This book analyzes how a sizable group of Gennan workers came to support Communism and how they in turn influenced the emergence and development of the German Communist Party (KPD) in its fonnative period as a mass party. It reconstructs the interaction between a party and the constituency to which it appealed within the constraints and opportunities set by social structures, econo mic conditions, and political competitors. This interaction revolved around the elaboration and implementation of a specific concept of revolutionary politics, and this study investigates both the rise of the KPD as a mass party and its failure to set off a socialist revolution in the early 1920s in light of the contradictory ways German workers responded to its revolutionary strategy. When I began to study the KPD in the mid 1970s, scholarly works in the West portrayed a party so out of touch with the realities of German life from 1918 to 1933 that its history was a litany of political mistakes that led from crisis to catastrophe. The KPD was dominated by the foreign policy interests of the Soviet Union, by factional disputes and personal rivalries among the leadership, by an authoritarian, centralized party structure that stifled rank-and-file initiative and imposed a party line determined in Moscow and Berlin, and by a rigid ideology largely irrelevant to trends in German economy, society, and politics with at best compensatory value for a minority of the most impoverished workers.
About the Author
Larry Peterson (1949) received a PhD from Columbia University in 1979, and has been Managing Editor of Comparative Politics since 1983. He published widely about German, American, and comparative labor history.
Table of ContentsIntroduction. 1. Labor Unions and the German Left before 1920. Part One: The KPD, the labor Unions, and Economic Movements in Rhineland-Westphalia, 1920--1924. 2. The Unified KPD's Offensive in the Unions and the March Action: Birthpangs of an Industrial Strategy. 3. Heran an die Massen! The United Front in the Unions. 4. Hyperinflation, Rank-and-File Action, and Revolutionary Politics. 5. 1923: the Almost Revolution. 6. The Crisis of the Unions and the KPD. Part Two: Structure, Organization, and Political Program. 7. The Social Structure of the Communist Opposition. 8. The Industrial Road to Revolution. 9. Rank-and-File Organization. 10. Social Transformation of the Unions. 11. The United Front. Notes. Bibliography. Index.