Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Rosa

was not rose but rather deep red. On this day, 100 years ago right-wing Freischärler (irregular troops) murdered Rosa Luxemburg and her comrade-in-arms Karl Liebknecht in cold blood in Berlin.

Rosa Luxemburg on a German stamp of 1974
A little bit of German history. With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 the strongest party at the Reichstag was in a dilemma. On August 4, Emperor Wilhelm II had declared, “Henceforth I know no parties I know only Germans”. This so-called Burgfrieden (a truth between the emperor and all German parties) made it difficult for the Social Democrats (SPD) - although in essence being pacifists - not to vote in favor of the requested war loans.


However, Karl Liebknecht (the son of SPD founder Wilhelm Liebknecht) and Rosa Luxemburg prominent members of the left-wing faction of the SPD voted against because they believed in an international revolution of the proletariat overthrowing capitalism, imperialism, and militarism even during the war. Later they called their movement the Spartacist League.


On March 7, 2014, the eve of Europe’s catastrophe Rosa visited Freiburg and gave a speech. Roger Chickering in his famous book, “The Great War and Urban Life in Germany” describes her visit as follows, “To the consternation of the non-Socialist press, she packed the Festival Hall (Festhalle), the largest hall in town. Here she delivered an impassioned attack on class inequality and German militarism.”

She started out confirming that in times of peace she had been condemned being a pacifist, “I was sentenced to one year in prison in Frankfurt for what the prosecutor and the court considered to be a criminal act. This action consisted in my shouting to the workers on both sides of the border: Thou shalt not kill!”

She continued denouncing the social climate in the late years of the German Empire, “Living in Germany in a time of the most terrible unemployment when tens of thousands of industrious, honest proletarian families do not know what they will feed their hungry children tomorrow an official government representative declares: Not the support, not the feeding of these hungry is the lifeblood of the state, but barracks, bayonets, and spiked helmets are its lifeblood.”

She ended, “We turn to all the working people, to whom we say: All of you, you are millions, you men and women of labor, you pay taxes to preserve the state and the wars and the military. It is you who will send your sons into the fire and you will have to shoulder all the troubles and pains when a war will stop the calm economic and cultural development not for years but for decades. It depends on you to veto this breakneck policy of the ruling class.”

Chickering continues, „Few in the audience took the provocation as seriously as did the public prosecutors, who initiated legal action against the visitor for sedition and subversion, but 280 people did join the local Social Democratic party in the wake of her speech ... Her exuberant reception in Freiburg illuminated other features of life in town: resentments over massive poverty and social inequality, the persistence of labor strife, and the lingering isolation of the Socialist labor movement itself.“

Rosa's continuous efforts to convince Germany's proletariat of an anti-war general strike resulted in her and Karl Liebknecht’s imprisonment in June 1916. Liberated by an amnesty at the end of the war both revived the Spartacist League,

The League organ, Die Rote Fahne (The Red Flag).
On November 9, 1918, Liebknecht declared the formation of a Freie Sozialistische Republik (Free Socialist Republic) from a balcony of the Berliner Stadtschloss, two hours after Philipp Scheidemann's declaration of a German Republic from a balcony of the Reichstag.

Liebknecht’s Free Socialist Republic was nothing else than a German-Soviet republic (Räterepublik) along the Russian model although Rosa sharply criticized the Lenin administration with respect to the freedom of the press. Her pamphlet contains her famous dictum “that the rule of the broad masses is completely unthinkable without a free and unimpeded press, without an unhindered life of associations and assemblies ... Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for members of a party - as numerous as they may be - is no freedom. Freedom is always the freedom of those who think differently".

Rosa Luxemburg's speech at the Gründungsparteitag (founding congress) of the KPD
On January 1, 1919, the Spartacus League was renamed into KPD, the German Communist Party. Later in the month, still dreaming of a Räterepublik, Rosa and Karl participated in the so-called Spartacist Revolt against the existing government. With the help of right-wing militia, the Social Democrat and Chancellor Friedrich Ebert had squashed the uprising brutally.

Workers, citizens!
The fatherland is doomed. Come to its rescue!
 It is not threatened externally but internally by the Spartacus League.
Beat to death their leaders!
Kill Liebknecht!
Then you will have peace, work, and bread.
The front-line soldiers.
Wikipedia reports, “By 13 January, the uprising had been extinguished. Liebknecht and Luxemburg were captured by Freikorps troops on 15 January 1919 and brought to the Eden Hotel in Berlin, where they were tortured and interrogated for several hours. Following this, Luxemburg was beaten with rifle butts and afterwards shot, and her corpse thrown into the Landwehr Canal, while Liebknecht was forced to step out of the car in which he was being transported, and he was then shot in the back. Official declarations said he had been shot in an attempt to escape.

The division continues into modern Germany. On the one hand the SPD that in the course of time has achieved so many benefits for the working class and keeping well in mind not to kill the milk-producing cow (capitalism), on the other hand Die Linke that rightly points the finger to those social inequalities in a rich society as there are single mothers with too low an income, homeless people who cannot afford the high rents, and retired persons who do not know how to live on their mini-retirement pensions.

Aufstehen! founder Sahra Wagenknecht (©Aufstehen!)
Who likes aufstehen (to rise)? Does a yellow vest carried in front of the Federal Chancellery help?

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