On this day, 1919, a group of German socialists launched a coup in Berlin in order to rebel against the unfair treatment of the German people by the Weimar Republican government running Germany at the time. This attempted revolution would be remembered throughout the history of Germany and also Russia due to the huge pride felt by Russia in any Marxist inspired movements.
When armistice was signed in November 1918 bringing the First World War to a close, Germany was left impoverished and lacking in any kind of hope for the future. With the upcoming peace conference which would result in a treaty so harsh that it arguably caused a Second World War, the Spartacist group was formed.
Led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, a minority broke away from the Social Democrats and began a new party- the Independant Socialists. They believed the war was driven by capitalist interests which is why the government had stabbed the German Army in the back when they admitted defeat. Inspired by the Russian Bolshevik revolution led by Vladimir Lenin in 1917, they decided the only solution to Germany’s problems was to begin a German revolution.
The coup began on January 10th when the Spartacist group marched on Berlin, occupying buildings such as editorial offices and erecting barricades in the city. 500,000 workers went on strike, as urged by the KPD (communist party) just days before the uprising.
During this time, the country was being led by Friedrich Ebert. He commissioned a group of ex-army patriots named the Friekorps to attack the striking workers and any other resisting members of the coup. The Friekorps still had military equipment from World War 1, which left the revolutionaries almost defenceless.
On the 15th January, the revolution was crushed and the leaders, Liebknecht and Luxemburg were captured and murdered.
Extract from Trotsky’s Obituary to Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht:
“Rosa Luxemburg’s name is less well-known in other countries than it is to us in Russia. But one can say with all certainty that she was in no way a lesser figure than Karl Liebknecht. Short in height, frail, sick, with a streak of nobility in her face, beautiful eyes and a radiant mind she struck one with the bravery of her thought. She had mastered the Marxist method like the organs of her body. One could say that Marxism ran in her blood stream.
By the force of the strength of her theoretical thought and her ability to generalize Rosa Luxemburg was a whole head above not only her opponents but also her comrades. She was a woman of genius. Her style, tense, precise, brilliant and merciless, will remain for ever a true mirror of her thought.”