A Spartacan Manifesto

A Spartacan Manifesto

Shortly after the murders of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, The Nation published the manifesto of the German Spartacists, a group the pair co-founded to incite a Marxist revolution.


Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, founders of the Spartacus League, were brutally murdered by proto-fascists on January 15, 1919. Two months after their deaths, The Nation’s new International Relations Section published the full text of what it called their “Spartacan Manifesto”:


The manifesto of the Spartacus group in Germany to the working class of the world issued in the early days of the revolution was published in Switzerland and later in the Populaire (Paris) of January 11, from which the following is taken. According to an article in the Populaire of January 10, printed in the last issue of the International Relations Section, the manifesto was previously suppressed by the French censor. Of the four signers of the manifesto two, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, have been murdered, and Franz Mehring has died.


COMRADES: The Revolution has reached Germany. The soldier masses who four years were driven to the shambles by the profiteering capitalists, the working-class masses who during the same four years were deceived, oppressed, starved, have risen in revolt. Prussian militarism, that terrible instrument of oppression, that scourge of humanity, has been overthrown. Its most prominent representatives, and consequently those par excellence responsible for this war, the Emperor and the Crown Prince, have fled. Soldiers’ and workmen’s councils are being formed everywhere.

Proletarians of all countries, we do not say that in Germany all power is actually in the hands of the working people, or that complete victory for the Proletarian revolution has been obtained. Those Socialists who in August, 1914, abandoned our most sacred principle, and who during four years have betrayed the German working class and the Internationale at the same time, are still a part of the Government. But the real German working class speaks to you now, fellow proletarians. We believe we have the right to speak to you in the name of the real working class of Germany. In order to live up to our international duties we have been compelled from the first days of this war to combat with all our power this criminal Government and scourge it as the party actually guilty of precipitating the war.

At last we are justified before history, before the Internationale, and before the German proletariat. The masses enthusiastically admit that we are right, and larger and larger fractions recognize that the time has come for an accounting with the dominant capitalist class. But the German proletariat cannot alone complete this great work; it cannot wage the struggle and win the victory without appealing to the solidarity of the working class of the entire world.

Comrades of the belligerent countries, we know your situation. We know full well that your Governments, now that they have won the victory, will undertake by the outward splendor and glory of that victory to dazzle and blind at birth the popular movements of the people toward liberty. We know that they will make use of the victory to make the people forget the causes and objects of this wholesale murder.

But we also know another thing, and that is that the working classes of your countries have suffered terribly in flesh and blood; they are tired of this horrible carnage; they are now returning to their homes where they will find nothing but misery and poverty, while fortunes reaching hundreds of millions have accumulated in the hands of the capitalists. These workers understand now that the war was carried on by their Governments, as well as by our Government, in the interest of the money lords. And they will recognize, moreover, that their Governments in speaking of the “rights of civilization,” of the “defense of small nations,” speak, as our Government spoke, in the interest of capitalist profits. The working classes of your countries understand that the “peace of justice” and of the “society of nations” leads to the same despicable and cowardly rapacity as did the peace of Brest-Litovsk. Here as there the same immodest greed, the same desire to oppress, the same determination to exploit to the utmost limit through the preponderant power of military strength.

Imperialism in every country does not know conciliation. It knows but one right, the right of capitalist profits. It speaks but one language, that of the sword. It uses but one method, violence. And when imperialists now talk of the “society of peoples,” of “disarmament,” of the “rights of small nations,” of “self-determination of peoples,” they utter nothing but the habitual and lying phrases of the dominant class, designed to lull to sleep the vigilance of the proletariat.

Workers of every country! This war should be the last war. We owe it to the 12,000,000 murdered victims, to our children, to humanity.

By this infamous murder of the peoples Europe is ruined. Twelve million dead bodies fill the horrible graves dug by imperialist crime. The flower of youth and the best manhood of the peoples have been mowed down. Productive forces without measure have been destroyed. Humanity has shed nearly all its blood through this slaughter without parallel in the history of the world. Conquerors as well as conquered stand on the brink of the precipice. The direst poverty and the stoppage of the mechanism of production are imminent, and epidemics and degeneration menace humanity.

The responsible criminals for this horrible anarchy and this unchained chaos are the dominant classes, and they are unable to rise above the work they have wrought. The brute of capitalism precipitated the hell of the world war. And now it can neither avert disorder nor establish genuine order nor assure to tortured humanity bread and work, peace and civilization, justice and liberty.

The peace and justice that the ruling classes are preparing are nothing but a new regime of brute violence, out of which the hydra of oppression, hatred, and new and bloody wars raise their thousand heads.

Socialism alone is capable of consummating the great work of a durable peace. Alone it can cure the thousand wounds of humanity and transform into flourishing gardens the fields of Europe trampled under foot by the horsemen of the apocalypse. Alone out of the general destruction it can multiply ten-fold the productive forces. It will awaken all the physical and moral forces of humanity, substituting hatred and discord fraternal solidarity and concord and respect for all human beings.

If the representatives of the working people of every country clasp hands with us under the banner of Socialism to conclude peace, peace will be concluded within a few hours. Then there will be no disputes over the left bank of the Rhine, nor over Mesopotamia, nor over Egypt and the colonies. There will be but one people: the working class of every race and every language. There will be but one justice: the equality of all men. There will be but one aim: prosperity and progress for every one.

Humanity is faced with the following alternative: dissolution and disappearance in capitalist anarchy rebirth by the social revolution. The hour for decision has struck. If you believe in Socialism, it is time to demonstrate it by action. If you are a Socialist, you must act now.

Workers of all countries! If we summon you now to make common cause with us, it is not in the interests of the German capitalists, who, under the banner of the “German nation,” are trying to escape the consequences of their own crime. No! summon you to make common cause with us in your own interest. Face the facts. Your victorious capitalists are ready to repress in a bloody manner the revolution in Germany because they fear it will reach them. You, yourselves, are not enjoying greater liberty because of the “victory.” The “victory” has reinforced your slavery. If your ruling classes succeed in strangling the proletarian revolution in Germany and in Russia, then they will turn upon you with redoubled fury. Your capitalists hope that victory over us and revolutionary Russia will give them the power to scourge you and build upon the tomb of Socialism a thousand-year empire of exploitation.

That is why we cry aloud: Arise and face the struggle! Arise and act! The time for empty demonstrations, platonic resolutions, and sounding words has passed. The hour for action has struck for the Internationale. We pledge ourselves to name everywhere soldiers’ and workmen’s councils who will take over the political power and working together will establish peace.

Neither Lloyd George nor Poincaré, neither Sonnino nor Wilson, neither Erzberger nor Scheidemann should conclude peace. It is under the floating banner of the worldwide Socialist revolution that peace should be made.

Workers of all countries! We summon you to accomplish the task of socialist liberation, to restore a human form to violated humanity, and to give a living meaning to the phrase with which we formerly greeted each other and with which we bade each other goodbye:

“The Internationale will be mankind!” (“L’Internationale sera le genre humain!”)

Clara Zetkin
Rosa Luxemburg
Karl Liebknecht
Franz Mehring

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