Critique of Authoritarian Communism from the Inside: The Communist Workers Party of Germany (KAPD) in the Weimar Republic

Event, 11 June 2023, online


11 June 2023, 16.00 h

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In 1920, a second communist party was founded in Germany alongside the well-known KPD: The Communist Workers’ Party of Germany (Kommunistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands, KAPD), which was almost as large as its counterpart. The KAPD considered itself as a marxist and internationalist party and relied on councils as the central means for and after the proletarian revolution. This strong German left communist movement emerged primarily from the development of the KPD in the early 1920s: For the KPD, the bolshevik system became the model for the revolution in Western Europe, while the KAPD rejected the growing authoritarianism of the Soviet Union. The left communism of the 1920s, however, had its roots in earlier times: By reflecting on the power of workers at their workplace, it developed a theory of revolution that focused the masses – and not the revolutionary party. And even after the KAPD’s decline in the mid-1920s, some of its members continued left communism politics. Through the biographies of four members of the KAPD, I examine the roots, conditions, and further consequences of their political activities beyond the 1920s.

Rhena Stürmer, M.A., born in 1989, studied history, cultural studies and cultural history at the Free University of Berlin and the European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder) and has been working on her doctorate at the Viadrina since 2018 on the topic „Weimar Left Communists between Party and Social Movement. A cultural-historical Collective Biography“(supervisor: Prof. Werner Benecke). 2018 to 2022, she was a fellow of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, and since October 2022 she is a research assistant at the Chair of 19th-21st Century History (Prof. Dirk van Laak) at the Leipzig University.

Recent publication: Political Education Work in the German Empire and the Weimar Republic. Change and continuity in the educational understanding of the left communist educator Dr. Karl Schröder [in German], in: Andreas Braune/Sebastian Elsbach/Ronny Noak (eds.), Bildung und Demokratie in der Weimarer Republik,. Series „Weimarer Schriften zur Republik“, vol. 19, Stuttgart 2022, pp. 273-288.