70 years since the German Revolution
In No 55 of the International Review, we dealt with some of the most important, general features of the defeat of the revolutionary movement in Germany between November 1918 and January 1919, and the conditions in which this movement unfolded. In this article, we are looking further into the systematically counterrevolutionary policies of the SPD, which had passed into the camp of the bourgeoisie.
At the beginning of November 1918, the working class in Germany brought the First World War to an end through its mass struggle, and through the risings of the soldiers. To try and take the wind out of the workers' sails, and to avoid a further sharpening of class contradictions, the ruling class had been forced to end the imperialist conflict, under the pressure of the working class, and to make the Kaiser abdicate. But this was not sufficient to quell the workers: above all, the bourgeoisie had to prevent the flame of the proletarian revolution - which had been lit successfully a year before in the October revolution in Russia - from spreading to Germany.
All revolutionaries were aware that the workin g class in Germany was central to the internationalization of revolutionary struggles:
"For the German working class we are preparing ... a fraternal alliance, bread and military aid. We will all put our life at risk, in order to help the German workers to push forward the revolution, which has started in Germany," (Lenin, Letter to Sverdlov, 1.10.1918).
All revolutionaries agreed that the movement had to go further: "The revolution has started. We shouldn't rejoice about what has been achieved, we shouldn't feel triumphant about the smashed enemy, but we should exercise the strongest self-critique, fiercely gather our energy, in order to continue what we started. Because what we have achieved is little, and the enemy hasn't been defeated," (R. Luxemburg, The Beginning, 18.11.1918).
However, while it had been easier for the working class in Russia to overthrow the bourgeoisie, the working class in Germany came up against a stronger, more intelligent ruling class, which was better equipped, because of its economic and political strength, and which had also learnt from the events in Russia, as well as receiving support from the ruling classes of the other major powers.
But what proved decisive in Germany was that the bourgeoisie there possessed a trump card - the Social Democratic party (SDP) at its side: "In all previous revolutions the combatants faced each other in an open manner: class against class, program against program, sword against shield ... In today's revolution, the defensive troops of the old order line up not under their own banners and the coat of arms of the ruling class, but under the flag of a ‘social democratic party'. Bourgeois class rule wages today its last world historical struggle under a foreign flag, under the flag of the revolution itself. It is a socialist party; it is the most original creation of the workers' movement and of the class struggle, which has transformed itself into the most important instrument of the bourgeois counter-revolution. Core, tendency, politics, psychology, method - all this is through and through capitalist. Only the banners, the apparatus and phraseology are left over from socialism," (Rosa Luxemburg, A Pyrrhic Victory, 21.12.1918). As in the First World War, the SPD was to be the most loyal defender of capital in order to smash the workers' struggles.
The war's end, the SPD-USPD Government and Repression
On November 4 1918, the sailors of the German Baltic coast, mutinied in Kiel against the order to mobilize for another naval battle against Britain - a battle considered suicidal even by some generals. Faced with the attempted repression of the mutiny, a wave of solidarity with the sailors developed, and during the following days, spread like the wind to all the major villages and towns in Germany. Aware of the experience in Russia, the military commander, General Groener, insisted on an immediate end to the war. The armistice was agreed by the Allies on November 7 and was signed on November 11, 1918. With this cease-fire, the bourgeoisie eliminated one of the most important factors which had radicalized the councils of workers and soldiers.
The war had certainly taken away the workers' gains, but a majority of workers entered into the struggle with the idea that once the war was over, it would be possible to return to the old, peaceful, gradual way of doing things. In 1918, the majority of workers began with the idea that "peace" and the "democratic republic" were the principal achievements of the struggle.
Again drawing on the Russian experience, the German bourgeoisie along with the supreme military command had enough foresight to understand that it would need a Trojan horse in order to stop the proletarian movement. The military boss Groener was later to say of the November 10 agreement between the supreme military command and SPD leader and government chief, Friedrich Ebert: "We have allied ourselves in order to fight the revolution, to fight Bolshevism. The nub of the alliance we constituted on the evening of November 10 was the fight without mercy against the revolution, the reestablishment of a government of order, support for the armed forces and to organize a call for a national assembly as soon as possible ... In my opinion, there does not exist any party in Germany possessing at this time sufficient influence over the population, especially within the masses, which would suffice to restore governmental authority with the supreme military command. The right wing parties had completely disappeared, and naturally it was out of question to join up with the extreme radicals. The only alternative was for the supreme military command to make an alliance with the majoritarian Social Democracy."
It was against this background that the fervent war cries of the SPD and the anti-strike propaganda gave way to cries of "workers' unity" and "against a fratricidal struggle." Whereas, in a revolutionary situation, the whole dynamic tends towards polarization of the two opposing forces, the SPD tried to blur the contradictions between the classes.
On the one hand, it distorted its own role during the war and the present situation, in order to utilize the trust it still retained amongst the workers, which it had won as a result of its proletarian role the previous century. At the same time, it sought an alliance with the centrist USPD. The centrist nature of the latter party, with a right wing which could hardly be distinguished for the majority of the Social Democrats, a wavering centre, and a left wing, the Spatakists, favored this calculated effort of the SPD. The USPD's right-wing joined the SPD-headed Council of People's Commissars in November - in other words, the bourgeois government of the day.
A few days after the creation of the councils, the bourgeois government, presided over by the SPD - and which spoke up in the name of the Peoples' Commissars - started the first preparations for a systematic military repression: organization of Freikorps (mercenary troops), organizing republican soldiers' defense corps and loyal government officers, in order to stop the further collapse of the army and to have new bloodhounds at hand.
It was difficult for the workers to see through the role of the SPD. As an ex-workers' party, later to become a protagonist of the imperialist war and a defender of the capitalist democratic state, the SPD had developed, on the one hand, a ‘pro-worker' language, "in defense of the revolution", while on the other, it had conducted a witchunt against the ‘Bolshevik revolution' and its supporters, the Spartakists.
Karl Liebknecht, in the name of the Spartakists, on November 19 wrote in the Rote Fahne (Red Flag): "Those who call loudest for unity ... now find a resounding echo, above all among the soldiers. No wonder. The soldiers are very far from being all proletarian. And martial law, censorship, official propaganda bombardment have not failed to have an effect. The mass of the soldiers is revolutionary against militarism, against the war, and against the open representatives of imperialism. In relation to socialism, it is still undecided, wavering, immature. A large part of the proletarian soldiers, like the workers, consider that the revolution has been accomplished, that we have now only to establish freedom and demobilize. They want to be left in peace after so much suffering. But it's not each and every unity which makes us strong. The unity between a wolf and a lamb hands over the lamb to be devoured by the wolf. The unity between the proletariat and the ruling classes sacrifices the proletariat. The unity with traitors means defeat ... the denunciation of all the false friends of the working class, is in this case our first commandment ..."
In order to disarm the spearhead of the revolutionary movement, the Spartacists, a campaign was launched against them: apart from the systematic slandering - the treacherous character assassination which presented Spartacus as corrupt, plundering, full of terrorist elements - Spartacus was to be prevented from speaking up. On December 6, government troops occupied the Spartacus paper Rote Fahne; on December 9 and 13, the Spartacus headquarters in Berlin was occupied by soldiers. Liebknecht was slandered as a terrorist, responsible for anarchy and chaos. Already at the beginning of December, the SPD had called for the assassination of Luxemburg and Liebknecht.
Drawing the lessons of the struggles in Russia, the German bourgeoisie was determined to use all possible means against revolutionary organizations in Germany. Without hesitation, it used repression against them from the first day and never made a fuss about its intention to kill the most prominent leaders ....
Concessions to crush the movement
On November 15, the trade unions and the capitalists made a deal to limit the radicalization of the workers by making a few economic, concessions. Thus the 8 hour day without wage reductions was granted (by 1923, it had been replaced by a 10-12 hour day). Above all, however, the systematic creation of factory councils (Betriebsrate ), which followed the goal of canalizing the workers' self-initiative in the factory, and of submitting them to state control. These factory councils were set up to counter directly the workers' own councils. The unions played the central part in the building this dyke.
Finally, the SPD pointed out the ‘threat' of US intervention and moves to block the delivery of foodstuffs, should the workers' councils continue to ‘destabilize' the situation.
The strategy of the SPD: Disarm the workers' councils
Above all, however, the bourgeoisie focused its offensive against the workers' councils themselves. They tried to prevent the power of the councils leading to an undermining, a paralysis, of the state apparatus:
-- In some towns, the SPD took the initiative to transform the workers' and soldiers' councils into "peoples' parliaments", a means through which the workers were "dissolved" amongst the people and where they could no longer take a leading role vis-a-vis the whole laboring population (this happened, for example, at Koln under the leadership of K Adenauer, later chancellor);
-- The workers' councils had to be deprived of the concrete possibilities to actually put into practice the decisions they had taken. Thus on the November 23, the Executive Council of Berlin (the councils of Berlin had elected an Executive Council [Vollzugsrat]), didn't put up any resistance when the first elements of power were taken out of its hands, when the Executive Council renounced exercising power in favor of the bourgeois government. Already on November 13, under the pressure of the bourgeois government and of government-loyal soldiers, the Executive Council had withdrawn its proposal to set-up a Red Guard. Thus the Executive Council was confronted with the bourgeois government without having any arms at its command, at the same time as the bourgeois government was busily rallying masses of troops;
-- After the SPD had already managed to pull the USPD into the government (while holding onto the same number of government posts), and had thus created a frenzy of "unity" between the "various parts of social democracy", they continued the same intoxication vis-a-vis the workers' councils: in the Berlin Executive Council, as well as in the councils of other towns, the SPD insisted on the parity of the number of delegates between SPD and USPD. With this tactic they received more mandates than the actual balance of forces in the factories would have given them. The power of the workers' councils as essential organs of political leadership and organs of exercising authority, was thus even more distorted and emptied.
This offensive of the ruling class went hand in hand with the tactics of military provocations. Thus on December 6, troops loyal to the government occupied the Rote Fahne, arrested the Berlin Executive Council, and provoked a massacre amongst demonstrating workers (more than 14 shot.). But during that phase, the vigilance and combativity of the class were still unbroken. A day after the provocations, gigantic masses of workers (150,000) took to the streets. The bourgeoisie still met the workers' forceful resistance. But the movement was still very dispersed, and if the spark had been spread from one town to others, there still wasn't a very strong dynamic of the working class at the shop floor level of the factories themselves.
In such a situation, the lifeblood of the class at the grass roots level in the factories must start pulsating stronger. Factory committees must arise in which the most combative workers regroup, general assemblies take place, decisions taken and their implementation controlled; delegates must respond to general assemblies which have mandated them and if necessary they are revoked. In short the class mobilizes and gathers all its strength at the shop floor level across all the plants, the dividing lines are clearly delineated and the workers exercise a real control over the movement from the very grass roots level. In Germany, the level of coordination encompassing towns and entire regions hadn't yet been reached; on the contrary, isolation between the various towns was still the dominant aspect. A unification of the workers and their councils across the limits of a town is an essential step in this process in order to face up to the capitalists. When the workers' councils arise and the power of the bourgeoisie is confronted with the power of the workers, a period of dual power is opened up, and this requires the workers to centralize their force on a national and even bigger scale.
The precondition for doing all this is that the centralization is the result of a process which the workers are controlling. But against the background of the still-prevailing dispersal of the movement, the isolation of the different towns, the Berlin Workers' and Soldiers' council- pushed by the SPD - called for a national congress of workers' and soldiers' councils to be held on December 16-22. That congress was supposed to act as centralizing force with a central authority. In reality, however, the conditions for such a centralization were not yet ripe, because both the pressure and the capacity of the class to give impulses at the shop floor level, and to control the movement, hadn't yet been strong enough. In addition, dispersal was still the dominant tendency. Because of this premature, faked centralization - initiated by the SPD and which was more or less "imposed" on the workers instead of being a product of their struggle - the working class was confronted with a big obstacle.
It was no surprise that the composition of the councils did not correspond to the political situation in the factories, that it did not follow the principles of responsibility to the general assemblies and the revocability of the delegates. Instead, the distribution of delegates corresponded rather to the number of voters for the various parties, taking into account the national census of 1910. The SPD knew how to use of the prevailing idea that such councils would have to work along the principles of bourgeois parliaments. Thus, through a number of parliamentary tricks and maneuvers, the SPD managed to keep the congress under its control. The delegates immediately set up fractions after the opening of the congress (out of 490 delegates 298 were members of the SPD, 101 of the USPD amongst them 10 Sparacists and 100 "others").
With this congress, the working class found itself confronted with a self-proclaimed assembly, which spoke up in the name of the workers, but which from its very beginning was to betray the interests of the workers:
-- A delegation of Russian workers, who were to attend the congress following an invitation by the Berlin Executive council, was turned back at the German border on the orders of the SPD government. "The General Assembly taking place on the 16th of December does not deal with international deliberations, but solely with German affairs, in the deliberation of which foreigners of course cannot participate. The Russian delegation is nothing but representatives of the Bolshevik dictatorship" ... this was the justification of the SPD's daily paper, Vorwarts (No 340, December 11 1918). Thus the SPD fought tooth and nail against the perspective of the unification of the struggles across Germany and Russia, as well as the international extension of the revolution in general;
-- With the help of tactical maneuvers by the presidium, the congress rejected the participation of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht they were not even admitted as non-voting observers. The pretext given was that they weren't workers from Berlin factories.
In order to put pressure on the congress, the Spartacus League organized a mass demonstration on December 16th. This was attended by 250,000 workers, because many of the workers' and soldiers' delegations which wanted to present their motions to the congress, had been mostly rejected or warded off by the SPD.
However, the congress confirmed its death sentence when it decided that, as soon as possible, a national constituency should be called, and that such a constituency would hold all the authority in society, and that the congress would have to hand over power to it. The bait of bourgeois parliamentary democracy hung out by the bourgeoisie, lured the majority of workers into this trap. Thus the weapon of bourgeois parliament was the poison against the workers' initiative.
Finally the congress spread a ‘proletarian' smokescreen, talking of the first measures of socialization which should be taken, even though the working class hadn't taken power. The central question that of disarming the counter-revolution by overthrowing the bourgeois government was thus pushed into the background.
"To take social-political measures in individual plants is an illusion, as long as the bourgeoisie still holds political power" (IKD, Der Kommunist).
This congress was a total success for the bourgeoisie. For the Spartacists it meant: "The point of departure and the sole tangible acquisition of the revolution of November 9 was the formation of workers' and soldiers' councils. The first congress of these councils has decided to destroy this sole acquisition, to rob the proletariat of its positions of power, to demolish the work of November 9, to wind back the revolution ... Since the council congress has condemned the very organ the workers' and soldiers' councils, which gave him its mandate, to being a shadow of itself, it has thus violated its boundaries, betrayed the mandate, which the workers' and soldiers' councils handed out to it, has removed the ground under the feet of its own existence and authority ... The workers' and soldiers' councils will declare the counter-revolutionary work of its unfaithful delegates to be null and void," (Luxemburg, ‘Ebert's Slaves', 20.12.1918,). In some tows, e.g Leipzig, the local workers' and soldiers' councils protested against the decisions of the congress. But the early, preemptive centralization of the councils allowed them to fall very quickly into the hands of the bourgeoisie. The only way to fight against this was to increase the pressure from "below", ie at the grass roots level of the factories, the streets....
Encouraged and strengthened by the results of this congress the bourgeoisie now went on to provoke further military clashes. On December 24, the Peoples' Marine Division, a vanguard troop, was attacked by government soldiers. Several marines were shot. Once again a storm of outrage broke out among the workers. On December 25, huge numbers of workers protested and took to the streets.
Against the background of these openly counter-revolutionary actions of the SPD, the USPD withdrew from the bourgeois government on December 29. On December 30-January 1, the Spartacus-League and the IKD formed the Communist Party (KPD) in the heat of the struggles. At its founding congress a first balance sheet of the movement was drawn. We will take up the debates at the founding congress on another occasion. But the KPD, through the voice of Luxemburg, emphasized: "The passage of the predominantly soldier revolution of November 9th to a specific workers' revolution, the transformation of the superficial, purely political into the slow process of the economic, general settling of scores between labor and capital, demands from the revolutionary working class a quite different level at political maturity, schooling, tenacity than that which sufficed for the first initial phase," (‘The 1st Congress', 3.1.1919 Die Rote Fahne.)
The bourgeoisie provokes a premature insurrection
Having assembled a sufficient number of troops loyal to the government, above all in Berlin; having set up a new obstacle against the workers' councils following the "triumph" of the Berlin "congress", and before the phase of economic struggles could come into full swing, the bourgeoisie wanted to deal decisive military blows against the workers.
On January 4, the police superintendent of Berlin, who was a member of the left wing of the USPD, was to be removed by government troops. At the beginning of November the police headquarters had been occupied by revolutionary soldiers and workers, and up to January, it hadn't fallen into the hands of the bourgeois government. Once more, a storm of protest against the government broke out. In Berlin, hundreds of thousands of people took to the street on January 5. The Vorwarts (SPD newspaper) was occupied as well as other bourgeois press centers. On January 6 there were more mass demonstrations with hundreds of thousands participating.
Although the KPD leadership constantly propagated the necessity to overthrown the bourgeois government with the SPD at its head, they didn't think that the moment for doing so had arrived. In fact, they warned against a premature insurrection. However, under the overwhelming surge of the masses on the streets, which made which many revolutionaries feel that the working masses were ready for the insurrection, a "revolutionary committee" was founded on the eve of January 5, whose task was to lead the struggle for the overthrow of the government and to temporarily take over once the bourgeois government had been thrown out of office. Liebknecht. joined this "committee". However, the majority of the KPD considered the moment for insurrection hadn't yet come and emphasized the immaturity of the masses for such a step. It's true that the gigantic street demonstrations in Berlin had expressed an enormous rejection of the SPD government, but although discontent was rising in many towns, determination and combativity in other areas were lagging behind. Thus Berlin found itself fairly isolated. Even worse: having disarmed the national council congress in December and the executive council of Berlin the workers' councils in Berlin were no longer places of centralization, of decision-taking or for initiating workers' activities. This "revolutionary committee" did not emerge from the strength of any workers' council, nor did it have a mandate. It's not surprising that it didn't have an over-view about the mood amongst the workers and soldiers. Neither did it take over a real lead over the movement in Berlin or in other towns. In fact it turned out to be completely powerless and lacked orientation itself. An insurrection without the councils themselves.
The committee's appeals were without any effect, they were not even taken seriously by the workers. The workers had been caught in a trap because of these military provocations. The SPD did not hesitate about its counter-offensive. Its troops flooded the streets and started street fights with armed workers. During the following days, a terrible bloodbath was imposed upon the Berlin workers. On January 15, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were murdered by SPD troops. With the bloodbath amongst the Berlin workers and the assassination of the most prominent leaders of the KPD, the head of the movement had been broken. The ferocious arm of repression came down on the entire working class. On January 17 the Rote Fahne was banned. The SPD intensified its demagogic campaign against the Spartacists and justified its order to assassinate Rosa and Karl: "Luxemburg and Liebknecht themselves have now become victims of their own bloody terror tactics ... Liebknecht and Luxemburg had not been social-democrats for a long time, because for social-democrats, the laws of democracy, which they broke, are sacred. Because of the breach of these laws, we had to fight them and we still have to ... therefore the smashing of the Spartacus rising means for the whole of our people, in particular the working class, an act of saving, something we were obliged to do for the well-being of our people and for history".
While during the July days in Russia in 1917 the Bolsheviks had managed to prevent a premature insurrection - against the resistance of the anarchists - in order to throw their whole weight behind a successful rising in October, the KPD did not succeed in doing this in January 1919. A part of the KPD - amongst them, one of their most prominent leaders, Liebknecht - overestimated the situation and let themselves get carried away by the wave of discontent and outrage. The majority of the KPD saw the weakness and immaturity of the movement but couldn't avoid the massacre.
As a government member declared on 3.2.1919: "A success for the Spartacus people had been impossible from the very beginning, because thanks to our preparation, we forced them to an early insurrection".
With the massacre against the proletariat in Berlin the heart of the proletariat had been hit, and after the Freikorps blood bath in Berlin, they could move to other centers of proletarian resistance in other parts of Germany. Because, in the meantime, in some towns which were isolated from each other, Republics had been proclaimed since the beginning of November (Nov 8 in Bavaria, Nov 10 in Braunschweig and Dresden , Jan 10 in Bremen), as if the rule of capital could be smashed through a series of isolated, dispersed insurrections. Thus the same counter-revolutionary troops marched on Bremen in February. After accomplishing another bloodbath, they proceeded to the Ruhr area in March and to central Germany, and in April 100,000 counter-revolutionary troops marched on to Bavaria to smash the "Bavarian Republic". But even with these massacres, the combativity of the class was not broken immediately. Many unemployed demonstrated on the streets all through the year 1919 and there were still a large number of strikes in various sectors, struggles against which the bourgeoisie never hesitated to use troops. During the Kapp putsch in 1920 and during the risings in central German; and in Hamburg, the workers still demonstrated their combativity until 1923. But with the defeat of the rising in January in Berlin, with the massacres in many parts of Germany in the winter of 1919, the ascendant phase had been broken. The movement had been robbed its heart and its leadership had been decapitated.
The bourgeoisie had succeeded in preventing the spread of the proletarian revolution in Germany, in stopping the central part of the working class in Europe joining the revolution.
After another series of massacres of the movements in Austria, Hungary and Italy, the workers in Russia remained isolated and were thus exposed to the attacks of the counter-revolution. The defeat of the workers in Germany opened the road to an international defeat of the entire working class and paved the way to a long period of counter-revolution.
The lesson of the German Revolution
It was the war that catapulted the working class into this international uprising, but at the same time the result of this was that:
-- the ending of the war removed the first cause of the mobilization in the eyes of the majority of the workers;
-- the war had profoundly divided the proletariat, in particular at its end, between those of the ‘defeated' countries, where the workers had launched themselves onto the offensive against the national bourgeoisie, and the ‘victorious' countries, where the proletariat had been injected with the nationalist poison of ‘victory'.
For all these reasons, it has to be clear to us today how much the conditions of war were truly unfavorable for the first challenge to capitalist rule. Only the simple-minded could think that the outbreak of a third world war today would provide a more fertile soil for a new revolutionary offensive.
Despite the specificities of the situation , the struggles in Germany have left us a whole heritage of lessons. The working class today is no longer divided by war, and the slow development of the crisis has prevented a spectacular outburst of struggles. In the innumerable confrontations taking place today, the class is acquiring more experience and is developing its consciousness in a more profound way, even if this process is generally tortuous and indirect.
However, this process of the development of consciousness about the nature of the crisis, the perspectives offered by capitalism, and the necessity to destroy it, is coming up against exactly the same forces which were already at work in 1914, 17, 18, 19: the left wing of capital, the unions, the parties of the left and their guard-dogs, the representatives of the extreme left of capital. It is these forces which, as part of a much more developed form of state capitalism and a more sophisticated repressive apparatus, are today preventing the working class from posing the question of power more rapidly.
The left parties and the leftists, like the social democrats who at the time took on the role of butchers of the working class, are once again posing as the friends and defenders of the workers; and the leftists and ‘oppositional' trade union forces will also have the responsibility of crushing the working class in any future revolutionary situation.
Those like the Trotskyists, who today talk about the need to get the left parties into power, the better to expose them, those who today claim that these organizations, although they have betrayed in the past, are still not integrated into the state, and that they can still be reconquered or pressured to change their orientation, are keeping alive the worst illusions about these gangsters. The ‘leftists' don't only play the role of sabotaging workers' struggles. The bourgeoisie will not always limit itself to keeping the left in opposition; at an appropriate moment, it will put these leftists in the government in order to smash the workers.
Whereas, in Germany, many of the weaknesses within the class could be explained by the fact that the period of decadence was only just beginning, so that many things were not yet clear, today, seventy years later, there can be no room for doubt about:
-- the nature of the trade unions
-- the parliamentary poison
-- bourgeois democracy and so-called national liberation struggles.
The clearest revolutionaries of the time were already showing the dangerous role of these forms of struggle, which belonged to the years of capitalism's historic prosperity. Any confusion or hope about the possibility of working in the unions, of using parliamentary elections, any hesitations about the power of the workers' councils and the world wide character of the proletarian revolution, will have fatal consequences.
Although the Spartacists, alongside the left radicals of Bremen, Hamburg and Saxony, carried out a heroic oppositional role during the war, it remains the case that the late foundation of the Communist Party was a decisive weakness of the class. We have tried to show the broad historical reasons for this. Nevertheless, history is not a fatalistic business. Revolutionaries have a conscious role to play. We must draw all the lessons from the events in Germany and from the revolutionary wave in general. Today it it's up to revolutionaries not to go into endless lamentations about the necessity for the party, but to constitute the real foundations for the construction of the party .. It is not a question of proclaiming ourselves the ‘leaders', as dozens of organizations do today, but of continuing the fight for the clarification of programmatic positions, of taking a vanguard role in the dally struggles of the class. No less than in the past, this will require a vigorous denunciation of the work of the left of capital, and a capacity to show both the broad and the concrete perspectives of the class struggle. The real precondition for being able to assume this task is to assimilate all the lessons of the revolutionary wave and in particular of the events in Germany and Russia. In another article in this Review, we will come back to the specific lessons about the party that the German revolution has left to us .
"The imperialist capitalist class, as the last offspring of the caste of exploiters, surpasses all its predecessors as far as brutality, open cynicism, and rascality are concerned.
"It will defend its ‘holy of holies' - its profits and privileges of exploitation tooth and nail. It will defend them with the cold-blooded viciousness which it manifested during the history of its colonial policy and during the last world war. It will move heaven and hell against the workers. It will mobilize the peasantry against the industrial workers. It will set the backward elements of the proletariat against the vanguard of socialism. It will get its officers to commit massacres. It will attempt to nullify socialist measures by a hundred and one methods of passive resistance ... It will sooner turn the country into a smoking heap of ruins than voluntarily relinquish its power to exploit the working class.
"This resistance must be put down with an iron hand, with the utmost energy. The power of the bourgeois counter-revolution must be met by the revolutionary power of the working class. The plots, schemes, and intrigues of the capitalist class must be countered by the ceaseless vigilance, clearness of vision, and readiness of the proletarian mass for action at any moment ...
"The struggle for socialism is the greatest civil war in history, and the proletarian revolution must prepare for this civil war the necessary weapons; it must learn to use them - to fight and conquer." (From ‘What Does Spartacus Want', Draft Program of the Communist Party of Germany, written by Rosa Luxemburg, 1918)