Communist Party of Germany

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Communist Party of Germany


(CPG, Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands), formed in the course of the November Revolution of 1918, which broke out during the revolutionary upsurge in Germany, intensifying under the influence of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia. The Constituent Congress of the party, convened by the Spartacus League, was held in Berlin from Dec. 30, 1918, to Jan. 1, 1919. The congress adopted a party program and proclaimed the CPG’s complete solidarity with Soviet Russia. The CPG joined the Comintern in 1919. From its formation the party was persecuted by imperialist reactionaries; in January 1919 the founders of the CPG, K. Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg, were treacherously murdered. Communists and many members of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (ISDP) marched shoulder to shoulder in the struggle against counterrevolution, particularly against the Kapp Putsch of 1920, and in support of the Hands Off Soviet Russia! movement. The Communist Party and a majority of the members of the ISDP united around a platform of Marxism-Leninism in December 1920 at the Sixth Congress of the CPG. In 1921 the CPG proposed the creation of a united proletarian front for the struggle against reaction.

Demonstrations by the working class and other strata of the working people during the postwar revolutionary crisis in Germany reached their culmination in 1923. Armed proletarian groups were organized in many localities, and in October “worker governments” of left-wing Social Democrats and Communists were formed in Saxony and Thuringia. E. Thälmann played an important role in the workers’ uprising in Hamburg. The CPG, however, did not yet possess sufficient experience and influence to ensure success in the struggle for the achievement of power by the proletariat; moreover, the leadership of the party was in the hands of opportunists—H. Brandler and A. Thalheimer. After the CPG was banned in November 1923, it remained underground until the spring of 1924. The party’s Ninth Congress, held illegally in April 1924, discussed the lessons of the class battles of 1923 and outlined measures for expanding party work among the masses during the temporary stabilization of capitalism. Brandler and his supporters were expelled from the Central Committee (CC). After the expulsion of the right-wing opportunists, however, party leadership shifted to the “ultra-leftists” (Ruth Fischer and A. Maslow). In the following period, the CPG’s Marxist-Leninist nucleus, backed by the Comintern and relying on the support of the membership as a whole, was able to overcome the threat of the party’s isolation resulting from the activity of the “ultra-leftists” and to defeat the latter. In 1925, at the First Conference of the CPG, Ruth Fischer, A. Maslow, and others were removed from party leadership (in August 1926 they were expelled from the party). E. Thälmann was elected party chairman.

The new leadership embarked on a decisive struggle to transform the CPG into a truly revolutionary party and to win over the majority of the German proletariat. The party gained strength ideologically and organizationally, broadening its influence in the trade unions and other organizations of the working people. In the mass movement to expropriate princely property (1926) initiated by the CPG, there was unity of action not only among local organizations but also among the leadership of the CPG and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SDPG). The Eleventh Congress of the CPG (March 1927) approved the course taken by the new CC and called on the party to struggle against the growing threat of war and in defense of the Soviet Union. The Communists launched a broad campaign against German rearmament and intensified the struggle for the socio-economic demands of the working people.

During the world economic crisis (1929–33), when the most reactionary and aggressive circles of German finance capital turned toward fascist dictatorship, promoting nationalism and revanchism by every possible means, the CPG published its “Program for the National and Social Liberation of the German People” (1930), showing the way to national salvation and the establishment of a truly democratic system. Also adopted was the “Program of Aid to the Peasants” (1931), indicating the means of eliminating the monopoly and landlord oppression of the rural toilers. The CPG’s influence grew, as shown by the results of the elections to the Reichstag; in November 1932 the Communist Party received nearly 6 million votes. But the CPG was unable to gain substantial influence among the middle class, most of which began to support the Nazi Party, thus considerably increasing the danger of a fascist seizure of power.

Consistently struggling against oppression and exploitation, against militarism and war, against the threat of a fascist dictatorship, and for the people’s democratic rights, the CPG in this period still set as its immediate goal the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Given the balance of class forces within the country at that time, this goal could not be achieved directly, without intermediate stages. A considerable segment of the workers still followed the Social Democrats, and the right-wing leadership of the SDPG stubbornly rejected the CPG’s proposals to unite for the defeat of fascism.

With the establishment of a fascist dictatorship in January 1933, bloody terror was unleashed against the CPG. On Mar. 3, 1933, Thälmann was arrested and thrown into the Gestapo torture chamber (he was foully murdered by the fascists on Aug. 18, 1944). Of the 300,000 members of the CPG in early 1933, about half were cruelly persecuted and incarcerated in prisons and concentration camps, and tens of thousands were executed.

Recognizing that fundamental changes were occurring in the country, the Brussels Conference of the CPG (October 1935), adhering to the resolutions of the Seventh Congress of the Comintern, critically examined the party’s work in the preceding period and gave it a new orientation, calling for unity of action of the working class in the struggle against fascist rule. In response to the appeal of the CPG, thousands of German antifascists fought against the German-Italian fascist intervention in Spain.

The Bern Conference of the CPG (Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 1939) defined the party’s policy with regard to the immediate threat of a world war initiated by German fascism. The conference worked out a program for establishing a democratic system around which all opponents of the fascist regime could be united. With the outbreak of World War II (1939–45) the CPG called on the working class to assist in the military defeat of Hitler’s Germany. After fascist Germany’s attack on the USSR (June 22, 1941), the CC of the CPG summoned the German people to struggle against the Hitlerites’ invasion of the land of socialism.

Amid the difficult conditions of the underground, the Communists, together with social democratic workers, courageously fought against Hitler’s regime of dictatorship and terror. The victorious operations of the Soviet Army provided the strongest impetus to the growth of the antifascist Resistance Movement. In July 1943 the national committee Free Germany was created in the USSR on the initiative of the CC of the CPG. The national committee became the political and organizational center of German antifascists within Germany and abroad. The struggle against German fascism, headed by the CPG, entered a new stage, assuming a broader scope.

After fascist Germany’s crushing defeat, the CC of the CPG, in its appeal of June 11, 1945 (to which the CC of the SDPG adhered), unfolded a broad program of democratic reforms on the basis of cooperation among all antifascist forces in Germany. Fraternal cooperation between the CPG and the SDPG was strengthened in the struggle to implement this program. In the eastern part of Germany there arose the preconditions for the unification of the two workers’ parties, and in April 1946 the Socialist Unity Party was formed by the merger of the CPG and the SDPG.

In West Germany the mending of the schism in the workers’ movement was hindered by the reactionary circles of the German bourgeoisie, the imperialist occupation authorities, and the right-wing Social Democrats headed by K. Schumacher. The Communist Party in West Germany developed as an independent organization, retaining its former name.

The CPG was organized according to the principle of democratic centralism. The party’s central organ was the newspaper Rote Fahne. (See Table 1 for a list of the congresses and conferences of the CPG.)

Table 1. Congresses and conferences of the Communist Party of the German Democratic Republic
Constituent Congress ...............BerlinDec. 30, 1918-Jan. 1, 1919
Second Congress ...............HeidelbergOct. 20–24, 1919
Third Congress ...............KarlsruheFeb. 25–26, 1920
Fourth Congress ...............BerlinApr. 14–15, 1920
Fifth Congress ...............BerlinNov. 1–3, 1920
Sixth (Unity) Congress ...............BerlinDec. 4–7, 1920
Seventh Congress ...............JenaAug. 22–26, 1921
Eighth Congress ...............LeipzigJan. 28–Feb. 1, 1923
Ninth Congress ...............Frankfurt am MainApr. 7–10, 1924
Tenth Congress ...............BerlinJuly 12–17, 1925
First Party-wide Conference ...............BerlinOct. 30, 1925
Eleventh Congress ...............EssenMar. 2–7, 1927
Twelfth Congress ...............BerlinJune 9–15, 1929
All-Germany Party Conference ...............BerlinOct. 15–17, 1932
Brussels Party Conference (13th Congress) ...............BrusselsOctober 1935
Bern Party Conference (14th Congress) ...............BernJan. 30-Feb. 1, 1939
Fifteenth Congress ...............BerlinApr. 19–20, 1946


Lenin, V. I. “Pis’mo k rabochim Evropy i Ameriki.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 37.
Lenin, V. I. “Rech’ na mitinge protesta protiv ubiistva Karla Libknekhta i Rozy Liuksemburg 19 ianv. 1919.” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “Detskaia bolezn’ ’levizny’ v kommunizme.” Ibid., vol. 41.
Lenin, V. I. “Pis’mo k nemetskim kommunistam.” Ibid., vol. 44. 35 let Kommunisticheskoi partii Germanii. Moscow, 1955. (Translated from German.)
Zur Geschichte der Kommunistischen Partei Deutschlands. Berlin, 1955.
Thälmann, E. Izbr. stat’i i rechi, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1957–58. (Translated from German.)
Pieck, W. Gesammelte Reden und Schriften, vols. 2–3. Berlin, 1959–61.
Pieck, W. Zur Geschichte der Kommunistischen Partei Deutschlands: 30 Jahre Kampf. Berlin, 1949.
Ulbricht, W. Zur Geschichte der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung: Aus Reden und Aufsätzen, vols. 1–2. Berlin, 1963.
20 let SEPG: Dokumenty Sotsialisticheskoi edinoipartii Germanii. Moscow, 1966. (Translated from German.)
Krivoguz, I. M. ”Spartak” i obrazovanie Kommunisticheskoi partii Germanii. Moscow, 1962.
Diakin, V. S. Kommunisticheskaia partiia Germanii i problema edinogo fronta v gody otnositel’noi stabilizatsii kapitalizma, 1924–1928. Moscow-Leningrad, 1961.
Blank, A. S. Kommunisticheskaia partiia Germanii v bor’be protiv fashistskoi diktatury (1933–1945). Moscow, 1964.


Communist Party of Germany


(CPG, Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands), proclaimed an independent political party in West Germany on Apr. 27, 1948, at a conference in Herne. The conference united organizations of the CPG in Germany’s western zones and elected a party Central Administration headed by M. Reimann. The CPG initiated the struggle for the basic interests of the working class and all working people in West Germany, advocating the socialization of major industries, the democratization of the state apparatus, the introduction of democratic land reform, and the establishment of a progressive system of social security. At a time when the Western powers set about to partition Germany, the CPG consistently supported the country’s unity. The party conference in Solingen (March 1949) demanded the cessation of all the reactionary and revanchist activity in West Germany that promoted the partition of Germany.

After the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in September 1949 and the beginning of the remilitarization of West Germany by K. Adenauer’s government, the CPG launched a campaign against this policy and against the Paris agreements of 1954 and the FRG’s entry into NATO; it worked for the conclusion of a peace treaty and for the establishment of the preconditions for the country’s reunification on a peaceful, democratic basis. West German Communists took an active part in the movement against militarism. Despite persecution the Communist Party received 1,361,706 votes in the elections to the Bundestag in August 1949.

The Hamburg congress of the CPG (December 1954) declared that the German working class was faced with the historic task of leading the people’s struggle for the vital interests of the nation and for the peaceful resolution of the German question and of preventing the revival of militarism. The congress advocated the strengthening of trade unions and increasing the work of Communists in them. The ruling circles of the FRG, seeking to suppress the CPG’s resistance to their reactionary policies, embarked on a broad anticommunist campaign. In November 1954 legal proceedings against the Communist Party were initiated in Karlsruhe, and on Aug. 17, 1956, the party was banned. In the following years thousands of Communists were brought to trial in the FRG, and many were imprisoned. The illegal congress of the CPG held in June 1957 worked out party strategy and tactics under the new conditions, discussing measures to block plans to arm the FRG with atomic weapons and to limit the power of the monopolies. The party congress held in July 1963 adopted a program calling upon all strata of the population to struggle against emergency legislation, for the implementation of the policy of peaceful coexistence, and for the recognition of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the existing boundaries in Europe. Party rules were also adopted at the congress. The West German Communists took an active part in working-class strikes (notably, the metal-workers’ strike in Schleswig-Holstein in 1956–57 and the metalworkers’ strike in Baden-Württemberg in 1963) and in organizing the peace movement. The CPG repeatedly appealed to the leadership of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) for unity of action, but the leaders of the SDP refused.

During the 1960’s the Communists began combining illegal and legal methods of struggle more extensively and skillfully, and their influence in trade unions, youth organizations, and other associations of the working people grew. In the new situation arising from the failure of Adenauer’s policies and the accession to power of a coalition government of the Christian Democratic Union-Christian Socialist Union and the SDP (late 1966), the CPG published a draft party program in February 1968. The program analyzed the situation in the FRG from the Marxist standpoint and stated that the CPG supported socialist reforms in the country. It declared the party’s principal tasks to be the struggle for the democratic rights of the population, the implementation of a peaceful foreign policy, and the establishment of neighborly relations with the GDR. The program called for far-reaching antimonopolistic reforms and for the participation of the working people in the management of enterprises and the economy. It stressed that fundamental reforms could only be carried out in the FRG through the unification of all democratic and anti-imperialist forces and the establishment of the unity of the working class. The authorities of the FRG prohibited the circulation of the CPG’s draft program.

Delegations of the CPG took part in the international Conferences of Communist and Workers’ Parties held in Moscow in 1957, 1960, and 1969, and the CPG approved the documents of the conferences. (See Table 1 for a list of the congresses and conferences of the CPG.)

Table 1. Congresses and conferences of the Communist
Conference ...............HerneApr. 27, 1948
Conference ...............SolingenMar. 5–6, 1949
Congress ...............MunichMar. 3–5, 1951
Congress ...............HamburgDec. 28–30, 1954
Congress ............... June 1957
Conference ............... February 1960
Congress ............... July 1963


Die KPD lebt und kämpft. Berlin, 1963.
Dokumente der KPD 1945–1956. Berlin, 1965.
Reimann, M. Izbrannye stat’i i rechi. Moscow, 1970. (Translated from German.)
Kommunisticheskaia partiia Germanii, 1945–1965. Moscow, 1968.
Ezhov, V. D. Rabochee dvizhenie v Zapadnoi Germanii, 1945–1968. Moscow, 1969.
S”ezd Kommunisticheskoi partii Germanii 1963 goda (materials). Moscow, 1964. (Translated from German.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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