When hundreds of women organize to call for an 8M General Strike in Spain and declare that the feminism they fight for is “anti-capitalist, anti-racist and anti-colonialist”, we want to remember the figure of this great Polish revolutionary, on the centenary of her murder.
By Laura R.
One hundred years later, her life, her work and her struggle remain an inspiration for those of us who do not settle for greater levels of equality within this rotten system, but rather aspire to a new world in which, as she said, we all are, ” socially equal, humanly different and totally free. ”
Rose Luxemburg was an immense figure who did not cringe from anything. She faced the revisionism embodied in the figure of Bernstein, within the German Social Democratic Party in which she had been active since her arrival from Poland. She challenged Kautsky for the great authority of the Second International. She was co-founder of the Spartacist League, later the German Communist Party. She had polemics with Lenin when she thought it necessary. Everything always from a militant, revolutionary, internationalist position, which ultimately cost her life. She was murdered under the responsibility of the German Social Democratic government. For Rose Luxemburg, the socialist revolution was everything, the rest was irrelevant.
The struggle for women’s emancipation as part of the emancipation of the entire working class
Within her work and militancy, the cause of working women concerned her just as much. It is said that the reason she refused repeated requests to play a more direct role in the women’s section of the party, was because she considered that a way to divert her from direct involvement in the political and theoretical debates of German socialism.
But Rose Luxemburg was a friend and inseparable political companion from Clara Zetkin, who devoted her life to organizing working women and is considered a precursor of “socialist feminism.”
She participated with her in the women’s socialist movement, in addition to collaborating with articles, in the newspaper aimed at the workers that Zetkin led, “Equality”. She helped organize the Second International Conference of Socialist Women that took place in Copenhagen in August 1910. A conference in which Zetkin proposed to establish an International Day of Working Women, which was enthusiastically approved by more than 100 delegates of 17 countries and that after the Russian revolution of 1917, was definitively established on March 8.
They were also together in the struggle to unite socialist women against the imperialist massacre of World War I, which both repudiated, fighting against the surrender of the social democracy to the patriotic imperialist crusade. A betrayal of workers internationalism that meant the bankruptcy of the Second International. In March 1915, Zetkin organized an International Conference of Women against War, which had 25 delegates from the belligerent countries and in which Rosa Luxemburg was to participate. But precisely because of her defense of internationalist principles, she was accused of “betrayal” and imprisoned, which prevented her from attending.
In fact, neither Zetkin nor Rosa Luxemburg considered themselves “feminists”. Some sources point out that the famous phrase: “Who is a socialist and is not a feminist lacks breadth, but who is a feminist and is not a socialist lacks a strategy”, which is erroneously attributed to her, is actually by American artist and socialist Louise Kneeland.
That is because when they lived and fought, feminism was associated with the suffrage struggle, for the right to vote, which they considered as “bourgeois feminism”. A movement disengaged from the working class that sought to improve the social position of women, by acquiring the right to vote, but without challenging the rules of the game of capitalist society.
Both revolutionaries did not despise at all the struggle for that democratic right because they understood the importance of fighting for it. But they did not call the workers to join the ranks of the suffrage movement, rather for fighting against sexism in their own ranks, they fought for the socialist movement to assume the defense of it. In this way, the German Social Democracy was the first European political party to include this feminine right in its program.
Rose Luxemburg called “not to underestimate the importance of the struggle for women’s suffrage, since the extraordinary political and union awakening of the female proletarian masses in the last fifteen years has been possible only because women workers, despite being deprived of their rights, they were keenly interested in the political and parliamentary struggles of their class.” (In “The feminine vote and the class struggle”).
For Rose Luxemburg and Clara Zetkin, the struggle for the feminine vote was a task of the entire working class, linked to a more general struggle for the conquest of democratic rights, which was the proclamation of the Republic in monarchical Germany.
In the same way, we can say today that every victory that women achieve, no matter how small, is a victory for the whole working class. And that all our demands, such as increasing the budget to combat sexist violence or to end wage and pension gaps, are part of a broader fight plan, which requires facing this and all governments that put the “economic deficit “above women’s lives, repeal labor reforms, the Toledo treaty and confront capitalism.
That is why, just like Rose Luxemburg did in her own way, we fight machismo in workers’, students’ and popular organizations, and we fight for 8M to be what it was originally: a day of struggle for the entire working class, for women’s rights, with women workers in the lead.
Translated by: Blas