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Let's learn from our pioneers

To lead the struggle against capitalism and the threat of war in memory of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht

“Your ‘order’ is built on sand. Tomorrow the revolution will already ‘rattlingly straighten itself up again’ and announce to your horror with the sound of the trumpet: I was, I am, I will be!”

Revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg wrote this in her last newspaper article in January 1919, after the revolution of workers and soldiers in Germany had been crushed – drowned in the blood of thousands of workers, murdered by the army and the ultra-right Freikorps. Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, the leaders of the revolutionary workers, fell victim to state terror on January 15, 1919 – 103 years ago: after being captured by a Freikorps, they too were killed in the most cowardly way. 

Where did the hatred and fear of the ruling class towards the two workers’ leaders come from? In World War I, the German Empire had suffered a shipwreck with its plans for world power. Germany’s ruling class had failed to conquer half of Europe and achieve world domination. The price was paid by the common people of Europe and much of the world: millions of European as well as Asian, African, American, Caribbean and Pacific workers and peasants were forcibly recruited and driven to the battlefields, where they suffocated in poison gas, bled to death in barbed wire, and died in agony from injuries and disease. In Russia, the people stood up against mass murder twice in 1917, first overthrowing the monarchy and finally winning power in the October Revolution to establish the first workers’ state: The Soviet Union, which was officially founded in 1922. In Germany, workers and soldiers followed suit a year later. Under the leadership of Luxemburg, Liebknecht and other revolutionaries, the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) was founded in late 1918 – an organization of workers for the workers, a party of new type to organize the struggle for a new society without poverty, exploitation and war, to overthrow the rule of capital, establish that of the working class and build socialism. But the military, the industrialists and bankers did not think of giving up their power – they were skilled in mass murder and to keep the starving masses down, any means was fine with them. 

While many workers with SPD party membership also fought in the revolution, the leadership of the party, which at that time was still a workers’ party by claim, in which many workers were members, unconditionally sided with the murderers, war criminals and capitalists. The Social Democratic Reich President Friedrich Ebert, after whom the official foundation of the SPD is still named today, supported the brutal suppression of the revolution and the murder of thousands of workers. The SPD had supported World War I in 1914 and was now willing to do anything to save the rule of capital. It took advantage of the fact that many workers were not yet clear that socialism was not possible as long as the masters of the monopolies still held economic and political power. With slogans of socialization and hopes for a bourgeois republic, the leaders of the SPD clouded the workers’ eyes and snatched away many of the gains they had fought for.

The KPD, with Luxemburg and Liebknecht at its head, recognized all this and the need to keep fighting and show the workers the way to their real power. The KPD’s program was revolutionary and consistent. But the party was founded late – only in the midst of the struggles – and did not yet have sufficient strength and influence to stop the counterrevolution. It was nevertheless the most important political outcome of the November Revolution and the beginning of a new phase of the revolutionary workers’ movement in Germany, associated with Ernst Thälmann, Walter Ulbricht, Wilhelm Pieck and many other names, which culminated in the building of socialism in the GDR.

Then as now: Fighting against the imperialist war means fighting for the revolution!

Today we are once again faced with a situation that looks frighteningly similar to that of 1914: NATO is mobilizing against Russia and China across the board. Western troops are on the Russian border, Germany is participating in naval maneuvers off the Chinese coast. While we learn in school that imperialism is a thing of the past, in reality it is still the system in which we live today. From Vietnam to Iraq, from Afghanistan to Libya, the blood trail of imperialist wars with millions of deaths has been running for decades. The danger of a new world war threatens humanity and here, too, the responsibility of social democracy is enormous: the wars in Afghanistan and Yugoslavia were decided by the SPD and the Greens, just as today they continue to fuel the confrontation with Russia and China under the pretext of “human rights”. The struggle against the bourgeois system parties in all colors and forms, whether SPD or CDU, Greens, FDP or AfD, is part of our struggle against the war policy, for the interests of the workers and the people. The Left Party participates in state governments and aspires to government at the federal level – and thus inevitably to the implementation of militarist policies and war operations. Many forces in the Left Party have been working toward this for a long time. It would be a dangerous illusion to place hopes for peace in this party.

Now it has been more than a century since the working people in Germany rose up to put an end to murderous capitalism and its war policies. Their struggle for a humane, that is, a socialist society is more relevant today than ever. But the working class in Germany today stands without a fighting organization as the KPD was then – an organization that can lead the workers’ struggle with clarity, unity and concrete strategy for socialist revolution in Germany. We are still far away from this and it will not happen overnight. But we want to work on it thoughtfully, with plan and with collective clarity. The present state of affairs must be overcome, step by step and with Scientific Socialism and the valuable experience of our pioneers in our tool kit.

For us it is important today to analyze the causes of the defeat of socialism in 1989/1991, without denying all the successes and achievements and without ignoring the difficulties and contradictions. At the height of the times, in connection with our tradition, we want to pave the way to socialism. We do not need utopias, but the concrete way to power. To this end, we are organizing a process of clarification and construction with the goal of founding the Communist Party in Germany. Because one day in Germany, too, the revolution will raise its head high again and say: I was, I am, I will be!

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