Monday, March 11, 2019

Grappling with the Imperialist History of Art

Creating art, whether fine art or commercial art, is never easy. It is always potentially full of controversy, mistakes, and particularly prone to the biases of its creators. It is also inevitably indebted to the artwork of the past: as creating truly original works is in fact completely impossible. Artists who have been praised in the past for being "original" are usually not in fact doing anything all that new. They are simply doing something that is different from what everyone else in that time and place is doing.

It is impossible in fact to truly break from all of the past in art. One can of course reach so far into the past that the creation seems new: as many artists did in the second half of the 20th century. They reached back to the Bronze Age and the Neolithic, looking for a fresh perspective unadultered by the history of colonialism and empire. But this is a cheat code, a way to simply avoid the problem of built-in discrimination. Only recently have artists begun to take a better approach: re-appropriating the tools of Empire and Colonialist to imagine or potentially accomplish liberation. Likewise, in the 20th Century socialist states ran away from the artwork of the past: refusing to engage with it as a statement about its problematic foundations.

This is how you ended up with the bizarre situation of Tchaikovsky being banned by the Soviets, despite his work being the ultimate expression of the pain of the oppressed. His violin sonata None but the Lonely Heart is a perfect expression of the painful choice that oppressed people faced: be silent and live, or speak up and perish. It is a love song shorn of its lyrics, a serenade masquerading as a sonata: a revolutionary anthem, pretending to be a lullaby. Tchaikovsky was gay, but the song's very wordlessness allows it to be about universal liberation. The bombast of the 1812 Overture too is subtly revolutionary: It celebrates a victory by the peasants of the Neva river, not the Kossaks of the Tzar. It is the Overture to Les Deux Grenadiers, which draws parallels between the Russian and French soldiers by uniting the two pieces with a single theme. His Nutcracker Suite pretends to be a child's fantasy, but is actually a social commentary. The name of the main character is no accident: Clara, meaning "truth".  Likewise, the Nutcracker Prince is an inherently revolutionary figure: a nutcracker is something which cracks open a facade or mask to reveal the truth.  While Tchaikovsky didn't write the plot, it's interesting that he chose to score this particular story and in this particular way. The original story doesn't make mention of where the various sweets and delicacies that Clara dreams about come from: only listing what they are. Tchaikovsky makes each one a musical homage to the culture it comes from, although unfortunately not all choreographers have been so sensitive. The ultimate message of the ballet then is that truth is universal and revered by all cultures. True the ballet depicts the act of conquest and of bringing tribute: but they are bringing tribute to a concept, not an Empire. It affirms dedication to ideology over obedience to temporal powers.

Only now are other artists starting to do what Tchaikovksy did all those years ago. But, this is dangerous territory. Many artists have found themselves accidentally advancing stereotypes, and enough artists do it intentionally that fans don't tend to believe it when someone says it was an accident. One must think about the narrative that the original work is advancing, and think about how to subvert it. The rising popularity of Lovecraft for example, carries with it the danger that long unused racist stereotypes will reappear. Lovecraft's original stories were quite racist: with many of the Great Old Ones having names inspired by ancient Egypt (you know, a black African civilization). This is a problem since these gods tend to be evil or at least hostile to humanity. And then there is the uncanny resemblance of the fishmen to caricatures of African-Americans. Indeed, Lovecraft also seems to have a problem with women, pregnancy, and fertility: a lot of his stories portray childbirth, the lunar cycle, and the act of conception as innately horrifying.  This shows that sexism and racism go hand in hand, they have the same root in immature masculinity. Lovecraft's non-fiction writing also shows that he was racist and sexist. A modern writer must use Lovecraft with care, so as not to import the original author's biases unknowingly.

That being said, it is possible to untangle old artworks from their biases. The way to do this is to take the symbols out of their original context, and give them a new one. For example, by replicating famous paintings with ordinary black people instead of famous white people. Or by placing Native Americans in traditional costume against the backdrop of bustling cities.  You can be even more subtle: like appropriating religious iconography for new contexts. There's a reason why both Superman and Spiderman wear the colors blue and red: and hint, it's not the American flag. Yeah, those are the colors that identify Jesus. Supes and Spidey are the new Christ figures, the ultimate good guys of modern America.  Or it could be a Japanese woman appropriating the symbol of western colonialism (the Victorian dress) and re-contextualizing it as representing freedom from the male gaze.

One can easily untangle Lovecraft's biases from his cosmic horror: after all, there is indeed something inherently horrifying about the superhuman scale of the universe. His creatures can be dropped into alternate settings that might recontextualize them. For example: the DnD universe where the malign Elder Gods coexist with the more beneficent gods presented in the Player's Handbook.  For another example: tweaking the names to sound less Egyptian, and situating them in a universe utterly unlike our own as Blizzard did for it's Warcraft games.  Or you can play with Lovecraft's biases: presenting the monsters as allied with the Nazis or other forces of fascism as Elise did in her story Ernst Thälmann vs. Chthulu which can be found on on my blogCosmic horror as a genre does not need to be considered tainted by Lovecraft's biases. But this also means that there is no excuse for including biased material.

One cannot simply avoid engaging with imperialism in art, because imperialism permeates our existence. It has created the political world we live in, the clothes we wear, and the food we eat. It is also because we all, on some level, like the idea of being powerful. One must therefore confront it in artwork, as one does in everyday life whether one is aware of that confrontation or not. This confrontation can of course take the form of making a universe where imperialism does not exist. That is just as much a confrontation however, because it shows us what flaws exist in our world or ourselves. It can take the form of imagining a different set of colonizing powers: shedding light on the ways that our current lives are created by the past. It can also take the form of making real life colonizers into fictional villains and allowing them to be defeated by fictional powers. Or it could be making colonialism the feature of your work: like Game of Thrones.

Indeed, Game of Thrones asks a compelling question about imperialism. Can we ever be rid of it? Danaerys Targaryen wants to "break the wheel": but we should be skeptical about whether she can actually do this. She wants to do so while also holding power as a monarch: and while commanding dragons that are the perfect tools of exploitation. What is she going to rely on to prevent exploitation and abuse? Perhaps by redefining what it means to be a monarch, what it means to be a Targaryen, what dragons mean. Perhaps by redefining the Targaryen words, Fire and Blood. In this world, the Iron Throne has long defined what it means to be a King: conquering and humiliating your enemies. But Danaerys has a unique chance to change the symbol. 

Yes, the history of art is the history of imperialism: because the history of this world is the history of imperialism. Yet, at every step of that journey, art was also the greatest tool of those who resisted whatever Empire.  Art, in its most fundamental sense, transcends politics.  It is a tool which anyone, anywhere can use: but which bears the prints of every hand that has touched it. In this age, we have unprecedented ability to create art: all of us, no matter who we are. You may think it is useless to create, especially if you belong to a group society doesn't value. After all, no one will see it or take it seriously right? But art is the one thing you have which can outlive you. Even seemingly ephemeral performance art can outlive you, because it changes both you and those around you. Furthermore, art is an inherently collaborative process. When you create, you participate in a dialog with all other creators. When you share your creation, other creators respond. But it is precisely because of this power that art must be done carefully. It must not blindly quote the works of the past, or act as if it unaware of them. The artist must be aware of their place in the web of creation.

Refusing to use a tool because of how it has been used in the past is not virtue, it is apathy. In doing that, you are accepting the definitions that other have placed on the world. This is the hidden sin of Postmodernism that has allowed PC culture to take the place of real discussions.  If you will not decide how to define the world, then you are accepting the definitions that already exist. By accepting the Empire's definitions, you are accepting the Empire. Claiming that any definition is bad, is really saying that you don't want to engage with the Empire. We must define our world in order to communicate, in order to live as the social animals we are. We can either choose to use the Empire's definitions and therefore accept the Empire: or we can choose to redefine our world, threatening the existence of the Empire.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Making Room for Everyone in This T-34

Class reductionism refers to a damaging trend among certain left activists, namely the belief that it's ok to ignore the specific oppressions faced by Oppressed Nationalities, Women, Queer workers, religious minorities, Disabled workers, in short, anyone who is not a cishet white male worker.  They usually claim that these concerns will be automatically addressed by a socialist revolution, despite all evidence to the contrary, leading sober observers to the conclusion that they just don't care.  A recent example of this is the St. Louis left applauding the decision of the County Prosecutor's staff to join the murderously racist police union, in an attempt to undercut Wesley Bell's reform agenda.  This needlessly divides the movement, marginalizes the very people we need to be centering, and is something Lenin himself fought against.

 Class Reductionism is Anti-Leninist Because...

   It relies on the pre-Lenin assumption that the revolution would be the affair of the most elite workers of Europe, which events proved faulty at best. Lenin saw that Capitalism would be weakest among those who were suffering the worst under it- namely the oppressed peoples of the world, such as colonized backwater Russia and its hundreds of subjugated nationalities. Whereas mainline Social-Dem parties had no problem supporting imperialism in WWI, trusting that their workers would set their colonial subjects free after the revolution.  Thing is, the revolution never came on their terms. Then we had Trotsky telling us to ignore the developing world in favor of repeated, costly attempts at revolution in the west, Lenin and Stalin saw a more fertile following among the colonized nations, and acted accordingly. Plenty of national bourgeoisie among oppressed nations could make useful temporary allies. It doesn't take much to see how this applies to any group of people who are especially marginalized under capitalism and have organized for their interests (Afro-Americans, Queer ppl- despite comrade Stalin's short-sighted deference to popular prejudice, Indigenous populations, etc.) Therefore, a correct ML position would be to support these groups in their struggles under Capitalism, but also to work with vanguard elements of those communities to teach all parties that socialism is a necessary precondition to the final abolition of racism, homophobia, sexism and others. Basically, East Germany is the best example of this stuff working well.  

      One clarification is to confess that not all MLs embrace the  necessary understanding of Leninism, which at its best could be described as an early form of intersectionality.  Uncle Joe Himself kowtowed to a bunch of angry homophobes led by Gorky, and historically socialist societies haven’t always been enlightened on each of these issues.  For example, Romania under Coucescu was as sexist as any Christian theocracy, and movements in countries with stronger churches (Russia, Venezuela) haven’t had much luck holding back homophobia.  Additionally, there is the fact of the “Doctors’ Plot” accusations that fell most heavily on Soviet Jews with very little justification, and looks like just vulgar antisemitism- truly disappointing from the USSR which did so much to fight antisemitism in the 1920s and 30s.  

     And yes, plenty of modern (mostly white, straight and male) left groups think that just ending the capitalist mode of production will suffice for eliminating social oppressions.  Basic decency would suggest that this is, technically speaking, fucked up.  History would also suggest a) that this is not correct) and b) the most successful movements are often those that reach out directly to all oppressed people and show us that our interests are part of the workers’ movement.   

     A really good case study is how 19th century Germany birthed the western world’s first modern LGBT Community in the 1840s, and over the next 50 years brought it leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the world in Queer Community.  This helps explain why the KPD (Communist Party of Germany) was Queer-positive and remembered their Queer members and Comrades after the Holocaust, and eventually built a relatively queer-positive socialist democracy, decades before we were even legal in the US.  

     Where we bring orthodox Marxism back into the picture is in looking at the effects of each of these oppressions.  By this I don’t mean that Marx is a more eloquent or enlightened critic of racism, sexism or anything like it than MLK, Fanon, Hughes, Davis, or anyone like that, but that Marx’s explanation of how value is extracted from workers is the root to my understanding of how the system sustains itself, and how even socially privileged white workers are economically undercut by our own racism and that of our bosses.

     This guides my interest in political action- I’m hesitant to use the pejorative “Oppression Olympics” for describing the thicket of competing demands from different oppressed peoples to remedy different social wrongs, but it often seems to fit.  I confess to being overwhelmed and confused by apparent contradictions of modern intersectionality (i.e., is it still ok to fight homophobia or partner violence when they are perpetrated by PoC?  Modern intersectionality says no.  When and how can Atheists like myself be permitted in movements that include religious people?  Modern intersectionality says that to be non-religious is to be a Nazi.  How do we include Disability rights in the movement?  Modern intersectionality says that Disabled people who do not belong to an oppressed nationality are faking it), and the only framework I’ve found that leaves me any semblance of clarity or sanity is to focus on the material aspects of these issues.  I.E. prejudice is a problem because it leads to action- whether job discrimination, financial super-exploitation, police violence, wife-beating and other aspects of rape culture, and pitting workers against each other.  

     My native St. Louis is a perfect example of just how fucked up the workers’ movement is by racism, including class reductionism.  When most unions ignore oppressed nationality and women workers, and endorse police violence against marginalized people, Workers of Color don’t necessarily see how their interests are served by these unions!  This leaves us at each other’s throats, with the unions constantly deciding who is still in and who is out.  Generally speaking in STL, it’s the older, white “labor aristocracy” against the Black community, with Women’s groups and the Queer community of all races fluctuating between the two poles, and nobody pays any attention to the immigrants except in cases of extreme emergency.  Guess who wins from this?  The Capitalists!  Workers can't be surprised when our indifference to other workers' human rights alienates them from us.

     The fundamental question at the heart of this is, why am I a tankie?  And how do I define Tankie?
 Let’s lay my identity "qualifications" out on the table- I’m a white, college educated, transgender (binary), panromantic, demisexual, autistic, Atheist, German-American, working woman.  Privileged in a number of key ways, oppressed in others, and exploited like every other American who doesn't derive their income from investment. 
I define a Tankie as

1.        An orthodox Marxist-Leninist

2.       Who is willing to work with what they have, and not needlessly endanger the movement

3.       Sometimes including Maoism or Hoxhaism, though not in my case

4.       And who sees value in examples of Actually Existing Socialism.

I am a Tankie because

1.        I believe Marx and Engels laid out the problem basically correctly, Lenin saw where and how to strike to solve it, and Stalin codified their works into their most practical, accessible and effective form.  These four are great teachers for any revolutionary, though we need to be aware of their limitations and missteps as much as their wisdom.  To break capitalism we must break imperialism.

2.       I know that we need a political revolution to empower the workers, an economic revolution to abolish private property, and a cultural revolution to purge capitalist, racist, sexist and homophobic elements in our culture.  And even modest gains under capitalism are worth fighting for as long as we use the occasion to educate our class family.

3.       I think we’re going to have to organize, and a handful of anarchist students with rifles is not going to be a reliable guarantor of my safety either before or after any stage of the revolution.  Oppressed people need a revolutionary-led state to serve us, and an inclusive Party to integrate us into the broader people’s movement.

4.       The Soviet Union and its allies made terrific strides towards a more just society, and the PRC, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and others continue to do so.  We should study their methods and learn from their successes and failures.

It's on us to ensure that there is room for everyone in our T-34.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Looking at the 2020 Field

How I’m Choosing my 2020 Candidate

In 2007 I approached the Democratic primaries focused on two issues: ending the US occupation of Iraq, and supporting a transition to clean energy.  The main difference I saw among the candidates was that then-Senator Obama had opposed the Iraq War before Clinton or Edwards had done so. 
This proved to be a mistake, as the antiwar movement was marginalized from its mass constituency by Obama claiming the peace mantle even as he massively expanded bombings of civilians in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, while the public option, Civil Rights bills for Queer people, and cap and trade were all abandoned, the Endangered Species Act was frozen, and privatization advocates were installed in the Department of Education.  Much of this could have been done by executive order, and eventually was in last-minute, short-lived attempts to satisfy abandoned constituencies.  Whether by overt malice, or by deference to the process, the best opportunity for radical change in two generations (and counting) was lost.

Obviously, the most important reason for this was the resilience and skill of the Bourgeoisie in co-opting reformist movements, but I think it would be an error to write off all potential improvements under a bourgeois-democratic system because of the Obama betrayals.  Real changes are possible with the right candidates, not to the system itself, but to the lives and livelihoods of millions of workers, which will strengthen the movement towards an eventual revolution.  Less desperate workers are stronger workers.   

The question then becomes- how do we pick a presidential candidate we can work with, one who will respond to the people's movement?  How do we gauge a president’s interest in working with their constituency vs. defending the process?  Who do we think will be willing to match GOP hardball coup tactics?  

I think we’re looking for someone who has a record of opposing Democratic leadership from the left at a time when they faced consequences for doing so.  Bernie obviously qualifies for his opposition to the TPP before it became a cause célèbre, his following the lead of activists and coming around to the necessity of abolishing ICE, and more generally for his courage in running against Clinton when no one else would.  I have to temper this with an awareness of his recent apologia for racism, and his statements that issues related to racism and sexism are unimportant.  I still think Bernie is the candidate least likely to betray us, but I’m not sure he’ll be consistently thinking of the entire working class, especially given his condoning racists' refusal to support Black candidates and tolerance of antichoice positions.  Whether or not I can support him again will depend in large part on the people he surrounds himself with.

The only other major candidate I can think of who has defied Dem. Leadership to a comparable extent is Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been cut off from party funding after standing with the #MeToo movement to criticize Bill Clinton’s past sexual abuse and to call on Franken to resign.  Whether we agree with her actions or not, they clearly show that she was willing to stand with Democratic voters even at a cost of massive campaign funding and her relationship with the Clintons.  To me, this looks like a principled declaration of independence that helped Doug Jones win Alabama and distinguished her from the pack.

This is not a perfect metric.  It privileges politicians who have been well liked or rich enough to weather controversies, in short, looking for insurgent candidates with a record privileges those who can get away with such an insurgency.  It’s hard to imagine Kamala Harris doing things like this, but it is also hard to imagine such dissent being tolerated from a Black woman.  That said, I do not see anything resembling this hint of independence in her career.  I’ll be looking very closely at her record of arguing against commutations for exonerated prisoners and her sluggish response on ICE, and hopefully finding something that will enable me to endorse her. 

But for now, my choices remain Bernie and Kirsten

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Confronting Fascism Part 2

Part 2

    There are three distinct elements within fascism that we must confront.

     The robber baron- a rich boy investor who doesn’t get his way under liberal democracy, so he funds radical groups to subvert democracy and seize the power of the state. May either be motivated by pure greed or actually think an antidemocratic society with him and his ilk on top is best for everyone. Example- Koch brothers, Trump, the military-industrial complex. These fascists may well be genuinely bigoted, even to a murderous degree, like Trump and Henry Ford, but they are primarily motivated by avarice and lust for power. The exceptions are the religious fanatics among them who feel they are called by god to wreak genocide AND to rule.

     The priests of hate- usually but not always rich, intelligent enough to see the contradictions of capitalism, or to invent fictional ones, but blames them on target of choice- women, Jews, immigrants, Queer people, Oppressed Nationalities, or other religious minorities. Examples- Hitler, Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, Limbaugh, Bannon, etc. This force is most prominently drawn from the petty bourgeoisie, and seek elite sponsorship for their hatred, working in conjunction to tear down the laws of liberal democracy.

     The Brute- workers who prize their social privileges over their economic interest, or who actually believe the lies of the Shapiros and Petersons. Those who care more for being able to step on another’s face than about whether or not they themselves have shoes. This minority of the working class may be motivated by religion or social privilege, to keep their allegiance to a system that keeps them at the disposal of the robber barons. They may benefit in the short term from plundering marginalized people, but remain workers, supporting the parasitic robber barons.

    Unfortunately, we see a misleading presentation of fascism in many of our best known movies about World War II.  Both Das Boot and Downfall depict the German military as reluctant at best to follow the orders of the Nazi regime they supported and served from day one, while erasing their complicity in Nazi crimes. Stalingrad, on the other hand, squarely addresses the fact that more than just the Nazi leadership was responsible.

1.  Das Boot
a)  The U-Boot sailors are shown to be apolitical, with both captains depicted criticizing the Nazi leadership. Setting aside the fact that being apolitical meant supporting the status quo, U-Boot crew were chosen for their political allegiance
b)  The one overtly Nazi officer is made a point of ridicule by the other sailors.
c)  No mention is made of U-Boot sailors being first in line to receive jewels and other valuables from death-camp inmates.

2.  Der Untergang 

         a)Dr. Schenck shown as heroic because of his Wehrmacht position. Specifically, he is shown flouting Nazi orders in his capacity as an army doctor, using this position to say he only obeys army commands, not those from the SS. Not depicted is his work as part of the SS conducting lethal experiments on Holocaust victims.
     b)  Various generals are shown defying Hitler
     c) The worst of the atrocities shown (Volkssturm sacrifices, child soldiers, etc) as well as mentions of the Holocaust, are all shown to be the responsibility of Nazi high command; Hitler, Göbbels, the SS…
     d)  The military are generally shown as exhibiting concern for the civilians, and standing up to Hitler’s mass suicide orders. This may be correct in comparison to the Nazi leadership, but being shown devoid of context makes the military out to be honorable humanitarians who stand against Nazism.

3.  Stalingrad (1993 version) 

     a) Ordinary soldiers are shown gloating over enslaved Soviet citizens 
     b) Ordinary soldiers are shown raping captured Soviet soldiers
     c)Even the captain who is depicted as heroic and at least nominally anti-nazi or unpolitisch is                  held responsible for going along with the war machine, and is taken to represent the best of                the German officer corps!
     d)  Howsoever they started the war, in the course of it the German military become complicit in      the crimes of the Nazi state. This movie comes the closest of the three to showing                                  the full gallery of fascist rogues for what they are.

     This limited view- that fascism is only the work of a handful of violent racists and their willing followers, is mirrored by class reductionism.  Dimitrov suggests that fascism in a vacuum is inherently unstable, as it can't meet the needs of the working class. If we understand the different sources of fascist support in different sectors of society, maybe we can can explain the system’s persistence. Fascism will worsen the problems in capitalism, which by definition is paying workers less than we are worth. This will supposedly motivate the working class to overthrow it. Looking at examples of fascism throughout history however, will show that fascism can command long-term loyalty from the very people Dimitrov thought were going to overthrow it. This is where the alliance between business elites and the priests of hate becomes critical. Oppression cannot thrive in a society that is becoming more free, and, as LBJ said, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” Fascism strengthens the robber barons, and entertains their brutish dupes with the license to commit mass violence against marginalized people. It is no coincidence that the longest-lived blows against fascist systems have been imposed from outside rather than from inside their rule.

      The most reactionary bigots, regardless of their class positions, are a force to take seriously, of course, and often rise to prominence or even political power through more or less terroristic means. In societies where fascism has taken hold, they may well enter the ruling class itself.

     Surely, some will decide that it is better to trade our political and economic power in exchange for a supply of scapegoats. And for that, they will be responsible. We have the obligation to educate ourselves. A vote for a fascist is a vote against our class siblings, and against decency. All advanced and progressive humanity must stand against the brutes who would betray us as surely as we stand against the priests of hate and their robber baron masters. No, the brutes do not reap the windfall profits that fascism sucks out of the working class, but they can care more about their social privileges and the thrill of persecuting their perceived enemies than about their own well-being.

     So, is fighting bigotry enough to end fascism? No. Is pointing out that many fascist supporters are being exploited enough? Also no. Omission of fascism’s class structure will leave us playing whack-a-mole, trying to fight a multitude of oppressions with limited potential for unity. Omission of those social oppressions, meanwhile, will leave us unawares when some of our own class brothers betray us and flock to the banner of fascism. To fight fascism, we must fight greed, exploitation, racism, sexism, religious extremism, and their champions all at once. This is a daunting task, but there is no Red Army to save us this time. We have no alternative.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Confronting Fascism Part 1

Myth of the Clean Wehrmacht and America's Limited View of Fascism
 By Elise Kehle, edited by Sophie Jones

     Amidst rising income inequality, state and vigilante violence against marginalized people, political power for religious extremists, and a weakened rule of law, workers have many questions. Is this fascism? If we are in the grip of a fascist movement, how widespread is it? Do all of its participants know that they are fascists? Is fascism based on the American system of racism, or the universal ones of class division and sexism? We must view the Trump regime as a major step back from democracy, yes, but we must see the processes that led to it. Trump is a new low of the oppressions and plunderings committed by the ruling class, who have pushed so far that they could only go further by upending the rules, as they are now doing.

     The ruling class must reinforce racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, antisemitism, transphobia, ableism, or some combination of the above among the working class to justify its rule. The social interests of a segment of the working class and the petty bourgeoisie thus coincide with the economic interest of the elite.

     For the purposes of this paper, we will take it as a given that liberal democracy is inherently worth defending against fascism, even though as socialists, we strive to replace liberal democracy with workers’ democracy. As Dimitrov said, “today the millions of toilers living under capitalism are faced with the necessity of deciding their attitude to those forms in which the rule of the bourgeoisie is clad in the various countries. We are not anarchists, and it is not at all a matter of indifference to us what kind of political regime exists in any given country: whether a bourgeois dictatorship in the form of bourgeois liberal democracy, even with greatly curtailed democratic rights and liberties, or a bourgeois dictatorship in its open, fascist form. While upholding Workers’ Democracy, we shall defend every inch of the democratic gains which the working class has won in the course of years of stubborn struggle, and shall fight to extend these gains.” (Italics added) Liberal democracy cannot sustain itself, and cannot deliver for the people, but it contains several lines of defense which we must man and cannot abandon if we wish to repel the fascist threat.

     That being said, liberal democracy’s weakness- its individualism- influences how liberals and liberal institutions define and treat fascism. This is not a new phenomenon, and can even be found in how we present the history of fascism’s most infamous example, Nazi Germany. We must understand fascism in its entirety, both in past and present, to have a better chance of repulsing it. However, most descriptions of fascism prefer to reduce it solely to its capitalist sponsors and its continuity with their crimes under bourgeois democracy, or to the terrorism of its most bloodthirsty believers. But this hideous alliance must be seen in its entirety, not focusing on either its economic or social aspects.

     The presentation of certain perpetrators of the Holocaust as innocent or less culpable is reproduced in our incomplete view of fascism as merely the most extreme practice of common identitarian hatreds, which leaves it still well within the scope of individual conduct, not mass movements.

     If Fascism were only the work of the street-corner bigot, or only of the owner class, it would be far less dangerous. It is the combination of greed, hatred and ignorance that produces fascism. Workers must decide for ourselves whether our whiteness, our cisness, our heterosexuality or our christianity are worth our freedom.

     Applied to histories of Nazi rule, these misinterpretations, intentional or otherwise, limit the culpability of all but a handful of perpetrators for the crimes of fascism. Many historians call this the “Myth of the Clean Wehrmacht”. Briefly stated, the Myth of the Clean Wehrmacht is the idea that the murders of 11 million people for being Jewish, Romani, Socialist, Gay, Disabled, Prisoners of War, or miscellaneous dissidents that we call the Holocaust was perpetrated by the Nazi leadership working through its private security force, the SS, and not by the regular forces of the German military.

     This was introduced in the late 1940s to justify the alliance of right-wing elements in the United States with their West German counterparts, even as those counterparts had supported the Nazi rise to power and their worst atrocities. Insofar as fascism is seen as an aberration of the uniquely depraved few, and not the natural and often popular outgrowth of unchecked capitalism, we will not see the whole scope of the threat.

     The myth of the clean Wehrmacht is just that, a myth, for a variety of reasons, notably the fact that the German military, not the SS, took primary responsibility for the Holocaust itself in occupied Soviet Byelorussia and Yugoslavia as well as for the attempted pan-Slavic genocide of the Hunger Plan. Further, the German military had a long history of slaughtering marginalized people, was inextricably linked with both the German nobility and with the radical petty-bourgeois ideologues who founded the Nazi party. The German military represented in microcosm the alliance between Germany’s old money and eccentric bigots that produced fascism, was the instrumental tool of this alliance in crushing the revolutions of 1918-1923, and continued to legitimize Nazi rule throughout its 12.5 year duration.

     This deception justified the American authorities’ decision to recruit and arm former Nazis for action against the workers’ democracies of the world. This was naturally joined by the expansion of ties between American corporations and their German counterparts, even those which had participated in the Holocaust. Today’s popular depiction of Nazism in “The Man in the High Castle” pays no attention to the economic underpinnings of the Nazi dictatorship, and merely focuses on the enforcers of the regime. Just as before, if we are encouraged to look for the source of Trumpism coming solely from Breitbart or solely from Wall Street, or even from the local biker bar, we will miss vital parts of the abominable whole.

     Meanwhile, someone looking exclusively through Dimitrov’s analysis of the “terrorist dictatorship of the most rightwing part of finance capital” will be waiting a long time for a revolution to be launched by a working class infected with racism and religious extremism. (Though his predictions of how fascist movements behave when taking power remain prescient as ever) History has shown us the difficulty of resisting fascism when it buys the loyalty of the masses with privilege over the persecuted. We cannot ignore this- not only does it make fascism more dangerous, but it is also precisely the threat we face today.

     Those who insist, as Dimitrov does, that fascism will inevitably be brought down by its own working class, can point to few examples of this actually happening.  What has happened far more often is international coalitions forming to contain and extinguish a fascist threat, as happened in World War II, or regional systems of fascism being brought down by nationwide movements as happened with dejure Segregation in the US.  This poses serious concerns for modern antifascists, as we have few potential saviors to look to.  There is no Red Army waiting to save us, and Trumpism is a nationwide phenomenon.

     It is not always easy to see the full scope of the threat we face. Competing explanations of fascism’s rise have often clung to Dimitrov’s class analysis to the exclusion of all else, or have attempted to hide the class basis of fascism altogether. Some would say it is merely a social phenomenon, and all who share elements of identity with the fascist criminals are equally guilty. But thinking of fascism as only its masters, its thinkers, or its enforcers will only prevent us from seeing the threat we face in its entirety.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Another Nazi Arrested and my Thoughts of Ernst Busch

Massive TW for holocaust stuff.

i'm glad to see the sscumbag being sent to where people might at least pretend to care about what he's done. Of course, the best justice would to be to build a #FascismProofWorld, which takes some more doing!

Today, I'm thinking about the music of holocaust survivor Ernst Busch, a Gay Communist from Kiel who was caught in 43, and was tortured and blinded by the Nazis, and by the grace of the Red Army, survived to sing again.

This is one of his, called "As long as the murderers live in the world". it's a song promising vengeance on surviving Nazis, sung in character as the ghosts of the dead. I don't think it's a particularly strong piece, largely because of the almost gleeful, melodramatic tone he's using. The thing is, I KNOW he could do sad songs better- listen to Suliko, Martyred in a Dungeon, Peat Bog Soldiers, or Wait for Me and you'll hear it too. 
I was kind of baffled why this virtuoso didn't bring his a-game to this piece, arguably one of the most important of his post-war career. And that's when it hits me- this man who went through so much, expressed so much felt by so many, who fought his entire life for a better world, who stared down his country's bombs and sang for the people. this voice of us all, had to turn a switch and sing this as if it were a joke. He could express pain and rage just fine, but he couldn't here. Maybe, as Lin Manuel-Miranda wrote, this was a time when the words didnt reach, or they did and he had to put up some walls. He could express the suffering of billions, he could make his Prussian officer's voice low and wracked, and go from the gleam of a sabre to a slow outpouring of dark wine. I have always felt that he sings for me and for so many others, whether about lost love or about surviving fashy or marching to certain death in the struggle. And sometimes about winning in the cause of the workers and oppressed peoples, too.

What does it say that these words were too much for him to open up? How terrible must have his experiences been to blunt him like this? 
I think we already know.

Anyway here's the song, I don't know who wrote it. The translation is mine, going for meaning, not rhyme or meter. Do listen to it- "not one of Ernst Busch's best" is still a long way from a bad song. 
"Some night when the flames slither
And the conveyor belt stirs my ashes
I rise as maddened smoke from Dachau's chimneys
Down I fly and through the hall I dash
I want to avenge myself, come up behind
on those who think i'm nought but ash
How can I lie in peace in the earth,
So long as the murderers live in this world?

For hell is already full of sinners
Yet it's empty of certain architects
so my song chases down each devil
and brings them to face their crimes
Following them through the crowded masses
to punish swiftly by the light of our hatred
How can you appear so peaceful, o blue sky
As long as the murderers still live in this world?

Arise, oh murdered children of years past
the hangman's goons who slew you stand right there
Throttle them in their fine robes

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Fiction- Ernst Thälmann vs Cthulhu

Ernst Thälmann vs. Cthulhu
The St. Louis Workers’ Education Society presents, a campaign by Elise Kehle
Foreword- I didn’t do any drugs in college, which may seem surprising when you consider 
that I thought “Ernst Thälmann hagiography combined with the Lovecraft Mythos” was a good 
idea for a Dungeons and Dragons game.  After getting my hands on the d20 modern edition of 
Call of Cthulhu, I kept revisiting the idea, and finally began running the campaign in early 2017.
    I chose to chronicle the rise and fall of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) for a 
variety of reasons.  Among other reasons, the KPD under Ernst Thälmann is an excellent example 
of how inclusive the movement was in Germany, compared to Britain, the USSR or the United States.  
This was a time when Urnings and Urningins (as LGBT people called ourselves in Germany at that time) 
took our rightful place in the people’s movement and fought side by side with our cishet comrades.  
This is something that was not permitted in other workers’ organizations and campaigns of the period, 
a fact that has continued to resonate.
  Many Queer workers conclude that since some labor organizations have been homophobic and 
transphobic, we have no place in the fight for working class power, and they are often lost to liberalism, 
anarchism or worse.  Still more troubling are the reductionists among our cishet comrades, who argue 
either that we are a net drain on the movement, or that since acknowledged visionaries like Marx, Engels, 
Lenin and Stalin did not see fit to include us, we should be excluded as a matter of policy.
  The German Communist movement of the interwar period made no such error.  And I want to show 
queer workers that our place is in the movement, while showing everyone else that no less an activist 
than Teddy himself fought for our inclusion.   To this end, I worked with my players to create unique 
queer, trans and GNC characters who would interact with historical figures during pivotal events, as 
well as be the prime movers of a fictional subplot dealing with magic and monsters.  As you read this, 
remember this: if it doesn’t involve a spell being cast or a monster appearing, it actually happened to 
real people, even if it is being experienced by these fictional PCs.
    I am especially indebted to Kurt Mätzig for his films “Ernst Thälmann: Son of His Class” and 
“Ernst Thälmann: Leader of His Class”, to Robert Beachy for his book “Gay Berlin”, Jean Michel-Palmier 
for his book “Weimar in Exile”, Christa Winsloe for her play “Yesterday and Today” 
and its film version “Girls in Uniform”, and above all to Ernst Busch, the dove of the barricades. 

A note should also be included thanking Loren Cleaver-Horn (Franz), Sylvie Wolf (Ilse), 
Lily Chouteau (Marie), Niles Zee (Lotte), and Jessica Eikmann (Günther) for their participation 
in these early games.
This is a novelization of our first game, with a bit of bluebooking thrown in.   
Ernst Thälmann vs. Cthulhu
Chapter 1: Spartakus in Hamburg
Dramatis Personae
The Heroes
Ernst “Teddy” Thälmann (pronounced Tail-mon), Son and Leader of His Class, Voice and Fist of the People.  
A Hamburg stevedore, and longtime socialist activist, Teddy will eventually rise to leadership of the Communist 
Party of Germany (KPD), play a decisive role in the KPD’s adoption of the struggle for reproductive freedom 
and Queer liberation is its own, and in cementing ties between the German and Soviet labor movements.  
Interests include fangirling over Lenin, being bald and chubby, and wearing newsboy hats.
Fiete Jansen (Feeta Yanson)- a longtime comrade of Teddy’s who keeps showing up everywhere.  Known 
for his bright blue eyes, crack aim with all forms of weaponry, being as thin as Thälmann is stout, and with 
a tic of itching his nose.
The PCs
Ilse Koch 1900- - Ilse- Transwoman from Berlin, she lived closeted for many years before the Armistice, and worked as an engineer at 
Krupp's weapons factory, which shielded her from the draft in WWI. She's learned some magic to augment her building 
projects, and supplies the team with magic weapons. She is a spirited if capricious gunslinger. Grateful recipient of Franz's ovaries.
Franz König 1900-1933-Franz König- a young trans dude from Danzig, who had a tragic past at a girls' boarding school, and worked out his frustration 
by learning to fence against the boys of the neighboring school. Has a keen interest in medicine, and in trans related healthcare. 
An enthusiastic learner of healing magic. Stricken with lycanthropy in the defense of the clinic he loves so well. The team's accepted leader, 
and proud master of the horse known as Siegfried. In love with
Günther- 1902-a young farm boy from Bavaria who migrated north after the Freikorps burned his farm.
Lotte/Lotharianne 1892- transfemme antique dealer who researched the mythos deeply, 
and unleashed its terrible magic all too frequently. Based off of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf.
Marie- 1900- born to a prominent military family, Marie snuck into the army to follow her hapless brother
and try to keep him out of trouble during the war. Fought in the Kaiserschlacht, and is... Volatile.

Pablo- 1890-
Sirena 1908-
Hoshi- 1928-
SPD/Sozis/Social Democratic Party of Germany- Germany’s oldest surviving political party.  
Used to be socialists, but betrayed the movement to support Germany’s aggression during the Great War.  
Were rewarded by being given the government when the Kaiser fell. Gave the order to murder their former 
members Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg for opposing the war.
Spartakusbund- Spartacus League- the antiwar organization set up by Rosa Luxemburg which later fought against the Freikorps and joined the KPD.
KPD- Communist Party of Germany- a new, soviet-inspired organization fighting to free the workers of the world.
Urning or Urningin- an LGBT person
Freikorps- “Volunteer Corps”  German soldiers who refused to demobilize after the war and roamed the country, 
massacring people at will, squelching democratic movements, and sometimes selling their services to the 
highest bidder.  Most rightist cabals, as well as the Sozi government had Freikorps units under their command.
Thule Society- a weird racist cult that had a lot of overlap with early Nazi activity.  In real life they were 
less important than they are depicted here.
Ernst Thälmann vs. Cthulhu

Hamburg, 1919.

It was a far cry from the finishing school, Franz thought to himself.  
Stepping out of a clinic he’d hoped would hire him (they hadn’t) into a wharf district 
he’d been promised was easily navigable (it wasn’t), the first thing he noticed was 
that there were more people in the street than he had probably seen in his life.  
Self-consciously, he checked his binder, and finding his chest still adequately flat, he exited
Whatever was afoot, at least he was facing it in trousers.

All things considered, I’d rather be on the farm, Günther thought to himself.  He’d 
hoped he would find work, or something to eat at the docks, but had found himself 
sitting with men he presumed to be sailors, waiting on them to show interest in his 
companionship, or for something to change.  Apparently it had, and not for the 
better. Curious,he followed them out.

The mood seemed rather agitated, even bereaved.  The strangest thing was 
the silence as masses upon masses poured out of the Kneipen and offices.  Others 
returned from the harbor waters aboard overloaded lighters, while windows 
opened, seemingly in a single wave as whispers murmured through the throng of 

Karl and Rosa are murdered!

Not much must here, Lotte thought to herself.  I could get into trouble here. 
Her experience had taught her not to be around this many people at once.  Any 
one of the men could clock her and escape would be difficult. It had been weeks 
since she had felt safe enough to venture outside unarmed.  Hopefully an 
old-fashion hat would keep them from realizing an Urningin walked among them.

All things considered, it’s much quieter than the Westfront, thought Marie.  
She raised her hand to the brim of her Stahlhelm and squinted in the 
afternoon sun, scoping out the area as was her wont.  Her blonde braid fell 
out of the helmet and dropped down her back. Walking along with the flow of 
the increasingly grief-stricken assemblage, Marie’s eyes alighted momentarily 
upon a young girl running up a gantry carrying a red flag with a black ribbon 
attached to the top.  Breaking her gaze, she adjusted the strap holding her 
“borrowed” rifle to her back.

I’m out of the lab for a few weeks, Ilse thought, and the world goes to this?  
She dimly recalled the snippets of forbidden news she’d managed to glean on the 
factory floor.  “Karl’s out of prison, he’s circulating the truth about the war, 
you’ve gotta read this”. “Rosa’s been arrested again for speaking against the war, 
here’s her last article about the National Question”.  Karl’s speaking in Berlin”. 
“Rosa is free!” A lot of history had happened while she was cloistered in the 
weapons labs at Krupp. Now she was living it on the outside. And those who 
she had always thought of as making the history were dead, if the rumor was 
to be believed.  At least she was living it as herself.

The crowd seemed to stop as if the destination of the docks had been 
prearranged.  Workers doffed their hats as one under the cold grey sky. A 
stout, balding man with a thickset face and the broad shoulders of a veteran 
stevedore climbed atop a crate.  He removed his fraying newsboy cap, and 
bowed his head. His face reflected the pain of the thousands gathered 
around him. When he raised his face, anguish had been replaced by cold fury, 
yet he spoke in measured tones, with no trembling of his voice.

"Karl und Rosa are dead.  Murdered by the same Ebert government that turns 
a blind eye to the Freikorps mercenaries attacks on all of us.  WHY WAS THIS 
POSSIBLE? How did we lose the leaders of our revolution? Because we were not 
organized. The absence of a revolutionary party like the one that led the workers 
and peasants to victories in Russia killed Rosa and Karl.  We need a revolutionary 
party to see the struggle through!”

“We’re with you, Teddy!” shouted a gaunt young man with brilliant blue eyes.  
All around, fists were clenching into the salute of revolution. The speaker paused, 
then continued.

“Genossen und Genossinnen, Karl und Rosa were murdered to knock the workers'
 movement to the floor.  That must not happen. Karl and Rosa fell where they did 
their best work: At the press, forming the ideas which will deliver us from 
barbarism.  It took death to finally stop them. Today we must swear it to Karl 
and Rosa that we will carry the struggle onwards! The way that Karl taught us- 
some of you may remember his motto?”  

At this, hundreds of voices, some quavering, some punctuated with tears, but all 
speaking as one bellowed out


“Yes, yes, yes!”  Teddy cried.  “Despite it all- like Karl taught us, Despite it all!  
Trotz alledem! We will build a Bolshevik Party, a revolutionary organization, uniting 
our comrades from the SPD, USPD, and Spartakusbund into a single front beneath 
the glorious red banner of the future!  Long live Soviet Germany! She will yet live out 
of our struggles!”

A roar went up.  Someone shouted “Three cheers for Genosse Thälmann!  Long 
live Karl and Rosa! Long live Soviet Germany!” Günther found himself cheering along 
with the wharf workers.  Approaching a woman in an old army greatcoat, he gave her a smile 
as if to say “what did YOU think?”

In an unusually deep voice, she asked “you’re from the country, aren’t you?”

“Not since the Freikorps came through”.  Günther cursed bitterly. “They 
took my goats, and when I tried to stop them they burned my barn.  Guess 
that makes me what they call a real prole now, huh?”

“Indeed it does.  I have some copies of relevant literature, discussing your new status, 
if you’re interested.  For myself, well, I get by with this from yesterday and that from last 
week. A dealer in history, if you will.”  Günther looked nonplussed, so Lotte clarified.

“I sell antiques.”  She smiled as Günther’s eyes widened in understanding.  This seemed 
to be a rather simple soul.

“I’m Lotharianne.”


Franz saw a young, strapping woman holding what looked to be a violin case as she crouched 
in a doorway.  She had stood up, craning her neck to get a view of the speaker, letting her red 
hair catch the sunlight. There was little mistaking her after this.  He approached the woman.

“Ilse!  You’re alive!”  They embraced tightly, relieved at meeting once more.  

“Yes.  War’s over, so Krupp didn’t feel the need to keep me around anymore.  
Thought I’d find a job here.”

“Same.  You’d think with all the wounded somebody would think to send proper 
funding to the hospitals, but no.  Glad to see you’re looking a bit more yourself.”

Ilse smiled- free from the workplace, she could express herself the way she 
had always wanted, whenever she wanted.  And she felt pretty.

“It’s really wonderful.  I miss the lab, but… I see you’re here.  Shouldn’t you 
still be in that ghastly school?”

“You might think so, but they didn’t” Franz replied.  “It seems that duelling to 
prove your manhood isn’t ladylike, so out I went.  About time I did some good 
in the world, anyway. Besides poking holes in young Junkers.”  Ilse laughed.

“I always did value your contributions in that respect.  I’m sure Rosa would have 
too, if she had ever had the chance to meet us.”

“You cared about the woman who died, didn’t you?”  Franz asked. Ilse swallowed, 
then nodded.

“I never met her,but her writings were special.  You might say she brought down 
the Kaiser from her prison cell.  Anyone who opposed the war felt a little bit better 
when she walked free.  And then with the Spartakusbund… I really thought we 
were making progress, you know?”

“We are!”  Franz smiled.  “This Dr. Hirschfeld is opening a clinic to help Urnings 
and Urningins in Berlin!  Now that I’ve found you, shall we trek east? I hear that 
plenty of folks need some testicles to get fixed, and you’ll need to find some 
ovaries.  Wanna come do a tradein?”

Taken aback as usual with Franz’s medical frankness, Ilse blinked and swallowed.

“He-Help us, Franz?”  

“You know- get our fluids and humors right, and you can develop where you want!  
Oh, and it’ll keep you from ever going bald. You in?”

Ilse gasped and smiled   “It sounds wonderful! Why have you waited?”

Franz smiled and began swaggering along.  “I may have needed a place to stay in 
Berlin.  Come on, let’s go and then get back here. I get the sense that that bald 
chap is going to make your Rosa proud”.


    Günther was not having a good day.  He had been helping Lotharianne “browse” 
through a mansion while its owners were elsewhere, looking for anything old.  Today it was 
clocks. Unfortunately, it turned out that some Freikorps goons were sleeping in the living 
room. With Lotharianne nowhere to be seen, Günther had managed to snap his whip, 
knocking away the gun of the first one to reach his feet, and had then fled the room and 
the building, bullets thudding into the wall,door and then pavement behind him.  Shouts of 
“Country Tunte!” rang behind him, and he wondered fleetingly what part of his wardrobe 
betrayed him as a rube, or as an Urning for that matter. Then more shots rang out 
and he ducked, rounding a corner with his whip ready. Crouching behind the wall, 
he struck. His whip struck true: coiling around the feet of the lead soldier. He 
hit the ground hard, blood spattering the pavement.  

The following two soldiers tripped over their fallen compatriot, the next 
bumped into them, and shots went wild, some striking other Freikorps in the legs 
and feet.  As pandemonium reigned, Günther lashed the face of another Freikorps 
soldier, as others knelt to help their cohorts regain their feet. At this, a vase 
struck down like a meteor, shattering twixt the shoulder blades of a goon.  He went 
down on top of the man he was trying to help, not moving. The remaining Freikorps 
whirled their guns aloft and loosed a disconcerted patter of fire at the second story 
of the building as they began edging backward, then beating an all out retreat as pistol 
fire erupted from the windows above.  

Günther turned towards the sound of footsteps from within, and saw the door 

“You made a very fine distraction, thank you for your services.”  Lotharianne 
emerged, dusting her hands off. Günther stood agape.

“You made it here?  So quickly? How?”

“I poke around these old estates for my living, my dear boy!”  purred 
Lotharianne. “I know how to look for a secret passage. Fortunately, on the way, 
I noticed that these two vases were fakes.  The proprietor will thank me, if he ever 
comes back. I did him a favor in getting rid of them.”

Günther was looking down at the senseless Freikorps men and the broken vases, 
and noticed one of the shards was bigger than the others.  In fact, it seemed a 
complete symbol had survived the shattering. His eyes were strangely drawn to it, 
and he felt shivers along his spine somehow.  It was a cross, but with sloping curves 
spiraling clockwise off of each arm.

Suddenly he wasn’t on the street any longer.  He felt himself enmeshed in a 
roiling sea, far greater than the Bodensee he’d visited as a child.  It was almost 
as if the water were wrapping itself around his legs to drag him down, as a mighty 
storm raged as far as the eye could see.  Light came only from a dim, red glow in 
the sky. A star was flickering through the crowds,and Günther glimpsed a square 
rigged sailing ship, tossed about on the waves, disintegrating in places, yet still 
bearing on.  A swarm of smaller boats forged ahead in its wake, many of them 
splintering beneath the waves.

A sucking force drew Günther forward, towards the ship.  The sea was dropping 
as a wave approached, looming larger than any of the others.  As it reached above 
the ship and blocked the red star from view, Günther felt the water harden around 
him, hooking onto his feet.  He felt a strange sucking pressure as he was dragged 
beneath the waves.

“Günther!  Günther! Get your brain back in your head!”  Lotharianne looked 
worried as she gripped his shoulders.  Günther was still staring at the shard, he 
had fallen to his knees, and his hands were straining to throw off the suckers of the tentacles 
that he felt were gripping him.  He stopped, realizing that he was back on the street.

“W-what is that?”
“This?  It’s a Hakenkreuz.  A Swastika. Been seeing lots of them around since 
the war.  There’s this weird collection of wannabe magicians. I guess you’d call 
them Völkisch.  They call themselves the Thule Society. They like this symbol a lot.”

Günther considered this a moment.  
“Were they the ones talking about the purity of the German people?  Some of my 
boyfriends from the Wandervogeln seemed to be talking about this a bit…”

“Your scout troop was talking völkisch crap like that?  Günther, Günther Günther…” 
Lotharianne play-chided the lad.  “We’re keeping you away from those nutters before 
they talk you into joining the Reichswehr or whatever they’re calling it now.  If you 
listen to them, you’ll have to turn on everyone like us.” Günther allowed himself to be 
led along, back towards Lotharianne’s flat.

“I saw, I felt something.  I was drowning in a sea, there was a storm…”  Günther 
looked timidly at Lotharianne, wondering what she would think.  Lotharianne smiled.

“Looks like I was too late.  They’ve already filled your head with their mumbo 
jumbo.  Let’s get you a cup of tea, and we’ll just help it on its way out, hmm?  
You were also very stressed today, just daily activity and you’re all a mess!”

“You used me as bait and got me into a gunfight.”
“It was not a gunfight! I wasn't even aiming at them.  Didn’t need to. 
Just a few shots into the pavement and they scattered.  I’ve actually never shot 
anyone. Had to use a rolling pin once. Don’t recommend it.”

The pair walked towards Lotte’s flat as the sun began to set.

A shot echoed through the near-deserted street, followed by screaming.  Two figures 
raced towards the alley from whence it emanated. Lotte sprinted after them, her pistol 
drawn, and Günther tagged along in her wake, unsure of what else to do.  They 
rounded the corner to see four people in front of them. A small man had a sword out and 
was advancing cautiously while a larger, redhaired woman covered him with a small, 
wicked-looking machine gun.  Their gazes were fixed on a man in a brown suit, 
with a dark stain spreading from his cradled kneecap, staining the sheaf of posters 
scattered beneath him. A soldier stood over him, with a Mauser rifle aimed at the prone man’s 
other kneecap.  The dusky light glinted off his dull Stalhhelm.

“What’s all this, then?!” Lotte bellowed, her voice hard and rough.  
All 5 others looked quizzically at her.
“What?  I’ve been to London, it’s what the bobbies say when they 
 come across a grisly torture scene.”

The soldier bristled, and spoke, her voice and long blonde braid revealing her 
to be a woman, not the man that Günther had expected, spoke.

“This filth was putting these posters up.  Have you seen what’s on them? 
Proclamation of a new government under Kapp.  Outlawry of the SPD, KPD, USPD 
and Spartacusbund! Repeal of the 8 hour workday law, and the death penalty for 
anyone participating in strike action!  He’s lucky I didn’t start with his toes, and 
just went right for the kneecaps”

The small man standing near her with the sword spoke slowly
“That’s…  A lot of blood.  And screaming. I’m not really used to just letting 
people bleed.”  Lotte leaned in.
“We’ll treat him after he talks.  I say, you there, you with the screaming.  
I’m guessing you’re not doing your little redecoration alone.  Are you Freikorps?”

“He’s not Freikorps, they wouldn’t take a Tunte like him” the soldier grunted.  
Günther felt anger mingling with his fear, but stood patiently, taking his cue from 
Lotte.  The man, steadily losing color, unclenched his teeth to swear.

“Gesindeln!  We’ll come through here, and our power will smash your pitiful little 
mobs.  When Germania rises we shall swallow you up!” He resumed panting in pain.

The soldier raised her rifle to his face.  
“Done talking to him?  I’m Marie by the way, and I’m going to be killing him now.”
“Go ahead” Franz and Lotte said in unison.


The rightist slumped on the pavement.  Ilse bent down to begin checking his 
pockets.  She tensed when she found three grenades inside his coat.  Marie smiled 
as she picked them up. Franz looked at his three new acquaintances, and stuck out 
his hand.

“I’m Franz.  The prettiest graverobber on this street is Ilse.”

“Lotharianne, a dealer in antiques, and this is my associate Günther, a simple 
mountain man from Bavaria.  You’ll forgive him for not yodelling at present but I 
recommend we beat a hasty withdrawal before anyone else sees the body.”

At this, Ilse rose.
“Has anyone seen this symbol before?”  The map the corpse had had stuffed in 
his jacket pocket bore the Hakenkreuz Günther and Lotte had seen on the vase.  
They exchanged knowing, troubled looks.

Ilse broke the silence.  
“I hear that there’s a mass meeting tonight, don’t know what it’s about.  That 
Thälmann fellow from the dockyard march is going to be there. Maybe he’ll know 
what to do?”

The warehouse was packed.  People shouted with fury, wailed in terror, and fists 
pounded upon crates, tables, the wall, and whatever other surfaces presented 
themselves.  It took a stentorian roar from the familiar figure of Thälmann to 
restore order. The gaunt, almost skeletal young man with the electric blue eyes 
finished whispering his message to the stout Thälmann, whose bald head shone in 
the lamplight as he bent over a table.

“Genossen und Genossinnen.  Here is the situation. The military has proclaimed 
a new government under their favorite newspaperman, Kapp.  Many of you have 
already become acquainted with their demands of the citizenry, as brought to our 
attention by this young man and his Genossinnen here.”

“Genosse, actually” Franz muttered.  Thälmann blinked in interest, and went on.

“The Freikorps has mobilized to complete the generals’ coup.  Half the south is 
already in their hands, but the people in München are refusing to work for the army!  
The major railyards have been blocked and our comrade engineers are stealing the 
engines. Meanwhile, peasants all over the countryside are hiding their stores of food 
from the troops.  This Putsch is being blocked at every step by the German workers 
and farmers. But they are coming. A column of troops is going to enter the city 
tomorrow. They have trucks, at least 200 Freikorps Lumpen, all armed to the teeth.  
And we are going to stop them, kill some of them, and take their leaders prisoner.

The Spartakusbund’s central committee for the city has outlined a plan, which I 
will now present with your permission.  We know they will be coming up Church street 
to reach the city center.” Thälmann pulled out a map, and gestured expressively.  

“Here is where we will make our attack.  Where the slope of the side road towards 
the column is steepest.  Now, ordinarily we like to remember that all workers in all trades 
have their parts to play in the revolution.  But today, revolution particularly depends on 
the transit workers.” Laughter greeted this from many assembled workers.  Günther 
scratched his head in puzzlement, but saw that Lotte, Franz and Ilse were laughing, so 
he did too. When he saw the sharklike grin on Marie’s silent face, he suddenly found 
himself unable to laugh anymore.

"Now, we just need a team of volunteers to go find a transit worker who will help us 
borrow a trolley or a bus.”

Franz’s hand went up immediately.  Günther found himself looking intently at the small 
man’s face, and bright, eager eyes, and raised his hand as well.  Looking from one to the 
other, Lotte grinned and volunteered herself to chaperone them. Ilse and Marie rose as 

“Good luck, Genossen und Genossinnen.  Let us know once you’ve found one” 
Thälmann bade them.  

“We’re going to need you to leave that unlocked”  Marie stated flatly. The 
confused look on the faces of the watchman and driver who had just backed the 
trolley into a roundhouse seemed oddly calm to Franz, after what he had seen Marie 
do hours before, but hopefully he could keep things from escalating.

“We need this trolley.  Soldiers are coming, and many are going to die.”

“Genosse Thälmann has a plan to save the city” Ilse chimed in, “but it will only 
work if you stand with your class brothers.”  

“We don’t need much from you.”  Lotte explained. “Just notice that this padlock 
is obviously defective, and don’t try to latch it, for fear of damaging your employer’s 
property yet further!”

The two men glaced at each other, shrugged, and walked away.  The driver 
muttered “Good luck, Spartakus” under his breath.

“Good enough for me!”  Franz proclaimed. “Marie, stay here and make sure no 
one else gets into the shed.  We need to go get Thälmann and the others.”

Günther finally voiced his confusion.

“Why are we trying to get a trolley?”  Marie answered with her familiar grin.

“You see, they’re going to be coming along the base of a hill.  Probably in a column- 
that street isn’t very wide. Imagine that trolley smashing into the side of a truck.  
Lots of dead Freikorps will be happening.” Günther and Ilse exchanged worried looks, 
then looked to Lotte and Franz, respectively, who both bore their resolve plainly.  

“Let’s go get the others.”  Said Lotte. The four comrades disappeared into the 

Morning broke on a scene of Hamburg’s masses heaving the “borrowed” trolley 
up a hill overlooking the street below..  Thälmann and his thin companion Jansen 
pulled and struggled with the rest, until the chocks were in place and the trolley 
rested.  Hundreds of Proleten stood, tense, yet visibly proud of their makeshift 
tank. Jansen scratched his nose. Thälmann addressed the crowd.

“All right.  I’ll wait here with a sledgehammer team.  Genosse Jansen will give the 
signal to begin.  Once they’ve crossed our path, we’ll cut it loose, and smash them in the 
middle of their column.  We’ll run down to reinforce you all then. The fight will be hard, 
but it will be swift. We win quickly, or we don’t win at all.  We know what is at stake here.

Now I need the women and children to return to your dwellings.  Every able bodied man 
is needed here to repel the Freikorps, but we mustn’t endanger our families.”

At this point, Marie, Ilse and Lotte stepped forward in unison.  Ilse gritted her 
teeth and said

“Whose revolution is it if not the women?  Genosse Engels said we were the first 
working class.  Rosa fought for us, and paid the price. Now I fight for Rosa.”

“Really, Genosse,” Lotte chuckled- “you don’t expect me to let that little mountain 
boy go into this alone, do you?”

Finally Marie spoke up.

“If I can shoot well enough for the Kaiser, I can shoot well enough for you.  I’ll 
take these kids to that rooftop and give you some sharpshooters. The men can use 
their sword and whip to cover the stairs.”

Thälmann grinned, and looked quite surprised.  “Jawohl! But… You’re all Urnings! 
Urnings, here!”

“Urninginen here” - Ilse pointed to herself, Lotte and Marie.  “Those other two are 
Urnings.” And Franz joined in “We’re everywhere, not just here, and we’re ready to 
fight for our freedom!”

Thälmann shrugged, and nodded.  “I’ll never keep anyone from playing their part in 
our revolution.  For Soviet Germany!” The crowd echoed him loudly.


Franz, Lotte, Ilse and Günther followed Marie to a tall shop building.  They 
entered, seeing a drab, unused first floor with a stairwell leading up.   Marie 
scanned the room, and barked out instructions.

“Right then.  Lots of old wooden furniture we can use to barricade that door.  
Ginger, here, you cover the door, but only once the enemy gets past these two.  
Günther and Franz- kill whatever gets inside that door. Lotte come cover my back.”
Lotte and Günther climbed to the rooftop, Franz and Günther shifted the old chairs and 
Kaffee tables to obstruct the door, then drew their weapons.  Ilse knelt on the stairwell, 
inserting a stick magazine into her machine pistol. Already the rumbling of motors could 
be heard in the distance. Günther shivered with worry, but stopped as his eyes met those 
of the tiny, handsome man holding a sword ready opposite him.  Franz radiated 
determination, and Günther felt that determination welling within him as well as he stared 
at Franz’s hair, so smooth, so brown, brown as the finest Münchener Bier... Other things 
were welling within Günther too, but he thought he should focus on surviving at the 

The windows were boarded up, but not so thoroughly that one couldn’t see 
movement in the daylit street outside.  Ilse saw the first truck draw past, full 
of grinning, well armed soldiers with swastikas painted on their helmets, and 
chalked on the side of the truck.  Another followed it. Then another. 
And another. As the 8th truck rolled past, they could all hear a shot ring 
out to their right- the direction the convoy had taken.  Almost immediately after, 
there came a new rumbling. Shouts of “Stop! Halt!” came from the lead trucks, and 
they quickly slammed on their brakes, trapping one truck in the path of the 
descending juggernaut.  


The sound of smashing wood, metal and bone as the trolley impacted on the 
Freikorps’ fourth truck was the signal for the Spartakists to rush in force.  From 
her rooftop vantage point, Marie could see hundreds of workers pouring forth from 
the boarded up buildings, and knew that Thälmann’s trolley team wouldn’t be far 
behind.  But the Freikorps, though divided by the trolley, were springing into action. 
Marie lashed her grenades together, pulled the pins, and hurled them towards the ninth 
truck just as its troops were about to disembark.  The explosion decimated the truck, 
and with twenty Freikorp goons’ worth of meat getting tossed about, it was clear 
that that squad was out of commission. Stifling a twinge as the screams rent her 
ears and reminded her of the front, Marie shouldered her rifle, and began firing at 
the troops in the tenth truck.

Spotting her, they rushed for the building.  Two of their number fell to Marie’s 
fire before the first of them reached the door.  

This was it.  As the Freikorps kicked the door open, they found their way barred 
at the waist by the piled tables.  The door couldn’t swing all the way in, so they had 
to leap over the barricade one at a time. Rifles at the ready, they started swarming 
over.  One raised his arms to steady himself on the jump. Franz’s blade struck out, 
hacking through the outstretched appendage. Silently gazing at his blood spurting 
stump, the soldier fainted.  Others pushed past.

Günther was ready with his whip, coiling it around the legs of the second soldier, 
bringing him to the ground with a crunching sound from what had been a handsome 
face.  Franz finished the man with a quick stab to the neck, but this lapse allowed 
three more to force their way in.

“Duck!”  Ilse called.  As Günther and Franz scrambled to comply, she began loosing 
bursts from her gun.  Two Freikorps men had fallen, cut down by her fusillade before 
the survivors got a bead on her.  Two remained standing, the final two entered behind 
them, guns at the ready. Four rifles blazed at the stairwell, smacking into the 
splintering wood.  Ilse felt what seemed to be a punch to her gut and she crumpled 
backwards, falling off the opposite side of the stairs.

Screaming in rage, Franz sprang into the midst of the remaining soldiers, swinging 
his blade wildly.  They knocked it back with their rifle butts, and tried to swing at him, 
but his small size worked to his advantage here.  Günther followed Franz into the melee, 
lashing out with his whip, pulling another rightist to the floor, and stomping his face in.  
The two remaining soldiers began shooting, hoping to hit the enraged Urnings in the melee. 
Günther felt the blast of the rifle swoosh past his face, and sprang to grapple his assailant, 
only to meet a rifle butt to his belly.

Atop the roof, Marie continued firing into the masses of Freikorps.   Their 
advance squads had felled dozens of workers, but were fully engaged in fist and knife 
fights by now.  Her fire sent the trailing squads ducking beneath the trucks for cover, 
leaving their comrades to be swallowed up by the roiling, resolute mass of humanity that 
was the workers of Hamburg.  Lotte peered over the roof’s edge long enough to see 
Thälmann seize a rifle and fell its erstwhile wielder with a single punch. Jansen rushed 
nimbly through the melee towards a soldier who bore a Swastika flag, and plowed into 
him.  Scores of workers surged forward, some shouting war cries, some visibly shaking, 
some spitting on their hands and looking quietly resolute as they looked for the next 
target. The remaining Freikorps were still firing, and what looked like a hundred 
figures were slumped, twitching on the pavement.  

Lotte turned down towards the sounds of struggle emanating from beneath.  
With her pistol at the ready she slid down the banister, seeing Günther and 
Ilse lying on the floor next to seven Freikorps, and Franz engaged in a fierce 
struggle with the remaining soldier.  Lotte aimed, waiting for Franz to see her. 
He soon did, and disengaged, taking a rifle butt to the leg, forcing him into 
an awkward hopskip and a curse from his lips. Lotte found her hand trembling, 
but she fired thrice, and the soldier shrieked as his arm was pierced.  Franz quickly 
turned and plunged his sabre through the man’s throat. He then turned and ran to 
Ilse’s side.

“Grazed in the abdomen, hit in the leg.  I’ve got this.” Pulling out a box full 
of forceps, whiskey and bandages, the budding medic went to work.  A dazed 
Günther came nervously over, and was rapidly pressed into bandage detail. Ilse 
was moaning, but conscious.  Günther held the whiskey for her to drink after 
Franz had poured some on the wound. Lotte moved to the door, Luger at the 

On the rooftop.  Marie reloaded, and notched her tenth kill as Thälmann’s 
voice boomed out

“Hold fast, boys!  Get their weapons!”  Surviving workers scurried to pry 
rifles and pistols from the fingers of dead Freikorps goons.  As the first 
three cars of soldiers rounded the tail end of the trolley, they were met 
with enthusiastic if erratic fire, thick enough to fell several of them.  Between 
this and the sight of workers seizing the middle trucks, and their nearest help 
hunkering beneath the rear ones, they hesitated. Some began stepping back 
towards the aperture from whence they’d just issued. An officer produced a sabre.

“Return fire and advance!”  As he pointed his blade forward and advanced in 
demonstration of his order to his troops, Marie felled him on his second step. 
At this, the rightists broke and fell back past the trolley, a third of their number 
lost for no gain.  Workers followed Jansen, clutching the liberated guns as they 
swept towards the pinned down enemy in the rear. The Freikorps broke and ran 
back the way they had come, only to be met with a force of workers with cudgels 
and rifles that had disengaged and run through a back alley to encircle them.  Marie 
broke off her fire as she saw the Freikorps below lay down their weapons and raise 
their hands. She moved downstairs, and strode into the street to replenish her 
cartridge box, without pausing a moment by the wounded Ilse. Lotte joined her 
after one more look at Günther and Franz tending to the injured woman.

Franz had been probing methodically, his green eyes focused grimly on Ilse’s 
wound and his forceps. Accordingly, Günther was a little surprised to see the medic 
quickly pull his forceps out and toss a badly misshapen bullet into the palm of his hand.

“Got it.  Now to stitch her up.  You’ll be just fine, Ilse, you’re very good at 
getting shot.”  His fingers flew over the wound, stitching and suturing, holding 
Günther transfixed the whole time.

Thälmann stepped into the ruined storefront.  He had a black eye but looked 
thrilled at the victory.  

“If you can fight like that, we should have made an effort to get Urnings and 
Urningins on our side long ago!  How is she?”

“She’ll live.”  Franz said, and stood up after affixing a bandage over the wound.  

“Could you stitch some others up?  We have over a hundred dead and injured, 
not counting the enemy”  Thälmann sighed at the devastation the Freikorps had 
wrought. Franz hurried into the street without a further word.  

Marie stalked back, grinning broadly, with grenades crammed into her rucksack.  

“That was fun.  Where to next?” By this point, Günther was not the only one 
finding Marie somewhat frightening.

The dockyard was awash in celebration that night.  But the proceedings were 
marred by the high death toll, and by the relative scarcity of food.  Leaders from 
the SPD and USPD spoke, congratulating the workers on their victory. Once they 
had finished, Thälmann rose to speak.

“We kept them from seizing the city itself.  That is a great blow against reaction. 
We routed the troops with which they meant to bring a swift end to our revolutionary 
strike.  However, a significant portion of their forces were able to withdraw and regroup, 
and while we have the jail under guard, the prisoners we took today may be set loose upon u
s once more if the police have their way.  We must remain vigilant.

Meanwhile, there is the matter of food.  The army’s march through the 
countryside has disrupted distribution, and we’ve been informed that the 
police have redirected lorries bearing provisions away from our city.  Despite 
this, help is on the way. While our own government allows the bosses and their 
lackeys to slaughter us in the streets, the people's democracy of the Soviet Union 
is sending grain for us.  The first steamer is due to arrive tomorrow, and the steamer 
is named Karl Liebknecht!” applause broke out.

“Tomorrow” Thälmann said.  “We must own the docks. There will be police, and we 
know that they will block the unloading of the grain.  We need to persuade them 
otherwise. You all must spread the word. After our victory today, we should have 
ten times the forces at our disposal.  Fifty times! And the enemy won’t have nearly 
so many rifles as he had today. We’ll win tomorrow as we won today, and let it be 
know that Kapp is not welcome in Hamburg!”

At this, the assembled masses began singing “Brothers of Freedom”, and its glorious 
strains wafted out over the docks.  The workers were ready for the morrow.

Morning broke red over the docks.  A chill wind had blown in during the night 
along with the Soviet Steamer Karl Liebknecht.  Its crew stood on deck, staring 
fixedly at the cordon of policemen on the wharf, interposed between their 
precious cargo and the cranes and stevedores.   The policemen who had been 
guarding the wharf clawed at their eyes in exhaustion, waiting to be relieved.  
Some of them exchanged glares with the crew of the Karl Liebknecht, which 
was moored, ready to unload tons of grain for the hungry people of Hamburg, but 
was blocked by the police cordon.  Others merely wiped the night’s drool off their 
green uniforms. Tired or otherwise, the police had no intention of allowing the food 
to be dispensed to the people of Hamburg.  

    A young Feldwebel greedily eyed the Soviet sailors’ thick coats.  He had been on 
duty all night, staring down the hungry workers who haunted the wharf at night.  He 
had run after some of the children and cracked their tiny skulls and broken their 
malnourished arms, just to get his blood moving, but he needed sleep.  

Secretly he was a little worried.  Headquarters had promised that no less 
a person than General von Lettow-Vorbeck was leading the troops into Hamburg.  
The Feldwebel had recalled reading of the General’s exploits as a boy, cheering 
with his father as the news of Von Lettow-Vorbeck’s extermination of a hundred 
thousand Negroes had reached the papers.  And he had conscripted an army from 
the survivors of the tribes he’d ravaged, and force-marched them all over 
Southern Africa, smiting superior forces of freedom fighters and British troops alike 
until the end of the war.  Von Lettow-Vorbeck was just the man to rescue Hamburg 
from this disgusting rabble of degenerates. 

And yet, after yesterday’s defeat of his troops by the commoners, the general was 
nowhere to be seen.

A truck rumbled up with more police on it.  The Hauptmann dropped to the ground 
with a wicked spring in his wicked step.  The Feldwebel and his men saluted, and rubbed 
their hands as they made to move off. The Hauptmann spoke.

“Good morning, meine Herren.  No relief, I’m afraid. The soldiers should have been 
handling it but after yesterday they’ve scattered.  We can’t count on any reinforcements 
after yesterday.  You must all remain here, or else those vermin may be able to break 
through and feed.  We’re going to hold here.  Any effort by the mob to reach the ship 
must be met with the utmost force.  We have some civilian supporters coming in private 
craft to patrol the harbor.  The menace of the reds must be squelched. 
I know you’ve been working hard all night with no relief, but give it a few more hours.  
There is a bit of good news- our informants tell us that the women will be in the vanguard, 
with their flour pails. I hear those pails are quite empty these days”    The cops grumbled 
at the extra work, but began chuckling at the thought of the starving workers.

    “Permission to target the women?” one officer asked. The Hauptmann grinned.

“You are encouraged to correct the behavior of the women, as a reward for 
your service to the Kais… To the government.  Long live Kapp. Long live Germany.”

The Feldwebel grinned.  As he hefted his nightstick in anticipation of 
splintering more bone, something else also rose with the thought of free reign 
over the women.

Workers assembled en masse, with the women of Hamburg carrying their 
empty flour pails, on which they rhythmically banged.  They were flanked by 
the brawlers from the day before, with Thälmann and Jansen at the head of 
the column. Marie, Lotte, Ilse, Franz and Günther trailed in the rear of the 
formation.  Marie eyeballed a broken crane on the outer edge of the dock.

“This is the spot for me- don’t wait up.” And she scampered up the girding 
without another word.  Ilse had her eyes on another one, closer to the ship.

“If we need to bypass the cordon…  I think I can work it. Günther, can 
you help get me there?”  The youth nodded, and began pushing forward with 
Ilse behind him.  Franz stopped Günther with a tap on the shoulder.

“Watch your back” and pecked him on the cheek.  Günther 
blushed, grinned, and resumed escorting Ilse.  Franz turned to Lotte.

“That leaves us.  Urning and Urningin.  Let’s get up front and see if 
we can help Teddy.”  Lotte grinned and jogged forward, toward the pallet 
attached to Ilse’s crane.  Franz sprang up alongside her, and they 
clutched to the chains holding the pallet in place.  

Whatever Thälmann and Jansen had said to the cops seemed to have worked.  
The thin green line had buckled and dispersed, and Thälmann charged up the gangplank, 
backed by the women of Hamburg.  The crane lowered Lotte and Franz to the deck 
as German women and Soviet sailors began heaving the sacks of flour aloft.  
Franz saw Thälmann grinning like a schoolboy, tightly embracing the bemused captain.

“Comrade Captain!  Thank you for your aid to the people of Hamburg.  This 
is my first step on socialist soil!” The captain beamed.  A sailor stepped 
forward and spoke in broken German.

“Captain will something get you.  Moment please.” The captain strode 
towards the wheelhouse Thälmann walked for the nearest pile of flour 
sacks and hefted one aloft easily, resting it on his shoulders.  He 
worked alongside the other stevedores and their wives to load the sacks 
onto the crane. Someone in the crowd broke into “Sailors of Kronstadt”, 
and was soon joined by virtually the entire assembly, German and Russian 
singing together.

Franz and Lotte’s pallet descended towards the deck.  Lotte kept scanning the 
joyfully singing crowd, then did a double take- a small boat was slipping alongside 
the Karl Liebnecht!  Four men stood inside it- two Freikorps troopers, and two 
bespectacled men in civilian clothes. They flung grappling lines aloft and one 
soldier began climbing.

Lotte nudged Franz.  “See that? They’re coming from behind.  Move!” 
They dropped to the deck. Lotte pulled her Luger as Franz drew his sword.  
Seeing the flash of steel, Ilse dismounted from the crane and started 
sprinting for the gangplank.  Günther joined her, feeling a twinge of 
fear, as if he would see something terrible on the windward side of 
the steamer.
The first soldier didn’t have time to fire a shot before Franz ran his 
throat through.  He fell backwards into the harbor with a muffled splash. 
This strangely didn’t seem to faze the remaining three men in the boat.  
Lotte looked curiously at them. The remaining soldier had knelt in the boat, 
while the men over him hadn’t reacted at all to the fight atop the Karl Liebknecht.  
They were holding a book together and seemed to be murmuring something. Lotte 
called out

“That’s far enough!  Stay where you are, don’t move!”  Franz whirled towards the 
flour sacks
 “Teddy!  We have Freikorps!”.  Thälmann deposited his bag at the foot of the gangplank, 
and began rushing, kampfentschlossen towards the cry for help, his stout fists at the ready 
and his eyes flashing with determination.  Günther fell in beside him.

At this point, Franz and Lotte stared, agape.  The soldier had vanished! Lotte brandished  
her pistol, shrieking “where is he?!” to the two remaining men, who merely flashed wicked grins.  
Suddenly, there came a tearing sound, and shreds of what had clearly been Reichswehr charcoal 
fluttered to the bilge of the boat. The boat heaved, and Franz felt a mighty weight slam into the 
side of the Liebknecht!  It seemed impossible, but something invisible was crawling up the hull. What 
sounded like claws were clearly raking the hull! Franz stepped back, holding his sabre at the ready, while 
Lotte scowled, and began firing into the boat.

High in the crane tower, Marie squinted through her sights.  She couldn’t see what Lotte was shooting at, 
nor what Franz was backing away from, but pulled the bolt all the same, ready to take her chance.  She continued 
watching as the fight unfolded bizarrely.

    Hearing the shots, Günther and Thälmann, now joined by a panting Ilse, darted towards the windward side of the 
Liebknecht.  They skidded to a stop, watching Franz fencing with the air, looking increasingly scared as his blade found no mark. 
He tried a wide slash up and to the right, where he was reasonably sure a human’s neck would have been, and felt his blade strike 
something!  He saw a trickle of violet fluid blur as the thing, whatever it was moved on him. Franz screamed as his chest was pierced 
by massive teeth! He felt them meet in the middle, and knew his breasts were gone. As the blood spouted from his chest, the tiny duelist 
collapsed to the deck.  

    Ilse reacted first.  “Look! The blood- we can see some of…  That’s a chest, of it, it’s a…”

    Thälmann, Günther and Ilse could see the red-stained outline of a creature’s front, it looked human shaped but if the chest was human 
proportioned it must have been 9 feet tall.  Franz’s blood was draining off of it though, the image was growing fainter.

    Ilse sprang for the nearest flour sack.  
    “Help me with this!”  she called to Thälmann, who rushed to her aid.  Together they 
hefted it easily, and Ilse drew a pocket knife across the sack, splitting it open.  Thälmann 
grasped her plan
    “Throw it on my mark!  Now!” and they heaved it at the dripping shape menacing their 
comrades.  The flour filled the air, covering the creature, and the revolutionaries gasped at 
what they saw.  

    Barrel chested, with long arms over 4 feet, tipped with hideous claws, it towered over them all.  
The most horrible thing was the face. Its claws had reached for its eyes, which were 
squinted and apparently blinking the flour out.  For some reason, as it approached, the 
eyes began glowing, revealing that they were bright red and ran the full circumference of 
the head!  Flour had coated a row of three-inch fangs populating a lipless maw, and it began 
to emit a roar, standing over Franz’s senseless body.

    Marie saw the flour clear, and saw the creature.  She shuddered, aimed, and fired. Her 
bullet struck it cleanly in one of its many eyes, and a purple, viscous blood was splashed as 
the creature fell lifeless  to the deck!

    Günther peeled off from Thälmann’s advance and darted to Franz’s side, kneeling and pressing, 
wordlessly on the wounds.  Ilse ran towards the wheelhouse, just as the captain was emerging with 
a large portrait of Comrade Lenin.

    “We need a doctor!  Arzt? Medico?” The captain dropped the portrait and rushed 
below decks, hollering something in Russian.  A young woman, barely 20 came 
scampering up with a bag of instruments and she sped with Ilse towards Franz’s side.  
She started upon seeing the grisly character of the wounds, but immediately went to 
her work.

    The two boatmen remaining- the ones who had read from the book- swore, 
and began rowing away, but this was too slow to evade Thälmann’s leap.  He 
sprang over the railing and landed, swaying on the edge of the boat. With 
two quick haymakers he knocked one cold, and one into the harbor.  
Lotte had reloaded, and finished the one in the water. Thälmann seized the 
remaining mystic like a sack of flour, and climbed up the deck.

“Search him.  How in blazes did they do that?  I think it was the soldier that vanished!” 
Lotte rifled through the unconscious Putschist’s pockets.  She pulled out the book, a musty 
old tome of the sort she had spent so much time with, and a swastika ring.  There was also 
a gun and a wallet containing money and calling cards. Lotte looked them over.

“It’s the Thule Society, Comrades.  This is the book they read from. Looks like 
it’s called “Unaussprechlichen Kulten.  Unspeakable Cults. I’d say the Thule boys 
qualify as unspeakable.”

The ship’s doctor stood, having bandaged Franz and stitched some of the 
wound shut.

“Him need Krankenhaus now.”

“I’ll take him”.  Günther clutched Franz’s hand and pulled him onto an empty sack.  
He and Ilse carried Franz down the gangplank. Thälmann gestured to Lotte to 
deal with the body, while he turned towards the returning captain and officers 
of the Karl Liebknecht.  

“Thank you for your aid.  It will break the back of the Putsch, now that they 
can’t starve the workers of Hamburg.  Our last numbers have 12 million out on strike. 
That’s 12 million German workers who are looking to you, the Bolsheviks as our liberators 
and leaders in the struggle for freedom.  I salute you, Comrades!”

Grinning, the captain presented the portrait of Lenin, and Thälmann held it aloft before 
the singing, cheering crowd of workers.

“Trotz Alledem!”
Ilse and Günther sat next to Franz’s hospital bed.  He was pale and wan from loss of 
blood, but in good spirits.  

Nice to have that off my chest, eh?  I’ll be ready to go again soon! Ilse was still 

shaking, days after seeing the creature.  

 “They…  They turned that man into that thing.  How did they do that?”

“With this.”  Lotte strode into the room, holding the book.  

“Turns out that that Völkisch crap might actually be based on 
something other than sausage-measuring.  And we have their playbook now. 
We’re going to learn so much more than we ever wanted to about what they believe, 
but hey, I’m looking forward to having some mumbo-jumbo of our own.”

“That’s exactly why I’m here.”  Thälmann stood in the door. He approached Franz’ bedside.

“My boy, you’ve fought so bravely, you all did so much for our movement.  I fear
we’ve only uncovered the tip of the iceberg of this cult. If more of their kind are 
working with the Freikorps, we need to be ready. I spoke with some agents of the 
CHEKA.  They agree that the threat to the revolution is too great to leave this 
unanswered, uninvestigated.  To that end, they’ve encouraged the KPD to form 
our weird-objective team, our Merkwürdigkeitsbeauftragte Kommando, to 
discreetly investigate this Rightist magic.  You’ll be working directly with local 
leadership, namely myself and Fiete Jansen. Do you accept?”
Four clenched fists in the air answered his question.  Thälmann smiled.

“I’m proud of each and every one of you.  Oh, and keep an eye out for that soldier friend of yours, won’t you?”