Posts Tagged ‘working class struggle’

“The Polish Workers’ Paradise,” Montreal Gazette. September 2, 1980. Page 07.

Poland’s crisis is a forerunner of what could happen in the Soviet Union

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“Shipyard workers at Gdansk defy Polish leader Edward Gierek’s orders to return to work,” Montreal Gazette. August 27, 1980. Page 07.

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“Our programme does not contain anything about change, reform or transformation, but rather the smashing of these three foundations of civilization: family, property, state.

This civilization whose dawn we have shown must experience its apocalypse before us. Socialism and communism come after and stand above civilization, just as civilization followed barbarism and stood above it. Socialism and communism are not a new form of civilization:

“Since civilization is founded on the exploitation of one class by another class, its whole development proceeds in a constant contradiction.”

If, therefore, Truman, Stalin and Churchill find themselves under the same anti-barbaric roof, and Chaulieu and some other relics want to have their place there as well – we remaining ones prefer to stay out with Marx, Engels and Lenin.

It may be confusing that communism has not yet emerged from a downfall of civilization; but it is completely ridiculous to confuse the satisfaction of capital about this fact with a threat of barbarism.

So it is an utterly banal and pathetic mistake to try to explain the stagnation of class antagonism and anti-capitalist revolution with the help of volitional factors and malevolent police gangs.

However, a cardinal mistake is to try to plant on us, after the level of capitalist civilization that we proclaimed as the last and worst level, a new, unforeseen class civilization. It is nonsense to search for a third class in order to then place this state as the state of this ruling class – which is not identical to the bourgeoisie – where it itself is supposed to be only the staff of the state, a staff that is not a new figure. We have understood and analysed this through all class struggles and successive forms of state.

Another mistake, as we have seen and will see, is the following stepladder: private capitalism – state capitalism – socialism. If this trio were to dominate the stage, the conclusion of the French left’s “bulletin” would be unavoidable: No condemnation and shame, but rather an alliance or support for the second stage – so that state capitalism, whether the Prime Minister is a Hitler or a Stalin, can face us alone as soon as possible.

Already immediately after the First World War, at the first appearance of fascism in Italy in 1919, we solved the historical and strategic question: No joining a liberal-democratic bloc against fascism – and just as little any bloc forming with fascism against the liberal bourgeoisie. We also immediately said why: Because they are not two social classes, but one and the same.

To have practiced the bloc strategy, even in both directions, is enough for us to explain the retreat of our revolution.

The hollowest construction is the one that wants to confront this infamous world (whose potential, however, is exceptionally high) of capitalist civilization  (and also the majority of the proletarians, who are now being used as a result of major historical mistakes) with the alternative of the “spectre of barbarism”: “Even if there is no revolution that gives birth to a new world and it may be suffocated, is the disintegration crisis of today’s society still occurring, so that we cannot come to socialism, but fall back from civilization into barbarism?” From pure brain caliber this threat does not frighten any bourgeois and does not encourage any proletarian to fight. No society disintegrates because of its internal laws, its internal necessity, if these laws and this necessity do not lead to the uprising of a human mass organized with the weapons in hand – something we know and expect. There is no death without trauma for any “class civilization”, no matter how corrupt and disgusting it may be.

As far as the barbarism is concerned, which is supposed to arise spontaneously after the death of capitalism as a result of its disintegration: If we regard its disappearance as a necessary condition for further development, which then had to lead inevitably through the swamp of the subsequent civilization, then there is nothing so terrible about its characteristics as a human form of coexistence that an unexpected return could frighten us.

How against Rome the wild hordes were needed – so that so many and so great useful contributions to the organization of people and things will not be lost – which were unconscious contributors to a much bigger revolution still far away in time, we want the gates of this bourgeois world of profiteers, oppressors and butchers to be struck by a powerful barbaric wave capable of burying this world among itself.

But just as there are borders, walls and curtains in this world, all forces, even though they compete against each other, are gathering around the tradition of this very civilization.

When the revolutionary movement of the working class becomes strong again, organizes and arms itself, and when formations emerge that do not adhere to the civilization of an Acheson or Malik, then these will be the barbaric forces that will not disdain the ripe fruit of modern industrial potential, but will snatch it from the throat of the exploiters by breaking their still sharp teeth.

Socialism will therefore welcome a new and fruitful barbarism, such as the one that came down the Alps and rejuvenated Europe; It had not destroyed but honoured the centuries-old fruit of knowledge and arts preserved in the womb of a vast realm.”

– International Communist Party, Forward, Barbarians!


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“New Superintendent For Limb Factory,” Toronto Star. January 31, 1919. Page 04.

Department Makes Effort to End Dispute by Appointing Returned Officer.

In an attempt to end the strike conditions at the artificial limb factory at Davisville and on Spadina avenue, the Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-establishment, which recently dispensed with the services of Superintendent J. E. Burns, which brought about a strike of the 220 men employed in the factory, has appointed Major R. W. Coulthard to the position.

Major Coulthard is an officer of the C.E.F., who went overseas with the Second Canadian Tunnelling company in 1915 from Western Canada, and his appointment, according to Colonel G. F. Morrison, assistant director of the department, satisfies the first demand of the employees that a returned soldier get the position.

On Strike Since Jan. 24.
The strike at the limb factory has been on since January 24, and followed the dismissal of Mr. Burns. The appointment as a temporary measure of E. M. Martin as superintendent was not agreeable to the men and they decline to return to work, and to-day, the appointment of Major Coulthard is announced.

Sir James Lougheed, Minister of the Department of Soldiers’ Civil Reestablishment, issues the following statement on the situation:

“On the recommendations made by those competent to give an opinion on the subject, we brought about changes that were necessary in the interest of the department, the men employed in the factory, and those ex-members of the forces who required artificial limbs and appliances. Some of the employees seemingly do not see eye to eye with the department in the changes that have been made. It is quite manifest that the Government must exercise its own judgement as to how an enterprise of this kind must be operated.

Highest Efficiency Wanted.
‘Regretable as it is that we have not at the moment the co-operation of the men who have thus ceased work, yet it is our duty to place this work upon the most efficient basis possible. We have appointed in charge, Mr. R. W. Coulthard, who has been overseas for a long period. During his experience as an engineer he has had charge of large enterprises requiring such ability as to qualify him for the position.’

Mr. G. E. Beaton, of the Strike Committee, interviewed by The Star this morning, explained that nothing definite can be announced from the men’s side of the question until the appointment of Major Coulthard has been considered at a meeting of the striking employees, which will be held forthwith.

Referring to Sir James Lougheed’s announcement that the department cannot be dictated to in matters of general policy, Mr. Beaton said: ‘We thrashed that out last night, and it was understood that there would have to be some modifications on the demands of the men.’

‘We are pleased to hear that a returned soldier has been appointed, and hold to that demand still,’ he said. ‘That would be quite satisfactory to us if Mr. Burns were retained to tutor the new superintendent in the way we have been working. Possibly some compromise will be reached along these lines,’ he concluded.

As Major Coulthard’s appointment has not been notified yet to the Strike Committee by the department, it is not likely that any official notice of it will be taken until such time as it is announced. Immediately following that, however, a meeting of all the employees will be held, and the future policy of the men decided on.

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“Stop Inflation! ‘Play Louder! I can Still Hear Her!’” 

UE Canadian News, March 20 1967.

My friend Doug says: “Inflation starts to rise in 1966 and capital begins to advance the argument that wages are rising too high. Keep in mind that strike levels are climbing and beginning to hit high levels in 1965 and 1966 amidst a massive wave of wildcat strikes. Labour, the farmers’ unions, and consumer groups argue that the rising prices are not a function of labour costs but of monopoly price-fixing. Another aspect of the argument, seen here, is that inflation is also being driven by new huge military expenditures with the escalation of the war in Vietnam in 1965.”

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“The leaders of the Storm Detachments-a dozen or so metal workers from the Berlin heavy
industries, whose business it is to organize the fighting squads of the Revolutionaries and to lead
them on -the day of the revolution-have already reached the last item on their agenda. Some are
standing, others seated on garden chairs around a table in the cheerless skittle-alley of a workers’
tavern. When Primelsack enters, the discussion is interrupted.

Primelsack immediately makes his report.

“All O.K. – Ernst has gone over to headquarters in Schicklerstrasse. Uprooted a tree fifteen
inches across! And twigs and branches fell from the other trees over a radius of thirty yards.”

“Boy, but she did make a hole!”
“A thing like that landing plumb on a column…”
”It’s not possible, of course, to pitch it from the street level. We’ll have to get into the houses and throw from the upper windows,” says the leader of the group, a brawny, black-haired fitter.
“What if the people won’t let us into the houses?”
“We must get in. If they refuse, then we must smash in the doors, that’s all.”
“How long does it take to go off?”

“Count to six and then heave it.”
”A hand-grenade takes five, though, doesn’t it?”
“This won’t go off before eight. With our first fuse it took sixteen, but now it’s eight.”
“And how many of them have we?”
“Sixty at present, with explosive for more.”

 The chairman returns to the last point on the agenda and talks with a few of the comrades about the issuing of the stock of revolvers, hand-grenades and ammunition. The rest occupy themselves discussing the progress of the movement in their several factories; new recruits for the fighting squads; their president, Emil Barth; and the likelihood of an early outbreak. A turner from the Kombusch Factory, the Revolutionary Oestreich, is telling Primelsack
how he took a case of rifle ammunition to one of their colleagues at Weissensee.

“You know what a
case looks like of course-like a box of herrings, except that it has handles at both ends. Well, I got
my brother Richard-! knew I could trust him-and then we took the box just as it was, without
wrapping it up or anything, went straight to the station, got into a train and just took it as if it were
any harmless parcel. I don’t understand now how it came off without a hitch, or how we could even
have thought of doing such a thing….”

Oestreich is instancing this casualness and assurance in
taking the thing openly by train under the very eyes of the other passengers as an example of how
blind faith is more important to success than the most deliberate and long-thought-out preparations:

“Go straight at it, that’s always the best way. I simply said to Richard: ‘Have you got your
Browning?’ ‘Sure,’ says he, ‘here in my trouser-pocket. I’ve only to slip the safety-catch and she’s
ready to pump.’”

“It is time we were going over to Schicklerstrasse, comrades.”

Some are already on the stairs, making their way up into the bar.

There they split up, leaving the house casually one and two at a time.

 At No. 5 Schicklerstrasse, on the second floor giving on the courtyard, tucked away among tailoring establishments, hat-makers and paper-bag manufacturers, are the rooms of the training
school of the Independent Socialist Party, the USP In one of the rooms some forty workmen are
wedged in between the narrow school benches. Twenty more are standing round the walls. The
members of the Storm Detachments, arriving one by one, also have to stand.

This is the full session of the Revolutionaries.

The Revolutionaries it was who led the Berlin workers in the strike of January, 1918, protesting
against the iniquitous peace of Brest-Litowsk, and calling for an end to be put to the war on terms of
no annexations and no reparations. This movement developed into the first concerted effort against
the imperialism of the government – then the bureaucrats of the Unions got the upper hand, and
Ebert, Scheidemann and Bauer – all of them members of the Reichstag – took over leadership of the
strike, and under their direction the fight was turned into negotiation. The Minister for the Interior,
who was willing to treat only with the parliamentarians, would have no dealings with the workers
themselves and placed a ban on all mass meetings. The General Officer Commanding the Marches
put Berlin under strict martial law and set up an emergency military tribunal.

Four hundred thousand workers had obeyed the order to strike. After the collapse of the strike
two hundred were imprisoned and forty thousand sent up to the trenches.

After that first failure eighteen of the leaders had come together to rebuild the organization.
Richard Müller, the president, had been called up by the military. But to the first meeting he
brought with him Emil Barth who, on Müller’s departure, assumed the leadership of the
Revolutionary Organization.

Emil Barth is now seated at the teacher’s desk.

He is listening to the chief of the Storm Detachment leaders who is reporting to him on the
findings of the meeting which has just been concluded.

Barth has a different appearance from that of the metal workers seated on the benches. They are
thickset, slow of speech and movement. Barth on the other hand loves fine phrases and will miss no
opportunity for a speech. Richard Müller introduced him to the circle at a time when it was
impossible to have as secretary any man already known to the police on account of his political
activities. Müller later nicknamed him “the windbag”; Haase diagnosed him as a braggart;
Liebknecht, as a “mad revolutionary dilettante”; Duncker of the Spartacist League, as a
“pathological case of a man striving for power out of a sense of inferiority”. But Barth countered all
abuse by denouncing the rest as “the highbrow generals of the workers’ movement”, who sat all day
at their writing-desks apart from the world and had not the faintest idea how revolutions are made.
When he first joined the Revolutionaries he walked with the aid of two sticks and gave himself out
as a shell-shock case. But he is shell-shocked no longer – nor does he instruct others in that art. He
has climbed up from the lowest social stratum, possesses considerable organizing ability and is
consumed with ambition. Every opportunity for political action he has seized upon with fanatical zeal, and his activities as head of the secret organization absorb him completely.

The Revolutionaries are well content with their chief. He gives his whole strength to the cause, and his excessive talkativeness they tolerate as a necessary evil.

Barth opens the meeting:

 “Comrades! I have first a communication to make. We of the Council have invited Karl Liebknecht to the meeting to-night. I am sure you will approve of that. But I should like to remind
you beforehand, that within our circle Liebknecht is to be treated as the representative of any other
political party would be treated – that is, as a guest, and one to whose opinions we are ready to
listen. At the same time I would ask you not to be dissuaded from the straight path of our policy by
the sudden appearance of Liebknecht in our midst. The hour is not far distant when we must fulfil
our task. The confidence of the upper classes in victory is giving place to a wail of disillusionment.
The divinity of the Hohenzollerns, the infallibility of Ludendorff – all that has gone. Hunger,
wretchedness, anxiety, bereavement, poverty have raised in every heart the cry for peace – the cry
for vengeance upon the guilty.”

“Our preparations are complete. The plan of attack has been elaborated and confirmed in every
smallest detail. Arms and ammunition have been distributed by the leaders of the Storm
Detachments to the various factories. At the signal for battle all work will stop; the workers will
march in close column on the centre of the city; workers within the city limits will barricade the
main thoroughfares. Within a few hours Berlin will be swarming with vast crowds of men.”

“And what about the police?”
“Who will the soldiers side with?”
“I shall call upon Comrade Daumig to answer those questions.”

Ernst Daumig – Prussian deserter; French foreign legionary; conductor on a railway sleeping-car; journalist; until the split in the party, editor of the Vorwärts – he speaks briefly and to the point:
“The police are absolutely loyal to the Government, but they will be overpowered by the armed Storm Detachments allocated to the various columns. The second question is more difficult. With
the few weapons at our disposal we could not do much against the military. I have tried to win the
soldiers over to our side in the coming struggle. I have succeeded in establishing contacts in a good
many of the barracks and have gained considerable agreement and support. Many are on our side.
But it is very difficult to form any reliable estimate of their attitude as a whole. Especially so, in
view of the fact that the military authorities are constantly shifting the troops about – during the last
few days, for instance, they have filled up the garrison with men from the provinces who are wholly
ignorant of the political situation. The military must be isolated by the masses coming in from all
sides, and the crowd must then fraternize with the soldiers and win them over to us.”

“When do we get going? That is the main point.”
“We ought not to delay much longer.”
“Delay can cost us all our heads.”

A motor mechanic states that the workers at the Daimler factory have arranged matters with the soldiers in the Dragoon Barracks. “We are to march through Tempelhof and the soldiers will join us
outside the Halle Gate.”

At that moment the door opens. Liebknecht!

The workers turn round. Most of them know him by sight, but it is a long time since they have
seen him – before the war perhaps, at some meeting or other – a few were on the Potsdamer Platz in
1916 when Liebknecht made his appeal to the workers to fight against the war and called for the
revolution. This is not the place for noisy demonstrations; those nearest the door are already shaking
him by the hand, others wave:

“You have come just in the nick of time.”
“Things are beginning to move. The fun starts soon.”

Barth observes with displeasure that Liebknecht, though he particularly asked him to come alone, has brought along four colleagues
from the Spartacist League – Pieck, who arrived only yesterday from Holland, and the former
travelling secretary of the party, the long-legged professor and private coach, Duncker – the other two he does not know.

Barth cuts short the subdued ovation.

 “I shall now ask Comrade Ledebour to speak.”

Ledebour had been first among the parliamentarians to recognize in the Revolutionaries the vanguard of the coming revolution, and in the interests of the Independent Party he had kept in
close touch with the group. He now endorses Daumig’s view of the situation as regards the military,
and emphasizes the danger, already hinted at, of any delay in coming into action.

After Ledebour a second Independent addresses the meeting:

“It is obvious, of course, that we should not enter upon the conflict before the final preparations
have been made. In Berlin we have to deal with the Government in its strongest position. And we
must make absolutely sure before we begin that we have sufficient strength behind us. Particularly
must we be sure of the military. Everything is at stake. Comrades, beware of too precipitate

The Independents, so far as the law would permit, have given expression both in Parliament and
the press to the feelings of the mass of the workers and soldiers. In proportion as the masses grew
weary of the war, the Independents dissociated themselves from the policy of the old order. Their
speeches became more and more radical, and they looked about for every legal means of
overthrowing the Government and the leaders of the old Social Democratic Party, and of filling the
ministerial and high official posts with their own people. For the achievement of this purpose the
Revolutionaries might well prove the most convenient lever; but they desired to accomplish that
purpose with the minimum of risk. And so on the very threshold of revolution they drew back.

The Revolutionaries begin to interrupt the speaker:

 “Aha! Got the wind up, have you?”
“Like to put on the brakes, eh? – now that we have come so far.”
“Sail right in, that’s the only way – same as me and Richard with the ammunition box.”
“If we were to listen to the Party leaders, we should still be making preparations in our graves.”

Liebknecht signals the Chair.

Karl Liebknecht – son of Wilhelm Liebknecht. But he is more than that – he has his own history. On August 4th, 1914, when in obedience to the resolution of the Party majority, he voted with the
rest of the Social Democrats in favour of the War Budget, he had come back to the Party committee
room with tears in his eyes. It was then that Rosa Luxembourg told him he must break with Party
discipline and, single-handed and alone, follow the dictates of his own conscience. Ever since then
he has been following the same hard road. He refused to vote for the Second War Loan. Already in
1915 he had gathered about him a small group of revolutionaries. He was ejected from the Party,
called up for the army, and sent to the Front as an infantryman. At the beginning of 1916 he
published an “open letter”, which he signed with the pseudonym: Spartacus. On May 1st, 1916, he
stood on the Potsdamer Platz, the first open accuser of the Government policy, and, surrounded by a
small band of demonstrators, he made a speech against the war. He was arrested and vanished into
Luckau prison.

Karl Liebknecht. Infantryman. Convict. Tribune of the Revolution.

Here he now stands and speaks:

 “…From various sources I have heard of your existence, of the existence of an illegal revolutionary organization. But I must say I am disappointed in your activities. Frankly I imagined
both your action and the pace of it to be other than I find it. I came here on Wednesday last; I then
witnessed a demonstration the like of which, for enthusiasm, has not been seen in Berlin before.
There had been another of almost equal enthusiasm the day before in front of the Reichstag and
Unter den Linden. I have been here three days now and there has been no fresh demonstration!”

The Revolutionaries sit silent in their places, all eyes turned upon the emaciated face of
Liebknecht which under the greenish light of the one solitary gas-flame looks even paler than in fact
it is. Emil Barth has removed his pince-nez; he polishes the lenses and puts them on again. He
watches his comrades anxiously –

Today will decide whether the Revolutionary Organization is to stick to its programme or not. Barth has always been opposed to sporadic action, as a mere frittering
away of strength. He has divided his organization into various sections according to the several
requirements of propaganda, espionage and direct fighting. He has collected money for the purchase
of arms, made journeys throughout the length and breadth of the country in order to spin the web
wider, dashing from one meeting to the next, and putting all in readiness for the one great blow. It is
nine months since he has had a good night’s sleep. Stupefied with schemes and unsuccessful
combinations, reeking of tobacco smoke, he would crawl wearily after nights of sleeplessness from
the kitchen of his apartment at Neukölln to the room in which slept his wife and his two growing
sons. Still half-dressed he would drop down on the bed and sleep a few hours, only to leave the
house again as soon as he awoke and renew his conspiratorial activities. And now, just as the power
of his adversary, Ludendorff is on the point of collapsing; now, when the moment has come for the
realization of all his great schemes – at this critical moment who should appear but Karl

– Theodor Plivier, The Kaiser Goes, The Generals Remain. Translated by A. W. Wheen. London: Faber & Faber, 1933. pp. 38-42

Painting is Heinrich Vogeler, Deutscher Stachanowarbeiter im Erholungsheim Sotschi (Mitglied der Stachanowbewegung).1936. Oil on canvas.  Housed in Berlin at Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Nationalgalerie, Inv.-Nr. A III 279.  Actually shows a German-Soviet ‘shock worker’ but it works and I like Vogeler…

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“At the other end of the city, surrounded by waste land on the one side and the network of tracks
belonging to Berlin’s largest railway depot on the other, beyond the black silhouettes of the coal-stacks, glow the yellow lighted windows of the Rummelsburg Power Station.

This is the station which supplies East Berlin with light and power. The firemen, the trimmers
and slag- runners of the night shift came on at midnight. At that hour the great finger in the middle
of the boiler-room, indicating the number of kilowatts consumed over the entire system, was
standing at 20,000. By one o’clock, when the last trams stopped and the greater part of Berlin’s
meagre street lighting was turned off, the indicator had fallen to 12,000. The firemen then locked
the rotary grates, banked the fires to smoulder slowly, and shut the furnace doors.

Now they may rest awhile.

There are seventy men in the boiler-room; most are now sitting about eating the bread they have
brought with them. Others are standing in twos and threes talking together. One group is engaged in the eternal dispute-Social Democrats versus Independents, SPD v. USP Another lot in front of
No. 3 furnace is discussing the Union and the wages question.

An engineer comes in from the engine-room. He joins the group before No. 3 furnace and listens
to the discussion.

“They haven’t even the guts to insist on extra pay for night work.”
“Nor for Sunday work, either.”
“What do they think we pay our subs for, I wonder.”
“… and forbidden us to strike, too, they have.”

A trimmer joins the argument:

“Listen to them, Comrade Sült. Overtime pay for night work, extra for Sundays – that’s all they
can think of.”

“No harm in that, if they would set about getting it for themselves, and not wait for the Union
bosses to give them everything.”

“They’ll never strike, especially if it has to be done in spite of the bosses. And as for purely
political demands, they wouldn’t stir a hand.”

The two – Sült, the engineer, and Primelsack, the trimmer – walk across to the larger group in the middle of the room, where the discussion is of the war policies of the two socialist parties, and
the opposed views are being hotly disputed.

“Yes, and what have you gained? Right of assembly, you say. That’s all eye-wash! If you’d seen
the cops hoeing into us with their sabres you’d have known better.”

“Four more meetings they’ve broken up!”

 “Yes, and if it weren’t for the split….”

 “If it weren’t for the split one more party boss would be holding down a cabinet job, eh?”

“And shaking hands with the Emperor, like old Scheidemann,” adds Primelsack.

 “Now listen here, mates – don’t you let anybody persuade you to anything rash. Not even the
Independents can run their heads through a brick wall. We must all stick together and then, when
the men at the top give us the tip, sail in as one man.”
“And what if the men at the top never give us the tip?” asks Sült.

“Don’t you worry – it’ll come all right-the great thing is to sit tight.”

‘Yes, but for how long? Until every man jack of us is dead in the trenches, eh?”
“We must force the leaders’ hand.”

A Social Democrat begins to spout:
“The old Party is what it has always been, a powerful advocate of our interests. The SPD has
always worked for us….”

“Traitors, that’s what they are!”

“Traitors, eh? Which are more traitors – those who voted for three loans, or the others who voted
for five?”

“Nine, you mean, you’ve forgotten four.”

Primelsack is trying to persuade a fireman that there is only one weapon to use against the
Government and the leaders of the SPD in league with it-and that weapon is a hand-grenade.

Sült has returned to the engine-room; on the hard, white-tiled surface stand the turbo-generators
which supply one part of the Berlin complex with light and power – three gloomy, humpbacked
monsters rising almost to the glass roof of the engine-room. The paddle-wheels in their iron bellies
revolve continuously under pressure of the incoming steam, and the steam becomes motion, and the
motion, electricity.
Sült takes a rag from his pocket and wipes off the oil which has dripped from one of the plates. It
is the duty of the engineers to check the number of revolutions, the oil supply, the temperature of
the generators, and every hour to make corresponding entries on the slates. Sült stands fixed on one
spot, fascinated by the high- pitched humming of the machines. Here his mind is at home; here he is
rid of the feeling of impotence which overtakes him in political gatherings and in the fruitless
arguments with colleagues.
The workers’ organizations, the Unions, have failed of their purpose; have turned even into their
very opposites. They have taken from the workers their one defence – the right to strike. And the
Social Democratic Party, in which is concentrated the political will of the working class, has handed
over the masses who created it for their own emancipation, to exploitation and the firing-line.
The truce between Capital and Labour, the bill conscripting the auxiliary services, the political
strikes, and above all the strike of the Berlin metal workers in January, 1918, have shown on which
side the leaders are. They have become servants of the capitalist state, have accepted the task of
turning the workers into a smoothly-running part of the existing order.

Sült is still a member of the Party, still in the Union even. One must be where the masses are.
Who but the masses can do it? It is only those at the head who have sold themselves, and they must
go! Strike, that’s the thing-strike against the war, against the system, against everything and
everybody that supports the system. He considers the revolutionary group which Primelsack wants
him to join – representatives of the most divergent socialist views, they have come together into one
organization, all pledged to the achievement of one end – the overthrow of the system which
brought about the war. All members are recruited exclusively from the factories. They have had the
wits to keep their illegal work from coming to the knowledge of the professional leaders. But of
what use are a few thousand revolvers, and a few dozen hand-grenades? It is the masses we need, and the power of the masses, which lies in their work and in the machines that they serve.

Sült surveys admiringly the enormous belly of the turbine, the shaft of the generator quivering
blue under the strain of its revolutions. He senses in the metal all the strength of the firemen, all the
toil of a whole pitful of coal-miners, here concentrated, vibrating, and being translated into living
Sült understands every technical process of the electric power plant, understands the mechanism
of switches, the twofold system of cables which carries the current to the factories and drives the
machinery of Berlin. The turbines of the power station, the network of electric cables, the lathes and
steam hammers in the workshops – this, the power which drives all the rest, this is the foundation of
the capitalist state. The other – whether government, parliament, or military power – is mere
political superstructure. The working class can free itself only if it begins here, where its combined
strength is made operative – here in the workshops. Economic power, that is the lever. If we but use
it, then the cities are without light, the railway trains idle on the tracks, the military without
munitions. Let the general strike last but three days, the economic circuit is broken; then all
generals, ministers, and bosses will become amen- able. Let the general strike last eight days, then
the whole superstructure will collapse, and the political masters fall. Once we have the power in our
hands we can regulate our production and switch it over to the real needs of society.

power, that is the lever.  If we pull it over…

Sült does not need to look at the kilowatt-indicator. He has already heard the droning of his
growing heavier.
The invisible paddlewheels are still making the same number of revolutions but the load upon
them has become greater. The trams have started again, and with the dawning of the day ever more
and more factories hitch on to the source of power.
The consumption increases.

The kilowatt-indicator shows 18,000.

A bell rings in the boiler-room, simultaneously red lamps begin to glow beside the indicator.
Work has begun again – the fires are raked, the hard- baked slag is broken up, the rotary grate set
in motion again.

The consumption curve rises gradually to 36,000 kilowatts.

The normal day’s work has begun.

The firemen have all they can do. They regulate the temperature, adjust the water and CO
content of their boilers, open the draught, give the fires the necessary fuel. Columns of trimmers
replenish the bunkers and barrow out the ash into the yard.
The third shift makes the steam, and the steam is converted into current.
And the current drives the trams, laden first with workers, to the factories; an hour later it carries
the clerks, the stenographers and shop girls to the offices and stores. The current is driving the
engines, the cranes, the lifts in hotels; it fills the telephone and telegraph wires with humming life.
The third shift is spent – seventy exhausted figures moving about in the grey light which falls
obliquely from above into the boiler-room.

At eight o’clock comes the relief.”

– Theodor Plivier, The Kaiser Goes, The Generals Remain. Translated by A. W. Wheen. London: Faber & Faber, 1933. pp. 35-37.

Photograph is E.O. Hoppé, “Control Room, Klingenberg Power Station, Berlin, 1928.” Source.

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