‘The I.W.W. at the Grave of Karl Liebknecht’ by Tom Barker from Industrial Pioneer. Vol. 1 No. 2. March, 1921.

‘The I.W.W. at the Grave of Karl Liebknecht’ by Tom Barker from Industrial Pioneer. Vol. 1 No. 2. March, 1921.

FELLOW Worker Hardy and myself landed in Berlin on a bitterly cold day. A piercing wind was blowing from the Russian plains. Water was frozen solid, and icicles hung from bridges and the eaves of houses. To keep warm one had to be on the move all the time, for coal is rationed, and consequently scarce. Food is scarce, and those who deserve it the most get the least. Children are pale and stunted, especially those born during or since the war.

Berlin is now a dirty town. Huge heaps of blackened snow are piled along the sides of the streets. Old army uniforms are still in evidence; here and there one catches sight of an army cap or a pair of trench boots. The eld discipline, however, is gone for good. The police system as it was known in the time of the Kaiser has broken down.

Altho hunger thins the ranks of the workers, the rich eat as well as they ever did, and live as luxuriously. The big hotels are crowded, and bacchanal dances are given by the favored supporters of the regime of Social-Democracy, Back of the government stands the Trade Union Central organization, which is the German counterpart of the American Federation of Labor, All that the Germans accomplished thru their pseudo-revolution was to exchange one political autocracy for another.

During the little time that we could spare from our work at the Syndicalist Congress we visited places of historic interest in the proletarian struggle. By a remarkable coincidence the huge police general headquarters was gutted by fire the first two days we were in Berlin. During the revolutionary outbreak this place was the center of many fights, and the walls are marked with machine gun fire and bombing. We visited the Reichstag Building and saw the huge statue of Bismarck, from behind which the government troops, armed with machine guns, mowed down the revolutionary workers. We went over this historic ground, still resplendent with the monuments of by-gone soldiers, kings and statesmen, and had the revolutionary uprising explained to us by men who themselves had taken part in it- In fancy we saw William the Last scuttling like a rat for safety, and the war-tired soldiers and workers battling with the police and state troops for the possession of public buildings. The old bureaucracy tottered in a few days, but the bourgeois apostles of Social-Democracy saved the institution of private property by using the power which fortune had put into their hands to put down the revolutionary aspirations of the workers.

One day we walked out to the Lichtenberg Cemetery where sleep most of the 1700 martyrs of the German Revolution killed in Berlin. The cemetery, covered with a white sheet of virgin snow, presented a solemn and inspiring appearance. Within a stone’s throw from the gate we found the splendid monument erected to the memory of Wilhelm Liebknecht, the famous father of an equally famous son. Near him sleep Hugo Haase, the murdered Independent Socialist leader, and Paul Singer, the one-time leader of Social-Democracy. But we were seeking the tombs of other men, and so we passed on down the long paths, lined on both sides with black marble slabs, until we reached a place where sleep thirty-eight of the heroes of the German class war, including Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg,

Before we arrived nature had deposited a counterpane of snow over the last resting place of the dead. The graves were literally smothered underneath beautiful wreaths, for there is never a day that some person or organization does not bring offerings to the fallen warriors. Thru the covering of snow we could see the red flowers of the bouquets and wreathes. It was so beautiful that it seemed as if nature herself had conspired with man to adorn their graves.

By the side of Liebknecht and Luxemburg rest many of the bravest hearts that ever beat in Germany. Is it not strange that out of all the German millions who died in the war against the Allies, these few martyrs who gave their lives for the good cause of liberating the working class from wage slavery receive more tender thought and solicitude than all those who died in the capitalist war? They still live, and one cannot visit the graves without recalling the words of another heroic German, legally murdered in Chicago in 1887: “There will come a time when our silence will speak louder than the voices you strangle today.”

On Christmas Day we again visited the cemetery, and Fellow Worker Hardy placed a wreath bearing the inscription of the Industrial Workers of the World upon the grave of Karl Liebknecht. That wreath is a token of the community of purpose that exists between the revolutionary industrial workers of America, Germany, and all other countries. It is an earnest of a fraternity and solidarity that not all the hell-born ingenuity of capitalism can dissipate or sidetrack. It is an indication of a real understanding for the future, that will make our class invincible.

Wilhelm still lives at Amerongen, and Ebert and Noske stilt preside over the national destinies. But Labor is moving underneath; flags are missing, decorations are unknown, unrest is in men’s blood. The time is fast getting ripe for a movement to arise that will rally the workers around the banner of Liebknecht and Luxemburg, that will sweep into oblivion the odious regime of Social-Democracy and establish in its place the Domination of the Working Class. Long live the Revolutionary Dead! Long live the Revolutionary Industrial Workers of the World!

The Industrial Pioneer was published monthly by Industrial Workers of the World’s General Executive Board in Chicago from 1921 to 1926 taking over from One Big Union Monthly when its editor, John Sandgren, was replaced for his anti-Communism, alienating the non-Communist majority of IWW. The Industrial Pioneer declined after the 1924 split in the IWW, in part over centralization and adherence to the Red International of Labour Unions (RILU) and ceased in 1926.

Link to PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/industrial-pioneer/Industrial%20Pioneer%20(March%201921).pdf

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