Speech at a Protest Rally Following the
Murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg
January 19, 1919
Brief Newspaper Report
Sent: 19 January, 1919 First Published: Pravda No. 14, January 21, 1919; Published according to the Pravda text
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, Volume 28, page 411
Today the bourgeoisie and the social-traitors are jubilating in Berlin-they have succeeded in murdering Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. Ebert and Scheidemann, who for four years led the workers to the slaughter for the sake of depredation, have now assumed the role of butchers of the proletarian leaders. The example of the German revolution proves that "democracy" is only a camouflage for bourgeois robbery and the most savage violence.
Death to the butchers!
Letter to the Workers of Europe and America
Written: 21 December, 1918
Karl Liebknecht is a name known to the workers of all countries. Everywhere, and particularly in the Allied countries, it is the symbol of a leader’s devotion to the interests of the proletariat and loyalty to the socialist revolution. It is the symbol of really sincere, really self-sacrificing and ruthless struggle against capitalism. It is the symbol of uncompromising struggle against imperialism not in words, but in deeds, of self-sacrificing struggle precisely in the period when “one’s own” country is flushed with imperialist victories. With Liebknecht and the Spartacists are all those German socialists who have remained honest and really revolutionary, all the best and dedicated men among the proletariat, the exploited masses who are seething with indignation and among whom there is a growing readiness for revolution.
Against Liebknecht are the Scheidemanns, the Südekums and the whole gang of despicable lackeys of the Kaiser and the bourgeoisie. They are just as much traitors to socialism as the Gomperses and Victor Bergers, the Hendersons and Webbs, the Renaudels and Vanderveldes. They represent that top section of workers who have been bribed by the bourgeoisie, those whom we Bolsheviks called (applying the name to the Russian Südekums, the Mensheviks) “agents of the bourgeoisie in the working-class movement”, and to whom the best socialists in America gave the magnificently expressive and very fitting title: “labour lieutenants of the capitalist class”. They represent the latest, “modern”, type of socialist treachery, for in all the civilised, advanced countries the bourgeoisie rob—either by colonial oppression or by financially extracting “gain” from formally independent weak countries—they rob a population many times larger than that of “their own” country. This is the economic factor that enables the imperialist bourgeoisie to obtain superprofits, part of which is used to bribe the top section of the proletariat and convert it into a reformist, opportunist petty bourgeoisie that fears revolution.
Between the Spartacists and the Scheidemann men are the wavering, spineless “Kautskyites”, who in words are “independent”, but in deeds are entirely, and all along the line, dependent upon the bourgeoisie and the Scheidemann men one day, upon the Spartacists the next, some following the former and some the latter. These are people without ideas, without backbone, without policy, without honour, without conscience, the living embodiment of the bewilderment of philistines who stand for socialist revolution in words, but are actually incapable of understanding it when it has begun and, in renegade fashion, defend “democracy” in general, that is, actually defend bourgeois democracy.
In every capitalist country, every thinking worker will, in the situation varying with national and historical conditions, perceive these three main trends among the socialists and among the syndicalists, for the imperialist war and the incipient world proletarian revolution engender identical ideological and political trends all over the world.
The foregoing lines were written before the brutal and dastardly murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg by the Ebert and Scheidemann government. Those butchers, in their servility to the bourgeoisie, allowed the German whiteguards, the watchdogs of sacred capitalist property, to lynch Rosa Luxemburg, to murder Karl Liebknecht by shooting him in the back on the patently false plea that he “attempted to escape” (Russian tsarism often used that excuse to murder prisoners during its bloody suppression of the 1905 Revolution). At the same time those butchers protected the whiteguards with the authority of the government, which claims to be quite innocent and to stand above classes! No words can describe the foul and abominable character of the butchery perpetrated by alleged socialists. Evidently, history has chosen a path on which the role of “labour lieutenants of the capitalist class” must be played to the “last degree” of brutality, baseness and meanness. Let those simpletons, the Kautskyites, talk in their newspaper Freiheit about a “court” of representatives of “all” “socialist” parties (those servile souls insist that the Scheidemann executioners are socialists)! Those heroes of philistine stupidity and petty-bourgeois cowardice even fail to understand that the courts are organs of state power, and that the issue in the struggle and civil war now being waged in Germany is precisely one of who is to hold this power—the bourgeoisie, “served” by the Scheidemanns as executioners and instigators of pogroms, and by the Kautskys as glorifiers of “pure democracy”, or the proletariat, which will overthrow the capitalist exploiters and crush their resistance.
The blood of the best representatives of the world proletarian International, of the unforgettable leaders of the world socialist revolution, will steel ever new masses of workers for the life-and-death struggle. And this struggle will lead to victory. We in Russia, in the summer of 1917, lived through the “July days”, when the Russian Scheidemanns, the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, also provided “state” protection for the “victory” of the whiteguards over the Bolsheviks, and when Cossacks shot the worker Voinov in the streets of Petrograd for distributing Bolshevik leaflets.We know from experience how quickly such “victories” of the bourgeoisie and their henchmen cure the people of their illusions about bourgeois democracy, “universal suffrage”, and so forth.
January 21, 1919
Pravda No 16 - January 24, 1919
Report at the Second
All-Russia Trade Union Congress
January 20, 1919
What has lately happened in Germany, the brutal and treacherous murder of Liebknecht and Luxemburg, is not merely the most dramatic and tragic event in the revolution beginning in Germany. It is something more. It sheds an extraordinarily vivid light on the way the problems of the present-day struggle are presented by the various trends of political thought and in the various theoretical systems of today. It was from Germany that we heard most talk, for example, on the celebrated subject of democracy, on the slogan of democracy in general, and on the slogan that the working class must be independent of government. These slogans may at first glance seem to be unconnected, but they are actually very closely connected. They are closely connected because they show how strong petty-bourgeois prejudices are to this day, despite the proletariat’s immense experience of the class struggle; how to this day often lip service is paid to the class struggle which is not recognised by the minds or hearts of those who talk about it. Indeed, if we recall even the rudiments of political economy as we learnt it from Marx’s Capital, that theory of the class struggle by which we all firmly stand, how can there be any talk of democracy in general or independence when the struggle has grown as acute and far-flung as it is today, when it is clear that the socialist revolution is facing the whole world, and when this has been palpably demonstrated in the most democratic countries? Whoever thinks there can shows that, as far as the theory of political economy is concerned, he has not understood a single page of Marx’s Capital, by which all socialists without exception now swear.
the first-week of bourgeois freedom, of democracy, in Germany has led to a most frenzied outbreak of civil war, far more acute and far more desperate than in our country.
And whoever judges these outbreaks from the point of view of whether proceedings were brought by parties, whoever judges them simply from the point of view of the murder of Liebknecht and Luxemburg, reveals blindness and intellectual cowardice, refusing to understand that these are outbreaks of an irresistible civil war, a war that springs irresistibly from all the contradictions of capitalism. There is not and cannot be any middle course. All talk of independence or democracy in general, no matter what sauce it may be served up with, is a sheer fraud and a down-right betrayal of socialism. And if the theoretical propaganda of the Bolsheviks, who are now the virtual founders of the International, if the theoretical teaching of the Bolsheviks on civil war did not reach very far and was all too often halted by obstacles of censorship and the military barrages of the imperialist states, today it is no longer the teaching, no longer the theory, but the facts of civil war that are becoming all the more violent the older the democracy of the West-European states and the longer it has lasted. These facts will pierce even the hardest and most obtuse skulls. The people who talk about democracy in general, about independence, may now be called fossils.
Speech at the Opening Session of the First Congress of the Comintern
March 2, 1919
On behalf of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party I declare the First Congress of the Communist International open. First I would ask all present to rise in tribute to the finest representatives of the Third International: Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg . (all rise)
The bourgeois are terror-stricken at the growing workers’ revolutionary movement. This is understandable if we take into account that the development of events since the imperialist war inevitably favors the workers’ revolutionary movement, and that the world revolution is beginning and growing in intensity everywhere.
Speech at a Stone-Laying Ceremony for a
Monument to Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg
Held in Petrograd, July 19, 1920
Published: Petrogradskaya Pravda No. 59 July 21, 1920.
Comrades, in all countries communist leaders are suffering unimaginable sacrifices. They are dying by the thousand in Finland and Hungary and other countries. But no persecutions can arrest the growth of communism,and the heroism of fighters like Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg gives us courage and faith in the complete victory of communism, (Comrade Lenin’s speech was drowned in thunderous cheers. The “Internationale” was sung.)
This speech was delivered at a meeting of thousands of people on Uritsky Square (formerly Palace Square) on the evening of July 19, after the termination of the first sitting of the Second Congress of the Communist International.
V. I. Lenin making a speech at a meeting dedicated to the laying of the foundation stone for a monument to K. Liebknecht and R. Luxemburg, in Dvorstsovaya Square.
July 19 1920