Of a Bottle of Coke, and a Typewriter

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In 1937 the city of Berlin celebrated its 700th anniversary. 1237, was the year when the first artefacts and documents attested of the existence of an organised municipality, in what was then the town of Cölln, as Berlin was still then a mere nearby hamlet. In 1937, the NSDAP, the party of Adolf Hitler, had been in power for four years, following its electoral success in the general elections of 1933. Fleeing the noises and fracas of another election, we visited the most interesting, and beautifully laid-out exhibition “Berlin 1937, Im Schatten von Morgen“, at the Märkisches Museum, Berlin.

Fifty exhibits, photographies, audio recordings, day to day objects, display the day, as it happened, at a time when all organised resistance to the régime had long been brutally suppressed, and the city’s cultural and public life were totally subordinated to the dominating ideology. One can see the Wehrmacht marching, Coca Cola Gmbh doing well, and a typewriter, magnificently manufactured, and doted of a special key for “Schütz-Staffeln” (SS). There are also recordings of letters and diaries of people, then jailed, soon to be directed to an even worse fate, and their murder.

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It all felt strangely close to us, not at all old history. Yet, since, the city saw so many tragedies and as much destruction as the human species can take. We walked those streets, and heard the marching songs. In 1987 Berlin celebrated its 750th anniversary.

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Pictures: courtesy Märkisches Museum, Berlin

#WritersWednesday: July 25

A hero for our time: Rosa Luxemburg

 She was a beautiful and intelligent woman, who ended her life in the violent and extreme world born from the chaos and massacres of the first world war. A revolutionary, she was also a sharp and lucid critique of the rising bolshevik dictatorship in Russia. Born in 1871 in Zanosc, in the Polish area of Russia, “at sixteen, when she graduated at the top of her class from the girls’ gymnasium in Warsaw, she was denied the gold medal because of “an oppositional attitude toward the authorities.”” She was one of the founders of the Social Democratic Party of Poland, and witnessed the failed revolution of 1905 in Russia. With Karl Liebknecht, the only deputy in the Reichstag to vote against German participation to the war in 1914, she became one of the leaders of the socialist movement in Germany, from 1898 until her murder in 1919 during the suppression of the Spartakusbund uprising in Berlin.

In “Die Akkumulation des Kapitals”, first published in 1913, and her most important theoretical book, Rosa deconstructed the mechanism of reproduction and survival of capitalism, from its origins to the present. Her work is one of a handful of reliable guides for those who wish to understand how and why we are where we are, and what really leads to economic crises, financial collapse and misery for a majority of us.

In January 1919, on the orders of the new chancellor Friedrich Ebert, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were arrested, and brutally murdered while in police custody by the lost soldiers of the Freikorps, who were soon to form the backbone of the National-Socialist party, the Nazis.

On the evening of her murder she wrote:

“The leadership has failed. Even so, the leadership can and must be recreated from the masses and out of the masses. The masses are the decisive element, they are the rock on which the final victory of the revolution will be built. The masses were on the heights; they have developed this ‘defeat’ into one of the historical defeats which are the pride and strength of international socialism. And that is why the future victory will bloom from this ‘defeat’.
‘Order reigns in Berlin!’ You stupid henchmen! Your ‘order’ is built on sand. Tomorrow the revolution will already ‘raise itself with a rattle’ and announce with fanfare, to your terror:
I was, I am, I shall be!”

Clara Zetkin wrote: “In Rosa Luxemburg the socialist idea was a dominating and powerful passion of both mind and heart, a consuming and creative passion. To prepare for the revolution, to pave the way for socialism – this was the task and the one great ambition of this exceptional woman. To experience the revolution, to fight in its battles – this was her highest happiness. With will-power, selflessness and devotion, for which words are too weak, she engaged her whole being and everything she had to offer for socialism. She sacrificed herself to the cause, not only in her death, but daily and hourly in the work and the struggle of many years. She was the sword, the flame of revolution.”