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

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Fri Jan 20 2006 - 07:51:02 EST

glevy@PRATT.EDU wrote:

>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
It was an interesting conference. Due to constraints of time I was unable
to go on the memorial march. I was very impressed by the vibrant
communist culture that the German left still has. I suppose that
the country with the first communist party should be
expected to have this strong tradition!

The *Bolschewistische Kurkapelle* were great, very loud and unlike
anything that I had heard before - though I suppose there might have
been echoes of Kurt Weil in the style.

Very well attended conference, 1800 seats not 800 as given in
the report. Lots of stalls selling all sorts of left literature, clothes
CDs DVDs etc.

This was the schedule of the Conference:

    * 10.00 Uhr: *Saalöffnung*
    * 11.00 Uhr: *Heinz Dieterich Steffan*, Universität Mexico-City,
      Berater der Regierung Chávez, Venezuela
    * 12.00 Uhr: *Günter Schumann*, Bildhauer, Woserin
    * 12.30 Uhr: *Paul Cockshott*, Universität Glasgow, Autor,
    * 13.30 Uhr: *Mumia Abu-Jamal*, Journalist, politischer Gefangener, USA
    * 13.45 Uhr: Diskussionsbeitrag von *Hans Heinz Holz*
    * 14.00 Uhr: *Eugenio Suárez Pérez*, Direktor der Zeitschrift Cuba
      Socialista , Kuba
    * 15.00 Uhr: *Bolschewistische Kurkapelle Schwarz-Rot*
    * 16.00 Uhr: *Aurélio Monteiro dos Santos*, Mitglied der Zentralen
      Kontrollkommission der PCP, Portugal
    * 17.00 Uhr: *Oskar Lafontaine*, Fraktionsvorsitzender der
      Linkspartei im Bundestag
      Moderation: *Dr. Seltsam, Kabarettist*
    * *Podiumsdiskussion* ab 18 Uhr
      Parlamentarische Linke, außerparlamentarischer Kampf,
      Eigentumsfragen und sozialer Fortschritt

I thought that for a social democrat Lafontaine was quite impressive,
certainly in terms
of immediate measures I agreed with many of the things he was proposing.
It was particularly
interesting that he raised the issue of reimposing controls/taxes on the
flow of capital.

>            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,
>            |

Paul Cockshott
Dept Computing Science
University of Glasgow

0141 330 3125

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