‘Freedom of Discussion Inside the Party Is Absolutely Necessary’

‘Freedom of Discussion Inside the Party Is Absolutely Necessary’. KPD Chairperson Ernst Meyer and Party Democracy, 1921–2.

Von Florian Wilde.

In: Historical MaterialismVolume 22, Issue 3-4, pages 104 – 128 (2014)


Despite being ‘one of the most notable leaders of the German Communist movement’, Ernst Meyer (1887–1930) remains relatively unknown. Prior to the online publication of the author’s PhD dissertation – an extensive 666-page biography of Meyer – there existed beyond two short biographies – an informative political autobiography from Meyer’s wife Rosa Meyer-Leviné and an essay by Hermann Weber published in 1968 – and some recent texts from the author, no other publications dealing closely with his life and work. Of these, only Meyer-Leviné’s biography has been published in English.Meyer played a major role in the left wing of the German labour movement, beginning in 1908 when he joined the German Social-Democratic Party (spd) until his death over twenty years later. A friend and collaborator of Rosa Luxemburg, he was also one of the founding and leading members of the International Group and its successor, the Spartacus League, in which the radical, anti-war wing of Social Democracy organised itself after the outbreak of World War i. He represented both of these groups as a delegate to the international conferences of anti-war socialists at Zimmerwald (1915) and Kienthal (1916). Elected to the kpd’s Zentrale at the party’s founding conference, Meyer remained a member of the leadership almost continuously in the years to come, occupying various leading positions. He also represented the party at the Second and Fourth World-Congresses of the Communist International (1920 and 1922).