Rosa Luxemburg in 1914

Rosa Luxemburg was born in Zamosc, in the Polish area of Russia, in 1871. She moved to Switzerland in 1890 where he met Leo Jogiches, Alexandra Kollontai, George Plekhanov and Karl Kautsky.

In 1893 she joined with Leo Jogiches to form the Social Democratic Party of Poland. As it was an illegal organization, Luxemburg went to Paris to edit the party's newspaper, Sprawa Robotnicza (Workers' Cause).

In 1898 Luxemburg moved to Berlin where she joined the German Socialist Party. A committed revolutionary, Luxemburg campaigned against the revisionist ideas of Eduard Bernstein. In 1905 August Bebel appointed her editor of SPD newspaper, Vorwarts (Forward).

After the 1905 Revolution Luxemburg and Leo Jogiches returned to Warsaw where they were soon arrested. After their release they returned to Germany.

Luxemburg and Leo Jogiches took the side of the Mensheviks in their struggle with the Bolsheviks. As a result Vladimir Lenin favoured the Polish section led by Karl Radek over those of Luxemburg.

In 1910 Luxemburg broke with Karl Kautsky when he refused to support her efforts to organize mass strikes in pursuit of parliamentary democracy in Germany.

Rosa Luxemburg

1. Was highly critical of Nicholas II and the autocracy.

2. Wanted Russia to have universal suffrage.

3. Wanted the Russian government to allow freedom of expression and an end to political censorship of newspapers and books.

4. Believed that democracy could only be achieved in Russia by the violent overthrow of Nicholas II and the autocracy.

5. Was strongly opposed to Russia going to war with Austria-Hungary and Germany.

6. Believed that if Russia did go to war with Austria-Hungary and Germany the Mensheviks, Bolsheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries should try to persuade the Russian soldiers to use their weapons to overthrow Nicholas II.

Primary Sources

(1) Rosa Luxemburg wrote about the 1905 Revolution in her pamphlet, Mass Strike, Party and Trade Unions.

For the first time in the history of the class struggle it (1905 Russian Revolution) has achieved a grandiose realization of the idea of the mass strike and has brought the idea of the mass strike to maturity, and therefore opened a new epoch in the development of the labour movement.

(2) Rosa Luxemburg was very impressed by the role that the Soviets played in the 1905 Revolution and believed it could play an important role in a future revolution in Germany.

We have not merely to develop the system of workers' and soldiers' councils, but we have to induce the agricultural labourers and the poorer peasants to adopt this council system. We have to seize power, and the problem of the seizure of power poses the question: what does each workers' and soldiers' council in all Germany do, what can it do, and what must it do?