After 22 years of hating Stalin, ex-German Communist Leader Ruth Fischer last week had got a load off her chest. The load: a 663-page, tightly packed book called: Stalin and German Communism, A Study in the Origins of the State Party.* The book was more than the heavy-going history its heavy Germanic title implied. It was also an intimate, encyclopedic exposure of the doubletalk and doublecrossing among top-level Communists.
"A Sneerer & a Snarler." Ruth Fischer got into Communism in Vienna in 1918. She was 22, university-educated, and aflame with zeal to remake the world. In the Austrian Communist Party she held Card No. 1.
At 25 she became chairman of the Berlin section of Germany's new Communist Party. At 28 she was the party's loudest voice in the Reichstag. One correspondent described her thus: "She's a sneerer and a snarler. She sits on the far left of the house, interrupting Stresemann, Ludendorff and Tirpitz with cries of Phooy. She is fat ... and addresses the house with a vaudevillian shimmy that is unique."
Yet, even then (1925) Ruth Fischer was engaged in a deadly fight with Moscow. The issue: Moscow demanded complete and unquestioning subservience of the German Communists which Ruth Fischer and some other German leaders refused to give. The blow by blow account of their losing fight that followed is the substance of Ruth Fischer's book.
Like many ex-Communists, Ruth Fischer tends to deify Lenin, heaping all the sins of Communism on Stalin. A typical Fischer anecdote: in 1925 Stalin had summoned her to Moscow. When she arrived her passport was taken away and for ten months she was a virtual prisoner in Moscow's flea-bitten Hotel Lux. Stalin left Moscow on vacation and Zinoviev plotted to get her safely back to Germany.
"We cooked up an act. The next day, I pushed my way into a meeting of the Politburo ... I began to pound the table, to cry that I must ... go home ... I fainted. When I came to, Bukharin was trying to feed me tea. 'Ruth,' he told me, 'you will go home. We are not terrorists against our own comrades . . .' I departed the same day." Stalin subsequently had Zinoviev and Bukharin shot, but for other reasons.
¶ Dmitry Manuilsky (longtime Comintern boss and now Ukrainian delegate to U.N.) "was a type of Russian Communist new to me. What struck me most was his outspoken cynicism . . . [He was] interested only in intrigue and [had] cold contempt for anyone who accepted the Comintern on the basis of its avowed aims and principles."
¶ "Before [Georgi] Dimitrov [of Bulgaria] stood up ... to make his courageous peroration [at the famed Reichstag fire trial], he knew of a secret arrangement between the GPU and the Gestapo that he would leave it a free man."
A Parable. Ruth Fischer's real name was Elfriede Eisler, the first of three astonishing Eislers. The other two were Gerhart, a Comintern agent, and Hanns,* a Communist composer. At the end of her book she brings the Eislers together again by quoting a play by a German Communist poet, Bertolt Brecht.
The play, a parable on the annihilation of party opposition, was inspired by a party mission Gerhart carried out in China, and it was set to music by Hanns. A chorus: