paper in two years to such an extent that it was no longer possible to speak of either a paper or a danger. "

- Kurt Tucholsky : references . In: Die Weltbühne , March 3, 1925, p. 329

editorial staff


Editing until March 27, 1922

Editorial office from March 27, 1922 to September 30, 1922

Other employees


  • Gerhard Eisfeld, Kurt Koszyk : The press of the German social democracy. A bibliography. 2nd, revised and expanded edition. Verlag Neue Gesellschaft, Bonn 1980, ISBN 3-87831-325-X .
  • Ilse Fischer, Rüdiger Zimmermann : “Dressing our longing in words”. Eugen Prager (1876–1942). The life path of a social democratic journalist. Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung - Historical Research Center, Bonn 2005, ISBN 3-89892-417-3 , digital version (PDF; 5.1 MB) .
  • Kurt Koszyk: Between the Empire and the dictatorship. The social democratic press from 1914 to 1933 (= Deutsche Presseforschung. Vol. 1, ISSN  0933-2995 ). Quelle & Meyer, Heidelberg 1958.
  • Walther G. Oschilewski : Newspapers in Berlin. In the mirror of the centuries. Haude and Spener, Berlin 1975, ISBN 3-7759-0159-0 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. The entry on Hypress indicates March 1919.
  2. ^ Advertisement for the establishment of the publishing cooperative in the " Freiheit ", February 15, 1919.
  3. Party Congress Berlin 2./6. March 1919. Directory of party newspapers. In: Minutes of the party congresses of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany. Volume 1: 1917/19. Auvermann, Glashütten im Taunus 1975, ZDB -ID 578339-2 , p. 272.
  4. ^ Kurt Koszyk, Gerhard Eisfeld: Die Presse der Deutschen Sozialdemokratie. A bibliography. Verlag für Literatur und Zeitgeschehen, Hannover 1966, p. 83.
  5. ^ Gerhard Schulz : Between Democracy and Dictatorship. Volume 1: The period of consolidation and revision of the Bismarckian Reich construction 1919–1930. 2nd, revised and supplemented edition. de Gruyter, Berlin et al. 1987, ISBN 3-11-011558-1 , p. 77.
  6. after Alexander Stein : "Farewell", freedom of September 30, 1922, following him Oschilewski: Newspapers in Berlin. 1975, p. 138.
  7. entry to Hypress using figures from the ALA
  8. The International. Central organ of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD). No. 1 - No. 37 (October 27, 1920 - December 7, 1920) and organ of the United Communist Party of Germany (VKPD) No. 38 - No. 60 (December 8, 1920 - December 31, 1920). Emphasis. Materialismus-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1974.
  9. ^ Resolution of the Second World Congress of the Communist International (Comintern) on the conditions for admission to the Communist International, August 6, 1920; quoted after the translation of the project " 100 (0) documents " on the webpage of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek .
  10. Robert F. Wheeler: On the split of the USPD in the fall of 1920. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte . Vol. 23, No. 2, 1975, pp. 117–154, here pp. 133, 135, digitized version (PDF; 5.75 MB) .
  11. ^ Heinrich August Winkler : From the revolution to stabilization. Workers and the labor movement in the Weimar Republic. 1918 to 1924. Dietz Nachf., Berlin et al. 1984, ISBN 3-8012-0093-0 , p. 484 f.
  12. DNB