Tony Cliff once said that if you want to find the father of Stalin, you don’t look to Lenin, you look to the German socialists who murdered Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. These men, like Friederich Ebert( who famously said “If the Kaiser doesn’t abdicate the social revolution is unavoidable. But I don’t want it, indeed I hate it like sin”), by directing all the forces of repression of the German state against those who sought to establish a socialist republic, ensured that workers’ democracy in Russia would remain isolated and impoverished.
Robert Minor provided a brilliant anticipation of Cliff’s insight in the early 1920s in this cartoon from The Liberator. Minor, who before World War I had been the highest paid politcal cartoonist in the country, would go on to become a staunch Stalinist and important figure in the American Communist Party. Here, however, he represents wonderfully the relation between the failure of revolution in Germany and the failure of revolution in the Soviet Union.