By Ralf Hoffrogge, Joseph B Keady, Radhika Desai
First released in German through Karl Dietz Verlag as Richard Müller - Der Mann hinter der Novemberrevolution, Berlin, 2008, this English variation used to be thoroughly revised for the English talking viewers and includes new resources and up to date literature
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Extra resources for Working class politics in the German Revolution : Richard Müller, the revolutionary shop stewards and the origins of the council movement
He worked on a voluntary basis and was unknown outside his section. And he was only an ordinary member of the other wing of the labour movement, the Social Democratic Party (SPD). He did not actively participate in the famous factional disputes over revisionism in the SPD; he knew personalities like Eduard Bernstein and Rosa Luxemburg only from the newspapers. That would change abruptly in the summer of 1914: the onset of the First World War did not mark a turning point for the SPD alone. The ensuing shockwaves spread to factories and families, dragging millions of simple workers and their unions into the political conflicts that until then had almost exclusively involved members of parliament and party intellectuals.
Strikes became more frequent not only among the lathe operators but more widely and the Burgfrieden was cast into doubt. 26 Spurred by these symptoms of discontent, oppositionist union members worked on developing their networks. This had to be done in secret because, despite the Burgfrieden, official union assemblies were subject to police surveillance. So Berlin lathe operators used informal conversations at union assemblies to make contact or organised parties and festivals for workers in their trade as cover.
Despite opposition to the war and the Burgfrieden, in 1915 Müller and his circle had not yet developed a political form or social utopia that was substantially different from that of the Social Democrats’ left wing. While they opposed the ban on strikes and the Burgfrieden, they had not yet developed an extensive critique of union or SPD policies. There would be no effective break with those forms until what was known as the Liebknecht Strike in June 1916, the first political mass strike organised by the Stewards, though the group would not take the name ‘Revolutionary Shop Stewards’ until 1918.
Working class politics in the German Revolution : Richard Müller, the revolutionary shop stewards and the origins of the council movement by Ralf Hoffrogge, Joseph B Keady, Radhika Desai