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Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919)

Rosa Luxemburg

On May 29, 2009 Der Spiegel Magazine reported that the corpse – with no head, feet and hands – stored in the cellar of the Charite hospital’s medical history museum in Berlin might be the true remains of the revolutionary leader Rosa Luxemburg.  This corpse showed signs of having been waterlogged and had legs of different lengths, belonging to a 47-50 years old woman.

Back in May 1919, the autopsy carried out on the body found in the Berlin’s Landwehr Canal, had cast doubt to be the true corpse of Luxemburg.  The body showed no signs of the rifle butt blows Luxemburg is known to have received to her skull or of the bullet in the head which is believed to have killed her.

Thus the question; why so much brutality towards a 47 year old academic woman?

The answer is that she was revealing the truth.

The true humanist, pacifist, revolutionary forward thinker, Rosa Luxemburg was born on March 5th, in a middle class family in Zamosc, in the Russian ruled Poland.

At the age of 5, Rosa became seriously ill which left her with a permanent limp and sciatic pains for the rest of her life.  Disease, hunger, poverty, sweatshop labor and rampant oppression of the people under the Tzarist rulers had a great impact on her since she was a youngster.  To find a solution for these miseries, she became involved in the revolutionary activities while she was still in a Warsaw high school.  In 1886 at the age of 15, she was an organizer of a general strike; this resulted in four of its leaders being executed.

Rosa escaped the persecution and actively participated in the foundation of the underground Social Democratic Party of the kingdom of Poland and Lithuania.  In 1889, to avoid her imminent imprisonment and even death, she fled to Switzerland.  There she continued her studies in natural science, political economy and finally in 1892, she changed to the faculty of law, and in 1898 completed her doctorate, the thesis was entitled “The Industrial Development of Poland.”

In Switzerland she met Russian Social Democratic leaders Alexandra Kollontai, George Plekhanov, Pavel Axelrod and Leo Jogiches, with who she fell in love.

By these relations, she improved her knowledge of Scientific Socialism and in return she produced about 700 articles, pamphlets, books and speeches during her short life.

In 1898, in “Evolutionary Socialism” she criticized Edward Bernstein’s reformist and revisionist ideas; she was joined by Karl Kautsky in this campaign against revisionism in the Europe social democratic movements.

In 1899, in “Reform or Revolution” she ardently defended Marxist theory of socialism.

In 1898, to obtain her German citizenship, she married Gustav Lubeck the youngest son of her German friend.

Between 1904 and 1906, she was jailed 3 times for her political activities.  In 1905, Luxemburg was appointed by August Bebel as the editor of Social Democratic Party newspaper, Forward.  In the same year and with the start of the Russian Revolution, she went to Warsaw, drafted the program of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPL) with the title of “What Do We Want”.  There she was detained and jailed for a short time.  After her release she returned back to Berlin and taught at the Social Democratic Party School between 1907 and 1914.  During this period she wrote “The Accumulation of Capital” (1913), in this analysis, she describes imperialism as a result of capitalism’s expansion into underdeveloped areas of the world.  In the occasion of the Russian Social Democrats’ Fifth Party Day in 1907, she went to London, where she met Lenin.

At the outbreak of World War I, the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), under the leadership of August Bebel and Karl Kautsky supported the War and backed the German government.  A move that was opposed by Luxemburg , Karl Liebknecht, Clara Zetkin, Leo Jogiches, Paul Levi, Franz Mehring and Ernest Mayer, as an inter-imperialist war.  They broke with the party and formed the underground Spartacist League.  They were betrayed.  Luxemburg was persecuted and sent to jail in June 1916.  During her jail time, she wrote a lot of articles and vehemently opposed this bloodshed.   She rejected the SPD’s support of War.  Her writings were smuggled out and published clandestinely by the Spartacist League.  Among her writings was the “Russian Revolution” where she welcomed the October Revolution of 1917 as a precursor of the world revolution while putting emphasis on the interrelation of democracy and socialism.

In 1916, in the “Junius Pamphlet”, she argued that the choice of Socialism or Barbarism is a world-historical turning point.  …

Luxemburg was released from jail by the German Revolution of November 1918.

In 1917, the Spartacist League affiliated with the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD), which opposed the War.

In the German Revolution, USPD and SPD assumed power, republic declared on November 9th, 1918 and shortly after that led to the Kaiser Wilhelm II resignation.  With the German Revolution in progress, workers’ and soldiers’ councils seized most parts of Germany.  They put an end to the WWI, and monarchy together.

The USPD and most of the SPD members supported the councils.  The Spartacist League was in the process of reorganization, it published Red Flag newspaper, demanding amnesty for all political prisoners and abolition of capital punishment.

Frustrated by the conservative Socialist establishment, and its cooperation with the old regime army, the joint congress of Spartacist League, USPD, and the International Communists of Germany (IKD), founded the Communist Party of Germany (December 29-31, 1918).

Under the leadership of Luxemburg and Liebknecht, the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), agreed to participate in the National Constitutional Assembly and foundation of what was later called the Weimar Republic.

In January 1919, in an imprudent reaction to the right-wingers’ provocations, a soldiers’ and workers’ rebellion started in Berlin.  Unlike Liebknecht, Luxemburg called it a mistake, but later supported it out of necessity.  But that event provided a golden opportunity for the aristocrats and German oligarchy to destroy the Revolution.

Friedrich Ebert, the leader of SPD, called upon the supreme German army command and Free Corps to attack and destroy the KPD.

Bloody street fights took place, and in the face of leftist parties’ disorganization, Luxemburg, Liebknecht and hundreds of KPD members were arrested, tortured and killed.

It was on January 15th, 1919, that Luxemburg was rifle-butted, and then shot in the head, decapitated and mutilated.  Her body was thrown into the frozen Berlin’s Landwehr Canal.  Workers and Soldiers Councils disbanded.  That was the end of the German Revolution.

Four months later in May 1919, a body thought to have been Luxemburg’s was found in the melted waters.

On June 13th, amid a mass demonstration of her supporters, she was buried in Friedrichsfelde Central Cemetery in Berlin.  Her grave became a gathering point of socialists and communists.

During the Nazi rule her grave was desecrated and her remains were removed.  But the monument is visited by millions from all around the world annually since the defeat of Fascists.

As the global economy slipped through the Great Depression of 1930s, to preserve their privileges, ruling class relayed on force, oppression, and fascism in many parts of the world.  Ruined Germany embraced fascism.  Free Corps was constituted by villain unemployed veteran military personnel’s like Hitler whose mercenaries built the backbone of paramilitary forces of the Nazi Party of Germany.  The drums of war were beating in Europe and around the world, heralding the biggest, the bloodiest, and the most devastating war of the whole human history, World War II.

Now for the important question: in this deep recession of the 21st Century, is history repeating itself and will we allow it?

Some of her selected works:

  • The Mass Strike: The political party and the Trade Unions (1906). In this book she argued that a general strike have the power to radicalize the workers and bring about a socialist revolution.

  • In the National Question (1908), she wrote that the question of nationality will be solved with the demise of capitalism.

  • Women’s Suffrage and Class Struggle (1912), here she argues that women’s liberation is part of the liberation from the oppression of capitalism.

  • Letters to Karl and Luise Kautsky from 1896-1918.

  • Introduction to Political Economy (1916).

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