Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Rosa Luxemburg (5/3/1871 -15/1/19) - Citizen of the Proletariat

Today I remember the murder in 1919 of the Jewish agitator, internationalist and theoritician, Rosa Luxemburg who was killed by right wing troops  opossed to the revolutionary movement that swept through Germany in the wake of the First World War. A leader  of the radical wing of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), since 1899,she became an important figure in the world socialist movement, and became involved in the international organisation of workers,  she broke with the SPD however  after it supported the imperialist drive towards war, she believed in the build up to the First World War that ' workers blood should not be shed in defence of the captalist system'  Because of  her socialist agitation during this terrible war , she was imprisoned for it's duration, but after Germany's defeat she was released, and with her friend Karl Liebnecht,  forming the Spartacus league, and  she assumed the leadership of the radical independent socialists. Her will and her desire was to see an end to all exploitation and oppression.
She herself took part  in  revolutionary events , recognising the need of a revolutionary party, which could unite and give a lead in a revolutionary situation, seeing  socialism as a movement of the proletarian masses that should emphasise unity and equality rather than highlight the oppression of any particular group, with an undogmatic committment to an unfinished notion of freedom that still appeals to many people today.
In November 1918 after four years of war, German society crumbled both at the front at home, and a revolutionary fervour swept the land, the working class took to the streets in a series of strikes and the navy mutinied., though critical with some demands of the revolutionary movement, Rosa threw in her lot with her comrades, believing that she could not simply wait on the sidelines. Subsequently on January 15, she  and some of her  her comrades were arrested, including Karl Liebnecht, Rosa was shot and dumped in the Landweher canal, Berlin.
Famously on the evening of her murder almost certainly knowing that her fate was sealed she wrote.

'"The leadership has failed. Even so, the leadership can and muust be recreated from the masses and out of the masses. The masses are the decisive element, they are the rock on which the final victory of the revolution will be built... Order reigns in Berlin! You stupid henchmen! Your 'order' is built on sand. Tomorrow the revolution will already 'raise itself with a rattle' and announce with fanfare, to your terror: I was, I am , I shall be!"

Today her ideas can be pressed into many meanings. There is a feminist Rosa, an anarchist Rosa, then there is a red Rosa, but she remains an icon inthe truest sense of the word. Here is poem written by Bertolt Brecht in 1920 about Rosa.

About the drowned girl - Bertolt Brecht

As she drowned, she swam downwards and was borne,
From the smaller streams to the larger rivers,
In wonder the opal of the heavens shone,
As  if wishing to placate the body that was hers.

Catching hold of her were the seaweed , the algae,
Slowly she became heavy as downwards she went,
Cool fish swam around her legs, freely,
Animals and plants weight to her body lent.

Dark light smoke in the evenings the heavens grew,
But early in the morning the stars dangled, there was light,
So that for her, there remained too,
Morning and evening, day and night.

Her cold body rotted in the waters there,
Slowly, step by step, god too forgot,
First her face, then her hands, and finally her hair
She became carrion of which the rivers have a lot.

A post from  last year here


  1. So good to see that someone remembers Rosa Luxemburg, a great socialist!