The Election of the Constituent Assembly*

Rosa Luxemburg on 23 December 1918

After their polished “victory” at the Council Congress, Ebert’s people believe that they have succeeded in striking their major blow against the power of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils, against the proletarian revolution and socialism.

              They are mistaken. They have assured the ruin of this counter-revolutionary plan and that, through the revolutionary action of the masses, this action of the capitalist protection force will be thwarted.

              Just as we exploited the infamous Prussian three-class franchise system in order to fight against the three-class parliament from within the three-class parliament, so will we exploit the election of the National Assembly for the struggle against the National Assembly.

              At this point, of course, the analogy ends. Participation in the National Assembly, for real supporters of the Revolution and socialism, cannot have anything in common with the conventional schema, with traditional “exploitation of the parliament” for so-called “positive achievements.” Not in the old routine of parliamentarianism, nor in order to affix a patchwork of improvements and cosmetic changes to legislative proposals, nor to “gauge our strength”, to review our supporters or to bring out all the familiar phrases from the time of the bourgeois-parliamentarian treadmill and from the vocabulary of Haase and his comrades.

              We are now standing in the middle of the Revolution, and the National Assembly is a counter-revolutionary fortress being erected in opposition to the revolutionary proletariat. And thus it is valid to storm this fortress and raze it. In order to mobilize the masses against the National Assembly and call them to join in the fiercest fight, we must exploit both the vote and the platform of the National Assembly.

              This won’t be in order to pass laws together with the bourgeoisie and its shield bearers, but to expel the bourgeoisie and its shield bearers from the temple, to storm the fortress of the counter-revolution and victoriously hoist up the flag of the proletarian revolution ­– this is why participating in the election is necessary.

              Is a majority in the National Assembly required to do this? Only devoted followers of parliamentarian cretinism believe this, those who want to decide the revolution and socialism through parliamentary majorities. Even the fate of the National Assembly will not be decided by a parliamentary majority within the National Assembly: this question will be resolved by the proletarian mass outside, on the shop floors and in the street.

              This would suit the gentlemen of the Ebert-Haase Cabinet, it would suit the Junkers, the capitalists and their retinue to let them slip by neatly and let the proletariat content themselves as quiet onlookers while, inside, its their hide on the line!

              Nothing will come of this scheme. They may have been quick enough, thanks to the rush of the Mamluk Congress of the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils, to have wrapped up their counter-revolutionary work – but nevertheless it was and remains a bill of goods they are trying to sell to themselves. But the actual goods belong to the proletarian mass, the real bearer of the revolution and its socialist tasks. They, the masses, can determine the fate and the course of the National Assembly. Their own revolutionary activity determines what will be within and what will be outside of the National Assembly. The balance hangs in the action that takes place outside and that will come to knock wildly on the gate of the counter-revolutionary parliament. But of course the election itself and the action of the revolutionary representatives of the masses inside must serve the business of the revolution. All the tricks and ploys of the worthy assembly must be denounced loudly and mercilessly, its counter-revolutionary work has to be revealed to the masses at every step, and the masses must be called to decide and to intervene – this is the task in participating in the National Assembly.

              The bourgeois masters, headed by the Ebert government, want to ban and cripple the class struggle through the National Assembly, and to use it to dodge its revolutionary decision. Despite this plan, the class struggle should charge into the National Assembly, it should exploit its election and its proceedings to accelerate the moment of the revolution.

              We are approaching turbulent times. Unemployment and economic conflicts will grow steadily in the next weeks and months. The great conflict between capital and labour which carries the fate of the revolution in its breast and which, in its final outcome, allows for no other solution than the collapse of capitalist class rule and the triumph of socialism: This conflict will ensure that the masses’ revolutionary spirit and activity will grow every day.

              The National Assembly’s purpose is, according to the plan of the Ebert clique, to raise a dam against this revolutionary tide. What’s needed then is to direct the tide into, in the middle of and through the National Assembly, to sweep the dam away.

              The electoral action, the platform of this counter-revolutionary parliament, must be tool for the training, the organization and the mobilization of the revolutionary masses, a stage in the struggle to establish the proletarian dictatorship.

              Our participation in the National Assembly means: to storm the gates of the National Assembly with the masses, to raise the clenched fist of the revolutionary proletariat in the midst of the Assembly and to wave the flag bearing the fiery letters: All power to the Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils!

              Proletarians, comrades, to work! There is no time to lose. Today the ruling classes are still gloating over the victory of the Ebert government in the Council Congress, they are waiting and hoping for the 19th of January as the day of return to unadulterated class rule. They should not rejoice so soon. The Ides of March or not yet through and those of January are not either. The future belongs to the proletarian revolution, everything must serve it, including the election of the National Assembly.

First published in: Die Rote Fahne (Berlin), No. 38 from 23 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.