Hamburg Uprising of 1923

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Hamburg Uprising of 1923


the armed rebellion of the Hamburg proletariat on October 23-25; the high point of the revolutionary crisis of 1923 in Germany.

In September 1923 the Communist Party of Germany and the Executive Committee of the Comintern, seeing that the revolutionary crisis of the country had become acute, arrived at the conclusion that an armed uprising must inevitably take place in Germany within four to six weeks and that the entry of Communists into the governments of Saxony and Thuringia would promote the struggle for the establishment of an all-German workers’ and peasants’ government. According to the decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Germany, the proletariat of Hamburg was to give the signal for a general strike and an all-German armed uprising to overthrow the rule of monopolistic capital and to establish an all-German government of the workers and peasants. For three days and nights the poorly armed insurgents of Hamburg, led by E. Thälmann, employed bold and resourceful tactics in a heroic fight at the barricades against a much superior opponent. The fights in the Hamburg suburbs of Barmbeck and Schiffbeck were particularly stubborn.

At the height of the struggle it became known that the Executive Committee of the Communist Party of Germany had called off the general strike, which was supposed to grow into an armed insurrection.

The Hamburg uprising of 1923 showed that the masses of the working class of the country, as a result of serious errors by the leadership of the Communist Party of Germany, headed by Brandler and Thalheimer, were not sufficiently prepared for the uprising. Unity of action was not achieved in all working-class areas of the country, and the alliance of the working class and the peasantry was not yet realized. At the crucial moment the left Social Democrats refused to support the call for a general strike. The right Social Democrats continued their active support of the bourgeoisie. In the confusion among the leadership of the Communist Party of Germany, the workers’ governments of Saxony and Thuringia were dismissed with the connivance of the left Social Democrats, and the movement of the workers was suppressed despite their stubborn resistance.

When he was convinced that the Hamburg uprising was isolated, Thälmann ordered a halt. The uprising was ended in an organized manner. After its termination a mass repression began.

The heroic struggle of the German proletariat in 1923 was not crowned with success. The principal blame for the defeat of the working class lies with the leaders of the Social Democrats, who disrupted the unity of action of the proletariat.

The Communist Party was the only political force that showed the road to social liberation. However, the party was not sufficiently mature to go over the heads of the Social Democratic leaders and lead the majority of workers and peasants to fight for a workers’ and peasants’ government, and the mistakes (of either a left-sectarian or right-opportunist nature) committed by the leadership of the Communist Party of Germany created even more complications in the unfolding of the revolutionary movement.

The German Communists drew profound conclusions from the lessons of the Hamburg uprising. These lessons played an important role in the later development of the German Communist Party into a fighting Marxist-Leninist party.


Thälmann, E. Uroki gamburgskogo vosstaniia, Izbrannye stat’i i rechi, vol. 1. Moscow, 1957. (Translated from German.)
Ulbricht, W. “Poslevoennyi krizis v Germanii i sobytiia 1923 goda.” Voprosy istorii, 1954, no. 5.
Kommunisticheskii Internatsional: Kratkii istoricheskii ocherk. Moscow, 1969.
Davidovich, D. S. Revoliutsionnyi krizis 1923 g. v Germanii i Gamburgskoe vosstanie. Moscow, 1963.
Davidovich, D. S. Ernst Tel’man. Moscow, 1971.
Geschichte der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung, vol. 3. Berlin, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.