Peter Hudis introduces the last letter contained in The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg for the New Left Project. The letter is dated January 11 1919, following the failed Spartacist uprising. Luxemburg writes,
It is impossible to describe the way of life that I-and all of us-have been living for weeks, the tumult and turmoil, the constant changing of living quarters, the never-ending reports filled with alarm, and in between, the tense strain of work, conferences, etc ... I hope in a week or so the situation will have clarified itself in one way or another and regular work will again be possible.
Murdered within a few days on January 15 1919, Luxemburg did not live to see this through. Peter Hudis introduces the turbulent historical context:
This letter was written in the immediate aftermath of the abortive "Spartakusbund Uprising" of January 4-10, which attempted to overthrow the SPD government of Ebert and Scheidemann and install a revolutionary government representing the German working classes' demand for genuine socialism ... Although Karl Liebknecht and others were carried away by these events to see them as a demand to overthrow the regime, Luxemburg saw them as a defensive reaction and held that calls for a seizure of power were premature. However, she decided she could not stand in the way of the uprising given the course of events on the ground that were taking on a life of their own ...
She here tries to put the best face possible on the defeat, arguing that the elections might not be held ... Luxemburg works to keep the spirits of her longtime friend and comrade up by reminding her that no defeat is ever permanent since such "events are a tremendous school for the masses." It is fitting for this letter to end the collection of The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg, given that it expresses her long-held view was that the most important aspect of social struggle is the "intellectual sediment" that it leaves for future generations to continue the struggle for freedom.
Visit New Left Project to read Peter Hudis' introduction and the letter in full.
Sheila Rowbotham reviews The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg for the Guardian, bringing into relief the portrait of Luxemburg's passionate political and personal life painted by the letters:
George Shriver's new translation of The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg is the most comprehensive collection of her correspondence yet to appear in English. It transports us directly into the private world of a woman who has never lost her inspirational power as an original thinker and courageous activist in first the Marxist Social Democratic party, and then the German revolutionary group, the Spartacist League. She suffered for her convictions; jail sentences in 1904 and 1906 were followed by three and a half years in prison for opposing the first world war. Her brutal death at the hands of the militaristic Volunteer Corps during the 1919 workers uprising in Berlin has contributed to her mystique: she is revered as the revolutionary who never compromised. This collection of her letters reveals that the woman behind the mythic figure was also a compassionate, teasing, witty human being.
Citing Luxemburg as an influence on her own work, Rowbotham, the author of Dreamers of a New Day: Women Who Invented the Twentieth Century and Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love, untangles Luxemburg's ambivalent relationship with the feminist movement of her time:
Luxemburg's criticism of Marxism as dogma and her stress on consciousness exerted an influence on the women's liberation movement which emerged in the late 60s and early 70s. When I was writing Woman's Consciousness, Man's World during 1971, I drew on her analysis in The Accumulation of Capital (1913) of capital's greedy quest for non-capitalist markets, adapting it as a metaphor for the commodification of sexual relations and the body
An new review from Choice offers a useful summary of Fredric Jameson's The Hegel Variations: on the Phenomenology of Spirit:
Although best known as a Marxist theoretician, Jameson (Duke Univ.) long has declared his debt to Hegel's Phenomenology. Yet Jameson's distance is evident in the title's musical allusion, in turn owing something to Adorno's advocacy of variation form—development that keeps its options open. Mediating the poles of formalism and hermeneutics, structure and narrative (or history), his approach, he says, "might helpfully defamiliarize readings of Hegel's texts as a whole, recasting each moment as a determinate variation on subject/object ratios." Not everyone will admire Jameson's heavy dialectical machinery. But once in gear it yields a series of audacious reading of a "non-teleological" Hegel, throwing a distinctive light on such themes as master-slave dialectic, linguistic subjectivity, expressive production ("the animal kingdom of spirit"), normative division in the Antigone (inaugurating chapter 6, "Spirit"), and the French Revolution. Jameson then projects a history that extends modernism into contemporary globalism, and finally sketches out a reading of Hegel on religious picture-thinking (Vorstellung) interpreted in turn as allegory. It is material enough for several books. Recommended.
[M. Donougho, University of South Carolina—Columbia]
In a beautifully crafted review, which manages to get across what so many love most about The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg, Kaye Cain-Nielsen (for Idiom) writes,
The Letters, with all their exquisite details, read as well as any novel: we learn how Luxemburg's Persian cat, Mimi, behaved in the presence of Lenin; how much money she borrowed to keep her numerous publications in the hands of intellectuals and workers; which volumes of German literature she craved; and we hear her pleading with friends to take care of her rent while she was in prison for inciting crowds to riot. Even when some of the details threaten to drag, Luxemburg's sudden, lyrical moments and proverbial winks at her intended audience suggest thrilling secrets. We feel her grinning, her wrist undulating furiously as her hands fight to keep pace with her thoughts.
Slavoj Žižek argues in the New Statesman for a binational state in Israel & Palestine - the "simplest and most obvious solution" to the conflict.
Highlighting some disturbing instances of racism (and sexism) in Israeli society (such as the 2007 poll that showed that over half of Israeli Jews believe intermarriage is akin to "national treason"), Žižek makes the key point that:
What makes these campaigns so depressing is that they are flourishing at a time of relative calm, at least in the West Bank. Any party interested in peace should welcome the socialising of Palestinian and Jewish youth.