Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany
- (Unabhangige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, USPD)Founded at Gotha on 6 April 1917 by about 120 socialists who had split with the SPD, the USPD was antedated by the Sozialdemokratische Arbeitsgemeinschaft (Social Democratic Alliance), a group of 18 Reichstag* members—including Hugo Haase,* Eduard Bernstein, Wilhelm Dittmann,* and Franz Mehring—expelled from the SPD in 1916 for failing to support a vote for war credits. The USPD s statutes were based largely on those of the SPD; indeed, a Party program was never produced. But a USPD manifesto demanded amnesty for political pris-oners, unrestricted assembly and association, freedom of the press, the eight-hour workday, and universal suffrage via secret ballot. The Party chose Haase and Georg Ledebour* as cochairmen, with Dittmann as Party secretary. Affili-ated with the USPD, but clearly autonomous, were the Spartacus Group (see Spartacus League*), led by Rosa Luxemburg* and Karl Liebknecht,* and the Revolutionary Shop Stewards.* As the USPD could count on support from nu-merous electoral districts that were part of the SPD organization, it was im-mediately a mass party. Its central organ was the Leipziger Volkszeitung, renamed Die Freiheit in November 1918.On 10 November 1918 the USPD formed a coalition with the SPD that pro-duced the Council of People s Representatives.* Strained from the outset by a history of conflict, this interim cabinet collapsed on 29 December when, out-raged by military action taken unilaterally by their colleagues, the three USPD members resigned. Two days later Party members attached to the Spartacists separated to form the KPD. The USPD received 2.3 million votes (7.6 percent) and twenty-two mandates in the January 1919 National Assembly* elections; the faction formed the Left opposition in the chamber. During the next eighteen months the USPD grew to 893,000 members and enjoyed increasing influence with organized labor, especially metalworkers. In the Reichstag elections ofJune 1920 the Party attained 4.9 million votes (18.8 percent) and a faction of eighty-one seats. But events since the Kapp* Putsch had radicalized its left wing, and the electoral surge was negated at the October 1920 Party Congress. Beset since the November Revolution* by a rift over the issue of parliamentary versus coun-cil government, the USPD split when 237 delegates joined Ernst Daumig* in voting to enter the Moscow-directed Comintern. The opposition—the 156 votes behind Artur Crispien* and Dittmann—endured as the USPD; those who fol-lowed Daumig joined the KPD in December 1920. In January 1922 the USPD claimed about 300,000 members; yet, animated by the assassination* of Walther Rathenau* and the growth of right-wing radicalism, the membership voted in September to reenter the SPD. A tiny minority maintained its independence as a splinter group.Marked by fuzziness of purpose, the USPD is sometimes perceived as a doomed experiment. The Party was born out of pacifism and the SPD's policy of sustaining the German war effort, and a large segment of the Party s mem-bership remained wedded to the ideology advocated by the SPD. (Bernstein, although he was a pacifist, stood to the ideological Right of the parent Party.) What posture might such individuals assume once the war no longer separated them from former colleagues? The bloc centered on Haase, Bernstein, Dittmann, and Karl Kautsky—later known as centrists—did not, however, dominate Party ideology. Nor was the USPD monopolized by the revolutionary Marxism as-sociated with the Spartacists. From its inception, the rank and file were driven by the growing discontent associated with the food crisis and other hardships tied to the wartime blockade.* Those linked to this groundswell were motivated neither by pacifism nor by evolutionary Marxism; indeed, their radicalism, ex-emplified by the armaments strike of January 1918, was only rarely tied to political goals. Thus, when November 1918 arrived, the USPD lacked a clear direction. The ensuing division between those favoring parliamentary or council rule festered until October 1920. By then, historians argue, the ideal of socialist unity was long dead and the foundation of the Republic was, in consequence, flawed.REFERENCES:Berlau, German Social Democratic Party; Morgan, Socialist Left; Schor-ske, German Social Democracy.
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.
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