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The Communist Party of Germany (german: Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands, , KPD ) was a major political party in the
Weimar Republic The Weimar Republic (german: Weimarer Republik ) was the German state from 1918 to 1933 when it functioned as a federal constitutional republic. The state was officially named the German Reich (german: Deutsches Reich, link=no, label=none), ...
between 1918 and 1933, an underground
resistance movement A resistance movement is an organized effort by some portion of the civil population of a country to withstand the legally established government or an occupying power and to disrupt civil order and stability. It may seek to achieve its objectives t ...
in
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945, was ...

Nazi Germany
, and a minor party in
West Germany West Germany is the common English name for the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG; german: Bundesrepublik Deutschland , BRD) between its formation on 23 May 1949 and the German reunification through the accession of East Germany on 3 October 19 ...
in the postwar period until it was banned by the
Federal Constitutional Court The Federal Constitutional Court (german: Bundesverfassungsgericht; abbreviated: ') is the supreme constitutional court for the Federal Republic of Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin , ...
in 1956. Founded in the aftermath of the
First World War World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainmen ...
by
socialist Socialism is a political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions In psychology, decision-making (also spelled decision making and decisionmaking) is regarded as the Cognition, cognitive pr ...

socialist
s who had opposed the war, the party joined the
Spartacist uprising The Spartacist uprising (german: Spartakusaufstand), also known as the January uprising (''Januaraufstand''), was a (and the armed battles accompanying it) in from 5 to 12 January 1919. Germany was in the middle of a , and two of the perceiv ...
of January 1919, which sought to establish a soviet republic in Germany. After the defeat of the uprising, and the murder of KPD leaders
Rosa Luxemburg Rosa Luxemburg (; pl, Róża Luksemburg; also ''Rozalia Luksenburg''; 5 March 1871 – 15 January 1919) was a Polish Marxism, Marxist, Philosophy, philosopher, economist, Anti-war movement, anti-war activist and Revolutionary socialism, revolut ...

Rosa Luxemburg
,
Karl Liebknecht Karl Paul August Friedrich Liebknecht (; 13 August 1871 – 15 January 1919) was a German socialist Socialism is a Political philosophy, political, Social philosophy, social, and economic philosophy encompassing a range of Economic systems, ...

Karl Liebknecht
and
Leo Jogiches Leon "Leo" Jogiches (German: ''Leo Jogiches''; Russian: Лев "Лео" Йогихес; 17 July 1867 – 10 March 1919), also commonly known by the party name Jan Tyszka, was a Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a ...
, the party temporarily steered a more moderate, parliamentarian course under the leadership of
Paul Levi Paul Levi (11 March 1883 – 9 February 1930) was a German Communist and Social Democratic political leader. He was the head of the Communist Party of Germany following the assassination of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in 1919. After being ...
. During the
Weimar Republic The Weimar Republic (german: Weimarer Republik ) was the German state from 1918 to 1933 when it functioned as a federal constitutional republic. The state was officially named the German Reich (german: Deutsches Reich, link=no, label=none), ...
period, the KPD usually polled between 10 and 15 percent of the vote and was represented in the national and in state parliaments. Under the leadership of
Ernst Thälmann
Ernst Thälmann
from 1925 the party became staunchly Marxist–Leninist and loyal to the leadership of the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spanned during its existence from 1922 to 1991. It was nominally a of multiple national ; in practice and were highly until its final years. The ...
, and from 1928 it was largely controlled and funded by the
Comintern The Communist International (Comintern), also known as the Third International (1919–1943), was an international organization that advocated world communism. It was controlled by the Soviet Union. The Comintern resolved at its Second Congres ...
in Moscow. Under Thälmann's leadership the party directed most of its attacks against the
Social Democratic Party of Germany The Social Democratic Party of Germany (german: Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, ; SPD, ) is a social democratic political party in Germany. It is one of the two major parties of contemporary Germany along with the CDU/CSU, Union parties ...
, which it regarded as its main adversary and referred to as " social fascists"; the KPD considered all other parties in the Weimar Republic to be "
fascists Fascism () is a form of far-right, authoritarian Authoritarianism is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case of its broad associat ...
". The KPD was banned in the Weimar Republic one day after the
Nazi Party The Nazi Party, officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party (german: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP), was a far-right Far-right politics, also referred to as the extreme right or right-wing extremism, ...
emerged triumphant in the German elections in 1933. It maintained an underground organization in Nazi Germany, and the KPD and groups associated with it led the internal resistance to the Nazi regime, with a focus on distributing
anti-Nazi Anti-fascism is a political movement in opposition to fascist Fascism () is a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and strong regimentation of socie ...
literature. The KPD suffered heavy losses between 1933 and 1939, with 30,000 communists executed and 150,000 sent to
Nazi concentration camps From 1933 to 1945, Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater ...
. The party was revived in divided postwar West and
East Germany East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic (GDR; german: Deutsche Demokratische Republik, , DDR, ), was a state that existed from 1949 to 1990 in eastern Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines, a current ...
and won seats in the first (West German Parliament) elections in 1949, but its support collapsed following the establishment of the
German Democratic Republic German(s) may refer to: * Germany (of or related to) **Germania (historical use) * Germans, citizens of Germany, people of German ancestry, or native speakers of the German language ** For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law **Ger ...
in the former
Soviet Occupation Zone The Soviet Occupation Zone ( "East Zone"; , ''Sovetskaya okkupatsionnaya zona Germanii'', "Soviet Occupation Zone of Germany") was an area of occupied by the as a area, established as a result of the on 1 August 1945. On 7 October 1949 the ...
in the east. The KPD was banned as extremist in West Germany in 1956 by the
Constitutional Court A constitutional court is a high court High court usually refers to the superior court In common law systems, a superior court is a court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Ad ...
. In 1969, some of its former members founded an even smaller fringe party, the
German Communist Party The German Communist Party (german: Deutsche Kommunistische Partei, ) is a minor communist party in Germany. The DKP supports left positions and was an observer member of the Party of the European Left, European Left. At the end of February 2016 ...
(DKP), which remains legal, and multiple tiny splinter groups claiming to be the successor to the KPD have also subsequently been formed. In East Germany, the party was merged, by Soviet decree, with remnants of the
Social Democratic Party The name Social Democratic Party or Social Democrats has been used by many Political party, political parties in various countries around the world. Such parties are most commonly aligned to social democracy as their Ideologies of parties, pol ...
to form the Socialist Unity Party (SED) which ruled East Germany from 1949 until 1989–1990; the merger was opposed by many Social Democrats, many of whom fled to the western zones. After the
fall of the Berlin Wall The fall of the Berlin Wall (german: Mauerfall) on 9 November 1989 was a pivotal event in world history which marked the falling of the Iron Curtain and the start of the fall of communism in Eastern and Central Europe. The fall of the inner Ger ...
, reformists took over the SED and renamed it the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS); in 2007 the PDS subsequently merged with the SPD splinter faction WASG to form .


Early history

Before the
First World War World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainmen ...
the
Social Democratic Party The name Social Democratic Party or Social Democrats has been used by many Political party, political parties in various countries around the world. Such parties are most commonly aligned to social democracy as their Ideologies of parties, pol ...
(SPD) was the largest party in Germany and the world's most successful socialist party. Although still officially claiming to be a Marxist party, by 1914 it had become in practice a reformist party. In 1914 the SPD members of the
Reichstag is a German word generally meaning parliament, more directly translated as ''Diet (assembly), Diet of the Realm'' or ''National diet'', or more loosely as ''Imperial Diet''. It may refer to: Buildings and places is the god specific German word ...
voted in favour of the war. Left-wing members of the party, led by
Karl Liebknecht Karl Paul August Friedrich Liebknecht (; 13 August 1871 – 15 January 1919) was a German socialist Socialism is a Political philosophy, political, Social philosophy, social, and economic philosophy encompassing a range of Economic systems, ...

Karl Liebknecht
and
Rosa Luxemburg Rosa Luxemburg (; pl, Róża Luksemburg; also ''Rozalia Luksenburg''; 5 March 1871 – 15 January 1919) was a Polish Marxism, Marxist, Philosophy, philosopher, economist, Anti-war movement, anti-war activist and Revolutionary socialism, revolut ...

Rosa Luxemburg
, strongly opposed the war, and the SPD soon suffered a split, with the leftists forming the
Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany The Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (german: Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, USPD) was a short-lived political party A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a parti ...
(USPD) and the more radical
Spartacist League The Spartacus League (german: Spartakusbund) was a Marxism, Marxist revolutionary movement organized in Germany during World War I. The League was named after Spartacus, leader of the Third Servile War, largest slave rebellion of the Roman Republ ...
. The League formed the core of what would become the KPD. In November 1918,
revolution In political science Political science is the scientific study of politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, suc ...
broke out across Germany. The KPD held its founding congress in
Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inhabitants, as of 31 December 2019 makes it the List of cities in the European Union by ...

Berlin
from 30 December 1918 to 1 January 1919, in the reception hall of the City Council. Rosa Luxemburg was initially against the setting up of a new party but joined the KPD after her initial hesitation. Apart from the Spartacists, another dissent group of socialists called the International Communists of Germany, also dissenting members of the Social Democratic party but mainly located in
Hamburg en, Hamburgian(s) , timezone1 = Central (CET) , utc_offset1 = +1 , timezone1_DST = Central (CEST) , utc_offset1_DST = +2 , postal_code_type = Post ...

Hamburg
,
Bremen Bremen (, also ; Low German : : : : : , minority = (70,000) (30,000) (8,000) , familycolor = Indo-European , fam2 = Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by t ...
and
Northern Germany Northern Germany (german: Norddeutschland) is the region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomen ...
, joined the KPD. The Revolutionary Shop Stewards, a network of dissenting socialist trade unionists centered in Berlin, were also invited to the congress, but ultimately did not join the KPD because they deemed the founding congress too
syndicalist Syndicalism is a current in the labor movement to establish local, worker-based organizations and advance the demands and rights of workers through strikes. Most active in the early 20th century, syndicalism was predominant in the revolutionary ...
-leaning. There were seven main reports given at the founding congress: * "Economical Struggles" – by Paul Lange * Greeting speech – by
Karl Radek Karl Berngardovich Radek (russian: Карл Бернгардович Радек; 31 October 1885 – 19 May 1939) was a Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a materialist interpretation of historical development, bet ...
* "International Conferences" – by Hermann Duncker * "Our Organization" – by Hugo Eberlein * "Our Program" – by
Rosa Luxemburg Rosa Luxemburg (; pl, Róża Luksemburg; also ''Rozalia Luksenburg''; 5 March 1871 – 15 January 1919) was a Polish Marxism, Marxist, Philosophy, philosopher, economist, Anti-war movement, anti-war activist and Revolutionary socialism, revolut ...

Rosa Luxemburg
* "The Crisis of the USPD" – by
Karl Liebknecht Karl Paul August Friedrich Liebknecht (; 13 August 1871 – 15 January 1919) was a German socialist Socialism is a Political philosophy, political, Social philosophy, social, and economic philosophy encompassing a range of Economic systems, ...

Karl Liebknecht
* "The National Assembly" – by
Paul Levi Paul Levi (11 March 1883 – 9 February 1930) was a German Communist and Social Democratic political leader. He was the head of the Communist Party of Germany following the assassination of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in 1919. After being ...
These reports were given by leading figures of the Spartacist League, but members of the International Communists of Germany also took part in the discussions. Under the leadership of Liebknecht and Luxemburg, the KPD was committed to a revolution in Germany, and attempts to bring down the interim government and create a revolutionary situation continued during 1919 and 1920. Germany's SPD leadership, which had come to power after the fall of the monarchy, was vehemently opposed to a socialist revolution. With the new regime terrified of a
Bolshevik Revolution The October Revolution,. officially known as the Great October Socialist Revolution. under the Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a Federalism, federal socialist state in ...
in Germany, Defense Minister
Gustav Noske Gustav Noske (9 July 1868 – 30 November 1946) was a German politician of the Social Democratic Party of Germany The Social Democratic Party of Germany (german: Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD; ) is a social democratic politi ...
recruited former right-wing military officers and demobilized veterans and formed various ''
Freikorps (, usually translated to "Free Corps Corps (; plural ''corps'' ; from French , from the Latin "body") is a term used for several different kinds of organization. A military innovation by Napoleon, the formation was first named as such ...
'' and
anti-communist Anti-communism is a political movement and ideology opposed to communism. Organized anti-communism developed after the 1917 October Revolution in Russia and it reached global dimensions during the Cold War, when the United States and the Soviet U ...

anti-communist
paramilitaries Paramilitary forces usually tend to wear similar but different uniforms to the military, for instance gray " urban camouflage". A paramilitary organization (also listed as quasi military) is a semi-militarized force whose organizational stru ...
to violently suppress all revolutionary activity. During the failed
Spartacist uprising The Spartacist uprising (german: Spartakusaufstand), also known as the January uprising (''Januaraufstand''), was a (and the armed battles accompanying it) in from 5 to 12 January 1919. Germany was in the middle of a , and two of the perceiv ...
in
Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inhabitants, as of 31 December 2019 makes it the List of cities in the European Union by ...

Berlin
of January 1919, Liebknecht and Luxemburg, who had not initiated the uprising but joined once it had begun, were captured by the ''Freikorps'' and murdered. The party split a few months later into two factions, the KPD and the much smaller
Communist Workers Party of Germany The Communist Workers' Party of Germany (german: Kommunistische Arbeiter-Partei Deutschlands; KAPD) was an anti-parliamentarian and left communist party that was active in Germany during the time of the Weimar Republic. It was founded in April 19 ...
(KAPD). Following the assassination of
Leo Jogiches Leon "Leo" Jogiches (German: ''Leo Jogiches''; Russian: Лев "Лео" Йогихес; 17 July 1867 – 10 March 1919), also commonly known by the party name Jan Tyszka, was a Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a ...
,
Paul Levi Paul Levi (11 March 1883 – 9 February 1930) was a German Communist and Social Democratic political leader. He was the head of the Communist Party of Germany following the assassination of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in 1919. After being ...
became the KPD's leader. Other prominent members included
Clara Zetkin Clara Zetkin (; ; ''née'' Eißner ; 5 July 1857 – 20 June 1933) was a German Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical materialism, ...

Clara Zetkin
, Paul Frölich, Hugo Eberlein,
Franz Mehring Franz Erdmann Mehring (27 February 1846 – 28 January 1919) was a German communist historian and revolutionary socialist politician who was a senior member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany during the German Revolution of 1918–1919. B ...

Franz Mehring
,
August Thalheimer August Thalheimer (18 March 1884 – 19 September 1948) was a German Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical materialism, to understan ...
, and Ernst Meyer. Levi led the party away from the policy of immediate revolution, in an effort to win over SPD and USPD voters and
trade union A trade union (or a labor union in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native ...
officials. These efforts were rewarded when a substantial section of the USPD joined the KPD, making it a mass party for the first time.


Weimar Republic years

Through the 1920s the KPD was racked by internal conflict between radical and moderate factions, partly reflecting the power struggles between
Joseph Stalin ( – 5 March 1953) was a Georgians, Georgian revolutionary and Soviet political leader who governed the Soviet Union from 1924 until his death in 1953. He held power both as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922–1952 ...
and
Grigory Zinoviev Grigory Yevseyevich Zinoviev. Transliterated ''Grigorii Evseevich Zinov'ev'' according to the Library of Congress system. (born Hirsch Apfelbaum, – 25 August 1936), known also under the name Ovsei-Gershon Aronovich Radomyslsky, was a Russian re ...
in
Moscow Moscow ( , American English, US chiefly ; rus, links=no, Москва, r=Moskva, p=mɐˈskva, a=Москва.ogg) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities and towns in Russia by population, largest city of Russia. The city stands on the ...

Moscow
. Germany was seen as being of central importance to the struggle for socialism, and the failure of the German revolution was a major setback. Eventually Levi was expelled in 1921 by the
Comintern The Communist International (Comintern), also known as the Third International (1919–1943), was an international organization that advocated world communism. It was controlled by the Soviet Union. The Comintern resolved at its Second Congres ...
for "indiscipline". Further leadership changes took place in the 1920s. Supporters of the
Left Left may refer to: Music * ''Left'' (Hope of the States album), 2006 * ''Left'' (Monkey House album), 2016 * ''Left'' (Sharlok Poems album) Direction * Left (direction), the relative direction opposite of right * Left-handedness Politics * ...
or
Right Opposition The Right Opposition (, ''Pravaya oppozitsiya'') or Right Tendency (, ''Pravyj uklon''), in VKP(b) was a conditional label formulated by Stalin in fall of 1928 in regards the opposition against certain measures included within the first five-year ...
to the
Stalinist Stalinism is the means of governing and policies which were implemented in the Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a Federalism, federal socialist state in Northern Eurasia tha ...
-controlled Comintern leadership were expelled; of these,
Heinrich BrandlerHeinrich Brandler (3 July 1881 – 26 September 1967) was a Germany, German communism, communist, trade unionist, politician, revolutionary activist, and political writer. Brandler is best remembered as the head of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD ...
, August Thalheimer and Paul Frölich set up a splinter
Communist Party Opposition The Communist Party of Germany (Opposition) (german: Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (Opposition)), generally abbreviated as KPO or KPD(O), was a communist opposition organisation established at the end of 1928 and maintaining its existence unti ...
in 1928. During the years of the
Weimar Republic The Weimar Republic (german: Weimarer Republik ) was the German state from 1918 to 1933 when it functioned as a federal constitutional republic. The state was officially named the German Reich (german: Deutsches Reich, link=no, label=none), ...
, the KPD was the largest communist party in Europe and was seen as the "leading party" of the
communist movement The history of communism encompasses a wide variety of ideologies An ideology () is a set of belief A belief is an Attitude (psychology), attitude that something is the case, or that some proposition about the world is truth, true. In ep ...
outside of the Soviet Union. It maintained a solid electoral performance, usually polling more than 10% of the vote and gaining 100 deputies in the November 1932 elections. In the presidential election of the same year, its leader Thälmann took 13.2% of the vote, compared to Hitler's 30.1%.


Thälmann leadership and the united front

A new KPD leadership more favorable to the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spanned during its existence from 1922 to 1991. It was nominally a of multiple national ; in practice and were highly until its final years. The ...
was elected in 1923. This leadership, headed by
Ernst Thälmann
Ernst Thälmann
, abandoned the goal of immediate revolution, and from 1924 onwards contested
Reichstag is a German word generally meaning parliament, more directly translated as ''Diet (assembly), Diet of the Realm'' or ''National diet'', or more loosely as ''Imperial Diet''. It may refer to: Buildings and places is the god specific German word ...
elections, with some success. Under Thälmann's leadership, the party was closely aligned with the Soviet leadership headed by
Joseph Stalin ( – 5 March 1953) was a Georgians, Georgian revolutionary and Soviet political leader who governed the Soviet Union from 1924 until his death in 1953. He held power both as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922–1952 ...
, and from 1928 onwards the party followed the Comintern line and received funding from the Comintern. In the first five years of Thälmann's leadership, the KPD broadly followed the
united front A united front is an alliance An alliance is a relationship among people A people is a plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason, morality, consciousne ...
policy developed in the early 1920s of working with other working class and socialist parties to contest elections, pursue social struggles and fight the rising right-wing militias. The party's first paramilitary wing was the ''
Roter Frontkämpferbund
Roter Frontkämpferbund
'' ("Alliance of Red Front-Fighters"), which was banned by the governing Social Democrats in 1929.


The Third Period and "social fascism"

Aligning with the Comintern's
ultra-left The term ultra-leftism among Marxist activist groups ("historical ultra-left" below) is used as a pejorative term for certain types of positions on the far-left that are extreme or uncompromising. Another definition historically refers to a partic ...

ultra-left
Third Period The Third Period is an ideological concept adopted by the Communist International The Communist International (Comintern), also known as the Third International (1919–1943), was an international organization ''International Organizatio ...
the KPD abruptly turned to viewing the
Social Democratic Party of Germany The Social Democratic Party of Germany (german: Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, ; SPD, ) is a social democratic political party in Germany. It is one of the two major parties of contemporary Germany along with the CDU/CSU, Union parties ...
(SPD) as its main adversary. In this period, the KPD referred to the SPD as "social fascists". The term social fascism was introduced to the German Communist Party shortly after the Hamburg Uprising of 1923 and gradually became ever more influential in the party; by 1929 it was being propagated as a theory. The KPD regarded itself as "the only anti-fascist party" in Germany and held that all other parties in the Weimar Republic were "fascist". Nevertheless, it cooperated with the Nazis in the early 1930s in attacking the social democrats, and both sought to destroy the liberal democracy of the
Weimar Republic The Weimar Republic (german: Weimarer Republik ) was the German state from 1918 to 1933 when it functioned as a federal constitutional republic. The state was officially named the German Reich (german: Deutsches Reich, link=no, label=none), ...
. In the early 1930s the KPD followed a left-nationalist course, trying to appeal to nationalist-leaning workers. The KPD leadership initially criticised then supported the 1931 Prussian Landtag referendum, an unsuccessful attempt launched by the far-right
Stahlhelm The ''Stahlhelm'' () is a German military steel helmet intended to provide protection against shrapnel and fragments of grenades. The term ''Stahlhelm'' refers both to a generic steel helmet and more specifically to the distinctive German milita ...
to bring down the social democrat state government of Prussia by means of a plebiscite; the KPD referred to the SA as "working people's comrades" during this campaign. During the joint KPD and Nazi campaign to dissolve the
Prussian Parliament The Landtag of Prussia (german: Preußischer Landtag) was the representative assemblyA representative assembly is a political institution in which a number of persons representing the population or privileged orders within the population of a state ...
,
Berlin Police The Berlin Police (german: Der Polizeipräsident in Berlin, lit. "The Police President in Berlin", or commonly ''Berliner Polizei'') is the ''Landespolizei police car, Erfurt Personal Transporters tested by the Saarland Police in the summe ...
captains Paul Anlauf and Franz Lenck were assassinated in Bülowplatz by
Erich Mielke Erich Fritz Emil Mielke (; 28 December 1907 – 21 May 2000) was a Germany, German Communism, communist official who served as head of the East Germany, East German Ministry for State Security (''Ministerium für Staatsicherheit'' – MfS), better ...
and , who were members of the KPD's
paramilitary A paramilitary organization is a semi-militarized force whose organizational structure, tactics, training, subculture, and (often) function are similar to those of a professional military A military, also known collectively as armed f ...
wing, the ''Parteiselbstschutz''. The detailed planning for the murders had been carried out by KPD members of the Reichstag,
Heinz Neumann Heinz Neumann (6 July 1902 – 26 November 1937) was a German politician from the Communist Party of Germany, Communist Party (KPD) and a journalist. He was a member of the Comintern, editor in chief of the party newspaper ''Die Rote Fahne'' and a m ...

Heinz Neumann
and , based on orders issued by
Walter Ulbricht Walter Ernst Paul Ulbricht (; 30 June 18931 August 1973) was a German communist Communism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally sp ...

Walter Ulbricht
, the Party's leader in the Berlin-Brandenberg region. Shooter
Erich Mielke Erich Fritz Emil Mielke (; 28 December 1907 – 21 May 2000) was a Germany, German Communism, communist official who served as head of the East Germany, East German Ministry for State Security (''Ministerium für Staatsicherheit'' – MfS), better ...
who later became the head of the East German Stasi, would only face trial for the murders in 1993. In this period, while also opposed to the Nazis, the KPD regarded the Nazi Party as a less sophisticated and thus less dangerous fascist party than the SPD, and KPD leader Ernst Thälmann declared that "some Nazi trees must not be allowed to overshadow a forest f social democrats. Critics of the KPD accused it of having pursued a sectarian policy. For example, the Social Democratic Party criticized the KPD's thesis of "social fascism", and both
Leon Trotsky Lev Davidovich Bronstein. ( – 21 August 1940), better known as Leon Trotsky; uk, link= no, Лев Давидович Троцький; also transliterated ''Lyev'', ''Trotski'', ''Trotskij'', ''Trockij'' and ''Trotzky''. (), was a Ukrainian ...

Leon Trotsky
from the
Comintern The Communist International (Comintern), also known as the Third International, was an international organization founded in 1919 that advocated world communism, headed by the Soviet Union. The Comintern resolved at its Second Congress to "str ...
's
Left Opposition The Left Opposition was a faction within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Russian Communist Party (b) from 1923 to 1927 headed ''de facto'' by Leon Trotsky. The Left Opposition formed as part of the power struggle within the party leade ...
and
August Thalheimer August Thalheimer (18 March 1884 – 19 September 1948) was a German Marxist Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical materialism, to understan ...
of the
Right Opposition The Right Opposition (, ''Pravaya oppozitsiya'') or Right Tendency (, ''Pravyj uklon''), in VKP(b) was a conditional label formulated by Stalin in fall of 1928 in regards the opposition against certain measures included within the first five-year ...
continued to argue for a united front.Marcel Bois,
Hitler wasn't inevitable
, ''Jacobin'' 11.25.2015
Critics believed that the KPD's sectarianism scuttled any possibility of a united front with the SPD against the rising power of the
National Socialists Nazism ( ), officially National Socialism (german: Nationalsozialismus, ), is the ideology An ideology () is a set of beliefs or philosophies attributed to a person or group of persons, especially as held for reasons that are not purely ...

National Socialists
. These allegations were repudiated by supporters of the KPD as it was said the right-wing leadership of the SPD rejected the proposals of the KPD to unite for the defeat of fascism. The SPD leaders were accused of having countered KPD efforts to form a united front of the working class. For instance, after
Franz von Papen Franz Joseph Hermann Michael Maria von Papen, Erbsälzer zu Werl und Neuwerk (; 29 October 18792 May 1969) was a German conservative Conservatism is an aesthetic Aesthetics, or esthetics (), is a branch of philosophy that deals wit ...
's government carried out a coup d'état in
Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian Distribution of the Baltic tribes, circa 1200 CE (boundaries are approximate). Old Prussian was a Western Baltic language belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages The Indo-Europ ...

Prussia
the KPD called for a general strike and turned to the SPD leadership for joint struggle, but the SPD leaders again refused to cooperate with the KPD. In 1932, as the party began to shift focus to the fascist threat, the KPD founded the
Antifaschistische Aktion ''Antifaschistische Aktion'' () was a militant Militant means vigorously active, combative and/or aggressive, especially in support of a cause, as in "militant reformers". It comes from the 15th century Latin Latin (, or , ) is a clas ...
, commonly known as Antifa, which it described as a "red united Communist front, front under the leadership of the only anti-fascist party, the KPD".


Nazi era

On 27 February, soon after the appointment of Adolf Hitler as chancellor, the Reichstag fire, Reichstag was set on fire and Dutch council communism, council communist Marinus van der Lubbe was found near the building. The Nazis publicly blamed the fire on communist agitators in general, although in a German court in 1933, it was decided that van der Lubbe had acted alone, as he claimed to have done. The following day, Hitler persuaded Hindenburg to issue the Reichstag Fire Decree. It suspended the civil liberties enshrined in the Weimar Constitution, ostensibly to deal with Communist acts of violence. Repression began within hours of the fire, when police arrested dozens of Communists. Although Hitler could have formally banned the KPD, he did not do so right away. Not only was he reluctant to chance a violent uprising, but he believed the KPD could siphon off SPD votes and split the left. However, most judges held the KPD responsible for the fire, and took the line that KPD membership was in and of itself a treasonous act. At the March 1933 German federal election, March 1933 election, the KPD elected 81 deputies. However, it was an open secret that they would never be allowed to take up their seats; they were all arrested in short order. For all intents and purposes, the KPD was "outlawed" on the day the Reichstag Fire Decree was issued, and "completely banned" as of 6 March, the day after the election. Shortly after the election, the Nazis pushed through the Enabling Act of 1933, Enabling Act, which allowed the cabinet–in practice, Hitler–to enact laws without the involvement of the Reichstag, effectively giving Hitler dictatorial powers. Since the bill was effectively a constitutional amendment, a quorum of two-thirds of the entire Reichstag had to be present in order to formally call up the bill. Leaving nothing to chance, Reichstag President Hermann Göring did not count the KPD seats for purposes of obtaining the required quorum. This led historian Richard J. Evans to contend that the Enabling Act had been passed in a manner contrary to law. The Nazis did not need to count the KPD deputies for purposes of getting a supermajority of two-thirds of those deputies present and voting. However, Evans argued, not counting the KPD deputies for purposes of a quorum amounted to "refusing to recognize their existence", and was thus "an illegal act". The KPD was efficiently suppressed by the Nazis. The most senior KPD leaders were Wilhelm Pieck and
Walter Ulbricht Walter Ernst Paul Ulbricht (; 30 June 18931 August 1973) was a German communist Communism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally sp ...

Walter Ulbricht
, who went into exile in the Soviet Union. The KPD maintained an underground organisation in Germany throughout the Nazi period, but the loss of many core members severely weakened the Party's infrastructure.


Purge of 1937

A number of senior KPD leaders in exile were caught up in
Joseph Stalin ( – 5 March 1953) was a Georgians, Georgian revolutionary and Soviet political leader who governed the Soviet Union from 1924 until his death in 1953. He held power both as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922–1952 ...
's Great Purge of 1937–38 and executed, among them Hugo Eberlein,
Heinz Neumann Heinz Neumann (6 July 1902 – 26 November 1937) was a German politician from the Communist Party of Germany, Communist Party (KPD) and a journalist. He was a member of the Comintern, editor in chief of the party newspaper ''Die Rote Fahne'' and a m ...

Heinz Neumann
, Hermann Remmele, Fritz Schulte and Hermann Schubert (German communist), Hermann Schubert, or sent to the gulag, like Margarete Buber-Neumann. Still others, like Gustav von Wangenheim and
Erich Mielke Erich Fritz Emil Mielke (; 28 December 1907 – 21 May 2000) was a Germany, German Communism, communist official who served as head of the East Germany, East German Ministry for State Security (''Ministerium für Staatsicherheit'' – MfS), better ...
(later the head of the Stasi in East Germany), denounced their fellow exiles to the NKVD. Willi Münzenberg, the KPD's propaganda chief, was murdered in mysterious circumstances in France in 1940. The NKVD is believed to have been responsible.


Postwar history

In
East Germany East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic (GDR; german: Deutsche Demokratische Republik, , DDR, ), was a state that existed from 1949 to 1990 in eastern Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines, a current ...
, the Soviet Military Administration in Germany forced the eastern branch of the SPD to Merger of the KPD and SPD into the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, merge with the KPD (led by Pieck and Ulbricht) to form the Socialist Unity Party (SED) in April 1946.Eric D. Weitz, ''Creating German Communism, 1890–1990: From Popular Protests to Socialist State''. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997 Although nominally a union of equals, the SED quickly fell under Communist domination, and most of the more recalcitrant members from the SPD side of the merger were pushed out in short order. By the time of the formal formation of the East German state in 1949, the SED was a full-fledged Communist party, and developed along lines similar to other Soviet-bloc Communist parties. It was the ruling party in East Germany from its formation in 1949 until 1989. The SPD managed to preserve its independence in
Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inhabitants, as of 31 December 2019 makes it the List of cities in the European Union by ...

Berlin
, forcing the SED to form a small branch in West Berlin, the Socialist Unity Party of West Berlin. The KPD reorganised in the western part of Germany, and received 5.7% of the vote in the 1949 German federal election, first Bundestag election in 1949. But the onset of the Cold War and the subsequent widespread repression of the Far-left politics, far left soon caused a collapse in the party's support. The reputation of the party had also been damaged by the conduct of the Red Army during its Soviet occupation zone of Germany, occupation of eastern Germany, which included looting, political repression, and Rape during the occupation of Germany, mass rape. On orders from Joseph Stalin, the Communist deputies to the Parlamentarischer Rat refused to sign the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, BRD Basic Law to avoid recognizing the political legitimacy of West Germany. At the 1953 German federal election, 1953 election the KPD only won 2.2 percent of the total votes and lost all of its seats, never to return. The party was banned in August 1956 by the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany. The decision was upheld by the European Commission of Human Rights in ''Communist Party of Germany v. the Federal Republic of Germany''. After the party was declared illegal, many of its members continued to function clandestinely despite increased government surveillance. Part of its membership refounded the party in 1968 as the
German Communist Party The German Communist Party (german: Deutsche Kommunistische Partei, ) is a minor communist party in Germany. The DKP supports left positions and was an observer member of the Party of the European Left, European Left. At the end of February 2016 ...
(DKP). Following German reunification many DKP members joined the new Party of Democratic Socialism, formed out of the remains of the SED. In 1968, a self-named "true successor" to the (banned) West German KPD was formed, the Communist Party of Germany/Marxists-Leninists, KPD/ML (Marxist–Leninist), which followed Maoism, Maoist ideas. It went through multiple splits and united with a Trotskyist group in 1986 to form the Unified Socialist Party (Germany), Unified Socialist Party (VSP), which failed to gain any influence and dissolved in the early 1990s. However, multiple tiny splinter groups originating in the KPD/ML still exist, several of which claim the name of KPD. Communist Party of Germany (1990), Another party with this name was formed in 1990 in East Berlin by several hardline Communists who had been expelled from the PDS, including Erich Honecker. The "KPD (Bolshevik)" split off from the East German KPD in 2005, bringing the total number of (more or less) active KPDs to at least 5. The Left (Germany), The Left, formed out of a merger between the PDS and Labour and Social Justice – The Electoral Alternative in 2007, claims to be the historical successor of the KPD (by way of the PDS).


Organization

In the early 1920s, the party operated under the principle of democratic centralism, whereby the leading body of the party was the Congress, meeting at least once a year. Between Congresses, leadership of the party resided in the Central Committee, which was elected at the Congress, of one group of people who had to live where the leadership was resident and formed the Zentrale and others nominated from the districts they represented (but also elected at the Congress) who represented the wider party. Elected figures were subject to recall by the bodies that elected them. The KPD employed around about 200 full-timers during its early years of existence, and as Broue notes "They received the pay of an average skilled worker, and had no privileges, apart from being the first to be arrested, prosecuted and sentenced, and when shooting started, to be the first to fall".Broue, P. (2006) ''The German Revolution: 1917–1923'', Chicago: Haymarket Books, pg.863-864


Election results


Federal elections


Presidential elections


See also

*
Communist Party Opposition The Communist Party of Germany (Opposition) (german: Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (Opposition)), generally abbreviated as KPO or KPD(O), was a communist opposition organisation established at the end of 1928 and maintaining its existence unti ...
* Communist Workers' Party of Germany * Freies Volk * German resistance to Nazism, German resistance * German Revolution of 1918–1919 * Hotel Lux, Moscow hotel where many German party members lived in exile * Luxemburgism * Revolutionary Trade Union Opposition *
Rosa Luxemburg Rosa Luxemburg (; pl, Róża Luksemburg; also ''Rozalia Luksenburg''; 5 March 1871 – 15 January 1919) was a Polish Marxism, Marxist, Philosophy, philosopher, economist, Anti-war movement, anti-war activist and Revolutionary socialism, revolut ...

Rosa Luxemburg
,
Karl Liebknecht Karl Paul August Friedrich Liebknecht (; 13 August 1871 – 15 January 1919) was a German socialist Socialism is a Political philosophy, political, Social philosophy, social, and economic philosophy encompassing a range of Economic systems, ...

Karl Liebknecht
, ,
Paul Levi Paul Levi (11 March 1883 – 9 February 1930) was a German Communist and Social Democratic political leader. He was the head of the Communist Party of Germany following the assassination of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in 1919. After being ...
,
Erich Mielke Erich Fritz Emil Mielke (; 28 December 1907 – 21 May 2000) was a Germany, German Communism, communist official who served as head of the East Germany, East German Ministry for State Security (''Ministerium für Staatsicherheit'' – MfS), better ...
, Richard Müller (socialist) * Rotfrontkämpferbund * Socialist Workers' Party of Germany * Sozialistische Volkszeitung * Spartacus League * Union of Manual and Intellectual Workers


References


Further reading

* Rudof Coper, ''Failure of a Revolution: Germany in 1918–1919.'' Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1955. * Catherine Epstein, ''The Last Revolutionaries: German Communists and Their Century.'' Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2003. * Ruth Fischer, ''Stalin and German Communism.'' Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1948. * Ben Fowkes, ''Communism in Germany under the Weimar Republic''; London: Palgrave Macmillan 1984. * John Riddell (ed.), ''The German Revolution and the Debate on Soviet Power: Documents: 1918–1919: Preparing the Founding Congress.'' New York: Pathfinder Press, 1986. * John Green, ''Willi Münzenberg - Fighter against Fascism and Stalinism'', Routledge 2019 * Bill Pelz, The Spartakusbund and the German working class movement, 1914–1919, Lewiston [N.Y.]: E. Mellen Press, 1988. * Aleksandr Vatlin, "The Testing Ground of World Revolution: Germany in the 1920s," in Tim Rees and Andrew Thorpe (eds.), ''International Communism and the Communist International, 1919–43.'' Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998. * Eric D. Weitz, ''Creating German Communism, 1890–1990: From Popular Protests to Socialist State''. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997 * David Priestand, ''Red Flag: A History of Communism''," New York: Grove Press, 2009 * Ralf Hoffrogge, Norman LaPorte (eds.): ''Weimar Communism as Mass Movement 1918–1933'', London: Lawrence & Wishart. {{Authority control Communist Party of Germany, Banned communist parties German Revolution of 1918–1919 Defunct communist parties in Germany Political parties established in 1918 1918 establishments in Germany Political parties disestablished in 1933 1933 disestablishments in Germany Political parties established in 1945 1945 establishments in Germany Political parties disestablished in 1946 1946 disestablishments in East Germany Political parties disestablished in 1956 1956 disestablishments in West Germany Far-left politics in Germany