Germany 1953: when workers rose against Stalinism

June 22, 2013 at 3:54 am (AWL, Germany, history, Human rights, internationalism, Jim D, Marxism, riots, Shachtman, stalinism, trotskyism, USSR, workers)

From the Workers Liberty archives:

Like a brilliant gleam of light in the gathering darkness of the post-war years, the rising of the German working class has already shattered myths and shamed despair. It has already answered a host of questions that had been passed by those who became panic-stricken before the seemingly invincible strength of Stalinist tyranny.

These June days may well go down in history as the beginning of the workers’ revolt against Stalinism — the beginning, in the historical view, quite apart from any over-optimistic predictions about the immediate aftermath to be expected from this action itself.

Is the Iron Curtain empire monolithic? Have the workers of East Europe been so duped by Stalinism as to become cowed creatures, hypnotised, straightjacketed by the Stalinist ‘mystique’? Has the working class lost its revolutionary dynamism? Is the Russian power so solid, or all-intimidating, within that there is no hope of stopping its menace except by Western military might and the third world war? The German working class has given an answer, and it is the answer we Independent Socialists have looked to.

Beginning as a spontaneous, peaceful mass demonstration against the latest speed-up decree increasing work norms, in 24 hours it necessarily became a battle with the real power in the country, the Russian troops. Beginning as a movement for economic demands, it was at bottom, and quickly became overtly, a political demonstration.

Five hours after it began at 9 am on June 16, the regime had already capitulated on the immediate issue of speed-up, withdrawing its ukase.

On the second day of the action, Russian tanks, armoured cars, artillery and soldiery had taken over from the East German police, who had refrained from blocking the riotous demonstrators.

In the vanguard of the march, and apparently its inspirers, were several hundred construction workers…

(Hal Draper, Labor Action, 22 June 1953)

For the full article by Hal Draper, and more by Max Shachtman and others…

Click here to download as a pdf.

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