Mother of Revolution
a play by
Mark Dickman

Scene One.

     Breslau Prison. November, 1917. The cell contains a bed, chair and desk, on which there are books, manuscripts, writing materials and two framed photographs. There are plants in flowerpots distributed throughout the cell. Rosa, age 48, is seated at her desk writing, when a prison guard appears at the door.


GUARD:    You have a visitor this morning, 
                   Frau Luxemburg.
ROSA:        Thank you so much, Johann. 
                    Please show them in…

(Clara Zetkin, a handsome woman of 50, enters. They pause to look at each other, then Rosa rises from her desk and they embrace. Rosa walks with a slight limp.)
CLARA:       (Noticing the potted plants, she slowly tours the cell examining them.)
                    Even in prison you make things
                    Bloom – have the gift of life –
                    My dearest Rosa…
                    (She sees the two framed photographs on the desk.)
                    A new photo of Karl, is it?

ROSA:        Yes, a birthday present sent me
                   By Sonja. A fine likeness, is it not?

CLARA:     (She picks it up to admire it.)
                  Splendid…And one of Mimi,
                  As well?

ROSA:      Yes, my little pussycat. I miss her so.
                 Her picture makes me smile; I can
                 Almost hear her meow. When I was
                 Free, and wrote each morning, I
                 Often walked back and forth across
                 My study. She observed me closely,
                 As she lay on the tablecloth with
                 Her paws crossed, her green eyes
                 Followed me back and forth. After
                 Lunch, I’d take a crystal prism from
                 My desk, where it served as a 
                 Paperweight, and place it in the
                 Sunlight. Rays burst into rainbows
                 Scattered across the walls and the
                 Ceiling. Mimi was fascinated by
                 The colors that danced before her.
                 At first, she attempted to leap up
                 And catch them. Then, realizing
                 Their insubstantiality, she followed
                 Them wide-eyed and motionless.

CLARA:    She’s unusually affectionate for
                 A cat. Most of them are cool and
                 Egotistical, unlike dogs, with their
                 Sloppy affection.

ROSA:      Yes, Mimi is a cat with the soul
                Of a dog. Nonetheless, Lenin
                Found her rather imposing: “…a
                Lordly cat…” he called her. It was
                An heroic decision for me not to
                Bring her here with me. Surely she
                Would have found it melancholy
                In prison…Clara, have you
                Heard from your sons at the front?

CLARA:   Kostia’s letters describe the
                Aerial bombardment and
                Warfare in the trenches. Stuck
                In evil-smelling dug-ours some
                Twenty feet below ground,
                They’ve little sleep, live on iron
                Rations. For seven days and
                Nights, he wrote me, they sat
                On benches or wire beds. The
                Shock waves and thunder of
                Howitzers and giant mortars
                Crashed into the trenches,
                Sending masses of earth
                Tumbling in. the land was
                Turned into burnt out craters
                Like the surface of the moon.
                And the winds carried chlorine
                Gas across no-man’s-land;
                Its dense fumes crept like
                Monsters down the trenches’
                Steps. During the afternoons, he
                Said, torpedoes were launched
                From heavy mortars. Coming 
                Perpendicularly from great heights,
                They bore deep into the eath and
                Burst. Tons of soil and blocks of
                Chalk  and rock were hurled into
                The air, leaving craters twelve feet
                Deep. Kostia’s comrades in the
                Trenches somehow endured this
                Inferno. With every nerve strained,
                They’d wait for next exploding
                Shell. Their concussion extinguished
                The acetylene torches that lit the
                Deep trenches. The noise drove
                Them nearly hysterical in the 
                Darkness filled with smoke
                Of this endless war of attrition…
                Of course, when I heard of
                Poor Han’s death, I had to
                Come and see you right away.

 ROSA:    Thank you so much for your
                Moving letter of condolence.
                If, in anguish such as this, there
                Can be comfort at all, then your
                Letter provided it, Clara. I can
                Barely get used to the thought
                That he is gone. I have lost my
                Dearest friend. He was unique,
                Like no other. He read my every
                Thought, shared my values and
                Tastes. My last letter to him was
                Written to one already dead…

CLARA:    My Stephen, too, has written to
                 Me of the life on the Western
                 Front. Long gone is the euphoria,
                 The patriotic parades. Today there
                 Sounds a different chorus: cries
                 Of vultures and hyenas of the
                 Battefield. Cities decimated;
                 Villages turned into cemeteries.
                 Mass slaughter has become the
                 Order of the day.

ROSA:      Bloody capitalism stands before
                 Us: the thing itself. One matter
                 Is certain; the world is at a
                 Turning point. It’s begun the
               Organization of the world conflict
               Between capital and labor for
               Power. And we are at the crossroads,

CLARA:  Yes, and the only compensation
               For all the misery and death is
               The Russian Revolution, surely
               The mightiest event of the war. 
               Its broad sweep and transformation
               Of class society has reduced the
               Fall of Czardom to a minor episode.
               Born of the world war, it was created
               Under the most try of conditions.

ROSA:    Yes, the Bolsheviks have proven
               That, with their own organization,
               The workers can take state power.
               From the very first moment the
               Driving force was the proletariat;
               The burning question: immediate

CLARA:  At the same time the revolution
               Embraced the soldiers and the 
               Peasants, which pushed the
               “Agrarian Question” to the fore.
               Since 1905, it had been the very
              Axis upon which the revolution
              Turned. From these two questions
              The split between capital and labor

ROSA:   The liberal bourgeoisie evaded
               Both crucial issues. But the masses
               Pressed forward ever more impetuously.
               On the first wave of revolution, 
               The liberals were carried away;
               But next came the counter-revolution.

CLARA:  Realizing the nature of the liberals
               From the beginning, the Bolsheviks
               Proclaimed all power to the soviets
               Supported by the peasantry. The 
               Party of Lenin was the only one that
               Could stand at the head of the masses.
               It was confronted with a simple dilemma:
               Victory of the revolution or of the
               Counter-revolution. The burning questions 
               Peace and land had no answers under
               Capitalist society. The Bolsheviks knes
               This from the beginning. Their uprising
               Was not only the salvation of the Russian
               Revolution: it was the defense of the
               Honor of international socialism, itself.

ROSA:   Out of the killing fields of world
              War has come the revolution
              In Russia. It affects me like an 
              Elixir of life, Clara! I’m convinced
              That a brand new epoch is about 
              To begin, that the war cannot last
              Too much longer. Hopefully,  it will
              Give birth to revolutions beyond 
              The borders of Russia.

CLARA:  I visited Karl last week. He’s
              In good spirits, as usual. And
              Leo continues the underground
              Work with gusto. And I’ve saved
              Every one of your beautiful letters,

ROSA:   Yes, I could easily have written
              A monograph on “The Prisons
              I Have Known”.

CLARA: And how many visits I’ve made
              To you in each of them.

ROSA:  How precious your visits have
             Been to me…I remember the first
             Of my prisons: the dreadful Pavilion
             X of the Warsaw Citadel, back
             In Poland. That was before I
             Had the honor of your friendship.
             Tyshka visited me on one occasion.
             There you were exhibited in a
             Double-wire cage: one stood
             Within another, so that prisoner
             And visitor conversed through a
             Glinting wire net. I had to hold
             Onto the wire like a wild animal
             In a zoo. Leo pressed his face close
             To the wire in the darkness, saying:
             “Where are you?” as he wiped tears
             From his pince-nez which prevented
             Him from seeing me.

CLARA: I remember your telling me about
             The executions.

ROSA:  Yes, there days when gallows
             Were erected in the courtyard
             Of the fortress, and an agonizing
             Silence fell upon the prison. Then
             The steps of prisoners and the execution
             Commandos could be heard, and a
             Funeral march echoed through the cells.
             And the cells, themselves, were packed
             Together like herring; they had to sleep
             In shifts. Then one night we were joined
               By a raving-mad Jewess, who kept
               Us up twenty-four-hours-a-day with
               Her endless shrieking. Fortunately the
               Next day we were rid of that “myschuggene”.

CLARA:  I remember your first incarceration
               In Barninstrasse Prison in Berlin.

ROSA:    Yes, pure hell in eleven cubic meters.
               Filthy, vermin-ridden, furnished in the
               Most primitive fashion. The month and
               A half spent there left gray hairs on my head.
              Then there was my one month stopover at
              Alexanderplatz. Nothing much to do, and a
              Hell’s music of thundering trains, which 
              Shook the cell and struck reflections of light
              On the rattling windowpanes. Only after
              Ten o’clock would the diabolical concert
              Of trains finally end.

CLARA: From there you were transferred to Wronke,
              Where you at least had a yard with flowers
              And birds.

ROSA:  Did you know my mother believed King Solomon
             Knew the language of birds? As a child I viewed her
             Skeptically with my “scientific” education. Now,
            I myself, feel like him, seem to understand their song.

CLARA: Along with all your other talents, Rosa, you’ve
              Become a diviner of the language of birds!...
               I remember your letter about your 
               Study of their curious migrations.

ROSA:    Yes, during their flight south the cranes
                Carry small birds on their backs. On these
                Expeditions, species that would otherwise
                Be predator and prey form a truce. It’s 
                Strange, but only in prison have I learned
                To appreciate such wondrous things.

CLARA:   Rosa, I know how you feel for each 
                Living creature.

ROSA:    This morning, before your visit, I took a
               Stroll through the prison yard, and found
               A bumble bee lying on its back. It lay as if
              Dead with its legs tucked in and its fur 
              Covered with frost. Only when the sun 
              Warmed it, did its legs begin to stir and stretch.
              Its body rolled over clumsily and rose into the
              Air with a buzz. I always make it my duty to 
              Kneel down, and with my warm breath
              Bring them back to life.

CLARA: I remember your letters about the birds
              You’ve grown to know in each prison.
              You wrote of the Titmouse who’d accompany
             You on your walks. How it would skip along
             Beside you from shrub to shrub. And, though
             It appeared wet and scruffy, your stroll
             Together in the sunshine brought
             You both back to life.

ROSA:  But the most moving of all was something I
             Witnessed in the prison yard last week. There,
             Military wagons often arrive, packed with sacks
             Of uniforms and shirts stained with the blood
             Of the dead and wounded. These were drawn
             By water buffaloes. They’re entirely black with
             Huge, soft eyes. Coming from Romania, they’re
             Trophies of the war. They’re difficult to catch,
             Being wild things, and even more difficult to
             Break into beasts of burden. Used to luxuriant
             Pastures, they receive miserable fodder here.
             They’re beaten fearfully and mercilessly
             Exploited, so they perish in no time at all.
             A wagon had driven in with the cargo piled
             So high that the poor creature couldn’t manage
             To drag it over the gateway’s step. The attending
             Soldier beat him so savagely with his whip that 
             His officer shouted: “Don’t you have any pity for
             The creature?” “And who, may I ask, has any
             Pity for us?” the soldier answered with a sneer.
               Finally, the wagon got over the threshold, but
              The creature was bleeding badly. I gaze at its
              Face: its soft black eyes shone like a weeping child’s.
              It had the expression of a punished child who 
              Doesn’t know why it’s being beaten, no how to
              Escape its torment. I stood facing it, and it looked
              Into my eyes: tears were running down my face;
              They were his tears. How far away are the green
              Pastures of Romania, the shinning sun, birdsong
              And the fresh breeze. Now you’re imprisoned in a
              Stable with moldy hay and putrid straw. And all
              The blows and the blood and the running sores…
               Oh my brother, I thought, only in pity are we united.


Scene Two.

 Berlin. November 9, 1918. A General Strike and the largest demonstration in German history.
In the center of the stage are demonstrators holding red banner and placards. On stage left stand a small group of workers. On the balcony of the Imperial Palace, above the, are government officials, among them Friedrich Ebert and Karl Leibnecht. Leibnecht is in his mid-forties and has a moustache and spectacles. Ebert, who has just finished speaking, leaves the podium and is seated on the platform.

WORKER 1: (Speaking to WORKER 2 and WORKER 3)
                      So Kaiser Wilhelm has abdicated!

WORKER 2: Yes. Prince Max of Baden met
                      With Ebert earlier in the day,
                      Where he accepted the post of
                      Chancellor of the Reich.

WORKER 3: And now he’s proclaimed the
                     German Republic!

WORKER 1: I never thought I’d see the day!

WORKER 2: Leibnecht is about to speak.

 WORKER 3: I heard him this morning proclaim
                      The Socialist Republic from the
                      Roof of a motor car!

WORKER 1:  Now he’s approaching the podium.
                       Be silent!

LEIBNECHT:  (He stands and approaches the podium to address the crowd.)
                       Anyone who is witness to this
                       General Strike, surely the largest
                       Mass demonstration in our entire
                       History, must conclude that you,
                       The workers of Berlin, have
                       Grown enormously from your
                       Experience of the last few
                       Weeks. Why, from the Roland
                       Statue to the Siegesalle, I see
                       Armed workers and soldiers
                       Marching rank upon rank. I
                       Glimpse marchers as far away
                       As the Tiergarten wielding
                       Weapons and red banners.
                       It’s an army such as even
                       Ludendorf has never seen!...
                      To understand what is to be
                      Done, we must review the
                      Origins of this cruel war. A
                      Catastrophe of world-historical
                      Proportions took place on the
                      4th of August, 1914: the Social
                      Democratic Party of Germany
                      Failed the great historic test. It
                      Voted for the war credits:
                      Capitulating to imperialism.
                      Never had the organization of the
                      Working class been so completely
                      Yoked to its rulers. Never had the
                      Press been so hobbled, public
                      Opinion been so stifled, the class
                      Struggle so totally surrendered
                      As it was here in Germany. Then
                      The vanguard of the European
                      Proletariat was led to slaughter.
                      And, as the flower of our youth
                      Fell upon the battlefield, our
                      Population was reduced to women,
                      The elderly and the crippled.
                      The only compensation for the
                      Horrors of this war is the Russian
                      Revolution. Its outbreak constitutes
                      The clearest condemnation of the 
                       Failure of the SPD. In the midst of
                       Imperialist slaughter, caught in the
                       Coils of the most reactionary of
                       European powers, the October
                       Revolution, nevertheless, emerged:
                       The very first workers’ state in history!...
                       And we, the German working class,
                       Must learn from their example,
                       Must learn to seize mastery of 
                       Our destiny and cease to be
                       A mere tool of the bourgeoisie…
                      Chancellor, Prince Max of Baden, has
                      Handed over his power to the SPD
                      Chairman, Freidrich Ebert, marking
                      This the grand finale of the German Empire!...
                      The workers of Berlin have learned
                      Much since the ninth of November.
                      You must learn to fight, and there is
                      No better place to learn than in the
                      School of class struggle. You know 
                    What is to be done. But your leaders
                    Have failed to keep pace with you.
                    Though you seek direction from them,
                    They fritter away your time with endless
(‘Hear, hear!’ from the crowd.)
                    Furthermore, they are quietly preparing –
                    With the usual circumspection – for the
                    Next act: the counter-revolution…
                    There is no time to lose. The wavering 
                    Elements among the troops and the 
                    Provinces must be won over. To arm
                    The revolution and to disarm the 
                    Counter-revolution: this is the 
                    Watchword of the hour!...
(Sustained applause. As the demonstrators disperse, the three WORKERS remain.)

WORKER 2: Leibnecht’s the only one who
                     Voted against the war credits, brother.

WORKER 3: Yes, and he did time in prison
                     For his efforts when all the
                    Other politicians went along.

WORKER 1: He’s on our side. One of the
                    Few that we can trust.

WORKER 2: That’s for sure.


Scene Three.

    Berlin apartment. Rosa, Clara, Leo and Karl. In his late forties, Leo has a full beard. The two men are seated on a couch before a coffee table on which there are refreshments.

LEO:      Her hair’s turned grey. She’s
              In dire need of rest.

KARL:    Yes, the years in prison have
              Taken their toll on our Rosa.

LEO:      She’s always suffered from a
              Delicate stomach. I can’t tell
              You what an effort it was to
              Provide her with rice, what
              With war and blockade…

KARL:   And Clara tells me she’s
             Been troubled with constant
             Headaches in the last few weeks.
(Rosa and Clara enter and are seated in chairs around the coffee table.)
             It’s so good to have you back
             Among us, dearest Rosa.

ROSA:  Yes, to smell the odor of
            Prussian liberty!...
(She inhales deeply.)
             With me, the ‘nose’ comes
             Before everything else…

CLARA: Ever the Jewish joker, my darling schnoz.

ROSA:  Seeing you after so long, Karl,
            Reminds me of that spring when
            We visited the botanical gardens
            Together with Sonja. How you
            Enjoyed yourself – like a child –
            Looking at the birch trees with
            Their fresh catkins dangling.

KARL:  And the time when we hiked
             Across the fields of Marienfelde.
             Do you remember?

ROSA:  Of course, we took  the trip in
             Autumn and walked over the
             Stubble of the fields. And in spring
             They were laden with a fresh
             Green crop. A mild wind chased
             The clouds across the sky, fields
             Shone with sunlight, later
             Darkening into emerald. Then
             You stopped suddenly and
             Made strange leaps into the
             Air, while keeping a solemn look
             On your face. “What’s wrong
             With you?” I asked.

KARL:   Yes, and I anwered: “I’m just
              So blissfully happy!” And then
              We broke into wild fits of laughter,
              Rolling on the ground!

ROSA:   I never experienced a
              Spring so intensely.

CLARA: Wasn’t that the time you 
              Through yourself into the 
              Study of botany?

ROSA:  Yes, and I did it the way I
             Do everything, with all the
             Fervor I possess. The world
             Of party and politics suddenly
             Vanished, as night and day I
             Was filled with a single passion:
             Roving the meadows, gathering
             Specimens; then returning home
             To classify them and mount them
             In books. I lived that spring in a
             Fever! Felt myself lost in a green

(Pause. She sighs.)
              But, to get back to business, how
              Many comrades have we now in
              Berlin, and in the Workers’ and
              Soldiers’ Councils?

LEO:      When the revolution began, we
              Had no more than fifty organized
              In Berlin. In Bremen, we managed
              To capture a good portion of the
              Council under the command of Knief.
              In Chemnitz, Brandler is at work.

ROSA:   Then, in fact, we have 
              No organization, no party.

KARL:    Frankly, we must admit it.

ROSA:   Then we must remain within
              The USPD for the moment;
              Attempt to gather our forces
              Within it. Our immediate
              Preoccupation is the growth
              Of our influence upon the
              Masses and within the USPD.

LEO:      I have been working to gain
              Support within it, and Karl
              Has been engaged in tireless
              Agitation among the workers.

KARL:    On public squares, in factories
              And barracks – explaining our
              Aims and the tasks of the day.

CLARA: It’s been a struggle just to get
              Our paper printed.

LEO:      Like in Poland, in 1905, we
              Forced to make raids on
             Other papers. A small group,
             Headed by Karl, occupied the
             Offices of one, which issued
             The Red Flag at once.

KARL:  But the loyalty of the printers
            To their managers prevented
            Any further issues.

LEO:    Then we attempted to make a
            More commercial  arrangement,
            But the management refused to
            Accommodate us.

KARL:  We finally made a contract, at
             Great expense, but this and the
            Small ration of paper allocated
            To us, greatly hampered the
            Range of distribution.

ROSA: Then, with the limited means
             At our disposal, we cannot hope
             To influence the government,
             Itself. Our propaganda must be
             Focused on the workers, alone.

KARL:  But the time’s ripe, Rosa! The
            Workers have taken to the
            Streets in strikes and mass
            Demonstrations. The movement
             Surges forward with ever-
             Increasing power.

ROSA:  But spontaneous action’s not
             Enough: there’s crucial need for
             Leadership; for a party! While
             The Ebert regime coddles the
             Capitalists – and plans for the
             Counter-revolution – the workers
             Need to defend themselves.

KARL:   You must see it for yourself, Rosa.
             The recent strikes are not just trade
             Union fights, but are the beginning
             Of a full-scale war between capital
             And labor that will lead, as it did
             In Russia, to revolution!


Scene Four.

   A large auditorium. The First Congress of the German Communist Party. On a raised platform Clara chairs, flanked by Rosa, Leo, Karl and others. Seated before them are the delegates.

CLARA: I now call on comrade Jogishes
             To deliver the address on our party

(He rises and walks up to the podium.)

LEO:     Comrades, our present task is to
             Discuss and adopt our party’s program.
             Today, matters have reached a
             Point at which mankind is faced
             With a dilemma: either socialism
             Or barbarism. The war makes it
             Impossible for the capitalists to
             Find a way out of this dilemma
             While maintaining their own
             Class rule. Not only is socialism
             Necessary because the working
             Class is no longer willing to live
             Under such conditions, but because
             If it fails to overthrow capitalism,
             The horrors of the war will only
             Go on…
              After the events of the last few days,
              The curtain has fallen upon the first
              Act of the German Revolution. Let us
              Now review those events. The movement
              Begun on November 9th followed four 
              Long years of war, in which the Social
              Democrats and the trade unions betrayed
              The working class. But, having witnessed
              The terrible spectacle of August 4th, with
              The vote for the war credits, we could
              Hardly expect to be inspired by a clear
              Class consciousness and socialist aim.
              What occurred was the collapse of the
              Empire, defeat of the monarchy – not
              The victory of the working class. The
              Single source of unity, the saving grace,
              Was formation of Workers’ and Soldiers’
              Councils: the embryo of the future 
              Socialist state. This was surely the stamp
              Of proletarian revolution, which we 
              Learned from the Bolshevik’s mighty
              Example: the great Russian Revolution
              Of 1917…
              In whatever country socialist revolution
              May next break out, its first step will be
              The formation of Workers’ and Solders’
              Councils. And what are our prospects
              Now that the first act is complete?
               Indications are given by the latest
               Declarations of the Ebert regime.
               When you read these you will realize
               The next act will be the counter-revolution.
               The first act of our revolution remained
               Strictly political. It’s only in the last two
               Weeks that spontaneous strikes have
               Broken out. It’s the very essence of
               Revolution that strikes become more
               Extensive, general, that they’re transformed
               From a political into an economic, and
               Therefore, into a socialist revolution…
(Prolonged applause.)
               Now it’s one of the fundamental laws of
               Revolution that it never stands still, that
               It never becomes passive at any stage,
               Once the first step’s been taken. But let
               Remind you that we are far from having
               Reached the point of overthrowing the
               Government. Thus far our movement has
               Been confined to the cities: the country
               Remains practically untouched. We must
               Carry the struggle into the countryside and
               Mobilize the landless workers and peasants…
(Hear, hear!)
              And we must extend the system of Workers’ 
              And Soldiers’ Councils. We must help the workers
              Appreciate these levers of the socialist state.
              Only by wielding the power will we lean to use it.
              There is simply no other way!
(Sustained applause. Leo returns to his seat on the podium.)

CLARA:  I now call on comrade Luxemburg
               To speak of her experience of the 
               Russian Revolution – of it Mass Strikes
               And workers’ councils – and of what 
               We, the workers of Germany, can learn
               From it…
(Rosa rises and appears behind the podium.)

ROSA:    Comrades of the German Communist
               Part. The great Russian Revolution of
               1917 is an event I’ve only read about.
               But the Revolution of 1905 is one I 
               Witnessed with my very own eyes.
               And at its heart is the Mass Strike –
               Which is not, as some suggest – 
               Something specific to Russia. No, it’s
               The very method of motion of the 
               Worker mass, its own phenomenal
               Form. It’s essential for German workers
               To learn the lessons of the Russian 
               Revolution, so as to apply them to
               Our own fight here!...
               The mass strike flows like a river
               Throughout the land, then divides
               Into a network of streams. Like a
               Spring, it bubbles forth from beneath
               The ground, then suddenly disappears.
               In a panoply of forms it appears: in general
               Strikes; demonstrations; street fighting; and
               Even massacres. All forms run side-by-side,
               Or crisscross and combine in a ceaseless sea
               Phenomena. And its law of motion is clear:
               Lying in the balance of forces in each stage
               Of the struggle. Allow me to sketch the 
               History of the mass strike in Russia in a few
               Broad strokes…
               Its prologue was the general strike in Batum
               In the Caucasus in March of 1902. And this
               Was only the most powerful of a series of
               Events, which shook the whole of southern
               Russia. Its outbreak was due to a crisis of 
               The economy, resulting in mass unemployment
               That nourished agitation among the workers.
               In response, the regime transported hundreds
               Of workers to their respective home districts.
               This, in turn, called forth a demonstration by
               Batum’s petroleum workers, which was followed
               By arrests, massacre and, finally, a political trial.
               The results of the events in Batum were new
               Struggles in Nizi-Novgorod and Saratov, a mighty
               Surge forward of the revolutionary movement.
               Then a general strike broke out in Rostov-on-the-
               Don. Monster meetings were held, inflammatory
               Speeches delivered – and these were often 
               Surrounded by cordons of Cossacks. Once again,
               The strike was followed by street battles, massacre
               And political trial. But, after the defeat at Rostov, 
               The south rose up in flames. In Odessa, the
               Movement began with a struggle for wages, in
               The course of which a legal union was founded
               Whose ground had been laid by the notorious
               Czarist spy, Zubatov. However, in this case, the
               Historical dialectic played one of its mischievous
               Pranks on the czar. The very unions inspired by
               Zubatov’s demagogy gave the signal for a general
               Strike. On the first day twenty-five-hundred dockers
               Struck. Then seamen and transit staff joined in. A
              Meeting of over eight thousand workers occurred, 
              Formed a procession that moved from factory to
              Factory, growing; And these crowds brought Odessa
              To a standstill! Next, a strike broke out in Kiev, in the
               Railway yards. On the following day, foundry men
               Joined them. Then, during the night, two worker
               Delegates were arrested. The strikers demanded 
               Their immediate release; and, when this was refused,
             They brought all trains to a halt. At the station, strikers
             With their wives and children sat down on the railroad
             Tracks. And, when they were threatened with rifles, 
             The workers bared their chests and cried: “Shoot!” A
             Salvo was fired: forty dead lay lifeless on the tracks.
             Later that day, the corpses were raised high in the air,
             And carried in a funeral procession through the streets
             Of Odessa…
             Finally, the mass strike broke out in St. Petersburg; 
             And, as usual, the immediate cause was seemingly
             Trivial: two workers were sacked at the Putilov Works.
             Thousands went out on strike. And, in days, it grew
             To two-hundred-thousand, who, led by Father Gapon,
             Marched upon the palace of the czar. A bloodbath
             Ensued, known as “Blood Sunday”, resulting in a
             General strike throughout all of Russia. The mass
             Strike reached its climax: everywhere ending
              But, most of all, I wish to convey to you the 
              Self-sacrifice and solidarity of your Russian
              Brothers and sisters. In every crisis they’d
              Help each other out. The employed gave up 
              A day of wages for the unemployed. And
              When employment was reduced, they
              Arranged it so no one was laid off; Each
              Worked a few hours less..
              Once united and fighting – and conscious
              Of themselves as a class – there’s nothing
              Of which workers aren’t capable. There’s
              Nothing which workers can’t win!
(Prolonged applause, as the delegates rise to their feet.)

Scene Five.

     Jan. 5th. A Large office. Evening. Meeting of the revolutionary committee, composed of representatives of the KPD (German Communist Party), Independents and the Shop Stewards. Kark and other delegates are seated around a table. Delegate 2 raises her hand and is recognized.

CHAIR: Comrade Ernst.

DELEGATE 2: Today’s demonstration of hundreds
              Of thousands of Berlin’s workers
              Is living proof that Eichhorn will
              Not be dismissed! Why, the worker
              Delegates implored that he remain,
              Declaring they’d defend Police
              Headquarters as the stronghold
              Of the revolution!
(Karl raises his hand and is recognized.)

CHAIR:  Comrade Leibnecht.

KARL:    I propose we call for a general
              Strike to protest Eichhorn’s
              Proposed dismissal as chief
              Of police; why, it’s provoked
              An explosion among the city’s
              Workers! Surely, he and his
              Police force are our last hope
              Against counter-revolution.

(Delegate raises his hand and is recognized.)

CHAIR:  Comrade Wolfe.

DLEGATE 1: I second the proposal. However,
               Anything more – such as an
               Attempt to seize power – would
               Be senseless at this time. Such a
               Coup would not last a fortnight!

(Delegate 2 raises her hand and is recognized.)

CHAIR:   Comrade Ernst.

DELEGATE 2: I thoroughly disagree. The Peoples’
               Naval Division stands behind us:
               It’s armed to the teeth. What’s more,
               The Berlin garrison and those of
               Spandau and Frankfort can surely
               Be persuaded. Why, the workers
               Are itching for a fight! Now is the
               Time to overthrow the Ebert regime!
(Delegate 1 raised his hand and is recognized.)

CHAIR:   Comrade Wolf.

DELEGATE 2: Absolutely not! We must avoid
                Slogans that even suggest such a
                Thing. Even if we could take power,
                The provinces are clearly not yet with us.

(Delegate 3 raises his hand and is recognized.)

CHAIR:    Comrade Schmidt.

DELEGATE 3: I propose we vote on whether
                To call for the general strike
                And uprising!

(Delegate 2 raises her hand and is recognized.)

CHAIR: Comrade Ernst.

DELEGATE 2: I second the proposal.

CHAIR:    Then we must vote, comrades…
(Chair counts hands.)
(Chair counts hands.)
                 It’s close, but the proposal 
                 Has passed…
(A group of delegates react with groans and expressions of dismay. Delegate 3 raises his hand and is recognized.)

CHAIR:     Comrade Schmidt.

DELEGATE 3: I suggest we create a joint leaflet
                 Calling for a two o’clock rally at
                 The Siegesallee. Slogans like
                 “Your Freedom is at Stake!”, “Long
                  Live International Socialism!” and
                  “Cancel Eichhorn’s Dismissal!” 
                  Would all be appropriate.
(Delegate 2 raises her hand and is recognized.)

CHAIR:      Comrade Ernst.

DELEGATE 2:  And I’d add the slogan: “Arm the
                  Workers! Disarm the Counter-Revolution!”
                  Our aim must be to revive the revolutionary
                  Spirit of the November Days.
(Karl raises his hand and is recognized.)

CHAIR:      Comrade Liebnecht.

KARL:        We must not allow the Ebert
                   Regime to stifle the revolution.
                   The attack on Eichhorn must be
(‘Hear, hear! And applause from the delegates.)

Scene Six.

    Berlin apartment. Rosa and Leo enter hurriedly. They remove their coats, set down their valises and are seated on a couch before which is a coffee table.

LEO:           How could Karl have voted
                   For the rising, knowing we
                   Rejected any such a thing?

ROSA:        He’s a hothead, impetuous.
                   Karl’s never been much of a

LEO:           No, Rosa, it’s unforgiveable:
                   A clear violation of party

ROSA:        Surely, he was carried away
                   By the wave of events,
                   Believed the Peoples’ Naval
                   Division was behind us.

LEO:           But he was wrong! They’re the
                   Only armed group – and they’ve
                   Refused to come out on our side.
                   What’s more, the Shop Stewards,
                   Who were the most active in
                   Bringing the workers into the 
                   Streets, also voted against it.
                   Why, the only effective action
                   Was by the workers themselves,
                   When they occupied the
                   Railway stations!

ROSA:        Of course, you’re right; but once
                   The workers take to the streets,
                   We must be there with them.

LEO:           No, we’ve been forced to
                   Support an action we didn’t
                   Innitiate, and whose aim we
                   Could never support. The
                   Time’s not yet ripe! Surely,
                   The balance of forces is
                   Overwelmingly against us.
                   It would be suicide to attempt
                   To seize power now.

ROSA:        But we can’t let ourselves be
                   Cut off from the workers!
                   Our policy should at least give
                   Them critical support. We must
                   Emphasize the defensive nature
                   Of our demands: to disarm the
                   Counter-revolution; arm the
                   Workers; and hold new elections
                   For the Workers’ and Soldiers’

LEO:           You’re far to generous, Rosa.
                   This could be a disaster in the 
                   Making. Why, this so-called
                   “Executive Committee” has
                   Proved itself incapable of
                   Leadership. While Ebert and 
                   Noske prepare the counter-
                   Revolution, they spend days
                   And nights in fruitless talk.

ROSA:        But you can’t encourage the
                   Workers’ hopes, then suddenly
                   Dash them, reversing course.

LEO:           No, I can’t agree. Sometimes
                   There’s a need for a strategic
                   Retreat. Our party doesn’t
                   Begin to have the support of
                   The workers of Berlin; much
                   Less can we claim to be their
                   Leaders. And this so-called
                   “Revolutionary Committee”
                   Even proposes that we
                   Negotiate directly with Ebert,

ROSA:        That’s surely a trap: a betrayal
                   Of the workers. Ebert will break
                   His promise, renounce his truce
                   And then viciously attack us. To
                   Negotiate, while the workers have
                   Taken to the streets, would be to do
                   It brazenly behind their backs.

Scene Seven.

     Berlin. General Staff Headquarters. Office of Chancellor Friedrich Ebert. He is seated behind his desk, on which is a stack of newspapers. Before him are seated Gustave Noske, Lieutenant Pabst and Captain Vogel. 

EBERT: (To Lieutenant Pabst and Captain Vogel.)
               You must monitor their telephones
               Day and night. Report all of their
               Movements to me.

PABST/VOGEL: Of course, Herr Chancellor.

PABST:   We’ve has poster plastered on
                Walls in towns and villages
                Throughout the country warning
                Against their treacherous plots.

NOSKE:  The Anti-Bolshevik League has
                Been well supplied with funds,
                And our agents have been
                Trained to infiltrate and harass

EBERT:   The press has followed through
                With its campaign against them.
                 Let me read to you an editorial:
(He takes a newspaper from the stack on his desk and reads to them.)
                 “Workers of Germany, the
                 Fatherland is on the brink of
                 Disaster. It is threatened from
                 Within: By the Spartacists. Beat 
                 Them, Kill them, both Luxemburg
                 And Leibnecht. Only then will you
                 Have peace, bread and work.
                 Workers of Berlin, you have
                 Surely been warned!”

NOSKE:   We must hunt them down. A
                 Price of 10,000 Marks has been
                 Placed on Liebnecht’s head. It’s
                 Been published in newspapers
                 And displayed on our posters
                 Throughout the city.

EBERT:     Yes, we must keep them on the
                  Run, prevent their agitation. I
                  Was much encouraged by our
                  Tour of your Freikorps encamped
                  At Zossea, Colonel Noske.

NOSKE:    Yes, Herr Chncellor. They’re our
                  Weapon to ferret them out and
                  Destroy them. After all, the army
                  Can’t be trusted: it’s infested with
                  Bolsheviks. But I assure you that
                  Our Freikorps will fulfill their duty
                  To the Fatherland. They’re armed
                  And trained to fight civil war, to
                  Combat the Communist Menace.
                  Composed of four-thousand
                  Recruits, they’re trained to clear
                  The streets of reds and riff-raff,
                  To attack occupied building
                  By assault.

EBERT:     Unfortunately, time is on their side.
                  We must strike immediately: provoke
                  An uprising in order to crush it. And
                 We’ll blame it on Leibnecht and that
                 Red prima dona, Luxemburg. I hate
                 Their so-called ‘revolution’ like the 

NOSKE:    As I do, chancellor. Yes. Someone
                 Must play the role of executioner.


Scene Eight.

     Voerwarts Building. Exterior. Armed units of Freikorps troops stand in formation before it. Commander Noske enters and stand before them, as they come to attention.

NOSKE:   Now remember, you’re not
                To fire until their delegation
                Have all emerged from the
                Building. Then I’ll give you
                The order and we’ll show
                Them what it costs to be
                Traitors to the Fatherland!...
(A delegation of workers, who have earlier occupied the building, emerge with white flags of truce before them to mediate its surrender.)

WORKER 1: Don’t shoot, we’re all unarmed !

WORKER 2: We only mean to surrender,
                      To all leave the building!

WORKER 3:  Please respect out white
                       Flags of truce!

NOSKE:          Now fire – mow them down!



(The Freikorps troops open fire with rifles and machine guns, and beat those who have fallen to the ground with rifle-butts and bayonet the workers who attempt to flee.)

Scene Nine.

     Wilmersdorf. A worker’s apartment. January 15, 1918. Evening. Rosa and Karl are seated on a couch before a coffee table  with manuscripts and writing materials.

ROSA:             Atop smoking ruins and workers’
                        Corpses the Ebert regime
                        Consolidates its power. Hence,
                        It will rule by bayonet, alone.

KARL:              Military law has been proclaimed
                        On the streets of Berlin. Superior
                        Commander Noske directs
                        Massacres by his brown shirts.

ROSA:             Such counter-revolution has been
                        Erected on the ruins of “Spartacus
                        Week”. Although Ebert now rules
                        By force, in time the class struggle
                        Will put an end to him.

KARL:              (Picking up a newspaper from the coffee table and reading from it.)
                        “Order prevails in Berlin!”,
                        Proclaims the bourgeois press,
                      Along with Ebert, Noske and his
                      Murderous Freikorps. Having butchered
                      Hundred of workers, they beat them
                      Beyond recognition: walls splattered
                      Red with blood, bone and brains.

ROSA:           They even massacred the Mediators
                      Who attempted to negotiate
                      Vorwarts surrender…
(Picking up another newspaper and reading from it.)
                      The bourgeois press continues its
                      Campaign of slander against us.
                      “Crucify them!” cry the press, the
                      Bigots and the anti-Semites.
                      United in hatred are all the
                      Dangerous elements. This alone
                      Shows that the heart of the 
                      Revolution beats within our movement.

KARL:            Although victory can’t be expected
                      At the present time, “Spartacus Week”
                      Couldn’t have been avoided. After all,
                      It was triggered by the Ebert regime’s
                      Brutal provocation: a bloodbath against
                      Demonstrators  in Chausseestrasse; and
                      The assault on Berlin Police Headquarters.

ROSA:           The workers were forced to take up arms;
                     Indeed, the honor of the proletariat
                     Depended on their repelling such an
                     Attack. Even in the midst of battle we
                     Must take stock of our defeat. What 
                     Has “Spartacus Week” finally taught us?

KARL:           Surely, that the weakest link in the chain
                     Was the political immaturity of the soldiers,
                     Who allowed their officers to use them 
                     Against us. The revolution has hardly
                     Reached the countryside, from which
                     Most of our soldiers come.

ROSA:          Yes, but above all, it’s our leadership 
                     That’s failed. For the workers were up
                     To the task. Without its own party, 
                     Rooted in the workplace, the proletariat
                     Will never take power. We’ve much to 
                     Learn from the Bolsheviks. It’s a sure 
                     Demonstration of the true instinct of the
                     Workers that they weren’t appeased by
                     Eichhorn’s reinstatement; rather, they
                     Instantly occupied the Command-post
                     Of the enemy, its official press ageny,
                     From the silk weavers of Lyon to the
                  Chartists of Britain to the Paris Commune,
                 Itself, the history of class struggle teaches us
                 That the road is paved with defeat.

KARL:       Although we now know defeat, the Russian
                 Example still lies triumphantly before us. Our
                 Primary task is to build a party like the Bolsheviks
                 Here in Germany. But, whatever the outcome,
                 We have absolutely nothing to repent-
(A loud knocking is heard offstage. Captain Pabst, Lieutenant Vogel and Friekorps troops burst through the door into the room. The aim their weapons at Rosa and Karl.)

PABST:     Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebnecht, I presume.

ROSA:       You’re surely mistaken. I am Frau Hornweg 
                  And this is my husband, Thomas.

VOGEL:    (He opens a dossier containing their photographs and shows it to them.)
                  This dossier contains both your
                  Photographs. There cannot be any doubt.

PABST:     You must accompany us to the police
                  Headquarters, immediately.

ROSA:       You are mistaken, but we shall comly. If
                  You’d allow me to pack a few personal items.

PABST:     Do so, but do it quickly.
(Rosa exits, and a few moments later, returns with a small suitcase. Rosa and Karl are led out of the apartment under military escort.)

Scene Ten.
     Eden Hotel. Interior. Rosa and Karl enter under the escort of Captain Pasbst, Lieutenant Vogel and Freikorps troops. They are angrily shove into the room.

FREIKORP 1: Move it, bitch!

FREIKORP 2: So this is “Red Rosa”.

FREIKORP 3: No much to look at, is she?

ROSA:            (To Karl.)
                       So this is the Eden Hotel.
                       It hardly resembles that
                       Biblical garden. Far more
                       Like the gates of Hell.

FREIKORP 1: Shut up, bitch!

FRIEKORP 2: You communist cunt!

PABST:          (To Lieutenant Vogel.)
                      Take Leibnecht into the next room.
(Karl is escorted roughly by two Freikorps out of the room. Pabst addresses Rosa.)
                       The prisoner may be seated.
(Rosa is seated in a chair in the center of the room. Bright lights are focused on her. Captain Pabst paces back and forth before her with the dossier in his hands.)
                       Are you Frau Rosa Luxemburg?

ROSA:            Certainly, you can make up
                       Your own mind about that.

PABST:          (Examining the contents of the dossier.)
                       To judge by you photographs,
                       You must be.
ROSA:           If you say so.

PABST:         Frau Luxemburg, we need to
                      Know the whereabouts of your
                      Fellow Spartcists, Zetkin and Jogishes.

ROSA:           I haven’t the slightest idea who 
                      You are talking about.

PABST:         Frau Luxemburg, thus far I’ve treated
                      You gently; but I intend to obtain this
                      Information, whatever that requires.

ROSA:           Do what you must, “Captain”.

PABST:         (Angered by her taunting tone, he shouts into the next room.)
                     Lieutenant Vogel, come in here!
(Lieutenant Vogel enters and comes to attention.)
                     Take the prisoner into the next room
                     And do whatever you have to find out
                     Zetkin and Jogishes whereabouts. And
                     Bring Liebnecht back I here.
(Lieutenant Vogel grabs Rosa roughly by the arm and escorts her out of the hotel room. Then he returns with Karl.)
                     The prisoner will be seated.
(Karl is seated.)
                      We need to know where your
                      Newspapers is being printed.

KARL:            Our printing equipment was 
                      Confiscated weeks ago. We 
                      Haven’t issued the Red Flag
                      For some time, now.
(Periodically we hear slaps and Rosa’s groans as they interrogate her in the next room.)

PABST:          And we must learn the whereabouts
                      Of Clara Zetkin and Leo Jogishes. Are
                      Going to tell us or do we have to beat
                      It out of you?

KARL:           Like ourselves, they have gone into 
                      Hiding. I’m unaware where they might be.

PABST:         It seems I’ll have to turn you over to 
                      Lieutenant Vogel after he’s worked over
                      Your sharp-tongued “comrade”.

KARL:            I have nothing more to say to you…

PABST:          Lieutenant Vogel, come in here!...
(Lieutenant Vogel enters and comes to attention.)
                       It would seem Liebnecht also requires
                       Your attention…

(Lieutenant Vogel takes Karl roughly by the arm and escorts him into the next room. After a moment, we again hear slaps and Rosa and Karl’s groans. BLACK-OUT.)


Scene Eleven.

     Eden Hotel. Exterior. Vogel and Freikorp troops. Karl and Rosa are dragged outside the hotel. Before it stands  a black automobile.

FREIKORP 1:  (Shoving Rosa.)    
                        Move it, bitch!

FREIKORP 2:  (Shoving Karl.)
                        You too, red scum!

FREIKORP 3:  Both you traitors, down
                        On your knees!

(They’re shoved down on their knees and Lieutenant Vogel strikes them in the back of their head with his rifle butt. The Freikorp troops pick them up and throw them in the backof the automobile.BLACK-OUT. The sound of the car driving away is heard.)Scene Twelve.


Scene Twelve.

     The car stops by the roadside. Karl and Rosa are dragged out of the back seat bleeding and thrown to the ground. Lieutenant Vogel exits the car and proceeds to shoot each of them in the back of the head with a pistol. They’re thrown back into the automobile. BLACK-OUT. The sound of the care driving away is heard.


Scene Thirteen.

     A modest Berlin worker’s flat. Leo and Clara are seated on a couch before a coffee table on which manuscripts are piled. They are sorting through Rosa’s final papers.

LEO:      For more than twenty years we
              Were unite in comradeship and 
              Love: she, the theorist; I, as the

CLARA:  And Karl…Alone, he voted against
               The war credits. His name instantly
               Became the symbol of the opposition.
               With Rosa still behind bars, he was a 
               One-man campaign against the war.

LEO:       Throughout the fighting he was always
               With the workers: in constant danger,
               At the risk of his life, he rushed from
               Position to position, giving advice and

CLARA:  I can still see him, with his spectacles
               And bristling moustache. Under the
               Most trying circumstances, he’s have 
               A playful smile on his face.

LEO:       She often teased me – what a
               Kibitzer – for my devotion to 
               ‘Politics alone’. “Above all, you
               Must live life fully, be a ‘mensch’.
               That’s the main thing.” She would
               Say. “It means to act with compassion,
               Cheerfully, even when all the odds 
               Are against you.”

CLARA:  She once confessed to me, when I
               Visited her in prison, that she felt
               More at home in a garden, with
               Flowers and birds, than at our 
               All-too-lengthy party meetings.
               Shyly, she confided this secret to me,
               Knowing that I, above all others, knew
               She would always do her duty.

LEO:       They were the symbols of our movement.
                To have murdered them was to behead it.
                They were the expert witnesses that had
                To die because their testimony was beyond

CLARA:   I remember the merciless pace of the last
                Few months, in which she exhausted herself
                Each day. After the destruction of her health
                During the long years in prison, she’d barely
                Recovered when she was once again pressed
                To the limit. Subject to fainting fits, her doctors
                Insisted she rest, but she rejected this out of hand.

LEO:        In Russia, war – the mother of revolution – gave 
                Birth to the first workers’ state. But, here in 
                Germany – for lack of a party – it produced an
                Abortive rising.

CLARA:   Nevertheless, they died in the firm belief that
                Our movement would finally prevail. And that
                The emancipation of the working class can only
                Be the act of the working class, itself.


For my comrades of the International Socialist Organization.

© 2015 By Mark Dickman