On November 1st, with the German government collapsing and surrender or armistice imminent, the socialist leader Karl Liebknecht delivered the following address, calling on German soldiers and workers to launch a socialist revolution:
“For more than four years, our rulers have been engaged in a robber-war for the oppression of our neighbours… But this was merely camouflage for further imperialistic aggression. As if the way to Saint Petersburg lay through Belgium and northern France, they gave orders to let the armies loose.
During these four years, the peoples of the world have bled until they can bleed no more. And what have we won? Have we won one-hundredth part of what we and our rulers started out to get? Instead, we have lost until we have nothing more to lose. One thing we have won is the hatred of mankind.
And now we have, through the President of the United States, asked our enemies for peace. Comrades, now it comes to you a fitting opportunity. Unite. Hold together under the banner of the International.
You should not hold yourselves as discouraged. This was never your war. You were driven by your rulers into the world slaughter. You have got what you deserved. It now lies with you to dispense of your rulers.
Act at once. It is your only prospect. Stretch the tyrant at your feet with a mighty blow. He now wavers. A well-aimed blow will at this time win your freedom and will, to some extent, recompense you for all the blood that has been shed during the last four sad years.
Lay down your weapons, you soldiers at the front. Lay down your tools, you workers at home. Do not let yourselves be deceived any longer by your rulers, the lip patriots, and the munitions profiteers. Rise with power and seize the reins of government. Yours is the force. To you belongs the right to rule. Answer the call for freedom and win your own war for liberty…
Comrades! Soldiers! Sailors! And you workers! Arise by regiments and arise by factories. Disarm your officers, whose sympathies and ideas are those of the ruling classes. Conquer your foremen, who are on the side of the present order. Announce the fall of your masters and demonstrate your solidarity.
Do not heed the advice of the Kaiser’s Social Democrats. Do not let yourselves be led any longer by politicians who play you false and deliver you into the hands of the enemy…
Soldiers and marines! Fraternise! Take possession of your ships. Overpower first your officers. Place yourselves in communication with your comrades on land and seize all harbours and open fire, if necessary, on loyal groups.
Workers in munition factories: You are the masters of the situation. Stop work immediately. From this moment on, you are only making bullets which will be used against you and yours. The bullets which you now make will never reach the front.
Stop making bayonets which will be thrust into your entrails by the servants of the government. Arise, organize, seize weapons and use them against those who plan to make slaves of you after they have made their own peace. End the war yourselves and use your weapons against the rulers.”