German Socialism since 1914

  • Leslie J. Macfarlane


The SPD members of the German Reichstag had voted en bloc in August 1914 to support the grant of war credits in compliance with the majority vote at the Reichstag Party meeting. The decision opened up a deep and bitter divide between the majority who endorsed the decision to go to war and the minority who opposed it. The majority accepted the official claim that the war was forced on Germany as a war of national defence, in the face of the imminent threat of invasion resulting from the Russian mobilisation of its vast armies to attack Germany’s ally, Austria. The minority embraced a wide spread of opinion from pacifists to revolutionary Marxists, who saw the war credit vote as marking the abandonment of the principles of international working-class solidarity. Many of the majority doubtless recalled and repeated the words of the revered late leader, August Bebel, at the 1907 Party Conference:

If a time really comes when we have to defend the fatherland, then we shall do so because it is our fatherland; we shall defend it as the soil on which we live, as the country whose language we speak and whose customs we hold, and because we wish to make of this fatherland of ours a land of such perfection and beauty as shall be unmatched in all the world.2


Trade Union Liberal Democratic Party Work Council Socialist Party Centre Party 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Valuable studies of this period are to be found in G.D.H. Cole, A History of Socialist Thought, Vol. IV. Pt I Communism and Social Democracy, 1914–1931, Ch. IV and Chapter V ( London: Macmillan, 1958 ).Google Scholar
  2. A.J. Ryder, The German Revolution of 1918: A Study of German Socialism in War and Revolt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967).Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    Quoted in Susanne Miller and Heinrich Potthoff, A History of German Social Democracy from 1848 to the Present, translated by J.A. Underwood (Leamington Spa: Berg, 1986 ), p. 51.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Quoted in J.P. Nettyl, Rosa Luxemburg, Vol. II (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966 ), p. 763.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    See John Moses, Trade Unionism in Germany from Bismarck to Hitler, 1869–1933, Vol. II ( London: George Prior, 1982 ), p. 335.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Quoted in Massimo Salvadori, Karl Kautsky and the Socialist Revolution 1880–1938, translated by Jon Rothschild ( London: NLB, 1979 ), p. 235.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    Quoted in Gerard Braunthal, Socialist Labor and Politics in Weimar Germany ( Connecticut: Arch Books, 1978 ), p. 163.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    Ryder, op. cit., quoting from H.A. Turner, Stresemann and the Politics of the Weimar Republic ( Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963 ), p. 82.Google Scholar
  9. 18.
    Karl Kautsky, The Dictatorship of the Proletariat translated by H.J. Stenning (London: National Labour Press, 1919; 1964 edition introduced by John H. Kautsky, University of Michigan Press), p.4.Google Scholar
  10. 24.
    Rosa Luxemburg, Leninism or Marxism in Bertram D. Wolfe, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1961, (published in Neue Zeit 1904), pp.88 and 102.Google Scholar
  11. 34.
    Quoted by Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Armed: Trotsky 1879–1921 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1954; paperback 1970), p.452.Google Scholar
  12. 37.
    Julius Braunthal, History of the International 1914–1943 Vol. II, translated by John Clark (London: Nelson, 1967), p.137, quoting from Fischer, The Life of Lenin.Google Scholar
  13. 39.
    Quoted in E.W. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution 1917–1923, Vol. III ( London: Macmillan, 1953 ), p. 336.Google Scholar
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  15. 43.
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  16. 44.
    Leon Trotsky, ‘For a Workers’ United Front Against Fascism’, in The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany ( Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1971 ), p. 109.Google Scholar
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  18. 49.
    Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study of Tyranny (Harmondsworth: revised Penguin edn, 1963), p.257.Google Scholar
  19. 57.
    Quoted from KPD Declaration of 11 June 1945 in William David Graf, The German Left Since 1945: Socialism and Social Democracy in the Germany Federal Republic ( Cambridge: Oleander Press, 1976 ), pp. 42–3.Google Scholar
  20. 60.
    Quoted in Peter Pulzer, German Politics, 1945–1995 ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995 ), p. 49.Google Scholar
  21. 62.
    Quoted in Helga Grebing, The History of the German Labour Movement: A Survey, abridged by Mary Saran, translated by Edith Korner (Leamington Spa: Berg, 1985 ), p. 158.Google Scholar
  22. 66.
    Quoted in Andreis Markovits, The Politics of the West German Trade Unions ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986 ), p. 66.Google Scholar
  23. 68.
    See Kenneth O. Morgan, Labour in Power, 1945–1951 ( Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984 ) pp. 255–60.Google Scholar
  24. 80.
    George Braunthal, The West Germany Social Democrats, 1969–1982 ( Colorado: Westview, 1983 ), p. 144.Google Scholar
  25. 86.
    Donald Sassoon, One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century ( London: I.B. Tauris, 1996 ), p. 715Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Leslie J. Macfarlane 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leslie J. Macfarlane
    • 1
  1. 1.St John’s CollegeOxfordUK

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