14 Dead – 1 Woman Murdered*

Rosa Luxemburg on 7 December 1918

Yesterday, the 6th, Berlin became the scene of a bloody onslaught from the counter-revolution.1 At 5 o’clock several troop detachments positioned themselves under the leadership of officers loyal to Scheidemann: the Franzers,2 flamethrowers, sappers, radio operators marched in a demonstrative line through the streets, occupied the house of parliament where the Executive Council of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils was in session, and a group of the soldiers with a non-commissioned officer at their head forced their way into the meeting and declared the Executive Council was under arrest, and even on the alleged order of the Ebert-Haase government. The leaders of the coup went on to declare: They had come, they said, to eliminate the Executive Council and proclaim Ebert as the president of the German Republic.

     Comrade Hedrich, who was present at the meeting as a representative of the Bavarian Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils, managed to explain to the soldiers what an unheard-of assault they were committing on behalf of their commanding officers. The soldiers declared they had no idea against whom and for what purposed they had been mobilised. They only knew they had been promised five marks per person! After the infamy of the coup had been made clear to them, they agreed to arrest their commanders and withdrew.

     Simultaneously, the offices of the Rote Fahne were occupied by another group of troops, specifically, by the Kaiser Franz Guard-Grenadier regiment. They locked the editorial rooms, stairs, courtyard and entrance, stopped the machines, broke cabinets, searched through tables and drawers. They were hunting for Liebknecht, and “the whole group of the Spartacists” were to be arrested. Here too, the coup leaders referred to cited an order from the Ebert-Haase government.

     Here too, the Bavarian representative, Hederich, appeared and explained the lie to the soldiers, at which they withdrew in dejection.

     Blood has flowed in the streets of Berlin! Machine guns, which stood prepared well in advance, were fired on peaceful demonstrators, unarmed soldiers coming down Chausseestraße after a meeting in the Germania-Säle. The chief of police had been informed of their demonstration the day before. Fourteen dead lay on the pavement, including one woman! The number of wounded is still unknown.

     Workers! Soldiers! Comrades! Now you see who is organizing coups, who is sowing anarchy, who wants to choke the Revolution in its own blood! Now you see who is instigating fratricidal war, and who wants to establish a dictatorship – a sabre dictatorship of the counter-revolution!

     Now you see who wants to stifle the freedom of public opinion in Germany!

     The soldiers who let themselves be misused for this criminal assault on the Executive Council of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils and the Rote Fahne are not the guilty ones. They are sad, pitiful victims of the slanderous campaign which used them as executioners against the Revolution just as Hinderburg and the Hollenzollerns used them as cannon fodder for four years.

     The true criminals are the instigators who stand behind them, who organized the assault in secret.

     These criminals are Wels and his comrades, the Scheidemann-Ebert clique and their fellow travellers, who have stirred the soldiers up for weeks, who have taken all the counter-revolutionary elements under their protection, who have led a systematic smear campaign against the Spartacus League, who have formed a white guard of non-commissioned officers, who have created a real atmosphere of pogroms in Berlin with the bogeyman of “Bolshevism”.

     Workers! Soldiers! Comrades! The Revolution is in serious danger! Save, save, save your work of the 9th of November! Save the Revolution, freedom, socialism! Raise your thunderous voices and your millions of arms against the criminal gangs arranging coups, anarchy and murder!

     Workers! Soldiers! Comrades! Fourteen corpses lie on the pavement of Berlin! Defenceless, peaceful soldiers, laid low by cowardly, insidious murder! Bring in those guilty to answer for this bloody crime! Sweep the true criminals from the government, the disgraceful instigators, the tempters of the unenlightened masses of soldiers, Wels, Ebert and Scheidemann and their comrades!

     Their names have now become the slaughter call of the counter-revolution, the field markers of anarchy and fratricide, the banner of high treason to the Revolution!

     Energy! Resolve! Determination! It is time to act! The bloody crime must be punished, the conspiracy of Wels, Ebert, Scheidemann must be put down with an iron fist, and the Revolution must be saved.

     Down with Wels, Ebert, Scheidemann and their comrades!
     All power to the Workers’ and Soldiers Councils!
     To work! To the barricades! To the fight!
     Down with the blood-covered, cowardly organizers of the coup!
     Long live the Revolution!

1 “On the morning after December 6, 1918, after the bloodbath on Chausseestraße, the arrest of the Executive Council, the proclamation of Ebert as president, the occupation of the Rote Fahne by mobs of soldiers, Rosa Luxemburg said outright to the Scheidemann-Ebert clique, in the Rote Fahne, that this performance was a pre-arranged, planned Bonapartist coup.” Levi: Der Blutpakt, in Die Rote Fahne. Zentralorgan der Kommunistischen Partei Deutschlands (Spartakusbund), vol. 3, No. 82, 20 May 1920.

2 Franzer: According to Ulrich Kluge, this refers to members of the infantry regiment “Kaiser Franz”, from which reenforcement regiments in Berlin were based; cf. Kluge: Soldatenräte und Revolution: Studien zur Militärpolitik in Deutschland 1918/19, Göttingen 1975, p. 225. “Franzers” also referred to the air force: “The pilot was named Emil. The copilot (navigator, observer) was called Franz, from which the metaphor was derived: ‘We’ve Franzed ourselves’ [Wir haben uns verfranzt]” https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franzer. The “Bericht eines beteiligten Soldaten” shows that Rosa Luxemburg clearly meant navy pilots; cf. p. 637 in this edition.

First published in the Rote Fahne (Berlin), no. 22, 7 December 1918.

* This is a draft version translated by Zachary Murphy King. The final translation will appear in the publication of the fifth volume of The Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg, edited by Peter Hudis and forthcoming in 2020 from Verso Books with the support of the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung.