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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

The Hour of the People Has Come: Spartacus League Manifesto

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

In the lead up to the revolutionary wave that swept over Germany in January, 1919, this manifesto was issued by Clara Zetkin, Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht and Franz Mehring of the Spartacus League which was soon to become the Communist Party of Germany (KPD).

Luxemburg and Liebknecht honoured in Berlin, 1978

It was published outside of Germany in Switzerland and France and then eventually in March, 1919 in publications like The Nation, the New York Times and the Liberator magazine in the United States.

By the time it was printed in the US, Luxemburg and Liebknecht had been brutally murdered by rightist military forces on January 15, 1919 after an attempted uprising in Berlin. Mehring, who had been ill at the time of their killings, died just a couple of weeks later. Zetkin went on to become a leader of the KPD and famously stood up against the Nazis in the German Reichstag after their election. She died in a sanatorium near Moscow in 1933.

In the wake of the horrors of World War One they wrote:

The imperialism of all countries knows no ' understanding,' it knows only one right—capital's profits; it knows only one language - the sword; it knows only one method—violence. And if it is now talking in all countries, in yours as well as ours, about the "League of Nations", "disarmament", "rights of small nations", "self-determination of the peoples", it is merely using the customary lying phrases of the rulers for the purpose of lulling to sleep the watchfulness of the proletariat.
Proletarians of all countries! This must be the last war! We owe that to the 12,000,000 murdered victims, we owe that to our children, we owe that to humanity.

Stirringly, in a way that speaks to us now, over a hundred years later, they also wrote:

Socialism alone is in a position to complete the great work of permanent peace, to heal the thousand wounds from which humanity is bleeding, to transform the plains of Europe, trampled down by the passage of the apocryphal horseman of war, into blooming gardens, to conjure up ten productive forces for every one destroyed, to awaken all the physical and moral energies of humanity, and to replace hatred and dissension with fraternal solidarity, harmony, and respect for every human being.
And therefore we call to you: ' Arise for the struggle! Arise for action! The time for empty manifestos, platonic resolutions, and high-sounding words has gone by! The hour of action has struck for the International!'

Below is the text as printed in the Liberator. Underneath the scans is an extra couple of paragraphs that were printed in the Nation.

According to the version in the Nation the manifesto concluded with:

Workers of all countries! We summon you to accomplish the task of socialist liberation, to restore a human form to violated humanity, and to give a living meaning to the phrase with which we formerly greeted each other and with which we bade each other goodbye:
“The Internationale will be the human race!” (“L’Internationale sera le genre humain!”)


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