Karl Liebknecht

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Karl Liebknecht
KLiebknecht.jpg
Member of the Reichstag
In office
1912–1918
Personal details
Born(1871-08-13)13 August 1871
Leipzig, Kingdom of Saxony, German Empire
Died15 January 1919(1919-01-15) (aged 47)
Berlin, Germany
Citizenship German
Nationality German
Political party
Spouse(s)Julia Paradies (m. 1900; died 1911)
Sophie Liebknecht (m. 1914)
Relations Wilhelm Liebknecht (father)
Natalie Liebknecht (mother)
Alma mater Humboldt University of Berlin
Occupation Lawyer
Politician
Revolutionary

Karl Paul August Friedrich Liebknecht (German: [ˈliːpknɛçt] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); 13 August 1871 – 15 January 1919) was a German socialist, originally in the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and later a co-founder with Rosa Luxemburg of the Spartacist League and the Communist Party of Germany which split way from the SPD. He is best known for his opposition to World War I in the Reichstag and his role in the Spartacist uprising of 1919. The uprising was crushed by the SPD government and the Freikorps (paramilitary units formed of World War I veterans). Liebknecht and Luxemburg were executed.

Social Democratic Party of Germany political party in Germany

The Social Democratic Party of Germany, or SPD, is a social-democratic political party in Germany.

Rosa Luxemburg Polish Marxist theorist, socialist philosopher, and revolutionary

Rosa Luxemburg was a Polish Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist, anti-war activist and revolutionary socialist who became a naturalized German citizen at the age of 28. Successively, she was a member of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL), the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD) and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD).

Spartacus League political party

The Spartacus League was a Marxist revolutionary movement organized in Germany during World War I. The League was named after Spartacus, leader of the largest slave rebellion of the Roman Republic. It was founded by Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Clara Zetkin, and others. The League subsequently renamed itself the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (KPD), joining the Comintern in 1919. Its period of greatest activity was during the German Revolution of 1918, when it sought to incite a revolution by circulating the newspaper Spartacus Letters.

Contents

After their deaths, Liebknecht and Luxemburg became martyrs for socialists. According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, commemoration of Liebknecht and Luxemburg continues to play an important role among the German left, including Die Linke .

Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution domestic security agency of Germany

The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution is the Federal Republic of Germany's domestic security agency. Together with the Landesämter für Verfassungsschutz (LfV) at the state level, it is tasked with intelligence-gathering on threats concerning the democratic order, the existence and security of the federation or one of its states, and the peaceful coexistence of peoples; with counter-intelligence; and with protective security and counter-sabotage. The BfV reports to the Federal Ministry of the Interior. Between 1 August 2012 and 18 September 2018, the agency was headed by Hans-Georg Maaßen.

Left-wing politics supports social equality and egalitarianism, often in opposition to social hierarchy. It typically involves a concern for those in society whom its adherents perceive as disadvantaged relative to others (prioritarianism) as well as a belief that there are unjustified inequalities that need to be reduced or abolished. The term left-wing can also refer to "the radical, reforming, or socialist section of a political party or system".

The Left (Germany) political party in Germany

The Left, also commonly referred to as the Left Party, is a democratic socialist political party in Germany. It is considered to be left-wing populist by some researchers. The party was founded in 2007 as the result of the merger of the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and the Electoral Alternative for Labour and Social Justice (WASG). Through the PDS, the party is the direct descendant of the ruling party of the former East Germany (GDR), the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED).

Life and career

Early life

Liebknecht was born in Leipzig, Saxony, Germany, the son of Wilhelm Martin Philipp Christian Ludwig Liebknecht and his second wife Natalie (née Reh), who also came from a family with a strong political background as her father Theodor was a member of the Frankfurt Parliament of 1848. [1] Liebknecht's parents were second cousins as his maternal great-grandmother was the sister of one of his paternal great-grandfathers. [2]

Leipzig Place in Saxony, Germany

Leipzig is the most populous city in the federal state of Saxony, Germany. With a population of 581,980 inhabitants as of 2017, it is Germany's tenth most populous city. Leipzig is located about 160 kilometres (99 mi) southwest of Berlin at the confluence of the White Elster, Pleiße and Parthe rivers at the southern end of the North German Plain.

Kingdom of Saxony former German state

The Kingdom of Saxony, lasting between 1806 and 1918, was an independent member of a number of historical confederacies in Napoleonic through post-Napoleonic Germany. The kingdom was formed from the Electorate of Saxony. From 1871 it was part of the German Empire. It became a Free state in the era of Weimar Republic in 1918 after the end of World War I and the abdication of King Frederick Augustus III of Saxony. Its capital was the city of Dresden, and its modern successor state is the Free State of Saxony.

German Empire empire in Central Europe between 1871–1918

The German Empire, also known as Imperial Germany, was the German nation state that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918.

His father was a co-founder with August Bebel of the Marxist Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). Liebknecht became an exponent of Marxist ideas during his study of law and political economy in Leipzig and Humboldt University of Berlin. After serving with the Imperial Pioneer Guards in Potsdam from 1893 to 1894 and internships in Arnsberg and Paderborn from 1894 to 1898, he earned his doctorate at Würzburg in 1897 and moved to Berlin in 1899, where he opened a lawyer's office with his brother, Theodor. Liebknecht married Julia Paradies on 8 May 1900. The couple had two sons and a daughter before Julia died in 1911. [3]

August Bebel German social democrat politician

Ferdinand August Bebel was a German socialist politician, writer, and orator. He is best remembered as one of the founders of the Social Democratic Workers' Party of Germany (SDAP) in 1869, which in 1875 merged with the General German Workers' Association into the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (SAPD). During the repression under the terms of the Anti-Socialist Laws, Bebel became the leading figure of the social democratic movement in Germany and from 1892 until his death served as chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany.

Potsdam Place in Brandenburg, Germany

Potsdam is the capital and largest city of the German federal state of Brandenburg. It directly borders the German capital, Berlin, and is part of the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region. It is situated on the River Havel 24 kilometres southwest of Berlin's city centre.

Arnsberg Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Arnsberg is a town in the Hochsauerland county, in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It is the location of the Regierungsbezirk Arnsberg's administration and one of the three local administration offices of the Hochsauerlandkreis.

Political career

Liebknecht in 1915 Karl Liebknecht 001.jpg
Liebknecht in 1915

As a lawyer, Liebknecht often defended other left-wing socialists who were tried for offences such as smuggling socialist propaganda into Russia, a task in which he was also involved. He became a member of the SPD in 1900 and was president of the Socialist Youth International from 1907 to 1910. Liebknecht also wrote extensively against militarism. In his speech at the Bremen party conference in 1904, he insisted to his audience: "Militarism is our most deadly enemy and the best way of waging the struggle against it is to increase the number of social democrats among the soldiers". [4] One of his papers, Militarismus und Antimilitarismus (Militarism and Antimilitarism) led to his being arrested in 1907 and imprisoned for eighteen months in Glatz, Prussian Silesia. In the next year, he was elected to the Prussian parliament despite still being in prison. [5]

Propaganda Form of communication intended to sway the audience through presenting only one side of the argument

Propaganda is information that is not objective and is used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively to encourage a particular synthesis or perception, or using loaded language to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information that is presented. Propaganda is often associated with material prepared by governments, but activist groups, companies, religious organizations and the media can also produce propaganda.

Militarism belief of government that it should maintain a strong military and be prepared to use it

Militarism is the belief or the desire of a government or a people that a state should maintain a strong military capability and to use it aggressively to expand national interests and/or values. It may also imply the glorification of the military and of the ideals of a professional military class and the "predominance of the armed forces in the administration or policy of the state".

Kłodzko Place in Lower Silesian, Poland

Kłodzko is a town in south-western Poland, in the region of Lower Silesia. It is situated in the centre of the Kłodzko Valley, on the Eastern Neisse river.

Liebknecht was an active member of the Second International and a founder of the Socialist Youth International. In 1912, Liebknecht was elected to the Reichstag as a Social-Democrat, a member of the SPD's left-wing. He opposed Germany's participation in World War I, but in order not to infringe the party's unity he abstained from the vote on war loans on 4 August 1914. [6] On 2 December 1914, he was the only member of the Reichstag to vote against further loans, the supporters of which included 110 of his own party members. He continued to be a major critic of the Social-Democratic leadership under Karl Kautsky and its decision to acquiesce in going to war. In October that year, he married his second wife, art historian Sophie Ryss. [5]

Liebknecht proclaims the German Free Socialist Republic, 9 November 1918 (Mural, Hochschule fur Musik, Berlin: the relief is one of a series on socialist themes on this building surviving from the German Democratic Republic) Hochschule fur Musik.JPG
Liebknecht proclaims the German Free Socialist Republic, 9 November 1918 (Mural, Hochschule für Musik, Berlin: the relief is one of a series on socialist themes on this building surviving from the German Democratic Republic)

At the end of 1914, Liebknecht, together with Rosa Luxemburg, Leo Jogiches, Paul Levi, Ernest Meyer, Franz Mehring and Clara Zetkin, formed the so-called Spartacus League (Spartakusbund). The Spatacus League publicized its views in a newspaper titled Spartakusbriefe (Spartacus Letters) which was soon declared illegal. Liebknecht was arrested and sent to the eastern front during World War I despite his immunity as a member of parliament. Refusing to fight, he served burying the dead and due to his rapidly deteriorating health was allowed to return to Germany in October 1915.

Liebknecht was arrested again following a demonstration against the war in Berlin on 1 May 1916 that was organized by the Spartacus League and sentenced to two and a half years in jail for high treason, [7] which was later increased to four years and one month.

Revolution and death

Liebknecht's tomb in Berlin-Friedrichsfelde Berlin Friedrichsfelde Zentralfriedhof, Gedenkstatte der Sozialisten (Rondell) - Liebknecht 2.jpg
Liebknecht's tomb in Berlin-Friedrichsfelde

Liebknecht was released again in October 1918, when Prince Maximilian of Baden granted an amnesty to all political prisoners. Upon his return to Berlin on 23 October, he was escorted to the Soviet embassy by a crowd of workers. [8] Following the outbreak of the German Revolution, Liebknecht carried on his activities in the Spartacist League. He resumed leadership of the group together with Luxemburg and published its party organ, Die Rote Fahne (The Red Flag).

On 9 November, Liebknecht declared the formation of a Freie Sozialistische Republik (Free Socialist Republic) from a balcony of the Berliner Stadtschloss, two hours after Philipp Scheidemann's declaration of a German Republic from a balcony of the Reichstag. [9] On 31 December 1918 and 1 January 1919, Liebknecht was involved in the founding of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). [10] Together with Luxemburg, Jogiches and Zetkin, Liebknecht was also instrumental in the January 1919 Spartacist uprising in Berlin. Initially, he and Luxemburg opposed the revolt, but they joined it after it had begun. The uprising was brutally opposed by the new German government under Friedrich Ebert with the help of the remnants of the Imperial German Army and militias called the Freikorps. By 13 January, the uprising had been extinguished. Liebknecht and Luxemburg were captured by Freikorps troops on 15 January 1919 and brought to the Eden Hotel in Berlin, where they were tortured and interrogated for several hours. [11] Following this, Luxemburg was beaten with rifle butts and afterwards shot and her corpse thrown into the Landwehr Canal while Liebknecht was forced to step out of the car in which he was being transported and was then shot in the back. Official declarations said he had been shot in an attempt to escape. Although the circumstances were disputed by the perpetrators at the time, the Freikorps commander, Captain Waldemar Pabst, later claimed: "I had them executed". [12]

Legacy

Memorial for Karl Liebknecht by Kathe Kollwitz (1919) Memorial for Karl Liebknecht - Kathe Kollwitz - 1919.jpg
Memorial for Karl Liebknecht by Käthe Kollwitz (1919)

Clara Zetkin penned an obituary for Liebknecht in September 1919 [13] and together with Rosa Luxemburg became a celebrated martyr of the German left. [14] The artist Käthe Kollwitz depicted his lying in state in the work Memorial for Karl Liebknecht. [15] In 1930, the Soviet government renamed a village near Kursk in central Russia after him, Imeni Karla Libknekhta. Since 1919, an annual Liebknecht-Luxemburg Demonstration has been held in Berlin, [16] the world's largest funerary parade and the biggest meeting of the German left. The annual L-L Demo is held on the second Sunday in January to this day [17] and 14,000 people attended the rally in Liebknecht and Luxemburg's honor in 2016. [18]

See also

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References

  1. Annelies Laschitza, Die Liebknechts: Karl und Sophie – Politik und Familie, Berlin: Aufbau Taschenbuch, 2009
  2. Trotnow, Helmut (1984). Karl Liebknecht (1871–1919): political biography. Archon Books. p. 16. ISBN   0208020330.
    • Helmut Trotnow, Karl Liebknecht, 1871–1919: A Political Biography, Olympic Marketing Corp, 1984, ISBN   978-0208020338
  3. Trotnow, Helmut (1984). Karl Liebknecht (1871-1919): A Political Biography. United States of America: Archon Books. pp. 55–56. ISBN   0-208-02033-0.
  4. 1 2 Timeline of Karl Liebknecht's life (in German) at the Lebendiges Museum Online (LEMO).
  5. "Luxemburg und Liebknecht: Dauerfehde um einen Doppelmord". 2009 article from Der Spiegel (in German).
  6. "Unrest in Germany". The Argus . Melbourne. 4 July 1916. p. 7. Retrieved 29 November 2012 via National Library of Australia.
  7. Nettl, J. P. (1969). Rosa Luxemburg (Abridged ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 439–440.
  8. H. Wohlgemuth, Karl Liebknecht, Dietz Verlag, 1975
  9. Ottokar Luban, The Role of the Spartacist Group after 9 November 1918 and the Formation of the KPD, in: Ralf Hoffrogge and Norman LaPorte (eds.), Weimar Communism as Mass Movement 1918-1933, London: Lawrence & Wishart, 2017, pp. 45-65.
  10. Bouton, Miles S. And the Kaiser Abdicates: The German Revolution 1914–1918. Yale University Press.
  11. Wette, Wolfram (2006). The Wehrmacht: History, Myth, Reality . Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 44. ISBN   0674022130.
  12. Clara Zetkin. "Karl Liebknecht" (in English).
  13. Sewell, Sara Ann (2009). "Mourning Comrades: Communist Funerary Rituals in Colonge during the Weimar Republic". German Studies Review . 32 (3): 527–548. JSTOR   40574865.
  14. Käthe Kollwitz. Ikon Gallery. 2017. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  15. "Die Ermordung von Rosa Luxemburg und Karl Liebknecht".
  16. Information about the L-L Demo (in German).
  17. "Lenin-Liebknecht-Luxemburg 2016: Zehntausende beim Gedenken und 14.000 auf der Demonstration".

Further reading