The KPD Cadre Schools in the German Revolution

Sean Larson


In the first decade and a half of the twentieth century, the Social Democratic Party of Germany became renowned for the expansive “cradle-to-the-grave” life-world it built for its members. While many of its constituent bodies and institutions were designed to service the immediate needs of its members, the SPD also offered a Party School for its cadre in Berlin, made famous by one of its prominent teachers, Rosa Luxemburg. What is less well-known today is that this tradition of targeted cadre development continued in the Communist Party of Germany after the November Revolution of 1918, and intensified as the revolution continued.

In this paper I will elaborate the evolution of the KPD educational department headed by Hermann Duncker and Edwin Hoernle, as well as its cadre schools that recurred even throughout the years of crisis and upheaval 1918-23. While situating these educational efforts in the context of the Revolution, I will present new translations of archival documents detailing the KPD educational philosophy and programme. This will also be an opportunity to present some of the recent German-language scholarship on this incredible undertaking of the fledgling KPD to an English-speaking audience. The talk will cover the structure and practice of the KPD cadre schools as well as their organizational and methodological guidelines. KPD education will also be situated with reference to the broader discussion of these issues in the Comintern as a whole.

Comintern - German Communism - Pedagogy - Education