Cover image: Soldiers of the Soviet Red Army talking with former inmates of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp shortly after its liberation.
Proletarians of all countries, unite!
There is one goal, the conquest of power!
TWO IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS BY COMRADE ALFRED KLAHR ON THE NATIONAL QUESTION IN THE GERMAN-SPEAKING COUNTRIES
Translated and reproduced by
The Red Flag
We have translated two important documents by Comrade Alfred Klahr about the Austrian, German and Swiss national questions into the English language.
The first document, „On the National Question in Austria“, was originally written as two articles in the clandestine newspaper of the Communist Party of Austria, Road and Goal, in 1937. The second document, which has no official title, was written in the extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau while Klahr was imprisoned there by the German imperialists.
Comrade Klahr was born on the 16th of September, 1904, in Vienna, Austria. He studied at the University of Vienna where he joined the Communist Youth League, which he then represented in Moscow while teaching at the International Lenin School. In 1937, he worked for the newspaper Road and Goal in Czechoslovakia, but when German imperialism annexed that country, he became a partisan fighter across German-occupied Europe. He fought in the anti-fascist resistance in Belgium and was forced to flee to Switzerland in 1940. The Cantonal Police of Zürich, however, arrested him in 1941 — the Swiss bourgeois State then extradicted him to Nazi-occupied France, which interned him in the Auschwitz extermination camp. In Auschwitz, he fought as part of the Auschwitz Struggle Group and helped organize an escape from the camp on the 15th of June, 1944. From there, he went to Warsaw to help organize the insurrection there, but was assassinated by the SS.
Comrade Klahr was a fighter for marxism-leninism all of his life. In particular, he fought against „greater“ German chauvinism inside of the Communist Party of Germany under Ernst Thälmann‘s leadership, which, as Klahr put it, tailed the Nazi Party on the national question. He is the main theorist of the national question in the German-speaking countries of Europe. His two documents creatively apply marxism to grasp the differences between the Austrian, German and Swiss-German nations and allow for a correct handling of the strategy and tactics of the revolution in those countries.
To understand Comrade Klahr‘s thesis on the national question is particularly important for us today, not just as Swiss communists and revolutionaries, but also due to the international two-line struggle against the German revisionists of the so-called „Committee Red Flag“. This counterrevolutionary sect is a „greater“ German nationalist organization — they adhere to pure strasserism disguised as „maoism“. In the polemic of the Red Star (Switzerland) against these revisionists, it is exposed:
„[…] there is the point of Greater German chauvinism and how the Committee Red Flag tried to export it here.
[…] But where did these ideas come from? They came from the Committee Red Flag not having a clear grasp of and position on the German nation. And in the Committee Red Flag today, we see expressions of those same views: Complete disregard for the Wars of Resistance fought against German imperialism during World War II; viewing the Swiss-German dialects as ‚not speaking like a normal person‘, ‚only a child would use that word‘, etc.; viewing the Danish people as ‚half-German anyway‘, so one might as well sell the ‚Red Post‘ in Copenhagen; hating the Austrian partisan song ‚Drei rote Pfiffe‘, but loving ‚Arbeiter von Wien‘, since it is ‚German worker‘s music‘; playing the victim by stating that the German Democratic Republic was a ‚semi-colony of social-imperialism‘, when it was really a 2nd World imperialist power in its own right (and in general portraying the fall of fascism in East Germany in 1989-90 as a complete defeat for the German people); telling Danish comrades that they ‚would probably like if we Anschluss‘d Denmark‘ (a country which was a German colony from 1940 to 1945!); etc. etc. There are many examples of the Greater German chauvinist attitude of the Committee Red Flag and we could go on, but we believe that we have made our point clear. ‚Nobody hates Germany more than us!‘, say the German [revisionists], but in their attitude and how the develop their abroad work, they are nonetheless thinking and acting inside of the dead, but not yet buried, Reich. […]
In Switzerland, they acted based on this Greater German chauvinism. Essentially, they viewed the Swiss-German nation as part of the German nation, because they negated the three nations thesis. So they wanted us to sell the ‚Red Post‘, even though it was nothing but news from the FRG, which the masses could not relate to. They wanted us to learn a little bit of French and go to Geneva, ‚they will be happy if you just speak a few words French‘. They converged with the blackest Urschweizer nationalism, which sees the Swiss-German nation as the ‚Herrenmensch‘, under which the two other nations must be subjugated — only they saw the Swiss-German nation as nothing but a minority within the Greater German Volk in the first place.“1
These German revisionists believe Switzerland to be part of Germany, believe the Swiss-Germans to be part of the German nation. This is an outrageous position, which not even Adolf Hitler himself could bear to take up. Hitler, whom these revisionists are eager to learn from in most other cases (for instance, when it comes to the mentally ill2 or queers3), actually put forward: „Switzerland possesses the most disgusting and miserable people and political system. The Swiss are the mortal enemies of the new Germany.“4 He also denounced Switzerland as „a pimple on the face of Europe“, characterizing the Swiss-Germans as „a misbegotten branch of our people“.5 Hitler viewed the Swiss-Germans as „mixed“ with the Swiss-Italians and Swiss-French, as a kind of „national degeneration“ which could only be brought into „greater“ Germany by force. But what do the German revisionists today think? Clearly, they take an even more Right-wing position than Hitler: „Switzerland is already German.“
Comrade Klahr made it very clear that such views cannot be tolerated:
„The Greater German idea of 1848, at that time a progressive, revolutionary-democratic idea, was exploited to provide the ideological basis of German imperialism. Unfortunately, even the German Left within the Social-Democratic Party of Germany and later the Communist Party of Germany failed to understand these transformations of the Greater German idea in the age of imperialism and thus aided and abetted the penetration of the Greater German, Pan-Germanic poison into the working class.
And what was [the] policy [of the Communist Party of Germany] really like? The internal political problem, as a result of the non-completion of national development internally, was hardly noticed, let alone rolled up concretely. The foreign policy problem was posed, but on the basis of the recognition of the Greater German idea, i.e., on a fundamentally wrong basis, on the same basis as the German nationalists did. No wonder that the party tailed the fascists on the national question.“6
He also made it clear that Germany will have to take responsibility for its actions:
„To crush Prussian junkerism, to destroy (expropriate) it as a social class and to overcome its world of ideas in the minds of the German masses is one of the most important prerequisites for any further progressive development of the German nation, for the completion of its national unity in the democratic-progressive sense. The fulfillment of this task is not only a matter of practical political struggle, but also of ideological struggle, which is not possible without critical examination and overcoming of the ideology of fascism, especially its theories in the national question of the Germans.
The German people will have to bear a lot of responsibility after the war. The reparation is not only, not so much a material question. Perhaps even more important will be how the German people relate to the duty of reparation, whether they understand what their guilt consists of. Such an attitude presupposes, if one can say, a self-critical examination and realization of the German development on the part of the progressive political forces in the German nation. Such an attitude alone is the guarantee for the eradication of reactionary, imperialist ideas from the brains of the German masses.“7
Despite having published Comrade Klahr‘s text in their magazine Rassenstandpunkt, these German revisionists still have no clue about the national question. By their own admittance, they have no position on questions as varied as Alsace-Lorraine, Slesvig-Holsten and Kaliningrad. In the absence of a clear position, remarks such as those mentioned by the Red Star become all the more concerning — especially when they come from their „great, wise and visionary leadership“, who deliberately moved to the „fatherland“ he claims to hate, but in practice proves every day to love more than he ever loved the working class.
„Left“-radicalism in words: „Germany must die!“, but in deeds, nothing but „a bourgeois (and often also a Black-Hundred, and clerical) fraud“8. Indeed, this shows the class nature of these pretend-proletarians, who have no clue about unemployment, work accidents or hunger wages — their highest-level people have such working-class jobs as fixing up the Volkswagen climate scandal — which expresses itself in the political line. Only a communist would know how to handle the non-antagonistic contradiction between revolutionary defeatism and working-class patriotism (as Lenin9 and Chairman Mao10 tell us to do). But the thing with these German revisionists is just that — they are not communists, but revisionists, nationalists and snitches.
THE RED FLAG
1 Red Star — Switzerland: „Down With the Politics of Social-Imperialism! Long Live Proletarian Internationalism!“, December 2020.
2 See the polemic of the Red Star — Switzerland quoted above, particularly the section on mental illness. Also see Rassenstandpunkt no. 16 (2018), the preface to the U.S. article „Stumble, Fall, Stand Tall: Summation of the RSF‘s Revolutionary Mental Health Program“, in which it is written about how the Committee Red Flag bullied a mentally ill activist into committing suicide: „[…] so-called mental illness is […] an ideological problem […] Another example is a revisionist who could explain his suffering from conditions by the critique of political economy, but because of his revisionism had no confidence in the masses, and rejected scientific socialism. He suffered above all from his failure in the bourgeois competition for economic success and for recognition, so he stood completely on the standpoint of the bourgeois individual. He did not like the feeling of these thoughts, which is why he regularly took drugs. Two-line struggles on these issues led to short-term successes, but lack of organization and changed practice resulted in repeated ideological relapses. Finally, he killed himself.“ We are not so far from Zyklon-B, then?
3 See the polemic of the Red Star — Switzerland quoted above, particularly the section on queer- and trans-antagonism. Here, it should also be noted that the position of at least one member of the Committee Red Flag (who used to be their international responsible) is to compare trans people to objects: „[Thinking you can change your gender] is metaphysics. Look at this cup. Can it turn into a stone?“, as well as outright genocidal views: „It [being transgender] is so degenerated. In Brazil,you would and will have to spend a couple of years in a labor camp for this.“ Their „assistant responsible“ for the abroad work in Switzerland said: „It [being transgender] is not even a question in Peru. They get stoned to death.“ Of course implying that people‘s war requires murdering queers and that this should be the Committee Red Flag‘s position on the question.
4 Hitler‘s remark to Mussolini in June, 1941.
5 Hitler‘s remarks in August, 1942.
6 Alfred Klahr: „Auschwitz Text“, 1944.
8 V. I. Lenin: „Critical Remarks on the National Question“, October-December 1913.
9 See V. I. Lenin‘s text „On the National Pride of the Great Russians“, 12.12.1914: „Is a sense of national pride alien to us, Great-Russian class-conscious proletarians? Certainly not! We love our language and our country, and we are doing our very utmost to raise her toiling masses (i.e., 9/10 of her population) to the level of a democratic and socialist consciousness. To us it is most painful to see and feel the outrages, the oppression and the humiliation our fair country suffers at the hands of the tsar’s butchers, the nobles and the capitalists. […]
We are full of a sense of national pride, and for that very reason we particularly hate our slavish past (when the landed nobility led the peasants into war to stifle the freedom of Hungary, Poland, Persia and China), and our slavish present, when these selfsame landed proprietors, aided by the capitalists, are loading us into a war in order to throttle Poland and the Ukraine, crush the democratic movement in Persia and China, and strengthen the gang of Romanovs, Bobrinskys and Purishkeviches, who are a disgrace to our Great-Russian national dignity. Nobody is to be blamed for being born a slave; but a slave who not only eschews a striving for freedom but justifies and eulogises his slavery (e.g., calls the throttling of Poland and the Ukraine, etc., a ‚defence of the fatherland‘ of the Great Russians) — such a slave is a lickspittle and a boor, who arouses a legitimate feeling of indignation, contempt, and loathing.“
10 See Mao Tse-tung‘s text „The Role of the Communist Party of China in the National War“, October 1938: „Can a communist, who is an internationalist, at the same time be a patriot? We hold that he not only can be but also must be. The specific content of patriotism is determined by historical conditions. There is the ‚patriotism‘ of the Japanese aggressors and of Hitler, and there is our patriotism. Communists must resolutely oppose the ‚patriotism‘ of the Japanese aggressors and of Hitler. The communists of Japan and Germany are defeatists with regard to the wars being waged by their countries. To bring about the defeat of the Japanese aggressors and of Hitler by every possible means is in the interests of the Japanese and the German people, and the more complete the defeat the better. […] For the wars launched by the Japanese aggressors and Hitler are harming the people at home as well as the people of the world. China‘s case, however, is different, because she is the victim of aggression. Chinese communists must therefore combine patriotism with internationalism. We are at once internationalists and patriots, and our slogan is: ‚Fight to defend the motherland against the aggressors!‘. For us defeatism is a crime and to strive for victory in the War of Resistance is an inescapable duty. For only by fighting in defense of the motherland can we defeat the aggressors and achieve national liberation. And only by achieving national liberation will it be possible for the proletariat and other working people to achieve their own emancipation. The victory of China and the defeat of the invading imperialists will help the people of other countries. Thus in wars of national liberation patriotism is applied internationalism.“