Karl Liebknecht
The Future Belongs to the People

Liebknecht Questions the Government

BEGINNING With August 20, 1915, Liebknecht began putting his questions in the Reichstag which so much embarrassed the German Government.

In England this, form of parliamentary control of the Government is very common. In Germany this form is very seldom used. The possibility of putting supplementary questions gives this method a particularly great usefulness where there is so little parliamentary criticism as in Germany.


At the table of the Federal Government are present: Ministers Delbrück, Helfferich, and Lisco.The first order of business is a question by Dr. Karl Liebknecht.

DR. KARL LIEBKNECHT: (reads his question amid great commotion in the House) "Is the Government, in case of corresponding readiness of the other, belligerents, ready, on the basis of the renunciation of annexations of every kind, to enter into immediate peace negotiations?"

SECRETARY OF STATE V. JAGOW : "I believe I shall meet the wishes of the great majority of the House if I decline to answer the question of the member, Dr. Liebknecht, at the present time as inopportune." (Great applause, especially at the right side of the House.)

DR. K. LIEBKNECHT: "That is concealing the capitalistic policy of conquest (great uproar). The answer of the Secretary of State is a confession of a policy of annexation (repeated great uproar). The people want peace" (continual uproar and laughter).


The energy which Liebknecht displayed at this meeting was remarkable considering that he had not completely recovered from the injury which he had received in October, 1915, at the front.

Twenty-third meeting of the Reichstag, Dec. 14, 1915, 2 P.M.

Present at the Federal Council table: Ministers v. Jagow and Helfferich. The first point on the order of the day – Questions by Dr. K. Liebknecht (Soc.-Dem.).



(I-a) Is the Government prepared, if the other belligerents are also ready and prepared, to enter peace negotiations on the basis of the renunciation of annexations? This question I withdraw since on Thursday, Dec. 9, 1915 (Liebknecht refers here to Bethman-Hollweg's speech in the Reichstag on Dec. 9, 1915, in which the Imperial Chancellor answered the majority Socialist's peace interpellation. S. Z.), the Imperial Chancellor answered this question in the negative. The Government wants a war of conquest, not peace!

(I-b) On what other basis is the Government ready to enter immediately upon peace negotiations?

(Foreign Minister von Jagow by mistake begins to read the answer to another question (laughter). Then the following answer is given to question I-b:

In view of the debate of the 9th of December I decline to answer this question.

DR. K. LIEBKNECHT asks the floor for a supplementary question: What will be the attitude of the Government towards peace proposals from neutral countries as asked now by the Social-Democrats of Switzerland through the Swiss Government. . . . (Great commotion.)

PRESIDENT DR. KAEMPF: This is not a supplementary question. It is ruled out of order.

Dr. K. Liebknecht reads his


II. Is the Government ready to lay before the nation the official documents and semi-official documents relating to the secret negotiations which preceded the declaration of war, especially

(a) The diplomatic history of the Austrian Ultimatum to Serbia Of July 23, 1914, including the official and semi-official negotiations between the German and Austrian Governments after the crime of Sarajevo?

(b) The history of the German entry into Luxemburg and Belgium?

(c) Is the Government ready to create as soon as possible a parliamentary commission for the examination of these documents and reveal the responsible parties?

FOREIGN MINISTER VON JAGOW: The available material about the origin of the war has been published already. The Government intends to publish other important documents relating to diplomatic negotiation, in so far as they appear to be necessary for the enlightenment of public opinion (my italics, S. Z.), but refuses to set up a parliamentary committee dealing with the examination of these documents. The parties responsible are our enemies.

DR. K. LIEBKNECHT asks the floor for a supplementary question (great merriment): Is the Government ready to lay immediately before us the entire official documentary material dealing with the war?

FOREIGN MINISTER VON JAGOW: I have nothing to add to my answer.

DR. K. LIEBKNECHT: A supplementary question (great merriment). Is it known to the Imperial Chancellor that according to a remark made on Dec. 5, 1914, by the former neutral Italian Prime Minister Giolitti, Austria planned as early as 1913 an attack against Serbia? (Italics S. Z.) (Great indignation and shouts.)

PRESIDENT DR. KAEMPF: This is a new question. We will proceed to your next question.

DR. K. LIEBKNECHT: According to paragraph 31 of our order of business I have asked the floor to supplement my former question.

PRESIDENT DR. KAEMPF: You have already asked two supplementary questions.

DR. K. LIEBKNECHT: The order of business does not limit me to any definite number. Amid great commotion in the House Dr. Liebknecht reads another supplementary question: "Why did the Imperial Chancellor conceal from the Reichstag earlier and at the meeting of August 4, 1914, the Belgium Ultimatum?"

PRESIDENT DR. KAEMPF: This also is not a supplementary question, but a new question. Do you have another supplementary question? Now we come to your next question.


III (a) Is it known to the Government that the mass of German people demand for themselves the right to decide about the external policy of Germany, that they demand abolition of secret diplomacy in favor of permanent public control of foreign policy and its general democratization? (Italics S. Z.)

(b) Is the Government prepared to bring in the course of the present session of the Reichstag a bill which will fulfill the demand above mentioned and submit the decisions on questions of war and peace to the people's representatives?

MINISTER OF EXTERIOR V. JAGOW: The Government is not willing (Italics S. Z.) to correspond with the wishes of Dr. Liebknecht and to propose such a change in the Constitution. With this answer the rest of the question is also answered.


Does the Government know in what economic distress the masses of the German people labor on account of the war and on account of the desire in capitalistic circles for profits and the impotence of the Government in dealing with the situation? Is the Government now ready to check this economic distress by improving the general welfare without further delay and by putting aside all special interests, and taking the necessary steps to provide for the population the necessary means of living (food, clothing, shelter, heat and light); especially by regulating production according to the general welfare? And by commandeering products and by the uniform distribution of foodstuffs in such a way that the needy may get sufficient food free or at low cost?

MINISTER DIRECTOR DR. LEWALD: The Imperial Chancellor declines to answer the question.

DR. K. LIEBKNECHT: A supplementary question (great merriment). Does the Government recognize that according to experiments up to this time general commandeering of products. . . .

PRESIDENT DR. KAEMPF: This is not a supplementary question but a new question.

DR. K. LIEBKNECHT: I ask the floor for another supplementary question (great commotion and merriment). Will the Government put into operation as soon as possible the decisions of the Budget Commission in line with these demands?

MINISTER DIRECTOR LEWALD: In the name of the Imperial Chancellor I refuse to answer this supplementary question.


(a) What meaning does the Government ascribe to the expression "new internal political orientation?" (Neuorientierung der inneren Politik.)

(b) Does the Government have a concrete program concerning this new internal political orientation?

(c) What is this program in detail?

(d) When does the Government intend to effect this program?

(e) Does the Government intend during the present session or later to introduce the reforms necessary to the democratization of the constitution, democratization of the legislative powers and democratization of the administration of the German Empire and the states which compose the Empire? Particularly will the Government reform the franchise laws governing the legislative and administrative bodies and democratization of the constitution of the army?

MINISTER DIRECTOR LEWALD: The Imperial Chancellor refuses to answer this question also.

DR. K. LIEBKNECHT: A supplementary question. (Great commotion.) What is the stand of the Government on the Prussian Franchise Reform? (Great merriment at the right side of the House.) This is a question which is of importance to the entire German people. That is the way Government and Reichstag treat with the life and death problems of the German people. The people will know now where they stand! (Continued commotion.)

PRESIDENT DR. KAEMPF: This is not a supplementary question, but a new question. With that we are finished with the short questions.


Reichstag meeting January 11, 1916, 2 P.M. At the table of the Federal Council are present: Ministers Helfferich and Delbrück. The first order of business: Questions by Member DR. K. LIEBKNECHT.

DR. K. LIEBKNECHT reads his first question:

"Is it known to the Imperial Chancellor that during the present war in the United Turkish Empire the Armenian people were driven from their homes and slaughtered by the hundred thousands? What negotiations has the Imperial Chancellor undertaken with the United Turkish Government in order to bring about the necessary punishment, to alleviate the situation of the rest of the Armenian population in Turkey and to make the repetition of such horrors impossible?

To answer this question the floor is given to:

PRIVY COUNCIL FRHR. V. STUMM: It is known to the Imperial Chancellor that inflammatory demonstrations took place in Armenia on account of which the Turkish Government was forced to deport the Armenian population of certain districts and to assign them new living places. About the reaction on the population taking place on account of these measures an exchange of ideas between us and the Turkish Government is now occurring. More details cannot be communicated.

DR. K. LIEBKNECHT: A supplementary question. Is it known to the Imperial Chancellor that Professor Lepsius spoke of an absolute extermination of the Armenians and that for these horrors the Christian population of Turkey considers the German Government responsible?

At this point great uproar broke out in the House and made it impossible for Dr. Liebknecht to finish his questions.

Shouts from the House: This is a new question! Finish!

PRESIDENT DR. KAEMPF: This is a new question for which I cannot give the floor.

DR. K. LIEBKNECHT: Mr. President, before you have heard the whole question, you are not in a position to judge (laughter in the House) if it is a new question or not. At any rate I wish to assert that the President reached this conclusion that it is a new question not from his own impulses (shouts in the House: Oho!) but because from parts of the House it was called to his attention.

PRESIDENT DR. KAEMPF: I ask you not to criticize the way I preside (applause). We come now to the following question:

DR. K. LIEBKNECHT: Will the Government be ready very soon to place before the Reichstag for action data concerning the situation of the population in the territory occupied by Germany? Further data concerning the measures taken for the people in the occupied territory, concerning the means of living, (food, clothing, shelter), concerning their health condition, their rights, their numbers? Then data concerning the kind and reason of the punishments decreed and reprisal measures taken against the people in this territory by the German authorities, the number of people executed, military requisitions of property and methods followed in such operations? And the extent of the contributions levied upon them, especially on the Belgian people?"

To answer these questions the floor is given to:

MINISTER DIRECTOR LEWALD: The Imperial Chancellor declines to put before the Reichstag the material desired by Dr. Liebknecht. But he will give information about the activities of the civil authorities in the occupied territory on the request of the committee of the Reichstag.

DR. K. LIEBKNECHT: A supplementary question. How many places and buildings were destroyed by the German authorities since the beginning of the war for the purpose of reprisal – how many persons were arrested and killed for the same purpose?

PRESIDENT DR. KAEMPF: This is a new question. It is ruled out of order.

DR. K. LIEBKNECHT reads the third question: Is the Government ready to lay before the Reichstag without delay material concerning

(a) Measures taken by the German military and civic authorities on the basis of the state of martial law for the suppression of the right of assemblage and of personal liberty (prohibiting meetings, dissolving societies, interference in private correspondence, arrests, searching of homes, etc.), particularly the number of those put in military and police (cachot) arrest without trial, during the war? Also the reason for and length of these arrests?

(b) The number, extent and causes of punishments inflicted during the war upon members of the army and also the number of convicts in the military prisons since the beginning of the war?

MINISTER DIRECTOR LEWALD: The Imperial Chancellor declines to put before the Reichstag the material asked by Dr. Liebknecht. (Dr. Liebknecht shouts: That also is very characteristic.)

PRESIDENT DR. KAEMPF: This word of Dr. Liebknecht is ruled out of order as not permissible.

DR. K. LIEBKNECHT: A supplementary question. Does the Imperial Chancellor know that in Germany the Military Authorities and Police Authorities have established nearly everywhere dark chambers (laughter), in which places the correspondence of people who are politically disagreeable, among whom are Deputies of the Reichstag or Assembly, is opened secretly? . . . (Great uproar. The bell of the President!)

DR. K. LIEBKNECHT: I wish to protest against this autocratic suppression of the order of business by the President and Reichstag.

This finishes Liebknecht's questions.

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