Ebert’s Mamluks*

Rosa Luxemburg on 20 December 1918

The work of the Reich conference been crowned with dignity. After providing the strongest support to Ebert’s counter-revolutionary headquarters, after cutting itself off from the street and from the revolutionary masses of the proletariat, it has ended by committing suicide and dealing the deathblow to the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils!1

              How cynically, how freely and easily did Ebert’s people set the conference in motion, like a puppet, taking advantage of the parliamentary helplessness and guilelessness of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Delegates. Here are two piece of evidence.

              On Wednesday evening2 a certain “Lüdemann Motion” suddenly appeared, in a completely unremarkable and incidental manner, demanding that, “until the further provision of the Constituent Assembly” all legislative and executive power in directing the Reich should be transferred – that is, to Ebert’s Cabinet.3 This motion was passed on Wednesday evening on the fly, without any debate! And the congress was not made aware that it had already anticipated the “further regulation” of the matter by the Constituent Assembly, before the question of the Constituent Assembly was even debated, let alone before any kind of decision had been reached! On Thursday the question on the agenda was whether the Constituent Assembly should be convened at all, and on Wednesday Ebert’s clique let the Congress decide that the Constituent Assembly had the right to the final governing say in affairs and that all political power could be transferred without delay to the Ebert Cabinet! The congress was deceived into framing its own debates on the primary question of the revolution as a done deal, as a comedy.

              A second example: On Thursday, after the presentations and the closing remarks on the subject of the “Constituent Assembly”, it came to a vote. Two decisive proposals were picked out from the multitude: Däumig’s proposal, which posed the fundamental question of the Constituent Assembly or council constitution, and a proposal from Ebert’s camp, setting the date of the vote on the Constituent Assembly for the 19th of January.

              Every abecedarian understands that, first, before the date of the election can be decided, the basic question has to be resolved as to whether it should come to a vote at all. Before the date can be fixed for killing off the council constitution, one has to comment on the question of whether this prank should take place or not.

              Leinert, however, presiding over this meeting, regards the Workers’ and Soldiers Councils of this congress as an old-style entrepreneur regarded his workers: “You can offer them anything.” And it’s correct! The congress quietly allows it to happen: first a vote is taken on the election date, then Däumig’s essential question is voted on, as if they could be manipulated by a simple trick!

              Even with all of that, on no account do we want to present the view that the congress allowed itself through pure carelessness and helplessness in external affairs to get entangled in this like an inexperienced girl brought to sin by a Turkish seducer. The composition of this congress and its behavior from the beginning to the end has certified its decided, untiring partisanship for the side of the Scheidemann counter-revolution. The Ebert clique’s undisguised maneuvers only reveal that they are degrading the Council Congress to the level of Mamluk guards, that they have brought back all the old ruses and stage tricks at the first congress of the Revolution – and with such success! – which Scheidemann’s legions used to corrupt and infantilize the “authorities” of the old party and trade unions in preparing the ground for the shambles of August 4.

              The Council Congress then made one more, last step as the willing tool of the counter-revolution: It expressly rejected any cooperation on the part of the Executive Council4 in the legislative power of the Council of People’s Commissioners5 and endowed Ebert’s government with dictatorial powers!

              The Congress of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils crowned its work by laying bare every power of the Councils and giving them to Ebert’s clique, who have the coup of December 6 on their conscience, the 14 corpses Chausseestrasse and Marten and Lorenz’s conspiracies!6

              The starting point and the only tangible achievement of the Revolution of November 9 was the formation of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils. The first congress of these Councils ends with the negation of its own unique achievement, by snatching power from the proletariat, by demolishing the work of November 9, and reversing the revolution!

              Here, however, the powers of counter-revolution have cut off their nose to spite their face. The Mamluks of the Ebert guard have taken their blind obedience too far. The bow, stretched beyond its limit, hastens the arrow back at the archer.

              When the Council Congress condemned the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council, i.e. the very body from which it derives its authority, to a mere shadow existence, it thus also overstepped its authority, betrayed the mandate it was handed by the Councils, it annulled the ground on which it based its existence and its authority. By deciding to lay bare every one of the Councils’ powers, the congress did not dissolve the latter as a political force, but itself, and, thinking it was dealing the Councils their deathblow, made its own authority null and void.

              The Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils have not been dissolved as a political force, and cannot be dissolved. They do not exist at the mercy of any congress, they were born out of the revolutionary act of the masses on the 9th of November. The revolutionary masses will not commit the suicide planned for them. The Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils will remain, they will now consolidate their power with ten times the energy and will defend the Revolution of November 9, their right to existence. They will declare the counter-revolutionary work of their unfaithful representatives to be null and void, and will find the strength and the courage to declare in this decisive hour, as Luther once did:

              Here I stand, I can do no other!

              Two Postscripts:

              In consideration of the fact that the Executive Council has been deprived of any ability to cooperate in legislative power and thus turned into the shadow being of a “supervisory authority” condemned to lack either power or influence, the USP faction declared that it could no longer participate in the Executive Council. As a result of this, the Executive Council consists entirely of representatives voted in from Ebert’s people.  Ebert’s “supervision” over Ebert’s government! The devil supervised by his mother-in-law! All the political power and all its institutions exclusively in the hands of the Scheidemanns!

              And of course even this humiliation has its fig leaf. For Haase will remain in the council of the People’s Commissioners, pinned on Ebert’s loins like a girdle of shame. Yes, he’s staying! And Dittmann, and Barth are staying too. The left wing of the USP is retreating from the Executive Council to save its honor, and its right wing is standing firm as the “principled” cover for political prostitution.

              The Haase conventicle is ducking out of the party conference in order to avoid its responsibility, in order to avoid a clear verdict. The inner logic of the matter produces the verdict and clarity. The masses of the party will be directly challenged and forced to pass their judgement!

              The congress’s directors are giving it the treatment it deserves. After it had done and allowed everything needed by the counter-revolution, it needed to be sent home. After the second item – the Constituent Assembly – had been settled, they wanted to brazenly halt the rest of the agenda. What’s point of that useless chatter about socialization, about peace, when the main thing: the dictatorship of the Ebert government, had already been achieved? The Moor had done his work, the Moor had to go.

              The Moor was ready for that, too. But then “the street” intervened. Such a raging, elemental protest arose in the gallery at the unveiling of this pristine plan that the Mamluks in the hall below even became scared. The hearing on the two presentations: on socialization and on peace, had been resolved.

              In any case it was an empty formality. Two platonic speaking exercises on the sly, heard out “for decency’s sake” by men who had already put on their hats and overcoats.

              But even this last little glimmer of a sense of shame and propriety had already driven away the rough fist of the masses.


1 See p. 450, footnote 2.

2 18 December 1918.

3 See Allgemeiner Kongreß der Arbeiter- und Soldatenräte Deutschlands. Vom 16. bis 21. Dezember 1918 im Abgeordnetenhause zu Berlin, Stenographische Berichte, Berlin, no year, p. 88.

4 See p. 435-439.

5 See p. 424, footnote 2.

6 Marten, who initiated the formation of the counter-revolutionary organization “Association of German Women for the Welcome of the Troops”, and Lorenz, responsible for the delivery of arms to the militias as head of the War Ministry, belonged to the plotters of the counter-revolutionary coup on December 6, 1918 (see p. 437, footnote 1).

First published in: Die Rote Fahne (Berlin), No. 35 from 20 December, 1918.

Quotes taken from: Rosa Luxemburg’s Gesammelte Werke, vol. 4, pp. 431-478.

*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.