Ernst Meyer

In Memoriam

To the Memory of Rosa Luxemburg
and Karl Liebknecht

(12 January 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 3 No. 5, 12 January 1923, p. 50.
From International Press Correspondence (weekly), Vol. 3 No. 1, 16 January 1923, p. 15.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2021). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

The fourth anniversary approaches of the day on which Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, together with a large number of the German proletariat testified their loyalty to Communism with their lives. Although four years have gone by, the event remains in our memory as fresh as the first horror at the news of the murder of our leaders through the police of Scheidemann and Noske.

It our hearts still bleed, if we continue to miss our murdered leaders more keenly than ever, it is because we admire Rosa and Karl, not simply as revolutionary martyrs, but also as great revolutionary tacticians. Memorial days and traditions are not matters of indifference to us Communists who wish to abolish Capitalism and replace it with Communism, for we know that the bourgeoisie is determined to check us by the most brutal means, that we will only succeed by employing the strongest measures of disease; therefore we recall with pride every attempt at revolutionary rebellion, and honor those of our revolutionary champions whom the bourgeoisie spattered with blood. At the present juncture, when the most important duty of the communists is to unite the masses and to prepare them for the struggle, we have a special reason to consider how Rosa Luxemburg and Kart Liebknecht succeeded in enlisting the masses for the Revolution, even at a time of the greatest apathy and of sterile reformism.

The indignant outcry against the treachery of Social Democracy on August 4, 1914, the courageous struggle against national slaughter and persecution, despite martial law and in spite of trend, and prisons, the unselfish devotion to the first revolutionary struggles of the working class after November 1918, all these were only the consequence of a generation of stubborn, unremitting toil in the service of revolutionary enlightenment under the most difficult conditions. Rosa Luxemburg relentlessly hunted down Opportunism and Reformism to its very roots. Energetic practical opposition, and thorough theoretical annihilation of reformism supplemented and served each other. No one saw more clearly than Rosa Luxemburg, the threatening danger of an imperialist war, she pointed out these dangers and, at the same time scathingly attacked the Social Democratic Party for its failure to take measures to avoid these dangers. In order that the masses should better understand her warning, she combined her propaganda with an attack upon Imperialism, to which the masses were themselves in opposition. In particular she turned her attack upon militarism which, by its mistreatment of the soldiers, aroused against itself the most apathetic proletarian. It is in this propaganda that she found herself fighting side by side with Karl Liebknecht, who, in his active work in the Youth Movement, fought this same enemy of youth Liebknecht pointed out, at the same time, the close connection between militarism, armaments and heavy industry, and by the revelation of the Krupp scandal, achieved remarkable success in arousing the great mass of the people to an understanding of the close connection between these phenomena.

How little Comrade Luxemburg cofined herself to a purely negative resistance to reformism is shown by the way in which she connected the fight against the Social Democratic-Bourgeoisie coalition policy (ministerialism) in France, with an exposure of the inner hollowness of the policy of mere demonstration and obstructionism of the Social Democratic. Party in the Reichstag. No one before had demonstrated so forcefully and convincingly the necessity of preparing for the revolutionary barricade-struggle through a really revolutionary conquest of the masses. She proved in a masterly fashion, that an apparently purely parliamentary question of the three-class suffrage in Prussia, (a suffrage which conferred votes according to taxation) could be tied at a revolutionary propaganda vehicle. What the Social-Demd-crtfic bureaucrats would have treated as a mere farce, she tried to turn into a serious beginning of the mass struggle. What was degraded by the bureaucrats of the trade unions and the party to an empty threat of a general strike, she attempted to use as a live weapon of class strike for concrete ends which the masses understood. Even when the flood of revolution surged high, she did not allow herself to be carried along, but, in spite of her glowing heart, warned the Spartacus Bund, at its initial conference in December 1918, against all illusions, and declared herself emphatically in favor of a revolutionary application of trade union and parliamentary work. She had as little to do with the fanatics gathered about Otto Rühle. as with the spineless slaves of the bourgeoisie from Heine to Scheidemann. Above all she hated those who were neither warm nor cold, such as the learned Austro-Marxists gathered about Kautsky, who, in that decisive period, threw themselves into the camp of the Scheldemann Social Democracy and hence of the bourgeoisie.

The work of Karl Liebknecht was no less fruitful. Of a similar temperament but of less theoretical dearness, he hesitated or exaggerated here and there. His keen perception of the real state of consciousness of power on the part of the proletariat balanced his zeal for the Revolution. No one understood as well as he, both during and after the Revolution, how to talk to the masses and to sweep them along with him. Despite the sharpness and pointedness of his criticism in the Spartacus letters, it was he who held together the roughly organized opposition elements. Only shortly before his death he struggled vigorously to keep solid the alliance of the revolutionary workers and the Independent Socialists. He was, even more than Rosa Luxemburg, during the war and after that November day of 1918, the genial spokesman of all revolutionary minded workers.

To the Social Democrats, tactics come before principle. In the case of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, as with every true revolutionary, sober knowledge and tactical shrewdness were in the service of principles and their development.

For Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, like Leo Jogisches and Eugen Leviné, had learned directly and indirectly from the revolutionary activities of Russia. Thus they made use of this precious knowledge which only the Russian Bolsheviki had had opportunity to acquire. But through the Communist International, this knowledge continues to bear fruit amongst the revolutionary workers of the entire world. The derisions of the third an fourth congresses of the C.I. concerning revolutionary strategy, contain fundamentally the very lessons which Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht taught and acted upon. To continue in the spirit of the martyrs of the German Revolution today, we must prepare for the tinal struggle of the revolution with all means which lie equally far from disintegrating reforms and mere word-propaganda.

Last updated on 8 August 2021