Extraordinary ASSOCIATION Meeting of the German Independent Social Democratic*

Party of Greater Berlin on 15 December 1918

             I Supplementary Presentation on the Policies of the USPD1 
             Following a Newspaper Report

             Comrade Haase has just delivered an indictment of his very own policy, and defended the policy of the Ebert-Scheidemann government.2 He claimed that Liebknecht was prepared to join the government, but he has forgotten to mention the condition Liebknecht had named. This condition was that the new government take a fundamentally socialist direction in its policy. We are still prepared to join the government even today, provided this condition is met. Regarding what happened with Schwartzkopff, a comrade will tell you that every appeal to unity is essentially an attempt at fraud.3

              Five weeks have passed since the 9th of November. Since then the scenario has completely changed. Reaction is much stronger now than it was in the first days. And Haase tells us: See how marvelously far we’ve come. His duty should have been to show us the progress made by the counter-revolution, which has been helped along by the government in which Haase sits. Instead of preventing the counter-revolution, this government has strengthened the bourgeoisie and reaction. The bourgeoisie could hardly wish for a more favorable government, a government that is a mere fig leaf for its counter-revolutionary goals.

              The current government has not even attempted to take the most elementary measures. Has it annulled the war debts? Has it armed the people to defend the Revolution? It banned the Red Guard and recognized Wels’ White Guard. During the coup on December 64 all the counter-revolutionary threads led back into Ebert and Wels’ hands. Lequis and Hindenburg and all the officers and generals took their place in the government, and Haase tells us that this is a socialist government. It is precisely these government methods which confuse the proletariat. All the independents should have left the government after December 6, they should have rejected responsibility for what had occurred, in order to rouse the masses and inform them that the Revolution was in danger. Since this did not happen, the masses had to be lulled back to sleep, and Haase’s speech today was the continuation of this policy of distraction.

              Haase listed off the achievements of the new government — loud bourgeois reforms that prove how backwards Germany had been; these are the obsolete debts of the bourgeoisie, and not the revolutionary conquests of the proletariat, as it should have been handled.

              Haase also said that we shouldn’t slavishly copy the tactics of the Russians, since Germany is more economically developed. We must, however, learn from them. At first the Bolsheviks had to gain experience. We can benefit from the fruit of this experience.

              Socialism is not a question of parliamentary elections, but a question of power. The proletariat must fight the bourgeoisie in class struggle, shoulder to shoulder and face to face. And to do so the proletariat must be equipped. It is no longer a matter of discussions and majority votes. Haase has proposed to delay the Constituent Assembly, but at the same time he sees it as an arena for political struggle. The party leadership of the Independents set April as the date for the Constituent Assembly. Their representatives have discredited themselves by moving the date to the 16th of February.

              Haase has extolled the principle of democracy. Now, if the principle of democracy is to apply, it should certainly apply above all in our own party. But in that case the party conference should be called immediately, so that the masses can say whether they still want this government.

              If the USP has just suffered an electoral defeat in Berlin,5 then the real reason behind it is Haase’s policy in the government. (Tumultuous interruption.) How absurd to blame the Spartacists when it was precisely us who shook the masses to revolutionary consciousness! Haase and his friends fought with the Social Patriots for four long years, only to make peace with the offenders. And for that reason it is them who are truly guilty.

              Haase wanted to accuse us of subordinating our opinion to that of the masses, since we refuse to take over the government without the approval of the masses. We do not subordinate ourselves, nor will we wait patiently. We want to denounce your half-measures and your weaknesses. By leaving the government, Haase and his friends would awake the masses and free them of their illusions. If they continue, however, to cover for the government, then the people will rise up and sweep them away. In the Revolution today, there is no speech and no brochure that can do the work of informing the public. Today, the public must be informed through deeds.

              Yes, the state of the USP is unsustainable, since there are four elements at play that do not belong together. Either one is resolved to make joint efforts with the social patriots or one goes with the Spartacus League. The party conference must decide this question. But in demanding the party conference we can tell that Haase’s ears are just as clogged as Scheidemann’s were when we made the same demand during the war.

              I submit the following resolution to the association meeting: On 15.12.1918, the extraordinary association meeting of the USP of greater Berlin demands:

  1. The immediate resignation of the representatives of the USP from the Ebert-Scheidemann government;
  2. The association meeting rejects the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, as it can only lead to the strengthening of the counter-revolution and the betrayal of the socialist goals of the Revolution;
  3. The immediate assumption of all political power by the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils, the disarming of the counter-revolution, the arming of the working population, the formation of the Red Guard for the defense of the Revolution, the dissolution of the Ebert Council of People’s Commissioners, the endowment of the Executive Council of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils with the highest power of the state;
  4. The association meeting demands the immediate convocation of the party conference of the USP.6

We stand before a moment of world-historical significance, shortly before the conference of the Central Council.7 The revolution has been brought almost to the edge of an abyss, and the proletariat must pull it back with an iron hand. The government has done everything to divest the Central Council of its power in advance, it has disarmed the civilian population and the proletariat, it has taken measures which are contrary to the Revolution and confuse the masses. This must be rigorously resisted. (Lively applause.)

           II Concluding Remarks8
           Following a Newspaper Report

Our duty is to demolish every bridge with the current government. This is our demand, and it is a justified one. We know this because comrade Barth just stood up a moment ago to list off his heroic revolutionary deeds. If comrade Barth is really such a revolutionary, then he has regressed very quickly in the last five weeks. Now comrade Barth participates in all of the Ebert government’s counter-revolutionary actions. Why did he join this government? Why didn’t he stay in the ranks of the proletariat, where a true revolutionary belongs? No, comrades, individual people do not create a revolution; if the Revolution does not come from the masses themselves it isn’t worth anything at all. Ströbel argued that the representatives of the USP should participate in the government through revolutionary collaboration. No, comrades, for us socialists it is not a question of governing, but of overthrowing capitalism. It is still unshaken, it still persists; it is not a question of showing that we are a party capable of governing, and that we cannot govern now, in this government — ­­this has already been proven. We’ve been told that we must wait a long time before the majority of the proletariat make up their minds according to our revolutionary views. Those who invoke this argument completely and totally misjudge the living and dynamic tempo of revolutionary development. We are not the ones who want to take power. We want the majority of the proletariat to take political power in their own hands. All those who have built up the bogeyman of the Constituent Assembly have brought confusion to the masses and reduced revolutionary development by months and years. Hilferding emphasized the democratic principle. But this formal democratic equality is a pack of lies as long as the economic power of capital persists. There can be no debate with the bourgeoisie and the Junkers as to whether socialism should be established. Socialism does not mean sitting together in parliament and passing laws. For us, socialism means the total, brutal defeat of the ruling classes (general laughter.), a brutality which the proletariat is capable of developing in its struggle. The Constituent Assembly is meant to serve as a bridge over the abyss between capital and labor. You now have to choose which road to take, either with us or with Scheidemann. There is no way of evading it, it is only Either-Or.

1 Editorial title.

2 Hugo Haase had attempted in his presentation to justify the USPD’s participation in the government and the policies of the council of the People’s Commissioners (see p. 424, footnote 2), as well as justify the necessity of a vote on the Constituent Assembly.

3 The slogans “unity”, “parity” and “no infighting”, taken up by the Social Democrats and centrists, had found wide resonance among working people and soldiers.

4 See p. 437, footnote 1.

5 The election of delegates to the 1st General Congress of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils of Germany took place on 14 December, 1918 (see p. 450, footnote 2).

6 195 votes were cast in favor of this resolution. Rudolf Hilferding’s resolution, which proposed the organization of the election for the national assembly as the most important political task of the USPD, received 485 votes.

7 See p. 450, footnote 2.

8 Editorial heading.

First published in:
I: Die Freiheit (Berlin), No. 57 from 16 December 1918.
II: Die Freiheit (Berlin), No. 59 from 17 December 1918..

Quotes taken from Rosa Luxemburg: Gesammelte Werke, Bd. 4., August 1914 bis Januar 1919, Berlin, S. 455-459.

* 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.