By George Volkov
On the 15th January 1919, the freikorps, a right-wing, nationalist paramilitary group, made up of ex-great war soldiers, murdered Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, by beating them too the floor with rifle butts, shooting them in the head, and finally, throwing their bodies in the freezing landwehr canal.
Post war Germany was disastrous: money had to be spent instantly as it was constantly loosing value, wheelbarrows of money were needed to buy bread, and the allies still demanded their £6,600,000,000 reparations.
The government was weak, and the army was reduced to 100,000 men. The main industrial areas were given independence, which meant Germany’s economy couldn’t recover. It had lost vast amounts of it coal, and 15% of its arable land. It was no surprise that when Germany couldn’t pay it’s second reparation payment, and France invaded the Ruhr, that the workers went on strike, with signs of ‘no French or dogs’ on cafés. They were hailed as heroes, but by doing this, the German economy got much worse.
I hope you enjoyed the background information. I also hope the verbosity of this article has not bored you. This is where we get to the main point of this article: the Sparticists.
The Spartacists were actually founded in the summer of 1915 when both Luxemburg and Liebknecht left the SDP because of the party’s support for Germany’s participation in the First World War. The SDP were the social democracy party, the name for socialists around the globe. The social-democrats abandoned revolution, in favour of reforms, abandoning Marxism, and in a sense, socialism, becoming tools of the bourgeoisie, no longer friends of the proletariat.
In December 1918, some of the Spartacists – including Luxemburg and Liebknecht – founded the German Communist Party. Luxemburg had written numerous pamphlets about Lenin and how his leadership of the Russian Revolution would be of such great value to Russia.
While her political philosophy may well have merited such pamphlets, many Germans (and Europeans in general) were terrified of the ‘Red Plague’ in Russia and the adoption of the name ‘communist’ was looked upon with distrust. Many soldiers had returned from the war fronts massively disillusioned with the German government and hugely suspicious of anything or anyone that had left-wing political beliefs, ven the SDP, which can be compared to labour in the UK, or the democrats in the US. Many who had quit the German Army joined the right wing Freikorps. These would have been battle-hardened men who had been subjected to military discipline.
The leaders of the Spartacus League, Luxemburg and Liebknecht (I hope I have not repeated myself too much), were dissatisfied with the actions of the post-war SPD government. The SPD government had compromised with the conservative military and right-wing militias, promising reform rather than revolution in return for their support and aid in returning the country to the semblance of order. Alongside protesting workers, Liebknecht and Luxemburg led the Spartacist Uprising in an attempt to overthrow the government on the 1st of January, 1919.
Barricades were erected, newspaper offices were seized, printing revolutionary paper, such as ‘red flag’, workers armed themselves, hoping to save Germany through socialism! Unfortunately, the SDP enlisted the help of the Freikorps, who brutally put down the revolution, arresting Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg on the 15th of January, beating them with rifle butts, shooting them in the heads, and throwing Rosa Luxemburg in the Landwehr canal.
Every year, German socialists and communists still go to Luxemburg’s and Liebknecht’s grave, on the 15th of January, which shows that they are still important in politics today, and soon, they may be as important as they were in wartime, and post-war Germany.
They died, as all Marxists should, after attempting to make the world a better, fairer, more equal place.