[OPE-L] Karl Liebknecht & Rosa Luxemburg memorial --2006

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Wed Jan 18 2006 - 08:33:32 EST

MRZine has an article on this years's memorial marches in Berlin
on the occasion of the anniversary of the murder of Rosa Luxemburg
and Karl Liebknecht.  There is remarkable irony in the title of
the article by Victor Grossman -- "Unity -- In Memory of Rosa
Luxemburg."  The marches honored both, Luxemburg and Liebknecht
were united in life and death, but the title of the article -- on
"Unity" no less! -- omits mention of Liebknecht! I can not say
whether this oversight was the responsibility of Grossman or
someone at MRZine.

Nevertheless, it is an interesting article which I have reproduced
below. The article makes reference to a recent conference on
Luxemburg in which Paul C was a speaker.  According to the schedule
for the conference, a recorded message from Mumia Abu-Jamal
immediately followed Paul's talk:  a great honor, I think, for Paul!

In solidarity, Jerry

            Unity -- In Memory of Rosa Luxemburg
            by Victor Grossman
            There was a subtle difference in both groups this year -- many
said they noticed it.

            As in every year, tens of thousands of Germans visited the
Memorial Site of the Socialists in an eastern section of
Berlin and placed red carnations at the tall memorial stone
honoring Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, or the
surrounding wall with its plaques marking the lives and deaths
of socialist and communist leaders of the last century, from
founders of the Social Democracy who died before World War One
to men and women who fought the Nazis in Spain, in exile, or
in prisons and death camps andbuilt up the German Democratic
Republic as best they could but died -- mercifully -- before
its downfall.

            The annual commemoration grew out of the giant protest of
German workers mourning Karl and Rosa, leftist Social
Democrats who opposed World War One, who were murdered on 15
January 1919, two weeks after helping to found the Communist
Party.  It became a tradition during the era before Hitler,
who had the beautiful memorial by Mies van der Rohe

            Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Monument to Rosa Luxemburg and Karl
Liebknecht, Berlin, 1926

            The tradition was revived in GDR years and, although it took
on aspects of formally "honoring the leaders," probably
remained the most popular celebration in Berlin.  Since then,
in a far opener spirit, it repeatedly surprises the media and
the "experts" with its size.  This year, again, they
underestimated the participants radically, counting only
20,000 when probably three or four times that number took

            As ever, there were two groups.  One marched several miles
along Karl Marx Allee with loudspeaker trucks, music, fiery
speeches, and even more fiery banners and slogans.  Alongside
trade union youth and anti-fascist organizations were columns
from every imaginable left-wing organization.  Some seemed to
be calling for the revolution in a week, others next
afternoon.  Hammers and sickles abounded, so did the faces of
Marx, Engels, Lenin, Che, and of course Rosa Luxemburg -- and
even of Josef Stalin or Mao Tse-tung.  In the loud, colorful
crowd, not only German dialects from all Germany but many
other languages were frequently heard -- especially Turkish,
the language of the largest minority in Germany, but also
Kurdish, Greek, Persian, and Arab.  This was the day when each
group tried to demonstrate its importance and its militancy.

            The other group, far larger and quieter, consisted largely of
East Berliners carrying on the tradition of honoring Karl and
Rosa, meeting old friends and comrades still true to the cause
"despite everything" (or as, Karl Liebknecht said in German --
"Trotz alledem") and wishing to register a lasting belief in
their ideals of a better, socialist Germany and a world at

            Neither group quite understood the other.  The strange hairdos
and clothes -- though far less marked this year -- and wildly
revolutionary slogans of the former disconcerted or even
shocked the latter -- many ordinary East Berliners who, to the
former, seemed very bourgeois.  Attempts were made in past
years to use such differences to split the commemoration and
wreck it.  But this year again, several blocks before the
cemetery entrance, both those who had marched and those who
came by subway mixed quite peaceably well before the final

            But was it purely imagination which made the crowds this year
seem not only larger but somehow more hopeful?

            A possible clue is found in another tradition: the annual
international Rosa Luxemburg Conference, held one day before
the day of commemoration.  On the day of the annual
conference, every publisher of left-wing books and pamphlets
-- as well as every party and organization on the left, down
to the tiniest -- opens a stand in a section of the Humboldt
University building in East Berlin.  Inside the auditorium of
the building, seating perhaps 800, is the annual conference

            Among the conference speakers in past years were prominent
people like Angela Davis and Evo Morales, soon to be president
of Bolivia.  A Cuban speaker is welcomed nearly every year,
and a sign of solidarity is also offered now to Venezuela.
And every year, Mumia Abu-Jamal, the African-American
journalist threatened with execution in Pennsylvania since
1982, sends a recorded message from his cell on Death Row.

            Especially of interest to many this year were the speeches by
Heinz Dieterich Steffan of the University of Mexico City and
Paul Cockshott of Glasgow University.  Both of them
demonstrated, in quite learned language which never failed to
fascinate the overfilled hall, that the countless academic and
media proofs of the impossibility of socialism are all flawed.
 It is capitalism which is basically flawed, they insisted,
and both analyzed, in very different ways, why it not only
must but can be replaced by a new democratic socialism.

            Then, after a fine musical group, came the most interesting
speech of all.  Oskar Lafontaine from south-western Saarland,
once a leading Social Democrat who left his party when it
broke with its principles, is co-chair of the parliamentary
caucus of the Left Party in the Bundestag, along with Gregor
Gysi from the PDS, or Party of Democratic Socialism, which is
centered largely in eastern Germany.  Lafontaine is now leader
of the Electoral Alternative for Jobs and Social Justice
(WASG).  The two groups plan to merge into a single party next
year.  His clear, sharp speech attacked all four old and new
government parties and showed how their constant misuse of key
vocabulary has hidden the fact that their program never could
decrease joblessness but only increase it.  What is required
to tackle unemployment is not cutting social benefits and
lengthening weekly working hours but the opposite.  Not
privatization and deregulation but, again, the opposite.
Above all, unity is needed between the Left delegates in the
Bundestag and those fighting in the factories, the schools and
colleges, and in the streets.  The PDS and WASG are facing
differences in some provinces (above all in Berlin itself) --
on the issue of PDS participation with the Social Democrats in
the government.  But here, too, Lafontaine suggested ways of
solving problems.

            Lafontaine expressed his conviction that a Left, far more
united than ever before, can now make a difference in Germany.
 After years of doubt and despite past quarrels, new hopes
have already attracted new groups and new voters and seem to
offer a chance to fight together and move closer to the ideals
of Karl and Rosa.  And that seemed reflected in this year's

            Victor Grossman, American journalist and author, is a resident
of East Berlin for many years. He is the author of Crossing
the River: A Memoir of the American Left, the Cold War, and
Life in East Germany (University of Massachusetts Press,

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