Monday, January 04, 2021

*From The Archives-The Struggle To Win The Youth To The Fight For Our Communist Future-In Honor Of The Three L’s-In Honor Of Karl Liebknecht-Liebknecht’s Protest Against the War Credits(1914)

On The 100th Anniversary Of Newly-Fledged German Communist Leader Rosa Luxemburg And Karl Liebknecht-Oh, What Might Have Been-


By Frank Jackman

History in the conditional, what might have happened if this or that thing, event, person had swerved this much or that, is always a tricky proposition. Tricky as reflected in this piece’s commemorative headline. Rosa Luxemburg the acknowledged theoretical wizard of the German Social-Democratic Party, the numero uno party of the Second, Socialist International, which was the logical organization to initiate the socialist revolution before World War II and Karl Liebknecht, the hellfire and brimstone propagandist and public speaker of that same party were assassinated in separate locale on the orders of the then ruling self-same Social-Democratic Party. The chasm between the Social-Democratic leaders trying to save Germany for “Western Civilization” in the wake of the “uncivilized” socialist revolution in Russia in 1917 had grown that wide that it was as if they were on two different planets, and maybe they were.

(By the way I am almost embarrassed to mention the term “socialist revolution” these days when people, especially young people, would be clueless as to what I was talking about or would think that this concept was so hopelessly old-fashioned that it would meet the same blank stares. Let me assure you that back in the day, yes, that back in the day, many a youth had that very term on the tips of their tongues. Could palpably feel it in the air. Hell, just ask your parents, or grandparents.)

Okay here is the conditional and maybe think about it before you dismiss the idea out of hand if only because the whole scheme is very much in the conditional. Rosa and Karl, among others made almost every mistake in the book before and during the Spartacist uprising in some of the main German cities in late 1918 after the German defeat in the war. Their biggest mistake before the uprising was sticking with the Social Democrats, as a left wing, when that party had turned at best reformist and eminently not a vehicle for the socialist revolution, or even a half-assed democratic “revolution” which is what they got with the overthrow of the Kaiser. They broke too late, and subsequently too late from a slightly more left-wing Independent Socialist Party which had split from the S-D when that party became the leading war party in Germany for all intents and purposes and the working class was raising its collective head and asking why. 

The big mistake during the uprising was not taking enough protective cover, not keeping the leadership safe, keeping out of sight like Lenin had in Finland when things were dicey in 1917 Russia and fell easy prey to the Freikorps assassins. Here is the conditional, and as always it can be expanded to some nth degree if you let things get out of hand. What if, as in Russia, Rosa and Karl had broken from that rotten (for socialism) S-D organization and had a more firmly entrenched cadre with some experience in independent existence. What if the Spartacists had protected their acknowledged leaders better. There might have been a different trajectory for the aborted and failed German left-wing revolutionary opportunities over the next several years, there certainly would have been better leadership and perhaps, just perhaps the Nazi onslaught might have been stillborn, might have left Munich 1923 as their “heroic” and last moment.  


Instead we have a still sad 100th anniversary of the assassination of two great international socialist fighters who headed to the danger not away always worthy of a nod and me left having to face those blank stares who are looking for way forward but might as well be on a different planet-from me.  


Markin comment:

One of the declared purposes of this space is to draw the lessons of our left-wing past here in America and internationally, especially from the pro-communist wing. To that end I have made commentaries and provided archival works in order to help draw those lessons for today’s left-wing activists to learn, or at least ponder over. More importantly, for the long haul, to help educate today’s youth in the struggle for our common communist future. That is no small task or easy task given the differences of generations; differences of political milieus worked in; differences of social structure to work around; and, increasingly more important, the differences in appreciation of technological advances, and their uses.
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Karl Liebknecht 1914

Liebknecht’s Protest Against the War Credits


Source: Liebknecht “Liebknecht’s Protest Against the War Credits,” Justice, 17th December 1914, p.1;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

The “Berner Tagewacht” publishes the full text of Karl Liebknecht’s protest in the Reichstag against the voting of the war credits. The protest was suppressed in the Reichstag, and no German paper has published it. It appears that seventeen Social-Democratic members expressed their opposition to the credits on December 2, but Karl Liebknecht’s was the only vote recorded against them.

Liebknecht’s protest declares that “this war, which none of the peoples involved desired, was not started for the benefit of the German or of any other people. It is an Imperialist war, a war for capitalist domination of the world markets and for the political domination of the important countries in the interest of industrial and financial capitalism. Arising out of the armament race, it is a preventative war provoked by the German and Austrian war parties in the obscurity of semi-absolutism and of secret diplomacy.

“It is also a Buonapartist attempt tending to demoralise and destroy the growing Labour movement.”

“The German word of command ‘against Czarismus,’ like the English or French word of command ‘against militarism,’ has been the means of bringing forth the most noble instincts, the revolutionary traditions and hopes of the peoples, for the purpose of hatred among the peoples. Accomplice of ‘Czarismus,’ Germany, a model country of political reaction, possesses not the qualities necessary to play the part of a liberator of peoples ...

“This war is not a defensive war for Germany. Its historical character and the succeeding events make it impossible for us to trust a capitalist Government when it declares that it is for the defence of the country that it asks for the credits.

“A peace made as soon as possible and which will humiliate no one is what must be demanded. All efforts in that direction should be supported. A simultaneous and continual demand for such peace in all the belligerent countries will be able to stop the bloody massacre before the complete exhaustion of all the peoples concerned .....”

Liebknecht concludes his protest by declaring that he will vote in favour of anything that will lighten the hard lot of “our brothers on the field of battle, and those wounded and sick, for whom I have the warmest compassion .... But my protest is against the war, against those responsible for it, against those who are directing it; against the capitalistic ends for which it is being pursued, against the violation of the neutrality of Belgium and Luxemburg, against military dictation, and against the complete neglect of social and political duties of which the Government and the dominant class are guilty to-day.”


There is no question that back in my youth I could have used, desperately used, many of the archival materials available today. When I developed political consciousness very early on, albeit liberal political consciousness, I could have used this material as I knew, I knew deep inside my heart and mind, that a junior Cold War liberal of the American For Democratic Action (ADA) stripe was not the end of my leftward political trajectory. More importantly, I could have used a socialist or communist youth organization to help me articulate the doubts I had about the virtues of liberal capitalism and be recruited to a more left-wing world view. As it was I spent far too long in the throes of the left-liberal/soft social-democratic milieu where I was dying politically. A group like the Young Communist League (W.E.B. Dubois Clubs in those days), the Young People’s Socialist League, or the Young Socialist Alliance representing the youth organizations of the American Communist Party, American Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S.) respectively would have saved much wasted time and energy. I knew they were around but not in my area.

The archival material to be used in this series is weighted heavily toward the youth movements of the early American Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S). For more recent material I have relied on material from the Spartacus Youth Clubs, the youth group of the Spartacist League (U.S.), both because they are more readily available to me and because, and this should give cause for pause, there are not many other non-CP, non-SWP youth groups around. As I gather more material from other youth sources I will place them in this series.

Finally I would like to finish up with the preamble to the Spartacist Youth Club’s What We Fight For statement of purpose:

"The Spartacus Youth Clubs intervene into social struggles armed with the revolutionary internationalist program of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. We work to mobilize youth in struggle as partisans of the working class, championing the liberation of black people, women and all the oppressed. The SYCs fight to win youth to the perspective of building the Leninist vanguard party that will lead the working class in socialist revolution, laying the basis for a world free of capitalist exploitation and imperialist slaughter."

This seems to me be somewhere in the right direction for what a Bolshevik youth group should be doing these days; a proving ground to become professional revolutionaries with enough wiggle room to learn from their mistakes, and successes. More later.

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Those Who Fought For Our Communist Future Are Kindred Spirits-Honor American Communist Leader James P. Cannon -How to Organise and Conduct a Study Class

On The 100th Anniversary Of Newly-Fledged German Communist Leader Rosa Luxemburg And Karl Liebknecht-Oh, What Might Have Been-


By Frank Jackman

History in the conditional, what might have happened if this or that thing, event, person had swerved this much or that, is always a tricky proposition. Tricky as reflected in this piece’s commemorative headline. Rosa Luxemburg the acknowledged theoretical wizard of the German Social-Democratic Party, the numero uno party of the Second, Socialist International, which was the logical organization to initiate the socialist revolution before World War II and Karl Liebknecht, the hellfire and brimstone propagandist and public speaker of that same party were assassinated in separate locale on the orders of the then ruling self-same Social-Democratic Party. The chasm between the Social-Democratic leaders trying to save Germany for “Western Civilization” in the wake of the “uncivilized” socialist revolution in Russia in 1917 had grown that wide that it was as if they were on two different planets, and maybe they were.

(By the way I am almost embarrassed to mention the term “socialist revolution” these days when people, especially young people, would be clueless as to what I was talking about or would think that this concept was so hopelessly old-fashioned that it would meet the same blank stares. Let me assure you that back in the day, yes, that back in the day, many a youth had that very term on the tips of their tongues. Could palpably feel it in the air. Hell, just ask your parents, or grandparents.)

Okay here is the conditional and maybe think about it before you dismiss the idea out of hand if only because the whole scheme is very much in the conditional. Rosa and Karl, among others made almost every mistake in the book before and during the Spartacist uprising in some of the main German cities in late 1918 after the German defeat in the war. Their biggest mistake before the uprising was sticking with the Social Democrats, as a left wing, when that party had turned at best reformist and eminently not a vehicle for the socialist revolution, or even a half-assed democratic “revolution” which is what they got with the overthrow of the Kaiser. They broke too late, and subsequently too late from a slightly more left-wing Independent Socialist Party which had split from the S-D when that party became the leading war party in Germany for all intents and purposes and the working class was raising its collective head and asking why. 

The big mistake during the uprising was not taking enough protective cover, not keeping the leadership safe, keeping out of sight like Lenin had in Finland when things were dicey in 1917 Russia and fell easy prey to the Freikorps assassins. Here is the conditional, and as always it can be expanded to some nth degree if you let things get out of hand. What if, as in Russia, Rosa and Karl had broken from that rotten (for socialism) S-D organization and had a more firmly entrenched cadre with some experience in independent existence. What if the Spartacists had protected their acknowledged leaders better. There might have been a different trajectory for the aborted and failed German left-wing revolutionary opportunities over the next several years, there certainly would have been better leadership and perhaps, just perhaps the Nazi onslaught might have been stillborn, might have left Munich 1923 as their “heroic” and last moment.  


Instead we have a still sad 100th anniversary of the assassination of two great international socialist fighters who headed to the danger not away always worthy of a nod and me left having to face those blank stares who are looking for way forward but might as well be on a different planet-from me.  


Markin comment:


Every January, as readers of this blog are now, hopefully, familiar with the international communist movement honors the 3 Ls-Lenin, Luxemburg and Liebknecht, fallen leaders of the early 20th century communist movement who died in this month (and whose untimely deaths left a huge, irreplaceable gap in the international leadership of that time). January is thus a time for us to reflect on the roots of our movement and those who brought us along this far. In order to give a fuller measure of honor to our fallen forbears this January, and in future Januarys, this space will honor others who have contributed in some way to the struggle for our communist future. That future classless society, however, will be the true memorial to their sacrifices. This year we pay special honor to American Communist party founder and later Trotskyist leader, James P. Cannon, Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci, and German Left Communist Karl Korsch.

Note on inclusion: As in other series on this site (“Labor’s Untold Story”, “Leaders Of The Bolshevik Revolution”, etc.) this year’s honorees do not exhaust the list of every possible communist worthy of the name. Nor, in fact, is the list limited to Bolshevik-style communists. There will be names included from other traditions (like anarchism, social democracy, the Diggers, Levellers, Jacobins, etc.) whose efforts contributed to the international struggle. Also, as was true of previous series this year’s efforts are no more than an introduction to these heroes of the class struggle. Future years will see more detailed information on each entry, particularly about many of the lesser known figures. Better yet, the reader can pick up the ball and run with it if he or she has more knowledge about the particular exploits of some communist militant, or to include a missing one.
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How to Organise and Conduct a Study Class

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Written: December 13, 1924
Source: Fighting for Socialism in the “American Century” (c) Resistance Books 2001. Resistance Books 2001 ISBN 1876646217; Published by Resistance Books 23 Abercrombie St, Chippendale NSW 2008, Permission for on-line publication provided by Resistance Books for use by the James P. Cannon Internet Archive in 2003.
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters


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The following article was first published in the Daily Worker magazine supplement, December 13, 1924. At the time, Cannon was the educational director of the Workers Party.


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The problem of educational work is many-sided. Enthusiasm for this work among the party members must be aroused and maintained. A general recognition of its fundamental importance must be established. It must be organically connected with the life and struggles of the party, and must not become academic and sterile. And it must be conducted in a systematic manner, becoming an established part of the life of the party throughout the year. This last will not just “happen”. It will take much work and the introduction of correct organisational and technical principles. All our theories will come to nothing if our educational apparatus does not function properly.

Many classes have landed on the rocks because they were not conducted properly. One of the most frequent inquiries we have received from comrades who are undertaking party educational work is: “What is the best way to conduct a study class?” It is the purpose of this article to give an answer to this question based on the collective experience in the field of educational work from which a few general principles can be extracted.

Let us begin at the beginning and proceed step by step. When the responsible party committee in the given localities has decided to establish a class, let us say, for example, in the “ABC of Communism”, the next move must be to appoint a leader for the class. This leader must understand that the class will not move of itself, but must be organised and directed from beginning to end, otherwise it will fall to pieces. The comrade in charge of the class must then proceed to enrol students, having them register for the class and making sure he has a sufficient number who agree in advance to attend the classes before he sets the time for calling it. As soon as a sufficient number of students have been enrolled, a date is set for the first class and all the students are notified.

At this point we should speak a word about the danger of haphazardness in the attendance at the classes on the part of any of the students. The party committee must decide that the attendance at class once a week, or more frequently, as the case may be, is a part of the member’s party duty and should excuse him from party obligations for those nights. The systematic and regular attendance at class by all students must be constantly stressed, and the party committee and the leader of the class must constantly fight against the tendency, which always grows up, to regard the study class as a series of lectures at which one can “drop in” whenever he feels like it. Good results can only be obtained when the class is an organised body and is regularly attended by the same students.

Methods of conducting classes

The methods of conducting the classes which have proved most successful from past experience can be roughly divided into two general methods. These methods may be modified and varied in many ways, according to local circumstances, experience and qualifications of the teacher, etc.

These two methods are:

1. The lecture-question method.

2. The method of reading from and discussing the text in the class.

The lecture-question method. This is the method most frequently employed by experienced teachers, and one which yields the most satisfactory results if qualified comrades can be found to conduct the class along this line. The use of this method presupposes that the teacher, who is himself thoroughly familiar with the subject matter of the text, possesses some ability and experience as a lecturer. It is not necessary, however, for him to be a professional. The average communist who has a firm grasp of his subject will find that with a little practice he can succeed in holding the attention of a class.

Under this method the teacher delivers a lecture for the period of about one hour on some phase of the general subject, dealt with in the text. In addition he requires the students to read, outside the class, in connection with his lecture, certain portions of the text and sometimes portions of other books which deal with the same subject. When the class comes together for the second time it is opened with a question period of about thirty minutes during which the lecturer quizzes the students on the subject matter of the previous week’s lecture and the reading in connection with it. It is best to have a short recess at the end of the question period in order to get a fresh start for the lecture. A lecture of about an hour then completes the evening’s work. Again the students are referred to sections of the text for reading in connection with the lecture. The same procedure is then followed at each successive meeting of the class until the end of the course.

When this method is employed it is not advisable to have indiscriminate discussion in the class, as this will almost invariably divert the attention of the class from the immediate subject at hand and destroy the possibility of consecutive instruction. For a teacher to conduct a class according to this method he must take it firmly in hand, establish his authority at the very beginning, and maintain it throughout the course. Nothing is more fatal to the success of such a class than for the opinion to grow up amongst some of the students that the teacher knows less then they do about the subject. For he will then be unable to maintain the proper discipline in the class and hold it to its course. Whenever a study class, organised for the purpose of consecutive study of a certain aspect of communist theory or tactics, begins to resolve itself into a group for general discussion or a debating society, its early demise can be confidently expected.

Reading and discussing the text. This method also works out very well, especially in elementary classes. In this method, as in all others, however, the first prerequisite is a class leader who takes a responsible attitude towards the work and who takes it upon himself to organise and lead the class and hold it down to the matter in hand. This class leader should by all means thoroughly study the text before the class commences and make himself master of it.

The class conducted according to this method proceeds by the class leader calling upon the students, one after another, to read a few sentences or a paragraph from the text. After each student finishes reading the part assigned to him, the leader asks the student who has read the passage to explain it in his own words. If he fails to bring out the meaning clearly or interprets the passage incorrectly, the question is directed to other students, the leader himself finally intervening to clarify the matter if necessary.

Proceeding along this line the class will cover a chapter or so of the text each evening. Before the reading commences each time, the leader should conduct a brief quiz of the class on the part of the text dealt with on the preceding evening in order to bring out the points clearly for the second time, refresh the memory of the students, and connect the preceding class with the one about to begin.

In the course of a few months, proceeding along this line, the class will get through the “ABC of Communism” and will have acquired a grasp of the fundamental theories of the movement. Moreover, if the class has been conducted successfully, if it has had the good fortune to have a leader that can inspire confidence and enthusiasm and who can hold it together as an organised body in spite of all difficulties, the students of the class, or at least a large part of them, will emerge from their first course of training with a strong will and spirit to acquire more knowledge and thereby equip themselves better to become worthy fighters in the cause of communism.

The success of the study class work is to a very large extent dependent upon organisation, leadership and class discipline. It should start on time and stop on time each evening. It must not accommodate itself to casual students or chronic latecomers. It should not degenerate into a mere discussion group over the general problems of the movement but must confine itself in a disciplined manner to the specific subjects dealt with in the course. It should be conducted in a businesslike fashion from start to finish, students being enrolled and the roll called each evening. Above all it should have a leader who, notwithstanding lack of previous experience, will take his task so seriously as to thoroughly master the subject himself. Then he will be able to establish sufficient authority in the class to lead it step by step to the end of the course.