Workers Vanguard No. 1143
2 November 2018
Spartakus and 1918 German Revolution
(Quote of the Week)
One hundred years ago this month, near the end of the bloody interimperialist World War I, a revolutionary wave swept Germany. Inspired by the Bolshevik-led Russian Revolution of October 1917, the German workers and soldiers formed soviets (councils) and the Hohenzollern monarch was forced to abdicate. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Independent Social Democrats sought to preserve the capitalist order, taking over administration of the bourgeois state.
The Spartakusbund of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg emphasized that the working class must take power into its own hands, including in Liebknecht’s November 23 speech excerpted below. But they had not assimilated that there is a line drawn in blood between revolutionary Marxism and opportunism, only splitting from the Social Democracy in December 1918. The next month, SPD leaders, together with the military high command, mobilized the fascistic Freikorps to murder Liebknecht, Luxemburg and other Spartakus leaders, inflicting a serious defeat on the revolutionary movement.
Can the proletariat content itself with merely eliminating the Hohenzollerns? Never! Its goal is the abolition of class rule, of exploitation and oppression, the establishment of Socialism. Our present Government calls itself Socialist. Thus far it has acted only for the preservation of capitalist private property….
The ruling class is not thinking of giving up its class rule. They can be put down only in the class struggle. And this class struggle will and must pass over the bodies of all governments that do not dare take up the struggle with capitalism, and preach instead to the workers—day by day—peace, order, the wickedness of strikes.
The extermination of capitalism, the establishment of the Socialist order of society, is possible only on an international scale—but, of course, it cannot be carried out at a uniform pace in all countries. The work has begun in Russia, it must be continued in Germany, it will be completed in the Entente powers.
Only the path of social world revolution can lead us out from the terrible dangers which threaten Germany by reason of the food and raw materials situation. Nor does the German proletariat build its hopes in this connection on Wilsonian promises of mercy, but on the rock of the international proletarian solidarity.
There are two alternatives for liquidating the war—the capitalist-imperialist alternative, and the proletarian-Socialist alternative.
The former will afford for a moment a peace unworthy of men, a peace that will give birth to new wars. The second offers a peace of well-being and permanence. The former will preserve the capitalist order of society; the second will destroy it and liberate the proletariat.
—Karl Liebknecht, “Proletarian Revolution and Proletarian Dictatorship,” Speeches of Karl Liebknecht (International Publishers, 1927)