MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Events



Spanish Revolution [1931-1939]

Under the impact of severe economic crisis and widespread popular unrest, the Spanish monarchy fell in 1931 and a republic was proclaimed. The Spanish working class defended the republic in numerous clashes with monarchists and other rightist elements. The succession of republican governments however continued their anti-labor measures. In 1936 the army generals, led by Francisco Franco and backed by the captialists, the Catholic Church, launched a military-fascist uprising or “pronunciamento”. The workers responded by launching a revolutionary movement, seizing factories, setting up workers’ militias, etc. However, all of the organisations of the Spanish left, to varying degrees, participated in the Popular Front government initiated by the Spanish Communist Party. The thrust of the Popular Front was to unite “all classes” in order to protect the republic and democracy on the one had, but limit, and indeed, stifle, the uprising of the working class that resulted in response the “pronunciamento”. The demoralization, and continued disenfranchisement of the working class with regards to the governmental actions of returning factories and haciendas to their owners, contributed to the defeat for the Republic by 1939.


Spartacus Rising (German Revolution 1918-19)

The uprising and attempted revolution began with unorganised soldiers acting spontaneously, and ended with the brutal executions of those brave Communists who sought to lead German workers into building a socialist society.

On October 5, 1918, the Independent Social-Democratic Party of Germany (of which the Spartacus League was an instigating part since April 1917) formed a committee of revolutionary shop stewards who began organising among workers and collecting weapons. The group aimed to initiate a general strike on November 6th, but figthing within the group and the arrests of several strike leaders put an end to the attempt.

On October 29th and 30th, the German Naval Command ordered the Cruisers Helgoland and Thuringeni out of Keil for a suicidal engagement with the British Fleet (The German Fleet had lain idle since Jutland). Sailors refused and 600 were gaoled, but they would not yet follow the Spartacus leadership, believing such an insane order was a mistake. On November 1st the first Seamen's Council was formed at Kid, and by the 3rd government troops fired on a demonstration by sailors at Kid killing eight and wounding 29. On November 4th to 7th 100,000 sailors, almost the whole fleet, after ceaseless spartacus agitation, mutinied and captured the city of Wilhelmshaven. Officers were arrested and some were killed. The sailors had not yet accepted leadership, but only the Spartacus agitators could control them. The sailors were followed by Army reservists in Hamburg and, by November 7th, the mutiny spread all over the country up to Munich. The Wittelsbach Dynasty and the Bavarian Government were overthrown by the army and the peasantry led by Kurt Eisner in the Munich Revolution on the same day, who would declare Bavaria a Socialist Republic. Workers' and Soldiers' Councils were elected all over the nation, largely led by the Spartacus League, but before the revolution spread to the front armistice was declared. On November 9th, Kaiser Wilhelm II fled to Holland.

The revolutionary shop stewards organised workers to strike on November 9th. The German Social Democratic Party, which had betrayed its principles and workers around the world by voting in support of World War I, reared its head once again, now to co-opt the work of the Independent Social Democrats and Spartacus League, in order to set thier own reformist course. On the 9th, Philipp Scheidemann, a German Social Democrat, knowing that Karl Liebknecht was about to arrive and proclaim a Socialist state, quickly got to the balcony of the Reichstag and proclaimed the formation of the Wiemer Republic. As Liebknecht arrived, a red flag was hoisted over the palace, and he addressed the jubilant crowds. But along with the proclamation of Republic, Friedrich Ebert, leader of the Social Democratic party, formed a new government of "People's Commissars". Meanwhile, much of the Spartacus leadership was in jail for thier fearless agitation against the war, and could not counter the Social Democrats organisation. Prisons were declared opened however, and political prisoners including Rosa Luxemburg were freed.

On December 6th, a Strike by NCOs occured in an failed attempt to arrest the Berlin Executive of the Workers' and Soldiers' Councils while retaining Ebert as head of government: instead the conspirators were arrested. In the struggle against the counter-revolution, 16 Spartacists were killed and 12 wounded by the military called out by Otto Wels, Social Democrat, when soldiers fired on a demonstration in North Berlin. On December 21st, the Marines guarding the Palace were transferred on suspicion of theft. Dorrenbach, Chief of the Marines,ordered that the Chancellory be surrounded and captured the Telephone Exchange. Otto Wels was captured and held as hostage until he agreed to cancel the transfer. Loyal troops were called out and negotiated a settlement. Marines in the Royal Stablesheld out, however, and on December 24th the Stables and the Palace were fired on by artillery under General Lequis. By this time, all members of the Independent Social Democrats who participated in the government resigned. Republican troops almost mutinied. Wels was released unharmed, and he resigned on December 28th.

In January, 1919, the Spartakist Rising, led by Rosa Luxemburg, Leo Jogiches, Clara Zetkin and Karl Liebknecht took place in Berlin as a last ditch effort to save the nation for Socialism. The Independents once again joined the Sparts and declared an end to the Social Democratic government. By the 13th, the rebellion in Berlin was crushed, and the Social Democrats, using the same kind of reasoning of the Bolsheviks by crushing any fundamental opposition to governmental power, executed Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. Interior minister Noske, another Social Democrat, was placed in charge of the forcible dispersal of all soldiers councils throughout the nation. In March 1919, his army went from town to town beating workers and executing union and council leaders without trial.