Liebknecht, Karl

born Aug. 13, 1871, Leipzig, Ger.
died Jan. 15, 1919, Berlin

German socialist leader.

Son of Wilhelm Liebknecht, he became a lawyer and a Marxist. In 1912 he entered the Reichstag and led the opposition to Germany's pre-World War I policy. In 1916 he was expelled from the Social Democratic Party for opposing its leadership and came into close alliance with Rosa Luxemburg, with whom he founded the Spartacists. He was imprisoned (1916–18) for advocating the overthrow of the government. In 1918 he played a leading role in forming the German Communist Party. A series of bloody clashes culminated in the January 1919 putsch in which Liebknecht resorted to force; he was shot on the pretext that he was attempting to escape arrest.

Karl Liebknecht, 1913

Interfoto-Friedrich Rauch, Munich

* * *

▪ German socialist

born Aug. 13, 1871, Leipzig
died Jan. 15, 1919, Berlin
 German Social Democrat, who, with Rosa Luxemburg and other radicals, founded the Spartakusbund ( Spartacus League), a Berlin underground group that became the Communist Party of Germany, dedicated to a socialist revolution. Liebknecht was killed in the Spartacus Revolt of January 1919.

      The son of Wilhelm Liebknecht, Karl grew up during the years when the Anti-Socialist Law was in force against his father's Socialist Labour Party (which became the Social Democratic Party in 1891). With financial help from the party, he studied law and political economy, first at Leipzig and then at Berlin, where he earned his doctor's degree. He planned to devote his career to the defense of Marxism.

      After serving with the Imperial Pioneer Guards in Potsdam during 1893–94 and subsequently as a junior barrister in Westphalia, he returned to Berlin in 1898. In 1900, the year of his father's death, he married his first wife, Julie Paradies, by whom he had three children. She died 10 years later, and in 1912 he married Sophia Ryss, a woman of Russian birth who had graduated from the University of Heidelberg.

      In 1904, at a trial at Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia), he defended propertyless peasants accused of infiltrating socialist propaganda from East Prussia into tsarist Russia. His defense of the accused was primarily an apology for social democracy and provided him with a platform for his attacks against militarism. In 1907 he played a principal role in the establishment of the International Union of Socialist Youth Organizations in Stuttgart. His publication of Militarismus und Antimilitarismus in the same year earned him a jail sentence of 18 months in Glatz, Silesia. While still in prison, he won a seat in the Prussian Landtag, and in 1912 he entered the Reichstag as the chief spokesman against the government and against the growing movement within the Social Democratic Party (Social Democratic Party of Germany) to revise its Marxist doctrine.

      During World War I Liebknecht became a leading figure in the development of opposition movements to the wartime government. He was the first in the Reichstag to vote against war credits and spoke out publicly, as early as January 1915, for the transformation of the national war into a civil or class war. The government conscripted him as a noncombatant but furloughed him to fulfill his duties as a deputy in the Reichstag and the Prussian Assembly. He served on the Düna sector of the Russian front, felling trees, peeling potatoes, and burying the rotting corpses of the dead, until he suffered physical collapse in October 1915. In 1916 he was expelled from the Social Democratic Party for opposing its leadership. The ouster brought him into close alliance with another revolutionary personality, Rosa Luxemburg (Luxemburg, Rosa). Together, they provided the leadership for illegal opposition to the war through the subversive Spartakusbund, which disseminated through its network of confidential underground agents various kinds of revolutionary propaganda. Liebknecht edited the famous illegal “Spartacus Letters,” the “official” organ of the Spartakusbund.

      On May 1, 1916, Liebknecht participated in a May Day demonstration in Berlin and called for the overthrow of the government and an end to the war and was tried and imprisoned. In October 1918 the climate in Germany had become more revolutionary and Liebknecht was granted an amnesty by the government of Prince Max of Baden.

      Liebknecht entered the maelstrom of the German revolutionary period with great expectations. The Russian Soviet government celebrated his release from prison by a dinner for him at its embassy in Berlin. He planned to develop, through the Spartakusbund, a German revolution after the Soviet pattern. While the Social Democratic Party, under the leadership of Friedrich Ebert (Ebert, Friedrich), channeled the revolution along moderate lines, Liebknecht harangued the masses to win support for a “real” revolution. He played a leading role in the formation of the German Communist Party, which attempted without success to organize the radical elements. A series of bloody clashes between the provisional government formed by Ebert after the downfall of the monarchy and the extreme radicals culminated in the January 1919 putsch in which Liebknecht resorted to force, a tactic both he and his father had strongly opposed. His use of force stimulated the growth of the counterrevolution, and both he and Rosa Luxemburg were among its first victims. On Jan. 15, 1919, they were shot to death by counterrevolutionary volunteers on the pretext of attempted escape while under arrest.

Additional Reading
Karl W. Meyer, Karl Liebknecht: Man Without a Country (1957), stresses his political activities. Helmut Trotnow, Karl Liebknecht (1871–1919): A Political Biography (1984), also offers a new look at the history of the Social Democratic Party.

* * *

Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Liebknecht, Karl — (1871 1919)    political activist; a founder of the Spar tacus League* and the KPD. Born in Leipzig, he was, as the son of an SPD founder, steeped in socialist ideology. During 1890 1893 he studied law and economics. In 1897 he took a doctorate… …   Historical dictionary of Weimar Republik

  • Liebknecht, Karl — ► (1871 1919) Político comunista alemán. Fue uno de los creadores del movimiento socialista juvenil alemán. Fundó con Rosa Luxemburg la Liga Espartaquista (bolchevique). * * * (13 ago. 1871, Leipzig, Alemania–15 ene. 1919, Berlín). Líder… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Liebknecht, Karl — (1871–1919)    A significant figure in the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), Liebknecht was also a leader of the ultra left Spartacist movement along with Rosa Luxemburg. The son of Wilhelm Liebknecht, he was born in Leipzig, where he also… …   Historical dictionary of Marxism

  • Liebknecht — Liebknecht, Karl …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Karl Liebknecht — (n. Leipzig (Alemania), 13 de agosto de 1871 † Berlín (Alemania), 15 de enero de 1919), político y dirigente socialista alemán de origen judío. Vida Hijo del político revolucio …   Wikipedia Español

  • LIEBKNECHT (K.) — LIEBKNECHT KARL (1871 1919) Né à Leipzig, Karl Liebknecht est le fils d’un des fondateurs du Parti social démocrate allemand, Wilhelm Liebknecht. Bachelier à dix neuf ans, docteur en droit et en sciences politiques en 1897, il ouvre un cabinet… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Karl Kautzky — Karl Johann Kautsky Karl Johann Kautsky (* 16. Oktober 1854 in Prag; † 17. Oktober 1938 in Amsterdam) war ein führender Theoretiker der deutschen und internationalen Sozialdemokratie. Inhaltsverzeichnis …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Karl Gröhl — Karl Retzlaw (* 10. Februar 1896 in Schneidemühl; † 20. Juni 1979 in Frankfurt am Main, eigentlich Karl Gröhl) war ein deutscher sozialistischer Politiker und Publizist. Seine Memoiren (s. Literatur) sind eine faszinierende Quelle eines Arbeiters …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Karl Frohme — Karl Franz Egon Frohme (* 4. Februar 1850 in Hannover; † 9. Februar 1933 in Hamburg) war ein deutscher Politiker der SPD. Inhaltsverzeichnis …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Karl Liebknecht — Audio|De Karl Liebknecht.ogg|Karl Liebknecht (August 13, 1871 January 15, 1919) was a German socialist and a co founder of the Spartacist League and the Communist Party of Germany. Early lifeBorn in Leipzig, Karl Liebknecht was the son of Wilhelm …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.