“The Beginning” (an excerpt)

Against the Current, No. 200, May/June 2019

Rosa Luxemburg

THE REVOLUTION HAS begun. What is called for now is not jubilation at what has been accomplished, not triumph over the beaten foe, but the strictest self-criticism and iron concentration of energy in order to continue the work we have begun. For our accomplishments are small and the foe has not been beaten.

What has been achieved? The monarchy has been swept away, supreme governing power has been transferred into the hands of the workers’ and soldiers’ representatives. But the monarchy was never the real enemy; it was only a facade, the frontispiece of imperialism. It was not the Hohenzollerns who unleashed the world war, set the four corners of the globe afire, and brought Germany to the brink of the abyss….The imperialist bourgeoisie, the rule of the capitalist class — this is the criminal who must be held accountable for the genocide.

The abolition of the rule of capitalism, the realization of the social order of socialism — this and nothing less is the historical theme of the present revolution. This is a huge work which cannot be completed in the twinkling of an eye by a few decrees from above; it can be born only of the conscious action of the mass of workers in the cities and in the country, and brought successfully through the maze of difficulties only by the highest intellectual maturity and unflagging idealism of the masses of the people.

The path of the revolution follows clearly from its ends, its method follows from its task. All power in the hands of the working masses, in the hands of the workers’ and soldiers’ councils, protection of the work of revolution against its lurking enemies — this is the guiding principle of all measures to be taken by the revolutionary government.

Every step, every act by the government must, like a compass, point in this direction:

• re-election and improvement of the local workers’ and soldiers’ councils so that the first chaotic and impulsive gestures of their formation are replaced by a conscious process of understanding the goals, tasks and methods of the revolution;

• regularly scheduled meetings of these representatives of the masses and the transfer of real political power from the small committee of the Executive Council into the broader basis of the W. and S. [workers’ and soldiers’] councils;

• immediate convocation of the national council of workers and soldiers in order to establish the proletariat of all Germany as a class, as a compact political power, and to make them the bulwark and impetus of the revolution;

• immediate organization not of the “farmers,” but of the agrarian proletariat and smallholders who, as a class, have until now been outside the revolution;

• formation of a proletarian Red Guard for the permanent protection of the revolution, and training of a workers’ militia in order to prepare the whole proletariat to be on guard and all times;

• suppression of the old organs of administration, justice and army of the absolutist militarist police State;

• immediate confiscation of the dynastic property and possessions and of landed property as initial temporary measures to guarantee the people’s food supply, since hunger is the most dangerous ally of the counter-revolution;

• immediate convocation of the World Labour Congress in Germany in order to emphasize clearly and distinctly the socialist and international character of the revolution, for only in the International, in the world revolution of the proletariat, is the future of the German revolution anchored.

We have mentioned only the first necessary steps. What is the  present revolutionary government doing? It is leaving the administrative organs of the State intact from top to bottom, in the hands of yesterday’s pillars of Hoherzollern absolutism and tomorrow’s tools of the counter-revolution….

If the counter-revolution is not to gain the upper hand all along the line, the masses must be on their guard. [T]he realization of the ultimate goal of socialism is on today’s agenda of world history. The German revolution has now hit upon the path illuminated by this star. Step by step, through storm and stress, through battle and torment and misery and victory, it will reach its goal. It must!

May-June 2019, ATC 200