Rosa Luxemburg

Rosa Luxemburg

Rosa Luxemburg, the youngest of five children of a lower middle-class Jewish family was born in Zamość, in the Polish area of Russia, on 5th March, 1871. She became interested in politics while still at school. At sixteen, when she graduated at the top of her class from the girls' gymnasium in Warsaw, she was denied the gold medal because of "an oppositional attitude toward the authorities."

In an attempt to escape the authoritarian government of Alexander III, Rosa Luxemburg emigrated to Zurich in 1889 where she studied law and political economy. A fellow student was Julian Marchlewski. According to their friend, Paul Frölich: "Marchlewski has described in his memoirs (unfortunately unpublished) how the satire of the young students made life difficult for Professor Wolf. They used to hatch little plots before the seminar classes. Predetermined questions were submitted to the master in all innocence. Then when Wolf had hopelessly entangled himself, Rosa Luxemburg would get up and demonstrate his professional incompetence point by point. Apparently Julius Wolf took the malicious game with the necessary sense of humour; in an autobiographical sketch he paid great tribute to his best pupil."

Bertram D. Wolfe has pointed out: "Physically, the girl Rosa did not seem made to be a tragic heroine or a leader of men. A childhood hip ailment had left her body twisted, frail, and slight. She walked with an ungainly limp. But when she spoke, what people saw were large, expressive eyes glowing with compassion, sparkling with laughter, burning with combativeness, flashing with irony and scorn. When she took the floor at congresses or meetings, her slight frame seemed to grow taller and more commanding. Her voice was warm and vibrant (a good singing voice, too), her wit deadly, her arguments wide ranging and addressed, as a rule, more to the intelligence than to the feelings of her auditors."

Rosa Luxemburg in Switzerland

While in Switzerland she met other socialist revolutionaries from Russia living in exile including, Alexandra Kollontai, George Plekhanov and Pavel Axelrod. In 1890 she met Leo Jogiches and they began "a lifelong personal intimacy (without benefit of religious or civil ceremony)". Luxemburg married Gustav Lubeck in 1898 in order to gain German citizenship. She now settled in Berlin where she joined the Social Democratic Party. A committed revolutionary, Luxemburg campaigned with Karl Kautsky against the revisionist Eduard Bernstein, who argued that the best way to obtain socialism in an industrialized country was through trade union activity and parliamentary politics.

In 1903 Luxemburg, Leo Jogiches and Julian Marchlewski, to form the Social Democratic Party of Poland. As it was an illegal organization, she went to Paris to edit the party's newspaper, Sprawa Robotnicza (Workers' Cause). While in France she became friends with Jean Jaurès and Édouard-Marie Vaillant.

Rosa Luxemburg and Lenin

Luxemburg disagreed with the theories of Lenin. In 1904 she published Organizational Questions of the Russian Democracy, where she argued: "Lenin’s thesis is that the party Central Committee should have the privilege of naming all the local committees of the party. It should have the right to appoint the effective organs of all local bodies from Geneva to Liege, from Tomsk to Irkutsk. It should also have the right to impose on all of them its own ready-made rules of party conduct... The Central Committee would be the only thinking element in the party. All other groupings would be its executive limbs." Luxemburg disagreed with Lenin's views on centralism and suggested that any successful revolution that used this strategy would develop into a communist dictatorship.

1905 Russian Revolution

During the 1905 Revolution Luxemburg and Leo Jogiches returned to Warsaw where they were soon arrested. Luxemburg's experiences during the failed revolution changed her views on international politics. Until then, Luxemburg believed that a socialist revolution was most likely to take place in an advanced industrialized country such as Germany or France. She now argued it could happen in an underdeveloped country like Russia.

At the Social Democratic Party Congress in September 1905, Luxemburg called for party members to be inspired by the attempted revolution in Russia. "Previous revolutions, especially the one in 1848, have shown that in revolutionary situations it is not the masses who have to be held in check, but the parliamentarians and lawyers, so that they do not betray the masses and the revolution." She then went onto quote from The Communist Manifesto: "The workers have nothing to lose but their chains; they had a world to win."

Rosa Luxemburg

August Bebel, the leader of the SDP, did not share Luxemburg's views that now was the right time for revolution. He later recalled: "Listening to all that, I could not help glancing a couple of times at the toes of my boots to see if they weren't already wading in blood." However, he preferred Luxemburg to Eduard Bernstein and he appointed her to the editorial board of the SPD newspaper, Vorwarts (Forward). In a letter to Leo Jogiches she wrote: "The editorial board will consist of mediocre writers, but at least they'll be kosher... Now the Leftists have got to show that they are capable of governing."

Rosa Luxemburg on Revolution

In 1906 Luxemburg published her thoughts on revolution in The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions. She argued that a general strike had the power to radicalize the workers and bring about a socialist revolution. "The mass strike is the first natural, impulsive form of every great revolutionary struggle of the proletariat and the more highly developed the antagonism is between capital and labour, the more effective and decisive must mass strikes become. The chief form of previous bourgeois revolutions, the fight at the barricades, the open conflict with the armed power of the state, is in the revolution today only the culminating point, only a moment on the process of the proletarian mass struggle."

These views were not well received by August Bebel and other party leaders. In a letter to Clara Zetkin she wrote: "The situation is simply this: August Bebel, and still more so the others, have completely spent themselves on behalf of parliamentarism and in parliamentary struggles. Whenever anything happens which transcends the limits of parliamentarism, they are completely hopeless - no, even worse than that, they try their best to force everything back into the parliamentary mould, and they will furiously attack as an enemy of the people anyone who wants to go beyond these limits."

Rosa Luxemburg

In 1907 Luxemburg began teaching at the Social Democratic Party school in Berlin. According to Bertram D. Wolfe: "Unlike other German pundits, who did little more than repeat Marx's formulae in new works, she developed first an original, mildly heretical interpretation of the labour theory of value (Introduction to National Economy) then ventured to cross swords with Marx himself in a critical appraisal and revision of the arid and weak Second Volume of Das Kapital."

Rosa Luxemburg on Karl Liebknecht

Luxemburg began working closely with Karl Liebknecht, a leading figure in the anti-militarist section of the SDP. In 1907 he published Militarism and Anti-Militarism. In the book he argued: "Militarism is not specific to capitalism. It is moreover normal and necessary in every class-divided social order, of which the capitalist system is the last. Capitalism, of course, like every other class-divided social order, develops its own special variety of militarism; for militarism is by its very essence a means to an end, or to several ends, which differ according to the kind of social order in question and which can be attained according to this difference in different ways. This comes out not only in military organization, but also in the other features of militarism which manifest themselves when it carries out its tasks. The capitalist stage of development is best met with an army based on universal military service, an army which, though it is based on the people, is not a people’s army but an army hostile to the people, or at least one which is being built up in that direction."

Liebknecht then went on to argue why the socialist movement should concentrate on persuading young people to adopt the philosophy of anti-militarism: "Here is a great field full of the best hopes of the working-class, almost incalculable in its potential, whose cultivation must not at any cost wait upon the conversion of the backward sections of the adult proletariat. It is of course easier to influence the children of politically educated parents, but this does not mean that it is not possible, indeed a duty, to set to work also on the more difficult section of the proletarian youth. The need for agitation among young people is therefore beyond doubt. And since this agitation must operate with fundamentally different methods – in accordance with its object, that is, with the different conditions of life, the different level of understanding, the different interests and the different character of young people – it follows that it must be of a special character, that it must take a special place alongside the general work of agitation, and that it would be sensible to put it, at least to a certain degree, in the hands of special organizations."

Luxemburg's book on economic imperialism, The Accumulation of Capital, was published in 1913. This was an impressive achievement and Franz Mehring described her as the "most brilliant head that has yet appeared among the scientific heirs of Marx and Engels." This work established herself on the extreme left-wing of the party. She continued to advocate the need for a violent overthrow of capitalism and she gradually became alienated from previous party colleagues, Karl Kautsky and August Bebel.

The author of Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Work (1940) has argued: "He (Liebknecht) never seemed to get tired... besides speaking at meetings, doing office work, and acting as defence counsel in court, he could still spend whole nights debating and drinking merrily with the comrades. And even if the street dust did cover his soul at times, it could not stifle the genuine enthusiasm which imbued all his activities. It was this devotion to the cause, the passionate temperament and this capacity for enthusiasm that Rosa valued. She recognised the true revolutionary in him, even if they sometimes disagreed on details of party tactics. They worked together and complemented each other very well, especially in the struggle against militarism and the danger of war."

The First World War

Karl Liebknecht was the only member of the Reichstag who voted against Germany's participation in the First World War. He argued: "This war, which none of the peoples involved desired, was not started for the benefit of the German or of any other people. It is an Imperialist war, a war for capitalist domination of the world markets and for the political domination of the important countries in the interest of industrial and financial capitalism. Arising out of the armament race, it is a preventative war provoked by the German and Austrian war parties in the obscurity of semi-absolutism and of secret diplomacy."

Paul Frölich, a supporter of Liebknecht in the SDP, argued: "On the day of the vote only one man was left: Karl Liebknecht. Perhaps that was a good thing. That only one man, one single person, let it be known on a rostrum being watched by the whole world that he was opposed to the general war madness and the omnipotence of the state - this was a luminous demonstration of what really mattered at the moment: the engagement of one's whole personality in the struggle. Liebknecht's name became a symbol, a battle-cry heard above the trenches, its echoes growing louder and louder above the world-wide clash of arms and arousing many thousands of fighters against the world slaughter."

Clara Zetkin later recalled: "The struggle was supposed to begin with a protest against the voting of war credits by the social-democratic Reichstag deputies, but it had to be conducted in such a way that it would be throttled by the cunning tricks of the military authorities and the censorship. Moreover, and above all, the significance of such a protest would doubtless be enhanced, if it was supported from the outset by a goodly number of well-known social-democratic militants.... Out of all those out-spoken critics of the social-democratic majority, only Karl Liebknecht joined with Rosa Luxemburg, Franz Mehring, and myself in defying the soul-destroying and demoralising idol into which party discipline had developed."

Immediately after the vote on war credits in the Reichstag, a group of SDP anti-militarist activists, including Ernest Meyer, Franz Mehring, Wilhelm Pieck, Julian Marchlewski, Hermann Duncker and Hugo Eberlein met at the home of Rosa Luxemburg to discuss future action. They agreed to campaign against the war but decided against forming a new party and agreed to continue working within the SPD.

The Spartacus League

Over the next few months members of this group, including Meyer, were arrested and spent several short spells in prison. On the release of Rosa Luxemburg in February 1916, it was decided to establish an underground political organization called Spartakusbund (Spartacus League). The Spartacus League publicized its views in its illegal newspaper, Spartacus Letters. Like the Bolsheviks in Russia, they began to argue that socialists should turn this nationalist conflict into a revolutionary war.

Dick Howard has argued: "Agitation continued throughout the war; yet the Spartacus League was never very strong. All agitation had to be carried out in strict secrecy, and the leaders were more often than not in jail." Members included Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, Leo Jogiches, Paul Levi, Ernest Meyer, Franz Mehring, Clara Zetkin, Wilhelm Pieck, Julian Marchlewski, Hermann Duncker and Hugo Eberlein.

In May 1915, Karl Liebknecht published a pamphlet, The Main Enemy Is At Home! He argued: "The main enemy of the German people is in Germany: German imperialism, the German war party, German secret diplomacy. This enemy at home must be fought by the German people in a political struggle, cooperating with the proletariat of other countries whose struggle is against their own imperialists. We think as one with the German people – we have nothing in common with the German Tirpitzes and Falkenhayns, with the German government of political oppression and social enslavement. Nothing for them, everything for the German people. Everything for the international proletariat, for the sake of the German proletariat and downtrodden humanity."

In 1915 Luxemburg wrote about the First World War in her highly influential pamphlet, The Crisis in the German Social Democracy. Luxemburg rejected the view of the Social Democratic Party leadership that the war would bring democracy to Russia: "It is true that socialism gives to every people the right of independence and the freedom of independent control of its own destinies. But it is a veritable perversion of socialism to regard present-day capitalist society as the expression of this self-determination of nations. Where is there a nation in which the people have had the right to determine the form and conditions of their national, political and social existence?"

Luxemburg also pointed out that Germany was also fighting democratic states such as Britain and France: "Germany certainly has not the right to speak of a war of defence, but France and England have little more justification. They too are protecting, not their national, but their world political existence, their old imperialistic possessions, from the attacks of the German upstart." To Luxemburg, this was an imperialist war, not a war of political liberation.

In the pamphlet Luxemburg quoted Friedrich Engels as saying: “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.” She added: "A look around us at this moment shows what the regression of bourgeois society into barbarism means. This world war is a regression into barbarism.... The world war today is demonstrably not only murder on a grand scale; it is also suicide of the working classes of Europe. The soldiers of socialism, the proletarians of England, France, Germany, Russia, and Belgium have for months been killing one another at the behest of capital. They are driving the cold steel of murder into each other’s hearts. Locked in the embrace of death, they tumble into a common grave."

Luxemburg argued that it was important to stop the First World War through mass action. This brought her into conflict with Lenin who had argued that "the slogan of peace is wrong - the slogan must be, turn the imperialist war into civil war." Lenin believed that a civil war in Russia would bring down the old order and enable the Bolsheviks to gain power. Luxemburg and Leo Jogiches took the side of the Mensheviks in their struggle with the Bolsheviks. As a result Lenin favoured the Polish section led by Karl Radek over those of Luxemburg.

On 1st May, 1916, the Spartacus League decided to come out into the open and organized a demonstration against the First World War in Berlin. Several of its leaders, including Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were arrested and imprisoned. While in prison Luxemburg wrote The Russian Revolution, where she criticized Lenin for using dictatorial and terrorist methods to overthrow the government in Russia. "Terror has not crushed us. How can you put your trust in terror."

The Russian Revolution

Once again this work showed that she was opposed to the activities of the Bolsheviks. She quotes Leon Trotsky as saying: "As Marxists we have never been idol worshippers of formal democracy.” She replied that: "All that that really means is: We have always distinguished the social kernel from the political form of bourgeois democracy; we have always revealed the hard kernel of social inequality and lack of freedom hidden under the sweet shell of formal equality and freedom – not in order to reject the latter but to spur the working class into not being satisfied with the shell, but rather, by conquering political power, to create a socialist democracy to replace bourgeois democracy – not to eliminate democracy altogether."

Luxemburg went onto argue: "But socialist democracy is not something which begins only in the promised land, after the foundations of socialist economy are created; it does not come as some sort of Christmas present for the worthy people who, in the interim, have loyally supported a handful of socialist dictators. Socialist democracy begins simultaneously with the beginnings of the destruction of class rule and of the construction of socialism. It begins at the very moment of the seizure of power by the socialist party. It is the same thing as the dictatorship of the proletariat. Yes, dictatorship! But this dictatorship consists in the manner of applying democracy, not in its elimination, but in energetic, resolute attacks upon the well-entrenched rights and economic relationships of bourgeois society, without which a socialist transformation cannot be accomplished. But this dictatorship must be the work of the class and not of a little leading minority in the name of the class – that is, it must proceed step by step out of the active participation of the masses; it must be under their direct influence, subjected to the control of complete public activity; it must arise out of the growing political training of the mass of the people."

Morgan Philips Price, a journalist working for the Manchester Guardian, interviewed Luxemburg while she was in prison in Berlin. He later reported: "She asked me if the Soviets were working entirely satisfactorily. I replied, with some surprise, that of course they were. She looked at me for a moment, and I remember an indication of slight doubt on her face, but she said nothing more. Then we talked about something else and soon after that I left. Though at the moment when she asked me that question I was a little taken aback, I soon forgot about it. I was still so dedicated to the Russian Revolution, which I had been defending against the Western Allies' war of intervention, that I had had no time for anything else."

Price later recalled in My Three Revolutions (1969): "She (Rosa Luxemburg) did not like the Russian Communist Party monopolizing all power in the Soviets and expelling anyone who disagreed with it. She feared that Lenin's policy had brought about, not the dictatorship of the working classes over the middle classes, which she approved of but the dictatorship of the Communist Party over the working classes. The dictatorship of a class - yes, she said, but not the dictatorship of a party over a class." Luxemburg was not released until October, 1918, when Max von Baden granted an amnesty to all political prisoners.

Eugen Levine became a close supporter of Luxemburg. He told his wife that Luxemburg was "a woman of quite extraordinary brain... she frightens me." He was sent out on speaking tours in support of the Spartacus League. According to Rosa Levine: "His first propaganda tour through the Ruhr and Rhineland was crowned with almost legendary success... They did not come to get acquainted with Communist ideas. At best they were driven by curiosity, or a certain restlessness characteristic of the time of revolutionary upheavels... Levine was regularly received with catcalls and outbursts of abuse but he never failed to calm the storm. He told me jokingly that he often had to play the part of a lion-tamer."

German Communist Party

Karl Radek, a member of the Bolshevik Central Committee, argued that the the Soviet government should help the spread of world revolution. At the end of the First World War Radek was sent to Germany and with a group of radicals who had been members of the Spartacus League, including Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, Max Levien, Eugen Levine, Leo Jogiches, Paul Levi, Wilhelm Pieck, Julian Marchlewski, Hermann Duncker, Hugo Eberlein, Paul Frölich, Wilhelm Pieck, Ernest Meyer, Franz Mehring, Rosa Levine and Clara Zetkin, helped to establish the German Communist Party (KPD) on 27th December, 1918.

On 29th December, 1918, Friedrich Ebert gave permission for the publishing of a Social Democratic Party leaflet. "The shameless doings of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg besmirch the revolution and endanger all its achievements. The masses cannot afford to wait a minute longer and quietly look on while these brutes and their hangers-on cripple the activity of the republican authorities, incite the people deeper and deeper into a civil war, and strangle the right of free speech with their dirty hands. With lies, slander, and violence they want to tear down everything that dares to stand in their way. With an insolence exceeding all bounds they act as though they were masters of Berlin."

In Germany elections were held for a Constituent Assembly to write a new constitution for the new Germany. As a believer in democracy, Rosa assumed that her party would contest these universal, democratic elections. However, other members were being influenced by the fact that Lenin had dispersed by force of arms a democratically elected Constituent Assembly in Russia. Luxemburg rejected this approach and wrote in the party newspaper: "The Spartacus League will never take over governmental power in any other way than through the clear, unambiguous will of the great majority of the proletarian masses in all Germany, never except by virtue of their conscious assent to the views, aims, and fighting methods of the Spartacus League."

As Rosa Levine pointed out: "It had the advantage of bringing the Spartacists closer to the broader masses and acquainting them with Communist ideas. Nor could a set-back, followed by a period of illegality, even if only temporary, be altogether ruled out. A seat in the Parliament would then be the only means of conducting Communist propaganda openly.It could also be foreseen that the workers at large would not understand the idea of a boycott and would not be persuaded to stay aloof; they would only be forced to vote for other parties."

On 1st January, 1919, at a convention of the Spartacus League, Luxemburg was outvoted on this issue. As Bertram D. Wolfe has pointed out: "In vain did she (Luxemburg) try to convince them that to oppose both the Councils and the Constituent Assembly with their tiny forces was madness and a breaking of their democratic faith. They voted to try to take power in the streets, that is by armed uprising. Almost alone in her party, Rosa Luxemburg decided with a heavy heart to lend her energy and her name to their effort."

German Revolution

At the beginning of January, 1919, Friedrich Ebert, Germany's new chancellor, ordered the removal of Emil Eichhorn, the head of the Police Department in Berlin. As Rosa Levine pointed out: "A member of the Independent Socialist Party and a close friend of the late August Bebel, he enjoyed great popularity among revolutionary workers of all shades for his personal integrity and genuine devotion to the working class. His position was regarded as a bulwark against counter-revolutionary conspiracy and was a thorn in the flesh of the reactionary forces."

Chris Harman, the author of The Lost Revolution (1982), has argued: "The Berlin workers greeted the news that Eichhorn had been dismissed with a huge wave of anger. They felt he was being dismissed for siding with them against the attacks of right wing officers and employers. Eichhorn responded by refusing to vacate police headquarters. He insisted that he had been appointed by the Berlin working class and could only be removed by them. He would accept a decision of the Berlin Executive of the Workers' and Soldiers' Councils, but no other."

Members of the Independent Socialist Party and the German Communist Party jointly called for a protest demonstration. They were joined by members of the Social Democratic Party who were outraged by the decision of their government to remove a trusted socialist. Eichhorn remained at his post under the protection of armed workers who took up quarters in the building. A leaflet was distributed which spelt out what was at stake: "The Ebert-Scheidemann government intends, not only to get rid of the last representative of the revolutionary Berlin workers, but to establish a regime of coercion against the revolutionary workers. The blow which is aimed at the Berlin police chief will affect the whole German proletariat and the revolution."

One of the organisers of the protests, Paul Levi, argued: "The members of the leadership were unanimous: a government of the proletariat would not last more than a fortnight... It was necessary to avoid all slogans that might lead to the overthrow of the government at this point. Our slogan had to be precise in the following sense: lifting of the dismissal of Eichhorn, disarming of the counter-revolutionary troops, arming of the proletariat. None of these slogans implied an overthrow of the government."

The Death of Rosa Luxemburg

Friedrich Ebert, Germany's new chancellor, called in the German Army and the Freikorps to bring an end to the rebellion. By 13th January, 1919 the rebellion had been crushed and most of its leaders were arrested. This included Rosa Luxemburg who was arrested with Karl Liebknecht and Wilhelm Pieck on 16th January. Luxemburg and Liebknecht were murdered while in police custody.

Paul Frölich, the author of Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Work (1940) has explained what happened: "A short while after Liebknecht had been taken away, Rosa Luxemburg was led out of the hotel by a First Lieutenant Vogel. Awaiting her before the door was Runge, who had received an order from First Lieutenants Vogel and Pflugk-Hartung to strike her to the ground. With two blows of his rifle-butt he smashed her skull. Her almost lifeless body was flung into a waiting car, and several officers jumped in. One of them struck Rosa on the head with a revolver-butt, and First Lieutenant Vogel finished her off with a shot in the head. The corpse was then driven to the Tiergarten and, on Vogel's orders, thrown from the Liechtenstein Bridge into the Landwehr Canal, where it was not washed up until 31 May 1919."

Clara Zetkin wrote: "In Rosa Luxemburg the socialist idea was a dominating and powerful passion of both mind and heart, a consuming and creative passion. To prepare for the revolution, to pave the way for socialism - this was the task and the one great ambition of this exceptional woman. To experience the revolution, to fight in its battles - this was her highest happiness. With will-power, selflessness and devotion, for which words are too weak, she engaged her whole being and everything she had to offer for socialism. She sacrificed herself to the cause, not only in her death, but daily and hourly in the work and the struggle of many years. She was the sword, the flame of revolution."

Primary Sources

(1) Bertram D. Wolfe, Strange Communists I Have Known (1966)

Physically, the girl Rosa did not seem made to be a tragic heroine or a leader of men. A childhood hip ailment had left her body twisted, frail, and slight. She walked with an ungainly limp. But when she spoke, what people saw were large, expressive eyes glowing with compassion, sparkling with laughter, burning with combativeness, flashing with irony and scorn. When she took the floor at congresses or meetings, her slight frame seemed to grow taller and more commanding. Her voice was warm and vibrant (a good singing voice, too), her wit deadly, her arguments wide ranging and addressed, as a rule, more to the intelligence than to the feelings of her auditors.

She had been a precocious child, gifted with many talents. All her life, to the day of her murder in January, igig, she was tempted and tormented by longings to diminish her absorption in politics in order to develop to the full the many other capacities of her spirit. Unlike so many political figures, her inner life, as expressed in her letters, her activities, her enthusiasms, reveals a rounded human being. She drew and painted, read great literature in Russian, Polish, German, and French, wrote poetry in the first three of these, continued to be seduced by an interest in anthropology, history, botany, geology, and others of the arts and sciences into which the modern specialized intellect is fragmented. "Interest" is but a cold word for the intensity with which she pursued her studies.

(2) Rosa Luxemburg, Organizational Questions of the Russian Democracy (1904)

One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward, written by Lenin, an outstanding member of the Iskra group, is a methodical exposition of the ideas of the ultra-centralist tendency in the Russian movement. The viewpoint presented with incomparable vigor and logic in this book, is that of pitiless centralism. Laid down as principles are: 1. The necessity of selecting, and constituting as a separate corps, all the active revolutionists, as distinguished from the unorganized, though revolutionary, mass surrounding this elite.

Lenin’s thesis is that the party Central Committee should have the privilege of naming all the local committees of the party. It should have the right to appoint the effective organs of all local bodies from Geneva to Liege, from Tomsk to Irkutsk. It should also have the right to impose on all of them its own ready-made rules of party conduct. It should have the right to rule without appeal on such questions as the dissolution and reconstitution of local organizations. This way, the Central Committee could determine, to suit itself, the composition of the highest party organs. The Central Committee would be the only thinking element in the party. All other groupings would be its executive limbs.

Lenin reasons that the combination of the socialist mass movement with such a rigorously centralized type of organization is a specific principle of revolutionary Marxism. To support this thesis, he advances a series of arguments, with which we shall deal below.

Generally speaking it is undeniable that a strong tendency toward centralization is inherent in the Social Democratic movement. This tendency springs from the economic makeup of capitalism which is essentially a centralizing factor. The Social Democratic movement carries on its activity inside the large bourgeois city. Its mission is to represent, within the boundaries of the national state, the class interests of the proletariat, and to oppose those common interests to all local and group interests.

Therefore, the Social Democracy is, as a rule, hostile to any manifestation of localism or federalism. It strives to unite all workers and all worker organizations in a single party, no matter what national, religious, or occupational differences may exist among them. The Social Democracy abandons this principle and gives way to federalism only under exceptional conditions, as in the case of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

It is clear that the Russian Social Democracy should not organize itself as a federative conglomerate of many national groups. It must rather become a single party for he entire empire. However, that is not really the question considered here. What we are considering is the degree of centralization necessary inside the unified, single Russian party in view of the peculiar conditions under which it has to function.

Looking at the matter from the angle of the formal tasks of the Social Democracy, in its capacity as a party of class struggle, it appears at first that the power and energy of the party are directly dependent on the possibility of centralizing the party. However, these formal tasks apply to all active parties. In the case of the Social Democracy, they are less important than is the influence of historic conditions....

Lenin says that intellectuals remain individualists and tend to anarchism even after they have joined the socialist movement. According to him, it is only among intellectuals that we can note a repugnance for the absolute authority of a Central Committee. The authentic proletarian, Lenin suggests, finds by reason of his class instinct a kind of voluptuous pleasure in abandoning himself to the clutch of firm leadership and pitiless discipline. “To oppose bureaucracy to democracy,” writes Lenin, “is to contrast the organizational principle of revolutionary Social Democracy to the methods of opportunistic organization."

He declares that a similar conflict between centralizing and autonomist tendencies is taking place in all countries where reformism and revolutionary socialism meet face to face. He points in particular to the recent controversy in the German Social Democracy on the question of the degree of freedom of action to be allowed by the Party to socialist representatives in legislative assemblies....

In Lenin’s overanxious desire to establish the guardianship of an omniscient and omnipotent Central Committee in order to protect so promising and vigorous a labor movement against any misstep, we recognize the symptoms of the same subjectivism that has already played more than one trick on socialist thinking in Russia.

It is amusing to note the strange somersaults that the respectable human “ego” has had to perform in recent Russian history. Knocked to the ground, almost reduced to dust, by Russian absolutism, the “ego” takes revenge by turning to revolutionary activity. In the shape of a committee of conspirators, in the name of a nonexistent Will of the People, it seats itself on a kind of throne and proclaims it is all-powerful. But the “object” proves to be the stronger. The knout is triumphant, for tsarist might seems to be the “legitimate” expression of history.

In time we see appear on the scene and even more “legitimate” child of history – the Russian labor movement. For the first time, bases for the formation of a real “people’s will” are laid in Russian soil.

But here is the “ego” of the Russian revolutionary again! Pirouetting on its head, it once more proclaims itself to be the all-powerful director of history – this time with the title of His Excellency the Central Committee of the Social Democratic Party of Russia.

The nimble acrobat fails to perceive that the only “subject” which merits today the role of director is the collective “ego” of the working class. The working class demands the right to make its mistakes and learn the dialectic of history.

Let us speak plainly. Historically, the errors committed by a truly revolutionary movement are infinitely more fruitful than the infallibility of the cleverest Central Committee.

(3) Rosa Luxemburg, Organizational Questions of the Russian Democracy (1904)

With the repression of political life in the land as a whole, life in the Soviets must also become more and more crippled. Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinions, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep, a few dozen party leaders of inexhaustible energy and boundless experience direct and rule. Among them, in reality, only a dozen outstanding heads do the leading and an elite of the working class is invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders, and to approve proposed resolutions unanimously-at bottom then, a clique affair - a dictatorship to be sure, not however of the proletariat but only of a handful of politicians.... Such conditions must inevitably cause a brutalization of public life: attempted assassinations, shooting of hostages, etc.

(4) Rosa Luxemburg, The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions (1906)

In the earlier bourgeois revolution where, on the one hand, the political training and the leadership of the revolutionary masses were undertaken by the bourgeois parties, and where, on the other hand, it was merely a question of overthrowing the old government, the brief battle at the barricades was the appropriate form of the revolutionary struggle. Today the working class must educate itself, marshal its forces, and direct itself in the course of the revolutionary struggle and thus the revolution is directed as much against capitalist exploitation as against the ancien regime; so much so that the mass strike appears as the natural means to recruit, organize and prepare the widest proletarian layers for revolutionary struggle, as the means to undermine and overthrow the old state power, as well as to contain the capitalist exploitation. The urban industrial proletariat is now the soul of the revolution in Russia. But in order to carry through a direct political struggle as a mass, the proletariat must first be assembled as a mass, and for this purpose they must come out of the factory and workshop, mine and foundry, must overcome the atomisation and decay to which they are condemned under the daily yoke of capitalism.

The mass strike is the first natural, impulsive form of every great revolutionary struggle of the proletariat and the more highly developed the antagonism is between capital and labour, the more effective and decisive must mass strikes become. The chief form of previous bourgeois revolutions, the fight at the barricades, the open conflict with the armed power of the state, is in the revolution today only the culminating point, only a moment on the process of the proletarian mass struggle. And therewith in the new form of the revolution there is reached that civilising and mitigating of the class struggle which was prophesied by the opportunists of German social democracy – the Bernsteins, Davids, etc. It is true that these men saw the desired civilising and mitigating of the class struggle in the light of petty bourgeois democratic illusions – they believed that the class struggle would shrink to an exclusively parliamentary contest that and that street fighting would simply be done away with. History ahs found the solution in a deeper and finer fashion: in the advent of revolutionary mass strikes, which, of course, in no way replaces brutal street fights or renders them unnecessary, but which reduces them to a moment in the long period of political struggle, and which at the same time unites with the revolutionary period and enormous cultural work in the most exact sense of the words: the material and intellectual elevation of the whole working class through the “civilising” of the barbaric forms of capitalist exploitation.

The mass strike is thus shown to be not a specifically Russian product, springing from absolutism but a universal form of the proletarian class struggle resulting from the present stage of capitalist development and class relations. From this standpoint the three bourgeois revolutions – the Great French Revolution, the German Revolution of March, and the present Russian Revolution – form a continuous chain of development in which the fortunes and the end of the capitalist century are to be seen. In the Great French Revolution the still wholly underdeveloped internal contradictions of bourgeois society gave scope for a long period of violent struggles, in which all the antagonisms which first germinated and ripened in the heat of the revolution raged unhindered and unrestrained in a spirit of reckless radicalism. A century later the revolution of the German bourgeoisie, which broke out midway in the development of capitalism, was already hampered on both sides by the antagonism of interests and the equilibrium of strength between capital and labour, and was smothered in a bourgeois-feudal compromise, and shortened to a miserable episode ending in words.

(5) Morgan Philips Price, My Three Revolutions (1969)

Karl Radek had furnished me in Moscow with introductions to Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, the famous Spartakist leaders in Germany. So I began to search for them and, after a while, I found the headquarters of the Spartakusbund, the most revolutionary of all the German Left parties. After my credentials had been carefully inspected, I was taken to see Rosa Luxemburg.

A slight little woman, she showed at once a powerful intellect and a quiet grasp of any given situation. She had heard about me and of the fact that I had taken up a strong stand against the Allied intervention in Russia. She proceeded to question me about the situation in Russia. I told her how the White Counter-Revolution had been beaten on the Volga and thrown back to Siberia, but that Lenin had spoken to me not long before with some apprehension of the possibility of Allied military support for the Russian Whites in South Russia, now that the Dardanelles and Black Sea were open to British and French warships. Then she asked me a question, the significance of which I did not appreciate at the time. She asked me if the Soviets were working entirely satisfactorily. I replied, with some surprise, that of course they were. She looked at me for a moment, and I remember an indication of slight doubt on her face, but she said nothing more. Then we talked about something else and soon after that I left.

Though at the moment when she asked me that question I was a little taken aback, I soon forgot about it. I was still so dedicated to the Russian Revolution, which I had been defending against the Western Allies' war of intervention, that I had had no time for anything else. But a week or two later I began to hear that Rosa Luxemburg differed from Lenin on several matters of revolutionary policy, and especially about the role of the Communist Party in the Workers' and Peasants' Councils, or Soviets. She did not like the Russian Communist Party monopolizing all power in the Soviets and expelling anyone who disagreed with it. She feared that Lenin's policy had brought about, not the dictatorship of the working classes over the middle classes, which she approved of but the dictatorship of the Communist Party over the working classes. The dictatorship of a class - yes, she said, but not the dictatorship of a party over a class. Later, I began to see that Luxemburg had much wisdom in her attitude, though it was not apparent to me at the time. Looking back, it seems that she was not so critical of Lenin's tactics for Russia. She did not want them applied to Germany. Alas, she never lived to use her influence on her colleagues in the Spartakusbund for more than a few weeks after I saw her.

(6) Rosa Luxemburg, speech made in Stuttgart in 1907.

In the event of war threatening to break out, it is the duty of the workers and their parliamentary representatives in the countries involved to do everything possible to prevent the outbreak of war by taking suitable measures, which can, of course, be changed or intensified in accordance with the exacerbation of the class struggle and the general political situation.

Should the war break out nevertheless, it is their duty to advocate its speedy end and to utilize the economic and political crisis brought about by the war to rouse the various social strata and to hasten the overthrow of capitalist class rule.

(7) Rosa Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital (1913)

Karl Marx made a contribution of lasting service to the theory of economics when he drew attention to the problem of the reproduction of the entire social capital. It is significant that in the history of economics we find only two attempts at an exact exposition of this problem: one by Quesney, the father of the Physiocrats, at its very inception; and in its final stage this attempt by Marx. In the interim, the problem was ever with bourgeois economics. Yet bourgeois economists have never been fully aware of this problem in its pure aspects, detached from related and intersecting minor problems: they have never been able to formulate it precisely, let alone solve it. Seeing that the problem is of paramount importance, their attempts may all the same help us to some understanding of the trend of scientific economics.

What is it precisely that constitutes this problem of the reproduction of total capital? The literal meaning of the word ‘reproduction’ is repetition, renewal of the process of production. At first sight it may be difficult to see in what respect the idea of reproduction differs from that of repetition which we can all understand – why such a new and unfamiliar term should be required. But in the sort of repetition which we shall consider, in the continual recurrence of the process of production, there are certain distinctive features. First, the regular repetition of reproduction is the general sine qua non of regular consumption which in its turn has been the precondition of human civilisation in every one of its historical forms. The concept of reproduction, viewed in this way, reflects an aspect of the history of civilisation. Production can never be resumed, there can be no reproduction, unless certain prerequisites such as tools, raw materials and labour have been established during the preceding period of production. However, at the most primitive level of man’s civilisation, at the initial stage of man’s power over nature, this possibility to re-engage in production depended more or less on chance. So long as hunting and fishing were the main foundations of social existence, frequent periods of general starvation interrupted the regular repetition of production. Some primitive peoples recognised at a very early stage that for reproduction as a regularly recurring process certain measures were essential; these they incorporated into ceremonies of a religious nature; and in this way they accepted such measures as traditional social commitments. Thus, as the thorough researches of Spencer and Gillen have taught us, the totem cult of the Australian negroes is fundamentally nothing but certain measures taken by social groups for the purpose of securing and preserving their animal and vegetable foodstuffs; these precautions had been taken year by year since time immemorial and thus they became fossilised into religious ceremonials. Yet the circle of consumption and production which forms the essence of reproduction became possible only with the invention of tillage with the hoe, with the taming of domestic animals, and with cattle-raising for the purpose of consumption. Reproduction is something more than mere repetition in so far as it presupposes a certain level of society’s supremacy over nature, or, in economic terms, a certain standard of labour productivity.

On the other hand, at all stages of social development, the process of production is based on the continuation of two different, though closely connected factors, the technical and social conditions – on the precise relationship between man and nature and that between men and men. Reproduction depends to the same degree on both these conditions. We have just seen how reproduction is bound up with the conditions of human working techniques, how far it is indeed solely the result of a certain level of labour productivity; but the social forms of production prevailing in each case are no less decisive. In a primitive communist agrarian community, reproduction as well as the whole plan of economic life is determined by the community of all workers and their democratic organs. The decision to re-engage in labour – the organisation of labour – the provision of raw materials, tools, and man-power, as the essential preliminaries of labour – the arrangement of reproduction and the determination of its volume are all results of a planned co-operation in which everybody within the boundaries of the community takes his part. In an economic system based on slave labour or corvée, reproduction is enforced and regulated in all details by personal relations of domination. Here the volume of reproduction is determined by the right of disposal held by the ruling élites over smaller or larger circles of other people’s labour. In a society producing by capitalist methods, reproduction assumes a peculiar form, as a mere glance at certain striking phenomena will show us. In every other society known to history, reproduction recurs in a regular sequence as far as its preconditions, the existing means of production and labour power, make this possible. As a rule, only external influences such as a devastating war or a great pestilence, depopulating vast areas of former cultural life, and consequently destroying masses of labour power and of accumulated means of production, can result in a complete interruption of reproduction or in its contraction to any considerable extent for longer or shorter periods. A despotic organisation of the plan of production may on occasion lead to similar phenomena. When in ancient Egypt Pharaoh’s will chained thousands of fellaheen for decades to the building of the pyramids; when in modern Egypt Ismail Pasha ordered 20,000 fellaheen to forced labour on the Suez Canal; or when, about two hundred years before Christ, the Emperor Shi Hoang Ti, founder of the Chin dynasty, allowed 400,000 people to perish of hunger and exhaustion and thus sacrificed a whole generation to his purpose of consolidating the Great Wall at China's northern frontier, the result was always that vast stretches of arable land were left fallow and that regular economic life was interrupted for long periods. In all these cases the causes of these interruptions of reproduction obviously lay in the one-sided determination of the plan of reproduction by those in power.

Societies which produce according to capitalist methods present a different picture. We observe that in certain periods all the ingredients of reproduction may be available, both labour and means of production, and yet some vital needs of society for consumer goods may be left unfulfilled. We find that in spite of these resources reproduction may in part be completely suspended and in part curtailed. Here it is no despotic interference with the economic plan that is responsible for the difficulties in the process of production. Quite apart from all technical conditions, reproduction here depends on purely social considerations: only those goods are produced which can with certainty he expected to sell, and not merely to sell, but to sell at the customary profit. Thus profit becomes an end in itself, the decisive factor which determines not only production but also reproduction. Not only does it decide in each case what work is to be undertaken, how it is to be carried out, and how the products are to be distributed; what is more, profit decides, also, at the end of every working period, whether the labour process is to be resumed, and, if so, to what extent and in what direction it should be made to operate.

In capitalist society, therefore, the process of reproduction as a whole, constitutes a peculiar and most complicated problem, in consequence of these purely historical and social factors. There is, as we shall see, an external characteristic which shows clearly this specific historical peculiarity of the capitalist process of reproduction. Comprising not only production but also circulation (the process of exchange), it unites these two elements. Capitalist, production is primarily production by innumerable private producers without any planned regulation. The only social link between these producers is the act of exchange. In taking account of social requirements reproduction has no clue to go on other than the experiences of the preceding labour period. These experiences, however, remain the private experiences of individual producers and are not integrated into a comprehensive and social form. Moreover, they do not always refer positively and directly to the needs of society. They are often rather indirect and negative, for it is only on the basis of price fluctuations that they indicate whether the aggregate of produced commodities falls short of the effective demand or exceeds it. Yet the individual private producers make recurrent use of these experiences of the preceding labour period when they re-engage in reproduction, so that glut or shortage are bound to occur again in the following period. Individual branches of production may develop independently, so that there may be a surplus in one branch and a deficiency in another. But as nearly all individual branches of production are interdependent technically, glut or shortage in some of the larger branches of production lead to the same phenomenon in most of the others. Thus the general supply of products may alternate periodically between shortage and surplus relative to the social demand.

(8) Rosa Luxemburg, The Crisis in the German Social Democracy (1915)

Socialism is the first popular movement in world history that has set itself the goal of bringing human consciousness, and thereby free will, into play in the social actions of mankind. For this reason, Friedrich Engels designated the final victory of the socialist proletariat a leap of humanity from the animal world into the realm of freedom. This “leap” is also an iron law of history bound to the thousands of seeds of a prior torment-filled and all-too-slow development. But this can never be realized until the development of complex material conditions strikes the incendiary spark of conscious will in the great masses. The victory of socialism will not descend from heaven. It can only be won by a long chain of violent tests of strength between the old and the new powers. The international proletariat under the leadership of the Social Democrats will thereby learn to try to take its history into its own hands; instead of remaining a will-less football, it will take the tiller of social life and become the pilot to the goal of its own history.

Friedrich Engels once said: “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.” What does “regression into barbarism” mean to our lofty European civilization? Until now, we have all probably read and repeated these words thoughtlessly, without suspecting their fearsome seriousness. A look around us at this moment shows what the regression of bourgeois society into barbarism means. This world war is a regression into barbarism. The triumph of imperialism leads to the annihilation of civilization. At first, this happens sporadically for the duration of a modern war, but then when the period of unlimited wars begins it progresses toward its inevitable consequences. Today, we face the choice exactly as Friedrich Engels foresaw it a generation ago: either the triumph of imperialism and the collapse of all civilization as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration – a great cemetery. Or the victory of socialism, that means the conscious active struggle of the international proletariat against imperialism and its method of war. This is a dilemma of world history, an either/or; the scales are wavering before the decision of the class-conscious proletariat. The future of civilization and humanity depends on whether or not the proletariat resolves manfully to throw its revolutionary broadsword into the scales. In this war imperialism has won. Its bloody sword of genocide has brutally tilted the scale toward the abyss of misery. The only compensation for all the misery and all the shame would be if we learn from the war how the proletariat can seize mastery of its own destiny and escape the role of the lackey to the ruling classes....

The world war today is demonstrably not only murder on a grand scale; it is also suicide of the working classes of Europe. The soldiers of socialism, the proletarians of England, France, Germany, Russia, and Belgium have for months been killing one another at the behest of capital. They are driving the cold steel of murder into each other’s hearts. Locked in the embrace of death, they tumble into a common grave...

The madness will cease and the bloody demons of hell will vanish only when workers in Germany and France, England and Russia finally awake from their stupor, extend to each other a brotherly hand, and drown out the bestial chorus of imperialist war-mongers and the shrill cry of capitalist hyenas with labor’s old and mighty battle cry: Proletarians of all lands, unite!

(9) Rosa Luxemburg, The Russian Revolution (1918)

The basic error of the Lenin-Trotsky theory is that they too, just like Kautsky, oppose dictatorship to democracy. “Dictatorship or democracy” is the way the question is put by Bolsheviks and Kautsky alike. The latter naturally decides in favor of “democracy,” that is, of bourgeois democracy, precisely because he opposes it to the alternative of the socialist revolution. Lenin and Trotsky, on the other hand, decide in favor of dictatorship in contradistinction to democracy, and thereby, in favor of the dictatorship of a handful of persons, that is, in favor of dictatorship on the bourgeois model. They are two opposite poles, both alike being far removed from a genuine socialist policy. The proletariat, when it seizes power, can never follow the good advice of Kautsky, given on the pretext of the “unripeness of the country,” the advice being to renounce socialist revolution and devote itself to democracy. It cannot follow this advice without betraying thereby itself, the International, and the revolution. It should and must at once undertake socialist measures in the most energetic, unyielding and unhesitant fashion, in other words, exercise a dictatorship, but a dictatorship of the class, not of a party or of a clique – dictatorship of the class, that means in the broadest possible form on the basis of the most active, unlimited participation of the mass of the people, of unlimited democracy.

“As Marxists,” writes Trotsky, “we have never been idol worshippers of formal democracy.” Surely, we have never been idol worshippers of socialism or Marxism either. Does it follow from this that we may throw socialism on the scrap-heap, à la Cunow, Lensch and Parvus [i.e. move to the right], if it becomes uncomfortable for us? Trotsky and Lenin are the living refutation of this answer.

"We have never been idol-worshippers of formal democracy.” All that that really means is: We have always distinguished the social kernel from the political form of bourgeois democracy; we have always revealed the hard kernel of social inequality and lack of freedom hidden under the sweet shell of formal equality and freedom – not in order to reject the latter but to spur the working class into not being satisfied with the shell, but rather, by conquering political power, to create a socialist democracy to replace bourgeois democracy – not to eliminate democracy altogether.

But socialist democracy is not something which begins only in the promised land after the foundations of socialist economy are created; it does not come as some sort of Christmas present for the worthy people who, in the interim, have loyally supported a handful of socialist dictators. Socialist democracy begins simultaneously with the beginnings of the destruction of class rule and of the construction of socialism. It begins at the very moment of the seizure of power by the socialist party. It is the same thing as the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Yes, dictatorship! But this dictatorship consists in the manner of applying democracy, not in its elimination, but in energetic, resolute attacks upon the well-entrenched rights and economic relationships of bourgeois society, without which a socialist transformation cannot be accomplished. But this dictatorship must be the work of the class and not of a little leading minority in the name of the class – that is, it must proceed step by step out of the active participation of the masses; it must be under their direct influence, subjected to the control of complete public activity; it must arise out of the growing political training of the mass of the people...

Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of a party – however numerous they may be – is no freedom at all. Freedom is always the freedom of the dissenter. Not because of the fanaticism of "justice", but rather because all that is instructive, wholesome, and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effects cease to work when "freedom" becomes a privilege.... Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.

(10) Rosa Luxemburg, Rote Fahne (18th November, 1918)

The Spartacus League will never take over governmental power in any other way than through the clear, unambiguous will of the great majority of the proletarian masses in all Germany, never except by virtue of their conscious assent to the views, aims, and fighting methods of the Spartacus League.

(11) Morgan Philips Price, My Three Revolutions (1969)

Karl Radek had furnished me in Moscow with introductions to Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, the famous Spartakist leaders in Germany. So I began to search for them and, after a while, I found the headquarters of the Spartakusbund, the most revolutionary of all the German Left parties. After my credentials had been carefully inspected, I was taken to see Rosa Luxemburg.

A slight little woman, she showed at once a powerful intellect and a quiet grasp of any given situation. She had heard about me and of the fact that I had taken up a strong stand against the Allied intervention in Russia. She proceeded to question me about the situation in Russia. I told her how the White Counter-Revolution had been beaten on the Volga and thrown back to Siberia, but that Lenin had spoken to me not long before with some apprehension of the possibility of Allied military support for the Russian Whites in South Russia, now that the Dardanelles and Black Sea were open to British and French warships. Then she asked me a question, the significance of which I did not appreciate at the time. She asked me if the Soviets were working entirely satisfactorily. I replied, with some surprise, that of course they were. She looked at me for a moment, and I remember an indication of slight doubt on her face, but she said nothing more. Then we talked about something else and soon after that I left.

Though at the moment when she asked me that question I was a little taken aback, I soon forgot about it. I was still so dedicated to the Russian Revolution, which I had been defending against the Western Allies' war of intervention, that I had had no time for anything else. But a week or two later I began to hear that Rosa Luxemburg differed from Lenin on several matters of revolutionary policy, and especially about the role of the Communist Party in the Workers' and Peasants' Councils, or Soviets. She did not like the Russian Communist Party monopolizing all power in the Soviets and expelling anyone who disagreed with it. She feared that Lenin's policy had brought about, not the dictatorship of the working classes over the middle classes, which she approved of but the dictatorship of the Communist Party over the working classes. The dictatorship of a class - yes, she said, but not the dictatorship of a party over a class. Later, I began to see that Luxemburg had much wisdom in her attitude, though it was not apparent to me at the time. Looking back, it seems that she was not so critical of Lenin's tactics for Russia. She did not want them applied to Germany. Alas, she never lived to use her influence on her colleagues in the Spartakusbund for more than a few weeks after I saw her.

(12) Clara Zetkin, Rosa Luxemburg (1919)

In Rosa Luxemburg the socialist idea was a dominating and powerful passion of both mind and heart, a consuming and creative passion. To prepare for the revolution, to pave the way for socialism - this was the task and the one great ambition of this exceptional woman. To experience the revolution, to fight in its battles - this was her highest happiness. With will-power, selflessness and devotion, for which words are too weak, she engaged her whole being and everything she had to offer for socialism. She sacrificed herself to the cause, not only in her death, but daily and hourly in the work and the struggle of many years. She was the sword, the flame of revolution.

(13) Bertram D. Wolfe, Strange Communists I Have Known (1966)

In the third week of December, the masses, as represented in the First National Congress of the Councils of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, rejected by an overwhelming majority the Spartacan motion that the Councils should disrupt the Constituent Assembly and the Provisional Democratic Government and seize power themselves.

In the light of Rosa's public pledge, the duty of her movement seemed clear: to accept the decision, or to seek to have it reversed not by force but by persuasion. However, on the last two days of 1918 and the first of 1919, the Spartacans held a convention of their own where they outvoted their "leader" once more. In vain did she try to convince them that to oppose both the Councils and the Constituent Assembly with their tiny forces was madness and a breaking of their democratic faith. They voted to try to take power in the streets, that is by armed uprising. Almost alone in her party, Rosa Luxemburg decided with a heavy heart to lend her energy and her name to their effort.

The Putsch, wth inadequate forces and overwhelming mass disapproval except in Berlin, was as she had predicted, a fizzle. But neither she nor her close associates fled for safety as Lenin had done in July, 1917. They stayed in the capital, hiding carelessly in easily suspected hideouts, trying to direct an orderly retreat. On January 16, a little over two months after she had been released from prison, Rosa Luxemburg was seized, along with Karl Liebknecht and Wilhelm Pieck. Reactionary officers murdered Liebknecht and Luxemburg while "taking them to prison." Pieck was spared, to become, as the reader knows, one of the puppet rulers of Moscow-controlled East Germany.

(14) Paul Frölich, Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Work (1940)

A short while after Liebknecht had been taken away, Rosa Luxemburg was led out of the hotel by a First Lieutenant Vogel. Awaiting her before the door was Runge, who had received an order from First Lieutenants Vogel and Pflugk-Hartung to strike her to the ground. With two blows of his rifle-butt he smashed her skull.

Her almost lifeless body was flung into a waiting car, and several officers jumped in. One of them struck Rosa on the head with a revolver-butt, and First Lieutenant Vogel finished her off with a shot in the head. The corpse was then driven to the Tiergarten and, on Vogel's orders, thrown from the Liechtenstein Bridge into the Landwehr Canal, where it was not washed up until 31 May 1919.