Sunday, 10 January, saw thousands in Berlin gather, despite bitterly cold weather, to commemorate the two great German Marxist revolutionaries, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, who were killed in January 1919 by reactionary paramilitary forces.
But this is not only a day for remembrances but also a day to advocate struggle. Up to 9,000 marched on a demonstration and, according to official figures, 40,000 went to the graveyard to lay flowers and show their sympathy for Luxemburg and Liebknecht.
SAV (CWI in Germany) banner
Sozialistische Alternative (SAV – CWI Germany) participated in the demo, campaigning for a counter demonstration against a big fascist demonstration in Dresden, which is planned for 13 February. We also stressed the need to combine today’s struggles against the effects of the crisis – unemployment, social cuts, low wages etc. - with the struggle for socialist change. Our banner said: “For a socialist solution to the crisis! Expropriate banks and corporations! Organise – demonstrate – strike!”
We encountered an increasingly positive response to our papers and pamphlets, including material by Leon Trotsky, and raised donations worth €600.
A video of Sunday’s demo can be found here
Since the fall of Nazism, the second Sunday of January has seen tens of thousands of young and old people, antifascists, trade unionists, socialists and activists of social movements gather every year in Berlin to commemorate Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht’s January 1919 murder.
This was only a few weeks after Karl and Rosa had formed, together with others, the KPD (Communist Party of Germany) and were heavily involved in the revolutionary struggles which broke out early the previous November, which finished off the First World War, brought down the monarchy and put the question of a socialist workers’ republic on the agenda.
Rosa and Karl rejected any opportunist adaptation to capitalism, fighting in a principled way for the independence of the working class and the taking of power by the newly formed workers’ and soldiers’ councils. This was basically a programme to follow the example the Russian workers and soldiers had given a year earlier in the October Revolution, despite all the talk of Luxemburg being a critic of the Russian Revolution. Also, the formation of the KPD was an acknowledgement of the necessity of building a Marxist revolutionary party as it existed in Russia with the Bolsheviks.
The murder of Karl and Rosa was conducted with the knowledge and acceptance of the then leadership of the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany), which up until today has not accepted it’s political responsibility for the killing of the two greatest revolutionary fighters the German labour movement has ever produced after Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels themselves. Karl and Rosa were killed after the end of fighting in Berlin which saw the SPD-led government backed semi-fascist Freikorps crush the uprising of revolutionary workers in Berlin. After the fighting died down, the main SPD newspaper published an infamous poem asking where, amidst the thousands of dead, were the bodies of Karl and Rosa.
To this day, Karl and Rosa are widely seen as fighters against war and capitalism and act as an inspiration to continue the work of building a socialist movement today, that can end capitalism and oppression once and for all.
A longer article on the murder of Luxemburg and Liebknecht can be found here