Deputy Frank Favours the Mass Strike
|Written||5 June 1913|
Published on June 11, 1913 in Pravda No. 132. Printed from the Pravda text. Signed: Karich.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1971, Moscow, Volume 36, pages 256-257.
The speech of the well-known Baden Social-Democrat Frank, a most prominent representative of the opportunist wing, in favour of the mass strike as a means of struggle for electoral reform in Prussia, is something of an event in the German Socialist Party.
The Social-Democratic Party organisation in Wilmersdorf, a suburb of Berlin, invited Frank to give a lecture on the subject. The bourgeois press, expecting peaceable and tranquillising words to come “out of Baden”, loudly advertised the meeting. The free publicity was magnificent. The meeting turned out to be a huge and most impressive one.
But whether because he was addressing the militant Berlin workers or because as a southerner, accustomed to the freer atmosphere of Southern Germany, he was outraged at the shameless domination of the “Junkers” (the German Black-Hundred gentry) whom he saw at closer quarters in Berlin, Frank made a fiery speech in favour of the mass strike.
The speaker began by outlining internal politics in Prussia. Frank castigated the domination of the Junkers, the reactionary electoral law for the Prussian Landtag (a law rather like our own Third Duma law) and the absence of elementary democratic guarantees. When he noted that under the Prussian electoral law the keeper of a brothel had first-class electoral rights, and the Prime Minister, only third-class rights, and that this was characteristic of the Prussian “way of life”, the audience roared with laughter in approval of his assessment.
The Berlin workers—Frank said with a smile—have proved by their struggle against Jagow (the mayor who vainly tried to prohibit demonstrations in 1910) that they have talents in the sphere of street manoeuvres.
The speaker recalled the examples of mass strikes in history: by the Chartists in England; the Belgians in 1893, 1902 and 1912; the Swedes in 1903; the Italians in 1904, and the Russians in 1905; he dwelt in greater detail on the last example, stressing the help which the Russian workers then gave their neighbours and brothers, the Austrian workers. The mere threat of a political strike then proved sufficient to win adult suffrage for the Austrians.
In Prussia and in Germany, exclaimed Frank, we have the best labour movement in the world and the most extensive working-class press. Let us then learn mass struggle from the proletariat of the whole world! (Enthusiastic approval and applause of the audience.)
Naturally, this new form of struggle involves sacrifice and danger, Frank continued; but when have political battles not entailed danger and sacrifice? Once we have realised the necessity of struggle, we must carry it on to the end, we must pilot our ship forward despite the possible reefs ahead. Those who fear them and remain in port will certainly be safe, but they will never get to the other shore—the objective for which we are striving.
Enthusiastically received by the meeting, Frank’s speech showed once again the great indignation the reactionaries have aroused in the German workers. A mighty protest is maturing in the German proletariat slowly but surely.