Germany and the world revolution, 1918-23. ICC public meeting, 24/11/18

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Alf
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Oct 11 2018 14:55
Germany and the world revolution, 1918-23. ICC public meeting, 24/11/18

International Communist Current

[b]Public Meeting

Germany and the world revolution, 1918-23
[/b]
2pm-6pm, November 24th, May Day Rooms, 88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y, 1DH

On November 4 1918 the sailors of Kiel on the Baltic coast mutinied, refusing the order to engage in yet another futile naval battle. Faced with the threat of brutal repression against the sailors, the workers of Kiel responded with a massive strike movement. Within days armed workers’ and soldiers’ councils were springing up all over Germany. This revolt spelt the end of the imperialist slaughter: the bourgeoisies of the world, who had been at each others’ throats for four long years, now united to face a bigger threat: the extension of the proletarian revolution from Russia to the most industrialised countries in Europe. In December the revolutionary groups who had opposed the war came together to form the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), which stood for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the political power of the councils.

Germany was to be the theatre of a whole series of major class confrontations for the next five years. But the great hope that a Soviet Germany would break the isolation of the proletarian fortress in Russia was never to materialise. The German workers faced a far more sophisticated ruling class than their Russian comrades, a bourgeoisie that showed itself to be highly skilled in diverting the revolution towards false goals and in defeating the centres of proletarian resistance one by one.

Thus as soon as the threat of revolution took shape, the bourgeoisie understood the need to jettison the Kaiser, bring the war to an end, and call on the loyal services of the “workers’ party”, the German Social Democracy, the majority of which had already come to the aid of the ruling class by throwing its energies into the national war effort. The social democrats still enjoyed the confidence of a large part of the German working class and they were able to act inside the councils with the aim of persuading them to hand over power to the newly “democratic” capitalist state. But the bourgeoisie also understood the need to provoke premature uprisings by different sections of the working class – a strategy employed with tragic results in Berlin in January 1919, which resulted in the massacre of thousands of workers and revolutionaries, including Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht.

The defeat of the revolution in Germany, and the stemming of the revolutionary tide in numerous other countries, was to have catastrophic consequences for humanity: the degeneration and demise of the revolution in Russia, the rise of Stalinism and Nazism, the march towards the second imperialist world war.
A century later, the German revolution has almost been written out of history. It is still in the interests of our rulers to present the revolution in Russia as a purely Russian affair and to pretend that the world revolution was and is an idle dream. And yet the revolution in Germany showed that it was indeed a possibility, despite its failure. It is up to us to draw its principal lessons for future revolutionary movements of the working class, and this will be the main focus of the meeting.

Spikymike
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Oct 12 2018 11:47

And prior to this meeting in the same month is a meeting on the same theme advertised by the CWO/ICT here;
www.leftcom.org/en/adverts/2018-11-17/london-cwo-meeting
The events in Germany during this period and their relationship to the Russian revolution and the fate of both are of historic importance and not just for left communists. Ever since however there have been continuing debates in terms of 'lessons', learnt or not, between those influenced more or less by either the 'German' or 'Italian' Left currents. Given the substantial changes in the development of capitalism since that time perhaps there are new 'lessons to be learnt' different to those which previously divided the left communists of the past? The tiny left communist groups that re-emerged post 1968 have lead a somewhat fractious existence since then with groups and individuals splitting and reforming despite a few ill-fated attempts at co-operation. One group which was part of that same era did however make a contribution of some value in defense of the German Communist Left under the title ''Consciousness: Class and Party'' here, https://libcom.org/library/communist-bulletin-issue-09-autumn-1985 if in the rather heated and sectarian tones of relations between groups common then, and perhaps less evident today?. The CBG are no more now and the ICC and CWO can claim the test of time I suppose but that doesn't in itself prove their correctness on all these issues. The two groups could of course have co-operated in a joint London meeting, even inviting perhaps a third point of view from within the wider milieu, but perhaps that was expecting too much.
I'm not in London for these meetings but others might glean something from them if approached in a critical manner with some prior knowledge.

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Oct 12 2018 16:38

I was going to post an ad for the CWO meeting as well. We did in fact propose a common meeting and still think it would have been the best solution. The CWO can explain why it decided to maintain its original plan. But CWO comrades have said they will attend the ICC meeting, and we will also attend theirs.

One of the key issues at the meetings will be the question of the party. Those who already identify with the communist left will have an important level of agreement with the proposition that the defeat of the German revolution demonstrates the need for a unified communist political organisation, for the construction of a new International, however distant that may seem. But within this general level of agreement there are many aspects of this issue that remain controversial. And those who reject the notion of the party altogether should come and put forward their own arguments.

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Oct 23 2018 21:55

I know it’s a subject that is not well known and understood so I would like to recommend attendance at one of these meetings to those posters on libcom who still sympathise with the idea that the Labour Party and the Trade Unions represent workers or are part of the workers movement or who are just soft and uncritical on them because they help workers a bit or who just see them better than nothing!!

I would hope it would be a useful and constructive discussion because it is clear from the history of the revolution in Germany in this period that the role played by the Social Democratic Party, ie the German equivalent of the Labour Party, and the TUs was absolutely against any attempt by workers to create a new radical society. It wasn’t cos they were small and weak. The SPD was a large and influential party by this time but it organised, manipulated, lied and did everything it could to stop the creation of genuine workers power in the hundreds of workers councils that were formed during and after the war. The SPD had no compunction about sending in troops and heavy artillery to wage war against the workers and to prevent real power going to the workers councils. Its goal was to ensure that a parliamentary system and the capitalist system remained in control.

The Labour Party and the TUs would still do the same today if and when capitalism is confronted by radical workers. This is what so called reformist organisations will always do if you let them persuade you that unity with them, that working with them will help the working class.

Recently Ive been reading a book by Ralf Hoffrogge entitled Working Class Politics in the German Revolution and would highly recommend this to see how the SPD operated against the radicalisation of workers. Its mostly a history of Richard Muller and the Revolutionary Shop Stewards during this period. This was an illegal and secret organisation, so nothing like the TU shop stewards we have in the UK now.

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Oct 24 2018 08:16

Leicester ACG will be holding a meeting with a similar theme: How did World War 1 really end?

Saturday. 10th November. 2pm.

With this year marking the 100th anniversary of the ending of the First World War, Leicester ACG will be holding a public meeting to look at what really brought the Great War to an end. In schools, the ruling class history curriculum teaches schoolchildren the reasons World War 1 started – forgetting the part about imperialist thieves falling out and fighting over markets for various national capitalist interests. School history lessons generally shy away from remembering what actually ended the war. This meeting explains why.

Venue: Upstairs at the Regent Club, 102 Regent Rd, Leicester LE1 7DA – ask at the bar downstairs for the “Libsoc” meeting

https://www.anarchistcommunism.org/2018/10/10/meeting-how-did-world-war-1-really-end/

Spikymike
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Nov 6 2018 16:25

So yes three meetings this month on a similar theme with potentially some agreement on the role of Social Democracy but not necessarily on the question of alternative political formations.

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Nov 21 2018 09:24

The presentation at the meeting will be based around this new article:

http://en.internationalism.org/content/16592/100-years-ago-proletariat-made-ruling-class-tremble

For further reading we've put in links to a dossier of previous series on the German revolution, the second of which is mentioned in Tyrion's list put up a week or two ago

http://en.internationalism.org/content/16595/100-years-ago-revolution-germany

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Nov 23 2018 17:42

Third meeting of the week (for me) on the German revolution. CWO last Saturday; on Thursday it was the meeting organised by Platypus at Goldsmiths - a 'Panel' format where the other participants are more or less restricted to questions.

Still part of my 'question' was recorded here, https://www.facebook.com/PlatypusGoldsmiths/?tn-str=k*F
with responses by Rida Vaquas (Clarion - Momentum); Rob Sewell (Socialist Appeal-IMT)

Efraim Carlebach (Platypus) also responded. I don't think it was recorded, although i didn't find it easy to access all the clips.

The slogan of Platypus is 'The left is dead, Long live the left'. The ICC was invited to be on the panel but we preferred to be with the rank and file.

Tomorrow it's the ICC's meeting but we will try to take up some of the issues arising from the other two.