Long Live Peace–Richard Muller and the Revolutionary Shop Stewards
There were already police informers at the dance-hall so they decamped to a pub in Sophienstrasse.
There, a man with thick round glasses and a toothbrush moustache proposed that they take action the following day, when Karl Liebknecht – Germany’s most famous anti-war campaigner – would be on trial for treason after denouncing the war and the government at a May Day demonstration.
The proposal was agreed and the group of roughly thirty men dispersed to spread the word.
The next day, some 55,000 workers left their workplaces to march in perfect discipline through the streets of Berlin. Munitions workers from roughly forty Berlin armament works they shouted ‘Long live Liebknecht!’ and ‘Long live peace!’. Meanwhile, two hundred kilometers to the west, an estimated three-fifths of the workforce in some 65 factories in Brunswick also joined the strike.
In the next 2½ years the man with the toothbrush moustache would organise two more anti-war strikes, each bigger than the last, be conscripted into the army three times, and play a leading role in the overthrow of the centuries-old Hohenzollern dynasty. For a few weeks he would even, albeit briefly, become the German head of state.
The date of Liebknecht’s trial – and of the munitions workers strike – was 28 June 1916, and the man with the interesting times ahead of him was Richard Müller, leader of a clandestine network within the German Metalworkers Union (DMV) that would later call itself the Revolutionary Shop Stewards.