Spartacists,radical group of German Socialists, formed c.Mar., 1916, and led by Karl LiebknechtLiebknecht, Karl
, 1871–1919, German socialist, leader of the Spartacus party; son of Wilhelm Liebknecht. His antimilitaristic writings caused his conviction (1907) for high treason.
..... Click the link for more information. and Rosa LuxemburgLuxemburg, Rosa
, 1871–1919, German revolutionary, b. Russian Poland. Her revolutionary activities forced her to flee to Switzerland in 1889, where she became a Marxist.
..... Click the link for more information. . The name was derived from the pseudonym Spartacus used by Liebknecht in his pamphlets denouncing World War I, the government, and the majority section of the Social Democratic party; the name was used to typify the modern wage slave in revolt like the Roman gladiator. The Spartacists, demanding the establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat by mass action, gathered followers among the workingmen. After the overthrow of the German emperor, William II (Nov., 1918), the Spartacists continued to oppose the government, then composed of Majority Socialists and Independent Socialists, and headed by President Friedrich EbertEbert, Friedrich
, 1871–1925, first president (1919–25) of the German republic. A Social Democratic deputy in the Reichstag, in 1913 he became party leader, succeeding Bebel; a gradualist, or moderate, he was seen as pragmatic and non-ideological.
..... Click the link for more information. . The Spartacists launched a press campaign against the government and engaged in sporadic acts of terrorism. At an organizational meeting (Dec. 29, 1918–Jan. 1, 1919), the Spartacists officially transformed themselves into the German Communist party, and on Jan. 5, 1919, a Communist revolt broke out in Berlin. A general strike was proclaimed (Jan. 6) and the rebels occupied a number of government buildings. Gustav NoskeNoske, Gustav
, 1868–1946, German politician, a Social Democrat. A former member of the Reichstag, he was in charge of the armed forces after the republican revolution of Nov., 1918, and was minister of defense in 1919–20.
..... Click the link for more information. was sent to Berlin to put down the revolt. He marched on the occupied part of the city and, by Jan. 13, had virtually defeated the Communists. Liebknecht and Luxemburg were arrested (Jan. 15) and brutally murdered by counterrevolutionary volunteers on the pretense that the two socialists had attempted to escape.