Karl Liebknecht

In Spite of Everything!

(15 January 1919)

Source: Die Rote Fahne, January 15th, 1919. [1]
Online Version: http://zefys.staatsbibliothek-berlin.de/kalender/auswahl/date/1919-01-15/24352111/.
Also available in German: https://www.marxists.org/deutsch/archiv/liebknechtk/1919/01/trotz.htm.
Translated from German: Schummelpilz, Lena, TrebyC, CloseToBeGood, AmadannyBorvito
Editing and Formatting: Luka, Schummelpilz.
HTML ;ark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Editors’ Note: This article, originally titled Trotz Alledem! is the last ever article by Karl Liebknecht, written hours before his murder by the proto-fascist Freikorps (at the behest of Ebert and Noske). It is a supplement to Rosa Luxemburg’s Order Prevails in Berlin (also written hours before her murder), even though the latter was published a day later. The article is a response to the suppression of the Spartacist uprising in Berlin at the beginning of 1919, which ended with a brutal defeat and the assassination of their ideological leaders. It provides the historical context for the uprising, a report on the ongoing operations to put down the revolt, the conditions that led to its defeat, and the logical conclusion of the situation. This work should be very carefully studied by anyone, who wishes to understand the full depth and tragedy of the German Revolution.

We have maintained the original phraseology, terminology and layout of the pamphlet to the best of our abilities, while also adhering to the MIA layout standards. However, the footnotes are wholly ours and simply serve to inform the reader of the context. Liebknecht uses a lot of allegorical language, theological and mythological references, hence a special attention should be paid to capitalizations.


General Assault on Spartacus! “Down with the Spartacists!” they howl through the alleys. “Grab them, whip them, stab them, shoot them, impale them, trample them down, tear them to shreds!” Atrocities are being committed, eclipsing the Belgian atrocities of the German troops.

“Spartacus crushed!” they celebrate from Post to Vorwärts. [2]

“Spartacus crushed!” And the sabres, the revolvers and carbines of the re-established Old-Germanic police and the disarmament of the revolutionary workers will seal its defeat. “Spartacus crushed!” Under the bayonets of Lieutenant Reinhardt [3], under the machine guns and canons of General Lüttwitz [4] the election of the national assembly is to be carried out – a plebiscite for Napoleon-Ebert.

“Spartacus crushed!”

Indeed! The revolutionary workers of Berlin have been defeated! Indeed! A hundred of their best have been murdered! Indeed! Several hundred have been thrown into prison.

Indeed! They were defeated. Because they were abandoned by the sailors, the soldiers, the security forces, the army, on whose help they had relied. And their force was paralyzed by the indecisiveness and weakness of their leaders. And the monstrous counter-revolutionary mudslide of reactionaries and the propertied classes drowned them.

Indeed, they were defeated. And it was a historical commandment that they were defeated. For the time was not yet ripe. Nevertheless – the fight was inevitable. Because giving up the police headquarters, this Palladium of the revolution, to Eugen Ernst [5] and Hirsch [6] without a fight would have been a dishonourable defeat. The fight was forced onto the Proletariat by the Ebert-Gang; and elementary violence rushed out from within Berlin’s masses – beyond all doubts and worries.

Indeed! Berlin’s revolutionary workers were defeated! 

And Ebert-Scheidemann-Noske have won. They have won, because the generals, the bureaucracy, the robber barons and country squires [7], the clerics and the money-bags, and all who are narrow-minded, stunted and reactionary stand with them. And won for them with ammunition, gas bombs, and mortars.

But there are defeats, which are victories; and victories more pernicious than defeats.

The defeated of the bloody January week have persisted gloriously; they have fought for something great, for the noblest goal of suffering mankind, for spiritual and material salvation of the starving masses; they have spilled their Holy Blood for a sacred feat, and their blood was thereby sanctified. And from every drop of this blood, from these dragon’s teeth sown for the victors of today, shall rise the avengers of the fallen – from every tattered fibre new soldiers shall rise for the great cause, which is eternal and unwithering like the firmament.

Those who are defeated today shall be the victors of tomorrow. Because defeat serves as a lesson. The German proletariat still lacks revolutionary experience. And only through tentative attempts, adolescent errors and painful setbacks can it obtain practical education, which will ensure future victory.

For the living forces of the social revolution, whose unstoppable growth is the natural law of societal development, a defeat means stimulus. And through defeat after defeat, their road leads to victory.

But what about the victors of today?

For a nefarious cause they perform their nefarious blood-soaked work. For the powers of the past, for the mortal enemies of the proletariat.

And even today they are inferior! For already today they are the hostages of those they sought to use as their tools and whose tools they have always been.

Still they give the firm its name. But only a short reprieve remains for them.

Already they stand in the pillory of history. Never have there been such Judases as them in the world, who not only betrayed their Holy of Holies, but also nailed it to the cross with their own hands. Just as offimcial German Social-Democracy sank deeper than all others in August 1914, now, at the dawn of social revolution, it offers the most loathsome spectacle.

The French bourgeoisie had to take the butchers of June 1848 and the butchers of May 1871 from their own ranks. The German bourgeoisie need not bother itself – “Social-democrats” execute the dirty and the despicable, the bloody and the cowardly deed; their Cavaignac, their Gallifet is called Noske, the “German worker.”

The ringing of bells called to the slaughter, music and banner waving, cheers of victory for the capitalists rescued from the “Bolshevik terror” celebrate their mercenary rescuers. The gunpowder is still smoking, the fire of the slaughter of workers is still smouldering, the murdered are still lying on the ground, the wounded proletarians are still moaning, as they hold a parade for the murderous troops, bloated in victorious pride – Ebert, Schneiderman and Noske.

Dragon’s teeth sown!

Already the proletariat of the world turns shuddering away from those who dare to reach out with their hands, steaming from the blood of German workers, towards the International! With repugnance and disgust they are rebuffed even by those who in the rampage of the World War abandoned the obligations of socialism. Tainted, excluded from the ranks of the upright humanity, whipped out of the International, hated and cursed by every revolutionary proletarian – thus they stand before the world.

And the whole of Germany has been cast into shame by them. Betrayers of their brothers, murderers of their brothers reign over the German people. “Pass me the slate! I have to write it down.” –

Oh, their glory cannot last for long; one reprieve, and they will face judgement.

Blazing fires hurl their theses into millions of hearts, blazing fires of indignation.

The proletarian revolution, which the counter-revolutionaries hoped to drown in blood, will rise above them above them, with great numbers. Its first word will be: Down with the butchers of the workers Ebert-Scheidemann-Noske!

The defeated of today, they will have learned. They will be cured of the delusion of being able to find their salvation in the help of masses of confused soldiers; cured of the delusion of being able to trust in leaders who prove themselves to be feeble and impotent; cured of the belief in independent social democracy, which disdainfully abandoned them. Left only to their own devices, they will fight their coming battles, gain their coming victories. And the watchword, that the liberation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself, will have gained for them – through the bitter lessons of this week – a new, deeper meaning.

And even the misguided soldiers will realize soon enough what game is being played with them, when they feel again the lash of restored militarism; even they will awaken from the frenzy which grips them today.

“Spartacus crushed!”

Steady! We have not fled, we are not beaten. And even if they throw us in shackles – we are there, and shall remain! And victory shall be ours.

Because Spartacus – that means: fire and spirit, it means: soul and heart, it means: the will and act of the proletarian revolution. And Spartacus – that means all the hardships and yearning for happiness, all the fighting resolve of the class-conscious proletariat. Because Spartacus – that means: Socialism and World Revolution.

The Road to Calvary of the German working class is not yet completed – but their Day of Redemption is near. The Day of Judgement for the Ebert–Scheidemann–Noske and for the capitalist rulers, who still to this day hide behind them. The tide of events mount into the heavens – we are accustomed to being catapulted down from the peak into the depths. But our ship continues on its straight course proudly sailing to its goal.

And whether we will still be alive when it is reached – our programme will live; it will rule the world of humanity redeemed. In spite of everything!

Under the roar of the approaching economic crash the still sleeping hordes of proletarians will awaken as if summoned by the trumpets of the Last Judgement, and the corpses of the murdered fighters will rise and demand a reckoning from the damned. Today, still the subterranean rumbling of the volcano – will erupt tomorrow and bury them all in glowing ash and lava flows.

Karl Liebknecht



1. Die Rote Fahne (The Red Flag) was a German newspaper originally founded in 1876 by Socialist Worker’s party leader Wilhelm Hasselmann, and which has since been published on and off, at times underground by German Socialists and Communists. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg famously published it in 1918 as an organ of the Spartacus League. Following the deaths of Liebknecht and Luxemburg during the chancellorship of the Social Democratic Party of Germany’s Friedrich Ebert, the newspaper was published, with interruptions, by the Communist Party of Germany.

2. German Newspapers. Vorwärts (Forward, founded in 1876) is especially significant, as it was the central organ of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) for many decades.

3. Walther Gustav Reinhardt(24 March 1872 in Stuttgart–8 August 1930 in Berlin) was a German officer who served as the last Prussian Minister of War and the first head of the army command (Chef der Heeresleitung) within the newly created Ministry of the Reichswehr of the Weimar Republic. During the Kapp Putsch of 1920, Reinhardt remained loyal to the elected government and was one of the few senior officers of the Reichswehr willing to order troops to fire at the revolting units.

4. Walther Karl Friedrich Ernst Emil Freiherr von Lüttwitz (2 February 1859–20 September 1942) was a German general who fought in World War I. Lüttwitz is best known for being the driving force behind the Kapp–Lüttwitz Putsch of 1920 which attempted to replace the democratic government of the Weimar Republic with a military dictatorship.

5. Eugen Oswald Gustav Ernst (20 September 1864–31 May 1954) was a German Social Democrat politician. His appointment as President of the Police of Berlin in January 1919 prompted the Spartacist uprising in Berlin.

6. Paul Hirsch (17 November 1868–1 August 1940) was a German politician and a member of the Social Democratic Party who served as Prime Minister of Prussia from 1918 to 1920. During the German Revolution of 1918–19, Hirsch together with the USPD politician Heinrich Ströbel became chairman of the provisional government of the Free State of Prussia (Rat der Volksbeauftragten) and also served as Interior Minister. On 4 January 1919 he dismissed the USPD chief of police Emil Eichhorn, which sparked the Spartacist uprising.

7.Junker von Schlot und Kraut” (lit. Squires of Chimney and Cabbage) from “Schlotbaron” (lit. smokestack baron) and “Krautjunker” (lit. cabbage squire) is a historical derogatory term referring to the urban industrialists and the landed gentry respectively.

Karl Liebknecht Internet Archive

Last updated on 2 August 2020