Th. Rothstein 1919

Our Martyred Dead

Pseudonym: W.A.M.M.
Source: The Call, 30 January 1919, p. 1 (1,276 words)
Transcribed: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Two of our noblest and greatest have fallen—fallen on the battlefield of Revolution at the dastardly hands of Socialist traitors to the cause of the working class. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, whose very names were a programme and an inspiration, are no more! They were foully assassinated and their corpses mutilated by a reactionary mob of soldiers and bourgeois civilians_ let loose, like a pack hounds, by the Scheidemann-Ebert Government against the Berlin revolutionary proletariat and its devoted leaders. The crime is crying to heaven, and the names of its authors and instigators will be execrated throughout the ages to come along with those of a Gallifet and a Cavaignac. Yet the Gallifets and the Cavaignacs were the avowed enemies of Socialism and of the struggling proletariat, and they owed no debt of honour to those whom they killed except the one that is due from one human being to another. But the Scheidemanns and the Eberts and the unspeakable Noskes, each pretending and perhaps sincerely believing himself to be a Socialist, and knowing in his heart of hearts that he is unworthy even to tie the lace on the boots of either Liebknecht or Luxemburg—they have assassinated them, the glory of international Socialism, the valiant, the immortal; assassinated them by the dirty, blood-stained, and criminal hands of the common enemy; assassinated them while helpless in their charge—an act of cowardice. What a sacrilege! Not all the waters of the ocean will ever wash the crime off the Scheidemann-Ebert gang, Thrice accursed will their memory live in all future history and cause abhorrence in every proletarian breast.

Karl Liebknecht! His name was applauded during the war by the false tongue of every Jingo, bourgeois and Socialist, in the Allied countries, who dared claim him as one of their own. We international and revolutionary Socialists knew better. He was ours, not theirs. Long before the war, almost from his childhood, almost from his cradle—did not some of the best Russian Revolutionists of the time stand round it?—he had been ours: and ours alone. He was ours when, in his youth, still a student, he carried on a Socialist propaganda among his school-fellows; he was still more ours when he, already a barrister, defended, in the celebrated Königsberg trial, his comrades “guilty” of having helped the Russian Revolution by smuggling literature over the frontier and giving shelter to fugitives; he became still more than ours, he became our leader, when he, alone in the German Socialist. Party, already moth-eaten by opportunism, raised the banner of the German Revolution against Kautsky and even Bebel; and he became our hope and guiding star when he, once more alone, shouted out: “No“ in the Reichstag at the voting of the first war credits. He was the first in Germany—nay, in the world—to have ventured into the streets with a cry; “Down with the war!“—and that, in soldier’s uniform; and he shared with the five Russian Bolshevik members of the Duma the undying glory of having been arrested for his revolutionary agitation against the war, unseated, sentenced to a long term of hard labour, deprived of his “civic honour,“ and struck off the roll of barristers. To him, prison was a familiar abode, while freedom he regarded as a gift of the gods to be used in the service of the proletariat.

What shall we say, of Rosa Luxemburg, our dear, dear friend, the unique woman, plainly marked in every way as a genius, a revolutionary, a servant of the proletariat? A child of Russo-Polish Jewry, she studied at Zurich University and obtained her degree of doctor of political economy by a thesis on the economic development of. Poland, which placed her at once in the front rank of Marxist writers. In Poland she founded the Polish Social Democracy in opposition to the un-Marxist and patriotic Polish Socialist Party; in Germany, where she acquired citizenship by means of a fictitious marriage, she joined the left wing and soon became one of its most prominent leaders. She led the campaign against Bernstein when he became opportunist, and she fought Kautsky when he, too, succumbed to the tactics of adaptation. What force of character, dialectical skill, knowledge, mind, lay in that frail body of hers and what incomparable beauty of a great intellect and a great soul shone in those dark eyes and played over that lofty forehead of hers! She was a revolutionary—a Marxist revolutionary—to the very bottom of her soul, and all her ardour and all her remarkable talents were consecrated to the one cause, the cause of Socialism.

Neither Karl Liebknecht nor Rosa Luxemburg were any longer in the prime of their lives. The one was 47, the other must have been over fifty. Yet so young in spirit were they that their death seems to have cut them down only at the beginning of their career. Indeed, they were just entering upon a new life—the life of the actual revolution, of the actual struggle for the establishment of Socialism. Just on the threshold of the most glorious phase of their activity they are smitten down by traitors who but yesterday pretended to be their comrades-in-arms. What Imperialist Kaiserdom did not dare do at the beginning of the war has been accomplished by its successors, the Socialists of Treason, using the old tools of reaction to fight down the proletarian revolution. One can almost reconstruct the sinister scene without having seen it. For weeks past the entire bourgeois Press, from, the most Conservative to the most “Radical,“ howled against the Spartacus leaders, demanding their blood and taunting the Government with indecision and cowardice. At last, the two most prominent among them fell into their hands as prisoners. Here was a chance for the officer in command of the “victorious“ troops. Should he really take them to the authorities for imprisonment and trial? Would he not rather cut the Gordian knob in the old militarist-Junker fashion by doing away with them on the. spot? Away with them then. He knocked Liebknecht violently on the head, but did not kill him. The friends of the escort seek to excuse the murder by the statement that Libknecht attempted to escape and that because he ran, he was shot in the back. This, however, is denied by the Independents, who say that no attempt to escape was made, and that Liebknecht was actually shot in the forehead at short range. And probably much the same treacherous brutality befel Rosa Luxemburg. In vain does the Government wax indignant and threaten punishment to the guilty parties. It is they, the Eberts and the Scheidemanns themselves, who are guilty of the foul murder; it is they who have let loose the powers of reaction against the working class. They mobilised the bourgeoisie and the Junker officers to fight the Revolution, and have succeeded in attaining not only a political victory; but also a personal victory over their bitterest enemies.

But one does not employ the powers of hell with impunity. The blood of the victims will form an impassable barrier between the Scheidemannites and the masses of the proletariat, and the Scheidemannites will become more than ever the prisoners of those whom they have employed. Their hour of retribution will come swiftly. There will be a second revolution and the assassins will be hurled into the abyss of infamy to which they belong. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg have died the death of martyrs. Long live the International Socialist Revolution!