Proletarian! Men and women of work! Comrades!
The revolution has arrived in Germany. The masses of soldiers who were driven to the slaughterhouse for four years for the sake of capitalist profits, the masses of workers who were drained, squeezed, starved for four years, they have risen. The terrible instrument of oppression: Prussian militarism, this scourge of humanity, lies broken on the ground; its most visible representatives and thus the most visible culprits in this war, the Emperor, and the Crown Prince, have fled the country. Workers' and Soldiers' Councils have formed everywhere.
Proletarians of all countries, we do not say that in Germany all power really falls into the hands of the working people, that the full victory of the proletarian revolution has already been achieved. All those socialists who in August 1914 betrayed our most precious asset, the International, and who for four years betrayed both the German working class and the International, still sit in government.
But, proletarians of all countries, now the German proletarian speaks to you himself. We believe we have the right to appear in his name before your forum. From the first day of this war, we have tried to fulfill our international obligations by fighting that criminal government with all our might and branding it as true culprits of war.
Now, at this hour, we are justified before history, before the International and before the German proletariat. The masses enthusiastically agree with us, more and more circles of the proletariat share the realization that the hour of reckoning with the capitalist class rule has come.
But the German proletariat alone cannot accomplish this great work; it can only fight and win by invoking the solidarity of the proletarians of the whole world.
Comrades of the belligerent countries, we know your situation. We know well that now that your governments have won the victory, some classes of the people are blinded by the outward splendor of victory. We know that in this way, by the payoff of the murdering, they succeed in making the causes and objectives of it forgotten.
But we also know something else. We know that even in your countries the proletariat has made the most terrible sacrifices of flesh and property, that it is tired of the horrible slaughter, that the proletarian now returns home and finds poverty and misery at home, while billions have accumulated in the hands of fewer capitalists. He has recognized and will continue to recognize that your governments have also waged war for the sake of the great moneybags. And he will further recognize that when your government spoke of "law and civilization" and "protection of small nations", it meant capital profits just like ours when it spoke of "defense of homeland"; that the peace of "justice" and "the League of Nations" amounts to the same vile robbery as the peace of Brest Litovsk1. Here as there, the same shameless rapacity, the same will to oppression, the same resolution to exploit the brutal superiority of the murder iron to the utmost.
Imperialism in all countries has no "understanding," it knows only one right: capital profit, only one language: the sword, only one means: violence. And when it now speaks in all countries, with you and with us, of "League of Nations," "disarmament," "right of small nations," "self-determination of peoples," these are only the usual false idioms of the rulers to put to sleep the vigilance of the proletariat.
Proletarians of all countries! This war must be the last! That is what we owe to the 12 million murdered victims, that we owe to our children, that is what we owe to humanity.
Europe is ruined by the wicked genocide. Twelve million corpses cover the atrocious sites of imperialist crime.
The flowering of youth and the best manhood of the nations has been mown. Countless productive forces have been destroyed. Humanity is close to bleeding to death from the unprecedented bloodletting of world history. Winners and losers alike stand on the edge of the abyss. Humanity is facing the most terrible famine, stagnation of the whole production mechanism, epidemics, and degeneration.
The great criminals of this horrific anarchy, this unleashed chaos: the ruling classes are not capable of mastering their own work. The beast capital that has conjured up the hell of the world war is unable to banish it, to restore real order, to secure bread and work, peace and culture, justice and freedom for tortured humanity.
What is being prepared by the ruling classes as peace and justice is only a new work of brutal violence, from which the hydra of oppression, hatred and new bloody wars raises its thousand heads.
Socialism alone can accomplish the great work of lasting peace, to heal the thousand bleeding wounds of mankind, to transform the fields of Europe that have been stamped down by the Apocalyptic Horsemen of War into flourishing gardens, to conjure up tenfold new productive forces instead of the destroyed ones, to awaken all physical and moral energies of mankind and to replace hatred and discord with fraternal solidarity, harmony and respect for everything that bears human dignity.
If representatives of the proletarians of all countries join hands under the banner of socialism to make peace, then peace is made in a few hours. Then there are no disputes about the left bank of the Rhine, Mesopotamia, Egypt or the colonies. Then there is only one people: the working humanity of all races and tongues. Then there is only one right: the equality of all people. Then there is only one goal: welfare and progress for all.
Humanity is facing the alternative: dissolution and destruction in capitalist anarchy or rebirth through social revolution. The moment of decision has come. If you believe in socialism, now is the time to show it through action. If you are socialists, now is the time to act.
Proletarians of all countries, if we now call you to fight together, it is not for the sake of the German capitalists who are trying to escape the consequences of their own crimes under the company "German Nation"; it is for our own sake as well as yours. Consider: Your victorious capitalists stand ready to bloody oppress our revolution, which they fear as their own. You yourselves are not freer through "victory," you have only become more enslaved. If your ruling classes succeed in stalling the proletarian revolution in Germany and Russia, they will turn against you with double force. Your capitalists hope that victory over us as over revolutionary Russia will give them the power to chastise you with scorpions and build the millennial reign of exploitation on the grave of international socialism.
That is why the German proletariat is looking to you at this hour. Germany is pregnant with social revolution, but only the world proletariat can realize socialism.
And that's why we call out to you: Let's fight! Let's act! The time of empty manifestos, platonic resolutions and resounding words is over: the hour of action has come for the International. We prompt you: Vote for Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils everywhere who will seize political power and who will establish peace with us.
Not Lloyd George and Poincare, not Sonnino, Wilson and Erzberger or Scheidemann should make peace. Peace is to be made under the waving banner of the socialist world revolution.
Proletarians of all countries! We call you to do the work of socialist liberation, to restore human dignity to the disgraced world and to make true that word with which we often welcomed each other in the old days and with which we parted:
The International will be humanity!
Long live the world revolution of the proletariat!
Proletarians of all countries, unite!
In the name of the Spartakusbund
Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Franz Mehring, Clara Zetkin
1 See p. 374, footnote 2.
First published in Die Rote Fahne (Berlin), No. 10 from November 25, 1918.
Quotes taken from Rosa Luxemburg’s Gesammelte Werke, Vol. 4, pp. 415-18.
This call of the Spartacus League (Spartakusbund) was written by Rosa Luxemburg. At the same time as it was published in the Rote Fahne, it was also distributed as a flyer.
* 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.