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Otto Rühle (23 October 1874 in Großschirma – 24 June 1943 in Mexico) was a student of Alfred Adler and a German Marxist active in opposition to both the First and Second World Wars. He was a founder along with Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Franz Mehring and others of the group and magazine Internationale, which posed a revolutionary internationalism against a world of warring states, and also the Spartacist League (Spartakusbund in German) in 1916.
The Spartacist League took an oppositional stance to Leninism, and was criticized by the Bolsheviks for inconsistency. Though Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were murdered in 1919 for their involvement in the German Revolution, Rühle lived on to participate in the left opposition of the German labour movement, developing both an early communist critique of Bolshevism, and an early opposition to fascism. Rühle saw the Soviet Union as a form of state capitalism that had much in common with the state-centred capitalism of the West, as well as fascism:
It has served as the model for other capitalistic dictatorships. Ideological divergences do not really differentiate socioeconomic systems.
He also saw the Leninist Party as an appropriate form for the overthrow of Tsarism, but ultimately an inappropriate form for a proletarian revolution. As such, no matter what the actual intentions of the Bolsheviks, what they actually succeeded in bringing about was much more like the bourgeois revolutions of Europe than a proletarian revolution:
This distinction between head and body, between intellectuals and workers, officers and privates, corresponds to the duality of class society. One class is educated to rule; the other to be ruled. Lenin's organisation is only a replica of bourgeois society. His revolution is objectively determined by the forces that create a social order incorporating these class relations, regardless of the subjective goals accompanying this process.
Rühle was also critical of the party as a revolutionary organisational form, stating that "the revolution is not a party affair", and supported a more council communist approach which emphasised the importance of workers' councils. He was involved in setting up the Allgemeine Arbeiter-Union – Einheitsorganisation in October 1921.
In Anti-Bolshevik Communism, Paul Mattick describes Rühle as an exemplary radical figure within a German labour movement that had become ossified into various "official" structures; a perpetual outsider defined by his antagonistic relationship with the labour movement, to Leninist party communism, as well as to capitalist democracy and fascism.
With the signing of the Germany and Russian war alliance in 1939, Rühle began to see the parallels between the two ideological dictators, writing:
Russia was the example for fascism…. Whether party ‘communists’ like it or not, the fact remains that the state order and rule in Russia are indistinguishable from those in Italy and Germany. Essentially, they are alike. One may speak of a red, black, or brown ‘soviet state’, as well as of red, black or brown fascism.
Rühle wrote a very detailed Karl Marx: His Life and Works (1928, transl. 1929, Viking Press, New York).
She followed him to Mexico in 1936, and committed suicide on the day of his death, 24 June 1943.
- Mattick, Paul. "Otto Rühle and the German Labour Movement by Paul Mattick 1945". www.marxists.org.
- Rühle:, Otto. "Rühle: Revolution Not A Party Affair". www.marxists.org.
- Prichard, Alex; Kinna, Ruth; Pinta, Saku; Berry, Dave (2012). Libertarian Socialism: Politics in Black and Red. Palgrave Macmillan.
- Otto Rühle, “The Struggle Against Fascism Begins with the Struggle Against Bolshevism,” first appeared in the American Councilist journal Living Marxism, Vol. 4, No. 8, 1939. A longer text was published in French as “Fascisme Brun, Fascisme Rouge” by Spartacus in 1975 (Série B—No 63)
- Gary Roth, Marxism in a Lost Century: A Biography of Paul Mattick, Leiden/Boston, Brill Nijhoff and Hotel Publishing, 2015, p. 195
- Trotsky, Leon. "The Case of Leon Trotsky (Report of Dewey Commission - 1937)". www.marxists.org.
- MIA Otto Rühle archive
- Kurasje.org Otto Rühle archive
- "Non-Leninist Marxism: Writings on the Workers Councils" (includes Ruhle's "The Revolution is Not a Party Affair" and "Report From Moscow"), Red and Black Publishers, St Petersburg, Florida, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9791813-6-8
- The Struggle Against Fascism Begins with the Struggle Against Bolshevism (1939)