The popular masses are answering our appeal everywhere with the greatest enthusiasm, and this proves how much we have met the feelings and mood of the masses by giving them a political expression, solution and direction. Now only one opinion predominates in the whole of the party, that a mass action against the Morocco affair and an energetic agitation in the field of foreign policy was an irrefutable task of Social-Democracy and an urgent necessity.
And now the question immediately posed by this: Why was this campaign not begun one or two months ago? The dispatch of the German gunboat to Agadir, with which Germany officially intervened in the Morocco affair, took place on the 2nd of July. Already in the first week of July, the protest of the French and Spanish Socialists was in full swing. Instead of immediately initiating at that time the agitation with all one’s might, we are bringing up the rear and dragging ourselves along in the wake of events and are at least one to one and a half months too late. In this important case our political quick-wittedness has left a lot to be desired. Why?
One will answer: The party executive has showed an unfortunate lack of initiative. Its call for action was not published until the 9th of August and therefore the meetings could first begin in the second half of August. To be sure, but must the party wait for the official call of the party executive? If today everyone in the party without exception sees the necessity for action against the world politics, cannot the local party organisations do something on their own initiative, like the Stuttgart comrades have done? It is extraordinarily easy to put the blame on the party executive, who for their part may really have acted with a lack of determination and energy. However, a no smaller part of the blame is to be put on those who always expect all salvation from above and even in such clear and indubitable cases shy away from a little self-activity and personal initiative. Of course campaigns of the party on this scale re quire uniformity and unity in order to be most effective, which can be best brought about from a centre. In this respect, especially the example of several old centres of the party movement, who would rouse all the remaining local organisations, would certainly not miss their mark. To be sure, also the party executive, as leading centre, would soon see itself forced to generalise every massive initiative and good beginning by making itself the mouthpiece and tool of the will of the party, instead of, as now, the other way round, the party executive viewing the great and powerful party organisations as being just an instrument for carrying out the instructions of the party executive.
It must also be said openly: only when there is a reversal of the present abnormal relations would life within the party first stand on a normal footing. It is stated in the Communist Manifesto that the emancipation of the working class can only be the work of the working class itself and it understands by the working class not a party executive of seven or twelve but the enlightened mass of the proletariat in person. Every step forward in the struggle for emancipation of the working class must at the same time mean a growing intellectual independence of its mass, its growing self-activity, self-determination and initiative. How should the capability of action and political quickwittedness of the broad popular masses develop if the vanguard of these masses, the best and most enlightened sections united in the Social-Democratic Party organisations, exhibit for their part no initiative and independence as masses, on the contrary, always be at the ready until a command is issued from above? Discipline and unity of action is a vital matter for mass movements like ours.
However, discipline in the Social-Democratic sense differs fundamentally from the discipline of the bourgeois armed forces. There it is based on the unthinking and submissive subordination of the bulk of the soldiers to the command of authority expressing an outside will. Social-Democratic discipline can only mean the subordination of every individual to the will and the thought of the great majority. Therefore Social-Democratic discipline can never mean that eight hundred thousand organised party members have to bow to the will and regulations of a central authority of a party executive but the opposite, all central organs of the party having to carry out the will of the eight hundred thousand organised social democrats. Important for the normal development of the political life in the party, a vital matter for the Social-Democracy, is therefore based on always keeping the political thought and the will of the mass of the party awake and active, and thus enabling them in increasing measure to be active. We have, of course, the yearly party conference as highest instance which regularly fixes the will of the whole party. However, it is obvious that the party conferences can only give general outlines of the tactics for the Social-Democratic struggle. The application of these guidelines in practice requires a constant, untiring thought, quick-wittedness and initiative. The decisions of the party conferences obviously do not in the slightest exhaust the regular tasks of the political struggle, for life does not stand still, and from one party conference to the other many things take place in heaven and earth to which the party must react. To want to make a party executive responsible for the whole enormous task of daily political vigilance and initiative on whose command a party organisation of almost a million passively waits, is the most in correct thing there is from the standpoint of the proletarian class struggle. That is without doubt that reprehensible “blind obedience” which our opportunists definitely want to see in the self-evident subordination of all to the decisions of the whole party.
One can often hear in our ranks complaints about the bureaucratism of our highest party authorities that is said to be killing the living political energy. These complaints are also totally justified. Just those who express them surely take little account of the fact that to a large extent the lamented state has its roots in the nature of things. Every body with daily official office work tends to fall into bureaucratism and routine. Besides, such high-ranking bodies naturally have a strongly developed feeling of responsibility that unquestionably has a strongly paralysing effect on initiative and determination. A real remedy against this bad state of affairs is only the living political activity of the entire party. The most ideal party executive of a party like the social democracy would be the one that would function as the most obedient, most prompt and most precise tool of the will of the entire party. However, the most ideal party executive would be able to achieve nothing, would involuntarily sink into bureaucratic inefficiency if the natural source of its energy, the will of the party, does not make itself felt, if critical thought, the mass of the party’s own initiative is sleeping. In fact it is more than this. If its own energy, the independent intellectual life of the mass of the party, is not active enough, then the central authorities have the quite natural tendency to not only bureaucratically rust but also to get a totally wrong idea of their own official authority and position of power with respect to the party.