Rosa Luxemburg

Zamość, 1871 – Berlin, 1919

"La llibertat és sempre i exclusivament llibertat pel qui pensa diferent"

Rosa Luxemburg was a Marxist revolutionary and thinker. Most of her literary production is to be found in articles linked to newspapers, congresses and political parties of which she was a member; this shows to what an extent her commitment to political action cannot be separated from her intellectual production. Issues such as internationalism, social democracy, reformism and the right to self-determination would accompany her throughout her life. She was as much of an uncomfortable figure as an acclaimed one, and she was persecuted for her ideas and demands all the way from the beginning of her party membership in Poland to her assassination in Berlin.

Luxemburg gained her PhD in 1897 with a thesis on Public Law about Poland’s industrial development. She was the founder of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland (SKDP), an important member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), and actively collaborated in publications such as the Volkszeitung, the Neue Zeit and the Przegląd Socjaldemokratyczny. Her criticism of reformism, her solid defense of internationalism and her studies on the relationship between avant-garde trade unions or political parties and the revolutionary tools of the masses are the subject matter of works such as Reform or Revolution (1898/99), The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions (1906) and The National Question (1909). She developed her teaching career, the seed of her studies on Political Economy (Introduction to Political Economy, unfinished), at the SPD’s Central School. From 1914 on, as the SPD took on a Socialchovinist turn and agreed to support the war, she distanced herself from the SPD for good, dedicating her strength to the creation of the Spartacus League (Spartakusbund, initially linked to the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD)). This was her last offensive on the patriotism and warmongering that dominated her time.

She was imprisoned on more than one occasion for her public speeches (Jena, 1906 or Frankfurt, 1914), and was arrested, tortured and murdered by the counterrevolutionary forces (the Freikorps) before the collusive eyes of Gustav Noske (a prominent figure in the SPD). Her and Karl Liebknecht’s corpses were thrown into Berlin’s Landwehrkanal: five months went by before they were retrieved and properly buried.

Her thought was silenced and condemned by the Third International and by Stalinism. The complete publication of her work, starting in 1970, together with different initiatives in the 1980s to retrieve and study her thought, revealed both the richness of her work and the need to examine it in order to understand the situation of communism and post Second World War revolutionary movements.

Selected Works

1970 and following, Gesammelte Werke, Annelies Laschitza y Eckhard Müller (editors), Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1970 and following, 7 vol.

Secondary Literature

AUBET, María-José, 1997, Rosa Luxemburg y la cuestión nacional, Barcelona: Anagrama.

BASSO, Lelio, 1976, El pensamiento político de Rosa Luxemburg, J. Gifreu (trans.), Barcelona: Península.

DUNAYEVSKAYA, Raya, 2009, Rosa Luxemburgo. La liberación femenina y la filosofía marxista de la Revolución, Juan José Utrilla (trans.), Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica.

NETTL, John Peter, 1966, Rosa Luxemburgo, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

ARENDT, Hannah, “A Heroine of the Revolution”, in: New York Times Review of Books, 7/5. 6-X-1966 (currently in Men in Dark Times, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1968).