Workers Vanguard No. 994
20 January 2012
From the International Communist League Archives
Honor Lenin, Liebknecht, Luxemburg!
This month we honor the memory of the “Three L’s”: Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin, who died on 21 January 1924, and Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, who were assassinated on 15 January 1919 by reactionary Freikorps officers at the behest of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) government of Friedrich Ebert, Philipp Scheidemann and Gustav Noske. Liebknecht and Luxemburg were revolutionary Marxists who upheld proletarian internationalism against Ebert & Co.’s support for German imperialism in World War I. After belatedly splitting from the SPD and its centrist spin-off, the Independent Socialist Party, Liebknecht and Luxemburg went on to play leading roles in the founding of the German Communist Party (KPD) in December 1918-January 1919. Their murders were part of the Ebert government’s suppression of the proletarian Spartakist uprising of January 1919.
We reprint below a call by the Spartakist Groups and the Trotzkistische Liga Deutschlands for a revolutionary contingent at a 1990 Berlin demonstration honoring Liebknecht and Luxemburg. This call was part of the International Communist League’s intervention into the incipient proletarian political revolution in the bureaucratically deformed workers state of East Germany (DDR). From November 1989 on, we mobilized all the resources at our disposal in an attempt to give revolutionary leadership to the DDR’s working people, many of whom desperately wanted to replace the collapsing Stalinist regime with an egalitarian socialist order. We uniquely fought against capitalist counterrevolution and for the revolutionary reunification of Germany—for proletarian political revolution in the East and socialist revolution in the West. Our comrades emphasized the tradition of revolutionary internationalist solidarity between the German, Polish and Russian proletariats, which the “Three L’s” embodied.
An important component of our intervention in the DDR in 1989-90 was our warning that the West German SPD—the heirs of Ebert, Scheidemann and Noske—represented the Trojan horse of counterrevolution. This was in sharp contrast to the DDR’s Stalinist ruling party, the Socialist Unity Party (SED, renamed SED-PDS in December 1989), whose leaders increasingly embraced social democracy. This included upholding the heritage of Eduard Bernstein, notorious for his anti-revolutionary revisionism, and Karl Kautsky, a centrist renegade who bitterly opposed the Bolshevik Revolution. In late January 1990, under the pressure of a counterrevolutionary onslaught led by the imperialists, the SED-PDS followed the lead of Kremlin leader Mikhail Gorbachev in embracing capitalist reunification and going on to sell out the DDR workers state to West German imperialism.
The following is translated from the 10 January 1990 issue of Arbeiterpressekorrespondenz (Workers Press Correspondence), which was initiated by the TLD and published, sometimes on a daily basis, as a collective organizer of the Spartakist Groups in the heat of the battle against capitalist counterrevolution. In January 1990, the TLD and Spartakist Groups fused to form the Spartakist Workers Party, the ICL’s German section.
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There will be a mass demonstration Saturday, January 14, starting at 9 a.m. at the memorial site in Berlin Friedrichsfelde, in honor of the revolutionary workers’ leaders Liebknecht and Luxemburg on the 71st anniversary of their murder. Following in the footsteps of early Communist tradition, the Spartakist Groups and the Trotzkistische Liga will pay tribute to Luxemburg, Liebknecht and also Lenin. We call on all who wish to honor the “Three L’s” of Bolshevism to assemble around our banner and attend the Spartakist public forum.
In the demonstration call of the SED-PDS, Karl and Rosa are characterized as “outstanding leaders of the German Social Democrats and Communists.” This is closely connected to the SED’s current notion equating Liebknecht and Luxemburg with Kautsky and Bernstein. In this way the SED conceals the fact that it was precisely officers deployed by Social Democrat Gustav Noske who killed these Communists so as to smash the Spartakist uprising of January 1919. Noske (“Someone has to be the bloodhound”) acted on behalf of the government of the Social Democrat Friedrich Ebert, who proudly declared in 1918, “I hate the revolution like the plague!”
For decades, the leaders of the Social Democracy have attempted to cover up their bloody crime, the birthmark of the Weimar Republic. To that end, they have done their all to transform our revolutionary martyrs into social-democratic reformists. Stalin, who was equally fearful of proletarian revolution, similarly tried to rob Luxemburg of her revolutionary honor and greatness. We Spartakists, who fight for communism in the spirit of Lenin and Trotsky, stand for the revolutionary heritage of the two cofounders of the German Communist Party.
Social democrats, now including those in the SED-PDS as well, speak of “unambiguous warnings” by Rosa Luxemburg (as well as by Kautsky and Bernstein!) about the possibility of “a dictatorial-terroristic development in the Soviet Union,” not under the Stalinist bureaucracy but during Lenin’s time! Here they invoke an article she wrote in prison, without any access to accurate reports on the events in Russia, and never published. In doing so, they disregard what Rosa stated at the founding congress of the KPD on December 31 :
“...when people approach us with calumnies against the Russian Bolsheviks, we should never forget to reply: Where did you learn the ABCs of your current revolution? You got them from the Russians: the workers and soldiers councils.”
The social democrats seek to present Karl as a petty-bourgeois pacifist. But Karl was raised by his father Wilhelm as a “soldier of the revolution.” Speaking on May Day 1916, he counterposed to the Wilhelminian slogan “The war is preferable to insurrection” the socialist slogan “Insurrection, revolution are preferable to the war!” And against both the SPD’s warmongering social patriotism and Kautsky’s and Bernstein’s pacifism, Karl Liebknecht took Lenin’s side when he declared at his court-martial: “Not civil peace but civil war is my slogan!”
Above all, Karl and Rosa were internationalists. Karl—who courageously refused to vote for the war credits on 2 December 1914, saying: “Proletarians of all countries, unite again, despite everything!” Rosa—who was despised by the reactionaries of all countries as a Polish woman, a Jew and a Communist. In combating reformism for decades, both embraced the program of world socialist revolution. This was the cornerstone of the Communist International founded by Lenin and Trotsky, feared by Kautsky and Bernstein, buried by Stalin.
Today the International Communist League is fighting for the rebirth of the Trotskyist Fourth International. We are well aware of the mistakes committed by the leaders of the revolutionary socialists in Germany, in particular their failure to split early enough from the reformists and centrists. It was necessary to forge an independent revolutionary party as the Bolsheviks did, an act that was decisive for the victory of the 1917 October Revolution. But when Lenin applied to Rosa Luxemburg the old Russian couplet, “Eagles may at times fly lower than hens, but hens can never rise to the height of eagles,” he was passing judgment on the hens Kautsky and Bernstein.
In the third week of January 1933, shortly before Hitler came to power and while the Stalinized KPD was still battling “the remnants of Luxemburgism,” the German Trotskyists wrote:
“Outlawed, hunted, Lenin, Liebknecht and Luxemburg stood in battle against a host of enemies during the World War. Nevertheless, the power of their idea vanquished reformism, tsarism and the Hohenzollern [dynasty]. Like them, the International Left Opposition finds itself involved in an unequal struggle: here, with us, the power of the idea—there, the might of the apparatus. For us Bolshevik-Leninists as well, swimming against the stream, Liebknecht’s words remain true: Victory will be ours—despite everything!”
—from Permanente Revolution, third week of January 1933
— For a Leninist-communist party!
Return to the road of Lenin and Trotsky!
— Stop the Nazis through workers united-front action!
— Full citizenship rights for foreign workers!
— Down with NATO! Defend the DDR, Soviet Union!
— For a planned economy under a government of workers and soldiers councils!
— No sellout of the DDR! For a red soviet Germany as part of the socialist states of Europe!