Rosa Luxemburg

Born on March 5th, 1871, Rosa Luxemburg, a Polish Jew and participant in the Russian Revolution of 1905, was a co-founder of the Social Democratic Party in the joint Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania

Next to Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxemburg was the most important representative of the left-wing socialist, anti-militarist, and internationalist positions in the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Germany before 1918. She was a passionate and convincing critic of capitalism as well as of anti-democratic and dictatorial tendencies within the Bolsheviki. She confronted the compelling logic of economic laws and political strategies with the utopia of a new world. According to Luxemburg, this new world needed to be created in spite of widespread despair, deprivation of rights, cowardliness and the corruption of power.

Kate Evans: Red Rosa

BBC: Melvyn Bragg on Rosa Luxemburg

Kate E Rosa-poster-1

Rosa Luxemburg was a leading theorist of the SPDs left wing. She played a crucial role in the formation of the Spartacus League, the Independent Social-Democratic Party (USPD) and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). Her fate cannot be separated from the German labor movement. Irreconcilable differences between the evolving different streams of the labor movement lead to reconcurrent confrontations between their respective supporters and in the end to a collapsed labor unity.

On January 15th, 1919, Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, and Wilhelm Pieck, the leaders of the German Communist Party, were arrested and taken in for questioning at the Adlon Hotel in Berlin. German soldiers escorted Luxemburg and Liebknecht out of the building, knocking them unconscious with rifle butts. Pieck managed to escape while the unconscious bodies of Luxemburg and Liebknecht were quietly driven away in a German military jeep. They were shot and thrown into a river by the same circles of militarist Freikorps (Volunteer Corps) that later openly supported the National Socialists seizure of power.

Impressively, Rosa Luxemburg combined political commitment, scientific analysis, and the quest for empowerment as a woman. She saw herself as being in conflict, fighting both on a scientific and political level while her daily life presented the essential foundation. Throughout all her actions, she never shunned tenderness and sensibility.

Links to translated works by and about Rosa Luxemburg

More links and further reading

Jacqueline Rose at Birkbeck, University of London

Mark Jones at University College Dublin

Nadine Rossol at the University of Essex

Rosa Luxemburg Internet Archive – Marxists.org

Social Democratic Party of Germany – International Encyclopedia of the First World War

Karl Liebknecht – International Encyclopedia of the First World War

Clara Zetkin – International Encyclopedia of the First World War

Rosa Luxemburg – Wikipedia

Reading List

Georg Adler, Peter Hudis and Annelies Laschitza (eds.), The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg (Verso, 2011)

Sally Campbell, A Rebel’s Guide to Rosa Luxemburg (Bookmarks, 2011)

Kate Evans, Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg (Verso, 2015)

Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson (eds.), The Rosa Luxemburg Reader (Monthly Review Press, 2004)

Mathilde Jacob, Rosa Luxemburg: An Intimate Portrait (Lawrence & Wishart, 2000)

Mark Jones, Founding Weimar: Violence and the German Revolution of 1918-19 (Cambridge University Press, 2016)

Robert Looker (ed.), Rosa Luxemburg: Selected Political Writings (Jonathan Cape Ltd, 1972)

J. P. Nettl, Rosa Luxemburg (Oxford Paperbacks, 1969)

Jacqueline Rose, Women in Dark Times (Bloomsbury, 2014), especially chapter 1 ‘Woman on the verge of revolution: Rosa Luxemburg’

Helmut Trotnow, Karl Liebknecht, 1871-1919: A Political Biography (Archon Books, 1984)

K. Weinhauer, A. McElligott and K. Heinsohn (eds.), Germany 1916-23: A Revolution in Context (Transcript-Verlag, 2015), especially ‘Incapable of Securing Order? The Prussian Police and the German Revolution 1918/19’ by Nadine Rossol

Benjamin Ziemann, War Experiences in Rural Germany 1914-1923 (Berg Publishers, 2006)