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Title: The Future Belongs to the People

Author: Karl Paul August Friedrich Liebknecht

Author of introduction, etc.: Walter E. Weyl

Translator: Savel Zimand

Release date: March 1, 2012 [eBook #39023]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Odessa Paige Turner, Martin Pettit and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team at
(This book was produced from scanned images of public
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MACMILLAN & CO., Limited


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"The Future Belongs
to the People"


(Speeches made since the beginning of the War)






New York
All rights reserved

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Copyright 1918
Set up and Electrotyped. Published, November 16, 1918


Press of J. J. Little & Ives Co., New York

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Preface by Walter E. Weyl 9
Introduction 14
The Man Liebknecht 21
The First Days 25
Liebknecht's Visit to Belgium 27
Did Not Cheer the Kaiser 29
Liebknecht Disapproves of the Majority Socialists of Germany 30
The Reichstag Meeting of Dec. 2, 1914 31
Liebknecht Condemned by His Party 34
A New Year's Greeting to England 36
Speech Delivered at the War Meeting of the Prussian Assembly, Mar. 2, 1915 40
In Defence of Rosa Luxemburg 53
Liebknecht Called to Army Service 61
Liebknecht Questions the Government 62
Liebknecht Expelled from Social Democratic Party 74
Reichstag Discussion about the Censorship 75
Justice in Germany in War Time 76
The Situation in Austria 98
Education in Germany in War Time 100
[Pg 6]Liebknecht Protests at Being Prevented from Discussing the Submarine Warfare 113
Reichstag Meeting of March 23, 1916 115
Liebknecht's Comments on the Imperial Chancellor's Speech, April 5, 1916 116
Reichstag Meeting, April 7, 1916 118
Liebknecht's Remarks on the German War Loan, Reichstag Meeting, April 8, 1916 123
Liebknecht's May Day Manifesto 126
Liebknecht's May Day 1916 Speech 128
Liebknecht's Reply to His Judges 137
Liebknecht's Trial and Release 143

[Pg 8]

"The aim of my life is the overthrow of monarchy. As my father, who appeared before this court exactly thirty-five years ago to defend himself against the charge of treason, was ultimately pronounced victor, so I believe the day is not far distant when the principles which I represent will be recognized as patriotic, as honorable, as true."

Karl Liebknecht.

[Pg 9]


The philosophy of Karl Liebknecht as revealed in these pages leaves but a narrow ledge for heroes to stand on. To him the significant thing in history is, and has always been, the stirring of the masses of men at the bottom, their unconscious writhings, their awakenings, their conscious struggles and finally their gigantic, fearsome upthrust, which overturns all the little groups of clever men who have lived by holding these masses down. In these conflicts, kings, priests, leaders, heroes count for no more than flags or flying pennants. All great leaders, Cæsar, Mahomet, Luther, Napoleon, are instruments of popular movements, or at best manuscripts upon which the messages of their class and age have been written.

To Liebknecht all that Carlyle has said about heroes is contrary to ideology and inversion of the truth. "As I take it," writes Carlyle, "Universal History, the history of what man has accomplished in this world, is at bottom the History of the Great Men who have worked there. They were the leaders of men, these great ones; the modellers, patterns, and in a wide sense creators, of whatsoever the general mass of men contrived to do or to attain; all things that we see standing and accomplished in the world are properly the outward material result, the [Pg 10]practical realization and embodiment of Thoughts that dwelt in the Great Men sent into the world: the soul of the whole world's history, it may justly be considered, were the history of these."

Look at what is happening in Germany to-day and test, as best we may, these two confronting theories concerning the influence of great men upon history. As I write Germany is in the throes of revolution. The immensely powerful Hohenzollern monarchy has fallen, the brave, stubborn, modern-witted, money-bolstered aristocracy is shattered, and a proscribed poor man, Karl Liebknecht, is loudly acclaimed. Was it one man, a Foch, a Wilson, a Lenin or a Liebknecht that overturned this mighty structure, or was it the movement of a hundred million men and women, armed and unarmed, on the battle-field and in the factory, in France and England and Russia and Germany? What could Liebknecht alone have done with all his ringing eloquence and all his superb, I almost said, sublime heroism? Clearly we must rule Carlyle out of the controversy and agree with Liebknecht, the Socialist, that Liebknecht, the hero, had little to do with this vast subversion.

Yet, as Carlyle says, "One comfort is, that Great Men, taken up in any way, are profitable company. We cannot look, however imperfectly, upon any great man, without gaining something by him."

At this safe distance no one could be more "profitable company" than Karl Liebknecht as he stands up boldly against all that is powerful, respectable and[Pg 11] formidable in Germany and challenges it at the utter risk of life and reputation. Such courage as his is almost inconceivable; for us poor conforming or at best feebly protesting little people it is quite impossible. To die among thousands, even to die alone, if you think you hear the plaudits of your nation or your class, is a thing many of us have learned to do, but to stand up against a vindictive irrational war spirit, such as ruled Germany, to stand up alone, to be contemned not only by your enemies but by those who called themselves your comrades and friends, to be met by polite derision and by actual threats of violence, to be called a madman, to be called a traitor, to be misunderstood and doubted; to be met in occasional moments of dejection even by doubts in your own mind, and still to hold your own bravely and with cool passion, day after day and day after day, in circumstances growing daily more difficult, and finally to go to prison gladly, triumphantly—that is courage surpassing the courage of the rest of us. It is easier to die even by torture than to persist in this opposition to forces physical and mental not only confronting but surrounding and even permeating us.

We have agreed with Liebknecht that great events are not the doings of great men but merely the large theater in which these great men play their little parts. And yet, does not the hero, subordinate as he is to the wider movement of the play, exert a somewhat stronger influence than many followers of Marx seem willing to admit? Masses of men are[Pg 12] moved to vital historic decisions in part by economic motives, but these motives must first be converted into emotion, and the hero, however his own actions are motived, is one of the vital factors producing that emotion. We shall perhaps never know to what extent the present rising of the German people against their once invincible rulers was occasioned, though not caused, by their vision of Karl Liebknecht, standing there alone against all the judges, rulers, legislators and respectables of Germany, and even against his fellow socialists. The heroism of Liebknecht was at least a point and center of coalescence.

The course of events has vindicated Karl Liebknecht. But it might well have been otherwise. Had Germany won the war and established a clanging pax Germanica through the ruin of Europe, Liebknecht's heroism might never have been recognized. He might have rusted in prison and been released to obscurity and thereafter lived a futile life derided as a blind fanatic. The force of circumstances, the obscure action of the hundreds of millions, rescued Liebknecht and raised him to the highest pinnacle of heroism. It stamped upon our minds for all time the picture of this brave man standing alone surrounded by cruel, confidently smiling foes.

I said "alone." Yet this is not fair to a very small group of German minority socialists, who stood by Liebknecht and by whom Liebknecht stood. Among them were Rosa Luxemburg, Franz Mehring, Hugo Haase, George Ledebour, and others, to whom,[Pg 13] were real heroism always decorated, would be given a higher order of "Pour le Mérite." But among all these Karl Liebknecht stands preëminent.

"And for all that mind you," concludes the French soldier Bertrand, in "Under Fire," "there is one figure that has risen above the war and will blaze with the beauty and strength of his courage."

Barbusse continues: "I listened leaning on a stick towards him, drinking in the voice that came in the twilight silence from the lips that so rarely spoke. He cried with a clear voice, 'Liebknecht.'"

Walter Weyl.

[Pg 14]


"The future belongs to the people." The time was October 24, 1918; the place, Berlin, the center of Germany; the speaker, Doctor Karl Liebknecht. A remarkable change had indeed come over the Empire. As far as the eye could reach, a great shouting, surging crowd had gathered before the Reichstag buildings, a crowd such as might have foregathered in times past on almost any day of national festivity, to do honor to his Imperial Majesty, Kaiser Wilhelm. They were indeed shouting frantically on this occasion, but with other sentiments, shouting not for the Kaiser, but for abdication, while applauding frantically for another, a bitter foe of the Kaiser, a man who had been sent to jail for high treason, had been deprived of his seat in the Reichstag, had been dubbed, even by those in his own party, an enemy of his kind—Karl Liebknecht. And who, witnessing the flower-laden carriage of the great popular hero, but would admit that a new day was at last dawning in that land of autocracy, a day ushered in by the guns and men of Foch?

The events leading to that ovation of the twenty-fourth of October are of interest.

From the earliest days of its organization, soon after the middle of the nineteenth century, the [Pg 15]German Social Democracy had taken a stand against militarism. During the Franco-Prussian War, two of its chief representatives, Wilhelm Liebknecht (the father of Karl Liebknecht) and August Bebel, had refused to vote for the war budget. In 1912, during the Balkan crisis, the German Socialists had attended in force the great gathering of the International Socialist Conference at Basle, protesting in vigorous tones against the war, and many there were on that occasion who declared that even if danger of world war had not been entirely eliminated, the Social Democrats of Germany, the strongest of the International movement, were prepared to meet any emergency that might arise. In the Reichstag elections, these Social Democrats had cast four and a quarter millions of votes, while the labor unions, which in Germany worked hand and hand with the Social-Democratic Party, numbered no less than two and a half millions. The Socialist movement had the support of hundreds of newspapers, possessed a strong and well-disciplined organization and large financial resources, and was remarkably rich in political experience. In efficiency of organization it ranked second only to the Catholic Church.

It was true that the German Social Democrats as yet had gained little real influence on the international policy of the Empire, and despite their powerful organization and their influence, they were in a position before the war to use only moral pressure on the government. Yet to many it seemed extremely unlikely that the German government would dare[Pg 16] instigate a world conflagration when opposed at home by this powerful "internal enemy."

The war came. Immediately after war's declaration, the Imperial Chancellor called a meeting of the Reichstag on August 5, 1914, for the purpose of approving the war budget. The day before this gathering was held, he called together the leaders of the various parties, so the story runs, among them the Social Democrats, and transmitted to them a confidential communication. He had from a reliable source, he declared, information that a secret understanding existed between the French and the Belgian governments whereby the latter government had agreed, in case of emergency, that it would give the French army passage through Belgium for the purpose of invading Germany. It was because of this agreement, the Chancellor declared, that the neutrality of Belgium had to be violated. In addition to this information, the Chancellor told the assembled legislators that the Russian army had invaded German soil and had even then overrun two of the Prussian provinces.

These statements produced the desired effect, convincing the majority of the Social Democratic leaders that their only course was to support the Kaiser and his government. The government knew how to fool them, knew what to use in order to get their support, and the Kaiser and his government were victorious.

Every cable message during those days that reached America from Germany emphasized the[Pg 17] thought that there were no longer any parties in Germany, that the Social Democrats had decided to give up their agitation and work only for victory. To many radicals in America who had pinned their faith to the internationalism of the German Social Democracy, these reports seemed well-nigh unbelievable. The Socialist leaders must have been put in jail, some argued.

Then more news came to confirm the reports, and the papers came, Socialist papers, and Socialist papers even of Germany, and all contained the same unbelievable truth. Some said then, "Well, the Government has taken over their papers and that is how this news can be explained." But fact after fact came out which made even the most doubtful admit that the cables had been based on truth. The strong and great structure built by a generation lay prostrate on the ground.

In those days of disillusion, I remember well a conversation among a few of us concerning the plight of the Social Democracy. "The German government knew their Socialists well, and knew how best to reach them," declared one of our group. "There is one man in Germany, however, whom we shouldn't despair of, even now. If he is still alive, I cannot but believe that he will soon raise his voice against the course pursued by the German government and by his own party, and show the world that even in the land of utter darkness there still shines one light."

Liebknecht's record was open. For a score of[Pg 18] years he had fought militarism tooth and nail. Could he now embrace it? Temporarily, it seemed that he had. He opposed the majority of his fellow-Socialists in the early days of August when they voted to support the war budget. But his efforts were unsuccessful. The majority decreed that the Social Democrats must support the war, and party discipline demanded that the minority abide by the decision of the majority. Party discipline was strong, at first too strong for Liebknecht. He yielded. Against his better judgment he voted, on August 5, for the budget. He voted, but he rebelled in spirit, and the next month, both at the home of a Socialist Alderman, F. M. Wibaut, of Amsterdam, and at the residence of Lieutenant Henry DeMan, in Brussels, he declared that he could not himself understand what had possessed him when he gave his vote in the Reichstag to the war budget.

He soon extricated himself from his former allegiances, however, and the noble spirit of courage which he afterwards displayed has but few precedents in modern history. In order to portray to the reader the real picture of the seemingly insurpassable obstacles against which he fought, and the courage and idealism which he displayed, I have collected and translated his speeches and his important utterances since the beginning of the war and here present them in detail for the first time to American readers.

Liebknecht had many opportunities for making himself heard. He was a Deputy of the Reichstag from Potsdam-Osthavelland, an assemblyman to the[Pg 19] Prussian Landtag from Berlin and Councilman to the Stadverordneten Versammlung of Berlin. Within and without these assemblies he used his pen and his voice alike. It was in the Prussian Assembly, where from the very beginning he had four companions who shared his point of view, that he delivered his longer addresses.

His tactics in the Reichstag, where for some time he stood almost alone, were somewhat different. Here, instead of delivering speeches, he used the question with telling effect, as a means of bringing out the truth on his side and of showing the emptiness of his opponents' claims. The government resorted to every conceivable means to silence him, but without success. Failing, they called him to military service, and put him in the uniform of a German soldier. This act put a temporary end to his outside public addresses, but he could still deliver his scathing indictments in the Reichstag and in the Prussian Assembly.

On May 1, 1916, he appeared at a public gathering in Berlin in civilian dress, and delivered the speech which sent him to jail. Why did he deliver that May Day address? Why did he not continue to reach the public over the heads of the legislators from his seats in the two Parliaments? It is indeed possible that he thought that the moment for the Revolution had struck. For it is an address of revolution, and seemed calculated to bring about an uprising of the workers. Perhaps he was under the impression that his addresses and the terrible [Pg 20]pressure outside Germany had sufficiently awakened the German people, and that they needed but a word to bring them into action. Whatever the reason, the speech was a magnificent one; it required a courage which only a Liebknecht possessed.

When Ralph Waldo Emerson visited Henry Thoreau in his prison cell and asked, "What are you doing here, Henry?" Thoreau replied, "What are you doing outside when all people with ideals are inside?" That sentence well describes the Germany of yesterday. Liebknecht was in prison, but even in his lonesome cell he still inspired the "gathering hosts and helped to make men free."

I wish to express my sincerest gratitude to my friends, Bertram Benedict and Dr. Wm. E. Bohn, for help and criticism.

S. Zimand.

November 3, 1918

[Pg 21]


Karl Liebknecht is a worthy son of a great sire. His father, Wilhelm Liebknecht, for years a member of the Reichstag, was the author of numerous pamphlets on Socialism and economics and was one of the first founders of the Socialist Party in Germany. Karl Liebknecht was born in Leipzig on August 13th, 1871, the same year in which his father was arrested on the charge of high treason. His mother was wont to say that she bequeathed to her son all the sorrow that was hers during that period, all the courage and all the strength which she had to summon to her aid to live through those days; and with her bequest went all the sorrow for the sufferings of humanity, and all the courage and the strength to battle for the cause of the people, which were back of the father's trial.

And thirty-five years later, Karl Liebknecht underwent the same ordeal as his father—himself faced the accusation of high treason in the highest courts of his native land.

Liebknecht studied first at Leipzig and then in Berlin, attending the university in each city. As a student he began his career of social enlightenment by organizing literary societies for the study of social problems. Liebknecht got his doctor's degree[Pg 22] in Political Economy and Law at the University of Würzburg. From 1889 he practised law in Berlin. Later he became active in the Socialist movement in Berlin. In 1902 he was elected Councilman to the Stadverordneten Versammlung (Common Council) of Berlin. In October, 1907, he was tried for high treason before the Imperial Court of Germany at Leipzig for his book on "Militarism." The substance of this book which aroused the ire of the German authorities was first set forth in a lecture before a group of young people in 1906, for it is Liebknecht's belief that in the hands of the younger generation of Germany lies the hope of salvation; let them be impregnated, he would say, with the right social ideals before militaristic training has an opportunity to do its work, and there will be little danger of domination by the war lords, or of the fruition of the war lords' aims.

His trial was most interesting. It was said upon excellent authority that the Kaiser himself was connected by secret wire with the court room. Liebknecht bore himself triumphantly throughout; there was never a moment of wavering, never any evidence of any quality contrary to the gigantic and fearless strength which characterizes the man. Liebknecht is himself a very able lawyer, and though he had noted lawyers to represent him (including Hugo Haase, at present a leader of the Minority Socialist Party in the Reichstag), he supplemented their speeches with additional analyses of his own.

Liebknecht took up the question, "What is high[Pg 23] treason?" He turned the tables upon Olshausen, who was conducting the trial against him, by a quotation from a work of Olshausen himself which contradicted the stand the latter was taking in the Liebknecht trial. The Socialist leader's address to the judges was one of the boldest attacks ever made, either up to that time or up to the present, against German militarism. "The aim of my life," he declared, "is the overthrow of monarchy. As my father, who appeared before this court exactly thirty-five years ago to defend himself against the charge of treason, was ultimately pronounced victor, so I believe the day is not far distant when the principles which I represent will be recognized as patriotic, as honorable, as true."

Liebknecht's brave stand on this occasion was rewarded by a sentence of a year and a half in a military prison. While serving his sentence he was elected by the people of Berlin to represent them in the assembly of Prussia. In the Landtag Liebknecht recommenced his fight against militarism. It was there that he prophetically pronounced the word "Republic" for the first time. On one occasion there was a debate upon the building of a new opera house. "The opera house for which we are asked to vote the necessary funds," he exclaimed, "should last for many generations. We trust that it will last long after it has lost its character as a Royal Opera House."

In 1910 Liebknecht visited America to give a series of lectures, and the United States made a[Pg 24] strong impression upon him. He used to tell me that he felt truly homesick for America and had a genuine desire to repeat the visit.

In 1912 he was elected representative to the Reichstag by the people of Potsdam-Osthavelland, under the very window of the Kaiser. The announcement of his success was met with wild demonstrations of delight. The sentiments of the surging crowds before the office of the Berlin Vorwärts when the result of the election was made public were voiced by a young workingman, when he exclaimed, "The new voice of freedom will be heard from now on in the Reichstag." In the Reichstag Liebknecht hurled with renewed zeal his invectives against the huge armaments and militarism of Germany.

Liebknecht the man is of the kindest nature and frankest personality. There is to be seen in his make-up no grain of pretentiousness, of false pride—indeed, he usually lunches quite happily upon a sandwich in the train, too busy to find any other time for his meal. His home life is ideal. His present wife—his first died in 1912—is a Russian by birth, a graduate of the University of Heidelberg, and an ideal companion and helpmate.

[Pg 25]


On August 3rd and 4th, 1914, the Social-Democratic members of the Reichstag called a special meeting in order to decide what stand the party should take on the War.

At the first vote taken, ninety-four members were for voting for the budget and only fourteen against. At the last there were only three who held out to the end—Liebknecht, Ledebour, and Haase.

The officials of the party tried to give the impression that there were no differences of opinion in the party, but Liebknecht wrote the following letter, which was published in the Bürger Zeitung, Bremen, September 18, 1914.

"I understand that several members of the Socialist Party have written all manner of statements to the press with regard to the deliberations of the Socialist Party in the Reichstag on August 3rd and 4th.

"According to these reports, there were no serious differences of opinion in our party in regard to the political situation and our own position, and decisions to assent to war credits are alleged to have been arrived at unanimously. In order to prevent the dissemination of an inadmissible fiction I feel it to be my duty to put on record the fact that the issues [Pg 26]involved gave rise to diametrically opposite views within our party parliament, and these opposing views found expression with a violence hitherto unknown in our deliberations.

"It is also entirely untrue to say that assent to the war credits was given unanimously."

[Pg 27]


On September 16th, 1914, Liebknecht went to Belgium to inform himself about the situation, and here is what Camille Huysmans, the secretary of the International Socialist Bureau, writes about Liebknecht's visit to Belgium:


To P. Renaudel, Editor of L'Humanité.

"My dear Renaudel,—Liebknecht came to Belgium on September 16th, 1914. He met several friends, and he came to see me at Brussels, at the Maison du Peuple, in the afternoon. I asked him into my office and we had a conversation which lasted more than two hours. I took him to dinner at a restaurant in the town, and we again talked at length. I invited other friends to meet him, among them our comrade Vandersmirsen. The next morning we went out in two motor cars. We passed through several districts. We tried to see Louvain, but the military authorities would not allow us to do so.

"At Tirlemont, through the mistake of an officer, we were caught in some shrapnel fire, and we had to remain through the engagement. I showed Liebknecht what actually took place. He questioned the[Pg 28] Belgians. He talked with the German soldiers. He was thus able to form his own opinion on the spot.

"To sum up: Liebknecht, when he came, knew nothing of what had happened in Belgium. He went away convinced that the Belgians had not been sold to Great Britain, that they had not organized bands of francs-tireurs, that they had not assassinated the German wounded, and that the German executions in Belgium were unjustifiable.

"He came to Belgium honorably and honestly to gain information. Anything else is calumny. Those Belgians who regarded the reception by me of a German as an act of treason grasped him effusively by the hand when they learned that he came to find out and to speak the truth.


"Camille Huysmans."

[Pg 29]


Berlin, October 24, 1914.

Editor, Berliner Tageblatt.

Dear Sir:

In your report of the meeting of the Prussian Assembly on the 22nd of the month you say that during the reading by Dr. Delbrück of the greetings of the Kaiser the whole house stood (that means, the Social-Democrats also). That does not correspond with the truth. The Social-Democratic members of the Assembly, who were in their places, remained seated.

With reference to the closing speech of the President your report reads that the whole House applauded and took part in the cheers for the Kaiser. That also is not true. Five members (Hofer, Adolf Hoffmann, Paul Hoffmann, Liebknecht and Ströbel,—S. Z.) of the Social-Democratic representation in the Landtag (that means half) left the room when this speech of the President was delivered.

I would ask you to print the above correction according to paragraph II of the Press Law.


Karl Liebknecht.

[Pg 30]


The Swiss Socialist paper Volksrecht published in November, 1914, the following statement, signed by Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Franz Mehring and Clara Zetkin.

"In the Socialist press of the neutral countries of Sweden, Italy and Switzerland, Comrades Dr. Suedekum and Richard Fischer have attempted to portray the attitude of the German Social-Democrats towards the present War in the light of their own ideas. We feel ourselves forced therefore to explain through the same mediums that we, and certainly many other German Social-Democrats, look on the War, its causes and its character, as well as on the rôle of the Social-Democrats at the present time, from a standpoint which in no way corresponds to that of Dr. Suedekum and Herr Fischer. At the present time the state of martial law makes it impossible for us to give public expression to our views."

[Pg 31]


At the second War Session of the Reichstag, Dec. 2, 1914, Karl Liebknecht not only voted against the War Budget—the only member of the Reichstag so to vote—but also handed in an explanation of his vote, which the President of the Reichstag refused to allow to be read, nor was it printed in the Parliamentary report. The President banned it on the pretext that it would entail calls to order. The document was sent to the German Press, but not one paper published it.

The full text of the protest was received by way of Switzerland. It runs as follows:

"My vote against the War Credit Bill of to-day is based on the following considerations. This War, desired by none of the people concerned, has not broken out in behalf of the welfare of the German people or any other. It is an Imperialist War, a war over important territories of exploitation for capitalists and financiers. From the point of view of rivalry in armaments, it is a war provoked by the German and Austrian war parties together, in the obscurity of semi-feudalism and of secret diplomacy, to gain an advantage over their opponents. At the[Pg 32] same time the war is a Bonapartist effort to disrupt and split the growing movement of the working class.

"The German cry: 'Against Czarism!' is invented for the occasion—just as the present British and French watchwords are invented—to exploit the noblest inclinations and the revolutionary traditions and ideals of the people in stirring up hatred of other peoples.

"Germany, the accomplice of Czarism, the model of reaction until this very day, has no standing as the liberator of the peoples. The liberation of both the Russian and the German people must be their own work.

"The war is no war of German defense. Its historical basis and its course at the start make unacceptable the pretense of the capitalist government that the purpose for which it demands credits is the defense of the Fatherland.

"A speedy peace, a peace without conquests, this is what we must demand. Every effort in this direction must be supported. Only by strengthening jointly and continuously the currents in all the belligerent countries which have such a peace as their object can this bloody slaughter be brought to an end.

"Only a peace based upon the international solidarity of the working class and on the liberty of all the peoples can be a lasting peace. Therefore, it is the duty of the proletariats of all countries to carry on during the war a common Socialistic work in favor of peace.

"I support the relief credits with this reservation:[Pg 33] I vote willingly for everything which may relieve the hard fate of our brothers on the battlefield as well as that of the wounded and sick, for whom I feel the deepest compassion. But as a protest against the war, against those who are responsible for it and who have caused it, against those who direct it, against the capitalist purposes for which it is being used, against plans of annexation, against the violation of the neutrality of Belgium and Luxemburg, against unlimited rule of martial law, against the total oblivion of social and political duties of which the Government and classes are still guilty, I vote against the war credits demanded.

Karl Liebknecht.

Berlin, December 2, 1914."

[Pg 34]


In December, 1914, the Social-Democratic representation of the Reichstag censured Karl Liebknecht for voting "No" in the open meeting of the Reichstag.

At a meeting on February 2, 1915, the Reichstag Socialists adopted a resolution condemning his stand and repudiating alleged misleading information he had spread about the Party. To this Liebknecht answered in the Vorwärts of February 5, 1915, as follows:

Berlin, February 5, 1915.

Editor Vorwärts,

Dear Comrade:—

Concerning the resolution adopted by the Social-Democratic Deputies of the Reichstag I wish to remark: (1) I voted against the war credits because the vote for the war credits is in my opinion in sharp contradiction not only to the interests of the proletariat, but also to the resolutions of the Social-Democratic Party and of the International Socialist Convention. And the Social-Democratic Deputies[Pg 35] in the Reichstag are not justified in recommending a violation of the Program and party decisions.

In a letter of Dec. 3, 1914, addressed to the Chairman of the Social-Democratic Deputies of the Reichstag I made my stand clear.

(2) Misleading information about the Party I have not given out. The Social-Democratic Deputies in the Reichstag, who are not the proper authorities for such decisions, voted down my motion to postpone making any decision on this point until a thorough discussion had taken place.

Karl Liebknecht.

[Pg 36]


I am pleased to be able to write a message of brotherhood to British Socialists at a time when the ruling classes of Germany and Great Britain are trying by all means in their power to incite bloodthirsty hatred between the two peoples. But it is painful for me to write these lines at a time when our radiant hope of previous days—the Socialist International—lies destroyed on the ground with a thousand expectations, when even many Socialists in the belligerent countries—for Germany is not an exception—have in this most rapacious of all wars of robbery willingly put on the yoke of the chariot of Imperialism, just when the evils of capitalism were becoming more apparent than ever. I am, however, particularly proud and happy to send my greetings to you, to the British Independent Labour Party, who, with our Russian and Servian comrades, have saved the honor of Socialism amidst the madness of national slaughter.

Confusion reigns among the rank and file of the Socialist Army and many blame Socialist principles for our present failure. It is not our principles which have failed, however, but the representatives of those principles. It is not a question of changing our principles, it is a question of applying them to life, of carrying them into action.

[Pg 37]

All the phrases of "national defense" and the "liberation of the people" with which Imperialism decorates its instruments of murder are but deceiving tinsel. Each Socialist Party has its enemy, the common enemy of the International, in its own country. There it has to fight it. The liberation of each nation must be its own work.

Only blindness can order the continuation of the slaughter until the "enemy" is crushed. The well-being of all nations is inseparably connected; the struggle of the organized working class can only be carried out internationally.

Those who are seven times wise and whose weak souls are easily carried away by the whirls of diplomatic winds and lost in the gulfs of jingoism, say that the labor movement will no longer be international.

The world war which has smashed the International must, however, be realized as a powerful sermon making clear the need for a new International, an International of another kind, with a different force from that which the capitalist powers so easily scattered on August 4, 1914.

Only in the coöperation of the working masses of all countries, in times of war as in times of peace, does the salvation of humanity lie. Nowhere have the masses desired this war. Nowhere do they desire it. Why should they, then, with a loathing for war in their hearts, murder each other to the finish? It would be a sign of weakness, it is said, for any one people to suggest peace; well, let all the[Pg 38] people suggest it together. The nation which speaks first will not show weakness but strength. It will win the glory and gratitude of posterity. It is the duty of every Socialist at the present time to be a prophet of international brotherhood, realizing that every word he speaks in favor of socialism and peace, every action he performs for these ideals enflame similar words and actions in other countries, until the flames of the desire for peace shall flare high over all Europe. The example which you and our Russian and Servian comrades have given to the world will have an emulating effect wherever Socialists have been ensnared by the designs of the ruling classes, and I am sure the mass of the British workers will soon rally to the International Labor Party. Already among the German workers there is far greater opposition to the war than is generally supposed, and the louder the echo of the cry for peace in other countries the more vehemently and energetically will they work for peace here. Thus shall the working classes of all the belligerent countries become conscious of the necessity to fight for a peace consistent with the principles of Socialism, a peace without conquest and without humiliation, a peace based not on hatred but on fraternity, not on force but on freedom, a peace which, because of its justice, may be everlasting. In this way, even during the war, the International can be revived and can atone for its previous mistakes. Thus it must revive, a different International, increased not only in numerical strength but in revolutionary fervor, in[Pg 39] clearness of vision and in preparedness to overcome the danger of absolutism, of secret diplomacy, and of capitalist conspiracies against peace.

Workers of the World, unite!

Unite in a war against war!

With Socialist greetings,

Karl Liebknecht.

Berlin, December, 1914.

[Pg 40]


The Censor forbade the printing of the following speech in Germany. It is a clear analysis of the franchise question. Dr. Liebknecht also blames the personal régime and rule of Bureaucracy for the War. According to the Vorwärts reports, when Liebknecht began to speak the Free Conservatives, most of the National Liberals and the Centrum left the chamber in a demonstrative manner.

Present: The Minister of the Interior: Discussion about the Prussian electoral reform, care for those disabled by war, and democratization of external politics.

Taking part in the discussion: Dr. Busse (Cons.), V. Papenheim (Cons.), Dr. v. Zedlitz and Neukirch (Free Cons.), v. Loebell (Secretary of Interior), Dr. Friedberg (Natl. Lib.), Cassel (Progressive People's Party), Dr. Liebknecht (Soc.-Dem.).


Dr. Liebknecht (Social-Democrat): Gentlemen, first I wish to protest against the fact that Russian workingmen are treated differently from the civilians of other enemy countries. Such differential [Pg 41]treatment cannot be justified—indeed, must be condemned as sharply as possible.

As to the care to be taken of those disabled by war, I can only support the heart-felt words which came from all parts of this house on this question and echoed in our hearts, that we demand action on this matter without delay and do everything possible to keep these unfortunate people from all need and misery. But I do not wish to mistake what experience teaches us—that we have every right to take words uttered in days such as we are passing through with a great deal of criticism and suspicion. On that account I would not like to throw all the words uttered to-day in the scales as solid weight. We will see if, in the future, deeds will follow.

The great zeal with which this all-important question, which arouses all human emotions, was discussed, has for me a special significance because these debates serve to hide the complete silence of the bourgeois parties on the decisive and important suffrage question. ("Very true" from the Soc.-Dem.)

Gentlemen, you can be assured that those who are in the field and the unfortunate invalids in the hospitals will be convinced that everything necessary is done in this important question only when we make it possible for them at the settlement of the question to be guaranteed necessary influence in legislation and administration. (Approval from the Soc.-Dem.) They will not rely on the good will of the ruling parties, and if the good words which were[Pg 42] spoken with relation to the care to be taken of the war invalids do not go hand in hand with willingness to give to the mass of the people more rights, to make possible a democratization of Prussia, then they preach to deaf ears even if the words sound so very friendly. ("Very true" from Soc.-Dem.)

Gentlemen, the 27th of February of this year will become a historical day for Prussia. It was a critical day. In the Budget Committee the Minister refused to give any assurance, even of a general nature, about a future suffrage reform; and to-day also we heard nothing about it. The Progressive Party expects, according to the speech delivered by Assemblyman Pachnicke, suffrage reform after the war; they expect at least the secret and the direct vote. The Centrum appeals to its "clear and unmovable" position on the suffrage question, which no one knows (Assemblyman Ströbel, Soc.-Dem., "Very good!"), and explains its present silence by the party truce. The National Liberals put the question of suffrage reform behind the task of winning the war. The Free Conservatives, through Frhr. v. Zedlitz, give a straightforward refusal, which Frhr. v. Zedlitz underlined three times last night in the Post. ("Very true" from the Free Conservatives.) I hear again a "Very true" from the midst of the Free Conservatives, and emphasize it again thus—according to them the war has brought out strong counter-reaction against any democratization and Frhr. v. Zedlitz must surely know it, because he warms himself behind the political stove.[Pg 43] He considers the discussion of the election reform as superfluous, a discussion which endangers the party truce and which over-balances the discussions about the Budget; and he scoffs at the idea about a general fraternization on the foundation of the introduction of the suffrage law for the Reichstag in Prussia. ("Hear! hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.) The German Conservative Party was silent and by its silence showed that it approved the provoking refusal of Frhr. v. Zedlitz. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) To-day also was this approval repeated in an unmistakable sense.

That clears the situation, gentlemen,—clears it delightfully. Clearness is especially necessary at this time. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) It never was so necessary as to-day, when the word "party truce" and the false conceptions of class harmonies, of unity and unanimity of the people and other beautiful descriptive words about a free German people of the future becloud many a mind. Gentlemen, we are glad that this fog was blown away. The naked truth is: In Prussia everything remains as it was before. Gentlemen, on October 22nd of last year our warning with reference to the election reform was received by this house partly with cold silence and partly with indignant murmur. It was astounding to the gentlemen that the representatives of the third class of Prussian helot voters dared, at this time, to raise the demand of the people. The government was silent then. On February 9th the same performance, and now the Committee's deliberations[Pg 44] and the debates of to-day which clarify the situation so well! Everything remains as it was before—that is the significance of the day for Prussia. From the papers we already knew that, gentlemen. Already in September, 1914, upon the victory of the German troops, so many swelled up as "German friends of the people." An apotheosis of Militarism, an apotheosis of Monarchism, an apotheosis of the three-class system of voting and of all "Prussian egotism" we found in the reactionary papers,—in the papers not only of the Conservative Parties but even in those of the so-called Liberal Parties. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

Gentlemen, in 1866 it was said: The schoolmaster, the Prussian schoolmaster was victorious. To-day it is said: the Prussian system of voting is victorious in this war or will be victorious in this war. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

What progress! It will be said, as it was said: The Prussian three-class system of voting was victorious over democracy,—by which Russia is naturally left out of consideration as a good friend of the past and surely as a good friend of the future. The conclusion will be drawn which was drawn in such an open way by Frhr. v. Zedlitz. But I should like to advise you in your own interests not to forget that if this war, especially in the first months, awakened a strong enthusiasm in the German people, you must thank above all the fact that it was to be against Czarism—against the Russian reaction,—("Very true!" from Soc.-Dem.), against barbarism, [Pg 45]unrighteousness; that it was thought to be a struggle for the freedom of Europe. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

And, gentlemen, do not forget the disastrous influence the backward conditions in Prussia and in Germany, which conditions were combated by us, had on the attitude of the Neutrals against Germany in this war! ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

Gentlemen, in spite of all the characteristic and true Prussian manifestations since the first months of the war, about which I just spoke, we had even up to now political dreamers. Gentlemen, those will now be enlightened about the situation, wherever they are, and that is of great value. The darkest pessimists were right in their prophecies. These debates have furnished water for our mills. The Conservative parties of this house stand with their old animosity against any democratization. From the Centrum nothing is to be hoped. The National Liberals provide a special chapter. Their ideal with respect to the electoral reform has been long similar to that of Frhr. v. Zedlitz, namely, not democratization, but future plutocratization of the electoral reform. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

So everything is as it was before! The National Liberals put out of their present thoughts the struggle for peoples' rights, because success is to them, as they say, more important. Gentlemen, that is explainable. These gentlemen know, in fact, for what this war is fought. For their electorate this war is such a tremendously important political and [Pg 46]economic business that the people's rights, bad or good, have to be retarded. Gentlemen, the mine fields of Briey and Longwy, the mine fields of West Poland, the colonies which promise important profits and some other nice things are really no bad investments for German capital. The people can wait. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) And Mr. Pachnicke, the boldest representative of democracy in the bourgeois parties of this house, is already satisfied in advance—sure enough, only for the present, as he says—with the secret and direct vote! But even the moderate optimism of Mr. Pachnicke and Mr. Cassel that a majority is available in this house with reference to that patch-work reform, was very roughly stripped of its mask in the Budget Commission by a conservative interruption. Even here everything shall be as it was before! And even for this patch-work reform Mr. Pachnicke wants to wait until after the war. Gentlemen, we are not so modest. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) We see all other classes in the war, and especially through the war, pursue unrestrained and without any compunction their class interests. We know that this war serves or will serve, if it will go according to the desire of the ruling class—the great capitalistic interests—the interest of the ruling classes in a particular way. Shall only the masses of the people wait until after the war? The technical restoration of the law is a trifle. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

Gentlemen, do we have any cause to postpone our[Pg 47] demand for democratization in a time of martial law, the press censorship, the suspension of the miserable right of assembly, in a time of the darkest reaction, including the spy system in Prussia under the name of Burgfrieden (civic truce) in a form of military dictatorship, celebrates its triumph, in a time when the people are more than ever without any rights, in a time when by the war not only the danger to all of the capitalistic economic order is made more striking than ever, but when political pressure lies harder than ever on the people. In such a time, there is no occasion for us to postpone our demands for democratization. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) Never did the class character of the present society of the Prussian state reveal itself so rude and unmasked as right now. Nor do we have any occasion to postpone our demands for democratization at a time when the dangerous reaction of the inner autocracy upon the external policy shows itself so awful and dangerous, at a time which is really clamoring for the democratization of exterior politics. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

Gentlemen, Mr. Assemblyman Dr. Pachnicke said the war has given new support to the demand for electoral reform. Frhr. v. Zedlitz shouted a shrill denial of these words. ("Hear! Hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.) A word which lighted up the situation as a lightning flash, a word for which I and my friends thank him, a word of redemption which can be a call of alarm for the further interior Prussian-German development. In fact, the war has[Pg 48] given new support, not to a patch-work reform in the sense of which Mr. Pachnicke speaks, but to a reform of the Prussian state in body and soul. I mean in equal franchise and administration from below up to the highest ranks. And that not only on account of the warlike attitude of the German people, as Mr. Pachnicke thought. From entirely different grounds. There never before appeared so clearly on the surface the glaring contrast between the heavy duties of the majority of the people and the privileged character of the state and the Administration, as in these days; the contrast between the equal duties as cannon fodder and the political inequalities in the state. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

And further, gentlemen, in half-absolutism, in secret diplomacy, in personal régime and all that, we see one of the most important immediate causes for the breaking out of this war, which of course is conditioned and made possible by international capitalism. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

Gentlemen, if the imperialistic endeavors of high capitalism brought about severe dangers to peace, there is needed more than ever control of the exterior politics by the masses of the people ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.), a control which is denied by the constitution and administration prevailing in Prussia and Germany to-day. I know that the democratization of the exterior policy in other states also, where the democratization of the interior policy has progressed, is much to be desired and our friends in England, our friends in France, to whom we stand[Pg 49] as near as ever before, as far as they are conducting Socialistic propaganda ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.), have raised the demand before and also now for greater democratization of international politics. Gentlemen, only democratization can erect a wall against imperialistic and adventurous politics. Gentlemen, the millions of victims who are butchered in this war, are butchered especially because the mass of the people were deprived of any rights in the countries concerned! ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) All of us, no matter how many differences of opinion may exist now in our small circle, are all agreed that the mass of the people did not want the war in any of the countries concerned. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) And if that is true, it follows that a democratic control of exterior politics carried out in all states would have prevented the war. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) From that follows the right and duty, especially now when Europe is buried in blood and murder, and sets on fire its culture and the flower of its humanity, to raise the demand for democratization of external politics, which can come only from democratic internal politics which can be nourished in the soil of a state democratic from head to foot. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

Gentlemen, I welcome the destruction of illusions which existed in large circles of the people about the willingness of the ruling classes and the government to grant an equal franchise law. A clear outlook is especially necessary; the mist is now blown away,[Pg 50] and this clearness is not preached only—and you should not forget it—to those who are guarding and supporting the Fatherland in their civilian clothes and have experienced the need of these days, but also to those who are standing in the battlefield and who are expecting to hear different news from home, and who, when they read the papers about the debates of the Budget Commission of Saturday and debates of to-day—I am absolutely convinced on this point—will clinch their fists furiously in their pockets and hurl curses at those who awakened in them hopes and illusions, who deceived them about the truth,—namely that this war is not carried on for the mass of the German people; about the truth, that the mass of the people will be left after the war without rights, as they were before the war, unless they look out for their rights themselves.

Gentlemen, the war preaches with a brazen tongue the necessity for Democracy; and to you all, who think that you can rebuke in such a sharp way the demands of the people, the idea must emerge, through the shell of your careless hostility and provoking and people-betraying demonstrations, that the interior political conditions of Germany will form themselves even now during the war.

Gentlemen, the proletariat is in exactly the same position as the poor starving wretch of the old tragi-comedy, who, dressed in distinguished garments, for one day of illusions, pretended to be a prince. After the present revelations, the dream, the hero dream that every one is to be recognized as a free German[Pg 51] citizen, as an equal German citizen, this dream will vanish even to the last illusionist,—he will awaken from the illusion of this monstrous three-fourths of a year. He will get sober, and full of bitterness, draw conclusions for his political attitude even during the war.

Gentlemen, the only salvation for the mass of the people is the struggle that has not changed to-day from yesterday. Not by yielding and not by adapting itself to conditions, and not by submissiveness, but only in struggle will the people find its right. (Assemblyman Hoffman, Soc.-Dem., "Very true!")

The class struggle alone is the salvation of the proletariat and we hope that we will carry on very soon the class struggle in open international intercourse with the proletariat of all countries, even with those with whom we are at war. In this international class struggle rests not only hope for the democratization, for the political and economic emancipation, of the working class, but also the one hope for the mass of the people concerned even during the war. Their one prospect and hope for the termination of the horrible killing of peoples is in the struggle for a peace in a socialistic sense.

Gentlemen, the equal franchise you rudely denied for the duration of the war. Even after the war you don't want to grant such franchise. Laughable patch-work reform is all that one of you, the representative of the influential Progressive Party (Fortschritlichen Volkspartei), expects at the most; the majority says even here "No." Gentlemen, that means to the mass[Pg 52] of the people the fist! ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) Against that I place the cry: away with the hypocrisy of the Burgfrieden (civil truce)! Forward to the class struggle! Forward to the international class struggle for the emancipation of the working class and against the war! ("Bravo!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

[Pg 53]


Dr. Rosa Luxemburg, with whom the following speech of Dr. Liebknecht deals, was tried in 1914 because at a public meeting she attacked militarism and the tragedies which were happening in the German barracks: brutal treatments, abuses and suicides of German soldiers. At her trial nine hundred and twenty-two men from all parts of Germany were ready to testify to something like thirty thousand separate instances of brutal treatment of soldiers.

Dr. Rosa Luxemburg was born in Russian Poland, of Jewish parents, and studied in Switzerland. She went later to Germany in order to become active in Social-Democratic propaganda. Being a foreigner, she would have been immediately exiled by the authorities, had she not married a Mr. Luxemburg—with whom she never lived—and in that way became a German citizen.

Dr. Rosa Luxemburg, or "Die Rote Rosa" (The Red Rose) as the Junkers call her, is one of the very brilliant speakers of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany and very few in the party equal her in debate. She has written various books on scientific socialism.

[Pg 54]


Assembly Session, March 9, 1915.

Third reading of the Budget for the fiscal year 1915, with the proposed law regarding the determination of the budget, with a special chapter in reference to the administration of justice. Taking part in the discussion of this special chapter, Dr. K. Liebknecht, Minister of Justice Dr. Beseler and v. Pappenheim (Conservative), who by his motion that the discussion on this chapter should be closed, made it impossible for Liebknecht to answer the Secretary of Justice.


Dr. Liebknecht: Gentlemen, a few days ago, continuing an old tradition of this house, which remained true to itself, even in this respect, you deprived me of the floor; to-day you will have to endure what I shall tell you,—what I really think.

As is known to you, my party friend, Rosa Luxemburg, was condemned to one year in prison for an alleged appeal to the soldiers for insubordination. This decision was approved a few months ago by the Supreme Court. In January of this year the execution of the sentence was postponed until March 31st on account of her illness. She spent a few weeks in a hospital at Schöneberg and was dismissed from it not cured, on condition that she follow a certain course of treatment. On February 18th she was suddenly arrested at Südende by two officers of the Criminal Department, brought to the Berlin Police Department, and then to Division 7, that is,[Pg 55] to the political division, and not to the criminal division. Thence she was transported in the green wagon, together with common criminals, to the women's prison in the Barminstrasse, for the fulfillment of her one year's prison sentence.

This incident unmasks with the precision of physical experiment the real nature of the so-called Burgfrieden (civil truce). ("Very true.") Because this fundamentally political, this party political sentence is executed now, we do not complain. Let those complain who believe in the civil truce. (Stroebel, "Very true.") I know that my friend Luxemburg will see in the execution of this sentence a proof that she has fulfilled her duty, even in these times, of working for the interest of the people in the socialistic way. But gentlemen, this is remarkable, and this fact I wish most to emphasize—she was arrested for the execution of the sentence, in spite of the fact that the execution of the sentence was postponed until March 31, without giving her an opportunity voluntarily to begin her term after the authorities thought that the reasons for the postponement of the execution of the sentence did not exist any longer. She was taken away without being given an opportunity voluntarily to begin her sentence. The method of this execution is open to much criticism. This transportation in the green wagon and the details which I have just mentioned deserve the severest reproach against those officials who are responsible for this action. ("Very true" by the Soc.-Dem.)

[Pg 56]

Of special political significance is the reason for this execution. The Deutsche Tageszeitung brought out a notice, even before there appeared any communication in our party press, of the arrest of my party friend, which was surely inspired, and probably originated from a well-informed source, and in which it was said in unmistakable language, that this trial was started because Madame Dr. Luxemburg arranged political meetings ("Hear, hear!" from the Socialists), because she was active politically ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.). Surely the arrest was not really a military measure, surely it was an execution of a sentence; but the means described were used, and put in execution from motives which put on it the seal of partisan political persecution in the most objectionable form. Very remarkable it is, as I know, that this happened after the Berlin secret police told the Commander of the Province of the appearance of Madame Luxemburg at a few meetings. ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.) The Commander in the Province, as the highest military authority in the province of Brandenburg, advised the District Attorney, who is in these days subordinate to him, to begin action against Madame Luxemburg, to begin action against her on account of holding meetings, on account of her political activity. ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

Now let me give an illustration of how promptly the espionage system, which was in this case at the service of the Justice officials and so in confidential coöperation with the military dictatorship, functions.[Pg 57] On February 10th, Madame Luxemburg spoke at a party meeting in Charlottenburg. On the 13th of February the order was given at Frankfort-on-the-Main to arrest her. During this interval of three days, or rather of two days, because the meeting took place on the evening of February 10th, the spy who must have been present at the meeting (and in whose behalf, as an officer of the Department of Justice, you will now approve the Budget), reported the meeting to the Police Headquarters, which reported to the Supreme Command, and from the Supreme Command the report was forwarded to Frankfort-on-the-Main, from which the order for arrest was given. So promptly does the machinery of the Prussian State function for the political suppression of the people, even in these days of the party truce. In this field the mechanism of the Prussian State did prove itself remarkable.

It should not be said that Madame Dr. Luxemburg was arrested because after she held meetings she could not be located. Gentlemen, I know that only by using all her strength, ill as she was, could she fulfill her duty to the interests of the German people, to the interests of the entire international proletariat. But, gentlemen, who wants to make us believe that this action was taken without any connection with what she did? ("Very true," from the Soc.-Dem.) The political aspect of what she said was the determining factor for the authorities which "do not recognize parties any longer." If she had only joined in buying the usual market commodity[Pg 58] labeled "Patriotism," then not only would she have been spared from this remarkable attack but probably amnesty would have been forced upon her. ("Very true," from the Soc.-Dem.) But, gentlemen, she tried by summoning all her strength, to act in the proletarian and socialistic cause against the frenzied slaughter of peoples. This does not suit the dominant power, and that is why the arrest took place.

But the worst feature is that it was not sufficient to arrest my friend Luxemburg in this way, but that they also tried to stigmatize her honor by stating that she had shown intentions of flight.

Gentlemen, Madame Dr. Luxemburg wanted to travel to a friend in Holland, and for this purpose she asked for a foreign passport from the police in her district, who were naturally informed about her sentence, and then she addressed herself to the Berlin police headquarters, also well informed about her sentence, before the permission for a passport could be had; as suspicion was aroused at the Berlin police headquarters, she addressed herself, one day before she was arrested, with my help, to the District Attorney of Frankfort-on-the-Main,—the official who was to have executed the sentence, and had asked from him permission to take the trip to Holland. The order to make this motion to the District Attorney was given to her lawyer in Frankfort on the afternoon of February 17th. Gentlemen, I do not need to tell you that a woman such as Madame Dr. Luxemburg does not belong to the class who try to[Pg 59] escape from a sentence,—that a woman such as Madame Dr. Luxemburg is brave enough to look her enemies in the eye and would not think of leaving Germany in times like these, where there is being waged such an important part of the struggle against international reaction,—against imperialism. It is necessary to be a real Prussian police spirit in order not to understand that.

Considering the facts of which I just spoke, considering the possibilities of passing the frontier in these times without the will of the authorities, the talk about escaping can be characterized only as an attempt to stigmatize the honor of this really persecuted woman, exactly after the Russian method, which is not satisfied to punish politically disagreeable subjects, but tries also to insult their honor as much as possible. In fact, it happened that the military authorities arranged that Madame Luxemburg should not be able to be active outside of Germany in a manner not to the liking of the German ruling powers. Why don't you say so openly and honestly, instead of hiding behind such obscure phrases? Just as we have only one counterpart for your denial of the suffrage reform, for the continuance of the exceptional laws, for your refusal of any interior reform, namely the political ignorance and animosity against the people of the Government of the Czar, so this action against my friend Luxemburg is a counterpart to the arrest of the Russian Duma Deputies, our admired and excellent friends in the struggle for the freedom of the people and for the [Pg 60]restoration of the peoples' peace, trying in common with us to serve,—each in his own country,—in universal opposition against its own government, for the benefit of its own people and the good of the other people, the good of the international proletariat, the good of humanity. And so sure as it is that the arrest of the Duma deputies in Russia opened the eyes of hundreds of thousands of blind ones, so sure are we that the action against our comrade Luxemburg will awaken many a dreamer ("Very true" from Soc.-Dem.), and that they will demand a struggle for a free Prussia and a struggle for the ending of the mass murder of the people. ("Bravo!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

[Pg 61]


On March 23, 1915, Liebknecht was ordered to place himself at the disposal of the German military authorities.

From this day on he was under military law as a member of a Landsturm regiment.

[Pg 62]


Beginning with August 20, 1915, Liebknecht began putting his questions in the Reichstag which so much embarrassed the German Government.

In England this form of parliamentary control of the Government is very common. In Germany this form is very seldom used. The possibility of putting supplementary questions gives this method a particularly great usefulness where there is so little parliamentary criticism as in Germany.


Reichstag Meeting, Aug. 20, 1915, 2 P. M.

At the table of the Federal Government are present: Ministers Delbrück, Helfferich, and Lisco.

The first order of business is a question by Dr. Karl Liebknecht.


Dr. Karl Liebknecht: (reads his question amid great commotion in the House) "Is the Government, in case of corresponding readiness of the other belligerents, ready, on the basis of the renunciation of annexations of every kind, to enter into immediate peace negotiations?"

Secretary of State v. Jagow: "I believe I[Pg 63] shall meet the wishes of the great majority of the House if I decline to answer the question of the member, Dr. Liebknecht, at the present time as inopportune." (Great applause, especially at the right side of the House.)

Dr. K. Liebknecht: "That is concealing the capitalistic policy of conquest (great uproar). The answer of the Secretary of State is a confession of a policy of annexation (repeated great uproar). The people want peace" (continual uproar and laughter).


Reichstag Meeting, Dec. 15, 1915

The energy which Liebknecht displayed at this meeting was remarkable considering that he had not completely recovered from the injury which he had received in October, 1915, at the front.

Twenty-third meeting of the Reichstag, Dec. 14,1915, 2 P. M.

Present at the Federal Council table: Ministers v. Jagow and Helfferich.

The first point on the order of the day—Questions by Dr. K. Liebknecht (Soc.-Dem.).


Dr. K. Liebknecht:


First Question

(I-a) Is the Government prepared, if the other belligerents are also ready and prepared, to enter[Pg 64] peace negotiations on the basis of the renunciation of annexations? This question I withdraw since on Thursday, Dec. 9, 1915 (Liebknecht refers here to Bethman-Hollweg's speech in the Reichstag on Dec. 9, 1915, in which the Imperial Chancellor answered the majority Socialist's peace interpellation. S. Z.), the Imperial Chancellor answered this question in the negative. The Government wants a war of conquest, not peace!

(I-b) On what other basis is the Government ready to enter immediately upon peace negotiations?

(Foreign Minister von Jagow by mistake begins to read the answer to another question (laughter).) Then the following answer is given to question I-b:

In view of the debate of the 9th of December I decline to answer this question.

Dr. K. Liebknecht asks the floor for a supplementary question: What will be the attitude of the Government towards peace proposals from neutral countries as asked now by the Social-Democrats of Switzerland through the Swiss Government.... (Great commotion.)

President Dr. Kaempf: This is not a supplementary question. It is ruled out of order.

Dr. K. Liebknecht reads his


Second Question

II. Is the Government ready to lay before the nation the official documents and semi-official [Pg 65]documents relating to the secret negotiations which preceded the declaration of war, especially

(a) The diplomatic history of the Austrian Ultimatum to Serbia of July 23, 1914, including the official and semi-official negotiations between the German and Austrian Governments after the crime of Sarajevo?

(b) The history of the German entry into Luxemburg and Belgium?

(c) Is the Government ready to create as soon as possible a parliamentary commission for the examination of these documents and reveal the responsible parties?

Foreign Minister von Jagow: The available material about the origin of the war has been published already. The Government intends to publish other important documents relating to diplomatic negotiation, in so far as they appear to be necessary for the enlightenment of public opinion (my italics, S. Z.), but refuses to set up a parliamentary committee dealing with the examination of these documents. The parties responsible are our enemies.

Dr. K. Liebknecht asks the floor for a supplementary question (great merriment): Is the Government ready to lay immediately before us the entire official documentary material dealing with the war?

Foreign Minister von Jagow: I have nothing to add to my answer.

[Pg 66]

Dr. K. Liebknecht: A supplementary question (great merriment). Is it known to the Imperial Chancellor that according to a remark made on Dec. 5, 1914, by the former neutral Italian Prime Minister Giolitti, Austria planned as early as 1913 an attack against Serbia (Italics S. Z.) (Great indignation and shouts.)

President Dr. Kaempf: This is a new question. We will proceed to your next question.

Dr. K. Liebknecht: According to paragraph 31 of our order of business I have asked the floor to supplement my former question.

President Dr. Kaempf: You have already asked two supplementary questions.

Dr. K. Liebknecht: The order of business does not limit me to any definite number. Amid great commotion in the House Dr. Liebknecht reads another supplementary question: "Why did the Imperial Chancellor conceal from the Reichstag earlier and at the meeting of August 4, 1914, the Belgium Ultimatum?"

President Dr. Kaempf: This also is not a supplementary question, but a new question. Do you have another supplementary question? Now we come to your next question.


Third Question

III (a) Is it known to the Government that the mass of German people demand for themselves the right to decide about the external policy of [Pg 67]Germany, that they demand abolition of secret diplomacy in favor of permanent public control of foreign policy and its general democratization? (Italics, S. Z.)

(b) Is the Government prepared to bring in the course of the present session of the Reichstag a bill which will fulfill the demand above mentioned and submit the decisions on questions of war and peace to the people's representatives?

Minister of Exterior v. Jagow: The Government is not willing (Italics, S. Z.) to correspond with the wishes of Dr. Liebknecht and to propose such a change in the Constitution. With this answer the rest of the question is also answered.


Fourth Question

Does the Government know in what economic distress the masses of the German people labor on account of the war and on account of the desire in capitalistic circles for profits and the impotence of the Government in dealing with the situation? Is the Government now ready to check this economic distress by improving the general welfare without further delay and by putting aside all special interests, and taking the necessary steps to provide for the population the necessary means of living (food, clothing, shelter, heat and light); especially by regulating production according to the general welfare? And by commandeering products and by the uniform distribution of foodstuffs in such a[Pg 68] way that the needy may get sufficient food free or at low cost?

Minister Director Dr. Lewald: The Imperial Chancellor declines to answer the question.

Dr. K. Liebknecht: A supplementary question (great merriment). Does the Government recognize that according to experiments up to this time general commandeering of products....

President Dr. Kaempf: This is not a supplementary question but a new question.

Dr. K. Liebknecht: I ask the floor for another supplementary question (great commotion and merriment). Will the Government put into operation as soon as possible the decisions of the Budget Commission in line with these demands?

Minister Director Lewald: In the name of the Imperial Chancellor I refuse to answer this supplementary question.


Fifth Question

(a) What meaning does the Government ascribe to the expression "new internal political orientation?" (Neuorientierung der inneren Politik.)

(b) Does the Government have a concrete program concerning this new internal political orientation?

(c) What is this program in detail?

(d) When does the Government intend to effect this program?

(e) Does the Government intend during the[Pg 69] present session or later to introduce the reforms necessary to the democratization of the constitution, democratization of the legislative powers and democratization of the administration of the German Empire and the states which compose the Empire? Particularly will the Government reform the franchise laws governing the legislative and administrative bodies and democratization of the constitution of the army?

Minister Director Lewald: The Imperial Chancellor refuses to answer this question also.

Dr. K. Liebknecht: A supplementary question. (Great commotion.) What is the stand of the Government on the Prussian Franchise Reform? (Great merriment at the right side of the House.) This is a question which is of importance to the entire German people. That is the way Government and Reichstag treat with the life and death problems of the German people. The people will know now where they stand! (Continued commotion.)

President Dr. Kaempf: This is not a supplementary question, but a new question. With that we are finished with the short questions.


Reichstag meeting January 11, 1916, 2 P. M. At the table of the Federal Council are present: Ministers Helfferich and Delbrück.

The first order of business: Questions by Member Dr. K. Liebknecht.

Dr. K. Liebknecht reads his first question:

[Pg 70]

"Is it known to the Imperial Chancellor that during the present war in the United Turkish Empire the Armenian people were driven from their homes and slaughtered by the hundred thousands? What negotiations has the Imperial Chancellor undertaken with the United Turkish Government in order to bring about the necessary punishment, to alleviate the situation of the rest of the Armenian population in Turkey and to make the repetition of such horrors impossible?

To answer this question the floor is given to:

Privy Council Frhr. v. Stumm: It is known to the Imperial Chancellor that inflammatory demonstrations took place in Armenia on account of which the Turkish Government was forced to deport the Armenian population of certain districts and to assign them new living places. About the reaction on the population taking place on account of these measures an exchange of ideas between us and the Turkish Government is now occurring. More details cannot be communicated.

Dr. K. Liebknecht: A supplementary question. Is it known to the Imperial Chancellor that Professor Lepsius spoke of an absolute extermination of the Armenians and that for these horrors the Christian population of Turkey considers the German Government responsible?

At this point great uproar broke out in the House and made it impossible for Dr. Liebknecht to finish his questions.

[Pg 71]

Shouts from the House: This is a new question! Finish!

President Dr. Kaempf: This is a new question for which I cannot give the floor.

Dr. K. Liebknecht: Mr. President, before you have heard the whole question, you are not in a position to judge (laughter in the House) if it is a new question or not. At any rate I wish to assert that the President reached this conclusion that it is a new question not from his own impulses (shouts in the House: Oho!) but because from parts of the House it was called to his attention.

President Dr. Kaempf: I ask you not to criticize the way I preside (applause). We come now to the following question:

Dr. K. Liebknecht: Will the Government be ready very soon to place before the Reichstag for action data concerning the situation of the population in the territory occupied by Germany? Further data concerning the measures taken for the people in the occupied territory, concerning the means of living, (food, clothing, shelter), concerning their health condition, their rights, their numbers? Then data concerning the kind and reason of the punishments decreed and reprisal measures taken against the people in this territory by the German authorities, the number of people executed, military requisitions of property and methods followed in such operations? And the extent of the contributions levied upon them, especially on the Belgian people?"

To answer these questions the floor is given to:

[Pg 72]

Minister Director Lewald: The Imperial Chancellor declines to put before the Reichstag the material desired by Dr. Liebknecht. But he will give information about the activities of the civil authorities in the occupied territory on the request of the committee of the Reichstag.

Dr. K. Liebknecht: A supplementary question. How many places and buildings were destroyed by the German authorities since the beginning of the war for the purpose of reprisal—how many persons were arrested and killed for the same purpose?

President Dr. Kaempf: This is a new question. It is ruled out of order.

Dr. K. Liebknecht reads the third question: Is the Government ready to lay before the Reichstag without delay material concerning

(a) Measures taken by the German military and civic authorities on the basis of the state of martial law for the suppression of the right of assemblage and of personal liberty (prohibiting meetings, dissolving societies, interference in private correspondence, arrests, searching of homes, etc.), particularly the number of those put in military and police (cachot) arrest without trial, during the war? Also the reason for and length of these arrests?

(b) The number, extent and causes of punishments inflicted during the war upon members of the army and also the number of convicts in the military prisons since the beginning of the war?

Minister Director Lewald: The Imperial Chancellor declines to put before the Reichstag the[Pg 73] material asked by Dr. Liebknecht. (Dr. Liebknecht shouts: That also is very characteristic.)

President Dr. Kaempf: This word of Dr. Liebknecht is ruled out of order as not permissible.

Dr. K. Liebknecht: A supplementary question. Does the Imperial Chancellor know that in Germany the Military Authorities and Police Authorities have established nearly everywhere dark chambers (laughter), in which places the correspondence of people who are politically disagreeable, among whom are Deputies of the Reichstag or Assembly, is opened secretly?... (Great uproar. The bell of the President!)

Dr. K. Liebknecht: I wish to protest against this autocratic suppression of the order of business by the President and Reichstag.

This finishes Liebknecht's questions.

[Pg 74]


On January 13, 1916, by a vote of sixty to twenty-five, the Socialist Central Committee expelled Dr. Karl Liebknecht from membership in the Socialist Party for continuous "gross infractions of party discipline." The majority Social-Democrats took that measure against Liebknecht for having greatly embarrassed the Government with his questions two days before in the Reichstag.

[Pg 75]


January 19, 1916

Liebknecht was unable to obtain the floor at the general discussion. In a personal remark after the discussion was closed he made the following characteristic remarks:

"Repeatedly members of this House told me that I work in the service of the enemy, that I am a traitor. ("Very true," from the left side of the House.) I wish to answer this by saying that I prefer being insulted by you as a traitor or anything else, to being praised for speaking according to your taste, as some members of the Social-Democratic group of this House have done lately (merriment). Gentlemen, by your attitude you show me that you wish to suppress truth and right."

[Pg 76]


Twentieth Meeting of the Assembly, Friday, March 3, 1916, 11 o'clock morning session.

On the Ministerial Bench: Freiherr v. Schorlemer, v. Loebell and Beseler.


The order of the day: Continuation of the discussion on second reading of the budget of the Department of Justice.

Taking part in the discussion: Assemblymen: Delbrück (Conservative), Reinhard (Centrum), Minister of Justice Beseler, Assemblymen Liepmann (National Liberal), Kanzow (Progressive Peoples Party), Nissen (Dane), v. Trampczynski (Pole) and Dr. K. Liebknecht.


Dr. K. Liebknecht: It must be regretted that we have no statistics concerning certain social phenomena which mirror justice under war conditions of to-day. Thus there are lacking statistics of the number of bankrupts, whose places of business could not be opened on account of lack of actual supplies; statistics concerning evictions; concerning suits against stores which sell on credit; statistics concerning firms which have gone out of business and statistics concerning business events and corporations [Pg 77]registrations, from which it might have been possible to see to what colossal degree small concerns have been ruined by the war. There is no information concerning the shiftings on the real-estate market; concerning new societies formed specially for the purpose of exacting high interest from the people. Again, we have no accurate information as to what proportion of existing societies increased their capital,—some of whose increases went high into the millions. ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.) Statistics of the war measures would show that they are nothing but patchwork, and that economic war-damages can be prevented only when we strike at the root of capitalism. The war-necessity measures are sufficient only to prevent the population from resorting, as best they can, against frightful economic injuries. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) Such statistics would give us an X-ray of the terrific injury and destruction which the war has caused and continually causes the economic body of capitalism; an X-ray picture of the capitalistic elephantiasis which the war has brought into being (laughter from the right side of the House) in most branches of big business, and a picture of the tearing apart of the middle class and the accelerated proletarization of the masses. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) Such a picture would show us the truth of the well-known phrase: "Socialism whither we are tending." The extent of crime is not indicated, only by cases brought to court. There exists to-day surely a greater divergence than ever before between[Pg 78] real criminality and that brought before justice. With reference to the crimes which come to justice statistics are lacking, and apart from that, the accused is kept secretly hidden from the population, first by the tendency, increasing more and more, to exclude the public from trials and then by the censor,—which makes it impossible for the public to get a clear picture of criminal justice. Thus the Vorwärts is forbidden to report without permission of the censor anything concerning arrests made ("Hear, hear!" by the Soc.-Dem.). To report political matters which could cause excitement is absolutely forbidden to the Vorwärts. Thus a while ago the Vorwärts could not write a syllable of the imminent discharge from prison of Madame Dr. Rosa Luxemburg ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.), and could only, later on, report the resulting discharge. It seems that the authorities were conscious of the fact that the announcement of her imminent discharge would bring out a great mass of the population to express their sympathies for Madame Dr. Luxemburg. In spite of the prohibiting order of the censor there were, as is known, a great number of men and women who received and welcomed Madame Luxemburg. Further it was reported that March 22nd was the date fixed for the trial against the Internationale magazine (Rosa Luxemburg and Franz Mehring endeavored to publish in Germany a Socialist monthly under the title of The International, to voice the views of the Anti-War section of the German Social-Democratic Party. The[Pg 79] magazine was suppressed and the editors jailed. S. Z.), in which Rosa Luxemburg, Clara Zetkin and Franz Mehring were accused. Of that also the Vorwärts could not mention a single syllable. ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

Furthermore, it has become a rule of the censor that no report is permitted of trials which refer in any way to peace demonstrations and to riots on account of lack of food, so that the population shall not get an idea in what numbers such trials are taking place. Statistics in regard to sentences imposed on account of frauds involving military supplies would be important,—which are happening very often; statistics in regard to sentences on account of bribery in order to obtain contracts for military supplies, offenses which flourished especially at the beginning of the war. Of great value would be statistics in regard to cases in which the state interfered on account of furnishing war material to enemy states. As you know, in the period of the war, a semi-official warning was issued against the inclination in big business circles even during the war to furnish the enemy war material in a roundabout way through the neutral states. ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.) The official notification accentuated the fact that this roundabout subterfuge through neutral countries is so plain that there cannot be any doubt that the capitalistic circles concerned were entirely conscious of the far-reaching effect of their action. ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.) A very noted senator in Lübeck (Lübeck is one of[Pg 80] three German Republics, S. Z.), for instance, has been for a long time under arrest for treason, because he put his Swedish copper mines at the disposition of the Russians. ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.) These cases must have increased, otherwise the official warning would be unexplainable. You know how international business is related, especially Big Business. The kinship exists, even if in changed form, and naturally continues even now. You know that this kinship, especially in the field of the armament industry,—(bell of the President).

Assemblyman Adolf Hoffman: "Now comes the holy of holies!"

Vice-President Dr. Krause: "I cannot see what that has to do with the administration of justice and its responsibilities. We cannot now go into a discussion of the censor and the capitalistic mischief, as you call it."

Dr. K. Liebknecht: I demand statistics which will show in how many cases indictments were brought on account of such offenses. When in this connection I point out the international kinship of capitalism, in war contracts supplying German cannons to foreign countries, I believe I am speaking to the point which is now open for discussion. In reality German soldiers were shot by Krupp cannon which were furnished to foreign countries. (Most of the Belgium cannons were Krupp cannons. S. Z.) (Lively "Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

Vice-President Dr. Krause: "The connection of this with the Department of Justice is difficult for[Pg 81] any logically-thinking man to find. I call you to the question." ("Bravo!" at the right side of the House.)

Assemblyman Dr. Liebknecht: We are also without comprehensive statistics in regard to the inmates of our prisons. We obtained in Committee only a few communications, according to which the number of inmates of the prisons of the Department of Justice had diminished, in so far as the men are concerned, but the number of sentences imposed on women increased. ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.) Later it was communicated to us that in the prisons of our Department of Justice there are an extraordinary number of sentenced soldiers, whom the authorities had to take there, because the military and fort prisons are entirely overfilled. ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.) In the Prisons of the Prussian Department of Justice there are at present 5000 prisoners. And prisons which are under the control of the Minister of the Interior are certainly being strongly demanded by military prisoners. It is a fact, however, in very many cases, that sentenced soldiers are not entering upon their sentences immediately, but are serving in the army. The decrease in the number of prison inmates can also for the greatest part be attributed to the pardons granted. In many cases it was decided, that even without granting a pardon there should be a postponement in the execution of the sentence, even an interruption in the fulfillment of the sentence, in order that the soldiers concerned could be brought to the barracks or into the trenches.[Pg 82] ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.) Referring to the question of the release of prisoners, the ex-convict in the army was discussed in Committee. According to my experience, it is in war that the ex-convicts, those who were ostracized in civil life, have particularly shown, in the most excellent way, the qualities of human fellowship. But the danger must not be overlooked. It consists in this—that people of criminal inclination, whose temptations are greater in the dangers which are facing them, are in the army in great numbers. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) Our great responsibility towards the defenseless population in the occupied territories must therefore give us special concern. German papers commented bitterly when prisons were opened in foreign countries in order that the inhabitants could enter the army. But to a certain degree that happened also here in Germany. I do not want to assert that the majority of excesses which happened in the occupied territories against the civil population, the cruelties which carry a special personal stamp, and which surpass the real war cruelties, are committed particularly by discharged convicts—at all events the question deserves special attention. It is important to note, further, that our civil justice takes in to-day only a very small part of the male population, as those who are called to the colors are under the jurisdiction of the courts martial. There are courts martial also for the civil population, as you know, especially in the provinces of the frontier. Statistics are also lacking as to the doings[Pg 83] of these military courts. From the decrease of prisoners we cannot draw a favorable conclusion as to the criminality of to-day. The source of crime flows without interruption. The entire activity of justice is a circulus vitiosus, a faulty short conclusion. Neglect leads to crime, penalty to the increase of social weakness, to demoralization, to new crime, new sentence and so on. Crime is a constitutional disease of bourgeois society. (Laughter at the right side of the House.) What is the condition at the roots of crimes during war? The first root is the strengthening of the social causes of crime, the distress of the population, the increase in the cost of living, the ruin of the family. In order to examine the social roots of war criminality, the report of the Trade Council Inspectors would be important—which unfortunately we do not receive during the war. But by banishing these facts in a dark chamber, they are not kept from the world. When the material in regard to the secret social history of the war will finally be presented, humanity will be terrified at the horrors which have shown themselves. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

I come now to the second root of war criminality. Mr. Kanzow (Assemblyman of the Progressive People's Party) called Right one of the holiest gods of the people. To-day Right is in a state of siege. How is the principle of Right compatible with the principle of Might; how can the idea of Right live in the atmosphere of war psychology, which means a destruction of the fundamentals of all that is right?[Pg 84] The conception: "Might goes before Right," "Necessity Knows no Law," must pull down all safeguards of law. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) The question as to how the Ten Commandments stand to-day we hardly need to open. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) To-day it is not: "Love thy neighbor," but kill thy neighbor! (The bell of the President.)

Vice-President Dr. Krause: By such method you could throw the entire world into the circle of your examination. ("Very true," and laughter at the right side of the House.)

Assemblyman Adolf Hoffman (Soc.-Dem.): "Justice has nothing to do with right!"

Assemblyman Dr. Liebknecht: How would it be possible to speak about criminology without considering it as a social phenomenon? ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) When we wish to speak about criminality during war we certainly must consider the special social phenomena of the war which lead to crime! Justice is indeed not only the concern of the employees of the Department of Justice, but the affair of the entire people. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) It is generally recognized to-day that crime is to be considered a social disease. That war psychology is responsible for preliminaries for the increase of crime is clear. Many a sharp word could be said on this point, many a lash with the whip could be given to the bourgeoisie society, but because the President does not wish it, I will have to be silent about that which should also be said. When [Pg 85]Assemblyman Schenk von Schweinsburg said recently that the war should not end very soon, lest after the war we shall again face such conditions as in 1870—then I say, that from the present war no moral regeneration can grow; from blood no innocence can grow; from might no right can grow. The Apocalyptic rider rides even over righteousness and tramples the seed of righteousness.

The crime among the young is an especially serious phenomenon which can be recognized in its entire importance only in connection with the increased death rates of the young and the death rates of children, and with the increased commitments to the reformatory. According to the investigation of the Zentrale für Jugendfürsorge (Headquarters of the Welfare Society for the Youth), criminality among youths between twelve and fourteen years has increased almost twice. ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.) This increase touches also the youth of fourteen to sixteen and naturally increases with the duration of the war. Offenses on account of need and offenses on account of neglect of youth play an important rôle. ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.) Statistics would be important which would show the relation between criminality and the increase in the cost of living and the increase of the calls to the army. The ruin of the family, insufficient education, need of better housing, the partial abolition of laws protecting youth, all help to increase criminality among the youth. To-day the youth of the proletariat is in the position [Pg 86]described in the melancholy song: Maiköfer fliege, dein Vater ist im Kriege. (May-bug fly, your father is in the war.) ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) The state took its protecting hand away from the children; it is replaced by the reformatory and criminal justice, in order to meet these phenomena of human misery. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) Added to that are the moral causes, the contradiction of the entire present state of affairs of Christian morality as preached in peace time; the entire morale of bourgeoisie society is overturned. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) How the old are singing, the young are twittering! The neglect of the youth is a natural result of neglect of the entire human race in this war, the neglect of our entire culture. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

Now commissioned officers are put into the schools to drum morality into the youth; outside of the schools also a strong militarization of the youth will take place. All kinds of demands for extreme reaction shoot luxuriantly into blossom. In fact there was recently demanded the restriction of free emigration of the youth from place to place. ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

Vice-President Dr. Krause: All your last reproaches are not referring to the administration of the Department of Justice. I call you for the second time to the question, and call your attention to the resulting consequences, according to the order of business.

Assemblyman Dr. K. Liebknecht: In time of[Pg 87] peace it was possible to discuss thoroughly in this connection the causes of criminality. Now they try to muzzle me. ("Very true!" calls from the Soc.-Dem. "Even in Parliament!") That is plainly impossible. (The bell of the President.)

Vice-President Dr. Krause: I refuse to permit any criticism of the way I preside. Certainly the discussion on the budget is the suitable place for discussing all those social matters, but not in the section on the Department of Justice's administration. This belongs to the general discussion.

Assemblyman Dr. K. Liebknecht: I made my remarks in close connection with the deliberation of the method for decreasing criminality among youth. It is not possible to discuss criminality without discussing the complex social conditions on which it grows. The Minister of Justice is deeply interested in those methods which must be considered in decreasing crimes. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

Another branch of material and spiritual misery is the increase of crime among women. The President would not permit me to go into details to show that just as crimes among the young go together with reform schools, so criminology among women goes hand in hand with prostitution. To discuss this matter in great detail is, according to the instructions of the President, not suitable for this place. In criminality among women, offenses because of misery and offenses because of neglect play an important rôle, especially miscarriages. The campaign of our[Pg 88] Department of Justice against birth control is a particular chapter of special importance which demands also sharp criticism. Birth control is fought particularly on account of its danger to the military strength of the people. We find that our criminal law, especially of late, has taken sharp measures against abortion, in order to protect our army strength. The women who are very often in most difficult distress, are forced to give birth to future defenders of the Fatherland. I must protest against this kind of procedure from the Department of Justice which defends bayoneting the womb of the mother. (Great laughter at right side of the House.) Previously not so much attention was given to the welfare of the youth, to the remedy for crimes among the young. All these matters attracted great interest only when they began to be considered from the point of view of Militarism, in the light of the army strength of the people. That is how irritability is to be explained when those questions are touched. Sentences on offenses on account of neglect and offenses on account of want in their severity present a great contrast to the mild sentences against the profiteers of the necessities of life, those vampires on the strength of the people. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) This justice functioning strongly against the unfortunate ones, who through social misery fell under the wheels of the law, and the milder sentences on those dangerous hyenas of the battlefield, gentlemen of high position, gentlemen from wealthy strata, show most clearly[Pg 89] that the class character of the present society is not abolished during the war, but is aggravated, if that were at all possible. All this in spite of the party truce and in spite of the phrase "I know no parties any longer." (Liebknecht refers here to the phrase of the Kaiser. S. Z.) Also political justice did not cease to any extent during the war. I wish to remind you of the way the schutzhaft (That is, confinement in prison till the end of the war. S. Z.) is treated now as a sentence without trial, without verdict, as a punishment without any guaranties under the code of criminal procedure. The relation between the military dictatorship and justice also needs examination. Upon the searching of houses, which casts on our justice the deepest shadow, the so-called Schutzhaft follows. Those who are in the Schutzhaft cannot defend themselves in any way. The word Schutzhaft taken literally means a "safe place," exactly the contrary of what it really is. Those in Schutzhaft are not even in a position to get the advice of counsel. Here in Berlin the authorities having jurisdiction over the Schutzhaft are treating the lawyers very roughly and excluding them more and more. An attempt of Attorney Weinberg to obtain the interference of the Bar Association of Berlin against this undeserved treatment was unfortunately put down by the Bar Association. Hundreds and hundreds are or have been in the Schutzhaft for months, yes, ever since the beginning of the war. A special light is thrown upon this situation by some political trials also.[Pg 90] In the criminal trials against Westkamp and comrades in Düsseldorf the defendants were first taken under the Schutzhaft, then under preventative arrest. In court the warrant of arrest was withdrawn, but in spite of that, they were again taken from the court room to prison, in Schutzhaft. ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.) The result was that the appeals had to be given up, in order not to extend their arrest, I do not know how long. My comrade Caston in Düsseldorf was taken in preventative arrest one month before trial began. The order for this arrest was rescinded, but he was held in Schutzhaft until the beginning of the trial, and although he was acquitted, he was taken back and interned in Schutzhaft again. ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem. Shouts "The Russian Way!") Now look at the Prussia which was selected in this war to liberate the Russian people from czarism. (Uproar on the right. "Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem. Shouts from the Soc.-Dem. "Liberation is necessary here!")

There is the case of Caston, in which the Imperial Chancellor was asked for redress, but naturally in vain, because the sword of justice is now in the hands of the military powers, its scales also, and behind the figure of Justice grins Militarism. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem. Laughter from the right.)

The beginning of political trials under the party truce is as follows: The military authorities hand over any kind of work, book or other kind of [Pg 91]material to the prosecuting attorney, with the instruction to interfere. A very invidious rôle for our Justice! Justitia Fundamentum Regnorum (Justice is the foundation of states). No,—Militarismus Fundamentum Regnorum! (Militarism is the foundation of states!) Our Justice does not know parties any longer, wherever there are not any parties, where they capitulated before the military dictatorship. But she knows very well parties when they have remained in opposition. There is a very fine distinction in recognizing and considering only a certain wing in the Social Democracy as a party, which for this wing is considered a great honor. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem. Laughter on the right.) This was expressed practically in the trial against my comrade Walcher for distributing leaflets, of which the District Attorney of District Court I in Berlin said in the indictment that the leaflets were directed particularly against the majority wing of the Social-Democratic representation in the Reichstag. The majority wing and their policy are for the Department of Justice a particularly holy object, and on different occasions expressing doubt as to this policy or hindering the same was worked up in trials by the District Attorney as a kind of new crime. The indictment against the said Walcher reads: "At the same time the leaflet contains at the end an appeal to those workmen who are not in accord with the policy accepted by the majority wing of the Social-Democratic representation in the Reichstag, by violence to alienate supporters of the [Pg 92]majority Social-Democratic Party. To say that the public peace is endangered by such action; I need not explain." ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.) We can be only very thankful to you when by such methods you clarify over and over again the "Party truce" (Burgfrieden), and in that way admit the correctness of our policy; in that way you naturally attain only the contrary of what you wish to attain.

The editor of the Vorwärts (Dr. Meyer) was indicted on account of his book against the actions of responsible and irresponsible inciters to annexation and on account of another work, "WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WAR," where he says what every one could say in Germany until July 29, 1914, and what was also said by your parties. In this pamphlet those who are responsible for the kindling of the world war were pointed out. Dr. Meyer, it is true, was acquitted, against the motion of the District Attorney.

The paragraphs about agitation, disturbance of the peace, high treason, etc., are interpreted more and more loosely. Placing one class in a less favorable light than another is now considered as inciting to discontent. Every energetic peace move is prosecuted according to the criminal code. At the Police Headquarters in Berlin a special commission was appointed to try those who are arrested on account of peace propaganda. ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.) This, surely enough, is not only a German but an international phenomenon. Like Comrade Castor, a number of Social-Democrats[Pg 93] in Italy were also indicted on account of distributing the Zimmerwald peace manifesto. In Italy the Zimmerwald peace manifesto was declared not punishable, but in Düsseldorf it was punishable.

Furthermore, a number of persons were prosecuted on account of distributing the peace manifesto adopted in Bern at the International Women's Conference. Among others Clara Zetkin was arrested for the distribution of the manifesto mentioned. She was arrested for treason because she engaged in peace propaganda. The French Socialist Louise Soumonneau was arrested for that also, but acquitted. In Germany the proceedings are still pending, and so far as I can judge, there does not exist any inclination to follow the good example of France. But the fact that an Internationale of enemies of peace get together, with the help of the Department of Justice, to fight the peace propaganda shows the condition of the Christian foundation of our present culture. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) If defending the peace idea, if the proclamation of the international proletariat class struggle against war, is treason, then it is an honor to be reproached as a traitor. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) For us, who see our country in the Internationale of the proletariat, it is impossible thus to be deceived by the Department of Justice. But the administration of the Department of Justice should consider if it is not the highest insult to our present order of society to consider work for peace and against the murdering of the people as treason! The [Pg 94]Administration of the Department of Justice, it seems, felt no breath of this Christian spirit. Equal rights for all in our time? Peace propagandists are prosecuted, war instigators not. War propaganda is considered as a special political duty. Why are not capitalists prosecuted and authorities who, under the threat of sending the working people to the trenches, prevent them from putting forward demands to improve their condition, prevent them in that way from going on strike? Why are not those prosecuted for provocation who withhold from the people the rights promised to them at the outbreak of the war, and who are accusing the women of waste and gluttony? Why are not food profiteers prosecuted?

They who conspire to violate an agreement are committing treason. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) High treason has come to be, in a certain sense, a noble crime. There are certain places in Germany to-day, especially in prison camps, where high treason is conceived, high treason other than that just mentioned by me. (Liebknecht refers here to plots about the Irish Revolution in the German prison camps. S. Z.) In 1904 German citizens were indicted for high treason against czarism. To-day those who breed revolutions are high traitors. (Great disturbance. Shouts—"That's the limit!")

Vice-President Dr. Krause: For the unworthy expression that the Government breeds high treason, I call you to order. According to our rules I could ask the House if you should speak any further. (Cries of dissent from the Soc.-Dem.) I shall not[Pg 95] do so yet, but if you continue in that way I will have to do it.

Assemblyman Dr. Liebknecht: On account of writing and publishing a poem, death sentence was pronounced, which later on was commuted to five years' imprisonment. There exists a country, where conditions are even worse than in Germany, and that is not Russia, but Austria. Only here and there a cry of distress comes through to the civilized countries. (Continual disturbance.) If in capitalistic society justice is the veil of force, the war has torn aside this veil and the legend of the Christian state, just like the legend of the constitutional state, vanished over the entire world. One of the most important and proudest philosophies of bourgeois society is crushed under the blows of the world war; that can be said also about international law. Even a member of this House (presumably he means Prof. Liszt, teacher of Law in the University of Berlin. S. Z.) revised his handbook on international law, in order to defend as not contrary to international law all German methods used in carrying on this war. Just as science, art, religion and humanity, broke down in this volcanic eruption, so justice broke down too. In the Budget Committee the Minister of Justice promised to prohibit German law students from studying law in cities of the neutral countries where there is a strong sentiment against the German. If that system were applied to all higher institutions of learning, in which an unfriendly view against Germany is manifested,[Pg 96] then the whole world would be closed to German students. We protest against drawing such chauvinistic conclusions from the occurrences at Geneva and Lausanne, and we protest that the extent of race hatred, under which the whole world is suffering at present, is exaggerated. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) The clemency decrees were so much praised here that we must think that to-day even clemency itself is used for war purposes. (Great disturbance.) On account of these considerations the clemency decrees must be examined very critically.

What future prospects has our Justice? The source of war criminality will flourish more and more, the longer the war lasts; and will not the lowering of the entire standard of living through enormous pressure, lead to this—that the whip of need should be even after the war one of the long-remaining acquisitions of our great time? ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) Will not the war ethics, the stirred-up inclinations to acts of violence, that "Necessity knows no law" and "Might goes before right," produce effects of which we shall be afraid? The passions which were unshackled by our present order of society cannot be gotten rid of so quickly. Sodom and Gomorrha are not yet destroyed and with the sharpening of the class struggle political justice and reaction will also grow sharper. Those are the prospects for the future. There is in prospect for the future of humanity in Europe a morale, physical and economic, bled white. For us[Pg 97] it follows inevitably from this side of our social life that we should put all our strength into the international class struggle against the war, in order to enforce peace by the will of the people. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) The cries of distress from the prisons and penitentiaries and places of misery which cannot reach the public will sound one fine day more clearly in the ears of those who now stop their ears and will help to wake up humanity to the only holy struggle known by us Social-Democrats,—for peace against war, against the capitalistic order of society, for Socialism! (Lively applause from the Soc.-Dem. Great disturbance.)

(After this masterful exposition by Liebknecht of the condition of justice in Germany, the Minister of Justice of Prussia, Beseler, took the floor for some general statements, ending by saying: "I refuse to give an answer to Dr. Liebknecht.")

[Pg 98]


(At the same meeting Assemblymen Nissen (Dane) and v. Trampcynski (Pole) protested against the prosecution of their nationalities by the authorities of the Department of Justice. To them the Minister of Justice gave no definite reply. This situation gave Liebknecht another chance and he took the floor again to add his protest and by a few remarks to show the conditions existing in Austria, Germany's ally.)

Dr. Liebknecht: The disciplining of a nationality living in Prussia fits exactly into the general picture which I just sketched. Such a "liberation" of our Danish compatriots I took as certain. The Minister of Justice limited himself to general remarks about my speech, saying that I resorted to insults. In that way he thought to provide himself a comfortable retreat. I have no desire, after such words, to concern myself any longer with the Minister of Justice. Only at one point I shall have to add something, and that is in relation to his denial of my remarks about the conditions in Austria. The Minister of Justice represented that my facts had been invented. But in Austria courts-martial are carrying out a true régime of terror, such as was not carried on in the worst days in [Pg 99]Russia. (Lively "Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.—continued noise from the majority parties.) I have the material in my hands. ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.) In Austria there is no possibility of discussing those things from the tribune of a Parliament. (Continued noise and shouts from the majority parties to finish the debate.)

Assemblyman Ströbel (Soc.-Dem.): You make yourselves accomplices of those bloody sentences. (Again continued noise.)

Dr. Liebknecht, continuing: In a few months hundreds of years of hard labor were decreed and also the death sentence which I mentioned before, and which was pronounced by a military court on account of the poem I spoke of before. (Lively "Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem. Commotion among the majority.) One of my party comrades was sentenced to death on account of a so-called seditious speech.

(A few other sentences of the speech remain unheard on account of the noise among the majority parties in the House. That closes the debate. The Budget is approved.)

[Pg 100]


Meeting of the Prussian Assembly

March 16th, 1916, 11 o'Clock Morning Session

On the Ministerial Bench: V. Trott zu Solz (Minister of Religion and Education).

The subject of discussion was: The Education and Religion Budget, and as a special topic: The Higher Schools of Prussia.

Taking part in the discussion: Dr. Karl Liebknecht (Social Democrat), Wilderman (Centrum), Frhr. v. Zedlitz (Free Conservative), Minister (Progressive People's Party).


In this discussion Liebknecht exposes the method and system of teaching in the higher schools of Germany and gives full play to his great courage. "The ideal classical education lies in the spirit of independence and humanity," he exclaimed. And, addressing himself to this reactionary parliament, he added: "Your ideal of classical education is 'the ideal of the bayonet, of the bombshell, of poison gas and grenades, which are hurled down on peaceful cities, and the ideal of submarine warfare.'"

He also proves that an educational system cannot be separated from social conditions and demands, along with a reform of the entire school [Pg 101]system, particularly that promotion from the primary school to the high school shall not be considered any longer an act of charity but a right to be demanded for every able pupil.

His remarks brought out a cyclone of protest. Liebknecht was twice recalled to the subject and thrice to order, and as the President inquired of the House after the third call to order if it wished to listen to the speaker any longer, the entire house, with the exception of the small group of Social-Democrats, voted that he be denied the floor. In this way they avoided listening to Liebknecht's indictments.


Dr. Liebknecht: The real character of capitalistic society is shown in inequality of education, especially the inequality of the Prussian state with its three-class system of voting, in the three-class system of education: primary schools, higher schools, universities. The educational system cannot be separated from social conditions. In order to acquire education, time and economic opportunities are necessary. Education in the capitalistic order of society is not an aim in itself. Utilitarianism dominates our education. The higher schools serve as preparatory institutes for higher official positions, whereas the primary schools teach the fundamentals which serve to make tools for capitalistic society. Social misfortunes come to the surface now more than ever before: overcrowding of the classes, insufficient rooms, scarcity of teachers, frequent change of teachers, [Pg 102]undernourishment and overfatigue of the children, and child labor. Especially does undernourishment weaken the health of the proletariat and thus hinder even the limited educational work of the primary school. But more than ever before the primary school is used to-day in order to make firm the position of the ruling classes, to capture the souls of the young proletariat for the ruling class, for Militarism. When we think of all that, we recognize how urgently the proletariat must work for a fundamental reform of the entire school system.

Neglect of youth through the war cannot be denied, exists in spite of all camouflage. There is not enough rain in the heavens to wash away this sin from the bourgeois form of society. Improvement of this condition can be obtained only by sharp criticism. When one sees that,—as happened to people at the Berlin Police Headquarters,—young working girls 16 and 17 years old, who were arrested for some reason, are told: "You should be put against the wall and shot down" ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.)—then it must be recognized that we really do not live in an age where class differences do not exist and where the entire people stands united, but that, on the contrary, dissimilarities are intensified now in the most inciting way. Where is, in face of this fact, the sensitive German nature about which there is so much discussion here?

Very desirable would be statistics as to how few children of the proletariat on account of existing institutions have obtained opportunity to reach a higher[Pg 103] school education; then the unimportance of these few will be recognized, when compared with the millions and millions to whom the road to all the splendor and magnificence which the human spirit can receive, is closed. The amendments proposed (he refers to amendments which will make it easier for able pupils of the primary school to attend the higher schools in larger numbers than had been the case; another amendment introduced by Dr. Porsch (Centrum) proposed that the so-called Rektorat-Schools, which are for procuring a higher education for moneyless pupils, should be supported—S. Z.), are merely patchwork experiment, because what is proposed will be to the advantage only of the poor bourgeoisie, but not of the proletariat. Don't you really sense what it means, when they try to make the pathway to higher education an act of grace, whereas in reality it is an original human right? The mass of the people will feel that instead of their rights there is given to them Bettelsuppen (coarse soup made of black bread). Certainly only to such proletarian children will those privileges be accorded, whose souls, which make them independent, are already broken, who are robbed of their class consciousness and who become accessories of capitalist society. And at the same time these laughable experiments are presented to the people with a self-sufficiency which makes it possible for them to recognize very well the insincerity of the ruling classes. In closing educational opportunities we see a brutal waste of spiritual energies, a waste of human strength in the[Pg 104] treadmill of mechanical labor, the denial of human economy. It is as plain as law that the children of the proletariat are held down by darkness of the soul. Touching is the description of Dante who walks with Virgil through the forest of the spirits which have not sinned, but have suffered because they did not receive baptism; to-day it is because they are deprived of money! ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

Considering the magnitude of the World War you and also the Christian parties do not think of saving these starving ones, damned by Capitalism. You try to give an impression that something is being done.

By these Amendments you try to give an impression of wishing to throw open the road to education to the people also, but that is because Capitalism requires educated soldiers. You similarly replace the human losses in the war by giving commissions to non-commissioned officers because the dregs of the proletariat are required for service. The tendencies of the amendment show how necessary it is to destroy the demagogism and the deceit which took form in them. (President Graf Schwerin-Löwitz calls the speaker to order.) After their experiences in war time the proletariat will not allow itself to be duped.

Assemblyman v. d. Osten said, that the uniform system of education leads towards differentiation. But the truth is that capitalism makes the great mass of the people uniform in the most brutal way and differentiates the people only in classes, and makes impossible the real differentiation among the classes[Pg 105] of the people and through the whole people. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.)

Assemblyman Oelze spoke here yesterday in glowing terms of education, science and ideals. But instruction in history has been for a long time systematically used to inculcate certain political sentiments in the pupils. The higher schools especially have been for years places to exercise this practice and in these higher schools hatred against England was systematically developed, which seed has now sprouted in such glorious fashion. The propaganda of the Navy Society in the higher schools demonstrates strikingly the whole spirit of the system of teaching. The world's history has been ad usum delphim turned into a political fiction. Not political truth, not objective knowledge, but the opposite are the main features of what you teach. In German teaching the soul of youth should have a chance to develop freely. But what are the themes put to our children? They are set to write patriotic editorials, and certain phases of war patriotism are taught them. In that way we sow the seeds of falsehood. This procedure following advice from above is a cancerous disease for the entire school system. You will not obtain any advantages, even among the students of the higher schools who come from the bourgeois class. This most awkward method of strengthening your class rule will work against you.

And instruction in religion? By means of the most skillful dialect and by pedagogical methods was bridged over the chasm between religion and war,[Pg 106] between Christianity and mass-murder. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) The curtain of the temple is torn. But what spiritual embarrassment comes to our children, when they hear of the Lord, who is the Lord of all people, that is,—if I may use this word in this connection,—an international God, a God of the entire humanity, when this God of charity is claimed by each nation for itself and for the war! I asked my child, who had to learn the catechism by heart (instruction in religion is obligatory in Prussia. S. Z.), if the teacher always said: "Love thy neighbor as thyself!" The child answered: "No, we should not love the Russians, Frenchmen and Englishmen!" ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.) How is that reconcilable? The most beautiful pedagogy is that which reacts not through words, but through vision and good example. But what shall children who are instructed in religion say to the occurrences of the present? Here religion naturally cannot become, as Christianity demands, an element penetrating the entire life and determining each action, but something entirely different. From this contrast you cannot escape and least of all when not the religion of brotherly love but that of Baal is the religion of the world and when even the children understand that in this war the main point is the interest of capitalist society.

One can pray again and again and still remain an inciter of war. To-day an attempt is made to influence the children of the working people toward the[Pg 107] conception of life of the ruling class, of the capitalist class, of the class of exploiters (shouts from the right part of the House) toward the conception of life of war and mass killing. And how is higher education inculcated in the occupied territories? When the first school was reopened in Belgrade, a paper published there by the Austrians stated that Servia committed a great sin when it fought against Austria. (He could not go any further.)

President Graf Schwerin-Löwitz: The Servian schools have nothing to do with the Budget. I recall you to the subject.

Liebknecht (continuing): The higher schools are also used as practical helpers in the service of the present war. A systematic propaganda is conducted in them for the war loans, and gold is collected in them. This militarization of the schools has been characterized even by some parts of the bourgeoisie as a questionable act. In the schools they have already started to educate the human beings up to being war machines. The schools are converted into training stables for the war. The physical upbuilding of the youth is encouraged now to attract new material for the Moloch, Militarism. Strengthening especially human health has thus as its aim the destruction of human life. I do not want to examine here how war psychology can reconcile itself to the foundations of our entire education.

Now I can speak only about the higher schools. Mr. Oelze demanded yesterday that Militarism should be introduced to greater extent in the higher[Pg 108] schools, that Militarism should be the all-prevailing spirit. He (Mr. Oelze) defined Militarism as complete subordination to discipline. According to our conception Militarism means the opposite of imposed discipline. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) Moreover, the military spirit has penetrated the school system to such a high degree that I don't know what else is left for Mr. Oelze to ask for. In committee it was said also in the bourgeois section that unilateral military education leads to brutalizing the youth. But that does not frighten you, when your holy of holies, Militarism, is helped. You want liberty only for the ruling classes and oppression for the great masses. ("Very true!" from the Soc.-Dem.) You abhor the free mind because it will mean the twilight of the gods of the ruling classes. Classical education of to-day is only a parody on real classic education. Classics surely do not consist in driving home languages and some other knowledge of facts, but their essence is the spirit of humanism, the spirit of independence, of clear vision, of criticism, of everything which is felt to be harmful. This is the real freedom of the spirit. The ideal of the bayonet, of the bombshell, of poison gas and grenades which are hurled down on peaceful cities, the ideal of submarine warfare, that is something quite different. (Uneasiness and laughter from the Right parties of the House.) This is the truth which I oppose to your endeavors to mask the reality of things. According to an edict of Governor von Schwerin of Frankfort-a-O., it was ordered that the[Pg 109] feeling for general fraternization, for the brotherhood of the people, for the international peace enthusiasm should be stamped out. ("Hear, hear!" from the Soc.-Dem.) Our enemies' deeds of shame against the Germans must not be excused, but only hatred and revolt must be aroused from those acts. We declare that to be a misuse of the schools of the worst kind. That is your spirit of humanism. Mr. V. Canyre spoke about softening the bones of ideas (osteomalacia), against which such a propaganda must work in the school. But if it is true that the duty to tell the truth is the aim of all education, then something entirely different must be taught. In school must be taught, how this war arose, not only that the abominable murder of Sarajevo was an incident to inspire horror, but also the fact that the crime of Sarajevo was looked upon in many circles as a gift from Heaven, serving them as a war pretext. (He could not continue. The parties of the Right side of the House broke out in cat-calls which became louder and louder. The Assemblymen had raised themselves from their seats in great excitement and left the room with continual shouts: "Put him out, put him out." Assemblyman Liebknecht shouts to them: "Go out! You flee before the truth, you can't hear the truth!")

President Graf Schwerin-Löwitz (who has rung the bell for a long time in vain): I call you to order for the second time, and I call your attention to the fact that in case you are called to order for[Pg 110] a third time I shall ask the House if it wishes to listen to you further.

Assemblyman Liebknecht: I have told you only what I heard with my own ears.

The aim of humanistic education is that of complete freedom, a high, ideal aim. Out of this spirit, great pedagogues such as Pestalozzi demanded the unity of the school system. The school of to-day serves only purposes of expediency. This is true also of the universities. The spirit of Militarism corrodes the foundation of our entire educational system. Art and science also are restrained. (President Graf Schwerin-Löwitz: Please speak about the higher institutions of learning.) The same phenomenon can be noticed also in the higher school system. While it is the task of primary schools to make the youth of the proletariat tools for the capitalistic order of society, it is the task of the higher schools to prepare the youth of the ruling classes for the great work which they have to perform in present society. In the discussion of the question of the admission of foreigners to the schools, Mr. v. Savigny declared in the committee meeting that the admission of foreigners to German schools before (this war) was in order to gain sympathy in foreign countries and in that way to obtain indirectly political and economic advantages. This is true German idealism which comes to light here.

On the same level can be placed the present instruction about the conditions in the Orient in the higher schools. It is being taught to greater effect[Pg 111] than before. Thus the higher schools also are converted into an instrument of propaganda for economic purposes, which are back of this war.

This war, which has destroyed so much, has also destroyed the last vestige of the bourgeois ideal of education, and to the surface came the viewpoint of the pure utilitarianism in education. The technical quality of teaching is also very much damaged by the war. Just as the Thirty Years' War acted in ravaging and destroying in the educational field, the present war is acting. (Assemblyman Hoffman, Soc.-Dem.: "Very true!") The new method in teaching history is a sign of barbarism, a sign of the fight to death being fought by the educational ideal of the bourgeoisie. I spoke before about the poem of Schiller in which it is said: "Only a miracle can carry you into the beautiful wonderland." To the proletariat, for the unsaved souls, this word cannot be applied. No miracle and no blessing from above can bring the proletariat into the wonderland, in which all the treasures and magnificence of the human soul are to be found. And when Dante's world-epic speaks about those unsaved souls who live without hope and longing, that is also not true of the proletariat. It does not live without hopes, but full of confidence. But the liberation of the working class cannot come from such motions as put by you to-day.

President Schwerin-Löwitz: I call you to the question for the second time and call your attention to the consequences which may occur according to the rule of business.

[Pg 112]

Assemblyman Liebknecht: I speak about the motion, about the chance of those who are well off to attend high schools and colleges. This spiritual liberation can also be the deed of the working class and it is our duty to say to the working class also on this occasion: To action! Those in the trenches, as well as those here at home, should put down their arms and turn against the common enemy, which takes from them light and air (great disturbance on the right side of the House).

President Graf Schwerin-Löwitz: I call you to order for the third time and ask herewith whether the House wishes to hear the speaker any further. (Stormy applause at the right. The Assemblymen are rushing with great speed into the House. Only the Social-Democrats vote to listen further to the speaker. Assemblyman Liebknecht leaves the speaker's desk amid stormy shouts from the Assemblymen of the Right. Assemblyman Adolf Hoffman (addressing himself to the right side of the House): "When it comes to yelling, you are the masters.")

[Pg 113]


Reichstag, March 22, 1916


President Kaempf presides.

For discussion: First reading of the Budget in connection with the taxation bill.

President Kaempf: In accordance with an understanding between the representatives of the different parties in the Reichstag the submarine warfare will be excluded from this discussion until further decisions of the Seniorenconvent. (Committee composed of the Party Leaders to discuss the business of the Reichstag before it is discussed in open session. S. Z.) The discussion of this question will take place in the meetings of the Budget Committee in the first days of next week.

Member Dr. K. Liebknecht (not belonging to any party in the Reichstag, questions the order of business): I consider it my duty to dispute the decision (laughter). This is a question which concerns most vitally the present public interests. Everything is done under cover and we are brought to discuss only accomplished facts. (Great commotion and shouts so that the following words of the[Pg 114] speaker can't be understood very clearly.) Very soon it will be Tirpitz redivivus. The people have a right to hear the Parliament on this important question immediately. The people have a right to demand that nothing shall be hidden from them.

President Kaempf: Please make your remarks in a parliamentary fashion, and don't present general political considerations when you speak to the question of the order of business.

Dr. K. Liebknecht: In the Prussian Assembly everything is done under cover. The same methods of concealing matters obtain as here. (Stormy interruptions and calls: "This does not belong to the discussion about the order of business.") I wish to protest against such a policy injurious to the people, against the continuation of secret diplomacy in Parliament.

[Pg 115]


Discussion of the Budget and taxation bill.

Different persons spoke.

Dr. Liebknecht asks to be recognized on the motion of closing the discussion.

Dr. Liebknecht (speaks to the question): I am sorry that under this motion, which was directed in the first place against me, I will be unable to say that I certainly refuse all taxes to the Government of martial law, the government of War über Alles. (Excitement at the right side of the House.)

President Kaempf: I must ask you to confine yourself to this discussion of the order of business.

Member Dr. Liebknecht: I assert that even in the Prussian Assembly there exists more freedom of speech than in this House. (Laughter and excitement.)

President Kaempf: If you don't obey my orders I will be forced not to let you talk any further to the question.

Member Dr. Liebknecht: It is also made impossible for me to look into the dark chamber of our German war policies and military dictatorship.

President Kaempf: I can't give you the floor for this question any longer.

[Pg 116]


Reichstag Meeting, April 5, 1916


On April 5, 1916, Karl Liebknecht made some sharp comments on certain passages of the Imperial Chancellor's speech. Asserting that Germany's aims were peaceful, the Chancellor said that Germany wanted the "strength of quiet development" before the war. "We could have had all we wanted by peaceful labor. Our enemies chose war." Liebknecht retorted: "Lies, it was you who chose war." (Uproar followed, with cries of "Scoundrel!" "Blackguard!" "Out with him!" The President at once called Liebknecht to order.)

Later Bethman-Hollweg made reference to the necessity of guarantees against Belgium becoming again a vassal of France and England. "Here also Germany cannot give over to Latinization the long-oppressed Flemish race." Liebknecht interjected, "Hypocrisy!" "We desire to have neighbors who will not again unite against us in order to throttle us, but with whom we can work to our mutual advantage," said the Chancellor. "Whereupon you suddenly fall upon them and strangle them—the invasion of Belgium," said Liebknecht coolly. This[Pg 117] sally caused another uproar, Liebknecht shouting out "Invasion" whenever he got the chance.

Towards the close of his speech the Imperial Chancellor declared that the peace which ends this war must be a lasting peace. It must not contain in it the seeds of new wars, but the seeds of a final peaceful regulation of European affairs. "Begin by making the German people free!" shouted Liebknecht. "Germany is only fighting in self-defense," remarked the Chancellor. "Can any one believe that Germany is thirsting for territory?" "Yes, certainly," roared Liebknecht as loudly as possible. Thereupon the uproar redoubled. The President had to call the Reichstag to order to prevent personal violence to Liebknecht.

[Pg 118]


Vice-President Paasche in the chair.

On April 7, 1916, Liebknecht declared—in the Reichstag during the discussion of the military estimates—that he had documents showing an agreement between Herr Zimmerman, the Under Foreign Secretary, and Sir Roger Casement, by which British prisoners were to be drilled to fight against England. After some further remarks about Mohammedan prisoners of war being pressed into service for Germany, Liebknecht was prevented from speaking amid shouts of "Traitor!" from all parts of the Chamber.

Liebknecht was able to speak later about the resignation of Von Tirpitz, but was prevented from discussing the submarine campaign. Here is what he said about the resignation of Von Tirpitz:

"After the War had begun with the cry 'Against Czarism' the aim was soon shifted westward." (Vice-President Paasche: "To say that the war began with one or the other object is to insult the Government. I call you to order and ask you not to dwell at any length on our war policy.")

Dr. Liebknecht: "After the war aims had been shifted westward—(the Vice-President: "I repeat my request"). I must touch on this question if I am[Pg 119] to discuss the opposing currents in the Government which brought about the change in the Admiralty. The manner in which the conflict was taken up in the Prussian Diet, the way in which the sharpening of the war against England was demanded in the Reichstag on account of the Baralong affair, and the scenes in the Prussian Diet before the change of office, throw an interesting light on the differences within the Government and in capitalist circles. A memorandum was to be published on the subject of armed British merchantmen. It was kept back for some length of time. In this one saw an acknowledgment by the Government of the demand for a sharper submarine warfare. The attack in the Prussian Diet was made premeditatedly, in order to show the strong opposition to certain members of the Government (the Vice-President interrupted the speaker) on pressure from the Prussian Diet. (The Vice-President again requested the speaker to keep to the point.) You must not suppress a most important political question." (General commotion. The Vice-President again requested the speaker to keep to the point.)

"I did keep to the point. I shall now discuss the memorandum on the question of armed merchantmen, for which the Admiralty is responsible. It is so composed that those who do not read it carefully with all the supplements must be misled. The memorandum attempts to prove that British merchantmen are armed in order to attack German submarines. (The Vice-President again forbade a [Pg 120]discussion of the submarine question, and called Dr. Liebknecht to order.) With such a ruling I am unable—(The Vice-President: "I ask the member not to criticise me.") So I am obliged to say nothing on what politically is most material!"

A few days after this scene in the Reichstag Herr Däumig, the editor of the Socialist organ Vorwärts, sent a Hungarian journalist with a letter of introduction to Dr. Liebknecht for an interview. The censor condensed the interview, and it only reached Budapest by messenger. The following extracts are from the suppressed portion printed in a Budapest (paper) pamphlet:

Dr. Liebknecht was greatly surprised at the visit, as he had been "quite neglected by reporters nowadays because what I say is generally considered 'dead copy' by the censor."

The correspondent explains that it is a mistake to suppose that Herr Liebknecht is as unpopular in Germany as he appears to be inside the Reichstag. He showed him correspondence from parts of Germany, a pile received in two days amounting to hundreds and hundreds of letters, ninety per cent of which are of an encouraging and congratulatory character. The remaining ten per cent are scurrilous anonymous attacks, and these he puts in a separate bundle, which he compares with great pride and satisfaction with the heap of more flattering epistles.

He is overjoyed at the idea that he is, after all, not alone, as he appears to be, and that although he is persecuted by his fellow-members of the [Pg 121]Reichstag, he is recompensed by the hearty congratulations of the people. What he wanted to say in the Reichstag when he was muzzled and expelled was said by two members, and he is quite satisfied on that point.

"Herr Davidson," said Liebknecht, "referred to the two cases I wanted to mention, and he drew just as vivid a picture of the spirit prevailing in the army and of the illegal persecutions as I should have done if I had been allowed.

"I wanted to call attention to the case of Dr. Nicolai, the world-famous professor at the University of Berlin, who attended the Empress before the war, and who was persecuted some time ago by the military authorities for what were termed indiscreet utterances. He was appointed to the directorship of two military hospitals at the beginning of the war at Graudentz, but some one reported him to the military authorities and he was discharged. On March 1st he was again sent away from Berlin, this time to Danzig, and was ordered to be sworn in as a soldier. He refused to obey, and as a consequence the world-famous professor was degraded to the status of a private. Orders were given that he was not to be allowed to provide his own food, and he was ordered to submit all his scientific literary work to the military authorities for approval.

"The same thing happened to another scientist, who wrote in a letter: 'I am sorry for and disapprove of the cruelties committed in Belgium, and,[Pg 122] as a good Christian, I regret and disapprove of the terrors of this war.'

"I know for a fact that the higher command uses German soldiers to spy on other German soldiers, a system which brands soldiers and commanders alike."

[Pg 123]


(Reichstag Meeting, April 8, 1916)

Dr. Liebknecht: "Gentlemen, the principal work of the Secretary of the Treasury, whose salary we are asked to vote for, was his activity for the war loan during the last year. I intend to examine critically those activities (great merriment). The new loan has brought 1,400,000,000 marks less than the preceding one, but still a grand total of 10,000,000,000 marks. We should investigate carefully from what funds the money invested in the war loan comes. Does this money invested in the war loan come from private or public funds." (Cries of protest from all sides of the House. Many Deputies rise from their seats in excitement. Continued cries: "This is the limit! Shall we allow him to go so far?" Cries of "Treason." "The fellow belongs in an insane asylum.")

Dr. K. Liebknecht clenches his fists and shouts a few words which cannot be understood. Great uproar again. Shouts of "Finish! Finish!" A few members of the Reichstag call out loudly: "Mr. President, you must preserve our rights!" "Down,"[Pg 124] from the platform! The Secretary of the Treasury tries to calm a few members of the House.

President Dr. Kaempf: According to the order of business the floor cannot be taken from a member of the House until he is called to order three times.

Member Dr. Müller Meiningen (Progressive Party): "Then he will betray us three times." (Stormy applause in the House in which the galleries join.)

Dr. K. Liebknecht: In regard to our loans, it has been said that our system of inbreeding—that the practice of obtaining loans on a former loan in order to invest the capital thus obtained in another new war loan is a sort of "perpetuum mobile." In a certain sense the loans may be compared to a merry-go-round. To a large extent it means simply the centralization of public wealth in the Treasury. (Great uproar and cries of "Finish" and "Treason.") I have the right to criticise. The truth must be spoken and you shall not hinder me. (Great uproar. Member Hubrich goes to Dr. Liebknecht and snatches Liebknecht's notes from his hands, and throws them on the floor. Stormy applause in the House in which the galleries join. Liebknecht raises his clenched fists and shouts. He then addresses himself to the President in an agitated tone. He is twice called to order by the President. Around the speakers' tribune are small and excited groups gesticulating. Member Dr. Müller Meiningen goes to the tribune and in a violent tone hurls indignant reproaches at Liebknecht. The minority [Pg 125]Social-Democrats of the Reichstag—Henke, Dittmann and Zubeil—rush to the tribune and put themselves in front of Liebknecht, other members of the House try to calm down the excited ones. The majority Social-Democrat Keil shouts: "Put the fellow out and then all will be finished." The whole House is in great excitement and uproar, notwithstanding the continual clang of the presidential bell. Finally the President is able to restore order, and declares that the chair finds that there is no quorum. The meeting is adjourned.)

[Pg 126]


This May Day Manifesto called the people of Berlin to the May Day Demonstration of 1916. He was sentenced to jail for expressions in this May Day Speech.


"Poverty and misery, need and starvation, are ruling in Germany, Belgium, Poland and Servia, whose blood the vampire of imperialism is sucking and which resemble vast cemeteries. The entire world, the much-praised European civilization, is falling into ruins through the anarchy which has been let loose by the world war.

"Those who profit from the war want war with the United States. To-morrow, perhaps, they may order us to aim lethal weapons against new groups of brethren, against our fellow-workers in the United States, and fight America, too. Consider well this fact: As long as the German people does not arise and use force directed by its own will, the assassination of the people will continue. Let thousands of voices shout 'Down with the shameless extermination of nations! Down with those responsible for these crimes!' Our enemy is not the English, French, nor Russian people, but the great German landed[Pg 127] proprietors, the German capitalists and their executive committee.

"Forward, let us fight the government; let us fight these mortal enemies of all freedom. Let us fight for everything which means the future triumph of the working-classes, the future of humanity and civilization.

"Workers, comrades, and you, women of the people, let not this festival of May, the second during the war, pass without protest against the Imperialist Slaughter. On the first of May let millions of voices cry, 'Down with the shameful crime of the extermination of peoples!' 'Down with those responsible for the War!'"

[Pg 128]


Delivered at the Potsdamerplatz, Berlin, May 1, 1916

(Report by one present at the demonstration)

Berlin, May 1. Very early in the morning, with three other comrades, I reached Hortensienstrasse, where Comrade Liebknecht lives. We enter No. 14, climb up the stairs, ring his bell. Comrade Liebknecht opens the door himself. He is thin, his hair looks unusually black and his face is deathly pale. He walks like a dead man, walking with grim steps. He leaves us and soon returns with his wife; she is a Russian. She nods welcome to us all. Suddenly a terrible fear comes to me. No one has spoken a word, yet we all feel that we are in the presence of a supreme moment. From Comrade Liebknecht's grim silence we judge that he is about to hurl prudence to the four winds and defy the Government.

He hands out, one to each of us, a copy of the speech which he will deliver. So far not one word has been spoken. While we are hurriedly reading his speech, which is to be delivered within a few hours, he remarks, "I have several thousand of these printed."

[Pg 129]

We have finished reading the prospectus which will make history and send him to prison. Then we go into conference. We have been with him just an hour. We leave him.

Shortly after 2 P. M. of the same May day, I have taken a hasty lunch at the Central Hotel. As I near the door I hear the footsteps of the great multitudes. As far as I can see, all the streets and side streets are full of surging, silently moving human beings; all moving in the direction where the May Day demonstration is to take place. These are men and women, mostly women. The men among them are mostly over fifty. Suddenly it becomes apparent to me that there are more children in the crowds than men and women together. As they march I notice that I cannot see one in the crowd who has a smile on her or his face. Along the route no one is cheering them. I had never seen such immense crowds in the streets of Berlin. Not even during the Agadir crisis had the streets of Berlin held such multitudes. The crowds move as though they are part of a funeral procession. They are all sad, very sad. I recognize a group of comrades in the crowd. I rush in and join them. Mund halten (keep your mouth shut) is the unwritten rule, and every one seems to observe it strictly.

Some one has turned the head of the procession into Unter den Linden. We do not know why; very few of us have noticed it, anyhow. We suddenly see a platoon of mounted guards dashing through the crowd, but they are riding on the sidewalk. The[Pg 130] part of the procession that had been marching on the sidewalk rushes to the middle of the street in order to escape being trampled upon by the mounted guards. Another group of mounted guards rides past hurriedly, and still another follows. The people in the procession all about me do not seem to notice them. Not even a whisper one hears. Their footsteps have a strange sound to my ears. On reaching the palace grounds I see in the distance five persons. From their elbows up they tower over the heads of the multitude surrounding them. I leave my friends and elbow my way through the thick crowd. I explain my impolite advance on the ground that I am a reporter on a party (Socialist) paper. I finally reach the spot where Comrade Liebknecht and other comrades are standing. The crowds are close where they are standing, and I cannot make out whether they are standing on a raised platform or in a motor car. I am about twenty or twenty-five feet from the doctor.

Suddenly one of the comrades near Dr. Liebknecht raises his hand and at once proceeds to speak. The multitude is anxious to hear him. Every one is sounding "Hush" in order to obtain silence and thus making more noise. Dr. Liebknecht uncovers his head; some one near by offers to relieve him of his hat. Deathly silence reigns all about the grounds. The interior of a cathedral cannot be more silent. The doctor begins: "Comrades and friends." They start to cheer him. He holds up his hand forbiddingly, then he resumes: "Some years ago a witty[Pg 131] Socialist observed that in Prussia we Germans have three cardinal rights, which are: we can be soldiers, we can pay taxes and we can keep our tongues between our teeth. The Socialist who made this observation made it with a grim humor, but to-day the humor of it must be disconnected from it—it is all too grim. Especially in these days this observation is too true. To-day we are sharing these three great Prussian State privileges in full. Every German citizen is given the full privilege to carry a rifle in any manner. Even the Boy Scout has been incited to play the ridiculous rôle of a soldier. They have thus planted the spirit of hate deep in his youthful soul. Meanwhile the old Landsturmer is forced to perform forced labor in invaded countries, in spite of the fact that under the laws of the Imperial Constitution he cannot be called out for any other purpose than for the defense of the Fatherland.

"As for his second privilege—his right to pay taxes—in this respect the German citizen is, up to the present time, far ahead of his brothers in foreign lands whom he is engaged in exterminating. And yet more privileges of this kind are awaiting him in the days to come—after the end of the war. The high taxes which the German people have so far paid are insignificant compared to the great burdens which they must carry after the war, and for which their masters are daily preparing them with such touching delicacy of patriotic sentiment through the medium of the official press.

"The new Germany has the unquestionable right[Pg 132] to hold its tongue between its teeth. Recently our official press has been flooded by authoritative and pharisaic exhortations to soldiers' wives that they must, for God's sake, not complain so much about the scarcity of food. Keep your mouth shut tight when hungry. Keep your mouth shut tight when your children are hungry, keep your mouth shut when your children want milk, keep your mouth shut when your children cry for bread, keep your mouth shut and write no letters to the front."

Outside of Germany these phrases might sound like the stock phrases of a professional agitator, but not so in Germany, at least not in those days. I carefully watched for the effect of these remarks all about me, and I saw no dry eyes.

Amid tense silence the doctor continued: "In a recent issue the mouthpiece of the Pharisees, the "Muenchener Neueste Nachrichten," complains thus (reading from a clipping):

"'Our soldiers do not always receive from their dear ones at home the best encouragement to hold on. A soldier on furlough who, before obtaining leave, had performed for his Fatherland unflinchingly, went through many hardships with good humor, but after a visit home returned to the front with a sad face, worrying day and night about his dear ones and the pretended scarcity at home.'

"'Pretended' scarcity certainly is palatable, especially when one is reminded of the fact that our police is weighing the bread, that butter is out of the market, that fat, meat and margarine have[Pg 133] reached a price that is beyond the probable reach of the workingman!

"Another well-nourished Pharisee exhorts in the columns of the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung by asking, 'Where is scarcity to be found?' and no doubt after having partaken of a good dinner he preaches with these words: 'We must teach ourselves at home how to manage to get along in our homes with as little as possible. But of course in large families with children the small earnings of the breadwinner being now totally absent, this sum must be replaced by the creation of a relief fund so that there may not be any serious want.' Exactly, but under no circumstances must the people complain of hunger. It annoys the soldier terribly and cripples his fighting power. Therefore do not write complaining letters to the front. In other words, you wives of soldiers, hide the truth from your husbands; in fact, lie to them.

"The old proverb says, 'The mouth speaketh out of the fullness of the heart,' and if her children's stomach is empty it is hard for the wife not to mention to her far-away soldier husband that it is hard to provide for his children with food while he is offering his life for his country. But if it is not found possible for your masters to prevail upon you to 'keep your tongue between your teeth,' then they resort to a more practical means. They have a very simple means of stopping these annoying complaints. The Prussian censor is now supervising these letters of wives at home to their husbands at the front.[Pg 134] They simply do not allow this objectionable correspondence to go through. Poor and unfortunate German soldier! He deserves pity! At the command of the militarist Government he has gone into the enemy country, and at the command of the Government he must steal from other nations. He is required to perform difficult services. The sufferings that he endures are past description. About him everywhere shells and bombs sow death and destruction. His wife and children at home are suffering want and hardship; she looks about her and finds her children crying for bread. She is desperate, but she must not appeal or complain to any one. She must hold her tongue and suffer inwardly. But how can she silence her children? She must not even share the sympathy of her husband at the front, because that cripples her soldier husband's fighting powers. Her soldier husband must 'hold on' and 'steal' in the land of her neighbors. He must hold on and 'suffer' because the capitalists, the hurrah patriots and the armor-plate kings have willed it so. Every one must keep his or her tongue between the teeth, for the war profiteers must make money out of the want and misery of the wives and their husband soldiers at the front.

"By a lie the German workingman was forced into the war, and by like lies they expect to induce him to go on with war!" A mighty shout went up from a thousand throats—"Hurrah for Liebknecht." Liebknecht raised his hand for silence. Then steadily, though knowing the cost, he said: "Do not shout[Pg 135] for me, shout rather 'We will have no more war. We will have peace—now!'"

Scarcely had he finished speaking when, as if by magic, a tremendous tumult arose. Near the spot where the doctor and his friends had been standing the crowds surged back and forth. The great multitudes in the palace grounds had the appearance of an immense sea whose surface was every inch covered with human heads, those of men and women. The children became terrified. The shouts of the grown-ups and the terrified shrieks of the children added vehemence to the scene. The next moment I see Comrade Liebknecht pulled down from the stand. His friends also follow. Then I see fists raised. I suddenly discover that the jostling of the crowds about me has carried me further away from the spot where a riot is in progress. I again elbow my way toward where the doctor and his companions have been pulled down from the stand. I had made some progress when suddenly I find myself being swept backward by a huge human wave.

In spite of my wish to see what is going on behind me I am being carried away further and further. Several hundred thousand panic-stricken souls are rushing towards the streets and avenues that lead to the grounds. The scene is frightful. Every one is shouting. I steal a glimpse of the spot which is now the center of the sudden panic. I gasp with fright. I see numberless mounted soldiers with large black whips in their hands lashing the crowds. Their mounts are so close to the struggling and frightened[Pg 136] men and women, yea, even children, that it is a miracle that thousands are not pinned to the ground. I cannot tell whether they are killed or whether they fainted. But there are many of them. I myself was forced to step over several persons. I tried to lift up a body, but in the next moment I was carried away....

May Day evening. Twenty-five or thirty meet secretly at the home of a comrade in —— street. We all know what the report is. Herr Doctor is arrested. We are all sad, very sad. We have met to exchange views as to what step to take next. Every one is laboring with heavy thoughts within himself. The silence is sickening. With the exception of four the men who come together to exchange views are all soldiers in the active army. Not all of them are privates. We have spent the entire night, sometimes in heavy silence and again in deliberation. It is decided that we —— —— ——. Are the German workingmen thinking? Their present thoughts are tragic. They hurt.

[Pg 137]


While in prison Dr. Liebknecht sent two letters to the military court handling his case, in which he explained his position. It was Dr. Liebknecht's hope that these letters would be read to the Reichstag and in that way reach the German people. But this was not the case. The letters were put before the Parliamentary Committee, which investigated Liebknecht's case and on whose recommendation the Reichstag, by a vote of 229 to 111, refused to ask for his release. A copy of one of these letters was smuggled out of prison and sent out of Germany.


Berlin, May 3rd, 1916.

To the Royal Military Court, Berlin:

In the investigation of the case against me, the records of remarks need the following elucidation:

I. The German Government is in its social and historical character an instrument for the crushing down and exploitation of the laboring classes; at home and abroad it serves the interests of junkerism, of capitalism, and of imperialism.

The German Government is a reckless champion of expansion in world politics, the most ardent promoter in the competition of armaments, and [Pg 138]accordingly one of the most powerful influences in developing the causes of the present war.

In partnership with the Austrian Government the German Government contrived to bring about this war and so burdened itself with the greatest responsibility for the immediate outbreak of the war.

The German Government started the war under cover of deception practiced upon the common people and even upon the Reichstag (compare, among other things, the concealment of the ultimatum to Belgium, the make-up of the German White Book, the elimination of the Czar's dispatch of July 29, 1914), and it tries by reprehensible means to keep up the war spirit among the people.

It carries on the war with methods that, judged even by standards hitherto conventional, are monstrous. The invasion of Belgium and Luxemburg, poisonous gases, which in the meantime have become of common use by all the belligerents, and then look at the Zeppelin bombs, which outdo everything and which are intended to kill all that live, combatants or non-combatants, within a wide region; submarine commerce warfare; the torpedoing of the Lusitania, etc.; the system of hostages and forced contributions at the beginning, especially in Belgium; the systematic entrapping of Ukrainian, Georgian, Baltic Provincials, Polish, Irish, Mohammedan, and other prisoners of war in the German prison camps for the purpose of having them do treasonable war service and treasonable spying for the Central Powers; Under-Secretary Zimmerman's agreement with[Pg 139] Sir Roger Casement in December, 1914, regarding the organization, equipment, and training in the German prison camps of the "Irish Brigade," composed of captured British soldiers; the attempts by means of threats of forcible interment to compel Christians of a hostile nationality found in Germany to do treasonable war service against their countries, and so forth. (Necessity knows no law!)

The German Government has, through the establishment of martial law, enormously increased the political lawlessness and economic exploitations of the people; it refuses all serious political and social reforms, while at the same time it tries to hold the people docile for the imperialistic war policy, by means of rhetorical phrases about equal rights accorded to all parties, about alleged discontinuation of discriminations in social and political matters, about an alleged readjustment and new direction of political matters, and so on.

The German Government because of its consideration for agrarian and capitalists' interests has completely failed to care for the economic welfare of the people during the war, to guard against misery and the practice of revolting extortion upon the people.

The German Government is still holding fast to its war aims and so constitutes the chief obstacle in the way of immediate peace negotiations upon the basis of renunciation of annexations and oppressions of all sorts: Through the maintenance—in itself illegal—of martial law (censorship, etc.) it [Pg 140]prevents the public from learning unpleasant facts and prevents Socialist criticism of its measures. The German Government thereby reveals its system of seeming legality and sham popularity as a system of actual force, of genuine hostility to the people and bad faith as regards the masses.

The cry of "Down with the Government!" is meant to brand this entire policy of the Government as fatal to the masses of the people.

This cry also indicates that it is the duty of every representative of the welfare of the proletariat to wage a struggle of the most strenuous character—the class struggle—against the Government.

II. The present war is not a war for the defense of the national integrity, not for the liberation of oppressed peoples, not for the welfare of the masses.

From the standpoint of the proletariat this war only signifies the most extreme concentration and extension of political suppression, of economic exploitation, and of military slaughtering of the working-class body and soul for the benefit of capitalism and of absolutism.

To all this the working-class of all countries can give but one answer: a harder struggle, the international class struggle against the capitalist Governments and the ruling classes of all countries for the abolition of all oppression and exploitation by the institution of a peace conceived in the Socialist spirit. In this class struggle the Socialist, whose Fatherland is the International, finds included the defense of everything that he, as a Socialist, is bound to defend.[Pg 141] The cry of "Down with war" signifies that I thoroughly condemn and oppose the present war because of its historical nature, because of its general social causes and specific way in which it originated (developed), and because of the way it is being carried on and the objects for which it is being waged. That cry signifies that it is the duty of every representative of proletarian interests to take part in the international class struggle for the purpose of ending the war.

III. As a Socialist I am fundamentally opposed to the existing military system as well as of this war, and I always supported with all my power the fight against Militarism as an especially important task and a matter of life and death for the working-class of all countries. (Compare my book "Militarism" and my reports to the International Young People's Conferences at Stuttgart, 1907, and Copenhagen, 1910.) The war demands that we carry on the struggle against Militarism with redoubled energy.

IV. Since 1889 May 1st has been consecrated to manifestations and propaganda in favor of the great basic principles of Socialism, against all exploitation, oppression, and violence; dedicated to propaganda for the solidarity of workers of all countries—a solidarity which the war has not abolished, but strengthened—against the workers' fratricidal strife, for peace and against war.

During the war the manifestation and propaganda of these principles is a doubly sacred duty imposed upon every Socialist.

[Pg 142]

V. The policy advocated by me was outlined in the resolution adopted by the International Socialist Congress held in Stuttgart (1907), which pledged Socialists of all countries—after they should have failed to prevent a war—to work with all their energies towards its quick ending, and to take advantage of the conditions created by the war for hastening the abolition of the capitalist order of society.

This Socialist policy is meant to be international, even in its ultimate consequences. It imposes upon the Socialists of other countries the same obligation with reference to their Governments and ruling classes that I with others in Germany followed against the Government and ruling classes of Germany.

This Socialist policy has an international effect, by spreading reciprocal encouragement from nation to nation; it promotes the international class struggle against war.

Since the beginning of the war I, together with others, have defended in every possible way and upheld in the most public manner this Socialist policy, and besides, so far as possible, have entered into connections with those who shared my sentiments in other countries.

(I may mention, for example, my journey to Belgium and Holland in September, 1914; my Christmas letter in 1914 to the Labor Leader; the International Socialist Meetings in Switzerland, in which, I regret to say, I was unable to participate personally, being prevented by superior powers, etc.)

[Pg 143]

VI. This policy to which, cost it what it may, I shall hold fast, is not mine alone, but it is also the policy of an ever-increasing proportion of the people in Germany and of the other belligerent and neutral States. It will soon become, as I hope—and to this end I am resolved to toil on—the policy of the working-class of all countries, which will then possess the power to break the imperialistic will of the ruling classes, and to shape as may seem best the mutual relations and conditions of the people for the benefit of all mankind.

Karl Liebknecht,    


On June 28th, 1916, Karl Liebknecht was sentenced at secret trial to thirty months' penal servitude. When the public prosecutor asked for this secrecy, Liebknecht exclaimed:

"It is cowardice on your part, gentlemen. Yes, I repeat, that you are cowards if you close these doors."

Nevertheless, the court decided to exclude the public, upon which Liebknecht cried to his wife and Rosa Luxemburg, in the audience, "Leave this comedy, where everything, including even the decision, has been prepared beforehand."

Following the announcement of the sentence given[Pg 144] Liebknecht, the Potsdamerplatz in Berlin was the scene of a serious outbreak.

The next day (according to reports from Switzerland) strikes of protest against the Liebknecht case took place in Berlin and some 55,000 persons were involved in them. In other cities strikes and demonstrations of protest also took place.

An appeal was taken but resulted only in an increase in the sentence to four years' and one month's imprisonment at hard labor. Furthermore, he was deprived of all his civil rights for a period of six years after he should have served his term.

[Associated Press Dispatch]

Paris, October 25.—An enormous crowd assembled before the Reichstag building in Berlin yesterday, calling for the abdication of Emperor William and the formation of a republic, according to a special dispatch from Zurich to L'Information.

Dr. Karl Liebknecht, the Socialist leader who has just been released from prison, was applauded frantically. He was compelled to enter a carriage filled with flowers from which he made a speech declaring that the time of the people had arrived.


Printed in the United States of America.

[Pg 145]

The following pages contain advertisements of a few of the Macmillan books on kindred subjects.

[Pg 147]

The End of the War

Author of "American World Policies," "The New Democracy," etc.


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[Pg 148]


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Publishers 64-66 Fifth Avenue New York

[Pg 149]


The Village: Russian Impressions


Illustrated. Cloth, $1.50

This volume describes in personal and narrative form Mr. Poole's visit to the small estate of an old Russian friend, whose home was a rough log cabin in the North of Russia. From there he ranged the neighborhood in company with his friend, talking with peasants in their huts; with the vagabonds camped at night on the riverside; with the man who kept the village store; with the priest, the doctor and the school teacher, as well as with the saw-mill owner.

Their views of the war, the revolution and American friendship are all of great significance now, for the peasants form nearly ninety per cent. of the Russian people.


"The Dark People": Russia's Crisis

Author of "His Family," "The Harbor," etc.

Cloth, 12mo, $1.50

"Too strange, too romantic, too imaginative, to be anything but sober truth.... We have read no book which got closer to the heart ... of the Russian people."—N. Y. Tribune.

"A valuable book, ... sane and informative, ... shows close study by an impartial mind."—N. Y. Herald.

"We have never read a book more deeply thrilling. It is not the book of a dreamer, but of one whose vision is far because his heart beats for his fellowmen...."—Book Review.

"A sincere, unpretentious, and strikingly successful attempt to get at the mind and heart of these people in the midst of revolution."—N. Y. Evening Post.


Inside the Russian Revolution


Illustrated. Cloth, $1.50

"Mrs. Dorr's book is an excellent piece of reporting. It will be the exceptional reader who will not find here what he would most like to get from an American visitor who has had exceptional opportunities to learn the truth. Her book will have to be consulted by the future historian of anarchy's reign in Russia."—Springfield Republican.

"As a distinctively first-hand study of a world event of illimitable influence and implications, this volume is a milestone along the pathway of history."—Philadelphia North American.


Publishers 64-66 Fifth Avenue New York

[Pg 150]

The Flaming Crucible


Translated by A. B. Maurice


Under the title Croire, this autobiography of a French infantryman was published in Paris in 1917. It is a revelation of the French spirit. It is rather a biography of the spirit, than an account of the amazing experiences M. Fribourg encountered, from 1911 at Agadir, through the fighting on the Meuse, and part of the campaign in Flanders. The descriptions are memorable for their beautiful style, their pathos or their elevation. There is a definite climax toward the end where M. Fribourg returns to a hospital in Paris, broken and dulled, his faith momentarily befogged. Gradually he readapts himself, regains and confirms his faith in the human spirit that was so vivid when he lived with his fellow soldiers.


Behind the Battle Line


Cloth, $1.25

What are the women of the world planning for the future? To find that out, Miss Doty made a trip around the world. She takes you into the heart of each nation she visited—Japan, China, Russia, Norway, Sweden, England and France. The differences in civilization are vividly shown, mainly through the daily thought and life of the women. Behind the Battle Line: Around the World in 1918, depicts the great spiritual struggle that, beside the physical battle, engulfs the world.


The War and the Future

Author of "Gallipoli," "The Old Front Line," etc.

Cloth, $1.25

"It was well to reprint these lectures, and it will be well for the book to have the widest possible reading and permanent preservation for rereading.... No man in the world to-day has a more searching, accurate, and divinely just spiritual vision of the war and of the issues involved in it.... If ever a book was inspired, this was."—N. Y. Tribune.


Publishers 64-66 Fifth Avenue New York