Blog post

Harriet Walter as Rosa Luxemburg for the BBC World Service

Sarah Shin 8 March 2011

Jacqueline Rose and Lea Haro speak to Louise Hidalgo about Rosa Luxemburg's life and work for "Witness" on BBC World Service.

Harriet Walter brings The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg to life, beginning with one of the first—a love letter to Leo Jogiches, written from Switzerland in 1893.

Rose and Haro give insights into Luxemburg's childhood in Poland, and the start of her political life whilst attending secondary school in Warsaw. They follow her through her rise in German Social Democracy and the development of her ideas, including about the mass strike, her opposition to the First World War, the founding of the Spartacist league, her imprisonments and finally to her murder.

Luxemburg spent much of the war in prison, following news of the Russian Revolution from behind bars. In November 1917, she writes to Clara Zetkin,

I am now convinced that in the next few years a great upheaval in all of Europe is unavoidable especially if the war lasts much longer. The events in Russia are of amazing grandeur and tragedy. Lenin and his people will not of course be able to win out against the tangle of chaos, but their attempt by itself stands as a deed of world historical significance and a genuine milestone.

Visit the BBC World Service to listen to the programme.

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