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Labor Action, 25 January 1943



(January 1918)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 4, 25 January 1943, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


On the day before her brutal murder, Rosa Luxemburg wrote an article, Order Is Established in Berlin, for the Rote Fahne. It was published on the actual day of the crime. From the article we publish the following excerpts:

“Order is established in Warsaw,” reported Minister Sebastiani in 1831 to the Paris Chamber, when, after the terrible storming of the suburb of Praga, and the taking of Warsaw, the soldier gangs of Paskievitsch commenced their hangman’s work amongst the rebels.

“Order is established in Berlin!” triumphantly announces Ebert, announces Noske, announce the officers of the “victorious troops” to whom the Berlin petty bourgeois mob waved their handkerchiefs and hurrahed! The glory and honor of the German arms are saved before the world! The deplorably defeated of Flanders and the Argonne have re-established their reputation by their glorious victory, over the three hundred Spartacists in the Vorwaerts. The days of the first glorious invasion of Belgium by German troops, the days of General von Emmich, the conqueror of Lüttich, pale into insignificance before the deeds of Reinhard and his comrades in the streets of Berlin. The massacre of the delegates sent out to negotiate the surrender of the Vorwaerts, the delegates who were beaten unrecognizable with rifle butts by the soldiers of the government so that the identification of the bodies was impossible; the prisoners who were put up against a wall and murdered in such a manner that skulls were smashed and brains scattered – who would remember, in the face of such glorious deeds and the shameful defeats before the French, the English and the Americans? “Spartacus” is the enemy, and Berlin is the place where our officers know how to fight; and Noske, the “worker,” is the general who knows how to succeed where Ludendorff has failed.

Who does not remember at this time the victory madness of the “law and order” gang in Paris, the bacchanal of the bourgeoisie over the bodies of the fighters of the Commune, the same bourgeoisie who had just previously miserably capitulated before the Prussians, surrendered their capital city to the external enemy and themselves fled like the cowards they were. But against the half-starved and badly armed proletariat of Paris, against their defenseless wives and children – how did the manly courage of the sons of the bourgeoisie, of the “golden youth,” of the officers, recover itself! How did the bravery of the sons of Mars, which had so drooped before the external enemy, recover itself in bestial atrocities on the unarmed, on the prisoner, on the dead!

”Order is established in Warsaw!” “Order is established in Paris!” “Order is established in Berlin!” So run the reports of the defenders of “order” every half-century from the one center of the world historical fight to the other. And the joyous “victors” do not understand that an “order” which requires periodical and bloody massacres for its maintenance inevitably approaches its historical fate – collapse. What was the last “Spartacus week” in Berlin, what were its causes, what does it teach us?

The Course of the Spartacist Revolution

Confronted with the fact, the insolent provocation of the Ebert-Scheidemanns, the revolutionary working class was forced to take up arms. The honor of the revolution demanded the immediate repulse of the attack with all energy, otherwise the counter-revolution would have been encouraged to further attacks, and the revolutionary ranks of the proletariat, and the moral credit of the German revolution in the International, shaken.

The immediate opposition came spontaneously and with such natural energy from the Berlin masses that from the first the moral victory lay with the “street.”

It is an axiom of the revolution never to remain in inactivity after the first success|al step. The best manifestation of power is a heavy blow. This elementary rule of struggle dominates especially every step of the revolution. It is natural and is proof of the healthy instincts, and of the fresh power of the Berlin proletariat, that it did not content itself with the reinstatement of Eichhorn but that it spontaneously occupied the most powerful, posts of the counter-revolution – the bourgeois press buildings, the buildings’ of the semi-official news service and the Vorwaerts building. All these measures resulted from the instinctive knowledge of the workers that the counter-revolution would not remain inactive under its defeat, but would force a general trial of strength.

Here we stand before one of the great historical laws of the revolution, against which all the pedantic cleverness of the little “revolutionists” of the Independent Social-Democratic Party, who in each fight merely search for pretexts to retreat, are wrecked. Immediately the basic problem of the revolution is defined, and in this revolution it is the overthrow of the Ebert-Scheidemann government as the first hindrance for the victory of socialism, it confronts us again and again in all its actuality in every single episode of the fight, may the revolution be ever so unready for its solution, may the situation be ever so unripe. “Down with the Ebert-Scheidemanns!” – this slogan confronts us in every revolutionary crisis as the only exhaustive formula in all partial conflicts, and through its own inner objective logic, whether one will or not, forces every episode of the fight to its utmost point.

From this contradiction between the sharpening of the task and the lack of the preliminary conditions for its solution in the opening phases of the revolutionary development, results that the partial struggles of the revolution formally end with defeats. The revolution is the only form of war – it is its special axiom – in which the final victory can only be prepared by a number of defeats.

From Defeats – Toward Proletarian Victory

What does the whole history of modern revolution and of socialism show? The first outbreaks of the class struggle in Europe – the revolt of the Lyon silk weavers – ended in a heavy defeat. The Chartist movement in England, in a defeat. The revolt of the Paris proletariat in June 1848 with a crushing defeat. The Paris Commune of 1871 ended with a terrible defeat. The whole path of socialism, so far as revolutionary fights are concerned, is paved with defeats.

And yet this same history leads inevitably, step by step, to the final end! Where would we be today without these “defeats” from which we have drawn our historical experience, knowledge, power, idealism? Today, when we are near the final struggle of the proletarian class wars, we base ourselves on these defeats, with none of which we can dispense, each one is a part of our strength and understanding.

With the revolutionary struggle it is exactly contrary to parliamentary struggle. We had in Germany, through four decades of parliamentary action, gone from victory to victory and in the great historical trial of August 4, 1914, the result was an annihilating moral and political defeat, an unheard-of collapse, an unequalled bankruptcy. The revolution has brought us till now only defeats, but these inevitable defeats accumulate guarantee on guarantee for a future victory.

However, under one condition, it is a question under what circumstances the defeats have been, suffered, whether they resulted from the pressure of the advancing masses against the limits of the immature historical preliminary conditions or whether the defeats of the revolutionary actions were caused through half-heartedness, indecision or internal weakness.

Classic examples for both cases are on the one hand the French, February Revolution, and on the other the German March Revolution. The heroic action of the Paris proletariat in 1848 has become a living source of class energy for the whole international proletariat. The poverty of the German March Revolution has dragged upon the whole modern revolution like a manacle. It has affected the history of the official German social democracy up to the present dramatic crisis.

“The Revolution Will Rise Again Majestic”

How does the defeat of “Spartacus week” appear in the light of the above historic problem? Did it result from the pressure of the advancing masses against the limits of the immature situation, or did it arise from the weaknesses and half-heartedness of the action?

Both! The double character of this fight, the contradiction between the powerful, determined, offensive attitude of the Berlin masses and the indecision, hesitation and half-heartedness of the Berlin leaders are the special characteristics of this episode.

The leaders have failed. But leaders can and must be newly created out of the masses, and by the masses The masses are the deciding factor, they are the rock on which the final victory of the revolution is based. The masses were on the heights, they have forged this “defeat” as a link in the chain of those defeats that are the pride and the strength of international socialism. And therefore the future victory will spring from this “defeat.”

“Order is established in Berlin!” You fools! Your “order” is built on sand! Tomorrow the revolution will arise again majestic and to your terror announce with a voice of thunder: “I was, I am, I am to be!”

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