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Proclamation of the Free State of Saxony


The Proclamation of the Free State of Saxony in the wake of the 1918 Revolution, is what Saxony’s workers demand for decades before. They decisively influence, through democratic and socialist self-organization, the path of German workers towards a social-democratic mass party, starting with the foundation of the General German Workers' Association (Allgemeiner Deutscher Arbeiterverein, ADAV) in 1863 in Leipzig, initiated by Ferdinand Lassalle, and the left-liberal-socialist Saxon People's Party (Sächsische Volkspartei) in 1866 in Chemnitz, by Wilhelm Liebknecht and August Bebel, among others, resulting in one of the biggest political parties of its time and a counter-culture whose diverse associations and initiatives include, educate and empower most workers.

War and Revolution

From 1916, not only in Saxony mostly women and young people protest against hunger and war, from 1917 workers go on mass strike several times. The first workers' councils are formed for strike coordination, because the Social Democratic and union leadership, now as part of the state apparatus, agitate against the strikers. From summer of 1918, masses of workers leave the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and join the Independent Social Democrats (USPD). Miners start wildcat strikes, and on September 14th there is a hunger demonstration of 20,000 people in Dresden.

The revolution begins on November 6th with the mutiny of an air barracks in Großenhain. The Unified Revolutionary Workers' and Soldiers' Council of Dresden proclaims the Free State and raises a red flag atop the Royal Palace. The King abdicates three days later, famously saying: (“If you think you can do it better, then go do your shit on your own!”The Council's first official government declaration "To the Saxon People!" places the Free State in the framework of “the transition epoch from the capitalist towards the socialist social order” and of a “unified German People’s Republic”. It declares the separation of church and state, the eight-hour workday and promises the “abolition of any income based on exploitation”.

Struggles for Councils and Socialization

While across Germany the de-facto ruling SPD leadership disempowers the councils by political maneuvre and increasingly brutal military force and delays the demanded socialization of the industry indefinitely, Saxon workers participate in protests and strikes against it, from the biggest cities to dozens of smaller towns, for example in reaction to the massacre of Wettiner Platz in Dresden on January 10th, 1919, when a peaceful demonstration in front of the printshop of Social Democratic newspaper "Dresdner Volkszeitung" (Dresden People’s Newspaper) was shot at, killing 14 and wounding more than 50.

Against the Coup

At the beginning of the counter-revolutionary military coup in March 1920 (Kapp-Lüttwitz-Putsch) again 40 protesters in Leipzig and 60 in Dresden die from shots into the crowds. Saxon workers not only join the General Strike but also increase their efforts to rearm themselves and break the state of siege that had, with little interruption, been in effect in most of Germany for a year by that time.

In Chemnitz, the Volunteer Regiment of the Army is disarmed, political prisoners are freed and a workers' militia is set up. In Plauen, workers surround army trucks and confiscate the weapons. In Leipzig, workers encircle under heavy fire army and student volunteers in a garrison and the university. The workers build barricades and arm themselves by raiding fraternity houses, additional weapons are sent from workers in nearby Halle and the rifle factories in Suhl, Thuringia. Self-arming of the workers and disarming of putschists and pro-coup militias is successful in towns like Borna, Frankenberg, Hermsdorf, Hohenstein-Ernstthal, Mügeln (today's part of Heidenau), Oschatz, Pirna, Riesa, Wurzen, and Zeithain.

After the Coup: Terror

Although the coup can be thwarted by the countrywide General Strike of more than ten million workers and by the militant resistance of thousands, the success is short-lived. Many of the putschist units are immediately sent by the Imperial government, as in 1919, to suppress the striking and revolting workers. Dozens of later Nazis are strongly shaped by the participation in these excesses of violence that kill thousands. After the reconquest of the Ruhr, last in early April the Red Guards are driven from the Vogtland area in Saxony. In some towns the workers remained under arms for months to come, such in Pirna. USPD and, from the beginning of 1919, the communist KPD grow bigger and stronger and join forces but break apart again over the orientation towards Bolshevism. In 1921, the Märzkämpfe (March Struggles) in Central Germany also affect Saxony

The End of the Revolution

The revolution only comes to an end in autumn of 1923 when the elected SPD and KPD regional government of Saxony that considers itself a bulwark against the more and more fascist counter-revolution is removed by the invading Imperial army (Reichswehr). The planned last insurrection for the socialization of the industry and the disempowerment of the military is cancelled but smaller skirmishes and strikes occur that are crushed by the Imperial army.