In the depths of resignation, this left-wing melancholia is a red thread that crosses revolutionary culture, from Auguste Blanqui to critical cinema, passing by way of Gustave Courbet, Rosa Luxemburg, and Walter Benjamin. Traverso forcefully — and counter-intuitively — reveals the full subversive, emancipatory charge of revolutionary mourning.
Over at the Rain Taxi Review of Books, Vladislav Davidzon has written an excellent review of The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg, providing a valuable historical overview and evaluation of her frequently overlooked importance—in the Anglo-American world, at least—to the political struggles and development of socialist thought in the early 20th century. Davidzon's review delves both into her extraordinary life as well as into the world-changing historical events that influenced it and which are mirrored afresh through her correspondence and most personal insights. He writes,
Christopher Hitchens is a divisive figure for many on the Left. But despite some of his politically problematic positions, his knowledge of the Marxist canon—Trotsky's thought in particular— is a welcome antidote to those public intellectuals who wholly dismiss Marxism as an unwelcome chapter in the triumphant narrative of democratic liberalism. Hitchens refers to precisely this intellectual repudiation in his review of The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg in the Atlantic. The generally accepted verdict on twentieth century ideology, he writes, is "that its 'totalitarian' character eclipses any of the ostensible differences between its 'left' and 'right' versions." Scholars who castigate Marxism without scrutinizing the serious variances and debates within it risk severely limiting their knowledge of modern history. In this milieu, one figure who has earned and deserves public attention is Rosa Luxemburg, who, for Hitchens is
... the most brilliant-and the most engaging-of these Marxist intellectuals was Rosa Luxemburg, the Polish-born Jew who was the most charismatic figure in the German Social Democratic Party (SPD).
Robert Turnbull reviews The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg for the Times Literary Supplement, discussing the book's resonances with contemporary issues:
[The letters] reveal the struggle that Luxemburg undertook to rise to the top of European political life, and the effects of her efforts on her physical and mental health, in an era when women, especially Jewish women, were not expected to play a part in public life ... Luxemburg's correspondence reveals an extraordinary range and breadth of concerns and interests, from her exchanges with numerous European socialist leaders, including Lenin, Leo Jogiches, Clara Zetkin and others, to sharp disputes with her colleagues ... There are contemporary resonances, too. For example, we find Luxemburg writing to Karl Kautsky in 1906 that "the Achilles heel of the movement in St. Petersburg, as it is with us in Poland, the colossal unemployment which is spreading like a terrible plague."
In his review for PopMatters, Rick Dakan compares the experience of reading The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg to that of walking across Hans Haacke's "monument" to Luxemburg in Berlin's Rosa Luxemburg platz—the book acts as a "similar kind of memorial, a kind of sliver of one woman's life bound together in one place."