On Sunday, thousands of people took part in Berlin’s annual demonstration in commemoration of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. The two founders of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) were assassinated by right-wing paramilitaries (on the orders of a social democratic government) on January 15, 1919. For more than a century, demonstrators have honored their memory every second Sunday in January, marching to the Socialist Cemetery and laying huge piles of red carnations on the graves.
This year saw some of the worst police violence in the history of the “LL-Demo.” From the very beginning, riot cops were ominously walking next to the Palestine Bloc that had been organized by groups like Jüdische Stimme and Palestine Speaks, alongside socialist groups like Klasse Gegen Klasse, Revolutionäre Linke, and Sozialismus von unten. Halfway through the demonstration — right next to the former headquarters of East Germany’s Ministry for State Security — they arrested a speaker.
The police claimed he was guilty of “supporting a terrorist organization” because he had chanted “from the river to the sea.” This slogan, police say, is a clear avowal of Hamas. But that’s absurd: The slogan “from the river to the sea” has been widespread among supporters of Palestinian liberation since at least the 1970s, nearly two decades before Hamas’s founding. And how many Hamas supporters would one expect at a communist demonstration? But this kind of censorship has become common in Berlin, where any expression of support for Palestine is criminalized as supposed “antisemitism” — even if it’s Jewish activists who are getting arrested.
The demonstration stopped in protest against this repression, demanding that the arrested be released. This is where police began attacking the crowd like berserkers with truncheons and pepper sprays. According to medics at the scene, at least 15 people were sent to the hospital, and at least ten of them had serious injuries including broken bones. One 65-year-old grandfather was lying unconscious on the ground, and medics had to beg police to call an ambulance. We are still trying to gather full reports.
In recent years, the bourgeoisie has started to claim Luxemburg as one of their own: as a pacifist and a democrat who despised the bloody battles of revolution. As V.I. Lenin put it, they are turning Luxemburg into a “harmless icon.” In a way, it’s fitting to have capitalist police attacking a demonstration in favor of Luxemburg. It was the predecessors of these very police who murdered Luxemburg and thousands of her comrades.
It is beyond doubt that Luxemburg, as part of a long tradition of Jewish socialist anti-Zionists, would have been on the streets defending Palestine. She was moved by Jewish suffering, but no more than in all forms of human suffering. As she wrote to a friend: “I am just as much concerned with the poor victims on the rubber plantations of Putumayo, the black people in Africa with whose corpses the Europeans play catch … I feel at home in the entire world wherever there are clouds and birds and human tears.”