Auf der Konferenz kamen Menschen aus Europa, Mittelamerika und Asien zusammen und diskutierten sowohl das historische Ereignis, als auch die Bedeutung die die Revolution auch heute noch hat. Wir dokumentieren an dieser Stelle sowohl die einführenden Worte der Abgeordneten zur Podiumsdiskussion bezüglich der aktuellen Relevanz der Russischen Revolution. Und weiter unten findet ihr den Vortrag von Johanna zur Novemberrevolution 1918 in Deutschland.
Sobald Videomitschnitte der Konferenz vorliegen werden die hier ebenfalls verlinkt.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Comrades
My name is Johanna Scheringer-Wright, I am a member of the national executive committee of the German left Party, DIE LINKE, of the communist platform within my party and I am a member of the regional Parliament of Thuringia. I have the pleasure to chair this last session today.
The whole day we occupied ourselves with the various aspects of the Russian revolution, the question of women in the revolution, the revolutions in the other countries it inspired; we looked at filmmaking and cinema of the Soviet Union,
In this session we try to answer the question Is the Legacy of the Russian Revolution still relevant in the World today?
I am very proud to introduce our Speakers in this session, which are
- Brinda Karat, a member of the Communist Party of India (M)and a member of the Upper House of India`s Parliament representing West-Bengal
- Slava Tetekin, a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and currently a policy adviser to the CPRF`s general secretary Gennady Sjuganov and a member of the editorial board of the left-wing newspaper Sovetskaya Rossiya.
- And thirdly Aleida Guevara March, a famous pediatrician, an international medical mission veteran and known to all of us as the eldest daughter of Che Guevara.
Neo-liberal Capitalism is in crisis. The finance crisis 10 years ago showed how the world economies are out of balance. Even in wealthy capitalistic states, like the US, Britain, France and Germany the gap between poor and rich is widening more and more.
Oxfam published for last year, that the world’s eight richest billionaires control the same wealth between them as the poorest half of the globe’s Population.
In many regions of the world, the wars are fought, violence and terrorist attacks take place frequently.
That leads to displacement of huge numbers of people. Estimates say, that currently there are even more refugees on the move than during/after Second World War.
Although many people realize that capitalism is the cause for these disasters, this does not automatically result in an anticapitalistic view of the masses, let alone in mass action against this system.
The contrary seems to happen. Currently we observe especially in Europe a tremendous political shift to the right. In France, Germany, Hungary, Poland and other Countries right wing parties or individuals gain more and more influence in the political decision making processes.
The EU and their member states Governments respond with a restriction of freedom and democratic rights and fend off refugees with closing borders and dirty deals with dictators like in Turkey.
In Germany the right for asylum is cut and laws are passed which restrict democracy and violate human rights.
The left is still on the defensive.
However where there is dark, there is also some light:
Recently younger, trendy economists and writers picked up the topic that capitalism and its highest form imperialism is responsible for the injustice in the world, for hunger and malnutrition of a billion of human beings, for climate change and the destruction of the environment and for the constant danger of and ongoing wars. Their books became best sellers.
The movement for socialism of the 21st Century in Venezuela, Bolivia and other Countries of Latin and Central America should be not neglected. Cuba, the socialist rock in the Caribbean is still alive and sends out a bright light.
The tremendous mobilization especially of the youth that e.g. Corbyn mastered in Britain, Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece to name only a few, despite all their political shortcomings and sell-outs show that there are many people who seek a left-wing alternative.
The emergence of extreme right and fascist parties in many countries, the dominant capitalistic states who once again become imperialistic and the world wide threat for peace make it clear how urgently a left, international and revolutionary answer/alternative is needed.
So Is the Legacy of the Russian Revolution still relevant in the World today?
Why did the Russian Revolution inspire revolutions in other European countries?
The November Revolution in Germany 1918: from Dawn to Dusk
The start of the 20th century saw a sharp raise of imperialism everywhere across the world. It was characterized by a race between the imperialistic states to decide who sets the agenda, gains and maintains colonies to feed their capitalistic economies and maximize profits. In Germany Foreign Minister von Bülow famously demanded in 1897 that Germany should have also a “place at the sun”, and focused German foreign policies on a quest for expansion to become a world power.
The working class in Germany on the other hand organized themselves in unions and a strong socialist movement. The Social-Democratic Party (the SPD) kept close contacts to revolutionaries in other European countries, and were part of the first and second International. Lenin and his party were in close contact with the SPD in Germany.
As the race for colonies and power intensified, war was inevitable. The assassination of the Austria-Hungarian heir to the throne was an opportunity which Germany and its ally Austria-Hungary readily took to start the war.
This imperialistic war very quickly advanced into a world war, with many heads of state throwing enormous resources and humans into battle. The German Kaiser courted all Parties present in the parliament – the Reichstag – to support this war.
Soon after the war was declared, the SPD abandoned their peace stance and, with the only exception of Karl Liebknecht, even voted for a motion in the Reichstag, which allowed the Kaiser’s Government to acquire credits for war. This betrayal and opportunism of the leading figures of the SDP was considered an outrage by some and split the working class.
World War I turned very quickly into a stalemate. It cost the lives of millions of soldiers, who were ordered to fight for every hill, for every meter of land. This inhumanity, the aims of the war, which were purely imperialistic and gave no justification for the working class to fight this war, led to revolts amongst soldiers on all sides.
Marxist lefties like Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg and Klara Zetkin left the SPD and formed the Spartakus-Group. Other revolutionaries also left the SPD and formed the Independent-Social-Democratic-Party (USPD). These groups wanted an end to the war, they wanted an end to hunger and misery and an end to the profiteering of the German Bourgeoisie. They were true internationalists.
The right-wing leaders of the SPD on the other side had made peace with German capitalism and imperialism. They stopped calling for the war to end, from fighting the German Bourgeoisie, and they formed an allegiance with the German military. In short, they did not only break the resolutions of the second International but also those of their own Party.
Why do I start with all this background information on the workers movement in Germany, on the struggles within the working class and within the biggest German Workers Party, the SPD?
On one hand, because I think it is important today to remember the revolutionary situation in Europe and the World at that time, which was amplified by World War I, and to remember, that there was a worldwide movement for revolution. The struggling working class was electrified by the October revolution, because it proved that the revolution could be successful, if only the revolutionaries were clear, bold and consistent.
On the other hand the background of the struggles within the German working class helps to understand why the revolution in Germany “only” led to a parliamentary democracy, which allowed capitalism to evolve and flourish even further.
The first decree of the Bolsheviks after the October revolution was PEACE. The Bolsheviks wanted to immediately stop the war. They did not share the views of the Mensheviks which prevailed after the February revolution that the War had to go on, for keeping territories for land owners and capitalists. Lenin and his comrades said PEACE NOW and surely based hopes on the revolutionary working class and their revolutions in Poland and the other countries in Europe which were involved in the war.
The message for PEACE went around the world, and was picked up by many workers, who also started to demand peace negotiations without claims for territories or reparation.
The successful revolution in Russia, not only inspired soldiers and workers but encouraged action.
In January 1918 a general strike shook the German imperialistic state.
The Military High Command and the monarchist administration were confronted by the fact that the German defeat in the War was inevitable. At the same time, they were fully aware of the revolutionary atmosphere in the country, as well as within the army and navy. In October they tried to reform their government, by implementing a new Reichskanzler – Prince Max of Baden – and give more rights to the Reichstag.
Also in October, the Spartakus Group distributed a resolution, which was a program for the revolution. It called for the overthrow of German Imperialism and Militarism, an immediate end to the War, democratic rights and freedom for everybody. It argued for the socialization of the entire banking system, the mines, the iron works and the big land-estates, the abolition of individual aristocratic states and the aristocracy as such, the handing over of food distribution to elected councils of the workers and the democratization of the army and navy.
The start of the November revolution is often equated with the revolt of the sailors of the German Navy in Kiel, because they refused to move into a senseless battle against the British navy. This revolt was supported by a general strike of the Workers in Kiel. This sparked the Revolution in all parts of Germany, despite the efforts of the monarchist state administration and the SPD to hinder the expansion.
Everywhere in Germany soldiers and workers councils, soviets, were formed and seized power. On the 7th of November 1918 the Bavarian king abdicated and the Bavarian Free State was declared and transformed in due course into a soviet republic. In Braunschweig a republic was declared on the 8th and in many of the other regions of Germany the monarchs abdicated.
On the 9th of November things culminated in Berlin. It was clear, that the end of the Monarchy had come, but the question in which direction the revolution would go, was still open. More and more workers and soldiers marched into the city center of Berlin. Afraid of Soviets the Reichskanzler Prince Max of Baden decided to announce the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm, his own resignation and handed over the government office to the leader of the SPD, Friedrich Ebert. Friedrich Ebert took over the office. At the same time the SPD leaders learned that the Spartakus Group under the leadership of Karl Liebknecht was also trying to seize power. To preempt this, Philip Scheidemann, another leading member of the SPD executive board, announced the German Republic from a window of the Reichstag.
Shortly after that, a few hundred meters away, Karl Liebknecht announced the Free Socialist Republic of Germany at the City Castle of the Hohenzollern.
In this Situation the SPD and the USPD, aligned themselves to create a revolutionary Transition-Government. From the SPD Friedrich Ebert, Philipp Scheidemann und Otto Landsberg, and from the USPD Hugo Haase, Wilhelm Dittmann and Emil Barth were sent into a so called „Council of the Peoples’ Deputies“. At a tumultuous congress of 3000 soldiers and workers councils in Berlin, after a fierce verbal exchange between Ebert and Liebknecht the „Council of the Peoples’ Deputies” i.e. the Ebert-Government, was confirmed.
Meanwhile Friedrich Ebert had done a secret deal with the Head of the Army, which basically assured that the German army, the Reichswehr, would not be subjected to the will of the soldiers council nor the workers. The Quartermaster-General of the Military High Command Groener, according to his own memoirs, promised the loyalty and cooperation of the armed forces to the Ebert-Government in return for some demands: a fight against Bolshevism, a speedy end to the soldiers‘ councils and restoration of the sole authority of the officers corps, a national assembly and a return to law and order. This secret pact prevailed. On the 11th of November a truce was arranged between the Germans and the Allies and the War was over.
The Ebert-Government however did not carry out the demands and resolutions of the people, but announced the Election of a constitutional assembly on the 19th of January 1919.
This resulted on one hand that the revolutionaries of the Spartakus-Group and other left radicals tried to form an effective organization, which led to the constitution of the Communist Party, the KPD. On the other hand uprisings of workers and soldiers surfaced again and again. On December 24, at Ebert’s request regular troops attacked the Reichsmarinedivision, a navy division that had rebelled over outstanding wages and the quality of their accommodation. In January 1919, the masses in Berlin again went on general strike, marched into the city center, squatted print shops, publishers and factories and built barricades. Many hoped that this uprising would lead to the advance of the revolution. Their aim was to topple the Ebert-government, and give power to the workers and soldiers councils. However strategy and tactic were not clear. Rosa Luxemburg warned against a violent take-over of the Government at that stage because although the masses were ready, there was no clear leadership. Karl Liebknecht and Georg Ledebour fully joined in. Ebert retorted and regular troops and Free-Corps (right-wing paramilitary militias) led by SPD Minister Gustav Noske, bloodily suppressed the uprising. The Free-corps let Flyers circulate, which called for the killing of the communist leaders. Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were on the run.
In the uprising of March, the workers under the leadership of the communist party fought for the same aims as in the January uprising. The Ebert-Government imposed a state of emergency and Minister Noske had every worker shot who was armed or had a weapon at home. Alone in Berlin-Lichtenberg more than 1200 people were killed, while the regular troops and the Free-Corps only suffered 20 deaths.
As the January elections to the National Assembly returned a solid majority for the SPD, the conservative Zentrum Party and the German Democratic party (DDP), Ebert felt that the revolutionary forces had no longer any legitimacy whatsoever. He and Noske now used the regular army and paramilitary Freikorps units throughout Germany to dissolve the workers‘ councils and to restore “law and order”. In Bavaria, the Bavarian Soviet Republic was violently ended in May 1919 by 35.000 Reichswehr troops and fascist Freikorps.
Luxemburg’s last known words, written on the evening of her murder concluded:
“Order prevails in Berlin!” You foolish lackeys! Your “order” is built on sand. Tomorrow the revolution will “rise up again, clashing its weapons,” and to your horror it will proclaim with trumpets blazing: I was, I am, I shall be!”
Despite the defeat of the socialist revolution certain achievements were carried over into the Weimar Republic:
- The abolition of the monarchy and the aristocracy,
- The women’s suffrage,
- The eight-hour-labour-day,
- to name only a few.
However the failure of the socialist revolution, the complete sell-out of the SPD and the split of the working class furthered capitalism and even prepared the way for the rise of the fascists. In the years to come, the German working class had to fight off fascist coups against the Weimarer Republic, like the Kapp Putsch in 1920. The battles with the fascists and the newly formed National Socialist Workers Party (NSDAP) and their paramilitary organizations went on till the electoral successes of the NSDAP and their takeover of Government in 1933. Dusk and the darkest period ever fell over Germany.
However, despite that hundreds of thousands of Communists and other revolutionaries were killed in the concentration camps of the Nazis, the spark of the October revolution could not be eradicated. After the Second World War, it was there once again: I was, I am, I shall be.