Historical context of “Theses on Bolshevism”

according to Wagners comrades in arms

In 1933 Hitler’s fascist party N.S.D.A.P. took over government from the social-democratic S.P.D. Anton Pannekoek explained why the workers didn’t defend the S.P.D., why this party simply collapsed:

"It was not their socialism, but their lack of socialism that was the cause of the fall. (...) this was a collapse, not a struggle, because it, social democracy, had taught the workers to vote but not to struggle in a revolutionary way. How could it — having itself crushed the revolutionary struggle of the workers — for the sake of bourgeoisie?"

Pannekoek continued, explaining the K.P.D. had become an instrument of the 

"Rulers in Russia, who always put the interests of the Western European proletariat and world revolution behind their own interests (...) It is not made easy for the German - and international — proletariat to find the way to liberation. The social democracy that it had built in the first half of the century, transformed itself into a reform party in the service of the bourgeoisie. The K.P.D., which the revolutionary elements then built, soon turned into a sham-revolutionary tool of Russian state capitalism."

In his article Pannekoek was critical about what remained of the K.A.P.D. 

In his article Pannekoek was critical of the fact that within the remnants of the K.A.P.D. elements in Germany, as in Holland Marinus van der Lubbe, had adopted  terrorist tactics (see below the quoted text by Canne Meijer):

"Where organized struggle is stifled, the unorganized act of personal violence arises.

As understandable as such a reaction may be, it must also be emphasized that this in no way serves the cause of the liberation of the proletariat. (...) The struggle against Hitler, is the struggle against corporate capital and thus against the entire bourgeoisie. This struggle can only be waged by the working class as a whole, acting as a mass. Individual actions, however enthusiastic they may be, cannot liberate the working class, they cannot affect the power of capital, they can hardly affect the bourgeoisie."

Pannekoek expected more from the new generation of revolutionaries that came up in Germany:

"Completely new, with young forces, communism will have to be built. Leftist communist groups in particular will have an important task in this respect. Through their criticism of the old parties, they have clarified their thoughts, prematurely revealed the origins of the present catastrophe and developed and propagated the revolutionary tactics of the proletariat. Even though they cannot act in an organized way by persecution and by cutting off all public expressions, they have so much material for study and discussion in the literature of the A.A.U., the R.K.G. and the K.A.P., which in view of the new development is now gaining greater importance, that they can adapt to the new situation without great difficulty and friction and spread their views in their immediate surroundings." (Anton Pannekoek “Die Umwälzung in Deutschland”, 1933, reproduced in Arbeiterstimmen)

The ‘Rote Kämpfer Gruppe’ (R.K.G.) came from a nucleus that the K.A.P.D.-veteran Karl Schröder founded in 1929 a nucleus in the ‘Sozialwissenschaftliche Vereinigung’ (S.W.V.), where the left socialist youth met and discussed. Over 1930-32, the Schröder-Schwab-Reichenback-Goldstein group (all ex-K.A.P.D.) took over both the S.W.V. and its organ Der Rote Kämpfer, to continue as an illegal network of around 400 members, even before 1933. (PB, p. 329, note 6). Helmut Wagner, the author of Theses on Bolshevism, originally came from the S.P.D. and was a member of the  R.K.G. The R.K.G. was very skeptical about the K.A.P.D. and the ‘Unionen’:

"The temporary final decline of the German revolution thus became the objective, historical cause of the decline of the KAP and ‘Unionen'-movement. The fact that a large part of the remaining supporters of this movement did not understand the situation which had changed completely after 1923 added to this objective moment the subjective element of an angry discussion about who was to blame for the decline and division of the movement. The course of capitalist development in the period of stabilization deprived the various capitalist and unionist groups of all practical revolutionary activity. Strong, active organizations became weak groups which were increasingly dependent on propaganda and were also strongly hostile to each other. (...) The necessary fundamental consistency led to a strong, purely sectarian separation from the working class. As consolation for the lack of possibility of effect,  in parts an ironic arrogance developed, which for years assured itself in impotent complacency that it had always been right and was the sole 100% bearer of a 100% revolutionary program. (...) None of the existing left-communist groups can, according to their program and tactics, be considered as the coming and necessary revolutionary communist organization , the revolutionary "party". Their living forces, however, can become starting points for the development of such a core communist organization, if they understand their own position in the present situation and act accordingly." (R.K.D., Die Lage Der Linkskommunistischen Gruppen, 1932, in LINKS-/RÄTE-KOMMUNISMUS,  p.176)

Henk Canne Meijer, in a text from 1952 looking back at this period as following:

The A.A.U.D. had separated from the K.A.P.D. since the end of 1929. Its press advocated a 'flexible tactic': i.e. supporting workers' struggles whose sole aim was to demand wages, improve working conditions and reduce working hours. The K.A.P.D. saw this tactic as a dangerous step towards class collaboration, a move towards a 'horse-trading policy'. After the exclusion of their leader Scharer, who was found guilty of colluding with the enemy because he had published a novel in a K.P.D. publishing house, the K.A.P.D. came to a praise of individual terror as a means of awakening class consciousness in the masses. The Reichstag arsonist Marinus van der Lubbe was in contact with this movement. By setting fire in a remote wing of the Reichstag, he wanted to use a symbolic act to persuade the workers to give up their lethargy.

Neither one nor the other of these tactics showed results. Germany was plunged into an economic crisis of unprecedented proportions, the number of unemployed was growing rapidly; there were no wildcat strikes, no one cared about union orders. The unions collaborated closely with the employers and the state. The press of the council communists was often confiscated, but their appeals to the autonomous action committees did not elicit any response. The irony of the hour: the only major wildcat strike of the time, that of the Berlin public transport company in 1932, was jointly organized by the Stalinist and Hitlerian bigwigs against the socialist unions.

After Hitler's legal seizure of power, the active comrades of the different directions were arrested and locked up in concentration camps from which most of them never returned." (Die Arbeiterrätebewegung In Deutschland, Henk Canne-Meijer, 1938/1952.  in LINKS-/RÄTE-KOMMUNISMUS. p. 255)