1919 - German Revolution

14. THE FIRST GREAT REVOLUTIONARY WAVE OF THE WORLD PROLETARIAT

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.

Margarete von Trotta's "Rosa Luxemburg"

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Margarete von Trotta's film on the life of Rosa Luxemburg is available here in German, with English sub-titles.

How the working class brought an end to World War I

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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 documentary tells that story.

The German Revolution, Part XIII : 1923, Part 2 A defeat that marked the end of the world revolutionary wave

Germany 1923: The bourgeoisie inflicts a decisive defeat on the working class

In the previous articles of the Internatio

The German revolution, XI: The communist left and the growing conflict between the Russian state and the interests of the world revolution

In the previous article in this series, in International Review no 95, we showed how the capacity of the bourgeoisie to prevent the international extension of the revolution, and the reflux

German Revolution, X: The reflux of the revolutionary wave and the degeneration of the International

The victorious conquest of power by the working class in Russia in October 1917 lit a flame that illuminated the whole world.

German Revolution, xi: The March Action of 1921: the danger of petty-bourgeois impatience

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The German Revolution, Part VII: The Foundation of the KAPD

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The German Revolution: The Failure to Build the Organisation

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German Revolution, part 5: From the work of a fraction to the foundation of the KPD

In the previous article, we showed how the revolutionaries in Germany had been confronted with the question of building the organisation in the face of th

The German Revolution: The Premature Insurrection

The German Revolution, Part II: The Start of the Revolution

Bilan no. 16, March 1935: The crushing defeat of the German proletariat and the rise of fascism

The relevance of Bilan's method

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 revolutiona

1918-1919: seventy years ago On the Revolution in Germany

Introduction

The Dutch Left, 1919-1920, 2nd Part

The Dutch Left, 1919-1920, 2nd Part

The Third International

 

The German question

History of the Workers Movement: Germany 1919: Could the revolution have won?

This article is adapted from the article in International Review 136 available here

History of the workers’ movement: Revolution in Germany 1918-19 Mass strikes and tragic defeat

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.

Germany 1918-19 (iv): Civil War

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.

Germany 1918-19: Social Democracy sets a deadly trap for the revolution

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. 

90 years ago: Revolutionary struggles in Germany bring WW 1 to an end (part 1)

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.

Germany 1918-19 (iii): Formation of the party, absence of the International

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...

Germany 1918-19 (ii): From war to revolution

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 its outbreak.

Lessons of the German Revolution

Lessons of the German Revolution

1. The formation of the German Communist Party (Spartakusbund)

Germany 1918-19 (i): Faced with the war, the revolutionary proletariat renews its internationalist principles

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 bourgeoisie has always wanted to sink these events into historical oblivion. To the extent that it cannot deny that struggles took place, it pretends that they only aimed at "peace" and "democracy" - at the blissful conditions presently reigning in 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, the 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.

Theses on the Role of the Party in the Proletarian Revolution (KAPD, 1921)

The KAPD's Theses on the Party were written in July 1921 to be discussed not only in the party but within the Communist International, of which it had been a sympathising member since December 1920.

Jan Appel: A Revolutionary Has Died

On 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...

1920: The Programme of the KAPD

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).

Correspondance between Bordiga and Trotsky

The letters from Bordiga and Trotsky: presentation

In International 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.

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