What might a communist Germany in the 1930s have been like?

Karl Marx espoused his theory that industrialized societies would eventually undergo communist revolutions. Historically however, the only nations that have become communist were underdeveloped or undeveloped, as ideological modifications of Marxism were used to promote either that industrialization could take place under socialism/communism, or even that industrialization could be largely bypassed in favor of a peasant-based agrarian society.

The one major exception was Germany, Marx’s country of origin. Between the end of WW1 and the rise of the Nazi party Germany was the only fully industrialized country that could plausibly have had a successful communist revolution. A communist Germany beginning in 1930 would have been the closest approximation to Marx’s original vision possible. How do you suppose it might have shaken out?

My guess is that after an initial period of detente’ Germany and the USSR would have had a falling out; the leaders of an independently communist Germany would not have cared to be lectured or dictated to by the Kremlin. Maybe Trotsky would have taken refuge in Germany and there would have been a schism between pro-German and pro-Russian communists throughout the world. It might (or might not) have made a dent in the paranoia of anti-communists throughout the world to see the “world communist movement” so glaringly divided. I have no idea how the Spanish Civil War would have been changed; it depends strongly on whether the schism would have further weakened the Republican forces or whether the rival communist groups might have formed a grudging truce and alliance. Poland’s fate caught between the two rivals (who might have the dismemberment of Poland as the one thing they could agree on) and whether another European war might have eventually broken out, I don’t know.

It’s also interesting to speculate about Germany’s internal history after a communist victory. If there was little or nothing to be done to promote further German industrialization, then party doctrine would have had to focus on running the appropriated industries along communist lines. During the worldwide Depression simply feeding the workers on a soup-kitchen basis might have been initally popular and succesful. However I suspect that the inevitable idiocies of running a centrally planned economy would have taken their toll after awhile.

Not if the October Revolution in Russia had gone ahead as it did in OTL. Lenin and the Bolsheviks envisioned a USSR that would include Germany, with German industry and Russian agriculture meshing together. In fact, they actually expected it. Lenin called his magazine Iskra – spark – because he sincerely believed all Europe was ready for revolution and needed but a spark to set it off. And Lenin was no Russian nationalist, he did not even regard revolution in Russia as important save as a stage in the wider revolution. He would eagerly have yielded leadership to the German Communists, and he probably could have set that in place in a way not even Stalin could upset it.

I don’t think that’s true, but even if it is, it’s irrelevant. Lenin was long dead by 1930, which is when our hypothetical Germany becomes Communist.

Unfortunately, this basically runs into the “too-many-counterfactuals” problem. With the exception of Berlin, Red ideology was not and never would be very widespread in Germany (arguably even in East Germany post WW2!) Unless you can plausibly find a way for vast numbers of people who despised both Communists and Communism across Germany to suddenly go Red, then there’s really no way to know what’s up.

Hmm… I’d been under the impression that the communists had way more support than that, and came much closer to gaining control of Germany. Was it really just a relatively small number of radicals making noise?

Actually it was Bavaria that was the heart of German communism (and also Nazism). A Workers and Soldiers Council took over Munich and declared themselves the Bavarian Soviet republic.

To answer the OP, I think the best analogy would be the People’s Republic of China. The Soviet Union would have supported a Communist government in Germany but it would have expected Germany to be subservient to the “leadership” of Moscow and the Comintern. The difference would have been that Germany, unlike China, probably wouldn’t have been able to get out from under the Soviet thumb. With Germany a Soviet satellite, Eastern Europe would probably have also seen Communist regimes take over - probably more by proxy like was done in Africa and Asia rather than directly be the Soviet intervention like happened historically in 1945. You would have seen an earlier version of the Warsaw Pact and the Brezhnev Doctrine where the Soviet Union felt it had the right to intervene in Communist countries if they looked like they were getting out of line.

Here is the result of the German legislative election of 1930. The Communists finished in third place, but with only 13% of the vote and below the Nazis. Does anyone know if the Social Democratic Party included some radical elements who could have allied with the Communists to take control of the country? Also, did the Communists have street militias like the Nazi SA who could have helped with an eventual coup?

Also, I suppose a takeover by the Communists would have mightily pissed off the Nazis, who as said were by 1930 a substantial force equipped with an army of street thugs. When the Nazis took power in real life, many Communists fled to the Soviet Union to escape emprisonment or execution. The Nazis might not have had anywhere to flee a Communist Germany, so I’d say it’s plausible it might have led to a civil war. (If I am mistaken, I welcome corrections.)

The Communists had a millitia/paramillitary force called the Red Guard. As for the SDP including radical elements that may have allied with the Communists, there were the people who would turn into the Socialist Workers Party in 1931, but there were never many of them.

As far as where the Communists were strongest…Prussia and Saxony. They also had some stregth in the industrial cities of the Rhein.

Why is that date chosen, when the German Communist revolt that came nearest to succeeding happened in 1919?

That’s what i was wondering. Seems a poor choice for a hypothetical.

There actually was an attempted coup (d’état) in 1923. The CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) began to believe in the summer of that year that the time was ripe for a “deutscher Oktober” (a German October) – i.e. a revolution following the Russian model of 1917; they decided to expand their support for German communists and even planned a military intervention. 20 new divisions were formed to give the USSR the manpower to win the war that Stalin was predicting after a German communist revolution.

He planned to march through Poland, aid and stabilize a Communist government in Germany and fight (together) against England and France that would surely, in his opinion, try to undo the communist “Machtübernahme”.

Planning turned into preparations in September when the CPSU aided and armed the “Proletarischen Hundertschaften” who were supposed to fight first in Saxonia and Thuringia and later march on Berlin.

But on Oktober 29th the President of the Reich (the social democrat Ebert, btw) decreed the “Rechsexekution” against Saxonia, and a week later against Thuringia, and the Reichswehr marched into Dresden and Weimar.

The was some fighting, the “Proletarischen Hundertschaften” were disbanded and the communist secretaries were dismissed or resigned.

But the “deutscher Oktober” had already been canceled “officially” even before the Reichswehr got involved; the KPD (Communist Party of Germany) and communist delegates from German states held a conference in Chemnitz that voted against a violent revolution (October 21st).

Still, the aggressive communists in Hamburg decided to act against the authorities and they occupied police stations and some public buildings; the police, however, quelled the riots mercilessly. A couple of days later the poorly planned coup failed but dozens were dead.

No idea, but that was what was laid out in the OP and what’s what I was going with. The thing is, I don’t really see the Spartacist Uprising of 1919 succeeding, no matter what the Communists in Berlin did. The Freikorps were just too powerful at that point, and the Communists never could have won them over. The Freikorps didn’t even like dealing with Noske because he was a Socialist.

The thing is, I think the Communists were probably stronger in 1930 than in 1919. They were better organized, they were getting active support from the Soviet Union, and economic conditions were bad enough to make them a plausable alternative in some people’s minds. Economic coditions were, of course, bad in 1919, as well, but the 1930 economy was a worldwide structural problem, so people couldn’t tell themselves, as they did in 1919, “Well, we just lost the war, so of course times are hard and we have to rebuild.”

Of course, unfortunately for them, the right wing extremists were also stronger in 1930 than in 1919.

The national elections showed an increasing influence of the KPD; in 1928 they got 10.6% of all votes, in 1930: 13,1 % and the last two free (though not unhindered) elections in 1932 showed them at 14.3% and 16.9%.

There was an election in 1933 when they still got 12.3% – but, de facto, the party was already declared illegal.

One reason for their relative success was the rise of the extreme right. After the “Rote Frontkämpferbund” had been banned, the successor organization, the “Kampfbund”, was founded in 1930 explicitly to a) fight against the extreme right and b) lure away the workers from the social democrats.

At the end of the following year the Kampfbund had more than 100,000 members, organized in 1,600 local groups.

The communists were insofar successful as they were indeed able to match the Nazis and their SA in many street fights. They also – partly – succeeded in deteriorating the support the social democrats had in the youth.

But they never had a following that could have turned into a critical mass and let’s not forget that the German communists were, in the majority, not willing to be controlled by the CPSU.

No party could rise beyond a marginal role that wasn’t, at least, paying lip service to the nation.

In effect, the communists succeeded in destabilizing the country even more and furthering the goals of the extreme right because their visibility made most of the conservatives and even the central parties anxious and gave the right an excuse for the suspension of more and more civil rights and democratic practices.

Of course, the extreme left wasn’t responsible for the rise of the Nazis, neither was the Great Depression or Versailles or the lack of democrats in a confused nation – it took all of it and more to kill the first democracy.

Tragically, it was close, so very close to stabilize itself in the last months of its existence. Another year might have changed everything, … we’ll never know.

Despite a Communist undercurrent (which, frankly, was not very radical outside of the Spartacist types) which appealed among rather stupid workers and a few intellectuals, Germany never had a serious Communist movement. The fools thought they could simply walk in an la-dee-da the Revolution would succeed. Unfortunately, they proved fairly poor at actually getting people to do things.

Their biggest successes ever involved killing unarmed people and moving into mostly-empty government buildings.

I’d like to say there was a long and glorious history of proto-Nazi and Communist clashes and how they duelled bac and forth… but I can’t. Both sides were pretty pathetic, with the Reds just being a very long-winded and pathetic. The story of the Nazi take-over is honestly a somewhat absurd and unlikely one.

Nevertheless, I think 1919 makes a better point-of-divergence here than 1930. 1919 was when there was a vacuum of government, the monarchy having fallen and the Weimar Republic only just organized – much like Russia in 1917. In addition to the Spartacist revolt, there was the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic. (This was only part of a wider wave of Bolshevik-inspired revolutions or attempted revolutions in Europe from 1917 to 1923.) It’s not hard to imagine things tipping the other way.

Which lasted a month, was run by crazy people, didn’t have the support of anyone outside Munich, and didn’t really accomplish much other than shoot a few innocent people.

[shrug] Lenin’s revolution in Russia could just as easily have gone the same way; time and chance happeneth to them all.

Is the OP perhaps envisioning a scenario where the Communists, not the Brownshirts, prevailed in Germany’s street-fighting politics in the 1920s? Because that much is plausible.

Coincidentally enough I’m reading an excellent book by Pierre Broué on precisely this period of German history (1917-1923). I agree with other posters who say that 1930 isn’t the best selection on the timeline; by then the Stalinist doctrine of “socialism in one country” had firmly been set and the German question was more “who do we denounce as proto-fascist this week?”

In the six years immediately following WWI, however, there was a lot more support for a German revolution both within Germany and in Russia. It was a time of major political foment and there was a lot more radical activity than just the Bavarian uprising and the Spartacists. It was a time when the SPD had become almost completely discredited due to its support of the war and the resistance to radical change from its right wing; working people were breaking leftward, which led to the founding of a number of parties like the Independent Social Democrats, the Communist Party of Germany, and the Communist Workers’ Party of Germany. This stream of confusion stemmed from the fact that the truly radical elements of the old SPD refused to break from the party until well after the time when a revolutionary party was needed.

But back to the OP - slightly modified to have a German socialist republic by 1930, assumed to have been established no later than 1923. For one thing, there would definitely have been economic and political cooperation between the USSR and the German soviets, as the Russian Revolution still had some major prestige attached to it. That cooperation would have improved the living conditions in both countries, as the USSR would have access to German technology and industry, and the Germans would have access to Russian agricultural output (improved by German technnology).

Politically, it would have been a major boost for Trotsky, who was one of the leaders in arguing that the Russian revolution would only succeed through the continuation of the world revolution. I daresay it would have maintained enough of his credibility to make the question of Stalin as CPSU general secretary moot.