Karl Liebknecht

Son of Wilhelm Liebknecht; founding leader of the Socialist Youth International in 1907; Left Wing German Social Democrat. Member of the German Reichstag and Prussian Landtag.

Leader of the German revolutionary labor movement, founder with Rosa Luxemburg of the German Communist Party, founder of the Communist Youth movement. Long before the First World War, he earned revolutionary renown by his struggle against militarism. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison for writing his pamphlet, Militarism and Anti-Militarism. Liebknecht’s name is a symbol of revolutionary internationalism and irreconcilable opposition to imperialist war.

He was the first, and only, Deputy to oppose war credits in the Reichstag in 1914. Drafted during the war, he was imprisoned (May 1916 to November 1918) for anti-war activity. and on August 3, 1914 he opposed voting for war credits at a session of the Social-Democratic parliamentary fraction; but under the pressure of party discipline he voted together with the entire party fraction at the Reichstag session on August 4, 1914. When the next vote was taken, on December 2, 1914, he was the only deputy who cast his vote against. But even before that, in October of the same year, he published, jointly with Rosa Luxemburg, Franz Mehring and Clara Zetkin, a statement against the official party position in the Swiss Social-Democratic press. In March 1915, when the Reichstag took a vote on war credits, 30 Social Democrats left the chambers and the only ones who voted against were Liebknecht and Otto Rühle. Leader of the International Group that opposed the war. In 1915 he began to organize the Spartacus Leagueand started the publication of the famous Spartacus Letters. When the Zimmerwald Conference convened, Liebknecht was drafted into the army and could not attend, but he forwarded a letter to this conference which closed with the following words: “Not civil peace, but civil war—that is our slogan.” On January 12, 1916 the Social-Democratic fraction expelled him from its ranks. On May Day 1916 he distributed anti-war leaflets in Potsdam Square in Berlin, was arrested and sentenced to hard labor. The victory of the Russian October found him in prison where he greeted the conquest of the Russian workers and peasants, and summoned the German workers to follow this great example. The November 1918 revolution in Germany freed him from prison, untying his hands for a direct struggle against the social-chauvinists and their centrist allies. Together with Rosa Luxemburg and Leo Jogiches (Tyshko) he organized the Communist Party of Germany which in December 1919 broke all connections with the Independent Social-Democratic Party, headed by Kautsky and Haase. As member of the revolutionary committee, he headed the uprising of the Berlin workers in January 1919. After this uprising was suppressed he was arrested by the Scheidemann government and on January 15, 1919 was assassinated together with and started the publication of the famous Spartacus Letters.

When the Zimmerwald Conference convened, Liebknecht was drafted into the army and could not attend, but he forwarded a letter to this conference which closed with the following words: “Not civil peace, but civil war—that is our slogan.” On January 12, 1916 the Social-Democratic fraction expelled him from its ranks. On May Day 1916 he distributed anti-war leaflets in Potsdam Square in Berlin, was arrested and sentenced to hard labor. The victory of the Russian October found him in prison where he greeted the conquest of the Russian workers and peasants, and summoned the German workers to follow this great example. The November 1918 revolution in Germany freed him from prison, untying his hands for a direct struggle against the social-chauvinists and their centrist allies. Together with Rosa Luxemburg and Leo Jogiches (Tyshko) he organized the Communist Party of Germany which in December 1919 broke all connections with the Independent Social-Democratic Party, headed by Kautsky and Haase. As member of the revolutionary committee, he headed the uprising of the Berlin workers in January 1919. After this uprising was suppressed he was arrested by the Scheidemann government and on January 15, 1919 was assassinated together with Rosa Luxemburg by a gang of German officers, covertly abetted by the Scheidemannists

«Karl Liebknecht called upon the workers and soldiers of Germany to turn their guns against their own government. Karl Liebknecht did that openly from the rostrum of parliament (the Reichstag). He then went to a demonstration in Potsdamer Platz, one of the largest public squares in Berlin, with illegally printed leaflets proclaiming the slogan «Down with the Government!» He was arrested and sentenced to hard labour. He is now serving his term in a German convict prison, like hundreds, if not thousands, of other true German socialists who have been imprisoned for their anti-war activities.

«Karl Liebknecht and his friend Otto Rühle, two out of one hundred and ten deputies, violated [the SD party] discipline, destroyed the «unity» with the «Centre» and the chauvinists, and went against all of them. Liebknecht alone represents socialism, the proletarian cause, the proletarian revolution. All the rest of German Social-Democracy, to quote the apt words of Rosa Luxemburg (also a member and one of the leaders of the Spartacus group), is a «stinking corpse.»

Vladimir Lenin
The Tasks of the Proletariat in our Revolution
Chpt. 10: The Situtation within the Socialist International

Fuentes:

https://www.marxists.org/glossary/people/l/i.htm#liebknecht