Gabriel Kuhn (ed.): All Power to the Councils! A Documentary History of the German Revolution

WORKERSCONTROL.NET

Review by Ralf Hoffrogge
Every schoolchild on the globe knows something about the Russian Revolution from 1917. It was the origin of a state called Soviet Union and a political confrontation later known as the cold war which shaped the 20th century longer than any other political conflict.

Unlike the crucial events of 1917, the German Revolution of 1918 is not part of the global memory. It did not erect a socialist state as hoped by many of its protagonists and instead ended with a fragile republic that lasted only twelve years and was destroyed by the Nazi Party in 1933.

Therefore most readers might connect the German Revolution with the tragical death of Rosa Luxemburg, murdered by counter-revolutionary militias in January 1919. But Luxemburg became a legend not for being a martyr of the German Revolution. She is famous because of her brilliant writings that inspired not only historians and marxist economics but also leftist feminism and anticolonial struggles.

But, and this is demonstrated by Gabriel Kuhn and his outstanding edition – the German Revolution was more than Rosa Luxemburg. She and her writings were part of a social struggle that dated way back into the class conflics of pre-war Europe and found an eruption in the Revolutionary Wave of 1917-1919.

Kuhn features many documents by Luxemburg that show her as a revolutionary activist, trying to push forward the revolution with her Spartacus League, a political formation that broke away from the German socialists when they started supporting the German Government in WWI.

But Kuhn does not reduce the antiwar-opposition and the revolutionary effort to Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht and the Spartacists as it was done by marxist and non-marxist scholars alike during the cold war. His documentary history also presents documents from Gustav Landauer and Erich Mühsam, the famous Munich anarchists that took part in the struggle for a councils´ republic in Bavaria. He also presents documents from Bremen, Brunswick, Wilhelmshaven and Kiel – German cities that were taken over by workers´ uprisings or sailors and soldiers in mutiny. These original sources make clear that the German Revolution was not orchestrated by a political vanguard of some sort but a spontaneous eruption of the whole population. Very different groups from centrist social democrats to radical anarchists participated in the events, many others only got radicalized during the events.

One such group that formed during WWI were the “Revolutionary Stewards”, a group of rank and file unionists. They started with strikes for better wages in the war industry and ended up being one of the most radical advocates of a councils´ republic in Germany. When the Revolution unfolded in November 1918 this group was far more influential then Liebknecht and the Spartacists, because unlike them it had a wide network of supporters in the factories and workshops. By organizing three political mass strikes from 1916 to 1918 the group was decisive to bring along the political change that Germany saw in 1918.

Kuhn presents several texts by Richard Müller and Ernst Däumig, who were both spokesmen for the Revolutionary Stewards. None of their writings has ever been translated into English before, which makes Kuhn´s edition an achievement. Readers familiar with the historiography of the German Revolution will notice that some more systematic writings of Müller and Däumig on the council-system are missing because Kuhn focusses on the historical events. But nevertheless – by bringing in this group and others, framing the well-known names of Luxemburg and Liebknecht with the wider array of political groups active in Germany around 1918, Kuhn presents a well-balanced account of the German Revolution.

The edition comes with extensive annotations, an introduction and an index, which makes this book useful for scholars and students of the field, while others might just let themselves taken away by the original texts presented, most of them written during or shortly after the revolutionary events and still transporting the enthusiasm of that time.

Title Information:

Gabriel Kuhn (Editor): All Power to the Councils! A Documentary History of the German Revolution of 1918–1919, PM-Press, Oakland/CA 2012, paperback, 320 pages, 26,95 $.

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Book Review: Anarchist Perspectives in Peace & War 1900-1918

Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement

[Book Review] “Anarchist Perspectives in Peace and War 1900-1918” by A.W. Zurbrugg (London: Anarres Editions – Merlin Press, 2018)

This is, above all, a history of the anarchist movement from the perspective of those who were at the centre of its development, their voices recovered through a careful and extensive research of conference proceedings, journal articles, memoirs, etc. Altogether, this is a prime example of historical work which is not backward-looking, but forward-looking, bringing history back to life in order to feed contemporary agitated conversations, encounters and debates.

by José Antonio Gutiérrez D.

A.W. Zurbrugg has edited and worked on some very interesting contributions on historical anarchism: his selection of Bakunin’s texts and his book on anarchists’ impressions on the Russian Revolution, had both been reviewed in anarkismo.net before and I absolutely recommend them to anyone interested in anarchism. Now Zurbrugg comes back with a more ambitious project: an international historical recount of anarchism in the 20th century in four volumes, of which the first one was published under the title “Anarchist Perspectives in Peace and War 1900-1918”.

So what’s different in this attempt at an international history of anarchism from others?

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On the Barricades of Berlin

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The 1848 wave of worker rebellions that swept across Europe struck the German states with the March Revolution. While Richard Wagner and Mikhail Bakunin fought side by side in Dresden, the writer August Brass led the successful defense of the barricades in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz public square. Published in English for the first time, On the Barricades of Berlin provides a riveting firsthand account of this uprising. Brass’ testimony begins with the tumultuous events leading up to the revolution: the peaceful democratic agitation; the demands that were brought to the king; and the key actors involved on all sides of the still peaceful, yet tense, struggle. It then follows the events that led to the outbreak of resistance to the forces of order and sheds light on the aftermath of the fighting once the exhausted Prussian army withdrew from the city.

August Brass (1818–76) was a German journalist, editor, and novelist and a member of the Doctor’s Club of Hegelian enthusiasts along with Karl Marx. Andreas Weiland is a renowned German translator and art and film critic. … more

 

Book Review – Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin

Book Reviews by A. Siegel

Lavinia

Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The past few years as a full-time classicist have seen a boom for me in the reading of modern retellings of classical myths and tales. Of all the ones I have read so far, Lavinia has been the best. Perhaps this is because this novel is based on the last six books of my favorite ancient work and author, the Aeneid by Vergil.

I was first told about this novel by my graduate advisor, with whom I am working on research about Vergil’s pastoral poetry. While Lavinia references the Aeneid and not Vergil’s other works, there are elements of contact with nature, which I will elaborate on below.

For those who don’t know, or have only a vague idea, Lavinia is the daughter of King Latinus, whom Aeneas married when he settled down in Latium, the area of…

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Red State Revolt: An Essential But Flawed Story of the Teacher Rebellion

Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation

Review of Red State Revolt, The Teachers’ Strike Wave and Working-Class Politics by Eric Blanc on Verso Books, 2019. By Michael Mochaidean

Last year’s wave of public teacher strikes and walkouts was the highest number of workers walking off the job in three decades. Whether it will be the start of a larger trend across other sectors is yet to be seen. But understanding how these strikes came to fruition is an important lesson of modern labor history.

So how did a group of young, radical, education unionists manage to stage statewide walkouts across the nation in 2018?

This is the question that Eric Blanc seeks to answer in the much anticipated release of his first book, Red State Revolt. Blanc is a doctoral student at NYU and for the past year has acted as correspondent on the Left for the larger education struggles. Given that Blanc has spent the better part of a year covering these struggles, interviewing by his estimates over 100 participants, and being a former educator himself, Blanc is uniquely qualified to write about these matters in ways few others can.

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Book Review: Villages in Cities

Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement

As gentrification threatens to uproot neighbourhoods across the world, the flame of co-operative housing has been reignited. Meanwhile, community land ownership has the potential to turn the tide and put the destiny of our cities into the hands of residents. Villages in Cities takes us across North America to Montreal, Boston, Vermont, and Mississippi, presenting concrete examples of citizens taking back the land and claiming their right to secure housing. It also acts as a guidebook to contemporary urban struggles through fertile archival material from the Milton Parc struggle, which is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. Villages in Cities presents a succinct portrait of the problems facing the ownership of urban land and concrete strategies for communities to take back urban land from the market and the State.

The story begins in Montreal in 1968, when word spread like wildfire of a developer’s plan to demolish six blocks of the working class neighbourhood of Milton Parc. The developer envisioned enormous high-rises with luxury apartments, hotels, offices, and commercial space. It was a declaration of war, and the local community responded in kind. What followed was a David versus Goliath struggle that not only saved the Victorian and Edwardian heritage architecture from destruction but would more importantly defend the neighbourhood in perpetuity from gentrification through the creation of the Communauté Milton Parc: a massive non-profit co-operative and non-profit housing project on an urban land trust. With some 616 apartments self-managed by a strong community of around 1500 low and medium-income residents, it is a veritable village in the heart of the city.

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Orwell Among the Anarchists

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Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement

Vernon, Richards George Orwell at Home (and Among the Anarchists): Essays and Photographs, (1998) London: Freedom Press. Photographs by Vernon Richards. Essays by Vernon Richards, Colin Ward, and Nicholas Walter.
Review by Raymond S. Solomon

There are few people who had the knowledge and understanding of George Orwell as did the three contributors to George Orwell at Home (and Among the Anarchists) Photographs and Essays; Vernon Richards, Colin Ward, and Nicholas Walter. Their understanding was both personal and academic, and their writings show it. Also, Vernon Richards’ and his wife Marie Louise Berneri’s photographs of Orwell, and his adopted son Richard, are of great historical interest. These photographs show Orwell in the role of a very loving father. The book is filled with very good and extensive quotations from Orwell. The quotes come from, among other sources, The Road to Wigan Pier, Homage to Catalonia, “Such Such Were the Joys,” Tribune articles, and Nineteen Eighty-Four. In George Orwell at Home, Orwell’s voice is heard very clearly.

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