The Old Game*

Rosa Luxemburg on 18 November 1918

     Liebknecht murdered 200 officers in Spandau.

     Liebknecht was murdered in Spandau.

     The Spartacus people have stormed the Stables.

     The Spartacus people wanted to invade the "Berliner Tageblatt"

     with machine guns.

     Liebknecht is looting the shops.

     Liebknecht distributes money among the soldiers,

     to incite them to counterrevolution.

     The Spartacists advanced against the House of Representatives. At the meeting of the Progressive People's Party's parliamentary group, which was held there, a panic arose in response to this news, and the honorable meeting ran apart, leaving hats, umbrellas and the like, precious and nowadays irreplaceable objects on the scene of the expected atrocious acts.

     The wildest rumors have been buzzing about our direction for a week in Berlin. If a window pane clinks somewhere in the street, a pneumatic system  bursts at the corner with a loud bang, the Philistine looks around with bristled hair and goosebumps on his back: Aha, surely "the Spartacus people are coming!"

     Various persons have turned to Liebknecht with the touching personal request to exempt their husbands, nephews, or aunts from the intended Massacre of the Holy Innocents, which the Spartacists planned. That is what really and truly happened in the first year and month of the glorious German Revolution.

     Who doesn't think of the delicious scene in the "Magic Flute," where the little rascal Monostatos, frightened by Papagenos shadow, shivering with fear, sings:

     I think that's the devil,

     Yeah, yeah, that's the devil,

     Oh, if I were a mouse,

     How I would hide!

     Oh, if I were a snail,

     I would crawl into my house!

     Behind all these whirring rumors, ridiculous fantasies, crazy robbery stories, and shameless lies is a very serious process: there is a system in it. The rabble-rousing is going according to plan. The rumors are purposefully fabricated and launched into the public: the aim is to put the Philistines in a panic-like mood, to confuse public opinion, to intimidate and mislead the workers and soldiers in order to create a pogrom atmosphere and to politically assassinate the Spartakus direction before it even had the opportunity to make the broadest masses aware of its policies and goals.

     The game is old. If one recalls, as four years ago, at the outbreak of war, the great fairy tales of gold cars, French aviators, poisoned wells, stung out eyes by warmongers that were put into circulation by their agents according to plan and purposefully to cause the blind war furor and to use the workers as cannon fodder? The same is now being done to mislead the masses, to sow blind hatred among them, so that they can be abused unconsciously and uncritically against the Spartacus direction.

     We know the way, we know the text and also the authors. It is the circles of the dependent Social Democrats, the Scheidemann, Ebert, Otto Braun, the Bauer, Legien, and Baumeister, who purposefully poison public opinion with shameless lies and incite the people against us because they fear our criticism and have every reason to fear it.

     These people, who a week before the outbreak of the revolution denounced every thought of revolution in Germany as a crime, "putschism", adventure, who declared that democracy had already become a reality in Germany because Prince Max was Chancellor of the Reich and Scheidemann together with Erzberger were walking around in minister's tailcoats1, these people want to persuade the people today that revolution had already been made, that the main goals had already been achieved. They want to stop the further progress of the revolution; they want to save the bourgeois property, the capitalist exploitation! That is the "order" and the "quiet" that they protect from us.

     There lies the rub. And this is also the reason why the lordships nourish such fear of death and such deadly hatred against us. They know perfectly well that we do not want to plunder shops, but we do want to abolish capitalist private property, that we do not want to storm the royal stables or the House of Representatives, but that we want to smash the class rule of the bourgeoisie, that we do not want to murder anyone, but that we want to push the revolution forward relentlessly in the interests of the workers.

     They distort with full consciousness and clear intent our socialist goals into lumpenproletarian adventures to mislead the masses. People scream against coups, murders, and similar nonsense, and they think socialism. By trying to assassinate the Spartacist direction, one wants to strike the proletarian revolution in the heart itself!

     But the game won’t work. We will not be muzzled. May unclear shifts of workers or soldiers be incited against us at the moment. May a momentary return of the counterrevolutionary wave lock us up again in casemates, which we have just left - the brisk course of the revolution cannot be stopped. We will raise our voices loud, the masses will understand us, and then they will turn all the more vehemently against the agitators and manufacturers of the pogrom rumors. The storm will not break over stables, baker's shops, and fearful Philistines, but it will sweep you away, you bourgeois reaction cronies of yesterday and Prince Max, you protective troops of capitalist exploitation, you lurking outposts of counterrevolution, you wolves in sheepskin!


1 See p. 394, footnote 1.

First published in Die Rote Fahne (Berlin), No. 3 from November 18, 1918.

Quotes taken from Rosa Luxemburg’s Gesammelte Werke, Vol. 4, pp. 401-03.

* This is a draft version translated by Manuela Koelke. 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.