|Leader(s)|| Karl Liebknecht,|
|Foundation||4 August 1914|
|Dissolved||15 January 1919|
|Split from||Social Democratic Party|
|Succeeded by||Communist Party of Germany|
|Ideology|| Communism |
|Notable attacks||Spartacist uprising|
The Spartacus League (German : Spartakusbund) 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.
German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.
Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
Spartacus was a Thracian gladiator who, along with the Gauls Crixus, Gannicus, Castus, and Oenomaus, was one of the escaped slave leaders in the Third Servile War, a major slave uprising against the Roman Republic. Little is known about Spartacus beyond the events of the war, and surviving historical accounts are sometimes contradictory and may not always be reliable. However, all sources agree that he was a former gladiator and an accomplished military leader.
Liebknecht (the son of SPD founder Wilhelm Liebknecht) and Luxemburg became prominent members of the left-wing faction of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). They moved to found an independent organization after the SPD supported Imperial Germany's declaration of war on the Russian Empire in 1914 at the start of World War I. Besides their opposition to what they saw as an imperialist war, Luxemburg and Liebknecht maintained the need for revolutionary methods, in contrast to the leadership of the SPD, who participated in the parliamentary process. The two were imprisoned from 1916 until 1918 for their roles in helping to organize a public demonstration in Berlin against German involvement in the war.
Wilhelm Martin Philipp Christian Ludwig Liebknecht was a German socialist and one of the principal founders of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). His political career was a pioneering project combining Marxist revolutionary theory with practical legal political activity. Under his leadership, the SPD grew from a tiny sect to become Germany's largest political party. He was the father of Karl Liebknecht and Theodor Liebknecht.
The Social Democratic Party of Germany is a social-democratic political party in Germany.
The Russian Empire, also known as Imperial Russia or simply Russia, was an empire that existed across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.
After two years of war, opposition to the official party line grew inside the SPD. More and more members of parliament refused to vote for war bonds and were expelled, which ultimately led to the formation of the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD). The Spartacus League was part of the USPD in its formation period.
War bonds are debt securities issued by a government to finance military operations and other expenditure in times of war. In practice, modern governments finance war by putting additional money into circulation, and the function of the bonds is to remove money from circulation and help to control inflation. War bonds are either retail bonds marketed directly to the public or wholesale bonds traded on a stock market. Exhortations to buy war bonds are often accompanied by appeals to patriotism and conscience. Retail war bonds, like other retail bonds, tend to have a yield which is below that offered by the market and are often made available in a wide range of denominations to make them affordable for all citizens.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Spartacus League began agitating for a similar course: a government based on local workers' councils, in Germany. After the abdication of the Kaiser in the German Revolution of November 1918, a period of instability began, which lasted until 1923. On 9 November 1918, from a balcony of the Kaiser's Berliner Stadtschloss, Liebknecht declared Germany a "Free Socialist Republic". However, earlier on the same night, Philipp Scheidemann of the SPD had declared a republic from the Reichstag.
Kaiser is the German word for "emperor". Like the Bulgarian, Serbian and Russian Tsar it is directly derived from the Roman emperors' title of Caesar, which in turn is derived from the personal name of a branch of the gens (clan) Julia, to which Gaius Julius Caesar, the forebear of the first imperial family, belonged. Although the British monarchs styled "Emperor of India" were also called "Kaisar-i-Hind" in Hindi and Urdu, this word, although ultimately sharing the same Latin origin, is derived from the Greek: Καῖσαρ (kaisar), not the German Kaiser.
Philipp Heinrich Scheidemann was a German politician of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). On 9 November 1918, in the midst of the German Revolution of 1918–1919, he proclaimed Germany a republic. Later, beginning in the early part of the following year, he became the second head of government of the Weimar Republic, acting in this post for 127 days.
In December 1918, the Spartakusbund formally renamed itself the Communist Party of Germany (KPD).In January 1919, the KPD, along with the Independent Socialists, launched the Spartacist uprising. This included staging massive street demonstrations intended to destabilize the Weimar government, led by the centrists of the SPD under Chancellor Friedrich Ebert. The government accused the opposition of planning a general strike and communist revolution in Berlin. With the aid of the Freikorps (Free corps), Ebert's administration quickly crushed the uprising. Luxemburg and Liebknecht were taken prisoner and killed in custody.
The Communist Party of Germany was a major political party in Germany between 1918 and 1933, and a minor party in West Germany in the postwar period until it was banned in 1956.
The Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany was a short-lived political party in Germany during the German Empire and the Weimar Republic. The organization was established in 1917 as the result of a split of left wing members of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). The organization attempted to chart a centrist course between electorally oriented revisionism on the one hand and bolshevism on the other. The organization was terminated in 1931 through merger with the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (SAPD).
The Spartacist uprising, also known as the January uprising (Januaraufstand), was a general strike in Berlin from 5 to 12 January 1919. Germany was in the middle of a post-war revolution, and two of the perceived paths forward were either social democracy or a council republic similar to the one which had been established by the Bolsheviks in Russia. The uprising was primarily a power struggle between the moderate Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) led by Friedrich Ebert, and the radical communists of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, who had previously founded and led the Spartacist League (Spartakusbund).
An excerpt from the Spartacist Manifesto (published in 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, 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.
Democracy is a system of government where the citizens exercise power by voting. In a direct democracy, the citizens as a whole form a governing body and vote directly on each issue. In a representative democracy the citizens elect representatives from among themselves. These representatives meet to form a governing body, such as a legislature. In a constitutional democracy the powers of the majority are exercised within the framework of a representative democracy, but the constitution limits the majority and protects the minority, usually through the enjoyment by all of certain individual rights, e.g. freedom of speech, or freedom of association. "Rule of the majority" is sometimes referred to as democracy. Democracy is a system of processing conflicts in which outcomes depend on what participants do, but no single force controls what occurs and its outcomes.
A dictatorship is an authoritarian form of government, characterized by a single leader or group of leaders with either no party or a weak party, little mass mobilization, and limited political pluralism. According to other definitions, democracies are regimes in which "those who govern are selected through contested elections"; therefore dictatorships are "not democracies". With the advent of the 19th and 20th centuries, dictatorships and constitutional democracies emerged as the world's two major forms of government, gradually eliminating monarchies, one of the traditional widespread forms of government of the time. Typically, in a dictatorial regime, the leader of the country is identified with the title of dictator, although their formal title may more closely resemble something similar to "leader". A common aspect that characterized dictators is taking advantage of their strong personality, usually by suppressing freedom of thought and speech of the masses, in order to maintain complete political and social supremacy and stability. Dictatorships and totalitarian societies generally employ political propaganda to decrease the influence of proponents of alternative governing systems.
Democratic socialism is a political philosophy that advocates political democracy alongside social ownership of the means of production with an emphasis on self-management and democratic management of economic institutions within a market or some form of decentralized planned socialist economy.
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. She was, successively, 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).
Ernst Thälmann was the leader of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) during much of the Weimar Republic. He was arrested by the Gestapo in 1933 and held in solitary confinement for eleven years, before being shot in Buchenwald on Adolf Hitler's personal orders in 1944.
The German Revolution or November Revolution was a civil conflict in the German Empire at the end of the First World War that resulted in the replacement of the German federal constitutional monarchy with a democratic parliamentary republic that later became known as the Weimar Republic. The revolutionary period lasted from November 1918 until the adoption in August 1919 of the Weimar Constitution.
Leon "Leo" Jogiches, also commonly known by the party name Jan Tyszka, was a Marxist revolutionary active in Poland, Lithuania and Germany.
The Communist Workers' Party of Germany was an anti-parliamentarian and left communist party that was active in Germany during the time of the Weimar Republic. It was founded in April 1920 in Heidelberg as a split from the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). Originally the party remained a "sympathising member of Communist International." In 1922 the KAPD split into two factions, both of whom kept the name but are referred to as the KAPD Essen Faction and the KAPD Berlin Faction.
Paul Levi was a German Communist and Social Democratic political leader. He was the head of the Communist Party of Germany following the assassination of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in 1919. After being expelled for publicly criticising Communist Party tactics during the March Action, he formed the Communist Working Organisation which in 1922 merged with the Independent Social Democratic Party. This party, in turn, merged with the Social Democratic Party a few months later and Levi became one of the leaders of its left wing.
Die Rote Fahne is a German newspaper originally founded in 1876 by Socialist Worker's party leader Wilhelm Hasselmann, and which has been since published on and off, at times underground, by German Socialists and Communists. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg famously published it in 1918 as organ of the Spartacus League.
Richard Müller was a German socialist and historian. Trained as a lathe-operator Müller later became an industrial unionist and organizer of mass-strikes against World War I. In 1918 he was a leading figure of the council movement in the German Revolution. In the 1920s he wrote a three-volume history of the German Revolution.
Ernst Meyer was a German Communist political activist and politician. He is best remembered as a founding member and top leader of the Communist Party of Germany and as the leader of that party's fraction in the Prussian Landtag. A political opponent of Ernst Thälmann, Meyer was moved out of the top party leadership after 1928, not long before his death of tuberculosis-related pneumonia at the age of 43.
During the First World War (1914–1918), the Revolutionary Stewards were shop stewards who were independent from the official unions and freely chosen by workers in various German industries. They rejected the war policies of the German Empire and the support which parliamentary representatives of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) gave to these policies. They also played a role during the German Revolution of 1918–19.
Karl Paul August Friedrich Liebknecht was a German socialist, originally in the Social Democrat (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 Social Democrat government and the Freikorps. Liebknecht and Luxemburg were executed.
Johann Knief was a german communist editor and politician from Bremen.
Rosa Luxemburg was a Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist and revolutionary socialist. In 1915, after the Social Democratic Party of Germany supported German involvement in World War I, she and Karl Liebknecht co-founded the anti-war Spartakusbund, which eventually became the Communist Party of Germany (KPD).
Georg Ledebour was a German socialist journalist and politician.
International Communists of Germany was a Communist political grouping founded in November 1918 during the German Revolution. The small party was, together with the better known Spartacist Group, one of the constituent organizations that joined to form the Communist Party of Germany in 1918.
Mathilde Jacob was a German typist and translator who during the First World War became politically involved, working with the anti-war Spartacus League and as a founder member of the German Communist Party. She came to politics through her work for Rosa Luxemburg whose friend and close confidant she became. Although Mathilde Jacob continued to be politically engaged in the 1920s, her greater contribution to history comes from her having smuggled Luxemburg's letters and documents out of Luxemburg's prison cell during her friend's various incarcerations during the 1914–1918 war. She then preserved much of Luxemburg's written legacy after the latter's murder.
The Bremen Soviet Republic was an unrecognised, short-lived state, existing for 25 days in 1919. It consisted of the state of Bremen, Germany. The republic was established amid the German Revolution.
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