Rosa Luxemburg [1871-1919], the Polish-born revolutionary and writer, was one of the most original theoretical minds of the early twentieth century. Her work stands as a testament to the great social of upheavals of the time and a life lived in struggle for a better world. She ultimately suffered for her convictions, spending time in jail between 1904 and 1906 and again for three and a half years for opposing the First World War, before her brutal and untimely death in 1919 at the hands of the proto-fascistic Freikorp. Today we have an extract from The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg that shows her characteristic mix of astute political and social analysis and incredible compassion for her fellow creatures. The letter, written around Christmas 1917 from her prison cell in Breslau to fellow SPD-member Sophie Liebknecht, relates an incident in the prison courtyard between a guard and a buffalo carrying piles of torn and bloodied clothes sent from the frontlines.
One hundred years after the publication of her masterpiece, The Accumulation of Capital, Rosa Luxemburg’s ideas have come back in a big way across much of the left. If she were still here, what would Rosa say about contemporary feminist movements, the mass strike and Occupy, our deepening ecological crisis, or other crucial issues of our time? Join us at Verso Books on Friday night, August 21, and then at The New School during the day on August 22, to learn and discuss.
Rosa Luxemburg was tortured and executed on this day 96 years ago, on January 15 1919.
The last letter contained in The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg is dated January 11 1919, following the crushed Spartacist Uprising, and is reproduced in full below. In her last known piece of writing, 'Order prevails in Berlin', Luxemburg writes about the reasons contributing to the failure of the rebellion and the future of the movement:
A new leadership can and must be created by the masses and from the masses. The masses are the crucial factor. They are the rock on which the ultimate victory of the revolution will be built. The masses were up to the challenge, and out of this “defeat” they have forged a link in the chain of historic defeats, which is the pride and strength of international socialism. That is why future victories will spring from this “defeat.”