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Toni Sender – Ansprache für die Sozialistische Arbeiterpartei Deutschlands Anlässlich der Reichstagswahl (“Speech for the Socialist Workers’ Party of Germany on the occasion of the Reichstag election”)

May 20, 1928

  • Tony Sender (November 29, 1888 - June 26, 1964) Sidonie Zippora (Tony) Sender grew up in an orthodox Jewish family and joined the SPD in 1910. In 1910, she went to work in the Paris headquarters of a metalware company and was active in the French Socialist Party. She returned to Germany when war broke[...]

Tony Sender (November 29, 1888 – June 26, 1964) Sidonie Zippora (Tony) Sender grew up in an orthodox Jewish family and joined the SPD in 1910. In 1910, she went to work in the Paris headquarters of a metalware company and was active in the French Socialist Party. She returned to Germany when war broke out in 1914. She was one of the critics of the SPD’s vote to grant war loans and became involved in the opposition within the party. In 1917, she co-founded the Independent Socialist Party of Germany (USPD). In 1919, she expressed her support for the councils system but rejected the communists’ undemocratic party methods. In 1918/19, Tony Sender was the only woman on the Frankfurt workers’ and soldiers’ council. A member of the Reichstag from 1920 to 1933, she represented the Dresden-Bautzen constituency from 1924 on and focused on customs and trade policy. As a labor unionist, she was also editor of the Metalworkers’ Association’s works council newspaper from 1919 to 1933. In 1927, she additionally took over editing the social democratic journal Frauenwelt, publishing more than four hundred of her own articles. Following public murder threats from the National Socialists, Tony Sender fled to Czechoslovakia on March 5, 1933, continuing to fight the Nazi regime from exile. She received an offer to write for the Volksgazet in Antwerp shortly later. Once in Belgium, she was also active in the resistance and worked closely with the fifty-person exile group of the Reich Banner Black-Red-Gold. Expatriated from Germany in March 1934, Tony Sender stayed in the United States after a three-month lecture tour in 1935, receiving United States citizenship in 1943. She died in 1964 in New York.

A period in the life of the German republic when the people were to enjoy a more normal life seemed to have arrived. Economic conditions improved. There was less restlessness. Many thought that the basis of the republic had become safe. I remained suspicious, knowing that the subversive forces of the Right were only biding their time for a moment of depression and despair. But for the time being people worked and were confident. This balanced state of mind profited the Social Democratic party in the elections of May 20, 1928. It received 9,146,165 votes and 152 Reichstag. seats, as compared with 7,880,058 votes and 131 seats in 1924. The Nationalists lost approximately 1,500,000 votes, while the Nazis dropped from 908,087 to 809,541. The Communists added some 440,000 to their 1924 total of 2,708,176. It was an impressive victory for the Social Democrats, who had become the strongest Reichstag group. They had to accept their responsibility and form the new government in coalition with other parties.

Hermann Muller for the second time became prime minister— he had been at the head of the ‘ government that signed the Versailles Treaty. Muller was a hard-working man with a strong sense of responsibility and an almost exaggerated objectivity. Witty and humorous in private, he was sober in his political activity. I think he was not sufficiently a fighter. But one could not find a more chivalrous companion—I had experienced this myself. At a time of acute controversy in the labour movement I had been asked by a constituency in Saxony to come to a convention to debate with Muller. Not only did we have a debate on a very high level, though both of us vigorously defended our points of view, but Muller was chivalrous enough to offer me the last word, to which I was not entitled.

Muller had a hard job as head of the new government, although he had in Gustav Stresemann a loyal collaborator. Stresemann’s party, the People’s party, however, co-operated only reluctantly with the Socialists and were merely waiting for the propitious moment to swing back to the right. Similar tendencies were prevalent among the strong right wing of the Catholics. This made the life of the government precarious from the very beginning.

Nevertheless, we were not prepared for any disagreeable surprises when in August, 1928, we went to the International Socialist Congress in Brussels. After the convention many of the delegates gathered at a party in the house of the Belgian Socialist, Senator Albert Frangois. Suddenly a journalist came to me: “ I have just received news that the German government has voted to start building armored cruiser Number I,” he said. “The vote was unanimous.”

I was amazed and furious. Of course, the credits for this cruiser, which was to be the first of a series of warships permitted by the Versailles Treaty, had been voted by a majority of the Right and over the opposition of the labour vote. The cabinet’s decision was only the execution of this vote. But how could the Socialist ministers take a different attitude from that which they had taken as Reichstag members in the opposition ! I considered their stand an exaggerated conception of the duty of cabinet ministers, and a serious mistake. Had they forgotten that in the last campaign we had sounded the slogan that the government of the Right preferred the armoured cruiser to free meals for needy children ? The parties of the Right had curtailed the credits for needy children while voting the expenditure for the cruiser. Our members and voters expected us to stand by our election promises.

I immediately talked the situation over with my colleague, S. Aufhauser, a member of the Reichstag and the president of the Business and Professional Workers’ Union, v> ho was present at the reception. On our trip back to Germany wc wrote an article and an appeal to our membership, disapproving the government’s attitude and maintaining the party’s former viewpoint. We both signed this declaration and asked the party’s central newspaper, the Berlin Vörwarts, to publish it, which it did. It had a good effect—restoring somewhat the shaken confidence of the masses. The Socialist ministers’ vote was a serious ‘ psychological error—and the psychological effect was often underestimated by our ministers. We who had opposed building armored cruisers certainly were for general disarmament, but we also were aware …that, as long as the Allied nations refused to keep their promise to follow German disarmament with their own, Germany could not be left entirely unprotected. This cruiser, however, had become a kind of symbol in the eyes of our followers. And for a people like the Germans, easily susceptible to emotional appeal, symbols can take on a real importance.

As far as possible the mistake was repaired when our parliamentary group moved in the Reichstag to halt construction of the cruiser and aU our ministers voted with our members. As a step further to clarify the party’s position towards the military problem, a special committee was appointed to work out a precise military program. I was made a member of this committee, the only woman on it. My viewpoint, which I defended in the committee, was this: Germany’s geographical and political position should lead her to be the champion of general, internationally controlled disarmament. However, as long as the Allied nations could not be made to disarm as they had forced Germany to do, as long as aggressive states presented a permanent military and social threat, we could not make democratic Germany completely defenseless. Our influence should be used in the international field to put into practice the ideals of international solidarity and security. Meantime, it must be our task on the national field to make the army a better instrument for democracy and the officers’ corps a more reliable body for the republic.

The Autobiography of a German Rebel
By Toni Sender


Meine Herren und Damen, Besinnungsgenossen, es ist ein ungeheuer wichtiges Recht, von dem wir jetzt wieder Gebrauch machen dürfen.

Wir sollen einen neuen Reichstag wählen.

Es ist uns eine herrliche Gelegenheit gegeben, über die Gestaltung unseres eigenen Lebens in den nächsten Jahren zu bestimmen.

Niemand darf da gleichgültig bleiben.

Aber ihr sagt vielleicht, was hilft uns das Wählen, das Parlament?

Was hat uns eine Tätigkeit gebracht in den letzten Jahren?

Geht es uns etwa besser als früher?

Oder hatten wir nicht zu leiden unter einer stets wachsenden Teuerung?

Müssen sich nicht die meisten von uns das Notwendige oft und immer das Schöne versagen?

Und doch haben uns im letzten Wahlkampf alle Parteien die Besserung unseres Loses versprochen.

Ja, meine Herren und Damen, Sie müssen vergleichen die Reden, die man im Wahlkampf hielt, mit den Taten.

Dann wissen Sie, wie Sie zu handeln haben.

Dann werden Sie feststellen, dass nur die Sozialdemokraten ihr Versprechen gehalten haben und mit aller Kraft für die Erleichterung des Loses der arbeitenden Massen einschließlich derjenigen der kleinen Bauern und des Mittelstandards eingetreten sind.

Aber es wurden nicht genug Sozialdemokraten in den Reichstag gesandt.

Und so kam der Besitzbürgerblock zustande, der alles getan hat, um durch Zölle und Verbrauchsteuern den Großgrundbesitzern und Großindustriellen die Taschen zu füllen.

Das Ganze auf Kosten der arbeitenden Massen und der Kleinbauern.

Schon im Jahre 1925 kam der Bürgerblock mit der Vorlage der Hochschutzzölle, in der sich Agrarier und Industrielle gegenseitig wahnsinnig hohe Zölle bewilligten, auf Kosten der Verbraucher.

Und sie sind nicht davor zurückgeschreckt, seitdem jedes Jahr neue Zollerhöhungen und gerade auch die wichtigsten Lebensmittel vorzunehmen.

So wurde das Brot jedes Jahr teurer.

Vor wenigen Monaten belastete man sogar die Kartoffeln.

Die Belastung einer vierköpfigen Familie nur durch die Zölle auf Lebensmittel beträgt 180 Mark im Jahr.

Von jedem 100 Mark Lebensmitteleinkauf der Hausfrauen entfallen 12 Mark auf die Zölle für die Agrarier.

Dazu aber kommen noch die Verbrauchsteuern, die dem Haushalt jährlich mindestens 50 Mark wegnehmen.

Auch die Mieten wurden gesteigert.

Sie bedrohen im Frühjahr 1924 noch 31 Prozent der Friedensmiete, sind aber jetzt schon hinausgedrosselt auf 120 Prozent.

Sollen sie noch weiter steigen?

Und all diese unerträgliche Last wurde auferlegt einem Volker, das unter schwerer Arbeitslosigkeit leidet.

Aber während man die Löhne drückt, Arbeiter zu Arbeiter, Arbeitshausenden aussperrt, haben die Unternehmer ein Jahr blühender Konjunktur hinter sich, konnten sie ihre Profite und den Wert ihrer Aktien bedeutend steigern.

Längst haben sie sich verständigt mit den Unternehmern des Auslandes, haben internationale Kapelle gebildet, um das eigene Volk umso besser ausbeuten zu können.

Vermehrung des Reichtums der Reichen, verstärktem Druck auf die arbeitenden Massen, das ist die Bilanz des Bürgerblocks.

Und sie empören sich darüber, meine Herren und Damen.

Ja, aber die Empörung allein hilft nicht.

Vertreiben müssen sie die Zöllen aus dem Zempel des Volkes und ihre Stimme geben der einzigen Partei, die freud umschaffenden Volke steht, der sozialdemokratischen Partei.

*Die Musik wird langsam abgesetzt.

Gentlemen and ladies, fellow thinkers, it is an incredibly important right that we can now make use of again. We should elect a new Reichstag.

We have been given a wonderful opportunity to decide how our own lives will be shaped in the coming years. Nobody can remain indifferent.

But you might say, what good does voting, parliament, do for us? What has an activity brought us in the last few years? Are we doing better than before?

Or did we not have to suffer from ever-increasing inflation? Don’t most of us have to often and always deny ourselves the beautiful things?

And yet in the last election campaign, all parties promised us that our lot would be improved. Yes, gentlemen and ladies, you have to compare the speeches made during the election campaign with the actions.

Then you know how to act. Then you will find that only the Social Democrats have kept their promise and have worked with all their might to ease the lot of the working masses, including those of the small farmers and those of the middle standard.

But not enough Social Democrats were sent to the Reichstag. And so the property-owning bloc came into being, which did everything it could to line the pockets of the large landowners and large industrialists through customs duties and excise taxes.

All of this at the expense of the working masses and small farmers. As early as 1925, the civil bloc came up with the high protection tariffs, in which agrarians and industrialists granted each other incredibly high tariffs, at the expense of consumers.

And they have not shied away from increasing tariffs every year since then, especially on the most important foodstuffs. So bread became more expensive every year.

A few months ago the potatoes were even contaminated. The burden on a family of four just from tariffs on food is 180 marks a year.

For every hundred marks of food purchased by housewives, twelve marks go towards customs duties for the agrarians.

But then there are the consumption taxes, which take at least fifty marks away from the household every year.

Rents also increased. In the spring of 1924 they still threatened 31 percent of the peacetime rent, but have now already been reduced to 120 percent.

Should they rise even further? And all this unbearable burden has been placed on a people suffering from severe unemployment.

But while wages are being pushed down, worker to worker locked out of workhouses, the entrepreneurs have had a prosperous year and have been able to significantly increase their profits and the value of their shares.

They have long since come to an agreement with entrepreneurs from abroad and have formed an international band in order to be able to exploit their own people even better.

Increased wealth of the rich, increased pressure on the working masses, that is the balance sheet of the citizen bloc. And they are outraged about it, gentlemen and ladies.

Yes, but outrage alone doesn’t help. They must drive the tariffs out of the people’s camp and give their vote to the only party that supports the people’s joy, the Social Democratic Party.

*The music fades out slowly.

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