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The Spartacus League ( ) was a left-wing Marxist revolutionary movement organized in Germanymarker during World War I. The League was named after Spartacus, leader of the largest slave rebellion of the Roman Republic. It was founded by Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg, Clara Zetkin, and others.

The League subsequently renamed itself the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (KPD), joining the Comintern in 1919. Its period of greatest activity was during the German Revolution of 1918, when it sought to incite a revolution by circulating illegal subversive publications, such as the newspaper Spartacus Letters.


Luxemburg and Liebknecht—the son of SPD founder Wilhelm Liebknecht—were prominent members of the left wing faction of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). They moved to found an independent organization after the SPD supported the German government's decision to declare war on the Russian Empiremarker in 1914, beginning World War I. Besides their opposition to what they saw as an imperialist war, Luxemburg and Liebknecht maintained the need for revolutionary methods, in contrast to the leadership of the SPD, who participated in the parliamentary process.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Spartacus League decided to agitate for a similar course, a government based on local workers' councils, in Germany. Liebknecht and Luxemburg were imprisoned from 1916 until 1918 for their roles in helping to organize a public demonstration in Berlinmarker against German involvement in the war. After the November revolution which overthrew the Kaiser, a period of instability began, which would last until 1923. Liebknecht declared a socialist republic in Germany from a balcony of the Kaiser's Berliner Stadtschlossmarker in November 1918—the same night that Philipp Scheidemann of the SPD declared a republic from the Reichstagmarker.

In December 1918, the Spartakusbund was officially renamed the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). In January 1919, the KPD, along with the Independent Socialists, staged massive street demonstrations intending to destabilize the Weimar government, led by the centrists of the SPD under Chancellor Friedrich Ebert. The government accused the opposition of planning a general strike and communist revolution in Berlin. The "uprising" was quickly crushed by the government, with the Freikorps fighting on the side of the government. Luxemburg and Liebknecht were killed while held prisoner. Luxembourg was found in a canal having been shot in the head.

Prominent members

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