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Rosa Luxemburg

Dog Politics

(May 1916)

Written: An illegal leaflet from May 1916. [1]
German original: Institute for Marxism-Leninism of the Central Committee of the SED, Central Party Archive, D.F. V/14.
Translated from German: Schummelpilz, Amadanny.
Redaction, Editing and Formatting: Luka, Schummelpilz.
Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Editors’ Note: As the member of the Reichstag, Liebknecht had parliamentary immunity from prosecution. When the military judicial authorities demanded that this immunity be removed for organizing an anti-war demonstration on May the 1st (which was a huge success, with 10,000 attendants and clashes with the police), the Reichstag agreed and he was placed on trial. On 28th June 1916, Liebknecht was sentenced to two years and six months hard labour. The day Liebknecht was sentenced, 55,000 munitions workers went on strike. The government responded by arresting trade union leaders and having them conscripted into the German Army.

Luxemburg responded by publishing a handbill, titled Dog Politics defending Liebknecht and accusing members of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) who had removed his parliamentary immunity as being “political dogs.” We have translated the original, German version into English, to provide and make accessible more material about the period leading up to the German Revolution and the murder of the two revolutionaries. Original phraseology, terminology and layout have been maintained to the best of our abilities.



3. The centre of gravity of the organization of the proletariat as a class is the International ...

4. The obligation to carry out the decisions of the International takes precedence over all else.
(Guiding principles [of the International Group]) [2]

The impossible has become actuality: The Reichstag, the bourgeois parties, the official Social-Democratic delegation, have brought even more disgrace upon themselves than was previously the case. It seemed that this undetectable parliament, this noble fellowship had already reached the absolute nadir of political self-abasement and abandoned the most elementary political decency, that it could not sink any deeper into this swamp. But far from it: through their handling of the Liebknecht case, the Reichstag, the bourgeois majority, and the Social-Democratic Majority group have greatly surpassed their own infamy.

Liebknecht, during the fulfillment of his duties as an international socialist at the demonstration on May Day, has been captured by police goons and handed over to the jurisdiction of the court-martial. As a member of the Reichstag, Liebknecht is excused from military service to carry out his mandate as a public representative, thus while the Reichstag is in session, he is not a soldier, but a public representative. To protect him from the claws of military justice and all political persecution was the most elementary duty of the Reichstag. Every parliament in the world regards it as an imperative of self-respect to protect its members from the powers of the executive. Here something outrageous and unprecedented in the history of all parliaments occurred: the Reichstag itself handed over one of its members to a court-martial! [3]

A few days after, the second act of the farce followed: the same Reichstag rejected the protection its own members from such brutalities and violations, the likes of which had been committed against Liebknecht when on 8 April he wanted to shine a critical light onto the affair concerning the last German war bonds! [4] And the most rabid barkers for this parliamentary suicide were precisely the liberals. [5] The ghost of Eugen Richter [6], the bootblack of reactionaries during the time of the Hungerzolltarif [7], lives on in his worthy successors. Crying “treason!” Hubrich and Müller-Meiningen pounce with fists flying upon all who climb onto the Reichstag’s tribune to voice criticism of the government! Crying “Treason!” Payer and Liesching [8] deliver the immunity of popular representation onto the sabre of the military. After this liberal wailing Oertel and Heydebrand [9] have nothing left to say. And the Social-Democratic Majority party? With not even one syllable did they reject this cawing. The “persistence-politicians”, such as Scheidemann and his associates even believe everyone upholding Social-Democratic principles and struggling against genocide to be a traitor.

Treason! Treason!
May Day celebration is treason!
Criticism of war bonds – treason!
International solidarity – treason!
Class struggle – treason!
Rejecting the budget – treason!
Strikes for raising starvation wages – treason!
Public exposés of food usury – treason!
Lamenting cries of starving women in front of the stores – treason!

What was said a thousand times over in Social-Democratic newspapers, in Social-Democratic election meetings, in Social-Democratic Reichstag speeches, is today treason. The whole 50 years of activity of Social-Democracy, which was directed against war, militarism, class rule, class solidarity [with the bourgeoisie], national unity, and patriotic platitudes, is treason!

Payer, Liesching, and Hubrich – David, Landsberg, and Scheidemann have surpassed all crown prosecutors, put all police chiefs to shame, turned the late Tessendorf [10] retrospectively into an orphan boy. Woe betide if these guys had had Bismarck’s Anti-Socialist Laws at their disposal! They would have sent all Social-Democratic Reichstag members of parliament and editors to prison, they would have taken August Bebel and our old Liebknecht to the gallows! The Scheidemann people allowed themselves the comedy of proposing a motion concerning Liebknecht’s immunity, but they motivated it by claiming that Liebknecht’s struggle was not dangerous, that the zombie-like obedience of the German people was unshakable! Yes, in the commission of the Reichstag the “Social-Democrat” David said referring to Karl Liebknecht: A dog that barked loudly did no bite!

To give the correct response to all this infamy in the Reichstag, not not like a lawyer, not formalistically, but as a socialist, not to debate, not to argue, but to denounce this despicable fellowship as a pack of betrayers of the people, for that precisely one element was lacking – Liebknecht!

But the response should be given to them by the masses of the proletariat, by the masses of the starving, downtrodden people misused as cannon-fodder. And the “dog”-words of the speaker from the Social-Democratic Majority group should not be forgotten when doing so.

A dog is somebody who licks the boots of the ruling class that have been kicking him for decades

A dog is somebody that happily wags his tail in the muzzle of the state of siege and looks straight into the eyes of the masters of the military dictatorship while quietly whimpering for mercy.

A dog is somebody who hoarsely barks at an absentee, a captive, and simultaneously provides transports services for the current powers that be.

A dog is somebody that, at the government’s command, abjures, reviles and tramples down into the muck the whole history of his party and everything it has held sacred for a generation.

Therefore David, Landsberg, and their associates are and will remain dogs. And they will surely get a well-deserved kicking from the German working people when the day of reckoning comes! May this day dawn as soon as possible and as thorough a job as possible be done; to this the Liebknecht Affair – both his example and the infamies of the Reichstag and Majority of the Reichstag delegation – has made a great contribution. Now it has to be clear to each man and woman of the people that this parliament, this horde of Mamluks from Payer to David is dismissed and finished in the eyes of the court of world history. Only the self-activity of the masses, only the bold initiative of the masses, only insistent action of class struggle on the entire front can lead the way for us to bring an end to genocide, military dictatorship, and the slow starvation of the people.

And this the masses will only accomplish if they have learned to rein in, like Liebknecht, the whole ego for the sake of the ideals of international socialism, if they do not only sing, but also show, through deeds and actions:

We do not count the enemy,
Nor any of the dangers.

When they with a hundred-thousand, with a million voices, raise, over and over again in the entire Reich, Liebknecht’s cry:

Down with the War! Working Men of All Countries, Unite!



1. An illegal leaflet put out by the Spartacus group in May 1916. – This article was unsigned. In Spartakus im Kriege: Die illegalen Flugblätter des Spartakusbundes im Krieg, collected and introduced by Ernst Meyer, Berlin 1927, Rosa Luxemburg is identified as the a uthor.

2. See Rosa Luxemburg Theses on the Tasks of International Social-Democracy.

3. On 11 May 1916 the motions of the Social-Democratic Delegation and the Social-Democratic Working Group in the Reichstag to suspend the proceedings against Karl Liebknecht indefinitely and to reverse the prison-sentence imposed on him were rejected by 230 to 110 with two abstentions.

4. In the Reichstag on 8 April 1916 Karl Liebknecht was prevented from exposing the nature of the German war bonds. During his speech, Louis Hubrich, a member of Reichstag for the Fortschrittliche Volkspartei (Progressive People’s Party), grabbed his manuscripts and other papers and threw them onto the ground. When Liebknecht tried to proceed, he was violently prevented from doing so by Heinrich Ernst Müller, another Reichstag member for the same party.

5. This refers to the Fortschrittliche Volkspartei (Progressive People’s Party) which was founded in 1910 by merging the Freisinnige Volkspartei (Liberal People’s Party), the Freisinnigen Vereinigung (Liberal Union), and the Deutsche Volkspartei (German People’s Party).

6. Eugen Richter, founder member und leader of the Deutsche Freisinnigen Partei (German Liberal Party) from 114 and from 1893 to 1906 leader of the Freisinnige Volkspartei (Liberal People’s Party), had a substntial influence on the anti-socialist and anti-democratic course of the party.

7. “Hungerzolltarif” (lit. Hunger customs tariff) was a tariff that was passed by the Reichstag on 14 December 1902 and came into effect in 1906; it imposed high customs duties on all imported goods, in particular agricultural products. As a result the cost of living skyrocketed.

8. Friedrich von Payer and Theodor Liesching were members of the Reichstag for the Fortschrittlichen Volkspartei (Progressive People’s Party).

9. Ernst Georg Oertel was editor-in-chief farmer’s newspaper Deutsche Tageszeitung since 1894 and a member of the Reichstag for the Deutschkonservative Partei (German Conservative Party) – Ernst von Heydebrandt und der Lasa was chairman of the Deutschkonservative Partei from 1914 to 1918.

10. Hermann Tessendorf was Chief Crown Prosecutor at the Berlin municipal court from 1873 to 1879 and became infamous for organizng the persecution of socialists.

Last updated on: 19 August 2020