The Spartacist Uprising of 1919 and the Crisis of the German Socialist Movement: a Study of the Relation of Political Theory and Party Practice

By Eric Waldman | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
The Left Wing Within the German Social Democratic Party Prior to World War I

1. The Growth of the German Socialist Movement

Many of the ideological concepts and organizational characteristics of the Spartacists, the forerunners of the German Communists, have their origin in the period which followed the unification of the Lassallean workers' organization with the Marxian socialists in 1875. The end product of this fusion was the Social Democratic Party of Germany ( SPD).1 In the decades following the union, the SPD developed into a strong mass party and along with its allied trade unions became a powerful factor in German political life.

During this period, a number of political factions emerged within the SPD. These were an outgrowth of basic disagreements on major political and tactical issues, resulting partly from difrerent interpretations of Marxian doctrines and partly from the conflicting objectives of an organization which regarded itself as a proletarian party in a bourgeois state. The perpetuation of these factions in a period of crisis caused by the outbreak of World War I led eventually to a division of the German labor movement into hostile camps, a situation which persists to the present time.

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1
The German designation for the Social Democratic Party of Germany is Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, or SPD. This abbreviation will be used hereafter in this paper.

-3-

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