German Revolution

kpdTaking place just one year after the victory of Lenin and the Bolsheviks in Russia, “The whole of Europe [was] filled with the spirit of revolution,” remarked Lloyd George to the French Premier Clemenceau in March 1919.

The First World War had been a seemingly unending nightmare for both the civilians on the home front and the soldiers in the trenches. Large tracts of Europe lay in waste, millions were dead or wounded and the great majority of casualties were from the working class. In particular, the people of Germany suffered from food shortages and military defeats.

Riots, mass strikes and mutinies against the imperialist war all across the country took on an insurrectionary character. Inspired by their Russian brothers and sisters, the German proletariat entered the scene of world history. The old rotten system of the Kaiser and German Empire was brought down in a matter of weeks and the situation was ripe for a proletarian takeover in Germany.

Yet the socialist revolution ultimately failed, the young Spartiskists and the KPD did not have the experience or the necessary leadership to consolidate the German workers into a mass Bolshevik party. This was to result in the capitulation of the reformist leaders, and tragic murder of the leading organisers Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg on 15 January 1919.

The workers of the world looked on in horror as mistake after mistake was made and the revolution was lost. The lessons to be learned from this period are of the utmost importance to any communist movement today. The consequences of that failure would be most brutally felt over a decade later with the rise of fascism in Germany and the consolidation of Stalinism in Russia.

Rosa Luxemburg wrote this programme in December 1918, a few days before the German Communist Party (the successor of the Spartacus League) was founded. The reader will realise at once that this is a call for a socialist Germany.

Written in January 1917, Lenin analyses the cynical imperialist manoeuvres behind World War One and puts forward the proletarian revolutionary alternative as the only way out of the impasse for the working class.

The international situation is becoming increasingly clear and increasingly menacing. Both belligerent coalitions have latterly revealed the imperialist nature of the war in a very striking way. The more assiduously the capitalist governments and the bourgeois and socialist pacifists spread their empty, lying pacifist phrases—the talk of a democratic peace, a peace without annexations, etc.—the sooner are they exposed. Germany is crushing several small nations under her iron heel with the very evident determination not to give up her booty except by exchanging part of it for enormous colonial possessions, and she is using hypocritical pacifist phrases as a cover for her readiness to


"Proletarians of all countries, follow the heroic example of your Italian brothers! Ally yourselves to the international class struggle against the conspiracies of secret diplomacy, against imperialism, against war, for peace with in the socialist spirit."

The “Berner Tagewacht” publishes the full text of Karl Liebknecht’s protest in the Reichstag against the voting of the war credits. The protest was suppressed in the Reichstag, and no German paper has published it. It appears that seventeen Social-Democratic members expressed their opposition to the credits on December 2, but Karl Liebknecht’s was the only vote recorded against them.