Blog post

"Revolutionary letters"—Paul Le Blanc on Rosa Luxemburg

Clara Heyworth24 March 2011

For those who missed the launch of The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg at NYU on March 14th, has posted the text of Paul Le Blanc's comments from the evening's event. Here's a snippet:

Aspects of Rosa Luxemburg's story can best be told, perhaps, by referring to one of her most intimate personal connections which surfaces again and again in her correspondence, over more than a dozen years. It involves her beloved Mimi, with whom she had a complex relationship.

As she wrote to one friend: "Mimi is a scoundrel. She leaped at me from the floor and tried to bite me." Mimi was, of course, her cat, although not long afterward, Luxemburg noted, after returning from Poland to Germany: "Mimi showed me she was happy with me right away and has again become high-spirited, comes running to me like a dog and grabs at the train of my dress."

Another time she reported: "I get up early, go for a stroll, and have conversations with Mimi. Yesterday evening this is what she did: I was searching all the rooms for her, but she wasn't there. I was getting worried, and then I discovered her in my bed, but she was lying so that the cover was tucked up prettily right under her chin with her head on the pillow exactly the way I lie, and she looked at me calmly and roguishly."

A myth has often been circulated about Luxemburg that she was hostile to the Russian revolutionary, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. While they sometimes differed on important matters, however, the two liked and respected each other and often were in agreement. In 1911, she wrote: "Yesterday Lenin came, and up to today he has been here four times already. I enjoy talking with him, he's clever and well educated, and has such an ugly mug, the kind I like to look at."

Yet Mimi's relationship with the Bolshevik leader reflects something of Luxemburg's own. She wrote that Mimi:

impressed Lenin tremendously, he said that only in Siberia had he seen such a magnificent creature, that she was a baskii kot—a majestic cat. She also flirted with him, rolled on her back and behaved enticingly toward him, but when he tried to approach her she whacked him with a paw and snarled like a tiger.

Yet recollections of Mimi helped sustain her during her years of imprisonment during the First World War. She wrote to a friend:

By the way, everything would be much easier to live through if only I would not forget the basic rule I've made for my life: To be kind and good is the main thing! Plainly and simply, to be good—that resolves and unites everything and is better than all cleverness and insistence on "being right."

But who is here to remind me of that, since Mimi is not here? At home so many times she knew how to lead me onto the right road with her long, silent look, so that I always had to smother her with kisses ... and say to her: You're right, being kind and good is the main thing.

Visit to read the text in full.