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Synopsis

THE IMPORTANT ROLE of the seamen in the revolutionary class struggle has not hitherto received the attention it so richly deserves — probably because seamen do not count as a voting force, and also because the “Brotherhood of the Sea” is more international than any other trade or occupation. This work by our comrade ‘Icarus’ tells of the important part played in the revolutionary struggles by the German waterside workers, a page of social history that has been carefully ignored by the bureaucratic trade union officials and the socialist politicians.


The present text, “The Wilhelmshaven Revolt. A Chapter of the Revolutionary Movement in the German Navy, 1918-1919”, was written in Britain in 1943, towards the end of the Second World War, by a German seaman using the nom de guerre ‘Icarus’. Unlike so many studies of important events in the international history of the working class movement written by professional historians after the event, an actual participant in the event known as the “Wilhelmshaven Revolt” wrote this from recollections of the events because — as the author’s note indicates — a complete archive of invaluable documents, leaflets etc., in possession of the author had to be destroyed around 1935, when Hitler took power in Germany. These files were destroyed in the interests of many people — including the author himself — who were being hunted by the Gestapo. Finally, because the important role he had played in the revolt was known to the Nazis — and with a price on his head — it was unsafe for him to remain in Germany. He became a refugee in Britain under very difficult circumstances and naturalisation was refused him for many years by the British government. All this goes some way to explaining why, in 1943, he had very good reasons for writing under an assumed name.

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