Paul Levi in Perspective

in Historical Materialism
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Paul Levi was leader of the German Communist Party in the vital years 1919 and 1920; he was subsequently expelled for his opposition to the adventurist March Action in 1921. Three recent books cast new light on this complex figure: David Fernbach’s selection of his writings, Frédéric Cyr’s biography and Paul Frölich’s memoirs. Levi was a man of great talent and courage, but his leadership style was defective; he was neither Leninist nor Luxemburgist, and his greatest weakness was his inability to relate to ultra-leftism. His limitations are revealed by a comparison with his comrade Clara Zetkin.

Paul Levi in Perspective

in Historical Materialism

Sections

References

AngressWerner T. Stillborn Revolution: The Communist Bid for Power in Germany 1921–1923 1963 Princeton Princeton University Press

BadiaGilbert Clara Zetkin féministe sans frontières 1993 Paris Les Éditions ouvrières

BeradtCharlotte Paul Levi 1969 Frankfurt am Main Europäische Verlagsanstalt

BoisMarcelWildeFlorian ‘“Modell für den künftigen Umgang mit innerparteilicher Diskussion”?: Der Heidelberger Parteitag der kpd 1919’ 2007 available at: <http://www.workerscontrol.net/de/authors/%E2%80%9Emodell-fuer-den-kuenftigen-umgang-mit-innerparteilicher-diskussion%E2%80%9C>.

BrouéPierre The German Revolution, 1917–1923 Historical Materialism 2005 Leiden Brill Book Series

CyrFrédéric Paul Levi rebelle devant les extrêmes. Une biographie politique 2013 Québec Presses de l’Université Laval

FernbachDavid ‘Rosa Luxemburg’s Political Heir: An Appreciation of Paul Levi’ New Left Review 1999 I 238 3 25

FernbachDavid ‘Editorial Introduction to Paul Levi, Our Path and What Is the Crime? Historical Materialism 2009 17 3 101 110

FernbachDavid In the Steps of Rosa Luxemburg: Selected Writings of Paul Levi 2011 Leiden Brill

FrölichPaul HoornwegJ. Rosa Luxemburg: Ideas in Action 1972 London Pluto Press

FrölichPaul TosstorffReiner Im radikalen Lager: Politische Autobiographie 1890–1921 2013 Berlin BasisDruck Verlag

GrunbergerRichard Red Rising in Bavaria 1973 London Arthur Barker

HarmanChris The Lost Revolution: Germany 1918 to 1923 1982 London Bookmarks

KesslerMario Ruth Fischer: Ein Leben mit und gegen Kommunisten (1895–1961) 2013 Cologne/Weimar/Vienna Böhlau-Verlag

Koch-BaumgartenSigrid Aufstand der Avantgarde: Die Märzaktion der kpd 1921 1986 Frankfurt am Main Campus Verlag

LeninVladimir Ilyich Collected Works 1964 Volume 24 Moscow Progress Publishers

LeninVladimir Ilyich Collected Works 1965a Volume 30 Moscow Progress Publishers

LeninVladimir Ilyich Collected Works 1965b Volume 32 Moscow Progress Publishers

LeninVladimir Ilyich Collected Works 1965c Volume 33 Moscow Progress Publishers

LeninVladimir Ilyich Collected Works 1969 Volume 42 Moscow Progress Publishers

Leviné-MeyerRosa MairowitzDavid Zane Inside German Communism: Memoirs of Party Life in the Weimar Republic 1977 London Pluto Press

LiebknechtKarl ‘The Main Enemy Is At Home!’ 1915 available at: < http://www.marxists.org/archive/liebknecht-k/works/1915/05/main-enemy-home.htm>.

MorganDavid W. The Socialist Left and the German Revolution 1975 Ithaca Cornell University Press

PrésumeyVincent ‘Pierre Broué’ Revolutionary History 2007 9 4 5 91

Protokoll des iii Kongresses der Kommunistischen Internationale 1921 Hamburg Verlag der Kommunistischen Internationale

ReichenbachBernard ‘The kapd in Retrospect’ Revolutionary History 1994 5 2 137 144

RiddellJohn ‘Why Did Paul Levi Lose Out in the German Communist Leadership?’ 2013a available at: <http://johnriddell.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/why-did-paul-levi-lose-out-in-the-german-communist-leadership/>.

RiddellJohn ‘Did the Russian nep Trigger the German March Action? – An Exchange’ 2013b available at: <http://johnriddell.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/did-the-russian-nep-trigger-the-german-march-action-an-exchange/>.

RiddellJohn Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples Unite! 1991 Volume I New York Pathfinder

RiddellJohn To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921 Historical Materialism 2015 Leiden Brill Book Series

RogersErnest ‘A Comment on Paul Levi’s Article’ Revolutionary History 1994 5 2 70 72

RosmerAlfred BirchallIan H. Lenin’s Moscow 1971 London Pluto

SergeVictor ‘The Anarchists and the Experience of the Russian Revolution’ Revolution in Danger 1997 London Redwords

SergeVictor BirchallIan H. Witness to the German Revolution 2000 London Redwords

SergeVictor SedgwickPeter Memoirs of a Revolutionary 1901–1941 2012 New York New York Review of Books

ZetkinKlara Reminiscences of Lenin 1929 London Modern Books Limited

2

Fernbach (ed.) 2011p. 224.

6

Serge 2012p. 121.

7

Rosmer 1971p. 29.

8

Leviné-Meyer 1977p. 15.

9

Fernbach (ed.) 2011p. 23.

10

Fernbach (ed.) 2011p. 48.

11

Stressed by Grunberger 1973.

13

Cyr 2013p. 27.

14

Cyr 2013p. 176.

15

Frölich 1972.

16

Fernbach (ed.) 2011p. 208.

17

Fernbach (ed.) 2011p. 296.

18

Fernbach (ed.) 2011pp. 257–65. An earlier translation by Mike Jones of Levi’s Introduction to the German edition of Trotsky’s book was published in Revolutionary History Volume 5 Issue 2 (1994).

19

See Serge 2000.

20

Fernbach (ed.) 2011p. 225.

21

Fernbach (ed.) 2011p. 227.

22

Fernbach (ed.) 2011p. 249.

23

Fernbach (ed.) 2011p. 274.

24

Frölich 2013p. 175.

25

Frölich 2013p. 254.

26

Frölich 2013p. 256.

27

Frölich 2013p. 255.

28

Frölich 2013p. 244.

29

Frölich 2013p. 246.

30

Frölich 2013pp. 253–4.

31

Frölich 2013p. 259.

32

Frölich 2013p. 262.

33

Frölich 2013p. 265.

34

Fernbach 1999.

35

Fernbach (ed.) 2011p. 11.

36

Fernbach (ed.) 2011p. 31.

37

Fernbach (ed.) 2011p. 32.

38

Cyr 2013p. 141.

39

Cyr 2013p. 143.

40

Fernbach (ed.) 2011p. 261. Our Path contains several quotations from Lenin and more from Marx. Levi was clearly forestalling any charges of unorthodoxy.

41

Fernbach (ed.) 2011p. 268.

43

Cyr 2013p. 58.

44

Cyr 2013p. 73.

45

Lenin 1964p. 23

46

Cyr 2013p. 78.

47

Cyr 2013pp. 81–2.

48

Cyr 2013p. 192.

49

Cyr 2013p. 193.

50

Frölich 2013p. 304.

51

Frölich 2013p. 340.

52

Rosmer 1971p. 61. Precisely because the Bolshevik Party was far more homogeneous than the kpd it could be more flexible in its alliances.

53

Serge 1997.

54

Broué 2005pp. 213–25.

55

Harman 1982p. 153.

57

Bois and Wilde 2007.

58

Reichenbach 1994.

59

Lenin 1965app. 87–8.

60

Rosmer 1971p. 69.

61

Riddell (ed.) 1991pp. 166–8. Of course Lenin knew very well that there were huge differences; he was ‘bending the stick’ in response to Levi’s dogmatism.

62

Fernbach 2009p. 104.

63

Zetkin 1929p. 24.

64

Koch-Baumgarten 1986pp. 319–21; Rogers 1994 p. 72.

65

Broué 2005p. 505; Koch-Baumgarten 1986 p. 316.

67

Liebknecht 1915.

68

Fernbach (ed.) 2011p. 120.

69

Zetkin 1929p. 27.

70

Serge 2000p. 46.

71

Zetkin 1929p. 27. Levi seemed to concede this with his rather rueful remark that his pamphlet ‘did not have the effect I had counted on’ (Fernbach (ed.) 2011 p. 168).

72

Zetkin 1929pp. 31–2.

73

Fernbach (ed.) 2011p. 148.

75

Koch-Baumgarten 1986especially p. 228. Zinoviev’s claim at the Third Comintern Congress that half a million workers had fought was typical triumphalist exaggeration. See Angress 1963 p. 179.

76

Morgan 1975p. 397.

78

Beradt 1969p. 49.

79

Zetkin 1929pp. 27–8.

82

Zetkin 1929pp. 38–9. Eight months later in ‘Notes of a Publicist’ Lenin explained that he had defended Levi because he saw the dangers of leftism but that he had been wrong to believe that Levi could be recuperated. See Lenin 1965c pp. 204–11.

85

Cyr 2013p. 114.

86

Cyr 2013pp. 124–5.

87

Cyr 2013p. 128.

88

Cyr 2013p. 135.

89

Frölich 2013p. 276.

91

Zetkin 1929p. 33. Levi himself was aware of the fact that one of the great weaknesses of the Comintern was the shortage of competent cadre. ‘Russia is not in a position to send out its best forces. They have positions in Russia that are not replaceable.’ (Fernbach (ed.) 2011 p. 161.)

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