class struggle instead of world war

“In the days of Hamburg, the workers saw the bourgeoisie on the brink of the abyss.”

Ernst Thäl­mann

What are the most important lessons of the Hamburg Uprising?

1. A small num­ber of pro­let­ari­ans, who had fought with the greatest hero­ic cour­age under the ban­ner of the dic­tat­or­ship of the pro­let­ari­at, was suc­cess­ful in mil­it­ar­ily with­stand­ing the twenty­fold superi­or­ity of the bril­liantly organ­ized and armed bour­geois troops.

2. The ever­last­ing glory of the Ham­burg Octo­ber fight­ers lies in the fact that they took up arms in a revolu­tion­ary situ­ation, although they did not have the vic­tory 99 per­cent under their belts. Len­in­ism teaches that one must engage in the struggle when there are ser­i­ous chances of vic­tory. There is nev­er a guar­an­tee of vic­tory in advance. Defeat in such a struggle is a thou­sand times more fruit­ful and valu­able for the future of the class struggle than a retreat without strik­ing a blow.

3. The upris­ing led to defeat because it remained isol­ated, as it did not receive imme­di­ate sup­port in Sax­ony and through­out the entire coun­try. Even if work­ers in a single loc­a­tion engage in the fight with the greatest hero­ism, driv­en by the strongest mass move­ment: They will be defeated unless the pro­let­ari­at across the entire coun­try joins them. In pre­cisely this, organ­iz­ing and unit­ing of the whole work­ing class of all indus­tri­al cen­ters and cit­ies through­out the coun­try, lies THE ROLE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY as the van­guard of the pro­let­ari­at. This is exactly why we need a firm, com­pletely united, thor­oughly fused, and abso­lutely dis­cip­lined party.

4. It is not true that the Ham­burger upris­ing was a coup, instead it was driv­en by the sym­pathy of the broad­est masses. Even the Police Sen­at­or Hense had to angrily admit that the Social Demo­crat­ic work­ers in Ham­burg, the most right-wing organ­iz­a­tion of the SPD, and with them “the widest circles of the pop­u­la­tion stood with the Com­mun­ists.” Our weak­ness lay only in our fail­ure to under­stand how to firmly rally these masses around us, to bring them over to our side in all par­tial struggles in time, to form with them a united front against the Social Demo­crat­ic leaders.

5. In order to achieve vic­tory on a much lar­ger scale in the inev­it­ably recur­ring Ham­burg struggle, we must pen­et­rate the masses like a wedge, unite them with us through a thou­sand links, and form a genu­ine pro­let­ari­an united front with mil­lions of work­ers. A large revolu­tion­ary wing must emerge with­in the trade uni­ons and all non-party organ­iz­a­tions of the work­ing class, which, togeth­er with the Com­mun­ists, will become the driv­ing force behind the upcom­ing struggles.

6. One defi­ciency was found espe­cially not­able dur­ing the Octo­ber days in Ham­burg was the absence of a strong coun­cil move­ment. This fact has not yet been suf­fi­ciently under­stood with­in the party. The coun­cils are the organs that gath­er the mil­lions-strong masses of the pro­let­ari­at in a revolu­tion­ary situ­ation, form­ing the back­bone of the struggle. We must not for­get this les­son even in the cur­rent peri­od between two revolu­tions.

7. The seizure of power by the pro­let­ari­at is not a one-time act. It does not merely con­sist of the mil­it­ary struggle against the bourgeoisie’s troops but must be pre­pared through years of per­sist­ent work by the Com­mun­ist Party and the entire pro­let­ari­at. The future vic­tors over the bour­geois­ie must be edu­cated, pre­pared, and organ­ized through count­less par­tial struggles. This is OUR MAIN TASK in the present period.

8. It is not true that through the defeat of the Octo­ber upris­ing in 1923 a unique revolu­tion­ary situ­ation was “missed” once and for all. The defeat of 1923 was not per­man­ent, just as the defeat of the Sparta­cus League in the Noske days of 1919 was not per­man­ent. The sta­bil­iz­a­tion of bour­geois Ger­many does not have a long breath: des­pite the Dawes Plan and the Pact of Guar­an­tees. Rather: Because of the Dawes Plan and the Pact of Guar­an­tees. The cap­it­al­ist sta­bil­iz­a­tion in Ger­many exper­i­ences its first “short­ness of breath” now. The great res­ult of the Ham­burg upris­ing is that the work­ers wit­nessed the seem­ingly invin­cible class enemy in all its weak­ness for three times twenty-four hours. Dur­ing the Ham­burg days, the work­ers saw the bour­geois­ie on the brink of the abyss. And they will nev­er for­get this moment! We are not head­ing into a swamp but towards new struggles and with abso­lute neces­sity in Ger­many towards the second revolu­tion. That is why the Ham­burg upris­ing does not belong to “his­tory” but serves as a pre­par­a­tion for the future.

9. The upris­ing was an ideal example of the bril­liant and smoothly func­tion­ing organ­iz­a­tion of revolu­tion­ary struggle. How­ever, it also revealed the greatest organ­iz­a­tion­al mis­take of our party. The Ham­burg fight­ers had the full sym­pathy of the work­ers in the factor­ies but lacked organ­iz­a­tion­al con­nec­tions with them. The com­plete use­less­ness and fatal back­ward­ness of our old Social Demo­crat­ic res­id­en­tial organ­iz­a­tion became evid­ent. The elect­or­al machine is not suited for the bar­ri­cades! The most sig­ni­fic­ant gap in the Ham­burg fight­ing front was the absence of com­mun­ist FACTORY CELLS. In a sim­il­ar situ­ation in the future, a fight­ing force like the Ham­burg fight­ers will be invin­cible, when rely­ing on firmly rooted cells in all work­places and the unity of the broad­est masses of workers.

10. The greatest and most valu­able les­son of the Ham­burg upris­ing is the mag­ni­fi­cent ful­fill­ment of the ROLE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY IN THE PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION. The Com­mun­ists were not in words but indeed the van­guard, the lead­er­ship, the guid­ing light of the work­ing class. They provided the move­ment with a clearly defined goal, a pre­cisely for­mu­lated pro­gram: the dic­tat­or­ship of the pro­let­ari­at. In this regard, the Ham­burg struggle stands at a much high­er level than all pre­vi­ous move­ments. The March Action of 1921, for example, bears no com­par­is­on with the Ham­burger upris­ing. Only because the party firmly held the lead­er­ship of the struggle in its hands, the Ham­burg revolu­tion­ar­ies, for the first time in West­ern Europe, under­stood and ful­filled the Marx-Engels les­son, that “the upris­ing is an art and that the chief rule of this art is the OFFENSIVE waged with dar­ing cour­age and greatest determination.”

Ernst Thäl­mann

entire doc­u­ment in: ger­man | swedish