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Spartacist League

This article is about the Spartacist League which existed in post-First World War Germany. See also International Spartacist Tendency for the small groups currently named the Spartacist League.

The Spartacist League or Spartakusbund was an extreme left-wing movement in Germany during and just after World War I. It was named after Spartacus, leader of the largest slave rebellion in the classical period.

The organisation was led by Rosa Luxemburg (AKA Red Rosa), Polish born of Jewish origins and Karl Liebknecht, son of Wilhelm Liebknecht, both prominent members of the left wing of the German Social-Democratic Party (SPD), who moved to found an independent organization after the SPD supported the German government's decision to declare war on Russia in 1914, beginning what became World War I. Besides opposition to imperialist war, they maintained the need for revolutionary methods, in contrast to the leadership of the SPD. After the Russian Revolution of 1917 they decided to agitate for a similar course, the forming a government based on workers' councils (soviets) in Germany. After the november revolution which overthrew the Kaiser and led to the end of World War I and the beginning of a period of instability and revolutions lasting until 1923, Liebknecht declared a socialist republic in Germany, on the same night that the leaders of the SPD declared a democratic republic. In December 1918 the Spartakusbund became the German Communist Party (KPD), the German affiliate of the communist international (Comintern).

In January 1919 the KPD attempted to take control of Berlin in what came to be known as the Spartakus uprising, against the advice of Luxemburg and Liebknecht. The uprising was crusheed by the combined forces of the SPD, the remnants of the German Army, and the right-wing paramilitary groups known as the Freikorps. Luxembourg and Leibknecht, among many others, were killed while held prisoner by the Freikorps, and their bodies dumped in a river.

The Spartacist Manifesto 1918

The question today is not democracy or dictatorship. The question that history has put on the agenda reads: bourgeois democracy or socialist democracy. For the dictatorship of the proletariat does not mean bombs, putsches (coups), riots and anarchy, as the agents of capitalist profits deliberately and falsely claim. Rather, it means using all instruments of political power to achieve socialism, to expropriate the capitalist class, through and in accordance with the will of the revolutionary majority of the proletariat.