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Liebknecht

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LIEBKNECHT, lep'kneht, Karl (PAUL AUGUST FERDINAND), German Socialist leader: b. Leipzig, 13 Aug. 1871; d. 15 Jan. 1919. The eldest son of the famous Socialist, Wilhelm Liebknecht (q.v.), he was a lawyer by profes sion and, since 1912, a member of the Reichstag representing the constitutency wherein the ex-Kaiser resided — Potsdam. A fearless and outspoken critic of the government militarist policy, he came into frequent colli sions with the authorities. He earned consid erable notoriety by bringing grave charges of corruption against the Krupp firm at Essen, charging it with tampering with petty officials of the German War Office and Admiralty. He was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment in 1907 for publishing an anti-militaristic pam phlet, and in 1912 attacked the government for permitting the Tsar of Russia to visit Germany. He was the only member of the Reichstag to oppose the war, which he condemned with fiery eloquence from the beginning. Much has been written on the failure of the German So cial Democratic party to live up to their prin ciples in supporting the government policy of aggressive war. But it is only just to bear in mind that the storm fell upon the German So cialists as suddenly as upon France and Eng land; they knew less of the causes of that storm than the French or British knew; like those two peoples, they saw that their count was in danger and resolved, as they also did, to subordinate everything to the pressing duty of saving it from ruin. The isolation of Lieb knecht, therefore, was more apparent than real. Though he alone uttered his thoughts, they were shared by many of his colleagues. Early in the war he visited Belgium and explained to the Belgian Socialists that, although the vast majority of German Socialists were in favor of fighting the war to the bitter end, there were numerous representatives of the party in the Reichstag who maintained that the misguided foreign policy of their country had been largely responsible for the war. When Liebknecht's father and August Bebel (q.v.) resisted in the

Reichstag the proposal in 1870 to annex Alsace Lorraine, both were thrown into prison. Karl went much further than his father. It was he, who, when the German press was fan ning the flame of hatred against the Belgians by stories of atrocities committed against Ger man soldiers, hunted the stories to their source in hospitals and elsewhere, proved them to be baseless and denounced them as such. in Vor warts. On 2 Dec. 1914, while those of his fel low Socialists who opposed the war walked out of the Reichstag while the credits were voted, Liebknecht remained to utter his protest. The president would not allow him to speak and when he handed in his speech in writing the i president refused to insert it in the records. In that undelivered speech, later published in England, he denounced the war as, having been "prepared by the German and Austrian war parties" and wound up with a scathing indict ment of the violation of Belgium and Luxem burg. In March 1915 he spoke against the gov ernment repudiation of its promise to abolish the property suffrage in Prussia, but the Diet fled at his rising. With the death of Bebel in 1913 Liebknecht became the foremost figure in the most powerful party in Germany, his opin ions uncompromising, his honesty unquestioned, his courage equal to any occasion. In June 1916 he was charged with attempted high treason and sentenced to 30 months' imprisonment. He had been expelled from his party five months earlier by a vote of 60.against 25; he was now dis missed from the army, in which he was serv ing as a private. He was liberated in Novem ber 191& In the same month a volume of his speeches was published in New York entitled 'The Future belongs to the People.> Lieb knecht led the radical Spartacus group against the Ebert government during the disorders fol lowing on the Kaiser's flight. He was arrested and later shot down by a soldier on the al leged grounds of attempting to escape.