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July 16, 2024

Rosa Luxemburg – The Eagle of the Revolution

Rosa Luxemburg was a Marxist theorist and revolutionary socialist of Polish descent who became a naturalized German citizen. An activist in Germany and Poland and the author of numerous classic works. Socialist Voice will publish further material on Rosa in the future.


“… It is not a matter of this or that secondary question of tactics, but of the capacity for action of the proletariat, the strength to act, the will to power of socialism as such. In this, Lenin and Trotsky and their friends were the first, those who went ahead as an example to to the proletariat of the world; they are still the only ones up to now who can cry with Hutten: ‘I have dared!’*

{module Propaganda 30 anos – MORAL}“This is the essential and enduring in Bolshevik policy. In this sense theirs is the immortal historical service of having marched at the head of the international proletariat with the conquest of power and the practical placing of the problem of the realization of socialism, and of having advanced mightily the settlement of the score between capital and labor  in the entire world. In Russia the problem could only be posed. It could not be solved in Russia. And in this sense, the future everywhere belongs to ‘Bolshevism.’”


“Eagles may at times fly lower than hens, but hens can never rise to the height of eagles.” Rosa Luxemburg was mistaken on the question of the independence of Poland; she was mistaken in 1903 in her appraisal of Menshevism; she was mistaken on the theory of the accumulation of capital; she was mistaken in July 1914, when, together with Plekhanov, Vandervelde, Kautsky and others, she advocated unity between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks; she was mistaken in what she wrote in prison in 1918 (she corrected most of these mistakes at the end of 1918 and the beginning of 1919 after she was released). But in spite of her mistakes she was—and remains for us—an eagle. And not only will Communists all over the world cherish her memory, but her biography and her complete works (the publication of which the German Communists are inordinately delaying, which can only be partly excused by the tremendous losses they are suffering in their severe struggle) will serve as useful manuals for training many generations of Communists all over the world.”


Rosa’s theory of spontaneity was a wholesome weapon against the ossified apparatus of reformism. By the fact that it was often directed against Lenin’s work of building up a revolutionary apparatus, it revealed – to be sure, only in embryo – its reactionary features. With Rosa herself this occurred only episodically. She was much too realistic in the revolutionary sense to develop the elements of the theory of spontaneity into a consummate metaphysics. In practice, she herself, as has already  been said, undermined this theory at every step. After the revolution of  November 1918, she began the ardent labor of assembling the proletarian vanguard. Despite her theoretically  very weak manuscript of the Soviet Revolution, written in prison but never published by her, Rosa’s subsequent work allows the sure conclusion that, day by day, she was moving closer to Lenin’s theoretically clearly-delineated conception concerning conscious leadership and spontaneity. (It must surely have been this circumstance that prevented her from making public her manuscript against Bolshevik policy which was later was so shamefully abused.)

* Hutten advocated breaking Germany’s ties with the papacy. His 1520 book Arouser of the German Nation, opens with his motto “Ich hab’s gewagt” (I have dared to do it).

Source: Socialist Voice nº 10, March 2013

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