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The Last Letter: New Left Project publishes Luxemburg's January 11 1919 letter to Clara Zetkin

Sarah Shin 7 March 2011

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.

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