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.

To celebrate the 150th birthday of Rosa Luxemburg, we publish an extract from the introduction to The Revolutionary Heritage of Rosa Luxemburg, a new book analysing the life and ideas of this great revolutionary Marxist.

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Rosa Luxemburg, we share this article by Marie Frederiksen, author of The Revolutionary Heritage of Rosa Luxemburg (available for pre-order in Danish from Forlaget Marx). Marie explains how the Spartacist Uprising of 1919 was defeated due to the weakness and mistakes of the young German Communist Party, ultimately resulting in Luxemburg’s execution. These events are also explored in Germany 1918-1933: Socialism or Barbarism, available now from WellRed Books.

The German Revolution of 1918 ended the First World War. During a little-known episode of the Revolution, German soldiers liberated Belgium from a brutal military occupation before the armistice of the 11 November was signed. This revolutionary movement was also crucial in pushing through a swift introduction of universal general suffrage in Belgium.

Coming just one year after the mighty events of Red October in Russia, power was taken into the hands of the masses. Yet the socialist revolution ultimately failed. 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.

Speaking at the opening rally of the 2018 Revolution Festival, Marie Frederiksen and Rob Sewell discuss their new books about Rosa Luxemburg and the German Revolution.

Germany 1918-1933: Socialism or Barbarism

Germany 1918-33 was one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Following the revolution in Russia, the German workers and soldiers attempted to seize power in November 1918. Unfortunately, the revolution was betrayed by the Social Democratic leaders. In this book, Rob Sewell argues that all this was not inevitable, and analyses those events, drawing out the lessons for today.

To commemorate the anniversary of Rosa Luxemburg's murder in 1919, we republish the following introduction to a 2014 Mexican edition of her important work, Reform or Revolution. The legacy of this martyr for proletarian revolution endures through her ideas.

On Armistice Day - 11th November - Alan Woods analyses the factors behind the First World War - "The Great Slaughter" - and discusses the revolutionary alternative to imperialism and war today.

100 years ago, on 5th September 1915, a small group of international socialists gathered in the tiny Swiss village of Zimmerwald. This was the first attempt to unite those socialists who were opposed to the War.

In this video from the International Marxist Winter School 2014, Marie Frederiksen, editor of the Danish Marxist newspaper "Revolution", discusses the real revolutionary history, ideas, and traditions of Rosa Luxemburg, and draws out the valuable lessons we can learn for today.

Two women munitions workers stand beside examples of the shells produced at National Shell Filling Factory No.6, Chillwell, Nottinghamshire during the First World War. Nicholls Horace © IWM (Q 30017)

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War and the media is dedicating much time and attention to it. However, one aspect which so far has not received sufficient consideration is the role played by women during those dramatic and bloody years.