Congress of Workers' and Soldiers' Councils

   Held at the request of the USPD, the first and most significant General Congress of German Workers and Soldiers Councils met in the Prussian Abgeordnetenhaus from 16 to 21 December 1918. Elections to the event, held in late November and reflective of worker opinion at the time, gave the SPD an overwhelming preponderance of the 514 delegates; Karl Liebknecht* and Rosa Luxemburg* failed to win seats. The delegates showed little sympathy for events in Russia; their key decision came on 19 December when, by a 344-98 vote, they rejected a motion to confirm the council system as "the basis of the con-stitution of the socialistic republic. Correspondingly, they passed by 400-50 the motion of Oskar Cohn* setting National Assembly* elections for 19 January 1919. Disillusioned, the USPD delegates abstained from a vote creating a new central committee—aimed at coordinating the relationship between the councils and the interim government (the Council of People s Representatives*)—and thereby abandoned an opportunity to counterbalance the power of the SPD. Before adjourning, the Congress passed nonbinding resolutions to initiate "so-cialization of all industries ready for it and to destroy the symbols of German militarism. This last proved especially irritating to conservatives.
   The decision in favor of traditional parliamentarianism was the Congress s paramount ruling. A bitter defeat for the Spartacus League,* the Revolutionary Shop Stewards,* and the USPD, it led indirectly to the USPD s 27 December withdrawal from the interim government and to the overhasty decision of the Spartacists to establish the KPD and boycott elections.
   A second Congress convened on 15 April 1919. Largely a USPD affair (the SPD was satisfied that the need for councils had ended with the January elec-tions), it was an inconclusive attempt to resolve the debate between those fa-voring a parliamentary course ("Party Independents") and those clinging to a council system ("Council Independents ). Because the strength of the Shop Stewards had been squandered in three months of civil war, the debate proved inconclusive.
   REFERENCES:Herwig, "First German Congress"; Kolb, Weimar Republic; Mitchell, Revolution in Bavaria; Morgan, Socialist Left; Ryder, German Revolution of 1918.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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