Aus der Werkstatt der deutschen Revolution - Emil Barth

Emil Barth

From the Workshop of the Revolution (pp. 158, Berlin, 1919). A person of world-historical importance, Emil Barth (1879–1941) was the leader of the revolutionary shop stewards (revolutionäre Obleute) and the Council of the People's Deputies' most radical member. Barth recounts his bitter experience, providing an unflattering picture of the German Revolution's (mis)leadership.

Table of contents:

Vorwort des Verlages. 4
Vorwort des Verfassers. 4

1. Revolutionen werden gemacht. 5
2. Der Weltkrieg als Keimbett der Revolution. (Die Entwicklung bis zum Januar 1918.) 8
3. Die Revolutionswerkstatt. (Vom Februar bis zum November 1918.) 24
4. Meine Tätigkeit als Volksbeauftragter der deutschen sozialistischen Republik. (Vom 10. November bis 28. Dezember 1918.) 64
а) Vom 10. November bis 20. Dezember 1918. 64
b) Vom 20. bis 24. Dezember. 93
с) Vom 24. bis 28. Dezember. 108
5. Der Vollzugsrat, die revolutionären Obleute und ich. 123
6. Vom Dezember 1918 bis März 1919. 128
7. Vom März bis zum Versailler Friedensprotokoll. 137

Anhang. 156

The final chapter gives a little-known background to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which Barth counts as his one of his accomplishments. From the book it also appears that the worst figure was Otto Landsberg, Ebert and Scheidemann playing second fiddle.

A couple of passages from Barth's book were put in a novel, translated in English (here).

The present book is available (in Fraktur) at: The text was copy-pasted from: The OCR-quality still necessitated correction (so remaining errors possible).

Posted By

Noa Rodman
Mar 15 2017 13:56


Attached files


Mar 15 2017 15:10

just to add a few things about Barth, he had strong anarchist leanings in his youth and was arrested several times back then, during the war, he faked a mental disability to avoid being drafted in 1917. He did not play a major role in politics after 1919, he rejoined the SPD in 1921 or 1922 but did not play an active role in it. He worked during the 1920ies sometimes for Der Bücherkreis, a social democratic book club which had been set up in 1924 by the former leading KAPD member Friedrich Wendel and which was run from 1928-33 by the council communist entryist Karl Schröder who also lead the clandestine Roten Kämpfer (Red Fighter) network. Barth was several times arrested by the Nazis after 1933.

Jan 23 2018 22:14

In his pioneering study on Richard Müller, head of the »Revolutionären Obleute«, Ralf Hoffrogge describes the relation between Müller and Barth as - at least - difficult.
(Ralf Hoffrogge, Working Class Politics in the German Revolution. Richard Müller, the Revolutionary Shop Stewards and the Origins of the Council Movement [Historical Materialism Book Series Vol. 77], Leiden – Boston 2014 (Brill), p. 56– 57)

»After the January Strike it was clear to the Shop Stewards that the military authorities at least knew of the existence of their organisation, even if they did not know exactly how it functioned or who its members were. The Shop Stewards met immediately after the strike ended and each member named a substitute in order to keep the organisation ready for action in the event of a mass arrest. Before he was drafted, Müller named Emil Barth, leader of the plumber’s section within the Berlin DMV, as his substitute to lead the Shop Stewards.66 It was not an easy decision for Müller. He was forced to perform the impossible task of selecting someone who was both capable of leading the movement yet unknown: any known candidate was just as likely to be arrested as he was. He rejected the idea of choosing a politician from the USPD because he thought that would jeopardise the Shop Stewards’ independence. As he later recollected, he decided on Barth because he ‘had contributed a great deal to the Shop Stewards’ expansion’ even if ‘his fantastical speeches’ had to be accepted as an ‘unavoidable evil’.67
After Müller’s arrest, Barth led the Berlin Workers’ Support Committee, which supported victims of the repression that followed the strike.68 However, [57] during the November 1918 Revolution he would become estranged from Müller and the Shop Stewards. For, as an USPD representative to the Council of People’s Deputies (Rat der Volksbeauftragten), he would be part of the revolutionary government that eventually overshadowed the power of the Executive Council of the Workers and Soldiers Council that Müller led and that expressed his council socialist ideas most closely. After the revolution failed, Barth and Müller would issue a series of impassioned broadsides against one another.69 These later events could only add to whatever original misgivings Müller had about Barth as a substitute.

66 Müller-Franken 1928, p. 100. On Barth, see also Ryder 1967.
67 Müller 1924a, p. 163.
68 The Committee (Unterstützungskommission der Berliner Arbeiterschaft) included various members of the Revolutionary Shop Stewards, but also SPD representatives. It can be viewed as an institutional link between the January Strike’s Action Committee and [57] the Executive Council that formed in November. See Engel, Holtz and Materna 1993, p. xi; Dirk H. Müller 1985a, p. 316.
69 In his memoirs, Barth described Müller as competent and radical but ‘completely apolitical’. Müller in turn called Barth’s entire book ‘vain, fantastical posturing’. See Barth 1919, p. 11; Müller 1924a, p. 46.«

Literature quoted:

Barth 1919: Barth, Emil, Aus der Werkstatt der deutschen Revolution, Berlin (Adolf Hoffmanns Verlag)
Engel, Holtz and Materna 1993: Engel, Gerhard and Bärbel Holtz and Ingo Materna (eds.), Groß-Berliner Arbeiter- und Soldatenräte in der Revolution 1918/1919, Dokumente der Vollversammlungen und des Vollzugsrates. Vom Ausbruch der Revolution bis zum 1. Reichsrätekongreß, Volume 1, Berlin (Akademie Verlag)
Dirk H. Müller 1985a: Müller, Dirk H., Gewerkschaftliche Versammlungsdemokratie und Arbeiterdelegierte vor 1918, Berlin (Colloquium Verlag)
Müller 1924a: Müller, Richard, Vom Kaiserreich zur Republik, Vienna. (Citations in the text refer to the second reissue, Berlin 1979 (Olle & Wolter), where pagination is different from the 1924 original due to the insertion of a preface)
Müller-Franken 1928: Müller-Franken, Hermann, Die Novemberrevolution – Erinnerungen, Berlin (Der Bücherkreis)
Ryder 1967: Ryder, A.J., The German Revolution of 1918: A Study of German Socialism in War and Revolt, Cambridge (Cambridge University Press)