- an abortive bid in January 1919 to overthrow Germany's interim government. On Sunday, 5 January 1919, in reply to the dismissal of Berlin* Police Chief Emil Eichhorn,* the USPD and the Revolu-tionary Shop Stewards* organized a workers march through the capital and shouted defiance at Friedrich Ebert* and his "counterrevolutionary" govern-ment. That evening at police headquarters Karl Liebknecht* and Wilhelm Pieck* of the KPD's Zentrale met with seventy Shop Stewards and the Zentralkomitee of the USPD to discuss further steps. Deluded by the ease with which workers had taken Berlin's newspaper* district, the group formed a fifty-three-person Revolutionary Committee and voted to depose the Council of People s Repre-sentatives.* The committee was earmarked to coordinate the uprising.Within hours the committee (led by Liebknecht, Georg Ledebour,* and Paul Scholze) proved its incompetence. Succeeding at little more than issuing proc-lamations, it failed to bring leadership to the thousands who returned to Berlin s streets on 6 January; its last meeting took place on 9 January. Meanwhile, the Ebert regime, anticipating trouble, called on the army, the Freikorps,* and the Berlin populace (thousands responded) to protect the legitimate regime. Gustav Noske,* charged with deployment, organized troops outside central Berlin. A counteroffensive began on the eighth. Police headquarters, the rebels last stronghold, fell during the night of 11-12 January. Acknowledging defeat, the Shop Stewards and the USPD asked their followers to return to work on 13 January.The so-called Spartakuswoche (Spartacus Week) was a total defeat for the radicals. However, it is important to note that the uprising was not a premedi-tated action and that the attitude of the KPD was equivocal throughout. Although Liebknecht and Pieck, the only Party members present at the fateful 5 January meeting, endorsed the effort, the remainder of the KPD s Zentrale was opposed. Ultimately, the Zentrale resolved that it was morally obliged to support the revolt. But it was with a sense of doom that Rosa Luxemburg* backed the endeavor; she severely chastised Liebknecht for his unilateral action.The chief tragedy of the uprising was its violent aftermath. In subsequent weeks the uprising spread to the Ruhr, Saxony,* and Bavaria,* but each effort to extend it resulted in brutal repression. In Berlin the death toll was never confirmed but may have exceeded one thousand. Freikorps units, entering the capital on 11 January to widespread applause, were eager to reestablish "law and order." This meant capturing as many revolutionary leaders as possible. Luxemburg and Liebknecht were apprehended on 15 January by the Guard-Cavalry-Rifle Division led by Waldemar Pabst.* Taken to the Eden Hotel, they were beaten and killed. Their loss was a long-term calamity for the KPD.REFERENCES:Angress, Stillborn Revolution; Morgan, Socialist Left; Waldman, Spartacist Uprising.
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.
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