By marking the entry of capitalism into its decadent phase, World War I showed that the objective conditions for the proletarian revolution had ripened. The revolutionary wave, which arose in response to the war and which thundered across Russia and Europe, made its mark in both Americas and found an echo in China, and thus constituted the first attempt by the world proletariat to accomplish its historic task of destroying capitalism. At the highest points of its struggle between 1917 and 1923, the proletariat took power in Russia, engaged in mass insurrections in Germany, and insurrections in Germany, and shook Italy, Hungary, and Austria to their foundations. Although less strongly, the revolutionary wave expressed itself in bitter struggles in, for example, Spain, Great Britain, North and South America. The tragic failure of the revolutionary wave was finally marked in 1927 by the crushing of the proletarian insurrection in Shanghai and Canton in China after a long series of defeats for the working class internationally. This is why the October 1917 revolution in Russia can only be understood as one of the most important manifestations of this class movement and not as a ‘bourgeois’, ‘state-capitalist’, ‘dual’, or ‘permanent’ revolution which would somehow force the proletariat to fulfil the ‘bourgeois-democratic’ tasks which the bourgeoisie itself was incapable of carrying out.
Betrayed by its organisations, the unions and the socialist parties, the working class was unable to prevent the outbreak of the most terrible war in history. Today, the celebration of Armistice Day - the end of the war - is the occasion for patriotic celebration.
But what was it that really brought the war to an end? Only a few years after the disaster of 1914, the world working class launched the greatest ever attempt by the exploited masses to overthrow the domination of the exploiters and to build, on the ruins of war, a new society free of nations, and warfare. In doing so, the workers forced the ruling classes to put an end to the war.
This part of our series on the German Revolution of 1918-19 takes up the events of the mass strike which began to engulf the whole of Germany before, during and above all after the bloody and tragic events of the so-called ‘Spartakus Week' at the beginning of January 1919 in Berlin.
In the first three parts of our series on the German Revolution of
1918-19 we showed how, after the collapse of the Socialist International faced
with World War I, the tide turned in favour of the proletariat, culminating in
the November Revolution of 1918, which, like the October Revolution in Russia
the previous year, was the high point of an uprising against the imperialist
war. Whereas October represented the first mighty blow of the working class against
the "Great War", it was the action of the German proletariat which finally
brought it to an end.
We look at how the ruling class used its most powerful weapons - not only armed repression, but also the ideological campaigns of the former workers' party, the SPD, to inflict a major defeat on the revolutionary movement.
On Nov 4th 1918, at Kiel, a port on the German Baltic Sea, thousands of marines mutinied against the order of the army to steam off for another sea battle. After four years of murder with more than 20 million dead, innumerable injured and the starvation of the working population; the working class had become totally fed up and was no longer ready to sacrifice itself for the imperialist war.
When World War I broke out, the socialists met on 4th August 1914 to engage the struggle for internationalism and against the war: there
were seven of them in Rosa Luxemburg's apartment. This reminiscence, which
reminds us that the ability to swim against the current is one of the most
important of revolutionary qualities, should not lead us to conclude that the
role of the proletarian party was peripheral to the events which shook the world
at that time...
In the first
part of this series, published to mark the 90th anniversary of the proletarian
revolutionary attempt in Germany, we examined the world historic context within
which the revolution unfolded. This context was the catastrophe of World War I,
and the failure of the working class and its political leadership to prevent
It is 90 years since the proletarian revolution
reached its tragic culmination point with the struggles of 1918 and
1919 in Germany. After the heroic seizure of power by the Russian
proletariat in October
1917, the central battlefield of the world revolution shifted to
Germany. There, the decisive struggle was waged and lost. The world
has always wanted to sink these events into historical oblivion. To the
that it cannot deny that struggles took place, it pretends that they
at "peace" and "democracy" - at the blissful conditions presently
capitalist Germany. The goal of the series of articles we are beginning
here is to show
that the revolutionary movement in Germany brought the bourgeoisie in
the central country of European capitalism
close to the brink of the loss of its class rule. Despite its defeat,
revolution in Germany, like that in Russia, is an encouragement to us
today. It reminds us that it is not only
necessary but possible to topple the rule of world capitalism.
the Fourth of May (1985), the last great figure of the Communist International, Jan
Appel, died at the age of 95. The proletariat will never forget this life, a
life of struggle for the liberation of humanity...
With the publication of the 1920 programme of the Communist Workers Party of Germany (KAPD), we complete the section of this series devoted to the communist party programmes which came out during to the communist party programmes which came out during the height of the revolutionary wave (see International Review no.93, the 1918 programme of the KPD; International Review no.94, the platform of the Communist International; International Review no.95, the programme of the Russian Communist Party).
The letters from Bordiga and
Review n°s 98 and 99 we dealt with the defeat
of the German revolution as a sign of the defeat of the world
revolution; we now return to this question through the debates and
srough the debates and
struggles that took place within the Communist International at
the time. The German question and the defeat suffered by the
workers’ movement in Germany in 1923 were key questions of
the day for the international working class. The eclecticism and
tactical oscillations of the CI produced a disaster in Germany.
This put an end to the revolutionary wave of the 20s and prepared
the ground for the defeats that followed: in China (a situation we
have already examined in this Review) and in Britain (the
Anglo-Russian Committee and the General Strike). In the end it led
to the irrecoverable loss of the International when it adopted the
thesis of ‘socialism in one country’ and to the crisis
of the Communist Parties which were sucked into the
counter-revolution and the second imperialist war.