The German Revolution

WWI & the German Revolution

For the soldiers, the First World War was a seemly unending nightmare; for the civilians on the home front, especially the women, hardly less so. In the end large tracts of Europe lay wasted, millions were dead or wounded. The great majority of casualties were from the working class. Survivors lived on with severe mental trauma. The streets of every European city were full of limbless veterans. Nations were bankrupt — not just the losers, but also the victors.

This bloody conflict was brought to an end by revolution — a fact that has been buried under a mountain of myths, pacifist sentimentality, and lying patriotic propaganda. By 1917, in all the belligerent states, the discontent of the masses was growing. In particular the people of Germany were beginning to suffer food shortages that sparked off riots and mass strikes across the country. There were mutinies in the armies and navies of Italy, Austria, France, and Britain.

... The First World War was thus ended by the German Revolution.

— From WWI – Part Fifteen: How revolution ended the First World War

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.

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.

Ninety years ago, on the morning of 13th March 1920, a brigade of soldiers marched into Berlin and declared the German government of the Social Democrats to be overthrown. Not a shot was fired by any side and the response of the leaders of the government was simply to flee. The very forces which the Social Democrats had place so much trust in had turned against them. The Kapp Putsch, as it has become known as, was challenged instead by the workers.

The Versailles Treaty of 1919 was one of the most outrageous and predatory treaties in history. It was a blatant act of plunder perpetrated by a gang of robbers against a helpless, prostrate and bleeding Germany. The proceedings at Versailles are highly enlightening because they reveal the inner workings of imperialist diplomacy, the crude reality of power politics and the material interests that lurk behind the flowery phrases about Liberty, Humanitarianism, Pacifism and Democracy.

Marie Frederiksen talks at the IMT Winter School in Berlin about how the German workers could have taken power in 1918-19. Unfortunately the German Communists committed a series of errors, errors which we must learn from and prepare for the future.

In 1918-19 the German workers could have taken power. Had they done so world history would have been very different, as it would have a huge impact on the workers of Europe, thereby breaking the isolation of Soviet Russia and thus stopping the Stalinist degeneration. A genuine international federation of socialist republics could have been built. Unfortunately the German Communists committed a series of errors, errors which we must learn from and prepare for the future.

Rosa Luxemburg was an outstanding Marxist and revolutionary. Her assassination on this day 90 years ago severely damaged the German Communist movement. Here Patrick Larsen looks at her strong side and also her weaknesses in the light of the 1918 German Revolution and draws out lessons for today, in particular for the revolutionary movement in Venezuela.

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