Communist Party Opposition

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Against the current , KPD-O magazine, Berlin 1929

The Communist Party Opposition (also KPD opposition ; KPD-O , KPDO or KPO for short ) was a split from the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) that emerged in 1929 .

Origin 1929/30

On the instructions of the Communist International , the KPD leadership around Ernst Thälmann , Philipp Dengel and Heinz Neumann made an “ultra-left” turn in 1928 and concentrated its struggle on the “main enemy” SPD ( social fascism thesis ). The former KPD chairmen Heinrich Brandler and August Thalheimer rejected this course. They also criticized the policy of forming a Revolutionary Trade Union Opposition (RGO) alongside the official trade unions and, in general, the subordination of the KPD to the CPSU . The internal development in the Soviet Union began to be criticized later in exile with the Moscow trials . Brandler and Thalheimer advocated a united front , the common struggle of the SPD and KPD against National Socialism, and were therefore expelled from the KPD. They then founded the KPD opposition, but it remained a small splinter group with 3,000–4,000 members. The membership was made up of union officials, local politicians and intellectuals (e.g. Heinrich Blücher ). There were strongholds in Saxony , Thuringia - in Neuhaus am Rennweg and Oelsnitz the party with Otto Engert and Otto Karl Bachmann provided the mayors -, Hesse and Württemberg . In Oberhausen and elsewhere, a number of prominent KPD trade unionists joined the KPO in protest against the KPD's RGO policy. The high proportion of intellectuals and experienced politicians meant that the supporters of the KPO as a whole acted less out of dogmatism than those of the KPD.

The KPO belonged with some related groups u. a. in Sweden, the USA, France and Switzerland to the International Association of Communist Opposition (IVKO), which, however, had disintegrated by 1939/40. The KPO published the newspaper Arbeiterpolitik , which appeared several times a week , as well as several regional newspapers and the high-level theoretical organ Gegen den Strom , while the IVKO published the magazine Der Internationale Klassekampf, mainly under the leadership of the KPO . The youth association KJO issued the young fighters .

KPO and SAP 1931

In autumn 1931 a minority of the KPO members around Paul Frölich , Jacob Walcher and August Enderle, including the groups represented in local parliaments in Offenbach am Main around Heinrich Galm and in Geesthacht around August Ziehl, joined the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (SAP) , a left-wing socialist party Split of the SPD, where the former KPO members influenced the party's politics due to their great political experience.

Illegality from 1933

The KPO was initially able to continue operating in 1933, as it had prepared for work in illegality. Many members had such experiences from the time of the First World War and the KPD ban in 1923/24, and unlike the KPD leadership, the KPO had realistically assessed the extent and brutality of the persecution that was now beginning. Thanks to the KPD's archive on the “enemy brothers”, the Gestapo was later able to smash the KPO's structures. Nevertheless, many supporters of the KPO, mostly together with z. T. Social Democrats and other communists, the Nazi regime to the end resistance. The National Socialist terror was constantly tightened and intensified, so that the KPD-O also had to make many sacrifices. An incomplete overview in “Against the Current” (2001) counted 303 members who were convicted by the courts and 63 dead, some of whom were forcibly declared worthy of military service from imprisonment for the duration of the war and died on the fronts.

Exile and disintegration

The leadership of the KPO around Brandler and Thalheimer fled into exile, some members fought in the ranks of the POUM militia in the Spanish civil war , and two experts worked in the aircraft construction there. At the beginning of 1937, all KPD-O volunteers were arrested as counter-revolutionaries ; they were only released when the guards fled from the victorious fascist troops and the prison gates opened. Some of the prisoners had previously been released thanks to the intervention of the ILP leader Archibald Fenner Brockway .

In exile, the KPO received constant material support from Danish comrades and, at first, mainly from the US Independent Communist Labor League around Jay Lovestone . In 1938/39 the question of whether the Soviet Union and Comintern could still be reformed led to a break between Lovestone and the KPO. Disputes led to the split-off of a minority as a group of Marxist-Internationalists around the leadership members Erich Hausen and Hans Tittel .

After the beginning of the war in 1939/40, the foreign line was interned in France. Despite heightened difficulties, a Berlin committee continued to work in the Reich.

The political independence of the KPD-O was evident in the following problem complexes:

  1. Analysis of fascism, rejection of the social-fascism thesis, demand for a united front
  2. Rejection of the split in the free trade unions and the other non-partisan proletarian mass organizations, struggle for the political gain of their members for communism
  3. Intra-party democracy in the KPD, “reform of the Comintern to its head and members”, political and financial independence of the parties in the Comintern
  4. Critical solidarity with the Soviet Union.

Thalheimer's analysis of National Socialism

August Thalheimer had worked out a Marxist analysis of fascism in 1928, which was included in the KPD-O platform.

“Fascism is a form of rule of capitalism that secures its social power, but takes over the state apparatus in order to enforce the interests and goals of the bourgeoisie with all severity. His mass base are declassified elements of all classes, which he tries to mobilize with pseudo-socialist promises. "

Thalheimer made an analysis of the goals of German fascism , in which he judged National Socialism to be worse, more brutal, more aggressive than Italian fascism . Thalheimer declared that the real goal of the NSDAP was the "destruction of all workers' organizations in order to achieve a new division of the (still colonial) continents, if necessary with war." Therefore he called for the united front of all proletarian organizations that can prevent fascism.

"From the fascism analysis it follows:

  1. The social-fascism thesis is completely wrong and politically damaging because it turns the reformist-led majority of the working people into enemies of the communists;
  2. bourgeois democracy must be distinguished from the fascist form of capitalist rule - despite the possibility and danger of transition, because bourgeois democracy is "the best arena for socialism". "

The criticism of the CPSU was initially aimed only at the patronizing of the brother parties, from the beginning of 1929 on the repression of the opponents in the CPSU. It intensified with the increasing Stalinization of the CPSU and the intensification of the Stalinist terror. From 1935 the KPD-O protested against the popular front policy, because it included a renunciation of the revolutionary goals of the parties. She also opposed the influence of Spanish politics, because the renunciation of the continuation of the revolution would lead to the defeat of the revolution. At the beginning of the three Moscow show trials, the fourth of which was conducted in secret against the entire leadership of the Red Army, there was uncertainty about the “confessions” of the old Bolsheviks. After a brief, intense debate within the KPD-O, the Moscow trials were publicly protested. The protest intensified; In 1937 the dismissal of the Stalin leadership was demanded in the interests of the preservation of the SU and the defense against the growing imperialist threat.

After 1945

Theodor Bergmann , then a young comrade in the KPD opposition, published the book “Gegen den Strom” in 1987, in which he tells the story of the group. The Workers ' Policy Group (GAP), founded in 1947, and the Workers' Voice group, which split off from the latter in 1971, have a personal and programmatic continuity with the KPO . Both groups also sell KPO literature. Other communists who followed the tradition of the KPO joined the PDS after 1990 . Some former KPO members, such as Philipp Pless , joined the SPD. In the area of ​​the later GDR , many former KPO members joined the KPD or the SED after 1945 . They were willing to help build socialism, but rejected the Soviet occupation policy . Almost without exception, they were released from their functions around 1950 as part of internal party purges.

The KPO also included the well-known cultural historian Eduard Fuchs and at times the political scientists Wolfgang Abendroth and Richard Löwenthal , the literary scholar Hans Mayer and the later Senator for the Interior and second mayor of Bremen, Adolf Ehlers .

See also


  • Isaac Abusch: Memories and Thoughts of an Opposition Communist. Edited by Joachim Kowalczyk. Decaton-Verlag, Mainz 1994, ISBN 3-929455-17-X .
  • Jens Becker : The resistance of the KPD-O in fascism ( Podium progressive 8, ZDB -ID 2279484-0 ). PDS Rhineland-Palatinate - Left List Mainz, Mainz 1992.
  • Jens Becker: Heinrich Brandler. A political biography. VSA-Verlag, Hamburg 2001, ISBN 3-87975-767-4 (at the same time: Gießen, Universität, Dissertation, 2001).
  • Theodor Bergmann : "Against the Current". The history of the KPD (opposition). 2nd edition, revised and expanded new edition. VSA-Verlag, Hamburg 2001, ISBN 3-87975-836-0 .
  • Theodor Bergmann, Wolfgang Haible: The Thalheimer siblings. Sketches of their life and politics. Decaton-Verlag, Mainz 1993, ISBN 3-929455-12-9 .
  • Marcel Bois: The tradition is preserved. Communist opposition in Silesia before 1933. In: Cornelia Domaschke, Daniela Fuchs-Frotscher, Günter Wehner (eds.): Resistance and loss of home. German anti-fascists in Silesia (= Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. Texts. 73). Dietz, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-320-02278-5 , pp. 107–123, (PDF; 1.9 MB).
  • Paul Elflein: Still a communist? Memories. Edited by Rolf Becker and Claus Bremer. VSA, Hamburg 1978, ISBN 3-87975-157-9 .
  • Jan Foitzik: Between the fronts. On the politics, organization and function of left-wing political small organizations in the resistance 1933 to 1939/40 , Bonn 1986, ISBN 3878314396 .
  • Hans Mayer : A German on withdrawal. Memories. Volume 1. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1982, ISBN 3-518-03646-7 .
  • Karl Hermann Tjaden : Structure and function of the "KPD opposition" (KPO). An organizational sociological study of the “right” opposition in German communism at the time of the Weimar Republic (= Marburg treatises on political science. Vol. 4, ISSN  0542-6480 ). Hain, Meisenheim am Glan 1964.
  • Walter Uhlmann : Metal workers in the anti-fascist resistance (= contributions on the subject of resistance. 21, ISSN  0175-3592 ). State Center for Civic Education, Berlin 1982, (report by a former KPD-O member on illegal company work in Berlin 1933–1937, as a PDF file (2.76 MB) here ).

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