The Beginning - Rosa Luxemburg

Rosa Luxemburg
Rosa Luxemburg

Rosa Luxemburg's essay at the outbreak of the 1918 German Revolution.

Submitted by Ed on September 16, 2007

The revolution has begun. What is called for now is not jubilation at was has been accomplished, not triumph over the beaten foe, but the strictest self-criticism and iron concentration of energy in order to continue the work we have begun. For our accomplishments are small and the foe has not been beaten.

What has been achieved? The monarchy has been swept away, supreme governing power has been transferred into the hands of the workers’ and soldiers’ representatives. But the monarchy was never the real enemy; it was only a fa¸ade, the frontispiece of imperialism. It was not the Hohenzollerns who unleashed the world war, set the for corners of the globe afire, and brought Germany to the brink of the abyss. The monarchy, like every bourgeois government, was the executive of the ruling classes. The imperialist bourgeoisie, the rule of the capitalist class – this is the criminal who must be held accountable for the genocide.

The abolition of the rule of capitalism, the realization of the social order of socialism – this and nothing less is the historical theme of the present revolution. This is an huge work which cannot be completed in the twinkling of an eye by a few degrees from above; it can be born only of the conscious action of the mass of workers in the cities and in the country, and brought successfully through the maze of difficulties only by the highest intellectual maturity and unflagging idealism of the masses of the people.

The path of the revolution follows clearly from its ends, its method follows from its task. All power in the hands of the working masses, in the hands of the workers’ and soldiers’ councils, protection of the work of revolution against its lurking enemies – this is the guiding principle of all measures to be taken by the revolutionary government.

Every step, every act by the government must, like a compass, point in this directions:

:arrow: re-election and improvement of the local workers’ and soldiers’ councils so that the first chaotic and impulsive gestures of their formation are replaced by a conscious process of understanding the goals, tasks and methods of the revolution;

:arrow: regularly scheduled meetings of these representatives of the masses and the transfer of real political power from the small committee of the Executive Council into the broader basis of the W. and S. [workers’ and soldiers’] councils;

:arrow: immediate convocation of the national council of workers and soldiers in order to establish the proletariat of all Germany as a class, as a compact political power, and to make them the bulwark and impetus of the revolution;

:arrow: immediate organization not of the ‘farmers’, but of the agrarian proletariat and smallholders who, as a class, have until now been outside the revolution;

:arrow: formation of a proletarian Red Guard for the permanent protection of the revolution, and training of a workers’ militia in order to prepare the whole proletariat to be on guard and all times;

:arrow: suppression of the old organs of administration, justice and the army of absolutist militarist police State;

:arrow: immediate confiscation of the dynastic property and possessions and of landed property as initial temporary measures to guarantee the people’s food supply, since hunger is the most dangerous ally of the counter-revolution;

:arrow: immediate convocation of the World Labour Congress in Germany in order to emphasize clearly and distinctly the socialist and international character of the revolution, for only in the International, in the world revolution of the proletariat, is the future of the German revolution anchored.

We have mentioned only the first necessary steps. What is the present revolutionary government doing?

It is leaving the administrative organs of the State intact from top to bottom, in the hands of yesterday’s pillars of Hoherzollern absolutism and tomorrow’s tools of the counter-revolution.

It is convening the constituent National Assembly, thus creating bourgeois counter-weight to the workers’ and soldiers’ representatives, and, by doing this, is diverting the revolution on to the track of a bourgeois revolution and spiriting away the socialist goals of the revolution.

It is doing nothing to demolish the continuing power of the capitalist class rule.

It is doing everything to placate the bourgeoisie, to proclaim the sacrosanctity of private property, to safeguard the inviolability of the distribution of capital.

It is allowing the active counter-revolution, which is dodging its every step, to go its own way without appealing to the masses, without loudly warning the people against it.

Law! Order! Order! Law! This is the cry resounding from all sides, in all proclamations of the government; this is the joyous echo from all the bourgeois camps. A strident outcry against the bogey of ‘anarchy’ and ‘putschism’ – the well-known infernal music of a bourgeoisie concerned for its fireproof safes, its property and its profits – in the loudest note of the day, and the revolutionary workers’ and soldiers’ government is placidly tolerating this general march to mount an offensive against socialism, indeed it is participating in it in word and deed.

The result of the first week of the revolution is as follows: in the state of the Hoherzollerns, not much has basically changed; the workers’ and soldiers’ government is acting as he deputy of the imperialistic government that has gone bankrupt. All its acts and omissions are governed by fear of the working masses. Even before the revolution has acquired verve and momentum, its only vital force, namely its socialist and proletarian character, will have been spirited away.

Everything is in order. The reactionary state of the civilized world will not become a revolutionary people's state within twenty-four hours. Soldiers who yesterday, as gendarmes of the reaction, were murdering the revolutionary proletariat in Finland, Russia and Ukraine, and workers who calmly allowed this to happen, have not become in twenty-four hours supporters of socialism or clearly aware of their goals.

The picture of the German revolution corresponds to the inner ripeness of the German situation. The government of the German revolution at its present stage is in the hands of Scheidemann and Ebert, and who in Die Freiheit solemnly swear that one can form a 'purely socialist government' with them, thus qualify themselves as the appropriate partners in the firm at this initial provisional stage.

But revolution do not stand still. Their vital law is to advance rapidly, to outgrow themselves. It is already being driven forward by its inner contradictions from this initial stage. The situation can be comprehended as a beginning, as a condition untenable over the long haul. If the counter-revolution is not to gain the upper hand all along the line, the masses must be on their guard.

A beginning has been made. What happens next is not in the hands of the dwarfs who would hold up the course of the revolution, who would put a spoke in the wheel of world history. It is the realization of the ultimate goal of socialism which is on today's agenda of world history. The German revolution has now hit upon the path illuminated by this star. Step by step, through storm and stress, through battle and torment and misery and victory, it will reach its goal.

It must!