Revolutionary Principles and Strategy in the November Revolution: The Case of the USPD
Forthcoming, Kets, G. and J. Muldoon (eds). The German Revolution and Political Theory. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
22 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2018
Date Written: November 24, 2018
This paper studies the negotiation of the relationship between revolutionary principles and strategy in Germany’s main revolutionary party, the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD), during the febrile early months of the November revolution—early November to late December 1918. One of the major strategic differences within the USPD concerned support for convocation of a national assembly, a policy deemed by some of its members to be incompatible with conciliar power. However, conciliar power turned out to be not only compatible with a national assembly, but in fact to engender it. This process of delegation of power from councils to parliament was not, I will argue, bound to be a concession to the counterrevolution, or an act of political suicide, as some have suggested. Rather, delegation was the only feasible revolutionary strategy during the revolution’s early days. This strategy, which I will call council Erfurtianism, envisaged a parliamentary republic supported by the councils. I will then argue that, although most of the USPD Left never acceded to that strategy, its leaders shared a conception of revolutionary principles with the USPD Right, a conception altogether distinct from that of the Bolsheviks.
Keywords: German revolution, revolutionary shop stewards, Rosa Luxemburg
JEL Classification: N44, P26
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation